What’s the Difference Between a Saint and a Sinner?

What’s the difference between a saint and a sinner?

It’s really simple. Are you ready?

A saint repents. And then sins, and repents again. And then makes another mistake, and (you guessed it) repents again. I’m not talking about a person who laughs at sin and continues to do it, knowing that they can “just repent later”, but real people, with real addictive behaviors, working each day, hand-in-hand with God, to repent and try to be better.

You may think that I’m being trite, but I’m not.

A sinner either thinks that there is no need for repentance (is in denial that there is such a thing as sin) or thinks that he/she is so bad that they are incapable of God’s love, or is mad at God and doesn’t want anything to do with Him … right now.

All of it is a matter of the heart. Let’s go to the scriptures to see what the Lord has to say  –

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).

I love that one. I love that the Lord wants to sit down and “talk shop” with us, “let us reason together“.

Here’s another one I love. This is for when the devil tells me that there is a quota on repentance –

But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven (Moroni 6:8).

Here’s one for when the devil tries to tell me that I’ve gone beyond the point of repentance, that the Lord is so disgusted with me that He doesn’t want to be around me –

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). 

And if that doesn’t work, I like this one –

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

But perhaps, one of my favorite scriptures of all, and the reason that saints go on repenting, and trying to be better –

Behold … I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20).

A saint has felt the love of God in the most quiet reaches of the heart, in a place where no one else has access, and then desires always to have that love with them. Being a disciple of Christ is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work.  But the rewards are peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23).

And here is the best part of this whole discussion. You and I and everyone around us can change from a sinner to a saint at any moment. Right now in fact. It is a matter of the heart. Going to God and confessing (telling Him what we did wrong) and forsaking (promising to not do it again), and if we mess up, confessing and forsaking again until we get better and better at making the distance between the sin and the repentance smaller and smaller. Until, eventually, we decide that we love God more than the sin and so we choose to pray through the temptation instead of committing the sin and praying after. Then, we begin to change our lives … to not be where the temptation is so readily available, to replace the bad in our lives with good.

We can do it. The Lord believes in us. I know that is true.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand (How Firm a Foundation, Hymn # 85).

Grace and Works – Becoming the Man or Woman of Christ

We just watched the Christian movie, “God is Not Dead” which was really fascinating. (Just as a heads up, there will be some SPOILERS AHEAD so if you want to watch it, don’t read the next few paragraphs). I liked the debates, I LOVED the conclusion that we all need to learn for ourselves, that God wants us to choose, but (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) the end just left me without any joy or hope. To have the professor hit by a car and then just before he dies, he breathes out a final, “okay, yes, I guess I do believe in Jesus” didn’t really ring true or fair to me.

Perhaps it’s the age old Christian debate about faith and works. I absolutely know that we can be saved through the Grace (or as I call it the atonement) of Jesus Christ. But if we are saved to do nothing more than just keep living a sin-filled life, has the miraculous sacrifice been truly appreciated or used in the way that it was intended?

The Apostle Paul talked frequently about us becoming new creatures in Christ. The heavens watched with “anxious anticipation” to see what these new Heavenly Creatures would be like. Paul constantly tells us to be better. Look at some of his thoughts from Romans 6 –

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members instruments of righteousness unto God.

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (verses 12-16)

I had a Christian friend who kept telling me that he was saved, so really there was nothing else for him to do. No need to change bad and destructive habits, no need to try to be better or to help others, or to read scriptures, or to pray, or to have a close relationship with God. He was saved, so any sinning that he did didn’t matter, because he was saved.

How sad. How much more in life he could have been, could have done, if he had allowed the Grace – the ennobling power, the Divine means of help and assistance (see BD: Grace) work as a power within himself to become a greater being – the Man (or in my case Woman) of Christ.

That is why the movie frustrated me. (SPOILER, again) for years, the character of the professor worked at ripping down faith, and then to die and say, “sure I’m saved”, well it sure doesn’t seem fair to allow him the same heaven as those Christians who were sacrificed to lions for their testimonies.  A more ennobling ending to that film would have been to see the professor begin to unlock the power within as he came to accept his anger toward God and then try to work it out with God. To help him find the love of God would be so powerful. Yes, there would be a difficult path ahead, but he could use Paul’s life as an example. The Apostle Paul – talk about a man of Christ!

At the beginning, he tore down faith, but then, had an amazing conversion on the Road to Damascus. The Lord testified of Paul to Ananias, “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9: 15). The Lord knew that Paul could be so much more than he was.

He knows that about you and me as well.

More reading on the subject –

Romans 6, Romans 8

Blog-post that I wrote, Grace the Price has been paid, the opportunity has been opened.

Elder Oaks talk, The Challenge to Become

Grace Under Pressure

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I’ve been facing a trial in the last few weeks. It’s not a new trial, I’ve faced it before a few times, but (though I may want to be upset) I keep getting the feeling that I need to face this trial with grace. I mean, every-time we’ve faced it before, the Lord has blessed us with solutions. So, I owe Him some faith, some grace in this difficult time, as He has proven Himself to be “mighty to save” previously.

As I discussed this idea with my sister, she quoted, “We doubt not the Lord, nor his goodness. We’ve proved Him in days that are past” Hymn #19, We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet. Then said, “and that came from the pioneers! And you know what they had to go through!”

Yes, I think that I owe the Lord some Grace under pressure, and some faith rather than desperation. It’s tough, but deserved.