Often times in life we try and keep score. Whether in sports, playing a video game, or just in our minds when we keep track of who “owes you one.” Maybe it’s at your job? Couldn’t salaries be viewed as an overall score of how well we’re doing in life? Additionally, some religions and worldviews even operate on a basis of “earning” your way to the afterlife or to abundance.
Are you winning?
How would you even know?
So a few days ago, I scored the game winning run in my softball league’s championship game! That part was great, but what was not so enjoyable was the cleat causing injury I sustained with my slide (in shorts). I currently have a rather large and painful gash on my left ankle that is keeping me from comfortably wearing any sort of footware other than flip flops. Also, a few nights ago, I woke up about 4am, with a fever and miserable sinus congestion. Didn’t have a thermometer, but my body was so cold that I knew I was above 98.6. After bundling up a little bit hoping to sweat this thing out, I lay in bed for about an hour before falling back asleep.
During that time, my brain went all over the place in thought.
For some reason I felt this weird sense of guilt come over me. Like something was telling me that what I was experiencing was punishment for something that I had done. Nothing specific came to mind, but just a sense of feeling guilty and deserving of my pain and sickness.
For just a few minutes, I believed it. It was very depressing.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Shortly thereafter, I felt this overwhelming peace of comfort and explanation. It’s a little difficult to explain the feeling other than it being one of those times when I truly felt God speaking to me. Not audibly, but still very clearly, speaking to my heart. That still, soft voice of God reminding me that all of the punishment that is due to me for my sins, or that I “deserved” was poured out on His Son, Jesus, out of God’s love, for His glory and my benefit. Wow! I mean, I’ve studied this, discussed this, read about this, and built my faith on this for as long as I have been a Christ follower, but for some reason, at this time, and in this way, it was so comforting to be reminded.
So how does this blog post title tie in to my story?
In the conviction I had that night, God also reminded me that there was no need to “keep score” at how I am doing in life. Yes, I seek to please Him out of a changed heart and love for Christ. But because of my fallen nature, I fail time and time again. The good news is that because of Christ, I don’t have to weigh the good things I do against the bad to see where I stand overall. When I sin, I am called to repentance, but I am not punished for it. Instead, I am forgiven.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
However, God certainly “disciplines” those he loves, those He calls His children (Hebrews 12). So perhaps there could be some element of “discipline” God is using in my life right now, but if I believe when Scripture says that God is “faithful and just to forgive” then I must also believe that it would be UNjust and UNfaithful for God to still punish me, in wrath, for my sin.
It’s important to understand the difference between the two. With a little help from my friend Daniel I’ve come up with two different types of punishments:
1. Punishment we experience out of God’s wrath is called justice because we deserve it.
2. Punishment we experience out of God’s love is called discipline because we need it.
The Gospel says that the first type of punishment was fulfilled and poured out on Christ instead of us. Praise God for His mercy! But what we sometimes perceive as “punishment” in our daily lives is not the same thing. As we see in Scripture, if Jesus Christ is your Lord and and Savior, it would be UNjust for you to experience the first type of punishment. And God is not unjust. No, while God does not punish us for “losing,” he often disciplines us out of love for our good, as a father faithfully disciplines his child.
So I encourage you to stop keeping track of all your rights and wrongs. Instead, be motivated out of a changed mind and heart to pursue righteousness and dwell on the things of God: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Thankfully, I don’t have to keep score. And if you are in Christ, you don’t either. Because guess what? He’s already won! And as adopted sons of God (Eph 1:5, John 1:12), that means WE’VE already won as well! Just think about that for a second.
How would that change the way you lived if you already knew that when it was all said and done, your name would be in the win column?
Stop keeping score.