Friday, 1 October 2010

The Reality of Righteousness

The Reality of Righteousness

"For everyone has sinned... Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous." (Romans 3:23-24 NLT)

We read in Romans chapter 3, beginning with verse 20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified (lit. declared righteous), in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Then it goes on to say, "But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are."

And goes on to say; "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus" (Romans 3:21-26 NLT).

In the Authorised Version of the Bible, verse 26 reads like this; "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (KJV). The writers of the Authorised chose to use the words "just" and "justifier!" which mean; to "render or declare innocent/righteous."So from this passage we can see that righteousness is not attainable through our own efforts. It has to come from God and in His economy there is nothing any of us can do to "render or declare" ourselves righteous. Thank God this is the case, because if good works were necessary, then ten million good works would never be enough!

Deception always whispers, "You don't need God!" and those who believe this are amongst those who are still convinced of their own righteousness. What they don't realise is that it's Christ's righteousness they need not their own. They certainly do "need" God!

However this type of religious deception is a very subtle; the most well meaning folks still have it in the back of their minds that mere "church-attendance" weighs in somewhere in helping to make them righteous! Others believe that good deeds; like selling chicken dinners or holding fund raisers in support of God's program - helps makes them righteous! But no kind of "fund-raiser" will even come close to procuring even the smallest of heavenly "favours" let alone any divine "contributes" towards being righteous! Not a single work can do it!

The only solution offered us is Jesus. He is all we need! We are righteous because of Him and not independent of Him. We cannot look from afar of "at" Him and think we can have what He has. The only way we can obtain righteousness, is to be IN Christ Jesus - because God counts the righteousness of Christ as valid - not ours! "...we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..." (Isaiah 64:6 KJV)

Consider it like this. In the Old Testament righteousness was gained through faith. (See Hebrews chapter 11 for the great hall of faith!) Now in the New Testament it is no longer so. We can only gain righteousness by receiving the One who IS righteousness! Our own is filthy as said in the scripture above and this is where "holiness" comes into it. Holiness is part of righteousness; because righteousness also means "innocence." Holiness is an "innocent" life style; however the only innocent one among us is Christ; blameless and pure. "Be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I set you apart as holy" (Lev 21:8 GW).

We are encouraged over and over again throughout scripture - in both Old and New Testaments - to stay far away from any kind of perversion... which is the exact opposite of holiness. Perversion is that which can "stain" our white (blood washed) robes of righteousness. We must remain spiritually "clean" once Christ has "cleansed" us, because, "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:25-27 KJV). Only the Holy Spirit can help do the impossible; "remain spotless, pure and blameless," in a dark world full of filth. After all God did give us His Spirit of "Holiness!"

Therefore it stands to reason that once God has declared us righteous in His sight - through Christ we have a clean slate and an "innocent" record - we cannot corrupt this again by "continuing" in sin and expecting our innocent status to be "unaffected." As those who tout, "Once saved always saved," also fail to understand that it is possible to "disrobe!" In other words, we can take off our robes of righteousness anytime! We can also compromise them at any time. That's why we must "continue" in righteousness and work out our salvation with "fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12).

You can reject them (robes) and the blood that bought them anytime; but God's desire "that none should perish" - will never alter. He can never change, as there is no "variableness, neither shadow of turning" with Him (James 1:17 KJV). On the other hand "we" change all the time! Yet we must "remain" innocent. The only way to achieve this is to "remain" IN Christ's innocence/righteousness. Only IN Christ is this possible. From start to finish and all the way through... we must keep our eyes on Christ and stay IN Him. Without Christ - we have no qualification. God the Father sees - the demons in hell see - this Righteousness of Christ in and on our lives. (They must recognise Christ - see "Seven sons of Sceva" Acts 19:14)

The Righteousness of God revealed: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness (dikaiosunē) of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written. The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (adikia) of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:16-18).

In the New Testament the Greek word for "righteousness" used above in Romans 1:16-18 is dikaiosunē (pronounced dik-ah-yos-oo'-nay), Strong's #G1343lit. equity (of character or act); specifically (Christian) justification. Then the Greek word for "unrighteousness" also used above in Romans 1:16-18 is adikia (pronounced ad-ee-kee'-ah), Strong's #G93lit. (legal) injustice (properly the quality, by implication the act); moral wrongfulness (of character, life or act): - iniquity, unjust, wrong.

