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Posts Tagged ‘Righteousness’

Matthew 3:13-15 And The Importance Of Righteous Living Through Jesus Christ

Posted by Job on January 26, 2010

The issue of Jesus Christ’s baptism at times provokes some debate. For example, why was Jesus Christ, God in the flesh with all that entails, baptized in the first place? Many good theories are proposed, among them the idea that Jesus Christ was announcing to the world His identity and the beginning of His earthly ministry. However, the simple explanation given in Matthew 3:15 by Jesus Christ Himself: “And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer [it to be so] now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” This means that Jesus Christ regarded participating in John’s baptism to be a good act, and it was His duty to do everything that is good. And please note that Jesus Christ did not only put this requirement upon Himself. This is not something to be performed by Jesus Christ on our behalf as our substitute, as was Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Instead, when Jesus Christ stated “it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness”, He was including John the Baptist and every other believer. Therefore, there is no such thing as a partial Christian or a mostly Christian. Instead, to be a Christian, one must do all that God instructs and requires us, what is called “the whole counsel of God” (see Acts 20).

But what is particularly interesting about the baptism of Jesus Christ as it is recorded by Matthew is that John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus Christ! It was not because John the Baptist regarded Jesus Christ as some grotesque, unworthy sinner, or that He was coming insincerely out of curiosity or as some show of false piety. Quite the contrary, the grotesque unworthy sinners were precisely whom John the Baptist (and Jesus Christ after Him) were calling to repentance, and John the Baptist did not address Jesus Christ after the manner of the Pharisees and Sadducees who came (o generation of vipers, and demanding that their repentance be sincere). Instead, John the Baptist objected to baptizing Jesus Christ because he saw himself as unworthy to baptize Jesus Christ! Instead, John the Baptist stated that Jesus Christ should be baptizing HIM!

Of course, looking back on this incident, we see this as a logical conclusion of John the Baptist, with Jesus Christ being God in the flesh. However, John the Baptist did not have the benefit of our hindsight! For the gospel of John, verses 1:29-34, states that John did not know that Jesus Christ was the Messiah until AFTER he baptized Him, for it was at that point that John saw the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus Christ. We also surmise from Matthew 11:1-6 that John, upon his being cast into prison, seemed to doubt Jesus Christ’s identity as the Messiah and challenged Jesus Christ to prove Himself. So it is safe to propose that John the Baptist’s reasons for not wanting to baptize Jesus Christ had nothing to do with his having any idea that his younger cousin Jesus was in fact the Christ, and with that John the Baptist’s statement that he himself needed to be baptized by his cousin!

So then, what was the reason? It is the difference between the baptism of John and the baptism of Jesus Christ, which John himself stated was a greater baptism. The baptism of John was a sinner’s baptism. By contrast, the baptism of Jesus Christ is a BELIEVER’S baptism. Thus, the reason why John attempted to restrain Jesus Christ from being baptized was because John was performing a baptism for penitent sinners, a baptism for the righteous, AND HE HAD NEVER OBSERVED OR HEARD OF JESUS CHRIST SINNING AT ANY TIME! So why did John state that Jesus Christ should baptize him? BECAUSE HE KNEW THAT JESUS CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS EXCEEDED HIS OWN!

Of course, Jesus Christ’s submission to the baptism should not be taken as a denial of the doctrine that Jesus Christ was sinless (for Jesus Christ declared Himself to be sinless in a very direct and challenging manner in John 8:46) or that he was lesser than John the Baptist (for Jesus Christ publicly declared Himself to be greater in Matthew 11:11), but again according to His own words, Jesus Christ submitted to John’s baptism because it was His duty to do all that was righteous. Please recall: just as Jesus Christ did not need to be baptized for His own sake because of His sinlessness, He also did not need to go to the cross for His own sake for that same reason. So, just as Jesus Christ went to the cross for our sakes, it can be surmised that He was baptized for that reason also.

