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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Christ's Righteousness vs. Our Righteousness.
A sinless person could maintain their sinless state through perfect obedience, but a sinner who maintains a sinless state after having sinned is still a sinner.

I used the example of virginity to make the point in a previous post. Abstinence, if practiced by a virgin maintains that virginity, but abstinence practiced after having lost one's virginity does not produce "new" virginity.

It is patently obvious that obedience does not make us blameless - that is, no amount of righteousness can undo even a minuscule but previous indiscretion. Once you sin, that's it - you are no longer righteous, in the sense of being blameless. All your obedience thereafter cannot reproduce that blameless state - you are spoiled, ...unclean - and all your righteous efforts cannot clean you up - they are, for that purpose at least, about as useful for cleaning you up as filthy rags.

With the exception of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there is no man who has ever walked the earth blameless before God. Given a chance, every last person eventually sins and no sinner is that kind of righteous. No sinner can or will (therefore) ever be reconciled to God by subsequent obedience.

This is where the gospel message is so important, since we cannot, through subsequent obedience, become blameless once blame has been found in us, we cannot be reconciled to God by our own obedience. The way of reconciliation then, is not through personal obedience, but through faith. By faith we enter into a union with Christ, and it is through this union that our sins were presented to God on Calvary, and there Christ died the first death here on earth at the hands of men, and again the second death in our stead, at the hands of God.

We make a distinction here for clarity - God doesn't punish sin, He punishes sinners because of their sin. Through the believer's union with Christ, God punished believers in Christ on Calvary, and when Christ had fully suffered God's spent wrath, He died and so too died every believer in Christ. We were died and were buried with Christ - that is what Paul writes. But because Christ was innocent, God raised Him up after spending all of His wrath. We who were in Christ, united to Him by faith, we had to be raised up with Christ when Christ was raised, for such is the defining nature of our union with Christ. God's wrath being entirely spent, it was just and right for God to raise us up in Christ. Having spent His wrath on us in Christ, God had no reason to punish us further, but He also had no reason to raise us up again to life - the death that we died, we died justly. But Christ, being united with us could not be justly held in the grave, and so for the sake of His righteousness, God had to raise Him, and since we were in Christ, and since our penalty had been received in full - there was nothing stopping God from raising Christ, and us with Him.

So when we talk about justifying righteousness, we are talking about that which obligated God to raise Christ from the dead - a blamelessness that requires our just God to undo the wrongful death of His innocent Christ. We speak of this righteousness as being imputed to us who are in Christ - for it is this same righteousness that merited Christ's resurrection.

We cannot add to this righteousness by acts of personal righteousness, nor can we take away from it by acts of personal disobedience. We are justified by a righteousness that is entirely external to ourselves - a righteousness that is received by and through trusting that God will absolutely save ever sinner who humbles himself in faith before God.

Now, I want to be certain that the nature of our salvation isn't foggy on this point, so I will examine how this wouldn't work with some other sinless sacrifice: Consider a sinless new born babe.

If we could be united by faith to a sinless new born babe, God would be obligated because of our sin, to pour His wrath out on us, and we would die the second death, along with the babe, and God would be obliged by His own righteousness to raise us up again, along with the babe into the same relationship we now stand in - MAKE SURE YOU GET THIS PART - that is, we would be raised sinless but continue in the curse of Adam because the babe, though sinless, has inherited Adam's curse - we would be just as enslaved to sin as ever before, and every last one of us would sin again - because we would be raised right back into the same pit we are presently in.

Christ wasn't just sinless, He was outside of the curse of Adam - the second Adam. What was raised in Christ was raised outside of Adam's curse - our new life is hidden in Christ, incorruptible. If we could find some other innocent sacrifice born of Adam's race, it could only suffice to raise us all back into this corruptible system. Christ, therefore, is the only path for both sinners and sinless babes to be reconciled to God. Sinners need to be reconciled to God on account of their personal sin, and need to be raised up in new life, and sinless babes, although they need no Savior from their own sin, they need to be raised in Christ to be saved from Adam's curse.

Thus even innocent, sinless babes need Christ - not for their personal sins, for they are not condemned on this account - but they need to be saved out of Adam's race - to be saved out of Adam's curse -and while scripture is very clear that we are saved from -sin- by faith, it doesn't give instruction about how we are saved from Adam's curse. Speculate as you will, but I believe innocent children are saved from Adam's curse, not by faith, since no newborn can exercise faith, but rather by grace. I base that upon the scriptures which suggest that God calls the children to Himself, ...period.

But all this sort of righteousness is what we would call imputed. You do not have it because of your obedience, nor do you lose it because of disobedience. You have it solely and only because you have been united to Christ by grace through faith.

Yet scripture speaks often of personal righteousness. Do we imagine, for a moment that well over 50 references to "the righteous" in the book of proverbs are referring to perfectly sinless people who by their own obedience have maintained a state of blamelessness from birth? No, of course not! We mean people who are practicing obedience, or said another way, we mean those who are humble and contrite before their God.

