For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Romans 5: 17


As I sit here and look at these words of Paul, I am taken aback by just how differently I seem to operate. It is not that I don’t believe in the concept of grace or that I don’t even think that I accept it and embrace it. However, I do tend to want to take control over the way that it connects to righteousness in my life. Things that simply are, especially ones that are by virtue of what another has done in a manner that eliminates all of my management, make me uncomfortable. My comfort zone is found in the world of plans, actions that develop from those plans, and of check marks after the items are accomplished. The idea of something as significant as my righteousness being received as a gift is troubling.


Yet, Paul has expressed it correctly. I might prefer to be able to look carefully at the text and to determine that some great translation error has been made so that God actually intended for us to own this process, at least to take over its completion. But that is not the case. We do not have the ability or the capacity to plan, devise or implement our own righteousness, for we do not have any of it on our own. We are fallen and broken creatures who started out our existence as the pinnacle of God’s creation plan, but we chose to grasp after a form of god-likeness that we could control rather than resting in the assurance of our God-image creation and in the impartation of righteousness that God granted to us as an aspect of an undiminished relationship with Him. We are a lot like the small child who wriggles and struggles to get free of the parent’s hand as they are heading out across a busy street. We desperately want our freedom despite the fact that safety and training in safe living are found in that loving grasp.


Christ grants us life. That is the gift of all life. It is not just one aspect or period of living; rather, it is life that spans all of our existence from this moment through eternity. This gift of life includes each and every aspect of who we are and of what we do. There is nothing that is outside of its boundaries. As I accept this gift, I am forced to recognize that it comes to me as a result of God’s grace that, through Christ, bridges the great chasm of division that my sinfulness caused to exist between my depraved self and God’s absolutely righteous being. Christ grants to me a righteousness that is real and that works within me to transform my heart and to restore my mind to that original God-image design. My part in this process is one of surrender, and it requires me to open my deepest places to God’s revealing light of truth. Here the sin that tries to continue to possess my soul is exposed, and here Christ takes my struggling hand and leads me into His peace and victorious rest.


The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Isaiah 32: 17


It seems to me that there is a very wide spread misunderstanding of righteousness in our world. When righteousness is mentioned many people quickly envision a scene where there are individuals who are red-faced with anger shouting and waving signs of condemnation. Even if they have never actually encountered such a scene, the images of them have been portrayed so extensively for our viewing that they have created a lasting impression. It is, at least in part, this sort of misguided sense of righteousness that has caused division and hurt in many churches throughout history, and this same failure to understand God’s view of righteousness has fueled the energy behind far too many damaging attacks on people and their beliefs that are carried out in the name of God.


I would submit that God does not actually hold a view of righteousness. It is not something that is external. There is no force of nature or other influence that can bend, turn, or reshape righteousness. Rather, God is righteousness, for He is its author and its only true source. It is who He is. If we think that this foundational concept of living in a manner that is right with God and that is in total conformity with His will is worthwhile and desirous, then we must look to the author, Himself, for the knowledge and the understanding that makes the necessary personal transformation possible. God’s Word is filled with descriptions of the complex blend of characteristics that make up righteous living. In His dealings with humanity God has employed love, grace, mercy, justice, holiness, and wisdom in order to interact with us in a righteous manner. He leads us into doing the same in every aspect of life.


If we truly desire peace, especially the sort of peace that is deeply rooted in our souls and that is not easily shaken by the events of life; we need to dwell near its source, which is righteousness. So, it is essential that we claim property, build our homes, and establish our communities at God’s feet and fully in His presence. This is both a literal and spiritual location. It is spiritual in the sense that righteous living begins with a relationship with Christ, that wisdom and guidance are continually provided by the Holy Spirit, and that, in Christ, we are now citizens of the unseen but very real Kingdom of God. This location is literal by virtue of the community of faith that God desires for us to actively engage with. It is also made tangible by the way that we interact with and respond to our culture, for Christ calls us to function as living and breathing, image of God revealing citizens of our world. When we trust God enough to allow righteousness to reign in our hearts and minds, we will know the sort of peace that establishes a confident quietness in our souls.


