The closer you get to anything or anyone, the more you see their defects. Everything looks better from a distance. The divine blindness given to women to take the hand of us men at the altar eventually wears off and they behold, in unadorned living color, an abundance of unflattering detail. And so it is with all believers, the more we see and know, the more we understand that every saint stands as a trophy of God’s grace, giving testimony to God’s infinite mercy to the underserving. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”
Yet, God calls us “saints” or “holy ones of the Highest One” (Daniel 7: 18, 22, 25). “Holy” speaks of being set apart from the profane to moral excellence and purity. God is perfectly holy, in Him dwells no moral imperfection. As applied to believers, we have been deemed morally perfect as clothed in the righteousness of Christ’s perfect obedience and payment for our sin on the cross, the righteousness imputed to us when we embraced Him by faith. We are no longer evil in God’s sight.
Our efforts could never merit this infinite gift, yet we own His righteousness as united to Him by faith. In the overflow of God’s goodness, He chose us to be His and holy in eternity past (Eph. 1:4), and unites us to Christ in a bond of love the moment we embrace Him by faith. Christ met the requirements of God’s strict and unchanging justice on our behalf. We stand legally blameless and in possession of the righteousness, forgiveness, and infinite merit He earned for us, and will soon “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:24) as we forever enjoy the rewards for His obedience. We are trophies of grace, though Christ belongs on the pedestal.
At the same time, the mirror tells a different story. Our best efforts fall painfully short of the perfection of our legal standing in Christ. And the closer we grow to God and the more we know of His infinite excellence, the worse we appear. The brilliance of God’s holiness exposes in clear detail anything falling short of its excellence. Therefore, “everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20), at least until God shines “in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
Perhaps you have been disgusted and demoralized by an increased sight of the wickedness of your heart as you grow in your knowledge of God. Maybe you are frustrated at your slow progress in becoming more like Christ, or too often you resemble the “fool” more than the “wise man” of Proverbs. Yet, along with your fellow brothers and sisters,
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
Someone once said that that Apostle Paul was never so close to God as when he called himself the greatest of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). In the same way, as we grow in our love and knowledge of God and the light of His holiness reveals greater and deeper sin within us, we revel in the love and mercy that washed it white as snow. As “holy ones of the Highest One,” we are precious in His sight and fit to enjoy Him forever in the blood-bought robe of Christ’s righteousness.
Unless noted otherwise, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995. Used by permission.
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© 2017 Craig Biehl, author of God the Reason, The Box, The Infinite Merit of Christ, and Reading Religious Affections
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