NORTH MINNEAPOLIS PRAYER BLOG 11/9/17: RIGHTEOUSNESS (Part 2)

ISSUE: GOD'S WILL-RIGHTEOUSNESS

I originally thought this would be a two part series. It has turned out to be a bit longer. I've got at least one more blog coming on God's will for us to be righteous. I pray it is helping you grow in love for God. It is a crucial topic worthy of meditation and prayer. The righteousness of Christ is a prayer we should all desire to pursue on our behalf and that of others. What a gift it is to know God by understanding His righteousness and how it is a blessing to us! Tonight, I ask you pray for many to be covered in the righteousness of Christ and cleansed of sin. For those of us who are already covered and cleansed, the prayer is that He might continue to clean us from the sin we commit now. We are cleansed, but we continually need to be cleansed as well. One note: If you sign up for the email newsletter, I am turning this series into an eBook for free download. I will send it out once it is complete. I don't know if I will make it available on the site long-term or not, so make sure to sign up soon. I will likely post it or make it available upon request, but I'm still learning how to make my email send things automatically.

With that said, we will continue our study:

UNDERSTANDING RIGHTEOUSNESS: LOOKING THROUGH THE LENS OF CHRIST

The Bible refers to people as righteous in some cases. Noah is said to be righteous.[1] Abraham is also said to be righteous.[2] Lot is called righteous.[3] Job is called righteous.[4] David is called righteous.[5] Zachariah and Elizabeth and Joseph were among several others who God has recorded as righteous in His Word, the Bible.[6] There are also verses that possess warnings against harming righteous people and bless or reward righteousness.[7] God’s eyes are on the righteous.[8] There are even blessings for doing good to righteous people.[9] We could go on and on and on, but the point is God says there are righteous people. He also says no one is righteous, not a single person.[10] The questions that arise can sound like this: “Can we be righteous, or is it impossible? Is there a contradiction? Can I trust the Bible?” We are to understand all of the Bible, including what righteousness is and is not, in light of Christ. Let’s start there.

Jesus Christ is the only truly righteous person by the law. He is the only person to live up to the Law of God that kills and condemns all other people.[11] No person has been righteous on their own account since the beginning of time, except Jesus Christ. Jesus came because of this very reason. Why? God set His love on us.[12] Quick and hopefully helpful clarification: The “us” is limited in scope. The “us” includes all who believe in God’s promised salvation completed by Jesus Christ on our behalf. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ as your savior, then you are not included in the “us”. That John 3:16 puts a caveat: "whosoever believes”. This is open to any and every person, but the reward is limited to those who believe.

Do we deserve to be loved? That is a question that often arises in the minds or lives of many people. I guess we need to look at what makes you qualified to “deserve” or “merit” love. The answer is no. Our sin makes us unworthy and undeserving of love, but God loves us anyway. One way God shows the hideousness of our sin is to describe His people, Israel, as an adulterous wife.[13] I’ll try to summarize the depictions. Basically, God has created people to live with Him in an intimate way. Marriage is a reflection and revelation of the plans God has for us.[14] Instead of enjoying our God and this special relationship where nothing is hidden, we run to other lovers (idols-objects we desire for their own sake). Why? Because we desire what they offer, the things we crave because our passions are upside down and evil.[15] These lovers are no lovers at all. They ruin us and cast us out. God exposes our shame and shines His light on our wickedness.[16] Those “lovers” abandon us.[17] We are left, empty, unsatisfied, and in danger. Even darker is the fact that we ask God to provide us opportunities to take His blessings and go spend them on these worthless lovers.[18]

Our sin is no little thing. To break God’s law is to break God’s good heart for you. He desires to bless you, provide for you, care for you, and abundantly so. We had nothing in ourselves that was worthy, but God does good to us anyway.[19] Our response: Let me take what God has graciously given and give it away to chase after evil desires pursued through evil lovers. We do not treasure what God has given us, nor do we see how lesser these lovers are in comparison to what we have in God. Want to test it? Have you ever spent your money on getting drunk or high? Have you paid to see PG-13 or R-rated movies that contained nudity or filthy language? Have you stolen something? Have you desired something you didn’t own and been upset about it to the point of action including thinking about how to get it at whatever cost? In all of this, we lose sight of thankfulness for what we have.

