Right Believing Leads to Right Living
by Cris Corzine-McCloskey
“The power to overcoming sin is found in knowing that you are righteous. When a believer is struggling with sin, it is a case of mistaken identity. He thinks he is still a dirty rotten sinner, and as a result, he continues to live that way. But the more he sees he has been made righteous apart from his works, the more he will be empowered to live righteously.” – Joseph Prince
Grace, according to Romans 5:20 (Message Bible) can be described as God’s aggressive forgiveness, and it has the power to transform everything about your Christian experience. However, aggressive forgiveness is way more than an eye-catching phrase; it is the power of the cross. For example, 2 Cor 5:21 (NIV) says that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
That is amazing, because that means that Christ did not ‘carry’ our sin, as I had previously thought, he became our sin. That’s important, because had he carried our sin, he could have put our sin down, but instead he became our sin, so we could become His righteousness. He couldn’t put our sin down any more than we can put his righteousness down. That means that when we fail, we are still the righteousness of God in Christ. It’s a fact that transcends our actions, it is simply who we are in Christ if we are believers. We are righteous, even when we sin, because we are in Christ. However, it is the knowledge of that righteousness in Christ that holds the key to victory over sin.
Sadly, the number one protest I hear to the message of grace is that if people start to realize that they are righteous apart from how they act, they will go out and sin like crazy. Apparently, the Apostle Paul was preaching grace so strongly that he got the same argument (see Rom 6), but he did not let that deter him from this message. I believe that Paul knew that right believing leads to right living. After all, Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks within himself, so he is. Furthermore, Proverbs 18:20-21 also says that from the fruit (words) of our mouth our stomach is filled; with the harvest from our lips we are satisfied. And it says that the tongue has the power of life and death. That means that when we say things like “I’m never going to change,” or, “I just can’t stop drinking (eating, drugging, etc),” we are speaking out things that we believe about ourselves. As a man thinks within himself, so he is. Guilt, condemnation, and a repeat of the cycle of sin are sure to follow.
Now, consider someone who has finally started to understand that they are righteous because of Christ, and not because of how they act. When they fail, they can brush themselves off and praise Jesus for the forgiveness and righteousness that comes from his sacrifice, and go on. When that person starts declaring themselves righteous because of Christ and thinking of themselves that way, because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, victory will ensue
If this sounds too good to be true, let me add a few more statements of faith that will empower you to start seeing yourself the way God sees you. When we are in Christ, we are seen by God as saints. Indeed, the Apostle Paul used that exact title when addressing believers over 60 times in the bible. And it was the title he used to address the church when they were suing one another and sleeping with temple prostitutes. That would have been an awesome opportunity to call them dirty rotten sinners, but instead he called them saints.
We are saints not because of what we do, but because of who we are ‘in’…we are in Christ, and therefore we are saints in God’s grace in Christ, so we can hold our heads up, because God has crowned us with favor. The book of Ephesians is full of treasures about our standing in Christ. It says that we are blessed. We have all that we need in Christ, and we are chosen by God. We are also redeemed, forgiven, holy, and blameless in God’s sight. We are beloved children of the creator of the universe, and we are his prized possessions. Restated, we are trophies of God’s grace in Christ. Chew on those facts for a while, and see if they don’t have the power to set you free from whatever cycle of defeat you find yourself in.