Tag Archives: forgiveness

Imputed Righteousness

 

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“How righteous are you?”

That’s a question I ask from time to time. The answers I receive are predictable. “Well, I try. Hopefully I have some righteousness. I know I’ve done a lot of wrong things, but I’ve done some good things, too.” It’s a question that makes believers squirm. We have been trained to think of ourselves as unrighteous. In many churches, believers are told how their sins separate them from God and they have to repent in order to be forgiven. Then they are led in a prayer, asking God for forgiveness. But they know it will never hold. Next week they will have to do it again.

So, how righteous are you?

Do you get a little squirt of righteousness each Sunday and try to live on that for a week? Are you trying to do good things so that the righteousness in you will outweigh the unrighteousness? Are you hoping that no one will see the wickedness in your life and you can just somehow slip into Heaven unnoticed? Or are you expecting a good scolding and some temporary punishment when you get to those pearly gates? Christians have all kinds of strange ideas, and almost all of those ideas come from bad teaching.

Ready for an answer?

“How righteous are you?”

“I am as righteous as Jesus!”

WHOA! How can you say that? Jesus was perfectly righteous. He never did anything wrong. He never sinned. He always did right. Everything Jesus did pleased the Father. How could anyone say that he or she is as righteous as Jesus?

Then out come the verses:

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God…”
“There is none righteous, no not one…”
“All we like sheep have gone astray…”
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves…”

And all of these verses are true, and I believe all of them. But that’s what we were, not what we are. Yes, we have all sinned and fallen short. No debate. It is true that no one, save Jesus, is without sin and righteous on his or her own. No argument on that. If we say that we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves. That’s true also. Those statements are about what used to be and what would still be true if we were apart from Christ.

But we are not apart from Christ. We have been washed and sanctified and justified (1 Cor 6:11). We have been cleansed of all sin (1 John 1:7). We have been forgiven (1 John 2:12). In Jesus, all these things are true of us.

In the Bible, the concept of righteousness is portrayed as an account sheet. Sins are listed as negative, I presume; while good works are listed as positives. We have a couple of problems. There are so many sins that our good works will never catch up. Then, even our good works are so often compromised by our sins. We do things we want to do and in the way we want and for the people we want. So few good works are truly pure, without the stain of sin in themselves. And more, even those few good things we do that are actually close to selfless are not truly our work, but the work of Jesus in us and through us. All of that means that our moral account is in pretty bad shape. Not even close to righteous.

The theological word connected to all of this is “imputed.” To impute something is to give it to another. In the Bible, this particularly refers to moral or spiritual accountability.  And righteousness is imputed, given to us from outside of us.  The only righteousness we have is imputed righteousness.

So the gospel teaches us that Jesus, who was perfectly righteous in Himself, washed away our unrighteousness by His sacrifice for us on the cross and granted to us His own righteousness. So Paul says:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21

We become the “righteousness of God.” Even about himself, Paul says that his only goal in life is to be found in Christ:

…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith Philippians 3:9

In other words, if you were to ask Paul how righteous he was, he would tell you about the righteousness of Christ in him. Why? Because there was no other righteousness in him.

So here you go. Apart from Christ, no one is righteous. But those who have come to Him for salvation by faith are not apart from Him. In Him, you have His righteousness. Because He is in you and you are in Him, His righteousness is your righteousness.

How righteous are you? If you belong to Jesus, you are as righteous as He is. That’s the message of grace!

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I am Clean

Words of Grace  

 

One of the things God has not given us is the ability to forget the things we really want to forget.  There are good reasons for that, I suppose, but most of us have done some things we would love to push out of our thinking forever.  It certainly doesn’t help when other people remind us or when the evil one whispers a reminder in our ears.  But we often don’t need them.  We just remember.  And, when we remember, it hurts.

But does God want us to live every day in the shame of what we have done?  Some preachers seem to think so.  They keep Christians in control and motivate them to obedience by reminding them of what they were before they came to Christ.  Forgiveness means little if our sins are always lifted up to us by others or by ourselves.

No, God does not want us to live in shame.  He says that there is “no condemnation” for those of us who belong to Jesus.  He says that all our sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ.  He says we are clean.

One of my favorite passages is from 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul is telling the readers that they are no longer what they were.  He does not deny what they were and what they did, but he explains that they are different now—new creations, as the Lord said.

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11

“Such were some of you.”  This is not denial.  This is reality . . . but it is the whole reality.  We are not what we were because we have been washed.  We are now clean because of Jesus.  He washed all our sins away.  Today we are no longer what we were.

