Devotional: They Will Know we are Christians
God’s pursuit of us never ceases to amaze me. As a Christian, I do not believe in coincidence since I trust that the Lord is sovereign over all. The things that seem coincidental have ‘God intentional’ written all over them. I have found that when He challenges me with a conviction, it is never a one-time deal – I witness Him pursuing me continually through His word, through sermons, through the people in my life - suddenly, the thing that I was convicted of seems like it’s everywhere! Pastor Barry’s sermon this weekend felt ‘God intentional’ as the message he preached seemed like it was directed at me. Perhaps some of you have experienced this before as well.
Last week I was listening to a lecture from the Sonship Series on biblical justification and active versus passive righteousness. Somewhere in the discussion, the speaker, Josiah Bancroft, said something that I thought was quite profound. He said, “If I were to try and suppose what the real character of God is by looking at the life of most Christians, my opinion of him as a father would be pretty awful… as people come into the churches and they hear what our lives say, even more than our mouths, they must wonder what kind of god is it that we serve; so far away, so difficult to please, so promising of heaven yet so distant in this world.” (1994) He goes on to ask the question, “what do our lives say about the God that we serve?” (1994) I spent a long time thinking and praying about this question. In fact, I am still thinking and praying about it. I think it is an excellent question to consider. As Christians, a huge part of our ministry is the way that we live our lives. This is a direct witness of God to the people around us. Those who may not come to church to hear the word of God still have the opportunity to come face to face with Him through His people. But what message are we sharing about the character of God through the way that we live and act?
In his sermon from this past Sunday, Pastor Barry quoted Paul in Galatians chapter 1 verse 6-7 saying, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” (ESV) Pastor Barry explained that we are prone to distort or pervert the gospel, reversing the work of Christ. He goes on to quote Martin Luther in which he said, “there is no middle ground between Christian righteousness and works righteousness. There is no other alternative to Christian righteousness but works righteousness. If you do not build your life on the work of Christ, you must build your confidence on your own work.” You see, our inclination is to pervert the gospel and to try to build up our own righteousness. Pastor Barry pointed out how often we turn to other things to save us, living as if Jesus plus something makes us right with God. And as Pastor Barry so succinctly put it: it becomes enslaving. It is a task master. We are no longer living in the freedom of Christ but we are enslaved to our own righteousness, or lack thereof. And as we live, enslaved to building up our own righteousness, the witness of God that we share with others is a perversion of who He really is. We reject His perfect love and abundant grace and instead, show the world a God who is distant and who’s love is dependent upon our performance.
Living in the passive (or received) righteousness that we receive from Christ is true freedom because it is given to us, through faith, with no requirements or standards to be met. It is a free gift of love that is offered to us through grace. It is impossible for us to earn our own righteousness, yet we all find ourselves straying at some point, trying to build up our own record. I find that it is so easy to slip into this mindset of “active righteousness”. Without thinking, I find myself justifying things that I do and say, comparing myself to others, blame-shifting, boasting, and building up my own record. Why do I do this? Why do we do this? Take heart, brothers and sisters, as I am continually reminded by God that the struggles we have against our flesh serve to point us to one who is greater. Our sin reminds us of our brokenness and need for a savior. And praise be to God that He has sent us that savior! He has sent Jesus, who lived a perfect life and who’s perfect record is transferred to us, while He suffered and died, taking on the wrath of God so that we might be spared from it and only ever know Him as our loving and gracious father. Our sin shows us our need for Him and when we turn to Him, we are reminded of how great His love is because Jesus died to save you and me – not because we were righteous but because we were sinners and He loved us still. May we remember His love for us and may we live in the passive righteousness of Christ so that our lives would be a witness to others as his adopted, righteous children.
Bancroft, J. (1994). Sonship Lecture Series – 3 [CD-ROM]. Serge Global Inc.
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