We Are Saints Who Sin

Understanding our identity as Christians is so important to living in grace. I’ve mentioned before that we are saints who sin. What do I mean by that? It means we are justified. Now we are invited to receive grace and live in trust.

I’ve learned so much about the importance of trust. I have learned about the grace that comes from trusting others in who they are. I have learned about the grace that comes from trusting others with who I am. Not the person that I intend to be, always feeling great and never having a problem or a bad day, but the real person, the person I truly am.

This has been a lesson in freedom! It’s very freeing to be able to say to people, “This is who I am.” It has allowed me to mess up and not feel ashamed. I don’t live in shame! This is huge! I live in trust.

I am not perfect. I fail. I mess up. I have bad days. I cuss every now and then. Sometimes I get irritable. Sometimes I get frustrated. But I trust my wife, my close friends, and my children to say, “I don’t think of you differently. I know you messed up. It happens. It doesn’t change my opinion of you. I love you.” I receive their grace, and it sanctifies me.

Jesus is the reason I can trust people with my imperfect self. Jesus says, “I died for you. I took all of that shame. Then I resurrected.” Now that He has done all that, the same Spirit that lived in Him lives in me. Now, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am a righteous man. I am holy as Jesus is holy. I am free!

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (New King James Version Rom. 8:1-4)

This is worth repeating. There is no condemnation! With this understanding, we can look at each other in trust. Through the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, we are made righteous and holy. Because of what Jesus did, God sees us as righteous and holy.

We can do this for each other. We have to! This is what allows us to be saints that sin.

Saints that sin, not sinners that have been saved. The two perspectives are completely different. When you live Biblically in who you are, then you’ll understand. God looks at you and He doesn’t see a sinner. He sees His precious child who is righteous and holy.

You don’t need to hide in your shame, because there is no shame. You are free. You have the freedom to say, “This is who I am,” and do you know what will happen? You will receive grace!

When shame starts causing you trouble, banish it. Say, “No, I am righteous.” You will be speaking the truth.

I have more to say on this next time. See you Saturday.

Kindness and Deceit

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (NKJV 1 John 1:8-10)

The consequences of denying sin are not good. When we fear that we don’t look the part of the good Christian, we begin to judge. We try to make ourselves look better by judging the motives of others.

When we start judging, we start worrying about the people we hang out with. We get anxious about our friends and coworkers. We even judge the people we go to church with. We judge them and on that judgment conclude that we have to be careful “lest we become like them.” (Prov. 26:4)

We might even try to control the people in our lives. That’s also part of our denial. We want to control other people so that we can control how we react to them. We’re afraid of our reactions. We’re afraid to appear sinful.

Some Christians are afraid to let their kids hang out with non-Christians kids, because those kids may not see things the same way. Non-Christian kids might teach Christian kids the wrong stuff.

Well, what if the opposite happens? Maybe your kids will teach them things. Maybe your kid’s non-Christian friends will go home and their parents will see them love and act in new and different ways!

Fearing people who are outside the faith looking in leads us to become judgmental. We come at them in fear and judgment, and it’s no fun. It’s no fun to be around anyone like that, Christian or not.

I think we’ve got the wrong idea about influence. I think you have to keep an even keel. Whether you have believing friends or non-believing friends, you have people in your life that you must witness to. You have lots of people in your life, believing and non-believing, who need you to be around them.

You’ve got to be okay with this. You need to be kind to everybody. You need to be kind to yourself! Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, so you can trust that wherever you find kindness, you find Jesus.

We aren’t perfect. Our salvation did not perfect us. It made us saints who sin, and saints who sin have a call to lovingly bring the kingdom everywhere.

The consequences of denying sin are very serious, because they lead to fear. That’s the work of the enemy. Let’s follow Jesus to freedom! Fearlessly, and without judgment!

Love Your Neighbor

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

Why are we here? We are here to love our God and our neighbor, with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. I think that’s the reason everyone is here.

Loving your neighbor as yourself is not just something you do when you go to church on Sunday. It’s really easy to love your neighbor at church. We turn and shake hands, we pass the peace, and we greet each other.

Then when we leave church, everything changes. Our whole attitude is like, “I don’t see people.” We’ve got our headphones on, we’ve got our phones, and we gear our body language to say, “Don’t talk to me.”

We don’t want to have neighbors when we’re outside of church. That’s why the headphones come off when we go to church. In church, we greet each other. In church, we say, “Hey! How are you doing? You look great! This is an awesome day.”

It’s so easy to love our neighbors in church.

