TERMS: Let's start by speaking the same language
2) Christian and righteousness
wise are instructed by reason; ordinary minds by experience; the stupid,
by necessity; and brutes by instinct."
way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens
What is Christian?
-- WHO SAYS?
Anyone can describe
themselves as Christian and many people do. Yet Christian is not a subjective
description, rather it is a definite state of being. This state is defined
by the Bible, which thereby serves as our guide to determine who is and
is not a Christian. The Bible defines a Christian as one who has spiritually
been born again of the Spirit of God. (See also "What
is the gospel?")
This is a once in a
lifetime spiritual birth, subsequent to natural birth, that removes a person
from spiritual death and begins their eternal life. A Christian believes
in the person and deity of Jesus Christ, is indwelt with the God's Spirit,
and seeks to follow his teachings as given in the Bible. A Christian is
evidenced by a love for God, the denial of self relative to the will of
God, and the increasing desire and ability to carry out God's will.
-- THE BASICS
Though many who observe
a believer's desire to obey God might conclude that Christianity is a matter
of being good so as to earn one's way to heaven, that conclusion is totally
wrong. Moreover, the concept that God's love and grace is somehow earned
or deserved is one of the most pervasive errors in all of non-Christiandom.
Godly obedience is the result of being born again, not the cause.
C.S. Lewis, in his book
Mere Christianity, said this of Christians: "God does not love us
because we're good, He makes us good because He loves us."
- God's nature is one
of both love and justice,
- His just nature demands
- We have all sinned
and are incapable of attaining that perfection,
- God's just nature
demands our eternal death.
- Knowing we are under
his death penalty, and yet still loving us, God became incarnate in the
person of Jesus and lived out his own perfect standard.
- Because of his love
for us, Jesus allowed himself to die on the cross as a substitute for
our sins, though he himself was without sin.
- By this sacrificial
act, Jesus' death satisfied God's just nature on behalf of ourselves,
and removed God's wrath against any and all who will believe that Jesus
is the Savior who accomplished their salvation.
- Believing in Jesus
is effectively crucifying our own will and becoming subject to God's will
as it is revealed to humanity collectively in the Bible, and to us personally
by his Spirit. In this manner, Jesus applies his own quality of righteousness
(or perfection) to us, which is how we are made able to come into the
presence of God.
- Jesus physically
rose from the dead as proof of his divine messiahship and proof that our
sin debt was paid in full. Jesus now lives to intercede before God the
Father for those who believe, and lives to express his characteristics
in and through our own lives.
- Jesus will one day
reappear to judge the world; after which those who refused to believe
will be irretrievably cast into a "lake of fire". But all those
who did believe will "be made like him", and will rejoice,
serve, and enjoy him forever.
-- YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
No one is a Christian
because their parents were Christians, or because they were baptized, or
are a good person, or go to church, or because the're Catholic or Protestant
or anything else. As Billy Sunday once remarked, "Sitting in a pew no more
makes you a Christian than sitting in a garage makes you a car."
and good deeds are all peripheral issues to this: being spiritually reborn
into the family of God, and then sharing a daily intimate and active relationship
with God through faith in Jesus Christ as empowered by his Holy Spirit.
How can the Lord do
this for you? Once you believe in him, and come to him in humilty, sincerity,
and awe of his holy being, you will know God has surely moved to secure
a place for you in heaven with him.
6.5 What is righteousness?
-- NO POISON FOR ME, THANKS
The Bible indicates
that everyone will spend eternity in only one of two places; heaven or hell.
Only those in right standing with God (the righteous) will spend their eternity
As stated previously,
the most common misconception about Christianity is that this right standing
or approval is some relative measure that has to be earned with one's goodness
or keeping God's commands. But in truth, God does not give eternity to anyone
who shows a little goodness, or who weighs out more good than bad, or even
to those who are 99.999% good. Heaven is for perfection, and God does
not grade on a curve. Only those with God's righteousness, his very
own quality of perfection, can exist in his presence in heaven.
to bring into his presence anything less than perfection is somewhat like
our unwillingness to drink poison. While we would obviously not drink a
glass full of lethal poison, neither would we find a glass that is only
half or a quarter full of lethal poison any more appealing. For us, the
key word is poison. For God, the key word is sin.
Like our concern for
the purity of what we take in, God's holiness requires perfect righteousness
in those whom he takes in. Of course, there are only two ways to have this
quality of righteousness. One way is to have never sinned, the other way
is to receive it from God.
-- DID GOD GIVE US LAWS WE CAN'T
To have never sinned,
we would have to have never deviated from God's laws for our entire lives.
However, God's laws are not easily kept, nor is there anyone who comes close
to being perfect.
did God furnish these laws if they are too difficult for us to keep?
The laws were given
1) so that we might
better understand his perfection and purity (ultimately our goal),
2) for our own
3) that we might
come to recognize our need for God's help (by the fact that we are
unable to perfectly keep those laws). The degree to which we have broken
God's laws is also the measure by which he will condemn us unless we come
to a right standing with him.
One deviation from a
single law and any self-righteousness is worthless. After a single sin,
there is nothing we can do to restore ourselves. This is as futile as a
baseball player trying to achieve a 1.000 career batting average after suffering
a strikeout his or her first time up. Not even a lifetime of perfect playing
will erase that one imperfection.
Similarly, a perfect
driving record amounts to nothing once a court convicts you of driving over
the speed limit. For when an officer pulls you over, he or she does not
weigh the months or years you spent obeying the law against the minutes
or seconds you spent breaking them. In this sense, traffic laws are very
much like God's laws in that they do not exist to grade you on how you act
most of the time. You broke the law once and that is enough; neither
a perfect past nor the promise of a perfect future will get you out of trouble.
-- NO ALTERNATIVE
Because all of us have
sinned, self-righteousness is inadequate and insufficient to qualify us
to come into God's presence. So in order to gain the necessary right
standing with God, we have no alternative other than faith. Specifically,
we must achieve that right standing by faith (extending our trust) in Jesus
to have been sufficient payment for the penalty for our sins. For with our
sins paid for and Christ's righteousness imputed to us as promised, God's
legal charge against our sin is satisfied and we are free to stand before
God as though we had never sinned.
Of course, only if Christ
were God could he have done what no one else could do: meet his own perfect
standard and thus be able to die (pay the penalty) for our sins rather than
his own. And by rising after death, he put on display the fact that his
sacrifice on our behalf was accepted and that we can follow in his footsteps.
Thus our faith is not merely in the reality of his having lived, or having
died for our sins, or having risen again as proof our sin was paid for.
Our faith is actually interactive with both his living person and his principles
for the rest of eternity.
In the Bible's words,
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your
heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the
heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses,
resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in Him
will not be disappointed.'" (Romans 10:9-11 NASB, emphasis mine)
NEXT: WHY THINK ABOUT THE BIBLE:
A nautical tale
What is the