Our lack of contentment is really a pointer to our relationship with God. It’s the same start that shows disinterest in a spouse. You start looking around for something to satisfy you or realize you have become interested in the satisfaction you imagine exists in someone you “stumbled” upon. Either way, that dissatisfaction was there and your heart was not captured by the loveliness of God. Sin is no little thing. It’s the highest form of treason you can imagine. It’s not about not doing something either. It’s about a heart that even has to be told to not do something. There shouldn’t be an issue. Even hearing the law should result in a response like, “That is my great pleasure to not do. I am truly satisfied with you, God!” But if we are honest, that’s not what the situation in our heart really is. We love other things and do not desire God. We have sinned against our Good God in a grievous way.

OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

We do not have a righteousness of our own that stands up to the law. The law simply shuts our mouths.[20] We can’t stand before God and claim any ounce of deserving His goodness or faithfulness to us. Imagine standing before God and complaining about how we haven’t gotten what we deserved or how He has failed to measure up to our covenant. He gave before we deserved anything. And in receiving even life or breath or whatever we have received, we had hearts that wanted more or something different we feel we need or should have, yet didn’t. That all started with Adam and Eve, but it continues today in each of our lives. We are no different than Adam.[21] We can’t just blame our actions on Adam. We, too, break the law. We just have a world full of sin that draws out our weakness that runs to sin. Jesus is proof of that. He was in the same world we are and had the same temptations we all experience, yet He never sinned.[22] The case is closed there. Sin is revelation of the state of the heart and none of our hearts desire God as we should. Yet, there is so much grace available to us through Christ.

THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST IS THE REVELATION OF THE HEART OF GOD

God is a great husband. He shows us His heart in the same passages where He exposes ours. In Ezekiel, though we give away the great gifts He has blessed us with, we see His heart is set on winning ours back. He exposes us as we are, for sure, but He then promises to remember His promise (specifically a covenant) by providing atonement for sins.[23] In Hosea, God calls His bride to return to Him and He will wash her clean and will love her freely.[24] Such is the pattern of the love of God. He is truly merciful and abounding in love. We see this most clearly in the person and work of God in Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to earth as the sacrifice needed to heal and restore us. He was perfect in every way, yet mankind mocked Him, beat Him, spit upon Him, and killed Him as a rebel on the cross. Only after seeing our sin in light of God’s promise to send His servant to suffer and die, do we see the depth of our sin. We are so in love with sin that we would kill our good husband. And when we read of His heart’s cry, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” we should be broken. See God promised to come save us from the bondage of sin and the harm we are experiencing because of it.[25] And He has. We are deathly sick. It is much like the effects one experiences when fighting an addiction and trying to break free. We are so sick we do not even know it. The only way we can be healed is by looking on the cross, seeing our sin for what it is and God for who He is, and then turning away from those things we seek that are really killing us. No one in this world is free of sin. You can’t break it with mere will power. You need God to change you and to clean you out from the inside.[26] He does this.[27] Trust Jesus and turn to Him. Who He sets free is free indeed![28]

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND OUR RIGHTEOUS ACTIONS

There is a relationship between what God has done and what we will do. Jesus Christ is righteous. He gives us His righteousness.[29] It is not our own, but we are covered by it.[30] It comes by faith.[31] Yet, God says we must have pure hearts. How can impure hearts become pure? How can they remain pure?

GOD GIVES US NEW HEARTS

Ezekiel tells us that we will be given new hearts and put a new spirit within us.[32] He removes the old and puts in the new. This comes after God has called Israel to “cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and new spirit!”[33] There is a call to act and yet we find out the truth: We are powerless to save ourselves and do what is necessary. God does it for us. But then there are verses like 1 Peter 1:22: “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” There is a cleansing that occurs when we obey the truth. Then there is an additional command to truly love each other. How does that work if we are unable to act in a righteous way on our own?

RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT CREATES MORE RIGHTEOUSNESS

Jesus Christ’s righteousness is the gift that keeps on giving. When we receive Christ’s righteousness as a gift by faith, we get another gift: The Holy Spirit. God places a new heart and a new spirit within us. This spirit is the Spirit of the Father, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit.[34] The Holy Spirit applies the blood of Christ to our life and it cleanses us inside and out.[35] We are sealed by the Holy Spirit in order to be kept until the day of redemption.[36] The Holy Spirit isn’t just a seal. It teaches us to understand the word of God and puts His law in our hearts and minds.[37] And the Holy Spirit produces the good fruit of righteousness.[38]

Why do I say it’s the good fruit of righteousness? Each of the items called the fruit of the Spirit point to a contentment and satisfaction in God. They appear in times of temptation or testing. Some are easy to tell. When is patience evident? In a time when impatience is normal. When pressure is applied, you either respond with patience or impatience. What about self-control? When pressure is applied, you either respond without control or with control. Some might be evident without pressure. Maybe kindness or goodness are such items. But the tree is not really in view until the farmer presses upon the fruit. It’s one thing to be kind or happy when there is no pressure, but when temptation or trial comes is that fruit really there, or did it just seem like it was there? The same is true for each of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the flesh is our sinful responses that show hearts that lack contentment.[39] This is our natural state before we are born again by faith and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s safe to say you aren’t content with God alone if you lash out when something on earth is taken from you, kept from you, or threatened. God cannot be taken from us.



[1] GENESIS 6:9; 7:1

[2] GENESIS 15:6; ROMANS 4:3, 9; GALATIANS 3:6; JAMES 2:23

[3] 2 PETER 2:7-8

[4] JOB 1:1,8; 2:3

[5] 2 SAMUEL 22:21-27; PSALM 18:20-26

[6] LUKE 1:5-6; MATTHEW 1:19

[7] 2 SAMUEL 4:11; 1 KINGS8:31-32; PSALM 1; PROVERBS 10-15, 18, 20, 21; EZEKIEL 3:18-21

[8] 1 PETER 3:12

[9] MATTHEW 10:41; 13:17; 25:23-46

[10]ROMANS 3:10-18

[11] ROMANS 3:19-26; 5 (the entire chapter)

[12] JOHN 3:16-17

[13] EZEKIEL 16; JEREMIAH 3:1-11; HOSEA 2:2-23

[14] EPHESIANS 5:22-33 (especially note verse 32)

[15] HOSEA 2:5

[16] HOSEA 2:10

[17] HOSEA 3:7

[18] EZEKIEL 16:15-22, but the entire chapter really addresses it

[19] EZEKIEL 16:1-14

[20] ROMANS 3:19

[21] ROMANS 12:12-14

[22] HEBREWS 4:15

[23] EZEKIEL 16:62-63

[24] HOSEA 14 (see especially verse 4)

[25] GENESIS 3:14-19 (especially verse 15); ISAIAH 41-66 (especially verse 41:28 and 59:15-21); PSALM 2-3

[26] PSALM 51:10

[27] ACTS 15:9

[28] JOHN 8:36

[29] ROMANS 5:17

[30] PHILIPPIANS 3:9

[31] ROMANS 3:22; 4:5

[32] EZEKIEL 36:26

[33] EZEKIEL 18:31

[34] MATTHEW 10:20; ROMANS 8:9; GALATIANS 4:6

[35] 1 JOHN 1:7-9; REVELATION 1:5; HEBREWS 9:14; EPHESIANS 5:25-26; TITUS 2:14; 2 PETER 1:4

[36] EPHESIANS 1:13-14

[37] HEBREWS 10:15-16; MATTHEW 10:19-20; MARK 13:11; LUKE 12:12; 1 JOHN 2:27

[38] GALATIANS 5:22-23

[39] GALATIANS 5:19-21