Living Like a Sinner, Blessed Like a Saint
Can you actually live like a sinner and be blessed like a saint? According to my favorite scripture, and based on my personal life experiences, you can…as long as you’re doing this one thing…
Idea of Perfection Repels
Why do people shun Christianity?
Why do so many never give it serious consideration?
There are a number of reasons, of course, but from experience I know that a lot of people instinctively avoid Christianity because, deep down, they feel it’s about following a bunch of rules, or pursuing perfection, or actually being perfect.
Or they think that, if they purport to be Christian, that somehow suggests they view themselves as perfect, or somehow better than others.
And, for those who think like that, many categorically reject Christianity because they instinctively understand they can never achieve perfection.
But Perfection is Not the Objective
If you’re one of those people – who have been led to believe that Christianity is about the pursuit of perfection in some way – then I have some good news for you: the Christian walk has nothing to do with being perfect. Further:
– Christianity is not about following a bunch of rules.
– It’s not about being better than others.
– It is not about being perfect.
– It’s not even about the pursuit of perfection.
Relationship is the Objective
Christianity is about the seeking of a personal relationship with God.
Inherent in that process is that you will, organically and as a byproduct of the larger process, begin to pursue “perfection.”
Or, maybe better said, you’ll begin to pursue the optimal version of yourself as God intended you to be.
Change Happens as a By Product
It’s key to understand that, as that process evolves and matures – and, make no mistake, it is a process, and it never ends, because we can never achieve actual perfection – you will organically begin to think and act more and more like Christ.
And, as that process continues, you will change, and you will change in the direction of being a better you.
But that doesn’t happen because you’re specifically, intentionally following some list of rules or requirements.
And it doesn’t happen because you are consciously, intentionally trying to be perfect.
It happens because that is simply the natural outcome of earnestly seeking a relationship with God.
But That’s Not the Point
But that’s not the point.
The point of this post is not to get into some debate or discussion about the process of pursuing a relationship with God and how that works.
Because that’s secondary to the actual point of this post, which I believe is great news for most people.
The point is to inform you that you should not let any thoughts you may have about not being able to achieve “perfection” keep you from considering the Christian faith.
Even Being Horribly Imperfect Doesn’t Disqualify You
Not only do you not have to be perfect in order to receive the benefits of a personal relationship with God, but you don’t even have to be remotely close to perfect to obtain the benefits of a personal relationship with God.
Allow me to offer you an example of what I’m talking about: me.
Living Like a Sinner
If you had any idea just how flawed I am as a human being, it would probably shock you.
If you knew me – really knew me, like a handful of people do – you would not believe that I would have the audacity to write the things I write.
This post you’re reading right now is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
Why do I say that?
Because I am so outrageously imperfect.
Not a Good Person
I’m so flawed.
I’m so full of sinful thoughts and actions.
My personal nature is so far from where I know it needs to be that it’s insane.
The way I act, the way I behave, the way I think – all of it – is not good.
Even from a basic human perspective, I believe I’m way below average in terms of being a good, decent, thoughtful and caring person.
Most people who know me well would agree.
Ask the people who know me well to provide a list of the “best people” they know, and I can assure you my name will appear nowhere on any of those lists.
I’m not proud of this being my truth and my reality.
I’m just being brutally honest.
Blessed Like a Saint
And yet – in spite of these significant character flaws of mine – I’ve been blessed as if I were a saint.
I have been blessed to a degree that often shocks me.
I’ve been blessed physically.
I’ve been blessed emotionally.
I’ve been blessed mentally.
I’ve been blessed personally.
I’ve been blessed professionally.
I’ve been blessed financially.
I’ve been blessed relationally.
I’ve been blessed spiritually.
I have been blessed in just about every way a person can be blessed.
I have been blessed as if I were a saint.
Which – if I haven’t made it clear already – I am not.
Every single day – and I mean that literally – I look around at the trappings of my life – my home, my car, the things I own, the community in which I live, my health, the level of my fitness, the nature of my day-to-day existence, etc. – and I marvel at God’s faithfulness, graciousness and generosity.
Based on my behavior, I deserve none of these things.
Why do I think I have been blessed to such an extent?
How is that Possible?
First, because of the sincerity of my pursuit of a relationship with God.
And that is entirely separate and distinct from whether I say or do the right things, or the degree to which my thoughts and actions mirror “perfection.”
Getting a little more specific, in many (most?) respects, I’m still very much the same f*@kup I always was.
In my younger days, I was wild and out of control.
I did a lot of things that I’d rather you not know.
That said, I’ve been sincerely pursuing a relationship with God for probably longer than you’ve been alive (if you’re under 40, that’s literally true).
Have I become a better person during that period?
Yes, I suppose I have.
But, as already stated, I’m still so far from perfect that it’s almost comical.
In my mind, on a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 being perfect and 1 being completely imperfect – I feel like I’ve moved from a 2 to a 5 over the course of a number of decades.
God Judges the Heart
But God judges the heart.
God judges the true intention.
He sees the sincerity of my pursuit and the effort I’ve made, and continue to make, to develop and further that relationship with Him.
And time after time after time, He blesses me in spite of my litany of imperfections.
He blesses me in spite of my failures.
He blesses me in spite of the degree to which my nature falls so shockingly short of His.
He blesses me anyway.
Second, I believe I have been blessed because of what the Bible says.
What the Bible Says
My favorite scripture in the Bible is Matthew 6:33:
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
To truly understand the point being made, we need to review the larger context of that verse, which can be understood from reading Matthew 6:25-33:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
In other words, God knows what you need, and He will give you everything you need to survive in this life, if you will only seek Him first.
