Nick Jones

God, Life, Religion

Category: Righteousness (page 1 of 2)

Revelation’s Bride

Bride

It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. – Revelation 19:8

Ever been to a wedding? I’ve been to several and one thing that has been common among all the ones I have been to is the groom waits for the bride. In our modern wedding tradition,  the groom waits for the bride to come to him. And everyone ends up analyzing the facial expressions of the groom as he waits in front of the church or venue used for his bride to walk down the aisle.

Biblically, however it is the other way around. In the Bible the bride waits for the groom. One example of this is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (think modern day bridesmaids) in Matthew 25 where all ten of them wait for the groom to come and meet his waiting bride. This is why in Scripture we find the symbolism of a bride waiting for her groom used for the church waiting for Christ to return.

The symbolism of marriage is found all through the Bible. The other day I was reading through Revelation 19, which is brief interlude between the lament for Babylon in the last half of chapter 18, and the second coming of Jesus in the last half of chapter 19. Verses 7 and 8 struck me as odd the first time through:

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Here’s why I found it odd. On the surface one could look at this and come to the conclusion that it is the duty of the saints to make themselves righteous. Phrases such as clothe herself and righteous acts on the surface could make people think that the saints do it all themselves. Pair that with what Jesus said in Matthew 5:20:

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

and you have the ability to make a big leap into legalism. You could make the assumption that in order to be the bride of Christ you have to, in your own power, be righteous. The biggest problem with legalism however, is you make the sacrifice of Christ obsolete. If you can save yourself through your own righteous acts, then why did Christ die?

The phrase that really sets off what is happening here in Revelation 19 is the first phrase of verse 8: It was given to her.

“Her” is the bride of Christ which is the church (Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 21:2) and “it” is the fine linen of righteous acts. We are given the righteous acts! Revelation 19 verse 8 identifies who is part of the bride of Christ in verse 7. And those that are the bride of Christ are those who have submitted to Christ completely and have been empowered by Christ to live a holy life. The righteous acts of the saints are not theirs, but Christ’s.

This text alone shows the dangers of both legalism (performance based religion) and license (ignore God’s law and count on His grace). If we believe we have to earn the robe of righteousness through our own power, we are living legalistically and in contradiction to a God who saves us by grace alone. And if we believe we can continue living in our sins after accepting the fine linen given to us we are living in contradiction to a God who expects perfect obedience.

The clean and bright linens here in Revelation 19:8 are the righteous acts of the saints given by God to them. They are empowered to live holy lives, to live lives of acts of service because they have submitted to Christ. Revelation’s bride is not a woman who looks to herself for her deeds as the harlot does in Revelation 17. Revelation’s bride fully relies on Christ, allows His righteousness to cloth her, and allows Him to empower her to do righteous acts.

This is the balance between legalism and license. This is the wonderful message of Christ our Righteousness.

What Righteousness Is Not

We’ve discussed what righteousness is (a long time ago. For a refresher click here), but it might help if we talk about what righteousness is not.

Here’s the problem with righteousness: we think we have it well defined. When someone mentions righteousness we immediately start thinking about right living, perfect living, living up to what God demands. Righteousness is not perfection Continue reading

How Do I Become Righteous?

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 5:20

That is a strong statement for Jesus to make. What Jesus is informing His hearers here on the mountain is that in order to obtain salvation, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, one must be more righteous than the most righteous people. The scribes and Pharisees counted themselves righteous because they were sons of Abraham and because they followed what the law required. According to them they were righteous because they obeyed the law. They made themselves righteous.

The Bible is clear that in order to obtain salvation one must be righteous, one must be free from sin. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We must be righteous in order to be saved. Which then leads to the question, how do I become righteous?

Many will say that if we keep the ten commandments, obey the Bible, do good works, all those things will make us righteous. Sounds good right? “Righteousness is right living” is what I’ve heard before. And many Christians focus on being good and following what the Bible says. The unfortunate thing is that when we do that we become legalists because we are trying to become righteous in our own power.

What does that look like to God? Isaiah has some words about that, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” All our righteous deeds are a like a filthy garment in the eyes of God. We can’t make ourselves look more righteous in God’s eyes. When we try in our own power to be good, we are trying in our own power to save ourselves, to make ourselves righteous. And when we try to make ourselves righteous in our own power we are putting on filthy rags.

