Yesterday I played golf with several prominent businessmen within our community of Enid. I overhead a discussion between two of them regarding heaven and hell. The men who were conversing are respected community leaders, both hold positions of leadership within their churches--an Episcopalian and Disciples of Christ church respectively--and both men are in their late 50's.
One of the men was concerned that he was going to hell. The conversation, which had begun over a discussion of cheating in golf, contained some lighthearted joking in the beginning but soon turned quite serious. When asked why he was concerned he was going to hell, the man said, "Because I've done way too many bad things in my life." When it was suggested that God forgives, the answer was quick, "Yea, I know, but I think God gets quite tired of forgiving me again and again for the same sins. I know I would if I were God."
As I overheard the conversation I couldn't help but think to myself that both men, quite faithful in attending their respective churches, had little comprehension of imputed righteousness. The opportunity did not avail itself for me to explain imputed righteousness to these men yesterday, but they are definitely on my watch list for an opportunity to share the pure marrow of the gospel with them at some time in the future.
The Apostle Paul, after listing an extensive biographical history of religious superiority (Pharisee of the Pharisees, teacher of the law, etc...), said he considered all of his religious accomplishments "dung" for the sake of knowing Christ and "obtaining a righteousness that comes from God and is found by faith in Him." (Philippians 3:9). This particular verse I consider my life verse.
My conscience is filled with peace, even though I know my heart and life are filled with all kinds of sins (both known and unknown by me. I know that I am seen by God as perfectly "righteous" and holy because the goodness and obedience of Christ, His beloved Son, is credited to me. All of the blessings of God associated with "obedience" to His commands are mine because Christ's obedience is imputed (credited) to me via my faith in Christ. Selfishnesss, pride, envy, and a host of other sins are constantly being battled in my life--but I lose no sleep over whether or not God loves me, or whether or not I'm going to hell, or whether or not I will be blessed by God because my confidence is in the righteousness of Christ that is now mine because of my trust in Him.
John Wesley, founder of "Methodism" called imputed righteousness "imputed nonsense," believing that righteousness before God could only come through "methodical" and disciplined living. If imputed righteousness is true, say its detractors like Wesley, then God would never discipline His children, even though the author of Hebrews says He does (Heb. 12:6). Discipline us for what?
I would respond that God disciples us because sin, by its very nature, is destructive. God doesn't discipline us to make us righteous. He disciples us to help us truly enjoy the life He has already given us. If my pride, my selfiishness, my envy, etc... are not dealt with, it will eventually cause me great harm because of the nature of sin and what it does to life in general. But God loves me too much for that too happen, so He will consistentlyand successfully root out sin in my life. But, since God sees no sin in my life in terms of a judicial or condemning manner, His discipleship of me is not for "righteousness" sake, but for my enjoyment of life's sake. My sin has already been dealt with at the cross, being completely and totally imputed (credited) to Christ, who made a powerful and effectual atonement for my sins. In addition, His righteousness has been completely and totally credited to me. This, in my opinion, is THE GREAT EXCHANGE--an exchange that utterly transforms life when comprehended.
I rest in the knowledge that God only and always blesses me because of Christ's righteousness. God is building for me a home in heaven because of Christ's obedience. I never worry about how many times God has to "forgive" me because I am clothed with a perfect righteousness that comes from God and is found by faith in Jesus Christ. That, to me, is the beauty of the good news (gospel).
I sometimes wonder how many religious people truly understand the glorious gospel that sets the believer free.
In His Grace,