Here’s what’s wrong with God looking through the “filter” of Jesus to see His children

It’s supposed to be encouraging when we hear that God the Father sees His children through the filter of His Son Jesus Christ. I’ve seen Christians almost come to tears when they talk about how God the Father is wearing “blood-colored glasses” to look at us, seeing the righteousness of His Son instead of our sinfulness.

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So, we are told, He sees His blood-bought children as holy instead of the unrighteous, filthy, utterly degraded, deceitfully wicked, totally sinful vile creatures we actually are.

I’d heard it all my life. (Yes, they were talking about the “blood-colored glasses” back in the 1960s and 1970s too.)

But there came a time, when I was immersed in the Word of God, that I questioned it.

“If God sees us one way,” I pondered, “but we are actually something quite different, doesn’t that mean that God is deceiving Himself?”

Has anyone else wondered this same thing?

I’ve sat on this question for years. Years, I’m telling you. And a satisfactory answer has not been forthcoming, even as I continue to hear people offer this teaching.

The other problem with this teaching that has greatly troubled me is that it is nowhere taught in the Bible. In fact, the Bible teaches something radically different.

When we are the blood-bought children of God through Jesus Christ, what does the Bible say about us? Here are just a few statements of “how God sees” us, if you will, with the understanding that “how God sees us” is what is actually true about us.

  • We are saints—holy ones (Ephesians 1:1 and other Pauline epistles).
  • In the Holy Spirit we have direct access to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
  • We are established, anointed, and sealed by God in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
  • We are seated in heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:6).
  • We are members of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27).
  • We are complete in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:10).
  • We are chosen of God, holy and dearly beloved (Colossians 3:12).
  • We are new creations in Christ so that we can become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
  • We have been given very great and precious promises by God, through which we can share in His nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
  • We have received abundant grace and the free gift of righteousness, and we reign in life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).
  • We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Romans 8:37).
  • We were washed, we were sanctified, we were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
  • We are joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
  • We are united with the Lord and have become one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17).
  • We are part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

The fact is that when by faith we come into the family of God through Jesus Christ—that is, when we become true Christians—we are changed.

We are no longer unrighteous—directed toward sin. We become righteous—directed toward God. Not simply in name, but in actuality.

We are no longer filthy. We have been washed clean.

We are no longer deceitfully wicked. We have been given His truth and holiness.

We are no longer vile. We are His beloved sons and daughters.

We are no longer slaves to sin. We have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to joyfully say “no” to sin and joyfully say “yes” to what God calls us to do.

Does God have to look at us through the filter of His Son Jesus Christ?

I offer a resounding no.

The veil of the temple has been torn in two. There is no more division between us and God the Father. Now we can go in boldly.

Do we go in because of Jesus? Absolutely, no question about it.

But do we go in with Jesus shielding and filtering so our vileness can’t be observed by the Father?

No, that’s not what the Scriptures teach.

Jesus Christ does not have to stand between us and God. Instead through the power of His death (taking our sins upon Himself) and resurrection (rising in victory over sin), we are fully received as His beloved sons and daughters. Because of Jesus, we are clothed in righteousness.

When you are His son or daughter, you have access to so much, and by faith you can expect transformation in the very areas where you feel the weakest in your love for God and others.

For example, do you feel a hard place in your heart toward a certain category of people, as I did toward those with extreme chronic physical illnesses? (I knew this was because someone in my life had used chronic physical illnesses to manipulate and control me and others, but still I felt great distress when I realized I had it.)

Then you can ask Him to change it and by faith expect that He will. (I believe it is a devilish teaching from Bill Gothard and others that we should never have any expectations.)

In fact, years ago when I asked God to change that in me, I was excited to anticipate how in the world He was going to do it, because it seemed like such an impossibly hard place in my heart.

For me, my transformation in this particular area came specifically because of understanding how trauma affects people physically, to fill me with compassion (yes, even compassion for the manipulative and controlling person in my life).

And I stood in awe of the work of God in the very area in which I had asked Him to work.

Here’s the joy for the people of God. Through Jesus Christ, there is great joy in knowing that we not only are “seen” as righteous and holy, but that God the Father is not playing mind games with Himself to do so. Because we actually are righteous and holy.  He expects us, by faith, to learn what that means.

