This post first appeared in the Christianity for Life blog
Looks like I messed up again. There I was going about my wonderfully perfect Christian life (…what?) and, kaboom, down I fall. Flat on my face. Missed the mark again.
It happens to me every day (every hour if I’m honest). I can’t think of one 24-hour period when I was error-free. Even when asleep I run the risk of being my imperfect self in dreams. So do I have a hope in Heaven of actually getting there? Doesn’t God get fed up forgiving the same sin over and over again? And what about the big ones? You know what I mean, those catastrophic blunders that we’d all rather not talk about. Does God forgive those? How does forgiveness really work in the Christian life?
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become a member of His Church and acquire the label “Christian”. At that moment in time we also acquire the imputed righteousness of Christ in the eyes of God. So God no longer sees the sin which has hitherto separated us from Him. We become children of God and inherit eternal life (yes, its that simple).
But we don’t become perfect. As the old bumper sticker proclaims, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven!” Cheesy but true.
Indeed, when we took on Jesus’ righteousness He in turn took on our sin, and He paid the penalty for that sin so that we wouldn’t have to. And we are forgiven! So from that point forward God saw us as perfect, even though we are not. And that’s how awesome our God is.
So what happens next? If we’re not perfect there’s an excellent chance that we’re going to sin again. And again. And again. In fact, even though we’re forgiven and reconciled to God, we will remain in our same imperfect state during our time in this world. That’s why its important to understand that Jesus took care of all your sin, past, present and future! You are actually free now.
OK, so let’s party on folks. We’re good to go and free to do as we please. Or are we?Matthew 6:33
The world likes to believe that Christians are do-gooders who see themselves as righteous examples of perfection and good living. They think that we Christians are working hard for admittance to heaven based on our acts of charity, morality and good deeds. But as we’ve seen, nothing could be further from the truth. Our ticket to eternal life is a free gift from God. We’re still the same. The difference is that we’re motivated to pursue different things now.
Whereas before we were living for ourselves, as Christians we’re now living for God. This means that in our own tin-pot way we’re doing what we can to further the Kingdom of God. It involves getting our act together, trying to avoid what we know to be wrong, seeking what we know to be good, and actively engaging the world in the will of God. Sounds like quite the responsibility, impossible actually, but there are two things we need to remember:
1.We have help
2.We’re still forgiven
Let’s take a look at these.
Heaven Help Us
As Christians we’re under new management. We’re working for the executive now and that gives us access to resources we didn’t have before. Jesus promised that God would send us a “helper”, the Holy Spirit, to guide us in our Christian walk. Through the Holy Spirit, God speaks to our own spirit with guidance and insight. For example, when I sat down to write this post I knew what I needed to write about but I didn’t have a clue what to say. After many false starts I remembered what I should have thought about in the first place, i.e. don’t engage in Kingdom things without prayer! So I stopped what I was doing and had a chat with God. I slept on it and conceded to allow the Holy Spirit to help me out. The result is this article. Delivered in human imperfection and garnished with God’s truth. What an enthralling and humbling privilege it is to see God’s hand in one’s work.
Another and more obvious source of help is God’s word, the Bible. There are scripture quotations throughout this post. As Christians we need to read our Bible, and the Holy Spirit speaks to us through its pages. Bible passages and concepts that were dry, boring and indecipherable become illuminated with meaning and clarity in the eyes of the Spirit-filled Christian. We know this to be true.
So not only are Christians motivated to further God’s Kingdom, we actually have some real help to get the job done. As mere humans we’ll often forget to draw on that help, and sometimes we’ll ignore the Holy Spirit and think we know a better way, but in the end, if we pray often and listen carefully, we’ll get the help we need to recognize and achieve God’s will in our lives. Whether you’re managing a household, a mega-church, or a multinational, seek the Holy Spirit.
To Forgive Is Divine
How can we call ourselves Christian and further God’s Kingdom while engaging in sinful acts? And by sinful acts I’m not just talking about the big ones. Sin is sin, whether its gossip, gluttony, adultery or lies. All sinful acts are equal and all are forgiven. forgiveness
Satan would have you think otherwise. He is your enemy and a liar. He wants us to believe that when we fail, as we do every day, we are undoing the work of Jesus Christ and are no longer forgiven and saved.
Imagine a conversation with God going something like this,
God: You died today. Let’s talk about where you’re going next.
You: Gulp, yes Lord, I’m grateful for your gift of salvation through the work of your son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross in full payment of the penalty for my sin. I look forward to eternal life in your presence.
God: Well, as much as I’d like for you to join me for eternity, and as much as I tried to make that happen, you don’t qualify.
You: With all due respect Lord, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and your promise of eternal life as your heir. Do you not see the imputed righteousness of Christ in me?
God: I did until last week when you ate that second bacon double cheeseburger, knowing that you were already full and that they’re bad for you. That’s gluttony. I can’t possibly allow you eternal life now.
You (as you’re escorted out): But I thought my sins were forgiven?
As ridiculous as that fantasy sounds, its what some people believe. So while we certainly don’t want to go out of our way to continue a life of sin, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to think that Jesus suffered what he did just to have it undone by a bacon double cheeseburger!
So I messed up today. And I will tomorrow. God knows me well. I pray that His Holy Spirit will help me to continually lessen my shortcomings for the rest of my life in this world. And I look forward to the day I enter His presence, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Forgiven and saved for all eternity.
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