For the LORD is righteous;

hr loves righteous deeds;

the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 11: 7

 

Whether a person is a follower of Christ or not, the first statement in this verse receives almost universal acceptance. The challenge comes in how each of us understands the meaning of that concept. For me, God’s righteousness is the core of His being. It is the platform from which He has done all that He has engaged in, and it is the basis for all that God brings about today. The Lord is right in all that He thinks and in every action that comes out of those thoughts. His state of being right is not grounded in His strength, positional power, or superior capacity. Rather, the righteousness of God is motivated into action by His overwhelming love for all of creation.

 

Because of this great love for all, God is saddened to the point of grief by the way that we treat each other and this world that He has provided to sustain us. The anger and the violence of people stands in stark contrast to the love that God pours out on us and that He desires for us to operate out of as the basis for our engagement with each other. The righteousness that God calls people to embrace is never angry or violent, and it does not seek to gain power or control over others. The righteousness of Godly people is not judgmental, either. Instead, it speaks truth without fear, and it seeks to bring all of the people that it encounters into the presence of Christ.

 

It is in this ongoing process of living out of and of entering into the righteousness of God that His people grow in our knowledge and our understanding of who our Lord truly is. Living in the center of God’s will can be hard and challenging, and it can lead to many forms of loss in this world. However, it is also the most rewarding way that people can live. The rewards are found in the certainty that comes from the platform of truth that is contained in God’s Word and through the revelation of that truth by His Spirit. They are also expressed in the reassuring presence of the Spirit who speaks the love of the Father to the hearts and the minds of all who follow the Lord.

For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1: 17

 

There is only one standard that carries real weight. This fact applies to every aspect of life whether small and relatively trivial or great and having significant impact. Right is right and everything else falls short of God’s requirements. There is only one way for humans to know God’s standard for righteousness and that is by knowing God in that deep and relational way that only people who are committed to Him can obtain to. According to God’s word and its message of hope, grace, and redemption, the gospel, the singular means for any person to come into such a relationship with the holy God is through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

 

For most people this is the ultimate step of faith. It requires us to surrender our lives in full to an unseen being and to allow this same spiritual presence access to our deepest and most personal places so that the Holy Spirit of Christ can perform a transformative work that will reshape our thoughts and actions into ones that conform in an ever increasing manner to the righteousness that is God. This can be truly frightening and disturbing. The process of transformation is a life-long journey during which many of the steps are positive and rewarding and wherein others are regressive and frustrating. This is where faith becomes essential as it is this trust and reliance on Christ that keeps us living as God has called us to live when reason might cause us to walk away from that course.

 

Yet, living by faith is the reality of dwelling in this world, for this is a place where compromise and self interest reign as the sovereign truth of the age. There will always be pressure applied from our culture to set a different standard than God’s absolutely righteous one. Followers of Christ will be surrounded by a confusing array of voices that speak of love and understanding as the true measure of God’s grace, and in true sincerity they will seek to convince or to shame us into devising that new, human standard of right and into promoting it as God’s true desire. On these days faith is essential. In this age we must trust absolutely in the revelation of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us out of the Word of God. This truth is the giver of the life that overcomes the sinfulness of this world.

This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

1 John 5: 11

 

When a witness is preparing to give testimony during a trial she is first required to swear that what is to be said will be the truth. When a person signs a legal document as a witness the signature is a testimony to the validity of the identities of the parties who entered into the agreement. God’s signature of witness is written across all of creation. His word is the bond that holds it all together. The Father’s seal of promise was affixed to the hearts of His first children, and it has not been broken since. God remains ever true to uphold His side of the contract. It is humanity that has fallen short and failed to uphold our side of that agreement.

 

Yet, even in the face of our continuous wandering, God seeks us out. He desires that every one of His people would choose to be in an unending relationship with Him. He wants us to accept the gift of His never-ending presence. This has been granted to all of us through Christ whose voice of love, grace, and acceptance also cries out with the unwavering righteousness of God. Humanity is called out of a life that is lost and decaying. Christ speaks life into our souls, and He breathes that eternal life into our daily existence. Jesus is the living testimony of the Father’s relentless pursuit of each of us.

 

God wants His children to accept this testimony of Christ. He also wants us to become witnesses to that new, that transformed, life that we have received in and through Christ. God does not bring us into life in order for us to quietly sit out the remaining days on earth while awaiting a future, heavenly eternity. Rather, He brings that eternity into the here and now. He grants us the fullness of His presence in our earthly lives, and Christ implores us to join Him in living as compelling witnesses to the Father’s perfect plan of salvation for all who will come to Him.

And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, “O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works or mighty deeds as yours?

Deuteronomy 3: 23, 24

 

Moses wants to go on living; there is no doubt about this fact. However, in trying to make his case for why the Lord should change His stated will and allow him more time, Moses speaks great truth. No matter what has transpired during our time on this earth, we have seen only the very tip of the greatness of God. He has designed life today so that Christ continues to reveal Himself and His glorious will to everyone who walks with Him. This revelation is continual. It does not reach a point where there is no more to see. I have not come close to the end of my ability to be amazed by the love, grace, faithfulness, and righteousness of God.

 

For my own sake I also need to keep the answer to the question, “For what god?” in front of my wandering eyes. I do find that many distractions and diversions get in the way of my continual focus on Christ. All of these things can tend to function as a form of god if I am not committed to Christ on an on-going basis. So, staying clear about where and in whom I will find true relationship and real satisfaction is important. The answer to this question has always come back the same. There is no other god who can do what the Lord does. There is no other god who loves and cares about and for me in the way that Christ does.

