Insert Your Name Here

How many times have we witnessed this scenario? A colleague or acquaintance is well thought of as a highly ethical person, a Christian perhaps, a living example of “do the right thing.” Then one day our model citizen slips on a moral banana peel, speaking ill of someone behind their back, for instance, or playing the nasty political card at work. Then invariably, someone—could be us—says this: “Now we know the real [insert name here].” Despite all the goodwill they have amassed through right decisions, we regard their wrong as the sole determinant of their true self.

Why do we seize upon people’s mistakes like this? Why do we discard in an instant the good reputation painstakingly built over the course of a lifetime? Is it that we think ourselves more attractive beside a morally blemished neighbor? Does our pronouncement arise from a deep sense of cynicism, our hope for good shattered yet again? It could be a lot of things, I suppose, for we all yearn for a rightness we can trust, elusive though it seems.

We do well to know what is right and to want what is right, but it is not ours to judge the wrongs of others. This is God’s job, and His alone. Moreover, we cannot muster from within ourselves the righteousness we crave; this, too, is God’s job, for Christ has taken our sin upon Himself and given us, in exchange, His own righteousness.1 This is His gift to all who receive it through faith.

Then to anyone who would define God’s people by the sins Jesus already died to forgive, He says this on our behalf: “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. . . He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.”2

If you are in Christ, then insert your name here, for He defines the real you.

Father, in truth you see my darkness, and in love you’ve become my light. By your sacrifice, I know your righteousness. Fill me to overflowing in grace, so others may know it, too. In Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is righteousness.

1 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Micah 7:8, 9


The Great Exchange

I’ve been giving some thought to the traits that truly inspire me in people, the qualities I admire and enjoy most in them. Here are some that rise to the top: integrity, objectivity, courage, perseverance, common sense … there are others. What about you? What characteristics do you especially honor in others to the point that you are drawn to them?

Composing Psalm 15, David listed some of the virtues God highly esteems in people: blamelessness, truth, justice, honor, dependability, generosity … there are others. These are the traits of those He invites into His presence. There’s just one little glitch (I’ll speak for myself): I don’t measure up. While I value all of these qualities and want to see them displayed in myself and others, I’ve too often proved myself capable of exchanging virtue for vice if it serves the purposes of my own convenience, comfort, or gain. And truth be told, “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt …”1 wrote David. When it comes to blamelessness, we are, in mathematicians’ terms, a “null set,” and we share a problem that, if left to ourselves, is unsolvable.

But God does not leave us to ourselves, and what is insurmountable to us is doable to Him whose love for us is as infinite as His wisdom and whose justice is as perfect as His power to execute it. Is it any surprise, then, that this amazing God who does not tolerate sin in His presence took it upon Himself to make a way for us, the imperfect ones, to live with Him forever? How did He resolve our dilemma without compromising Himself? The apostle Paul answers as simply as it can be stated: “God made [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.2” Martin Luther called this the great exchange—Jesus who knew no sin took our sin upon Himself, and in exchange, He offered His righteousness to us who knew no righteousness. What an exchange! In Christ, we are ushered into the presence of God.

Then we rest secure in Jesus even as we flourish in Him, for our life is now “hidden with Christ in God.”3 So, when God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ who has united us with Himself. And as we live safely tucked away in Him, the Spirit of God transforms us steadily into His image, a lifelong process of molding, shaping, refining, beautifying. This is the promise of our promise-keeping God. What a relief.

Father, it is almost incomprehensible that you would take away my sin and give me, in exchange, the privilege of your presence. Thank you for sending your Son to accomplish this and for securing my life in Him forever. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is righteousness.

Click here to read today’s Scripture, Psalm 15.

1 Psalm 14:3
2 2 Corinthians 5:21
3 Colossians 3:3