It can happen to us all. We come to faith in Jesus and experience the joys of salvation, ready and eager to do what we can to serve others and share about the love we have experienced. And then we hear the voices, the crippling accusations.
God could never use a person who has done the things you have. If they only knew what really went on in your mind, they would never accept you. You will never truly be good enough for God.
And so those first tastes of joy begin to turn sour in our mouths. We pull back from serving. We keep quiet about the gospel. We neglect the relationships that could provide the deepest fellowship we have known. We think to really be loved by God that we have to do more and more and more. The voice of the accuser stunts us.
But this isn’t how God wanted us to live. This is not what God intended for our experience of Jesus. It’s the thief who steals, kills, and destroys; it’s the Good Shepherd who gives life abundant (John 10:10).
On the one hand, the gospel does remind us of our sin. It is good news, no better: the best news, because we are in such a desperately bad spot. On our own as rebellious sinners and children of the fall, we are dead in sin, following the ways of Satan, and destined for eternal wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).
No, not all of us are Hitlers and Bin Ladens; but we share the twisted nature of their dark hearts. We all aren’t as bad as we could potentially be, but even our best works—to be kind to neighbors, to care for our children, to pick up litter, to clothe the naked—are no better than polluted rags. Our sin is so staining and corrosive that it taints our best acts. Even if you were to add up all the good that we do, it could never tilt the scales back in our favor.
Especially, after all, with a God who demands perfection.
From his grace and love, though, God met his own demands. In Ephesians 1, Paul wrote about the great blessings of being in Christ. The first of these is that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4).
God, in his eternal plan, determined to save sinners. In doing so, he gave us his Son: the perfect, spotless, and sinless One; the man who acted in obedience in every case where we have rebelled. God took our sin and placed it upon the cross with Jesus, where Jesus willingly drank down every drop of wrath we deserved, and in return our debt of sin was canceled out and the perfect goodness of Jesus was given to us. (2 Corinthians 5:21, Colossians 2:13-14, and 1 John 4:7-12)
We are not deserving. We are not good enough. We cannot ever do enough to earn it.
God provided the answer for each of these and he gave it to us as a gift. When we realize the nature of our sin and turn to Jesus, we find that we are no longer the sin-riddled children of wrath, but that we’re the holy and blameless sons and daughters of God. This, a gift of love from the One who perfectly and fully knows all the dark places of our hearts and minds. And yet he says to us, “You shall be known by that no more.”
Holiness is an otherness. It is being removed and set apart from our sin. Blamelessness is the end of guilt. The judgment was decreed, Jesus took our punishment, and we are free.
Remembering this great truth will help us in two ways. First, it silences the voice of accusation. At the start of Romans 8, Paul wrote that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. At the end of Romans 8, Paul bookended that thought by telling us that no one can bring a charge against God’s people. This is liberating.
God can and will use us, so we can serve and share, because God is all about taking the pieces of a life shattered by sin, putting us back together, and writing a better story. We can enjoy deep fellowship with others who have been transformed by his grace, because those who have truly tasted it welcome others with arms of love. We don’t have to work and work and work to please God, because God is fully pleased in Jesus, whose life he has given to us.
Second, it leads us to strive to live holy and blameless lives. When we come to understand the depths of the grace and love of God for us in Christ, it changes our perception. Will our old nature still fight against us? Will temptations still come? Will we still at times stumble and fall? Will we sometimes have to feel the sting of discipline from the Father who loves us? Yes, to all of these.
But we also come to know that we possess a new heart and a new Spirit dwells within us. Loved by God, we are moved to love him back. Made holy and blameless, we will desire to be holy and blameless. Some days we will desire it more than others and some days we will live it better than others, but we will still desire it and still seek for it.
Then, when we do fall and find ourselves in the dirt, God picks us up, reminds us of these great truths, and sets us back on our way. We should feel sorrow over our sin as God’s children, but repentance leads us right back into joy and the pursuit of holiness.
Let these truths sink in and guide the way you live… If you belong to Jesus, then you are holy and blameless before God, now and forever.