Righteousness Revealed Part 2

What did Jesus tells us about righteousness and salvation?

20  For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 (NKJV)

Given that we can’t get in to heaven without a great deal of righteousness how do we acquire it? Where do we go to receive it? The obvious answer if we have been a believer for any length of time is that we get it from Jesus. I once said in a message, “Only one person is going to heaven.” That got people’s attention, to which I added, “Jesus, and those who are in Him.” Why is that? Jesus is the only one who met His Father’s standard of righteousness. We learn from 2 Corinthians 5:21 how this standard is met.

21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

As a result of Jesus death and resurrection all those who repent and receive His free gift of salvation experience this divine exchange that Paul described – He gets our sin, we receive His righteousness. Now righteousness has two forms – imputed and imparted. Imputed righteousness is Jesus deeds being credited to our account. Many years ago my wife and I received our statement from the bank and it wasn’t good. When I went in to the branch to sort things out I discovered what had happened. Two branches had merged and a couple at the other branch had the same account number as us. In the merger they gave the other couple our funds and we acquired their debts. Thankfully they quickly reversed things once they discovered what they had done. This is what Jesus did. He received our debts and we had His funds (righteousness from His righteous acts) credited to our account. This is the ‘imputed’ part.

What is the benefit of imputed righteousness? The best summary is in Hebrews.

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

We can come boldly to the throne of grace because Jesus righteousness, that which far exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, is ours as a believer. This is our access pass. So make use of it, come boldly and often and before this throne present not only requests, pursue intimacy with the Father, Son and Spirit.

14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NKJV)

Next post I will begin explicating how imputed and imparted righteousness relate and what it means for our walk with and identity in Jesus.

Righteousness Revealed Part 1

Paul was the preeminent theologian in the New Testament. A man driven even harder by passion for Jesus than his opposition to Jesus when he was Saul of Tarsus the zealously religious Pharisee. He knew the heights and depths of Jesus amazing love. Does that mean he always lived on the mountaintop? No, read his letters, he clearly did not. Yet he had these experiences and prayed that we would as well (see Col. 1:9-11, Phil. 1:9-11 and Eph. 1:17-21, 3:14-21). The prime drive for Paul was his awareness of the heart of the gospel.

16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV)

There is a little phrase in these two verses we would do well to understand and embrace, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed.” Most of us likely understand the scriptural truth that salvation is by faith through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet how does salvation by faith through grace reveal the righteousness of God? Righteousness is a word connected to covenantal commitment.

“The concept of righteousness in the Old Testament is wholly a religiously determined idea. It does not express any abstract ethical norm or concept. Neither is it any ideal moral system or set of universal laws. Righteousness describes the relationship which Israel had with Yahweh. Essential for the basis of righteousness is the covenant relationship. This alliance presupposes a mutual righteousness between the two parties which is expressed most fully in faithfulness to the covenant relationship. The righteous or just one fulfills to the other party the obligations that are dictated by the covenant.

This is not to say that the covenantal parties of the Old Testament were equal; on the contrary, God was the Master, and Israel was the servant. The covenant relationship was created in the first place because of God’s merciful initiative to choose a sinful people.”

Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary

In the OT the ‘righteous or just one’ was Yahweh. Fulfilling the covenant depended on His fulfilling His commitment. While this is framed as a legal transaction we see the true outworking of covenant when we read Psalm 23. Here David describes the outworking of this covenant in terms of friendship and intimacy. No legal language here!

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not want. 2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters. 3  He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake. 4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over. 6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV)

When you read and meditate on this Psalm recognize that this is the covenant of righteousness that Paul experienced after conversion. He knew covenant as a Pharisee, he lived covenant as a believer. Let us go and do likewise.

More to come…

He Died for You Part 4

In the previous three posts I sought to include examples and illustrations of why Jesus wants to draw close to us as a friend and looked at how His love moved Him to die on our behalf, in spite of us being His enemies at the time. My point is that the opportunity for intimacy with Jesus isn’t dependent on our skills or abilities in any area. It only depends on our desire and willingness to draw near (see Jas. 4:8 below). Jesus loved and wanted to draw near to us in spite of where we were prior to our conversion. How much more does He want to draw close once we have been born again?

