Thursday, October 16, 2008

Convicting of Righteousness

(This is the third in the series which began with, "How Does The Holy Spirit Really Help Us?"
The Ganges in VaranasiImage via Wikipedia

And when He [the Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of...righteousness...
(John 16:8)

The kingdom of God is...righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom 14:17)

How many times does the Bible talk about righteousness? Just a quick check with my electronic Bible's search function pulls up 565 verses.

In how many passages does God's Word talk about people speaking in tongues? I may have missed a few, but I was only able to find seven such passages.

Which do you suppose is more important to God?

Would He rather see a dozen righteous people who do not speak in tongues, or a dozen people who speak in tongues but are not righteous?

It's not my intention to address the topic of tongues, or any of the other showy, popular (and often counterfeited) works of the Spirit. What I really want to do is plead for priorities that match our Lord's.

How badly do we want the miraculous work of the Spirit that's called "righteousness?" How often do we pray for it, yearn for it, study it, apply ourselves to it? Or do we consider the flashier gifts more important?

"But wait," you may protest. "We are made righteous in Christ. It's a done deal, so I don't have to worry about it any more."

Well... yes... and no.

It is true that we are given Christ's righteousness when (and if) we are truly saved. It's a process called, "Imputation," and it means we're given credit for the perfect righteousness that we won't actually experience until Heaven. God lives in the eternal "Now," so He doesn't lie when he declares us righteous. He simply takes the reality of eternity and credits it to our present time.

We do this sort of thing ourselves. For example, when someone is diagnosed with incurable, terminal cancer, we might say of that person, "He's a dead man." He's still alive, but his fate is sealed, and there's nothing that's going to change it.

In the same way, when and if we are truly saved, God declares us righteous. Though we still have sin in us, righteousness is our sealed fate (2 Co. 1:21-22), and nothing will change it. Praise God!

But how do we know if this genuine work of the Spirit has happened in us? We look at ourselves, and we see that sin is still present within us. How can we know if Christ's righteousness has truly been imputed to us?

After all, anyone can claim to have achieved a right standing with God. Millions have claimed it on the basis of having washed their bodies in the Ganges river. Other millions have done so on the basis of the recitation of certain prayers, or floating candles on paper boats, or any of countless other rituals.

God's word tells us that there will even be many "Christians" who believe themselves righteous, but who will be in for a horrible shock on Judgment Day.

"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Jesus, in Matt 7:22-23).

How can we know?

Praise God, He does not force us to wallow in doubt. When there has been a genuine work of the Spirit (which includes imputation of righteousness), there will be undeniable, impossible-to-counterfeit evidence. And two of those evidences are:

1. Growth in righteousness

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. (1Pe 2:24)

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:13-14)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17)

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)

that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)

2. A love of righteousness (Why? Because the Spirit makes us more like Christ, who loves righteousness! Ps. 11:7)

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions. (Heb. 1:9)

For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Gal 5:5)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6)

You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness (Isa. 64:5)

This love of righteousness will be a humble love, not a prideful one (Luke 18:9-14).

If the Lord is working in your heart to create growth in godly righteousness, and a humble love of righteousness, you can be sure that this is the result of the Holy Spirit in you. Even though you won't be perfect in this life, you can reassure your heart when you see His Spirit changing who you are and making you more like Christ.

If this kind of growth, and this love, are absent in you, I can only beg of you along with the apostle Paul,

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2Co 13:5)

Please add to the richness of this post by commenting below!

The previous (second) post in this series was: "A Genuine Work of the Spirit?"

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