Righteousness

Elizabeth sleeping in Emily's arms.

#Advent16 – Relationships

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch.

The life-giving Spirit of GOD will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, the Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-GOD.

Fear-of-GOD will be all his joy and delight.

He won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay. He’ll judge the needy by what is right, render decisions on earth’s poor with justice. His words will bring everyone to awed attention. A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked. Each morning he’ll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.

The wolf will romp wth the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid.

Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend to them.

Cow and bear will graze in the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.

Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain.

The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

On that day, Jesse’s Root will be raised high, posted as a rallying banner for the peoples. The nations will all come to him. His headquarters will be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1-10 (The Message)

This is the word of the Lord.

This is perhaps my favorite of the Advent passages in the lectionary cycles. The Prophet paints for us two beautiful images. The first is all about how the King that is to come will judge. The second is all about the beautiful Kingdom that will slowly-by-slowly come into being.

He will judge rightly. Not based on hearsay. Not based on wealth. Not based on power or strength. But, based solely on the wisdom and understanding that comes from the Fear of the Lord.

He will build righteousness—a legal and relational right-standing with God. The restoration of relationship destroyed by the fall. Man places back into right-standing with God, with neighbors, with himself, and with creation. All things working in tandem as originally designed by the Creator.

Wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, calf and lion, cow and bear all living and working together in harmony.

Little children taking the lead in caring for the creation.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ teaching on entry to the Kingdom of Heaven. “Be like the child,” he said. Be fascinated with the Kingdom of Heaven as a little child is fascinated by animals.

Elizabeth sleeping in Emily's arms.

Elizabeth sleeping in Emily’s arms.

Elizabeth, my 18-month old, love animals. Dogs and cats and lions and bears and donkeys and any other animal that she can see. Last night, when I put her to bed she said, “Hav hav”—the sound that dogs make in Turkish. I handed her the plush dog. She then said, “Ayı”—the Turkish word for bear. So, I handed her the stuffed bear. She put one under each arm and went to sleep.

Today, as I read this passage, I think of that image. A little child fascinated by creation. Two animals that could hurt her. Resting peacefully together under a fuzzy blanket on a chilly Turkish evening.

And, the Prophet says, “This. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.” Wild and ferocious animals. Animals that zoologists will tell us are natural enemies. Lying down together with a little child.

The fulfilled Kingdom of Heaven—that place that Jesus initiated with his birth—is a place where all things are restored to original design and intent. All things are made new again. All things are brought back to Eden.

Because all relationships are made right. Man is placed back into right-standing with his Creator. People are in right-standing with one another. The relationship with ourself is made right. And, mankind is taking care of the creation around him.

So much of modern teaching—especially in the evangelical world—is focused on only the relationship between and and God. We ignore things like psychological care for oneself, and right-treatment of one another, and caring for creation. We focus on “getting right with God,” but fail to talk about what that means for all of the other relationships of which we are a part.

Yet, all relationships are in need of being set right. The Kingdom of Heaven is about setting all things right. It is about restoring all things to original design. So, we must work through restoring broken relationships with our neighbors, and ourselves, and with creation.

When we walk out the Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to take care of ourselves. We set healthy boundaries. We sabbath. We know when we’ve eaten too much and slept not enough, and we change these things.

When we walk out the Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to love our neighbor as ourselves. And, we learn that our neighbor is often the one most unlike us. The muslim. The immigrant. The stranger. The homeless. The hurting. And, we care for them as we do for ourselves. We meet their needs without question. We love them.

When we walk out the Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to care for the physical world around us. We reduce our carbon footprints to ensure that our children, and their children have the resources they need. We reduce deforestation. We pick up litter. We invest more in alternate energy than in energy sources that damage creation—and the people who inhabit it.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven that the Prophet dreams about. This is the Kingdom of Heaven in all its fullness.

Relationships restored.

Relationships made right.

#Lent14 — Walking In The Path Of Life

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Psalms.

The LORD is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast before me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23 (NLT)

This is the Word of The Lord.

Today’s post originally ran on February 9, 2012.

Our feet take steps.  That’s what they were designed for.  The steps we take compose our path.  Because of the reputation that God has in heaven, because of the fullness of His character, because of the supreme authority that He carries, because of His rank of King of kings and Lord of lords, and because we are His representatives, He guides us in paths of righteousness, so that we have a legal right-standing with God through the blood of Jesus and thereby have a right relationship with God (Psalm 23:3).  We’ve all had guides before that we’ve followed and guides that we’ve ignored while we went and did our own thing.  “Our own thing” is what I’ve been talking with God about today.  My own thing.  My own path.  My own choices.

