Tonight I did a quick read of “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” by Timothy Keller. He asks a worthwhile question: “Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance?”
[Chew on that a moment…]
Widely held beliefs in this world (even our own, sometimes) are that performance dictates the verdict. That is utterly backwards. Keller observes, “All this means that every day you are in the courtroom, every day you are on trial.”
Just yesterday I did something I thought was right. … Today I was convicted it was wrong. Quite wrong.
Where does that leave me? I have basically three choices: rationalization, despair, or repentance. Rationalizing it is that courtroom trial Keller alluded to. Through my life I’ve avoided the court system; why would I want one in my head? Despair is no good—I’ve been down that road far too many times; it leads to its own set of problems.
That leaves Door #3, which is Choice #1: Repentance. You see, I blew it—big time. But “who… I… am…” is in the Lord. [Hallelujah!] I am washed clean. As Keller writes, “the verdict is already in.” My identity is not wrapped up in what I did yesterday. God does not stamp an identity on me based on my Error Du Jour.
Now, a caveat: I **did** learn from it. The Spirit of the living God cut me to the quick about it, and I confessed in agreement my wrong. Then I spoke to someone close to me about it. Yes, and I guess I may man-up and make a couple of apologies. Meh. Ah, the life of a human being!
No doubt I’ll think about this awhile; it will affect my future choices. Those in Christ are being changed, and the goof (entirely My Bad), will play out as part of that process of what God is doing in me.
Keller’s little book is based on I Cor. 3:21 – 4:7. I’ll select Ch. 4, Vv. 3-4: “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”
Indeed, nobody is our judge, or can acquit us (even we ourselves can’t)—only God. We need to keep our heads on straight. Keller states it well: “He [Paul] does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity. He will not make a connection. Neither does he see an accomplishment and congratulate himself. He sees all kinds of sins in himself – and all kinds of accomplishments too – but he refuses to connect them with himself or his identity.”