Freedom For #3: Righteousness

 


Freedom For #3: Righteousness

 What matters most in life is the quality of the relationships you share with others.  The more quality relationships you enjoy the better your life is.  We can define a quality relationship as an interdependent mutually beneficial two-way street characterized by love, support, and encouragement. That’s a mouth full of a definition but when that’s what your sharing, life is good. When relationships go bad, life can get downright miserable.  I hate it when relationships go bad, they go bad for so many reasons, and when they do it’s like a piece of you is lost.  Everything rises and falls on relationships. Developing quality relationships takes intention, takes time, and takes effort.  You have to make the relationship a priority if it is going to become a quality relationship.

 We’re in a series of teachings focusing on the reason Jesus sets us free.  One of those reasons is so we can enjoy quality relationships.  We’ve learned that when Jesus sets you free you are free from the power of Satan, Egoism, the lessor voices, and fear that stunts spiritual growth and keeps you from living your life to the full, that prevent you from bringing the Kingdom to others, that deter, damage, and destroy quality relationships. We’ve learned that when Jesus sets you free He sets you free for Service and boldness.  In this teaching, we will learn that Jesus sets you free for righteousness.

 The best way to understand righteousness is in relational terms. To be spiritually righteous is to be rightly related to God.  Being rightly related to God empowers right behavior. 

 The Hebrew faith taught that one must keep the Law to be rightly related to God.  The Law requires that you keep every aspect of it to be acceptable to God (Galatians 5:3).  But the righteousness that comes from the Law is an impossibility to acquire because the Law requires perfection. 

 Since its impossible, we might as well disregard it, forget it, ignore it, but instead of ignoring the Law, the Apostle Paul tells us that the Law is good because it reveals the sinful state of our soul, how far we fall short of being rightly related to God (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 7:9). When one is faced with the impossible you need Divine help, so the Law points us to grace.  Further, Jesus told us that the Law was not going to be abolished but fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).  The Law is a tool that illuminates the spiritual condition.  Again the problem with the Law is that you have to keep it perfectly to be righteous. 

 Romans 3:21-25 (NIV)

But now a righteousness from God, apart from Law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

This righteousness from God is revolutionary. Instead of keeping the Law, instead of working for salvation, God gives us the gift of being rightly related to Him when we believe in Jesus.  Then once we are rightly related to God we are empowered to keep the Law, not in fear, but love.  First comes righteousness. Being rightly related, comes first, then obedience. 

The way you become rightly related to God is through your belief in what Jesus has done for you.  Sin separated you from God, made it impossible for you to fulfill the requirements of the Law.  Failure to relate rightly to God makes it impossible for you to relate rightly to yourself and if you are not in sync with who you are, how can you be rightly related to anyone else?  So we fall victim to one relational mess into another.  Jesus, the One who knew no sin, takes the place of the sacrificial lamb and offers Himself up in an act of selfless obedience so that by committing yourself to follow Him you can be reconciled to God.  So God gives you the gift of being rightly related to Him when you believe and once you believe, you have the power to fulfill the Law.  Are you a believer? If not, do you want to establish a quality relationship with God? If so, ask God to convince you that His revelation found in Jesus is Truth.

Romans 8:3-4 (MSG)

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity to set it right once and for all. The law code weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

 Jesus summed up the Law by telling us that Loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'   The second is this: 'Loving your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31 (NIV), covers the intent of the Law.  Love God, Love Others, these are the boundaries to living life to the full.  It’s love that keeps you righteousness.

 Through faith in Jesus, His righteousness becomes your righteousness.  This is amazing. Righteousness is the state of being rightly related, it is a quality relationship.  The scripture reveals that the resurrection is proof that Jesus lived in a right relationship with the One He called the Father.  The scripture reveals that Jesus is the very image of God, He taught that the Father and He were one (John 10:28-29 & Colossians 1:15).  Being one with another is the utmost in quality relationships. The relationship that Jesus shared with the Father is the same relationship Jesus empowers those who believe to have with the Father.  Jesus' righteousness becomes your righteousness.

