Friday, February 12, 2010

Christ Now IS Our Righteousness

At Redeemer, on Sunday mornings, we have for months now been preaching on John chapters 14-17. One thing clear in all of this is that, if you are a Jesus-follower, the secret of your followership has nothing to do with legalistic, rule-oriented, back-breaking, burden-bearing, guilt-motivated human striving to be like Christ. We see in Paul's letters how he clarifies the Jesus-motifs of John 14-17. For example, look at Eugene Peterson's "Message" translation of 1 Cor. 1:26-31:

"Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.""

The NIV translates 1 Cor. 1:31 as: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."

The Pauline ideas carry forth the central Jesus-truth found in John chs. 14-17; viz., that followers of Jesus will do the things Jesus did as they dwell in Christ ("remain" in Christ; "abide" in Christ; stay connected to Christ like a vine is connected to the branches). Christ now is our righteousness. This, therefore, has nothing to do with our striving and working hard to be, somehow, righteous as Jesus is righteous.

Andrew Murray writes, in ch. 8 of Abide in Christ: "The union to Jesus has effected a change not only in the relation to God, but in the personal state before God. And as the intimate fellowship to which the union has opened up the way is maintained, the growing renewal of the whole being makes righteousness to be his very nature. To a Christian who begins to see the deep meaning of the truth, "HE is made to us righteousness," it is hardly necessary to say, "Abide in Him.""

Murray adds: The follower of Jesus "understands what deep meaning there is in the key-word of the Epistle to the Romans: "The righteous shall live by faith." He is not now content with only thinking of the imputed righteousness as his robe; but, putting on Jesus Christ, and seeking to be wrapped up in, to be clothed upon with Himself and His life, he feels how completely the righteousness of God is his, because the Lord our righteousness is his. Before he understood this, he too often felt it difficult to wear his white robe all the day: it was as if he specially had to put it on when he came into God's presence to confess his sins, and seek new grace. But now the living Christ Himself is his righteousness--that Christ who watches over, and keeps and loves us as His own; it is no longer an impossibility to walk all the day enrobed in the loving presence with which He covers His people."

"Imputed" righteousness is: righteousness give to us as a gift, and not about us being instrinsically wonderful people. As Murray says, Romans 1:17 contains a deep truth: "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.""

If you are a Jesus-follower slow down now in your heart... take a deep breath... relax... rest... your God loves you...  God "imputes" the righteousness of Christ in you... it's not you that is the hope of glory, but "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

From Brandon Robinson, on Murray ch. 8:

To abide, means I have nothing to achieve

A righteous person follows the law against the force of lawlessness. His actions follow the decisions about right and wrong as established by a will. A truly righteous person follows the law perfectly. He only acts to cooperate with the direction of the established will. When a person is truly righteous, the power behind the will trusts him. Since the person follows the will perfectly, he is trusted with treasures of the heart which generate the will. Consider that a person will suffer heavily to trust his heart’s treasure to an unrighteous person.

To be ‘in’ a person, this phrase, means to know my experience through the other person’s presence. The fact that this someone else is with me, takes first precedence over the faculty of my comprehension, and the quality of my person. The presence of the other person is my immediate reference point for experiencing the current circumstances, in my thought, and in my identity.

To be in a person, and for this person to account as my righteousness, means that the established will that holds me before it is too great for me. It means that this other person, who has internalized me into himself, has followed the way of the will perfectly. It means that, in my unrighteousness, this other person was willing to suffer and absorb the void between my lowly state and the will. It means that, because of this person’s suffering, I am entrusted with the treasures of a heart so sacred, they would pulverize me if I stood alone.

Jesus as my righteousness removes the lawlessness, and fulfills the law. It leaves me abiding, with His presence, with His Heart, towards His will. I have nothing to achieve, and everything to love.