ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.”

Psalm 116:5

Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?”

Psalm 71:19

To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. … Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

Daniel 9: 7, 14

The righteousness of God is one of the most frequently referenced attributes found in Scripture.  It is tied closely to God’s justice, and the word “just” is sometimes used where other translations will say “righteous” in reference to God’s character.  When the Bible speaks of God’s righteousness, it means that God’s character or nature always leads Him to do that which is right.  We know that God is holy, and righteousness is His holiness in action.

צְדָקָה

The transliteration of this Hebrew word is tsedaqah and its pronunciation is tsed·ä·kä’. This Hebrew word is translated as justice or righteousness.  Strong’s concordance says this in its definition:

  1. righteousness (in government), such as a judge, ruler or king, of the law, and of the Davidic king Messiah
  2. righteousness (of God’s attribute)
  3. righteousness (in a case or cause)
  4. righteousness, truthfulness
  5. righteousness (as ethically right)
  6. righteousness (as vindicated), justification, salvation
  7. righteous acts

δικαιοσύνη

This is the Greek word for righteousness.  The transliteration of this Greek word is dikaiosynē and its pronunciation is dē-kī-o-sü’-nā.  Strong’s concordance defines this term in the following manner:  

in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God.  A) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; B) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

Now, let’s consider some of the examples and scripture passages dealing with God’s righteousness.

Consider, for example, that God deals righteously with humanity.  Abraham expressed God’s righteousness in Genesis when he was speaking with God about Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Genesis 18:25

God expresses His righteousness when He loves the things that are good and hates the things that are evil.  This attribute leads God to do only those things that are right.  Thus, because He is righteous, He must judge evil and sin cannot come into His presence. 

Righteousness is like goodness and holiness, but this attribute differs from others because it requires works to establish it.  God is good and God is holy, but He refers to Himself as righteous because He works the good as well.

This connection between works and righteousness is seen in the very first book of the Bible.  God was speaking to Abram and promising to make him a great nation, notwithstanding the fact that his wife was barren.  After delivering this promise, scripture says:

“And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [God] counted it to him as righteousness.” 

Genesis 15:6

A multitude of other scriptures reference the connection between our works and righteousness.  Consider these as examples:

“And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”

Deuteronomy 6:25

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Psalm 24:4-5

The Old Testament is not the only place where righteousness is discussed and commanded from God’s people. 

Jesus said:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33 

Then Paul wrote to the Romans and said:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 14:17

The connection between righteousness and action was expressed by James like this:

 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;  and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness“–and he was called a friend of God. …  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

James 2:21-23, 26

While Christians are called righteous, we do not receive that commendation because of any ability to accomplish good works in ourselves.  Rather, we are considered righteous by our holy God because we reside in the righteousness of Christ.  In other words, Christ’s obedience is imputed to us and when we stand before God, God sees not us but the righteousness of His Son.

Paul expressed it like this:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–“

Philippians 3:8-9

Righteousness.  It is an attribute of God and we are commanded to follow God’s lead in doing works of righteousness.  Not to earn our own salvation, but to praise Him for the gift of grace and mercy in the atoning work of our Savior and Lord.

Father, I praise You for Your righteousness.  Through Your Son’s sacrifice, You have imputed His righteousness to us, and have covered our sins with His atoning blood.  Thank You for Your righteousness and mercy. 

CLOTHED IN … WHAT?

Several years ago, the women of my church got together to sew dresses for children in  Southeast Asia and Africa who are cared for in a ministry called Homes of Love.  The children who were orphaned or abandoned are brought into a home where they are loved and cared for by their house mother.   [For more information about Homes of Love and the wonderful work that they are doing, see their website at homesoflove.org/]  The homes undertake a marvelous work, all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Homes of Love motto is “Creating Families for Life”. The ladies in our church wanted to help by creating and sending some much-needed clothing.  Look at the impact that having new clothes can make in a child’s life.

At the time this project was undertaken, I was still employed full time, so I was not able to join in this effort.   Now, however, retirement has given me some time during the day that I could do something like this,, on a smaller scale of course, but I didn’t even think about it until Christmas when my husband surprised me with a new sewing machine.

