Sinner or Saint (Part 1)

by Rayola Kelley

In ministering to people, we have discovered that many of them have not been truly discipled. Granted, they may have been indoctrinated according to a certain school of thought or doctrinal preference, but they have not been discipled to follow Jesus. They may have been exposed to Christianity, but they have been allowed to define what it means to live the Christian life according to personal understanding and speculation. As a result, people may be following concepts and notions about what it means to be a Christian, but they are not following Jesus. Such environments do not produce disciples of Jesus.

There are a couple of problems that occur when such environments are in operation among Christians. The main one is that there will be no real agreement. As a Body of believers, our real source of agreement is Jesus Christ. Due to the diversity in the Body, agreement will be missing unless there is one sure foundation in which to take stock of a matter, and one Spirit in which issues can be properly discerned. Spirit and truth serve as the only real points of agreement among believers (John 4:24).

Discipleship is what establishes believers on the true foundation of Jesus Christ, and lines them up to the cornerstone of His truth, examples and work of redemption (1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:6-8). This is why the Christian’s commission is really two-fold. In other words, it has one main root that connects individuals to the reality and work of Jesus, but it is two-pronged.

The one prong is our responsibility to preach the Gospel, while the other one is that of discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15). One of the facts I remind Christians of is that Jesus’ mission was to die as the Lamb of God, but His ministry was, and is, to serve as our Prophet, Priest and Lord to bring about the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). It is from this premise that He will fulfill His calling to set the captive free, and truly bring forth redemption as He rules in the believer’s life as Lord, while unveiling the kingdom of God in the lives of His followers.

Since there seems to be much confusion about Christianity, I felt a need to do a discipleship series. It is important to point out that real discipleship entails a one-on-one investment. It is a matter of bringing one to the knowledge, understanding and obedience of his or her Lord. It is my desire that as a Scriptural foundation is laid, thus enabling the true spiritual teacher, the Holy Spirit, the means to bring life and revelation of the Scriptural teachings to His people (John 16:13; 1 John 2:27). It is the life in the Word of God that will affect the inner man to ponder in humility what it truly means to be a Christian or true follower of Jesus.

Christianity is not a belief system. It is a lifestyle. In other words, Christianity’s identifying mark is the very life of Jesus being worked in us, through us and out of us. Obviously, Christianity is not just a matter of association with some Jesus; rather, it is a total identification, to and in, the Jesus of the Bible. This identification is for the purpose of being consecrated unto God according to the heavenly life that is being manifested in us by the Holy Spirit.

The question is how does identification truly distinguish us as believers? It is simple. It will come down to the way we walk. One of my struggles in my Christian life has been my identification. Am I a sinner or am I a saint? There are some Christians who can get quite adamant over this issue, declaring that as Christians, we are saints. However, when I first came to Jesus, I had to recognize that I was sinner, doomed by my sin. And, as we all well know, the Bible is quite adamant about this fallen state of man that initially separated each of us from our holy God.

Scripture reveals that, because of our selfish disposition, our best is considered as filthy rags before God. Because of our wretched fleshly ways, there is no good or beneficial aspect of our inner life that would honor God in His holiness. Sin has indeed marred us so much that we fall short of our potential to reflect the glory of God in this present age of darkness. Our sinful condition has brought us under a death sentence. In such a state we stand doomed. And, as the Bible warns, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth of Jesus Christ is not in us. It also states that if we say that we have not had a real problem with sin, we make God a liar, and His Word is definitely not in us. After all, God considers us sinners, subject to the wickedness of this world, enslaved by iniquity, and prone to transgress His Law (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8, 10).

Through the years, I have become more aware of my inner state. Granted, Jesus took away our sins (its activities) on the cross, but what about the inner disposition? We refer to this inner disposition as the “old man.” How did Christ deal with the inner man on the cross? It is simple that the work of redemption on the cross allows us to receive the “new man” or “new life” from heaven. In other words, we are given a new disposition: that of a new heart and new spirit when we are born again from above. The born-again experience makes us into new creations and places us in the position of a saint (John 3:3, 5; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Saint implies a person who is set apart or sanctified. Such a person is a believer whose life stands distinct in holiness, sincerity and separation. The Bible tells us that as believers, Jesus is our place of sanctification, but it is the Holy Spirit who does the work of sanctification. Positionally, the Father sees Jesus’ sanctification, which makes us acceptable to Him. However, our life must be hid in Christ to ensure God views us from this vantage point, as well as allow the Spirit to actually do the work of sanctification in the inner man (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 3:3; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2).

Does the old disposition in us simply cease once we are born again? The way we are inclined, or bent, towards God may change, but many of the tendencies of the “old man” remain in us. Obviously, for tendencies to change we must change our attitude about matters. In Jesus’ instruction and example, He showed believers what they must do to ensure that the “old man” never reigns again. There must be self-denial of the old ways, before the rule and preeminence of the “old man” can be crucified. Once the ways are disowned and the reign of the old disposition put to death, then a person has the liberty to follow Jesus.

