Chapter 9: The God Of Make-Believe

A strange thought emerges out of all the good news that we have considered thus far, and that is that God has the ability to make believe.
At first one feels like rejecting the very idea, and yet Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms that . . .

God 'calls things that are not as though they were.' (Romans 4:17)
On what basis, however, does God do this? Quite simply . . .
'He sees the end from the beginning, and beholds the result of His work as though it were now accomplished.' (DA606)
With these thoughts in mind, let us now return our attention to the statement quoted earlier from page 62 of Steps to Christ, and let us carefully analyze this statement in the light of the claim that God makes believe. In this statement we will notice, beyond a shadow of any doubt, how God makes believe that possible future realities are present facts.
1) 'If you give yourself to Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for
       His sake you are accounted righteous.' (SC62)
Are we perfectly righteous when God accounts us righteous? Not at all! If we were perfectly righteous at this time, He would not have to "account" us righteous.
Thus it is that God makes believe that Jesus' righteousness is our righteousness. And, please take careful note dear fellow-searcher after hope, that all we have to do is to "give ourselves to Him."
Notice too that God accounts us righteous regardless of how sinful our past life may have been. Is this not the high note of grace? Will you not join me in offering to God your heartfelt thanks?
2) 'Christ's character stands in place of your character.' (SC62)
According to Scripture, all that we have to offer to the Lord is equated with filthy rags. Therefore, we surely do need a God who can make believe that Jesus' character is our character. If not for God's ability to do this, what hope would there be for any of us?
3) 'You are accepted before God as if you had not sinned.' (SC62)
Well now, how could God ever accept us "as if we had never sinned" if it were not for the fact that He makes believe?
If we are to experience the rest and the peace that God wants us to find in Jesus, we have to accept that He makes believe. God wants us to have the blessed assurance if we have given our lives to Him in faith, our past sins are not just forgiven, not just forgotten, but, as far as He is concerned, they were never even committed. Talk about amazing grace? Talk about absolute hope?
Martin Luther had a war-cry which shook the religious world of his day, it was a war-cry that gave power and impetus to the reformation. That war-cry was - "Simul justus et peccator." This Latin phrase is translated, "simultaneously righteous and yet a sinner."
Luther had realized from His studies that God "calls things that are not as though they were;" that God is able to make believe that fallen beings are righteous and that they have always been righteous. He had came to understand that all of the merit for salvation lies in the Sacrifice of Jesus. To a guilt-ridden world, one that was burdened by the idea that man must earn his salvation by attaining to a certain standard of perfection, Luther declared that the perfection lay in the Sacrifice and that this perfection was secured by the Sacrifice - for ever and for everyone. This is what Paul is referring to when he tells us that . . .
'We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all. By one sacrifice He has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.' (Hebrews 10:10; 14)
'We can make no atonement for ourselves; but by faith we can accept the atonement that has been made.' (1SM321/2)
We must understand, therefore, that perfection is not based on our condition just prior to our death, but on our condition throughout the span of our lives. This is why our only hope lies in God's ability to consider Jesus' entire life as though it were our entire life. This is also why Scripture assures us that it is the Sacrifice that makes us perfect.
By faith, the imperfect, that is, we who are still in the process of being made holy, are considered to have always been perfect by a God who "calls things that are not as though they were." And, remarkable as it may sound, all of this is only possible because we serve a God of infinite kindness, a God who makes believe, a God who makes believe even to the point that He is able to "justify the wicked." (Romans 4:5)
As the inspired pen states this awesome, though-provoking truth, . . .
'In ourselves we are sinners; but in Christ we are righteous. Having made us righteous through the imputed righteousness of Christ [a righteousness that is all His and none of ours - a righteousness that He puts to our account], God pronounces us just, and treats us as just. He looks upon us as His dear children.' (1SM394)
Then, as Jesus would joyfully tell us, . . .
'The Father beholds not your faulty character, but He sees you as clothed in My perfection.' (DA357)
Then, in yet another classic statement, we are again confronted with God's precious ability, not only to forgive, not only to forget, but even to make believe that the bad in our lives never even took place. The highlighted portions of the following passage accentuate this remarkable facet of God's character. Please take time to consider each word carefully for words such as these are the seeds of our hope.
'The ONLY WAY in which he [you and I] can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as he loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted righteousness.' (1SM367)
