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Archive for Righteousness

The Righteousness of God – Dikaiosune

Where? Germany – the land of Noah’s son, Japheth. Who? Martin Luther, a part of Japheth genealogical heritage. Why? God promised that Japheth would dwell in the tent of Shem (Gen. 9:27). It should be no surprise that the gospel of God’s magnificent grace was publicly and powerfully rediscovered by this struggling Catholic monk, and its light pierced the darkness of Satan’s domain once again. God guides His Word (Isa. 55:10-11). God orchestrated Luther’s spiritual transformation by guiding an edition of Erasmus’ Greek translation of the New Testament into his hands. Let’s connect the dots.

Erasmus finished his translation in 1516. It came into Luther’s hands shortly after. The words that forever changed his life were from the apostle Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). Luther’s eyes must have carefully weighed the words that the gospel is the dynamite of God for salvation to everyone who believes. His eyes then followed the reason that the gospel brings salvation. Because “in it” (the gospel), is the righteousness of God revealed. Ah, righteousness! Dikaiosune” (pronounced dik-ai-o-soo-nay)! That rang Luther’s bell. He may have been familiar with the word. It was used both in the Greek and Roman court systems.

“Dikaiosune” eventually came to mean “adjustment to the standard of the law.” When a law was broken, the one convicted of the crime had to be adjusted to the standard imposed by the law. This adjustment was to be made by meeting whatever requirement the law demanded. If the law required a fine, the fine had to be paid. If the law demanded death as the just settlement, then death it was. We would call this “justice.” When the penalty was paid, justice was satisfied. This is precisely what the word means. However, the justice that Paul had in mind had nothing whatsoever to do with man’s legal system. The word used in the Bible means “adjustment to God’s standard.” The gospel made known God’s adjustment to His own righteous standard. God’s righteousness and justice had both been forever satisfied by Jesus Christ on the cross. The single word dikaiosune makes this truth clear.

In order for God to be true to His word, all who have sinned must die – be spiritually separated from God forever. Why? The God of the Bible is the author of righteousness (1 Jn. 1:5). God is also absolutely just (Deut. 32:4). Because God is totally just, He must always adjust that which is not right back to His righteous standard.Why? God must be true to Himself. He cannot compromise who He is. Someone said, “God’s required righteousness is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require.” This is why all sinners must die! God cannot allow one into His presence without the penalty being paid. In order to reveal the riches of His glory and motivated by an indescribable love, God elected to pay man’s sin debt of death. But God is eternal life and could not die (Psa. 90:2). In order to die, God became a man. He bypassed Adam’s sin by coming into this world through a virgin. In all His life, Jesus Christ never sinned. He then died – the just for the unjust; the righteous for the unrighteous. The death of God’s perfect Son paid in full God’s demand for righteousness.

God’s demand of death for sin was adjusted to in Christ. God’s righteousness and His justice came together in perfect harmony in Christ. This is all said clearly with one word: Dikaiosune! It is this “righteousness” that the gospel makes known. This the truth that Luther saw. When we believe in Christ, we are immediately placed into union with Him – that which human eyes never see. The payment for sin is death, but it makes all the difference in the world where we die. We die in Him. Halleluiah!

Paul said that he was crucified with Christ, nevertheless he lived (Gal. 2:20a). God credits us the immeasurable benefits of His death the moment we are placed “into Christ.” God forever adjusts us to His absolute righteousness “in Christ.” “And being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness (dikaiosune) which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). God does not make us right; He declares us to be right “in Christ.”

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness (dikaiosune) of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We are declared forever right (righteous) before God the moment that we believe in Him. Can God remain just and at the same time be gracious to those who are in His Son? Yes! In Christ we are justified before God. 

This justification comes to all who believe in Him. “Being justified freely (as a gift) by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). This is why the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This is what Luther saw! The just (those who have been adjusted to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ) shall live (Rom. 1:17). History says that when this truth hit his mind, God removed his blindness and he stood up. He put his mop away and began to preach the gospel of God’s magnificent grace. This ultimately led to Martin Luther nailing of his famous 95 thesis on the door at Wittenberg which started the Reformation of 1517. This reformation literally changed the world. Why must we believe in Christ? “God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (dikaiosune) through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Where do you stand? Blessings!

 

What is “the Christian life”?

