Monthly Archives: September 2013

Tools of Faith: Prayer

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 55 ESV]

Pray without ceasing. [1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV]

If you have never read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis then you are missing a huge part of your training as a Christian. I would say it is better to understand righteousness than evil. But we are accosted by evil on every side and I think it impossible for us to not come to some understanding of how our adversary works, how the world in which we live influences us, and how our own evil passions enslave us.

I’m fascinated, like most people in the world, by evil, how it works, how people think. This can be both healthy and unhealthy. G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, the main character in the Father Brown Mysteries short stories, in solving the mysteries presented tried to think like the perpetrator, seeing things others missed because they thought only like they thought. How he, or Lewis, could think evil to understand it, while remaining mostly free from evil thinking can be attributed to an honest prayer life.

I have written the following short paragraph m emulating Lewis’ style of a letter by Screwtape to his pupil.

Whatever you do don’t let him pray. Especially honestly. If he must pray, sneak in and tempt him with pride so his focus is wholly upon himself. Pride mitigates every evil thing possibly accomplished by prayer. Does he have an attitude of humility? Then put in his mind the thought he is accomplishing something and getting our Enemies approval for whatever it is he wants to achieve. Anything will do as long as he thinks he’s doing it. Your job is to keep that creeping self-congratulation always in the back of his mind. Don’t ever let it come to the fore. Pride in humility, or anything, is the most effective weapon in our arsenal. Should it come forward, especially during a time of prayer, make them short times by distracting him with silliness. Again, anything will do, as long as it take his mind off his true condition and away from our Enemy. He wants these ugly little bipeds to adore Him. We don’t. Fix his mind on politics, which counterfeits righteousness, or entertainment, especially non-participating sensuousness. His expectations will grow exponentially without ever a chance of them being met. There’s great value in him admitting how unworthy he is while demanding everyone around live up to his unrealistic standard. Our job is to make him believe a lie. Under most conditions, he’ll believe anything.

It is too easy to write negative thoughts. It is exceedingly difficult to write positive thoughts which don’t pander to selfishness and self absorption. This is true not because Christians ar more negative than positive but because war, by its very nature, is negative. We are at war and God not only demands constant vigilance but training. A big chunk of our training in righteousness is consistent prayer resulting in constant intimacy with Him who created us in His image for that purpose.

Paul, in Ephesians 6, describes the tools of faith as instruments of war carried by every Roman soldier he met. While the implements carried by soldiers are used for war they are also used to maintain peace. Truth when used to combat the lie is both a weapon of war and a tool of peace. Righteousness is never negative, unless it is viewed through the eyes of the unrighteous. For God to bring us to a place of peace with Him cost Him more than we can ever, even eternally, know. Faith itself becomes strong only as the pressures of sin and the will to obey are brought to bear upon the citizen. Salvation is a double negative: Jesus died ( a negative) for my sins (a negative) so I am viewed by God covered with His righteousness (a positive). Most of the actual Word of God, the Scriptures, is a description of His grace to a fallen, rebellious world. He describes the fallen, rebellious world in detail but also describes how He delivers His grace in detail. God’s Word cuts to the soul of the person because of it’s vivid, gory details of the inner sinfulness of every life.

All of the tools described in Ephesians 6 are wielded by the citizen of the Kingdom through prayer. Our adversaries greatest, most insidious accomplishment is making prayer seem ineffective. I distinguish between true prayer and counterfeit prayer. True prayer focus all of one’s attention from first to last upon the person of God. It includes us and those around us but only as recognized citizens of His kingdom living in a world in absolute rebellion against Him.

Read Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:

Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [Matthew 6:9-13 ESV]

Though we and our needs are well represented in this prayer it still revolves around God. He is the center, the focal-point. It is obvious from Scripture God wants those who are His to have an intimate and uninterrupted relationship with Him. We do this through prayer.

To accomplish this He has given us faith, the conduit through which He delivers all we need, to maintain this relationship while living in a world bent upon destroying that relationship. We will not know the truth or righteousness or peace unless God gives it to us. Nor will we understand salvation, the Word of God, or even faith, unless we honestly allow Him to teach and train us. To use these tools our attitude must be meek, which is His strength in us under His control. There is no other way. Honest prayer, listening to God more than excusing ourselves before Him, cuts to the soul and reveals the truth of the innermost being, both of self and of God’s Self. Relinquishing control to Him does not release His power in us for nothing we do will inhibit Him. Relinquishing control to Him is an attitude of worship and service through willful and responsible obedience.