But let us not lose sight of the fact that John the Baptist initially attempted to prevent Jesus Christ from partcipating in his baptism – saying that it was a thing not suitable for Him (just as Simon Peter later claimed that Jesus Christ was not meant to be crucified in Matthew 16:21-23!) – because John the Baptist knew that there was something different about Jesus Christ. John knew that Jesus Christ was different, even from himself! And how did John know this? Again, not from revelation, for the revelation of Jesus Christ’s identity to John did not come until the baptism itself. And it wasn’t because of Jesus Christ’s station or position in life. Rather than being born in Herod’s palace as a member of his family (and Herod was the legally recognized king of the Jews by the Roman empire and the Jewish province), Jesus Christ was born in a manger. Rather than being in the religious or political elite, Jesus Christ was a member of the Jewish underclass, a common laborer with no formal religious training or position. Thus, Jesus Christ in terms of his human socioeconomic state was no different from John the Baptist himself, and also lower than some of the people (Pharisees and Saducees) that John stated were most in need of baptizing! Instead, John knew that there was something different, something special about his cousin, this Jesus of Nazareth, that separated Him from everyone else that he had baptized, and indeed from the Baptist himself!

What was it? From the context and evidence given, it had to have been the life that Jesus Christ lived. Before John the Baptist and before the world, Jesus Christ lived a righteous, exemplary life, blameless before God and man. THAT is why John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus Christ. THAT is why John the Baptist stated that Jesus Christ should instead baptize him! And perhaps that is even why John the Baptist abandoned his refusal to baptize Jesus Christ upon Jesus Christ’s request! After all, this man is more righteous than me? What right do I have to deny his request? If I follow this man in his righteousness, I might become more righteous also! And so John the Baptist did what Jesus Christ requested of him, and as a result the identity of Jesus Christ to John and the world was confirmed by a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

And Christian, this is the important of being righteous. This is the importance of being blameless, Christian. This is the importance of being holy, Christian. Of course, we cannot achieve Jesus Christ’s standard of perfection, for we are not God. However, let us not in our desire to avoid what is commonly termed legalism, Phariseeism, self-righteousness, holier than thou, etc. cause us to veer into antinomianism and worldliness. Instead, just as there was a difference in Jesus Christ such that not only John the Baptist but Jesus Christ’s false accusers (note that none of them took him up on His challenge in John 8:46!) and the very people who sent Him to the cross (i.e. Judas Iscariot the betrayer and Pontius Pilate), there needs to be a difference in Christians so that we are easily, readily distinguishable from those who are not Christians.

Now this is where the “legalism” or “Phariseeism” becomes relevant. It is not supposed to be a difference that is outward. It is not supposed to be a superficial difference, a difference “of the flesh.” For the Judaizers, the difference of the flesh was the circumcision and the law of Moses. Perhaps a more contemporary issue is a certain artificial or affected attitude or behavior, maybe of rote adherence to rules, affiliations, religiosities, or standards of men of how Christians ought to conduct themselves. That is legalism. Instead, this difference should be inward, a change of the heart that comes from being born again of water and of Spirit. As those who are born again of water and of Spirit love Jesus Christ by keeping His commandments (John 14:21) as they are contained within scripture and taught to us by those who precede us in the faith (pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets, deacons, Godly parents etc.) that produces a sincere – not affected or legalistic and self serving – change in behavior.

When this change of heart and behavior that comes by virtue of living faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ comes about, that is how we become living stones, living witnesses, living examples that reveal Jesus Christ and His gospel to others. Of course, such living witnesses must also verbally share the gospel, for how can the lost sheep hear the gospel without a preacher (Romans 10:14)? However, if you are a living witness of Jesus Christ through your sincere and consistent (save the fact that all sin 1 John 1:7-9) then the living witness of Jesus Christ to the lost makes your verbal witness of Jesus Christ all the more effective, all the more powerful.

There is also the effect on the found. We are not to be islands, lone wolves in the faith. Instead, we are to assemble together and strengthen each other with joyful fellowship, praying for one another, provoking one another to good works, and confessing our sins to one another so that the brothers and sisters may pray for us and we be healed. If we Christians give ourselves over to lukewarm worldliness and carnality, how can such a thing happen? And what examples are we setting for those who follow after us in the faith? Shall the old women teach the young women to be silly and vain? Shall the elder men teach the young men to be brutish and greedy? God forbid! Such behavior causes little ones to stumble, and we know from Jesus Christ Himself that whoever does that to one of His little ones (whether children or those new in faith), it would be better for them were a millstone tied around their necks and they be cast into the sea!

