Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ask a kid . . .

We asked our kids last night an important question: "What do you have to do to be Righteous in God's eyes?"

I'm curious what your kids would say.  Ask them and put their response in the comment field below?

Ours gave us responses that caused us to look at each other, not shocked but troubled. "Did you teach them that?"  "No.  Did you?" "No."  WHO?!

The older two kids both said "To be righteous in God's eyes, you have to obey God's laws."  The youngest kid asked what righteous was.

Who has been teaching our children that righteousness is built on obedient works?  That's the very thing we spend our adult energy trying to unlearn!  Our righteousness is based on faith--Relying on Jesus.  We don't get more righteous if we have Jesus + no stealing.  Neither Jesus + tithing nor Jesus + fasting is more righteous than just Jesus.

Ready for the hard inverse truth?  Faith-in-Jesus + adultery is not less righteous than just Jesus.

Can it sink in?  Can our kids learn that their own righteousness doesn't add to the glorious righteousness that faith in Jesus applies to us?


  1. Yes, we are made righteous by the blood of Jesus alone, apart from anything we do. However, to flip the argument and say that "faith-in-Jesus + adultery is not less righteous than just Jesus" is to embrace antinomianism which Paul strongly argued against in Romans. We are made righteous only through the atoning work of Jesus, but that does not give us license to live ungodly lives. We must work out our salvation with fear of the Lord, which is holiness--being separated from the world, the flesh, the devil so that we may reflect His glory.

  2. "When grace is separated from truth, indulgence comes into Christians. When truth is separated from grace, legalism comes into the church. . . The righteousness of God comes through grace and truth." (Thompson You Can Be Righteous p.20)

    Righteousness is through faith alone. Neither behaving badly nor being really, really good affect Christ's righteousness in you.

    Maybe I was too slow to add this: you would be entirely wrong to live badly because you have a working understanding of righteousness! The clarity of Scripture on this point is completely unambiguous--I am to live holy, uncompromised, according to the Spirit and NOT according to the flesh, this world, or the devil.

    Behave well. Your behavior will have consequences, both good and bad, and it will affect your relationship with your Redeemer, both to the good and to the bad. The Bible does not mince words about the kind of sinless life we are to lead when we live in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

    Let me lay two very similar sentences on you. One is solid, the other leads to shaky theology. Ready?

    1. When I am in Christ, habitually lying affects my righteousness.
    2. Habitually lying affects my relationship with my Righteousness.

    I'd welcome your thoughts!

  3. OK, this stuff gets over my head pretty fast, and I'm not very theological, but here is what I think.

    "Righteousness" sounds like "right living". For a Christian, "right living" logically would mean living by following God's laws. "To be righteous in God's eyes, you have to obey God's laws." I think your kids are spot on.

    However, YOU are an adult and are no longer naive - you know it isn't possible to obey all of God's laws all of the time. So you turn to God's Plan B. Imputed righteousness through justification. And not just any old justification. God has a special kind in mind. (Now I will take a short diversionary side trip.) But the prince of the world is quick to whisper other ways of justifying oneself into any ear willing to listen. Take Adam and Eve for example. "Adam, Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you NOT to eat from?" Adam quickly searched around in his mind for an excuse that would make him look good in God's eyes. "The woman YOU put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it," Adam says, justifying himself in his own eyes and hoping God will see it the same way. (He doesn't stop to think that God probably will not be particularly impressed with Adam's innocence based on his explanation that after all it is partially God's fault for having put THAT woman with him.)

    The huge problem with that kind of justification, incidentally, is that if we blame others for our transgressions, we build a wall of redirection around ourselves so that God cannot touch our point of weakness with His truth and help shape our spiritual character nor is that part of us available to Him to place under the justifying blood of Christ, since we are not accepting responsibility. We are busy justifying ourselves by blaming others... so that means God is supposed to go "fix" the other person and make him righteous instead.

    I think your kids have God's original plan for us in mind... He wants us to live our lives righteously following His laws and guidelines, creating a true Kingdom of God in our corner of the planet. Righteousness is a characteristic of a Godly life and can be observed by anyone with eyes to see. But because of the Fall, our lives are a mixture of following in His way (righteous) AND not following His way (unrighteous). His work with us is twofold. He wants us to obey His laws.

    But, in the event that in our own strength and with the help of the Holy Spirit we still are not 100% in the image of Christ, He needs a way to repair the damage supernaturally. The task of righteousness through justification used to happen through repeated sacrificial offerings. But on that universe-shaking day when in the form of Jesus a part of the Godhead was sacrificed, the sacrifice was final and adequate for our planet - for all nations for all time. And so I believe, God sees Christians simultaneously both as imputedly righteous and also as vessels under the potter's hand, continually needing direction, guidance, correction and shaping as he molds and grows us gradually closer to the image He had in mind when He created us.

    So I guess I am saying you and the kids are both right because righteousness has two different meanings. Imputed righteousness comes through faith alone so you are right. In that sense, "Faith-in-Jesus + adultery is not less righteous than just Jesus".

    But the second meaning, righteous living, means obeying God's laws, and in that sense, "Faith-in-Jesus + adultery" is wildly less righteous than just Jesus.


Thanks for commenting! ~Pastor Tim