The good news announces that God is love and even though we reject his love he does not cease to love us. Rather, in Christ, he has acted to reconcile us to himself. That’s because God is love and he created us in love and for love as dearly loved children in the mutual relations of love.
But the message of good news can sound like bad news when it presents God as the Judge whose primary concern is our conformity to his law. The judge who deals with our failure to conform by granting us right legal standing before him.
Jesus unveils God to us as loving Father who is open, relational and self-giving towards us. The Father who restores love relationships with estranged people through his dearly loved Son. This loving Father that we meet in Jesus cannot be thought of primarily as a Judge seeking a legal settlement.
And so the good news makes family images central rather than courtroom images. God as Judge does grant us right legal status through all that Jesus did for us. Nevertheless, the Father’s primary purpose is to include us in the love relationship he has with his Son by the Spirit . Just as the Father is in love relationship with his unique Son, so we are called into love relationship with the Father as dearly loved children in union with his Son by the Spirit.
From time to time we are reminded that we can only be right with God through Jesus. These reminders fix our faith fully on all that Jesus is for us so that we are turned out of ourselves to Christ alone.
But all too often, we are told that we must now live holy lives. And the result is we are turned back on ourselves introspectively concerned to be all that God demands by our own efforts. We are no longer turned out of ourselves to Christ alone but rather preoccupied with our own performance. Against this, the New Testament calls us to see that Christ isn’t only our righteousness but also our holiness (1 Corinthians 1: 30). He alone is the holy one who is fully pleasing to his Father. And our holiness is sharing in his holiness. In union with Christ, his righteousness becomes ours and also his holiness. One with Christ we are fully set apart for God as his holy ones.
Nevertheless, we are called to become more and more holy in our daily lives. Does that mean that we are again thrown back on our own resources to achieve daily holiness ourselves? No! By the Spirit I am in Christ so that his holiness becomes mine. And by the Spirit, Christ is in me to work out his own holiness within me. I no longer live striving for my own holiness, but Christ lives in me to live out his own holiness in and through me. He alone is our holiness in every way. Turned out of ourselves we live in Christ as he lives in us.
The Father’s Son became one of us to take our place even unto death. Now, he stands before his Father in our place and by his Spirit we know that his abba is ours. There is no need for us to find our own place before God for Christ alone is our place with God. Our lives are hidden with him in God.
We affirm all this as wonderfully true and yet, in our daily lives, we feel under pressure to focus much more on trying to find our own place with God. This distorted and distorting emphasis upon our own independent religious activity leads to frustration, failure and a lack of real assurance.
In our daily lives before our Father we must fully embrace that it is not what we are or do that counts, but Christ alone. We continually trust in who he is for us, with us and in us. We rest only in what he has done and continues to do for us. It is by his grace alone that we are put in the right with God, and by his grace alone that we live day by day as abba’s children.
The living Christ indwells us by the Spirit setting us free to rest in his transforming power. Trusting in him alone rather than our own efforts we live and move in joyful freedom before our Father. I no longer live but Christ lives in me and the life that I do live is by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me. I do so because he goes on loving me and giving himself to me as he lives his own life in and through me.
The God of grace began his good work within us and he will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Of course, we work out the good work of God in our daily lives but only as he works within us by his Spirit in union with Christ. We are liberated to become all that God wants us to be because of what the Triune God of grace has done, is doing and will do.
In living union with Christ, we are assured that we are the Father’s dearly loved children free to grow into the reality of who we already are. We have confidence to grow up into Christ as we share in his intimate relationship with the Father by the Spirit . We are not turned in on ourselves engaged in a long, gruelling battle with sin that we must fight in our own strength. No, turned out of ourselves to Christ by the Spirit, we work out daily our transformation freely and joyfully as we share in God’s triune life of love.
T F Torrance points out that too often we are thrown back upon ourselves to become the kind of persons we ought to be by our own efforts. In contrast, the New Testament continually throws us onto the grace of our Father in union with his Son free to grow into ever deeper likeness to Jesus by the power of his Spirit.