15 Feb Being Right: Excerpt 1
Righteousness is a familiar word in religious circles. As words go, it is not uncomfortable to use among other religious terms, such as holy, salvation, sacrifice, and sin. But unlike these aforementioned terms, righteousness refers to a concept that is not only unfamiliar to the masses of Christians that use the word, but it is also contrary to the majority belief of many of Christianity’s theologians. Oh, not at first glance. When asked if God is righteous, if sin is forgiven, if God’s people are made righteous, if God desires for us to live righteously, the answer from all would be a hearty “Yes”. But when we examine the subject more deeply we will uncover an overwhelming adherence to sin consciousness, and an outright denial of the complete righteousness that is offered to every follower of Christ. Dive into the scriptures about righteousness, and you may find that they contradict general teaching on the matter. Dig into this subject and you may find places in your own mind not ready to fully believe that the Word of God really means what it says.
This task is not an easy one. In order for one to attempt to convey this concept effectively, and to achieve the objective of revealing the righteousness of the believer through Christ, one must recall that Hebrews and Romans deal extensively with the subject. And even the Apostle Paul had some issues convincing Christians that the grace of Jesus was so effective at transforming the lives of sinners into the “righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”
I am not unfamiliar with teaching on righteousness. In fact, many of the concepts written in this book have come from my father’s ministry. These ideas have been shared with congregations around the world. This teaching on righteousness is his “life message”. At each new pastoral assignment I listened to my dad preach an exhaustive series of messages on the subject. Even as a child I was familiar with every point. I would “Amen” with the adults, and be excited to see the congregation’s reaction to this powerful concept. Yet, it took me years to fully partake of this truth that was so readily available on our table. Ironically, I spent years living in continual shame, wrestling with condemnation, and repeatedly punishing myself for sin. If being surrounded by truth guaranteed the receiving of it, I would have been able to write this book in my teens. But I am one of the millions of examples of a follower of Christ, saved by His mercy, but unaware of true freedom. It took the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to break through the grip of sin consciousness, and reveal the righteousness that was available to me.
Righteousness seems to be a key word in Romans. Paul goes to great lengths to describe and explain this spiritual condition. According to one writer (E.W. Kenyon; Advanced Bible Course pg 41), righteousness is the ability to stand in the Father’s presence without a sense of guilt or inferiority; to stand there without condemnation or the sense of sin consciousness. Righteousness is a state of being, not one of doing. And this is where the problem lies. It is almost unimaginable to many that we, who are born into sin, could be made to stand without guilt before a Holy God. But that is precisely what is intended here. Righteousness is not unattainable for the believer, or Jesus would not have said,
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
Jesus also said to make the search for His Kingdom and His righteousness of primary importance when He said,
“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Through the course of this book I intend to draw from the Scriptures, to consider the arguments of the Apostles, Paul, Peter, James, and John, to echo the voices of those who’ve come before, and state this very clearly: a believer in Christ has been made righteous, and is no longer a sinner. (To be continued)