Recently, I directed to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ a one-question quiz, which I posted on my Facebook page. The one question was this: “As of today, which of the following are you? 1. Sinner 2. Sinner saved by grace 3. Saint.
In the replies, I received mostly the answer I expected – #2.
But I see a problem, biblically, with this view of followers of Christ, adopted sons and daughters of the living God who are fellow heirs with Christ and who have received Christ’s nature as our own since we have been crucified with Christ and resurrected with Him into his life. This is the reason why Paul says in Galatians 2:19b-20, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet no longer do I live, but Christ lives in me; and now that which I live in flesh, I live by faith, that of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” We are no longer who we once were.
When we were born, we were born into sin. Therefore, we were sinners in need of God’s saving grace. At belief, we received that grace and were redeemed, becoming saints, the holy ones of God.
Getting our minds to the end of this process is crucial. First, it is how God views us. Nowhere in any of the letters of the New Testament are those who are in Christ called sinners. I cannot recall one time where, after belief, we are called that. But these same letters, particularly Paul’s, are rife with those who are in Christ being called saints. Think about the way Paul addresses his letters – “To the saints or holy ones at…” Even at the beginning of his first letter to the church of Corinth Paul calls them “saints.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)
So, if God no longer has us called “sinners” after belief but “saints” and “adopted sons and daughters of God” and “fellow heirs of Christ” and even God’s own “inheritance,” why would we call or regard ourselves as anything that uses a part of our past identity and not our currently reality, at least as how God sees it? It is my position that continuing to regard ourselves in terms of our past perpetrates a continuing mindset that does not lead to transformation. It’s not that we forget what we once were, but we realize that we are no longer that. Therefore, we should not use any part of that past identity in crafting or naming our current reality.
Paul says in Romans 12:2, “…and no longer be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may be able to prove what is the good and pleasing and perfect will of God.” There is a direct relationship between the level of mind renewal and transformation. The conclusion, therefore, is that if my past as a sinner is kept as part of my view of who and what I am, this transformation will be stunted because I am continuing to hold onto my past identity. It is only when I fully embrace how God now sees and knows me in Christ (which is how I believe this renewal should be defined) that transformation to its fullest can occur. Anything less is still holding onto a past identity and will hold me back.
Further, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, “Therefore, from now on, we know no one according to the flesh, even though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we now no longer know him this way. So, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed/gone away/left/departed/been kicked to the curb/said ‘adios’ to, behold he has become new.” So, Paul is saying that if someone is in Christ, he is no longer what he once was at all, even in part. So, Christians must not define themselves in the terminology of their past for it has gone away. We must change the way in which we refer to ourselves. Instead of saying “sinner saved by grace,” we should say, “I was saved by grace and because of that I am now a saint.” We also must change how we view our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for they also are new creations and we are not to regard them as to the flesh (sin) but as new creations (something totally different) in Christ.
This change in view and mindset is crucial. If Christians still view themselves as sinners, albeit ones saved by grace, it shouldn’t be surprising when it is common that the sin part is what is done. It is almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy because it is common that what we focus on is often what becomes reality. We must fully change how we view ourselves and know our identity to line up with how God sees us and knows us to be so that we can better move into our new, God-given identity. As Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” So, how we view ourselves is crucial in our development of becoming in reality what God already knows us to be.
So, let us have a mind of a saint for God has already declared us to be saints.