God has been very kind to enable me to see, at least in some measure, the depravity of my heart. I am glad that I know that my sin isn’t simply little slip-ups in an otherwise obedient life. I know that even my best deeds are blighted with selfishness, laziness, pride, and unbelief.
While this truth makes me oh so glad for grace, it also drains some of the joy out of my good works. I know that they’re not really good—my motives are so mixed, my obedience falls so short—and sometimes I am tempted to wonder if they please God at all.
Here are the last two verses from Romans 4:
But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his [Abraham’s] sake alone, but for ours also. It [righteousness] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
The death of Jesus Christ was the ultimate expression of God’s hatred of and wrath against sin—even our sinful “goodness.” The Father slaughtered his own Son, pouring out upon him his entire wrath for all of the sins of all of the elect that would have been theirs for all of eternity—in three hours. Only the wrath of God could kill the Son of God. We rejoice that Christ’s death signals the end of God’s wrath against our sin. But there’s something more than payment for sin here. There is the vindication of the resurrection.
So what does the resurrection signal? That Christ, who was made sin for us, paid the penalty in full and is now, once again, completely pleasing in the Father’s sight. Jesus was no longer the cursed one hanging on a tree. He was “My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” The Father who had turned his back on the sin-cursed Son now declared that he was absolutely pleasing to him once again. The resurrection signals that the Son is now totally reconciled to the Father. He is welcomed and accepted and all his works shine in the light of God’s smiling countenance.
Okay, that’s all well and good as an interaction between the Father and the Son. But what about us? Here’s the mind-blowing truth: Because of our union with Christ, that punishment for sin is our punishment for sin and that resurrection to new life is our resurrection to new life. All of our efforts to please God, flawed by sin as they are, now shine in the light of God’s smiling countenance! Our faith in Christ tells us that he’s been vindicated—completely welcomed, completely reconciled—and it tells us the same thing about ourselves. We’re IN him! Our works please God! Amazing.
How important is the resurrection? It means everything. God’s wrath has been completely spent. He looks at his children now, all who have been given faith to believe, and he says, “These are my beloved children who please me.” My imperfect works please God? Yes, because they are clothed in the work of the perfect Son. So now I can work and serve and love without having to examine every little nuance of what I do to see if it passes the test (which it never does). I can rejoice in the resurrection. God is pleased with Jesus. I am “in” Jesus. God is pleased with me. My meager efforts please him. I am living in the light of his smile. How do I know? The resurrection.