1st Homes of Love dress - picture 2
First dress with cute buttons

 

I have now completed three dresses for the precious little girls. 

2nd Homes of Love Dress - Copy
Second dress, now with a pocket.

They are not professionally done, that’s for sure, and I know where the mistakes were made and remedies attempted; but, they were made because of love for our Lord and for His children.

3rd Homes of Love dress
Third dress with decorated pocket.

3rd Homes of Love dress - decorated pocket

This project has prompted me to consider the relationship between clothing and our spiritual well-being.

Dr. R. C. Sproul, in the Renewing Your Mind broadcast entitled “Clothed in Righteousness,” comments on the first covering mankind had.  [You can access this broadcast by going to renewingyourmind.org and then accessing the archive listing for January 16, 2018.] 

Immediately after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, scripture says:

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:7-8

Prior to their sin, the first couple did not know embarrassment; they did not have feelings of shame because they were naked.  They were in perfect union with each other and with God. Their bodies certainly were not shameful; they were made specifically by God for each other.   In fact, each evening the Lord would come and walk with them through the garden.  No clothing, no shame, nothing to interfere with their enjoyment of their God.

But all that changed in an instant, when they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree; their eyes were opened, and Adam and Eve now felt embarrassment, shame, guilt.  They sewed fig leaves to make themselves a covering, to help them hide and when they heard the Lord, they ran for the trees to hide themselves from their God.  Note that their fig leaves were not clothes – they were coverings.  The intent was not to exchange nakedness with fig leaves; the exchange was between innocence and obedience in sharp contrast with sin, shame and guilt.

We are like that too, are we not?  When we have disobeyed God, or even merely our parents or employers, we are shameful, and we hide ourselves.  Guilt and shame are powerful agents for hiding, trying to disappear so that our actions will not be found out or, if they become known, at least we will not be around to see the consequences. 

God, of course, knew where they were and what they had done.  He didn’t need them to provide information to Him – He needed them to understand the full ramifications of their actions.  So, after they admitted what they had done, God punished them, issuing curses on the serpent, the woman and the man.  Then God said something miraculous, and indicative of His love for His creation.  In speaking to the serpent, God said:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

This is known as the “protoevangelium”, a fancy word meaning that it is the first gospel, the first good news found in Scripture, and it comes in the third chapter of the first book in the Bible.  It pronounces the curse on mankind because of Adam’s sin but God does not stop there … He goes on to tell of His provision for a Savior who would take the curse upon Himself, thus relieving His people from their sin.   Think of it — even though God cursed Adam and Eve because of their disobedience, their actions did not take God by surprise!  Genesis 3:15 tells us that God had already a plan in mind for a Savior who could restore the relationship between mankind and God, the Savior known as the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is good news indeed, but for Adam and Eve, they were still in the trees with their fig leaves.  God could have told them to get out of the garden, to leave everything that He had given them, and get out!  Go roam wherever you want but you are not welcome here, under my shelter, under my protective hand. You disobeyed, and you brought this on yourself.

But instead, the Lord provided tangible evidence of His love and care, despite their disobedience.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21

Before He cast them out of the garden, God himself made garments of skins for clothing of the man and his wife.  Dr. Sproul calls this “God’s first act of redemption,” and the first act that required the spilling of blood.  God did not cover Adam and Eve to hide them, He clothed them with skins.  Just as blood was shed when God clothed our first parents after they sinned, He offers to clothe us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ because of the shed blood of our Lord and Savior.

Scripture says that our best works, our best clothes, our best words and actions are as filthy rags before the Holy God.  So, we, like Adam and Eve, need clothes from God so that we can stand before Him.

The prophet Isaiah said it this way:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10

Beloved, Jesus Christ, our Lord has clothed us in His righteousness.  Praise His Holy Name!

Hear now the song “Clothed in Righteousness” as presented on the album entitled Glory to the Holy One.  The lyrics are presented below so you can follow the words as they sung.

