The following is a blog from Brady Rector.
One of the perks of working at a church is the opportunity to serve and care for the community. Every Tuesday morning, I sleep through my 5:30 alarm, wake up late, slug myself out of bed, blink at the blinding sun coming through my windows, put on the same clothes from last night, brush my teeth, and race out the door. Not as sexy as it sounds, I assure you. But even in the hour of still rubbing sleep from my eyes, contemplating if it is physically possible to inhale coffee, God shows up.
After our meeting, I began to speak to someone who was dealing with issues most of us face. Words like “guilt, shame, separation from God” were being thrown around in the conversation, and I finally felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit… and by nudge I mean an adrenaline shot to the heart. I felt the energy surge (and it may have been the triple shot cappuccino I just polished off) as I spoke from a place I knew too well.
I looked this man in the eye and said, “I understand what it means to live with guilt and shame. But you need to know that you are not a shame, embarrassment, or disappointment to God. You can’t do enough to break your relationship off. Our God is a God who doesn’t deal in guilt and shame. You are NOT a sinner saved by grace.”
Before you get your pitchforks out, let me explain.
The New Testament uses the word “sinner/ sinners” 41 times, and yet not one time does this apply to people who have come to a saving faith in the Jesus. The problem we face is the problem of tense. Paul writes in the present tense in 1 Timothy 1,
“it is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (NASB)”
There it is! He is a sinner. But what we miss is a specific Hebrew writing style that was popular in Paul’s time. The Hebrews, when referencing past or future events, would actually write by shifting themselves mentally to the period of the events, and write as if in the present. For Paul to write I am the foremost of sinners is him discussing his past sins before Christ’s salvation.
Now compare the 41 times the New Testament uses sinner to the 61 times the New Testament writers call Christians saints…but not only saints. The Bible is full of beautiful and colorful depictions of people of faith.
The issue is not we are sinners trying to stop sinning, but we are saints striving to live into the beautiful story God has for humanity.
You are a new creation.
This plays out too often when we read Ephesians 2. We usually read,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (NASB)”
We read and sigh to ourselves, “Yep, I’m a screw-up, but God had mercy” - which is only partially right. It completely misses the new creation God has made you into. The next verse, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
The word for “workmanship” is the Greek word poiema. This word was used for woven tapestries in the 1st century, and it’s where we get the modern word poem. We are the woven poem of love, which God has been writing throughout history to all of creation. We are one thread in the piece of art. We are one line in the love ballad. God has been fashioning this poem to show the world how desperately He loves us. So, instead of reinforcing that you are ultimately a sinner who is riddled with guilt and shame, step into the truth that you are a saint who is loved by God and “is created for good works.”
Go in peace today knowing you are loved and called to an adventurous calling.