Have you ever struggled with a temptation? ďWell, of course, we all have!Ē you say.
So how did you feel when you yielded? What did you say to yourself? If youíre like a lot of Christians, you said things such as, ďGod canít accept me as long as I keep yielding to this temptation.Ē ďI have no right to call myself a Christian until I gain the victory over this sin.Ē ďI guess Iíll be lost.Ē
We all talk to ourselves throughout the day. Our minds and emotions are constantly chattering away in our heads. We call this ďself-talk.Ē Sometimes our self-talk is positive. For example, letís say youíre alone in the kitchen one day, and you see a big red apple on the counter. You pick it up, turn it over in your hands, then take a bite. And you think, Hmmm! Sweet!
On the other hand, sometimes our self-talk is negative. Letís say youíre working away at the computer, when your finger accidentally hits a wrong key and you lose half an hourís work. And you think, How stupid of me! Youíll probably say the words too. Thatís negative self-talk.
Now think of this: you were using negative self-talk when you told yourself that you had no right to call yourself a Christian as long as you kept yielding to that special temptation.
Paul responded to this negative self-talk in Romans 3:20Ė22. In verse 20, he said that ďno one will be declared righteous [justified] in his [Godís] sight by observing the law.Ē When you say to yourself, ďGod canít accept me as long as I keep yielding to this particular temptation,Ē youíre actually saying that in order to be acceptable to God you have to gain the victory. You must obey Godís law.
But thatís precisely what Paul said is not the basis of your acceptance by God. Perhaps this will be a bit more evident if I rephrase Paul words: ďNo one is accepted by God on the basis of his or her success in obeying His law.Ē You could obey God perfectly, but that still would not qualify you for His acceptance.
How to be accepted by God
So what is the basis of your acceptance by God? Paul answered that question in verse 21. He said, ďBut now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known.Ē Paul meant that, since you donít have any righteousness to offer Him, He gives you His righteousness.
This is especially evident in Philippians 3:9, where Paul said that he wanted to ďbe found in him [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from [obeying] the law, but that which is through faith in Christó the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.Ē
Notice that in both Philippians 3:9 and Romans 3:21, the righteousness that saves comes ď from God.Ē Paul means that, since you donít have any goodness or obedience of your own to offer God, He gives you His righteousness. Christís righteousness is credited to your account. And since Christís righteousness is perfect, when God credits it to you, He counts you as perfect too.
Ellen White expressed this thought clearly in her book Steps to Christ: ďChristís character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.Ē To be accepted by God just as if you had not sinned means to be accepted by God as though you were perfect, because when Christ gives you His righteousness, you are perfect in Godís sight, even though you still have many character defects that cause you to slip and fall from time to time.
So how do you obtain this wonderful transaction? Itís very simple: just ask, and then believe. In Romans 3:22, Paul said, ďThis righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believeĒ (emphasis added).
It isnít easy
Now hereís the hard part. At the moment you yielded to that besetting sin, you felt as low as an earthworm in the dirt beneath the tomato vines in your garden. You felt so guilty! Your mind was screaming at you that God could not accept you! Thatís precisely when you needed to understand that Christís righteousness covers your sinfulness. And you receive it by believing, even though you donít feel like it.
So when your mind is screaming at you that God canít accept you, thatís the very moment when you must exercise faith that He does accept you. You should, of course, confess your sin. Thatís a given. But immediately after that, you should claim Godís promise that. Christís righteousness covers your sinfulness, and you are accepted by God just as if you had not done what you just got through doing!
Hereís a prayer that I suggest you say when you feel so worthless before God: ďGod, I confess that I just sinned, but I praise You that Jesusí righteousness stands in place of my sinfulness. I donít feel like I deserve this gift, but I accept it because Youíve promised it. I thank You for accepting me right now just as if I had not sinned!Ē
When you say this prayer, youíre talking to yourself in your mind, but this time itís positive.
This is what I call ďJesus talk.Ē
Learning to say the prayer
Youíll probably find this Jesus talk hard to say at first, because of the screaming in your head that says what you just did makes you unacceptable to God. When that happens, make yourself say the prayer I just gave you. Whether you feel like saying it is not the point. Because God invites you to say it, you have a perfect right to act contrary to your feelings and say the prayer anyway. And saying it when you least feel like it is a powerful act of faith. Paul said that you access Godís righteousness that replaces your sinfulness by faith. And you exercise that faith by saying that prayer.
Youíll probably have to make yourself say this prayer many times before it comes naturally. Donít give up! Just keep saying it. With Godís help, this Jesus talk will eventually become your own spontaneous self-talk.
The starting point for victory
I should also explain that this is the beginning point for victory over the temptation youíre struggling so hard to overcome. As long as youíre stuck in the negative self-talk, youíll find it difficult if not impossible to overcome the temptation. Guilt is good, because it prompts you to live the right way. But itís also bad if you allow it to go on and on until it overwhelms you. You should have just enough guilt to prompt you to confess your sin. Then the guilt should stop, and you should replace it with positive Jesus talk.
Learn Jesus talk, and youíll be a much happier Christian. And your place in Godís eternal kingdom will be guaranteed!