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Archive for righteousness

Just Like Him

September 6, 2011

We recently returned from a quick trip to Indiana to see my oldest son and his family.  I was surprised at how much my little grandson Jacob looks like his dad. When Jacob’s picture is placed alongside a photo of his father at his age, the likeness is astonishing!  I can’t help but ponder what little Jacob is going to be like. I imagine the old saying, “Like father, like son” will play out somewhat. It’s hard to fight genetics.  The same is true with believers. We are all spiritually connected to the Lord Jesus Christ and destined to be like Him.

One of the most fascinating Bible truths is captured by the little phrase “in Christ.” I suppose one could spend a lifetime in study of just this tiny two-word expression and never really begin to plumb its depths. Though we now look through that dim glass, the Bible gives us some small insights into its truth. When the Holy Spirit immerses us into Jesus Christ, incredibly but understandably His qualities become ours. In order to appreciate this character exchange, we must realize some downsides of our position in the first Adam. In Adam all die! Short line but loaded with truth.

We come into this world spiritually connected to the first man’s death. In fact, we are laden with his character traits. We are born physically fallen and spiritually separated from God. But the moment faith is placed into Jesus Christ, we change locations. We are taken out of the old Adam and placed into the new Adam. That’s a remarkable exchange! As a result we are made alive in Christ.

How is this new life received? John said in his gospel that God gives us eternal life and this life is in His Son. The moment we are placed into Him, His life becomes our life. What amazing truth! What kind of life does Christ have? Eternal life,of course! This is why we have eternal life. We have His life because we are in Him.

We also come into this world strapped with the weight of Adam’s spiritual baggage – sin. His sin is attached to us at birth. This means that before we commit our first act of sin, we are already spiritually bankrupt before God. In order to live forever with God, we must have righteousness equal to His. Who has the righteousness we need? There is only one source, God’s sinless Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, when we believe in Christ, we are positioned in Him. At the moment we are found to be in Him, His righteousness is placed on our account. In fact, God made Christ – who knew no sin – to become sin for us. Why? So that being in Him we might have His perfect righteousness credited to our fallen bank account. The necessary righteousness – His righteousness – comes to us the very moment that we are placed in union with Him.

Finally, having been born in Adam, we come into this fallen world as children of the devil. That doesn’t sound very comforting, but it is true nonetheless. We were painfully referred to as the children of darkness living under the power of darkness. What made it even worse is that we were spiritually blind to this fact with no hope of ever finding our way to light. God opened our blind eyes to spiritually understand the gospel and He gave us the faith to place in Jesus Christ. At that very moment the light came in and we were given eyes to see it. We became children of the living God. But how? It is important to recognize that Jesus Christ is the very Son of the living God. What does His identity have to do with us? When we are placed into Him, His identity becomes our identity. We become connected to His heavenly Father just as He is connected to Him. We become children of God. We are all sons of God through faith in Christ. When we are baptized into Christ, we put Him on like a garment. Since we are in Him, His relationship is transferred to us. By being in Him, His life becomes our life, His righteousness is placed on our spiritual account and His relationship to the Father becomes ours. My, what riches we have in Christ!

This truth is evidently what motivated Paul to over and over refer to Christians as those who are – you guessed it – in Christ. We also receive a new heavenly citizenship, the promise of a new body just like our Lord’s and we are some day to reign with Him. We are predestined to be conformed to His very image. It’s simply like father, like son. Wow! God you’re a genius!

Fruit Comes from Life

May 15, 2011

Living FruitFruit comes from life (Genesis 1:11).  That is a God-ordained fact of creation. When my children were young, they loved to venture into the woods looking for a Christmas tree.  The tree had to be a special. It had to meet certain specifications – tall, green, full, and shapely. Some years we settled for less. Much less! But we would make do. We would cut the tree, bring it home, set it up, put on our favorite Christmas music, and decorate the tree – together. It became a family tradition. The ornaments were special, having come from friends and family, and would bring up precious memories.  We tried to water the tree sufficiently to keep it from shedding all over the house. Our greatest efforts failed because the tree was a dead tree! All the pretty ornaments giving the appearance of life were also dead.

Compare that tree with, say, an apple tree, a pear tree, or a peach tree. At a certain time of year they have ornaments hanging on them also – plump apples, succulent pears, and juicy peaches. There is a world of difference between these ornaments and those that hung from our dead Christmas tree. These trees produce living fruit because of God’s command that fruit comes from life.

