Sinner or a Saint?

  I’ve got sorrow to spare, I’ve got loneliness too
I’ve got blood on these hands that hold on to the truth
That I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God

So runs a stanza in Andrew Peterson’s song “Fool with a Fancy Guitar” (you can check out the song embedded below). It’s an incredible song, and one that repeatedly brings tears to my eyes with the truth it speaks. Peterson tracks through the various sins that he’s committed, the things that seem to define him, and yet repeatedly comes back to the refrain that “I am a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God.” Of course, that’s not an easy truth to come to.

I’ve long held that words are a vital part of our reality. They shape us, influence us, and can even change us. The words I think and use to describe me go a long way to actually defining who I consider myself to be. When it comes to my spiritual life, there’s one word that comes up a lot in these self-descriptions: sinner. It’s true, I’ve sinned in my life. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve sinned a lot. What’s more, that sin hasn’t just affected me – it has hurt both my relationship with and others themselves. It’s ugly and it makes me feel filthy.

Of course, there are times when I feel like God is gracious, and in those times I might refer to myself as a restored sinner, or a sinner saved by grace. But I always make sure that “sinner” is at the front of my consciousness, on the tip of my tongue, speaking a reality that my heart refuses to let go.

As I was reading Ephesians recently, I was confronted by the very first verse of the book. Paul writes, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to skip over; introductions are generally like that. But this time I got hooked on “saints.” Surely, I thought to myself, Paul knew that the Ephesians weren’t perfect, yet he still called them saints (literally, holy ones).

Paul is doing more than just describing the Ephesians, he’s declaring their identity as its found in Christ (just look at how much the idea of “in Christ” shows up in the rest of the letter). Ephesians is hardly the only place in Scripture that we see this shift in declared identity. It pops up over and over, reminding me that “sinner” is what I was, not what I am.

Saint, priest, prince, child of God. There are a lot of titles for me now that my life is hidden with Christ (Colossians 3:3). Sinner doesn’t fit any more.

Do I sin, sure? I’ve still got sorrow to spare, and there’s still blood on my hands. But I’m not a sinner. I’m a priest and a prince in the Kingdom of God. I need to start thinking and talking of myself that way. Maybe you need to too.

—————-

If you didn’t listen to the song, do. It might not be the best quality audio, but the lyrics are well worth it, I assure you.

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