Here’s the joy for the people of God. When we see a need for change in our lives having to do with love toward God and others, by faith we can expect Him to change it, as He delights to do for His beloved sons and daughters.

This is the way God sees us. This is how God loves us. This is how the Holy Spirit works in us.

This is good news.

 

*****

Here’s a related blog post:  “Jesus as Intercessor”: barely restraining God’s wrath?

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Lori DeHart
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Lori DeHart

Lovely, thank you! I appreciate how you write- always rings true and encourages me!

Summer
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Summer

I feel sick every time I hear people describe “us” as filthy, vile, and worthless creatures. I hear the words and feel the sickening memories of what it meant to be treated that way by Christian leaders. Those beliefs have helped many abusers justify abuse. Personally, I encountered the most horrific consequences in the Fundamentalism/BJU world. Rape and other horrific abuses were defended when committed by “godly” men, because, after all, we victims were already despised and worthless before God. On the other hand, the abusers were men of God, men who were saving the eternal souls of the lost. Mostly, I just can’t think about that world. I can still feel the terror and hopelessness of knowing I could never be rescued. I was not worthy of rescue. I was only worthy of the abuse. My peers deserved the same. That we wished for protection was just another indication of the pride in our evil hearts .
In the evangelical world, the initial picture is very different. It stands in stark contrast to fundamentalism. It can take years of seeming freedom before one realizes they are in the same trap, just not to the same extreme. They still emphasize our worthlessness. They still tell abuse victims to examine their own hearts and find the wrong thinking or sin that is causing pain or struggling. They teach us to be kind and forgiving towards abusers because we are all the same – worthless, vile sinners. How does one even recognize or ever escape abuse when we are taught we deserve nothing more? How do we walk away from abusers when we are told we are all the same and we are to love them? How do wives protect themselves and their children when they are told only to submit to abuse? How do children ever grow up thinking they can get help from abusers when they are told they deserve even worse. I vividly remember the many lectures that described the torment and torture of hell – being melted alive, eaten by magots, screaming through torture and being told that it was exactly what I deserved. I should be grateful and feel undeserving of anything less than that. The hardest battle in attempting to follow God is to lose the terror of him seeing me as deserving of torment and torture.

Annie
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Annie

Summer, that is so, so sad!

In comparison, I’ve been thinking how biblical (nouthetic) counseling is somewhat like asking me to see my struggles (they call it) / abuse as “looking through rose-colored glasses”, too, when they suggest that I’m suffering for righteousness sake (NOT), and that I forgive…and love…and show grace…and tell me I’m just as great a sinner, etc.

It pushes me to denial, and pretending and living a lie, and hypocrisy and delusion and deceiving myself (and others).

It denied reality.

NeatNerd
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NeatNerd

Even “reformed” churches don’t get it right. I heard a sermon in a wonderful church recently where the whole point was how much we need to “probe our sinful hearts”. I turned to the person sitting next to me, saying I disagree! If we focus on our own sin, how can we focus on loving and worshipping Jesus! – AND, Rebecca, I appreciate so much that your blogs are in large print for those of us who have aging vision issues!

TS00
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TS00

Thank you for another important, insightful commentary, Rebecca. It seems that one of the ways Satan keeps us from experiencing the relationship and growth God desires for us is by faulty teaching that offers a paltry substitute.

I always found it very distancing to hear that when God looked at me he saw Jesus. Like most people, I believe the deepest desire of my heart is to be known and loved by God, for who I am.

I also discovered, in later years, how this ‘clothed in the righteousness of Christ’ concept allowed individuals to cling to the sin and unrighteousness that God longs to deliver us from. I have long considered this theology as the equivalent of Luther’s ‘Sin Boldly’. Both turn a loving, personal relationship into a formulaic transaction. Sign on the line that you accept these terms, and here’s your ticket.

So many of Satan’s deceptions involve conflating doctrine and religion with relationship. I believe that Jesus came to show us the ‘Abba’ way, which invites us to come to God as little children, confident in his desire to shower us with his love.

Thanks again, for tackling faulty teaching.

