RIGHTEOUS: Trying to be?

I came across this recently in Piper’s book entitled Think.  In principle, this seems to apply quite well to believers, particularly as we struggle to live under grace and not the Law.

In relation to Rom.10.2-3…

“They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” 

Piper writes:

Here is the root of their suicidal zeal for God.  In all their thinking about God and his righteousness, they missed the main point – that it is a free gift for faith.  When they seek to establish their own righteousness, they are not submitting to the righteousness of God.  In fact, their effort to establish their own righteousness is rebellion and insubordination against the righteousness of God.  This is why they are not saved.

But you can hear the zealous kinsmen of Paul cry out in defense: “Wait a minute!  You do us entirely wrong.  It is precisely our efforts to establish righteousness in our lives that is our submission to God’s righteousness.  What else would subjection to God’s righteousness look like, except the zeal to establish righteousness in our lives so that it come into conformity to God’s righteousness?  What would you want us to do – be indifferent to whether we are righteous or not?”

But Paul says that when you live this way – when you labor to show yourself righteous so that God will accept you – you are not submitting to God’s righteousness; you are in rebellion against God.  Why?  Because God’s righteousness is a gift of free and sovereign grace, not a merited attainment by human effort – or even a Spirit-wrought performance of relative success in holiness (sanctification).  And since it is always and entirely a free gift, submission to it means receiving righteousness as a gift.

The way that gift comes is described in Rom.10.4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  All of God’s law was leading to Christ for righteousness for all who believe.  By faith we receive Christ.  And in Christ we have the righteousness of God.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor.5.21). This is what they were ignorant of, and therefore, Paul says, they had a zeal for God and were not saved.

…Paul’s kinsmen needed to see that the righteousness of God that they lacked was a free gift of that same grace.  It comes only through union with Christ by faith.  And when it comes, it brings in its train the power to love (Rom.13.8; Gal.5.6).

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COUNTERFEIT: Gospels

A little something to ponder.  Another list (found here) that describes the typical ways we gravitate toward focusing elsewhere than upon Jesus Christ’s person and work:

Formalism. “I participate in the regular meetings and ministries of the church, so I feel like my life is under control. I’m always in church, but it really has little impact on my heart or on how I live. I may become judgmental and impatient with those who do not have the same commitment as I do.”

Legalism. “I live by the rules—rules I create for myself and rules I create for others. I feel good if I can keep my own rules, and I become arrogant and full of contempt when others don’t meet the standards I set for them. There is no joy in my life because there is no grace to be celebrated.”

Mysticism. “I am engaged in the incessant pursuit of an emotional experience with God. I live for the moments when I feel close to him, and I often struggle with discouragement when I don’t feel that way. I may change churches often, too, looking for one that will give me what I’m looking for.”

Activism. “I recognize the missional nature of Christianity and am passionately involved in fixing this broken world. But at the end of the day, my life is more of a defense of what’s right than a joyful pursuit of Christ.”

Biblicism. “I know my Bible inside and out, but I do not let it master me. I have reduced the gospel to a mastery of biblical content and theology, so I am intolerant and critical of those with lesser knowledge.”

Therapism. “I talk a lot about the hurting people in our congregation, and how Christ is the only answer for their hurt. Yet even without realizing it, I have made Christ more Therapist than Savior. I view hurt as a greater problem than sin—and I subtly shift my greatest need from my moral failure to my unmet needs.”

Social-ism. “The deep fellowship and friendships I find at church have become their own idol. The body of Christ has replaced Christ himself, and the gospel is reduced to a network of fulfilling Christian relationships.”

Oh, how subtle a shift it is from looking unto Jesus (worshipfully, etc) to embracing a counterfeit gospel.

CENTER: Of Gospel?

Recently came across the following list (go here); things that are NOT the center of the Gospel, yet are too often thought to be so.  I would add one more (perhaps its implied in the list): #56: The center is YOU!  Unfortunately, it isn’t all that uncommon to find folks who think the Gospel’s center is themselves (a.k.a. ‘My personal testimony’, etc.).

A shift from the True Center to a false center is hazardous to the well-being of both the Church and Christian.  Whatever supplants Christ’s person and work from the center becomes a so-called Gospel.  The implications of this idolatrous orbit around something other than Christ can be far-reaching, again, in the life of both the Church and Christian, and seemingly impossible to set right particularly if things have long centered on someone or something other than Jesus (incarnated, crucified, buried, risen, and ascended).  Fact is, the Gospel alone contains the truth and power to dislodge false-centers.