But we have neighbors all around the world, not just in church. We’re asked to love our neighbors everywhere we go, not just in church. We’re asked to do it in our life. We’re asked to do it in our walk. The Bible says that we are to be the aroma of Christ. People should feel Jesus in us everywhere we go.

Love your neighbor as yourself is as morally clear as I’ll ever get. There is no law against love!

So When Can We Judge?

The Bible tells us, “Do not judge.” It’s so easy to believe that we’re really good at this. We like to think that we are giving grace to everybody, but the truth is, judging is a really natural thing to do.

Here’s a great example. You hear somebody say, “Well, I don’t have a problem judging.” What’s the first thought you have? “I doubt that.” See? You’ve just judged them!

And you did it about whether they judge! Talk about irony. Judging each other is that natural.

Sometimes our discipleship makes it even harder. You’re trying so hard to be a good Christian that it heightens your awareness of your beliefs about other people. You’re so conscious of trying to be good that you might look at a guy and think, “Well, I’m good. He’s not.”

You’ve judged him, but really, you don’t know anything about him. You might think you do. You might even look at him and say, “I know he’s bad, because I know what he did.” But if he could look inside your soul, and if he could hear your thoughts, he could probably say the same thing.

If we really think about it, we’ll realize that we’re not better than other people, even if we think we are.

So is there ever a time when it’s proper to make a judgment call? When the Bible says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” is it really saying, “Don’t judge somebody?”

Or is it saying, “Be careful how you judge somebody?”

Or is it saying, “Judge only people in the church,” because of the fruit of the Spirit?

“Judge not.” It’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around this, even though it’s something I really want to live by. I really want to love my neighbor as myself, and that means not going around judging everyone. It’s the only way to get along. It’s the cure for most of the issues that come into play in relationships. And whether you’re fighting injustice, or merely dealing with people who think differently, things get a lot more clear when you don’t judge.

Jesus said there’s only two commandments: love me and love your neighbors. How simple this sounds! But it’s actually a very difficult thing to do. It’s all about being selfless. It’s all about not judging. It’s all about not doing the things that come naturally!

You know how people say, “Christianity is a crutch.” They say, “Christianity is the easy way out.” But Christianity is not a crutch and it’s certainly not easy. The Christian life is a very difficult way to live. It’s so easy to judge. It’s so easy to be hypocritical.

If I’m going to choose a crutch, I’m not picking Christianity, because Christianity is hard, man. It asks us to transform ourselves.

But it’s worth the hard work. It’s worth it. And so I pray about it. I say, “God, I want to understand what you meant when you told us not to judge. I want to understand it fully and completely.”

There’s never a good time to judge each other. The reason is that if we don’t judge each other, we will be better off.

We will live in peace and harmony.

The Last Christian?

“In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. . . . What has been called ‘evangel’ from that moment was actually the opposite of that which he had lived.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche said the last Christian died on the cross.

That is such a bold, yet powerful and piercing statement. Is it true? In some ways I feel that the threat is always there. It could always become true. That’s painful! And it’s not just how one man saw it. I think a lot of people see it that way.

Christians can change that now, just by changing how we do things. It’s so simple. We have to love, not judge.

It’s a joke how much we judge in the church. We judge other people. We think we’re better than other people. We think we’re better than others because we found Jesus.

Jesus wouldn’t support that way of thinking. No! Jesus would say, “You shouldn’t try to make yourselves look better in the eyes of others just because you found Me. That’s not how it works. You should love other people better because you found Me.”

Finding Jesus should help us love better, because love is just so good, man. I’ve seen the good that comes from loving people. I’ve been part of it. I’ve been there when someone does something wrong. They do it and then they look at me, as if to say, “Oh, you’re a Christian guy, you think you’re better than me.” They expect me to look at them wrong. They expect me to shake my head and judge them right there.

You know what? I want that to happen! I want it to happen because it gives me the opportunity to look at them and smile. And give them a hug. It lets me say, “I love you.”

When they see that I don’t judge them, they say, “But I just did something you think is wrong!”

And I say, “You’re right! I don’t agree with what you just did. I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t think it’s right. But that does not change my view. I love you. I love you so much. And I love your life! I hope that you will know the right and wrong way to do things one day, but brother, I will not turn my back on you. I love you.”

That heals the soul immediately. When you do that, people are blown away. They’re like, “Whoa, wait! That’s not how it’s done!”

Well, they’re right! That’s not how it’s done. We haven’t been doing it right! Jesus showed us the right way to do things.

The church’s calling is to love. We are called to love like Jesus.

See you Wednesday.

Can Christians Be Loved?

It would be so cool to feel like I could walk down the street and be loved for who I stand for. I wish that I could walk up to people and stand for Jesus, and they would not be wary of me.