“But what about the sins I have done since becoming a Christian?”  Those sins are washed away by the blood as well.  In fact, those sins didn’t stick to us in the first place.  Some people don’t like this teaching.  They think our former sins are gone but not our current sins.  If that’s true, however, then Jesus has to be crucified again for us or some other way of salvation has to be determined.  If sin still separates us from God and remains on our account after we have come to Jesus, then the cross of Christ was not enough.

But the cross was enough.  The love of God is sufficient to cover all our sins: past, present and future.  We are no longer what we were and we will never again be what we were—because we have been washed and made clean.

 

I am clean.

Jesus has cleansed me.

The old has been washed away.

I am not what I was.

I am clean.

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I Can Forgive

Words of Grace  

 

“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”  C. S. Lewis

Forgiveness is hard.  Oh, sure, there are times when we can forgive quickly and easily; but there are other times when someone has done something that is very hard to forgive.

We make lots of mistakes when it comes to forgiveness.  We think we have to forget, but that isn’t true.  We think we have to welcome the person back into relationship, but that isn’t true either.  We think forgiveness is for the benefit of the other person, and that certainly isn’t true.

The truth is that forgiveness is for us.  Not being able to forgive binds us both to the event and to the person who hurt us.  Forgiveness is letting go and moving on.  Forgiving frees us from reliving the event.  So, there is good reason to forgive.

I think of forgiveness as a door to an unknown room.  That room holds many fears.  What would it be like to go through that door?  Would I have to change somehow?  Would I find that person on the other side?  Maybe it would be better not to try.

Yet, Jesus calls us to forgive—for our good.  He wants us to be free.

And here’s my suggestion.  Don’t be the first one through the door.  Let Jesus go first.  Forgiveness is His work, let Him do it.  Then all you have to do is accept what He has done.

It has always struck me that my forgiveness means very little in the life of another person.  The person who hurt me doesn’t need my forgiveness.  He or she needs the forgiveness of the Lord.  All sin is against the Lord.  So the only real part for me is to yield to Jesus.

Instead of looking at that door with fear and wanting to run away from it, let Jesus open it.  You have no responsibility to open that door.  He will open it at the time and in the way He wants.  Then, He will walk through it with you.  All you have to do is walk with Him—and you are already doing that.

You see, forgiveness is His business.  All sin is against Him.  We get caught in the crossfire sometimes, but those who hurt us are really sinning against Him.  I suspect that’s why we find it so hard to forgive sometimes.  We think we are somehow letting the person escape the judgment he or she deserves.  But we are not the Judge.  Forgiveness belongs to Jesus.

I can forgive.

Forgiveness belongs to Jesus.

My part is simply to walk with Him through my life.

When He forgives, I can forgive.

He is my life and strength.

I can forgive.

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Recuperating?

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

 

The holidays are winding down and people in relationship with narcissists are settling back to whatever passes for normal life.  The spouse/parent/friend/co-worker/sibling narcissist has been himself/herself.

I hope you had a great holiday!  I hope that your narcissist was reasonable and got along well with others and you.  But if that didn’t happen, if you are still stressed, here are some thoughts.

  1. Survival is Victory – You thought the situation would be terrible.  Maybe it was, but you survived.  You thought your heart would break, but it didn’t.  You thought you wouldn’t be able to stand it again, but you did.  You survived.  Good for you!  I call that a victory.
  2. That which does not kill you makes you stronger – Okay, I don’t believe that in every case, but you will find yourself stronger in the days to come.  You learned some things and you will understand them as you sort them out over time.  And you are seeing yourself in a new light.  You are not the defeated victim that you used to be.
  3. Be kind to yourself – You are probably exhausted.  The holidays do that themselves, but narcissists can be especially trying during holidays.  Stress comes with a price.  Give yourself a break.  Understand why you are drained.
  4. Forgive yourself – You may replay the situation in your mind now and think of things you could have said or done.  That’s normal and it is normal to feel a little frustrated that you didn’t do those things.  But let it go.  You can’t hold yourself accountable for errors or omissions while you are under that kind of stress.  And, you know, it might have just made things worse.
  5. Forgive the narcissist – I might get hate email on this one, but remember that forgiveness is for you.  You cannot spend hours and days reliving the offenses.  You probably won’t forget, but you have to let yourself move on.  Nor do you have to open yourself to the narcissist again.  Forgiveness is not about making yourself more vulnerable or trying to forget what was done.  Forgiveness is about your decision not to hold onto the offense and give it continuing power in your life.
  6. Move into the future – Things are changing.  You are more aware than you were.  You are learning how to handle some of the things he/she does.  You are getting stronger.  You are beginning to see yourself as a separate person, a person of value.  All of that is good.  This year will not be like last year.
  7. There is hope – There is always hope.  Pray and seek the Lord.  Let Him love you.  Let Him be your strength and your joy.  Find life apart from the pain.  Our hope is in the Lord.  He can do anything.

