Romans 3:10b-12: “There is no one righteous, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away; all alike have become worthless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one.”
Popular opinion says that to be a Christian is to be a “good person,” and there is some merit to this. Christians are to be people of light and Christians are to do good works ((Matthew 5:14-16; Ephesians 2:10). In fact, if someone claims to be a Christian and there are no good works at all, then that person is likely Not a Christian for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26). Most importantly, regarding good works, is that they (good works) cannot, and never can, save an individual, but only through trust in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, whenever one thinks of a Christian, “good works” should be there in the mix in some way.
However, here is another consideration when we think of what it means to be a Christian: A true, genuine Christian is one who admits to being a full-fledged rebel against God at one point in his life, and, if he is honest with himself, he remains a partial-rebel against God on at least some days. To admit that one is a Christian is to admit that he is a sinner; a rebel; a “bad person; a criminal against God (Romans 3:9-20; Jeremiah 17:9). Confessing that one is a Christian is to confess that he does not have it all together and that he is so bad that he is in need of God’s grace and strength everyday of his life. Admitting that one is a Christian is to admit that he would have never come to God unless, in some way, God had enabled him to do so because of the depth and extent of his sin and rebellion.
Christians who forget any of these aforementioned truths regarding their former (and current!) sinfulness will be unwittingly lulled into seeing God’s grace as incrementally “un-amazing,” and will develop a haughty, prideful attitude towards anyone who is “not like me.” Yet, if the Christian is honest then he’ll admit that “that sinner over this” IS the Christian Apart from God’s grace and, maybe, is STILL that sinner on at least some days after receiving God’s grace!
What does it mean to be a Christian? Christians are saved sinners and pardoned criminals. How many Christians do you know identify themselves as “pardoned criminals” in God’s sight? The very presence of a Christian, particularly, in any church building is a visible sign that he (or she!) is there due to the grace of God, and that he (or she!) is Daily in need of His grace. Being at a church service is to send a public message to the world that were once rebels resisting the will of God, but were converted by the Mercy of the Judge of all the earth. To be a Christian is to forfeit any concept of a radical independence (because it is false, wicked, and is not compatible with the Christian life!), and it is to admit a deep, unspeakable dependence upon God. Christians should be so humbled by the truth that he is a sinner still in need of God’s grace that no unbelieving person should ever smell even the faintest scent of pride on him.
The point I am trying to emphasize is that Christians, although saved by God’s grace and declared now to be “children of God (John 1:12-13), need not forget that they became a Christian first by realizing how sinful, how rebellious, how bad, how wicked, how evil, and how criminal-like they are. Theologian R.C. Sproul used to say that the fall of Adam, and the sin of every human after Adam, is “high treason against God.” It is a capital offense that deserves capital punishment in the form of death. Christians do not need to forget that were it not for God’s kindness shown to us through Jesus Christ, we would be, in essence, on the gallows right now facing our just sentence. Yet it is God’s goodness and grace shown through Christ that has delivered us and made the difference. I pray that unbelievers would see the same type of grace and love in God’s people that He has shown to Christians.