Do you see the opportunity for deception in the idea that we are what we do? Let’s look at just a few of the lies that come out of this idea.
First, this suggests that the lost could save themselves by changing their actions. Think about that. Legalist preachers often call those who have never come to Christ to change their behavior. That’s the way they will be accepted. The gay man has to stop being gay and then he will be welcome to come to Jesus. The couple living together without being married have to separate before they can come to Jesus. I had a pastor tell me very bluntly one day that he believed people should get their lives straightened out before they came to Christ. But the whole point is that we can’t do that. If we fix one sin, we overlook another. We would never be clean enough.
Here’s another one: even those who do come to Christ will never have assurance of salvation because they will never measure up to what they are supposed to be. Any sin would be enough to disqualify them. If telling a lie makes a person a liar and liars are excluded from Heaven, then we had better never tell a lie. Anyone who does is in trouble. But we are still learning that sin is unnecessary in our lives. We still think according to the flesh most often and we still react the way we used to. So the legalists have to create a whole system of confession and repentance and penance just to give us a little hope.
If I am what I do, then the work of Christ is unnecessary and unfruitful. Nothing has changed in my life. If I am still judged by my works, good or bad, then I am just as lost and just as much without hope as I was before. What good is salvation that lasts a moment after confession and then is lost because of a wrong thought?
You see, because this is what is taught, much of the church today has no assurance, no hope, no joy. They still see themselves as sinners. They might proclaim that they are saved by grace, but they also feel unsaved by their works. And they pass that feeling on to others.
I know that some people are uncomfortable with anyone saying that he or she is no longer a sinner because of Jesus. There is a context to that statement. It does not mean that we never do anything sinful. It means that we are no longer sinners. We are saints, according to the Scripture. Why are we no longer sinners? Because Jesus is our life and our righteousness. Sinner is what we were. Saint is what we are.
What we do (even if it is sin) is not what we are.