*This post can be read in about 3 minutes.*
Lately I’ve observed something multiple times, that is a misunderstanding about the great doctrine of justification and its implications in our every day life of faith. What I am observing is this: a Christian admits in an honest way that they are struggling with a certain sin, or they are not living up to the standards of the Christians life, or just generally admitting their sinfulness…and…the responses are what concern me.
The responses are along the lines of telling the person to think more positively about them self, and to remind them that God sees them as righteous, not as sinful. Perhaps Romans 8:1 is quoted: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Stop being negative! God loves you. Hmm…
Does justification or “no-condemnation” mean that there is never a time or place to acknowledge sin?
It is hard to be more enthusiastic about the great doctrine of justification than I am. I’ve read multiple books on this doctrine, preached sermons on it, led an adult sunday school class on it, and a chapter in my own book is about justification. When we come to Christ in faith, God now sees us as being “in Christ.” We are accepted because of the person and work of Christ. Not only is our sin forgiven, but we gain the righteousness of Christ. Romans 3:21-24 declares:
“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known…This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Such wonderful words: given, freely, grace! Our justification is by grace through faith and not by keeping the law. Grace is the undeserved kindness of God, and we cannot earn it or deserve it. This is great news that should influence our entire life of faith.
But back to the responses that concern me. The responses do not allow for acknowledging sin and weakness in our lives, as that is being…negative, down on yourself, or that you have forgotten that you are justified, not condemned, and loved by God.
This is a grave and serious misunderstanding of our position in Christ! I am not even sure where to begin because I could write so very much. But becoming a Christian does not mean we only and always think positive, wonderful, and affirming things about our selves at all times.
– Pause and think. –
There is not much humility or honesty in evading or overlooking our weaknesses, faults, and sins. We all have them! Humility is supposed to be a premier Christian virtue, not hypocrisy. One of the Beatitudes in the famous Sermon on the Mount by Jesus says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
You can’t hunger and thirst for righteousness if you think you are already righteous!
If you refuse to acknowledge your need – that you hunger and thirst – it is impossible for you to partake of the spiritual nourishment and living water that will fill you!
Scripture points repeatedly to the paradoxical nature of our faith: power is found through weakness, to live we must die to self, and to be lifted high we must stoop low.
The 20th century was the century of positive thinking and self-affirmation, and this unfortunately influenced Christians. We were led to believe that any form of negativity is wrong, but only thinking positive at all times is delusional and actually hinders our sanctification. Sometimes we must face hard truths about our self and our sin. We need these humbling moments more often than we care to admit and in order to grow into the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But to bring this back to the original concern…
Acknowledging sin and weakness does NOT equal self-condemnation, forgetting about Romans 8:1. And evading our sin and only “thinking positive” can similarly indicate we did NOT ever really understand our great salvation but are confused about it!
A true understanding of justification should prevent us from drifting into either self-delusion or self-condemnation. We were declared righteous by grace through faith and it was not based on our behavior, so why should we now become deluded or condemned? Our identity is secure in Christ. When we fully understand our secure position based upon the righteousness of Christ, it gives us a confident foundation for living. We are free to be honest with our self and with God!
We can pray like David for God to search us, know our heart, and reveal our sin (Psalm 139:23-24). Facing our sin does not mean we are condemned. We could not earn or deserve our salvation in the first place, consequently how could we un-earn it or un-deserve it? Romans 8 opens by saying we are not condemned, and closes proclaiming that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Certain Christians may be more prone to self-condemnation and other Christians more prone to self-delusion. The corrective emphasis each believer needs in such cases will vary accordingly. But I observe far more problems with self-delusion and sin-avoidance.
An awareness of sin in your life is a good sign! I’d say it is a sign of spiritual maturity and spiritual life.
Evading our sin and “thinking positive” leads us away from Christ, rather than helping us grow in the likeness of Christ.