By Alison Hattan
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14, ESV)
This sentence comes right after a verse about giving up sins.
And I’m contemplating what it looks like to give up my sinful ways of thinking and replace it with the way Jesus thinks. I’m wondering what it means to “put [him] on.”
And the season has begun to change, so I pick out a shirt that I haven’t worn yet that’s more suited for this weather. It’s one of many hand-me-downs that my best friend has given me.
And I go to church, and the thing I keep sensing the Spirit telling me is that I am loved. That I need not consider the thoughts and opinions and judgements of others, but rather listen to what He is speaking over me: that I am fully loved.
That I need to really believe that I am not perfect, nor will I be here on this earth.
That most of the anxiety and uncertainty that I experience is because I keep trying to reconcile all these things that aren’t perfect and somehow rearrange them to achieve perfection.
And that it’s the very recognition that I am not perfect that gives me the freedom to fully live. Because since I’ve been loved by God while opposed to Him, I can presently be fully loved despite my failings.
And I keep getting compliments on my shirt.
Every time I receive one, I tell people that it was given to me.
Eventually, after getting yet another compliment and responding the same way, I go on to explain that every time someone tells me they like it, I find that I need to tell them it was given to me. I don’t feel like I can take the credit for it because it wasn’t something that I originally bought.
I’m driving to work and thinking about it.
Why do I find it necessary to give an explanation?
Because it doesn’t seem right or fair to fully receive a compliment when doing so would be viewing the clothing as mine.
It would be allowing it to become an expression of who I am.
It would be allowing it to become part of what identifies me as me.
It would be allowing it to actually become mine rather than just something that I wear.
So, really, I don’t actually believe that it’s fully mine.
And I’m hit with this representation of the gift that Jesus has given me:
He has given me His righteousness.
And I often don’t fully believe that it’s mine.
But, He has really given me His righteousness.
Not just for a moment in order to appease the wrath of God and then expect me to live in my own righteousness for the rest of life.
Not just in the sense that I can posses it without being identified by it.
He has given me His righteousness, through my trust in Him, so that it’s now how I am identified:
One in right standing with God.
Not because I have done enough good things to get myself to that place.
Not because one day I will figure out a way to do all things well, to invest in the people I should, to spend my time in the best way possible, and dance through life with the utmost poise and composure.
But because Jesus is righteous.
And He has given me that righteousness.
Fully, really, entirely.
He hasn’t just given it to me as something which I can put on and say that I have, but something which now makes up me.
And not only does this break down any belief that the compilation of my attempt at good works makes up my standing with God, but it takes away any validation of believing that God’s endless grace gives me license to live however I want.
Being given Jesus’ righteousness means I am identified by Him. And being identified by His righteousness means that it becomes part of who I am; beginning to change me to become more like Him. And so I live out of who I am in Jesus, rather than to become who I think I should be. Not as one perfect in every action and righteous in every thought and deed, but one desiring to become more like Him because my relational standing with God is already achieved.
So it makes sense that to put on Jesus comes after a command to leave behind sin, because when we truly receive the gift of Jesus’ righteousness, we have no choice but to respond with a surrendered life because He’s given us everything we don’t deserve.
To fully receive what Jesus has done I must trust that what He did is enough; that it is not just something He halfheartedly lends me, but that He gives to me.
I have been given Jesus’ righteousness.
And so, I can heartily agree with the words of Paul in Romans 3:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, (not through our attempt at perfection) although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (not just revealed, but fully given). For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (the freedom of fully receiving His gift requires believing that we are nothing on our own), and are justified by his grace as a gift (a gift fully given to us), through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (entirely from Him and not from us). (vv 21-24, italics mine).
And so may I allow myself to be identified by the gift.