Not measuring up….
Have you ever struggled with verses and quotes by Jesus like where he says in Matthew, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48)?” I know I have. In the past it used to freak me out and cause anxiety! “Be perfect? That is impossible!” I would often think and cry out to God. “How can You ask me to be perfect? You know that I can’t do that!” I then would Raiders of the Lost Ark Play-doh face melt even more when I would read verses like “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)” and “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20).” And if you think “hey, that is Ecclesiastes, the Old Testament does not apply here (which should never be said it always applies just not how you might think….that is another post)” reading Paul’s confirmation of this text in Romans, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no not one; (Romans 3:10)” can have us really in despair. We are wretched and unrighteous! We know that 1 Corinthians 6:9 says that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God! Even Paul seems to be in despair at one point..where he seems to be texting in all caps, “WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM! Who will deliver me from this body of death (Romans 7:24).”
But I love context…it is key when reading the Bible….and I love what Paul says right after this in verse 25 “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25).”
Our only hope is if the righteous life of Christ is imputed on us declaring us righteous. Not “making” us righteous or ignoring our unrighteousness, but declaring, deeming, ruling that we are counted as righteous. It is like going before a judge giving our own confession to plead “guilty” and having the judge rule “not guilty.”
What a scandal! Just turn on the TV and immediately you will see that our demand for justice is high! We crave justice and cry foul when we believe that justice has been trampled upon (and we should, justice is a good thing). God is just. But that is not good news for the sinner. To demand justice from God carries serious consequences for the sinner. God never gives anyone injustice, because God is just. A sinner receiving eternal damnation for sin IS justice. The good news for the sinner is that while God is just He also has the ability to extend mercy, and it pleases Him to do so because God is love and He does so for the glory of His name. If God did not punish sin He would not be just…that is why He sent Jesus to die for the sin of anyone who would follow (believeth in) Him. Those who are not in Christ receive justice, those who are in Christ receive mercy/grace.
This scandal is only possible because of the finished work of Jesus. “For our sake he made Him [Jesus] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21),” “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).”
We need to be perfect. But we can’t be perfect. Jesus was perfect so that by God’s grace we could be deemed perfect in Christ. That is our only hope, the righteousness of Christ not our righteousness. When we have a grade of zero we can be declared a 100% all because we have been given as a gift of God’s grace the 100 that Jesus lived through our faith in Jesus alone.
“21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 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. 26 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.”