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Tools of Faith: Word of God

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [Hebrews 4:11-13 ESV]

What is the Word of God? It is three things, interrelated and inseparable.

We know Scripture as the Word of God. This is not the place to discuss the Cannon and how writings were selected or rejected. I accept the work and discernment of those who developed the Canon. Yet, we find certain parts of the “Christian” world which added writings not included in the Canon, or changed the meanings of certain words and phrases translated from the original languages into something other than the excepted meaning.

Let’s set the foundation for our thinking. God’s revealed to those He divinely inspired to write down in their own language and with their own style and personality exactly what He wanted to say. His revelation is of things man could otherwise not know. In theology this is called special revelation. General revelation is the natural evidence left after God works in the universe and our world. Everyone can see general revelation though not everyone will accept the evidence which points toward God.

God wrote to a people so they might know Him both intellectually and intimately. He gave His Spirit to illuminate His Word so with whom He communicates might understand and rely upon Him to help them conform to His will. God’s Word, found in the 39 “books” of the Hebrew Scripture, or the Old Testament, and the 27 “books” of the New Testament, are both inerrant and infallible. They were written down in the original language by the original author communicating completely what God wanted to say without error either scientific or historical and without compromise of His character.

Translations of the Bible into other languages depend upon the stubborn meekness of those doing the work. The translators must relinquish control and allow God to work through them under His control. They retain their own personalities and use of language as servants of the Master. God is not revealing new information to them but equipping them to accomplish His work.

God distinctly warns everyone about maintaining the veracity and integrity of Scripture. Once at the beginning of Scripture and once at the end, in the fifth book and last book, God plainly tells man to neither add nor subtract from His revealed Word.

And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. [Deuteronomy 4:1-2 ESV]

And

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. [Revelations 22:18-19 ESV]

A proverb of Agur solidifies this thought:

Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
[Proverbs 30:5 ESV]

Secondly, there is a person known as the Word of God. He is Jesus. All of the evidence of Jesus’ life points to His divinity. His teaching about Himself and the miracles He did declared He is God. His life, death, burial and resurrection, all fulfilling Scripture, is incontrovertible evidence. Those who reject this evidence do not want to accept it. They do not want to believe Jesus is God, the incarnate, living Word of God.

The evidence of His miracles and the healing of persons are both general and special revelation. They are general revelation because they were done for the most part publicly regardless of spiritual bent of those watching or participating. The Pharisees, religious attorneys, and hangers on saw the evidence and interpreted it incorrectly because they did not want to believe Jesus was who He said He was. On the other hand, the disciples saw the evidence and came to a different conclusion. God revealed to them the truth, something they otherwise would not have known.

Peter declares Jesus the Christ midway through their time together. Jesus’ response it significant, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” [Matthew 16:17 ESV]. His disciples received a special revelation from God concerning the One they followed. Thus, when Peter declared Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, he used his words but the thought came from God. Then Jesus warned His disciples to tell no one. He would finish His work before giving them the command and power to tell everyone. God is still in control and will direct at His pleasure and according to His will. Those who are meek understand this and relinquish control to Him who is always in control.

Before His crucifixion Jesus taught, from the Hebrew Scripture, that He would suffer and die for the people of God. After His resurrection He explained more fully to His disciples how Scripture, the Word of God, was fulfilled.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all Scriptures the things concerning himself. [Luke 24:25-27 ESV]

Finally, Jesus fulfilled Scripture because He is the Author of Scripture. He is the eternal Word of God who spoke into existence the physical universe and all created therein. He established the physical laws of the universe but is not constrained by them, for He stands outside of them. He is the embodiment of the moral laws because they are integral to who He is. He created man so He might have an intimate relationship with him. Being human, while retaining full divinity, did not compromise His eternal character. He placed Himself under the constraints of the physical laws while maintaining control over them. He lived fully under the moral law and died because of an immoral law. Raised from death, because death cannot hold God, He bought back from sin those with whom He desired an intimate relationship, because of His love for us not ours for Him.

The Word of God exemplifies the true meaning of meekness. God’s strength, in the universe, the Son, and the Scripture, given to us, under His control. We cannot change this truth.  When viewed completely the Word of God is not just a tool but the foundation of life.

