Paul once wrote about how he struggled with sin. He talked about doing the things he did not want to do. I get that. He also talked about not doing the things he did want to do. I get that part also. He lamented about how tough it was to be saved by Christ, yet still caught up in sinful desires. Check that box too. Then, in the midst of his lamentations, Paul draws up and ends the pity party by clearly declaring thanks for Jesus, because “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ!” This is where a lot of Christians get waylaid in their walk with God.
That is what Jeff Vanderstelt is addressing in the fourth chapter of his book, Saturate. He simply reminds Christians that Jesus is better than our self condemnation and pity parties. Because those just bring guilt, while Jesus brings freedom. Jesus has set us free from our sins.
Vanderstelt is talking about a theological term called Justification. I ran that word through wikipedia, because, as Michael Scott so eloquently said,
And wikipedia said, “Justification, in Christian theology, is God’s act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time declaring a sinner righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.” And that is as good of a definition as I would have written. And it is exactly what Vanderstelt was talking about.
When Vanderstelt got mad and punched a door, he was sinning in his anger toward his wife. After we have sinned, the strength of our belief in justification, God’s declaration of our righteousness in Christ, is displayed by our reaction to our sin. Do we hide our sin? Do we deny our sin? Do we defensively point out other people’s sin? Do we work harder at being good, attempting to erase our sin? Jeff was sorely tempted to hide his sin, by lying. Later, he was tempted to ignore his sin by not talking about it. In each of these cases, Jeff had to remind himself of what the bible says, we have been saved.
In an instant.
When we submitted ourselves to Christ, God declared us not guilty of our sin.
Why then, do we need to hide, cover up, ignore, obscure, or deflect attention from our sin? Because we are struggling to believe the gospel, which tells us Jesus paid for our sins. We do not have to work off our debt, because Jesus paid the price. We do not have to endure a punishment, because Jesus died in our place. We do not have do more good, because Jesus’ perfect goodness has been credited to us. Jesus is a better savior than our self flagellation. Better than our self pity. Better than our self hate. Better than our modified behavior plans. Jesus is better.
Now, is Jeff telling us this to boost our self esteem and remind us that everyday is a Friday? Gosh, I hope not.
He is telling us this because justification is one of the foundations of authentic Christian community. If we all come together on the basis of our mutual commitment to living as good people, I will have to be very closed and guarded with respect to my sin, lest anyone discover that I don’t actually fit in this little Christian clique. We cannot be in authentic community if we are not able to be our authentic selves. And those authentic selves, this side of death, struggle with sin, just like Paul did. We all need justification.
In the rest of the book, you will read more accounts of people struggling with sin, but what you will not see, is an expectation that people fix themselves. You will see people being reminded of the gospel time and time again. You will see people confessing sin, publicly, time and time again. You will see people being called out on their sin, sometimes publicly, time and time again. All of this happens because no one in Soma earned their righteousness. It was always given by God.
That is one of the primary foundations of authentic Christian community: apart from Christ’s work and the Father’s declaration, we are all just sinners. Because of our Justification, we are able to be our authentic selves.