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Righteousness

Growing older brings many changes.  While some people don’t seem to change that much in their looks over time, others appear to be completely different from their days of youth....yet around the corners of their faces, some resemblance peaks through of the spark and fire of a more lively time. The adage of “you’re as young as you feel” certainly has some truthfulness, but I would say it also has an equal amount of deceit.  Anyway you slice it, growing old is not really very fun.  Having said that, however, I recognize that there are some things about it for which I would not trade.  Surprisingly it seems, (for most people) growing older does bring growth in wisdom.  There are people who don’t fit this pattern.  But then again, maybe it is a relative statement.  Maybe they are wiser; they were just more foolish to begin with than others.

Perspective changes with aging.  Youth looks forward, but the older we get we tend to look back, remembering the past and the way it used to be...though that tendency to look forward never seems to diminish completely.  High energy and invulnerability with that sense of never ending life has been replaced by the aches and pains of arthritis, high blood pressure and a constant battle with the bulge.  All those pizzas I ate over the years!  Mama mia!  How I used to gorge myself never troubled by added inches.  Well, that’s all over now.  Now-a-days, one good whiff and it’s off to Target to find a new pair of pants.

I did a lot of foolish things when I was younger.  I made some awful decisions, but somehow they came out okay for me.  From an objective observer’s perspective, they might not buy my so-called “good” conclusions.  Good is often defined as “it could have been worse”.  Upon reflecting on how this could be, a scripture (Psalm 37:23-26) came to mind:

The steps of a (righteous or good) man are established by the LORD; And He delights in his way.  When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.  I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread.  All day long he is gracious and lends; And his descendants are a blessing.”

I found the LORD, Jesus Christ, as a child.  Over the years there has been a slow but strong realization of His guiding hand in my life.  On certain hallmark occasions, He has clearly shown His abiding presence to be with me though the world around me was crumbling.  Those around me are not always savvy to my internal turmoil; they only see what is happening outwardly and on those occasions, not just a few people remark that God must be trying to send me a message.  The implication being that because of my “deviant” lifestyle, God must be trying to get my attention, using the serious difficulties and problems I was in as a way of “punishing” me.  I am here to tell you, “nothing could be more untrue.”  I have found that God’s blessing lies not in having the good things of life, but in having the assurance of God’s righteousness through the bad things life throws at me.

That word “righteousness” is very troublesome for many people.  Most people seem to see it as an unobtainable standard for which they must strive.  They also see it as that goal for which everyone else must strive and they quickly remind those they see faltering.  It is unclear just what lies waiting for those who fail to meet the nebulous standard.  Some will tell you that “upon pain of death, thou shalt not....” thus and so; and they list the activities of life about which they are certain God is displeased.  Many quote Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” defining

as they go what “unrighteousness” is.  They drop it on themselves and others as they go along in life, oppressing themselves and others; fearful of doing something wrong that might stir up the wrath of God.

I submit to you that this is not what righteousness is all about!

The Bible explains the gospel message like this:

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Romans 5:6-8

In this passage we learn that Christ died for unrighteous people.  These are described as those who wanted nothing to do with God.  You could say that they did not have a relationship with God at all when Christ suddenly appeared and announced God’s love and desire for relationship and made it possible for every person to come into such a relationship.

In yet another passage, Paul draws commentary from an Old Testament passage and explains…

“Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."

 

Galatians 3:6 (Genesis 15:6)

Abraham’s relationship to God was established not on the basis of his keeping the Mosaic Law, but because of what he believed, his faith!  So relationship (righteousness) has been made available by Christ and is accessed by us through faith.  As long as we walk in faith, the relationship is there and is available to us.  Even our earthly relationships operate this same way.  Faith is another word for “trust”.  Without trust, relationships are destroyed.  Love may continue, but without trust, relationship with those we care about is impossible.

Webster’s Definition: Acting in a right upright just manner; doing what is right; virtuous

The above definition does not say anything about perfection, but again alludes to the pattern of behaviors one has with others, i.e., relationships!  Here are a few other passages that reference Biblical righteousness (Hebrew: tsaddiyq, Strong’s 6662; Greek: dikaiosune, Strong’s 1343)

“Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not proceed in the way of evil men.  Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on.  For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.  For they eat the bread of wickedness, And drink the wine of violence.  But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.”

Proverbs 4:14-18

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.”

Psalms 23:1-4

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:6,10

 

“Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'  For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”

Matthew 6:31-33

In all these verses and many, many others the words “intimate relationship” could be exchanged for the reference to righteousness.  The qualitative intimate relationship with God that Jesus died to give us is our righteousness.  This is the gift of God that we have access to because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and is the opportunity mentioned in John 1:12-13….

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 

John 1:12-13

This is not “sinless perfection” but an opportunity to walk with God, our Father, in intimate relationship as we mature “working out our own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) daily.  John’s further remarks about this relationship are better spelled out in both Old and New Testaments:

“The steps of a (righteous) man is established by the LORD; and He delights in his way.   When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.”

Psalm 37:23-24

 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

Righteousness is not attained, but practiced by those that have received it from Jesus.  God has considered those who by faith receive it and who continue in it as having right standing (righteous) before Him.