Monday, September 1, 2014

Graduate School Love -- Identity in Christ

When people talk about the love of God, and growing in knowledge of God's love, people tend to think that this love is about doing more.

What does the Bible say?

First, let us consider the prayer which Paul prayed to the Spirit-filled Ephesians:

"14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." (Ephesians 3: 14-19)

Even though Paul had spent the two previous chapters telling the Ephesians that God the Father seated His Son at His right hand, and that they are seated in Christ, and that all things are under their feet, he did not stop there. He told them to gain a revelation of this great love that God has for us.

That Christ would dwell, or rather be at home in their hearts.

In other words, that the would identify with Him completely.

Turning to First John, we see a growing understanding of God's love is not about what we do, but who we are in Him.

"9In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." (1 John 4: 9)

Now, this is what love looks like. God sent His Son, that we might live through Him.

Then John defines love:

"10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4: 10)

John makes it very clear -- love is not define by what we do, but what Jesus has done and is doing for us.

God sent His Son:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3: 16)

Notice also that love is what Jesus is doing. A proper translation of 1 John 4: 10 would read:

"And sent His Son, the propitiation (or mercy seat) of our sins."

Jesus does not stop being our mercy seat, for He is our high priest forever:

"15And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, 16Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
17For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (Hebrews 7: 15-17)
 
Jesus is this High Priest, one who justifies us and intercedes for us at the right hand of God the Father (Romans 8: 31-34)
 
John also writes about Jesus our propitiation, or rather our mercy seat:
 
"1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2: 1-2)
 
Notice even here that John writes "He is" not "He was".
 
Yet even for defining love, that is not love perfected, or completed.
 
How does that happen in our lives, then?
 
"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17)
 
A more accurate translation of this passage reads:
 
"By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17, NASB)
 
Love is not perfected in what we do, but in that we identify with Jesus. Not just seeing Him as the one we live through, and more than seeing Him as the mercy seat for our sins (past, present, and future), but we identify with Him, not with ourselves.
 
This was Jesus' prayer before going to the Cross:
 
"20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. "(John 17: 20-23)
 
Leaving elementary school and high school and entering graduate school love, so to speak, or to be an expert on God's love, is to see that you are in Christ, and that He is before in all things:
 
"I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning." (1 John 2: 13)
 
Not our doing more, but identifying more fully in Christ -- that is growing in knowledge of God's love for you.

You Know that You Are Saved

"I don't know if I am saved."

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard other people tell me that they are not sure whether they are saved or not.

These individuals are sitting in churches, by the way.

They even share the Gospel with other people.

Yet they have no idea whether they are saved.

Or they believe that their salvation is based on some subtle knowledge which someone else has.

What does the Bible say?

"But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20: 31)

We need life, and we receive this eternal life through Jesus.

John then wrote in his First Epistle:

"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5: 13)

Earlier in his epistle, John writes:

"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth." (1 John 2: 20-21)

John wrote to believers, to "dear children" that they may know they have eternal life. There is no secrecy, there is no wondering, there is no reason to live in doubt about one's state before God as a saved person.

We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit:

"For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. 21Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; 22Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Corinthians 1: 20-22)

and also

"Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 5: 5)

And also

"13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1: 13-14)

Followed by

"And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4: 30)

Let no one deceive your or despise your certainty: If you believe on the name of Jesus, then you are saved in Christ, Beloved, and this is written that you may know that you are saved!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Churches Are Not Political Houses

Churches are Greater Than Political Houses
"Our churches are union halls  for right wing causes."

I heard one political activist share this remark.

Last year, Congresswoman Maxine Waters hosted two townhall meetings in the South Bay, in churches.

One church in El Camino Village hosted the first townhall, and then she hosted another townhall in Torrance.

Churches should not be meeting rooms for political activities.

This issue is not a left-wing issue or a right-wing issue.

California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte remarked that he would not speak in churches.

His sentiment was a correct one.

Churches should not diminish their influence and impact with political activity.

Not that pastors cannot have an opinion based on issues, based on all that Bible teaches us.

Pastors have a responsibility to preach the truth who sets us free, and that includes promoting life and  marriage, the proper scope of the state, the proper reverence which every Christian should have for the governments.

