Tag Archives: Am I a sinner?

A Recovering @$$?&#€

“You’re an @$$?&#€,” my counselor calmly informed me.

“I am not an @$$?&#€,” I shot back.

“Yes. You are an @$$?&#€—and I’m an @$$?%#€, too.”

Believe it or not, it was one of the most formative moments in my life when I realized how messed up I really am.

And you are too.

There’s Actually An Upside To Being An @$$?%#€

Coming from a long line of believers can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because our Christian heritage means we have developed a culture that challenges and expects every person to follow Jesus. Living a remotely evil life is foreign to me.

It can also be a curse, because people like me can easily assume we’re automatically “in.” We also tend to insulate ourselves from the outside world around us. And, as much as I hate to admit it, we can easily become judgmental of people who struggle with sins that our Christian culture has deemed worse than others. To put it bluntly, we have a hard time admitting that we’re @$$?&#€s.

The apostle Paul addressed people like me in Romans chapter 2:

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? (Verse 3)

I can imagine these words ruffled the feathers of quite a few of Paul’s readers. A sinner?? Me?? God’s judgment?

Paul even accuses his Christian readers of committing the same sins as the Gentiles. In the previous chapter (1:29-31), Paul names the sins of those wicked @$$?&#€s:

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

From a publishing standpoint, no editor would have let this appear in print because Paul has effectively alienated his readers.

Were Paul’s readers actually committing these acts? Based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:21-30, the answer is yes. According to Jesus, when you’re angry at someone, you’re guilty of murder. Ever lusted after someone? Then you’re guilty of adultery.

Paul reinforces this by reminding his readers that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Being Good Isn’t Enough

But the gist of Paul’s point is this: Going to church isn’t enough. Reading the Neighborhood Café blog isn’t enough. Growing up in a Christian family isn’t enough. We simply can’t do enough to be saved from God’s wrath. We’re all @$$?&#€s. We may not commit heinous crimes, but we commit sins of the heart–sins like envy, murder, strife, gossip, arrogance…the list goes on and on.

How then can anyone be saved??

Paul answers the question later in Romans, but rather than point to the antidote, I encourage you to meditate on this reality. We can’t do enough to satisfy God’s wrath against sin. We cannot be good enough to save ourselves.

The psalmist in Psalm 10 offers us a window into resolving this dilemma:

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry (Psalm 10:17).

God responds to the cry of the afflicted. When we see ourselves as we really are—people created in the image of God who have become infected and afflicted by sin—then we can begin our recovery.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. His family fully knows that he’s an @$$?&#€.

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The Second Deepest Truth About You, Me, and Joel Osteen

by Michael J Klassen

Two nights ago, mega-mega church pastor Joel Osteen, from Houston Texas was interviewed on Piers Morgan’s new television show on CNN.

I’ve been pretty open about my criticisms of Joel on this blog. Osteen preaches a gospel that is decidedly too American and simplistic, and he’s a lousy theologian, but I digress…nevertheless, I was proud of Joel for standing for something on the program.

Morgan commented to Osteen that he had offered different opinions about homosexuality in various interviews. Once and for all, Piers Morgan wanted the viewers to know if, in his view, homosexuality is a sin.

I’m amazed that neither Joel nor his wife Victoria show any sign of flinching as the question is asked. I’d bet the family farm that inside, both were thinking, Don’t cringe, don’t cringe, don’t cringe!

“I’ve always believed the Scriptures show that it’s a sin,” he answered.

Wow! Joel Osteen finally stood for something other than the prosperity gospel! As the discussion ensues, Osteen explains that his intent is not to judge homosexuals.

I applaud Osteen for finally taking a stand on something, but he failed to point out the second deepest truth about all followers of Christ.

“You don’t normally talk about sin,” Morgan replies. Then, referring to Elton John (an avowed gay), he asks, “Why are they sinners?”

This is where Joel misses the mark. If I had been sitting next to Joel during Piers Morgan’s interview, I would have whispered, “Hey Joel—remember? We’re all sinners.”

In Jesus’ day, religious leaders tended to divide Jews into two camps—sinners and righteous people. I’m sure you can guess which camp the leaders placed themselves in.

So in Matthew 5, Jesus challenged the religious leaders.

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not murder…But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment” (5:21-22).

But he didn’t stop there. Jesus continued…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ” (5:27–28).

Wait a minute?!? Everybody gets angry and everyone has lusted more times than they can count (if they’re honest). That makes all of us are adulterers and murderers.

WE’RE ALL SINNERS!

And with one comment, Jesus leveled the playing field for all of us. Theologians call this “total depravity.” It means given our choice, we’ll choose sin and hell every time without the Holy Spirit’s help. We’re unable to find Jesus on our own. I’ll give Joel a little credit here, too, because he defines sin literally as “missing the mark.” Sin means missing the mark–falling short–of God’s perfection and holiness (see Romans 3:23).

And really, total depravity isn’t that hard to prove. Just look around. The effects of sin surround us—not only on a national level but on a personal level. We live in a broken world full of broken people.

Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, for years I convinced myself that I was a pretty good person. When faced with my shortcomings, I would get defensive or point my finger at people with greater sins than me. But after messing things up pretty badly in a church I pastored, I couldn’t talk myself out of the “I’m a pretty good person” argument. I was finally forced to face the facts: I’m a sinner.

Now, you’d think it would make me feel worse, but in reality, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a tremendous sense of relief. Here were the immediate benefits of acknowledging my total depravity:

  • I no longer felt the pressure to be perfect. Perfection is a physical and spiritual impossibility.
  • With this in mind, I no longer felt the pressure to fool people into thinking I had it all together.
  • Forgiveness came much easier because I suddenly realized that I need forgiveness, too. How can I withhold from others what I need for myself?
  • Most importantly, by acknowledging that I’m a sinner, I saw my deep need for Jesus. I cannot save myself.

The apostle Paul understood this. He wrote:

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Think about it: Paul was second only to Jesus in importance to the New Testament church (if we’re just talking about humans, of course). He was an amazing leader, apostle, and theologian who has left an indelible imprint on every church over the last 2,000 years.

Yet he said he was the worst of all sinners.

Yeah right, you might be thinking to yourself. You’re just saying that. You don’t really mean it… But I‘d be willing to bet my firstborn son that he would interrupt you.

And if Paul was the worst of all sinners, what does that make you? What does that make me?

And with that, I want to open up the conversation to all of you. How does knowing that you’re a sinner positively affect the way you look at yourself and your life?

If you’ve given your life to Jesus, this is the second deepest truth about you and me. Next Friday, we’ll look at the deepest truth about you.

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