“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Righteousness by faith and childlikeness

“For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Gal. 5:5). Should a newborn immediately start trying to walk? No; walking would damage its soft leg bones. Should a teenager do body-building with heavy weight-lifting? No, because even the teenager’s bones are still developing until his mid-twenties.

Does Righteousness by Faith get right to work on obedience and start performing? No. Otherwise it is only a performance; the Christian life becomes only an act. What happened when the seed of the word of God fell onto shallow ground? It immediately sprang up! And then died from the sun’s oppressive heat.

Does that mean Righteousness by Faith gives license to misbehave? Does it mean we have permission to act badly? No. But it does mean that if we are searching for a deep friendship with Christ, He will let us go on in obedience as far as we can, and He takes the brunt of His Father’s displeasure on all that we fall short of. It means we can do righteousness to the extent of the grace He gives us, and then we repent about the part we fail at. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you,” “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Rom. 12:18;Matt. 5:48). “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” (2Cor. 8:12).

It means surrendering to our heavenly Therapist so He can stretch our boundaries, because He won’t overstretch us. Come to the light where Jesus is, even if it hurts, knowing that you have a Friend in the light who you can trust to protect you from sunstroke. It means to let His friendship, His inviting life and words pull you into the light that gets brighter and brighter. It means to never enter the blinding light of the Law of God without being brought in by the winning ways of Jesus. It even means refusing to enter without that one Friend and Intercessor.

So it doesn’t mean to disregard the Law of God or even to disrespect it. Righteousness by Faith never abrogates nor repudiates the Law of God—the transcript of God’s character. But neither does it dare to approach the holiness of God on self’s own abilities or a supposed naturally inherent morality.

Legalism’s big problem is that it believes it can handle righteousness without relying wholly on Jesus. Oh, it says it relies on Christ; it knows all about that, at least in theory. But only with the person who trembles at God’s law will He make His abode.
“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that ye build unto Me? and where is the place of My rest? For all those things hath Mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word.” (Is. 66:1,2). This is the person who says, “There’s no way I could ever even try to measure up to God’s Law. If You want me to do righteousness, You are going to have to do it and You’re going to have to do it all !”

And it is only such a soul who can accept Christ’s grace. Only the person of a low estimation of his past performance would comprehend the grandness, the extent, the fullness of what it costs Christ to be gracious to us. But the inability to rely on their achievements is why the low-lifers came to the Son of God when He walked this Earth. Only the poor in spirit will ever own a part in the kingdom of heaven. They may not feel like “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3), nevertheless it is true. Christ said so. They are the only ones who have staked a claim for redemption, good feelings or not. Their great need is their strong argument.

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:4,5). Does a 5-year-old work for the roof over his head or the food on his plate? Does he please his parents in order for his parents to love and treat him good? No. If he behaved more, would they love him more? Did the Prodigal Son lose his Father’s love by being prodigal? Not in the least. By misbehaving, he suffered and he caused his Father to suffer also. Both suffered together.

No, the 5-year-old cruises along, joying in life, and trusting his parents to take care of everything. He doesn’t dare leave his family. His parents and siblings are his world. “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3).

Notice that Jesus preceded the child’s right to the kingdom with his being converted. It isn’t enough for the legalist to be subject to the Law of God without being a child first; but neither is it enough for the seeker after cheap grace to be a child without being converted first. But what does it mean to be converted? To stop misbehaving? To be perfect in performance?

To be converted means to be reconciled with God through looking at Jesus. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Rom. 5:10). But this reconciliation produces a love which wants to obey God’s Law.

Conversion means that God is no longer the big ogre in the sky. It means we have come to feel comfortable with Jesus, learning of Him and thinking of Him. Then we learn that the Father is just like His Son, and we begin to trust in God because of the goodness we see in Jesus. Once reconciled to God, His Law isn’t so offensive to us. Suddenly, we stop fighting the Law of God, and are subject to it. In fact, we love it.

We say with the psalmist, “O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” (Ps. 119:97). Like Jesus, our inspiration, we will say,
“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart.
They also do no iniquity: they walk in His ways.
Thou hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts diligently.
O that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes!
Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.
I will praise Thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned Thy righteous judgments.
I will keep Thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.” (Ps. 119:1-8). We will obey because we know God loves us, not in order to make Him love us. Similarly, we will honor our earthly parents and serve our friends because we are loved, not in order to cause them to love us.

