I am a recovering legalist. I grew up with the kind of conviction that severely ruined my CD collection after every church camp I went to. So my temptation in dealing with sin/idolatry has always been to try real hard to live better. I’ve been motivated by guilt and a very strong work ethic most of my life (my grandpa gave me a shovel as a gift one time. I was 7).
Because of this, I believed my sanctification, my justification, and my glorification relied heavily on me. I was covered in the sweat of my effort.
But the Gospel says we are covered in the blood of Christ. And that blood purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7). All of it.
I’m reading a book by Randy Pope in which he describes the Gospel like this:
1. We lost it all
2. He did it all
3. We get it all
By “we lost it all,” I simply mean “we” (all humankind) lost it “all” (our perfection and everything else good) at the fall of Adam and Eve.
“He” refers to Jesus. He “did it all” by doing everything necessary for salvation.
Then “we” (those who are his children) “get it all.” We get everything necessary for our salvation and new spiritual life.
Sound good? Of course it does. But I think many of us don’t really believe this. Instead, we believe:
1. We lost a lot.
2. He did a lot.
3. We get a lot.
As he goes on to illustrate this “distorted gospel,” it’s essentially the belief that we have some good left in us, we took the little bit of goodness left in us and created some faith and repentance, and then we don’t get Jesus’ full righteousness because we have some of our own.
This makes us perform to earn God’s favor. This makes us sweaty instead of bloody. If we are sweaty, we appeal to the goodness we believe we have left in order for God to cut us some slack. If we are bloody, Jesus makes the appeal for us on His behalf. If Jesus did a lot, God’s favor is only partial and we have to prove ourselves to Him. If Jesus did it all, we are free.
We are tragically finite in our ability to atone for the sin in our lives and appease the God who will judge (Hebrews 10:4). But the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). The blood cleanses our conscience (Hebrews 9:14). The blood redeems us (Colossians 1:14). Sweat makes us think we did something to earn all that.
Are you covered in the sweat of your effort? Or are you covered in the blood of Jesus?