I had the great pleasure of being the keynote speaker at a luncheon for a group of pastors, counselors, and mental health professionals. About halfway through my message, I began to share how God has given us a 100% righteous identity through our new birth in Christ. In the midst of this, I said to the audience, “God loves Christians and non-Christians but not in the same way.”
Before I could continue, a rather angry man shot his hand in the air and asked me, “Then what does God think about non-Christians?” I said, “According to John 3:16 we are told For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. This proclaims that God loves every person whether Christian or non-Christian. However, He accepts Christians because they are righteous in Christ. His righteousness has not only been put on our account (imputed), it has also been imparted to us in new creation spirit. Because non-Christians are unrighteous, God cannot accept them unless they believe in His Son Jesus Christ.” The audience got very quiet as they began to understand that God unconditionally loves and accepts His children because He has given us His righteousness. This is what 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
I was speaking in the chapel at a wonderful Christian college where I preached on this same truth before a packed auditorium. I explained in detail that the gift of righteousness is the basis of God’s acceptance of someone. I concluded by inviting anyone in the audience who realized that they were unrighteous in Adam to place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Many of these students shot their hands up when I asked for a show of hands of those who had just received Christ. One, in particular, told me afterward that he never understood the gospel until that day.
This is no small matter. It’s the defining reality of how God defines us as His children. So we have to decide. Does God define me based on my good or bad behavior or does He define me based on what He has done through Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection? The truth is the latter. Why don’t you stop for a moment and tell God that today you choose to believe that you are righteous in Christ regardless of your behavior or feelings? Then conclude by telling Him you believe He unconditionally accepts you because of this. You may find that you are at peace with God for the first time ever!