I tend to look at things with more positivity than not – I’ve always been that way. For some reason, I generally believe things will (eventually) work out. But I know that I am not in the mainstream when it comes to this attitude.
Culturally, Americans focus on the negative and the proof is all over the place from report cards (what do you focus on?) to performance evaluations (where do you need most improvement?) to self-esteem (what areas of me need some work).
We are so obsessed with deficiency that we fail to understand what produces success. Take the examples above:
- What areas of a report card are best? Let’s explore why and do more of that – perhaps even apply some of that knowledge to the other areas.
- In what areas are we finding energy at work? Let’s get involved in more of that and see our job satisfactions go up.
- What part of me do I love? Keeping a list of those qualities about myself that are awesome handy when those old tapes play.
Knowing how to shift our thinking to focus on the positives and strengths around and in us takes some serious work up front, but the payoff is phenomenal. Take another example: spirituality.
Christians often want to focus on how depraved (opposite from God) we are and it comes out in the way we talk about ourselves. We call ourselves sinners and unworthy and undeserving when the facts of Scripture, when understood fully, paint a much different picture.
Sinner vs. Saint: In most of the apostle Paul’s opening remarks to the Church in his letters, he refers to the Christians there as “saints” – not saved sinners. Do you see the difference? It might appear subtle at first, but it isn’t – it is very profound!
Let me explain. When Christ enters our life and saves us from an eternal separation from our Heavenly Father, He must to do something with what separated us to begin with – our sin.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12
The idea is that although we deserve to be judged and sentenced to eternal separation from God, He moved toward us and forgave that transgression and placed them as far away from us as the east is from the west (infinity). The picture the Psamlist wants us to put in our mind is one of a new identity – one of sainthood. We are no longer identified by our sin because it has been removed from us.
But what sin – just that which has been up to the point of salvation? Surely not – that wouldn’t be a long-term relationship since we seem to do something stupid that can be considered sin every day. Read Romans 8:37:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A basic tenant of the Christian faith is that God forgave all of our sins – past, present and future – through the blood of Christ and there is nothing that can come between us and our Father ever again, which includes us. So, if God doesn’t count our sins against us, why are so hell-bent on identifying with them?
There are a ton of real unhealthy answers and most have to do with our inability to accept anything good about ourselves and this comes from our culture, our parents, our teachers, and even our church. This has to stop!
When God looks at a Christian, He sees His Son – not sin. He sees His adopted child, not an enemy. He sees an eternal relationship, not a fling. And that is called Grace – the umerited favor of a Holy God applied to a wretch headed to Hell made possible through the willing sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
Here’s the point. If you believe in Christ and have accepted His death as payment for your sin, you are a saint; an heir to the Kingdom of God; eternally destined to be with Him who saved you. Your sinner status has been revoked…FOREVER!
Do we still sin – sure we do, but that has more to do with us than Him. Hear me carefully – our unwillingness to admit our mistakes openly and honestly and quickly is what taints our relationship with God – not the mistakes themselves. The power of those mistakes has been removed, but we hide from God when we screw up – we cover our nakedness and live ashamed. WE DO THAT!
We have been made great – not because of who we are, but because of He who lives in us. The first 18 verses of Romans 6 add the boundary needed to keep this new mindset in check:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
You see, just because there is no power in our sin, we need to continue to take sin seriously because those mistakes keep us from experiencing God fully and we miss the blessing He wants us to experience (“members as instruments of righteousness to God – v. 13.”)
So, the next time you want to dwell on your depravity, do so as a way to remember how great the gift of Grace is, not how horrible and undeserving you are to be called saint. You are now a noble in God’s Kingdom – act like it!