I can still vividly remember a moment when my life of faith took a stark U-turn. It was the fall of 2007 and I was sitting in my car at an intersection on Highway 62. At the time, my small group had been studying the book How People Change and we were being challenged to repent of our sin AND righteousness.
At first, I thought that this had to be a typo. Surely my righteousness was something to be built up and strengthened, not repented of?! I had spent the last 25 years of my life working hard to shore up my righteousness. But now a new concept was rattling around inside my head – this weird-sounding notion from the Reformation. The idea is that we need to cling to the “wholly alien” righteousness of Christ and let go of our self-made righteousness.
I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. This was so scary! What if I chose to stop building and defending my own moral record and instead put all my eggs in the basket of Christ’s accomplishments? If I stopped motivating myself with guilt, shame, and fear, would I fly off the rails into a reckless, lawless lifestyle? I took a deep breath. Really, there was no choice. To continue to cling to my moral record was to reject Christ. I decided to trust Him alone and then deal with the fallout, whatever that may be.
What happened next was very surprising. I really began to sense that I was now in Christ’s debt. What I found out is that His heart is kind. He actually wants to be merciful to me, even without my manipulative attempts to receive it from Him. A new feeling welled up inside me: gratitude. Increasingly, my choices to obey him began to flow from that spring. I actually wanted to obey him because of his compassionate and surprising love for me.
To this day, I still battle against a strong desire to build and defend my own record, but the Lord is faithful to keep revealing to me how silly this is. There is nothing more matchless then Christ’s achievements. By sheer generosity, He freely gives it to me, and it can never be lost. When I fail, my righteousness is never truly at stake any more. “Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art. I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.”