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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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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
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Monday, November 25, 2013
Righteousness (Thoughts on the Fall Part II)
The difference between a live body and a corpse is that whatever "life" is, it only resides in the live body, and does not exist in the dead one.

How do we know that someone is alive?  We know a person lives because their body is animated by life.  They have a pulse, they breath, they move, etc.  A corpse is cold, it has no pulse and it does not move.  It cannot do anything because it lacks the animating capacity of life.

In other words, we recognize a dead body by this fact: life isn't animating it.

I mention this because I the same principle that I employ in making this distinction is being employed by the Apostle John in 1 John 4:7-14.  False teachers were infiltrating the church, and John was writing to expose them.  His thesis was that these false teachers did not love because God was not in them (God is love).

Of course these teachers loved other people.  John wasn't suggesting that they were incapable of affection.  They certainly felt affection for one another, for their families and for their friends.  What John was saying was that God was not in them, and that they could be recognized by this lack. 

How do you know that God is in you (or that God is in another)?  You know in this way:

 Anyone who possesses God must possess God's love.  Ergo, anyone who lacks God's love necessarily lacks God.
A Christian may grieve the Holy Spirit and act contrary to the will of the Holy Spirit within him, but grieving the Holy Spirit will upset his fellowship with God until he humbles himself before God.  Until this happens the love of God in that believer remains suppressed by the sinning believer's pursuit of his own selfish desires.

NOTE: If the angels (who presumably have more discernment in spiritual matters than men) cannot distinguish whether a disobedient person is disobedient by way of an immature faith, or by way of a false conversion, we should be that much more concerned about treating every spiritual indiscretion as proof of one's falsehood, and again treating outward signs of obedience as necessarily proving a genuine faith.
When John writes these things, we should understand that he is not talking about the normal facets of spiritual growth (i.e. the process of sanctification whereby a genuine believer struggles to obey God), but rather about something quite significant, and notably more serious (and likely more obvious) than the process of sanctification...

John is saying that those who possess God, possess God's love, and conversely since God's love cannot be expressed by those who do not possess God, it follows that those who do not love do not know God.  That is the form of argument that John is using. 

We are commanded to love one another, but that isn't what John is trying to show here.  John is not telling us that because God is loving we ought to imitate Him in loving also.  John is saying that God is love, and anyone who possesses God must necessarily possess God's love.  It follows that a person cannot express God love does not possess God (who is love) and is therefore not a Christian.  John wants his readers to recognize false teachers and false Christians, and provides this "test" if you will, to help them in discerning a false teacher.

There is much that I could say about that, but it is enough that we [a] understand the equation John gives us (God is love, ergo...) and [b] why John chose to this argument. Allow me therefore to run the risk of flogging this thought for longer than may be needed for some of my readers, but I want to ensure the thought is fully understood before we move one.

John's argument was not that God was very loving and that people who were indwelled by God were obligated to act more loving than others.  John's argument was that God was the source of genuine love, and that anyone who possessed God necessarily possessed God's love by virtue of the indwelling Spirit.  He was describing this fact:  the love expressed through a Christian does not originate from the Christian himself, it not being his own love but rather the love of God who is in him by virtue of the Holy Spirit who by definition indwells every genuine believer.

When John says that God is love, He isn't saying that God is really, really loving.  John is saying that God is the source of love.  That is not only very significant to the point John is making - it is important to our understanding of God.
If I say that Christ is the truth, I mean that Christ is the source of truth, and not merely that Christ is infinitely truthful.  He is infinitely truthful -but this fact is only a consequence of His being the Source of truth. When we speak of a light, we do not speak of the light rays that are cast by the light, but of the light itself.  When we say that God is love, we are not talking about the expression of God's love, we are talking about God as the source of love.  In the same way, when we say that Christ is truth, we are not talking about how truthful Christ is, or how well Christ expressed truth; we are saying that Christ is the source of truth.

Note: You may be inclined to muse that truth can exist apart from Christ (reasoning with yourself that that even the devil was capable of quoting the true scriptures when tempting Christ).  But I am not saying that a person can not repeat or comprehend what is factual.  I am saying that God alone (in the person of Christ), is true.  Recognizing that something is factual is not the same as being the source of truth.  You and I may freely either agree with, or deny, the truth, but we cannot produce it.  We can only reflect or obscure it...
Along the same line we can ask, "Is God righteous?" If He is (and He certainly is!) it follows that God is the source of righteousness.  To imagine that God is only expressing more righteousness than anyone else, or merely expressing a perfect and infinitely righteousness is to anthropomorphize God.  God is not merely expressing the most superior form of righteousness - He is the very source of all righteousness.

