At lunch last week, after last week’s newsletter, a good friend told me that I let myself dwell too much upon my sinful and broken nature. This good friend reminded me that what Jesus Christ has done for me has, indeed, made me a new creation. It was Gospel. It was Gospel that was tough to hear and Gospel that I’m still thinking about, but it was Gospel.
It’s a troublesome dialectic, this “sinner and saint” thing. We are, as Martin Luther puts it “iustus et peccator” – literally meaning “righteous and sinner”. We are sinners by our own right, by the fact that we commit sins and break the commandments. But we are also saints. We are declared righteous by God for the sake of Jesus Christ, and this is not just God lying about what He sees. It’s not as if He sees me and my sins and just pretends that I’m righteous. God’s declaration of righteousness actually makes me righteous, makes me good. God will not lie, even when that lie is in my favor. God will not say “you are righteous” and not make me so, for to do that would make Him a liar.
“BUT!,” my painful self-awareness points out, “you have committed sins, and you commit sins. You are not holy.” Luther tells us that this is the devil, trying to make us lose our faith, which is supposed to hold dearly to the gifts that God gives us – gifts of His righteousness. Luther tells “when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”
I confess that my friend is right. I do tend to think of myself as TOO broken sometimes. This is problematic.It leads to a set of problems in my thinking. Those problems include: Not striving to achieve what I can because I feel it will fail because of my involvement, a failure to grab hold of the joy of being actually set free from my sins, a self-idolatry that makes my sins more powerful than God’s word of absolution, and other things as well.
Perhaps you are like me, finding it difficult to find the saint in your life. Or perhaps your problem is the opposite of mine and it is hard to find the sinner. Whoever we are, God’s Word of Gospel is the same for us – Jesus Christ had died for us. We are justified. We are sinners, but we are also saints. Join me this week in doing the difficult work of reminding yourself that the second part of that last sentence is as true as the first part.