Everybody has a past. When we come to Christ, we come with our flaws, hurts and stains from the burden of sin we’ve carried. We may look at ourselves in comparison to another and think we’re pretty good, but make no mistake, the only comparison God looks at is how you and I measure up to His standard. Not how I do compared to you, or you to me. And by the holy standard, we all have some pretty messed up pasts!
But at the cross, God arranged for an exchange for those who would take him up on this free gift of his grace. We can exchange that past, which with absolute certainly will lead us to condemnation, for righteousness–Christ’s righteousness. That is a pretty sweet deal. (If you have not taken advantage of this deal yet, please click here.)
But that past. Maybe it was bad. Maybe it brought you shame. Maybe you did hard time for it. Maybe you think it’s so bad that even though God forgave you, you can’t get past it. Whatever it is, the past doesn’t seem to be staying in your past.
So first let’s look at a where your past stands with God. Paul tells the Corinthian church, and all of us, that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has past away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV). Our old selves, our past, is gone. BOOM. We’re new creations! In Psalm 103 David tells us that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us”. That’s far enough away that God stopped keeping score. Finally, Colossians 2:14 says our legal debt (sin) was cancelled. The book in the ledger that was used to keep account of our sin? It was torn out, stamped with cancelled (in Jesus’ blood) and nailed to the cross. Getting the picture yet? God doesn’t see that sin in your account anymore.
So if God, has stopped holding it against you, why do you hold it against yourself? You are not who you were. Remember, you are a new creation. In Romans 12, Paul says we can avoid conforming to the world by transforming our minds. That means it’s possible to transform your mind by how you think about things, including yourself and who you are. Start seeing yourself as the child of God and co-heir with Christ that you are. Stop buying into the lie of “I was always, so I always will be”. You don’t have to live in that past, no matter who would have you believe that, including the devil. That was then, and this is now.
Now, one caveat before we move on. Sometimes our actions hurt other people. If you have something that God is leading you to go to that person to seek forgiveness for, that’s another issue. If you feel doing that may actually do more harm to the other person, please seek wise counsel from a pastor or elder.
So now that we agree that once our faith for salvation is firmly placed in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins that our account is clear, we can walk free of the guilt and condemnation of that past. Romans 8 is a great read for the freeing up from life in the flesh to life in the Spirit.
And that righteousness of Christ that covers our past sins? It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Why? Friends, have you ever felt burdened in your walk that you’re not doing enough, not serving enough, not sanctified enough, not a lot of things enough? I know I have. On more than one occasion I’ve lamented on how I’m just not “good enough” as a Christian. Oh boy. I am not hanging out in this wire alone, either!
Somehow, the wires got crossed or there was a short circuit. We are more than down for trading our filthy rags for Christ’s righteousness when it comes to salvation and eternity, yet in this life, we revert back to thinking we’re on our own to work it out. Or was I the only one who fell for that? That’s right, we have spent too much time and energy back in the power of “me”, haven’t we? Have you tried to be “good enough” and just found you couldn’t do it? This is exactly why! Because we slipped back into working our own way instead of letting it be the righteousness of Christ that defines our goodness and worthiness. This really came to light for me when I saw a follow of Christ concerned that they weren’t going to be ready for Christ to return, and did they need to “do” more. Actually, it woke me up like a bucket of ice over the head. Can you see if you break it down in those terms, though perhaps extreme, that “readiness” was became the responsibility of the redeemed, NOT the Redeemer? This is a works based salvation disguised as sanctification.
Our righteousness as believers is imputed from Christ. It is our only righteousness. If you’ve fallen into the trap of walking out your faith as a continued path towards righteousness, please realize you are walking outside of what Christ did for you on the cross. You’re adding to it. All we need is faith alone in, in Christ alone, “not as a result of works, that no one may boast”. (Ephesians 2:9)
If you ever feel like you’re not good enough because of, well, you fill in the blank, stop that too. You’re also overlooking the present and continuing covering of Christ’s righteousness. You don’t think you’re as pious as Friend X? That’s fine. You have the righteousness of Christ. You just can’t seem to have the heart to serve others the way Friend Z does? That’s okay, you have the righteousness of Christ. You weren’t perfect? First, welcome to the club. Second, that’s alright. You have the righteousness of Christ. The devil may try to drag you down and make you think you should be more, or be like somebody else. Whatever. You have the righteousness of Christ.
Whatever that past may have been, that was then. And this is now. Walk boldly!