Biblical Confession: Great Sinner, but Greater Savior!
John Newton, English pastor and hymn writer (including Amazing Grace), said this at the age of 82, just before his death,
"My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour."
And his self-written epitaph reads in part,
"John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy."
And the Apostle Paul. He identified himself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1); a prisoner of Christ Jesus (Philemon 1); and the chief of all sinners (I Timothy 1:15). In fact, note Paul's apparent progression of matured God/self-awareness from the least of the apostles (I Corinthians 15:9, written AD 55) to the very least of all the saints (Ephesians 3:8, AD 60) to the foremost of sinners (I Tim. 1:15, AD 63-64) as he grew in Christlike character. (See, Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, NavPress 2007, Ch. 4)
What a difference, and what an antithesis to what we have (too often!) seen and heard today from our pulpits or in the "positive confessions" of popular televangelists!
"When you were born again the Word was made flesh in you. And you became flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. Don't tell me you have Jesus. You are everything He was and everything He is and ever He shall be. . . . It [the new man] says, 'I am as He is.' That's what it says. As He is, so are we in this world. Jesus said, 'Go in my name, go in my stead.' Don't say, 'I have.' Say, 'I am, I am, I am, I am, I am.' That's why you never ever, ever, ever ought to say. 'I'm sick.' How can you be sick if you're the new creation? Say, 'I'm healed!' Don't say, 'I'm a sinner.' The new creature is no sinner. I'm the righteousness of God in Christ." (Benny Hinn, "Our Position in Christ #2--The Word Made Flesh" [Orlando, FL: Orlando Christian Center, 1991], audiotape #A031190-2, side 2)
KING: You don't call them sinners [speaking of abortion, same-sex marriage]?
OSTEEN: I don't.
KING: Is that a word you don't use?
OSTEEN: I don't use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don't. But most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don't go down the road of condemning.
(Larry King Live, Interview with Joel Osteen, CNN, June 20, 2005)