To answer this question, we have to look only two chapters backwards from the above excerpt. In Romans 5, Paul clearly lays out the answer to our sin problem: Faith. As many pastors have said before, you will never attain righteousness based on your ability to be “good” and maintain a set of rules. Righteousness belongs to God alone, and to his Son Jesus Christ. It is ONLY by your trust in Jesus Christ that you are guaranteed right standing before God. Some have foolishly tried over the centuries to argue with the idea that your salvation is “guaranteed,” saying that it’s not man’s business to say for certain whether God considers them righteous or not. To those critics, I would point to 1 John 1:8-10, which reads as follows:
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
First, you should note the unequivocal use of the word “will,” in verse 9. If you confess, God WILL forgive. It’s that simple. It’s also important to note, though, that you have to acknowledge your sinfulness before any restoration can take place. Jesus blasted the religious conservatives of his day, calling them “whitewashed tombs,” because of their hypocritical judgment of those around them whom they viewed as somehow “more sinful” than themselves. Jesus used the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to illustrate his point that it’s not your goodness which makes you righteous, but rather the honest cry of a sinner in desperate need of grace.
This ministry of Grace, however, is often subject to abuse. Paul warns his readers in between Chapters 5 and 7 about the dangers of abusing the system. The author of Hebrews also issued a similarly dangerous warning to anyone who would think that this system of Grace allows us to live as we please. If I were hypothetically pulled over on the freeway doing 90+ miles per hour, and an officer asked me what possible justification I had, it would be highly unwise for me to respond, “but officer, I’m covered by the Grace of Jesus.” Your actions have consequences. Everyone has learned at some point in their life, whether at elementary school, or at home with a wooden paddle lovingly applied to your rear, that there are in fact some punishments which are non-negotiable. Do not take the commands of the Living God lightly.
I’ve written in the past about the difference between Salvation and Sanctification. Salvation is the instantaneous process at the moment of your confession of faith where God exchanges your sinfulness for the righteousness and perfection bought through his Son. Sanctification, on the other hand, is the lifelong and often painful process of being made more Christ-like. Too often I think we forget that we’re never going to be “done” making mistakes as long as we live on this earth, and we tend to fall into the guilt trap of thinking that we’ve somehow failed God, and we’ll never again measure up to the grand destiny he had in store for us. The thing about your destiny is that it’s impossible to miss.
Today I encourage you to take an honest look at yourself, and realize that you’ve never done anything to earn your righteousness, apart from trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Don’t feel obligated to hide your mess from God, or others in your life who may need to know about it. Bring your whole self into God’s light…
especially your mess.