It was not long after I got my driver’s license that I was issued my first ticket. I didn’t have my lights on. It was not even 5pm in the middle of July. I could see perfectly as far as I was concerned, but the officer who pulled me over decided differently. Maybe I’m looking back with rose colored glasses (which I tend to do), or maybe not, but I think it was that ticket that flipped a switch in my brain. I didn’t have a perfect record anymore. What was the point of striving to be a good, careful driver when I had already been labeled a “bad driver” and had the ticket and fine to prove it. I received 13 tickets in my first 4 years of driving. Being a bad driver became a part my persona. I was intentionally reckless after that first ticket.
Sometimes I have a similar attitude towards God’s command in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect”.
It’s too late. My record is tainted. Why struggle so hard to inevitably fail over and over and over again. I’m already a sinner. I already deserve death and eternity in hell. It’s who I am. It’s so much easier to just accept that label and relish the role. “Sinners are much more fun” anyway, right, Billy Joel?
Then you read a verse like Romans 3:23
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
That’s it. I’ve failed. We’ve all failed. What kind of crazy pitcher tries to throw a no hitter when he’s never thrown a strike in his life? Just let me live my life how I want to live it without all that pressure and futility.
Only that’s not it. That’s not it at all. Let me tell you why my driving record is so infinitely different than my slate of sins which determines my eligibility for salvation:
“ And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
My slate of sins has nothing to do with my eligibility for salvation! My record in heaven shows nothing more than Christ crucified! I have been purchased and won! Talk about a debt of gratitude!
For each “violation” that should be on my record, Jesus came along and placed it on his own. He paid the fines and shouldered the shame so that I could be with him forever in paradise!
Your slate in heaven is spotless of sin! It shows only the life that Jesus lived in perfect obedience to God!
Luther sums it up beautifully in his explanation to the 2nd article:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Scripture also confirms our clean slate and comforts our souls with a description of Christ’s motivation for removing our guilt.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Because of Jesus we are not stuck in the frustration and futility of striving for unachievable perfection. Because of Jesus we live a life of thanksgiving to a God who made the greatest sacrifice. Our efforts at being obedient children of God stem not from necessity to earn salvation. That salvation is won. We strive in order to thank a God who freed us from the chains of guilt and eternal death regardless of our actions past, present, and future. We are free and clean, loved by a God who delights in us and awaits the day we join him in paradise!