Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Are Who God Says You Are (is Not Osteenism)

We are who God says we are.

Does that sound like Joel Osteen to you? Whenever I say something along those lines, someone asks me if I'm not just dipping into the shallow dredge of self-esteem. But no. When I want to know who I am, I dip into the well of the external word in the gospel. God declares me a sinner deserving of hell. Nobody can say anything worse to me than this, really. God declares me a beloved child, a joint-heir with his Son, and eternally secure to future glorification with Him. Nobody can say anything better to me than this.

Cornelius Plantinga says, "We are redeemed sinners. But we are redeemed sinners."

Because of Christ, I am free to confess that I am a sinner deserving the wrath of God but I am also free from both sin and wrath. Why do some Christians think that to seek our identity in Christ, the way the Scriptures say we ought to, is thinking too much of ourselves? Why are they afraid to trust what God says about them? When God says to his people, "whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye" (Zech. 2:8), am I to think he doesn't mean it? Why ought we to side with the devil in accusing ourselves as if the gospel is not true? As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, we need to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves!

In Martin Luther's "Letters of Spiritual Counsel" we find this word of encouragement written to a young correspondent:
When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: "I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there shall I be also."

I am not a fan of Neil Anderson, mainly because he appears to deny what is in the Bible (that Luther affirms), the notion of simul justus et peccator, but I have found this list of gospel affirmations compiled in the back of his book Victory Over the Darkness helpful, for me and for those I counsel:
I am accepted...
John 1:12 I am God's child.
John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 I have been justified.
1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 I am a member of Christ's body.
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I am secure...
Romans 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

I am significant...
John 15:5 I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God's temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10 I am God's workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
This is not self-help. This is God help.


Aaron Armstrong said...

Appreciated reading this today, Jared. Thanks.

BJ Stockman said...

As Mr. Packer has mentioned the doctrine of sonship (who we are in Christ-rights and privileges as sons) is often ignored, especially in Reformed circles. On the other hand Charismatic circles heavily emphasize the doctrine of sonship and sometimes push it beyond its biblical borders, while de-emphasizing human sinfulness and the necessity of continual repentance.

Q for you in light of what you wrote: Where do New Testament writers when speaking of the identity of those in Christ speak of them as sinners? It seems the greatest weight falls on words like elect, sons, saints, etc.

Lest watchbloggers go absolutely haywire, I am not saying that Christians do not have indwelling sin, but am wrestling with the question of the identity of believers.

No doubt believers are sinful and must be engaged in constant warfare against indwelling sin, but in light of NT indicatives and imperatives doesn't the greatest weight fall on calling believers sons/saints not sinners. If so what does that do to the Reformers ideas of simultaneously saints and sinners...could it be something more like simultaneously saints and sinful? Does clarifying this distinction matter?

Just some thoughts...


Jared said...

could it be something more like simultaneously saints and sinful?

BJ, that's what simul justus et peccator means. Follow that link in the post to Wikipedia's entry on this Reformational tenet.

Where do New Testament writers when speaking of the identity of those in Christ speak of them as sinners?

Paul's words in Romans 7 are the most direct exposition of the concept of simultaneously saint and sinner. 1 John 1 is good along these lines too.

BJ Stockman said...

'preciate the comment.

Looks like I need to look into simul justus et peccator more.

I had gotten the impression that the Lutheran view identifies the Christian as both saint and sinner at the level of their very identity, and my question is whether the Christian at his core is not both saint and sinner but just saint (yet who sins).

To use Lloyd-Jones' mantra of "Be who you are" seems to place the weight heavily on the side of saint not sinner. "Be who you are" doesn't mean "Be who you are--a saint/sinner", but "Be who you are--a saint!" Or to use a more Plantingan formulation "We were sinners who are now redeemed saints."

Again not combating the notion of indwelling sin--God knows how great my indwelling sin is! and if I was to deny sin Apostle John calls me a liar and truth-less--just the notion of whether Christian brothers and sisters are to be called and counseled at an identity level of sinner.

I'm not sure that Paul would call Christians saints/sinners, but seems to just stick with saints. At the same time he has no problem drawing attention to who they were, namely, objects of wrath, enemies of God and such. I guess what I am wondering is if "sinners"- when used at the core identity level-should fall under the category of the "were" category for the Christian not the "are" category.

Some of this may just be semantics, but the gospel implications are important whether I wake up tomorrow thinking of myself mainly as a sinner or as a saint.

(BTW: I'm in process on this line of thinking and not even totally sure I agree with what I'm saying. I understand the deep need for nuance in this area.)

Really appreciate your love for the Gospel man, just bouncing thoughts off you,

rdsmith3 said...


Isn't a main point of Romans 7 the concept of simul justus et peccator?

BJ Stockman said...

The kind of view I'm leaning toward, but still wrestling with is offered here by Reformed Charismatic Terry Virgo:

Similarly, by Reformed theologian Anthony Hoekema in "The Christian Looks at Himself"

BJ Stockman said...

To be fair Hoekema's is a bit more nuanced then Virgo, especially due to Paul's present view of himself as "chief of sinners". (Interestingly, though, in his letters Paul never, that I can see, addresses believers' identity that way.) However, I think its accurate to say that Hoekema's position is weighted more toward a "positive" view of the Christian identity than some Reformed theologians.

rdsmith3 said...

I read some of Virgo's writings, but not the other piece you listed.

I'm not sure I quite get what you're looking for. IMHO, Luther's simul justus et peccator is a concise way of describing the shaky balance or tension in our lives between these two natures. This is what is described in Romans 7. Yes, we are a new creation. Yes, we are being sanctified. But we will never be fully there until Christ makes us the spotless bride. To say that we are not sinners, when clearly we all struggle with sin, seems to lead down a road of antinomianism. OTOH, to over-emphasize our sinful nature can lead to legalism, and is a very joyless Christianity. While on this earth, even though we are justified, the two natures exist within us.

We all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) but those whom He justified He glorified (the chain in Rom 8:28-8:30).

Finally, I encourage you with Rom 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Anonymous said...

If Osteen says it, it's wrong. If Luther said it, it's right.

If the bible says it, let's live by it. We don't need the halos of men to justify it, nor do we need to put horns on men's heads to justify ourselves.

Let us love.