Most importantly, though, everyone of us must recognize that Jesus Christ is King of Kings, that His power and glory transcends and overshadows the bareness of this world.

No matter what powers may sit in city hall or the state house, they cannot overcome the grace and protections we have in Christ."

Churches are not union halls for conservative causes.

Churches should not be the site for town hal meetings on political issues, either, and pastors should exercise their authority to declare to Congressional members or US Senators, whether Republican or Democrat, that their political agendas are not as important than the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

His mission matters far more than whoever wins the next election. Simple as that.

Jesus Christ is not a Republican, or a Democrat. He does not choose sides. He takes over:

"13And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so." (Joshua 5: 13-15)

If we understand that we are more than conquerors in Him (Romans 8: 37), that we are called to fight (or rather recognize as won) the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6: 16), then political infighting will not only seem marginal, but even trivial in churches.

Men and women in the Body of Christ are more than welcome to participate in political activities as they see fit, but our churches are places where we see the loveliness of Jesus our High Priest, our Captain of the Lord of Hosts, is in full array.

The more that we see Him, the more that we see ourselves in Him, and the consummate victory we receive over all things.

15[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." (Colossians 1: 15-20)

What does it matter which political party you belong to, when you are a fellowcitizen of the Kingdom of Heaven?

We Have a Good Name in Jesus

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold." (Proverbs 22: 1)

In this proverb, we read about the importance of a good name.

People can have money, but money taken by stealth or fraud will not gain one very much in this world.

Just like a man with rare gems, yet stolen gems, will not be able to show them or sell them, for fear of getting caught, so too wealth stolen by guile or outright theft does not benefit a man in the long term.

With a good name, a man will find doors open to him, opportunities made available to him.

Today, we have a good name because of Jesus:

"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1: 21)

Jesus means "Savior", and He wants to be a Savior in every aspect of our lives:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11: 28)

and

"31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Romans 8: 31-34)

By the name of Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins:

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2: 38)

By His name, we become sons of God:

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1: 12)

In fact, God sees us as one with His Son:

"22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." (John 17: 22-23)

and of course:

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17)

Through His name, our prayers our answered:

"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14: 13)

Through His name, we have life:

"But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20: 31)

By His name, we have healing:

"And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." (Acts 3: 16)

Through His name, we have authority over evil spirits:

"And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour." (Acts 16: 18)

For the believer today, we have a good name in Jesus, not a name which we gained from our parents, or which we earned through our upbringing or efforts, but by the grace of God demonstrated for us at the Cross, at the Resurrection, and today through Jesus' ministry today on our behalf.

This name, bought and paid for through His blood, grants to us favor beyond anything that gold and silver can buy:

"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God." (1 Peter 1: 17-21)

Notice that Peter talks about how we can pray to our Father in heaven. Why? Because of the name of Jesus, through whom we receive this blessed, eternal favor.

Hallelujah!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Self-Help = The Way of Cain

Image of Melody Beattie
Melody Beattie:
Leading Name in "Self-Help"
Self-help books, ministries, seminars, and speakers abound in our times.
 
What is going on?

Why are so many helpless, or needing help?

In these modern times, which are actually quite backwards, men  and governments have rejected God, they have rejected the goodness of God, the grace of God in Christ.

Even the most morally bankrupted of kings recognize that their reign depended on the grace of God, not the will of men, and even if they did not rest in the truth of the Word of God, no one could run away from the truth of God's grace in the lives of men.

There is no help in a man's own efforts.

Man needs life, not just help:

"15And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2: 15-17)

Yet man did eat for the tree, and all of Creation fell with Adam.

Nevertheless, the plan for redemption was already in place:

"15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Genesis 3: 15)

and then

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." (Isaiah 11: 9)

and

"Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." (Isaiah 55: 3)

and then

"For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them." (Isaiah 61: 8)

Man does not help, but needs a full cleansing and new life. Man does not need someone or something to make his life better. He needs life:

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10: 10)

We have this life through the gift of righteousness, granted to us because Jesus became sin in our stead (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5: 21)

This righteousness cannot be earned as a gift. Cannot.

There is no improvement in ourselves. We need a new life, we need a perfect ransom, we need restoration granted to us from outside.

