Posted by: pastortomvabeach | October 8, 2009

Thought for the Week October 11, 2009

How is your journey of faith going right now? If you were to evaluate your life as a Christian, how would you decide if you are doing well or if you are failing? How would you rate your level of “righteousness” right now? How “righteous” or how “guilty” do you feel today?

These may seem like a lot of strange questions but when you ask people you’ll find out that many, if not most, Christians base a lot of their perceptions of the success or failure of their “Christian” life on their feelings. We look at ourselves through a lens that was created as we grew from children to adults and revolved largely around how we “felt” about ourselves. Do I feel accepted or pleasing to those around me? Do I feel like I’m wanted and liked by others? These questions come to us as we attempt to get our own need for love and acceptance met. And since we learn early on to navigate life by feelings, we tend to do the same thing in our walk with Christ.

Much of what we learn growing up is what Bill Gillham calls “performance-based acceptance”. If we do well in school, everyone is happy. If we keep our room clean, we’re on mom’s good side. If we do wrong, our actions cause others to reject us. These and a myriad of other situations, over time, cause us to feel that we can only be loved and accepted when we get it “right” and, if we stumble or face difficulty, we feel unaccepted.

This results in a misunderstanding of righteousness that, I believe, keeps many Christians in a perpetual struggle. Many, if not most, Christians view righteousness as relating to performance, holy behavior, getting it right. Of course, godly behavior is important, and holiness is to be pursued by those who are redeemed. But the Word of God is clear that there is a righteousness that is absolutely unrelated to our performance. Romans 4:3-5, says, For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

What God is telling us here is that biblical righteousness is a state of being, a declaration of one’s identity. God says that He will declare a person righteous under one condition—faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:21-22, says, But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. This reveals to us that how I feel is not the measure of success or failure with God. Instead God says we are “right” based upon what we believe.

The question then is, do I really believe that what I believe is really real? So many Christians, who believe that Jesus died for their sins, who have confessed and repented and invited Jesus to rule over their lives and, therefore, have been declared “all right” by God continue to strive to generate their own standing of being “all right”. They base their success on how they feel they are doing in this regard. Some feel pretty good about themselves – I’m doing OK, I work in the church, I evangelize, I use my ministry gifts, etc. Some feel not so good – I’m not as good as so and so, I can’t overcome a certain sin, etc. Can you see both are caught up in a syndrome of “I” make myself righteous and both are operating in the flesh?

What I am getting at here is that the only standard God operates on is “Jesus-based acceptance”. This means that God loves us only and always because of Jesus’ performance and not because of ours. Bill Gillham in Lifetime Guarantee says, “If you have come into relationship with Jesus Christ by believing in His death, resurrection, and power to save you, the Father has accepted you completely. Performance has nothing whatever to do with it. Performance is important to God, yes, but is has to do with winning His approval, not His acceptance.”

So then Gillham says, “Any Christian who is striving for acceptance is fighting a battle that’s already been won because God uses Christ’s finished work as the criterion for acceptance.” Can you see how this frees us up to live as God intends? Instead of trying to gain acceptance with God, I can view my life from a position of being God’s child, filled with His Holy Spirit, already “righteous” and holy. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:17-18, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God. Think of what this means. Instead of trying to be accepted by God, I can step out, in faith, and begin to act as if these things were true – because they are!

Does that mean I will always feel “righteous”? Probably not. The enemy wants to keep you thinking that you are no good, that the “old you” is alive and well, and that you can never measure up to being accepted by God. If he can keep you in that state, you then spend most of your time trying to be “right” instead of just serving God as His child knowing you’re already “right”.

Beloved, this is all about grace. We can’t do enough to save ourselves, so God sent Jesus to do everything necessary to bring us into His fellowship and family. But we must understand that once we are saved, we still can’t do anything to make ourselves what we need to be, and we can never make ourselves more loved or accepted by God than we are. That is why He arranged by His grace for us to “become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21) If we can grasp and believe who we are in Christ the actions must follow.

So I encourage you this week to get into God’s Word. Study the “facts”. If you’re not sure who you are in Christ, read Ephesians chapter 1-3, Romans chapter 6, and II Corinthians 5, among others. Read them again and again until you can trust in what God says instead of your feelings. Faith is about believing the “facts” regardless of how we “feel”. When we get that right we will be unstoppable in living for and serving Jesus. And the world will know. So, let me ask you one more time, how “righteous” do you feel? Just a thought.

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