That’s not me. That’s not who I really am. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this as a young evangelical. I can tell you even less about how many times I’ve heard it from others. It’s a popular phrase amongst a group of people navigating both personal discovery as well as God’s sanctification, often both for the first time. They are harmless phrases meant to express the tension of living in between Jesus’ resurrection and His return. It is imperfect people called to perfection characteristic of a holy follower of Christ who have not yet attained the complete throwing off of the old self. It’s poison to your faith.
If it’s not me, then who is it? Seriously, who am I fooling when I say this? I act as if some mad scientist took over control of my brain for however long while I lived and acted like the sinful hellion I was at the time. The fact is, there is no scientist in the picture that I know of. In fact, I may be mad, but I know myself not to be a scientist of any kind and chemistry was sure to inform me of that my first year in college. So, it’s just me. I am the reason I act the way I do. It is my choices that led me to live out whatever sin I committed. No one else.
I can’t just pick and choose. I am who I am and that is who God has graciously made me (I Corinthians 15:10a). What you see is what you get. I cannot take that person and deny the existence of certain attributes or tendencies that make up the whole. Otherwise, I am only part of a person and I don’t recall God being in the business of creating part-people. I don’t know what one would look like, but that is certainly not how I’ve been made. Who I am has a lot to do with what I do and denying my fallen nature only serves to deceive myself and perpetuate the lie so that people around me feel more comfortable deluding themselves in a like fashion. This is a spreading of the poison.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” — I John 1:8–9
Own up to it. This is our calling as sinful people in the process of sanctification. It is not that we are called to perfection, but to recognition and confession of sin. This is how we are perfectable. That is to be true of us. Being “born again” never meant living as Christ, overcoming any and all sin that confronted Him. We are imperfect creatures in search the heart we lost at the Fall. We are in search of Eden, but we cannot enter it until God has called us back home. We cannot because while our sin nature does not own us, while we are on this earth it will be undoubtedly present.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. — James 5:16
Community, community, community. Yes, that was just a sentence and no, I cannot stress this enough. Do you see its importance here? Community is paramount in the life of one seeking holiness. Without community, we are not able to draw upon one another’s trials and triumphs. Without one another, the road to sanctification is lonely and arduous. We need each other to keep upright through the bitter winds and torrents of life. We need the physical act of confession as it often gives us insight into the confession which takes place between us and our loving Father. Community, we cannot live without.
That’s not me. Yes, it is and not only is it me, but I can’t keep lying to me. There is a nature that I’m sure we’d all like to forget about, but doing so only gives it more power as we turn a blind eye to it. We need to take responsibility for that as well as the areas in our lives where we see God’s perfecting work. They are just as important to Him as they ought to be to us. When we confess these undesirables, God does not force us to wallow in them, but delivers us from them. Don’t we want that? Is that not the point? And this confession, it is not only solitary, though important, but also has a communal aspect to it. There needs to be community in our efforts against sin. I need it, you need it, we all do. Therefore, please, stop spreading the poison and pretending we’re part-people. Contribute to the solution today, because the church needs real, broken people living life, all of it, together. Amen.