Simul Justus et Peccator.
I don’t exactly remember the first time I heard that phrase, but it was probably, give or take, three years ago. God has used it to change my thinking on many issues regarding both my spiritual and physical life.
Having been constantly fraught with fear over my sin, and my probable, impossible salvation based upon my Christian “walk”? This concept opened my eyes. It opened my eyes, not just to the fact that the struggle that wars within every believer is a normal everyday aspect of the Christian life. But also, being able to find joy, peace, and hope in the truth of that struggle helped me understand and find relief in knowing that the struggle points to something in me that wasn’t there before. God’s own Spirit, and the faith that was gifted to me to believe. Now, it doesn’t mean I accept my sins as a concrete, unmovable object that I should take for what they are and leave it at that. But, it also doesn’t mean that as I wrestle against my old nature and sometimes lose, as we all do, I should consider myself no longer forgiven or somehow out of God’s good and gracious will. As Christians, we all have these two natures warring in each of us, and every Christian loses at times, whether they care to admit it or not.
Once I came to accept my life as “Simul”, meaning a person constantly wrestling with these two natures, it didn’t necessarily remove sin from my life, or make me “live a better life.” What it did do, was strongly remind me that if my faith is in Christ, the newer nature will always reign, even in the midst of all my struggles and most importantly, even when I lose a battle. Sure, I’d like to say I don’t take God saving me for granted, but I think that’s just one more thing that no Christian can attest to perfectly. Despite that, the new nature always reigns because it’s not our nature that is reigning. It is a nature alien to us, grafted onto us. It is one given to us to cover all our sins. When we mess up and we will and do, the gift of faith reminds us of that, if we let it. It reminds us that we can’t out sin God’s Grace. We can’t outpace God’s love for us, which is always keeping in step with us, even on our worse days. This is what draws us back, encourages us to take a knee in sorrowful repentance. This is what strengthens us to shake our heads defiantly at our sin nature in the one time that we resist successfully, and for the next time as well.
The power to not sin, or do good works has not been found in words spoken aloud in some great self-proclamation or by following every jot and tittle of the law, as if we could. It is found in the gracious words of, “I love you and forgive you.” There is no more powerful phrase. Yes, it can be abused and people will take advantage of it. It doesn’t make it less true. It actually makes it more amazing. It’s undeserved and sometimes even unwanted. But what it does when God uses it, is remarkable. When someone responds to the gift of faith given to them, it’s unnatural. It sees the grace poured out at the cross and makes them grateful, not free of sin. That’s where the journey begins and always remains.
So here I am. An amalgamation of two natures. The old sinful Adam that is always reminding me what’s easy and fun and feels good for the moment. From the addictiveness of online porn to the simple laziness of a sluggard. This is not about the worst sinful action you can think of and its subsequent consequences, but about the ugly nature in us that calls to these things. Then there’s the new nature. The righteous nature given to us by Christ. This is where we live and breathe. This is where we find hope and rest. It calls us forgiven always, and perfect forever. This is despite our current and constant warring condition. It is this nature where victory is sealed spiritually and at times manifested physically. This is where we are when the old nature calls out to us and entices us to walk out and visit some old haunts and maybe even some new ones. The ones that seem a little more innocent in nature in comparison. But when it’s over and conviction has set in, it is under this new nature that we are reminded of God’s love and forgiveness. It is under this new nature that we are constantly washed under God’s grace. How wonderful that is.
So again, I stand here. Simul Justus et Peccator. Simultaneously, Sinner and Saint. Always thinking about my condition. Always wrestling with the old, win or lose. But always forgiven by the grace poured out from the cross.