And God wants us so badly that He is willing to wait until we stop being offended in Him and His ways. Infinite condescension! But God’s provision of grace, of such magnitude, is only for those who come to His Son. If I come to His Son, my Father knows that He only need wait a while, and His Son will bring me to trust Him, too.

Then everyone is happy, the Father, the Son, me. As it is written, “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (Is. 53:10) And,
“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Is. 55:12,13).

“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Rom. 11:29). However, “many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14). His incentives and His calling come to us without repentance, but His choosing requires us to be bathed in blood, sweat, and tears. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water ….” “The Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (Jn. 3:5;1Jn. 5:8). God must call and self must fall. The heart must give way to His goodness. It’s simple and easy. Yet the stubborn heart can always refuse. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:” (Jn. 1:12).

“Whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:30). Justification and glorification. What a path is laid out before those who accept the call to study under Jesus! What glories lay ahead of them! “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1Cor. 2:9).

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:3,4).

“And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him:
And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads.” (Rev. 22:3,4).

Righteousness by faith by Jesus by specifics

“Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” (2Chron. 20:20).
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matt. 7:15,16).

“The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.” (Rom. 3:22). It’s also called “the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13), obedience bundled in and inherent in faith, a holiness which is offered to the entire world and given to those who believe. The righteousness acceptable to God is all about unfeigned faith, you can’t have the one without the other; and faith is all about trusting Jesus. Trusting Jesus is all about knowing Him, and knowing Jesus is all about gathering His fruit.

It’s not enough to talk about Righteousness by Faith unless Jesus and His life are brought into the study. It’s not even enough to talk Righteousness by Faith by Jesus unless we get specific with His fruit—His acts, His words, and His mercy and grace that permeated it all.

To desire righteousness is a commendable vocation. But righteousness without Jesus’ fruits does not lead to righteousness. What we need is righteousness by faith by Jesus by specifics. The luscious fruits in His character and personality, His spirit, soul, and body.

Where can we go to see His delicious fruit? The gospels, of course; His life and His death. Where else? The Old Testament, in the way He dealt with ancient Israel and other nations. There is also ancient Israel’s sanctuary. David said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” (Ps. 27:4). And where else? In His Law. The transcript of His character. Where else? In nature, through the beauty of His created works. Is there anywhere else? The New Testament Law—the revelation of His grace through the apostles.

Jesus said, “This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn. 6:40). So we need to see Him. Like the leper who came to Him because he was caught in the spell of Jesus’ disinterested love. The crowds around the Healer fled, but the horrifying leper was blind to it all. All he could see was Jesus.

Where there is no vision of Jesus and His love, the people perish. And all the studying of Righteousness by Faith becomes only mystical theory if not contexted by Jesus and His specifics. The Hebrew religion launched into a mystical approach to truth because of Babylonian and Egyptian influences. Without the rock-hard evidences given to us in the authoritative word of God, without the visual life of Christ in our meditations and thoughts, and the precious promises floating through our heads, all Christless debates on Righteousness by Faith will only lead to another Judaism—which was a new kind of paganism. It was pre-Catholicism, and was foretold by the Holy Spirit. (Dan. 8:23;11:36-38;Deut. 32:17).

Can a doctrine be a god? Can biblically sounding language take the place of the Author of truth? Can Satan speak his most influential lies through religious doctrine? Is this possible? Isn’t this is what Paul was fighting against in Judaism? And the life and death of the Son of God was the only weapon against this unsuspected, wily foe. Imagine it! Church doctrine taking God’s place! Worshipping the law instead of the Lawgiver! How ingenious of Satan! Let’s give him an “F” for effort! But “we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2Cor. 2:11).

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” (Jn. 5:39). To the Jewish rabbis the scriptures had become an idol, a substitute for Him who inspired them. No wonder the angel told Daniel that Satan’s agent would destroy wonderfully and prosper and practice. (Dan. 8:24). Who would have ever thought the scriptures could be a subterfuge, transferring worship from the Author of truth to worshipping the truth He spoke? When John saw it, he even “wondered with great admiration.” (Rev. 17:6).

We need both, the truth and Jesus—Jesus in the truth, Jesus defining the law and the law defining Jesus, the truth as it is in Jesus. But the law and truth—even the Sermon on the mount—have their limitations, due to our inherent rebellion. We need to see a friend, especially one who obeys the law. This Jesus did perfectly. Living the Law in the context of being a committed friend is a simple and easy and joyful thing for the Law-giver.

