Lent Day #36 | Righteousness

I want to share with you one of the many mind-blowing verses in the bible!

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, ESV)

I am stunned at the reality this points to. Before we go any deeper into the verse, let’s look at what righteousness is. Righteousness has been defined as having a right relationship with God. Now, this sounds great, but it does not describe for us how we can get to the right relationship. What does the journey from “here” to “there” look like?

As I have studied, thought and prayed about this I have composed a simplified definition based on what I have seen on my faith journey. I am sure others have come to a similar conclusion, so I do not claim exclusive rights to this. For me, righteousness is hearing or reading God’s word and saying to myself, “I will do whatever I have to do, to do what I have heard.” The essence of this idea is to take God at his word. What this means is making every effort to trust and comply and fulfill what God has said, living it out every day.

Paul says this about Abraham:

“So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'” (Galatians 3:6, NIV)

What did Abraham do? He believed God and then lived his life in light of what he believed about what God said. This is the key that releases toward us God’s blessing. When we move and live trusting in God we are saying He is the most important reality in our lives. This is the evidence of our desire for a right relationship with God. If our desire is to dwell with God, we must work toward that objective. We must do everything within our power to demonstrate it, to God and everyone else.

I want to be counted as righteous. Do you? And, if you say that is your desire, what are you doing to show God you are serious?

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Lent Day #35 | Sanctification

For the past eight years I served as a youth pastor in two United Methodist Churches. In that time I was introduced to John Wesley, the Methodist Movement and the particularly Wesleyan understanding of sanctification. I am not a Wesleyan theologian by any stretch, so please correct with kindness and grace.

John Wesley

As I studied the origins of Methodism, I discovered that the moniker was actually given as a ridicule, and not so much as a superlative. The members of the first Methodist group, a small band of college students, gathered together for accountability and bible study. What made this small band stand out was how methodical they were in their approach to living the Christian faith. It was this “methodism” that gave rise to the derision of their peers.

This short history lesson is important because it shows how, from the beginning, the people called Methodist chose to “work out [their] salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). The reality of the Christian life is found in the transformation that takes place in the heart and mind of the believer. We all are being changed. We all are growing (or at least should be growing) into greater Christ-likeness. This is what sanctification is. It is the process the Holy Spirit takes us through to become as much like Christ as we can be!

It can be tempting to think of sanctification as something we have to do on our own. As if it is something we can accomplish in our own power. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are not supposed to become like Jesus through our own efforts. I do not believe this was Paul’s intent in admonishing believers to “work out their salvation.”

One of my favorite foods is pizza. The reason I bring this up is that pizza dough has to be needed for two reasons. First, as it is needed the glutton in the flour is stretched making the pizza dough and delicious. (I am not a baker, but this is what I’ve heard!) The second reason, for kneaded the dough is to make sure that all of the seasoning that has been added to flavor the dough is spread throughout the entire dough. If you do not do this you will have pockets that have been filled with flavor and others that are bland and tasteless.

When we are working out our salvation, we are engaging in the process of sanctification. We have to ask ourselves if we are striving to surrender more and more areas of our life to the work of the Spirit, so he can “knead Jesus” into us. Are there areas of your life where Jesus is present and prominent? What about those areas where He is not? What is keeping you from opening up that area of your life to the Spirit’s influence?

Lent Day #34 | Propitiation

This could very well be the one word that has impacted my understanding of Jesus’ life, sacrifice and resurrection. In short, this word incapsulates the central promise of the Gospel. There are three realities that converge in the universe requiring the Gospel. The first is divine holiness. The second is human sin. The third is the resolution of the first two realities. We will look at each of these briefly so we can understand how Propitiation provides the answer.

The Divine Nature

When we talk about divine holiness we are talking about the nature of God’s existence. We are trying to describe how God exists within the divine essence. Basically, we are trying to say something meaningful about how God interacts with the world he created, and then how that creation responds to God’s presence in it.

The reason it is important to know something about God’s nature is because if we get this wrong we will make errors in evaluating God’s response to sin.

The hardest part of what the bible says about God regards his holiness. God is not just perfect, God is pure and undefiled. What this means is anything not equalling God’s divine standard is not only worthy of punishment, but also of damnation. The reason we have to go this far is because of the value and worth of God. We have to esteem God because he is worthy of it.

Human Sin

Here we begin to see the problem keeping humanity from a relationship with God. Sin is not just an act, it is also general inclination of the heart. Our hearts are not naturally focused on God, but rather toward ourselves or the things of this world. We would rather do our own thing than what God would ask or command us.

The human sin problem is more than we can comprehend. Not less. Things are worse than we would like to admit, not better. This is what causes many to take lightly the sacrifice of Jesus. If Christ’s sacrifice is what it takes to redeem a lost soul, how can we make so little of God’s love?

What we have to understand is this: sin is a real and ugly problem. No one leaves this world unscathed by sin. We all suffer, and some of us suffer more than most.

The Gospel = Propitiation

We have now arrived at the third reality of why we need the Gospel. God’s divine nature and human sin cannot co-exist. It is like oil and water.

The wonder of the Gospel is that God has made provision to fix the problem. When Jesus came into the world his mission was to take the penalty of our sin and then transfer to us (each of us who put our trust in God) his righteousness. What God required from us, Jesus fulfilled on our behalf.

When we talk about propitiation we are saying that when God punished our sin in Jesus’ body on the cross, God did not hold anything back. God unleashed the full weight of his wrath upon his son, so we could become the righteousness of God in Christ. If God does not fully punish sin, he cannot love or forgive fully. Propitiation is the evidence that God has not withheld anything of himself from us when it comes to our redemption.

Exploring the Gospel's Implications