Saturday, January 21, 2017

CP 273 Missing in action. The concept lost amid the words...

CP 273 Missing in action. The concept lost amid the words…
Recently I called a brother Pastor whom I respect greatly, especially for his passion for clarity in what we believe, teach and confess. I had a particular question for him. It was this: What do you think of my idea to start this Sunday’s sermon with the statement that, ‘The point of the coming of Jesus, and everything associated with it, including the Cross and resurrection, was not primarily about the forgiveness of sins, but about the righteousness it would enable us to have?’
His initial reaction was to be somewhat taken aback. Understandable. I went on to explain to him that during the 50 or so sermons we had listened to over the last twelve months, I had heard the word ‘righteousness’ used only once. Just once! And that was by a Lay-Preacher in north Qld. I had this constant awareness that something was missing, something was not being declared that simply must be declared.
In all 50 services there was mention that ‘Jesus died to save us from our sins.’ And that is true. But forgiveness has a point, and that point is, ‘…the holiness without which no one can see the Lord!’ (Hebrews 12:14) Have you ever thought about that? The Cross is the means to an end? And that end is not simply the forgiveness of sins?
Consider the following verses…
1.       ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last…’ (Romans 1:16-17)
2.       ‘But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known… This righteousness comes by faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’ (Romans 3:21-22)
3.       ‘…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ (Philippians 3:8-9)
4.       ‘…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:20)
5.       Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…’ (Matthew 6:33)
6.       ‘It is because of him (God your Father) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.’ (1 Corinthians 1:30)
There are dozens of verses like it. The sine qua non (without which nothing) for inheritance in the kingdom is not simply to have heard of the forgiveness of sins, but to be qualified to share in the inheritance, and that is through righteousness, and that comes through faith. How many times in scripture do we read of Abraham, that he believed God, and it (his faith) was credited to him as righteousness.
I know about the forgiveness of sins, and I know about the Christly sacrifice of the Lamb of God which makes it possible. But what has become crucial to me is that we comprehend, know, understand, ‘get’, are embraced by, and astonished by, the gift which forgiveness enables, which is nothing less than the righteousness of Christ. It is Christ’s righteousness, and his alone, which is our qualification for ‘being in the presence of the Holy One, for being a child of the Father and an inheritor!
There is no better, more profound way of putting this than to stick under your nose for your eyes to see, and for your mind to consider, and for your heart to know, this scandalous and liberating insight of Paul the Apostle:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Get that into your head and heart… So that… so that… so that… so that… so that… we might become the righteousness of God!
Be free!
Before I let this go a couple of points…
  • ·         My Pastor friend shared a gem in our conversation. ‘We will never be more righteous than we are in Christ by faith, and we will never be less righteous than we are in Christ by faith.’ How’s that! And it’s all by unfathomable grace.
  • ·         It is not simply the word ‘righteousness’ that is missing in action. The very concept of it, even using different words, is just as missing. Preachers are short-changing their churches. Does such short-changing constitute spiritual abuse?
  • ·         The ‘better righteousness of the New Covenant’ is not simply that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law. No, much more than that, Jesus the Christ fulfilled the requirements for grace and mercy, humbly in human form, even into death. HIS credentials are credited to the eternal account of those who have faith. And it’s all by unfathomable grace.
  • ·         I was delighted, and I knew myself blessed, when my NSW Bishop, Mark Lieschke, included a worthy quote from ‘blessed Martin’ in his Christmas note to his Pastors… “It is a Christian sermon… when you make it clear that the aim of the Christ event is to help us believers to righteousness and salvation.”

In Him, stay free.


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