The great irony of Scripture is that the closer to God that we become the more we understand how far away from God we really are. Isaiah 64:6 makes the point, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
This is both good news and bad news. The bad news for many Christians is that there is nothing we can offer God to earn our salvation. All our being good, all our actions and good works, our carefully cultivated persona, and morality don’t do the trick. Yup, without a question of a doubt we can not get into the Kingdom of God based upon anything that springs from within us. All that striving is like a useless rag, or a shriveled up lead, but worse than that, if that is possible, our sins sweep us away from God. We come to the table with nothing to offer God.
The good news is when we understand that is our condition then something can be done about it. You might not know you have a bad tooth until it begins to ache then you do something about it. Likewise, you have to know that you are unable to save yourself before you call out for help.
Here is Romans 3:9-18 on the topic, “What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.” “Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of vipers is under their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery are in their paths, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
None of us are righteous and not one of us who truly seeks God. This is a hard pill to swallow because those of us who believe in righteousness by faith believe we are a step above the run-of-the-mill legalist. Yet, we are really no better people because on the scale of goodness and holiness we still don’t measure up. If you were to put all your goodness and spiritual growth and love for God on a scale it wouldn’t tip. When God says we are all sinners He means it. There is no fear of God in us.
Now are you ready for the good news? Romans 3 continues,
“since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Verses, 23-26)
What an amazing passage following upon verses 9 to 18. Yes, you and I are sinners and not the people we should be. We fall short of God’s desire for us and fail Him over and over and the truth is we are sinners, but we are forgiven sinners. Just because we fail God and make a mess of our lives and our faith doesn’t mean He doesn’t love us or He gives up on us.
Verse 25 is one of the most wonderful in all Scripture. The atonement was made to show us something. What was that He wished to convey to us? It was this, “He did this to show His righteousness, because in His divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed.” (italics mine)
What an awesome statement. Brennan Manning is right, God loves us as we are and not as we should be because we will never be what we should be.
The idea of God passing over our sins previously committed is one of the most wonderful truths of the entire Bible. Your sins are not held over your head to condemn you even though you recognize what a sinner you are. You are saved in spite of what you were, what you did and how you acted. As Big Daddy Weave sings, “I am redeemed.”
How is this possible? Verse 26 answers that question, “it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.” It is the righteousness of Christ that is accredited to us and who declares us righteous through faith in Him that takes us from a lost state to redemption.
No matter where you have been or what you are doing in your life right now, the bottom line is God loves you and longs to have you come home. You can’t do it but He can and He does through love. We might say He bought your ticket home through the blood of the cross where He paid all your debt and gave you freedom because of nothing more than love for you. All we have to do is be like the Prodigal son and “come to our senses,” and get on the train and come home.
By the way, getting on the train is simply called trust and faith. God loves you beyond your wildest imagination, but the problem is many of us don’t perceive the nature of love in our own lives and cannot understand how it is possible to be loved like God loves us. You may not understand it but it doesn’t make it less true.
You are precious in His sight in spite of the garbage that hangs around your neck. You are loved unconditionally because that is who God is. He asks nothing of you except come to Him just as you are and He will comfort you and love you—no questions asked. Your past is forgiven and your future secured. What amazing love is this!