1. The center is what you do for society

2. The center is accepting all people through love

3. The center is the transformation of society so that we will we all live in peace

4. The center is separating ourselves from the sinful world

5. The center is about pointing out the sins of society

6. The center is about not pointing out the sins of society

7. The center is about maintaining the biblical view of the nuclear family

8. The center is about the sanctity of life and abortion

9. The center is about gender issues

10.  The center is political, voting Republican or Democratic, or not voting at all

11.  The center is social justice

12.  The center is being a good person

13.  The center is your devotion and piety

14.  The center is obeying the 10 commandments, and obeying the moral law of God

15.  The center is helping the church grow numerically

16.  The center is finding out new ways to help the church grow numerically

17.  The center is finding out works in the business world and bring into the church

18.  The center is finding out your generation’s needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

19.  The center is finding out what your culture needs, and give it to them in the name of Jesus

20.  The center is getting people involved in the church

21.  The center is about worshipping God

22.  The center is about contextualizing worship to each generation and culture, often through music

23.  The center is in political involvement to transform the values of society

24.  The center is studying the Bible

25.  The center is studying the commandments in the Bible so that we can figure out what we need to do in every situation in life

26.  The center is a literal hermeneutic

27.  The center is giving good exegetically sound sermons that help people understand God

28.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that cause people to action

29.  The center is giving encouraging sermons that are not over judgmental in tone

30.  The center is giving sermons that give insight and understanding in ways never realized by the audience

31.  The center is giving sermons that warn people about the judgment of hell to come

32.  The center is getting a top-notch preacher at your church

33.  The center is how to write exegetically sound and convincing papers on the problem passages in the Bible

34.  The center is the nature of God as Creator

35.  The center is a biblical worldview

36.  The center is having faith so that God will bless you materially and physically in this life

37.  The center is faith in the general attributes of God

38.  The center is faith in a specific attribute of God, such as omnipotence, holiness, graciousness, or justice.  This would lead to the spoken center being the sovereignty of God, the majesty of God, the adoration of God, the compassion of God, the grace of God, or the identification of the sins of the world

39.  The center is “trust and obey,” without a specific understanding of what we are trusting in.  The trust is usually the attributes of God, and that his commandments are true

40.  The center is spiritual-mystical, finding God through prayer and fasting

41.  The center is finding out what God is saying to you

42.  The center is that you are loved by God. The center is a good self-image and self-worth.

43.  The center is some theological system of understanding

44.  The center is the kingdom program of God

45.  The center is understanding a certain eschatological hope, or view on the Millenium.

46.  The center is the power of the Holy Spirit

47.  The center is spiritual warfare

48.  The center is having faith so that miracles can be done in your life

49.  The center is understanding the distinction, or non-distinction between Israel and the Church

50.  The center is accepting pre-determinism

51.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to compassion, but detached from his work on the cross

52.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to grace, but is detached from the work on the cross

53.  The center is Jesus, as he relates to discipleship and commitment, but detached from his work on the cross and the results of the triumph in his resurrection.

54.  The center is faith in Jesus, but this Jesus is vague and non-specific

55.  The center is all of the above

Principle to Hold: The Gospel Center is Jesus’ person, work on the cross for forgiveness of sins, and his resurrected triumph over death. From that center we understand the fuller work of the triumphant Christ, from his perfect life to his enthronement and return.  Again, some of the above statements are blatantly wrong, others have a high degree of truth in them.  Most are good, but good is not the center of the Gospel. It should be the goal of the theological student to understand how the Gospel Center relates to the above statements.

TIM KELLER on IDOLS:

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

GOSPEL: Moral Living or More on Him

Came across this quote a week ago or so:

“We do tend to reduce the Gospel to moral living and the American way of life. Even those of us in the church act as if God is powerless and we have to do everything for Him.  The early church knew a supernatural God who didn’t always do things the way they thought He ought to.  Maybe we should look to and rely more on Him and less on ourselves.”

BOOK REVIEW: The Naked Gospel

AMAZON BOOK REVIEW:  The Naked Gospel

[The following is my own book review. mjm]

Please, listen closely to all reviews that deem this book as faulty! And, note well, how, what Farley is teaching bears upon the criticisms by others about this book.  Some will say: “The book is off-track!” This is exactly right…The Naked Gospel is far from the garden-variety preaching/teaching we all have been subject to within much of the church.

The Gospel remains a stumbling block for all those who would seek life apart from and not in Christ Jesus, himself.

Our default mode: LAW!

Thank you, Andrew, for laboring to bring to light the Truth of the Gospel…Jesus is Our righteousness, Our life, Our rest, Our Lord! And as Lord…he literally RULES in the lives of those who believe (take Him at his word, that, He is Life!).

I have lived long enough (within the realm of works-righteousness) and alongside others who do the same to see the truth of Scripture confirmed that man is incurably self-righteous (even when it appears “godly”).

Chief Problem: IDOLATRY!

As Christians, we exercise some of the most blatant forms of IDOLATRY. That is, mingling grace (God’s image-making) and works (Our image-making). Failing to give up on our own “image-making” project (fashioning ourselves into God’s image), while missing how it is that God in Christ (the expresses image of God) goes about making us into His image.