In the Old Testament we see the Hebrew word used for "righteousness" in one of the names of GodJehovah-Tsidkenu - yehôvâh tsidqênû (pronounced yeh-ho-vaw' tsid-kay'-noo) Strong's #H3072 which describes this name asa symbolical epithet of the Messiah and of Jerusalem: - THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Like grace, righteousness as a gift cannot be earned; a gift is "given" and is the total prerogative of the "giver" not the receiver! When it comes to the gift of righteousness, we must be "declared righteous" by the giver - God. When He declares us righteous, then we are righteous! Notice that righteousness was also called a "gift" in Romans 5:17, "...they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."A gift is something that one person gives to another person, and he gives it because he wants to give it. You couldn't pay him for it. If you did, it would cease to be a gift. It would become a wage or a payment. But when a gift is given; obligation free and voluntarily, then it is a total gift. There's nothing left to do but "receive" or "reject" it!

As righteousness is such a "gift" all we must do is "receive" it. In fact - at the same moment we received Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour; right at that moment, God gave us the gift of righteousness. "Therefore, as by the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (v. 18).

The word "condemnation" means "judgement." By the righteousness of Jesus Christ, this free gift came upon all men unto the justification or unto the declaration of righteousness. "For just as by one man's disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man's obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him)" (v.19 AMP).

Notice, it says, "many WILL be made righteous." It did not say that, "many MIGHT be made righteousness if they work hard enough to earn it!" Just as righteousness is not something we earn neither is it something we replicate. It is purely something that God does for us. Because of Christ we are as righteous as we are ever going to get! In other words it's all because of Him. Start to finish. We can't initiate it or improve on it. It is done. When we stepped into Christ, we stepped into His righteousness. Pure and simple!

When I used to think that I had to "do" things to become righteous; I inevitably failed no matter my efforts or good intentions - as a result I felt even more unrighteous! What I failed to comprehend was that God had already declared me righteous - in Christ! God's Word is final authority on the subject; it's all about what He says, not what we say about ourselves or our feelings (or even our denominations!) It's easy to feel "unrighteous" at times, but that's precisely why it takes faith and not feelings to affirm the Word of God and declare; "I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!" (II Corinthians 5:21)

"For if because of one man's trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God's] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)" (Romans 5:17 AMP).

What an awesome concept - reigning in this life! To reign is terminology normally used for kings who rule their own kingdom and this is precisely what the word "reign" literally means; to "rule." However let me point out, that we are not just meant to rule in the next life but right here in this one! REIGN IN LIFE right now today! I prefer the Amplified version of the above scripture which says "shall reign as kings in life." In other words we are meant to rule our circumstances and everything in our immediate environment; exerting influence on all around us, just as Jesus did.

From the Old Testament let's use Elijah and Elisha as our example. In 2 Kings 2: 8-14 we see that first Elijah and Elisha together and then Elisha alone - wanted to cross the Jordan River and there were no bridges or ferries to take them across, so verse 8 says, "Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground" (NIV). Then verse 13-14 continues with Elisha as, "He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over."

In closing just imagine the scene here; he took his mantle from around his neck and slapped the water with it. Everywhere he slapped the water, dry land appeared. As the water went back, he stepped out on that; then he slapped another place and stepped out on that, as he walked across on dry land. Taking dominion one step at a time! Now this is exactly what we should do over life's circumstances - taking authority one smite at a time! When we truly walk with God, we reign with Him and even the elements cannot withstand our faith in Him. (Remember Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. If we reign with Him this makes us kings and lords!)

Finally: Elijah was such a one who dared to reign in life with his God and when he prayed it didn't rain for three-and-one-half years. He ruled the circumstances. Jesus stopped a storm by telling the sea to be still and the waves to lie down - and they did! Then He said, "I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father" (John 14:12 CEV). Likewise as Christians, we are supposed to be the "masters" of our circumstances.

Father thank You that I can rule and reign in this life. I don't have to grovel or mope around - but I can be the master of my own circumstances. This gives me true hope. Your authority in me is real and I submit my life to walking "with" You. Amen

I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am declared "innocent" and "just" by the Chief Justifier Himself. I have been pardoned and accepted. My filthy rags are no more! I have a new out-fit "given" to me by Christ Himself. I am recognised in heaven. I ware His righteousness with rejoicing in my heart as I gladly and wholeheartedly reject my own self-righteousness. Hallelujah!


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