A Sinner's Worth
By Mary Kroeger
Generally speaking, people are classified as being either good or bad (evil). Under either heading more classifications can follow. Under which heading would we place a sinner?
Webster defines a sinner as being "Someone who has done something wrong according to religious or moral law; someone who has sinned." The Oxford dictionary describes a sinner as "a person who transgresses against a divine law by committing an immoral act or acts." In ordinary speech, a sinner is someone who is involved in doing evil deeds. In the eyes of humanity, a sinner is a bad person.
Sinners are usually placed on our totem pole of worth according to the sinfulness of the sins they are guilty of. Often we have one standard for ourselves and another for others. For example, the person who tells us that we should not judge, does not realize that he is doing the very thing he is telling us not to do. Often we judge ourselves according to our intention, and others according to the result.
In contrast to bad persons, we speak of good persons. The contrast makes the good person look better, and the bad person look worse. This may initiate a judgment on our part. Our judgment will reveal our standards, our rigidity or lack of rigidity in regard to the necessity of obeying the laws of God and of government. Our natural reaction calls for a sentencing or punishment in keeping with the degree of harm done - especially if we or our loved ones are the recipients of the evil.
In view of all this we ask, can a good person be a sinner? Does a good person become a sinner when he makes a mistake or does something bad? Did his mistake make him a bad person? If so, if he makes up for his mistake, does he become a good person again? Do evil deeds make us bad people, or do we do evil deeds because we are sinners? Do we see worth in a sinner?
The answer to these and other questions depends on whether we see through human eyes or God's eyes. Humanity judges according to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is, according to its own values. However, God says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We all come into this world, dead in our trespasses and sins. (Eph. 2:1) Our denunciation of evil does not resurrect us into life. Our logical deductions do not have the power to resist the magnetic pull of disobedience. Even the rigid laws of our belief system often crumble when disobedience appears as the answer to our dreams and happiness. The law of sowing and reaping is forgotten when our lusting for pleasures, riches, ease, honor, etc., looks so inviting and is so strong!
In our desire for affirmation, we try to earn righteousness by getting involved in ministries and doing good deeds. But how can a sinner do something to make himself righteous?
Humanity thinks that our wrong doings have made us sinners. God says that we sin because we came into this world as sinners! We have all inherited the carnal mind of death through Adam. This mind is self-centered. It desires forgiveness for itself and punishment for others.
Humanity makes excuses for its wrong-doings, thinking they are easily forgiven. Our intentions were good. After all, we should be judged by our intentions, not our deeds. In comparison with others, we may judge ourselves as being average, or above or below average, but we are not like sinners who want to do evil.
Humanity is unable to judge itself correctly because it does not have truth. We ask, is it possible to get out of the sinner category? Humanity thinks it has answers. Many Christians maintain that it is not, for we all sin even after we are born again, so we remain sinners. They think we are either a lost sinner or a saved sinner. They say that lost sinners have not had their sins forgiven, and saved sinners have. This thinking flows out of the natural carnal mind, for it does not understand spiritual realities.
We may hate to admit our limitations, but we need help to get out of the "sinner" category! But how to do this is a personal as well as a universal problem. We all come into this world as sinners. We all like sheep have all gone astray; we have all turned to our own way. There is no one that is righteous, no not one! All have sinned and come short of the glory of God! Amazing, isn't it! Soon after God said, "Let us make man in our image," a world filled with sinners came into being!
Did God's plan fail? Why did God arrange circumstances in such a way that ALL would become sinners? Did the crafty serpent outwit God? Can the serpent stop God from achieving His goal? If God cannot achieve His will, He is not a sovereign God! If the serpent's success rate at producing sinners is greater than God's ability to make man in His image, then the devil is stronger than God. If God gave man a free will, namely, a will that He cannot influence, then He has lost His sovereignty!
