A Commitment to Righteousness

From 3rd Sunday in Advent 12th December 2021

Charles Swindoll, an American evangelist and pastor tells this story: The wife of a policeman had a special gift she wanted to get for her husband.  She had a fear that it might be too expensive, but nothing was too good for her husband.  She loved him with all of her heart and wanted this to be special.

She found exactly what she wanted, but it was too expensive for her to buy outright.  She talked with the salesman and told him that her husband was a police officer.  After a bit they negotiated a payment deal that she could afford.  She gave him the first payment and he suggested that the store wrap it up and she could take it home. She was elated! She was so excited that she got her husband to open it that night, way before Christmas!  When he opened it, he was thrilled at her thoughtfulness and covered her with hugs and kisses.

A few days later her husband was working the night shift when he received a call on his police radio.  There was a robbery in progress at a local shop.  Rushing to the scene he arrived just as the suspect was speeding off.  He followed in hot pursuit, but suddenly the suspect stopped on the side of the road.  Seated behind the wheel the robber didn’t move.  The policeman cautiously approached the car.  Suddenly without any warning the driver’s door it flew open and the driver took out a hand gun and from about 3 feet fired at the policeman.

At seven o’clock the following morning, his wife, answered the door after a knock. A policeman stood in front of her and shared that during a robbery her husband had been shot.  Calmly the officer explained that her husband was badly bruised, but alive.

The wife was so happy that her Christmas present was given early.  If she had waited to December 25th her husband would have been dead.  Christmas had come early that year because the policeman had with him the gift of life his wife could not wait to give: his brand-new bulletproof vest.

Swindoll commented, “And that’s why Christ came, to give us a vest of righteousness, to pay the price with his blood, that He might protect us with the shield that sin could never penetrate.”

Charles Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998, pp. 496-497).

Jesus taught that every believer is to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  A righteous person isn’t someone who is perfect, because except from Jesus no one can be perfect this side of heaven.  No, a righteous person is someone who is in right standing with God, they are aligned to Him through His Son.  So, righteousness transforms someone into right living for God through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Repentance is a part of righteousness (Luke 3:8)

And Repentance is a part of righteousness.  The people of John’s day were in need of what he was preaching… repentance and right-living, or in other words living righteously.  Their need for God was obvious and the prophet was there to point them to the remedy.

John’s message didn’t die when he did.  His message is just as important today.  Our world is still in need of turning from sin and receiving God’s gift of salvation.  The answer to the question; why do horrible things go on in in the world? is Jesus!  If everyone turned to him and lived righteously, i.e. turned from their sin, then the problems and difficulties we experience will go.

John’s message was that Jesus was coming to cancel their spiritual debts and remove their sin.  This was going to be done by all sin being placed on Jesus, and whoever accepts Christ into their life will never have sin held against them.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ died for us and paid the cost for our salvation.

At Christmas we rejoice in the fact that the Messiah, Jesus, entered this world to pay the price for our sin.  The shadow of the cross always lies across the crib scene.

Conviction: A part of righteousness (Luke 3:10)

But there is more.  As the message John preached penetrated the hearts and minds of his listeners, conviction began to seep into their very soul and spirit as the light of righteousness began to dawn on them.

This conviction comes from the Holy Spirit.  It is part of His “job description.”  It produces within us a sense of guilt and condemnation of sin.  As the Holy Spirit convicts, our role is to act upon it and allow God to change sinful actions and attitudes to thoughts and acts of righteousness.

I believe that God convicts individuals of their sins to change their lives, and still God offers more… I also believe that God convicts Christians to be more compassionate, more honest, to be peace makers, justice seekers, integrity lovers, to be morally upright, and so, so much more.

When was the last time you felt God convict you? How did you respond?

Responding: a part of righteousness (Luke 3:15-18)

Listening to John’s message and feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit — the people had a choice. They could either walk away and do nothing about it or, they could respond and act on the message.  Many in the crowd left, but many responded to his call for change.

Acting on faith in Jesus is required before salvation becomes reality and change is initiated into our lifestyle.

Responding includes reconciliation.  Humanity has been alienated from God because of sin, and Jesus provides the remedy, which He does by removing the enmity that stands between God and humanity.  Paul wrote to the Colossian church:

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22, see also Romans 5:10).

Responding includes obedience.  The bottom line for all believers is that obedience to Jesus’ teaching and God’s commands is never an option.  We are to hear what the Word says and respond according to it.

Responding includes worship. From New Testament times to today, Christians state, “Jesus is Lord.”  Because He is Lord, and sovereign, He is to be worshipped (Luke 4:4-8).  As it was for the early church our focus must be on Jesus.

Jesus is to be the leader of the church.  As members of His church our actions are under the direct order of the Lord’s leadership: we are to fulfil His directives to be compassionate, caring, socially concerned.  But most of all we are to be spiritually oriented to lead people to a saving relationship.

So as God’s people, justified by God’s grace we have been given all we need to live in and under the righteousness of Christ.  This is only achieved through faith in Jesus.  The other world religions base justification on human effort.  Is it any wonder that we worship and praise the living God?

As we continue our journey through Advent may we allow our righteous standing before God to be transformed into righteous living for God through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Living Thoughts

Read Luke 3:7-18.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand, consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

  • Repentance: a part of righteousness, see Luke 3:8.

What do we need to produce in order for repentance to be seen by others?

  • Conviction: A part of righteousness, see Luke 3:10. 

When was the last time you felt God convict you?

How did you respond?

  • Responding: a part of righteousness, see Luke 3:15-18.

Whom do the “wheat” and the “chaff” represent?

How has the good news of Jesus brought righteousness to you?

Prayer Response

Oh Lord, by the power of your Holy Spirit, enable me to live a holy and righteous life so I represent your Son Jesus Christ here on earth in a way that brings glory to your name.

Help me to walk with you in holiness and righteousness so that I will fulfil my destiny and the purpose of my existence.

Lord of righteousness, in this world that is full of violence, selfishness, murder and other evil deeds, teach me the path of holiness, and engrave me to live like Christ in words, thoughts and deeds.

Lord, teach me your word and make it easy to apply it to my life so that I will see goodness all the days of my life.

Lord, give me the spirit of humility so that I will be able to walk with you in holiness.

Lord, engrace me to keep your commandments and take iniquity far away from me, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.