“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Imputed righteousness

“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Rom. 4:6-8).

A couple of weeks back in Sabbath School our class talked about imputed righteousness. And the teacher kept saying that we need to be faithful with our imputed righteousness and to let our light shine. We need to let the fruits of our imputed righteousness be a blessing to others.

But he confused imputed righteousness with imparted righteousness. Imparted righteousness is when we live the new life given to us by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God imparts to us new life and His fruits, which shine out and minister grace to others. Imparted righteousness is what sanctification and growing in grace are all about.

But imputed righteousness is totally different. Imputed precedes imparted righteousness. Imputed righteousness is God calling us righteous, calling us what we were not before; but, what God says, is . “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Ps. 33:9). Imputing is the charging of our great Judge’s sentence—“Innocent!” or “Guilty!” Yet it is more than that. Because what we see is a sinner whom God calls a saint. We see too much.

What we see is a sinner who was vile and now he is a blessing to all. But in imputed righteousness God says that He will look upon His dear Son when He looks at us, and see us in His Son; because of His Son He will see us as saints. God can’t be satisfied to look on us unless we have never sinned; but that must ever be since we were born in sin. He wants to accept us with His whole heart—but He can’t look upon sin, which we are full of. He misses the special communion He had with Adam and it tears Him apart to be separated from us, but He can only look upon us if we have never sinned. We can’t change and be perfect, nor can we change our wretched past life of unbelief and rebellion; and He can’t change to accept anything except perfect loyalty and obedience.

So, God is at an impasse, and we are, too. But, through His infinite mercy and forbearance, He has devised a plan to have us back. The King looks at those who are daily coming to His Son through the loving-kindness and truth of His Son’s public ministry, and approaching Jesus the High Priest in His mediatorial work in the heavenly sanctuary, and God sees only His dear Son, who never rebelled or fell short of His Father’s Law.

“If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.” (Deut. 25:1). In other words, the judge decided who was righteous—the plaintiff or the defendant—and who was wicked. The judgment turned no one from wickedness into righteousness. The one determined to be wrong was in the wrong all along, and the person determined to be right—had been right all along. Likewise, when God calls us righteous, He treats us as if we had been righteous all along.

So the great Judge sees us through His Son, who has never sinned, and He can finally be satisfied and accept us like those who have never sinned.

If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His [Jesus’] sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned. Steps to Christ, p. 62.

When we have Jesus’ perfect righteousness imputed to us we are treated as though we had never sinned. When God forgives us, He sees no past track record. He gives us the same treatment He gave to Adam before he fell. God’s forgiveness far exceeds anything man can ever come up with. Our Father’s mercy is deep and thorough for those who are coming to Christ, who is a complete, comprehensive Savior. “[Jesus] hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31).

This kind of acceptance is infinitely better than anything our fellow sinners have to offer. “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.”
“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” (Jer. 17:5-8).

Anyone we have transgressed against may forgive us; but if they do, they cannot forget what we did to them. But God never mentions it again if we are seeking the grace and truth that was in Christ. Of course, if we aren’t following after Christ then all bets are off; we get no imputed righteousness from God. “He that believeth [depends] on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth [depends] not [on] the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Jn. 3:36).

But, if we are establishing a relationship with His Son, then God overlooks our past which lacked so much in goodness. He “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Rom. 4:17). And then, what He calls them, they are. He calls us righteous as though we were, and thus He empowers us to live up to what He calls us. He rejoices to see a new son or daughter spring to life, saying to Him, “Wow! If You really think that way of me, then I’ll keep Your laws and Your lessons forever!” His imputing of righteousness reconciles us to obedience to His commandments and gives us the will to obey.

When we have looked up to the dying Lamb of God, we hate the sin that cut His heart and robbed the innocent One of His life. Our natures change; repentance paves the way to a new life. We see the wrath of God poured upon Christ, and the mercy of God on us via the justice on His beloved Son. All the torment and pain of sin that we should have experienced, we behold the Father diverting it all onto the head of the innocent One, without us even requesting it. All of our infinite confusion and guilt and shame fall on the sinless One. Our hell becomes His; and on our heads falls the Holy Spirit of peace and life.

Abel saw all this by faith. He was broken down at the death of each little lamb, and so will we be if we look to the cross of Christ and let the Holy Spirit bring it all back before our eyes. And as fire fell from heaven on Abel’s sacrificed lamb, so will God’s imputation of righteousness fall on our waking conscience.

But what about the consequences of our past life? Must the consequences remain? Yes, they do. God doesn’t snap His finger and they disappear. Even though God calls us perfect saints, the consequences remain because they are God’s ordained means of keeping us secure in Him, dependent on His continued imputed righteousness. We learn the precious lesson from Christ, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul’s response is ours, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Cor. 12:9).

We can lose His imputed righteousness by neglecting our surrender to Him, and no longer stand before Him in innocence. The consequences of our past do us two favors. They test our initial faith and repentance while we continue to live with the consequences of our past; and if we slip back into the old life, they remind us to again run to Christ whom we absent-mindedly had forsaken. The other benefit consequences give us is that they keep us reminded of the dangers of sin, especially those tailored to our weaknesses, and they keep us fearful of losing our salvation.

But, through continued faith in Christ, our consequences are easy and light. Seeing Him lovingly bear the burdens of a sinful world in His death, and the consequences of others throughout His life, gives us the resolution to bear up under the fruits of the sinfulness we have sown and even to shoulder the weight of others’ evil harvest of sin.

Those who have come to believe God’s promise, to forgive them and forget their past, will accept whatever punishment they deserve—whether sticking with a difficult marriage or with dysfunctional children and grandchildren, or repaying all debts to their creditors while returning their tithe to God, or even accepting a prison sentence, and even capital punishment. All those who hear the Spirit’s voice to their soul will be so happy God has given them what they’ve waited so long for—by accepting them and opening the Bible to them—that they will suffer anything for Him.

They will live simply and humbly for the rest of their days. God has made His face to shine upon them and given them peace. The battle is over. They lost and God won; the devil lost and they won. God has imputed to them righteousness and acceptance, and they are reconciled to Him. They are freed to accept Christ’s imparted righteousness as they look at His life, to obey His law of liberty, and to live for Him forever.


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