“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”
“I’m a sinner saved by grace!” This is a very popular thing to say, although not true. A more accurate statement for a Christian would be, “I was a sinner saved by grace! Now I’m a righteous, blameless, holy child of God!”
Here’s another incorrect declaration to apply to a believer: “Hate the sin, love the sinner!”
Why is this inaccurate? Because Christians are not sinners, at all. Sure, we might have sinful actions and attitudes, but our identity is exactly like God’s. We are a people of His very own nature. Peter tells the early church this same truth–who they actually are. Which, like today’s church, was extremely hard to believe:
“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:4)
Let’s not skim over this verse. Both parts I’ve underlined can easily be ignored but are vital to understanding our identity as Christians.
Nature means natural. As in, no effort to be, no effort to express. Divine means heavenly! Divine means like God! So no matter what we do or don’t do, our nature is the exact same as God’s! (To know more about your nature, see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Galatians 5:2-,23, 2 Peter 1:5-9, Philippians 4:8). It is from this nature our actions and attitudes become more and more organic! Our do begins to match up with our who, once we know who we are!
How is this possible? How can we have the same nature as the Creator of the universe–as Christ Himself? (See Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2). Because we’ve been born again in our spirit. God’s very own supernatural sperm–for lack of a better word–has been implanted in us to give us a new spiritual body. This happens the millisecond we believe Jesus has forgiven us. Whether we felt it or not, that doesn’t matter. Our supernatural birth is not based on a feeling, but on a fact of faith (see 1 John 5:13, 2 Corinthians 13:5-6). If you felt something, great! God isn’t against feelings, but those feelings did not save you. So if you didn’t feel anything, don’t worry, Christian, you are born again. This is why Jesus said:
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.'” (John 3:6-7)
The wonderful news of the gospel is we can’t undo this birth! Just the same as we can’t undo our earthly father’s action of implanting his sperm into our mom–which created our unchangeable physical body–we can’t undo receiving God’s seed either, which recreated our unchangeable spiritual body! Our physical body inherited our parents’ features and our spiritual body inherited God’s! His divine sperm is forever infused in us which means we have His perfect nature! Physical DNA is permanent after birth, and spiritual DNA is permanent after rebirth. As an old man, John explains:
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:9)
A lot of grace-confused Christians will use this verse as a threat, but that’s not the point. The point is we don’t even have the ability to continue sinning in our spirit. Our spirit, the real us, has been reborn and infused with God’s own Spirit. We are literally sealed up in Him forever! (See John 3:6-7, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:6-7, 1 John 3:1, Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 3:3).
This verse describes a Christian, it doesn’t prescribe one. Sinning no longer makes sense to us in our nature. That’s John’s point. The entire book of 1 John is the description of the contrast between sinner and saint, believer and unbeliever, Gnostic and non-Gnostic, child of God and child of wrath–darkness and light. It’s not how-to manual, but an explanation of.
So when we sin–not if–we are not being our true self. We are not expressing Christ, our holiness. We are dogs meowing, cats barking, and roosters sleeping in. Sin makes no sense to us, but it does not change us. Our nature is final by birth.
I understand this is hard to fathom because of so much behavior-focused teaching out there. But if we can begin to refocus on identity as the church, our behavior will start to look a whole lot better and be a lot more natural.
Like the Pharisees who were fixated on behavior and not identity, we too can magnify how many times a person messes up, and how often, so we can judge who they “truly” are. Sadly, Jesus called these types of people “white-washed tombs–pretty on the outside, but dead bones within” (see Matthew 23:27). For us, holy children of God, the opposite can be said. We will always be beautiful on the inside, it’s the outside we can incorrectly allow to become nasty. Whether with legalism or alcoholism, you name it, anything unholy coming from us is not natural to us.
Thankfully, God has rigged it this way for all who have believed in Jesus’ ability to save them once (see Hebrews 10:10, 7:25). Being behavior-centered rather than identity-centered is not how the New Covenant works. On this side of the Cross, our only ministry for the entire world is that of complete reconciliation with God through Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). So when we say, “Look at my awesome spiritual disciplines, just be like me!” we’ve veered off into the woods.