I can choose to say, “Yes” to God and walk on the path that He has lit for me.  For He — His Word, Jesus — is a light for my feet and a lamp on my path (Psalm 119:105).  He doesn’t tell me where we’re going along the way, but He’s lit enough of my path for me to know where to put my feet down next, and He’s told me to simply follow Him.  He has told me that His path is one of life (Psalm 16:11).

Or, I can choose to ignore God as my guide.  I can choose not to spend the time in His Word with His Word, Jesus, to gain the light I need for my path.  I can let worry or doubt or pride convince me to put my feet down at another place along the way.

No matter which choice I make, I have a lamp to guide me.  The lamp that guides the righteous is Jesus, the Word of God.  The lamp that guides the wicked — haughty eyes and an arrogant heart — is sin (Proverbs 21:4).  So, I can choose light as my lamp or darkness as my lamp.  Those are my two choices, and I don’t have a third choice.  There is the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.  There is not a Kingdom of “My Own.”  Why is that?  Why can’t I make my own little kingdom somewhere between the light and darkness.  Why can’t I sit on the fence?

I don’t own myself (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I never have owned myself.  I was a slave to sin (Romans 6:6) before the gift of God’s righteous act given through His eternal grace.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life as a sacrifice in order to purchase with His blood men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).  I was owned by the Kingdom of Darkness before Christ redeemed me with His precious blood allowing me to enter the Kingdom of Light.  The blood of Jesus has set me free from sin, and I have become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18).  I have become a slave to God, the benefit I reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life, for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

When we leave the path of darkness and came into the path of righteousness, in order to fully receive all that God has for us, we must get rid of everything that possessed and influenced us from the Kingdom of Darkness.  The way that we do this is to die to sin (Romans 6:2), for when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Our determined purpose is to fully know Christ, progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, that we may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, and that we may so share in His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness even to His death in the hope that we may attain to the resurrection that lifts us out from among the dead even while in the body (Philippians 3:10-11).  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5).

So will we count ourselves dead to sin to be alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)?  Rather than offering the parts of our body to sin as instruments of wickedness, we will offer ourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.  We will offer the parts of our body to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  In Christ, we are a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Therefore, why would we want to go back to the path of darkness by choosing to ignore God and choosing not to spend time with Jesus, our lamp on our path?  Let’s continue in the path of righteousness.  Let’s continue saying, “Yes” to God as His Word lights our path.  Let’s continue to follow Him with simple childlike faith, knowing that He leads us in life.

A Shepherd in Antalya Province, Turkey.

A Shepherd in Antalya Province, Turkey.

#Advent13: Righteousness and Justice

As we have done in years past, we are again blogging our way through the Advent Lectionary readings.  We love this season as it allows us to take time to slow ourselves down and walk between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is time for us to live in full knowledge of the “Now” of the Kingdom without rushing the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.  Our prayer is that these posts will serve as devotional meditations to focus your heart and mind on the imminent coming of our King!

Charla, Elizabeth, and Kurt Gwartney

Today, we have a special treat. Our friend, and one of the Pastoral staff at our home church, Charla Gwartney is offering our Lenten reflection. Rev. Charla Gwartney serves as Executive Pastor at Acts 2 United Methodist Church, overseeing administrative details of the congregation. She is blessed to be a part of a growing congregation with a heart for ministry. Her family is a great blessing to her…husband, Kurt and daughter, Elizabeth. They live in downtown OKC and enjoy the urban life of Oklahoma’s largest city in their free time.

A reading from the Psalms.

Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.  May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.  May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.  May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.  May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.  In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

— Psalm 72:1-7 (NRSV)

The Word of God for the People of God.

As I write this, the world is mourning one of the greats, Nelson Mandela. He died on Dec. 5. He was 95 years old. Many people know more about Nelson Mandela than I do. I simply know that he stood for forgiveness when he had every right to stand for revenge.

I know that he spoke words of peace to those who oppressed him (and others who shared his skin color.) I know he was imprisoned unfairly. And, I know that when he was released, his country was able to endure revolution without the bloodshed that often accompanies such change. I know that Nelson Mandela spoke truthfully about justice and righteousness and I know that it brought him trouble.

