Luther has a famous (and much maligned quote) - "Sin Boldly, but believe more boldly still."
What does this mean? Does it mean that as Christians we can simply go do whatever we want? Does it mean that I should and can give in to whatever sins I desire? Does it mean I should flaunt my sin?
It means this. Everything, every single little thing you do in this life, is sin.
Every single thing you do in this life falls short of the glory of God.
But you say you are a good person? But you say you do good things? I ask, do you do them perfectly? Is your heart pure?
When I preach a sermon, part of my heart desires that I receive praise and glory - for I am a sinner.
When I love and care for my neighbor, part of my heart wonders how they will love me - for I am a sinner.
When I do any good, or more accurately, when God accomplishes any good through me, I am still what I am - a sinner, tainted to the core, corrupting all things.
The good that I want to do, I do not do, and the wickedness that I as a Christian do not wish to do, I still do. The taint always remains. I place my hand upon my chest and I believe what Scripture says of it - that in sin my mother bore me, and that my "life" in this world is nothing but a slow march towards the wages of my sin - that my imperfect lungs will cease one day, that my imperfect heart will fail in its beatings.
Everything I do is sin - no matter how hard I strive, no matter how many new rules I add, no matter how much more holy or more righteous I appear than my neighbor. I am a sinner, and I can do nothing to change this.
What then shall I do? Shall I simply try harder? Shall I set a more rigorous discipline - shall I shy away from blessings because I in my sin will abuse them? Shall I let this awareness of my sin paralyze me, keep me from acting for fear, for the knowledge that all my actions when left to themselves are acts of death and destruction?
No. I will sin boldly. I will go out and I will live, I will strive to do good, to show love, to enjoy the blessings of God... even knowing that every moment of my life and every act thereof is full of sin.
I will go and live boldly and without fear, and thus I will sin boldly, for I believe boldly. My righteousness has nothing to do with me, but rather it is Christ who is righteous for me.
Every moment of my life is sin - every moment of His life is perfect - and He gives this life to me.
My life is doomed to death - His life survives beyond death and to all eternity - and He gives this life to me.
Every fiber of my body is tainted with sin - His Body is pure and without spot - and He gives His Body to me.
My blood is corrupt with also sorts of wickedness and filth - His Blood washes away all sins - and He gives His Blood to me.
I love the phrase sin boldly not because it lets me do what I want - I love it because I know that I will never in this life be able to do what I want - that is be free of sin. I love the phrase sin boldly not because it gives me license to sin, but reminds me that every moment of my life is sin, no matter my intentions or desires. I love the phrase sin boldly, for it teaches me to always turn away from myself, for I am utterly sinful and depraved, even for all my growth, and makes me to look to Christ Jesus who is my life and my salvation.
I love the phrase sin boldly because it is only in the salvation of Christ that I am free to live without fear, to live boldly, because otherwise I am trapped by my sin, trapped by my futile efforts to rise above my sin, or to hide my sin, or to pretend that because my sin is less obvious than my neighbor's that it is not there.
In myself I see nothing but death and sin, but I will be bold, for in Christ I see nothing but life and mercy and salvation.
Or to paraphrase Gerhard, everything in me damns me - He still is Jesus for me.
Sin Boldly, but Believe more Boldly Still.