There is often a discrepancy between how we feel and what the Bible says, isn’t there? This can be a major problem for us. How should we seek to reconcile our feelings with the holy text of Scripture? Let’s focus our attention on the thought, “I don’t feel like a Saint.” Here are three helpful reminders for us all as we seek to navigate through the messiness of our own unbelief.
Yes. The problem is unbelief when we question what the Scripture says because of how we feel. The truth is, every believer will be guilty of this kind of unbelief. So let’s begin.
Remember your feelings are subjective and the Scripture is God’s Word.
The Scripture names Christians as Saints in 18 of the 27 NT books. There are only two NT authors who don’t explicitly use that term “Saints” to identify Christians (Peter and James). The NT clearly describes NT believers as “Saints,” and this is significant because the name means “Holy Ones.” Don’t we all feel this seeming contradiction at different times and for different reasons? We don’t feel like “Saints” or “Holy Ones” often, or maybe never feel like that name fits us. The good news is that our identity does not rest in our feelings, our failures, and our successes, but our identity rests in the person and work of Jesus.
Believe the Gospel again.
If you are a Christian, you might naturally think this phrase, “believe the gospel,” doesn’t really apply to you anymore. You may think, “I have already believed the gospel, so how do I overcome this unbelief? How do I get myself to feel like a saint?” My honest answer is that there is simply nothing you are able to do that will make you feel like you are a Saint. Our actions, no matter how noble, can never create in us belief. Remember, the problem of not feeling like a Saint is a problem of unbelief. The Scriptures say I am a Saint, but I don’t feel it or believe it. If my problem is unbelief then what is the solution? The Gospel is the solution to unbelief. We easily see this as the solution to the unbelief of a non-Christian, but we have somehow disconnected the Gospel from the rest of the Christian life and thereby crippled our ability to walk with God in Spirit (Rom 8:1).
Consider the Galatian church, Ephesian church, Philippian church, Colossian church, Roman church, and Corinthian church. In Paul’s epistles, he is primarily preaching the gospel. To whom is he preaching the gospel? Believers! Why is that the case? Paul seeks to preach the Gospel to the Christians because the Gospel not only saves, but the Gospel sanctifies (Gal 3:1-3).
Let me try to explain what I mean by believing the gospel sanctifies the Christian. First, we recognize that we were depraved sinners who are now saved by Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We now have a new nature and an old nature that are at war within us (Rom 7:23). God, before the foundation of the world, loved us and chose to save us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:18-20). This salvation, that we are now partakers of (Eph 3:6), is not based upon our feelings, our deeds, or anything produced in us (Eph 2:8-9). Our salvation is based upon faith in the Person and work of Christ as He is revealed to us through the Scripture (1 Pet 1:25). We are redeemed, our sins atoned, and we are declared righteous by God through the sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead who is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us (Rom 8:34).
Second, the same way we are saved is the same way we are sanctified. We are being conformed into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29) by grace through faith. It is a serious mistake to imagine that I am saved by Christ’s work but sanctified by my work. I will never be sanctified, feel sanctified, or become more sanctified through my own actions. I will however feel sanctified and become more sanctified as I rest in the Identity I have “in Christ” through faith in the Gospel (Rom 7:22-8:4).
Repent and live out of the reality of the Gospel again.
What are we needing to repent of? If we are a Christian struggling with the specific idea, “I don’t feel like a Saint and so I don’t know if I am one,” then we should repent of our unbelief. Repenting is often defined as a change of mind that results in a change of direction. Let’s use that definition for purposes. As a believer, I need to rest in my given identity as a Saint. How will I do that? I will believe the Gospel and repent of my unbelief that is robbing me of the joy given to me in salvation. I will, in my repenting, seek to be a doer (Jam 1:23) and live out the implications of the gospel in my life. In order to learn how to identify these implications and respond to the person and work of Christ rightly, I will seek Him in the Word. I will read the Scripture in search of my Saviour (Joh 5:39). I will believe what the scripture says and I will live that belief, not perfectly, but the way Saints do… by grace through faith.