I am astonished how quickly I vacillate between self righteousness and a keen awareness of my failings. Its amazing how quickly I forget my own poverty on one side, and then I forget the depth and completeness of God’s grace on the other.
We live this life in our flesh, entwined with our old selves. That is the self that rejects and rebels against God. We trade the glory of God for foolishness and things made of straw that will all burn away. In my self righteousness, I am condemning myself, because the very ways I feel superior to the unrighteous are the ways that I am like them. All of us are self seeking and reject truth and follow evil. In my own righteousness, there is none poorer than I.
And so, praise be to the one who removes my rags and clothes me instead in his own righteousness. His grace and mercy are complete, reaching to the poorest. That’s me! Now I stand clean, and there is no condemnation for me. I can enter God’s presence confident that I enter by the righteousness of Christ.
It would seem so much better, once I am made clean, to take me home. After all, I cannot add anything to my salvation. Jesus did it all. And its not like God needs me here. Some would say that he leaves us here to tell others, but he doesn’t need my help to reach anyone. There is nothing he can’t do without my help. I have nothing to add to his work.
I cannot grow without being stretched and tested. God doesn’t transform us in our comfort zone. He transforms us through trials, through discipline, through faithful sacrifice, through doing the things that demonstrate in our actions that we truly are his. If we say we are his, we should live as Christ lived. Of his life and ministry Christ said “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” In his death he made the ultimate sacrifice of both love and obedience. If I am to be Christ-like, that is the Christ in who’s steps I must follow.
Christ withstood his temptation. I have not resisted mine to the point of shedding blood. I should not grow weary or lose heart. He who is able to keep me from falling will hold me until the day when my struggle is complete.
I am not fully transformed, but I am being transformed. One day, the struggle will be done, and I will stand before my heavenly Father and be welcomed home. Until that day, I stand in the unlimited wealth of his righteousness, while still experiencing the poverty of my own. I struggle to fulfill the calling to good works that were prepared in advance for me to do, understanding that they are for my benefit and that the one I serve is fully capable of completing his work without me. Each day that I am faithful, I am transformed. With each temptation, with each trial, with each test, I am changed a little more. I can’t see it, but I know it is true.
I have no reason for self righteousness, for I have no righteousness of my own. On the other hand, I have every reason for confidence because of Christ’s righteousness, his love for me, and his abundant mercy and grace poured out on me.
Maybe one of these days I’ll remember that without such a struggle.