Thursday, May 03, 2012

Righteousness, the major hurdle of the gospel

Paul writes about the problem of our righteousness many times and in Galatians he comes straight out and says, those who trust in their own righteousness according to the LAW are under a curse. This means that anyone who goes to church to be good and doesn't lean or use Jesus righteousness are eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and not under grace.

St Peter tells us: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen"

Unfortunately, most of the time one hears a sermon about growing in grace, inevitably the minister will lead people back into legalism.

They pay lip service to grace but always want people to behave better. Yet, the truth is we are now free from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are now partakers of the tree of life. We have died. As dead people in Christ, we no longer are under the law but we are -- like a wife who has a new husband-- married to Christ and under grace. Our righteousness is not what matters, but God's. Our faith does not matter but God's faith because the life that we live we live by the faith of Jesus Christ. All the right-doing and right-believing is done by Christ.

Of course the reaction to grace nowadays is similar to what Paul heard, "Are you saying we should sin more so grace should abound?" People tend to believe that if they don't consciously aim for righteousness that they will fall into evildoing. But the Bible tells us that it is God inside us Who does the work. We simply have to read the word of God, walk with God, and love and believe God is working in us and His active powerful word will change us. It is not we who live but Christ who lives in us.

If you have ever listened to a sermon on the Lord's Prayer, you will see how easily legalism creeps into what is essentially a prayer about God's working. In the prayer Jesus tells us to ask that God's will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Here is a moment where one can really ponder the riches of grace. Is it possible that by simply asking that God's will be done on earth as it is done in a powerful prayer? But often when a pastor discusses God's will, he turns the sermon into a sermon about our will and about our behaving properly and willing the right thing. He does't seem to trust that God's will and grace will help us. The same can be said about asking "Let your name be hallowed." Pastors turn this into a sermon against using God's words in vain. But that is tree of knowledge of good of evil thinking. If we are living in the realm of the tree of life, we should understand by grace that God is inviting us to ask Him to fill our life with His Holy Name. We should get up every morning and invite God's power and grace and life -- Christ's finished work-- into our life. We should -- like the psalmists of old-- tell our soul, body, and spirit to magnify the Lord and command them to hallow God's name.

But, always pastors search the law, telling people what they should do in order to be righteous instead of telling people to understand all that has been given us in Christ. For instance, we have the mind of Christ. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. We have the authority and power of Christ. Paul said "the old Adam was a living soul, the new Adam is a life-giving spirit." How wonderful is that! Jesus is the second Adam and the new man, the firstfruits of a new people who are a royal priesthood called to show God's glory and to show God's marvelous light. As new creations in Christ, Christ lives in us. As He was, so are we in the world. We are able to give life to others as He gave life to us because we have this treasure in earthen vessels, Christ in us, the hope of glory. That is a richness of grace we should delve into and study. It is good to study the law and to aim for righteousness but we must trust God to make us righteous and we must study the deep wells of grace.

What, then, is "riches in glory" supposed to mean? When you read the books of Romans and Ephesians, underline each occasion of the word "riches" and you will begin to understand.

The might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus -- Ephesians 2:7

Paul tells

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