We are often perplexed because God's way of doing things is beyond our understanding. We wonder why God formed Adam from ground when His objective was to make an image of Himself. At that time the ground was pure, but it could be corrupted. And God cannot be corrupted. Also, since God is spirit, an image of Himself would have to be a spirit image that cannot be corrupted. God knew what would happen, for He is omniscient! Since God is love, everything He does has to be the product of love. Therefore He must have had a good reason for letting Adam be lured into disobedience, thus bringing death into this world. Through Adam and Eve's disobedience, they became sinners.
Did God still love Adam and Eve after they became sinners? Are sinners still important to Him? Do they have worth or is this world filled with worthless sinners? Think of all the billions of sinners who have lived and died over the years! Think of all the sinners who are living and will continue to live! Look at all the evil and all the suffering these sinners have caused and are causing! Again we ask, do they have any worth? Why did God form man in such a way that he could be corrupted and multiply in his sinful state?
To answer our many questions, we have to remember what God's goal for mankind is. It is to be in His image! (Gen. 1:26) How do we picture His image? Since God is spirit (John 4:42), we cannot see Him. Therefore, in order to know Him, He has to tell us what He is like and reveal Himself to us. Among His many attributes it says that He is love. (1 John 4:7) He does not have a measure of love; He IS love! He is also righteous. (Is. 45:21, John 17:25 and many other verses.) The seen revelation of God came to us in Christ Jesus! He is the exact representation of the invisible God! (Heb. 1:3) He always hates evil and unrighteousness! So man in God's image has to be a righteous spirit being, filled with love, and hating evil and unrighteousness without a gravitational pull toward it! He has to lay aside his own will, and only do the Father's will - even as Jesus did!
Impossible? Although nothing is impossible with God, it certainly looks impossible to us! God's methods are very perplexing to us. Why did He begin this process with a world filled with sinners? Why was it necessary for evil to come into this world? Why do people have to endure so much suffering and pain? Why did God not make man loving and without the ability to sin in the first place? That would look more reasonable to us!
We need to receive answers from God and believe that He is able to perform what He says He will do. Since God knows how terrible sin is, an image of God also has to know how evil sin is and hate it even as Christ hated it. Christ's love for righteousness revealed His hatred of sin! His willingness to humble Himself, enter this world as a baby, take on flesh, be rejected and suffer not only the torture of ridicule, scourging and crucifixion, but also in His identification with sinful humanity, He became the perfect sacrifice to take away the iniquity (sins) of the whole world! He did all this for us while we were yet sinners!
Jesus came into this world to save sinners! He did not come to condemn them. (John 3:17) They were already under condemnation, for none were righteous. Jesus Christ came to save them! God's love for a world of sinners was so great that He gave His only begotten Son to die for all of them! In His death and resurrection He provided a salvation for all! So whoever believes on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life! (John 3:16)
What a precious truth!!! In Christ, God has provided forgiveness for every sinner who has ever lived, is living and will live! But forgiveness alone does not change the sinner. He needs more! He needs to be transferred out of his death in Adam and be put into the life of Christ! Believing in Christ takes us out of the Adam man of sin and death, and makes us a new creation in Christ - a creation that is born from above!
Even as a new-born baby does not come into existence because of any effort of its own, so a new creation in Christ does not initiate its own birth. Humanity would like to take some credit, so it claims that it made a right choice! It repented! It decided to follow Jesus! It does not realize that the Holy Spirit was initiating this. How can someone who is dead make a right choice? We are saved by grace, not by our works and our right decisions. In Eph. 2:8-9 we read, "For by grace you are saved by faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, lest any man should boast."
Salvation is God's gift to us! The sinner cannot contribute anything to his new birth! He does not have the ability to repent. The Holy Spirit has to work repentance in him. Neither does the sinner have faith. In Heb. 12:2 we learn that Christ is the author of our faith! He alone can produce faith in us! In Christ (the Word made flesh) we see the image of the invisible God! In Christ, the new creation grows into the image of God!
Only that which comes from God and out of Him, can be like Him! In Christ we are a new creation! (2 Cor. 5:17) This new creation is not a sinner! Even as a new dress is not a remodeled dress, so a new creation is not a remodeled old creation! He is completely new! But if he had not been a sinner first, he could not be born again!
