Provisions of Righteousness

Righteousness provides justice and security.

2 Chronicles 9:8 Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the Lord your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.”

When the unrighteous reign the winds of change blow constantly to destabilize governments, municipalities and lives. The standard by which decisions are declared fluctuates with bribes and personal interests. Leaders are surrounded by temptation and insubordination. Anarchy stands only at a distance, and only for a short time.

We can see the effects of unrighteous governments throughout the world. They are characterized by violence and oppression. They are influenced by radical groups of people, or directly supported by radical groups. But many authorities are much more subtle in the injustice they promote. The freedoms and security of the people are limited by the decisions of others to inflict damage on society.

When the righteous rule the people rejoice because justice and righteousness is served. Righteousness stands firm, unwavering on God’s laws. Righteousness requires courage and stamina to walk with love for others. Righteousness resists the temptations of bribes and self gratification; and true righteousness seeks first for the benefits of the Kingdom of God. The result of God’s influence on such an authority is freedom and prosperity for the people; a stabilized government and peace on the borders.

All of these things can be seen in the kingdom of Israel during the reign of Solomon. Solomon was the recipient of a kingdom that his father David secured through many battles while serving God in righteousness. Scriptures tell us God called David a man after His own heart. David had a zeal for all the ordinances of God; for the temple service, worship, and justice of God’s decrees. The result was such, that by the time Solomon inherited the kingdom, the fear of God was upon all the nations of the world and no nation desired to commit in battle with Israel. Solomon also committed to serve God wholeheartedly and the prosperity of the kingdom was so great we are told silver became as numerous as stones and the glory of his kingdom was unsurpassed.

It is a notable fact, David twice acted against God’s instructions; once he had a census taken of all the able bodied soldiers in his kingdom. After the census God sent a plague on all the kingdom and thousands of people died as a result of Davids’ action. Another time David lay with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, and following this action , he murdered Uriah to hide his guilt. Later, David fled from his own son, Absalom, as a result of his action of adultery. The whole kingdom was unstable during this time. Again, many people loss their life and Absalom, Davids’ own son died.

Solomon received a kingdom with turmoil. He had to eradicate threats to his throne which included having Joab, his older cousin, and Adonijah, his half brother killed. After he purged the kingdom he had stability. God blessed Solomon with more wealth then any other king on earth. His fame spread to the corners of the world. It was through the wisdom which God gave Solomon, Solomon was able to write Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. It is the book of Proverbs which emphasizes the purity of our faith as being the foundation of security. Proverbs informs us the need to be steadfast in the fear of the Lord.

Prov.16:12 says.” Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness.”

But Solomon abandoned all his wisdom to seek out pleasure in forbidden areas. He married many women; and many of them were from other kingdoms. He then built altars for the gods’ that these wives worshiped; and he himself worshiped these gods. Solomon lead the nation into idolatry and prepared the atmosphere for the fall of the Israeli empire. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam then inherited a kingdom with inner turmoil. The kingdom was split. Ten tribes of Israel chose to follow Jeroboam as their king as a second nation was created. One of Rehaboam’s first acts was to build idols for the new nation to worship and the decline of the nation followed immediately. The protection of God which was provided through righteousness was removed; and the borders of Israel suffered until the people were deported from their homeland.

Righteousness provides stability and safety to a people. Righteousness delivers justice and wealth.

Isaiah 9:7, Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

There is no oppression in righteousness.

Job 37:23 says,” The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.”

Psalm 36:6 declares, ” Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.”

The Lord will be the one who brings justice to the oppressed through righteousness.

Psalm 103:6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

Many times we as Christians see God, our Father, as oppressive. We can be concerned about drawing closer to Him for fear He will crush or reject us. The very nature of God provides mercy and love for all of us, even the animals. We can accept the fear of the Lord because the fear should never be oppressive, rather the fear of the Lord is allowing God to be our influence instead of those things which would draw us away from Him. Then we can receive gratefully, God’s righteous judgments and standards because He has His eye on all of us to preserve and bless us. He desires to bestow His blessings on us and our children. He desires to reward us as we walk in His righteousness.

Isaiah 32:17 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.

Hosea 2:19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.

Isaiah 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, and grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting, so they will be called “oaks of righteousness”, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.

Do you notice how in verse 3 we are called “oaks of righteousness” the planting of the Lord? The Holy Spirit is doing the work in our lives. We are His planting. This is the very scripture Jesus read in the synagogue when He declared this scripture was being fulfilled in their midst. When we reflect on Jesus life we can see that He was never oppressive. The people flocked to Him for Mercy and acceptance. Likewise, we find ourselves drawn to Him, but not oppressed by Him. When Phillip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus responded to Phillip and to us, if you see Jesus you see the Father. God, our Father, the Lord of all, King of kings, Supreme Authority; He is the One whom we answer to for our lives; He is NOT oppressive!

Righteousness provides Love, Joy and Peace.

Hosea 10:12 Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.

James 3:18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Psalm 45:7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.

Psalm 85:10 Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 103:17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.

Righteousness will deliver us from death.

We have covered the fact that we are saved through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We do not have to fear death or an eternal separation from God as we wear the righteousness of Jesus. There is no second death. Death has come to us through sin. The requirement of sin was paid by the sacrifice of Jesus. There is no foundation for death’s claim on our lives.

Righteousness will also provide the obvious protection from death. We will have God’s physical protection on our lives as we walk in righteousness.

Prov. 11:4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.

Prov. 11:6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.

Prov 12:28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

Prov. 16:28 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness

Prov. 21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Prov. 10:2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value, but righteousness delivers from death.

I would like to challenge you with one more suggestion righteousness will overcome death. I will not linger on it. I think it will stir up controversy which is unproductive for our purposes. But consider these points. Our penalty for sin is eternal death, separation from God, our Father and sin was the initiator of our physical death. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. Satan came to kill, steal and destroy. Jesus came to undo all the works of the devil. Sickness entered the stage through the fall of man. Isaiah tells us that by the stripes that were inflicted on Jesus’ back, when He was flogged, we are healed. Sin has no claim on us as we walk in His righteousness. Death has no claim on us as we walk in His righteousness. Sickness has no claim on us as we walk in His righteousness. What could possibly kill us physically?

Remember, Enoch walked with God and then was no more.

The last enemy to be defeated is death. If we have seen the defeat of death in the resurrection alone; why are we told the last enemy defeated will be death and not was death? Why do people die physically even after accepting salvation in Jesus Christ?

