building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “God’s righteousness”

The Simple Message

After nine days of traveling about, Billy Graham was finally laid to rest yesterday. From his mountain home to Charlotte to Washington, DC and back, Billy was planted in the ground in Charlotte, NC. Like a seed planted in the ground, my prayer is that the message that was heard yesterday will reap lots of fruit. It was a simple message that was spoken by his son Franklin, which I hope and pray was clearly heard around the world.

You see, there is only one problem in this world today. It’s called sin. Everything wrong in our world today comes from this sin problem. We don’t talk much about sin anymore. But Billy’s message throughout his ministry pointed to the need in this world – a way out of our sin problem. Billy told young pastors and evangelists to keep the message simple – just preach Jesus. There is no other name that came move the masses to recognize their need of a Savior. It’s Jesus and Jesus only.

The trouble today is that we don’t recognize the problem. We see ourselves as “good enough.” We are better than the neighbor across the street – we don’t do “x” so we must be good enough to get to heaven. Our standards are wrong. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Our standard is God Himself. And it’s impossible for us to meet this standard. There is no “good enough” scale to match Him. There is a huge gap between us and Him.

We have an upside down view running rampant in this world. We have elevated ourselves and lowered God to our level. I was reminded this week through Pastor James MacDonald that God is holy. Not just holy, but holy, holy, holy. His majesty is so great no one who looks upon Him can live. When earth is replaced at the end of time, there will be no sun – God will be our light. We don’t fear Him like the ancients did in their time. They saw the great works and were terrified to be in His presence.

If we look at the passage in Isaiah 6, Isaiah’s response was “woe to me!” He saw God high and lifted up. He recognized his sinful condition and knew he couldn’t see what he saw and live. Peter had a similar reaction when Jesus talked Peter into fishing at the wrong time of the day. This was in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. No one had caught on to who Jesus was at that point. He seemed to be a brilliant teacher. But on that particular day, everything changed. There was such a large catch that Peter knew Jesus was different. This miracle changed Peter’s perception of Jesus. The response from Peter was found in Luke 5:8 – “Go away from me, Lord: I am a sinful man!”

John had an experience that rivals Isaiah’s. John was on the island of Patmos in exile for preaching about this Jesus. When John heard a voice like a trumpet, he turned to find someone “like a son of man” who was described as one brilliantly glorified. John fell at his feet (Revelation 1:10-17).

We have lost sight of this “other world” quality of our Lord Jesus and God the Father. This holiness that cannot be explained in English but in Hebrew it was emphasized by the triple word. It was that significant. Isaiah and John heard the angels singing about this holiness. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

Once we change our perception of the holiness of God, we will recognize our own condition; we are all sinners. No one is righteous. The gap widens even further. We are born into this sinful condition. We all have to be taught what’s right from wrong, because our natural tendency is to do wrong. It’s not what feels right to us. That’s the wrong message because we all have different standards. We have to look beyond ourselves, beyond this world to find the truest measure of what’s right. God’s standard is the key to unlock this whole mystery.

We can’t get there from here, so the key to righteousness isn’t found in ourselves but through the testimony of Jesus. God sent Jesus so that we could have this righteousness through Him. Jesus bridged the gap through His death and resurrection. He exchanged our sinful condition and gave us His righteousness when He died in our place. Sins payment is death. We were told in the very beginning when sin entered the world through a bite of the forbidden fruit that death will be the consequence of sin (Genesis 2:17).

We are told by Jesus Himself that He didn’t come to condemn the world (John 3:17) – it was already condemned by sin. He came to save the world. There is no one else; there is no other way (John 14:6). It’s narrow-minded for sure. But the way is for ANYONE to believe and repent of their sin and be saved for eternal life.

It’s just a very simple message. Billy Graham preached it for sixty years. The simple message can still be preached today, but we will have to get a better view of ourselves than the one we carry now. We are sinners. Own it. Repent from it. And be saved by believing in this Jesus who died for you and for me.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24


A Different Standard

Growing up, I lived in the shadow of two older sisters. I lived more in the shadow of my middle sister since I had some of the same teachers she had in school. My parents didn’t do the comparison game with me and my sisters, but sometimes I wondered if my teachers did. My oldest sister and I call my middle sister the “perfect” child. To my knowledge, she never got in trouble; she had perfect grades in school; and she was always happy (except when I didn’t clean my side of the room). My sisters call me the “spoiled” child. I tend to disagree with their assessment of my finger-wrapping ability, just as my “perfect” sister would disagree with her angelic status. We always have a good laugh when we debate the evidence.

Over the last week in the Armor of God study, Priscilla Shirer instructed us on wearing the breastplate of righteousness. I must say, I am not righteous. And my sisters would agree with that! This is not a natural tendency for any of us. We have a fallen nature, and no one lives up to the standard God set by His own holiness and righteousness. Priscilla wrote this is perfect righteousness (pg 73). “Even the most good-natured among us, on our very best day, fall woefully shy of God’s expectations.”

However, we are indeed righteous. Our righteousness comes from Jesus Christ. It’s an imputed righteousness that comes with the salvation through Jesus Christ. This is Christ’s gift to us by way of the cross. Christ paid our sin debt by the cross, but He also added righteousness to our account (pg 77). Righteousness is credited to our account; it’s an asset we didn’t earn. Nice! A clean slate and righteousness. Neither one based upon our own acts, but all based on the love of Jesus.

We normally don’t think of righteousness in God’s viewpoint. We usually compare ourselves to someone else. I could compare myself to my “perfect” sister. I would have fallen short. But if I applied myself, I could have measured up to her standards. I could have gotten better grades. I could have been more obedient to my parents and followed the rules more closely. When we compare ourselves to others, Priscilla called this comparative righteousness. It is a deceptive practice and can also be disheartening when we fall short of their standards (pg 76). Other people will always give us the wrong standard.

When we put on the breastplate of righteousness, we are putting on Jesus’ righteousness. Righteousness is already in us through Jesus, but we actually have to do something with it. It is part of the fruit we are given to develop. It’s practical righteousness (pg 83). “When you choose practical righteousness, you place a blockade between the enemy and the area of your life he most commonly targets – your heart.” Practical righteousness is an intentional act. It is not just behavior modification but also an internal purification. “You must make a conscious choice to act in a way that is consistent with your new life in Christ (pg 85).”

The breastplate was designed to protect the heart in battles. The soldier had this piece of armor to fight in hand to hand combat. It guarded the vital organs. Wearing the armor gave the soldier a fighting chance against the enemy. It provided to be a life or death choice he made as to whether he wore it or not. We too have a choice to make. The enemy is gunning for us. He has many tools in his arsenal. But thanks to Christ, we too have many tools in our arsenal. We just have to learn to dress properly for the battle.

When we learn to put on the armor of God, we are covered in protection for the day ahead. It’s a matter of reading and applying the truth. It’s our first line of defense against a crafty enemy. We have a measuring stick that’s different than the world’s standards. We cannot compare ourselves to others; the enemy will use that weak thinking every time. But the righteousness we have will attain for us a new life of freedom. No more battles where we are defenseless. We can grow into the full measure of a spiritual warrior that battles the enemy with stronger tools. We have it all available but we have to use it effectively. It’s time to suit up and battle on, warriors!

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

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