I’m A Sinner … or Am I?

Fred McKinnon —  June 4, 2014 — 17 Comments

Hey Gang,

all-sons-and-daughtersOne of my favorite bands right now is “All Sons & Daughters“.  I absolutely love their music, arrangements, and thought-provoking, heart-stirring lyrics.

One of their songs is called “Brokenness Aside”. As a Worship Pastor, I’ve been torn about whether i should use this song in corporate (or personal) worship because of one paramount lyric that is the hook of the chorus.  That lyric simply says:

“I Am A Sinner”

If you’re a Christian, how do you feel about that phrase? The song is beautiful, and in context, it still ministers to me.    I know that by definition, if you sin, you are a sinner.  However, there is the difference between being a sinner (one who sins, as we all have sinned, and will sin – [Rom 3:23]), and declaring that about yourself as an identity.

As Christians, I believe our identity is not that of a sinner, but as one redeemed by Christ.  (Paul says that while we WERE sinners, Jesus died for us in Rom 5:8) He sees us as saints (1 Cor 1:2) … even when we don’t behave that way.

Would you be comfortable leading a song that says “I am a sinner”?  I think it would at least take some context and explaining from a theological background.  Are you using the word by it’s simple definition or are you claiming that as an identity?  If we get that musical hook in our hearts and constantly repeat to ourselves “I am a sinner”, do we begin to contradict what the Word of God says about us?

Fred McKinnon

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Fred McKinnon, Worship Artist, Pianist, Producer. Husband to Joy, Father of Jon Michael, Will, Rebekah, and Andrew. Lives on St. Simons Island, GA.

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  • Stephen Miller

    I love the wrestling. Totally get the point. I think more than anything when we sing a line like this, we are expressing lament over our ongoing struggles with sin that we do by nature. Though we are forgiven and made new, we are still stuck in this “body of death” that one day will be completely renewed. But in the meantime, though we are imputed Christ’s righteous nature, we still fight against the old sinner within. In the same way that Jesus was both God and man, I think the Christian has a bit of a hypostatic union in that we are both sinner (in our earthly bodies) and yet completely justified, righteous, and one with Christ. I think saying, “I’m a sinner” is a reminder that we still have the sin nature and will struggle with sin because we are in a very real spiritual war, but he is faithful nonetheless.

    • http://www.fredmckinnon.com fmckinnon

      Stephen,
      Eloquent response. Thanks for jumping into the conversation. (and for anyone who reads this, please check out Stephen’s book, “Worship Leaders: We Are Not Rock Stars”.

      I think my struggle is that I’d be uncomfortable leading it in my congregation without setting the song up with a similar context that you just described.

  • Joel Klampert

    Well… Stephen said exactly what I was gonna say… boo. lol
    truth is we are to live as new creations, but we are still sinners. We will be made whole in heaven.
    Len sweet addresses his audiences before he speaks “Good morning sinners. Good morning saints!” – I love that.
    To me there are many songs and lyrics that express sentiment we may not feel at the time as well…

    Like a lion says
    “my faith is dead” and some would say as they are singing it may be and others it’s not.

    But a recognition that I sing this knowing there are times my faith is dead or I sing this knowing I still am prone to sin because only Jesus is perfect….

    • http://www.fredmckinnon.com fmckinnon

      Well said, Joel – and thanks for the Facebook share!

  • Ken Mullis

    1 Timothy 1:15-16 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.…

    The great paradox.

    • http://www.fredmckinnon.com fmckinnon

      Ken, interesting how he used the present tense … “among who I am ….” not “who I was” .. yet, when Jesus used the word, he always referred to those who were not of faith yet. You are right – it IS a great paradox.

      • Joel Klampert

        the paradox is an understanding that while we are a NEW creation redeemed by the blood we are still sinners… In the case of eternity He will make all things new…
        So take 1Tim 1:15-16 and then read Rom 5:8 together…
        One says “I AM a sinner… so I am thankful for Jesus grace” the other says “He came while I was YET (still) a sinner”

        Without the concept of eternity we are looking through a finite NOW lens that makes this look like a contradiction, but I don’t believe it is. I believe it is both… and then He will make all thens new

  • http://www.bridgetwillard.wordpress.com bridgetwillard

    I’ve never heard the song so I’m not emotionally attached to it.
    That said, we are sinners.
    I think we forget that.
    But to celebrate it, I’d have to see if the words around it have a BUT.

    Like “I’m a sinner, BUT I’m saved by Grace.”

  • Matthew Daniel

    I’ve been on an amazing journey this year and a ton of it has to do with just this topic. If I WAS a sinner, then I once needed a Redeemer. If I AM a sinner, I need that Redeemer still.