We may wonder how this new birth takes place. A birth is the result of the union of a sperm and egg. The baby is the result of this union. It does not initiate its birth. Even so, we do not initiate our new birth! We may think we do, but how can we who are dead, initiate life? How can a dead person make himself alive? This is impossible! Yet God found a way to birth us out of our sinner condition and birth us into the righteousness of Christ!
Our new birth, our union with Christ, is not the result of anything that we could do. It is all the work of God in Christ! To accomplish this, the word had to be made flesh. (John 1:14) Through Mary, the Word received a fleshly body. On the cross a union took place. In Romans 6:6 Paul explains this. "We know that our old self was crucified with Him." Our old self is the sinner self. In order for our old self to be crucified with Christ, a union had to take place. Christ had to be united with our death in Adam, namely, the old self that was entombed in our carnal mind. This union had to take place in obedience to the Father's will - not in disobedience. On the cross this union took place in obedience to God's command! Why? "In order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." (Rom. 6:6)
This is good news! On the cross the sins of the whole world were put on Jesus. In His identification with the whole body of sin, the iniquity of the whole world was put on Him! That body of sin went with Him in His death. In Christ's victory over death, death is overcome.
Jesus died, not as the Son of God, but as the Son of Man. His spirit did not die, for He had put it in the hands of the Father just before He died. In 1 Timothy 2:6 we read that "He gave Himself as a ransom for all." In giving Himself on the cross, He gave up His sense of being one with the Father, and took on humanity's sense of being. Jesus said: "No one takes it (His life) from Me, but I lay it down on My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father." (John 10:18) In this power that He had received from the Father, Jesus overcame death and rose triumphantly!
This tells us that a sinner's worth is not in who he is in himself. His worth lies in God's ability to resurrect him out of death and make him a new creation in Christ! His worth is in his union with Christ!
In union with Christ, the sinner dies and is resurrected into a new creation! In Christ we are children of God! (1 John 3:1) We have been born of an imperishable seed, and that which has been born of God cannot sin! (1 John 3:9) Christ's obedience is greater than Adam's disobedience. (Rom. 5:12-21) His reward for all He suffered will be a world filled with saints who have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16) Functioning in His mind transforms us into His image! We are born of God, and His love now flows out from us to others!
This life is not only for a chosen few! We all come into this world, dead in our transgressions and sins! We cannot escape this death. We are born into it! The good news is that Christ came into this world to save us - not to condemn us! (John 3:17) By taking our humanity with Him in His death and resurrection this was made possible.
On the cross a union with sinful humanity took place when Christ became the sin-offering for the sins of the whole world - not just the sins of a chosen few! He triumphed over death and rose victoriously! Our old humanity has been crucified with Christ! In Christ there is no old humanity! In Christ there is no dust for the serpent to feed on! In Christ there is no death! In Christ there is only life! In Christ we are a new creation!
Our old self was centered on making the self-life happy and important. Our new self is centered on doing the will of God! The old self is born and rooted in the body of sin and death. Our new self is born and rooted in the righteousness and life of Christ!
Christ won this victory as the Son of Man. He repeatedly declared that the Son of Man would die, and the Son of Man would rise again! Who is the Son of Man? He is the corporate Christ in whom all are made alive! Since there are only two men, Adam, the first man, and the Son of Man (Christ), the second man, it follows that everyone is either in Adam or in Christ (the Son of Man). Both have to be corporate men.
On the cross, in Christ's identification and union with humanity, He took all of humanity with Him in His death and resurrection! Therefore Paul could boldly proclaim, "I have been crucified with Christ." (Gal. 2:20) Paul then went on to explain that since the old self was crucified with Christ, it is now dead! That which is dead, is not living. Therefore, the life that he now lived, was not the old self-life. It was Christ living in him!
What a glorious truth is revealed to us! Our new birth takes us out of our death in Adam, and places us into Christ in whom there is no death. He is now our life, and His life has no beginning and no ending! At present we live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself up for the sins of the whole world. This includes you and me, and everyone who has ever lived and will live. We now see that the sinner's new birth is made possible by Christ's obedience. Adam's disobedience brought death into the world, and Christ's obedience triumphed over death! When death is defeated, there is only life!