Self-help indeed is no help at all:

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 16: 25)

The Message translation brings out the fact that we cannot save ourselves:

"Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self."

Keeping in mind that Jesus spoke these words while operating under the Old Covenant, we must confront the truth that man does not have "a self"  or a life to give:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 2: 4-6)

and

"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;" (Colossians 2: 13)

If you are dead, you cannot help yourself.

For this reason, the writer of Hebrews talks about repentance from dead works:

"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9: 14)

Notice that our conscience is purged by the blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God whose blood speaks better things than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12: 24)

God Accepts Abel's Sacrifice
Now, we can  understand the woeful evil of "The Way of Cain":

"Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." (Jude 11)

The way of Cain does not refer to murder, since way implies a mindset or attitude, not one action.

Bearing in mind the full context of 1 John 2, where Cain's actions were labeled unrighteousness, we can recognize that the way of Cain refers to the sacrifice which he offered to God:

"And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4: 3-5)

Abel offered a lamb, a picture of the perfect sacrifice of God's Son. Cain offered "of the fruit of the ground". Not even the first-fruits, Cain offered something from his efforts, from the sweat of his brow, from a source which God had cursed at that time:

"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;" (Genesis 3: 17)

Man was cursed, and the ground was cursed, and yet Cain presented a sacrifice to God which suggested that there was no sin problem, as though God would award his efforts.

In the same fashion, the modern self-help movement has given rise to the defeated and frustrating folly that man is basically good, but he needs a little help here and there.

For years, even I was carried away with this dissimulation, reading my Bible, then reading self-help books to give me advice on how to live.

We do not need the counsel of the ungodly, but rather we meditate, live on the Word of God, and He causes us to prosper in all that we do (Psalm 1: 1-3)

Man does not need help, he needs everything, for man is beyond help, but dead in his trespasses. The deeper perversion of self-help programs is the lie that man just needs to try a little harder, work a little more, and then he can make himself a little better. The result? Man finds intractable problems and perversions in his flesh, and still no respite to overcoming.

Why do so many Christians struggle? They are trying to overcome when in Christ we have already overcome:

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1 John 4: 4)

and then

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5: 4)

Notice that John writes that what is born of God. We cannot bear ourselves, nor can we remake ourselves. This life must come from above and into us:

"Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (John 3: 4)

Nicodemus was at least humble enough to ask, while today, many Christians and religious sects dispense with the hard reality that man needs to be reborn, taken from dead in his trespasses to alive and seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-6)

There is no self-help in that.

Self-help, ironically, has made many people helpless all the more, looking at themselves and their circumstances, trying to fix the problems in their lives, when it is the unmerited grace of God which brings us life an power and victory into all facets of our walk in Christ.

When the Israelites were in bondage to the Egyptians, they cried out because of their bondage.

Imagine if they were slaves today, surrounded with the self-culture which tells men and women to keep trying to improve their situation. Most of those Israelites would have died out before seeing any liberty in their lives.

In the same fashion, many Christians, who have subscribed to the way of Cain, the way of self-improvement through man's efforts, find themselves failing over and over, not getting any traction or gaining any ground in their fight.

Why would it be otherwise? We are called to one fight, and one only:

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6: 12)

There is no helping ourselves. We need life, we require His perfect peace, not our imperfect attempts to piece together something for ourselves.

Rest in the Finished Work of Jesus Christ today, and let the blood of Jesus speak better things than the Blood of Abel: forgiveness, redemption, favor!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Suicide of Robin Williams -- Man is a Spirit

Robin Williams (1951-2014)
Good Morning Vietnam!

I am Mork from Ork!

It was a run-by fruiting!

These and other catch-phrases are all too familiar to me.

I was not prepared for the news that Robin Williams had died.

Then I learned about the gruesome circumstance surrounding his death.

He had committed suicide, first by trying to cut his wrists, then by asphyxiation with a belt.

Before learning about Williams's suicide, I had been listening to a sermon from Evangelical preacher Kenneth Hagin.

Speaking about fighting the good fight of faith, Hagin told his audience that man is a spirit, he possesses a soul, and he lives in a body.

Then he related the account of a wealthy psychologist from Beverly Hills, CA. Wealthy and well-off, with a beautiful family and a thriving medical practice, this psychiatrist had committed suicide.