The Wisdom Train

Picture in your mind a rail road track. The Wisdom train is going to be riding down this track. The direction that this vehicle is taking is directed by 2 rails. One rail is labeled “The Fear of the Lord”, the other rail is labeled “Righteousness.” These two rails work side by side. When “Righteousness” (the rail) turns to the left, “The Fear of the Lord” turns to the left. If “Righteousness” goes upward so does “The Fear of the Lord.” The reason is Because righteousness is found in the character of God, and the fear of the Lord will always point you toward righteousness. These two vital elements of Wisdom move in an ebb and flow, one with another, always in perfect harmony. If the two rails of a track were to go into two different directions the train would be derailed. Therefore, if we want to walk in wisdom we must have the foundation of “the Fear of the Lord” and “Righteousness” as a united guide.

Our rail road works with this principle. As a believer in Christ I am faced with a decision. I understand God’s direction in a given situation. Because I love God, I want to do His will. Because of the sinful nature which I am consistently battling, I want what is more centered around myself. I have a tendency to choose something between God’s position and my own; or just out right, my own desire. So let’s suppose I jump aboard the train of wisdom. I am now riding down the track and I come to this juncture in the road. I see righteousness pointing straight forward. Because I have a healthy fear of the Lord, I refuse to veer to the right or to the left on issues and submit to God. I move with righteousness and reap the blessings that come with righteousness. One of these benefits is my faith is perfected by the righteous action; as it was motivated by the Love, increased through the Knowledge of God.

This pattern of behavior is practiced on a regular basis as I am consistently walking in a relationship with God. His perfect love expands in my life and influences my decisions. I am growing in knowledge and understanding. I am learning to both discern and follow righteousness. As I follow righteousness my faith is being perfected and my fear of God is being dispelled. I learn to receive praise from the one who I would otherwise be fearful of. I am being formed in the image of Christ.

Psalm 5:8 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me.

Prov. 8:20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice

Prov. 11:5 The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness.

To summarize, Righteousness points me in the direction that I must take. The fear of the Lord is the element that keeps me from wanting to challenge the righteous decree. As I grow into the likeness of God I have a greater love for others and less desire to serve myself. I understand the purpose for the law; and I become eager to follow God’s decree. There is less fear because I am more in compliance. I have become more compliant though, not because of obeying righteous mandates, or by being fearful of God. I became more compliant by growing in the “Knowledge of the Holy One.” I will expound on knowledge later; but I hope you are beginning to see how the pillars of wisdom are intertwined and cannot stand alone and accomplish their purpose.

So what is righteousness? Righteousness is the heart attitude that displays the character and heart of God in our actions, words and intentions.

Righteousness is much more than doing right or speaking right. It is a heart attitude. We must be conformed from a creature of self centered desires to a creation of agape love. There is no righteousness outside of God. God enhances all that is right. We may stand in agreement with God. But we will never stand righteously in any opposition to God.

Let us live out and proclaim God’s righteousness to the world. Let His Glory be displayed in our lives. Let His kindnesses walk before us and be given as gifts to men.

Psalm 35:28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.

Psalm 40:10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.

Psalm 50:6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice

Psalm 51:14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

The Power of the Gospel Righteousness Restored

So why did the church lose its power; and why will we get it back?

The Church grew rapidly as the message of the gospel was preached to all nations. However, teachings contrary to the covenant of faith were being taught also. Many Scribes and Pharisees came to accept Christ, along with others who desired to teach. Inaccurate lessons resulted from mixing the traditional understanding of the law, and the traditions of gentile nation with the gospel. The problem resulted early and the apostles addressed the issues in many of the epistles. Both Galatians and Romans focus on the subject of righteousness being accredited by faith, not actions. These teachings addressed the issues at the moment; but perhaps serve the church in a greater way as we learn to reaffirm these truths today. The church is called to transform the world through the gospel. As the gospel message has been delivered and large numbers of people believed; the message itself became diluted. However, like yeast, the message of the kingdom is growing and purifying the church. The power of the Holy Spirit will be manifested again and confirm this righteous message. It is a pure message of righteousness which attracts the power of God.

Today the gospel has been infiltrated by works, traditions of cultures, and pagan worship. The pure gospel is significantly harder to identify. In the United States, the difference in lifestyle between those that call themselves Christians and those that do not call themselves Christians, is almost unable to be discerned. And the power of the Holy Spirit is seldom expected or witnessed. We are not living in true righteousness and purity. We are ambassadors of a Kingdom we do not often serve. We do not have the confirmation of the Gospel present in many of our lives.

Abraham was a righteous man compared to the righteousness of the world. Likewise the scribes and Pharisees who lived in the time Jesus walked the Earth, were righteous. They carefully studied the requirements of the law and followed them stringently. Paul declared, as to the law, he walked flawlessly; yet all his righteousness was just filthy rags. Jesus declared to His disciples, unless their righteousness surpassed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees they could not enter the kingdom of heaven. The righteous actions of the law did not bestow righteousness on the individual doing the actions. Where the law portrayed what a righteous life looked like, it did not provide a means to enter into that righteousness. The law, the mirror or shadow of righteousness, lacks the power to give the reality of true righteousness in Christ Jesus to those who practice it.

The law however, did come with power and authority. When Moses came down the mountain from the presence of God carrying the tablets of the law; his face shone brightly for the Glory of God was present.

2 Cor. 3:9 affirms the power in this way,If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! “

Promises have been given to man and blessings have been bestowed on us through the law. We know that the law is powerless to help us overcome our sinful nature; but it is not powerless; it is the word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

2Tim. 3:16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.

Scripture does show us power from the law. Jesus was accused by the scribes and pharisees, of using satan to cast out demons. He asked them if He cast out demons from the prince of demons what power do they cast out demons with. Jesus didn’t deny that they had success casting out demons. He supported the fact they did by His response. The only way you can remove someone, or in this case a demon, is by having power over it. The power the Jews used was from God. Since these leaders of Israel were rejecting Jesus, we can understand their power came from the law.

We read about some Jewish leaders casting out demons in the book of Acts.

Acts 19: 13-16 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, ( notice they were known for practicing exorcism.) who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches,” And seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “ I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered all of them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

From the text we read that some of the Jewish exorcists attempted to name over these people the name of Jesus; and it adds that the sons of Sceva were doing this. So it was not just the sons of Sceva that understood the power in the name of Jesus as it was demonstrated by the Apostles at that time. The practicing exorcists apparently witnessed better success using the name of Jesus than what they were experiencing prior. The question Jesus asked the scribes and pharisees becomes more interesting than before. Where did their authority come from?

