It was six years ago this month that my father died. I miss him and I find myself loading up the iPod with the music he loved. Listening to the songs I grew up with makes me smile and remember him with great fondness. One of those songs was an old hymn sung by the Man in Black, Johnny Cash. It is a song that covers a lot of theology and provides a lot of comfort for me as I miss my dad.
There was a time on Earth when in the books of Heaven
That an Old Account was standin’ for sins yet unforgiven
My name was at the top there was many things below
But I went unto the keeper and I settled it long ago
Long ago,yes long ago I said the Old Account was settled long ago
And my record’s clear today ’cause he washed my sins away
And the Old Account was settled long ago
And that, in simple iPod theology, is justification. I cannot keep the law. God justified me and declared me righteous because of Jesus and His substitutionary death. Just as Paul argued to the Romans centuries ago that Abraham was declared righteous by believing and not for behaving. So it is with me.
From the moment I trusted Jesus God credited to my account His righteousness. When I screw up He refuses to deduct that from my account. Do I believe that? That is the amazing grace of the gospel. I am as righteous as Abraham. I don’t have to work or beg or strive for it. That is crazy. But that is what God’s Word is saying.
So what happens if I believe this? Won’t I take advantage? I know me. I am lazy and undependable and easily distracted. Won’t I just become a sluggard for Jesus? Hmmmm….new non-profit idea? Sluggards for Jesus. At least it would be authentic. But the reality is that when you really trust the enormity of this forgiveness and grace you can only have one response.
You will worship.
It actually becomes not about me but about Him. And you will behave better. The following thought is borrowed from the TrueFaced Romans CD series because I could not write it any better. I did change the name in the quote to my bride’s name. I mention that because I did not want you to think Joni left me for a better speaker.
I have learned with Joni that I don’t do right stuff to earn her love. That is what I used to do. I do right stuff because I have found her love.
That changes how I love her and that changes how she responds. That is what this truth does. I don’t do right stuff to earn the love of Jesus. I do right stuff because I have found His love.
That is grace. Grace gives and we simply need to believe to receive it. Grace is free to receive. It was unthinkably costly for God to give. I am grateful that my dad received that offer of grace. I will always miss him but today I am smiling knowing that his account was settled long ago.