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sinner or saint?

October 20, 2011

Are you defined by your sin? Is your view of yourself ultimately shaped by how you fall short of God’s commandments?

Read this snippet from a confession of sin (we have used this in our church from time to time):

     Dear Lord,

     We have left undone those things that we ought to have done;

     and we have done those things that we ought not to have done;

     and there is no health in us.

The first three lines are fine. We haven’t done all that we should have. We have also done things we should not have done. Hopefully, every Christian is able to confess those things. We need to have enough gospel-driven honesty to assess our lives with integrity.

But my question is about the final line: There is no health in us.

Really? None?

I know it sounds very humble and spiritual. But I don’t think this is a good phrase to use in a confession of sin. I  think it paints an unhelpful and misleading picture of what it means to belong to Christ.

To belong to Christ means you are now a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). It means you have a “new life” (Colossians 3:3). And it means there is health in you because you have been joined to Christ.

Perfect health? No…not until Christ returns. We still struggle with sin. But real health in the present moment? Absolutely.

In other words, to be a Christian means that you are no longer defined by sin. It means you are now defined by the newness of life you have in Christ. It means your fundamental identity is not that of a sinner—although you still sin. Rather, your fundamental identity is that of a saint who still struggles with sin.

Anthony Hoekema puts it this way in his very helpful book:

We believe in our depravity so strongly we think we have to practice it, while we hardly dare to believe in our newness.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2011 8:10 pm

    I liked how a friend of mine stated the ‘new creation’ aspect of our faith. He reminded us we are a NEW creation. Not remodeled. Not refurbished. Not anything like the previous version. We are new! Thanks for the post. God Bless!

    • John permalink*
      October 20, 2011 8:33 pm

      Absolutely. New means new.
      Glad you liked the post.

  2. October 21, 2011 3:14 am

    the message is clear. I love even your blog’s layout.. simple yet profound

    Amazing Grace of Jesus. grace, the only antidote to sin. no more no less.

    @But my question is about the final line: There is no health in us.

    I must admit, I use to think this way, though not really pray to God like this.

    sometimes, Christians associate sickness with sin. that the sign of sin is sickness.
    thank Jesus, It Is not. but rather an opportunity for us to experience God’s power

    I must say also, that taking communion frequently for some reason regenerate our body, makes us healthy physically everyday. I can attest to that.

    grace and peace bro.

    • John permalink*
      October 21, 2011 8:23 am

      Thanks for your comment. Not sure I completely understand where you’re going, though. If you’re saying that communion keeps us physically healthy, I’d have to disagree. It does, no doubt, bless us in a profound way. But I think it does so in a way that is sometimes consistent with 2 Cor 4:16 (i.e., we are blessed inwardly while the “outer man” wastes away). Maybe I am misunderstanding your point.

      • October 21, 2011 9:19 am

        oh the language barrier. I wish I am native.

        taking communion, little by little we get healing. in our family, whenever someone is sick, our immediate reaction is take communion.

        no, we are not extremes. we do believe in medicine. I do take vitamins, but we believe more in communion. the results are astonishing.

        I have reverse the verse

        1 Corinthians 11:29-31

        For anyone who EATS and DRINKS discerning the body eats and drinks does not invite judgment on himself. That is why many of you are STRONG and HEALTHY, and some have LIVE.

        I hope I am not sending a confusing message

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