Saturday, March 22, 2008

Necessary Righteousness

It is said there is an anonymous inscription on an old slab in the ancient cathedral in Lübeck, Germany, which reads:
Thus Speaketh Christ our Lord:
You call me Master and Obey me not
You call me Light and See me not
You call me Way and Walk me not
You call me Life and Desire me not
You call me Wise and Follow me not
You call me Fair and Love me not
You call me Rich and Ask me not
You call me Eternal and Seek me not
You call me Gracious and Trust me not
You call me Just and Fear me not
If I condemn you, Blame me not.
That is convicting to me, but even more that that, in Matthew 5:20 Jesus said "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." There are two ways of interpreting this, one easy and one difficult. Jesus could simply be alluding to his righteousness which is imputed to us. This is the easy way. But Jesus could be saying what we may all fear he is really saying: that unless we live more righteously than the scribes and pharisees lived, we will in no way enter the kingdom of God. This is the difficult way, and I'm troubled that it may be the correct one. This only points to the absolute connection Scripture makes between being redeemed and then as a result living a redeemed life, something easily overlooked today.

What is even more troubling though is that I often have difficulty explaining this necessary connection, as much as I know it to be true in my heart and mind. This disconnect is most obvious in my evangelism. Sure, I try to explain the necessity of the new birth. I try to explain how we should be grateful for to Christ for what he has done for us, and how good trees produce good fruit...but I can't shake the feeling that there is something deficient about my understanding. Just one evidence of my deficiency is that I have yet to work into a gospel presentation how we have been purchased by God like a slave, and how we must surrender everything to him for the righteousness he has. Maybe it is just as simple as that.

So how will I come to a fuller understanding? By much prayer and scripture, primarily. The Holy Spirit has also gifted many members of our body as teachers, both living and deceased. I'm grateful for the rich Christian heritage that we have, men like Martin Luther who stood against the forces of darkness in his own day proclaiming that "justification is by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone." So short, so elegant, so powerful. Let us all prayerfully search the Word of God, pray, and consult the collective wisdom of Christ's Church to aid in our understanding!

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