 

Clothed in Righteousness, Lyrics

Fallen race in Eden fair
Exposed and full of shame
Fled we naked from Thy sight
Far from Thy Holy Name

Refrain

Clothe us in Your righteousness
Hide filthy rags of sin
Dress us in Your perfect garb
Both outside and within

 

Sent from the garden in the east
Outside of Eden’s gate
Banished there from Thy pure light
Were Adam and his mate

Scarlet souls are now like snow
By Thy atoning grace
Crimson hearts become like wool
For Adam’s fallen race

Refrain

 

No work of ours is good enough
For evil to atone
Your merit, Lord, is all we have
It saves, and it alone

Refrain

 

Father, I pray that the words of this post and the music presented here would be used by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who read the message and hear the music.  Thank You, Father, for Your Spirit and for Your love as You clothe us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

AN ACTIVITY BASED ON A RELATIONSHIP

For the past several years, I have been privileged to be included on a prayer list of concerns raised by some precious children in a nearby elementary school.  They participate in The Good News Club, an after school ministry for a couple of hours once a week, and part of that time is spent in prayer.  They then give the leader their prayer requests and it is sent to the various praying participants via email.

As an older adult, it is heart-warming, and sometimes humorous, to read some of their prayer requests. 

  • Praise that a child’s mom came back to be with her family.
  • Prays that his great-grandmother gets better.
  • Pray for her teacher’s daughter, that she stops coughing.
  • Pray that a fever blister in her mouth will go away
  • Pray that he can pay attention
  • Pray that the dog will stop barking

Each request, however, reflects a concern that these precious children have, either at home or at school.  In other words, these concerns touch their entire universe. 

As adults, we have learned to be a bit more obtuse when we pray.  Asking for some specific thing for our own selves might be too brash. So, we will phrase it in some other way so that we might be able to trick God into thinking we are praying for others, when it is actually our own desires at issue.  Even when intervening on behalf of someone else, most often we tell God what we want Him to do.

In the Canterbury Cathedral, as in the other cathedrals we visited in England, there were many tombs of various persons and heads of the church.  We found it interesting that the archbishops were, almost always, depicted with their hands clasped in prayer.

canterbury-cathedral-tomb
Ornate tomb of an archbishop in Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury England

I don’t know if they were praying for their own soul or if they were praying for their congregation, but I do know that prayers of intervention for others are appropriate.  For example, Paul says:

We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong, and our prayer is for your perfection.

 2 Corinthians 13:9.

tomb-of-one-of-the-archbishops-of-canterbury
Tomb of Archbishop John Bird Sumner, 1780-1862, Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury England

In Colossians 1:3-4 he tells his readers that he thanks God for their faith when he prays for them.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints…

Notice, however, that Paul’s prayers are not a laundry list of things that Paul wanted.  He certainly did not see the Father as a giant Santa Claus in the sky who would give out goodies for his personal benefit  … he didn’t even pray to be released from prison!  Read Acts chapter 16 for the incredible story of Paul in jail in Philippi, which was a leading city in the district of Macedonia.

Rather, Paul’s prayers related to strengthening the spiritual welfare of the believers, to the continued spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and for healing to occur so that God’s power would be revealed and He would get the glory.

Paul understood that, fundamentally, prayer is a conversation between two parties … the believer in Christ Jesus and God.  But these parties are not peers:  they are not equal in any manner.   We are the creation, and we are mortal.  We are sinners and the best we have to offer God is likened to giving Him filthy rags. 

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Isaiah 64:6 [NIV]

But for God’s sending Jesus Christ, we would not be able to have any prayer life because we could not approach God due to our sin.  Christ’s life, death and resurrection defeated the control sin has over us when He clothed us in His righteousness.  That is what God sees … sinners clothed in Jesus’ righteousness who were saved by His Grace through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord. 

Thank God for the righteousness that has been given to you through Jesus Christ.  Grow in your relationship with the Father, feed it with study of His Word, sit quietly and let Him speak to you so that your prayers are not a one-sided conversation that is a thinly veiled demand that God act in a certain way to satisfy your temporal desires. 

praying hands
Praying Hands.