The New Covenant message is not “Stop sinning or else!” That was John the Baptist’s and the teachers of the Law. John even said such legalism must go away in order to make room for Christ (see John 3:30).
The problem is, our unrenewed, behavior-addicted thinking wants to tell people, “Try harder!” “Commit to change!” “Do more!” But when we simply live out our divine nature, none of that pressure is necessary. Natural behavior is never forced. Natural behavior is never threatened or guilted into being. It just happens…naturally. This is why we need to start telling Christians who they are, not what to do. Only then will their doing sprout the sweetest fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23, John 15:5).
“But Matt, I still sin!”
Me too. Me too, friend. We all do, and we hate it. But we shouldn’t hate ourselves–that’s what Satan wants from us. Sinning never feels good permanently. It never makes long-term sense to us. It’s a mirage set up by demonic forces and old thought patterns.
If you look even deeper into this you’ll see that disdain for our unnatural behaviors–choosing to sin–is proof of our salvation. If we absolutely, positively don’t care about our mistakes then we should worry about our saving. Yet still, in the same breath, some Christians go nearly their entire lifetime denying their divine nature. But when they are faithless God remains faithful, for He cannot deny His own seed within them (see 2 Timothy 2:13, John 1:12).
Once we receive His supernatural sperm, by faith in Christ’s forgiveness, it cannot be undone. We’ve inherited holiness. Inheritances cannot be reversed by the behavior of the beneficiary, nor worked for to achieve, sustain, or maintain. Inheritances come only by a death, and Christ died. Therefore, the promise to the Father by Christ at the Cross, and vice versa, sealed our fate as His holy children who were passed down an unearnable reward: equal righteousness with Jesus Christ (see John 19:30, Hebrews 6:16-19, 7:22,25, 10:10, Ephesians 1:18, Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 5:20).
We are not sinners. We are not a mixture of sinner and saint. God is not sharing your spirit with anything that has to do with sin. Your spirit isn’t being born again each time you mess up and then “get back on track.” Nor does confessing cleanse you–you are cleansed. Confessing–which is simply agreeing with God–is normal and healthy. Repenting of sin is too. But neither confession nor repentance can improve who you already are. Instead, both knock off the hindrances keeping you from enjoying who you are (see 1 Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 12:1-3, 2 Peter 1:5-9).
The truth is we have everything we need, today, this moment, for life and godliness! We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing! Jesus’ very own Spirit! (See 2 Peter 1:3, Ephesians 1:3). We are children of God who sometimes forget who we are, therefore we express sin. We are learning and growing from our righteous identity, not to keep our righteous identity. Our supernatural DNA structure is final! It’s unchangeable and secure!
“Nope! Matt, you’re just giving people a license to sin!”
Friend, we don’t need a license. We’re all sinning just fine without one–Christians included. Further, God does not grade us on a curve based on how much or how little we sin. We must be perfect like He is perfect and the only way this can happen is if we are born into His very own family, once, by grace through faith (see Matthew 5:48, John 1:12, 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9). The fact of the matter is we cannot sustain our supernatural birth by making different choices, just the same as we cannot sustain our physical birth by making different choices. We are born! Birth cannot be undone because of unnatural behaviors and mindsets!
“No way, Matt! I’m not buying it! We need to be tougher on sin! This stuff you’re saying will cause people to go crazy in sin! Paul even said that he is the chief of sinners!”
I know at first glance this might come across as heresy. But I’ve never met a single person who finally understood their spiritual perfection and then used it to continue in legalism or to live licentiously. Never. The opposite happens.
The Jews who wanted to stay focused on legislating right and wrong behavior–rather than grace through faith in Jesus–they wanted to kill Paul for preaching this same thing I’m preaching (see Acts 26:21). Like many of our modern Christian teachers, these people thought grace would cause people to fall off the deep end, right into a chasm of doing bad stuff. However, Paul told Titus it is grace that teaches us how to live godly lives!
