Guilt-free, because my good deeds outweigh my bad ones?
To some extent, that’s how many people begin life seeing themselves. It seems fair enough, that the scale of justification should declare us innocent if we can rack up more good deeds than bad, despite the fact we are quicker to forget, forgive and rationalize the bad with surprising efficiency. I think that’s how we would have preferred that things work. Now hear this from Todd Wilken:
“Members of the jury, I am not asking for mercy or pardon. I want justice. I am demanding full acquittal. Yes, I committed the murder of which I am accused. But I am not guilty. You must consider all my good deeds – not merely as mitigating circumstances but as reason for exonerating me. The goodness of my other deeds outweighs the crime I committed. My good deeds require a “not guilty” verdict. If justice is to be done, you must find me innocent.”
This is not just a plea for leniency, but a bold assertion of innocence. It assumes that guilt is cancelled by our compensating good deeds. This seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? An approach to God that depends on balancing our good deeds and bad deeds is certainly no less ridiculous. This is a pathetic case being made for self-justification. And yet many people believe that if there is a scale and if God is “fair,” it will in the end “tilt” in their favor. Sometimes we as Christians default to a similar mindset in a futile effort to maintain God’s favor, undervaluing the gift of grace and the cost that this grace was borne by others.
Scripture tells us that we begin life on earth subject to God’s wrath (Romans 1) and totally without righteous standing before Him (Romans 3). So how should we think that God looks at things, a God who is immeasurably holy, moral, perfect and pure beyond our comprehension? Do we really think He sees what we imagine to be our “good deeds” and weighs them against what we determine to be “bad deeds?” This would be one more pathetic defense of our defiance against Him. Nothing we could ever do could make up for bad deeds, and frankly, we are totally incapable of fairly judging just where our deeds and thoughts might fall on God’s scale if He had one.
Fortunately for us, God found a way to declare the guilty just and retain His integrity while doing it. Not by the blood of unblemished bulls and goats. But by the blood of the unblemished Lamb, Jesus. Our sin-stained blood could never atone for the even the first of our sins, let alone all of them or all of the sins of the world . . . for all times. We need not worry about making payment for the payment came to us as a gift. We could swim in God’s ocean of grace for a lifetime, and I hope we will, yet never fully take in the depth of what has been done for us. What a life-killing weight guilt and shame create, and yet the wise and grateful need not carry an ounce. This understanding should not only give us cause for ecstatic worship, but should fuel our desire to show others where the source of this relief and joy are found. Think About It.