The mirror

I believe today that the Lord his given me an illustration of the apparent tension between our righteous standing as children of God (2 Cor 5v17) and our sanctification (that is the living out of His righteousness). While every child of God is a saint, a holy one, set apart for Him (we are NOT sinners anymore - the old has gone, all things have become new, 2 Cor 5v17), we do still sin (hence John reminds us "if we sin we have an advocate with the Father", 1 John 2v1).

But what about this sin? While I am beginning to get into my heart the reality that nothing changes my standing before God, I still get disappointed with myself, and I still get disappointed that the testimony of my life (before others) is not as good as it could be.

But today a picture dropped into my heart - of a mirror. We have all stood in front of a mirror. Sometimes you might have been to a fun fair or carnival where they had a "hall of mirrors" with different kinds of mirrors that distorted your reflection. The real you is still the same, unchanged, but the reflected you is distorted.

The moment you became a Christian, the real you became a brand new person. Your old self and ALL your sin, past, present and future, was crucified with Christ (Gal 2v20). You died and your life is now hidden with Christ (Col 3v3) - the real you is clothed with Jesus is all His perfection and glory. A sacrifice was made that made you, once and for all perfect forever (Heb 10v14). You have been justified, declared righteous so that there is NO condemndation (Rom 8v1). The real you now is now the righteousness of God, and you can't get more righteous than He.

But just as 2 Cor 3v18 says we behold Him as in a mirror, so in 1 Cor 13v12 we are told that "now we see in a mirror dimly." But what is Paul talking about - part of what he is saying is to do with himself -

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall now just as I also am known."

The picture is this - the real you is in Christ - but the way you see yourself, and the way others see you, is like through a mirror. And because we are growing and we still do sin, the mirror is dirty. So people see a weak reflection of the real you - and you yourself see a weak reflection of the real you.

So if you sin, it is important not to look at the reflection and see the failure and attack yourself "look at how bad I am, I look terrible". Remember that the mirror is not perfect yet. The reflection is distorted, it is imperfect - BUT the real you is still 100% righteous.

The good news is that we are being changed from glory to glory. I believe that day by day, the Lord is washing the mirror. He is not washing you - you are already clean - but He is washing the mirror. His glory that is untainted and totally righteous, that is in your heart, that is upon you, is gradually day by day being reflected more and more clearly. The mirror is getting cleaner.

And if we fall, some dirt does end up on the mirror. And we can beat ourselves up and say "well, I've ruined my testimony now, people will never believe now." But God keeps on washing the mirror. Day by day. And we can have confidence that the mirror will become more clean. God is faithful; He has begun a good work and will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ (Phil 1v6).

The real you - equal to God in righteousness - is being manifest more and more. You haven't got to strive to keep the mirror clean, but to rest in who you are. Don't keep looking in the mirror, stand as the real you. And God will clean the mirror. You will see His glory and holiness more and more worked out in your day to day life; people around will see His glory more and more visibly in your day to day life.

This is liberty. This sets free from self-righteousness. This sets us free from people looking at us and seeing a "holier than thou" attitude. Its not "holier than thou" but the holiness of heaven itself, which is already yours as a free gift, being seen more clearly - because God is cleaning the mirror.

So no more striving, no more condemnation, no more looking at the dirt on the mirror. You are in Christ and the righteousness of God, and praise God that more and more that glory is being, and will be, manifest, because God is cleaning the mirror that displays your life to this world.


lydia joy said...

Excellent post, very helpful.....thanks Peter!

Nick Cameron said...

Thanks Peter - this is really helpful - more than you realise!
Nick x

Dan Bowen said...

Very interesting - I have just taken notes on this from Rob's sermon - "Invading the Impossible - Part 8";

"When you consider your future, God has not called you to look in a mirror but through a window. A mirror only shows you what you are now. Don't limit yourselves to what you are now. A mirror should become a window that you can look through to the power of what you are to become through the power of God's promises and His calling and His hope.

It is the anointing that empowers you to see beyond the mirror. Lack of hope will dry you up and dwarf you and diminish you and decline you and deprive you and dilute you but the anointing increased will enhance you and elevate you and enlarge you and excite you".

janelle said...

I have a question. When you say, "The real you - equal to God in righteousness - is being manifest more and more. You haven't got to strive to keep the mirror clean, but to rest in who you are." Shouldn't the several references "who you are" be "who Christ is"? Resting in who we are is dangerous, isn't it? Isn't our identity found in Christ? If we still sin, "who we are" is sinners, right?

Peter Day said...

Thank you everybody for visiting and commenting.

You raise an interesting question, Janelle. Should I be saying "who Christ is?" Well, yes, all these things are true of Christ, but Paul again and again uses the phrase "in Christ" to describe the believer. So our identity is found in Christ, because that is where the believer is. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col 3v3).

Thus what Christ is, in His spotless righteousness, we have become, which is why I deliberately used the phrase "who you are." Who you are is now in Christ, and so who you are is the righteousness of God in Him.

It is interesting that Paul's epistles don't begin with the phrase "to the sinners in...." or even "the sinners saved by grace in..." Rather he uses the phrase "to the saints in..."

When we are born again, a glorious transaction takes place. We become new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5v17) - the old has gone, all things have become new. Our old self has died (Col 3v3, Rom 6). We are no longer what we were. We have become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1v4). We are no longer in first Adam, but in Christ the last Adam. He is righteous, and so we are righteous in Him. We are no longer sinners but saints.

Yes, sadly we do sin, but that doesn't change who we are. We were sinners. Now we are saints who occasionally sin - we have a totally new nature in Christ.

