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Archive for Righteousness

The Way of the Lord

No one is comfortable with the thought of being born into slavery through no fault or choice of their own or being dead in sin through being connected to someone and something that happened thousands of years ago. There is little doubt that slaves will look for answers to get around being incarcerated, forever lost in slavery, dead in sin, and totally blind to that fact. 

 

It is far easier to believe and teach the songwriter’s words “Calvary covers it all” or “God’s love reaches to the highest mountain and it reaches to the lowest hell.” It is far easier to teach and believe that any slave to sin can at any time freely(catch that word) hear the gospel, freely believe the gospel, and freely trust in Christ, anywhere and anytime. If this is true, then our slavery is not a big deal at all; we are not blind at all; and we are not spiritually dead at all!

 

The truth of salvation is that God must make the first move, making the gospel known and removing the blindness, and making those who are born unwilling, willing to be saved. If God does not act, no one will be released from slavery – no one.

 

Many people believe that we are all locked in a slave market of sin, but not locked so tight that we cannot hear and believe the gospel. They believe that Satan is, in fact, blinding everyone’s mind to sin and death but that none are so blind that they cannot at least catch a glimpse of the gospel and be saved. Their thinking is that we are all born dead in sin, but not so dead that we cannot hear and believe. It is as though the Bible’s warning that Satan is sadistically blinding the entire world to the gospel is just not taken seriously. This is plainly stated in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, but many just do not really believe it.

 

Said a different way, the comfort zone of eternal salvation comes to many through a belief system that is overwhelmed with the truth that “God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:15-16). And I get this! God is certainly said to love the world. In fact, God is said to actually be love (1 Jn. 4:8). God’s love is His strong motive for our salvation. “Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He love us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sin” (1 Jn. 4:10).

 

But for God’s love to trump all of His other attributes (Bible characteristics that make Him God), is just not true to the word of God. The entire fallen human race seems to require that God’s love stand as the pinnacle of truth that governs all His other traits. I personally admit that just the thought of this age-old passage of John 3:16 does wonders for me, and because of my personal feelings about myself, my wife, my children, my grandchildren, and their children; and all of my family members who have gone before, my neighbors and many personal friends whom I love who have left this world –this passage gives me a solid rock steadfast hope. And I use it most every time I present the precious benefits of the cross work of the Lord Jesus Christ and it (along with Ephesians 2:8-10 and 1 Jn. 5:13) are among the first passages that my grandchildren are encouraged to memorize.

 

Let’s just cut to the chase. God’s steadfast plumbline made up of His righteousness and justice should stand firm in every believer’s thinking.  God must remain faithful and true to this truth (Isa. 28:17).  He must be completely fair in His dealings with every member of the human race according to His divine standard of fairness, not fallen man’s sense of fairness. And God cannot overwhelmingly love at the expense of diminishing the value of any of His other attributes.

 

Not to belabor the point, but to make it crystal clear, let us revisit in a slightly different way God’s characteristics of righteousness (His rightness) and justice (His fairness).  God’s righteousness is mentioned in the Bible well over 200 times, and always within close proximity to His justice.

 

God’s righteousness and justice are cited together so often that they are called, “the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19). God’s love is never said to be the way of the Lord. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice (Prov. 21:3). The Bible never says that to do love is more acceptable to God than sacrifice. The Bible says that God loves righteousness and justice (Psa. 33:5). The Bible does not say that God loves His love!  

 

King David says twice that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; Mercy and truth go before His face” (Psa. 89:14). “Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psa. 97:2).

 

The foundation of God’s righteousness and justice upon which His throne rests must bear the weight of all of God’s other characteristics and this is only foundation for these characteristics to rest upon. The Bible never credits God’s love as the foundation for His throne. The Bible does not say that God’s holiness – and God is holy, holy, holy (Isa. 6: 1-3) – is the foundation of His throne, nor for that matter is His sovereignty, His eternal life, the fact that He is all powerful, and all knowing, and everywhere present. God’s righteousness and His justice stand alone as the foundation for His Godness. 

 

God’s love for this world, along with all that God is, is built on the foundation of His righteousness and His justice. God cannot exercise any of His attributes (including love) at the expense of any of His other attributes. This would not be right nor fair. It would not be righteous, and it would not be just.  And built upon that foundation of righteousness and justice – is God’s love. Nowhere does God limit the value of His love. It was God’s love that motivated Him to provide the God-Man as the eternal satisfactory sacrifice for our sin (1 Jn. 4:10).  Blessings!

