Looking to your personal activity log as the basis of your peace and assurance is a recipe for either self-righteousness or self-pity. But looking to your track record is thinking like a slave rather than royalty. Slaves to sin think they need to get enough good works on the scales in order to outweigh their evil deeds. Slaves live in perpetual terror, and so scurry to appease their masters, their idols. Those idols never soothe their guilty conscience, but gladly sear it. Thinking like a slave swaps out the living God for dead idols. It creates a false security; “if only I do enough good, then my idols will be pleased with me.” Or it creates an endless fear of the whip; “I will never be free of these chains.”
But, those who are in Christ are joint-heirs with Him who is the crowned King of the world. You are no longer slaves to sin. You are no longer on the hamster wheel of self-determined morality. You no longer owe the slave-driving idols another drop of blood. All your sins are not only forgiven, but God has promised to forget them, and sink them to the bottom of the deepest ocean on Jupiter. Your acceptance into God’s presence is not based on your works, but on Christ’s blood which clothes you like a garment.
To put it another way, both self-righteousness and self-pity are false gospels. One promises glory if you look the part of a moral, clean-shaven citizen. The other places the anvil of guilt on your shoulder and gives no relief. The Gospel of Christ is that your guilt is forgiven, and you are clothed in His glory. When we vacillate between self-righteousness and self-pity our testimony is either that of vain-glory or paralyzed fear. Is it any surprise that our prayers for reformation are ineffectual?
So have you fondled your good works with smug self-righteousness? Or have you moped in worldly sorrow over your sins? Slit the throat of both self-pity and self-reliance. Look to Christ. Stop thinking like a boot-licking slave. Stop living like a whipped dog. The Gospel is your manumission papers. You are free. You are the Emperor’s beloved brother and sister, and He now sends you forth to conquer your remaining sins in the power of the Spirit.
Always remember: your joy and assurance aren’t rooted in how well or how badly you did this week. You aren’t forgiven by being righteous enough, feeling badly enough, or anything other than faith in the saving blood of Jesus.