Do you understand what that means?  It means that anyone who is truly righteous, is not expressing their own righteousness, but is rather expressing a righteousness that is foreign to themselves - the righteousness of God.

Expressing the righteousness of God is fundamentally different than merely imitating the righteousness of God.  A morally superior atheist may boast of a personal moral standard that is higher (in practice) than that which is morality evidenced even by some genuine Christians.  But the morality of such an atheist (or of any person in any false religion for that matter) does not flow from the person and character of God.  That "righteousness" is rather a superficial imitation of God's righteousness

God's righteousness is indivisible

What I mean by that is that you cannot divide the righteousness of God into an hundred or more commands that amount to such things as "do not murder" or "do not commit adultery" and imagine that by keeping one or more of these commands you have actually been partially righteous.  It doesn't work that way.

It does not matter how many of these commands we are given, or how many we (seem to) keep. Keeping one or more commands while breaking only one other does not make us partially righteous for those commands we have managed to keep - it only shows us that we are entirely unrighteous.  When we act contrary to what is righteous, it shows that we are not at all righteous.  It doesn't matter how many commands we may keep if we cannot keep them all.  Either we are able to keep all of God's Law (as it were) or we are unable to keep it.  Either we are righteous, or we are not - there is no middle ground.  Anyone who fails to keep all of God's does so because he or she is not (and has never been) righteous.

The OT word for righteousness describes right-ness in the sense of something having a sort of perfect integrity -like a perfect weight or better still, like a perfectly upright plumb line.  To build your house to plumb is to build it perfectly upright.  To be "right" in this sense is to be perfectly in tune with a flawless (objective) standard. 

When the scriptures describes God as righteous, it is not saying that God perfectly lines His conduct up with some objective standard of righteousness that is above Him and foreign to Him.  No.  What it means is that God Himself is the standard and measure of righteousness, and if you can receive it, that God is the very source of righteousness.

When the scriptures describes a person as being righteous, it is not describing a righteousness that originates from the individual, but rather a righteousness that is alien to the individual: the righteousness of God.  Insofar as a person is surrendered to the will of God, the righteousness of God may be expressed through that person. When we say that an individual is righteous we mean that the light of God's righteousness is shining from that person (and not that the person is producing his or her own righteousness!).

To be explicit, I am saying that righteousness cannot be imitated or produced because it is not produced by (nor is it bound up in) works, rather righteous works can only be produced when a preexisting righteousness is present to produce that righteousness.

I often give this thought exercise to simplify the matter when I teach.  I ask, did Christ become righteous by doing good works, or was He born unrighteous (since there is no middle ground between righteousness and unrighteousness), and later attained righteousness by performing acts of righteousness? 

Of course Christ was never at any time unrighteous, so we are left to understand that Christ was righteous at birth such that His subsequent acts of righteousness were expressing a righteousness that was inherent in Him, and not producing that righteousness. It is important to put the horse before the cart in our understanding on this particular.  Christ's righteousness produced his obedience, and not the other way around.

We could describe it another way:  Christ did not become righteous by keeping the law, rather He kept the law because He was righteous.  The law revealed that He was righteous, it didn't make him righteous.  Just as the law reveals that everyone other than Christ is unrighteous, and doesn't make them unrighteous.  In this way the law is like a compass.  Where a compass points to the magnetic pole, the law identifies the Christ as the only person on earth capable of keeping the law - that is, the law itself proclaims the Christ.  In a culture that was producing Messiahs by the sack full, the law was a tutor to bring believers to the true Christ (the one who actually kept the law).  No one else has ever kept, nor could ever keep, the Law.

I may touch on this a little more the post to follow, where I hope to underscore the thought that there is no righteousness apart from God, and further that there never has been a righteousness apart from God (and this would include the pre-fall righteousness of Adam), and that there never will, nor never can be any righteousness apart from God. Using this premise as a foundation, I hope to build upon it (for the benefit of those believers who may be struggling with the question of "how to be" a Christian) enough of an edifice as to assist the believer in their understanding of the way in which we are to work out our own salvation (from sin).

What I want you to remember from this post is that God is the source of righteousness, and that no person is (or ever has been, or ever can be apart from Christ) righteous. 

If you cannot become righteous by doing something that the righteousness of God produces, how much less so can you become righteous by imitating the righteousness of God? 
posted by Daniel @ 11:37 AM  
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