If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy.  If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin.  God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners.  Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.  We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides.  

…We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.  No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.  

-Martin Luther 


One of my closest friends has been sporting a genuine Rolex watch for several years now that his boss gave him due to his hard work and dedication to his co-workers.  Although the thing cost about $3500 new, it doesn’t look a whole lot different than a $35 cheap imitation—the differences are many though—night and day really.  For starters, Tony’s Rolex weighs about as much as ten of the knock-offs. 

Impostors never can hide forever—with a closer look, a phony can always be identified.  And the impostors among us are those too comfortable in their sin or too satisfied in their rightousness to see their need for a Savior.  Lest we forget that Jesus is only the Savior for those lost enough to know it and unless God shows someone their spiritual bankruptcy outside of Christ—we can’t say anything to make a lost soul bat an eyelash. 

A blogger named Elissa commented on the quote above—Reading Luther always reminds me of how lightly I often take my sin. He pins me, ashamed, when he connects my flippancy with a correspondingly low view of mercy. How odd—but how needful—to pray for the grace to ‘sin strongly’. It is not a call to sin more egregiously, but to believe all my sins to be egregious rather than trifling; apart from His illuminating mercy I would not even recognize the strength of my own nature. 

I’m on the edge of losing it—
   the pain in my gut keeps burning.
I’m ready to tell my story of failure,
   I’m no longer smug in my sin.
(Psalm 38:17-18, The Message Bible) 

Jesus wasn’t too fond of the folks who failed to see their own sin but were quick as the speed of sound to name the sins of others. 

Lord, please help me see my sin and my righteousness as the serious offense it is to you so that I can see and revel in your mercy and your righteousness provided for me—not so I can self-loathe and wallow in despair.

Jesus-followers aren’t imaginary sinners—they are real sinners and forgiven ones to be sure.