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But what about…

Grace 101

There are times when the preacher goes from preaching to meddling.  Some people might think of this post as meddling.  You might be right.

Jesus told us to treat others in the way we would want to be treated.  I think there’s a reason He said that.  It’s because you will never receive what you are unwilling to give to others.

You see, the hardest part of the path is not what we find in the church or even in our judgment of ourselves.  The part of the path that is least likely to receive the message of grace is our judgment of others.  We see the sins of others more clearly than we see our own.  We sometimes have less patience and forgiveness for others than we would like to experience ourselves.

Often, when I talk with people about grace, the fact that God has dealt with our sins and no longer holds them against us and has done everything necessary for us to be saved, I get a response like this: “That’s nice but what about…?”  The example given is usually some behavior observed in others that is offensive to the person.  Usually it’s something the person doesn’t see in himself.

Can you live with your girlfriend and still be saved?  Can you drink to excess and still be a Christian?  Can you be a part of XYZ church and still go to Heaven?  Can you smoke, cuss, look at porn, cheat on taxes, steal cable TV, lie, drive badly, or have doubts about some facts in the Bible?  If these behaviors won’t keep a person out of Heaven, what will?

It is very difficult for us, even with an understanding of grace, to let go of the judgments we learned.  We have invested in a game that measures success on the basis of doing better than others.  Notice that it is not doing well, not really.  No, we have trouble believing that we can do well, but we sure can do better than some of the people we know.

Listen, I do this.  I suspect we all do.  I know grace teachers who proclaim boldly the love of God and sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus but criticize and complain about other people’s behavior.  I know that there are certain things that trigger my irritation and are hard to ignore when it comes to letting Jesus deal with His people.  After all, they are only accountable to Him, not to me.

Why do we judge?  Some of it comes from the values drilled into us by parents, church, or life.  We see certain behaviors as wrong, simply because we were taught they were wrong.  Some people, according to our prejudices, are unacceptable because of those behaviors.

And some of this comes from the energy and frustration we spend trying to avoid the passions and temptations that come along in our lives.  We work to stay away from sin, and then we become frustrated when we see others who don’t seem to try to avoid it at all.  We are especially tested when we are supposed to understand that Jesus accepts them just as He does us.

But listen: how will we ever really accept the truth about the way the Lord accepts us if we can’t believe that He accepts others the same way?  If He rejects one because of a certain behavior, then why would He not reject us when we do the same thing—or anything else that is sin in His eyes?  We will not receive the joy and peace of knowing the love of God if we don’t see that He accepts all people just as He accepts us.

Yup, that’s meddling.  Lord help me to remember this throughout the day!

(Since I wrote this post, I have received a comment on the previous post that has prompted me to add this paragraph.  When others hurt us, they are accountable to God for their sin.  If they truly belong to Him and He chooses to forgive them, that’s His business because He is their Master and they answer to Him.  But that doesn’t make their actions less evil or sinful.  God is not the Author of evil nor does He condone evil done by the hands of His people.  We can acknowledge this without being legalistic or unforgiving.  It is certainly true that Christians can hurt each other and participate in the work of the evil one as we operate in the flesh.  There are many admonitions against believers hurting each other in Scripture.  If we fail to understand that Christians can do things which are evil, we will misplace the blame for that evil.  Instead, we must allow the Lord to love and forgive as He wills and trust His servants to His hands.  He may discipline or change them, but He will not stop loving those who are His.  And remember, not all who claim His name are His.)

 

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Reconciliation

Grace 101

 

So let me ask you a question: Is God angry about your sins?  You know, the ones you did in the past.  Or maybe the ones you continue to do.  Is He angry with you?  Are you in danger of facing the wrath of God?

It is interesting to realize that churches that are mostly filled with believers are the ones who hear most about the wrath of God and His anger toward our sin.  Churches filled with people who know little or nothing about salvation or a relationship with Jesus rarely hear about God’s anger toward sin.  So the ones who are still in their sins are not taught about God’s concern with sin, while those whose sins are fully forgiven are taught to be afraid of God’s wrath.  Doesn’t that seem a little backward?

