Sinner - if we look up this word in the dictionary, here is what we find: a person who sins or transgresses. Not much to go on, huh? So, I guess where we need to start is looking at what scripture has to say about sin. The evidence there is pretty revealing, so I think it is about as accurate of a description we can get of what it means to be a "sinner". First and foremost, let me just say this - no one escapes this definition - no one. I know this might come as a surprise to some, since they have lived their lives as basically "good people", trying to do right, not really crossing the line too much, and always living by a pretty high set of morals. Yet, if we examine what scripture has to say about sin, we all fit into the category of sinners since we have been born with the "nature" which gives us the drive and ability to sin. According to Colossians, these things "lurk" within each of us and need to be "put to death". I kind of think of our sin nature like the slimy stuff which builds up on the inside of the pipes under the sink. They look clean on the outside, but deep within the inside, there is this gunk which really stays pretty well hidden - until it builds up sufficiently to impede the flow of stuff through the pipes! Sin is kind of like that - it is always there, lives kind of hidden within, and doesn't usually get much notice until something "big" happens which calls attention to the fact it has been there all the time!
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” This saying is true, and it can be trusted. I was the worst sinner of all! But since I was worse than anyone else, God had mercy on me and let me be an example of the endless patience of Christ Jesus. He did this so that others would put their faith in Christ and have eternal life. I pray that honor and glory will always be given to the only God, who lives forever and is the invisible and eternal King! Amen. (I Timothy 1:15-17 CEV)
Romans 3:23 reminds us we are ALL sinners - falling short of the standards God has for our lives. Those standards were fully exemplified in his Son, Jesus. To see how much we have fallen short, we need only compare our lives to his - not one another's lives, but his. This is the danger of comparison - using the wrong standard by which to judge our behavior. So, when we begin to compare ourselves to the glorious standards he has set for us in the life of his Son, we can begin to see our best "moral" living is really nothing more than good works without the energizing of the Spirit of God within. Proverbs 28:14 tells us of the importance of being willing to no longer try to conceal our sin or the nature which causes us to pursue this sin. There is something liberating about an honest appraisal of our circumstances apart from Christ - once we come "out" about what is really part of who we are, it produces a liberty to be honest about the need we have for a Savior!
We are to celebrate the truth proclaimed in I John 1:7-9 where we are told the blood of Jesus was the one thing which made it possible to be free of our sin - regardless of how "good" or "bad" we call our sin, it is ALL forgiven because of the shed blood of Jesus. There is a root of wickedness lurking within - we may not tap into it very often, but if it is dwelling there at all, it has the potential to produce the evidence of its presence! We don't see the slime in the pipes, but it the bacteria which causes it is there all along! In time, it will overgrow if left unchecked! What overgrows has the potential to not only produce a pretty nasty odor, but to produce some pretty ugly "clogs" which allow for stuff to build up and get trapped - festering even more so! This is the problem with us thinking we can deal with our own sin through just living right - we don't deal with the real issue - the sin nature within. We cannot deal with it - only the blood of Jesus can!
I like the passage above, not because it speaks of Paul as the "chief of sinners", but because I can substitute my name in there, as well. Christ came into the world to save "sinners" - put my name there (and yours). His entire purpose was to provide a means by which our "nature" could be exchanged. If you have ever tried to overcome a personal habit with your own will-power, you know just how difficult this can be. If you have ever been enabled to overcome it by the power of Christ within, you know just how liberating this freedom can be. One is self-effort - a whole lot of trying and trying again, until you come at least close to being free of whatever it was which had you in bondage. Apart from Christ within, this is the best we can hope for - keeping those things "in check" all in our own effort. With Christ, we rely upon a different source for our "right-living" choices - his presence enables us to make the right choices and helps us to engage in the activities which build us up to ensure we walk strong and upright.
My hope is that each of us can proclaim the truth of Jesus making us living examples of how Christ's endless patience changes each of us from glory to glory. Today's glory will not be as magnificent as tomorrow's, and trust me on this - tomorrow's will not outshine today's once there are a couple more tomorrows. The glory of Christ within will continue to increase as we allow his presence to permeate each aspect of our lives - mind, will, emotions - and this will speak louder than any amount of self-effort to deal with the "gunk that dwells within". Just sayin!