A lot of bad theology flows from an unwillingness, or an inability to make a clear distinction between the righteousness that justifies, and the righteousness that flows from personal obedience.

There are people who join themselves to the idea of Christianity, not because they see themselves as sinners, or recognize the irreconcilable position they are in or tremble under the full knowledge that their condemnation is just and that they deserve hell for their continuing rebellion - they don't see Christianity as restoring them back into a right relationship with God through the sacrificial efforts of Christ, received by faith, rather they regard God as a cosmic killjoy who is going to send them to hell if they don't join the right team - and so, because they love themselves, they join themselves to the Christian religion. The moment they consider their eternity secure, they pretty much have everything they came for, because they did not come to Christ for reconciliation - they are just jumping through hoops to try and avoid hell.

But scripture says that Christ came to save us from sin, not hell. It is certainly true that in being saved from sin, we will be saved from hell -but there is a difference between coming to Christ as a get out of hell ticket, and coming to Christ to be reconciled to God, and saved from our sin.

I mention this because the next, natural question is, if we are eternally secure by Christ's righteousness, and if our own righteous obedience cannot add to that, and if our disobedience cannot take away from that... why bother being obedient at all?

I say, this is the natural question because it is the question the natural (as opposed to the Spiritual) man would ask. Why should I obey? What's the point? Does it make any difference?

The answer is, of course it makes a HUGE difference, but first and foremost we need to understand that such a notion has many facets.

Consider the fact that the moment one is genuinely saved, the Holy Spirit begins to indwell that person. The Holy Spirit immediately begins a very real, very experiential ministry in the life of every genuine believer. They begin to repent because the Holy Spirit begins to minister in their life. Anyone who doesn't experience the promised ministry of the Holy Spirit does not have the Holy Spirit in Him, and is therefore not born again. They may think themselves to be genuine, but they aren't. It is not our place to decide who is genuine and who isn't. We cannot look into the hearts of men - even God's angels are not fit for such a discerning ministry - as scripture tells us. So don't bother. If you think some one's faith is bunk, check your own spirit - God doesn't call us to bunkify one another, He calls us excommunicate believers who fail to evidence the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives by refusing to acknowledge and repent of sin. It may be that a genuine believer needs to be cast out of fellowship and handed over to Satan in order to learn repentance - so even excommunicating a professing believer doesn't "prove" their faith is false - all it proves is that they are unfit for fellowship.

I mention this because one facet of our obedience is clearly the fact that the Holy Spirit is at work inclining our hearts to obedience.

But there is more to this than just new inclinations. Scripture speaks of practical righteousness as a means to contentment, fulfillment, joy, peace... to put it in a nutshell - the way of righteousness is life more abundant. In other words, even a godless man, or someone from a false religion who obeys the commandments God gives His children - even such a one as this will reap a much better physical life than the one who pursues pleasures for pleasure's sake. There are very few people on their death bed lamenting the fact that they didn't drive the fanciest cars, or have the biggest houses. In fact, people tend to get very wise as death encroaches upon them - they see clearly, many for the first time, just how empty (the "preacher" would call it "vain") so many of our carnal pursuits are. They never bring joy, they merely bring temporal pleasure or ease by which we are momentarily numbed against a persistent emptiness.

We could say that the reason we should obey is simply because God's way is the best way for us. That is, we recognize by faith that nothing we can come up with is going to be better for us that what God has come up with. We obey because we trust God's way as much as we trust God.

Again, we could say that the reason we should obey is because without personal holiness (obedience) we cannot have fellowship with God in the here and now. The Christian who disobeys God isn't going to make God hate Him or turn away from him, but in the same token the Christian who turns (momentarily) away from obeying God is going to be like the prodigal son wallowing in the pig's mire - spiritually starving and struggling, and miserable on that account. Who will ascend God's holy hill? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Obedience serves, amongst other things, to bring us into closer fellowship with God.

Likewise our faith and maturity grows as we obey the will of God. Drawing near to God allows God to draw near to you. For those who have learned this first hand, it is sweeter than any pleasure the world has to offer.

Thus our obedience does not maintain or produce a justified state - it doesn't get us out of hell, nor can it keep us from hell. Our righteousness serves no one more than it serves ourselves. God doesn't gain anything from our righteousness - in fact He gives to us when we are righteous. God doesn't lose anything when we are disobedient, except the opportunity to bless us. If we practice righteousness, therefore, it is either because we have learned the joy of the Lord (that's the right reason) or because we are trying to merit something (that's the wrong reason).

We should be encouraging one another daily to pursue the peace, joy, and fellowship that comes through righteousness, rather than telling people to buckle up and obey because that's what Christian's do. Fear will make a man obey in the moment, but love will make a man a willing, life long slave. Pursue love.

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posted by Daniel @ 10:02 AM  
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