I have stolen (or borrowed) that phrase "we are saints who occasionally sin" from a book by Neil T Anderson called Victory over the Darkness. His book is very clear in explaining what has happened to us as Christians, and who we are in Christ.

There is also an outstanding book by Rob Rufus called Living in the Grace of God. This is well worth reading and covers some of these things in more detail.

janelle said...

Thanks for the clarification on what you meant.

I think I still would respectfully disagree with the idea that we are no longer "sinners" however. I know that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, the old is gone, the new has come. But does that change that fact that we are sinners, declared just by God? Martin Luther coined the phrase, "At the same time, just and sinner." The fact remains that we still sin, yet we are "sinners saved by grace."

RC Sproul at Ligonier was talking about "forensic justification," the idea that God declares something just that is not, by virtue of a transfer of justice from somewhere else, Christ.

Isn't this the whole struggle of Paul in Romans 7?

Nick Cameron said...

I am no great theologian - but perhaps this quote (by anon) may help!

'The Christian may have sin in him but not on him.'

If you are saved by grace, covered by the blood - when God looks at you He doesn't see a sinner - He's sees the righteousness that Jesus has clothed us in. I guess it goes back to what Rob Rufus said in one of his messages about it not being about our condition but our position.
But like I said I am no theologian! Just a thought though!

janelle said...

Wow nick, that's a really good way of thinking about it...

Peter Day said...

When the children of Israel left Egypt, God looked at the blood, He didn't examine the behaviour of the people in the house. When a person came to offer a lamb, the priest examined the lamb - not the person bringing the lamb.

THE Lamb has been offered, once and for all. He is the Lamb without spot or blemish. He is totally perfect. God looks at you in Christ - the spotless Lamb. Therefore the believer is totally 100% perfect - as spotless as Jesus.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to reconnect with a Romans 7 and a Romans 8 thing.

In Romans 7 Paul expresses what we all sadly feel at times - o wretched man that I am - who will save me from this body of sin? The very things we want to do we do not do....
Romans 8 verse 1 is one of the most abused verses in the bible, particularly for those who want to focus on imputed righteousness at the exclusion of a life of purity. There is no condemation for those who are in Christ says the NIV but the NKJV goes on with the essential - for those who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The latter part of that verse if the clause.

We can only be saved by grace through faith because all our of our righteous deeds are like filthy rags. If we won't get our house in order, we might well be saved but as if through fire.

Our salvation started off at great cost. Lets not treat it with cheapness and abuse grace.

Peter Day said...

Well, Anonymous (I'm not sure if you are the same anonymous who puts a price on grace over on Life on Wings), while I accept that there are different views on Romans 7, I (along with many, many others) do not believe that it is a description of the Christian. This is a description of the powerlessness of the law to produces righteousness - from (PRAISE GOD) which we have been saved through the finished work of Christ.

Furthermore, the second part of Romans 8v1 is not a condition but a description. If I might quite Thomas Jacomb, the puritan who wrote an awesome commentary on Romans 8 -

"The words are descriptive and characteristical of persons, both with respect to the non-condemnation and also to the being in Christ."

I realise that is one of the long puritan sentences - but he is saying this is a description of those in Christ.

There is no condition to justification and the free gift of righteousness. Salvation is a gift, not a work. If we add any condition to it, then we are preaching another gospel.

Of course the fruit of salvation is a changed life, of growing fruit of the Spirit - but that is the fruit not the condition.

Dan Bowen said...

"Romans 8 verse 1 is one of the most abused verses in the bible, particularly for those who want to focus on imputed righteousness at the exclusion of a life of purity".

I think there is a complete and total misunderstanding of the major problem in the Church today here. I frequently hear protestations that the grace message will lead to license, but I think a conservative approach to grace (which is essentially a mongrel mixture of law and grace) has had it's chance to prove that law, rules and religion works to keep people holy. All almost 2,000 years of it.

And yet people are still sinning in churches that are rampant with legalism. As Rob Rufus would say; "No one NEEDS a license to sin!". Some of the most public moral catastrophes of Christian leaders have been legalistic men who openly ranted against grace.

It's time to give the Grace Revolution a chance! It's time to start believing and I mean REALLY believing that righteousness - Jesus Christ's righteousness - has been imputed to us FREELY as a gift and is ours totally and forever!!

Janelle, I have the greatest respect for you and love for your passion for God but;

"But does that change that fact that we are sinners, declared just by God?".

Just as respectfully I can't see how the Holy Spirit - God Himself manifest in us - would conceed to co-habit our bodies with sin? Of ANY percentage? That's why Jesus Christ had to die because God would have no contact with sin! That's why hell is - because God cannot allow sin near Him! So why would the Holy Spirit have to suffer sin in the bodies He has come upon in power and abides in those He has baptised into Jesus Christ?

It's a battle that there is only One winner and my money is on the Holy Spirit!! As Pete said so rightly, the blood has been shed and is on the outside of the dooor of our hearts. God has seen the blood and is pleased to passover. It doesn't matter how we feel.

I think if we suffer a doctrine of "indwelling sin" then we are being too introspective. We are looking too much at ourselves and how WE feel! Wasn't it C J Mahaney himself who enjoyed the quote; "Take 10 looks at Jesus Christ for every look at ourselves?".

Time to stop thinking about our struggles with sin - and I am not disputing the struggles exist. Time to start believing and revelling in the revelation that we have RECEIVED Jesus' righteousness imputed to us as a GIFT! And we are seen as totally righteous FOREVER!!