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You’re a Saint, Not a Sinner
4-DAY READING

Are you a saint or a sinner? Many are quick to answer, “I’m a sinner saved by grace.” But what if, with a closer look at Scripture, you learned you were actually a saint? How would that identity change the way you live? In this 4-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe takes you on a journey to discover your true identity in Christ.

Day 1

We’re No Longer Sinners, We Are Holy Sons and DaughtersColossians 1:1-2; John 1:12-13

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful, you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners. —Søren Kierkegaard

You are not a sinner saved by grace.

Oops, sorry there. Didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers. Let me explain. At one time you were a sinner, but now that you are saved, your sin-driven past is behind you. You are currently a saint who sometimes sins. There is a big difference between the two!

The difference is in how God looks at you. Look at how Paul describes you who are in Christ:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. (Colossians 1:1-2)

The term “holy” is the same word used for “saint.” If you continue to say that you are “just a sinner saved by grace,” you are saying that your identity is still that of a sinner.

Not true! At the very moment you trusted Christ, you stopped being a sinner and started being a saint. You were indeed saved by grace from your sin, but your identity as a sinner, which you inherited at birth, is gone. Because Christ saved us, we are now God’s sons and daughters

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

If we walk around constantly identifying ourselves as sinners saved by grace, we are communicating to ourselves and to others that we are defined by our previous identity as a sinner. It’s tricky, isn’t it? We want to fully acknowledge to the Father and those around us that we continue to sin, but the Father does not want His children to run around and identify themselves as sinners.

Am I just playing with words here? Absolutely not! The distinction between seeing yourself as a sinner or seeing yourself as a saint makes a huge difference in the way you live your life. Because you will act out the way you view yourself. Think about that one for just a little bit!

Lord Jesus, You have given me a new identity. I am not defined as being a sinner any longer. I am a saint who sometimes sins. I still mess up, but I am a new creation in You. Give me the strength and courage to recognize this and to begin to live in the victory that it proclaims! Amen.

Day 2

Why Managing Your Sin Never Really Works |1 Timothy 1:15

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for Thy courts above.
—Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Someone who believes they are a “sinner saved by grace” tends to focus on sin management more than pursuing intimacy with God. They’re too busy trying not to sin to really embrace life as a saint. It’s almost as if they are just waiting to sin again, feeling doomed by its inevitability. Managing sin keeps us looking down in the dumps. We’re never quite able to see beyond the next mistake. Believe yourself to be a failure and you will behave like one.What a tiring way to live! Now, no one is saying that the saint in Christ is going to live a sinless life. (Actually, some people do say that, but that goes contrary to Scripture, too). What this means is that our identity is not that of a sinner.

Paul had an interesting take on the believer’s relationship with sin:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)

That might seem like a contradiction to everything we’ve been talking about, but if you dig deeper, you’ll see that Paul is affirming the sinfulness of his actions, never denying that it’s God’s grace and not his behavior that saved him. In passages like Philippians 3, Paul tells people to imitate him. (He wouldn’t tell them that if he was still the worst of sinners!) He’s acknowledging the reality of sin, but wants his readers to understand that it’s rooted in their old self, residue from their past life and the flesh.

We are indeed prone to wander, like the old hymn says. We will always struggle against our flesh, the world, and Satan. Instead of seeing the Christian life as merely a struggle to manage sin, we can embrace the thrill of being a believer in spite of our sin. Sin becomes more of a road bump overcome by the power of the Spirit as we speed along toward Christ!

Lord, by the power of Your Spirit in me, focus my heart and my thoughts on Your perfection, rather than on my imperfections. You say that I have been crucified with You, and it is no longer I who live but You who lives in me. Would You make that mystery a known reality today? Consume my heart with Your purity and righteousness and presence so that the embarrassing reality of my sin would be drowned out by Your blazing light. Amen.

