by Peter Horne

God is                                 .

How we fill in that blank impacts our lives far more than we often realize.

In Psalm 7:8-9 David invites God to examine him for sin. He probably has a specific accusation in mind that he’s trying to defend himself against, but most Christians I know would find that invitation terrifying.

Let the Lord judge the peoples.
Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,
    according to my integrity, O Most High.
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
    and make the righteous secure—
you, the righteous God
    who probes minds and hearts.

throne of GodToo many Christians travel through life convinced of their UNrighteous rather than confident of our righteousness. We fear that if we invited God to examine us according to our righteousness that he’d see only sin and darkness.

How can David so boldly invite God to proclaim his righteousness and integrity? It’s not because David thought he was living a sinless life. Rather, the worldview described in this psalm flows from a confidence in the righteousness of God, not the psalmist’s own perfection.

David clearly understands that God hates sin, note verses 11b-13:

He passes judgment daily against the person who does evil.

If the wicked do not turn from their evil deeds, God will sharpen His sword;
    He will bend His bow, stringing it in readiness.
Yes, He has prepared His deadly weapons
    with His arrows flaming hot. (VOICE)

He also opens the psalm describing God as a “refuge”: a place of safety. In verse 10 he calls God, “My Shield” and if v11 “a righteous judge”. Knowing God in this way allows David to invite God as witness to his integrity and righteousness. God is just and God is safe.

I don’t know who’s to blame. Is it Catholicism? Is it the Reformed teaching on the Depravity of Humanity? Is it preachers seeking power and moral superiority?

Whatever the source, I know many Christians convinced that they sin minute by minute. Even if they’re in the middle of taking the shirt off their back to give to a homeless drifter they would worry that they were secretly (in their subconscious) doing it to make themselves feel good. They would worry that they were not being good stewards by giving away a shirt. And they would worry that these things were sinning and God would be upset with them for not giving to a person in need with the purest of motives.

We come to define ourselves as sinners and convince ourselves that when God glances in our direction he only sees us through a dark fog of sin. One way I’ve seen people express this is through asking God for forgiveness for “known and unknown sins” each time they pray: even at each meal.

What if God Isn’t Like That?sad girl father 01

What if… God looks at his people and the first thing he notices is our goodness, our love for others, our desire to honour Him, our growth in godliness over the past 18 months, our integrity and our righteousness? (Luke 15)

What if… God recognises our sin and loves us anyway? (Romans 5:8)

What if… The blood of Jesus Christ really does cleanse us from all sin? (1 John 1:7)

What if… Christ has set us free from worrying about every little possible sin? (Gal 5:1)

What if… Trying to be righteous by living the right way actually means we would fall away from God’s grace? (Gal 5:5)

What if… Righteousness is something given to us? (Gal 5:6)

What if… The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love? (Gal 5:6b)

What if… We’re to serve one another humbly in love because the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”? (Gal 5:13-14)

What if… When God judges us he doesn’t ask us about secret sins and impetuous moments, but whether we’ve loved him, lived for him, and humbly served others?

What if… Being adopted by God means he shows us our goodness rather than pointing out our shortcomings?

What if… His grace covers our humanity?

What if… These ‘what ifs’ are all true?

Would it change the way we answer the opening question?

Would it make us more likely to invite God to examine us?

Would it increase our faith to trust the redemptive power of Jesus sacrifice?

Sin, confession and forgiveness will always be important topics for believers and unbelievers alike. But a healthy picture of God will lead Christians more often to thank him for forgiving our sins than meticulously seeking his forgiveness.