Once the old is put away through neglect and death, a person can begin to take on the new. The new points to new, godly tendencies. The inner man must be renewed daily by the Spirit of God to ensure that new tendencies are being developed in one’s life. This is why the mind must be transformed by the renewing of the Spirit.

As I have struggled with the issue of being a sinner or a saint in my spiritual life, I have had to come to terms with what really sets a person apart as a sinner or saint. The answer is quite simple. It is found in 1 John 3:9-10: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”

What identifies a person in his or her walk? If a person is walking or living in sin, he or she is a sinner. If a person is walking in the ways of righteousness, he or she will be identified as being born from above. After all, those who truly have the very life of Jesus in them cannot sin without being convicted in their tender conscience. There will be no way in which they can ignore, justify or maintain such sin without a war raging in their soul. Sin breaks fellowship with God, and the new disposition will not be able to tolerate such a broken state for long.

As Christians, we must realize that our Christian identification is not a title or a means of association. It is about exchange and identification. At the cross of Christ I exchange the old with the new in order to become totally identified with Jesus in a new life. The Apostle John talks about such an identification in his first epistle: “He that saith he abideith in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked”(1 John 2:6).

To ensure complete sanctification as saints, we must follow Jesus. Jesus stated in John 17:19: “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” We are not only positionally identified as a saint, but our lives must also brand us as being truly followers of Jesus Christ. He sanctified or set Himself apart so we could be sanctified through His truth. Let us now consider the path Jesus followed to be set apart in His life as a man.

Personal Glory: He gave up His capacity as God to take on the disposition of a servant, allowing Himself to be fashioned as a man (Philippians 2:1-8). He became identified with us, so we could become identified to Him in His work of redemption. According to Jesus’ example, before we can walk the life of a saint that is separate from the dictates of the flesh and the demands of the world, we have to give up our vainglory. This means we must give up our right to life according to our terms. To give up our personal glory enables us to humble ourselves as a servant so that we can be made or formed in the righteousness of God.

Established: As man, Jesus was established in His life with the Father. Most of this hidden life He had with the Father was developed in obscurity. As a result, Jesus was prepared to walk the path to Calvary. His face was set to finish His earthy mission, enabling us as believers the means to discover our heavenly inheritance. His example is clear; we must be firmly established in our life with Him, if we are going to live separately from the influences of this world.

Commissioned: Jesus was commissioned to die on the cross. In His ministry He made the intention of the Father known to those who would but hear. He came to heal the broken hearted and restore hope to those in captivity, by reconciling them back to a relationship with His God. As saints we have the ministry of reconciliation (Luke 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We have been commissioned to preach the Gospel that can bring peace, and teach others to observe the teachings and ways of Jesus that will line them up to the narrow path of life.

Sacrifice: As a servant, Jesus was prepared to offer all up for the glory of the Father, to benefit our spiritual state. He walked away from what was considered a normal life, sacrificed all attachments and recognition that belonged to the world, and walked contrary to the ways of the world. In the end, He became the perfect Lamb of God that the world not only hated, but also offered up as a source of reproach and humiliation on the altar of the cross. As saints, we are to become living sacrifices to prove what is the right, acceptable, and perfect will of God(Romans 12:1-2).

Death: Jesus died so we could have life. All sins have been placed in the silent grave so the guilt attached to them can no longer taunt believers’ conscience, allowing them to embrace the new life. As saints, we not only possess eternal life, but we are to live this life out in loving devotion. Jesus talks about this life possessing abundance or satisfaction. When Christians are not content, it is because they are not walking out the life entrusted to them. As a result, they fail to experience the abundance of this life that truly proves to be satisfying to the spirit and soul of man. Keep in mind that the very life of Jesus is complete, full and rewarding. We can only experience the contentment of this life by assimilating it into our thoughts, attitudes and conduct.

Resurrection Power: Resurrection power raised Jesus from the grave. As saints, we have this same power to raise us out of the quagmire of sin and the world, to live victorious lives over the enemies of our soul. We are no longer earth bound by the death that reigns in the world, but now we are identified to a life that is empowered by resurrection. There will be no excuse for the Christian who fails to walk the life of a saint. Saints reflect the glory of Jesus; they have been established in righteousness, commissioned to do His bidding, have presented their bodies as a living sacrifice, are identified in His death, and empowered by resurrection to be victorious in their lives.

Ministry: Jesus’ ministry did not stop upon His death, burial and resurrection. He now sits on the right hand of majesty. Here He serves in the capacity of our High Priest. As saints, we must always be striving to go on to perfection in our life in Jesus. This maturity will enable us to serve our Lord in greater devotion, service and worship.

Jesus’ path and examples are clear. We must walk in His footsteps to not only ensure our position of sanctification, but to make certain that we become set apart in our walk or life. Sadly, there is not always a distinction between the sinner who has no knowledge of salvation and the Christian who claims rights as a child of God.

The concept of a “worldly” saint is not scriptural. According to your walk (disposition, attitude and conduct) would you be classified as a sinner or identified as a saint? If you are a sinner, you really need to repent and become identified with the complete work of redemption. However, if you are a saint, rejoice in your Lord as you continue to go on to greater maturity in your Christian walk and testimony.