I recently read through a book that is recognized among Protestant churches as a solid source for doctrine. It wasn’t the Bible. It was a book about the Bible. One of the sections within the book dealt with Scriptures and belief about what produces change within the life of the Christian. Theologians call it the process of “sanctification”. The book went into detail about the subject from an angle that is widely held among many Christians, churches, and pastors.
One of the paragraphs in the section reads:
“In his position in Christ the Christian stands righteous and accepted before God forever. Compared to this, no other aspect of this truth can have equal recognition.”
As I read it, I was filled with great joy and a reminder of the wonder of what Christ accomplished on the cross! I was reminded the greatness of that grace and the amazing revelation that it is available to us by the avenue of faith. It isn’t something we have to work at, strive for, deserve, or prove worthy to receive. Wow!
Then I read the next sentence.
“But let no person conclude that he is holy or sanctified in life because he is now said to be holy or sanctified in position.”
The most wonderful truth in all creation is just in theory? It’s not really real? It is true in “position” but now I have to live up to it? Now I have to work towards it? Now I have to prove what I have been made?
Something is wrong.
There is some failed theology and bad logic here. I thought the reason that Christ died for me was because I couldn’t measure up. I thought the reason that He forgave and made me righteous was because I could never accomplish it on my own.
Now you’re telling me that now on the other side of being born again, the rules change?
I couldn’t measure up so I had to be saved. Now that I am saved, I have to measure up? What?
If this is the predominant theology of churches, then it is no wonder that we are not seeing a revolution, a revival, and a difference in the lives of those who say they are believers! Everyone is caught up in trying to prove themselves, measure their progress, judge others’ progress, hide their failings, and trying to get more favor from God!
The Scripture says plainly:
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (New English Translation)
Jesus Christ took upon Himself the sins of man. He paid for them and provides forgiveness for man. Not only does He clear the slate, but He also gives full righteousness. Not just a progressive or pseudo-righteousness. We can receive the righteousness of God Himself.
The stunning quality of this truth is that it comes to us by receiving it by faith. God removes the possibility of His righteousness being gained by our efforts or work and says it comes only by faith. The moment I accept it, I receive all of it. I receive all forgiveness and all righteousness. I don’t get small portions or metered sections based on my ability to live righteously.
I get it all.
I can enter the stream of receiving all of the spiritual blessings of heaven when I enter in through Christ! That is grace and it comes by faith.
The New Testament is written to people like us who struggled to take in this wondrous truth. They were encouraged over and over to take it in, to remind one another of it, and to humbly receive it. They were prayed for so that their eyes would see the majesty of what had been done for them. It was a truth so overwhelming and so controversial, that many of the New Testament writers and leaders would eventually be persecuted for it and would give their life in defense of it.
If I’m righteous only in “position”, then I’ve got a long way to go and not so sure I can make it.
If I’m righteous in reality because of what Christ did, then my heart is overwhelmed. I then find rest for my soul. I find peace, real love, and genuine joy erupting within me. It happens like fruit erupts from a tree.
So what does your church teach?
Is it driving you to greater wonder in the cross? Are you more aware of grace than you were before? Does it humble you and settle you?
Or are you driven to regularly have to recommit your life, repeatedly being beaten down for your failures, and finding no place of rest for your soul.
What is your gospel?