Tools of Faith: Salvation

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. [1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV]

Salvation.

Is there another word used by the Church which carries as deep a meaning and as much baggage? Along the road of Church history, with centuries of use and abuse, the dust of traveling a dirty road has coated the word in a layer of grime, obscuring its meaning behind the accumulated grunge of use and misuse. What does “salvation” mean?

In the Hebrew Scripture “salvation” means something delivered, given aid toward victory or prosperity. Jacob, blessing his son Dan, declares I wait for your salvation, O LORD” [Genesis 49:18 ESV]. Dan is declared a judge of Israel, but not always a righteous or just judge. He will deliver people from wrong but others will be delivered from him. Read the full blessing:

Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. I wait for your salvation, O LORD. [Genesis 49:16-18 ESV]

In the New Testament salvation means to be either rescued from or the defender of someone who needs rescuing or defending. Jesus, passing through Jericho on His way to Jerusalem where He will be crucified decided to eat with a tax collector. For Zacchaeus, rescue and deliverance came from a man willing to associate with him regardless of his deep and grievous sin.

And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” [Luke 19:5-9 ESV]

Salvation is always the movement of a person from one place or position to another, from slavery to freedom or from sentenced to death to pardoned and given life.  When God calls a person it is always from the state of unrighteousness to a place of righteousness. God moves a person from a state of sin to a state of salvation. Salvation is from a place of sin to a place of no sin.

One delivered from a place of slavery or captivity the Christian ceases to be a citizen of the kingdom of this world and becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God. Isn’t this a desirable change, a  transition from outcast to belonging? Wouldn’t everyone, when given the option to move from the dirt and poverty of this world to a place in the glorious and wondrous country of God, want to?

Well, no.

There are those who see themselves as not needing salvation. They do not recognize sin in themselves though they may in others. They may see it in the world around them, but do not call it sin.

There are those who see themselves as unworthy of salvation. Because they can do nothing to earn their way into God’s kingdom, they don’t try. They think nothing can be done for them. So they enjoy sin, laugh at it because it is their nature, embrace it and encourage it. Because it’s sin.

There are those who see salvation as boring. Who wants to go to a place where all you do, for eternity, is sit around playing a harp while wearing a sheet? Heaven could never be as exciting as the world in which they live. It’s a downgrade.

There are those who reject the entire premise of salvation. If there is no God, there is no sin, there is no heaven. We are just animals and cease to exist at death. Live it up now. This is all there is.

There are those who have redefined salvation, making it something completely different than what God actually says. The great family reunion and picnic in the sky. I’ve worked hard and earned my place at the table. The balance has tipped toward good works and tangible rewards. Real estate, comfort, ease and pleasure. A Santa Claus father with Christmas every month.

There are those who expect salvation because of their unreasonable expectations and believes in God’s nature and character. The brotherhood of man, we’re all in this together. There isn’t a wrathful bone in god’s body, the perfect human, who excuses everyone’s imperfection because he couldn’t be a loving god and not love the way I think he should.

And so on, and so on.

We do not get to define the terms of salvation, nor the means for how God has decided to apply His decisions. We are the ones who have rebelled against Him. That He offers salvation, a means for us to return to Him, is all of Him and none of us. It is supreme arrogance for us to say to Him how it works, what He means. Nowhere in Scripture does He ever ask those who are His to do something. He commands them, the command of a Master to a servant. He is in control.

If we don’t recognize the need for salvation then whatever we think it is, it is not. If we don’t recognize who Jesus Christ is, if we reject what He has done, if there is no repentance, true repentance, then salvation is not available. We make it unavailable. When God says it is one way, we cannot make it another and expect God to honor our demands. If we do not recognize sin and turn away from it and turn toward God we reject His offer, His grace, His gift. We reject His authority when we rebel against His command. We will do what our heads and hearts tell us to do. If our heads and hearts belong to God, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, then we will do what God tells our heads and hearts to do.

Salvation is an act of God. It is His will, His strength, direction, commands, in us, under His control. Salvation changes the way we think, feel, act, because we have been changed. Salvation says we are no longer a part of the world, though we continue to dwell in the world. We are aliens and strangers, “sojourners and exiles” our every action and attitude meant to glorify God. Thus, salvation becomes a tool of faith, delivered by God to us, to keep us strong and protected against the attacks of the world.

