Asbury Free Methodist – February 7th, 2021
The Lie: I am a sinner – Galatians 3:1-10
We are almost at the conclusion of the series we have been working our way through entitled “The Lies we tell ourselves.” Today are going to look at a complex lie that many Christians buy into.
We live in a performance-based world. At work you are constantly rated, judged, evaluated on how you perform. It is just the way our world is wired. All religions except for Christianity are based on that same principle. Humans must do something in order to obtain the favor and blessing from their god.
We are so use to this way of being that even in our Christian faith, we come to God and think we somehow have to work ourselves into his good graces. For those of you who understand what Jesus did for us – you know that this is not the way it works. God offers us a free gift of salvation. All we need to turn from our own self-sufficiency and receive it by faith. Faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross and faith that, yes God is that good, that he is willing to give us something we didn’t earn.
I know many of you listening today have received Jesus into your life and you have been forgiven and you have been made God’s child. But we are so performance based driven that many Christians think that – well I received Jesus by faith but now I have to somehow live out the Christian life by doing good works.
This has two expressions – our exterior life. How we treat others. Do we love enough? Do we serve enough? Do we give enough? – And our interior life. Are we good enough? How are we doing with managing the sin in our lives?
It is the interior life that I want to talk about today. I know so many people, who want to follow God but they see their own hearts. They see resentment, the anger, the lust, the fear, the doubt, the greed, the gluttony, the self-righteousness, the guilt and shame. – And the list goes on and on.
They see their hearts and they think the solution is to try harder to change. I have been there, how about you? You see your heart and you want to be what Jesus wants you to be – but it seems like no matter how hard you try you fail. So we try harder, or we just quit trying.
Then we tell ourselves stories about ourselves. I am just a sinner who is forgiven – and we believe that is who we are. To sum it up in the form of a bumper sticker I have seen. “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” Really. Is there no transformation?
I like the story of the ugly duckling. The ugly duckling’s egg hatched with a bunch of other duck eggs. But when he hatched, he didn’t look anything like the other ducklings. All the little ducklings pointed this out. You are just an ugly duckling. He grew up with that identity. He never learned to fly like the other ducklings. He never learned to dive like the other ducklings. All he could do was paddle around and look like – well an ugly duckling.
He didn’t fit. Well, you know the story – one day his true identity was point it out to him – He wasn’t an ugly duckling, he was a beautiful swan.
I think that is what happens to a lot of Christians. So many Christians live out of an ugly duckling faith, rather than a swan faith. They buy into the lie that they are just a sinner – forgiven but just a sinner. That is their primary identity.
There are a lot of theologians and pastors who teach this. We are just sinners who sin in word thought and deed every day. But that identity is illogical and doesn’t line up with the new testament.
It is illogical because David C. Needham asks, “What could be more frustrating than being a Christian who thinks himself to be primarily a self-centered sinner, yet whose purpose in life is to produce God-centered holiness?”
It is illogical because if you are a follower of Jesus and you sin, you really blow it – then you feel really bad about it. Does and orange feel bad for being and orange. If your primary identity is as sinner, then why do you feel bad when you sin. Because, you know deep down that is not who you really are.
The New Testament tells us a different story. It tells us that when we are in Christ, we are new creations. In Christ we are no longer defined by sin. I have been reconciled to God. The power of sin has been broken. Here is what the New Testament call you who have put your faith in Jesus. The New Testament calls you saints.
The Corinthian church was really messed up, but Paul tells them they are called to be Saints. I know what some of you are thinking. Pastor if you really knew me, you know how that label doesn’t fit. I blow it so often. Nevertheless, the New Testament calls those who are in Christ – saints.
Well how does that work? I blow it so often, how can I be a saint. – We will get there.
All through this series we have been talking about the lies we tell ourselves. We have noted that a huge component of us being transformed is that the story we believe about ourselves lines up with the story that God tells us about ourselves.
And I know a lot of you have been telling yourself that you are an ugly duckling rather than being a beautiful swan. Your primary identity has been that you are a sinner rather than that you are a saint.
Let me walk you through what happens when you own each of these identities.
I am a Sinner.
If you are a follower of Jesus, and you buy into the lie and own the identity of sinner – what you will find is that your will gravitate towards sin management techniques. How to I put guards around my life that won’t allow me to do what I know I ought not to do. How do I get the will power to resist temptation when it comes up? What strategies do I put in place so that I won’t do that? Sin management techniques – and they don’t work all that well.
Here is what Paul says
Colossians 2:21–23 (NIV)
21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (Do you hear the sin management strategy) 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Sin management doesn’t work. The other thing that believing that our primary identity is that of a sinner is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We believe it, then we engage in sin, and then we think – well what else can I expect because that is what I am. Which creates the path for us to continue to fulfil our beliefs about ourselves.
I am a Saint.
When you start to see yourself as in Christ it changes things. Can you sin? Of course, you can sin. But that is not coming out of who your really are at your core. There are habits of soul that need to be unlearned or some damage to your soul that needs to be healed, but it is not who your really are is in Christ.
And as you abide in Christ, and connect to Christ and you start to live out of that love and that identity – you will find a yearning in your soul for something greater. You will find yourself not only wanting to stay away from sin, but more wanting to live consistent with who you really are. You are a saint. And in some ways that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as well. But you find yourself drawn to the light rather than the darkness.
How about you, are your living out an ugly duckling faith, or a swan faith?
I want to ground this in the Word of God, so let me walk you through the highlights of the book of Galatians.
Galatia wasn’t a city, it was an area, kind of like a province, located in modern day Turkey – where there were a number of Churches. Paul had visited this area on a couple of his missionary journeys and knew those churches.
