NORTH MINNEAPOLIS PRAYER BLOG 11/11/17: RIGHTEOUSNESS (Part 3)

 

Issue: God's Will-Righteousness (Part 3)

We have been travelling through meditations and the resulting prayers that God gives from them on the Lord's Prayer. We have spent a bit of time looking at what God's will is that He desires we pray will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The past two blogs have been focused on digging into the word "righteousness". Tonight we continue that study. Please pray God will send His messengers here to help us. I need partners. We need help to love the people here well. We earnestly desire, first and foremost, that the gospel will come in power and bring new birth and the resulting worship that will flow forth from it. Let the LORD lead you to pray however He may speak to you as we seek to make His great name known in North Minneapolis. I pray this blog give you grace and peace.  

WALKING IN THE SPIRIT: THE RELATIONSHIP OF CHRIST IN OUR GOOD (RIGHTEOUS) WORKS

Let me start by saying a bit about where we are headed. Righteous works come from being declared righteous and changed inside. This crosses over into the realm regarding what it means to be justified. Justification is a judgment declared by God. When God declares us justified, He is saying we are just, or righteous. I’ll try to explain how He does that when we are so far from just. As discussed earlier, we are sinners. We are unrighteous. We are wicked and in our wickedness, or unrighteousness, we do evil things. That evil flows out of our inner person, our heart or spirit as it is called in several texts. Jesus exposes this truth in the gospel accounts found in Matthew 15:11 and Mark 7:15. It’s not what goes into a man that makes them evil, or defiled. It is instead the heart which is revealed by what comes out of it in the actions of the man. Another way He describes this is by analogy of a tree. Good trees bear good fruit, but bad trees bear bad fruit.[1] If the tree is rotten, so will its fruit be.

From birth, we are under condemnation for Adam’s sin.[2] Like Adam, we all break the law, whether it be the Law of Moses or the law written on our consciences.[3] We have all sinned and deserve death.[4] We have two issues here. First, everyone under, or in, Adam are judged by their “federal head”. What I mean by federal head is an idea that one person is the representative for all others who are under them or in their ranks. When Adam sinned, everyone that would come from him (which is everyone) stood condemned along with him. That’s worth its own blog, so I’ll leave it at that. Second, we also have our own personal sin which exposes our evil nature. We are condemned as attached to Adam and we are condemned personally as well. It seems like it is only logical that a judgment by God otherwise would make God a bad judge or ignorant. But that’s not true.

Those who place their faith for salvation in Christ alone are declared just. Why? Unlike Adam, Jesus never sinned. He lived a spotless, or blameless, perfect life. This is important because God was working on a way to save us without sacrificing His justice. In the law, God instituted a Passover lamb.[5] The Passover lamb was a sacrifice. They took a spotless lamb or goat (an animal without blemish, pure) and sacrificed it. The lamb was a provision for Israel. God was going to pass over Egypt and punish every household for its wickedness. Israel was not without sin. But all under Egypt’s reign, the reign of Pharaoh, were going to be judged. But God was merciful to Israel and sent His messenger, Moses, with a way to be spared the penalty for sin which was the death of the firstborn son. His salvation called for the spotless lamb or goat to be sacrificed, cooked, and eaten. But just as important was a very specific command. The Israelites were to mark their doorposts with the blood of the animal. They had to stay in their blood marked homes until morning. God passed over Egypt and did as He said. All homes which were not marked by the blood of the lamb or goat were judged and sentencing occurred on the spot. What was the result?

And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead.[6]

This is getting at an important theme we find leads to understanding justification. Israel was not chosen for its merits. Listen to what God says to this same nation in Moses’ writing in Deuteronomy 7:7-8: “The LORD did not set His heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest. Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you, and He was keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

But God goes further because He wants us to understand the purpose for His salvation: “Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commandments.”[7] Let that sink in. It’s meant to be proclaimed to you and me. God saves people because He loves others that they came from. Rooted in that is the idea that God swore in a covenant to do good to them (the patriarchs) and to bless them and bring forth blessing upon their children. Sin earns a wage for its work. That wage is death. But you can’t buy love. Love is given freely from one who has love. God saves those He loves simply because He loves them.

I have children. I love each and every one of them. There are times they act in sin and it hurts my heart. I see them hurt each other when they steal or lie. I see them when they are angry with each other. That hurts my heart deeply. I want them to get along and to love each other. I’m not saying I want them to get along just to get along. I want love to be the motivator for how they interact with each other. I wish they could see each other how I see each of them. I try to explain my love for each of them and give them eyes to see the hurt they cause each other with hopes that an appeal to their heart will reveal love. Greater than any love I have is the love of our Father God. He loves us and His law is proof of that. He desires we love Him rightly and thus flow out in love for others. There is only one Creator of all men.

Greater still is the love we see in Jesus. As explained earlier, marriage reveals the relationship we were created to enjoy with God. Jesus is the perfect husband who is set to return for His bride. His bride is the church.[8] Yet, we are an adulterous bride. We desire so many things that are not Jesus. We deserve to be discarded, not wedded to the perfect, pure king. We are impure harlots. I have a wife. I love her different than my children. I am far from spotless. She did not receive a great, pure king when she married me. Imagine wedding a spouse who has given up her purity while you have maintained your own. Would you marry such a one? You might, but Jesus says He is. Not only that, but He has cleansed her and will keep cleaning her to prepare her for the great wedding to take place in the age to come. What kind of love is this that commits to an adulteress knowing she will continue to pick up dirt? It is a great love that is much deeper than we can comprehend. Yet it is available to all who trust in Him.

