So I learned a cool lesson this week, that'll I share with you all!
In personal study Sunday morning I was studying a talk by Elder Holland concerning the importance of keeping commandments. It made me think about the distinct difference between the sinner, and one who is sinful. I went to the scriptures to see if there was any doctrinal distinction between the two. This is what I found.
Any time the term "sinful" is used, it is often in correlation with a description of the downfall of a civilization, in context of phrases such as "the awful, sinful and polluted state" or "delivered from our sinful, polluted states." Sinful is most often used to describe those who have chosen not to repent and come unto Christ.
The term sinner, on the other hand, is almost always associated with one who had sinned, but had chosen to repent. Someone who had sinned, as we all do, but simply chose to repent and move forward.
As I thought about these two distinct differences, I felt the Spirit impress upon me that the word sinful means exactly what it says. Those who chose not to repent are literally "filled with sin", for they chose to bear "the full weight of the law", accepting the consequences of sinning against God's laws, and literally take sin, which entails spiritual death, into our character, and it becomes a defining aspect of our lives.
The sinner, on the other hand, is not defined by his sin precisely because rather than accept sin, and live with it, he actively chooses to "put off the natural man, and become a saint, through the Atonement of Christ". He rejects the power of Satan over his life, and chooses to repent, forsake his sins, and take upon him the name of Christ. He chooses not to become sinful, and thus is therefore only a sinner.
In pondering this, I realized how prone I was to defining myself as a "sinful" man, rather than simply a "sinner". We are all classified as sinners. I loved Elder Renlund, who taught "God loves sinners." He has to, right? Excluding one divine exemption, He has always dealt with sinners. He loves sinners. He hates sin. We are not sin, nor full of sin, unless we chose to be. Too often we fall into the trap of expecting ourselves to be perfect, without sin. While God expects the same of us, as only a perfect being striving to perfect mortal children, He also has divine perspective, and does not expect us to be perfect in a day. Rather, His divine patience and love enable Him to allow us to progress and work towards salvation.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ allows us to become saints, and put off our sinful natures. I testify this to be true.