Paul was probably in Ephesus when he wrote this letter. He had been getting news about what was happening in the Galatians churches and it disturbed him, so he decided to write this letter.
He starts out quite harshly.
Galatians 1:6–7 (NIV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
As you can see this letter is going to be all about what the gospel is and what the gospel is not. Now it wasn’t that people had stopped going to church. But they were believing a different gospel than what had been preached.
It was a gospel that said that they could do something more than what Christ had done to add to their own righteousness. It was a works righteousness and a sin management scheme all in one. They had bought the ugly duckling lie.
Galatians 3:1–3 (NIV)
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
Did you catch that. You began your Christian journey by the power of the Spirit. God forgave you and cleansed you and made you His child. God rescued you from the kingdom of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of God. God put his Spirit inside you. How is it that After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
He then goes on that the gospel is about faith in Christ. You are trusting in his righteousness not your own. If you are trusting in your own efforts, you are not living out the gospel. The gospel is by faith alone. Not only the faith to save you, but the faith to transform you.
All the way through this letter he is talking about being in Christ. That is an important phrase. That is your primary identity.
Galatians 3:26–28 (NIV)
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You are in Christ. In Christ you are children of God. You are clothed with Christ. You are one in Christ. Verse 29 goes on to say you belong to Christ. This is who you are.
About halfway through chapter 5 he starts to flesh out how we should then live.
Galatians 5:16 (NIV)
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
It is not about trying to manage your sin, it is about walking in the Spirit. Remember when you became a Christian you were given the Spirit of Christ. He is in you. He transformed you. He made you new. That is who you are. That is what makes you a saint. Paul is saying live out of who you are. Walk in the Spirit – and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Is there going to be a battle with your desires. Part of you is going to desire what God wants and part of you is going to desire what the broken part of you wants.
Galatians 5:17 (NIV)
17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
Sure, you will sense a conflict. But your primary identity is not that of a sinner, it is of one who is in Christ. He gives you the power to say no to those passion and desires.
So Paul says,
Galatians 5:25 (NIV)
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
There is a lot more in the book of Galatians, but you get the drift. So, let me take some time and apply this. Galatians basically says, when you put your faith in Christ, he saved you – He put his Spirit inside you, he transformed you. Your job is not to add to what he has done, but live out of what he has done in you, and live in the power of the Spirit in you.
If you own your identity as a saint. If you own your identity as one in whom Christ’s Spirit dwells; If you own your identity as one who is in Christ – then what will that mean to how you live?
First off I want you to know that Paul is saying the same thing that Jesus said.
John 15:5 (NIV)
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
You can’t fix yourself, You can’t stop your sinning, you can’t bear the fruit of holiness apart from being in Christ – remaining in Christ. So, the first thing you need to do is own your identity. You are in Christ.
Not only that but Christ is in you. We looked at this verse last week, but it bears repeating.
Revelation 3:20 (NIV)
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
He is waiting for an invitation to have fellowship with you. He wants to come in and have real genuine conversations with you. He will walk you through your own heart.
You are in Christ and he is in you. Paul says
Galatians 5:25 (NIV)
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
You live by the Spirit, so walk with the Spirit.
Here is what you need to know. If you are going to be in Christ, then that needs to be a place where you spend time. We hold a lot of different identities. But it would be silly to say I’m a Carpenter if I never spent time building anything. It would be silly for me to say I am a husband, if I only talked to my wife five minutes in the morning and that was it for the day. It would be crazy to say that I am motorcycle driver if I didn’t spend any time driving a motorcycle.
It would be crazy for me to say my primary identity is a person that is in Christ, and then read a “my daily bread” devotional and not talk to Jesus for the rest of the day. (I like my daily bread – but they are not sufficient to be who you are.
If you are going to keep in step with the Spirit, then you need spend time understanding which way God is moving.
This is about foster a significant relationship with God. This is about inviting him into your life in such a way that he helps you see the lies, and he shows you the truth. This is about you abiding in Christ.
This isn’t about a quick fix. It is about developing a relationship with God that transforms you. The way to change your life is not to try to manage your sin, but to push into God and allow him to show you who he has made you. You are a saint.
If you lean into God, if you learn to hear his voice, he is going to walk you out of the lies you have believed. He is going to heal the broken places of your heart. He is going to make your heart so you are more attracted to the light than the darkness. He is going to give you the power to live in a way that is consistent with who you are. You are not an ugly duckling – You are a swan.
 Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series Book 1) (p. 152). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Sermon Questions – The Lies we tell ourselves – Part 6
The Lie: My identity is “I am a sinner.”
1. What are you thankful for this week?
2. Where did you experience God this week?
3. The sermon talked about sin management. Have you ever tried to stop yourself from sinning? – How did that work out for you? Read Colossians 2:21-23. What are these verses saying?
4. If you own as your primary identity “I am a sinner,” what happens? If you own as your primary identity, “I am a saint,” what happens? Which identity do you most easily gravitate towards?
5. Read Galatians 3:1-3. What does verse 3 mean?
6. Read Galatians 3:26-29. Name all the ways these verses say that we are related to Christ. (Note the emphasis of “in Christ.”) How does this relate to how we should think about ourselves?
7. Read Galatians 5:16. What is this verse saying and what does it mean?
8. Read Galatians 5:17. From what we are learning, how do you deal with the war inside you?
9. Read Galatians 5:25. How do we keep in step with the Spirit in our every day life?
10. Read John 15:5. How is this verse related to sin management and what the book of Galatians has been saying.
11. What are some ways that we can pull all this into practice?