This is something that is rattling my mind/heart/spirit right now as I am memorizing Ps 24. For it says the man who seeks God will receive “vindication from God His Savior.” Vindication is that we are innocent.
But really most of us walk around feeling our sinfulness, believing we are cloaked with the righteousness of Jesus so we are safe. Yet at the core of our behavior and thinking we still see ourselves as sinners. Safe with salvation but still sinners. And I’m just not sure that’s what Jesus died for us to become–cloaked sinners.
Think of it. We come to a courtroom and we have our accusers on one side, ourselves on the other side with a robe of white righteousness on and a judge in front. Our accusers present their case. Inside we know their accusations are true but the judge, God, sees only our white robe of righteousness (Jesus) and judges accordingly. This doesn’t settle well for me. It would make God out to be blind and not see the real deal behind the robe. We would probably feel grateful to Jesus for escaping judgment but at the same time guilt because we know the accusers are right. God wouldn’t really be just as he is just choosing to overlook our sin and wrong.
If we see ourselves as sinners who are just covered over, it further creates a futility. How can sinners live righteously? On the other hand, if we understand that we aren’t that sinful person anymore, that the sinful person is DEAD and we are a new creation, that in Jesus we are not sinners but saints, and that sin no longer sticks to us, all would be well. The accusation of the accusers couldn’t stick because the accusations aren’t true. We wouldn’t have to hide behind the cloak of righteousness, we could be bold to be as we are because there’s nothing to hide–we are righteous. God would also be just because he isn’t choosing to see only the superficial cloak, but he is seeing the real deal and the real deal is righteous. It would free me to live boldly knowing that if sin didn’t stick, I don’t need to fear it. I would have grace to get over it.
But the problem is how do we reconcile the evil things in our hearts and the evil things we do with the reality of an identity that is righteous? How do we understand the Scriptures that speak so strongly against wrong-doing knowing that most of those Scriptures were written to His followers? And how do we face the reality that although the Israelites were “baptized by the sea” yet they did not enter the promised land because of their stubborn, unrepentant hearts? This is my wrestling point.
But I think it is because in Christ we are children. Any child is disciplined, but they are never, ever not children. Even though the Israelites were sent into captivity, they were never not his children.
In Christ I am righteous. I do not need to hide behind a cloak of Jesus covering because Jesus didn’t just clothe me in robes of righteousness, he killed the “old man” and made me a new creation. I still do wrong, but I don’t sin in the sense that the accuser has any say over my life. I am righteous. If I come before the judge I’m Ok because God can judge justly that I am innocent and the accusers have no point of accusation. This is my identity. The things I do wrong may invite the loving discipline of God, but they do not change the fact that I am righteous. Sin doesn’t stick.
This isn’t once-saved-always-saved. I can still so rebel against God that my hard-heartedness causes a banishment from the family unless I repent; God still has to deal with me and discipline me accordingly–sometimes severely. My ugly, persistent behavior could cause him to show me the exit door until I repent. But having a righteous identity does free me to live boldly knowing that I really am the “saint” Scripture talks so often about. My accusers have nothing on me. I am not just hiding behind a cloak, I am a new creation that can live as I am–righteous. If I begin to think like this, this could change everything. No more timid living seeing myself as a sinner with a cloak on, but rather bold living because I have a different identity. I could live righteous because I am righteous. Oh the possibilities of what would change if I began to believe this? This gospel?