We don’t like to believe God.
Yes, He knows all things, so we probably should believe Him. Yes, He’s the truth, so we should probably listen. Yes, we’re Christians who have already believed Him in the most imperative thing of how we gain eternity and salvation. But still, we don’t. Sure, we’ll believe Him when He says, “no man comes to the Father but by Me,”(Jhn. 14:6) but some other parts of His Word, some other facets of His plan, we’re not quite sure about. We’ll follow His logic, but only so far.
God tells us we were sinners, separated from Him; and we’ll nod our heads and mourn. (Rom. 5:8) He says Christ Jesus has come to save sinners, and we shout Hallelujah.(1 Ti. 1:15) He declares He makes sinners new, and we clap our hands. He tells us we are now saints, and we shout, “Amen!”(Rev. 21:5) But then He starts to tell us who we are as saints–and we hesitate. We shuffle our feet. We become uncomfortable, unsure if He’s right.
Now for some of us, our issue is that saints are righteous, but we would much rather keep living our own way. God’s Word has plenty to say on that subject, calling us to good works and following Christ. But others of us understand that well enough. No, our issues is the opposite. God says saints are righteous, and we’d beg to differ. We don’t think it’s true.
This was something I struggled with. I was comfortable talking about the law and our fallen state; and even was comfortable with the terms of righteous and saint, their frequent use deadening their impact. They became simply religious jargon, currency exchanged as I made my spiritual point.
But when I stepped back and really considered their meanings, I saw something much different. I saw declarations that I am beloved, holy, righteous. And I squirmed. I wasn’t sure if it was quite right.
Consider how we read parts of Scripture that talk about it. I was familiar and comfortable with Paul’s list of fornicators, idolaters, thieves, and others who won’t inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9,10) and nodded sagely at his denouncement of “such were some of you” (v. 11). I dwelt and expounded so much upon that “were” that I had skipped over the rest of the verse. “[B]ut ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
We are. Present past tense. We didn’t do it. We’re not earning it. It’s not something that was for a little bit in the past. We currently are washed, we currently are sanctified, we currently are justified. And sometimes, that declaration makes us uncomfortable.
We have no problems with these things when they’re attached to commandments, and often they are. “Be ye holy, as He is holy.” (1 Pet 1:15) But for every time they’re connected to a commandment, there’s an instance where they’re not. For every “be” and “do”, there’s an “are.” There are plenty of times when these declarations of holiness, purity, and righteousness are just descriptions of us, no contingencies attached.
But we’re not too sure about that. “Only God is holy!” we say. God loves the righteous, those who do His Word, we point out. And that is true. But it is also true that the Bible calls us holy. (Eph 5:27, Col. 1:22). It is also true that Jesus loved us before we kept His Word. (Rom 5:8, Jhn 3:16)
These things aren’t either-or. They’re both-and. Both sides are true at the same time, this balance of all of both. Yes, only God is righteous; yes, He wants us to do righteousness; and yes, He has already declared us completely righteous. All three, at the same time. Our worldview will become skewed if we pull one part of the equation out from under the table.
God tells us we are holy (1 Pet 2:9), perfect (1 Pet 5:10), beautiful (Eph. 5:27), and whole (Col 2:10) in Him. But we don’t quite believe Him.
“He doesn’t know what I’ve done,” we say, as if the Omniscient missed it. He doesn’t know what I’ve gone through. He doesn’t know the hurt I’m dealing with right now. If He did, He would know those things are true. Obviously they don’t apply to me.
Of course, we know that He must know, because He knows all. But in our heads we picture it as a newspaper-sort of knowing, knowledge of facts and perhaps a few details. But newspaper-knowledge isn’t experience-knowledge. It’s not able to actually understand it; the darkness, the rawness, the crushing hurt. God doesn’t really know that, our mind whispers.
But He does.
Jesus experienced every bit of the human condition. He felt all our pains. All our loneliness. All our wounds, all our brokenness. Do we really comprehend what it means when theologians say sin was poured out on Him on the cross? It means the roiling tsunami of wrong was hurled at Him. It means everything that was ever caused by the disease of sin was unleashed upon Him. Every broken heart and broken action, every wicked act and every wanted poster, the quarrel of a child and the atrocities of Auschwitz were all exploded upon Him. We have a High Priest who intimately knows what we have gone through–because He has too. (Heb 4:15)
Do you think He’d never understand the dark cave you came from? He walked through every tunnel in that subterranean cavern. He dived into the murkiest depths, He tread through the worst filth, He faced horrors unknown–simply so that He could lead you out.
He can look you in the eye, see every wrong, and quietly say, “I know.”
He knows better than any our past and ourselves. But because He best knows, He can also best tell us who we really are.
He brought us out of the darkness, and shines His own light upon us. And He tells us what He sees. When we are in His light, we are beloved. We are holy. Made new. We are whole and beautiful. Kings and priest. Inheritors of all things. He tells us who we really are.
Will we believe Him?