Colossians 3:3-4 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.”
Who am I? What sort of person am I? How we answer those questions depends upon where we are looking. Biblical Christians know that each believer is simul iustus et peccator, at the same time a justified saint and a wicked sinner. When we look at our visible life, when we look within ourselves, we see sin and rebellion. This is true even for the believer. Evangelical author Michael Horton once wrote: “Our surrender is halfhearted and partial; our victories seem always to be sullied by pride. Even if we could live the ‘higher life,’ could God not smell our smugness? Wouldn’t our best works be sabotaged by our own depravity?”
But that is only half the story. Christ is also our life as our substitute. We have a life which we cannot see in ourselves because it is hidden in him. When we are justified, God hides us in Christ. Therefore, in God’s eyes, we look like Jesus. When we are looking at Jesus’ life, then we are seeing ourselves as God sees us. God looks at us with “Jesus-colored glasses” so to speak. This new identity is based on the teaching the theologians call the “Active Obedience” of Christ.
You may remember an old Warner Brothers cartoon in which Sylvester the cat painted a picture of Tweety Bird on Granny’s glasses while she was sleeping. That way, when Granny awoke, put on her glasses, and looked at the bird cage, it would appear as if the bird were still in the cage.
In making Christ our substitute, the Lord has painted Christ, both his life and his death, in front of his eyes so that he no longer sees us. Everywhere he looks, he sees Jesus. This is the robe of righteousness in which he has promised to dress us (Isaiah 61:10, Galatians 3:27, Revelation 6:11).
This comfort and confidence is the birthright of every child of God by faith. The better we know Jesus’ life, and the better we understand that Jesus’ obedience to God under the law was performed in our place, the better we will realize and appreciate our blessed new identity in Christ. Our life, with all its flaws, looks as beautiful, perfect, and loving as the life of Jesus Christ himself in God’s eyes.
But those who are unaware of it will have gaps in their understanding of justification and its comfort. Preach the Gospel, a book on preaching, says it this way:
“It is possible to neglect the active obedience so that people are left with a truncated view of how God reconciled the world to himself in Christ. That view may rob them of the certainty of salvation God intends them to have. It frequently causes a person to look to something within himself rather than outside himself to God’s promises for assurance of right standing with God. Analogically speaking, they end up using a stethoscope instead of a telescope in search of the certainty of salvation” (Balge and Gerlach, p. 10).
This misunderstanding in our faith will spill over into our life of sanctification, too. It will detract from the joy and freedom with which we live and serve. Remember, Christ’s life, the whole thing, is our life by faith. We may not be able to see it now, but God’s promise makes it so. Look at him to know how God sees you. To his eyes, I am Jesus. So are you.