While we can, and must, pray for the children and their concerns, our prayers must first be recognition of Who God is and we should give thanks for God’s gift of grace, His holiness, His attributes of love, patience, goodness, beauty, … the list could go on. 

Through prayer, we can have an intimate relationship with God, the Creator and Sustainer of all. But we must remember that we cannot just barge into God’s court with our demands even if they are camouflaged as requests.  We must have respect and reverence for the Almighty God.   So, start your prayer with time in adoration of Him.  Then, that adoration will naturally lead to confession of those times when we have fallen short of His desires for us.  This will flow into thankfulness for the forgiveness and cleansing from our sin that He gives to us through Jesus Christ.  And then, and only then, launch into a prayer of supplication.  This pattern of prayer is often referred to by the acrostic ACTS.

  • A – adoration of God
  • C – confession of our sins
  • T – thanksgiving for His cleansing of our sins
  • S – supplication for others and then, and only then, for ourselves

Offer God prayers of praise and thanksgiving multiple times per day.  Praise Him for His love and wondrous works on our behalf.  Praise Him for allowing us to come before Him in prayer. Thank Him and let your spirit be, first and foremost, one of gratitude in prayer.  Then see if your prayer life takes on new vibrancy when you intercede for others.

A singer from my youth was George Beverly Shea, who frequently sang at the Billy Graham Crusades.  On his album Echoes of My Soul, he sings a song entitled “Early in the Morning”.  Listen and think about what you can thank the Lord for today!

 

Father, I thank You for giving me the privilege of coming into Your presence through Your Son, and my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I thank You for promising to hear my petitions and I know that You will answer them according to Your divine will.  I praise Your name for Your grace and love, extended to all those to believe in the name of Your Son.  Strengthen us in prayer as we seek to serve you in our world.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 3 OF TRANSFORMATION

We come to to the end of the introduction to the Fruit of the Spirit and consider here transformation.  That is, our transformation into the likeness of our Lord by the renewing of our minds.  In short, it is our growth in righteousness!

What does Scripture say?

 Paul tells us that the evidence of our being new creatures in Christ is the growth of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:21-22.

He then commands that we not remain glued to this world but that we should change our focus to our Savior.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

We are to allow our minds to be transformed and renewed by the Spirit of our Father.  As the believer matures in the Lord, as she prays for understanding and wisdom, and as she reads the Word and is taught by teachers and preachers who base their lessons on the Word, the Holy Spirit will grow these characteristics in her.  The ultimate purpose of this growth is that we will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

The Holy Spirit renews our mind and heart by giving us a divine attitude. Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are

 “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteous and holiness.”

Paul is repeating what Jesus said about pursuing righteousness.  In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told his disciples:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seeking indicates active desire and longing.  Seeking is not passive – it is not considering a suggestion.  Seeking is searching and striving for the object sought.  Seeking something is pursuing it with intent to find it.  This seeking and pursuing righteousness is enabled in our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit.

We cannot be “created after the likeness of God” as Paul noted in Ephesians 4:24 other than through the transformation brought about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and this transformation is evidenced by love both to God and to man. 

How does this apply to my daily life?

So, what does all this have to do with the topic of our study – the fruit of the Spirit?  Righteousness.  It is what we are called to seek – it is what we are called to nurture – it is what we are called to desire – it is what we are called to do.   He also reminds us of what John Calvin has said:

 “There will be no excuse of the indolence of those who both conceal the gifts of God, and waste their time in idleness.

Now, regarding Calvin’s statement, I was pretty sure I knew what “indolence” meant, but I checked it in the thesaurus just to be sure – I am sorry that I did.  See what you think.  I have listed the various synonyms for indolence, now you insert whichever word you think fits best in that quote – “There will be no excuse of the laziness, idleness, sloth, sluggishness, inactivity, apathy, or lethargy of those who both conceal the gifts of God and waste their time in idleness.”

If we are transformed into the image of Christ Jesus, how does this reveal itself?  As previously noted, the transformation is evidenced by love to God and to man.  That being the case, there are some questions that we have to answer:

  • Do I conceal the gifts of God by refusing to use my gifts, time, talent, and money for the kingdom of God?
    • Do you?
  • Do I waste precious time God has given me in idleness or sluggishness, in apathy or, perhaps, in activities that do not reflect His presence in my life?
    • Do you?
  • How do I express my love to God?
    • What about you?
  • How do I express my love to others?
    • What about you?
  • Am I pursuing righteousness or am I hoping that it will just drop on me in some sort of cloud?
    • What about you?
  • Or, do I even care about righteousness in the first place?
    • What about you?

The fruit of the Spirit becomes evident as the Holy Spirit works in our lives as we pursue righteousness in obedience to our Lord’s command.  We can pursue righteousness because we know that God will supply all that we need to do so through His Holy Spirit.

Dr. R. C. Sproul encourages us by noting that “God has not given His people an unattainable goal; the Spirit enables us to please Him (see Hebrews 13:16).  This is also reflected in Philippians 4:19 where Paul says:

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” [KJV]

 Listen to the words of Philippians 4:19 as sung in My God Shall Supply from Integrity Music’s Scripture Memory Songs album entitled “Truth Sings the Word”..

 

Take some time to meditate this week on these questions and on the Scripture referenced above, and ask the Spirit of our God to prepare your heart and mind for the study of His work in our lives.

Next week we will begin our look at the first of the listing in Galatians 5:  Love. [Hint:  it is far more than casseroles and cards!]

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, INTRODUCTION, Series Post No. 1

This is the first post in a series of thoughts about the fruit of the Spirit found in The Bible at Galatians 5:22-23.   I plan to post this series each Friday, if the Lord grants it, and we will take time to think about what the Scripture says, and how it applies to my daily life.

 

I have used a number of references in preparation for this study, but throughout this study we will be specifically referencing Dr. R. C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit, CD Teaching Series; and Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series, both of which are available from Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org. I will also make frequent reference to Jonathan Edwards’ sermons collected in the excellent book Charity and Its Fruits, available through The Banner of Truth Trust at https://banneroftruth.org/us/. Another reference that I have referred to in this study is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This is an incredible reference for understanding our Christian theology, not just the fruit of the Spirit. I would encourage you to obtain a copy of the Shorter Catechism together with proof texts at http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ShorterCatechismwithScriptureProofs.pdf.

 

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?

 The first question we need to ask is “Why study the fruit of the Spirit?”

 

We know that the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Catechism Answer Number 1.

 

The Catechism also teaches that God created man, male and female, “after His own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness” with dominion over the creatures. Catechism Answer Number 10.

 

However, because of Adam’s fall, sin entered the world and all mankind lost the “knowledge, righteousness and holiness” that had been given to us at creation. Catechism Answer Number 18.

 

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22 says it this way:

 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

No longer do we have the righteousness and holiness that we had when mankind was first created. But all is not lost. The Catechism again comes to our aid by explaining that sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which we are renewed in the image of God and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness.

 

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:12-14

 

Paul continues to consider the Christian transformation in Colossians 3:10 where he says that we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” and Ephesians 4:24 says that our new self was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

 

So, how important is righteousness?     God calls each of his children to righteousness. Remember the first catechism answer – our primary purpose is to glorify God … we do that through the practice of righteousness.

 

At this point, some are asking “what in the world does all this righteousness talk have to do with the fruit of the Spirit?”   Listen to the words of Jesus.

 

Jesus prioritized the disciples’ concerns in Matthew 6:33: they were not to worry about what they would eat or wear — they were to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all the other needful things would be added to them.  Jesus explicitly stated that our goal is righteousness.

 

In his book The Holiness of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul says “the goal of all spiritual exercise must be the goal of righteousness.[i]

 

So, how do we know if we are growing in righteousness? Dr. R. C. Sproul continues to provide this answer:

The fruit of righteousness is that fruit that is exercised in us by the Holy Spirit. If we want to be holy, if we have a real hunger for righteousness, then we must focus our attention on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [ii]

* * *

[The virtues listed in Galatians 5:22-23] are the marks of a person who is growing in holiness. These are the virtues we are to cultivate. … In this list of the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle gives us a recipe for our sanctification. … The fruit of the Spirit – that is where our focus must be. [iii]

 

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO MY DAILY LIFE?