For when I have brought them (the Israelites) into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and have grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise Me and break My covenant.

Deuteronomy 31: 20


This is strong language that comes from the mouth of the aged Moses as he faced into his own death. God has granted to him a view into the future that is thrilling in the way that God will fulfill His promises to provide a dwelling place that is bountiful in all areas of human need. However, Moses also is made aware of the fact that these people who have been so hard for him to lead have not changed all that much. They will enter into the riches of God’s blessing, and they will become complacent and bored with it all. They will go off searching for something better, and they will abandon the hard discipline that righteous living demands.


It seems that there may very well be a cautionary tale in all of this for people today. For the most part we have it all a lot easier than the people that Moses was leading. Yet we still live in a hostile land where the only true and reliable provider of what we need is God. We live today in the shadow of constant peril. There are evil giants roaming our landscape, there are false gods calling to us with their winsome voices, and our culture makes it easy to ignore active involvement with God’s Word and in Christian fellowship. So the words of Moses are speaking loudly to me, and they cry out a challenge and a warning, “You are growing fat; you are acting like you no longer fear God and desire to serve Him with all of your heart.”


The righteous life is not a sedentary one. It requires that we remain active and highly vigilant. In order to avoid becoming fat in our spirits and complacent in our minds we need to continually seek out God. He desires for His people to turn to Him in prayer with worship, praise, and thanksgiving on our lips. Our Lord wants for us to stay lean and light on our feet through the constant practice of reading His Word and discussing its content, meaning and application. Christ implores us to join Him in the daily battle for the souls of people and for the healing of our sin ravaged lands. Regardless of age or physical condition, in Christ we can all remain hungry, stay lean, and be fit for the contest as we passionately serve the King.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

[For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]

Matthew 6: 13


With temptation, evil, power, kingdoms, and glory all mixed together Jesus gave us the content for a great adventure or fantasy story. But He was not telling a bedtime fable or giving us some light entertainment. Jesus was entering into the holy realm of prayer, and He was speaking about the reality of life when He did this. There are no wasted words here. All of the content is important, and that is why I have chosen to add the bracketed last line from the New American Standard text to my usual ESV version here. There is a completion of thought that these final words of this prayer bring out that seem to matter to me today.


Temptation swirls about us every day. God does not place it there. In fact, it comes about because there is a very real and quite active presence of evil in our world that is continually working in opposition to God, for we live squarely in the center of today’s battlefield where Satan engages with God for power and dominion and for the ownership of souls. Temptation and the sinful thoughts and actions that it can lead to are placed before us and are used as weapons of war by Satan in order to distract and disable followers of Christ from our callings as servants of the true King. When we pray for protection and for deliverance from these temptations and in repentance for our sinfulness, we are recognizing that Christ is our Lord and Master and that He will lead, guide, and empower us in living righteously.


Jesus is giving us words of respectful and loving submission to Christ, and He is our one and only hope for walking through these perilous days in a manner that conforms to God’s Word and that brings honor and glory to the Lord. Yet, this singular hope will not be frustrated or defeated if we continually reach out in faith and trust to Christ who does actively work to save us and to redeem this world, for God does rule this world, and He has granted to Christ the power and the authority to save people and to enact that same sovereign authority on Satan’s attempts to exercise false rule over people and places here. As people who know God and who seek to follow His will, we must continually seek out His protection and guidance as we trust Him in all aspects of life’s journey; so, we pray from deep in our hearts as Jesus models for us.


Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own initiative, as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”

John 5: 30


Here is one of my real personal challenges; I believe that God has equipped me to make decisions and to handle issues in life; so, I can so very easily get into an action oriented, just get it done mind set that moves to conclusion regarding what needs to take place without taking the time to consider what God would desire me to do. Also, the actions that I take are not usually the biggest issue; rather, the way that I deal with people is what makes the difference in the way that I either do glorify Christ or not.


If Jesus needed to obtain the Father’s will when He was considering how to handle people, why should I think that I don’t need to do the same? If I care enough about someone, care enough to want to interact with that person in a loving, concerned, and relationship building manner, why wouldn’t I also want to allow God’s wisdom to guide me?