Isaiah 42:21 says, ”It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious.”

The Jews knew it came from the law. It was from God. Their was no other source of power or authority that they received from God other than the gospel of righteousness that Jesus was proclaiming. Jesus did not only challenge them that His authority was that of God; but also, because He had so much more power, His authority was from a more powerful source than the law.

The Jewish leaders understood early in Jesus ministry He was challenging the establishment of the law as being the final authority of our lives. They confronted Jesus on issues like healing on the sabbath, and forgiving sins instead of executing judgment. Jesus declared that He came to fulfill the law, not change it. So if the law, declaring the righteousness of God, was powerful; Jesus was powerful as He was the righteousness Who fulfilled the law. Again in the words of Paul,If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!

We need to get back to the teaching of righteousness. This requires a clear separation from the works of the law. The Law is for the lawless; but we desire to see God’s miraculous power in our lives.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefor leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

But as Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

2Cor. 6:7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;

Looking back we see the Jews had success casting demons out through the law. We know there is more power in the name of Jesus. The miraculous power of God flows through the name of Jesus. But when the sons of Sceva spoke the name of Jesus to the demon they were wounded, stripped and left embarrassed. The brothers encountered a demon of more authority than in their past. They adjured him by Jesus whom Paul preaches. The demon acknowledged Jesus and he would not resist Jesus. He knew of Paul and would be forced to submission if he met Paul. But he did not have to recognize the brothers because they did not walk in the righteousness of the kingdom, only the righteousness of the law.

The disciples of Jesus were confronted with a similar problem while Jesus, James, John and Peter were on the mountain during the transfiguration. A man brought his demon possessed son to the disciples that remained behind; and although Jesus had already commissioned them and sent them out in authority to cast out demons; and although they were already successful in the earlier journeys, healing and casting out demons in Jesus name; they were unable to cast this demon out. They encountered a spirit of more authority than earlier. Jesus came down from the mountain and cast the demon out. The disciples asked Him why they were unable to cast this demon out. Jesus response was, they needed prayer and fasting. Why? I believe the hindrances they encountered had more to do with tapping into Christs’ righteousness. There is no authority on earth, above earth or under the earth greater than the Name of Jesus. Through fasting and prayer an individual is alerting their senses to the spiritual realm while the body is weakened. They are growing in their spirit.

The question the demon asked the sons of Sceva remains for us; “Who are you?”

2 Cor.5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We have been adopted into the family of God. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus. We are co-heirs with Christ, as all things of the kingdom has been given to us. If God gave to us His only son; while we were yet sinners, in opposition to Him; He will now, after we have received Jesus and seek to live life for Him, freely give us everything of the kingdom of God. God has sealed us with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us and guides us into all truth. Jesus said that we will do greater works than He. We are called to become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Why do we not see the power of Christ active in our lives as the disciples did; or as Jesus Himself did?

The answer is that although we might become the righteousness of God in Him;”we aren’t walking in that righteousness. The Holy Spirit leads us in all truth; but we do not always follow Him. Jesus said He does what He sees the Father doing. Jesus spent time with the Father and knew the commandments of the law. The bible says “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” God’s word is our compass. It is our instruction for living. While I have heard “God’s word is our instruction for living” many times, I did not think the people saying it meant the “law” was the lamp and the light unto our path. However, I do mean just that. The law, along with the entire word of God, is our lamp and light. All of scripture is useful for instruction in righteousness. The Church does not flow in the power of God if we do not walk a sanctified life, loving God’s law, meditating on it, and learning of His personality through the law while being led by the Holy Spirit. It is not the law alone which has power; but through the law, in relationship with the Holy Spirit, we receive a greater authority in Christ. We are not looking to live by the law; but the righteousness which the law testifies to. To say it in a different way; we are content having the righteousness of God accredited to us; but we must also live a life separated from sin, and performing the acts of righteousness, which are revealed even in the law of God.

Works of Righteousness

Now knowing the law was fulfilled, we are free to enter the covenant with God by faith in Christ Jesus. He is the cornerstone the builders, the scribes and pharisees, rejected. He is also the cornerstone whom many people today reject. I often hear people question how a loving God can send anyone to hell. Many people even deny hell’s existence. But God’s word is true and a loving God would provide a means for everyone to stay away from hell and live eternally in a place of peace and love. This was accomplished through Jesus. He is the door; He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Anyone who comes to the Father by Jesus will not be turned away. The path is made straight. All can enter through the door. The only thing God does not do for us, is to force a person in. They need to choose to go through the door themselves. Joshua said to Israel when they were entering the promised land, “choose you today whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”

The gospel does not require us to clean ourselves up before we accept the righteousness of Jesus. There are many sins and addictions which haunt our lives especially before we are saved. Once we have chosen to follow Christ we still have these hurdles to overcome. It is by God’s strength, through the Holy Spirit, in which we have this victory. The process can be slow and difficult. But it was God who drew us to Himself. He, who began a good work in us, is faithful to complete it to the day of Christ Jesus.

Because of this salvation by grace we should not find ourselves rejecting others or requiring others to change themselves before they can come to Christ; or shortly after they come to Jesus. The righteousness of God is superior to all sin and able to cleanse us all. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times after walking three years with Christ. Peter saw his weakness and decided to return to fishing for a living. He accurately assessed himself. He knew if he could not defend his faith or confront his weakness after being so near to Jesus, he would continue to fail in his own strength. The man he saw himself to be before Jesus entered his life is the man he would be facing again. He was very determined to even die for Jesus; but hid himself in lies to protect his own life when the moment of trial had come.

Jesus responded to Peter differently; and He responds to us differently also. Jesus called Peter out of his fishing boat once again. He told Peter directly “Feed my sheep.” He spoke something new into Peter’s heart. This was a word of victory, speaking directly to the weakness Peter saw in himself. Jesus told Peter he would one day give his life for the gospel sake. Peter would be a good shepherd.

On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and Peter gave his first public message. Through the power of the Holy Spirit Peter was gradually transformed to a powerhouse minister, who gladly bore persecution and death to bring glory to God. We have been given this same Holy Spirit. He desires to work greatly in our lives and transform us. If we welcome Him into our hearts and yield our lives to Him, He will give us victory in the areas we are weak. God will in no way turn anyone away from Himself. Jesus declared, “Let all those who are weary and heavy laden come to me.” Peter was discouraged because he didn’t understand the gospel of grace. Peter believed his value was in his works. When he failed to stand up for Jesus, he saw himself as having little value. His efforts could not bring about God’s righteousness.

