Sunday, 25 November 2007

By grace, through faith.

Have you ever felt like you are under the weight of condemnation? Far from God or perhaps even disapproved of by your heavenly father? A friend said to me the recently 'I am a rubbish Christian'; she felt like she was missing the mark of God's standards and was struggling to maintain a 'Christian Lifestyle'.

The problem is that so often we forget that if we are in Christ, we are justified. This is our legal standing with God, it means we are declared righteous. We are in the right with God.

How can this be? God's standards are way beyond my reach, I take one look at the ten commandments and feel shame at that white lie I told at work, my failure to truly honour my parents and the jealous eye over my neighbours possessions. I can't maintain my perception of what it means to live a 'Christian Lifestyle'; perhaps I drank a bit too much last night, again, or maybe my lustful eyes fell upon someone in a way they shouldn't. Am I a rubbish Christian?

Lets clear this up. There is no such thing as a 'rubbish Christian'. Paul states in Romans that 'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'. We all fail. This is why Ephesians 2: 8-9 says 'For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast'.

On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that we deserved. Because of this, we can repent and God will overlook our sins. We will be forgiven, but there is more to come. The following verse is Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

When we repent, our sins are cleansed so it is as if we had never sinned. But then God does something spectacular. He clothes us in his perfect righteousness. In his book 'Systematic Theology' Wayne Grudem describes this as going from Negative (sin) , to Neutral (forgiven) to Positive (Righteous). In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul describes how in Christ, we become the righteousness of Christ when we repent.

For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus]

So if you ever feel under condemnation, don't let your feelings get ahead of the truth. Ask God to raise your awareness of your right standing in him, and meditate on his word.

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