For the past few days, I have been working on a sermon for the student ministry I am currently leading. Many years ago, I believe God set me apart to do ministry both to middle and high school students and to lead His people in worship, and I am forever indebted for the blessing of His calling. I am currently serving at a church in this capacity.
I love it, by the way.
I was preparing the sermon for last Wednesday night working through a series about who we are as believers through the empowering work of Christ on Calvary. This particular sermon covered righteousness.
Half of you reading this just fell asleep, fell out of your chair, drooling, and descended into a mind-numbing coma. I get it. The word is not altogether exciting, But it is incredibly and thoroughly necessary for the Christian.
What is righteousness? The short answer is that, as children of God, Christians are justified by faith in their believing on Christ. When God looks at us, He sees Christ, His atonement scrubbed all over us despite our wretched state before His holiness. Jesus makes it possible for us to have right-standing with God. Righteousness, that given through faith in Christ, prevents us from being damned to Hell.
Righteousness is also our works, our inept acts at obedience for His glory. The short definition of righteousness is “right living,” carrying out the purity and holiness of God Almighty in our lives.
But… why can’t my believing in Jesus be for what I want? Why isn’t simply believing in Jesus good enough? Isn’t that enough?
Two things: 1. Faith in Christ is enough, or what Martin Luther did in inadvertently beginning the most significant social movement in history would be for nothing. 2. Jesus paid an awful lot for us to sit out on what He is calling us to do.
Christian, faith justifies you before God. That faith in Christ is our asking Him to secure us in the face of a holy God, a just God, a God who abhors sin so intensely that He is willing to eradicate it with violence. If you think “God would never do that,” Go read 1 Sam. 15. He hates unrighteousness and takes vengeance on His enemies.
If you admit your sin before Him, believe that Jesus is who He said He was and will do what He said He will do, and confess your need for a Savior, without a prayer, without a rehearsed monologue, He will justify and redeem you.
Don’t be naive enough to believe that all this God of the universe asks of those who profess fealty to His name is a believing. Delude not yourself into a lackluster allegiance.
Martyrs have not vainly died, church fathers have not consistently led, and theologians have not painstakingly versed themselves in the inerrant Scriptures so you could carry out a blind faith, a faith without righteousness.
God asks of those who bear His name to walk in holiness and uprightness. He hates those evildoers who reject His name in deed.
Yes, Christ embodies the spotless, pure, selfless love of the Father. He is outlandishly merciful, unimaginably graceful, and far more so either than we deserve. He daily shows us His perfect love so that we would be reconciled to Him.
Don’t be delusional. I say that a third time: don’t be delusional! God requires more of you, of me, than our half-hearted devotion. We the American church live without regard to the standards of God. We view holiness, God’s moral standard for our lives, as an extra quality, as something for “goody-goody” Christians.
Know that God holds you to the same high standard of sexual purity, honesty, integrity, and “right-living” as He does Christ, let that sink into the hollow of your chest. We have an anchor tied to our foot and we are sunken, hopeless headed toward the bottom of the ocean.
Christ stepped in, and through our believing in Him, confessing our deep-seated need of Him, we are justified through His work on the cross, His being the propitiation and substitution for our sins. He did this because, on our own footing trying to obey the law, we would be doomed. We didn’t deserve His marvelous grace.
He justifies us, but God requires more. He requires of us radical obedience, radical obedience to His standards - righteousness.