I am a sinner. Until heaven I will be a sinner. I will sin my whole life. In this life I will never not be a sinner.
Oh, but it is! Because Jesus came to save sinners. His death frees me from the power of sin and from the penalty of sin, but I am not and will never be perfect (this side of heaven).
Now, can I stop pretending I am? Can I stop striving for it? Can I stop requiring perfection of myself and others? Can I shed shame? Can I grasp grace?
There is great freedom in the truth that Jesus gave me his righteousness, not his sinlessness. I can relax when I realize I am called to righteousness, not sinlessness. Granted, as I grow in righteousness I will sin less, but I will not be sinless. This side of heaven I will always be a sinner in need of grace.
When I focus on righteousness as the goal rather than cessation of sin, I have hope. When I focus on righteousness as the goal instead of rule-following, I have freedom. I can rest.
I think that’s how Jesus can say,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Freedom is found in Christ’s righteousness – in grace. Burden is found in self-righteousness and rule-following. As a matter of fact, when we make rules to guard against sin, we end up bound, captive, enslaved.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Colossians 2:8, 20
When we live by human tradition and “rules” trying to “live like Christians,” we take on burden rather than rest. We become discouraged by our failure rather than thankful for God’s grace. We become bitter and relentless task masters rather than compassionate and merciful emissaries of grace. Our heads bow in shame instead of worship.
There is freedom in the truth that I am a sinner. There is rest in revealing my flaws. There is room for Christ in a heart emptied of self-justification. There is a place for grace when we cast out performance.
This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.
What about you? Do you have space for grace?