We Need The Righteousness Of God

We Need The Righteousness Of God

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

The concept of righteousness is quite similar to holiness; both terms refer to a state of being morally upright and emotionally attuned to God’s will. It comprises all that we term justice, honesty, morality, and affections of the heart; in a nutshell, it is true religion. And while there is this type of righteousness to emulate, there are other types of righteousness to avoid. 

The first type of righteousness we need to avoid is that which originates in a person’s mind, which is distinct from the righteousness that originates in God. We identify this type of righteousness as “self-righteousness.” Self-righteousness, often born out of pride, is when a person relies on his or her sense of morality to judge right and wrong. 

Another example of false righteousness is John Calvin’s teaching on imputed righteousness. By imputed, Calvin meant that God credited the elect sinner with Christ’s righteousness. As a result, God shifted His attention away from the sinner and toward Jesus, whom He acknowledges to be sinless. Consequently, Calvin believed that a person God has chosen for salvation does not need to worry about living a good life. When God looks at him, he can only see Christ. (As a side note, it is expected that the one chosen by God will seek a life of righteousness. But the truth is that according to the doctrine, it’s possible to be a willful sinner and still have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them.) 

There are seven occurrences of the word “impute” in the KJV. None of these verses suggests that a person can appropriate Christ’s righteousness as their own. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ allows for the transformation of sinners into saints through forgiveness. Entrance to the heavenly kingdom is granted only to those who do God’s will (Matthew 7.21–23). Thus, while imputation suggests that God finds one without guilt and blame, it does not mean that a person can take on the righteousness of Jesus Christ and expect to gain entrance into heaven. 

A sinful man becomes righteous through faith in God, not through any meritorious works he can perform. But faith does not exclude human participation. Man must do something. James 2 and Hebrews 11 remind us that faith works the works of God (Ephesians 2.10). A sinner becomes righteous, sanctified, and justified by God’s grace. God gave him his righteousness, and God counts it as his righteousness, not on account of the goodness of Christ or anyone else, living or dead. 

Abraham is a great role model for how to achieve righteousness. First, Paul says that Abraham believed in God, which God credited him as righteousness (Romans 4.3–9, 17–22). Second, it is also important to note that Abraham’s righteous status was independent of his being circumcised (Romans 4.10–12). Third, Abraham’s faith was active, working by grace (Galatians 3.6–9; James 2.21–23). 

So, it was Abraham’s faith in God rather than Jesus’ own sinless life and obedience that God credited as righteousness. Even though Abraham’s efforts would have been futile without Jesus’ perfect life and obedience, he could not leave everything to be accomplished by God. This truth meant that God gave Abraham the tools he needed, but Abraham was the one who had to use them.  

We must do as Abraham did. And just as God will not credit us with Christ’s righteousness, neither will He credit us with the righteousness of anyone else (e.g., a parent or spouse). Our evaluation before God is personal (2 Corinthians 5.10). We must avoid doing as Paul did before his conversion, seeking righteousness contingent on anything other than Christ (Philippians 3.9). 

Brent Pollard
The 11th-Hour Man

The 11th-Hour Man

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

70 or 80 years we live,

That rule for many holds true

But a guarantee that nobody can give

Is when Christ comes or living is through.

But I saw a man near the end of that span

Heart softened by the truth

Fully obey the gospel plan

Though gone were the days of his youth.

He’d heard God’s Word preached repeatedly

From many able men

Discussed his need, heard many a plea

To arise and wash away his sin.

Loved ones, family and friends

Prayed often for his decision

Wanting his soul purified and cleansed

To see life with heavenly vision.

The persistent concern of a godly man

Who revisited his soul’s condition

Watered much sowing over that man’s lifespan 

Resulting in godly contrition

I heard him confess his faith in Christ

And watched him go under the water

His heart surrendered, his will sacrificed

Christ’s blood was his soul’s sin blotter.

I tell you his story to move your heart

To the power of sharing with persistence

It’s never too late to do your part

To overcome a delayer’s resistance.

Jesus taught a moral tale

Of a landowner seeking for workers

Who paid a fair wage for a job done well

To the finishers, no pay for the shirkers

The householder sought workers all day

Found some morning and noon, yet some late

Despite different hours, they all got the same pay

Which made the more seasoned workers irate

But the master was generous, it was his call to make

The offer was freely taken by all,

The moral is simple, there’s an offer to take

There’s an answer to make to God’s call.

Some respond in the sunrise of living

Others come in the heat of the day

But however late one’s commitment is given

To those faithful at death He gives eternal pay.

