This summer I taught a class on how to write a nonfiction book proposal. Before we got into the deep work of going through the "how-tos" of book proposals, we started by learning about how to have a strong and powerful transformation promised to the reader. Any good story shows a transformation in a character, and a good nonfiction books takes a reader from point A to point B leaving the book feeling transformed.
When evangelizing and sharing the gospel with others, many Christians use the phrase "everyone is a sinner." Maybe we think it helps us seem relatable and we avoid that "holier than thou" attitude. But actually, I think when we share this false idea that everyone is a sinner; we make it seem like the transformation Jesus provides us is from point A to point A.
In reality, Jesus takes us from sinners to saints, from a life of sin to a life of holiness, and from death to life.
All have sinned
The Bible doesn't say that everyone is a sinner, but it does say that we have all sinned. Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We all continually fall short of the glory of God, but "all have sinned" is past tense. Meaning, we can all relate to the reality that we have sinned, but we aren't meant to continue on in our sin.
We also read that we aren't meant to say we have no sin in 1 John 1:8. We are meant to live a life of repentance and reliance on Jesus and all that He has accomplished so that we have a new life. Some people even believe there's a difference between having sin and committing sin. This is a whole theological thing I won't get into, but the point is that the verse stresses we all have sinned, not that we all should continue to identify with sin.
Throw off your old ways
There's a bunch of seemingly dramatic ways we are instructed to get rid of sin in our lives throughout the Bible. We are told "if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away" Matthew 8:9. Ephesians 4:22 instructs us to throw off our old selves. We should see the severity of what sin causes in our lives.
The theme in scripture is the same theme I taught in my writing class: there is a transformation.
We all have sinned, but we aren't meant to continue in the same patterns or cycles of sin. The transformation happens through repentance and a reliance on Jesus. We run from a life of sin, and run toward the person who presents us before God as holy and righteous.
Grow in holiness
Although the "holier than thou" narrative gets thrown around like it's a bad thing, it's actually a good thing. (Not the attitude part, but the fact that you have access to holiness!)
There are many Christians who prefer to not call themselves "sinners" but instead to walk in their new identity as "saints" because that is what God calls us. That doesn't mean we won't ever sin again, it's just not part of our identity because of what God has done.
If you're following Jesus, your life should appear holier than other people's lives who aren't. Your conduct should present holiness and it should become like an aura that is carried with you everywhere you go. That's spiritual maturity.
We all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory, that is why we need Jesus. But don't forget about the transformation story He promises us!
We don't receive Jesus to stay stuck in sin, we receive Jesus to walk in freedom and to share that freedom to others who feel stuck in their lives without the holiness of God.