In my sermon this last week, I said that God’s approval of us is not based on our performance but based solely on Jesus and what He has done for us. A reasonable question might be: But what about the fact that the Bible somewhat frequently describes God’s disapproval based on people’s performances? Don’t people reap what they sow? Didn’t Jesus say that men will be judged for their every idle word?
And the answer to these questions is yes. But everything hinges on whether you’ve already been judged or not.
In other words, if one day you get a bill in the mail out of nowhere and it turns out there was some major accounting failure, and now you owe hundreds of millions of dollars in back payments, well, unless you have a nice stash of cash somewhere, you’re sunk.
And just to keep things interesting, what if you knew that even if you worked 80 hour work weeks your entire life and only spent the bare minimum necessary to live, you’d still never be able to pay the debt? You’d still be sunk by millions.
But what if you already knew about the bill before it came? And what if you knew the debt was already paid? Well then, when the bill showed up, it would come more like a scheduled visit to the dentist. You don’t really look forward to those sorts of appointments and they aren’t usually fun, but they’re bearable and expected.
And here’s what I mean. For those who know Jesus, they already know that they have sinned and will sin again, and that Jesus freely suffered and bled for those sins already. They know that bills have piled up, and they know that there are still more bills in the mail. We may not know the exact breakdown of the bills, but we know what the total was. The wages of sin is death. The total debt owed was a perfect, sinless life, impossible for any sinner to pay. But the news that changed our lives was the news that Jesus has paid our debts in full.
The tricky part is that we don’t yet know what all of those debts are. We know they total up to eternal death and condemnation, and we know that debt has been paid and we don’t owe a penny anymore. But while we are still in our flesh, we stumble and battle with the sin remnants in our bodies, and we still face the collection agencies at various points. But when the collections representative shows up at the door, we don’t freak out, we don’t despair. We just nod knowingly because we knew the bills would come, and we knew we’d never be able to pay. But we have instructions from our Savior who has told us to forward all the bills to Him. In fact, He’s worked it all out already with the collections agency, and when we forward Him the bill, He assures us that it’s already been paid.
This doesn’t erase all the consequences of sin. Men still reap what they sow in this life. And unfaithfulness and failures can still result in great difficulty and sadness, but the context of those temporal judgments, the context of those consequences are all still within the context of God’s infinite love and unfaltering mercy. And given the end of the story (you crowned with glory forever), all the current difficulties and consequences are being woven into the grooves on a road called Amazing Grace.
When you get a bill in the mail for your sin, when you get an eviction notice as a consequence for your failure, yes, you know that God was not pleased with those sins and failures, but you also know that He already took care of them too. His Fatherly displeasure was already spent at the cross. And He eagerly awaits our forwarding of the bills.
If you are in Christ, then even your sins and failures are in Him, and He swallows them up forever. And this is why God’s approval of us is not based on our performance. We are beloved to Him only and always because Jesus is His Beloved Son, and this is to say that we have already been judged and our debts have already been paid in full. In other words, Jesus is enough.