When the writer of this scripture prays for a king, I think the psalmist is hoping for one like Nelson Mandela. “May he judge your people with righteousness and your poor with justice…May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.” Leaders like Mandela are few and far between. It is hard to find people willing to speak up for those without a voice and endure the price of speaking up. More likely, those in power are lulled into believing that power is evidence of God’s blessing. This blessing belongs to them, rather than being entrusted to them for sharing with all those God loves.

It is hard to argue with the witness of scripture – God has a preferential option for the poor. And, God asks leaders to care for the poor. This kingdom Jesus teaches us to pray for (…thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven) is a place where all come to the table and share together in God’s abundance.

On the same day that Nelson Mandela died, workers in fast-food restaurant chains were protesting a wage that forces them to rely on government assistance. A recent study found that 52% of fast-food workers rely on government assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid. This news surfaced at the same time that McDonald’s purchased another luxury jet for its executives, costing $35 million. What should we do with that? What should we do with this reminder that the world Nelson Mandela imagined has not yet come to pass? What should we do with this reminder that the world Jesus teaches us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer…that the psalmist is lifting up…is conspicuously absent?

For me, this is the hard part of Advent. I love lighting the Advent candles and proclaiming that light has overcome the darkness. I love special family traditions, like Advent devotionals and calendars that build expectation. I love the music, food, extra time with family and friends. But, there is this part of Advent I can’t ignore – the call for justice and righteousness. The psalmist prays for a king that will bring a kingdom mirroring God’s priorities. The stories of this season remind us of a babe born in poverty, facing the risks that so many who are poor still face…hunger, danger, no access to basic necessities.

I need to see this side of Advent too. I need to be reminded that vulnerability carries its own power. I need to remember that the blessing God has chosen to give me is intended to benefit all of God’s children.

I am grateful for the life Nelson Mandela lived and for the witness he proclaimed. But, if that is the only witness made, the light can’t overcome the darkness. No! God calls all of us to speak truth to power, to stand in solidarity with those who have no voice, and to care for those the world would rather ignore. May it be so.

Advent 2012: Preparing the Path–Justice

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.

A reading from the Prophet Jeremiah

The LORD said: I made a wonderful promise to Israel and Judah, and the days are coming when I will keep it. I promise that the time will come when I will appoint a king from the family of David, a king who will be honest and rule with justice. In those days, Judah will be safe; Jerusalem will have peace and will be named “The LORD gives Justice.”

— Jeremiah 33:14-16 (CEV)

Justice.

For the past several months, one of the recurring subjects of meditation and discussion has been the idea of justice. And, here in this first Advent post, we’re confronted with it anew. This year’s Advent series is framed in the thematic context of “Preparing the Path”. As I ponder that theme coupled with this passage from Jeremiah, I’m struck with this thought: “Justice is at the beginning of the Path.”

It is often injustice that leads people to action. When people are mistreated, misrepresented, oppressed, or persecuted, we are led to act. We are led to usher in justice.

Yet, we often think of justice as the prosecution of those who have committed the mistreatment, misrepresentation, oppression, or persecution. In the Bible, justice is a different idea. Biblically, (in both Greek and Hebrew) justice shares a root with the word righteousness. They have the same basic idea–right legal and relational standing with God. In other words, to bring justice is to bring someone into a right legal and relational standing with God.

What if, for a moment, we stopped confusing justice and judgment.

Stopped confusing justice and retribution.

Stopped confusing justice and penalty.

And, what if, we viewed justice as bringing people into right legal and right relational standing with God.

Bringing people into a place of knowing who they are and whose they are.

Bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven.

What if, in this Advent season, we viewed justice as freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned.

Lightening the burden of those who work for us (Isaiah 58:6).

Letting the oppressed go free (Isaiah 58:6).

Removing the chains that bind people (Isaiah 58:6).

Feeding the hungry (Isaiah 58:7).

Providing shelter to the homeless (Isaiah 58:7).

Clothing the naked (Isaiah 58:7)

Helping relatives (Isaiah 58:7).

Bringing good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1).

Comforting the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).

Comforting those who mourn (Isaiah 61:1).

Rusty Playground in Central Asia (Used By Permission)

Rusty Playground in Central Asia (Used By Permission)

As I was writing this today, a friend in Central Asia posted a before-and-after picture of a playground. This playground is on a hillside that is home to the outcasts of society. It was rusted and battered. The ground around the play area was covered in trash. Yet, a handful of friends hiked up the hillside and spent the day cleaning and painting this playground. As I looked at those pictures again and again, I realized that what I was looking at was justice. It was loving the unloved. Something simple that will ultimately transform lives. And, as I was smiling at the picture, I know that Jesus was sitting on the edge of that playground smiling at those who had done the work.

