Caution: This post answers one of the most important questions we can ask. It concerns the struggle every Christian experiences when confronted with the reality of their continuing imperfection. The answer will raise more questions than reporters ask in a briefing when they believe Mr. Trump’s done something wrong. The next post will seek to answer those questions.
Now we focus on this question: How do you stay a Grace Focused Optimist, believing that God is always up to your good, when you have a gnawing sense of the reality of your own sinfulness?
The Reality of Our Sinfulness
Honestly, doesn’t the reality of your sinfulness sometimes wash away your optimism the way a Tsunami does a sandcastle?
I’m thinking of realities like these:
Reality: just as some athletes are injury-prone, every believer is sin-prone in a particular area and failing there for the umpteenth time can make you feel like giving up our attempt to live for the Lord.
Reality: our quiet times are often quieter than a cemetery because we’re inconsistent in daily bible reading and prayer.
Reality: we so easily gripe and grumble over trials smaller than a paper cut.
Reality: D. L. Moody was asked by a man, “Do you think I’m a Christian?” “Not a red hot one” was the answer. Would anyone get first-degree burns by touching our Christianity?
The Reality of Our Savior
Nothing makes optimism seem more unrealistic than these realities. So, how can you stay optimistic in the face of these facts that seem to demand pessimism?
Paul tells you in Romans 10:4: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
Let me put Paul’s meaning as bluntly as I can. He’s telling us that our practice has nothing to do with our position. Does this shock you? It shouldn’t. It’s the gospel. And the gospel is the air bag truth that can help our optimism smash head-on into our imperfection yet walk away without a scratch.
Learn to deploy the gospel when the reality of your imperfection swerves into your lane and plows into you, and your optimism won’t need a band aid much less a trip to the ER.
Practice and Position
How do you deploy it? First by understanding what’s meant by your “practice” and your “position.” Your practice is the way you live. Your position is whether God accepts you or rejects you.
The second thing you’ve got to do to deploy this truth to keep your optimism healthy even in the face of your imperfection is get a clear sense of how it is that your practice has NOTHING to do with your position.
Counterintuitive, huh? Of course. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.
What’s your position before God as a Christian? This: “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:1; 8:1). No condemnation means that you’re not sitting in a courtroom anxiously waiting for God’s verdict. His verdict is in. You’re forgiven and favored—fully and forever.
This is our position because of Jesus. This is what Paul means by saying, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to those who believe.”
Jesus was righteous. Jesus lived the perfect life we can’t live. There’s not a single black sheep in the flock of his obedience. He always obeyed the Father.
Then Jesus died the sin-paying death we can’t die. I say with no irreverence, the gun of God’s judgment emptied every chamber into him. On the cross he paid the penalty for every sin we commit. All our yesterday, today, and tomorrow sins.
From the moment we trusted Jesus as our Savior and forever after, the Father began treating Jesus’ practice as our practice. The bible calls this “justification by faith”: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
So, in terms of our position—whether God accepts or rejects us—Christ’s practice is everything and our practice nothing.
And this is why our practice doesn’t ever change our position. Because Jesus’ practice is now ours, nothing we do makes us more acceptable to God and nothing we do makes us less acceptable to him.
The Goodness of God
Believer, your halo actions like doing your quiet time don’t make you more acceptable to your Father. And your horn actions like losing your temper with someone don’t make you less acceptable to God. Even when some sin makes you cry with Paul, “O wretched man that I am” you’re no less acceptable to the Lord.
Am I reading your diary? If so, I boldly tell you that your practice has NOT changed your position because Christ is the end of the law for your righteousness. At this very moment God accepts you 100%.
Brothers and sisters, the gospel is the good news that Jesus’ practice is given to us and accepted by God as our practice the moment we believe. From the moment we trusted Jesus, his practice alone determines our position before God. Christian, your practice has no more say so in your position than Satan has in who’s invited to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
When you have a head-on collision with the reality of your imperfection, take a moment. Chide yourself for being so unfaithful to the Lord. Scold yourself for letting him down.
But don’t stop there. Cling to the gospel the way a drowning swimmer holds on to the lifeguard come to rescue her. Preach the good news to yourself with the fervor of an old time fiery preacher. Declare with believing boldness, “At this moment, I remain acceptable to God even though I’ve done something unacceptable BECAUSE God accepts me because of Christ’s practice not mine.”
Then say to God, “Father, thank you for the perfect practice of Jesus. I bless you for being so good to me through him!”
Hallelujah, what a gospel! This is amazing grace isn’t it? God accepts us because of Jesus and because of Jesus he continues accepting us even when we do something unacceptable.
This is the good news.
And the good news is the airbag truth we must deploy to preserve our optimism when it collides with the reality of our imperfection.