Christ’s Righteousness

Sometimes we say to God, “OK, God, I’ve been forgiven by you in this moment, so you just tell me exactly what to do and how to live from this moment on so I never have to do anything wrong again. That way, I won’t sin again.” This is a problem, not because we don’t want to sin, that’s a good desire, but because we don’t trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We’re saying, if I just do all the correct behaviors, I will not sin again. We’re not to trust our own righteousness, meaning, we’re not to try to maintain our relationship with God through the avoidance of sin. Instead, we’re to trust the righteousness of Jesus Christ, knowing that we are washed clean of sin through Him.

Sometimes, when I’ve been discussing this with people who are more in the first camp than the second, their response is, “So you’re saying it’s OK to sin because Jesus will forgive you?” No, of course not. Nothing about accepting the righteousness of Christ is about making it OK to sin. If your heart is in such a place that hearing that you have been made righteous by Christ makes you want to break all the rules or live selfishly, I want to ask you to question your heart. Why does hearing that make you think it’s ok to do what you want when you want? Perhaps, you think of Christianity/religion as a way to force ethical behaviors. As in, if you don’t’ have a rule or a community that defines certain things as wrong, there’s no possible way that you could live by that rule. This once again points back to a complete lack of faith. We’ve been given the Holy Spirit as a guide and a comforter. If you are so out of tune with the Holy Spirit that you don’t trust any part of yourself to behave if someone isn’t punishing you for bad behavior, you might seriously want to consider a spiritual tune up. Practice listening to Him and accepting His input, not demanding rules and oversight.

The next piece of this response is the confusion of forgiveness with ignorance of problems. God doesn’t forgive you because He overlooks your issues or turns a blind eye to your mistakes. That’s not forgiveness and it certainly isn’t mercy. We often think in terms of discipline for our children. When we overlook mistakes, we often just let things slide. We offer mercy by not completing the justice part of the equation. God never ever does that.

God’s mercy is fully aware of our sin. He can see and knows our sin and darkness and selfishness. He doesn’t just wink at problems. He is in a fix-it mission with the focus being our hearts. God is also a just God. He doesn’t allow sin in His presence, which is why He can’t just close His eyes to it. For us to be in His presence, we must have atoned and dealt with our sin.

Jesus Christ is where God’s mercy and His justice collide. He hasn’t provided a way for God to ignore your sin; He’s provided a way for God to eliminate your sin. It’s gone, thrown away and never seen again. It’s been atoned for by blood sacrifice and removed.

Your forgiveness in Christ is full and complete. What might be incomplete is your acceptance of God’s forgiveness. God offers it fully and completely, but not unconditionally. You must believe on the name of Jesus and let His righteousness define you instead of your own. Repentance is not a 12 step program to help eliminate bad behaviors. It’s not even a process of admitting to God that you have problems (He already knows that). It’s about letting go of your own personal need to be good and letting God’s complete righteousness fill you.


Prodigal God, Part 2 – Sermon Notes

[These notes are from a sermon by Craig Kackly at Church of the Four Corners in Independence, MO. Today’s notes are part 2 of series Prodigal God. The whole series including this sermon can be seen on their website.]

We think that only the younger son in the Prodigal Son parable was lost, but in fact it was both sons.

Recap from last week: there is nothing we can do to disqualify ourselves from God’s love. This parable is told to the teachers of the law, not to the sinners.

This Week: The Older Brother

The older brother is off doing something long enough that he doesn’t know what’s going on. From the servant, he learns that the father has thrown a great feast and accepted the younger brother back as a son. In response, he becomes angry and refuses to go.

By accepting the younger brother back, the father has set him back as a son. This means he has decreased the inheritance of the older brother [the father’s forgiveness comes at a cost]. By refusing to enter the banquet, the older brother is making a statement that he disagrees with the father’s choice to accept back the younger son.

Now we see the father pursuing a lost son again, when he goes and pleads with the older brother. [Note the word play on son of yours when the son speaks to this brother of yours when the father speaks.]

The unresolved nature of the story makes sense when you remember who the audience is. [The Pharisees would have been the older brother, so the response of the older brother would have been represented by their response, hence the open-ended story.]

The younger brother represents self-discovery. Letting go of inhibitions to experience the world and find out what there is to offer. Someone on this path seeks happiness and fulfillment through determining your own choices.

The older brother represents a moral conformist. It’s someone who does whatever their righteous culture or church says they should. They give, serve, pray, but it’s never intimate and life giving. It’s dry and lifeless. There’s no joy, instead there’s guilt.

Both sons rebel against the father. Younger son through bad choices, the older son through good choices. We can rebel by breaking all the rules or by keeping all the rules. The older brother did everything right, but still alienated himself from the father.

The sin here is all about putting yourself in the place of Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life. All the older brother’s good deeds are an attempt to control the father for what he can get, not in true submission to serve from love. Whether you are a sinner or a religious person, both paths lead to death w/out Jesus.