This isn’t to encourage delaying

Tomorrow is not guaranteed

But in Scripture it goes without saying

No one’s too old for God’s grace to intercede! 

Spiritual Blessings

Spiritual Blessings

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Ephesians 1.3 says, “In Christ, God has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What does that mean? We hear “spiritual blessings” and might gloss over it as another Christianese phrase. Here’s a short list of what those spiritual blessings are.  

  • 1.4 — God chose us before Christ made the world. 
  • 1.4 — He chose us out of love to be his special people. 
  • 1.5 — He chose us to be his own children through Jesus Christ. 
  • 1.6 — God gives grace liberally.
  • 1.7 — We are free because of Jesus’s sacrifice. 
  • 1.7 — We have forgiveness because of God’s grace. 
  • 1.8-9 — God told us how we can get that grace. He didn’t set up a system that we would have to look super hard for, he made sure to preserve the information needed to find him.  
  • 1.10 — He is bringing the heavens and the earth together through Jesus. 
  • 1.12-13 — He made grace available to every country on earth, not just one group. 
  • 1.13-14 — He gave us his spirit as a downpayment on our reward. 

While we won’t fully appreciate these spiritual blessings until later (Paul says these riches are “too great to fully understand” in 3.8), we’re still extremely grateful that God has done so much to give us hope for eternal life. 

Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

It becomes clear from reading the second letter to the Corinthians that Paul feels the need to defend himself and his actions among his readers. He feared that he had been misunderstood in his previous work among them (cf. 1:12-14). In fact, it seems as though this is the purpose of the letter (look also at 5:11-12). If you remember from the first letter, he had some pretty challenging and unpopular things to say about how they were behaving. It’s not far-fetched to think that some of them not only would not appreciate what he said, but would attack him as the messenger for saying it. Sometimes, however lovingly and kindly we share the truth, it will offend the hearer who, instead of repenting, tries to undermine the one who said it.  As we read this section, think of Paul as a man, just like his audience, who has feelings, struggles, difficulties, and temptations, too. He also needed them to know that it was because he cared so much about them that he would not “shrink from declaring to [them] anything that was profitable” (cf. Acts 20:20). What drove Paul to minister to the Corinthians? Notice several things he says in 2 Corinthians one.

THE GRACE OF GOD (12)

He would not boast in himself, whether his abilities or knowledge or influence. Those are empty and unsatisfying. His motives were pure and he was helped by a grace he wanted them to appreciate, too. When we understand our need of God’s grace, it will move us to give Him our all in response. 

THE JUDGMENT DAY OF GOD (13-14)

Paul wanted them to be able to legitimately boast together and of one another at “the day of the Lord” (cf. 5:10). The word “boast” in modern English has negative connotations–bragging, arrogance, and sinful pride. Paul wanted to have confidence in them as they faced this Day, as confident as he hoped they were of him in view of it. We should share the whole counsel of God to make sure people are ready for the most important day of all. 

THE PROMISES OF GOD (20)

He shared the positive and negative, the promises and the warnings, because he knew God meant what He said. He would not equivocate or talk out of both sides of his mouth. He was going to give them “the whole purpose of God” (cf. Acts 20:27). He knew God was the supreme promise-keeper (2 Tim. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:11-14). 

THE GLORY OF GOD (20)

Paul taught them for the glory of God. The Word is God’s. The promises are God’s. The salvation is from God. How silly for the fragile pottery to brag (4:7); the glory belongs to the Potter. Anything worthwhile we accomplish is always because of God. 

THE WORKING OF GOD (21-22)

Paul was moved by the knowledge that God is the one who establishes men (21), sets us apart (21), and gives us His Spirit (22). Knowing this, we should share Him with people so that God can accomplish His work in their lives. 

THE WITNESS OF GOD (23-24)

Wise teachers and preachers will remember that God is watching their work. He can see where no one else can–our hearts and motives. Knowing He knows me inside and out, I will check myself and do His work to bring the joy and strength of the hearers (23-24). 

THE PEOPLE OF GOD (2:1-4)

We should be moved by genuine love and concern for people. Those who share the word should share life with those who receive the word from them. Building relationships, being together in all the ups and downs of life, is what it is all about. It’s hard to imagine staying motivated to share the gospel with people we isolate ourselves from. 

