Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The power of imputation

"And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." Romans 4:5

When we hold out the empty hands of faith, God freely imputes to us Christ's righteousness, establishing us eternally under his smile. There is no penalty box for rule-breakers, for all are rule-breakers to whom God credits perfect play because of Christ.

Here is the only answer to our sense of judgment within. Only the voice of God can persuasively refute the accusations of conscience. That divine voice we now hear in the gospel and can announce to ourselves moment by moment, whenever the accusing voice within would rob us of our peace and joy in Christ.

After Jonathan Edwards' seraphic description of Christian humility in his "Thoughts on the Revival," my favorite passage in all of literature outside the Bible comes from Martin Luther's letter to his discouraged friend Jerome Weller in 1530:

"Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, at once seek out the company of men, drink more, joke and jest, or engage in some other form of merriment. Sometimes it is necessary to drink a little more, play, jest, or even commit some sin in defiance and contempt of the devil in order not to give him an opportunity to make us scrupulous about trifles. . . .

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also.'"

Theodore G. Tappert, editor, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, page 86.

With our appropriate emphasis today on accountability among us men, let's not forget to hold each other accountable to this, the highest exercise of the gospel in our lives: to be so happy in the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we defy the devil and all his destroying accusations and throw them back into his face to shame him even as we triumph by faith in Christ, to his honor and glory as the only Savior of sinners.