So, this day I encourage you. Follow the example of Jesus Christ by seeking to fulfill all righteousness. Some say that the secret of doing this is more about the “do’s” than the “don’ts”. Others say that while the “do’s” are vital, the “don’ts” cannot be neglected. Of such things, I am not qualified to be the arbiter. However, I can say that if you seek the Lord in this matter through prayer, Bible study, and good works of obedience to His Word that the Holy Spirit will take you where He wants you to go! For it is a core principle of Christian living that it is not what you can do, but what God Himself does for and through you. You are not righteous in and of yourself, but instead you are made righteous through your identification with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, your being part of Jesus Christ’s own Body, your being washed clean with His blood, your being cleansed and healed by and with His stripes, and your being indwelled by Jesus Christ’s Spirit. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and if you sincerely rely and trust completely on God, then God will make sure that the temple of His Spirit is undefiled!

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The Goodness Of God: Is It Relative Or Absolute?

Posted by Job on January 4, 2009

I am going to reuse one of my favorite cliches from philosophy: “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear or see it, has it really fallen?”

Now I do not know much about philosophy but I will attempt to answer it from a philosophical angle. The modernist would reply “yes, because the tree’s falling is fact, a historical event that took place in the natural realm of space and time, a propositional, rational truth. The fact that it was not observed does not negate the fact that it was a real, observable, measurable event that left evidence behind of its occurrence.”

The postmodernist for his part would reply “no, because truth is relative, and is solely determined by the person who interprets and determines truth based on his experiences and biases. So, if there was no one there to hear or see the tree fall, then there was no one there to determine that this event happened or interpret its meaning. Even if you were to claim that the tree did fall, I have the right to declare that it did not, and my opinion would be every bit as valid as yours.”

The premodernist for his part would state “whether the tree fell or not or if there ever was a tree in the first place is up to my religious leader and my political leader to decide – especially if my religious leader and my political leader are the same person -and anyone who disagrees with them will be burned as a heretic so either way the truth really doesn’t matter does it!”

So for some issues, modernism, postmodernism, and premodernism are inadequate. Modernism can only deal with truths that can be observed or measured according to some rational system so that mind makes right. Postmodernism makes truth a moving target so that it can be the instrument of whoever is best able to use – or misuse – it so that feelings make right. And premodernism allows truth to be defined by human institutions and authority so that might makes right. So when it comes to the Bible, all of them come short.

Faith, that which is unseen, hoped for, and will ultimately be realized only in the world to come, cannot be observed or measured. No one has ever seen God at any time. Yet faith is based on direct and core truths that cannot be cast off with feelings, interpretations, or cultural constructs. God does definitely exist. However, true faith cannot be dictated or imposed by human might or effort. God alone provides humans with the ability to truly believe in and obey Him. 

So it is with the attributes of God, including His goodness. Is God’s goodness relative or absolute? The reason why I ask is related to my earlier post on the direction of modern Christian and popular music, and also of much contemporary Christian preaching. Many Christian songs and sermons declare the goodness of God based not only on what God has done, but specifically based on the good things that God has done for them. Now I do acknowledge and commend some among these people that exist in this environment and yet manage to deal with the many bad, cruel, horrible things that are the facts of life: sickness, death, family breakups, persecution etc. But even there, the response is usually “God is still good because He allowed these bad things to happen to me in order to teach me a lesson … to make me stronger.”

So what, then, is the message? The conclusion? The point? That God is good because He is good to us? That would mean that God’s goodness is not absolute but rather relational. It means that God’s goodness is defined according to how He behaves towards His creation, or even a subset thereof. So, God is allowed to be good towards sinful man because sinful man has been redeemed by Jesus Christ. God is allowed to punish those not redeemed by Jesus Christ because a truly good God cannot allow evil to go unpunished. Why the latter? Because a good God HAS to punish the bad people for the things that they have done to other people, especially the good people! (And who are the good people? Why me and people like me, including those that I know and care about!)

This line of thinking creates a problem. If God’s goodness is only relational with respect to His creation, then what about before creation? What about before Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1? As prior to creation God had no creation to be good in relationship to, then was God good before He created? Well, to get around that problem, many claim that God performed creation because of His goodness! That it was because of His goodness God created something to express His goodness with, or to create some expression or outlet for His goodness!