Day 3

Hoping In Christ Helps To Free You From Sin | 1 Peter 1:3

Joy is the serious business of Heaven. —C.S. Lewis

In 2009, the world was enraptured with the harrowing rescue of 33 men trapped in a mine in Chile. The drama played on some of the greatest human fears: darkness, suffocation, isolation, you name it. It must have been a truly terrifying experience. Thanks to a small burrowed hole, the men were able to receive goods from the surface. Interestingly, despite their dire predicament, the men were in jolly spirits. They later admitted that things were occasionally tense, but overall they were never that terrified.

That seems odd, doesn’t it? Turns out that a team of psychological experts recommended that the rescue commanders on the scene come up with projects and activities for the men to do while the rescue tunnel was drilled. These tasks did not technically assist them in their rescue, but it did something just as important. It kept hope alive. They overcame tremendous hardship because they had tremendous hope.

Because of who we are in Christ, we can latch on to a similar, tangible hope of rescue from sin.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

You can almost hear Peter shouting this encouragement. He’s bursting with infectious enthusiasm. He’s desperate for the people to see that the Father has done something so wonderful that their entire lives need to become consumed with it.

Go back to when you first came to know Christ. Why was it so exhilarating? A big part of it was probably because you felt something like Peter was describing in that verse: living hope.

For perhaps the first time, you truly felt purpose. You had a sense of lasting joy and fulfilled life. You shed your old self for new beginnings.

Knowing who you are in Christ, understanding the unconditional love of a perfect father—it’s like that mineshaft of hope that brings light into your darkness. And yes, that hope is your way of escape. There is no longer a need to feel trapped in an inescapable hole of sin and darkness. Hope has come! As saints, it’s our serious business to spread hope to the masses. We don’t live like pessimists; we bring the light of the Gospel to the world.

Lord, my hope is in You. I have no hope apart from You. Bless You and praise You for breathing life into my soul, for transferring me from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of light. Give me the joy that Peter showed as he spread the Gospel message. Amen.

Day 4

Live For Christ with All You’ve Got | 1 Corinthians 9:24

Part of the fun of sports is debating who is “the greatest.” There’s no way to subjectively measure such a concept, but in sheer influence and success, many would agree that John Wooden was the greatest coach of any sport, ever. He won ten NCAA basketball national championships, including a span of seven consecutive titles. That’s the all-time record—and with the revolving door of collegiate athletic sports (where entire teams are replaced every few years), it was an astounding feat.

A Christian, Wooden always rightly gave thanks to the Lord for his success. But make no mistake; he was a fervent believer in the power of hard work and discipline. He drilled his players hard. He demanded their very best. Many of his principles have been studied the world over and applied to businesses and countless other career fields.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24)

A saint runs to win. Why? Because that’s part of our identity. We give Christ everything, naturally, when we understand who we are in Christ because we know that everything belongs to Him anyway. Without Him we can do nothing. Through Christ all things are possible.

The key is this: Stop trying to become something you already are. You were made a saint by the loving sacrifice of Christ, and the reality of His Holy Spirit in you. If you think you are a sinner, you will need to try to establish your own righteousness. That leads to legalism, despair, and failure, because it simply can’t be done; it’s not the way we were designed.

The design of the Christian life, beginning in the upper room of Acts chapter 2, is an intimate passionate walk in the Holy Spirit, where we rest in who we are in Christ and allow Him to live His life through us. That’s how the race is won in the Christian faith.

Heavenly Father, I have been called by Your name, and You call me a saint. I desire to be one of Your champions. Yet, I openly confess my failures and my shortcomings—both the things that I have done and the things that I have not done. Show me how to run this race! Remind me continually of my inability to live the Christian life. I now stand aside from my own efforts and ask that the power of Your Spirit in me would live the life that You intend for me to live. You and You alone are the greatest. I surrender my will and my strength to You. I ask that You would use me, shape me, in any way that You desire. In the name of Your precious and gracious Son, Amen.

Reflection:

  • Do you see yourself as a sinner or a saint? Why?
  • Are you willing for Christ to transform your thinking in regard to your identity in Him?
  • What’s keeping you from leaning in and trusting Christ to “run the race” through you?
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