Episode 1. The Blessing of Righteousness
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My hunch is, whether we like it or not, that we’ve been conditioned into thinking that God’s blessing has something to do with being healthy, wealthy and wise. Hmm – and yet God’s idea of …
My hunch is that, whether we like it or not, we’ve been conditioned into thinking that God’s blessing has something to do with being healthy, wealthy and wise. Hmm – and yet God’s idea of blessing is something entirely different. It begins with the blessing of righteousness. Sounds odd I know – but there’s an abundance of blessing in this thing called “righteousness”
Well last week we kicked off a discussion on the program about the promise Jesus made, an outrageous promise in fact, of an abundant life. Here it is, have a listen, John chapter 10 verse 10, Jesus said:
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
And I guess the reason it’s so outrageous is that firstly Jesus is saying His purpose in coming to earth and stepping out of heaven into this physical dimension, taking on flesh, becoming a man, dying on the cross, rising again, all that, the reason He did all that was what? That we may have life and have it abundantly.
And it is for us because this promise is made in the context of a parable where Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the true shepherd and we are His flock. It’s a beautiful picture with a deep and rich meaning to the agrarian audience to which He said it back in the 1st century. An abundant life.
What does that mean though? I had a student ask me that once, when I was lecturing at a Bible college. I was rabbiting on about this abundant life thing as though the idea of an abundant life is completely obvious to everyone, and one of the students, a woman in her sixties, asked me. She said, “What is an abundant life?” You know something, I think that’s a really, really good question.
A little while ago we aired a teaching series called ‘Financially Secure Once And For All’. And of course our team here at Christianityworks turned it into a CD and it was featured in one of our newsletters that we send to our supporters. It was all about the fact that God means us not to find our security in money and wealth but in Him however much we may or may not have when in comes to financial wealth.
See my great concern is that in this world where the machinery of advertising tells us that the only way we can be happy is to buy this product that they’re pitching to us in this ad. My concern is that many Christians have fallen for that lie. So that’s what that series was all about, “Financially Secure Once And For All”. It wasn’t about how to get enough money to be secure, it wasn’t about how God would pour money out of heaven if we honoured Him, but on how to experience God’s security and safety irrespective of the size of our bank account.
Now our team sent an email out to our supporter’s base and I was interested in the response of one man. He came straight back with an incredibly sharp email declaring that he couldn’t support anyone who preaches this prosperity doctrine. You know the false idea that if you believe in God the right way and give lots of money to whoever it is preaching that day, if you do that you’ll be rich. God will make you healthy and wealthy and wise. Big house, big car, great job on “easy street”.
Friend, that is a false doctrine. That is a false belief and it’s a false understanding and we should have nothing to do with that because it puts our own wealth at the heart of things rather than God’s glory. And that’s not it, simply not what we’re called to do.
Anyhow the point of me telling you this story is that the moment I open my mouth about financial security the man who wrote me that sharp email immediately assumed I was talking about monetary blessing from God. But that was in fact the complete opposite of what I talked about in that series. What I was talking about was having God’s security irrespective of how much or how little money we might have.
And I wonder whether it isn’t the obvious thing to fall into, precisely the same wrong assumption when we speak of an abundant life, when we listen to Jesus’ promise that He came to give us an abundant life. That abundance means healthy, wealthy, wise, easy street, all good, hunky dory, tickety boo.
And so people look at their lives and think, “Well you know, I don’t fall into that category, I’m not healthy, wealthy and wise. I’m on “struggle street”, not on “easy street“. My life is definitely not all good therefore this promise is either false or it’s just not for me.” Do you see my point? We can be like the man who sent me that sharp email, we judge Jesus wrongly. We judge what He said from our worldly standpoint rather than from a Godly one.
Back in the early Church in the 1st century a controversy arose about what foods they could eat and what drinks they could drink. Remember early Christians mostly came out of Judaism with its legal demands about a whole range of things including food and drink. The Apostle Paul was addressing this controversy in a letter to the Roman Church and the crux of what he had to say to them was this, Romans chapter 14, verse 17. He said:
For the Kingdom of God is not food nor drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Don’t you love that? The Kingdom of God, boys and girls, stop looking at it from a worldly point of view ’cause it’s not worldly. Because if you look at it from a worldly point of view you’re going to completely miss the point. God’s Kingdom isn’t about physical things, it’s not about food or drink or wealth or anything like that. It’s something that happens inside of you when you lay down your life for Jesus, you lay down your worldly desires, you lay down everything you want for this Jesus who laid down His life for us.
It’s about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And today briefly I want to look at the first of those, righteousness, because that’s the heart of an abundant life. Righteousness is a word that’s bandied around lots and lots and lots in Christian circles but what does it actually mean?
Well righteousness means a right standing with God. It means the state that we should be in, a condition in which we are acceptable to a Holy perfect God. We’ve all sinned, we’ve all rebelled, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. That means there is an enmity and hostility between us and God.
But the moment we accept Jesus, the forgiveness we have through His sacrifice on that cross, well there’s peace because the debt for our sin which is death has been paid by Jesus and now through our faith in Him and what He’s done God sees us as righteousness. Just as a criminal who’s paid his debt in prison. Once he’s released he’s now right with the law so we are right with God, not because we paid the price but because Jesus did and our trust is in Him.
That’s why elsewhere in this letter to the Romans that Paul writes:
Therefore since we are justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we now stand.
See we’re back where we should be, we are justified, we are made right with God through our faith in Jesus and so we have peace with God through Him. The war’s over. Running away from God is over. Being afraid is over. And then does Jesus say, “okay, well look just now keep on doing all the things you were doing that’s wrong? That’s fine. Keep sinning, I don’t mind.”
No. Just as He said to the woman caught in adultery whom the crowds had condemned and wanted to stone to death in Romans chapter 8, verse 11. Jesus said:
Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin again.
So we’re forgiven, we’re back in a relationship with God and then God calls us to go and live our lives and stop doing the stuff that caused the problem in the first place. Do you get it? God wants us to turn back to Him not just by saying stuff but by letting Him change our lives, by living them for Him. That’s righteousness right there. It’s something that God gives us as His free gift through Jesus, a right standing with Him and then something that we’re called to live out in our lives.
That’s what Jesus came to give us, an abundant life. A life that begins with God’s righteousness given freely to us and that then continues in that righteousness and there’s the blessing. You see because sin has consequences. Sin is the thief that comes to steal and kill and destroy, but Jesus came that we might have life, real life, in all its abundance. Righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.