Getting Honest With Ourselves
Let me start by confessing I’m a sinner. Please know then, as you read what follows, that I’m not pointing a finger at you with a holier-than-thou attitude. I’m only asking you to look honestly at yourself in the light.
First, please honestly answer these questions. Have you ever done, or wanted to do, things you knew you shouldn’t do? Have you ever not done, or wanted not to do, something you knew you ought to do? All this is sin.
God’s Word says, “...all have sinned...” (Rom. 3:23) . ‘If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:10) . Because you are a sinner by nature (Rom. 5:19) , you, like the rest of us, have sinned.
God’s Word also says, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts” (Pro. 21:2) . Though we may not see sin in our lives, God does. He tells us what our hearts are really like in His sight: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked...” (Jer. 17:9) . If you answered “No” above, your heart was deceiving you.
“Yes” means you know you’ve sinned and are a sinner. God’s Word says, “...your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear” (Isa. 59:2) . “...the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) . This is not only physical but spiritual death: eternal torment separated from God. (Lk. 16:19–26; 2 Thess. 1:8–9; Rev. 20: 10–15) .
Do you know you’ve sinned, but feel your sins were ignorant “mistakes?” Or, have you chosen wrong while knowing better and called it “weakness,” saying you were overwhelmed by the power of the temptation and just couldn’t help it? Do you think you are a good person, doing the best you can? Are your sins only small ones, or but a few, or too infrequent to matter? Do you feel God will “understand” such sins and not hold them against you? If so, you don’t understand God’s holiness, or the severity of God’s standard of righteousness. No sin whatever is acceptable to God.
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because of Ignorance
God’s Word says, “Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty, and shall bear his punishment,” (Lev. 5:17) . God does not excuse your mistakes any more than a judge would excuse your running a red light or a stop sign because you didn’t notice it was there. Ignorance is no excuse for the law.
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because of Weakness
God’s Word says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13) . Therefore, however severe your temptations may be, your free agency is never impaired by your weakness sufficiently to excuse your sins.
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because You Are A “Good Person”
God’s Word says, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands There is none who seeks after God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one” (Rom. 3:10–12) . Jesus Himself said, “No one is good except God alone” (Lk. 18:19) . However you may compare with other people on this planet, you are not a “good person” by God’s standard. Not one of us is.
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because You “Do Your Best”‘
First, because you are not really doing “your best.” If you think in your heart you are doing your best, remember, “the heart is deceitful above all things.” Your own heart is lying to you, protesting its innocence. But we’ve already seen that God never lets you be tempted beyond your ability to resist. No one forces you to sin; you have your free agency and always could do the right thing. But you know you don’t. You sin because you choose to sin, and as long as you choose that way you are not doing your best.
Second, because even the best you could possibly do still does not meet God’s standard or requirements. More will be said on this further on.
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because They Are “Small,” “Few,” or “Infrequent”
God’s Word says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all,” (James. 2:10) . “In other words, if there is one divine law that he does not keep, he is barred from participating in the kingdom, and figuratively guilty of all, since he is denied all.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:26) .
Perhaps even after all of the above, you are still unconcerned about your sin. Are you thinking something like, “Well, God knows my heart!” Do you think God will overlook your sins or apply the atonement of Christ to them because there is some kind of goodness, or good desires, resident in your heart?
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because of the Desires of Your Heart
What are the desires of your heart when you sin? Your desires are for the sin! You sin because it is your will to do so. Jesus taught that it was out of the heart that our sins come from in the first place (Mark 7:15, 20–23) . Your heart will not save you. It is not pure before God as long as there is still sin in your life. God’s Word says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Pro. 28:26) .
Do you vainly think you will stop sinning, or that by stopping you will make God forgive you?
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because You Quit Sinning
First, because you won’t quit. Just as no one can say they have never sinned in the past (Rom 3:23, 1 Jn. 1:10) , no one will ever truthfully say he has (present tense) no sin (1 Jn. 1:8) . “Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23) . We are so accustomed to doing evil, and our hearts lie to us so successfully, that we are often unable to see the evil in what we do. But what you can’t see can hurt you. Not you or any sinner has ever stopped sinning. If you ever did, then from that point forward you would be continually doing good and never sinning. But the Bible says there is no such person: “Indeed there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Eccl. 7:20) .
Second, because to stop sinning does not satisfy God’s standard, which is actually higher still.
God’s Standard of Righteousness
Think for a moment about Jesus. What would have happened if Jesus had committed even one sin? He would have become guilty and under the curse of sin and the law just like the rest of us. It would not matter if thereafter He never sinned again. He still would have been under the curse. He could not have atoned, then, for our sins; rather He would have needed atonement for Himself.
You see, God’s standard, His requirement, is not a “cleaned-up” righteousness (having sinned and then stopped), but a perfect, “never-having-sinned” righteousness. Had Jesus ever sinned at all, He too would have fallen short of God’s standard. God couldn’t accept anything less than the perfect “never-having-sinned” righteousness that Jesus did in fact offer Him.
God has only one standard of righteous requirements. That is the standard Jesus met. It is based in His own holiness. It is an expression of His own character. He cannot change or lower His standard for anyone without compromising His holiness and changing His very character.
