Ephesians 1:3-4. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
Think with me for a minute about all the ways that we self-justify or prove our worth. Prove that we deserve to be here. Think about all the score keeping we do. Grades. Goals scored. Likes on social media. Promotions. Compliments. Dates. Purchases. “My child is an honor student” bumper stickers. Ministry involvement. Lying at your high school reunion. Busyness (our ultimate humblebrag). Nothing is easy. Idleness is evil. Time off is weakness.
Suicide rates are up. Medicating is up. Depression is up. Anxiety is up. Yes, in our culture “success” is way up, but with it happiness appears to be way down.
More and more it is becoming clear that we have created a whole new religion in our culture known as Performancism. We are defined by what we do and how well we do it. We worship success. “Salvation” is for those who earn it by being the best. We exalt celebrities. We compare our lives on social media. We judge ourselves and others based on our own failures. Even as Christians we label each other as “good Christians” or “bad Christians.” Holiness has become more about achieving than receiving.
The Good Place scoring system…or…a better option is to be declared blameless, right?
Enter union with Christ.
In Christ we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. We have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. For what? That we should be holy and blameless before him.
What glorious freedom! To know that our holiness and blamelessness are not achieved but received. They are found in Jesus Christ and his holiness, his blamelessness. What’s his is ours. He became sin for us that we might become his righteousness.
This is the nature of holiness (as seen all throughout the Old Testament): holiness comes from being in the presence of God. It comes from worship. From beholding. It comes from God himself.
In Isaiah 6 when Isaiah finds himself in the presence of God’s holiness, he must first recognize his own unholiness:
Isaiah 6:5. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
But then he doesn’t work hard at getting holy. He doesn’t turn over a new leaf. He doesn’t begin a rigorous program of self-denial and bible study and prayer. What he does is receive God’s cleansing and holiness as grace:
Isaiah 6:6-7. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
It is the presence of God that accomplishes our holiness. It is the presence of God which removes our need to sin. Why? Because we sin when we believe we are in lack. We sin when we feel as though we are not enough, that we need more, that we fall short. But if the presence of God is the ultimate reality. If it’s the best place to be. The place of all joy and satisfaction. Then the presence of God it seems would remove all sin and bring all holiness.
“To live is Christ” is to live in the presence of God. We are chosen. We are accepted. We are brought near. This means freedom from Performancism. It means no longer having to achieve your holiness and blamelessness. You have been given Christ’s holiness. His righteousness. Your guilt is taken away. Your sins are atoned for. No more comparing. No more earning. No more stress. No more pressure. No more scoring. Instead we have a holiness that comes from constantly being in the presence of God. Constantly satisfied. Constantly loved. Now that’s a spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.