Practical Application of the Word of God
“I’m a sinner…”
“Well, I’m not a sinner! I may sin from time to time, but I am not a sinner!”
This exchange really happened. It was May 2012, in my kitchen, where a minister and I were talking. I said the first phrase and was cut off by the second phrase. The exchange is so indelibly imprinted in my mind that each time I think of it, which is often, I’m right back there in that kitchen and can recall every minute detail of that moment in time.
I was shocked into speechlessness. I am still shocked. I pray that this will shock me for the rest of my days.
Sadly, though, we as Christians seem to overwhelmingly think like the minister who jumped in and cut off my train of thought more than we think like me. That tells me that we aren’t doing one or a combination of these things (and aren’t practicing concretized Christianity):
In short, many Christians seem to think – and see themselves – like the Pharisee did while few think – and see themselves – like the tax collector (publican) did that Jesus describes in Luke 18:9-14.
The author of Church of God Perspective and I are both big-picture people and often find that we both are looking at the same big-picture aspects of Christianity in similar ways at the same time. I encourage you to read that post on this subject which approaches it from a different angle.
This post will go further out into the big picture of all sin and how God sees it. It will also look at the mental gymnastics required to be the Pharisee instead of the tax collector in how we view all sin.
Sin is sin is sin. Whether I knowingly walk out of a store with an item I was not charged for or I go on a nationwide killing spree and leave 1000 dead bodies in my wake, either way I have sinned. The penalty is the same and the price for atonement – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – is the same.
I want you to read that last paragraph again, because either not realizing this or not believing it results in the first mental gymnastic that many Christians employ with regard to sin.
The mental gymnastic is to categorize and measure sin by degrees and severity. We hear it all the time: “big sin,” “little sin,” “worst sin,” “white lie,” etc. That, my friends, is the Pharisee (and a human, influenced by Satan) point of view.
There are no categories or degrees of sin in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ. Anything that is contrary to the Word of God and the character of God and Jesus Christ we see revealed there is sin.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s an attitude, a motive, an intent, a thought, a word, or an action. If it is not like God and Jesus Christ, then it is a sin. It’s that black and white.
Like the Pharisees, we humans and Christians like wiggle room with regard to the scriptures, and categorization and degrees give us – not God and Jesus Christ – the impression that we’re not so bad after all. And, like the Pharisee, we are guilty of pride and blindness for patting ourselves on the back because we may sin from time to time, but we are not big sinners nor are we the worst sinners.
The other mental gymnastic that many Christians, like the Pharisee, employ with regard to sin is that we compare ourselves to other people, instead of comparing ourselves to God and Jesus Christ. In effect, we deny the Word of God when we do this. And we do it a lot!
Isaiah 64:6 says “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” I often think about this with regard to my own sins in the eyes of God and Jesus Christ and I am reminded of Zechariah 3:1-5.
But like the Pharisee, many Christians forget who we are in relationship to Jesus Christ – He is the only human who lived sinlessly – and Who is the standard against which we measure ourselves as outlined in I Peter 2:21-22.
Instead, we look around at sinners like us and we come to the erroneous conclusion that we are not so bad after all.
Those conclusions are evident in the words – and we often have diarrhea of the mouth when it comes to this, to our shame – we say. “Well, at least I don’t do that!” “That person is just awful! They don’t deserve to live!” “Can you believe what OPQ did?!? I am just disgusted!”
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Following these statements, many Christians, like the Pharisee, give a lengthy litany of their righteousnesses and, feeling pretty good about themselves, they symbolically wipe their hands clean of the people they have compared themselves to.
But the reality is that when we compare ourselves correctly to God and Jesus Christ, our righteousnesses – and I use that term loosely, because we are reconciled to God because Jesus Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us because He paid the debt of death we owe for our sins – are like Joshua’s filthy rags.
In other words, we are all the tax collector and we all need that humility in seeing ourselves honestly and coming before God in a continual attitude of repentance as we ask for forgiveness and mercy.
The bottom line is that there is no sin that is acceptable in God’s sight. We are all sinners. The wages of all sin is death. That death penalty hangs over us every time we sin. That death penalty was paid for us by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
But to claim the atonement offered by Christ’s sacrifice, we have to acknowledge to God that we are sinners in an attitude of repentance backed up with effort to overcome with God’s help, and ask for Christ’s sacrifice to be applied to our sins and God’s forgiveness and mercy granted.
We also, if you’ll notice in Matthew 6, must be forgiving and merciful ourselves toward all other people and their sins (the distinction here is that we don’t accept or tolerate sin in ourselves or others, but we recognize that we’re all in the same boat with the difference being that God has chosen to enlighten us now to our sinful nature and has graciously revealed and gives to us continually the path of remedy through Himself and Jesus Christ) in order to receive God’s forgiveness and mercy. There is way too little of that among many Christians.
Sin is sin is sin. While we as Christians are committed to becoming sinless – in other words, we’re not sinning egregiously or willfully (that’s an important distinction) – the reality is that we still sin and we are sinners.
That will be a fact for each of for the rest of our physical lives. Have we ever considered why?
I’ve thought about this a lot as I battle my sins, sometimes in futility and frustration, and I’ll leave these big-picture thoughts – and I’m not saying they are “thus saith the Lord” – with you.
First, if we could become perfect – sinless – in the flesh, then there would be no need for the return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection where corruptible is exchanged for incorruptible, the removal of Satan, and the restoration of all things back to the state they were in between Genesis 1;1 and Genesis 1:2, leading to the establishment of the kingdom of God (essentially you could remove God’s fall holy days).
Second, if we could become perfect – sinless – in the flesh, because we have human nature and pride is a part of that, we would find a way to give ourselves – not God and not Jesus Christ – the credit. We would not recognize our absolute dependence on, need for, and faith in God and Jesus Christ for righteousness. They would become diminished in our eyes, while we would become exalted, and we would give ourselves to the praise, the glory, the honor, and the worship that they alone deserve.
In many ways, when we as Christians are like the Pharisee, this second point of the whys is exactly what we’re doing. When we as Christians are like the tax collector, on the other hand, we are correctly attributing the power, the glory, and the thankfulness toward the only two beings in the universe who actually deserve it.