If you could choose one word to describe yourself, would you choose:
- A) Sinner
- B) Saint
Which did you choose? Unholy sinner, or holy saint?
Over 300 times, the Bible speaks of the non-Christian as a sinner. The Bible also speaks of the Christian as saint roughly 200 times and possibly refers to a Christian as a sinner maybe three times, but these potential occasions are unclear.
There is a popular theological system called Calvinism that teaches something called Total Depravity. In short, that means that sin has infected the totality of a person including all thoughts, feelings, emotions, and desires. That is in fact true – until someone becomes a Christian.
In a conversation with a man named Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus says that each person needs to be “born again” by the “Holy Spirit.” Other language that the Bible uses to explain this change at the deepest level of our being includes: regeneration, new heart, new self, partakers of the divine nature, new creation, new man, alive together with Christ, created in Christ Jesus, in Christ, and a good tree that bears good fruit.
Both Christians and non-Christians sin, but the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is in his or her nature – the deepest part of a person’s being. A Christian is a person with the Spirit who has a new nature and lives in relationship with God. For the Christian, sin may explain some of your activity, but not your identity. For the Christian, sin may explain some of what you do, but not who you are. For the Christian, you will sin some of the time, but are a saint all of the time.
This is what Philippians 3:16 means, saying, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” When God causes us to be born again and puts His Spirit in us, we have attained a positional righteousness that we need to then put into practice.
What difference does it make to see yourself as a saint made holy by Jesus’ righteousness and able to live a new life by the Holy Spirit’s power?