Ministry Training Academy

The Ministry Training Academy of the International Churches of Christ

Recalibrate Righteousness

"Therefore ,preparing your minds for action,  andbeing sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passionsof your former ignorance,  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holyin all your conduct,  since it is written,“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1st Peter 1:13-16

"But  seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33

"You therefore must be  perfect,as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48

"Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. " 2nd Corinthians 7:1

" Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6  7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him;he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1 John 3:4-9No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

It's easy to create a culture - even in Church - where we do not expect holiness from one another. We instead establish unspoken "set points" of righteousness that fall somewhere below absolute righteousness. We become tacitly complacent with certain "slip ups." We lower the bar from holiness, purity, righteousness, perfection to "holiness minus x" where x becomes our tolerance for sin.

Tolerance for sin!?!! God forbid! It's time to let the Scriptures recalibrate our expectations for righteousness. Strive for a homeostasis of holiness. 

Does setting our sights higher, holier produce more of a performance mentality in which we beat ourselves over any and every slip? And what about grace? Are we now supposed to feel worse that we aren't PERFECT? Well we know that grace is no license for sin (Jude 4), and that sinning achieves nothing for exalting grace (Romans 6:1-2). But it IS grace that allows to Recalibrate Righteousness. Here's why:

Our righteousness is not our own. It's an alien righteousness, but a fantastic righteousness! 

" I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." Philippians 3:9-10

"The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." Romans 4:23-25

Here's something that few disciples appreciate - we have been credited with Jesus' righteousness! What a gift. Grace is not just about the removal of sin, but also about the imputation of righteousness. If Jesus only came to die for our sins, then he could have popped down to earth as a man and gone straight to the cross. However, he came to give us so much more. He lived everyday for us. He's the one who bore the pressure of perfection every single day - but was without sin despite being tempted in every way. He established a record of righteousness in order to make us righteous, that is, justify us. When we were buried with Christ, our sins were credited to Him. However, when we were raised with Christ, His righteousness was credited to us. God made Him who was without sin to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2nd Corinthians 5:21)

So what are you going to do with this gift, the gift of perfect righteousness? Treasure it! Cherish it! Value it! Appreciate it! Each day, pray and contemplate the fullness of the grace given you in Christ. Contemplate and celebrate the righteousness of Jesus. I pray about his righteous acts of heroism, compassion, faith, humility, love, selflessness, and wisdom. After I again come to a place of awe of His righteousness, I then connect the dots... that's the righteousness that's been credited to... me!!! When we were baptized, we were not just emptied; we were also filled. Friends who tell me that they don't "get grace" often realize that this is what they "don't get." If grace only means subtraction, we'll never celebrate it's full richness. It's time to do some addition. Recalibrate who you really are in Christ. You are the righteousness of God! Treat that gift with the proper care and you'll know the power of recalibrating righteousness - not based on performance, but on God's grace.

Here's an illustration that helps in understanding how this gift, this grace, "teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). Think of how little thought you give to where you park or drive a car when it's dirty. Now go wash that car and your mindset changes; you take care to avoid mud puddles and sap dripping from trees when driving or parking. But the gift is more than a mere washing. So instead imagine that your car is repainted, reupholstered, chromed-out, decked out, waxed, and buffed. How much greater care will you exercise with this prized possession? But of course Satan has begun to whisper to you that you are the filthy car, not the pristine one. He wants you to deny this righteousness. You are righteous, because you are in Christ. It is not of ourselves so no one can boast, it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul reminds a struggling church in Corinth about this lovely truth when he tells them,"Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you WERE. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1st Corinthians 6:9-11 emphasis mine) 

Who we were in the flesh is radically different from who we are now in Christ. Compare these Biblical descriptions, because the difference is more dramatic than we usually appreciate. Why? We overestimate our capacity for righteousness in the Before picture, and we underestimate our capacity for righteousness in the After picture.

Before Picture:

  • Romans 1:18-32 “suppress the truth by their wickedness … thinking became futile … foolish hearts were darkened… claimed to be wise, they were fools … he gave them over to a depraved mind … senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless…”
  • Ephesians 2:1-3 “dead in your transgressions  and sins … by nature objects of wrath.”
  • Ephesians 4:17-19 “futility of their thinking… darkened in their understanding… ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts… lost all sensitivity… given themselves over
  • 2Corinthians 4:3-4 “veiled… blinded the minds of unbelievers… cannot see the light of the gospel…”


After Picture:

  • Romans 6:1-14 “freed from sin… old self was crucified… should no longer be slaves to sin… instruments of righteousness… sin shall not be your master”
  • Ephesians 2:4-5 “God… has made us alive with Christ”
  • Ephesians 4:22-24 “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”
  • 2Corinthians 4:5-6 “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God

 

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