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Faith Imagined: The Handicap

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

September 19, 2010

The Handicap


Wikipedia defines Sports Handicapping as follows: "The practice of assigning advantage through scoring compensation or other advantage given to different contestants to equalize the chances of winning."

Keep this definition in mind when you consider Job's question found in Job 9.2: "But how can a mortal be righteous before God?"

There are two ways of achieving such righteousness:

1) Righteousness According to Law
2) Righteousness According to Faith

Ecclesiastes 7.20 (NIV) states: "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." Jesus is the only one who can stand in righteousness according to law.

Philippians 3.9 (NIV) states: "and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."

Job (Old Testament) and Paul (New Testament) were both imperfect people. Job had to ask God for forgiveness because he presumed to know the wonders of God (Job 42). And Paul persecuted Jesus and His disciples (Acts 9.1-5). Both these men had made mistakes, yet they claimed Righteousness by Faith, and the people hated them for it.

In Job 31.6, Job tells his friends boldly about his righteousness through faith, "Let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless." This upset Job's friends so much that they left him: "So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes" (Job 32.1).

In Acts 23:1-3 (MSG), Paul proclaims his own righteousness before the High Council: "Paul surveyed the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then said his piece: 'Friends, I've lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment.' That set the Chief Priest Ananias off. He ordered his aides to slap Paul in the face. Paul shot back, 'God will slap you down! What a fake you are! You sit there and judge me by the Law and then break the Law by ordering me slapped around!'"

How can Job and Paul be so bold as to claim their own righteousness when they obviously have not lived perfect lives? They stood strong on a divine handicap that people cannot see. They understood God's grace, and their faith became stronger than their failures.

If we have righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, why is the world chalked full of guilt ridden, insecure Christians? Why are we not claiming the spiritual handicap that is ours, and determining our victory by the grace God gives us? I believe more Christians would claim their God-given promises and do the impossible for the kingdom of God if they truly understood what it means to be made righteous by faith.

It doesn't matter if the world has video, photos or any other documentation to prove our sin; we have been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. We can claim our innocence from the mistakes we made twenty years ago to the mistakes we made today. We can demand a clear conscience because we have a divine handicap that levels the playing field. God packs on the grace, smoothing out the holes of our sin, which gives us an equal chance of winning. Yes, this advantage may upset the people who don't have it, but it's available to all who are willing to receive it.

So here is my question to you? Are you claiming your righteousness or are you wallowing in the past, condemned by the opinions of others? Which is stronger? Your faith or your failures?

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28 Comments:

Blogger Joanne Sher said...

What a FABULOUS analogy, Alisa! Gonna remember that one.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Leah @ Point Ministries said...

Praise God for His righteousness that blankets me. This reminds me of my life verse, Psalm 3:3. He is my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head. When there is nothing within me that could be or deserve any of those things, Jesus is!!

Leah

3:19 PM  
Blogger MTJ said...

Hi Alisa,

I have begun to both realize and appreciate that grace you speak of. It is the reason Paul could so boldly proclaim, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." -- Christ has set me free from the bondage of guilt, shame and the law of sin and death.

This post is a marvelous affirmation of that truth.

Blessings and peace.

MTJ

3:19 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I am so thankful that I am clothed with Christ and His righteousness! (Galatians 3:27)

Thanks for another great post. I really appreciate your writing!!!

5:24 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

I have been tormented by thoughts of past mistakes from years ago just coming randomly out of the blue & I have been repenting because I didn't know then, but these thoughts have been condemning me and bringing so much guilt & shame & I have been feeling powerless as I have not obviously been able to "do" anything- the situations are long gone.
Thank you Alisa, this post is just the right post, on the right day for me- hugs
Carolyn

5:29 PM  
Blogger Susan J. Reinhardt said...

My former pastor up north was fond of saying, "God buries our sins in the deepest sea and then puts up a no fishing sign."

Great post!

Blessings,
Susan :)

5:45 PM  
Blogger Stuff could always be worse said...

Love your post, as always. I will not let the imperfections of life, get to me. I will claim my handicap of righteousness!
kim

7:49 PM  
Blogger Wanda said...