That is fine until you deal with the fact that creation was ultimately tainted by sin, which necessitates destroying practically all of it. So if God’s goodness is a function of how He behaves toward creation, how could He have given creation the possibility of being corrupted by sin? Would it not have been a better working of God’s goodness not to have allowed sin to corrupt creation, or never to have created at all? 

This actually gets to be a real problem when it comes to the eternal fates of human spirits. If God’s goodness is based on how He treats His creation, then how can a good God allow human spirits to burn in the lake of fire for eternity? It is precisely that question that leads people to embrace universalism (everyone will be saved), pluralism (all good people will be saved regardless of their accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), and annihilationism (those who are not saved will be consumed by Gehenna flames and cease to exist rather than burn eternally). And it does not stop there. Why should a truly good God require holy living, actual faith, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ from Christians? A profession of faith, and certainly recitation of a prayer, participation in baptism, and regular church attendance and giving should be enough. 

It leads to “God is good because of how He treats mankind.” And that leads to “God is good because of how He treats ME.” As humans are by nature self – centered (and our postmodern culture makes us even more so!) this is inevitable. And that leads to a distorted view of God from which comes distorted doctrines, practice, and Christian living. If God is good because of how He treats me, then that allows me to judge God by determining what is good and what isn’t. If God does not treat me how I believe that I deserve to be treated, then God is not good. So, I will go follow a doctrine, a movement, a religion whose “god” treats me, accommodates me, in the manner that I feel is appropriate and that I deserve. If I love myself, I will choose a “god” who indulges me, if I hate myself, I will choose a “god” that punishes me. Also, if God is good because of how He treats me, why should I fear such a God? Why should I approach Him with trembling? (I know that Hebrews says to go boldly before the throne of grace in prayer, but the point is not the boldness but the grace. It is only God’s grace that makes such a bold approach possible.)

So Christians have to accept, teach, preach, and live the fact that God’s attributes – His goodness, greatness, love, righteousness, holiness, power, omnipotence etc. – are not relational, or defined in any sense by God’s position with man or man’s position with God. Instead, they are absolute. As God pre – exists, His attributes pre – exists. They define God, and God defines them. They are facts and are the same with or without creation. They are what creation has the responsibility of responding to. And they are what God’s ultimate creation, the church, has the responsibility of interpreting God’s Word, the Bible, in light of. 

So God is not good because of what He does for you. God is good regardless of what happens to you in this life or the next. God bestows goodness on His creation because of grace. But without that factor, or even without creation, God would still be good. So we should praise, worship, and glorify God because He is good, and not because His goodness means any particular positive outcome for His creation or any portion of it. 

Christians need to urgently recognize this fact, and to change their songs and sermons accordingly.

Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

The Book of Job and the Sovereignty of God

Posted by Job on November 20, 2007

From Theology.Wordpress.com:

The Book of Job and the Sovereignty of God

Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ, Moshiach, Ruach Hakadosh, Y'shua Hamashiach, Y'shua Hamashiach Moshiach, Yeshua Hamashiach | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can You Stand For Peace And Righteousness?

Posted by Job on November 20, 2007

  Media Message: Listen Watch

BIBLE MEDITATION: “Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:  One of the strangest verses that ever fell from the lips of the Prince of Peace, Jesus, is this: “Think not that I have come to send peace on the earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) That’s incredible because the Bible calls Him the “Prince of Peace.” What is He talking about then? He is saying, “I came with a sword to put a line of demarcation between truth and error, between light and dark, between sin and righteousness.” When God’s standard of righteousness is set, there will always be division. Without righteousness there can be no peace. Peace can never come where sin remains. God will never make a peace treaty with sin, never!

ACTION POINT: Some people think when others act righteously that they are acting religiously, and sometimes not very peacefully. How can you stand in the gap for peace AND righteousness? visit lwf.org 

Do you know Jesus?

Posted in Christianity, devotional | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

What Kind Of Servant Are You?

Posted by Job on October 2, 2007

From Rjperalta.wordpress.com:

There Are Two Kinds Of Servants

Posted in Christianity, devotional | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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