God has been doing surgery to my heart lately. He is doing surgery to my heart because He is taking what is in my head and putting it in my heart…which is how it should be anyways. But no matter how good surgery is for you, it is still uncomfortable, but the results it yields makes you wonder why you didn’t have that surgery far sooner. The surgery that I am talking about is God taking my theology of justification and placing it in my heart.
I am finishing up my Intro to Biblical Counseling class, and this has really been the catalyst for the change in my heart. I have been a pastor for around five years now, and I have dealt with many hurting and broken people, and I have hurt for them as well. I am an empathetic person. I’m what they call a “feeler.” On the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator I am an ENFP. The F stands for feeling (I make decisions based off feelings over thinking). This F is most commonly found in girls’ personality types, yet I scored a 100% feeling on the test, go figure. I’ll blame it on having a twin sister, the same reason I blame my first ever concert being Spice Girls. So, anyways…I feel for people…easily. Yet through my time in the ministry, I have come to realize that my feelings for hurting people have been somewhat off base. I have counseled people in sin and hurt for them, but my hurting was more along the lines of “They sinned. Oh no. We’ve got to do something to change this.” And, this is not completely off base. We should care enough for a person that we want God’s best for them, which is to not sin. But, I don’t think that is necessarily the thought that God has about these people. And, this is where my heart surgery is happening. It’s about justification.
Justification means that you have been declared innocent and righteous by God. It means that the guilt and penalty of sin has been removed and the sinner is declared righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. And, this is credited to the sinner’s account through faith in Christ alone, without works (Eph 2:8; Rom 3:20-24). So, this justification is unmerited.
Here is where my head and heart have collided. I know the theology of justification. It is in my head. Yet, my practice to myself and others looks so often as if justification is a work in progress and has something to do with the sinner’s striving. But, that’s not the case. When you yield faith in Christ, you ARE justified. By the blood of Jesus you are declared perfect in the eyes of God.
So this is where my heart surgery is happening: If you are in Christ, even in your sin, you are perfect in the eyes of God.
Now, I did not say because of your sin. I said in your sin. We are justified because of the sinless Christ. Our justification is not taken away because of sinful self. Christ’s sinless atonement covers every one of our sins. If our positive actions do not posit our justification, our negative actions do not negate our justification.
So, this is the outcome of my heart surgery. I am viewing myself and others in a whole different light. I think it’s in the light that God sees us as well. Someone struggling with sin is doing just that…struggling. They are not condemned (Rom 8:1), and they are still perfect in God’s eyes. But when you come to Christ, your heart is changed. You are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Your desires are set above (or they want to be set above). The thing is, we are still on this fallen and sinful earth in these fallen and sinful bodies with these fallen and sinful minds. We are new creatures in the midst of the biggest battle of all time. And, from the time one accepts Christ until the second we see Him in glory, we are constantly fighting this battle. It never stops. Even Paul, who is one of the greatest Christians of all time (if it were possible to say that) dealt with this. Read his account in Romans 7:14-25.
The outcome of my heart surgery…God taking my theology of justification from my head and placing it in my heart…has allowed me to do this: rest in my justification. I don’t mean that it has allowed me to sit in my lazy boy of justification and follow the whims of sin (Rom 6:15). No, what I mean is that it has allowed me to see myself and others as God does…perfect and righteous. Empathy abounds in justification, because it is no longer “that person sinned.” But, it is “that person is struggling with sin.” And that’s exactly what it is…a struggle. And, we are to be people of grace, because that grace has been freely given to us through our justification. So, we should lovingly walk beside people through their sin, guiding them and encouraging them in the Lord. We should empathize with one another. We should be quicker to listen than to give a solution. We should care about each others’ souls. We should care about everybody’s souls.
We should rest in our justification and lovingly guide people towards sanctification, and one day all who are in Christ will be glorified…the ones who struggle and the ones who don’t, because we are each just as perfect in the eyes of God because the same perfect Jesus is standing before each one of us.
I will leave you with the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:7: “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”