 So when you acknowledge, believe, commit, and ask, you’ve put your faith in Jesus and you are a believer.  You now have a reconciled relationship with God.  We can liken it to an introduction.  The author of the book “The Shack” William P. Young called me up one day.  He was visiting PLNU as a guest speaker and talked to one of HBCC’s students who was attending at the time and that student told him about Grant.  Bill called me, wanted more info, and at the end of the conversation he said “Please feel free to call me, anytime.”  Now it was up to me to decide what I was going to do with this relationship.

 That’s the same way with God.  Faith in Jesus has established a relationship with God.  Now it’s up to you to decide what you are going to do with that relationship, how you are going to pursue it. How close to God do you want to get?  How intimately do you want your relationship with God to be?

 James 4:8 (NIV)

[Draw] near to God and he will come near to you.

 Makes sense right, this is not a one-sided relationship, this is not a business relationship, this is something so much more, God wants to have a quality relationship with you.  A relationship like the Father shares with the Son and the Son with the Spirit, the Spirit with the Father. It’s up to you to pursue it.  Here’s a spiritual secret, “you choose to live as close to God as you want.”  Hear it again:  “You get to choose how close you want to be with God.”  Once more: 

“You determine the quality of the relationship you want to share with God.”

 To draw near to God takes intention, drawing near takes time, and drawing near takes effort.  You have to make your relationship with God a priority if it is going to become a quality relationship.  Faith in Jesus makes the introduction, now it’s up to you to pursue the relationship. Jesus has set you free to pursue righteousness.

 How to draw near to God is something you need to discover for yourself.  Each one of us is unique and we will have our way to pursue God.  Some will find that they pursue God best when they are using the gifts God has given, doing the task God has called them to.  In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddel says “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  Do the stuff that you feel God takes pleasure in you doing and you are drawing near.

Some will find that they pursue God through the arts: music, painting, writing. When they create they pursue God, they feel God’s pleasure.  Being receptive to beauty is a way to pursue God.

 Some will find that their practice of the 7 habits of a disciple helps them connect, to draw close to God.  I can tell you this for sure, drawing near to God always has an element of obedience, of following because love compels you. Drawing near to God always has elements of doing for others. 

For years I pursued God through study, then I had to add some romance into the equation, I had to learn to dance with God, follow his lead.  At first, it was like a tango, now more like a waltz, I wish it was always like a waltz.  I had to add adventure, letting Him guide me through places I had never been before, to see things I had never seen before, to experience Him in His creation. I had to add letting things go to pursue God, forgetting trying to figure it out, and just trust and hope and keep in step with the Holy Spirit who is God in me.

 Psalms 42:1-2 (MSG)

A white-tailed deer drinks from the creek; I want to drink God, deep draughts of God. I'm thirsty for God-alive.

 I have asked God to make me thirsty for Him.  Psalm 42 is my request to make Him my priority.  So many things clamor for our attention, so many things eat up our time, unimportant things crowding out the most important.  Nothing is more important than deepening a quality relationship with God. It’s easy to say no to some things, but other things, good things, urgent things, not so easy.  These are sacrificed so I can drink of God.  Hear what Jesus taught—seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 (NIV).  The sincere pursuit of God pushes all the fluff and nonsense out of your schedule. The sincere pursuit of God makes room for laughter in your life, creating room for satisfaction and contentment, you “develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely”  (Galatians 5:22-23 (MSG).  All because you choose to draw near to God.

 Jesus set you free from Satan, Egoism, the lessor voices, and fear.  Jesus sets you free to serve, to be bold, to be righteousness.  Faith, trust and confidence, in Jesus, convince you that He is who He proclaimed and that His teachings are true, His relationship with the Father becomes yours.  The introduction has been made when you believe.  Once the introduction has been made, you get to choose how close to God you want to be.  You get to choose the quality of the relationship you want.  How close you get to God is totally up to you.

 My advice, get as close as you can.


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