The entire human race – cut down by Adam’s fall – is physically alive but spiritually dead (Romans 5:12). Every human being has the capacity to perform good works. These deeds give the appearance of life, much like the ornaments hanging on our Christmas tree. The Bible refers to these ornaments as “dead works” (Hebrews 6:1). They are dead works because they are works produced by death. These works are often acts of human good performed by the masses generation after generation. They include, among others, giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, taking care of the homeless, generosity in the wake of personal and national disaster – all benevolent acts of human kindness.  As a result of the Fall, these good works – in the eyes of God – are not good works at all.  God views these works as self-righteous acts that will fade like a leaf (Isaiah 64:6).

Are these works wrong? Not at all! In everyone’s eyes they alleviate much human suffering and pain. They are often used by the Holy Spirit to convict the lost of their sin and their need of a Savior.  They provide a bridge for the gospel when the gospel is presented.  But they are still in the category of human good. Compared to God’s divine good, human good is not good at all.

What does the Bible say about these works of righteousness? It says that human works cannot bring to life the spiritually dead. Paul said that we are not saved by works of righteousness that we have done but by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).  God will judge all work, both good and bad (Ecclesiastes 12:14).  Human good – far from saving anyone – will be the basis for judgment of unbelievers at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:12). All human good of every person will one day be measured against God’s absolute standard of righteousness. The entire human race falls  far short of God’s requirement of perfection. God by grace gives to those who trust in His Son the righteousness necessary for life (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Compare human good with God’s divine good. Divine good produces living fruit that comes from the life within.  Jesus said that we (Christians) are to glorify God – shed light upon Him – by producing this living fruit. He spoke of Himself as a living vine and believers as branches that grow from Him. Unless the branch abides in the vine, it cannot produce living fruit (John 15:1-5).  The living fruit comes from the vine (the Lord Jesus Christ) through the branches (those who have been made alive by faith in Christ) to the world. This is spiritually speaking, of course.

Christians must remain in fellowship with Jesus Christ in order to produce God’s living fruit. Paul called living spiritual fruit the “fruit of the spirit.” He said that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that prohibits that kind of fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). There is human love and divine love, human joy and divine joy, human peace and God’s peace, etc. We are to walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).  Works that come from believers in fellowship with Jesus Christ are in the living fruit category. Finally, Paul wrote, “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). What kind of fruit are you producing?

 

Conversion

December 14, 2008

There is a word that is not used much today in local churches. It is the word “conversion.” I do not understand why this is the case.  Jesus Christ used it with His disciples.  Christ’s disciples were having a discussion among them as to which of them would be greatest in the kingdom (Luke 9:46).  Our Lord’s answer is found in Matthew 18 and involved an illustration and an important truth. Jesus called a little child to Him and set the child before the disciples and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:3).  One who enters the kingdom is one who has been converted.

To be converted means “to be changed.” It implies changing from one life into another.  David wrote, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (Psalm 51:13). Peter used a similar word in the book of Acts when he extended this invitation to the Jews, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Christians are sinners who have been changed. This change has everything to do with being baptized into Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “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). In Christ we instantly change from being part of an old creation to becoming part of a new creation. We are converted from sinners to saints. Just as the color of cloth is changed when it is submerged into dye, those who are submerged into Christ are changed forever.  New things come and old things go!

“Old things” does not refer to the old sins that plagued us in the past. As long as we remain in this body of flesh, we will possess both the temptation and the capacity to sin. The sin nature resides in our physical bodies. Paul wrote, “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; see also James 1:13-15, James 4:1-2).  John wrote:  “If we say that we have no sin, we make God a liar and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

The “old things” refers to the characteristics that linked us with the old Adam. We are all born connected to him (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12). When we receive Christ, the Holy Spirit places us into the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ who breathed into us the breath of life (1 Corinthians 15:45).  When we are joined to this Adam, His characteristics become ours.

  • In the first Adam we had an old human nature connected to our physical birth.  In the last Adam we receive His nature from a new birth.
  • In the first Adam we had an old righteousness that is condemned by God’s law. In the last Adam we receive His righteousness written in on our account that meets the demands of the law.
  • In the first Adam we had an old relationship connected to the realm of Satan as children of darkness.  In the last Adam we received His relationship to the Father. He is the Son of God, therefore we become children of God.
  • In the first Adam we had human distinctions that separated us from one another.  In the last Adam those barriers are broken down.
  • In the first Adam we were citizens of old planet earth. In the last Adam we are citizens of heaven.
    In the first Adam we were imprisoned in an old physical body that is ordained to die and to perish.  In the last Adam are destined to receive a new body just like the body that Christ has, designed by God to live forever.
  • In the first Adam we were slaves to sin and fated to spend forever in a place called hell. In the last Adam we become servant kings destined to reign with Christ in His heavenly kingdom.