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What Luther Says

Are You A Model Sinner? Are You A Poor Miserable Sinner?

Jesus receives, rejoices over, and restores sinners.

You do believe that, right?

Well, apparently, I learned that there are some fellow brothers and sisters of ours who don't.

In the Comments Section to a popular post, I got attacked for suggesting that Christians are simultaneously saints and sinners, and that ours is to be a life of daily repentance.

The specific objection to that was...

to quote your tweet: "Only two people classes exist: believers and unbelievers, godly and ungodly, converted and unconverted, regenerate and unregenerate. #Lect30" Then why do you believe that everyone is a sinner? If you are a new creation in Christ and old things are passed away you cannot be just a sinner anymore. That is disrespectful to the new creation in Christ, and to call yourself just a sinner is putting down what Christ did in this new creation. Yes we all still sin and have the sin nature in the body until it is glorified, but our nature is now a godly nature.

Such words reminded me of a section of the sermon I referenced at the beginning of this piece that read: "Even if we have not fallen into blatant, easy-to-recognize shame and vice, even if we have lived a fairly respectable life, we still must confess, 'I a poor miserable sinner.' For God judges not only our outward actions, but also our inner hearts and our secret sins in thought, word, and deed. There is no escaping the label of sinner. If you think you’re not, you’re just kidding yourself. But you’re not fooling God."

In addition, it reminded me of something my own Pastor said a few weeks ago: "A person can just as easily get lost in the sin of self-righteousness as they can any other sin."

That's why I replied with the following...

Yes, believers are declared righteous before God thanks to Jesus Christ and that deals with our eternal glory in His presence. However, believers still live in the here-and-now where sin is still an ever present truth for each and every one of us. Should we ignore sin and stop waging war against it? No way! We are simultaneously saints and sinners, yes, but just because we're saints doesn't mean we should ever ignore or minimize the presence of sin in our lives. 
If "our nature is now a godly nature" as you say, then why do we all still sin in this life? Are we to ignore that reality and never repent of them due to this "godly nature" then? Wouldn't that be "disrespectful" to our Lord and Savior Who instructs us otherwise and Who teaches us that ours is a life of daily repentance? Should we stop saying the words "and forgive us of our trespasses" and the Lord's Prayer then? 
Maybe John was mistaken and being "disrespectful to the new creation in Christ" then when he wrote in 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV) "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. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 
Remember, he was writing that...to those who were already Christians. 
Furthermore, if what you say were true, then we'd have to conclude that like John, St. Paul was "being disrespectful to the new creation in Christ" too, and all the letters that he wrote need to be ignored completely. 
The reality is that BOTH MEN were Apostles of Jesus Christ who were divinely inspired to write each and every word that they wrote. 
Sorry, but I'll stick with their take on the subject.

Personally, I feel like that reply of mine was more snark that sound theology.

So, I dug up a daily devotion I had saved from early August that speaks to this sort of thing, and I think it's a much better rebuttal than anything I could ever write!

August 3rd 
Zaccheaus is the model Christian. He is a sinner who recognizes his sin. Christ says: "For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt 9:13). Only sinners may be called. And in an extraordinary transvaluation of values, the Lord Jesus calls sinners to partake of His righteousness. That which they are not, they are by imputation. He reckons them righteous. As Martin Luther says "This is Christ's love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person." Christ seeks what is best for us, not by seeking the good in us (that would a fool's errand), but by seeking to give what is good to those who are bad, like us. Ah, to be a sinner like this! 
When a dear seminary professor, Dr. Harold Buls, preached his final sermon he told the anecdote from early in his ministry of receiving a man who came for private confession. The man fell on his knees and confessed committing adultery to Dr. Buls. In his sermon Dr. Buls exclaimed, "I was envious of this man!" This elicited sustained laughter in the seminary chapel to which Dr. Buls immediately replied, "No, no! I don't mean it that way! I didn't envy his sin! I mean that the man had deep spiritual courage coming in getting on his knees and abjectly confessing the sin of adultery to his pastor. I was envious of his spiritual courage." He was envious of the man's ability to be the kind of sinner God counts righteous. 
God has staked his honor and holy name on the church for the sake of our need. He is willing to be here among sinners, though He is holy, because it is His mission is to save sinners like us. Some years ago a friend of mine quipped, "Confession is good for the soul, but bad for your reputation." And he has a point! We find it difficult to say about ourselves "I, a poor miserable sinner." Yet only sinners receive the divine mercy. Only those who are willing to get off their high horse and allow God to be who He is will be forgiven. Only those who recognize their need for the Physician can receive His healing. Only those who know God is willing to be among the small will receive His ministry to the small and weak. Such was the case for Zacchaeus. 
So it has been for two millennia upon the holy hill of the Lord. Here is ministry to the lost that they might be found. Here the Lord, through His Word, seeks sinners like us. Jesus says: "Today salvation has come to this house. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." This is how Zacchaeus can be the model sinner. 
-- Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray

For emphasis, here's what Martin Luther once wrote...

"It is as though Jesus says, 'The kingdom of Christ is not one of condemnation. I am not here to condemn you, but to remit the sins of those who, like you, are where death, the devil, evil consciences, accusers, and judges have come to plague them. The slogan in My kingdom is: I forgive you your sin; for in My kingdom no one is without forgiveness of sins. Therefore you, too, must have forgiveness. My kingdom must not be in disorder. All who enter it and dwell in it must be sinners. But as sinners they cannot live without the forgiveness of sins.'" 
If I am a sinner, the matter is not ended there; the sins must be forgiven. Thus none but sinners come into this kingdom. But do not let this prompt you to say: 'Well, we will remain in sin.' No, you must learn to feel and recognize your sin. The Pharisees did not have to become sinners; they were sinners already, and they became even greater sinners when Christ uncovered their sins with the words: 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her' (Jn 8:7). A sinner is a person who feels his sin. The Pharisees, those rogues, were no sinners; but they became sinners when Christ said: 'Let him who is without sin, etc.' Now they became sinners. But they despaired and slunk away. In their arrogance they hid their sin and would not await Christ's second statement: 'Neither do I condemn you (Jn 8:11)." 
"Thus only those sinners belong in the kingdom of Christ who recognize their sin, feel it, and then catch hold of the Word of Christ spoken here: 'I do not condemn you.'
-- Martin Luther, Sermons On The Gospel of St. John, 8.11

This is most certainly true.

I really do hope the person who wrote that comment takes these words to heart.

I also hope they forgive me for my snark and, instead, that they please focus on the truthfulness of God's Word which refutes their current beliefs.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, don't be like the Pharisees and think you have no need to repent ever again since becoming a Christian, because Christ says, "for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13) so be a model Christian, be a poor miserable sinner, and be the broken and humble sinner who recognizes and repents of his sins.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.


  1. Ah, the thin line between piety and pietism...

    This is a well-written post, and 1 Jn 1 and Rom 7 both speak directly to this issue.

    By the way, Rev. Murray's devotion was great - where did you get it?

  2. Ah - found it! http://www.mlchouston.org/filerequest/2386.html

    Signed up already. I'll add it to my daily Higher Things devotion (highly recommended).

  3. Jwskud,

    Keen observation about the "thin line" in your earlier comment!

    Glad you found the "Memorial Moments" email newsletter too. I've been getting them for a year now and they're so insightful.

    Grace And Peace,


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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