The apostle Paul wrote: "Because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30) This is the work of Christ! We could not help ourselves, so He did it all!
Christ's resurrection proved that life is stronger than death! His life is dead to every allurement to disobedience that sin can offer! Christ proved that the life in Him would rather endure suffering than bow to the escape sin so appealingly offers.
We may wonder why believers need to suffer. In Romans 8 we read that "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to us." Some translations read "in us". Power and glory are revealed when difficulties and hardships are overcome. So they are necessary for God's power and glory to be revealed to us and in us! Even Jesus learned obedience in His sufferings. His obedience while He was tortured and ridiculed revealed the glory and power of God! Our obedience to God's will, will also reveal God's love, grace, mercy and power to the world!
There is a big difference between sinners and believers. Sinners are dead and without hope. Believers in Christ are alive and have a hope that has foundation! Sinners are like the restless sea, throwing up mire and dirt. Believers are filled with the peace of God and bring encouragement to others. Sinners are self-centered. Believers are Christ-centered! Sinners seek forgiveness and righteousness by their own works. Believers know that they have been forgiven, and birthed into life by the grace of God. Sinners view God as their enemy. Believers know God as their Father! They know His love and that they are called into fellowship with Him. They understand that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself! (2 Cor. 5:19)
If we do not recognize the depth of our depravity as sinners, we will not see the depth of the love and grace of God! Without this understanding we cannot know the greatness of God's love and the blessedness of His righteousness! Without first having been sinners, we would not know the grace of God in Christ. Without understanding our hopeless condition as sinners, we would not understand how wonderful His plan for us and for all creation is!
The sinner's religious mind claims that it has a free will - a will that cannot be influenced. If that is true then Christ has lost His the power to influence sinners. This limits Christ! Salvation then depends on the sinner to make a right choice according to his own judgment. If he chooses to follow Christ he will go to heaven after he dies. If he makes a wrong choice, he will go to hell. The sinner does not realize that in the presentation of two different abiding places, an influence is being used to shape his will.
When Christians absorb this religious thinking, they do not realize that in so doing, they are down-sizing God. They are declaring that God is not sovereign, that He cannot subject all things to Himself, and that God never will be all in all! His plan to make man in His image will have many failures. In that case, His mercy will not endure forever! He will not be able to save everyone because the dragon's power to deceive is greater than the revelation of truth. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
God never changes! God will never lose His sovereignty! Man will never become the master of his destiny. God always keep His promises!
"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." (Deuteronomy 7:9) "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:13) The scriptures declare that all will be made subject to Christ! Then He will hand all over to the Father that God may be all in all! (1 Cor. 15:27-28) "ALL" does not have any exceptions. Love never fails! (1 Cor. 13:13)
"God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8) He says, "Come now, let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Isaiah 1:18) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) This is the good news God has for a world of sinners!
How can we measure the sinner's worth in the light of God's love for them? We are so surprised at the way God works! After God said, "Let us make man in our image," we see a world filled with sinners! Why? Before man could be in the image of God, he had to know what evil is, and hate it even as God hates it! So a sinner is in the production line for becoming a saint. The goal is the image of Christ! The sinner is a step towards the goal. We see this exemplified in the caterpillar that later becomes a butterfly. Without the caterpillar there would be no butterflies. Without first being sinners, we could not be changed into the image of God!
When God formed man from ground, He looked ahead and saw the end result! When Jesus died for us, He saw the end result! He saw that His sacrifice would take away the iniquity of the whole world! He saw the transformation of sinners into saints! He knew that His sovereign power, His life, His mercy, grace and truth would achieve the desired result! It would not leave a trail of failures! He knew that God's consuming fire has the ability to consume all that is not of God! We praise God for His love and goal for all humanity!!
Some beautiful scripture verses to meditate on:
"How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
"He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."
"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the orgiveness of sins."
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
"As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
1 John 4:9-10
"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
2 Corinthians 7:10
"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."
"And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
2 Peter 1:4
By which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire."
"And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."