Wow, what a great analogy Alisa. You've helped me see the scripture with a fresh perspective. At time, I inwardly cringe when reading statements such as Job. Thinking how could he be so sure, He hadn't done anything wrong but you made a excellent point.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Sharon Kirby said...

Alisa,
For several years I was tortured by a past decision - I became quite good at condemning myself. But praise God, He has relieved me of the guilt of that sin. I'm convinced that the Holy Spirit CONVICTS us of sin, and that conviction should lead us to repentance and God's forgiveness. The "enemy" makes us feel GUILTY, and we hold on to the guilt and shame, and that PARALYZES us. God's forgiveness clothes us in righteousness - and THAT is freedom.

My FAITH is now stronger than my FAILURES...because God is GOOD!

BLESSINGS TO YOU!

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Carolyn said...

@ Susan- I love the picture of God's " no fishing" sign- how lovely!! Amazing grace!

@ Sharon- this is a very clear distinction that has helped me today- thank you for sharing this :)

4:40 AM  
Blogger May said...

Great post as always, It's a struggle at times, but trying not to let my failures rob me of my faith.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

My Pastor says that too often after we leave our burdens at The Cross, we go back and pick them up again. A very intersting post!

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Angel @ Finding The Inspiring said...

Wow! I read your words and realize I have too often forgotten about that "level playing field". Thank you for this reminder of God's grace. I appreciate this great, thought-provoking post.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Carlos said...

Another great post :)

4:59 PM  
Blogger ruthhill74 said...

Amen!

I gave your blog an award.
http://mydevotionalthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/09/one-lovely-blog-award.html

9:45 PM  
Blogger Together We Save said...

Your devotionals are so powerful!! Thanks for sharing.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Krista said...

What a powerful blog Alisa!Beautifully written :) I needed to hear that! We walk around with guilt weighing us down and haunting our lives. It doesn't have to be that way. Because of Jesus Christ paying the price for our sins we don't have to! We are made righteous by grace! Praise the Lord for his wonderful GRACE :)

Blessings,
Krista

9:02 AM  
Blogger Toyin O. said...

Great Post Alisa; I know he is always smoothing out the holes of my sins; we are on the winning and alleluia side. I will gladly receive that grace anyday beacuse I need it.


Toyin

12:47 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

As always, your post hits the nail on the head for me. Thank you for letting God speak to me through your words!!

:)
Rach

4:10 PM  
Blogger Reign and Shine said...

Alisa, Thank you. The truth rings true. God is gracious to us.

5:49 AM  
Blogger May said...

Please come over to get your award. Blessings.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Deborah Ann said...

Another great message. I'm sad to say, the failures take on a bigger life than the faith does at times. I just had a bad day yesterday, and paid for it today by wallowing in it. And then God shows up so Big in my time with Him. I think that kind of love and faithfulness can't help but launch us into bigness in our faith!

3:35 PM  
Blogger Bernadine said...

"Let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless."

I've always loved this verse but you've made me look at it through new eyes. Thank you for always giving me so much to think about in your posts.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Warren Baldwin said...

I realized a long time ago that I failed the law, may be even that the law failed me. Righteousness through faith in Christ is the only hope I have.

I really like your illustration of the golf handicap. Creative.

Just read that your book is finished and you are editing it. Any idea for a publication date? I sure want to get a copy. wb

7:32 PM  
Blogger Gaia said...

I would like to believe I had finally overcome my fears and failures because I know my Lord God is with me every step of the way. Alisa, I am blogging again after some months , hope to see you around.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Molina Mania said...

Gread read and find for me today! I needed this message, and as always you provided it for us all.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

This is a great post.
I must admit there are times my failures get to me the most. But I am learning to lean on my faith in Jesus.

2:02 PM  
OpenID Tim said...

Very good post. Righteousness is a difficult topic for a lot of people to understand. I work in a residential substance abuse program and I hear over and over again something like this: "I will go to church someday, but I need to change some things in my life." Trying to get people to understand the freely given mercy and grace of God is difficult when all they can see is the sin and mistakes they have made.

I like to think about righteousness as "right-relationship." I'm righteousness only because I have a right relationship with God through what Jesus did for me on the cross. He did all the work and I receive all the benefit.

Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.

5:33 PM  

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