Perhaps there are some preachers and teachers who just love beating up on their listeners (or readers). Motivation is individual to each one (Phil. 1:15-17). I have to believe that every faithful proclaimer wants not only to please God but also help as many people as possible go to heaven. There are so many great reasons why Christians should want to share God’s Word with others. Paul gives us a handful of them here. 

2 Peter (Part One)

2 Peter (Part One)

Thursday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of II Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Introduction

This is from Simon Peter. I’m a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ and one of his apostles. I’m writing to everyone who has a faith that’s just as valuable as ours. Your faith is just as valuable because it also came from the perfection of our God and rescuer Jesus Christ. My wish for you is that you enjoy grace and peace because you know God and Jesus, our master. 

JesusHelpedYouEscape

We have everything we need to be alive and live a morally good life thanks to him. His power made that possible! We have everything we need because of our relationship with him. He called us to his family because he is amazing and perfect. He’s made some incredible promises to us. Those promises were designed to give us access to his nature. We have access because we’ve escaped a worldly lifestyle characterized by unhealthy desires. Since we’ve escaped, make sure you back your faith with moral goodness. Once you have moral goodness, expand your knowledge of God. That knowledge should lead to self-control. Self-control should lead to endurance. Endurance should lead to godliness. Godliness should lead to good relationships with each other, which should lead to love. If you are growing in these areas, you can’t be described as useless or unproductive in your relationship with our master, Jesus Christ. If you don’t have these qualities, you’re blind or shortsighted because you’ve forgotten that your record was cleared. 

How Deep Is The Father’s Love?

How Deep Is The Father’s Love?

Thursday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Kason Eubanks

There is a story about a father building his daughter a wheelchair from the ground up after she got paralyzed in a car crash. Her father was willing to do all the research and put all the time in to building a wheelchair for his daughter who he loved so much. I don’t think I would trust my dad to make me a wheelchair, but this father demonstrates the love he has for his daughter and the lengths he would go to to keep her safe. We are told in multiple different ways how deep the Father’s love is. As the song goes, “Why should I gain from His reward I cannot give an answer.” I want to share just three points with you tonight why we gained from his reward.

The first one is that His love is so deep that He created us. Genesis 1:27 says that God created man in His image. Since we are made in God’s image, we are His special creation. In return for Him to love us so much we need to love Him and obey Him.

Then when we messed up God loved us so much that He gave His only Son for our sins (John 3:16). He was willing to do anything for us as His children. I know this is a point that is used a lot. Would you give your son? Not just your son, but your only son. Now I don’t have children but I’m sure that if I did that I would not be willing to do that. If you go on to verse 17 it says that He did it so that we might be saved. If we do what is commanded here on earth we will have an eternal home.

The third point we gained from his reward was because he loved us so much that He wanted us to have an eternal home with Him. Go back to John 3:16. It says that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Now going back to the example I gave just a moment ago. I don’t think I will ever love anyone enough to give my son. Now let’s back up for a minute and ask ourselves why do we not love each other that much? We are all God’s creation so we should love others like God tells us.

Thinking back to my childhood when my dad would get mad at me I failed to realize that he loved me enough to help me do right. God loves me enough to give me the opportunity to stand up here and give this devo. And God loves everyone of us enough to give His only Son for our foolishness.
And now our job is to love Him so much to obey his laws.

Patience!

Patience!

Friday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Steve Candela

How many of you have ever sat at a red light in traffic only to realize when that light turns green there’s still no place to go… and then before you get through the intersection the light turns red again. Frustration at its finest.

Who has ever been seated to eat somewhere and it takes over 15 minutes for a waiter or waitress just to come take your drink order? I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it!

I can’t be the only one who has ever lost my cool with my kids or other family members. Sometimes what seems to be for no apparent reason at all? Hopefully you’ve taken the time to at least realize you reacted poorly and made your apologies.

I’d like to share with you my struggle with being a patient man. How I always need to consciously work on it, what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and maybe open your eyes to the reality of what true Christian patience looks like.

My wife, Rebecca, always tells me, “Don’t ever ask God for patience, or else He’ll give you something to be patient about.” I can see that. To a certain point, I believe it too. But let’s take a second look at it in James 1:2-8.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So let’s look at this. I have faith. My faith can be tested.

This doesn’t mean I’ve lost faith, just that I’m being tested for how strong my faith is.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – Here I see my struggle with patience as the wisdom aspect. Maybe I’m not feeling wise. Maybe I’m having trouble figuring out this patience thing you all speak of. Is it wrong of me to at least let God know, hey I’m struggling with this… No! Absolutely not. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Let me be clear, I’m not disagreeing with my wife. I would never do that honey… I’m simply saying that asking God for patience and asking God for grace and understanding while I figure out what I need to change in my life to be more patient, are two completely different things. Verse 6 says,

“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

So we have some ground rules here. James tells us, “you must ask in faith. You cannot doubt God. For if you have any doubt, any doubt at all you can expect to receive nothing.”

