There was a question asked after the last post I wrote. I am excited because I think anytime we have a chance to explain exactly what we believe, the gospel goes forward again. I also believe this:
“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15
So here’s essentially what I think the question/statement was asking: Are we good on our own or do we need God to make us good? I also think this was partly pointing to who we are before Christ and what it means to struggle after we accept Christ.
To the first part I have this to say, always refer to scripture to see what God says about who you are apart from Him.
“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Psalm 14:2-3
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Ephesians 2:1-3
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” – Philippians 3:18-19
“…as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – Romans 3:10-18
The phrases used (including their meaning) to describe you and me in these scriptures are not light. Corrupt. Dead in trespasses and sin. Followers of satan. Sons of disobedience. Children of wrath. Enemies of the Cross of Christ. Unrighteous. Deceivers.
So we start with a Biblical viewpoint of who we are apart from Christ. For many, it’s hard to see ourselves this way. We never think we were “that bad.” We are good at justifying and comparing our sin to others so the weight of it doesn’t seem as heavy. We we not the standard. Other people are not the standard. Christ is the standard. He was not conceived in sin like us. He lived a blameless, sinless life while walking in the flesh on man subject to all the same temptations we face, and He never faultered. That is why He is the standard, and that is why He came. We could never have measured up on our own, but because He conquered sin and the grave, His righteousness can cover us if we call Him Savior.
So here’s the second part: YOU WERE NOT GOOD AND YOU NEEDED GOD TO MAKE YOU GOOD. That is the point of the cross. I heard a song this weekend while visiting the Village Church in Dallas I think so captures the beauty of the gospel and the truth of who were are apart from and found in Christ that I’ll share it here: https://youtu.be/JL72hfcdmow
Here’s the beauty in it – it was while you were still all the things scriptures say you were that Christ loved you and died for you. He loved us at our worst. We can hide our worst from a lot of people, but Jesus knew exactly who we would be and He still died for us. That is amazing. That is grace. Again, always seek scripture to see what God says.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-26
“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” – Romans 6:17-18
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:22-23
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
This is a small sampling of scripture that points to who were are after the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us.
I want to be clear here: this does not mean that you will not struggle. This does not mean that you will never think about things that are sinful again. This does not mean you will get it right all the time. This does mean that your life is no longer absent of something that you need to reach and strain toward who Christ is calling you to be: hope. It is because of Christ that we have a reason for hope. It is because of Christ that we have the opportunity to be made new in every way. We start by repenting and acknowledging our need for Him. Repentance doesn’t just mean saying you’re sorry from time to time while continuously repeating the same sin. Repentance means realizing that all sin is detestable and worthy of punishment in hell in light of the holiness of God.
How different would we live if we saw sin this way? You can’t just say you’re sorry and go on. Repentance means to acknowledge the wrong in the sin and then to turn from it. If we turn and fix our eyes on Jesus while remembering what life inside His love looks like, the draw to sin weakens. After you have seen how good God is, nothing can ever be more satisfying. You need God to redeem you and make you new in order for that to happen.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”- Ezekiel 36:26-27
It is not about living like there’s a checklist of things that are right that you have to do. It’s about pursuing God all of your days and your joy be fulfilled through that pursuit because He is your treasure. Delighting in Him and being delighted in by Him becomes so essential to who you are that looking away from the beauty and promise of the cross becomes inconceivable. Nothing else is worth more.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” – Philippians 3:7-15
Nothing is as good anymore. Noting is as beautiful. Nothing is as captivating as the person of Jesus for anyone who has fully surrendered to Him and is pressing in towards His calling in joy.
I hope this post clarifies any questions that may have arisen about what I believe. In an effort to be as clear as possible I will speak from a personal place now.
I believe that I was spiritually dead and set to spend eternity in hell because of my sinfulness before August 5, 2004. I remember the moment of looking up at the cross in the chapel of Christ the King and knowing that God was calling me home. I recognized how much I had messed up. I recognized where my choices had taken my life, and I realized that the promises that lay before me that were purchased by Christ I did not deserve. I knew as He called me home He was making it clear that I couldn’t have deserved any of the hope and beauty that lay ahead, but because of what He had done my name was written on His hands and He had a bigger purpose for my life inside His body than I could have ever dreamed of. In that moment I felt overwhelmed by His presence and love. My eyes have been ever-fixed on the person of Jesus since that night.
Does that mean I have never sinned again? Nope. Does that mean I don’t have to pray for the ability to see His radiance and love as better than life and to not be blindsided by distraction and sin? No. Does that mean that I will not have to do battle against a real enemy as I pursue Christ? No.
What it does mean is that victory over everything in my life has already been won. It means that I rest in the shadow of the cross and that God sees His Son when He looks at me. All of that is possible because of Jesus. All of that is possible because that night, I said yes and the trajectory of eternity changed for me by simply saying yes to His call as a chosen daughter before the foundations of the earth were laid.
I believe I was lost, and I am thrilled to have been found. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He paid my price. I believe in His promises. I am completely loved by Him, and pursuing Him will be my greatest joy until I leave this world and cross over into eternity with Him.
I was moved to write this clarifying post after prayerfully considering the questions that had come. The words came clear today as I was driving and a song struck me so hard I wept. I will leave a wink to it here.
I pray that these truths found in scripture would be the guidepost in all of our lives and that we would first seek answers in what God breathed. Thank you all who read the words I share, and thank you for the opportunity to point to the cross of Christ and the truth of the gospel.