Pastor Doug Stratton – August 13, 2017
Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
CCI: Our right relationship with God is based in the life and ministry of Jesus.
Intro: I am returning this morning to a favorite passage that was requested a few weeks ago. It was not really a passage, rather it was a truth that had settled in a man’s heart and had changed the way he viewed life. Mike Heffner asked me to preach on the Righteousness of Christ because when he learned that his standing with God was based on Jesus and not on his good deeds, his life was transformed. If you have not discovered the wonder of the righteousness of Christ in your life, I hope you will today make that same discovery.
What is the meaning of the word righteousness?
It has something to do with being good?
- the quality of being morally right or justifiable.
- a life lived in conformity to a known standard or law thus honesty, legality, and so on.
- right standing and consequent right behaviour, within a community.
Let’s put it in simpler language. To be righteous is to stand upright before God, to conform to God’s law in every way.
Now there are a lot of things that can keep us from standing upright before God. We can fail in our words, we can fail in our actions, we can fail in our attitudes, we can even fail in our inaction. In fact, though we are called to be righteous before God, and though God demands conformity to His law, Isaiah 64 says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (let’s say, old gym socks).” Our good deeds fall short, our gifts have selfish motives, our truth telling bends the truth, our love becomes a tool to gain power over another. Every good thing we do is stained by sin, and thus becomes pitiful, filthy rag.
If you are thinking, “Preacher, you are painting a pretty bad picture for all of us!”, you are right. We are all sinners, we have all fallen short of glorious ideal of God. In Paul’s words, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.”
So what are we to do? If God demands righteousness and even our best stinks, is there any place to turn?
That is what our passage in Romans is about. “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Jesus has demonstrated what righteousness is all about. It is a righteousness that comes through faith. Not good deeds that we can brag about, we can’t reach heaven, to enter God’s presence, we can’t reach down and rescue the dead, instead, God’s righteousness is given to us when we understand that “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” What is the word, it is the declaration that “Jesus is Lord!” Jesus is the one we serve. Jesus is the One for whom we live. Jesus is the One who now stands before the Father in our place. We are expected to stand right before God, and Jesus is the one who stands in for us.
When we stand before the Father we are facing our final exam. Have we lived a life that is morally perfect? Have we lived in conformity to God’s expectations? That is the exam. But is Jesus is our stand-in Jesus takes our place before the Father and says, “Look at me rather than him. I give him my righteousness.” In essence, Jesus does not only help us with the exam, he does not stop at letting us copy off his exam, but Jesus takes the final exam for us. It is in His righteousness that we stand.
But we must first, admit that we cannot pass the test. We must confess our inability to be righteous, and when we do, Jesus takes our place.
The implications of this are amazing. When we know that we have fallen short and we come to God with guilt and shame, Jesus says, Stand tall, it is my righteousness that matters.” In Phil 3, Paul wrote, “I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.”
We need never fear standing before God, for Jesus is standing in our place.
But Paul wants to make it exceedingly clear that Jesus’ righteousness is available to every one of us, no matter who we are, no matter where we were born, no matter what we have done. “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” That is good news. We have been saved and made right with God. One day we will dwell with Him for eternity.
But, what about today? What does Christ’s righteousness have to say to families impacted by cancer? Why is understanding and standing in the Righteousness of Christ important to the new parent? What does the righteousness of Christ have to say to parents who have lost their children to the opiod epidemic? What does the righteousness of Christ have to say to the events of hatred, violence and murder in Charlottsville this weekend?
I believe that the practical, life changing implications of what Jesus has done for us are found in the impact of righteousness which begins with right standing and leads inevitably to right behaviour, within a community. As we experience the freedom that comes from right standing with the Father, we will long to embody right behavior. It will change the way we act and the way we live.
Because the righteousness of Christ is changing us, we will stand with families who are being torn apart by sickness and disease.
Because the Righteousness of Christ is guiding us to the fruit of the Spirit, gentleness, peace, love and joy will charactize our lives as parents.
Because the Righteousness of Christ is transforming our priorities, we will join with groups like Angels in Motion to reach out and love addicts and their families.
And because the Righteousness of Christ will give us Jesus’ eyes to view the value and worth of every person, we will decry the hatred of White Nationalism. Yesterday, Alan Selig, the pastor at Upper Merion Baptist Church wrote: “Because it is important for white Christians to say something in response to racist declarations that theirs is a Christian position, this is me saying racism is not Christian. Declarations of white superiority (biological, cultural, political, theological or any other form) are a lie. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about love rather than hate, inclusion rather than exclusion, breaking down walls rather than building them, loving the enemy rather than destroying them, praying for those who oppose us rather than terrorizing them, the cross of suffering for other persons rather than the swastika of suffering inflicted upon them, wholeness and life rather than injury and death, open hands rather than closed fists. These are the spiritual DNA of the Family of God.” This is the speech of righteousness, this is the impact of the righteousness of Christ in our lives, for, as Paul said, “There is no difference between Jew or Gentile, the same Lord is the Lord of all.
May we today seek first His kingdom and His righteousness that we may find everything else.
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