In other words, pursue a relationship with Him.
Furthering that point, nowhere in the Bible does it say anything like…
…you have to be perfect to receive God’s blessings.
…you have to be seeking perfection to receive God’s favor.
…you have to follow some specific set of rules for God to intercede in your life.
…you have to be perfect to be a Christian.
To repeat, the key in all of this is not seeking perfection.
The key is in seeking a relationship.
Exactly What I’ve Experienced Personally
And that lesson – that the seeking of a relationship with God is the key to receiving God’s blessings – is exactly what I have lived and experienced personally.
Here are examples of what I’m talking about, and there’s a whole lot more that I can’t write about publicly.
I have been blessed like a saint, while living the consistent life of a sinner.
Simply because of the sincerity of my pursuit of a relationship with God.
Let that be encouragement to you if you think you fall way too far short of some artificial standard of perfection that you’ve created in your mind, the pursuit of which doesn’t exist anywhere in the scripture of the Bible.
Another, Much More Relevant Example
Some of the greatest characters in the Bible said things not entirely unlike what I’ve said about myself in this post.
Here’s an example, from the Apostle Paul, who, being credited with writing 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament, is the single greatest contributor to what is the most important collective message in the Christian doctrine. Paul wrote this, at Romans 7:15-24 (emphasis added):
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!”
NOT ONLY did Paul write that – and keep in mind, he wrote that after his conversion to Christianity – but he also wrote this, at Galatians 1:13:
“You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.”
And this was written about Paul at Acts 8:3 (lest you be confused, Paul was known as “Saul” before his conversion to Christianity):
“But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”
To summarize all of that, the guy who wrote more of the New Testament – the most important collective message in the history of Christianity – than any other person not only “kept on doing the evil he did not want to do” AFTER converting to Christianity, but, prior to that, he was known as one of the most notorious persecutors of Christians and the Christian church who ever lived!
If THAT GUY is considered one of the greatest Christians who ever lived – and he absolutely is – then that should give you hope in terms of your ability and eligibility to pursue a relationship with God.
This is speculation on my part, but I believe God specifically used Paul in the manner He did for exactly the purpose I’m sharing with you in this post: to demonstrate that no one is so bad or so far gone as to disqualify themselves from pursuing a relationship with God.
For those of you who may be thinking, “Great. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to pursue a relationship with God just to get the benefits of that relationship. I have no actual intention of changing. Since you’ve made it clear that I can continue to sin and still get the benefits I want, that’s what I am going to do.”
Ahh, but here’s the rub: as already noted, God judges the heart.
He judges the intentions.
Said more directly, you cannot fool God.
He knows you.
He knows everything about you.
Here’s one of many instances in the Bible where that sentiment is stated, at Psalm 139:1-4:
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.”
If you’re seeking a relationship with God for purposes of selfish gain, I would not advise doing that.
But if you’re seeking a relationship with God, and you’re sincere about doing that, there is nothing – no amount of bad behavior and no level of imperfection – that will keep you from enjoying the many benefits of such a pursuit.
He Wants Us to Want Him
God wants us to want Him.
In fact, per Exodus 20:3, the first of God’s Ten Commandments is…
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
God wants us to make Him our highest priority.
A key way – probably the key way – we can do that is by seeking a relationship with Him.
To be clear, I’m not proud of this being my story and my reality.
I’m not proud that I’ve lived like a sinner and yet I’ve been blessed like a saint.
I willingly admit my faults, my flaws and my weaknesses publicly for no other reason than to shine a bright light on the incredible faithfulness, graciousness and generosity of God.
This post has nothing to do with me, really.
It has everything to do with God, and His incredibly faithful, loving and generous nature.
God said, seek me first, and I will give you everything you need in this life.
And that is exactly what He has done for me.
Further, I share this with you because, if God is willing to bless me – me, with all my faults, flaws and weaknesses, about as far from perfect as a person can be – as He has, then my strong supposition is that He can, and will, do the same for anyone.
If God didn’t reject me, odds are good He will not reject you.
If God blessed me, in spite of all my issues, odds are good He will bless you, in spite of yours.
But you first have to seek a relationship with Him.
How to Start
Not sure what that means, exactly, or where or how to begin?
I would suggest you start with something really simple and easy, like saying this prayer:
Dear God, I have lived as a non-believer my entire life. But I want to know if you are real. Because, if you are, then I would like to pursue a relationship with you. So, right here, right now, I set aside my disbelief. I do my best to ignore the limiting opinions and thoughts I’ve carried with me to this point, and I simply let those things go. I humble myself before you, and I simply ask that you show me who you are. I pray that you would reveal yourself to me. Give me some sign, some indication, something that will compel me to take another step toward you. Thank you for hearing this prayer, dear Lord. Amen.
I know, that doesn’t seem like much, but that’s OK.
God doesn’t move based on specifically what you did to pursue a relationship with Him.
He moves based on the fact that you did something – anything – to pursue a relationship with Him.
More Than Halfway
God is never looking for perfection from us, because He knows we can never achieve it.
He just wants to see effort and sincerity.
Another key thing I have learned about God is this: He always meets us more than halfway.
If we take two steps toward him, He takes three, or four, or five toward us.
So, take that first small step, no matter how small or trivial it may seem to you, and see what happens.
Take that first step toward the development of a relationship with God, and let Him move as He see fits.
This is entirely a private thing, between you and God.
No one will know but you.
You have absolutely nothing to lose.
And you have SO MUCH to gain…
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