8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 (NKJV)

3  The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NKJV)

Have you wondered about how to draw close to someone living inside your skin? Sound strange? Viewed from the outside our faith can seem a little odd – we have someone intimately part of us who wants to get to know us! Not only does the Living One live within us, He wants us to draw close to the Father’s throne to experience intimacy. One way the scriptures describe Jesus sacrificial death is in Hebrews.

1  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Jesus saw joy on the other side of the cross. The joy of being reunited with his Father certainly, but His primary purpose for taking on flesh was to redeem and restore all who would come to Him. His future joy lay in His nature being birthed in all who received Him.   

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

We have a new nature and are clothed in His righteousness. If we recognize that the throne of judgment is also the throne of grace we will respond by coming boldly into His presence and drawing near to His heart. After all, the invitation and door are both always open.

16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)


He Died for You Part 3

There is another part to Jesus being our friend that may require some repentance (a change of mind and heart) on our part. Jesus wants to be our friend because He loves us. Yet do we believe He loves us because there is something attractive about us? If so there are two problems we need to address (this is where the repentance comes in). First, if we believe Jesus love is based on our attractiveness what happens if we sin or believe we aren’t attractive to Him? Can we ever be His friend? We all know sin is not attractive to Jesus. After all it required His agonizing death. Secondly, what does scripture teach us about sin and ourselves?

Look at what Paul said.

18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:18 (NKJV)

When he refers to our ‘flesh’ Paul is referring to what he possessed in his natural or pre-conversion self and what stayed around in spite of his new birth and new nature. He describes the same thing in an expanded way in Ephesians 2.

1  And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2  in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3  among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV)

Paul informs us that prior to conversion we were under God’s judgment and wrath. He further reinforces this in Romans 5.

6  For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:6-10 (NKJV) NOTE – Paul refers to our pre-conversion not our present state as being sinners.

So why does Jesus want to be our friend? Is it something in us? Clearly not, it is something in Him. Let us go back to one of the most famous passages in the scriptures.

16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

Jesus wants to be our friend not because of something inherently loveable in us but because it is His nature to love. After all John described Him as love.

7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:7-10 (NKJV)

At first glance we may find this discouraging. It shouldn’t be. If Jesus was so passionate about how He could transform His enemies (all of us at one point) that He loved them  enough to die for them what do you think He desires in terms of relationship now that His nature is in us through the new birth?

Paul said, 3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (NKJV) emphasis mine

This awareness of us being made accepted in Jesus is what led to Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:17-21 and 3:14-21. Jesus died for us because He loved, and loves, us and nothing we do can separate us from that incredible love. We can rest in His eternal commitment to work things out for our good and present us in His splendor to His, and our, Father. So let us rest in His love for us that He may reveal more of Himself through us.

He Died for You Part 2

In His final teaching on the way to Gethsemane and then the cross Jesus said something very significant in John 15:15 (see the verse in context at the end of this post). Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants but friends.” While we earn trust, do we earn friendship or is it something that grows over time through the sharing of hearts? I don’t know how often we think about friendship and how it develops but Jesus called these men His friends after He had spent around three years with them, eating together, sleeping outdoors together and sharing ministry. All this time Jesus was modeling His Father’s heart and hearing their hearts.

Over time they had become friends of Jesus now pointed that out to them in John 15. Given that our friends are the people we enjoy spending time with can Jesus be our Friend without enjoying our company? It is easy to say in Christian circles that Jesus died for us because He loved us and intellectually believe it. Yet what if we shift it a bit to say, “Jesus died for us because He cares about us.” We can also make it more personal, “Jesus, I know You died for me, You laid down Your life and suffered incredible torment because You really care about me and want to spend eternity with me.” Does that evoke a different heart response? After all, Paul wrote, “10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:10 (NKJV) While the context of this verse is salvation is the principle not true in the other areas of our walk with Jesus?