Notice in the second to last sentence that God treats us as though we were righteous. Clearly our own filthy rag righteousness plays no part in this good news. We are accepted on the strength of our faith in His righteousness and, in exchange, God makes believe that we are righteous and He loves us as He loves Jesus.
'Can God love the sinner as He loves His own Son? - Yes; Christ has said it, and He means just what He says.' (1SM300)
If you are anything like I am, dear reader, you will ponder on these things with amazement. The only problem with the good news is that it is so good that it can be difficult to believe. In fact, to call the good news "good news," is the understatement of all time for no word in any language can adequately describe the goodness of God. Can a mere word, or a phrase, or a book, or, for that matter, all the books in the world, even begin to describe a kindness that is infinite and eternal?
The following is yet another of those pearls of very great price. It is one that, with due consideration, can only leave us filled with hope and courage.
'Through faith, the believer passes from the position of a rebel, a child of sin and Satan, to the position of a loyal subject of Christ Jesus, not because of an inherent goodness, but because Christ receives him as His child by adoption. The sinner receives the forgiveness of his sins, because these sins are borne by His Substitute and Surety. The Lord speaks to His heavenly Father saying, "This is My child, I reprieve him from the condemnation of death, giving him my life-insurance policy - eternal life - because I have taken his place and have suffered for his sins. He is even my beloved son." Thus man, pardoned, and clothed with the beautiful garments of Christ's righteousness, stands faultless before God. The sinner may err, but he is not cast off without mercy. His only hope however is repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Father's prerogative [privilege] to forgive our transgressions and sins, because Christ has taken upon Himself our guilt and reprieved us, imputing to us [putting to our account] His own righteousness.' (6BC1070)
In exchange for simple faith we receive all these gifts and, please note, we receive them "not because of any inherent goodness" in us. Isn't it amazing to think that right now, today, if we have genuine faith in Jesus as our Saviour and Substitute, we stand faultless before God, clothed with a righteousness that is all His and none of ours, a righteousness that satisfies fully the demands of the law?
Let us not think either that this is a teaching that is exclusive to the New Testament.
The Jews may have visited the sanctuary in person, but they, like us, only entered the Most Holy place by faith, and they were given the same hope and the same assurance.
On the Day of Atonement, early in the day, the Israelites were to approach the sanctuary as repentant sinners, and, at the end of the day, the Lord would declare them to be cleansed from their sin. Notice the words of God.
'On this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean.' (Leviticus 16:30)
[Atonement means 'at-one-ment.' Through His sacrifice, Jesus breached the wide chasm between a perfect God and sinful man and he thus made us 'at one' with God.]
Notice that the atonement was made for the Israelites, and not by them; and it was this atonement which enabled God to declare them to be "cleansed." But did the few short hours of one special day see their characters completely changed? No! They were cleansed because their sins were transferred by faith to the sanctuary, and, as a result, the Lord was able to consider them perfectly clean. In themselves they were much the same as they were on the previous day, but "before the Lord," and because of their faith in the sacrificial Lamb, they were justified - considered by God as though they had never sinned.
Just as it was back then, so it is today, the only difference being that ancient Israel looked forward to the fulfillment of the promise, while we look back on the promise fulfilled. The principles however remain unchanged . . .
'Sinners can be justified by God only when He pardons their sins, remits the punishment they deserve, and treats them as though they were really just and had not sinned, receiving them into divine favor and treating them as if they were righteous. They are justified alone through the imputed righteousness of Christ.' (3SM194)
It is as we grapple with concepts such as these that we realise the greatness of our King, for, behind these concepts lies the unfathomable Character that conceived of them. As repentant sinners, let us therefore rejoice in the knowledge that . . .
'It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.' (Proverbs 25:2)
These thoughts draw our minds to the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal son's father rushes out to meet his son and immediately He calls for the best robe to throw over the boy's shoulders - all of which speaks of the best robe of Jesus' righteousness which God gives to us when we come home, humbled and broken by sin, and we accept of His warm embrace.
'O Precious, loving, long-suffering, long-forbearing Jesus, how my soul adores thee! That a poor, unworthy, sin-polluted soul can stand before the Holy God, complete in the righteousness of our Substitute and Surety!' (UL377)
Our Part
The Blessing
We give ourselves to Him and we accept Him as our Saviour . . . We are considered to be righteous.
Jesus character stands in place of our character..
We are accepted by God.
God considers us as though we had never sinned. (SC62)

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