Here i am. I stand alone and without defense or excuse. Here is a true and accurate judgment of myself and therefore upon myself:
Made in the image of God, I have sinned and have fallen short of that image.
Bearing His glory, I have fallen short of that glory.
I am not righteous, and I do not understand.
I have not sought God but have turned aside, away from Him.
I have become unprofitable, and I do not do good.
My throat is an open tomb; with my tongue I have practiced deceit.
The poison of serpents is under my lips, and my mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
My feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in my ways.
The way of peace I have not known, and there is no fear of God before my eyes.
The ground under my feet is cursed for my sake; in toil I shall eat of it all the days of my life.
The ground brings forth both thorns and thistles for me, and only by the sweat of my face shall I
eat bread, until I have returned to the ground.
For out of the dust I was taken.
i am dust, and to dust I shall return.
i am born in death, and amidst death I live.
My name is Man, Adam, and this is who i am.
My name is Charles David Erlandson and this is who i am.
But God “justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5).
How can this be? Here is what God, the Just One, told the Israelites: “If there is a dispute
between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt” (Deuteronomy 25:1-2). If murder, kidnapping, witchcraft, adultery, and homosexuality were worthy of death in the Old Testament, what shall we say about the sins we commit against God Himself, and a lifetime of committing them?
God is righteous and just, holy and perfect. i am who i am: a sinner who is not worthy of the presence of God but only of death.
But God justifies the ungodly.
How can this be, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God? (Romans 3:23).
Here’s how it can be and is! We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith” (verses 24-25).
You all know the details of theories of the atonement, or at least some of them. At least I hope you do! But what does this really mean? How can I who am sinful be justified by God, who is just and righteous? Because God who is holy and just is also loving and merciful. How can God do this and maintain His holiness and justice? It would be a long and laborious explanation to describe all that this involves, if ever I could understand it.
But I do know this, and it is enough. I know that for me to truly be set free and declared righteous (and not merely pardoned, although still guilty), I must be united to Jesus Christ. God can’t lie and call me righteous when I’m still clearly not: I still sin. For me to be declared righteous, I must have the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But His righteousness is not some substance He passes on to me. It’s not like concentrated evil in the movie Time Bandits
I’m going to do you all a big fat favor and synthesize 3 leading views of what the righteousness of God is. Here, I’ll give you a little, one-question, multiple choice quiz.
Throughout the book of Romans, when St. Paul uses the phrase “the righteousness of God,” he means:
a. a divine attributeb. a divine activity
c. a divine achievement
d. all of the above [Hint: choose ‘d’]
The way I see it, the righteousness of God is God’s personal righteousness of character that He exercises in giving us His righteousness, which, by faith in Jesus Christ, puts into effect the salvation of mankind that God in His righteousness promised. I see all 3 definitions of God’s righteousness as being, in essence, one. And I see God’s righteousness as being one with His love, for out of His love He made His promises, and out of His love He sent His Son, and out of His love He gave us His righteousness, which cannot be a substance but must be attached to a person – His Son.
And how can Christ be made sin, and how can the Father allow Him to offer Himself as the Sacrifice for the sins of the world, unless He really be sin and take them on Himself? Because we are united to Jesus Christ, and He is united to us!
Your Sunday school teacher was right: the answer is always Jesus!
Here i am. A sinner by birth and an heir of death, and God, by His grace, gives me the gift of His righteousness by giving me the gift of His Son.
Mothers used to teach us to write Thank You notes (I don’t know if they do this anymore). What kind of Thank You note does God’s gift make you want to send Him?
Think quick! What was the best gift you ever received? Maybe a Christmas gift, a birthday gift, a graduation gift, a new job, or an engagement ring. What was your response?
How much greater should your thankfulness be to God for His gifts that are beyond all human counting. According to Ripley, Asur-bani-pal of Assyria had a treasure hoard of more than 4 billion ounces of gold (believe it or not!) This is almost 7 times the amount of gold Fort Knox held at its peak and is equal to the total amount of gold supply in the world today!
But you know what? God has given me a gift worth much more than Asur-bani-pal’s treasury, only it’s a treasure that cannot be dissolved or stolen or confiscated.
I am also forever indebted to God for giving me my wife, Jackie, a treasure worth more to me than Asur-bani-pal’s treasure. But how much more indebted I am for Him giving me His Son. How much I wanted to please my loving parents when I was a kid, but how much more I should want to please my heavenly Father who has given me every good gift!
We should all do theology to a certain degree, but whatever theology you’re reading or thinking or living, make sure that it helps you understand this: that out of His treasury of love, God the Father sent the Son to be our righteousness, when we were sinners who had fallen short of the glory of God.
Prayer: All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world. I earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, I, and thy whole Church, may obtain remission of my sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here I offer and present unto thee, O Lord, my self, my soul and body, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee. Amen.
Point for Meditation: How does God’s inestimable gift of grace make you feel? What would be an appropriate response today to receiving this gift from God. What kind of Thank You note to God do you think you should send Him?
Resolution: I resolve to meditate on God’s gift of grace and life through His Son to me, a sinner, until I have heard Him tell me what a pleasing Thank You note to Him today will be.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson