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Romans 10: Earning Righteousness

I don’t know about you, but I like to have a certain amount of control over what happens in my life. I like to have some idea of what I am going to have, and I find it much easier than having to trust other people all the time.

The Christian faith is built on trust in God. In Romans 10, we find what could be seen as a rather frightening passage if we were not able to trust God.

Rom 10:3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Rom 10:4  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Paul goes on in this passage to continue talking about salvation, but as you read about people are creating their own sense of righteousness, I think we can do that even while we are doing things that are good things to do.

“If only I volunteer at church a few times per week, I might earn my way into favor with God.”

“If I patch up that relationship with my neighbor, God might love me more.”

“If I donate all my money to charity, maybe God will be happier with me.”

We try to create righteousness in our lives. We try to work harder in an effort to make God love us more, but the truth is that trying to establish our own sense of righteousness through good actions simply does not cut it.

Verse four lays it out for us. Jesus is the end or conclusion of the law of righteousness. Righteousness does not come from us, but it comes from Jesus Christ Himself. God loves us because we are His children; it is not predicated on our good works. God does not love Mother Teresa more than you. He loves both of you infinitely in the way that only God can. That does not diminish either one of you whatsoever; it points to the incredible love of God and His amazing capability.

This is frightening however because I have to trust that God loves me. I like to have a little checklist of things that I can do to ensure that God loves me more than the next guy. I want to make sure I am getting that righteousness. Regardless, God tells us that that is not how it works. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. God sees us as righteous because we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are not righteous because of our own works.

What implications does that have in our lives?

Having a life that is based upon the love of God and not based on earn our own righteousness ought to change our perspective on some level. When we do volunteer at church for example which is still a good thing to do, we are doing it because we want to. We are not doing it because we are trying to earn righteousness. However, something paradoxical will happen. Because we are developing our relationship with Jesus Christ, the fruit of the Spirit will continue to mature within us, and as that happens, we will actually do more good work even though we are not doing it for the reward of earnings any more love from God.

This is frightening to me. I have to let go of my own control on some level. However, it seems to be what we are called to do as a response to the love of God. Maybe you and I can work on this together.

Romans 4: Saved by Faith

Paul outlines in Romans 4 how Abraham, even though he lived and died before the time of Jesus Christ, was still reliant on faith for salvation.

Rom 4:20  He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Rom 4:21  And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Rom 4:22  And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Rom 4:23  Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

Rom 4:24  But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Rom 4:25  Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Abraham was willing to even sacrifice his only son to follow God. God also promised as we know that Abraham would have a great nation through his children, so it probably did not make very much sense to sacrifice the only son, but Abraham was willing to follow God and trust Him. Of course, as we know, God provided a lamb in a very early, symbolic gesture of the Lamb who would save the world.

Abraham was given righteousness because he actively put his faith in God. It is the same way that we receive righteousness. It doesn’t come because of our own goodness. It comes because we trust the only One who is good. Paul was very careful to point out the importance of faith throughout these first few chapters of Romans, and it was very important to do so as Christianity was becoming an international movement. After all, he was speaking to the church in Rome, so they were probably wondering if they had to become culturally Jewish in order to become followers of Jesus Christ. Did they need to be circumcised for example?

Faith was ultimately what mattered. Today in the world, being a Christian in Africa, North America, Asia or anywhere in between might look different on the surface. We might have different worship styles, church buildings or really anything else, but under it all we share our faith in Jesus Christ just like Paul was talking about here.

Mark 2: Who Is Righteous?

I know that we looked at the story before in Matthew, but today in Mark 2, I want to focus again on the idea of Jesus eating with the tax collectors and being criticized for it.

Mar 2:15  And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.

Mar 2:16  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?

Mar 2:17  When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

I point this out because I wonder if some people question what Jesus said. Were there really people that He did not come for? Were there some that were already righteous?

I don’t think so. Jesus was perfectly honest. He did not come for the righteous because no one is righteous. However, the scribes and Pharisees clearly thought themselves to be righteous. They thought that they were better than everyone else.