And, we find ourselves at the edge of Advent. Walking down the ancient path that leads to the manger and the King resting therein. The King whose Kingdom will know no end. The King who will rule in honesty. The King who will rule with justice.

Will the path that you prepare be paved with justice?

 

Lent 2012: 1.3 – Forgive me, as I have Forgiven Them

Throughout Advent, we posted blogs each week based on the Lectionary Readings for the previous Sunday. It was truly an awesome experience to travel through Advent with the universal church by praying, meditating, and responding to those texts. We loved it so much, we thought we’d do it again throughout Lent.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when your judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you do not despise. — Psalm 51:1-17 (NIV)

David. The “man after God’s own heart” has really dropped the ball. In 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25, we get the story that leads us into this Psalm. That story, in a word, Bathsheba.

David, a king who was supposed to have been with his army, stays behind. Neglects his people. Allows selfishness and pride to take over. In a few short verses of 2 Samuel 11, he has broken several of the 10 Commandments.

Adultery? Check.

Lie? Check.

Murder? Check.

Covet? Check.

Things are in a rough place. Nathan, the prophet, comes and tells David exactly how bad things are.

Then comes David’s response — our text for today. “Have mercy on me, O God,” David cries. Psalm 51 takes us through the process of forgiveness.

Realization

David realizes the extent of his sin. Not that breaking four commandments is worse than breaking one, rather that David has said to God, “I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now.” He has realized that he is not in that relationship any longer, and he wants to be.

Repentance

David repents. Yet, his repentance was more than a mere, “I’m sorry, God, please forgive me.” David calls out, “Create in me a clean heart (mind, will, and emotions)!” Clean my mind! Clean my will! Clean my emotions! So often we view repentance as a simple, “I’m sorry.” Yet, repentance is a complete turning away from the thing that took you away from God, and turning toward God. Sin says, “I don’t want to be in relationship with You right now.” Repentance says, “I want to be in relationship with You so much that I will completely turn from that which I left relationship with You to pursue.”

David repents.

Righteousness

God responds to David’s repentance. He responds by granting David righteousness–right legal standing and right relational standing. God and David are back in relationship. Yet, it’s not just a relationship that says, “David, you are now legally ‘OK’ with Me.” Rather, righteousness goes further than that, and says, “You are now legally ‘OK’ AND we are back in relationship.” As we highlighted a couple of weeks ago, “Righteousness is to be put in both a right legal standing and a right relational standing with God. Right legal standing makes us citizens of the Kingdom. Right relational standing makes us children of the King.”

Restoration

One more really amazing thing happens in this process. David is restored. Not just his relationship with God, not just his pure heart, not just restored in trust, but also the joy that comes from relationship with His King and His Father. Restoration.

Here’s where we miss the boat on forgiveness. We’re all about letting people who say to us “I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now”, realize that they’ve done wrong. We have no issues when they repent of their wrong. And we’re even pretty well ok with bringing them into “right legal standing” with us.

Yet, our interest in placing the person who has wronged back into a right relational standing is proportional to the level of hurt they caused. And, we have little to no interest in restoring “trust” (we say really ridiculous things like, “You have to earn it”). Finally, when it comes to fully restoring the joy of the relationship, we won’t even put that on the table.

Nevertheless, we will pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Thankfully, Father says, “I don’t work that way.” Father says, “I will completely restore you in righteousness, in joy, and in trust.” Imagine with me a world that works in the way of the Kingdom. Imagine a world that says, “I will forgive in EXACTLY the same manner that David was forgiven.” Imagine a world where forgiveness is not conditional, and where trust is not negotiable.

David.

The law breaker. Realizes his state of being out-of-relationship. Repents and turns himself completely back toward relationship. He is placed into a right legal and relational standing with His Father. Finally, he is restored in trust, joy, and position.

And, then, he has a testimony and an obligation to share it. Just as we do! When God has done something as wonderful as this, we are compelled to shout it from the rooftops!