I have met many believers who are afraid of God. They believe that He is still angry with them, that He would zap them joyfully if not for the intervention of Jesus.  They don’t want to get close to God and can hardly pray without all kinds of confession and bargaining and pleading for mercy.  They feel themselves teetering on the edge of condemnation, barely saved.

Why do they feel this way?  Because someone is constantly pointing out their sinfulness and shame.  No, it isn’t the Lord.  It may be the preacher or the teacher or Christian friends.  And, almost always, there is the insinuation that God is angry.  Maybe, they hear, if you change your ways and ask forgiveness, He will overlook your sins—this time.

Well, if you look into the box of the gift of salvation, you will find something that isn’t talked about as much as it should be.  You will find that your relationship with Jesus has fully reconciled you to God.  The good news of the gospel is that the Father sent the Son to bring the salvation we needed.  In fact, the Father sent the Spirit to bring you and me to the Son so that we could be saved and forgiven and fully reconciled to Him.  That means there is no one left to be angry with us.  The Trinity was in this together because of Love.

This is important.  Not only is it wonderful, it is important.  You and I stand in the presence of God who loves us.  We may come boldly into His presence, even joyfully.  We do not need to be afraid.

But what about our sin?  What about the things we continue to do?  Well, God still hates sin; and, as I have explained before, He does so because He loves us and sin hurts us.  He will work against sin in our lives and call us to right living.  All of that is true.  But He is not angry with His children.  He loves us.

You see, for many of us, anger suggests rejection.  We get the idea (sometimes through the simple words of the sermon) that if we do something wrong, we just might get kicked out of the club.  God will reject us.  I once heard a man tell a group of children that God hated cheaters.  So, the logic must go, if one of the children cheated in the competition, God must hate him.  How sad and how wrong!  I might suggest that God hates cheating because of how it hurts people, but He doesn’t hate the people who come to Him.  And He will never reject anyone who belongs to Jesus.  Never.

Abraham was called the friend of God.  Abraham came to God in faith, faith that is used as an example for us.  Those of us who come to God through faith in Jesus are God’s friends.  Fully reconciled.  No longer enemies.  And whatever barrier there was between us was destroyed by His initiative.  He did it because He loved us and He wanted that reconciliation.

So come to God with peace in your heart, trusting in His love.  There is nothing to fear.

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Forgiveness

Grace 101

 

The natural and right effect of the law is to convict the sinner of his or her sin.  Although I am quick to say that no believer is under the law, the law had a very important part to play in drawing us to Jesus.  By showing us the horror and consequences of our sins, it revealed the need for a Savior.

So one of the most important things the new believer ought to find in the gift package is forgiveness.  Jesus promised that He would wash away all our sins.  We longed for forgiveness because we were convicted concerning our sins.  He offered complete forgiveness.

Yet, many believers can’t seem to find it in the box.  They look right past it in their attempts to make up for what they did.  Instead of looking for the full gift, some believers look for methods or systems to try to please God.  They think they just have to find the right way to be forgiven.

But forgiveness is part of the gift.  It’s free, just like the rest of the gift.  Jesus went to the cross, long before you and I had committed any of our sins, to provide that forgiveness for us.  He paid the price because we could not. 

Perhaps this is the part some people miss.  We could not do enough good to make God want to forgive us.  He does not overlook sin on the basis of an abundance of good works. Giving our lives in service to God or to others will not earn forgiveness.

The only source of forgiveness is the heart of God and the only motivation God has to forgive us is His love.  Our sin is from the realm of evil.  It is an affront to God’s holiness.  And, more than that, it hurts people.  Sin hurts others and it hurts us.  Sin is so contrary to the will and the heart of God that you and I could do nothing to make Him forgive us.  There isn’t anything good enough.

But He does forgive us.  He forgives us because He loves us.  When you and I came to Jesus, our sins were separated from us.  We were saved out of the realm of sin and darkness.  There is no sin on our accounts today.  All has been forgiven.  All.

How much is all?  You may think that certain sin is too great for God to forgive, but it isn’t.   You may think that sin today, after you have become a believer, can’t be forgiven—but it is.  You may think that you would never be able to forgive a sin like yours, but you are not God.  Only God can forgive your sin . . . and He has done it.

Forgiveness—full and free.  That’s part of the gift!

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