God’s Plumbline

This question is now hanging in the air: Do we really believe that God is absolutely righteous and just in everything – everything that He has done and everything that He is determined to do? Do we really believe that His righteousness and justice are the very foundation upon which His deity rests?

Like Christ’s disciples learned so long ago, it does not take long as we navigate God’s Word for us to run into some savage, stormy headwind swells of what is often called by sailors “big water,” and sizable speed bumps that severely shake our faith. These are swells of strange Bible truths that will challenge what we truly believe about God’s goodness and fairness. And really what we truly believe about God. It is truth that may weed out those who are not really “in.” It is these truths that become the motivation for much of the world’s hatred of Christians.

New believers soon come to realize that God did not choose to eradicate our sin natures the moment we were saved. Though we become a new creation and are given God the Holy Spirit to teach us and to become our spiritual GPS, we are still sinners and we live shoulder to shoulder with millions of other sinner/slaves – all trapped in a slave market.  Our sin nature is so powerful that it touches and affects every thought that we think, every word that we say, every choice that we make, and everything that we do. One of my mentors said that evil touches even the good that we do. God’s Word wielded by His Spirit is the only real, unchangeable truth that we possess.

Not one of us is in the position to judge God’s righteousness and justice on the basis of what we may think is just and fair. For example, we must never think that an action of God is good, fair, and just according to our fallen standards of fairness, and that is why God wills it. Or said another way, we should never think that God wills it because we think it is right.  We must bow to the fact that it is just, good, and fair because God wills it. Why? Remember, He is the God who gave us goodness, righteousness, justice, and truth! God’s character rests on it! It is truth because He says it! It is right because He does it! It is just because He says it is! He is the Rock! All His ways are just no matter how they appear to our sin-fogged minds (Deuteronomy 32:4).

God’s righteousness is the plumbline for all righteousness. God’s justice is the plumbline for all that is just. If we are seeking true “right,” we must learn what is right from God’s Word. If we are seeking true justice, we must go to God’s Word. God’s Word is the unchangeable Rock of our salvation (2 Samuel 22:47). Blessed be our Rock! Let God be true and exalted and every man a liar.   

We must all give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His mercy endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34). He is light and in Him dwells no darkness at all (1 Jn. 1:5). Jesus said that He had come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Him should not abide in darkness (John 12:46). John wrote, “In Him is life, and the life was the light of men (1 Jn. 1:4).

God created us to believe He exists and that He is the God that we are to worship! He created us with an eternal nature like His (Eccl. 3:11). God also stamped within every heart a belief that there exists an eternal right and wrong, and that all will be judged against this eternal standard (Rom. 2:14-15). God demands from us worship and praise (Psa. 33:8; 96:9). 

God says of Himself that He is always just and always fair. And here is the big idea, no matter how any of His truth may appear to us: If all the above is true, all should gladly worship and honor Him. He is truly a God worthy of our love and our worship. “Let everything that has breath praise this Lord. Praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6)!

But even with His eternal nature (His holiness) in mind, many do not choose to worship Him. The reason is clear. They apply their own human standards to Him. They desire to worship a God who would never choose to do anything that they themselves would not choose to do.

Jesus’ disciples recognized that no one had ever taught things like Jesus Christ. Following His miraculous feeding of the thousands with just the use of a small boy’s lunch of fish and bread, the people – His disciples included – were absolutely amazed. The disciples who had just been standing around suddenly became waiters, running back and forth feeding the people and returning to refill their baskets with a delicious fish and bread. The food just kept on coming. Wow! Some probably ate all they wanted for the first time in their lives. They loved that satisfied feeling. Their hunger was gone. Others saw the gravity of the miracle and said, “Surely this is the Prophet that God promised us.” Jesus reminded them of the miracle of the manna in wilderness that God the Father had given to them that they would not die. I get that! Then He told them that that the manna was speaking of Him. Speaking of Him?

This was a spiritual truth that had to be seen with spiritual eyes and heard with spiritual ears. This truth had never entered the minds of men before (1 Cor. 2:9).  Jesus told the crowd that He was the very bread of life, and if they would just come to Him by faith they would hunger and thirst no more (John 6:1-35). 

