Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Beautiful Exchange

Imagine this: A people soiled in sin. Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, and disobedient to their parents. Ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good. Treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Now imagine this: Love, perfect love. His name: Immanuel—"God with us." Jesus, the Christ, lived and breathed and walked upon the earth. He was tempted in every way, yet was without sin.

Love led Jesus to the cross. In fact, His mission was love: Not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

At the cross a beautiful exchange occurred: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus took upon Himself the iniquity of all, and dying upon the cross He endured the wages of the world's sin: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Jesus offered for all time one sacrifice for sins: Himself. "Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart for sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself" (Hebrews 7:26-27).

By faith, we have access to His forgiveness. And by that same faith, we have access to His spotless righteousness.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" (Galatians 3:26-27).

We are clothed in Christ. We are clothed in His righteousness!

Jesus took upon Himself our sin, and He gives us His righteousness. Though we are soiled with every kind of evil, we are clothed in the pure and spotless righteousness of Christ. His righteousness covers us, and we stand before the throne of God without blemish and free of accusation!

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel" (Colossians 1:21-23).

Christ's righteousness is our identity. The doing of righteousness, therefore, confirms the being of righteousness: "He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous" (1 John 3:7).

Let me be quick to clarify: The pursuit of righteousness is not a work of the flesh! How foolish to think that depraved sinners can achieve righteousness by self-effort! The pursuit of righteousness is rather the working of the Holy Spirit. Our identity is Christ's righteousness and day by day we are transformed to reflect that reality. That is sanctification. It is the process by which we are made holy.

Jesus' grace is sufficient. In our pursuit of God, His grace covers our failed attempts to live out our identity in Christ. To live out our imputed righteousness. And His grace propels us forward. The Apostle Paul wrote: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I but the grace of God that was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

I pray that Christ humble us with His love and mercy. May His grace work in us. May we continually be molded into His likeness. May we, by the Spirit, increasingly reflect our true identity.

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