Just as if I’d never sinned… or is it?

A few months ago I was given the task of writing a talk on what it is that gives me confidence as a child of God.  ‘How can I be sure God looks on me with a smile?’ they asked.  I thought, ‘this is easy, I know this one, this is the one about my passive righteousness because of Christ’s imputed righteousness’…

You know the drill… I am a wretched sinner, God is perfectly holy, something needs to happen to me in order for me to be able to have a relationship with God (’cause sin and holiness don’t mix).

It seems understandable that the solution to this problem would be that I become a perfect holy person rather than a wee devil.  BUT, because by nature I’d rather punch you (or maybe just nelly) than forgive you, I’ll never be good enough or perfect enough for God.  … Then Jesus comes along, and he says ‘ok here’s the deal, you suck, i’m perfect but i’ll lend you my perfect-ness and you can wear it like a cloak and then God will look at you with the same favour he looks at me because it’ll be ‘just as if you’ve never sinned’… in fact it’ll be better than that, God will look at you ‘as if you’ve done it all right’ just like me,’ says Jesus.  …This, we say, is what it means that we are justified. At the cross our sin was put on Christ, and we go on to say, the exchange happened in reverse so that Christ’s (record) of righteousness (all the good things he did, his perfectly lived life) was put on us. we did a swapsies.

ok, this is a very crude and quick description, but i think the basic idea is there.

This is a pretty nice concept.  Many have acknowledged it’s pastoral benefits but for many years this understanding of justification has caused me pastoral trouble rather than comfort.  For example:

1) It makes my comfort/security in approaching God to be based on me (all be it my passive righteousness ) rather than God’s character.

2) it makes me feel like i’ve tricked God into liking me.  That makes me feel like Jesus might like me but God sure doesn’t.  – but this is not true, God loved me while i was a sinner, if he could feel love for me then, then he can feel love for me now.

3) who i am without Christ’s record of righteousness upon me never really gets addressed. Can God see my sin at all? Can he see ME? how does he feel about it?

4) i feel schizophrenic and it seems God is a little bit schizophrenic too –  he hates me, no he loves me, but he has to hate me but he loves me and so on and so on…

there are more problems but that’ll do for now.

This idea that to be clothed in Christ means somehow that we have been given Christ’s record of good deeds as NT points out makes God the greatest legalist there is!

Something is terribly wrong.  To recognise this isn’t a threat, it’s an invitation to see God to be even more gracious, powerful, faithful and loving.

It is true that God’s family is a righteous one and if i am to be part of his family i need to be righteous, and i cannot do that on my own.  God the Judge however has declared us to be righteous.  But this righteousness is a declaration of my status as part of God’s family rather than a description of my character.  NT Wright helpfully uses the law court analogy (ps so does the bible) – the judge declares the defendant innocent.  That person is now free to go and enjoy the privileges of an innocent person but that verdict does not MAKE him an innocent person.  If he is guilty of the crime and the judge declares him innocent does that mean he is not guilty of the crime? of course not.  But is he free to live an innocent man’s life? yes.

In terms of me and God this means that he looks at me, knows i’m guilty but says you’re ‘in the right’ you’re free to live the life of a free person ie a child of God.  Undeserved grace.  But my righteous status isn’t just words either.  My righteousness actually becomes a living reality in my life as i live out of my new identity as a beloved member of God’s family.  I become who God says i am.  But it is not my becoming that makes God say what i am. it’s the other way round.  As a child of God i am a slave to righteousness.  I can’t not become who he has declared me to be. His spirit is in me.

So what does this mean for how God looks at me today, in the ‘now and not yet’ phase?  To me it all makes much more sense.  God looks at me transfarmer and sees exactly what is true.  He sees a girl whom he loves and whom he has without any merit of her own welcomed freely into his family.  She has equal standing with his beloved son Jesus, she has equal standing with his beloved son zoomtard, and beloved daughter clairbo she has equal standing with all the saints as beloved children of God.  One day transfarmer will be so transformed (see what i did there) that she will not only be called a member of God’s family but she will begin to look like it.  Already you can see some evidence if you look very closely and if you consider who she was a long time ago.  God looks at transfarmer and sees her failures and the hatred in her heart and the selfish lusts but all the time he sees these realities in the context of the perfectly redeemed transfarmer, He can do so because he already knows that version of her.  today he just whispers… you’ll not believe who you’ll be, you’ll not believe who you really are, i cant wait to see the look on your face when on that glorious day i give you a white stone with your new name that reveals the true you.

There is no lies, there is not hiden-ness, there is no tricking God into liking me because Jesus swapped the cover on our book of deeds.  There is truth.  God interacts with me as i am now, warts and all and speaks directly to this version of me, but he interacts with me now knowing who i will be because he has defeated death and all of his friends on the cross.  The battle has already been won.  Who i will be on the last day is a reality because of the cross.  It is the truest reality about me and God treats me so.  He hates and addresses my sin becasue it is preventing me from enjoying the fullness of my new identity as a memeber of His family, not because i have to be good enough for him to let me in.

there is so much more to say and so much more to write, but i need to stop somewhere.

PS. NT Wrights book called Justification is simply stunning at explaining all this.  read it and read it again.


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9 Comments on “Just as if I’d never sinned… or is it?”

  1. […] my dear friend Transfarmer has explained the NPP in a way that only she can- it is relevant, simple to understand and oh-so-gracious. Read it. Thank […]

  2. voxo Says:

    Excellent post transfarmer. Can you do the same treatment to the particular area of “what happened at the cross”? That would be marvellous – and this is not baited request – I genuinely think your summary would be good on this.

  3. Disapproving Ex-Churchmate Says:

    Lovely post, Ms. Farmer. Fascinating stuff, I must read that book.

  4. foreveringreensleeves Says:

    Reading this makes me so excited about life…I wrote in my blog last night about an excitement that I have and I don’t know what exactly its for or about…obviously its coming from God…and I’m beginning to think its just a general excitement about life…and about whats coming next!
    Great blog mate! gives a lot to think about and a lot to get excited about!!
    Must grab that book! add it to my list!

  5. markgormancv Says:

    I agree with Voxo. I want the next brilliant installment… 🙂

  6. Nelly And I Says:

    Loved it. Except the bit about zoomtard and clairebo, they’re on a whole different level. I think maybe god seeks approval from them…

    PS just try and punch me, go on try!

  7. jaybercrow Says:

    You have a remarkable gift for making heretical ideas sound reasonable…

    Seriously, though, this is beautiful and wise and Tom Wright should hire you to translate his thoughts for the masses.

  8. transfarmer Says:

    I was expecting more of an argument!
    jaybercrow if it wasn’t for you i’d never be writing such sweet heresy!
    Voxo thanks for challenging me to more- i’ll try my best to give it a lash soon.
    nelly – did it hurt?
    gorman – write a blog
    exchurchmate & greensleeves & zoomtard – thanks

  9. Vox O'Malley Says:

    “NT Wright” transfarmed.

    We wait.



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