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12)
Grace is our teacher, not our excuse. Grace keeps us centered on our identity because it’s how we got saved in the first place.
Paul addresses the Corinthians as sanctified people–saints, holy ones–even though they were some of the worst-behaved Christians on the planet (see 1 Corinthians 1:2). Not once did he say their sinful actions and attitudes would cause God to go back on His New Covenant. Paul never said, “Stop taking advantage of God’s grace! You might just wear it out with all that nasty sinnin’!”
No. Not once. Instead, he kept telling them who they still are even when they weren’t living in their natural way. He said they’ve been remade to not sin, so don’t sin. He lets them know they have been cleansed, so live cleansed (see 1 Corinthians 6:11). He even informs the Roman Christians–who were just about on par with the confused party-people in Corinth–that when they sin, God’s grace increases, not decreases (See Romans 5:20). Such a verse reminds me of lyrics from the David Crowder song, How He Loves:
“If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”
And yes, Paul called himself the chief of sinners, but he was referencing his former life as a persecutor of the church. He’s explaining to Timothy that his pointless life as a devout legalist was nothing more than dung. He’s using his former self as an example of what God will do for the worst of people if they’ll receive His Spirit into theirs. He’s not talking about his current identity in Christ. Just look at the context of the passage and you’ll see how he references his past:
“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:13-16)
Do you see it? Just like in Romans 7, Paul is referencing his past unbelieving self as an example of what not to do and how not to be like. After all, this is the very same apostle who tells us we have been reconciled with God through Christ; the same apostle who said the old has gone and the new is here; the same person who said his old self died and he got a new self! This is the same writer who penned we are holy, justified, not condemned, blameless, new creations, children of God, saints, seated in heavenly places–he said we have the mind of Christ, we are free from the Law, and we are infused with God’s own Spirit forever! (See Romans 5:1, 6:6-7, 8:1-2, 10:4, 1 Corinthians 2:16, 6:17,19, 2 Corinthians 5:17,21, Colossians 1:22, 3:3, Galatians 2:20, 5:1, Ephesians 2:6).
So today, my friends, know this: Tell the truth about yourself to yourself. Sinner or saint, you will live out who you believe you are. If you think about it, if you weren’t all these good things, then when you do good things, you’re being a phony–a fake. If you’re truly a sinner then what better an excuse to sin and not do good? I mean, why not? If sinning just comes natural then why deny yourself, and why would God recreate us as His children to live such a cruel, unnatural life?…But, if you’re truly a saint, then what better a reason to be yourself–to live it out?! Christian, you are a saint–so live!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, thank you for teaching me who I am. It feels wonderful. In Romans 3, Paul lets us know about all of humanity’s problem BEFORE we come to faith in Christ alone–which is falling short of your glory. But now, as saints, this verse does not apply to us because we HAVE your glory! Jesus even said so in John 17:22! It’s Him IN us! Paul said the same thing in 2 Corinthians 3:18! Thank you so much for this free gift of glory! And Dad, the mistranslation of the word “flesh” into “sinful nature” in the NIV Bible has misinformed so many people about their identity. The original word was “sarx” which means “flesh.” We don’t have a sinful nature, we have flesh that can be used in a sinful way if we incorrectly choose to do so. But even our flesh is not sinful–it was your idea! The Gnostics who were talked about in 1 John thought flesh was bad–but it’s not! We have YOUR nature, even in these bodies! We are not feeding a good dog and a bad dog inside of us, we are simply being ourselves when we live holy lives! We don’t have a bad dog! Sure, we have unrenewed thinking and old bad habits, but you are helping us with those each day–and you’ll never leave us. We are grateful. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. Teach them who they are, Father. Teach them that if they’ve placed their faith in Jesus, one time, 1 John 4:17 says they’re exactly like Him, today. Hebrews 10:14 says they’ve been made perfect forever! And if they haven’t yet believed, let them know they can become a saint and no longer a sinner, by simply believing Jesus has forgiven them. In His powerful name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 1. Get your copy here!