We need to see Jesus high and lifted up, the King and Creator of the universe. Yet we also need to see Jesus stepping off His throne and walking into our lives and hearts, concerned about every aspect and detail of our lives because He is also our friend. We can sing ‘Jesus Friend of sinners’ but what about Jesus friend of Christians? What are the implications of thinking and believing that way?

12  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14  You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:12-15 (NKJV)

He Died for You Part 1

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love the outdoors, particularly being in the mountains. When I am outdoors I generally find it easier to connect with Jesus and easier for my heart to come to a place of rest. Yet with all their beauty and the many natural resources on and hidden within them, what are mountains really worth? While we may try to calculate this from a monetary perspective, how do we compare all the natural resources in the world with the value of one eternal being created to be conformed to the image of Jesus? (See Rom. 8:28-30)

This is a question that seems to not occupy most of us but is a very significant and real question. We live in a world generally dominated by economic concerns in western civilization. Yet, while economics needs to be part of our life we need to view finances and economies as a means to an end, not the end in and of themselves. After all, what did Jesus say?

36  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Mark 8:36 (NKJV) 

It is very important that Jesus in essence said there is nothing we should be willing to trade for an eternity with Him. This statement is the true value proposition and is the real measuring stick for how we are to weigh things both temporal and eternal. How do we view our lives and the lives of others in light of this truth? How is it reflected in our lifestyles?

More to come…

Sin is Sin?

We no longer reference sin very much in our culture and even when we do, in some church circles it has become popular to say that ‘sin is sin’ and one sin is no worse than another. I don’t know who started the expression but the intent seems to be the justification or minimizing of sin. However, does ‘sin is sin’ square with scripture?

Squaring something is an interesting term. It can be used to refer to fighting with two opponents ‘squaring off’ with one another. However, I think the better reference comes from carpentry where things need to be squared if they are to function properly. A few years ago I installed some laminate in my basement and discovered that whoever had finished that part of my basement had not squared the walls and my runs of laminate were off when I reached the wall. Squaring something up in building may not seem that important but it is like the idea of heading off on a long journey and being slightly off. It may not affect things much at the start but 1,000 km into the journey you are far from your destination even if you were only off a couple of degrees at the start. In building the larger the structure the more important it is to square things when you begin to build on the foundation.

In a similar manner with the choices we make in our lives we are building something of far more significance than an earthly structure, as Paul noted.

1  For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NKJV)

19  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV)

9  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 1 Corinthians 3:9-10 (NKJV)

There are more NT references. My point is that we in the church have both an individual and corporate responsibility regarding how we build on the foundation of Jesus in our lives. Jesus is not the carpenter, we are. The foundation is set and squared. Sins have consequences and contrary to some current thinking some sins are worse than others. While our goal should be to never sin, we need to recognize that if we do the effects of some are worse than others and they affect not only us individually but the church corporately because we are all part of the same building. Look at the reference below.

18  Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 (NKJV)

This is one verse on the matter that is very clear, not all sins have the same consequences. Every judicial system I am aware of uses the same approach and does not respond to a parking infraction in the same manner as it does to murder. We would all recognize the inherent injustice in that approach and Yahweh is the same. Exodus to Deuteronomy makes hundreds of distinctions regarding various sins.

The qualifier is that if we don’t know Jesus we end up eternally in the wrong place. If we do know Jesus our degree of reward or loss is determined by how we build on the foundation in our lives, which includes helping others. So rather than saying ‘sin is sin’ why not better serve ourselves and the rest of the body by promoting the idea that sin is wrong, plain and simple? We can then focus on building an eternal structure that we can look forward to and help to shape the rest of the building material in this corporate structure to which we belong.

Partaking of the Divine Nature

1  Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3  as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4  by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:1-4 (NKJV)

Peter provides us with some wisdom here. The focus of 2 Peter is a warning against false teachers. In the first chapter Peter seeks to inoculate his readers from false teaching by getting them to focus on drawing on the grace of Jesus.

So what do we learn here? The closer we draw to Jesus in intimacy the more we can receive of His grace and peace. The catch is we need to believe and draw on His promises. Peter says that drawing on these promises is the way to partake of the Godhead and the way to escape the corruption that is in the world as a result of lust (here Peter points us back to what happened in the garden in Genesis 3).