Kristen
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Kristen

Wow. I have NEVER heard that ‘glasses’ analogy … thankfully, that one missed me somehow. I always thought we were the ones ‘seeing through a glass, darkly’ so to speak. What a truly horrid and miserable way to view oneself. I am so, so sorry for anyone who has had to cope with that. ((hugs)) They seem to be missing the point. All those lovely verses you quoted about how God sees us … those are the truth. In fact, once God says something, it IS true, because God speaks the Word, and things Happen … creation and all good things. (Or floods and whatever, but they HAPPEN, and that’s the miracle of it. He speaks Truth. Pretty sure that’s half the point of the Bible, at least … He can’t or won’t speak otherwise!)

Joel Horst
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Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve heard the “filter” teaching so many times, yet I don’t recall it ever being taught in Scripture.

Another, very similar teaching is the “robe of righteousness” teaching. This says that God clothes us in a robe of righteousness at conversion. This one IS mentioned in Scripture, but only in the Old Testament. “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10) Interestingly enough, this passage starts with a prophecy about Jesus. So it could be implied that this “robe of righteousness” is actually part of Jesus’ clothing.

(There is one other mention of being clothed with righteousness in Job 29:14: “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me…”)

In the New Testament, however, righteousness is presented as something WITHIN us, instead over top of us. My problem with the “robe of righteousness” idea is that we could be vile and filthy underneath the robe, but it would be “hiding” our sin–kind of along the same lines as the “blood-colored glasses” idea. However, as you pointed out in this article, Rebecca, God not only makes us appear righteous, He makes US righteous.

I feel rather passionate about all this, because it changed my life when I realized that Jesus didn’t just do an external work from the outside in–He completely changed me on the inside and is continuing to do so! I have experienced so much freedom from learning to walk in the reality of being innately righteous instead of a sinner who struggles to do the right thing.

Ultimately, it comes down to identity–am I a ransomed, redeemed, transformed child of God, or am I a groveling servant who is unworthy of even a crumb of God’s attention?

Kristen
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Kristen

That one, I’ve heard used (and occasionally misused) … I’ll keep a sharp eye out for that in future. Good point that it can be taken the wrong way, too. The family of God, the kingdom of God … it’s not a masquerade ball. If you’re there, it’s because He invited you, adopted you, brought you in on purpose.

Norma Brumbaugh
Guest

Redeemed, new creature in Christ, saint (not sinner), forgiven, set free, loved, beloved, child of God . . . we have new labels that go with our new identity in Christ. In our rebirth we are made anew. Truly wonderful.

April
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April

This is beautiful and exactly what my should needed today. Thank you!

Alison Anderson
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Alison Anderson

Thank you Rebecca, as always, your words are fresh and encouraging.
I’ve been active in several protestant denominations over the years. Many of them have adopted the belief system you describe. It is a terrible thing to deceive God’s children.
I used to worry so much about the unseen sin in me. I believed what the experts taught about our sin nature making us filthy rags, disgusting to look upon, a major disappointment to God. I would search my heart looking for the sin & evil in me. But how could i confess stuff i didn’t know I was guilty of committing? I was trying so hard to do everything I was taught, but it was a no win situation. It left me feeling defeated and without any hope for resolution– I was filthy and guilty inside because of “hidden” sin I hadn’t confessed nor eradicated.
I left the church because of all the hypocrisy and twisted theology. I eventually rewired my brain to realize I, myself, am clean and pure before God because of Christ’s sacrifice for me. I confess what I am guilty of doing, humbly ask forgiveness and trust that’s good enough for God. I no longer worry that I’m in a constant state of sinning. I was changed when I got saved. I don’t have to hide behind Jesus when it’s time to meet God face to face. My eternal daddy loves me, even in my fallible human state.

NGal
Guest
NGal

I do get it that this is written within the framework of American evangelicalism, but it is also a huge issue here. The idea of imputed righteousness is a big concept in Lutheran theology, and it is very popular to describe Christian life just like that. We are just being covered by the work of Jesus, not really changed, and still remain horrible sinners. It both discourages but also brings a false relief to many who can continue to sin and then justify it with all the ‘imputed righteousness’ talk.
On the other hand, plenty of ‘sinless saints’ also went to the deep end and justified their actions with ‘oh I am a saint and thus can no longer sin’, living in complete denial.

Rebounder
Guest
Rebounder

Thank you Rebecca! This post is an answer to what I’ve prayed the last few days. I’ve been aware of a hard place in my heart, similar to you, and have been ashamed of it, but brought it to Him honestly. Here is proof that the Lord listens and cares for us.