 

Walking in Path of Life

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

Our feet take steps.  That’s what they were designed for.  The steps we take compose our path.  Because of the reputation that God has in heaven, because of the fullness of His character, because of the supreme authority that He carries, because of His rank of King of kings and Lord of lords, and because we are His representatives, He guides us in paths of righteousness, so that we have a legal right-standing with God through the blood of Jesus and thereby have a right relationship with God (Psalm 23:3).  We’ve all had guides before that we’ve followed and guides that we’ve ignored while we went and did our own thing.  “Our own thing” is what I’ve been talking with God about today.  My own thing.  My own path.  My own choices.

I can choose to say, “Yes” to God and walk on the path that He has lit for me.  For He — His Word, Jesus — is a light for my feet and a lamp on my path (Psalm 119:105).  He doesn’t tell me where we’re going along the way, but He’s lit enough of my path for me to know where to put my feet down next, and He’s told me to simply follow Him.  He has told me that His path is one of life (Psalm 16:11).

Or I can choose to ignore God as my guide.  I can choose not to spend the time in His Word with His Word, Jesus, to gain the light I need for my path.  I can let worry or doubt or pride convince me to put my feet down at another place along the way.

No matter which choice I make, I have a lamp to guide me.  The lamp that guides the righteous is Jesus, the Word of God.  The lamp that guides the wicked — haughty eyes and an arrogant heart — is sin (Proverbs 21:4).  So I can choose light as my lamp or darkness as my lamp.  Those are my two choices, and I don’t have a third choice.  There is the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.  There is not a Kingdom of “My Own.”  Why is that?  Why can’t I make my own little kingdom somewhere between the light and darkness.  Why can’t I sit on the fence?

I don’t own myself (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I never have owned myself.  I was a slave to sin (Romans 6:6) before the gift of God’s righteous act given through His eternal grace.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life as a sacrifice in order to purchase with His blood men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).  I was owned by the Kingdom of Darkness before Christ redeemed me with His precious blood allowing me to enter the Kingdom of Light.  The blood of Jesus has set me free from sin, and I have become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18).  I have become a slave to God, the benefit I reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life, for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

When we leave the path of darkness and came into the path of righteousness, in order to fully receive all that God has for us, we must get rid of everything that possessed and influenced us from the Kingdom of Darkness.  The way that we do this is to die to sin (Romans 6:2), for when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Our determined purpose is to fully know Christ, progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, that we may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, and that we may so share in His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness even to His death in the hope that we may attain to the resurrection that lifts us out from among the dead even while in the body (Philippians 3:10-11, Amplified).  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5).

So will we count ourselves dead to sin to be alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)?  Rather than offering the parts of our body to sin as instruments of wickedness, we will offer ourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.  We will offer the parts of our body to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  In Christ, we are a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Therefore, why would we want to go back to the path of darkness by choosing to ignore God and choosing not to spend time with Jesus, our lamp on our path?  Let’s continue in the path of righteousness.  Let’s continue saying, “Yes” to God as His Word lights our path.  Let’s continue to follow Him with simple childlike faith, knowing that He leads us in life.

Thoughts on Righteousness

I’m sitting in a study carrel in the library feeling a bit like I’m back in college.  I have always loved this setting.  Stacks of books.  An occassional glimpse out of the window.  Quiet place to think, read, and write.

I’m working today on the Bible Study that we will be leading for Acts 2 beginning on February 1.  Trying to finish up the first week of material on the authority of the Word, and just came to a revelation about “righteousness” that I thought I’d take a moment to share with you.

The concept of righteousness in the Word carries two ideas.  First, it denotes a right legal standing with God.  As we turn away from sin toward God, we are legally made whole.  The debt of our sin is paid (Romans 6:23).  We are legally made right.

Second, it carries the idea of being placed into a right relationship with God.  To sin is to say to God, “I don’t want to be in relationship with you right now.”  When we are made right, we are placed back into relationship.  Our friendship is renewed and restored (Psalm 51).

What righteousness accomplishes in our life is beautiful.  It takes us from being in debt and without a friend, and makes us joint-heirs and sons.  No longer slaves to the debt we couldn’t pay.  Rather, righteousness rescues us from slavery, and makes us children of God.  But, we are not just children who have no claim to the inheritance (remember that was a first-born right).  We are given claim to the inheritance, because God’s grace makes us into children with a birthright.  (Galatians 4:4-7/Romans 8:14-17) 

Righteousness is to be put into both a right legal standing and a right relational standing with God.  A right legal standing makes us citizens of the Kingdom.  While a right relational standing makes us children of the King.

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out,  “Abba , Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:1-7 NIV)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,  “Abba,  Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17 NIV)