I am assuming that the reader has believed the gospel and given testimony to that fact through baptism. My short definition of “the Christian life” is “a close, personal, private, intimate, relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, that begins with knowledge and ends with obedience.” It is a close relationship. Those who know Christ become His children and members of His body.  “For you are all the sons of God though faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:26). “Now you are the body of Christ and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

It is a personal relationship because we are to fellowship with Him daily. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

It is a private relationship. When Christ says that He stands at the door knocking and if invited in, He will dine with us and us with Him (Revelation 3:20). This is an invitation to an intimate family meeting and is not speaking of gaining salvation (Revelation 3:20).

Speaking of intimacy, we are to cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ. This is based on the words that we have become dead to the law through the body of Christ – that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead (Romans 7:4). Married to Christ! This marriage is to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Christian life is not a religion, it is a personal relationship with the living God. This relationship is based on love and trust, not law and judgment. That sums up the freedom that grace affords us. Since we did absolutely nothing to earn this relationship, we can do nothing to lose it (Romans 8:35-39). (See the Glimpses Facebook post from April 20.) Our salvation was once and forever bought and paid for in full at the cross of Calvary.

Since the Christian life is a personal relationship with our living Christ, our fellowship can and will be broken at times. No relationship runs smooth all the time. It is broken by sin. Yes, Christians still sin after salvation. The Bible does not hide this fact. But God has made provision.  He writes this little note to His children: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). The word “advocate” is a mediator, or one who speaks in our defense. Our Advocate (Jesus Christ) has been where we are and knows well the temptations that we face. He was tempted as we are – yet without sin. He always provides us a way out, but we do not always take it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

When we sin (not “if” but “when”), we lose fellowship with Christ in time, but never are we removed from His family. What are we to do? We are to confess our sin personally and privately to God – not to a man.  We are given special permission to come boldly before God’s throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace when we need it (Hebrews 4:16). 

“And if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 9). To “confess” means to say the same or to agree. The very instant the Holy Spirit convicts us of a wrong thought, a wrong word, or a wrong action, we are to immediately agree with Him. God, you are right; I am wrong. How long does it take to mentally agree? We can and should do so instantly. If we ever entertain the thought that we do not sin, we deceive ourselves. Self-deception is the worst kind. That is because we lie to ourselves (1 John 1:8). As one man said, “We are to confess them as we commit them. We are not to bunch ‘em up and then confess them.” We are to maintain fellowship. God has His way of encouraging fellowship with Him. We do sin, but we can never get away with it! The reason? “For whom the Lord loves, He chastens (this means he takes us to His heavenly woodshed) and scourges every child that He receives” (REF).

Not only does our Father love us, but His discipline affirms that we belong to Him. Why? Fathers discipline their own children. And discipline never appears cheerful but is painful. But, in fact, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It firms the relationship (Hebrews 12:5-11). And did I mention that we should grow to love Him in return? Our goal in this life should be to spend longer and longer times in fellowship with our living Lord. The more we do, the more we love Him. Are there other strong reasons to walk in fellowship with Jesus Christ? Yes! Remember that our relationship with Christ begins with knowledge. Stay safe and stay tuned.    

 

 

The Mind’s Eye

“We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

These intriguing words of Paul became the motivation behind my life’s ministry. He said that as we read God’s Word, we are to begin a journey of looking beyond things that human eyes can see and begin to peer into God’s unseen world. Things that I see with my physical eyes are destined to pass into oblivion. They are just temporary. The truths found in the Bible that I cannot see with my human eyes are eternal.

God impressed upon me that I am to use the eyes in my mind to see the unseen. My thoughts went quickly to the words of Jesus Christ when He said, “Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.” He was obviously not speaking of human eyes or human ears. My mind raced on to another passage that I had recently studied. Contrasting human wisdom with God’s wisdom, Paul wrote these incredible words that God etched forever into my mind:

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:9–13)

God’s wisdom is knowledge that cannot be seen with human eyes or heard with human ears. That sounded familiar. In fact, God’s wisdom has never entered a human mind before. Incredible! That means that God’s wisdom is not some rehashed human understanding coming from the mind of man.

Paul then wrote something that has become the motivation for Glimpses of Grace Ministries and the day-by-day church ministries that God has led me to. He said that God has revealed these hidden things to us through His Spirit.

Hold it! Is this saying what I think it is saying? Is Paul saying that God’s Spirit opens to our human spirits the deep things of God, the hidden wisdom of God? Is he saying that we can know the things that human ears have never heard or eyes have never seen? We can know the things that no human mind has ever thought? That is exactly what he is saying. This is fascinating!