It is not that we come before the Great King, Jesus, and say look at how pure and beautiful and deserving I am. No. We bow before our good King and He reveals that He has always loved us and set His heart on us. And He has not just said it, but has done what we couldn’t. He remained pure to take our place on the cross. He died for our sins. And He reigns on the throne today interceding with wisdom. He knows what we need because He has suffered as we do. He gives all we need, especially forgiveness. His actions to us our not based on looking at us and saying “This one is good. That one is not.” No. He looks on us with love and says, “I will act to make them pure and to save them.”

DECLARED AND CONFIRMED

All who believe in Jesus as the sufficient sacrifice who came and died for their sins are declared righteous, or just, and thereby justified in God’s court. You might think that is an action anyone can choose to do or choose to reject, but it gets a bit deeper than that. First, you have to know Jesus came and died for you. Someone has to send the message. God sent the message Himself to prophets and priests and apostles. These messengers obeyed God and took the message in faith. Then they proclaimed it. That is what I am doing now. I am bringing you God’s message that began with His promise in the beginning of the Bible to destroy the serpent who deceived and murdered our first parents. That message was passed to Israel and then to the nations. It is still going forth today. You can’t merit a message being sent. You can’t merit God acting on your behalf to save you from sin. Think about that. How can you claim any merit to deserve to be saved from your sin. If you are in sin, then you have no merit. You have sin. God owes no one salvation. But He came and lived perfectly and died. Along the way He taught the message. After death He further explained the message in all of Scripture. Then He sent messengers out with it all to be preserved so that you and I might hear it. We have no merit to claim belief in that message as deserving to create it, work to fulfill it, and to send it.

So what does this all have to do with our righteousness? First, it reveals that we do not have a righteousness of our own. Jesus does. Second it shows us that we are hopeless to merit love. But God loves us and does so because it is who He is. Third, I believe it points us to look at the beauty of God displayed in the life and death of Jesus. Looking at that beauty in His love and how it acts towards us should awaken us to our sin. It should grieve us. His love is so pure and our lack of love and trust is so obvious. When you see that kind of love in action on your behalf, and truly believe it is on YOUR (individual) behalf, it should break your heart. That love creates life in us by exposing our need for salvation. We deserve to be punished for giving away our purity. We deserve to be punished because we are a people who all act like our leader, Adam, and follow in selfishness and idolatry. This should cause us to ask for mercy. And when we do, we find it is available just as promised. He is our Passover lamb.[9]

ABRAHAM AND RIGHTEOUSNESS

God made a promise to Abraham, a covenant, to bless him (Abraham) with innumerable descendants. In Genesis 15:6 it says this: “And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD, and He (God) accounted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness.” Another way of understanding that word “accounted” is credited. Abraham believed God would do what He said and God credits righteousness to him. A credit is not something you have. It is something you are given with faith that you will repay. The issue is that Abraham was not a righteous man. He lied about his wife being his sister twice in order to avoid being killed. He handed his wife over to other men.[10] Abraham also tried to obtain the promise on his own by sleeping with his wife’s slave since his wife was old.[11] That’s not a faith that believes God is going to keep His word by bringing children forth from his wife. Abraham was without merit. So who would pay the credit back? Jesus did.

How can I say that? God came back and promised to bring a child from Abraham’s wife, Sarah, after Abraham slept with Hagar, Sarah’s slave, and had a child named Ishmael. He promised He would cause her to have a son who would be named Isaac. He kept His word. At 100, Abraham became a father to a child born from a 90 year old wife. God then called Abraham to go and sacrifice the child. But Abraham trusted God would still keep His word in making a great nation from Isaac, so he took him with plans to sacrifice him, but believed God would provide a sacrifice or raise the child from the dead.[12] And God did provide a sacrifice.

Here’s what the text says:

“9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then they returned to the servants and traveled back to Beersheba, where Abraham continued to live.”[13]

Several thousand years later, God sent another lamb to take the place of the sons of Abraham who are the children of the promise. Jesus Christ travelled up to Mount Golgotha to die for the sins of those who believed God’s Word like their Father Abraham did.[14] God is still the “God who provides” (Jehovah Jireh).

Abraham was credited righteousness because he believed God, not because he was wealthy in righteousness and could pay back the wages God promised. No. God set His love on Abraham and gave him credit he could never pay back, but God owns all of the wealth that exists and it is all truly found in the person Jesus Christ. He is the treasure we should long to enjoy. When you find Him, you will sell all that you have in order to simply have the field He is hidden in. If you have Jesus, you have everything. If you do not have Jesus, you have nothing. God paid the righteous credit of Abraham and all of his children who share Abraham’s faith in God’s word by dying on a cross. In that act, all unrighteousness they earned was paid for and the just wrath of God towards their sin was satisfied, never to be remembered in His eyes again.



[1] MATTHEW 7:18; LUKE 6:43

[2] ROMANS 5:18

[3] ROMANS 5:14

[4] ROMANS 3:23; ROMANS 6:23

[5] EXODUS 12

[6] EXODUS 12:29-30

[7] DEUTERONOMY 7:10

[8] 2 CORINTHIANS 11:2

[9] JOHN 1:29; 1 PETER 1:19; MATTHEW 26:2, 28; REVELATION 13:8

[10] GENESIS 12 and 26

[11] GENESIS 16

[12] GENESIS 22:8; HEBREWS 11:19

[13] GENESIS 22:9-19

[14] GALATIANS 3:7