Random Blog Clay Feet: December 04, 2008
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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rightousness of Christ Revisited

Why is it said that the righteousness of Christ is the only safe foundation on which we can build our spiritual experience?

What does it really mean anyway? It can't simply mean to just believe that Jesus was perfect and righteous, can it? I am sure that the demons believe that Jesus was righteous as far as His behavior went, but that belief is not going to save them.

What are the alternatives to believing in the righteousness of Jesus alone that are so dangerous?

What does it really look like for a person to believe this truth? How would it affect their life and their thinking?

What parts of a person's psyche need to be involved in this belief?

One thing that I have been slowly learning over the past few years is that at least part believing in the righteousness of Christ alone for salvation means to reject all open or secret ideas that involve thinking that somehow I can contribute to the righteousness that earns me a right to enter into heaven. In the qualifying robe (which in the Bible represents righteousness) that is needed for each person to enter into the joy of the wedding feast, there cannot be even one thread of human devising or that person will be disqualified from participating in the feast.

Is this an arbitrary rule by a nit-picking God looking to keep as many people out of heaven as possible? Or is this kind of thinking itself a clue of the presence of a lack of belief in the righteousness of Jesus?

Our assumptions about what this teaching means really is greatly dependent on the angle from which a person chooses to view all of these things. And the angle of perception is determined by what our preconceptions are about how good and fair God is, especially what we believe deep in our hearts that may often be heavily masked by our professed beliefs or our church's organized and predigested doctrines. We may have convinced ourselves through years of professing belief and outward practice of saying the right answers to please those around us, that we think we really believe that God is righteous. But our motive for saying these things may be more from fear of saying the wrong answer, not because the answer resonates in agreement with how our heart feels deep inside.

But one thing I have been coming more and more aware of over the past few years is that the belief that is needed for me to be saved is definitely not primarily an intellectual assent or acknowledgment of factual truths about God but is much more involved in having my heart and mind congruent and synchronized together in their beliefs about God. And I am observing more and more that there are millions of people who are secret believers in the real truth about God who don't even know yet that they are believers. Outwardly they may even seem hostile to religion, but that is because the religion they have seen is so mis-representative of the truth about God, and in their heart they know He must be much better.

Now I am also beginning to perceive that this issue of believing in the righteousness of Christ alone is also subject to update just as my perceptions of why Jesus died are being radically updated and revised. If Jesus did not come to appease an angry God and run interference between us and the Father to keep Him from being mad at us, as most Christians assume and teach so widely, then most all the assumptions about the cross as taught in popular Christianity fall in disarray on the ground and I have to discover for myself the real reasons that Jesus came to earth to live and die and be resurrected.

And parallel to this I also have to discover for myself the real issues involved in this doctrine of the righteousness of Christ alone. Just as Jesus was not here to change the Father's heart about us but to change our hearts about the Father, I am now starting to see that my heart's opinions along with my intellectual ones about how authentically righteous both Jesus and God really are lies along the very same path of reforming my opinions about religion, the Bible and what is really truth.

Since it is clear that Jesus came to reveal the heart of the Father to humanity, not to change the heart of the Father toward humanity, then Jesus and the Father both feel exactly the same way toward us and have all along. When I choose to fully embrace that fact and to change my opinions, especially at the heart level, about how God feels about me and how radical He is in trying to bring me back into safe harmony with His dangerous and passionate presence of love, then I am actually believing in the righteousness of Jesus. For the righteousness of Jesus implies by association the righteousness of God as well.

So what does this really mean anyway? What does it mean to believe that both Jesus and God are righteous? What really is righteousness?

One thing that is becoming more and more clear to me is that righteousness is not based on behavior and performance. Those are symptoms of righteousness, fruits of righteousness, not righteousness itself. So to focus on the acts and performance of Jesus while living on this earth as a human and thinking that those things constitute righteousness is to miss the main point and to view reality through skewed lenses. It also creates the atmosphere that promotes legalism which is the counterfeit and enemy of real righteousness. Trying to be righteous enough to get into heaven is based on a secret belief that God in some way is not totally righteous Himself, even though that is very difficult to understand. But it implies many things about salvation that are perversions of the real truth.

That righteousness is a precondition for any person to enter heaven is a solid fact of reality. No one can ever enter into the presence of God and survive if they are not totally cleansed of all sin. But a proper understanding of the true meaning of each of these words is essential or the counterfeit ideas are quick to creep in and distort our thinking and reinforce the many false assumptions about God and about salvation that we have been immersed in for all of our lives and that permeate almost all of religion.

Sin, like righteousness, is not performance oriented but is a condition or attitude of the heart. The “sins” that we typically believe are the definition of what we think sin is are only symptoms of an underlying condition of sin in the heart. Sin is an attitude of independence from God, a desire and choices based on that desire, to live apart in any way from the perfect design on which all the universe was created. It is choosing to resist living in total dependence on God for everything.

So when I believe in the righteousness of Christ alone as the basis for my salvation, I also need to accept the fact that I am completely incapable of having a pure motive of any kind untainted with selfishness (which is the essential core of sin). Only Christ exemplified a nature completely free of all selfishness in every detail. And the opposite of selfishness is pure love.

So the only way I will ever be prepared to enter into heaven is to have the presence of Jesus and His Spirit of totally selfless love living so thoroughly inside of my heart that it will displace all of the selfishness of my flesh that wars against the impulses that Jesus inspires within me.

Believing in the righteousness of Jesus alone will also mean that I will let go of all the lies about how I think the Father views me that are contrary to the reality that Jesus came to show me about the Father and His attitude towards me. It is an acknowledgment that only Jesus is capable of revealing the total fairness, justice, mercy, love, forgiveness, compassion and perfection that is the identity of both Him and His Father. And when I allow Him full access to every part of my own heart and life, His perfect righteousness has the power to displace every lie that has been embedded in my mind, heart and soul due to the sinfulness of my human nature.

What I am slowly learning is that this is the real reason Jesus came to die on the cross. It was not to change God's heart toward us in the slightest, for God's heart was already in Christ reconciling us to Him. No, this glorious revelation on the cross was completely designed to change my mind and heart about the Father and to embrace the fact that only God is really righteous, totally unselfish and is not arbitrary, vindictive or lacking in patience, mercy or anything else He has revealed about His goodness. And embracing this truth will force us to rethink what really happens in hell when all of creation will finally meet its Maker. For our beliefs about what really happens in hell are some of the surest indicators of what we really believe about the righteousness of God.

If we believe that God executes sinners using force and vengeance as we think of it, then that belief will be incongruent with our claim that God alone is righteous. Instead of testing our doctrines against the righteousness of God, we change our interpretation of the word righteousness to fit our theology and our doctrines of hell and then call that the mystery of God, His strange work. But what we are really doing is hiding all sorts of terrible implications just under the surface of our teachings.

But when we really understand and embrace the real truth about righteousness and then understand how that reveals the real heart of the Father through Jesus Christ, then our ideas about what happens in hell as well as many other interactions we have with God here in this life will be radically altered, updated and will become congruent will all the other truths that are more plain to us even now.

What we need is a revival of true godliness in its original sense. We must have a revelation of the true glory of God, His perfect, selfless and consistent character of love, mercy, grace and justice that are never out of harmony or in conflict with each other. We need to understand the real truth about what righteousness really means so that its attractiveness will become so obvious that every honest, sincere heart will embrace it with enthusiasm and eagerness.

God, send us the light!

Some other time I want to explore what 1 John 1:9 really means in relation to understanding the truth about the righteousness of Christ.