Our deepest need, whether felt or not, is to be accepted. And not just by anyone. But to be accepted by God.
When we are accepted by God, and we understand this in our souls, our life changes. We find contentment, joy, and peace. We find life.
But how can we be accepted by God? One thing Paul makes clear: it won’t come from following the law. In verse 23, he writes,
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The word for sin in Greek is a very interesting one. It’s an archery term that means “to miss the mark.” But it’s not just a picture of missing the bulls-eye. It’s a picture of completely missing the target. In other words, we’re not even close to perfection. We fall far short of God’s holiness.
Let’s put it this way. Imagine you sin three times a day. That’s not too bad right? But multiply that by 365 days in a year. Then multiply that by your age. Suddenly, depending on your age, you’re talking about the tens of thousands. God can literally read off a list against you that would take hours to complete. And that’s if you’re relatively “good.”
Because of this, we all stand condemned. None of us can stand before God and say, “I’m good enough to be accepted by you. I’ve kept all your laws perfectly.”
The good news? In verse 21, Paul tells us,
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.
How do we get this righteousness? Paul tells us in verses 22-25.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.
What is Paul saying? We have a lot of what I call Christianese here. First he talks about redemption. What is redemption?
Redemption is the buying of someone’s freedom out of slavery. All of us were in slavery to sin and the kingdom of Satan. But Jesus bought us out from all that. That’s redemption.
How did he buy us? Through his blood on the cross. It says that God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement. Atonement simply means a covering. That through Christ’s death on the cross, he covers over our sin and forgives it, drawing us to himself. Perhaps a better translation of atonement would be another 50-cent word, “propitiation.” The idea is that God poured his wrath for our sins on Jesus, and now that wrath toward us is appeased. However you translate it, the point is clear. It is through Christ’s work on the cross we are accepted, not by our works.
And through his death we have now been justified. That simply means that with our sins paid for, God no longer looks upon us as sinners. You can look at it this way. “God sees me just as if I’d never sinned.”
So now, we are accepted by grace. Grace is simply the receiving of something that we don’t deserve. We deserved wrath because we turned our backs on God. But instead God accepts us as his sons and daughters. All we have to do is have faith, that is put our trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.
It starts with a prayer.
“Lord Jesus, I’ve lived my own way, trusting myself instead of you. Because of this, I’ve hurt you, others, and myself. Forgive me. I believe you died on the cross for me, taking the punishment I deserved. Thank you. Help me to trust and follow you from now on. In Jesus name, amen.”