 

As a traveler, even a wanderer, through the harsh landscape of this world I have been touched by God’s hand of comfort and mercy on too many occasions to count. The glory of His presence is found in the lives that He has made new. The might of His hand is found in the world that He created. It is expressed in the way that He holds it together in direct opposition to the destructive forces that sin continually applies to it. In Christ, every day is a time to experience God’s presence in new and remarkable ways. In the presence of Christ I need no other gods and everything in my life is bathed in His glory.

 

 

 

 

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Romans 1: 17

 

Faith may be all that there is to cling to, and it might be the sum total of all of the resources that are available to face the day. When this is absolutely true, life can seem to be a very long ways beyond scary. Yet in times when tangible power and quantifiable personal strength are not present, faith is all that is left. We have faith that the physical laws of nature are still in operation, we exercise faith that our human relationships are more or less functioning along the same lines as they were yesterday, and we accept as true that our society is following the same rules as it did in the past. Faith takes us beyond control and creates a platform to stand upon in order to function throughout the day.

 

Still, as important as faith is in these global areas of life, it matters most when it comes to understanding who we are and our place in the world. We were placed into this life with a purpose to fulfill. We are granted the opportunity to have an impact on Creation that is restorative and transformative. God has given the message of absolute truth to His people, and He has also gifted us with the ability to understand the deep implications of that truth for every aspect of our world. People need to embrace this fact and stay true to the pursuit of righteousness for the sake of Christ, and this requires faith. There will be times, situations, and circumstances when our human reason and the voice of the masses will call to us with an utterance that is too loud and too persistent to ignore. Then the only way to continue on the course that Christ has set out is found through trust in His gospel of love and peace.

 

Each step that is taken in response to Christ’s call moves us deeper into His will. The deeper we go into the will of God the better we know Him. As we know God we also come to know ourselves as we are intended to be. This is the true journey of faith. Stepping out of the mainstream of our world and into the powerful, minority current of righteousness takes a very special form of courage. This is the sort of courage that Christ took to the cross and beyond and that His Spirit gives to us. This is the sort of courage that is formed in our hearts through faith in God.

 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5: 21

 

The idea of righteousness implies separateness. As much of our experience in life involves words and actions that are anything but righteous, this idea seems highly appropriate. This is a characteristic that sifts out people and that often leads them to produce statutes and laws that are just or its absence brings about oppression and biased treatment of some. Unfortunately some people, operating out of a self empowered understanding of righteousness, set themselves up as the holy ones who have a moral right to pronounce judgment upon all of the unfortunate, sinful people who do not measure up to their standards.

 

This is a very difficult and sad way to view the world. God does not intend for people to be the judge of righteousness, and we are not qualified to do this work. Everything that we know and understand about righteousness comes from outside of our natural selves. Humanity surrendered all of its grasp upon this Godly characteristic in our rebellious turn away from the Lord, and we have absolutely no way to get it back on our own. However, God’s perspective on what righteousness is about is different from the way that people often view it. Although God does hold righteousness as a quality that separates, He does not separate Himself from us on account of it.

 

God’s response to our absolute need for righteousness, something that God requires of people in order to enter into relationship with Him, was to come out of His place in Heaven and intrude into the unrighteous kingdom of this world. Jesus, the Christ, not only lived with and among us but, more so, He did this without allowing any of the sinfulness that pervades our space to infect Him. Then, in an act of total sacrifice and infinite love, He took all of the sin that has ever or will ever exist in this world upon Himself so that God could view us as righteous. Thus, as we enter into relationship with Christ and He dwells within us, we become righteous; that is, we are then set apart from the sin that separates us from God. So, I believe that as we are made righteous by Christ in us, we are also called away from being judges and into bringing the truth, love, and grace of Christ into our world.

And I said, “Woe is me! For I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seem the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6: 5-7

 

It is not hard for Christians to find sin in our world. It is all around us. Unrighteous thoughts and actions fill out news and impact our lives on a continual basis. Inside of our halls of faith gathering we talk with our friends and acquaintances about the sad and disturbing direction that our world, our government, and our culture are headed. The trajectory of society seems to be pointed straight toward hell, or so we would say. This is exactly what Isaiah encountered as well. Perhaps we should listen to what he tells us God said and did to him.

 

As the prophet became increasingly aware of the evil that was filling his world, God turned his focus inward. There Isaiah saw something that was even more disturbing than what was going on in his land. For inside his own heart Isaiah encountered anger, lust, greed, stubborn pride, and all of the rest of Creation’s fallen condition. These were the very things that were bringing him to tears for his nation and were raising up his anger at the injustice in his world. Yet, now he was seeing it all dwelling in himself, and now, in his Spirit led introspection, Isaiah saw just how far removed he was from the holiness and the righteousness of God. This was a sobering and a humbling truth to face for him, and it should be the same for us.

 

As we look at our world and seek to enter into its chaotic lostness for the sake of Christ and His gospel, we need to start our quest on our knees in repentance for our own sinful thoughts and deeds. I am not pure, and no one else is, either. We are sinners who rely on the same grace that granted acceptance to Isaiah. Like him we need the atonement for those sins that comes from God through Jesus Christ. Yet this is God’s gift to all who will turn to Him. We are cleansed, our lips and our hearts are seared clean by the work of Christ on the cross and we are called to draw near to that altar of grace so that the holy fragrance of God will surround us as we follow Christ into serving Him in our world.