James 1:20 says it this way, ”human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Isaiah 57:12 says, “I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you.”

It was the grace of God alone that brought Peter to the forefront. It was Peter’s failure that allowed him to see he was accepted by grace, through faith in Jesus. Peter walked with Jesus three years as Jesus exemplified how to walk in the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. Jesus called Peter to proclaim that same righteousness after Peter denied Him.

Sanctification; Getting the Power back in the Church

The process of being made right is called “sanctification.” Sanctification is placing our lives in Christs hands and allowing Him to change us into the men and women He created us to be. It is in this process where we present our lives as a holy and living sacrifice to Christ Jesus. We become less acquainted with the fear of man and more sensitive to the desires of the Holy Spirit. It is in this process where we actually will begin to see the works of our faith.

James 2:18 But some may well say, “you have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

So, it is fair to ask ourselves, “what are the workings of our faith?” What are our actions? What does this reveal about our heart? Peter denied Jesus. He saw his heart. Later Peter willingly died for Jesus. The later action shows the sanctified heart after the Holy Spirit was sent to the church. We desire to see a steady growth in our lifestyles also. If we look at our lives we can see areas we would like God to change in us. It is in unity with the Holy Spirit these changes take place.

The process of sanctification brings us back to the Mosaic law. The law was brought to Israel so they would receive by faith the redemption of God and the sanctification of their lives. The law for Israel and us today is a rule of measurement whereby we can see our short comings. We turn to Christ to change and restore our lives. So we can see how the law is holy and just, and why Jesus did not come to change the law but to fulfill the law, even in our lives. We should not think to disregard the law because Jesus fulfilled it. The law is a continual set of rules or guidelines. It is not a “bucket list,” where we do one thing on the list and cross it off as a demand. Instead it is a guide line which helps us to continue in fellowship with Christ. Therefore, looking at ourselves and seeing the fruits of our faith should not lead us into discouragement or condemnation. Instead we can look at our short-comings and know the Holy Spirit will accomplish these attitudes and disciplines in our lives if we continue in fellowship with Him.

Romans 8:1-5 There is therefor no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

What does it mean “He condemned sin in the flesh?” The believer is not to continue in sin any longer, for we have been given victory over sin through Christ Jesus. We are to become sanctified in Christ.

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. Go and make disciples of all nations.” A disciple is not merely a believer. A disciple is one who has disciplined himself or herself to follow in the actions of another. Jesus has called us to be disciples and make disciples. Our actions should be similar to the actions of Jesus. These actions would include works of sanctification. walking a set apart lifestyle. When Jesus walked this sanctified lifestyle He brought salvation to the world. I believe as we live a sanctified lifestyle we will see the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit become evident. The same power who raised Jesus from the dead shall live and reign in our lives.

In the United States today we do not see many amazing miracles. But please notice, the actions of the people of the church are not very different from the actions of those who do not profess to believe in Jesus Christ. The divorce rate is the about the same, pornography usage, cheating on taxes, our speech, the movies we watch are all about the same, and the list can continue. If we are living a sanctified life, we should see a great difference in our lifestyles? Shouldn’t our lifestyles become evidence to others of who God is? How can we continue in the sins we committed before we gave our lives to Jesus if we know He died to free us from these same sins?

The process of being saved is very simple. We first need to understand and admit we are sinners. There is nothing we can do to fix the condition of our hearts and our lives. The law was broken and we are deserving to be separated from God forever. The second step is for us to realize Jesus, true God, sent from the Holy Spirit, became true man, from the seed of Mary through David’s lineage. Jesus lived a sinless life and died as a perfect sacrifice on the cross for our welfare. We need to repent of our sins, accept Jesus payment for our debt and invite Jesus into our life. The word repent means to turn away from. If we repent from our sins we are turning away from the harmful actions we committed in the past. We are agreeing with God and asking Him to change our hearts so we make correct decisions. This results in sanctification. righteous actions being practiced due to our faith. As we continue in a relationship with Christ our actions become more Christ like. We have become the righteousness of Christ because He crucified our sins on the cross; but are we sanctified? Do we have fruits of righteousness? Are we living our faith in action? I believe these questions will help us to understand why the church appears so impotent compared to the early church.

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and preached to the crowd in Jerusalem. The people were convicted of their sin and asked the apostles what they needed to do.

Acts 2:38,39 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”

Notice the promise is for all those who God would call to Himself. This also includes you and I who are far off, and our children. The Holy Spirit is active today as much as He was during the birth of the Church. The actions of believers are different though. Peter told the people to repent, to turn away from their sins, and be baptized, fully submerged, in the name of Jesus Christ. We practice baptism today. It is a ritual where we bless someone in the name of Jesus and submerge them in water. This is following the example of John the baptist, Jesus and the Apostles. However. the ritual is only symbolic of the actions we are to live by even as circumcision is an act representing the circumcision of the heart. The submersion in water in Jesus name is symbolic of us living our whole lives in submersion in Jesus teaching. Following Peter’s message many people were baptized and lived a very changed life according to their commitment to God. The Holy Spirit responded to their true faith. The Holy Spirit will also respond to our true faith if we choose to live it submerged in Jesus name; for the promise is for us, our children and for all those who are far off.

Remember James said “show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” Our actions are good indicators to ourselves of our faith. We may not be able to know the growth of another individual by watching their actions, but we can see our own actions. We know the areas of our lives the Holy Spirit has been working with us on, and we can assess our own lives with some accuracy. Eventually the sanctified life will become evident to others who meet us day by day.

John 16:8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.

This scripture can serve as an alert for us. If what we understand about sin, righteousness and judgment is very similar to the general world view, we can be sure we are in error. Righteousness is accredited to us and we live in righteousness. We should also see the fruits of righteousness. One of the result of walking in fellowship with God and living in His righteousness is an increase of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God confirms His message to us with signs and wonders. He does not confirm the man giving the message, just the message. However, if we are not living a sanctified life, we are not giving a pure message. Actions speak louder than words. it is through knowing our Father intimately that we can understand the gospel accurately. If we love the Father we will obey Him.

I want to remind you of my definition of Righteousness which I shared in the beginning of this chapter. “ Righteousness can be considered a vehicle in which God releases His power and authority. It is a quality of God that directs actions, but is not determined by actions. Righteousness is not acquired through works we do, it is a heart attitude resulting from a relationship with Christ which directs Godly responses.” If we do not have righteous actions we are not living in righteousness.