Jesus asks us to put on His righteousness. In Revelation 3 Jesus tells the church of Laodicea who is lukewarm and believes themselves to be rich and fully clothed that they are instead naked. And that the only way to solve that problem is to “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you m ay become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourselves and that the sham of your nakedness will not be revealed.”

We Christians today think we have it together. We think because we obey the commandments, help people out, believe the right things that God has to save us. The problem is that we are relying on our own righteousness. Christ says, “Buy from Me My white garment of righteousness. Put it on.”

Even though it’s free, it will cost you everything you have, everything you are. Because to buy from Christ means to give Him all. When we buy His righteousness we trade ourselves, we give up ourselves. And when Christ clothes us with His white garment, we are instantly righteous. Now we always have the choice to take the garment off (and frequently do), but when we submit to Christ, He puts it back on us and we are righteous again.

We get righteousness by submitting to Christ, moment by moment, day by day. We get righteousness by taking Christ’s righteousness as our own, infiltrating our lives, and running our lives. Definitely easier said than done.

For the previous post in this series on the definition of righteousness Click Here.
For the next post in this series that deals with what righteousness is not, Click Here.

Chose the Good Part

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“But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

Here’s the context. Jesus had just finished sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan. He had asked the lawyer that famous question, “Who was the neighbor?” To which the lawyer couldn’t even muster the ability to say “The Samaritan.” In the next verse we find Jesus traveling to a different town and two women befriend Him and are neighborly to Him.

Mary and Martha invite Jesus to their home and Martha begins the preparations as most good hostesses do. While Martha is busy buzzing around, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to what Jesus was saying. Martha was upset as most of us would be if our sibling was not helping out and demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her. Jesus’ reply? The above text.

When reading this passage I noticed a connection between this verse and Psalm 27:4.

“One thing I have asked form the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.”

The one good part that Mary had chosen was to sit at the feet of Jesus and meditate upon His words, to accept His leading, and to be fully engaged with Him. Mary chose the good part. How many times in life when we spend time with God do we choose the good part?

So often I come to my time with God quickly and with other things on my mind. Instead of choosing the good part, I choose the bad part. I choose hurriedness, I choose scattered brain, I choose to focus on me. Reading this helped me realize that the good part is slowing down and choosing Christ.

I realized that by slowing down, ingesting the words of Christ I choose the good part. I realized that instead of choosing worldly pleasures and my own righteousness, by choosing the good part I choose Christ’s righteousness. When Christ was talking to the church of Laodicea in Revelation, He encouraged them to buy from Him white garments and gold.

So often I come to my devotional time thinking I have it all together, thinking that I know what I need to know.  But when I slow down and understand the good part, I realize that I don’t have it all together, and I need to not just meditate on His words in the morning, but all through the day. Once I have it, it can’t be taken from me, but I can step away from it. Just as it is with His righteousness. When I buy the white garment of His righteousness I have it and it can’t be taken from me. Only I can choose to take the garment off.

This excites me as I hope it does you. Jesus is waiting every day for us to spend time with Him. Why not choose the good part today?

What is Righteousness?

I mentioned that one of the things that I have been studying as of late is righteousness by faith. But it might be a good idea to start out by defining righteousness by faith or justification by faith.

The problem that we humans have with justification by faith or righteousness by faith is that is defined as this:
“It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.”

The first part doesn’t appeal to many people. How many of us really want to lay our glory in the dust? Most of us if we’re honest with ourselves would like to be famous. We want our fifteen minutes of fame. We try to find or create different ways in which to do that. And society is bowing to our desire. Look at how easy it is to become famous today, all you have to do is get a viral video and bam!

“It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.”

–Ellen White

Yet justification by faith is the work of God laying the glory of man and woman in the dust. God can’t work with a person full of pride thinking they can do everything on their own. The reason He can’t is because that person won’t let Him work.

Here’s the thing, God only works with people fully submitted to Him. He won’t force anyone to anything they don’t want to. And when we submit to Him we are admitting that we can’t do anything to save ourselves.

The Bible teaches that we must be righteous in order to be saved. Jesus says in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

If we even think that we can be more righteous than the Pharisees of old we’re mistaking ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we believe the truth, if we’re doing it for our own glory, we’re lost. Righteousness by faith means we submit to Christ, admitting that we can’t save ourselves and that we can’t be righteous in and of ourself. Then and only then does Christ give us His righteousness.

As Jeremiah said, “And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.'” It is Christ’s righteousness, not ours.

The next post in this series will deal with how we become righteous. (Click Here)

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