Maybe my best course of action does not stem from asking God for help. What I have done and learned to do lately is called connecting the dots. If I am unhappy, frustrated and struggling to find joy at home, I ask myself why? Where did that come from? There doesn’t seem to be anything that my family is doing wrong. Sure, dishes pile up in the sink,kids room is not picked up, laundry room is overflowing… Those things happen, they’ve happened before and it didn’t bother me that much in the past. Maybe all those little things just seem like big things now because something else is bothering me, but what? What’s changed? Connecting the dots for me almost always leads back to work. A bad run I’ve been on, problems with co-workers, added duties and responsibilities to an already stressful job. I have had to learn to be more aware of my stressors. I’ve had to do a hard reset on what I bring home vs what I leave at work. Most of all I’ve had to remember to lean on Jesus.

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my Yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Learn to lean on Jesus. Learn to do it early. Learn to do it often. I urge you to join a private Bible study. Find an elder, find a deacon, or find a friend and ask them to study the Bible with you. Studying the word of God is the biggest stress reliever I have ever found. I am so grateful for those that have taken the time to study with me.

If you are not a Christian, you have a choice. Don’t wait. Learning to be a disciple takes time. But making the decision to desire discipleship takes no time at all. Be baptized into Christ Jesus and rest easy knowing your soul is in safe hands.

If you are a Christian, perhaps you’ve let your anxiety, stress or impatience get in the way of being a solid Christian, a rock star husband or wife, a nurturing mother or father, or a fierce friend. We are here to help you, guide you or pray for you. Do not be weary, whatever you may need.

Two Camps

Two Camps

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I understand the power of grace, and am grateful for it. I understand that those walking in the light have lenience with God, and I’m grateful for that! But I still wonder what I’m missing. Many (maybe most) Christians feel the same way. We want Jesus to come back as soon as possible! But the thought is also terrifying. After all, a lot of Christians will be shocked when they’re condemned at judgment (Matt 7.21). So how do we avoid that eternal gut punch? 

Obviously, the first step is to join God’s family the way he said to. “Being saved” is not just about rescue from sin. That’s part of it! Being saved is about the last day. When Jesus separates humanity into two camps (Matt 25.32), we want to be in the one that doesn’t get destroyed. 

Notice what Jesus tells people on both sides: “I was hungry, so you gave me food. I was thirsty, so you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, but you invited me into your home. I had no clothes, so you gave me some. I was sick, so you took care of me. I was in prison, so you visited me” (Matt 25.34-36). 

If that statement applies to someone, they’re saved. If it doesn’t, they’re out of luck. 

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t say, “You had the correct view of worship. You debated the plan of salvation with religious groups. You read your bible every day.” Those are critical (see the whole New Testament), so don’t misunderstand me. 

But when Jesus addresses both groups, their fate will be decided by how they treated God’s family. 

So what do we take away from this? 

  • Take care of the physical needs of church family. 
  • Be very careful about criticizing the church. Err on the side of caution. 
  • Keep priorities where they need to be. There’s a time and place for defending God’s word and his teachings! But most of our energy should be dedicated to what matters most to Jesus. 

When we take care of each other, we’ll be told, “My father has nothing but praise for you! Come with me, you’ve inherited the kingdom that was made for you when we created the world” (Matt 25.34). 

“Dear church…”

“Dear church…”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

When I was in elementary school, we had a teacher who taught us how to properly write a letter. Miss Crews, my fourth grade teacher, told us it included the heading, greeting, body, complimentary closing, and signature. Isn’t it interesting what we retain (or fail to retain) from childhood?

Applying that basic analysis to the New Testament epistles, we are greatly helped. In addition to reading who the epistle of 1 Corinthians is from (1:1) and who it is to (1:2), we have a heading (helped by the information in verse 2), greeting (1:3), body (1:4-16:18), complimentary closing (16:19-20, 22-24), and signature (16:21). It is also in this first section of the letter (1:1-17) that we find the purpose of the letter. Notice some key aspects of these first several verses.

PAUL REMINDS THEM OF WHO THEY ARE (1:2-3)

In the daily grind, I can be apt to forget exactly who I am and who God has called me to be. It seems this had happened to the entire congregation at Corinth. Paul starts out this letter by reminding them they belong to God, set apart, and recipients of grace and peace. 