People in the media and around the city could not understand why this established man, with friends and family, as well as famous connections to Hollywood Elite, would take his life.

Then Hagin explained that psychology, psychiatry can deal with a man's soul, all of which he understands through the mere senses, yet he cannot minister to a man's spirit.

No human means can.

God Creates Man (Michaelangelo)
Man was made a spirit being from the beginning:

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. " (Genesis 1: 26-28)

Man came from God, as the creatures of the sea came from the water, as the stars were formed from the space, as the plants and animals came from the earth.

Man cannot be without being in God.

"4These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2: 4-7)

The moment when Adam and Eve ate from the wrong tree, the knowledge of Good and Evil, dictating that they would live from their own guidance, rather than the gentle, gracious leading of the LORD, they died.

To this day, as long as man insists on being his own god, forming his own fullness through His own efforts, He will be notoriously frustrated

No amount of temporal wealth and relationships, no matter how grand or expansive, will ever be enough for a man:

"15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."(1 John 2: 15-17)

We are destined for eternal life, and that is exactly what Jesus gives to us.

He gives us Himself: the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14: 6)

This depth within man was too much for psychologists to make sense of on their own. Recognizing that there is a life current within man much deeper than his thinking or feeling, psychologists talked about "the will" and then "the subconscious".

The truth is -- man is a spirit, possesses a soul, and lives in a body.

As long as the world insists on ignoring the destined eternity of man, he will continue to misdiagnose a great deal of what troubles him.
Portion of Hebrew Scripture

Cases like Robin Williams, who hid a deep depression in spite of his best efforts, whether making others laugh or gaining notoriety through his routines (or his movie roles) could never fill up the emptiness which defines all men who make themselves the final source of all things:



Consider the example of the richest, most powerful, most influential man who ever lived, whose wealth to this day rivals the richest men on earth: Solomon, the Great King of Israel:

"2Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
4One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever." (Ecclesiastes 1: 2-4)
 
When reading Ecclesiastes, though, rightly dividing the Word bears in mind greatly. Solomon did not have the full revelation of the Messiah, He who would restore all things and promote man to his rightful place and moreso through His death and resurrection on the Cross.
 
"12I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. 14I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered." (Ecclesiastes 1: 12-15)
 
The word "I" features all too prominently throughout Ecclesiastes. Man is not able to be his own center, to provide his life. He simply cannot. He was never meant for such rugged independence.
 
Toward the end of the book, Solomon writes:
 
"13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14)
 
God has gone one better, in that He places Himself within us, guides us from within, and grants us life and blessings through Himself:
 
"10For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
 
"11And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
 
"12For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8: 10-12)
 
This is the New Covenant, not just fulfilling the Old, but granting us life and that more abundantly through Jesus Christ.
 
Consider one phrase repeated at length in Ecclesiastes:
 
 
Now consider the final direct prophecy of the Messiah in Malachi, the last prophet before John the Baptist:
 
"1For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 3And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 4: 1-3)
 
When Jesus, our Sun of Righteousness, came, He was delivered for all our sins, fulfilled the Law of Moses, then rose from the dead and sat at the right hand of God the Father.
 
Today, for all who believe on Him, we are taken from dead in our trespasses to alive and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:4-6)
 
In other words: We are in the Son, the Son of Righteousness, above the son!
 
The causes of suicide ultimately stem from the failed sense that no matter what we do, we cannot grant ourselves life.
 
The answers is Life Himself, which we  receive in Jesus!
 
Man is a Spirit, and when we allow the Son to live in us, then we shine in the Son above the sun!
 

God Turns Your Heart to Favor You

"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21: 1)

Do you know that you are a king, Beloved?

Not because of your birth to your parents on earth, but because of your rebirth and adoption in Christ Jesus:

"For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield." (Psalm 5: 12)

The word "compass" also means crown as well as surround.

We have been crowned with royal favor because of Jesus' death on the Cross, His resurrection from the dead, and our new standing in Him at the right hand of God the Father.