We need to see Jesus and we need to show Jesus and preach Jesus. His righteousness and peace, His life and death. Him, full of grace and truth. His goodness. Otherwise, we become devoted to words, even righteous words. And the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.
“And they bring unto Him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech Him to put His hand upon him.
And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers into his ears, and He spit, and touched his tongue;
And looking up to heaven, He sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain.
And He charged them that they should tell no man: but the more He charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it;
And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” (Mk. 7:32-37). After seeing Him, the people could only say, He does everything well. If we look we too will start saying the same thing. We need to be sanctified by our message. But sanctification can only happen if our message involves a Friend.

The evening before going to Gethesemane He told His disciples, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” (Lk. 22:15). He was already feeling a separation from His Father. He was sensing the first pangs of labor. The 27th Psalm gives us insight into Christ’s experience and was possibly part of His thoughts and prayers that night. Can you hear Him meditating?
“When Thou saidst, Seek Ye My face; My heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.
Hide not Thy face far from Me; put not Thy servant away in anger: Thou hast been My help; leave Me not, neither forsake Me, O God of My salvation.
When My Father and My mother forsake Me, then the Lord will take Me up.
Teach Me Thy way, O Lord, and lead Me in a plain path, because of Mine enemies.
Deliver Me not over unto the will of Mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against Me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen Thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Vs. 8-14).

He wanted His disciples to know what He was about to do for them. He must suffer their damnation, in their place, but they must know about it or it wouldn’t lift them up and drive them to the ends of the earth with its message of salvation. With yearning desire He wanted them to awake from their temporal, carnal mentalities and to be one with Him in His suffering. Do you see Jesus that night? Do you see Him wrestling with His 12 closest companions, calling them friends, and working to diffuse their strife for supremacy? Do you see their love for Him constantly sidetracked by Judas who worked untiringly to undo every lesson Jesus tried to teach the other eleven? Do you see this driving Jesus deeper into His Father’s bosom in prayer? Can you feel the constant ache in the heart of the Son of God?

Their characters, their natures, everything about them was contrary Him, yet He loved them and they loved Him. They had not perfected themselves; they had not let the high aims of His lessons transform them entirely. It was painful to Christ to watch them and witness their errors and shortcomings. It grieved Him to see them offend and, even if unintentionally, to watch them hurt others who were trying to get to Him.

It was communion with God that kept Him encouraged. With His Father by Him He would not fail or be discouraged until He had set judgment in the earth.

By beholding we become changed—for better or for worse. “I said, Behold Me, behold Me, unto a nation that was not called by My name. I have spread out My hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;” (Is. 65:1,2). “Are we better than they? No, in no wise.” (Rom. 3:9). Distant, yet in majesty, He could not keep the Israelite nation loyal to Him. But, those who had felt the despair of seeing their own sinfulness and had looked to God found Him. Only they had searched for Him with all their heart. They had trembled at His word with a contrite spirit. (Is. 66:2). They looked onto the law in dismay, but hope laid hold of a merciful Lawgiver/enforcer.

Likewise, God was manifest in the flesh and dwelt among us. Again, only those who came to Him had heard and responded to John’s preaching of the law and judgment, being baptized by him. They saw the humility of John despite his fervent sermons. Their faith rested in hope. Judas and the religious leaders and unbelieving multitudes never had the experience of resting in faith. They chose to follow the dictates of pride and to avoid John’s fiery dissertations. Yet, Christ would give them many more opportunities to reverse their bad decision, but their salvation was tentative. Some would repent and be gathered into His garner, but most would perish with the fall of Jerusalem.

“Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” (Jn. 13:1). More than 500 others were His faithful followers. But His small circle of 12 was His dearest, in whom He had invested the most, even Judas. Never impatient with them, yet at times provoking them to faith and love, He brought “them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4).

Not only Jesus in the gospels. Jesus in nature. Jesus in our life experiences. Jesus’ beautiful character indirectly described in the counsels to the churches by the apostles’ epistles. Jesus in the Old Testament, speaking to the prophets and revealing Himself through their lives. Jesus in the Law; Jesus in prophecy. Jesus, even in His adversary, the devil. Jesus in every verse of the word of God because He is the Word of God. He is in it all. Let’s give the people Jesus. And in the context of Him, let us give them the real Righteousness by Faith.