How is this possible? The next line reads, “What man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?” I alone know my own secret thoughts. Likewise, the Spirit of God alone knows the deep things of God. My mind began to race. We have received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit who is from God! Why? So that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. The Spirit of God lives in me. He has a purpose for being there. He can teach me the deep things of God. We can know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

The final words of the passage “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” actually sent me into another world. The Holy Spirit brings to my mind spiritual thoughts as I read the words of Scripture. As I study the written words of the Bible, verse by verse and line upon line, God the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of my mind to see and understand the deep, fascinating wisdom of God. This is absolutely incredible. We can know the mind of God!

But there’s a catch. These glimpses into God’s unseen world cannot be found by searching for them. God opens them to us at His pleasure as we study the Bible word-by-word and line-by-line year after year. These glimpses are not unique to only one Christian. They are open to all. Since we have the Holy Spirit living in us, we meet the criteria to receive these spiritual nuggets. There are not different glimpses for different people. Every believer receives the very same truth.

God has not taught me everything that I have desired to know about His plan, but He has been pleased to give me small insights, little glimpses. These insights placed together began to etch a beautiful portrait in my mind. God has opened to me His incredible salvation plan, the true identity of Jesus Christ, the immense value of His death and resurrection, and the nature and purpose of the Holy Spirit, to name a few. These are glimpses of grace.

Dick Hill is director of Glimpses of Grace

 

 

I Am the True Vine

April 3, 2015

One oGrape_Vine02f the oldest productive grapevines in the world is said to be located at Valentines Park in Essex, England. It is thought to have been planted around 1768. In 1800 its girth was approximately one foot. The crop of grapes is usually harvested in September and it takes the vine keeper around three weeks to remove all the grapes – about 500 to 700 pounds. Incredibly, the branches extend out over 120 feet. Life has to flow a long way through the vine to the small branches in order to make the fruit.

In like manner for Christians, life has to flow from the source to the branches in order to produce fruit pleasing to God. Jesus declared himself to be the True Vine (John 15:1-8). God referred to Israel as the vine (Psa. 80:7; Isa. 5:1-7), but Israel failed to produce the fruit that God intended. The Lord Jesus is succeeding where Israel failed. The Father is presented as the vinedresser. He is the ultimate giver of life. Unless the disciples misunderstand the metaphor, Jesus gave them comfort by quickly affirming their never ending connection to the vine (John 15:3).

Jesus refers to Himself as the Vine and His followers as branches. The symbolism is clear. Christ’s disciples are like branches connected to the life-giving vine, Christ. Unless the branch abides in the Vine, the life from the branch will not flow through it. His spiritual life flows from Him then out through those who belong to Him. We cannot produce anything of spiritual value to others without the life of Jesus Christ flowing through us (John 15:5).

The Father removes every branch that is not productive. This would indicate that the branch is dead (Judas Iscariot comes to mind). He then prunes the branches that are productive so that they will be even more productive. This pruning involves chastening and scourging every son whom He receives (Heb. 12:5-10). This process ends by producing the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).

Fruitfulness is the big idea of this metaphor. The quality and quantity of the fruit is not the issue here. Fruit will come from the flow of life coming from the vine (Christ), then out through the branches (disciples). Therefore, the branches must abide in the vine. Abiding involves maintaining a close, personal, private, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (vs. 9). Jesus said that if His words abide in them (the disciples), their prayer life will also be enhanced. I take this literally. It is a good idea to spend time memorizing the words of Christ, filling our minds with them.

The metaphor crescendos by teaching that “much fruit” produced glorifies the Father. The word “glorify” means to shed light upon. The spiritual fruit that disciples produce by abiding in the vine sheds light upon the invisible God so that others may come to know Him. So shall we be His disciples.

Come and See

December 7, 2013

Continuing with the series on the the spoken words of Jesus Christ, the words written in red……

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had at their fingertips much information on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  At issue for each of them was what to include in the books we know as the Gospels. Directed by the Holy Spirit, Matthew assembled facts concerning Christ as King.  Christ’s words written in red in Matthew reflect that He is the sovereign one.  Mark emphasized Christ’s role as a suffering servant. The words of Christ in Mark bear this out.  Luke gathered info concerning Christ as the Son of Man, emphasizing His humanity. Christ’s words in Luke confirm his humanity.  Lastly, John presented our Lord as the Son of God. Christ’ words in the gospel of John highlight the fact that He is God.