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

and

"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Corinthians 15: 21)

Because of their standing in Christ, yet their indifference to the needs of others, Paul gently chided the Corinthians:

"Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you." (1 Corinthians 4: 8)

In Revelation, John witnesses the elders worshipping the Lord:

"8And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5: 8-10)

Jesus has crowned us, and the only thing we can do is to say "Thank You" and give the crown back to Him.

Because of Jesus, we are kings and priests:

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" (1 Peter 2: 9)

Now, since we are kings, do we have a river in our hearts?

Of course we do: His Holy Spirit!

"37In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" (John 7: 37-39)

Now, this  Holy Spirit guides us to do the things that God wants us to do.

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." (John 16: 13)

Yet we cannot discern the leading of the Spirit if we are not established in the righteousness of God in Christ, which is by faith, not by our works:

"7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." (John 16: 7-11)

The Spirit of God affirms our righteous standing before God, and thus our new standing as sons of God:

"15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Romans 8: 15-17)

Sons of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ, which include our majestic standing of king and priest.

In order to understanding the flow of the river, so to speak, you have to walk in the truth that in Christ, all sins have been put away, you are convicted of righteousness, and you are a king and priest in Him:

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4: 17)

Now that we have His Spirit living in us, we have His will and power to do what He wants us to do:

"12Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2: 12-13)


When we receive His Spirit, we have His standing, and thus His understanding for all that He wants to lead us to do:

"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." (1 John 2: 20)

and

"27But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." (1 John 2: 27)

One more thing about Proverbs 21: 1. . .

The heart of a king is a river, or "peleg" in Hebrew.

The first mention of "peleg" in the Bible occurs here:

"When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;" Job 29: 6)

Even though in this passage Job is praising Himself, the truth is that we all have this anointing oil within us, which speaks of the gift of righteousness, the Spirit of God, within us. Anointing oil speaks of our kingship and royal bearing, too.

This river appears a second time in the First Psalm:

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Psalm 1: 3)

When we follow the river within our hearts, we can be sure that God is leading us to wealth and prosperity, even during times of adversity.

God turns the heart of kings live a river. The Proverb also bears out the sense of turning it to His pleasure, and God's greatest pleasure is to prosper us:

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2)

Today, Beloved, rest in the truth that God is guiding in your heart, and He is turning your heart to favor you in all things.



God Turns Kings' Hearts to Your Favor

"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21: 1)

When we read this passage, we need to realize that no matter what plans any king may lay, they are working for God's plan in the long run.

Now, many people may hear this statement, and then make fearful remarks which suggest that God supports genocide or other evil massacres.

Refer back to the wicked things which Pharoah had done to the Israelites, and the plagues which followed because of the king's unrighteous disobedience:

"And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. 20And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty: 22But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians." (Exodus 3: 19-22)

Later, the LORD would share how He would affect Pharaoh:

"3And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. 4But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments." (Exodus 7: 3-4)

Now, keep in mind that the statement is causative. God wants all men to come to repentance, but the truth is that the goodness of God can harden a man's heart set on evil as much as soften a heart seeking the grace of God.

Even before God sent Moses to compel Pharaoh to release the Israelites, the LORD to told Moses and Aaron that Pharoah would not relent, and yet in the end the Israelites would not only leave Egypt but leave with great favor and wealth from the very people who had enslaved them for four hundred years.

So, right away should not worry about who is in charge in our lands, in our country, or even in our cities.

All authority comes from God, and His Son Jesus Christ is King of Kings, Lord of Lords. All knees will bow to Him.

And today, Beloved, you are in Christ:

"4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 2: 4-6)

and

"27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily." (Colossians 1: 27-29)

Consider also God's uses of other kings.

"And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:" (Daniel 2: 21) God was up front with the King of Babylon:

"And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him." (Jeremiah 27: 6)

God used prophets to tell kings what He was going to have them do, too:

"1Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
 
2I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
 
3And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
 
4For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
 
5I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:" (Isaiah 45: 1-5)
 
Notice in this passage how God uses kings so that they will know that He is God, He is LORD, and that there is no one else. God also uses kings, even if they do bad things, to bless His people.
 
At Jesus' judgment before Pilate, Jesus the King of Kings stood before one king, and reminded him that he had no power of himself:
 
"37Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." (John 18: 37)
 
and then
 
"Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? 11Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. 12And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him:" (John 19: 10-12)
 
Pilate wanted to release Jesus, yet the heart of this ruler was in the hands of the very God who became a man, that He would witness of the truth, which is the loving grace of God for all men.
 
