Friday, November 2, 2012

Lifting Up Our Shamefaced Heads

Earlier this week I had a thought that surprised me for its vileness. I considered, more seriously than I’d like to admit—even to myself—doing something mean because I wanted to put someone else down to make myself seem better. I didn’t turn the thought into action and it was tempting to gloss over my sin as insignificant.

Yet it wasn't insignificant. It showed the corruption of my heart, a rot in my core. My thoughts were thoroughly shameful and it pained me to bring them to the light, examine them and admit they were mine.

How thankful I am that Christ’s own righteousness is counted as mine! It's the one truth that can turn despair over sin into joyful relief.  As the Heidelberg Catechism (Question 60) says, I am righteous before God, even though 
my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments,
of never having kept any of them,
and of still being inclined toward all evil,
without any merit of my own,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
and as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.
I am acceptable to God not because of my own worthiness (and not because of the worthiness of my faith, either, which is also not what it should be) but because of "the satisfation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ" which "is my righteousness before God."

I know God sees my sin, right down to my fleeting horrid thoughts, but at the same time, he sees me through the lens of Christ's own righteousness. I am forever graciously clothed in Christ's righteousness. As Leon Morris points out, 
this means more than being pardoned. The pardoned criminal bears no penalty, but he bears a stigma. He is a criminal and he is known as a criminal, albeit an unpunished one. The justified sinner not only bears no penalty; he is righteous. He is not a man with his sins still about him.1
Or in my case, as a justified sinner, I am not a woman with my sins still about me.

If I were not counted righteous in Christ, would I have admitted the seriousness of my sin? I'm not sure. Maybe, but maybe not. Without Christ's righteous record counted as my own, would I have felt the need to build my own good record? And since I couldn't do it by not sinning, would I have done it by ignoring my sin?

Because God counts me righteous in Christ, I am free to see my sin as it is without despairing. I have no need to minimize it. I can confess my sin honestly because it does not change how God sees me; it does not change my standing before God. Christ's righteousness gives me the joyful relief that comes from knowing that, because of Christ, I bear no shame.

Count Zinzindorf writes in his hymn Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness that Jesus's "blood and righteousness" (These two words are code for all Christ's obedience in his life and death counted as our own.)
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
That Christ's righteousness is ours causes us to lift up our heads in joy. Zinzindorf is refering to the time of judgment at the end of the age, but what will be true for us then is also true for us now. Right now, I stand before God as a sinner declared righteous in Christ. I am beautifully dressed in his blood and righteousness.

And this is true for all believers. We have no stigma; we are not people with our sins still about us. Because Christ's righteousness is counted as ours, we can lift up our shamefaced heads with joy. 

1From The Cross in the New Testament


  1. Wonderful words of comfort and truth; He ever lives to make intercession for us!

  2. Wonder–full is the atoning work of Christ. Thank you for such a reminder, Rebecca.

  3. With joy I shall lift my head...Being clothed in Christ's righteousness has been on my mind lately, so tears sprang to my eyes as I read this post. It's another than makes my heart sing, and I thank you, Rebecca.

  4. Bless the Lord for the great comfort to our souls that His imputed righteousness brings. Thank you for this Rebecca - I've been quite low of late and this is a balm to my heart today.

  5. Thank you all for your encouraging comments!

  6. WONERFUL truths, well-put. I second Diane.