Our Adversaries

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

Meekness is God’s strength in those who are His under His control. This is a necessary distinction.  Meekness is not His strength under our control. We cannot control Him. Nor is it His strength in us under His control without our consent as if we played no part or had no stake in the results. Meekness is our recognition of God’s work and acknowledgment the outcome of His working is accomplished in spite of our involvement not because of it.

All He has for the citizen of His kingdom, those who remain in this world, is given through the conduit of faith. However, faith is much more than a conduit. Faith is uniquely suited to act as the focal point of all the tools available, bringing them to bear against any of the weapons of the enemy of the Christian. The strength of meekness is found in faith.

We have examined briefly truth, righteousness and peace. Truth is the intellectual ascent to everything spoken by God. It is the tool used to fight against the lies told to self, the world and Satan. Righteousness is the moral/emotional response to sin, or unrighteousness. Righteousness demands we trust God to fulfill the promise He has made in declaring us covered with Christ’s righteousness. Peace is an act of the will. Peace comes first by God’s will then given to us as we  submit our will to His. Thus, the whole person is involved in the fight, the struggle to live as a witness and in being prepared for eternity. By its very nature faith demands the whole person be involved, that is, the whole regenerated person. Faith becomes a tool of tools.

It is the responsibility of the one receiving God’s provision to use faith. There are three areas of assault upon the Christian where faith must be exercised. All three attack every aspect of Christian life, of our walk with Christ. Combined, these three adversaries present a alarming foe. They are the world in which we live, our own flesh, and our adversary, Satan, and those under his control.

Fallen humanity, those actively rebelling against God, comprises the world which seeks to destroy our peace with Him who is our peace. Filled with people who face themselves and not God, all made in the image of God, the world fights not only against God but against those who are God’s. War arises when self demands all for self, whether small family wars or large national wars. It is self which seeks to provide security at the expense of others. The world has no personality, but is filled with ungodly personalities. When Adam fell the world turned against Man. Part of the curse was a loss of control. From the fall to the end of time, man demands they have control. Meekness relinquishes control which brings peace, not with the world but with God.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. [1 John 2:15-17 ESV]

Secondly, the flesh, our own flesh, demands we follow sin and unrighteousness. Every person born, with the exception of Christ who was both God and man, was born totally depraved. This does not mean people can do no good. Total depravity means people can do nothing righteous, under their own power and strength. It is the corrupted image of God in each which draws each away from God to anything other than God. The evidence of this truth is found in the individual, expounded by a world filled with individuals. It is the flesh which draws toward the sinful acts found in the world. It is the flesh which lies, counterfeiting unrighteous motivations and presenting them as acceptable actions.

Where once we saw ourselves strong in our own abilities now the citizen has God’ strength.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [Galatians 5:16-24 ESV]

Finally, we must speak of our Adversary, the one who lies, who was a liar from the beginning, who whispers lies to us until we see his lies as truth. We are susceptible to the lies of Satan. God is not. Faith recognizes the truth of God first and foremost. When tempted by a lie, truth through faith immediately rejects it and replaces it with truth. See the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. See how He countered each lie with revealed truth. Meekness is part of the turning away from sin toward God. When we face God we are not affected by the lie.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. [1 Peter 5:8 ESV]

But, there is a problem. We are still in the world, we still carry the sinful flesh around with us, and we are continually attacked by Satan. But, Christ has overcome the world. We are crucified with Him and have died to the world. Satan has been tried, judged, and sentenced, now awaiting the execution of his sentence. He has been stopped. The roaring lion is the old lion scaring prey into the clutches of those much younger. He still has great power, limited by God.

Meekness, strength under God’s control, translates into faith. And faith is a great fire, a tempering fire designed to burn all ungodliness from those who are citizens of God’s kingdom. Either we work with God to root out and destroy the evil in our lives, or we work against Him, being over whelmed and finally consumed by the evil. Either we face the fires of faith or the fires of hell.

Tools of Faith: Peace

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. [John 16:33 ESV]

Within every human lives a desire for peace which drives them. For with peace there is rest and security. There are no threats or dangers. When God created our first parents He placed them in a garden, a place where peace was natural for there was nothing to fear. There was no sin. There was no risk of loss. God was with them. Their safety was assured.

Then Adam sinned and they were banished from the garden, driven away from their peace. They were separated from God the One in who’s image they were created and with whom they were designed to have an intimate relationship. With separation can the loss of the feeling of the presence of God. Their rebellion brought fear because the world became dangerous. There was no peace between people and no peace with the animals they once ruled. Even nature and weather turned against them. Their rebellion destroyed their peace.