 

God is Righteous and Just

This tiny earth is filled with that which sheds light upon the glory of God. “Glory,” the Greek word doxa, is all that sheds light upon God. I have illustrated this by using a small flashlight shining it upon an object in the room. The light glorifies the object. So, God’s glory is all that sheds light upon Him. Everything we see with our eyes in this entire universe sheds light upon the creative genius of God – but most do not see it this way. To them it is the creative beauty of “mother nature.”

 

There are many Biblical characteristics that shed light upon God: His sovereignty (Dan. 4:34-35), His eternal life (Psa. 90: 2), His love, (1 Jn. 4:8), His righteousness and justice (Psa. 89:14), and the fact that He is all-powerful (Gen. 18:14), all-knowing (Isa. 40:28), and everywhere present (Psa. 139:7-17), and He never changes (Mal. 3:6).  I have memorized these passages and pondered their meaning for many years. These are some of the characteristics that make up God’s holiness, His “set apartness.”

 

Just to say that God is righteous does not mean that God is really good, or even really, really good. It does not mean that God is by far better than any other being. The God of the Bible is the very essence of perfection. He is perfectly perfect.He is righteously right. He is right in every decision that He has ever made or will ever make. He is the God of absolute integrity. The apostle John said that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). He is light that contains not one tiny speck of darkness. Not one! The psalmist tells us that God’s work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever (Psalm 111:3).

 

Two tandem characteristics of God are the scales, the plumbline, the measuring sticks up against which all of His characteristics must be measured. This plumbline is His righteousness and His justice (Isa. 28:17). They always appear together and must always remain in perfect balance.

 

Have you ever pondered where the concept for right and wrong came from? We inherently know it is wrong to murder, to steal, to lie, and to cheat. I remember as a ten-year-old attempting to steal a candy bar from our local grocery store. Did life from some faraway island, or Mr. Socrates, or green slime from the Nile River basin throw my young mind into an overwhelming sense of guilt? Did my knowledge of them raise my small heart rate or cause my palms to sweat? I think not!

 

Those of us who believe the Bible become aware that there is an ultimate right, a decisive right, up against which all standards of right and wrong must ultimately be held. This knowledge is in us because we are made in the image of our Creator (Genesis 1:27). His law is stamped indelibly upon every human heart (Romans 2:13-16). God’s righteousness and justice are in truth said to be His plumbline. It must remain standfast. God must always be true to His plumbline (Isa. 28:17).  He is completely fair in His dealings with every member of the human race according to His divine standard of fairness – His “fairness” – not fallen man’s sense of fairness.

 

God’s righteousness is mentioned in the Bible well over two hundred times, and always within close proximity to His justice. God’s righteousness and justice are mentioned together so often that they are called, “the way of the Lord”(Genesis 18:19). In fact, to do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3). God is said not only to be absolutely righteous and just, but He is said to love righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5). Repeat! GOD LOVES RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE.

 

King David said twice that righteousness and justice form the very foundation of God’s throne (Psa. 89:14, 97:2).  The foundation is the part of the building that holds the structure’s entire weight. As long as the building stands, the foundation must hold. It is the Hebrew word macon. It means a fixed or an established place. The foundation of righteousness (being absolutely right) and justice (being absolutely fair and just) is the firmly fixed place upon which God’s God-ness rests.

 

God’s righteousness and justice must hold all of the weight of His other characteristics. He must always do right! He must always be right! He must always be just or fair. And He must always keep these two characteristics in perfect balance. He must always align Himself with His plumbline. He cannot change (Mal. 3:6). He must not change! He will not change! He is the Rock! The Rock that never moves. This means that His holy nature never wavers in the slightest degree.  It remains the same throughout all the ages. His work is always perfect (Deut. 32:4).  He never makes missteps or mistakes. There is never a flaw, not one. There is never an “uh oh” with Him.

 

All of these truths magnificently glorify the work of the cross. God made Him (the Lord Jesus) who knew no sin (His sinless Son) to become sin for us! God forever balanced His scales of righteousness and justice. He forever established in perfect place His plumbline of righteousness and justice – in Christ. How can we even begin to understand this? The question of the hour is do we really believe this? Blessings!

 

 

 

 

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.