One of Steve Martin’s masterful performances came in the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels where he plays a character whose sole aim is to try to swindle people out of their money. Steve Martin and Michael Caine team up in this movie to work their magic against unsuspecting victims. They were proud of the fact that they were filth. They wore the title, “dirty rotten scoundrel” with pride. The more they swindled people, the happier they were. As a church person I could never relate.
Over the years, I’ve been told again and again that sin will satisfy for a season, but will ultimately leave a person feeling empty and void of life. It was like a subtle warning to reduce the desire to follow through on sinful desires. Sort of like a scare-tactic to keep me in line. And then I was warned, “be sure your sins will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Yikes! I’m going to feel bad and I’m going to get caught. Kaboom! Pow! Double-whammy.
What I find super ironic about the contemporary church is that even though we agree that sin leaves a person empty, we have a fascination with it! Sunday School, youth group, bible college…they all taught me this one “great truth.” Are you ready for it? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I had this verse pounded into me over and over and over again. I earned special stars and prizes for memorizing it in Sunday school. I literally learned and relearned that I was a dirty rotten scoundrel. And over and over I repented for being a dirty rotten scoundrel. It was a vicious cycle. A cycle I could never escape. No amount of confession, repentance, accountability or self-loathing helped me breakout of the unstoppable rut.
As a church, we’ve done a good job of making people feel like crap. Weekly repentance sessions through habitual calls to an ever inviting altar only to leave church ever looking for an answer. Resulting in a repeat appearance at church next week to get our soul run through the car wash again. There’s always another puddle awaiting just beyond the church door. It’s obvious we have an issue with sin.
I only wish someone had encouraged me to memorize Romans 3:24-26. That would have made a huge difference to my Christian life. Romans 3:24-25 goes on to say, “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”
There is an answer for sin preceding and directly following Romans 3:23. Look it up for yourself. It’s called faith. Faith in Christ absolutely trumps sin and the power of sin in the life of the believer. Our error has been identifying with sin and the name “sinner”. As part of our struggle against sin, we’ve become accustomed to empathizing with Rom 3:23. In effect it’s given us comfort in our inability to live holy lives. We think things like, “I’m a sinner. I sin. I can’t help it”, which only serve to justify our bad choices.
The issue at hand is not really an issue of inability, but rather identity. When we identify with the title of “sinner”, we will naturally give in to sin. When we identify with the title “saint”, the very desire to sin becomes irrelevant. Some would say these are two sides of the same coin, but I would argue that one side is a lot more deadly!
Knowing your nature allows you to live accordingly. Understanding that my sins (past, present and future) were all dealt with at Calvary gives me complete freedom. I don’t have to live under a cloud of guilt and shame, constantly confessing my failings before God lest judgment should suddenly fall on me. The road before me is clear. My conscience is clear. My hope is sure. I will not beat myself up for inadvertently hitting a bump in the road here and there, because I know who I am…forgiven. I have an advocate at the right hand of God, namely Jesus Christ who’s got my back. And He’s got yours too.
“Knowing your nature allows you to live accordingly.”
As we approach Easter and celebrate the work of Jesus on the cross, I have one warning for you. Don’t pick up the weight of sin and try to “feel” it. Christ carried the weight of sin upon his shoulders and dealt with it once and for all, so that you and I wouldn’t have to carry it ever again. He said those words, “It is finished” for a reason!
Aren’t you tired of being a dirty rotten scoundrel?
DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am in no way endorsing personal non-accountability for actions. When we stumble and sin we often hurt others. Christ has forgiven us, but we still have to patch up our relationships with those who experience the fallout of our actions.
As an added bonus…here’s my favorite clip from the movie. Enjoy!