Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Does God See When He Looks at You?

And Does it Matter?


A Matthew Gallatin podcast I recently cited speaks of a phrase "one hears frequently in Evangelical circles. I used it hundreds of times in my Evangelical life and I’ve heard it at least that many more. Anyone raised in the Evangelical world has been told this: because Jesus died on the cross, when God looks at me, He no longer sees me. He sees Jesus instead."

The variant of it I've usually heard and read is, when God looks at me, He doesn't see my sins. He sees the righteousness of Jesus instead.

If this were literally true, we'd all be in big trouble. Because, if God doesn't see my sins, how will I flee to Him when in distress because of them? How can I pray, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness" or "Create in me a clean heart, O Lord"?

Furthermore, we can't really say of God that He is blind to reality. One reality is that I am a sinner. We can't assert that the God of Truth denies the truth.

Perhaps this phrase about God not seeing our sins means not exactly that God is unaware of our sins - surely He is very clear on that point! - but that when He looks at us, although He sees our sins, He also and mostly sees a another, perhaps deeper, reality. The sticky part comes when we try to say that that other reality is. The reality that I am a sinner is thought to be made into a new and non-manifest reality, namely that I am not, by God's declaring it to be so. That's magic. God doesn't just say abracadabra and I'm suddenly a saint in spite of my continuing defilement in thought, word, and deed. To the extent I am a sinner, I am not yet a saint, and to the extent I am a saint, I am no longer a sinner. That's the reality.

What God does see, in addition to our sin, is our repentance and our faith. And He counts our faith as righteousness because it truly IS, and always was, the very definition of righteousness. Keeping faith with God as best we can (and that last is usually fairly pitiful), is the very definition of righteousness and, let us note, not some substitute for it.

But I suggest that when we look at God, we need to see a deeper reality, and that reality is: it isn't anything about us that prompts God to love us or be gracious to us or be compassionate, kind, merciful toward us. It isn't because He doesn't see our sins or because He only sees Christ's righteousness or even because He sees our repentance and faith. It's nothing about us at all. It's something about Him; namely, that He IS love. He comes to seek and to save the lost sheep. He comes to heal the sick. He comes to die and rise for us, while we were yet sinners.

That's what the Evangelical phrase ought to mean, not that God fails to see what's there, but that He does not treat us accordingly. Or rather, He does treat us according to our sins, just not in the way we had expected. Where we had expected the punishment we deserve, He instead heals our sins, corrects us, sets us on a new path, forgives us and restores us, comes to dwell in us and glorifies us.

Christ is Risen!
Truly He is risen!

3 comments:

Nina said...

"What God does see, in addition to our sin, is our repentance and our faith. And He counts our faith as righteousness because it truly IS, and always was, the very definition of righteousness. Keeping faith with God as best we can (and that last is usually fairly pitiful), is the very definition of righteousness and, let us note, not some substitute for it."

Oh....that is good....and sooo true!

s-p said...

The horrific variant on "clothed with Christ" is "Jesus is our absestos suit against the white hot anger of God". Good post (as usual).

Alex said...

this was good stuff ministered to me just one thing God no longer calls us sinners and if we keep calling ourselves sinners then we will live in defeat instead we should instead we should walk, talk and act like what the bible calls us and that's kings and priests saints royal priesthood children of the living God but no longer sinners Lord bless you and keep contending for the faith!