“I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” Okay to say that as long as you don’t pull the “sinner” identity into your new life in Christ. “Sinner” is what we were. “Saint” is what we are. We have been given a new identity through the powerful work of the cross.
We are not schizophrenic. Otherwise, we set the bar too low for living in the power of the Spirit. Sinners sin. It is not possible to live apart from the way we view ourselves. If “sinner” is our identity, sin will be our behavior. Identity drives behavior. What we believe is how we behave. In other words, we behave our beliefs.
If your friend is struggling with anxiety, are you going to point it out to him? Or are you going to call him to his true identity in Christ? Only the Spirit can show us what a person needs; maybe it’s an admonition. More than likely, he needs to be called upward: “This is not who you are. You’re not a worrier; you’re a warrior. You fight for others. God is releasing you from a past of anxiety.” People usually know what they are battling. They need a friend who believes for them past their faults to their future.
Calling people to their true identity prepares them to walk into their destiny. Those with a skewed identity walk into a flawed destiny. Those who do not know who they are don’t know where they are going. Eagles raised in a chicken coup act like chickens.
If you are convinced you are a light, shine you will. Jesus declared our identity when He said, “You are the light of the world.” Then He called us into our destiny by exhorting, “Let your light so shine before men…” Had He led with the admonition without the statement of identity, we would have tried and waffled.
I grew up hearing the Gospel, and I embraced it. But I also heard that I was both a saint and a sinner, which I interpreted as meaning that sin was inevitable. It would be like playing for a team that never expected to win the championship. Win some, lose some. I thought it was holy to focus on sin; that way I could confess them and deal with them. My very concentration caused me to keep sinning.
Paul said that we become what we behold. I thought saying I was a sinner was a mark of humility, when for me it was an admission of defeat. I was failing to take seriously the work of the cross. Others may be able to walk that sinner-saint identity—I couldn’t. New Covenant Christians are consistently called saints, holy ones. It is an issue of identity, and by virtue of the work of Christ, we are identified as people in Christ and called to holiness. That sets the bar where it belongs. Am I making too much of myself? No, I am making much of the redemption of Christ on my behalf.
So if you want to walk confidently into your destiny, settle the issue of identity. Then go for it! (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for identity study in Ephesians.)