Jesus said that when we look at him, we see the Father (John 14:9). He represented God perfectly. He “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38), and the Father looked down and said, “Just the way I would have done it!”
Just as “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), Jesus was blameless in thought, word and deed. He was exposed to the fiercest temptation but never sinned. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He was a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).
When he died, an exchange happened. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The idea of the pure and perfect Son of God “becoming sin” is difficult to fathom. He was the opposite of darkness and sin, but on the cross he became the very essence of it. He absorbed into his body every act of wickedness and rebellion against God through all history.
And we became “the righteousness of God.” All of the beautiful, pure and holy innocence that marks the Son of God was transferred onto us. Permanently!
On one level we are being transformed to be more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29), but when God looks at us, he sees us there already. The author of Hebrews describes it this way: “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14). We grow in Christlike character, but as far as God is concerned we are blameless and perfect right now.
The sacrifice of Jesus is much more effective than the Old Covenant animal sacrifices: “The law ... can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins” (Hebrews 10:1-2).
Under the old system, the people felt some temporary relief. But the next year they needed to do it all over again, because they felt guilty for all their new sins. But the “once for all” cleansing from sin we have in Jesus is different: our sins no longer accumulate; or to look at it another way, our future sins are already forgiven. We really have been made “perfect forever.”
Although our sins are already forgiven, we still confess them to God, because we want to keep things in the open and “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). Our sins can never separate us from God, but they do have the capacity to damage and entangle us, so it can be both healing (James 5:16) and freeing (Hebrews 12:1) to take them to him and receive his forgiveness afresh.
It would be nice if we could go happily on our way and never feel guilty for our sins again. But the Accuser (Satan) and an accusing conscience can try to undermine our “blameless and perfect” status before God. The answer to both is the blood (death) of Jesus:
“Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus ... let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience” (Hebrews 10:22).
“The Accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before God day and night,
has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb”
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