Separated from God and in complete rebellion against Him we do not want to enjoy the intimate relationship for which we were designed. We want to return to the garden without God. We want peace with the world, with nature, with people and nations without having peace with God. Yet, peace with God is primary, the necessary element to peace with His creation.

Fear, like anger, destroys intimacy with God and those closest to us. Fear reflects a lack of trust in the perceived promise of security given by the One who guarantees our security. We will examine peace more fully when we discuss the verse “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” [Matthew 5:9 ESV]. For now, we recognize the evidence of peace as a feeling of security, where there is a lack of danger like the tranquility of the garden before the fall. This peace is had in the midst of danger found within the turmoil of the sinful world. Where the world demands we fear it Jesus says do not fear because He has claimed us as His and the world can do nothing to change our position before God.

Peace is given and may be had only by the servant who has relinquished control to the Master and is submitting fully to the training and commands to obedience because of their trust in His promises. Christians are being made ready, prepared, trained for at least two tasks. These tasks do not have a beginning or end, for one leads into the other and where one may finally stop the other immediately begins.

We are trained for eternity with God as citizens of His kingdom. We have only the most rudimentary understanding of eternity based on the revealed truth of God in Scripture. We then supplement the thinking of our hearts with allusions and imagery which cannot reflect the complete truth of that which awaits us. We know God is eternal and eternity is God Himself. This is enough, for God encompasses everything He imagines, which He then creates, all of which is beyond our limited imagination.

Before eternity is the here and now. God uses this world as a training ground for those who are His. In this world we are His witnesses. Our job and His command is to serve Him and not the world or ourselves. Throughout our lives, from the moment of salvation until the moment of death we are under the obligation to act like a citizen of the kingdom in a world deadly hostile to the Gospel, to Jesus and God. While doing this we slowly, painfully, relinquish control of all we own, whether things or attitudes or people or time, until all is brought under His control.

When God tells us to speak we speak for there are many, we know not who, in this world who are His and called out of the world into His service. When He tells us to be silent we are silent. When He plums the depths of our hearts and minds revealing anything which controls us in completion to His will He tests and refines us. He will allow no idol in our lives. We are at war in this world, aliens and strangers, even refugees, living in this world as non-residents passing through to our true home. Our lives are short and this world is passing away. Why would we place our hope or trust in anything which will not last for eternity?

Peace is not a felt emotion but a position before God. We have peace with God and none with this world because our position before God is one of inclusion in Christ and separation from the world. Peace is a tool given us to stand in the world between the world and God. Living in hostile territory demands we seek a pattern of life which does not compromise who we truly are with what the world considers us. We have an intimate relationship with God which the world cannot possibly understand. Those who hate God actually fight against Him.

Even our momentary rebellions against Him will not separate us from Him for peace with God is found in our position not our actions.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [Romans 7:24-8:2 ESV].

We are at peace with the Creator of all. Though the world throw us into turmoil, though we do not feel peace while in the world, God decided to make peace with us. He has not made peace with the world (see Matthew 10:34) but with those He has called out of the world as His own. Those who relinquish control of themselves to the God of peace may feel the evidence of peace with Him. Even if they do not feel peace they will act according to the peace of God. This world holds nothing but strife and turmoil, division and war. The citizen of the kingdom has a place and position outside of the world and nothing the world does, or our flesh does, or Satan does, will change our place before God.

When others see our peace may God use it to draw them to Himself.  This peace frees us from the constraints of the world to serve God with our whole being.

Tools of Faith: Righteousness

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. [Romans 8:9-11 ESV]

Righteousness means perfect conformity to the moral law of God, which is perfect conformity to God for He is not separate for His law.

Beginning with Adam God adamantly declared a single sin, a lone act of unrighteousness, the smallest transgression against His moral law brought separation from Him.  Once separated a righteousness life is impossible for the one who committed the sinful act in thought or will. That single act of rebellion corrupts the person, polluting their essential being. Since no one living, or having lived other than Jesus has absolutely conformed to the moral law, being righteousness is impossible. This truth must be admitted and accepted, along with the admission and acceptance of the consequences of violating God’s law.

What is impossible for man is eternally doable by God.