 

Martin Luther explained righteousness in practical terms by saying that “Every Christian is called to be Christ to his neighbor.” We understand this to mean that we should live our lives to conform to God’s will so that when people see us, they see the reflected holiness of Christ in our lives – people will see us reflecting Jesus’ love to others and, in so doing, they can see Him living through us.

 

We all sin every day, or more likely every moment of every day. But for the believer in Jesus Christ, that sin is covered by His righteousness and we are made children of God through His work on the cross. Therefore, we can follow our chief end, which is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, by growing in righteousness. This is done by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our minds and hearts so the fruit of the Spirit becomes recognizable in our life.

 

Our search for righteousness leads us directly to the Holy Spirit and the fruit that He promises to provide and grow in our hearts.

 

So, for now, I would challenge you to read Galatians Chapter 5 and focus on the comparison between the acts of the natural man and the acts of the believer in Christ Jesus who has the Holy Spirit working in her heart, specifically verses 19-23.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

——————–

[i] The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., © 1998 R. C. Sproul, page 166.

[ii] Ibid., page 167.

[iii] Ibid, pages 169-70.

The Bradford Pear Tree — and Me!

It has been unseasonably warm in our area of the country. As a result, some of the spring trees and plants are already in bloom, unaware that most of the time there is snow and freezing temperatures in March. In any event, they are blooming and, snow or not, it reminds me of spring and I am glad.

 

One of the flowering trees that I love is the Bradford pear tree – in spring, it is usually the first tree in bloom with its white flowers filling up the limbs of the tree. The trees are beautifully shaped and their limbs reach to the skies in homage to the Creator.

Bradford pear trees
Bradford pear trees with their flowering blooms and branches reaching up to the heavens.

 

Often, when I see the Bradford pear tree in bloom, I think about the beautiful things in this world, and/or what I perceive is good in myself.   You know, what I mean – the things that I did and which I perceive were good or the charitable activity that I performed recently, knowing that surely God will be happy that I did whatever it was! I smile as I drive past the tree, thinking that it reflects all that is good in my life and I am happy.

Book pictures Bradford pear- flowers 11
Flowering Bradford pear trees in our neighborhood.

 

But, if you live anywhere near a Bradford pear tree, and if you have a working nose, you will know that the “beautiful” flowers on the trees actually have a very unsavory aroma. Okay, to put it in the real world terms, they are beautiful as you drive past, but put your nose into the plethora of blooms and you will no longer be happy — the flowers stink.

 

And the analogy to my own life continues! The Bible says that all of our righteous acts, all the good things that we think we do — ALL of it stinks in God’s nose.   The prophet Isaiah describes our righteous acts in Scripture as follows:

 

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.   Isaiah 64:6.

 

Isaiah’s use of the words “filthy rags” does not mean a dirty dust cloth – rather it is, well, filthy rags that you certainly would not want on display anywhere!

 

Praise the Lord that this is not the last word for the Christian, however. Paul in his letter to the Romans, states:

 

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10.

 

In other words, I don’t have to depend on my own righteousness (or good works) to satisfy my accounts with God. Christ did that when He died on the cross … and His Spirit gives life, both now and evermore, because of His righteousness which has been given to me through His amazing grace.

 

So, I come back to the Bradford pear tree. I still love that tree – it is beautiful with its flower-covered limb-arms shining before the Lord.

 

But, the fragrant aroma that is lifted to God by the life of the Christian is not my own stinking flowers, rather it is the aroma of righteousness granted to me through faith in Jesus Christ my Savior.

 

It is Christ’s righteousness that God sees when he looks at me. Praise His Holy Name – and let the gorgeous Bradford Pear tree and its beautiful flowers remind you of our glorious and gracious God!

 

Father, thank You for reminding me, through Your creation that my works are nothing, but Yours are eternal and good. Thank You for your Son, my Savior and Lord. Strengthen me so that my life will honor and glorify You.