The natural state of the world is downward toward corruption. Observation and scripture teach us this. I am dealing with a medical issue with one of my feet and as part of the process had an x-ray on my foot. In going over the x-ray results with the Dr. she read a part that referenced signs of ‘degenerative osteoarthritis’ in one of my toes. While it sounds terrible that is not the part of my foot I am rehabilitating and in fact is simply fancy language for the process of life and aging, the corruption that Peter referenced.

While I pray for and believe in healing and restoration, no matter how long I live I, like everyone else, will eventually die unless Jesus returns first. This body will wear out. So how does this square with what Peter said about partaking of the divine nature to escape this corruption and degeneration? If we are believers, we are in the world but not of the world. Though our bodies may wear out our spirits never will. If we know Jesus at some point we will step from time into eternity and receive a new glorified body.

During our time here on earth we are called to grow in our relationship with Jesus and have our spirits grow and be strengthened. While we may lament the effects of aging and cannot control them, we can rejoice in and grow stronger in our spirits. It is not automatic, it requires believing and partaking but it is available. We can experience what Jesus and John the Baptist walked in.

40  And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Luke 2:40 (NKJV)

80  So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel. Luke 1:80 (NKJV)

If Your Eye is Single

The other day I was driving in my car and bring something before the Lord. What I heard in my spirit in answer to my question was, “If your eye is single your whole body will be full of light.” This is from Jesus teaching in Matthew 6:22. The word ‘single’ comes from the old KJV. The NKJV translates it below as ‘good.’

21  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22  The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:21-22 (NKJV)

Over the years I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on verse 21 as I see our heart as the capacity to treasure things, more particularly either the things of the spirit or the things of the soul. At the same time I had spent little time on verse 22. I have casually thought of it as needing to pay attention to what we look at. This time what the Holy Spirit brought to me over and over again was the role of our thinking/imagination in relation to our looking. How and what we see is greatly determined by how we look.

To bring this point home let me share a story I read. This fellow described being on the subway and seeing a father and two young children get on. The children were bothering the other passengers and the father was doing nothing to intervene. The author made some judgments and decided to intervene and get the fellow to be a responsible father. He said, “Excuse me, I don’t know if you noticed but your children are bothering the other passengers.” The ‘neglectful’ father sort of came out of a fog and responded, “I’m sorry, we just came from the hospital where their mother died.” What do you think happened to the first man’s view? What changed in the situation? One thing only. How he thought about this father.

This took me back to Philippians 4:8. If we want our eyes to be single we need to be intentional about our thinking.

8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

If we train our minds to meditate, to think deeply on things that are noble, just, pure, lovely and good that is the filter through which we will see the world around us. How are things looking?

And He Became Flesh

We have just celebrated Jesus death and resurrection. Obviously neither would have been possible without His birth. Let’s reflect a bit on what happened.

We know from the scriptures that Yahweh’s nature is revealed in creation.

20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Romans 1:20 (NKJV)

1  The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Psalm 19:1 (NKJV)

Yet in addition to creation we needed a fuller revelation of the Godhead which came about through Jesus becoming flesh.

14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NKJV)

8  Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10  and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:8-10 (NKJV)

God’s glory is his character (see Ex. 33:18-19, 34:5-8). Jesus coming into the world was also a further unveiling of the Father’s heart and Jesus told Thomas, and by extension us, that to see Him was to see the Father (Jn. 14:9). So to both understand and experience the glory of God we need to simply meditate on how Jesus interacted with people, for in those interactions we also have the Father and Spirit revealed.

What is Jesus like? He displayed no tolerance for religion and deception when, for example, He cleansed the temple and exposed false motives. At the same time He was infinitely patience and compassionate with the sincere and broken hearted and revealed a deep love for all who sought truth. So, let us reflect on His character (glory) as revealed in the gospels and sit with Him and experience His love and tender heart and in return pour out our love for Him and seek His face.

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong unveils this somewhat.