God must do for man what man cannot do for himself. Yet, God will not violate His own intimate standards to bring anyone back to a relationship with Him. Once corrupted no one can then be made uncorrupted. God does not take the corruption out of a person but instead casts the person away. He is justified in doing this because of His known will, while maybe ignored will, that all who sin are sentenced to death. Spiritual death follows physical death. We have already discussed the differences in the sections on “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” [Matthew 5:4 ESV]. God does the impossible

Christ’s death and resurrection is the heart of the Gospel where my sin is exchanged for His righteousness. He took on Himself on the cross the full measure of my sentence and punishment for my sin, for my violation of the moral law of God. In exchange the full measure of His righteousness enveloped me. This does not mean I am righteous as a natural consequence of being a Christian. It means God views me as righteous. The theological term is “imputation.” My sin is imputed to Him and His righteousness is imputed to me. I am covered with His blood so when God looks at me He does not see me in sin but sees the blood of His Son which covers my sin.

If I am righteousness in God’s sight then it is His righteousness not mine. It is His righteousness placed over me. In the context of this discussion, righteousness is a tool or weapon acquired by faith to enable me to stand against the unrighteousness of the world which tugs and pulls, tempts to sin. Paul uses the metaphor of a breastplate with righteousness covering and  protecting the vital organs. (See Ephesians 6:10 and following.) God placed around me the protection of Christ’s righteousness. I wield this righteousness as an act of the will in obedience to God, my Master.

Before we can use His righteousness to fight against sin we must first view ourselves as His bondservant. In Paul’s illustration in Ephesians 6 the bondservant is also a soldier. Obedience means knowing the mind of your Master, not just the will. When the Master puts a person through training the person has an obligation to do as he has been trained. When God views a person as righteous because of Christ’s blood the person is obligated to do that which is righteous. This obligation comes from the person being re-created and growing in Christ.

We are created in the image of God. But, as a descendent of Adam our nature was corrupted by sin. When God bought us He re-created us in the image of Christ, then adopted and made us a son of God. Not only did He cover us with Christ’s righteousness but infused us with His Holy Spirit beginning our training and preparation for eternity. We are covered and filled making us witnesses of God in this world. Once we are His and the training has begun we are obligated to obey God. We are obligated to Him. He has no obligation to us other than what He has promised.

Much of our training is a comprehensive understanding of God’s moral law. Jesus is succinct in His teaching of this law.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:36-40 ESV]

We must know the difference between right and wrong according to God’s determination. We must determine what is good and acceptable in God’s eyes.  We are trained by the world to think we are the center of existence. God does not retrain – He re-creates. That which is old, corrupted by sin, cannot obey God. Only those claimed by God, covered by the blood of His Son and filled by the Spirit can claim righteousness. This means rejecting and abandoning the training of the world which taught us how to think and feel only of ourselves. God is first. Our neighbors come before us. We are last, servants of all.

Righteousness becomes an act of the will of God, done by the servant as obedience to Him who has trained us and given us the tools needed to stand against the world. It is not an act of our will but of God’s will in us under His control. Meekness is God’s strength in us under God’s control. There is no room for compromise. Only a true servant, one who recognizes themselves as a servant, can relinquish control to the place of abandonment to God. Consequently, the abandoned to God servant of Christ must do righteousness as a constant act of the will.

Being covered with Christ’s blood and with His righteousness imputed has eternal implications. Those so covered no longer desire to sin. I did not say “no longer sin.” God leaves us in a sinful world and a sinful body surrounded by sinful people. Our desire is to fulfill His will because we love Him. First time obedience shows love for God.

We all know the propensity of children to not hear when verbal instruction is given. Few parents have the emotional stamina to demand immediate obedience. So children wait, continuing in their own activity. As children they are trained to respond only when there is anger in the voice, or a threat, or the parent begins moving in their direction. God does none of this. God instructs once. If there is no obedience then He disciplines. Focusing upon ourselves means we will not recognize His discipline but will see unfair suffering. Being covered with the righteousness of Christ means we are not under the threat of the eternal sentence and punishment of our sin. Discipline is another story. God disciplines us in righteousness to the place of first time obedience in thought and action.

Like truth we do not determine righteousness. We do not say this is righteous and that is not any more than we say this is true and that is not. Given the mind of Christ and the direction of the Spirit we live as servants and sons of God in a world at war with Him. Righteousness is a protective covering against the assaults of the world. His protective covering of us.