That isn’t what happens right now! Now they say, “Oh, here we go, Bible thumper guy.” Or they say, “You know what, I hate you Christians because of how you act.”

Jesus was loved by the majority of the people that He walked around with. But His followers now are not.

There are times when people want to go to a Christian and ask for help. They have nowhere else to go! They’re struggling! They think, “Maybe this Christian will pray for me. Maybe he can help me.”

How do you think they feel when they go to that Christian, and instead of getting love and help, they get judged? There is immediate anger.

Of course they get angry. They ask Christians for help, and they get judged! We’re not helping them, we’re just telling them how bad they are. I confess, sometimes I do it. Sometimes I don’t access God’s Spirit quickly enough. I try to, but sometimes it’s too late or I’m too tired, or I just feel like getting mad. I’ve done it!

I also understand that there’s no room for that in the Christian life. Grace leaves no room for judgment. The only person that should be telling people how bad they are is the guy that died for them. That’s the only guy that has a right to say anything to anybody. No one else. And He didn’t judge us. He loved us. He freed us!

Sinners loved Jesus. These were the outsiders. They were outcasts, and their society called them evil. Sinners! They loved that guy.

This really intrigues me. I’m really intrigued by a guy that was so well loved. If anybody had an issue with Him, it was the leaders. Think about that. The people who couldn’t deal with Jesus were the same authorities that served His Father.

What if I had been like that? If I had been there, would I have been one of the people rejecting Jesus? What if I saw Him in the streets, healing and teaching, and failed to believe in who He is? What if I had avoided Him? What if I had judged Him? I’m afraid of that. I don’t want to be one of those Christians that makes people wary. I want to make people feel loved.

I’m trying to change the public’s perception of Christians. I think a New Testament Christian should be someone that walks in love, and simply loves his neighbor as himself. I crave to be able to look at everybody the same, to love on them, to be able to help and encourage them, and to recall at all times that this happens because His Spirit is in me.

It’s so hard to do, but I try to do it the best I can. I try not to judge. When I do, I try to replace that judgment with love and encouragement.

I think I do it better now than I’ve ever done it before, because I’m starting to understand these concepts. I’m nowhere near where I need to be, but we’re all in that boat. We’re all learning.

See you Saturday.

You’re Not Alone In Your Struggles

(Don’t forget: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

Jesus told us, “Do not judge,” but this can be a big struggle, man. Big. If you try to just “not judge,” you’re going to have a really difficult time.

I wish I could look in the mirror and say, “I don’t ever judge people.” But I do! I don’t like this about myself, but I still do it.

I think sometimes we judge because we can be a bit cowardly, at least in certain areas. We don’t want to go to a guy and talk to him directly about why we don’t like him. We don’t want to dialogue with him about what we think he’s doing wrong, or how he frustrates us.

All we really want is to feel that way about him without having to do anything about it. We want to just look at him and say, “This guy is driving me nuts. He’s doing all these things wrong and he’s an idiot.” You know? We’re happy enough to just think these things and then walk away.

The problem is, we’ve just judged that guy seven or eight times, and yet we still want to think, “I’m a good person.”

The reality is, we can strive to be good people, but no one is a good person until Jesus is in them saying, “This is what you do. This is how you can be good.”

We all have demons hidden in our closets. We’re not going to get rid of them on our own. If you try to live without Jesus, those demons are going to frustrate you. If you continue to live just for yourself, you’re going to fail yourself. Every day.

Life in Christ is a good way of life, because Jesus is where we find joy. When I think about Jesus, I realize, “This is where heaven is.” My struggles in life are not necessarily going to go away, but Jesus is where I am going to find my peace. With His help, I’m going to receive peace in my struggles.

When you have Jesus, you have something inside of you that’s different.

That’s why Paul said, “Hey man, I take joy in my trials and tribulations. You know, I lean on God during these times and this is where I find the ultimate peace. Because I’ve found Him. And in Christ, I can have all things. When I have the Spirit of God living in me, I have all things.”

The key is to replace judgment with love. I can go around trying to “not judge” with all my might, but I’m still going to judge.“Not judging” is too hard, unless I turn to God for help.

When I am filled with His Spirit, then judging my neighbor is replaced by loving my neighbor. Not judging is so much easier when you do something in its place, like listen and help.

I know I’m going to mess up. I know I’m going to have issues. I’m going to struggle with my own problems. But with Jesus, I have someone to turn to. I have peace in the midst of my struggles. I’m not alone.

Can I be that way for others? More on that next time. See you Wednesday.