Jesus taught like this a lot. He taught in terms that some people would understand and others would not. There were times where crowds were entirely confused by what He was saying. In this case, the Pharisees seem to have been confused, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus was wrong or out of line. He did come from everyone who was not righteous, and given that no one is righteous, Jesus did indeed come for everyone.

Some people might not believe it or don’t think they deserve it, but that is a significant part of the beauty of what Jesus did.

Zephaniah 2: Breaking down the Walls

Remember that Zephaniah is a book about judgment. God is going to bring judgment on the people for wandering away from Him. However, there still is a chance that the people could get right with God.

Zep 2:1  Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;

Zep 2:2  Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’S anger come upon you.

Zep 2:3  Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.

I think that this is a good message for all of us today. Obviously, I understand that it was written to a nation who was in a very dark place, but you and I can be in similarly dark places. You and I can be in situations where we honestly need to remember this. We need to come back to God because we really have nowhere else to turn.

It is almost like building our own prison. Through our own actions, we make the walls higher. The higher they get, the more wrapped up we are, and we soon realize that there is no possible way to climb out by ourselves. God comes in and just flattens the walls. He sets us free from the chains of sin.

I find it ironic that many people talk about Christianity as restrictive. They don’t want to be tied into something that tells them what is right and what is wrong. In reality, we are all slaves to something, and what we have to decide is whether or not we want to be slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. We are going to serve one master or the other, so it makes sense to choose the one that would have our best interests at heart. After seeing the effects of sin, I don’t think that is the one that we want to put our trust in.

Psalms 7: God Is Our Defense

You know, it is really easy for us to fall into some kind of “holier than thou” trap. We sometimes think that our righteousness is enough because we try to be generally good people. We don’t murder, we don’t steal and we try not to lie unless we feel it is absolutely necessary. We might not be perfect, but at least we are better than that guy over there.

Needless to say, like we find in Psalms 7, our righteousness is not going to be our ultimate defense.

Psa 7:8  The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.

Psa 7:9  Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.

Psa 7:10  My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.

In verse eight, David, the writer of this Psalm, wants to be judged for his righteousness. However, in verse 10, he mentioned that his defense is of God. In other words, his righteousness comes from God not from himself. He is relying on God as his defense rather than his own actions to justify him.

We still have that same teaching today even under the New Covenant. We are righteous, but that is imparted to us because of our relationship with Jesus. We are not righteous because of our own works.

Isaiah said this about as well as anyone.

Isa 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Without God, our righteousness is worthless. We can’t make it any better on our own. However, in the New Testament, we are told that we are righteous because of Jesus Christ.

Rom 3:22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

I think that you can see the connection. Everything that David was saying is consistent with what Isaiah said and what Paul said. Our only defense is in God Himself. He gives us righteousness because we cannot get it on our own.

Job 27: What Does the Bible Say?

I want to clarify a very important issue that I think could arise in Job 27. I know that I have said this multiple times, but I have a feeling it is the kind of thing that people would like to cherry pick and consequently shout out about discrepancies in the Bible.

Here is the verse.

Job 27:6  My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.

I can already hear the objections. Job is claiming that he is righteous, and we all know that the New Testament says that the only man who was righteous was Jesus. Was Job like Jesus? Isn’t the Bible perfect in everything that it says? Isn’t this a contradiction?

No. Yes. No.

First, it is true that no man is entirely righteous outside of Jesus Christ. That is why we needed Him to be the Perfect Sacrifice.

Rom 3:10  As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

This is a reference to a passage in Isaiah, and Paul was explaining how we do not receive righteousness simply by following the law and that there is no longer an advantage to being Jewish. Salvation is free for all.

Now, no one is righteous, but Job is saying that he is righteous. What is the deal with that?

We need to think about the context here. During this entire book, Job has been continually attacked by his friends who assumed that he must have committed some major sin. They assumed that because they thought that all of the bad things in his life were obviously punishment from God.