Every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is FULFILLED in Christ.
Ultimately, every IMPERATIVE of Scripture is DESCRIPTIVE of the work of Christ “for” and “in” us.

Man is innately most comfortable in his own image-making…being as God.

For those who can’t readily swallow naked (non-sugar-coated!) Gospel-Truth (even as a Believer!)…there remains a degree of blindness and deafness to the REALITIES of Christ as fulfillment of all shadows (The Law). We become what we behold! Blind, deaf, and dumb? Or, seeing, hearing, and praising?

Farley’s work here is a great beginning to our continuing to unpack the essence of Christ crucified and risen, the New Creation.

DOGMATISM: Flesh-beat-en(-ing)

A thought or two regarding Fundamentalism.

A leading characteristic of Fundamentalism would be Dogmatism.  This is really nothing more than a Letter-driven (as opposed to Spirit-driven (Gospel-based and -contextualized)) approach.  Instead of a ‘faith’ in Christ orientation, the Dogmatist’s way is generally one rooted in ‘fear’ – though lip service is paid to the Gospel.  The latter has a way of *driving* sheep (the believer, the local church) this-way-and-that, whereas the former sees the Gospel ministry as one of *guiding* the sheep in the Way (in faith toward Christ…for all of salvation…sanctification included). 

Here’s what I’m getting at… anything that is said/done in the name of Christ that isn’t consciously and intentionally – rooted and grounded in the Gospel – is something other than a Gospel ministry, no matter how “moral”/”biblical” it sounds.  Ours is not to be “biblical” but “Christian” and I think we can be found standing in the former without possessing the latter necessarily.  We are not then to be found in Moses seat (Mt.23.2).  Subscription to “biblical norms” does not mean one is clinging in faith to Christ for each and every aspect of salvation…including His growing us up grace and knowledge of Him (i.e., sanctification, godliness). 

Paul puts it this way…there are those of us who “have the form (appearance) of godliness, but essentially deny its power” (2Tim.3.5).  For godliness is not ours to strive after as some commodity on the shelf that is just there for our taking, but the very working of God in us a faith and love, that, consistently beholds Christ’s righteousness/godliness (1Tim.1.4), and are thereby sovereignly and progressively brought into the likeness of His Image (2Cor.3.18).  In this way, Paul thought of Christ as our sanctification (1Cor.1.30).  The Gospel itself (the truth about Christ’s incarnation, righteousness, death, resurrection, and ascension…His doing not ours) is the only thing whereby God brings about the peaceable fruits of righteousness among His people (Phil.1.11; Col.1.6).

In other words, the Flesh can strive in form and yet never connect to the Source…Christ crucified and risen (Rom.8.3-15).  How we answer the following betrays our actual stance toward God and our brother:  “Are disciples of Christ made by 1) inputting the right commands, or are they 2) fashioned by beholding (Christ’s glory in the scandal of the Cross) and thereby found living in the Way?”

As I’ve said before…fundamentalism is readily found wherever people are finding their hope to be in their law-keeping and not Christ’s (even where we don’t do this in regards to justification, but more so sanctification). This is true of even we who claim to embrace the doctrines of grace.  A sounder grasp of the relationship of the Law/Gospel (particularly what the two have to do with Christ himself) genuinely and lastingly keeps things in a Christian perspective.

Just two cents worth.

APOSTASY: Masquerading as Gospel

Essentially, anything that poses as the Gospel or its equivelent is simply unbelief.  The Gospel stands completely on its own and needs nothing but the cross/resurrection of Jesus Christ to substantiate it.  Only the Gospel is gospel…and everything else…is something other. 

Related thoughts:

“Any cultural or political agenda embellished with such authority is a manifestation of “works righteousness” and ipso facto an act of apostasy. This theological proposition, over and beyond all prudential moral judgments, “hits” in all directions of the ideological spectrum; it “hits” the center as much as the left or the right. “Different gospels” lurk all across the spectrum. No value or institutional system, past or present or future, is to be identified with the gospel. The mission of the church is not to legitimate any status quo or any putative alteration of the status quo. The “okay world” of bourgeois America stands under judgment, in the light of the gospel, as does every other human society. Democracy or capitalism or the particular family arrangements of middle-class culture are not to be identified with the Christian life, and neither is any alternative political, economic, or cultural system. The vocation of the church is to proclaim the gospel, not to defend the American way of life, not to “build socialism,” not even to “build a just society” – because, quite apart from the fact that we don’t really know what this is, all our notions of justice are fallible and finally marred by sin. The “works righteousness” in all these “different gospels” lies precisely in the insinuation that, if only we do this or refrain from doing that, we will be saved, “justified.” But, as Paul tells us, “by works of the law shall no one be justified.” [Berger, “Different Gospels: The Social Sources of Apostasy,” Erasmus Lecture, January 22, 1987]”