After Jesus's death and resurrection, Jesus grants to all who believe on Him the opportunity to become kings and priests:
 
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" (1 Peter 2: 9)
 
After Paul's conversion, God used rulers to Paul's benefit and the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
 
"
1Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
2I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: 3Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently." (Acts 26: 1-3)
 
From his defense before Agrippa, Paul then appealed to Caesar, and received the one-way trip to Rome to preach the Good News:
 
"32Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar." (Acts 26: 32)
 
How did Paul's journey end, regarding his appeal to Caesar?
 
"30And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him." (Acts 28:  30-31)
 
No matter who rules in your city, state, or country, you can know that because you are in Christ, you are more than a conqueror (Romans 8: 37), that He has overcome the world (John 16: 33), and that because of Him, you have overcome all things, too (1 John 4: 4, 5: 4).

Fear Not Temporal Authorities

"The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Proverbs 21: 1)

When I read this passage, I realized that God has all powers in his hands. This includes political power.

No matter what a king, or a ruler is planning, God is still moving and working through these people, or he can influence them, and to the benefit of His children.

Consider the example of Pharoah:

"And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 7: 3)

Even though Pharoah was a wicked ruler, one who defied the living God, and put his people into terrible bondage by refusing to submit to the Lord God, the Israelites were kept safe. Even when a great darkness fell upon the land in one plague, there was still light among the Israelites:

"21And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. 22And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: 23They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." (Exodus 10: 21-23)

Let this passage settle into your spirit. We do not have to worry about the leaders in our midst. If they are ungodly, we do not have to fear the consequences of their folly, because we are of God, and we are in Christ Jesus:

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1 John 4: 4)

Who is in us? Christ Jesus:

"27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:" (Colossians 1: 27-28)

Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8: 12), and we are in the Light (1 John 1: 7):

"14Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain" (Philippians 2: 14-16)

We do not have to worry about our President or the city leaders.

While men and women of no account or integrity may win office, all power ultimately comes from God:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." (Romans 13: 1)

Yet many people will challenge with "Why should I listen to or respect the President? He is an evil man, a communist, a failure, a fraud."

We have to understand submission to temporal authorities in the same way that married men and women relate to each other in  marriage:

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." (Ephesians 5: 22)

"As unto the Lord" is the safeguard. A woman is not bound to respect an unrighteous demand from a husband.

What about the husbands?

"25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Ephesians 5: 25)

Jesus gave us life and that more abundantly, as well as preeminence in Himself. God does not coddle our flesh, for He wants us to have His life. In the same  manner, a husband does not accede to selfish demands of a wife, for that is not love.

Consider Jesus' testimony before Pontius Pilate:

"Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." (John 19: 11)

If you find yourself facing temporal (and thus temporary) persecution in your government or even your workplace, you can rest assured that God is setting you up for greater glory:

"18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully." (1 Peter 2: 18-19)

Submission does not mean blind obedience.

Peter speaks to this issue perfectly:

"13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." (1 Peter 2: 13-17)

The word "submit" in verse 13 is first mentioned in Luke, which describes Jesus' submission to His earthly parents Mary and Joseph, and yet let us also remember that He remained in Jerusalem for a period of time without telling His parents. When they found him reasoning with the Rabbis at the Temple, they scolded Jesus for not telling them where He was. He then kindly reminded them of His highest priority:

"And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2: 49)

Jesus' submission to His heavenly Father took highest preeminence, and so it does for all us today in the Body of Christ, no matter whether we live under a godly or ungodly government.

So, today, no matter who may be in charge in your country, rest in the truth that God has all control, and you need not fear the terrors or upsets which temporal rulers may attempt. Jesus Christ has preeminence in all things, and even if the leaders in your land are corrupt, know that in Christ you are safe and preserved, and that He will bless you to shine out as a light in His light in the midst of a dark and perverse world.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Gift of Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Stained glass, Holy Family Church, Teconnaught, September 2010 crop.jpg
Righteousness -- The Gif of God Who Exalts a Nation
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14: 34)

If men and women are troubled by what they see in this country, then they need to consider that the answer is not found in electing the right people, but rather returning to righteousness.