Imputed Righteousness

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.[Romans 4:23-25 ESV]

In these studies, meekness recognizes the strength of God working within and through the one who is His. Meekness is one of the characteristics of the citizen of God’s kingdom. Those who are meek have relinquished control of themselves to their Creator and are obedient to Him.

While obedience is work, requiring great effort to fight against the temptations of the world, obedience is a responsibility and is expected. To this end, God gives those who are His both the tools needed to combat the tugs and pulls of the world and the strength and training to wield His tools.

One of the tools He gives is righteousness. God imputed righteousness to those who are His. This word “imputed” means to reckon, to make an account of. It is both a legal term and a financial term and may refer to either a gift or a punishment. Legally, one person will take credit for what someone else has done or given. Financially, the gift is considered a credit. A credit is an addition to one’s finances while a debit is a subtraction from one’s finances. Legally, a credit gives someone full control over what is given. In the case of a bequest, credit means one receives all of the benefit and all of the responsibilities and privileges of an action done by another.  Imputed gifts are real not theoretical or an apparition.

With this understanding and the demand the word refers to a reality not a supposition we can now look at how it is used. God does not change and His intent throughout Scripture is consistent. He does not change and what He has decided from before creation remains within His decrees. Throughout Scripture God is perfectly consistent in His application of “imputation.”

Romans 4 uses the word “imputed” or “counted” eleven times. “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted (imputed) to him as righteousness’” [Romans 4:3 ESV].  In most of Romans righteousness is imputed because of faith, never because of works. In the context, “works” are those activities done for the sole purpose of making oneself right with God. Doing this reveals the motivation of trying force God’s indebtedness to the person who works. Such works are an act of idolatry as the person tries to manipulate God in order to justify themselves through perceived loopholes in the divine moral code. Instead of being given a righteous stance before God they seek to earn the position.

“We know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” [Romans 3:19-20 ESV]

All these works earn are God’s wrath. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” [Romans 3:28 ESV].

So, righteousness is delivered to the citizen of the kingdom through the conduit of faith. It is a gift, a grace and cannot be earned but can be rejected.

Speaking of Himself, Jesus quotes Isaiah 53, “I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’” [Luke 22:37; cf. Isaiah 53:12]. He took upon Himself our sin, it was imputed to Him, and gave us His righteousness, it was imputed to us.

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
[Isaiah 53:1-12 EV]

If Christ takes upon Himself our sin does this then mean He is a sinner? No! He was viewed by God as a sinner, our sin credited to Him, He enduring the sentence for our sin. Though our sin was credited to Him, imputed to Him by God, He remained sinless. A sinless man died for sinful Man.

In the same way God viewed Jesus covered with our sin He views us covered with Christ’s righteousness. We are not intrinsically righteous but sinful. We are covered, credited, with Christ’s blood so when God looks at us He sees the blood of His Son thus viewing us with Christ’s righteousness. We are no more righteous because of His righteousness than He is a sinner because of our sin. We are no less righteous than what God sees when He views us through Christ. What matters is not what we are, or do, or aspire for, but who God is, what He does, How He sees us. This mystery is beyond comprehension. We must wait for eternity, when God finishes His work in us for a righteousness intrinsic to our being.

Still, we continue to sin. We do not ignore our sin but mourn over its consequences. Meekness not only sees the truth of continued sin and the agony over the full extent of what sin does but views God’s benevolent consistency in  loving those who are His. Jesus makes a startling statement to those who seek to earn God’s favor.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” [John 10:27-30 ESV]

The entire first half of Romans addresses the issues of sin, of faith and Christ’s righteousness given to us. A righteous person does not continue sinning. However, those credited with righteousness, who are not intrinsically righteous, will continue struggling with sin. John, in 1 John, tackles this problem, telling us, like Paul, like Jesus, we must obey God’s commands and direction, and when we don’t we will not lose our standing before God, but must confess and then obey.

Righteousness is ours. It has been credited to us. Our assurance is in Christ’s work, His blood, the work of the Holy Spirit and the legal viewpoint of God, all tempered with grace. Through faith God delivers to us the righteousness which is His to give and ours to receive. We can do nothing for it. Any work we do thinking it will make us right before God is sin. Any work we do out of sheer obedience to Him is not sin. Obedience is expected by God of those who are His.

Righteousness and its use in combating the unrighteousness of the world is had solely by grace.