Monday, January 28, 2008

Losing My Righteousness

I just realized that I haven't posted in awhile, and I feel like I should. However, I really don't have anything that's weighing on my mind like I usually do. I guess blissful ignorance still has its pull on me. :)

Functional faith. What am I actively trusting to give me "righteousness" before God and others? For me, it's usually somehow related to parenting, preaching, or intellect. Let me try and explain how this works itself out in my life.

First, it may help to think of the concept of "righteousness" and how we base our acceptance before God on whether or not our "righteousness" is adequate. The gospel teaches us that we are given the passive righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith, or reliance, upon His sacrificial death on the cross and the power of His resurrection to hold us secure. However, we typically live according to our own righteousness in any of a number of different spheres. For me, some of these (not an exclusive list, I might add) are parenting righteousness, preaching righteousness, and intellectual righteousness.

When I am not functionally believing the gospel (passive righteousness of Jesus) in my parenting, I will functionally depend upon my parenting righteousness to make me OK with God. So, I will look down on parents who cannot "control" their children like I can mine. So, my pride and disdain are the sins rooted in my self-righteousness of parenting b/c I'm functionally not believing the gospel. As God tends to do, He has promised to discipline me to trust Him more and myself less, to bring my functional faith in-line with the gospel. So, in my parenting righteousness, He has given me an autistic son! Oh, the grace of God! Now what can I stand on concerning my parenting righteousness?!! When my son breaks others children's toys and my discipline has little to no effect?!! When my son slams his head into the ground repeatedly and I can offer no answer to curb his disturbing desires while strangers with shopping carts give me dirty looks?!! I have no parenting righteousness left!! God brings my righteousness crumbling to the ground!! Blessed be the Lord for not letting me stay in my self-righteousness, but working to open the eyes of my heart through such good and excellent discipline.

When I am not functionally believing the gospel in my preaching, I will trust my preaching righteousness to make me "good" with God. So, I will look down "lesser" preachers and idolize great preachers. I will become depressed when I my sermons are lousy and become angry when people challenge my preaching righteousness, because I feel (functionally) that they are challenging my "goodness before God," my righteousness. So I must defend myself vehemently and I will try and tear my accusers down so as to elevate my own righteousness. How petty! How ungospel-like! How arrogantly unbelieving of the gospel! So, God brings my righteousness crumbling down again by revealing to me His grace toward me. He challenges my pride by working in spite of my perceived failures in preaching. My most effective sermons of spiritual transformation are usually the ones that I perceive to the be the biggest failures. How gracious of God!

There are many examples of self-righteousness in various spheres of my life. What are yours? Where do you find yourself becoming arrogant? Depressed over failure? Angry when attacked? Maybe it's parenting, like me? Maybe it's your career or profession? Maybe it's competitive sports, music, art, wookworking, how nice your yard is, car looks, or the size of your house? Where do you find yourself comparing yourself or your performance to others? and whether you succeed or fail in your comparison dictates your feelings of pride or envy, disdain or hatred? This is where you have functionally forgotten the gospel of grace, where Jesus died, not because we were beautiful or wise or had nice yards, but because HE IS GRACIOUS!!

So, we must repent!! Not merely of our active sins, but of our righteousness. That's right, repent of your righteousness!! Turn again to the gospel of grace, where Jesus has done it all on our behalf and has born the wrath of God in our place, even for our current self-righteousness, and has given us all the restful blessings of God.

When I see you next, I want to hear where you are growing in repentance of your righteousness. Where are you struggling to depend upon the passive righteousness of Jesus? Boy, my preaching righteousness needs to crumble, and I know that we all have righteousness that needs to be shattered. By the grace of God, He has the power to do just that!

to the glory of Jesus, peace

Monday, January 14, 2008

Men With No Repute

Do you ever have those days where you think to yourself, "I really have no idea what I'm doing!" and there comes a severe revelation in your soul that most of what other people see is a complete farce?

I'm having one of those days. It's like unwrapping gifts, only underneath the tightly creased edges of the box and past the perfect placement of the ribbon-tied bow lies a broken gift, shattered by its own weight. Broken, ugly, and sharp enough to cut whoever tries to handle it. That's how I feel today.

I know that some of my brothers and sisters, if they read this, would try to encourage me and "put me back together," some may even try to rewrap this brokenness with pretty paper and ribbon. But I know that this is where I need to be. I am not in despair over my brokenness, and I know that a rewrap is just a thin facade of useless shimmer, not the Real. I want the Real. So, forget the wrapping paper, the shine, the perfect-looking folds. I want you to see the broken man, the shattered man, the weak man.

I am a self-centered and arrogant piece of work. My sense of justice usually revolves around my enjoyment, not the Word of God. I am prone to turn my eyes from suffering, rather than run to help or to cry out in anger when I see injustice. Why is this? Why, when I know in my head the grace of God in Jesus toward me, do I not love like Him? Why do I not weep over the cruelty of inaction within my heart? How long, O Lord? Come again to sweep away my self-reliance with the powerful wind of your Spirit! Let me not stay on this course, but blow me another way, to the leading of change...again.

I will not run from brokenness, from weakness, from the reality of my ineptitude or even my inaptitude. Jesus is my strength of change. Jesus is my source of love. Jesus is my soul's cry for redemption and hope and peace and joy! Jesus! Your beloved needs you now. Perfect my weakness and be my all in all.

My prayer for you is the same my friend. Be broken, take off the wrapped facade of repute, and see Jesus as your only strength and hope for REAL redemption and change and joy. Let us be men with no repute of our own, so that Jesus would be revealed as the Sovereign King of Grace. Then, and only then, will we mount up with wings as eagles, walk and not grow weary. In complete reliance we find our wings and ride the updraft of the powerful Holy Spirit of God. Faith producing the powerfully effective fruit from the very heart of God.

Join me in my prayers, to the glory of God alone.