If God could lower His standard at all, He could lower it to anything at all. He could lower it far enough to let us in without requiring an atonement at all. Jesus would not have had to die.
It is precisely because God cannot lower His standard, at all, ever, and because it is already too late for any man to meet that standard (we’ve all sinned) that there had to be an atonement and Jesus had to die.
But the atonement did not change God, or lower His standard. A “cleaned-up” righteousness (stopping your sinning) will never cause Him to forgive you. He still requires real righteousness: the perfect “never-having-sinned” righteousness Jesus had and manifested to us here on earth. That is the only standard God has.
God Will Not Forgive Your Sins Because of Anything You May Do After This Life
It should be obvious by now that “spirit-world repentance” cannot bring forgiveness of sins. Jesus did not die to buy you time after this life to become righteous. Time can never provide a “never-having-sinned” righteousness to one who has already sinned. But again, God has no other standard. Whether in this life or the next, no one will be justified by law keeping unless, like Jesus, they never sin once. That is the Law’s requirement.
Why The Law?
You may ask, “If the law is not the means for obtaining righteousness, why did God bother to give it to us?”
God’s law reveals His character, and our sin. It defines what He wants, not what we can achieve. Far from being a ladder to climb up to God, His law shows us the utter futility of trying to become acceptable to Him by what we can do.
God’s law shows us our sin, makes us guilty, and forever shuts our mouths from all pretension of having any righteousness of our own (Rom. 3: 19–20) . It was actually intended for this purpose (Rom. 5:20; 7:7–13) , so that despairing of our own righteousness, driven and fleeing to Jesus and the cross, we would cling to his death as payment for our sins, and to his righteousness as alone sufficient to meet God’s requirements (Gal. 3:21–26; Rom. 8:3, 4; 10:4) .
You may be thinking, “If God’s standard is really this high, if the only thing able to meet it is perfect “never-having-sinned” righteousness, then we’re all doomed. Having already sinned, there is no way we can meet God’s standard of never having sinned, and so no one can be saved. There’s nothing any of us can do.” If that is what you’re thinking, then maybe you’ve gotten the point.
That is the point: no one can be saved, by anything he can do. Indeed, we cannot even contribute to our own salvation. God requires a righteousness that is utterly impossible for you and I to provide. None of the excuses or arguments headlined above will cause Him to apply the atonement to your sins. Nor will they cause Him to lower His standard to forgive you. His law remains fixed, beyond your reach. Until you acknowledge that, you have not submitted to Him.
How Can We Be Forgiven?
Jesus did not die to lower the standard and make a “cleaned-up” righteousness acceptable. He lived and died to make us acceptable, by meeting and fulfilling all of God’s righteous requirements for us, in our place. He will impute, that is, credit, His death and His own righteousness to anyone who will accept Him as their Savior—that is, anyone who will trust Christ and His righteousness alone, as sufficient to make themselves right with God. His death pays your debt of sin. His life, His righteousness, meets, fulfills, and satisfies God’s standard for you.
A Spotless Robe
The Scriptures liken this righteousness of Jesus to a perfect spotless robe. It is something God gives to us, something even, which He puts on us (Isa. 61:10) . It is clearly a free gift, and none of our own doing.
The righteousness of Jesus merits not merely resurrection, but eternal life with God. The Father Himself qualifies us for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and eternal life, by freely crediting the perfect righteousness of Jesus to us (Col. 1:12; Rom. 4:4–6, 23–25; 5:17, 19; Phil. 3:9) . He puts us “in Christ” (1 Cor. 1:30) , and makes us new creatures having the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:17, 21) .
Nothing you have, nothing you can do or offer, can make you worthy to receive such a priceless treasure. It can only be received as a completely free and undeserved gift. That is just how God offers it (Rom. 3:21–28; Eph. 2:4–9; Tit. 3:4–7) . To seek it on any other terms is an insult to both the gift and the Giver.
I once belonged to a church that taught and demanded the lowered standard of a “cleaned-up” righteousness. But God delivered me from it, raised my sights to His standard, and gave me His Robe of Righteousness—Jesus and His righteousness, and the salvation He provides. This is what I spoke of when I said I wanted to share something with you.
I want you to have it too. If you still think you can supply the righteousness God demands, or meet His standard, then you haven’t submitted to God’s standard (Rom. 10:3) . You will feel no need for what I want to share with you. But if you can see that to meet God’s requirements you need a righteousness that you cannot supply for yourself, then why not receive the Robe of Righteousness God offers, by accepting it right now as the free gift God says it is.
This little tract is nothing. What it speaks of is everything. Please don’t insult the real gift or the Giver. As an ambassador for Christ, as though God were entreating through me, I beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:20, 21) .
Don’t stop trying to live a godly life. But just as Paul did (Phil. 3:4–9) , give up all your own righteousness—stop depending on it in any way whatever—and accept the free gift of His perfect, all-sufficient righteousness. Stop trusting in anything you can do, as a means—either sole or partial—toward obtaining forgiveness of sins and eternal life in the presence of God. Put all your trust in Jesus alone to save and exalt you to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25; 2 Pet. 5:5–7) . Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass (1 Thess. 5:24).
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