Two Types of Righteousness

Two types of Righteousness

2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

We are to “become” the righteousness of God. What does that mean? How will that happen?

First we need to understand that there are two types of righteousness that are portrayed in the bible. There are two covenants represented. Both of these covenants are Holy and pure and both of these covenants are to function together. Stay with me; we are going beyond milk and processed vegetables here.

Gal.4:24 … these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves:…

We first find righteousness in Genesis, in the creation story. God created man in His own image. Adam and Eve were righteous before God. God walked with them, He had fellowship with them, and gave them the”law.” Adam was the son of God. This is confirmed in the Genealogy of Joseph, the husband of Mary, in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 3:38 The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

It was simple. There was no sin to control. There was one commandment Adam and Eve could have pondered over. It was to refrain from eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. By refraining to eat of the fruit Adam and Eve were acting upon this law. There was no bondage and no slavery. The command came demonstrating what God’s will was on the subject of this tree. God would gladly have conversed on this subject to increase understanding whenever “man” wanted to. Man’s righteousness was the righteousness of God. He has done nothing to obtain righteousness. Righteousness was his by being made in the likeness of God. He was being transformed from glory to glory into the image of God. Adam could only miss the mark through one action. It was the only action he was forbidden to take. While Adam obeyed, his faith was perfected. Yes, Adam walked by faith. These three remain; faith, hope and Love.

History continued to be formed and we know that Adam and Eve sinned. The word “sin” means to miss the mark. They fell short of God’s glory because they chose a path containing rebellion. This action resulted in harm, which was told would take place, to Adam when he was warned to avoid doing the action. The purpose of the command was to keep Adam and Eve safe. Humanity was distanced from God as Adam and Eve died spiritually. Adam and Eve procreated and had children born in their image, with the sinful nature. This is a tendency to miss the mark. Sin was keeping mankind from having fellowship with God. The distance between man and God increased as sin abounded in man’s life.

God reintroduced His righteousness into man’s life through Abraham, the “Father of our faith.”

Genesis chapter 15:1-6 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear Abram, I am a shield to you, your reward shall be very great.” And Abram said, “ O Lord God, what will thou give me, since I am childless and the heir of my household is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said,”Since thou has given no offspring to me, one born in my house is an heir.” Then behold the word of the Lord came to him saying, “ This one will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look towards the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him,”So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

God reckoned righteousness to Abram because Abram believed God. The first covenant is revealed to man again. Righteousness is received by faith.

Consider this point that can be deduced from this scripture. Abram was not righteous before God reckoned it to him as righteousness. If Abram was righteous earlier, God would not need to reckon righteousness to him again. Abram knew of God. We know Abram set out to follow God to enter the land that God would lead him to.

Genesis 12:1 starts the account as God tells Abram to “ go froth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your fathers’ house to the land which I shall show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you,and make your name great; and so you will be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you, I will curse. And in you, all families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went forth as the Lord God had spoken to him. But Abram did not have the righteousness of God at this time! He was righteous as Noah Webster would have defined righteous; but he was not righteous as God defines righteousness. There was a higher realm of righteousness to be acquired. Abram followed God’s instructions and left his house and home and family. He acted according to the instructions God delivered to him personally. But Abram was not righteous in the full righteousness of God; because righteousness was yet to be reckoned to him.

In the letter to the Romans, Paul addresses this issue from the other direction. Paul points out that Abram believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Abram then received circumcision as a sign of the covenant that was made between God and Abram, who now was known as Abraham. Circumcision did not make Abraham righteous because Abraham was reckoned righteous by his faith years earlier. The “law”, or command, was given to Abraham to be circumcised; so Abraham obeyed. But this action was evidence of the covenant of faith. It was not given to Abraham to start a new covenant.

What Paul expounds in the book of Romans; and what I am saying is this; Our actions, no matter how consistently righteous, does not bring out the righteousness of God. God’s righteousness is a Holy and pure quality that directs actions as they go forth; but actions do not declare or create righteousness. Therefor, after a believer comes to the Lord, if he or she is circumcised, baptized, evangelizing, praying or doing acts of kindness, this does not increase their righteousness. Our righteousness is complete through our faith in Jesus. He was a spotless pure sacrifice able to redeem us completely. We are to present our members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. We are walking out the instructions of Romans Chapter 6:19.

….For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

This sanctification allows the power of God to operate in and through us for His glory.

The common misunderstanding that we as believers have is, we think that our actions are bringing about righteousness. Our actions do not make us righteous, and they do not bring us favor with God. We are righteous and have His favor because of the sacrifice of Jesus. The instructions that we follow and our exercises of faith, such as reading scripture, praying, and acts of kindness, are results of knowing God more intimately. We now choose to be slaves unto righteousness. We are to be in fellowship with God even as Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden. Our first desire is fellowship with God.

Let us look at the second covenant, a righteousness resulting from works. It is this righteousness I have already spoken about, and it is this righteousness we have a tendency to rely on. The premise is simple, if you never sin you are righteous. This fact is evidence we have been made as good. God declares this in the creation story.

Gen. 1:31 And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.

If we are righteous by refraining from sin,we were obviously made righteous. If we are made righteous, we will remain righteous as long as we never sin. Once we sin, however, we cannot renew our righteousness. However, God made a provision for it to be restored through the requirements of the law. It had to be restored through Jesus.

Romans 10:5 Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law; “The person who does these things shall live by them.”

What is Moses saying here? A person properly living according to the law shall live by performing the requirements of the law. There are two important purposes I see for Moses making this statement. First, the law does not provide any grace or mercy. Once the law is broken by an individual the outcome will be death. The person has no longer accomplished the requirements of the law. There will be no evil or sin entering the kingdom of God.

The second purpose of this statement coincides with the very purpose of the Mosaic law. The law establishes parameters, and guidelines for our lives. The law declares unyielding decrees including both promises and curses in concordance with the performance of the individual living under the law. In reality, Adam and Eve were given the law in the garden. The first commandment was to refrain from eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of both good and evil unless you will die. Notice the law brought both the commandment and the consequence. When Moses delivered the law, the law was much more extensive with many commands and consequences. The consequences are not able to be revoked. The law has to remain intact. It is good and has been given to mankind by God.