Perhaps the most important aspect of the resourcefulness and the decision-making ability that God has designed into people is our capacity to access Him. We are given the gift of our ability to seek out His way of responding to life; so, we can lay the issues and the challenges that we are facing before God and let Him talk to us about them. We can choose to follow Jesus and let God be the initiator of our actions, allow His judgment to prevail in our actions, and set aside our own desired outcomes in order to achieve a truly righteous one.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10: 5


Our minds are amazing things, for they are capable of solving complex problems, of grasping difficult concepts, and of creating great beauty. Yet, they are also very easily lead down destructive and harmful paths. This is often the way that Satan goes after us. For he slips a bit of slightly wrong thinking into the rational patterns of our minds, and he works his way into the smallest point of weakness that we allow to form in our spiritual lives. Then, those toe holds of deception start to grow and to develop into serious areas in our lives where God’s truth and His gracious love are overshadowed by deception.


Yet, there is real hope in all of this; since, Christ wants to join us in the fight against this very sort of wrong thinking, and He has already provided the answers that we need and the source for finding all of the wisdom that we will require to face life’s challenges. God wants us to take everything that we are thinking about, all actions that we are considering, and each aspect of our days and check our reason and logic against His Word. That means that we need to stay consistently engaged with the Lord through prayer, reading of His Word, and by listening to His responses to us.


There is nothing that is too small or insignificant, there is nothing that is too large or complex, and there is no issue that is too contemporary for the Lord to be interested in and capable of responding to. All that we do and every thought that we have fits into God’s design for righteous living. However, we do need to plan and to purpose to surrender our will and to seek God’s wisdom regularly, continually, and in all circumstances. Every thought that crosses my mind needs to be surrounded by the perfect circle of love that is the protective boundary of Christ’s relationship with me.


The saying is trustworthy, for if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.

2 Timothy 2: 11


There are things that are really hard to give up. Some fall under that heading that we call “guilty pleasures”. These include such things as certain television programs, candy and ice cream, and buttered pop corn. Actions like smoking and driving too fast can actually cause harm. Other tenacious aspects of who we seem to be are more sinister. These might involve an addiction to pornography, habitual lying, out of control anger, and other forms of attitude and behavior that are rooted in sinful reliance on our selves as opposed to engaging in radical trust in and dependence upon Christ. All people are born into this world separated from God and His truth and darkened in our understanding of actual righteous living. These sinful aspects of our lives that continue on after we come to know God are the remnants of our birthright.


An even more challenging sort of change involves the attitudes that we hold toward our world and the people in it. Christ came into this world to bring an alienated humanity back into intimate relationship with our Creator, God. This salvation and reconciliation are for everyone. There are no exclusions, no exceptions, and there is absolutely no greater and lesser order to this acceptance of people by God. Most of us struggle with this idea. Even if we can readily say that we think that Christ came, suffered, died, and was raised for all, we simply don’t actually believe that this is true. There are always some people, either individuals or groups, who we do not like or trust. It is human nature to consider those who are different and who believe differently as being suspect. We tend to find that it is much easier to extend grace and reach out in loving embrace to people who we do not fear and who look, speak, and think essentially like us. Yet, Christ did all of these things for all of the people He encountered. God’s love, mercy, grace, and redemption are offered to each and every person on this earth.


Whatever it is that each of us is dealing with by way of unrighteous thought and action, big things and small, the foundation for change is ours to persue. First off, we need to desire that change. Truth is God’s catalyst for change. His Word contains the narrative account of the way that our Lord desires for us to think and to live. Emersion in it is the starting place and the ongoing road to discovery of who God is and who He calls us to be. Time in God’s Word needs to be accompanied with prayer and meditation. These are times of speaking our hearts to God and of listening to His voice. Study of the word and prayer are inseparable, and these are times when the Holy Spirit speaks God’s deep truths into our hearts and minds. Additionally, God desires for us to live in community. Although real transformative work in us is done by God, He often uses the agency of His body, the church and its people, to support, counsel, and bring accountability to that journey. God has called us to join Christ in death, the death of our birth-life of wastefulness and sin, and into the newness of freedom that comes in following our Savior through every step of the day.