II Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Being an ambassador “…as though God were making his appeal through us” become more real to me this week. I wanted to implore these people I really care about but instead my appeal was full of frustrated emotion and more loaded with the need to persuade than the desire that anyone might be reconciled to God. It’s so easy to spout off when you get your mouth and emotion involved. The fact is being an ambassador for Christ has obligations of grace.
I lost track of the reality that grace at it’s most basic level is God working to give me time to change. My motivation was more of the problem than my words were, and I blew it. I disappointed myself, and my two best advocates, Christ and my husband. It’s been a reminder to me of the obligation of, and my need for, grace AND it’s purpose.
Forgiveness has bound me to these people and grace in a new way AND loosed me to transformation “so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God”…together.
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds… 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
The big debate about his book has always been verse 24: “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James has taken a lot of flack for those words. The very human temptation is to make faith and deeds a competition of either/or but here’s how I fit that debate into my √ list of traits for the followers of Christ. I think James is addressing personality.
Personality is the fabric of our lives. The weaving of that fabric is the key here for me. The process of weaving is always the same: two distinct sets of yarns or threads [like faith and deeds] are laced together at right angles to form the strength of the cloth. It’s Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that turns those threads into something more than a loose pile of strings when he weaves both faith and deeds into the fabric of a unique personality of one of his beloved.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”
NIV Philippians 3:7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Thankfully most of us would never have to say we’ve “lost all things” to gain Christ. It’s likely we weren’t as successful as Paul was at keeping the rules in our old life, either, but we were certainly trying. Many of us would say we just “went along to get along” confused about the relationship of success and righteousness. That same confusion that left us unsure what to put our faith in was there back in Paul’s day too. Was righteousness only about right behavior and obeying the right rules?
Paul came to consider his list of successes as “garbage” but it was that old confusion that became our “garbage.” Christ became the contrast that showed us this reality; trying to figure out what we could make of ourselves was “garbage” compared to what God had in mind for us; “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
Philippians 1:14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Have you noticed how similar the words change and chains sound? Paul only mentions chains but he’s making a pretty clear connection between chains and “change” in this verse. That’s what started me thinking and looking in a topical bible to find references to those two words. What I found out was interesting. Chains were shackles for those who were imprisoned BUT they were also ornamentation [jewelry] for princes, priests and even camels.
Paul’s chains were meant to constrain him but instead they’ve become like jewelry to him. They are the visible evidence that reminds him, and others, “most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” They’ve become chains that led to change.
Now about that word “change.” Oddly I didn’t find any direct references in my topical Bible to “change” but that word made me think of changing clothes and this part of Job 29:14. “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me…” It’s interesting to think how much emphasis I put on how I’ve changed as a believer. I’ve got the right clothes now but did I forget the right jewelry?
Is it possible that God has changed those very chains I was so happy to be rid of into the jewelry meant to become ornamentation for my new clothes? Is that jewelry visible evidence that allows my brothers and sisters to see how Christ can turn chains into change for them too?
I’m confident along with Paul that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Jesus has the power to turn chains into eye-catching jewelry to accent the beauty of being dressed in his righteousness.
NIV Romans 10:6 & 7 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
MSG Romans 10:6 & 7 But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah.
There are two points of Romans 10 for me; seeking righteousness … and finding faith. Verses 6 & 7 fill the gap in-between these two important points. I’ve read them before but apparently only as a convenient bridge from one big idea to the other without giving much thought to them in particular. That’s my alert to re-read them in another version like the Message. I want it all to be important.
Seeking righteouseness … and finding faith are big commitments. Commitments take work, and work involves time and effort. It’s pretty easy to forget in the midst of trying to live those big commitments, you can’t cross that gap without that bridge in place. It’s important to pay tribute with my words to what I see as the big ideas but I don’t want to miss the “main” point.
I want righteousness that comes from God √. I want faith that comes from God √. No matter how much time and effort I commit to those two big ideas can bridge the gap between them. No words I write can give life to a Messiah that can save me or anyone else. Not even my best success at seeking righteousness … and finding faith could rescue Jesus from the death he endured on my behalf to fill that gap.. It just can’t happen without the bridge. Thanks God!
Romans 6:19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.
Sometimes when I’m reading Scripture I find myself going over or coming back to a particular spot. It’s like a mental STOP sign. It works just like in driving; come to a complete stop, don’t coast on through. I’m convinced that’s the very thing I’m supposed to look at carefully before proceeding. Consider this “example from everyday. life”
Have you ever thought about impurity as having the power to force you to obey wickedness? That’s slavery. Maybe you wonder how much holiness you need to offer yourself as a slave to righteousness? Let me set you mind at ease…none!
The line is life. X marks the spot in your life where Jesus became real to you and “righteousness leading to holiness” became your new direction. Spoiler Alert: there are going to be things that happen in your life when you find yourself on the wrong side of the “X” but here’s the thing: don’t miss that little arrow in my illustration, it really matters. That little arrow doesn’t ever change – because it’s Jesus holiness that is your righteousness and the destination is settled!
ג17 Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
those who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.
Gimel says the specific purpose of these verses is their relationship to the soul: “the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.”
I’m learning from the psalmist. Our physical part is pleading with God to open a connection to our soul and be at work there; “be good to your servant, open my eyes, I am a stranger, do not hide your commands from me.” The soul is distinctly God’s domain – connection established!
Our first inclination is to assure God that our spiritual part “is consumed with longing” to know his laws at all times. Then we admit it comforts us to know God will rebuke the souls of those who stray, and protect us from their “scorn and contempt”…but no matter what, we’ll stay strong. Sounds humanly familiar doesn’t it?
The last verse of this section is the only possible way the spiritual and physical can unite to become a righteous soul that really does long for God’s law at all times. “Your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”