God however, provides for mankind a savior in this statement “The person who does these things shall live by them.” This statement is also part of the law and was understood to be part of the scriptures. The statement is declaring a blessing on Him, who fulfills these requirements; he shall live. Jesus came and fulfilled the requirements of the law. He lived in unity with both the law and the prophets, knowing the heart of the law and not just the letter of the law. Because Jesus was the pure and perfect lamb of God, Jesus’ sacrifice removes our sins from us. He was the fulfillment of the sacrifices of the various offerings of the temple. He does not change the law, He does not fix the sin; Jesus removes us from our sins as far as the East is from the West. So consider the outcome; the law revealed sin and the consequence of death on all who fail to live by the law. We have sinned and incurred death as our reward. The law declares the sacrifice of a perfect lamb can remove our sin. This lamb was able to take our sin upon Himself and die on our behalf. Jesus was the perfect lamb. He came and died in order to free us from the power of sin and death and to re-establish our relationship with God the Father. All this is accomplished according to the law, revealed to mankind through Moses, mirrored by Abraham offering Isaac, and prophesied by God in the garden of Eden.

When Jesus was crucified He was dead in fulfillment of the law. Now we know Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God. The law and the prophets testified, bore witness of Him. The law states “the person who does these things shall live by them.” The resurrection of Jesus was the evidence He was the perfect Lamb. He had to live again. It was impossible for Him to remain dead. As sure as we were condemned by our sins, Jesus had to live again. “the person who does these things shall live by them.” It is the same law which declares both actions! In this way Jesus is now justified in the law; He had to be risen from the dead, for the law was true and accurate. Jesus accomplished the law and now lives even as the law declared it would be.

In Genesis we read how Jacob and his children moved into Egypt and all their needs were provided for. However, in a short time Egypt became a place of slavery to Israel. God told Abraham this would take place even before the nation of Israel existed. After four hundred years God sent Moses to the nation to lead Israel out of Egypt .

Genesis 15:13 and God said to Abraham, “know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.”

God had established a covenant with Abraham. God, the greater, was giving to Abraham. Abraham and his descendants were to be circumcised and God would be their God. Paul points out we also are Abraham’s descendants if we also receive Christ by faith. It was a covenant that was to be continuously observed. We are to circumcise our hearts removing the sinful practices. Remember this is a covenant of faith; it is not a covenant of works. So Abraham had his entire household circumcised, and so did Isaac; and so did Jacob. They observed the sign of the covenant established by faith.

When God sent Moses to deliver Israel, as God promised He would do; God made sure that Moses had his family circumcised. Moses was acting on God’s behalf; operating in the covenant of faith, and Moses was to honor the sign of that covenant.

Before Israel was to be brought out of Egypt, they were to sacrifice the passover lamb. This sacrifice is the very symbol of Jesus’ death on the cross; which we know is the foundation stone of our faith, the covenant of Abraham. The Passover represents to us our freedom from the land of bondage comes from Jesus’ death and our acting upon His word. Israel symbolically followed Abraham. Even as Abraham offered a ram in place of Isaac, Israel offers a lamb in place of their first born son, which action is mirroring God offering Jesus, His only son. Circumcision represents the law in its action; but it represents our spiritual covenant in Christ Jesus. Likewise, the law represents our required service in actions; but our spiritual fellowship in salvation.

The Law was introduced to Israel after Israel told Moses to go up on the mountain, hear from God, and for Moses to tell Israel what God would say.

Exodus 20:18,19 And all the people perceived the thunder and lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us lest we die.”

The people were afraid of God in an oppressive way. They rejected direct communication with Him. God did not reject them however. The result of God’s words coming to Israel without a relationship with Him, was a legalistic lifestyle. Israel received the commandments without understanding the reasons for them. Their understood a man could remain righteous through practicing the law. The law, instead, proved man could not possibly live righteously apart from a relationship with God. From the time that Adam sinned until today; God’s commandments display His heart for us; but they cannot make us righteous again. The commandments became bondage to Israel; and sometimes were even used as weapons by the teachers of the law. When Jesus walked the Earth, He used the law to display the heart of God. He refused to use it to injure or bind anyone. It was through His life and sacrifice that the law was fulfilled. The requirements of sin was paid and a true and right standing with God has been restored to mankind.

Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Romans 10:6-8 But the righteousness based on faith speaks thus,”do not say in your heart”who will ascend into heaven?” that is to bring Christ down, or”who will descend into the abyss?” that is to bring Christ up from the dead. But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”…

Our full salvation has already been atoned for. There was nothing that we could do to save ourselves from the beginning; and there is nothing we can do to renew our righteousness today. We have been saved by faith, through grace, and that faith was not of ourselves but was the gift of God given to us. We now continue in fellowship with Him which results in our sanctification. Our sanctification is the process by which we learn to live in alignment with God’s will. The evidence of our sanctification is works of righteousness and a desire to know God’s heart. This desire encourages us to continue fellowship with Him, resulting in further sanctification.

If we at any point decide to accomplish the works, believing that we are becoming closer to God through those works, we have derailed our faith. We cannot continue to live by a law and grow in grace. Living by the law leads us into bondage and oppression. But there is no oppression in righteousness.

Job 37:23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.

Psalm 103:6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

Isaiah 32:17 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.

Hosea 2:19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.

We should be walking in the peace and fellowship of Christ. We should not find ourselves driven. When we combine righteousness with a true knowledge of God, fear subsides and oppression ceases!

Righteousness pt4/ Freedom From Dead Works

Repentance From Dead Works:

Hebrews 5:13-14 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of Righteousness,for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature who because of practice, have their senses trained to discern both good and evil. Therefor, leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards God.

We do not hear many teachings on repentance from dead works today. As Christians we come to Christ knowing that our works did nothing to aid us in salvation; and immediately we walk right back into our dead works. Dead works are actions we do because we believe we are suppose to. They are actions we take in order to fulfill the demands of the law, rules we were taught or demands we made on ourselves. They are actions we take because we believe they will help us to remain in God’s favor or will help us to return to God’s favor; or perhaps maybe increase in God’s favor beyond what others do. But they are fully rooted in a false gospel of works which Paul says plainly, are no gospel, good news, at all. One reason we are drawn to trust in our dead works is because they tend to feed into our insecurities. For example, I grew up believing the harder I worked around the home, the more I was loved by my dad. I brought this idea into my christian doctrine. I was driven to read the bible, pray often, and evangelize often. I thought I was pleasing to God if I performed these actions well. If I failed I thought I was demonstrating a lack of love or appreciation for the Lord. So the dead works I was accomplishing had a double edge to them. The first edge was that it was used to enforce an idea I could add to my right standing with God, my righteousness. Next, it cut me because it enforced the idea I needed to be working hard to maintain my righteousness. Again, Paul says, after living a life observing the law beyond all his contemporaries, all his works are “dirty rags.”

