Every once in a while I take some time to reflect on God’s grace and my life before & after I trusted in Christ. I don’t do this to beat myself up, but rather as a refresher course in the goodness of God in spite of my shortcomings.
My life was a train wreck before I got saved, and I have had more than a fair share of failures since coming to Christ. Before I heard & believed the good news about Christ, I abused drugs & alcohol regularly, had an improper view of relationships, and overall lived a life of pleasure seeking and self-centered satisfaction.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
Just As I Was
Thank God that He saves us just as we are. He doesn’t expect us to reform our lives before we trust in Christ. That’s what makes true, biblical Christianity different than other religions. Instead of earning some right standing or good placement in the after life from a supreme being or divine force, those who trust in Christ are admitting they can’t earn anything and in the midst of personal failure are simply believing in the One, Jesus Christ Himself, who earned a right standing on their behalf. Some Christians believe we have to give something back or promise something to God about the future of how we are going to live our lives to be saved, but even this is not the case. Its not our good works that save us, or even our promise of future forsaking of sin and a life of good works (as if it were something we could promise) that save us, but rather Christ’s perfect work on our behalf.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9
This is important. To see this distinction is to understand the heart of the gospel.
Since I have been saved, my life has changed, but it has been a slow and steady process with many scars and mistakes, and for sure many more to come. I actually feel more like a failure of a person today than I did when I first believed. This is because my understanding of how short I really fall before God continues to be heightened the longer I walk with Him. The apostle Paul said he was “the chief of all sinners,” but he doesn’t know me like I know me!
“Only when we take seriously the guilt of our sin, will we takes seriously the grace of his forgiveness.” -Warren Weirsbe
Who We Are Now
In spite of these continual shortcomings today, the Bible says that the moment we placed our faith in Jesus Christ, a number of things actually happened to us besides being given eternal life.
We were placed into the body of Christ. The Bible says we went “from darkness to light” and “from death to life.” We were spiritually reborn and given a new life, along with the Holy Spirit to live permanently within us. We were “clothed in Christ’s righteousness,” actually given the righteousness of Christ, so that when God looks at us, He sees Christ’s righteousness. We were forgiven, adopted, and sealed in Him. We are loved by Him and have peace with Him, having been “lavished” or “engulfed” in His grace. All who have trusted in Christ are under no condemnation before Him; fully accepted by Him. The list could go on.
[You don’t have to take my word for it. For a much more thorough look at the believer’s standing in Christ, look up the following references: Luke 10:20, 12:24; John 3:5-6, 3:16-18, 5:24, 17:11, 17:23; Acts 17:28; Romans 1:18, 3:24-25, 5:1-2, 5:10-11, 6:1-11, 8:1, 8:15-18; 1 Corinthians 1:30, 3:9, 12:13; 2 Corinthians 5:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:6-11, 2:1-5, 2:13, 4:32; Colossians 1:13-14, 2:10-13, 2:20, 3:1, 3:13; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Peter 1:11, 2:5, 2:9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5; Revelation 1:5-6, 5:9-10… There are even more references not listed!]
These truths will never change! The only way God’s view of us would ever change is if Christ’s work stopped being good enough, but of course it can’t because it was finished when He breathed His last breath on that cross. Its a done deal. That’s why I believe in eternal security. Actually, I like to call it “eternal acceptance.” Nothing can change what Christ did on the cross, and since we have been placed in Him, we are secure in Him. If you or I could lose our acceptance before God because of our failures after we have believed, than our salvation was conditioned on our own good behavior, not Christ & His work.
This is the truth if you have trusted in Christ: You are accepted by God, whether your life is in shambles right now or not. Whether you feel like He loves you and accepts you or whether you don’t feel like it, it is true, true, true. He will never reject you. Why? Because Christ’s work on the cross was that good. Its not about your awesomeness. Its about Christ’s worthiness.
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us… When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners… But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners… [W]e have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ… For…we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies… [W]e can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God–all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.” (-Romans 5:1, 6, 8, 9, 10)
From this truth, everything in the Christian life stems out. Unless we understand who God says we are in Christ and all that He has given us, we will spend the rest of our lives in insecurity, seeking to make Him happy with us, trying to earn His good favor.
Like many Christians, I have been the victim of spiritual abuse by false teachers, whether intentional or not, spreading the lie that God’s acceptance of you is somehow contingent on your own performance in this life. They might not say this outright, but if your life doesn’t meet their standards than you may not be saved, or if you are saved, God is extremely disappointed in you.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, even when we blow it!
There have been many times in my Christian life that I have felt insecure about God’s view of me, usually stemming from some poor choice that I made, and responding to the guilt I feel. To be certain, God hates sin. However, sin in the Christian life must be interpreted in light of Christ’s work on the cross on our behalf. Sin has an impact on our relationship with Him and it has consequences, but His love and acceptance of us will never change. When he sees us, He sees Christ’s righteousness.
This is free to all who trust in Him.
Do you feel worthless? Insecure? Disappointed in yourself? Its time for us to take our eyes off of ourselves and start looking to Jesus. Instead of being racked by guilt whenever we fail, we should use it as an opportunity to understand His goodness even more and thank Him for the depth of His grace. Its time to look to Jesus. He died for us and we died with Him. He rose from the dead and we rose with Him to new life. Its time to stop trying in our own strength to reform our lives to make God happy with us, but rather rest in what has already been done and be transformed by His grace and through His power. Its time to look at ourselves the way God looks at us, the objects of His love, and eternally accepted because Christ’s work on our behalf was good enough. Look to Jesus.
This also applies to the way we treat others who have trusted in Christ. Do we view them the way God views them? Is our acceptance of them conditioned on their performance or Christ’s work for them? What happens when they blow it? Do we reject them? Or do we appeal to them as family and people who love and accept them for who God says they are? It is important for us to view others as who they are in Christ.
Lastly, this affects everything in our life, including our motivation behind why we serve God. In light of who God says we are, when it comes to our motivation to serve Him, it is not because we are afraid of His rejection, but rather because we are grateful for His complete acceptance of us in Christ. This is what the apostle Paul talks about in the early verses of Romans chapter twelve. Think about God’s mercy on your life and all He has done for you, and let that motivate you into a life of sacrifice for Him. Is it really too much to ask for?
Believe it. Trust Him. Rest.