PAUL TELLS THEM WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR THEM (1:4-9)

Except for Galatians, Paul begins with a prayer, blessing, or thanksgiving. Here, Paul reminds them of how blessed they are–with grace (1:4), riches (1:5), confirmation (1:6), various blessings (1:7), hope (1:8), and fellowship with the Father and Son (1:9). I don’t know about you, but I often need to be reminded of how mindful the Lord has been of me. I need to reflect on my blessings so I won’t obsess over my problems. Paul is going to be addressing a serious problem in their lives, but he starts by centering their focus on their spiritual treasures. 

PAUL URGES SOMETHING OF THEM (1:10-17)

One of the ways a New Testament writer indicated the purpose of his writing is through petition verbs. While Paul actually uses a petition verb three times in this letter (1:10, 4:16, and 16:15), there’s no doubt that his first one sets the tone for the rest of the letter. They have a big problem at Corinth: division. We can see this in greater detail as we walk through the letter, but their division was seen in their allegiance to men instead of Christ, in their worship services, in their exercise of spiritual gifts, in their exercise of their Christian liberties, in their view on various sins, and more. So, Paul brings them into focus here.

  • He urges them to be complete, by being of the same mind and judgment (1:10).
  • He urges them to see the true nature of Christ (1:11-13).
  • He urges them to focus on the gospel and the cross (1:14-17). 

Keep in mind, as you read through this entire letter, that God had something He wanted Corinth and all subsequent churches and Christians facing the same general struggle to understand. It requires us to keep sight of our identity, blessings, and purpose. Otherwise, we open the door to division which can be the gateway to “disorder and every evil thing” (Jas. 3:16). 

photo credit: Flickr
Does God Only Shelter Some In A Storm?

Does God Only Shelter Some In A Storm?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

I’ve heard some say of a house left standing after a tornado or hurricane that God must have spared the structure’s owner from material loss because of their righteousness. But, unfortunately, such statements imply that the neighboring destroyed property belonged to the unrighteous. Yet Jesus said, “for He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.45, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated). 

Even amongst the destruction, though, if someone is observant enough, he sees what he chooses to call miraculous. However, since a miracle is the suspension of God’s natural laws, we understand that the word “miracle” oft becomes an adjective to describe what defies human comprehension. In reality, laws of nature explain the “skipped” houses or why a decorated Christmas tree can remain amidst a room, missing its walls and a part of its ceiling. 

For example, there can be what scientists call “suction vortices” within tornadoes. Within a more significant tornado, these many vortices move in a looping, cycloid pattern that will hit some things while completely missing others.1 In other words, the hand of God was in the creation of the natural laws resulting in the occasional formation of tornadoes, with their suction vortices, as opposed to directing storms into particular locations.  

But did God originally intend for His natural laws to include such destructive phenomena? Think back to the world God initially created. God called it “very good” (Genesis 1.31). What changed? Humanity used its free moral agency to sin, bringing change to the world. In fact, things got so bad that God destroyed the original world. Peter says, “…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3.5-6). 

Among those mechanisms that God put into place in the world emerging from the flood are the weather patterns that spawn tornadoes and hurricanes. The patient patriarch, Job, observed the following regarding the wisdom known to God: “…He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure…He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt…He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out” (Job 28.25-27). 

Now, the point of our devotional today is not to increase the misery of those having suffered loss during what insurance companies euphemistically call “acts of God.” Yes, things like tornadoes and hurricanes do arise because of sin. However, it is not a part of the chastisement God sends upon us (cf. Hebrews 12.4ff). So, if you want to see God after a tornado, do not see it in a church building with no roof, but with all its hymnals and pew Bibles still safely secured in the pew racks. That is likely but a side effect of natural law.  

No, look for God in His grace. As Fred Rogers often said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”2 Might I suggest that it is in the helpers that we see the actual hand of God? His Providence works through the people clearing debris, handing out food, and providing shelter to those who have lost everything. These fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2). Thus, God does not only shelter some in a storm. He provides for all of the weary through the agency of those whom He made in His image (Genesis 1.26-27).  

Sources Consulted and Cited 

1 Seman, Steven, et al. “Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths.” Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths | METEO 3: Introductory Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo3/l9_p8.html

2 Rogers, Fred. “A Quote by Fred Rogers.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/198594-when-i-was-a-boy-and-i-would-see-scary