We will begin our look at the amazing Bible words written in red by combing through the gospel of John. The second person of the Trinity, the the Lord Jesus Christ, created this universe with His spoken word, fashioned Adam from the clay breathing His own life into him, and took on Himself a physical flesh and blood body.  He was born into this world via the womb of a young virgin named Mary. He grew to manhood and began His public ministry.

The first recorded words of Jesus Christ in John came immediately after John introduced Him as the Lamb of God (John 1:36).  Two potential disciples began to follow. Jesus asked them, “What do you seek?” He was asking them (and us) what they were seeking from Him. We need to ask that same question. What do we want from Christ? They responded by asking, “Where are you staying?” Jesus said simply, “Come and see.” This is His first recorded invitation. He wasn’t asking them to come to the house where He lived, but He was inviting them (and us) to come into His world and see amazing spiritual truths that would forever change their lives (and ours).

One of these followers was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  Andrew quickly went to his brother and told Him that he had found the Messiah. This gives us a simple but insightful way to begin to share our faith. We should take the news of our meeting Jesus Christ to our relatives first – those whom we love most. What an obvious place to start, right!  What are we to say? Our witness should be that we have found the Lord Jesus Christ. The way to do this is by sharing the gospel with them. Note what Andrew did next. Andrew found Peter, and he brought him to Jesus. That’s not complicated! We are likewise to bring our family members to Christ. We cannot make them believe in Him but we can bring them to Him, giving them the opportunity.

When Jesus saw Peter, He said, “You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas,” which is translated “A Stone.”  Christ’s deity immediately shines through. He called Peter by name. Peter must have been thrilled. It was only natural for the God-Man to recognize Peter; He created him. He had also fashioned all of Peter’s days before he was ever born (Psalm 139:16). He named him with the Aramaic name, Cephas, a rock. Peter was destined by the Christ to be one of the foundation blocks of the early church (Matthew 16:18). This should give us great confidence that God knows every believer intimately and has a special purpose for each.

The Lord Jesus spoke these simple words to Phillip: “Follow Me.” I believe that Christ said it simply and softly. In like manner, Jesus Christ calls every believer out from the world by the gospel to follow Him (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  His soft voice-print “Follow Me,” can be heard in the minds of those who heed His gospel and believe it.  Jesus Christ actually calls us to Himself by name (John 10:3).

Phillip thought of a friend – Nathaniel – found him and said, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” The targets for our sharing our faith should be first family then friends. Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel knew the history of Nazareth in his day. It was a poor city and no one of any prominence could possibly come from there, surely.  Nathaniel at this point did not realize that Jesus Christ was going to focus in on the poor and helpless of the earth, not the wealthy or the strong.  Paul later would challenge the Corinthian church to take a look at the people sitting around them. They would recognize that the wise, strong, and those of nobility were in short supply. In fact, God has chosen those whom the world thinks are foolish, weak, and nobodies (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). The reason? So that God will receive all the praise for their salvation.

Phillip answered Nathaniel with the now familiar, “Come and see.” And did Nathaniel ever see! When Jesus saw Nathaniel walking up, He said to him, “Behold and Israelite in whom that is no guile.” Or more literally, Behold a son of Jacob (the name means deceiver because Jacob was) in whom there is no deceit (no deceit in Nathaniel). Jesus knew Nathaniel’s character. He knew him intimately. Nathaniel was astonished! He asked Jesus how He could possibly know Him. Jesus then flashed His ID card by saying, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathaniel began immediately connecting the dots. The fig tree was not in the area and yet Jesus had seen him? How was this possible? God is everywhere present, that’s how. Nathaniel responded: Teacher, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel. It’s really you! Wow!

Nathaniel was going to need special motivation to throw caution to the wind and share the gospel. For this reason, our Lord did not stop there. His written in red words continued to flow with amazing power.  “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. . . Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”  Christ is saying, Nathaniel if you thought my reference to Jacob was amazing then listen to this.  You do remember Jacob’s ladder, don’t you? Do you recall when Jacob saw the angels coming down from heaven and going up into heaven? You shall see heaven open and the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Jacob’s dream was a beautiful prophecy that one day God was going to come down to man and then go back again. Christ is telling Nathaniel that Jacob’s ladder was speaking of Him (Genesis 28:12). I’m the One, Nathaniel.  I’m that Ladder! Nathaniel – and we – should be sufficiently motivated. What amazing words! The ladder – the Lord Jesus Christ – is the way to heaven (John 14:6).  Allow the word of Christ to richly dwell in you!