Now the troubles really begin, because for many people, righteousness is still defined by what people do, how they think, or how they operate, rather than resting in what Jesus Christ has done at the Cross for us, and the gift which he ministers to us as our High Priest forever.

The United States of America needs to return to righteousness, indeed. Two men marrying, killing children before they are born because of inconvenience for the loose and irresponsible parents, taking from one group of people to another, discriminating against others because of skin color, or ethnic status, or how much they have (or do not have) is all a manifestation of sin, of death.

Nations which rested, received, and proclaimed the truth of the Gospel thrived. With the growing prominence of the Gospel of grace preached in China, in Singapore, and in India, it is no surprise to see that these nations are thriving even while other countries are struggling, and churches are closing.

This sad account now includes the United States.

A couple of things we need to keep in mind when we read the above passage.

Righteousness as understood in the Bible, as understood to the Jews before the coming of Christ, and even in Solomon's day, was never established in what one did.

It was a gift, one wrought for the Israelites every day through the sacrifices of the priests, and ultimately in their acceptance before God through the High Priest.

Italian Rendering of the Biblical High Priest
This gift of righteousness comes from God through His Son, who was prophesied as one who would bring everlasting righteousness:

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." (Daniel 9: 24)

Everlasting righteousness cannot come from us, but can only be given to us.

Consider also the prophesies of Isaiah:

"For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee." (Isaiah 54: 9)

When we know and believe in this love, that because of Jesus' work at the Cross, God will never be angry with us again, then we can rest in this truth:

"14In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee." (Isaiah 54: 14)

In righteousness we are established - that in itself should bear witness of this fact: it is not our righteousness, since it establishes us.

Then Isaiah continues:

"17No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 54: 17)

Most preachers love to shout: "No weapon formed against you shall prosper." But why?

Because our righteousness is from Him. We have a perfect standing against every accusation, against every wile and attack of the Enemy.

"1And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? 3Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. 4And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. 5And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by." (Zechariah 3: 1-5)

Notice that the Angel of the Lord gives the robe of righteousness. We do not make it for ourselves.

This figures perfectly with the type developed in the beginning:

"21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them." (Genesis 3: 21)

So, how do we receive this righteousness? As a gift, and one which God keeps giving, and the basis for this gift is from Jesus, our righteousness.

Jesus was prophesied as the "Lord our righteousness" long ago, even among the writings of the weeping prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah

"In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." Jeremiah 23: 6)

and then

"In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness." (Jeremiah 33: 16)

and

"The LORD hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of the LORD our God." (Jeremiah 51: 10)

This is fulfilled in Christ Jesus today:

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:" (1 Corinthians 1:30)

and then

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

From this verse, we can better understand sin.

In the Bible, from the beginning until Jesus' death on the Cross, sin was a noun, a status of being, not an action.

In effect, it is worse than what many religious people are inclined to accept. We are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.

Throughout the book of Romans, sin is presented almost every time as a noun, a state of being. Not what we do, but who we are, or what defines us because of Adam.

Even when Paul writes:

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3: 23)

He prefaced this stinging statement with this passage from the Psalms:

"9What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
 
10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" (Romans 3: 9-10, from Psalm 14: 1; 53: 1; 143: 2)
 
Notice that he writes under sin -- noun.

We need a new identity, we need a new standing, we need to be lifted out of Adam and brought into Christ:

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" (Romans 5: 12)

and then

"15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5: 15-17)

And in this passage, we find that sin is a noun, yet the gift of righteousness  -- a noun and something that we receive, not something we earn, or do -- manifests. Looking more closely at verse seventeen, we find the recognition that righteousness is a gift which we keep on receiving.

The Youngs Literal Translation brings out this wonderful, powerful promise:

"for if by the offence of the one the death did reign through the one, much more those, who the abundance of the grace and of the free gift of the righteousness are receiving, in life shall reign through the one -- Jesus Christ."

The gift of righteousness is needed today -- and this gift is not dependent our flesh, our feelings, or our knowledge of certain facts.

Righteousness is a gift, one which we cannot earn, because the price is an eternal price, Christ's blood shed on the Cross.