Job is responding to that argument. He is not saying that he was righteous for his entire life, but it seems as if his claim is more that he is innocent of the massive evil that he is being accused of.

As it turns out, he was right. No one is ever saying that he was perfect for his entire life, but the Bible does say that in response to this situation, he was indeed righteous.

Job 1:22  In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

As I think you can tell, this is quite simply not a contradiction. He is not arguing that he had never sinned. He is responding to the charge that his sin brought this on, and it is almost like he is announcing his innocence.

From the beginning of the book, we also know that he did not bring this upon himself. We know that it was the result of God allowing Satan to have his way with Job.

I know that I bring this up a lot, but I know that things can be taken out of context. That is why it is so important to view the Bible as more than just one individual verse. I try to do that as much as I can, and I hope that you do as well.

Numbers 8: We Are in the Hands of God

Numbers chapter 8 gives us a very interesting perspective on the final plague in Egypt.

Num 8:16  For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me.

Num 8:17  For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.

Num 8:18  And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.

Basically, God is telling us that instead of taking the firstborn child of every family in Israel, the tribe of Levi is His.

I thought that it was a very interesting to mention both the tribe of Levi and those that died in Egypt. Obviously, all the children in Israel did not physically die because their families did what they had to. You can remember all of this from everything we talked about in Exodus. However, on that day, God said that He sanctified the firstborn of Israel to be His.

This is a lot like salvation. When we are saved, we are dead to our old sins and slaves to righteousness.

Rom 6:17  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

Rom 6:18  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

After this process, we have been claimed by God as His own children. We are no longer bound to our sinful past, and we can move forward into a future that involves a greater relationship with God.

We are claimed by God as His property, and it is a great place to be. He will keep us safe and secure for all of eternity.

Isa 41:10  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Leviticus 25: We Are Free from Sin, Slaves to Righteousness

I always seem to find interesting things at the end of the chapter, and today is no different in Leviticus chapter 25.

Lev 25:55  For unto me the children of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

I think that this is a good reminder that even though we are free from sin, we are still in the world to serve God.

Rom 6:17  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

Rom 6:18  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

This is a somewhat unpopular passage because people like to think that they are their own master. People want to do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. However, there are really only two options in this situation.

We can either be slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.

However, this slavery is not necessarily a negative thing like slavery obviously is on earth. This slavery means that we will perform the will of our master, and because God has perfect motives and directives, we can be assured that our paths will be straight.

In other words, if we could follow God perfectly, that would be the best place in the world to be because He will never lead us astray. When you follow humans, they are bound to disappoint. God will never do anything like that.

It is important to think about all of this material. Yes, we’re definitely free from sin, but we are set free from sin to serve God. That should be our highest duty while we are on earth.

Exodus 28: Guard Your Heart

It is kind of interesting that armor can often represent the protection that we need from God in order to survive in our everyday lives.  For the priests in the temple in Exodus chapter 28, there was also some armor that they were commanded to wear.

Exo 28:4  And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.

Of course, the breastplate stood out to me because that is also a piece of the full armor of God mentioned much later in the Bible.

Eph 6:14  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

In Exodus, their breastplate has a different purpose attached to it, but I think that we can draw some parallels.

Exo 28:15  And thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work; after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it; of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen, shalt thou make it.

In one verse, we’re talking about righteousness, and in the other verse we’re talking about judgment.  How do those fit together?

To think literally for a minute, the purpose of a breastplate is to protect your heart.  Consequently, having judgment and righteousness will protect your heart in my figurative example.

In my mind, I’d like to think of judgment as discernment, and according to the Hebrew translator available on my computer Bible from e-Sword, those two words are actually interchangeable in this situation.

So, what exactly should we be doing?

In order to keep our way straight and guard our heart, we need righteousness and discernment.  The righteousness comes directly from God, and we need Him to help us make the right decisions in life.  That is where the discernment comes in.  We need to make sure that we are really asking God for help in these difficult decisions rather than going on our own whims.

It is important for us to guard our hearts, but these are two of tools that God provides to help us and support us along our journey