    I’ve spent the last 12 months coming to terms that even on my best days, it’s filthy rags, and yet, I can boldly approach the throne – I’m not an outcast, He calls me son (joint heir) and I can him Abba. Any time that we only embrace the role of sinner, I live in shame and reject the grace of Christ and the cross, in arrogance believing my own truth over the message of Christ. If I live without embracing the role of sinner, I begin to lift myself in my own eyes to deserving of my blessings and gifts.

    Striking the balance is life with Christ- it’s a miserably beautiful, graciously awful thing.

  • http://alastairvance.com Alastair Vance

    I guess it’s important to balance it with songs that express our new identity in Christ. While we may explore issues such as sin and struggles, I think it’s always important to leave the congregation with hope. We may be going through a terrible situation. We may be struggling with some heavy sin. However, there is hope and that hope is Jesus. Even though we’re a mess, Christ died for us. He sees us as he intends us to be. He sees us as one day we’ll be.

  • Phil

    I believe that too many times in our churches we avoid pointing out that we are sinners. It’s Scriptural. It’s our condition because of what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden. It’s the reason Jesus had to die on the cross. If we don’t preach, teach, or sing about sin, it lessens the value of grace.
    As I look at the lyrics of the song, it goes beyond stating “I am a sinner”. It goes on to say “You are the Savior and You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful.” In other words, we are forgiven. I believe strongly that confession of sin combined with absolution of sin (a reminder that we are forgiven), should be an focal point in our worship services. That is truly something to celebrate and testifies to the greatness of God.
    If this is a song that you believe would minister to your congregation, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it.

  • Mike Massé

    The Bible makes it very clear – if we have repented, put our faith in Jesus, and received His divine life to live – we are dead to the sin nature. Yes, “in these decaying bodies” we will always have the *ability* to sin. But that does not change my identity – no longer sinner, but His adopted son. So I would not sing the lyric as constructed, but as I love ASAD too…maybe change it to “I WAS a sinner” and sing away. http://www.iamholy.net

    • Phil

      It’s difficult to understand, but we are both saint and sinner. If you sing, “I WAS a sinner”, you are saying that you no longer sin. Romans 7:18 clearly states that this cannot be true when it says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”
      We continue to sin even when we don’t want to. (We inherited that sinfulness from Adam and Eve.) That’s why we need to continually ask God for forgiveness because we continually sin.
      If we ignore sin, we ignore the reason Jesus came to save us. Like I stated previously, it’s vital that when we preach sin that we do not let it stand alone. We receive our hope in the grace of God through Jesus.

      • Mike Massé

        Phil, it’s really not that difficult my friend. Romans 7 is Paul talking about his life under the Law. Romans 8 goes on to talk about life in the Spirit, which is available to all who are in Christ Jesus. Verse 3 – “through Christ, the Spirit has *set you free from sin!* This confirms what God said through Paul in Romans 6 “We are those who died to sin.” We left that sinfulness you mention from Adam and Eve, and joined the holiness of Christ (there are many other confirmations in the Bible, all of which are quoted in my book). One of my favorite quotes is “If you’re not free from sin until you die, Jesus isn’t your Savior…death is.” Can we still choose to believe lies and engage in sin in these bodies? Absolutely. Am I saying I never do? I am saying as I receive His grace and practice believing truth over the old lies – I manifest Jesus more and sin less each and every day! If I’m saved initially by grace alone, through faith alone – this is also how I live victoriously every day! This thing is real, and it’s slowly but surely spreading…to God be the glory.

  • http://redwinemag.com/ Dr. Diana Hardy

    I am not attached to music so much. But some times I like to listen songs. I’ve never listened this song. But thanks for sharing it. I liked it.

    ~Diana

  • michaelrshannon

    I believe one of the shortest prayers in the Bible is: God, have mercy on me, a sinner. It’s one I have no problem using frequently because it is the Gospel truth in regard to my life.

    Like a pastor once advised, on Judgement Day I’m going to ask for mercy and not justice.

    Michael R. Shannon
    Author of: Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times
    (Now with added humor!)
    Available at: http://tinyurl.com/nv3v3rc

  • Joshua

    In response to the verse in 1 timothy I would say that the other 9 of 10 times the word sinner or sinners appears in the new testament it is very clear that it is referring to someone who is habitually living in sin. While half of the verses reveal that from the context the other half make it eplicitly clear by contrasting with the idea of holiness/righteousness (matt 9:13, 1 pet 4:18, heb 7:26). We cant base our theology on one verse when the rest of the gospel proclaims otherwise (scripture interprets scripture). It is clear that Jesus did not just forgive our sins but that he completely changes our identity (1 cor 5:17). We cant be righteous and “sinners” at the same time.