This idea is contrary to the gospel which tells us we are wholly loved by God and enter into His presence only through the sacrifice of Jesus and what He did for us. So, as a christian I was saved yet living under pressure and condemnation. The Holy Spirit is freeing me from this lie over a many year time frame. At one point I sensed Him telling me to quit reading the bible. Although I still tried to read the bible, I could not comprehend what I was reading and sensed Him telling me to put the bible down each time I tried to read it. This process lasted over a year before I was picking the bible back up and being nourished from it again. I originally believed I had to read the bible every day to be an acceptable and loved Christian. I needed to come to a place where I could see I was saved by grace and not by my work so I had to deal with my insecurities. I had so many people telling me I needed to be reading the scriptures daily. I figured it would draw me closer to God because I was obedient and working. So now the Holy Spirit was telling me to stop reading the scriptures. He would be the One who would bring all things to mind as I needed them. I felt like God was pushing me away from Him. I was very angry. I was sad. Why did God not want me to be closer to Him. The truth is the actions of me trying to be closer to God based on my actions was in itself driving me away from God. We can only please God through faith. This faith is faith in Him. It is not faith in what I do. The Holy Spirit slowly removed my confidence in my works and encouraged me in the unconditional Love of God.

Another habit I developed was to drive my car to work with a dozen christian bumper stickers displayed on it. I would read my bible at lunch, sometimes on the hood of my car so the other employees could see I was reading the bible. I was a construction worker and thought I had to show the other workers I was a christian and I was not ashamed. I was trying to evangelize. The fact was, I was extremely embarrassed. I was a freak. The men tried to relate to me but I was alienating my coworkers by acting as if there was only one thing in my life I was interested in. I always tried to talk about the Lord in every conversation. I was very hard to communicate with. My dead works were making me unfit to share Christ with others. The Holy Spirit showed me to become interested in the lives of those around me, their families and interests. I needed to learn to care for them. By showing them I loved them, I could show them Jesus whom I love.

The church has often accepted dead works as being foundational for growth in Christ. Dead works are often taught as church doctrine. Dead works can take the form of tithing, giving offerings, praying, studying scriptures, evangelizing, or going to church meetings. They are usually logical actions and obviously good in nature; but they become dead works when they are motivated by obedience to a law and not influenced by the direction of the Holy Spirit in our personal relationship with Him. Dead works can be displayed as crucial teachings keeping a church or ministry functional. Churches see tithing as God’s provision for the ministry; and people being active in the ministry can be thought to be God providing the labor for the vision. Therefor, both giving and involvement are often taught as being obedience to Christ. This inversely teaches us a lack of involvement or lack of giving is disobedience to Christ. The involvement and giving must flow out of a relationship and love for God and the body of Christ. It is to be inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit or personal desire. When we do these things because of outside pressure or inward insecurities they become dead works and will distract us from true faith in Jesus Christ.

You can identify a dead works teaching when you hear words like “Don’t rob God.” or “Everyone needs to do this.” or “everyone in the church should be involved in this.” The motivation behind dead works ministry is guilt or condemnation. Key words are “Needs to” “must” and “Should”. As one gentleman said, Never “Should” on yourself. These instructions are contrary to scripture which informs us there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus justified us; who can come against us? Dead works teachings are often supported by scriptures used out of context or with little understanding. For example, the scripture in Malachi rebuking Israel for robbing God. We need to use caution when we encouraging people to give. We are not to promote condemnation to those who Jesus justified. I am not saying that tithing or other practices taught by our churches should not be taught. The logical arguments are true;The church does need money and we are encouraged by scripture to be a generous people. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness that the man of God can be adequately equipped for every good work. But the training in righteousness is not accomplished through being compelled, rather it is accomplished through an ongoing relationship with God. Oppression does not accomplish the purposes of God. Although It is good for the church to share concerns with the congregation the individual needs to be free to pray about their involvement without someone twisting their arm. Leaders are to exhort, equip, and encourage others.

It is Through the maturity of individuals the service of the body will flow and become more productive.The believer in fellowship with Christ, is far more generous than a driven follower of a church. The result of faith in the early church was that people gave willingly and abundantly; they even sold their possessions to give more. The early church was drawn to a God who loved them and they pursued knowledge of God. The knowledge of God draws us to acts of righteousness. That is to say, the actions we tell others they must do are the very same actions they will do out of a relationship with God. When they do them out of compulsion these acts feed into bondage and oppression. But when these actions are done out of the knowledge of God, they are actions working and perfecting our faith.

Righteousness pt3

Another example of bondage to the law, which many Christians are hindered by, is tithing. The Mosaic law informs us to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. We usually understand the whole tithe is referring to ten percent of our income. This is to be given before we pay our taxes. The book of Malachi is often used by Pastors and Teachers to challenge individuals to give a tithe.

Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! How have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings.

This is an amazing accusation being brought against the Church of God, the Body of Christ. We are accusing individuals of robbing God. We need to have a balanced understanding of the scriptures to discern the situation. The tithe in the old testament provided sustenance to the priests who served in the temple of God. The Levites were not given property as the other tribes of Israel were. They were to tend to the needs of the temple and their countrymen. One twelfth of the families were Levites. Eleven families would provide the needs for one levitical family. During the time of Malachi the Israelites were making home improvements while the priests were forced to meet the needs of their families by other means than serving the temple because the tithe was not being given. The house of God was literally being neglected as the people were starting to live in prosperity. Today our tithes and offerings go to the church where we attend. The money is used to support those who work for the church. It is not a bad thing for people to tithe or to be asked to tithe; but we need to be careful we are not badgering people to give money for selfish needs and we do not want to be in a position we are accusing people of robbing God.

There are many circumstances which arise where people may struggle to give a set percentage to God. Many families are in great debt. Often times this debt was acquired before they were saved, sometimes afterward. These people are met with two laws. Give to their debtors, and pay the tithe. We like to say if people will pay the tithe God will always provide all they need for their bills. This is not necessarily true. There are great consequences to not paying your bills. And a man who does not provide for his family when he has the ability is erring greatly. Finances can put great strains on individuals and families. We are often pressuring people who we should be ministering to, to give so we can give to others. Please keep this in context. I am referring to accusing people of robbing God. The new testament has many examples of encouragement for us to give to the Church to meet the needs of others. We are also encouraged to give to great extents. But the idea is for believers to give out of love for others. It is an amount the individual has determined before God. They were not accused of robbing God. People who are struggling to be faithful with paying their debts and feeding their family should not be accused of robbing God because they are not giving what others think they should give. A family whose income does not meet their basic needs should not be railed with such words.

