Righteousness by faith and childlikeness
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).