When I became a Christian, I was so thankful for everything that God had done for me. I was grateful that he forgave my sin, that he loved me, and that he had a plan for my life. But it didn't take long before things changed. It was only a couple weeks before I started feeling frustrated that I wasn't perfect and still would mess up on a pretty regular basis. It got to a point where I started to believe that since I knew better, I should be acting better. This way of thinking pervaded my whole life, and I started to feel condemned before God because I wasn't acting the way I should.
Why does this happen?
People that are really pursuing a relationship with God are typically not trying to sin and get away with it. For the most part, the people that feel frustrated by their sin have really good intentions and want to avoid sin. These are the people that are most vulnerable. Dan Mohler has a profound perspective on what happens. To paraphrase Dan Mohler, when we come to Jesus, we get a new heart, and suddenly things that we did without thought before our salvation now produce conviction. What we get wrong is that we allow the enemy to beat us up and tell us that we haven't really changed. The reality is that we should be rejoicing because something that we used to even enjoy doing is now violating our hearts. We need to rejoice in the fact that we are new people. We run into
a problem when we start trusting in what we are doing to make us pleasing to God.
What if I told you that you were good enough for God.
I know that when I heard this idea it shattered my world. My entire life with Jesus had been spent trying to perform well enough to be good enough for him. I would never have used those words, but if you had asked me what God thought about me, I immediately would think about the most recent sin I had committed. At the end of the day, my relationship with God was all about my sin and whether or not I was being good.
Implicit in my thinking was a lie that went something like: God forgave me and accepted me so now I have to maintain that acceptance and purity.
This is what Paul would say to that. Galatians 3:2-3 says "Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"
Paul is writing this to a church in Galatia that has moved away from trusting in faith and moved into trusting in works. At one point they believed that only faith would make them right with God, but it is clear that something went wrong. They started to let what they were doing or not doing right to determine where they were with God. They began to trust in what they were doing, not the fact that Jesus already accepted them. The truth is that after God changes our lives, we don't have to work to maintain our right standing or acceptance with him. It would be sad that if after receiving the forgiveness of sins through faith that we would have to maintain it by works.
It's more than you being good enough for God
As I was coming out of this way of thinking, there was a truth that radically changed my life. I found out that I wasn't just "good enough" for God, I was actually righteous and highly favored.
Many Christians have a hard time using the label of righteous to describe themselves, but I believe that it's vital that we do. In Romans 4, Paul talks about Abraham and explains that his faith was counted to him as righteousness. If we look at Abraham's life and the morality of some of his choices, we know that he had righteousness by faith, not works. Some of his actions certainly did not merit the title of righteous. To paraphrase Romans 4, Abraham's righteousness was not counted as something that was owed to him, but as a gift. His life didn't merit the favor of God, but through faith he received it.
We are in the same position. Often our lives don't merit righteousness, but that doesn't mean that it isn't who you are. If you were defined by what you did, you would still be dead in your sin. If you are defined by what Jesus did, then you are righteous, holy, and above reproach. There is no middle ground. You are either judged by your own actions or you are judged by Jesus' life. You are either fully righteous or you are an unforgiven sinner.
This truth must become a central part of your christian life. In your next prayer time, take this truth and thank God that you can stand before him perfectly accepted. Express every facet of what it means to you and saturate yourself in the truth.