In Israel, one Levitical family was supported by eleven families. This support also cared for the needs of the temple. Today we have churches with one pastor and 40 or more families supporting them. We are still calling for ten percent of the income. The purpose of the law is to guide the Christian. It is not to place one in bondage.

We know the Earth and all it contains is the Lord’s. The laws on giving go far deeper than ten percent. The Jewish people were actually called to give much more than ten percent when you included the alms for the poor and the various offerings which were required. The guidance to us is simple. We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness. All our needs will be provided for. We should not be covetous or drawn to expect money to meet our needs because we give ourselves. We should not be giving in order to receive. We should care for the poor and be generous. It is good to give to various ministries we see doing the work of God. But in all these things; we are to be good stewards with our finances. We are not to live by the law. We are to be guided by the law as it displays our Father’s heart. Please let us not bring condemnation to others in God’s family.

The point I really want to emphasize is this; when we live by the law or force others to live by the law, we are removing ourselves and the others from living by faith in Christ Jesus. We are emphasizing there is something more I need to do to be righteous before God. The scriptures tell us the righteous will live by faith. We are to walk as Jesus walked. Our relationship is with God. We are not to be bound by the law; but even Jesus said He did not come to change or nullify the law. The law is a good teacher; but we shall live by grace. It was for freedom’s sake, Christ has set us free.

Righteousness pt2

When I am speaking about the law I am often not speaking only of the Mosaic law, but the system of rules which, when not adhered to, carry negative consequences. These rules can include speed limit laws, gun control, or even table etiquette. The principle of the law is to reveal proper or improper behavior to individuals. Tragically, our confidence in the law becomes twisted as we have a difficult time determining how to relate to it.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is received by applying faith in the sacrifice which Jesus made on the cross. Because all the work has been accomplished for us, and we have been freely given a measure of faith to exercise, there is nothing we do in the process of salvation which we can say is of our doing except choosing salvation. God alone is glorified in this victory. It is only in such a covenant as this, where we are truly saved.

In the book of Galatians we can read Paul’s exhortation to the Church. Paul starts by declaring if anyone is to preach a different gospel than salvation through Jesus, let them be accursed. This is strong language. To be accursed would be separated from God. Such a declaration draws battle lines. Jewish believers had come to Galatia, a Gentile residence, and taught the people they must be circumcised in order to share in salvation. Circumcision is a painful process and was a great obstacle for individuals to face. It would be similar to telling someone they needed to amputate a finger if they were to receive salvation. Such a demand would make evangelizing much more difficult. Salvation is a free gift from God. If we add anything to this salvation we would be contributing to the covenant and diminishing the value of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We would not have faith solely in Jesus; but in Jesus and ourselves. Much of the requirements of the Mosaic law was for the Israelites to do and not for all nations. There is a symbolic purpose for the Jewish people to perform circumcision. Even as the foreskin to be cut off is found on the part of the body which performs reproduction, so Jesus tells us we are to have a circumcised heart. Our heart is where our spiritual reproduction takes place. The Jewish people, being a prophetic nation, were to perform circumcision as a prophetic example of the need to have a pure heart before God. This is similar to the many actions God had various prophets do as a visual examples of what God was saying. Such as breaking pottery, laying on one side for many days, or sneaking out a hole in the city wall in the daytime in full view of everyone. Not every nation is called as Israel is. It is also wrong for us to think our calling as gentiles is exactly the same as the calling for Israel. We are a separate people although we are also children of God, co-heirs with Christ and loved by the Father as much as the Jewish nation. We merely have a different purpose.

Jesus paid a huge price for our salvation and freedom. There is nothing we can give Him in return. He is pleased to have a relationship with us. However, this relationship has to be established on the truth. He is the creator, all-powerful; we are the creation. We have nothing to add to Him. The depth of our righteousness is not contingent on the performance of our actions. We have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. There is no way to improve from here. It requires humility to accept the truth; we have nothing to give to God to add to our righteousness.

There are many teachings we hear today which draw us to abandon the gospel of grace as the requirement of circumcision did for the early Church. Much of the church is deceived by these teachings, and lose freedoms which Jesus died to allow them to live in. But the worse result is we lose faith in the blood of Jesus if we accept responsibility for our righteousness. One of the teachings we can be confused by regards desisting from work on the Sabbath day. The Jewish law commanded the people to keep the Sabbath day Holy. They were not allowed to work. They had limitations on how far they walked and they were not to cook any more than needed. Jesus addressed the issue in this way; He stated the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a tool, a guideline, signifying God’s love. As human beings we require rest and relationship. If our society chooses a day each week to honor this commandment we would be spending more time with our family, relating to God, and resting. These are good consequences of keeping the Sabbath holy. But if we believe our right standing with God is dependent on keeping this commandment we are not believing in the whole righteousness of Christ Jesus. Often we fail to walk with this commandment in a healthy way. Jesus encountered a lame man on the Sabbath and healed him. He told the man to rise, pick up his mat and walk even though the law stated it was unlawful to carry anything on the Sabbath. The man caught the attention of the pharisees. The pharisees confronted the man for carrying the mat and confronted Jesus for healing the man on the Sabbath day.

Certainly when Jesus healed the man. He did not perform surgery. Jesus did not carry the man to a location or pull the man to his feet. Jesus spoke the word and the man was healed. However, if that is what it would take, perhaps Jesus would have still accomplished the healing on the Sabbath. The religious leaders had to acknowledge an act of God took place here; still they chose to confront Jesus about working this miracle on a Sabbath. Jesus responded to them in this manner; God was working till this day and He too was working. He spoke words of life. They were speaking words unto death. The law was not to be a hindrance for God’s good to be done. But Jesus never denied the value of keeping the Sabbath. In this we must learn. The Sabbath is valuable and to be kept; but the law is subject to the purposes of God. God requires mercy over sacrifice. He loves people. Let me be clear here. Jesus did not remove the law concerning the Sabbath. He exemplified a proper use for it. The law when relating to an ungodly man, provides restraint. The law is for the lawless. The law when encountered by a son or daughter of God, provides guidance. I am not separated from the law. I am taught by the law.