1 Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! 2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King! 3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. ~ Psalm 149:1-4
God delights in you.
Let that sink in for a moment. Meditate on that thought.
I have heard it argued that if you want to magnify the cross and the holiness of God, you have to realize how desperately wicked you are. I have heard pastors berate their flocks, feeling it their job to let their sheep know just how much they stink. I have had my own moments, ripping verses from their context to remind ourselves of our filthiness. All our righteous deeds are like filthy rags, you know…
And there is truth wrapped within all of this. Before a holy God, we are nothing (…on our own). Before a righteous God, our sins cling to us like dirty rags (…on our own). Before a just and true God, our hearts indeed are wicked and desperately sick (…on our own).
But, none of that is who we are in Christ.
No, we can’t earn it; we can’t merit it; we can’t wash away our own filth. But God made Jesus, who was without sin, to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
The message for followers of Jesus, those who have said: I know I can’t live in this sin, I know I deserve hell, and I know I can’t escape this on my own. King Jesus, save me!—the message for followers of Jesus is not about how pathetic we are, but how great Christ is and the holy and righteous people he has made us and is shaping us to be.
Yes, as Isaiah 64 says: we have sinned, we’re unclean, we’re polluted; but God is the forgiving Father who “meets him who joyfully works righteousness.” This is why the gospel is good news and not just news. Jesus is our works of righteousness, so that we become the people in whom God takes pleasure. And our response is to be one of joy and gladness marked with singing and dancing—words and actions of praise and celebration
This is not to say that there is never a time to grieve sin in our own lives and the lives of other believers. In fact, this reality should bring our grief into a new perspective: grief because we’re not living the way God has made us, but rather we are letting ourselves be allured from the mansion of son(daughter)ship back into the helpless mire of enmity and rebellion. We forget for that moment who we really are in Christ.
This is why I think our message to each other (and the Bible’s message to us) needs to be more bound in the realities of this is how great our God is, this is what Jesus our King has given us through grace and love, and this is who he has now made us to be.
After all, it will wear a child down and break his spirit if you tell him often enough, “You’re a loser. You’re good for nothing. You’re going to amount to nothing.” But when you come along side him, help him to learn and grow out of his mistakes and failures, and encourage him in his potential then he will tend to start to live up to that potential.
So we should accentuate the positive and look at the negative only when necessary. Let your identity be shaped by who you are in Christ, and help others experience the same.