“Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” 1Cor.15:34
Many religions would agree with us that God must be love. Yet apart from knowing Christ, no man can truly know God because only Christ revealed the love of God, the nature of God (1John4:8). What the appearance of Christ revealed is that the love of God is so great (the nature of God is such), that He refuses to give us anything less than Himself (John 3:16). This is why scripture makes no distinction between grace and the person of Christ. Grace is not merely a quality that God has to some measure, rather grace finds its truest and purest expression in the person of Christ (as does truth and love). This is why the apostle John could write that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17) and the apostle Paul that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men teaching us to deny ungodliness…” (Titus 2:11,12)
The God that Christ revealed did not stand back from us and send love or grace as some thing. True love comes in person. If your child or loved one was lying dying in hospital, no-one would have to tell you or explain to you that sending them a text, or even sending a friend with a message of support, is not what love does. Love comes in person. Every human being who has ever loved another knows this and that is why even a child can understand the truth of the Gospel; if God is love, then love had to come in person and He did, in the person of Jesus Christ.
So, the righteousness of God is not a thing that God sent, while He remained apart or aloof from us (John 1:17). The righteousness of God given to us, was His very presence; God incarnate in human flesh (1Cor.1:30). Jesus was, as the Nicene Creed declared: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father.” Why? Because God who is love, does not know how to give less than Himself, for that is what true love does. And so …“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?(Rom.8:32). If God gave us His son and there is nothing greater than His son, then how can He withhold any thing from us, for that would be to cherish a thing more than His own Son.
When this truth dawns, that in not withholding His Son from us that God has already given all that He has and is to us, then the effect on our soul is to be flooded with peace and thanksgiving (Phil.4:11-13). No longer when my life is facing a crisis do I have to attempt to awake God to action or persuade him through my prayer or suffering to “release” His favour on my life. Because of Christ, no longer does man have to strive to enter God’s favour, instead He now calls us into His rest (Hebrews 4;11). But there is no rest for the man who refuses the revelation that Christ was God, fully giving Himself to man, even to the point of standing in our place and living our lives. Refuse the revelation that your old ‘self’ life was put to death on the Cross (Rom.6:11, Gal.2:20, Col.3:3) and that you are now joined to God and one with His Spirit (1Cor.6:17) and you will never find rest, for you will be constantly chasing righteousness as some thing to be gained rather than some one to be submitted to and received (Rom.10:1-4)
The righteousness of God is not merely a legal standing before God. The righteousness of God is nothing less than God fromGod. This is why we can absolutely expect that Christians should grow in the likeness of Christ and bear the fruit of His Spirit, His life (Gal.5:22,23). If the righteousness of God that we receive, is merely a legality, (God letting us off the hook), then you should expect little change in the life of someone who has received the righteousness of God because there has been no change of heart (Matt.23:25,26). But if the gift of God’s righteousness is the gift of His presence, then there should be a great and powerful change in the life of everyone who receives the righteousness of God, for in the presence of light, darkness cannot stand! In the presence of union, separation cannot stand. In the presence of the truth of the love of God, the fear of separation (death) cannot stand. In the presence of the Spirit of faith, unbelief (the root of sins), cannot stand.
The Bible says; “As a man thinks so he is.” (Prov.23:7) Jesus put it like this; “Be it done unto you according to your faith.” (Matt.9:29) I believe the more we will receive/acknowledge/take hold of the righteousness of God as His very presence with us, the more His presence manifests and effects our lives, bringing transformation into the likeness of Christ (1John 3:2). Let His life be your root (your life) and His life will appear in you (John 15:5). The apostle Paul wrote this to the Colossians. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” This speaks of the work of the Spirit to renew our thinking, so that we no longer think of ourselves from an earthly (‘separated from God, us down here, Him up there’, mind-set), but to think of ourselves from heaven’s perspective (hidden with Christ, in God).
What happens if Christians do not awake to the enormity of what Christ has done; that they are entirely new creatures (2Cor.5:17) in whom God chooses to make His home? (John 14:23, 1Cor.6:17). Then they will continue to think and so speak from an Old Covenant ‘separated from God’ mind-set and so their message to the world will inevitably always emphasise what man still needs to do for God, rather than what God has done for man. To put it more bluntly, Christians who have yet to grasp that it was not their repentance that saved them but Christ, can’t resist adding a little self-effort as an essential ingredient in salvation and so inevitably always reduce the Gospel from the good news of what God has done for men, to good advice on what men need to do for God.
Why don’t people want to hear the gospel these days? Well we could blame a lot of things; TV, wealth, media, schools and Christians frequently do. We love to complain about the government or the media or the rise of other religions, (as if these things suddenly got more powerful than the Holy Spirit). The answer is much simpler. People are not against good news. People haven’t changed from the time of the book of Acts. People still want to hear good news, it’s just that when they hear the word “Gospel” today, they simply do not associate that with good news!
That’s because for years the gospel they have heard has not been preached as the news of what Christ has done about men’s sins. It has been preached as the news of what men need to do about their sins. That’s what happens when for 2000 years men keep adding to the Gospel. Eventually you end up with a message, not about Christ and what He has done, but about men and what they need to do. I am not saying that men do not need to repent from their sins. I am saying that men cannot repent from their sins if you don’t give them the Gospel, the good news that they can now be reconciled to God, by believing in what Christ has done about their sins (2Cor.5:18-20). Don’t ask men to believe in themselves. That’s not the gospel. Ask them to believe in Christ. Don’t ask them to do something about their sins. Don’t leave them with the impression that God has done nothing about their sins, but He will do something about their sins…if they first will do something for Him. Remember always, that the Gospel can be summed up in two words; “He first”
Don’t just expect men to love God, when the Bible says quite clearly that we can only love God because He first loved us (1John 4:19).
If the Gospel can be summed up in two words; HE FIRST, then religion can be summed up also in two words; YOU FIRST. If you first will do something for God, then He will save you. Religion thus leaves men’s hope on themselves, not Christ and that is why religion is powerless to save men. Repentance is not the root of salvation. Repentance, (men turning from their sins), is the fruit of salvation.
Men are “saved by grace, through faith and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9). If men are saved by grace, if men are saved by the gift of God…then for God’s sake offer them the grace of God, offer them the gift of God; Christ!
When you present Christ, never present Christ as the reward for their repentance.
Don’t ask men to believe in their repentance. Don’t ask men to believe in themselves. That’s not the gospel. Don’t present a God who is no different from themselves, a God who says, “Well if you do this for me, then I will do this for you.”
Don’t give them a religious God. Give them the true God, the one whom the religious hated, the one who demonstrated His love for them in this, while they were still sinners, He died for them (Rom.5:8). Give them the true God, who when men had given nothing to Him, He gave everything to them.
So Church, let us awake to righteousness and sin not (1Cor.15:34). Let us awake to the truth, that the righteousness we have been given, is nothing short of the very presence of God, for true love came in person and in His presence sin/separation can no more exist than darkness can exist in light. What makes the darkness to go? Only the light. What purges our life of sins? Only the knowledge of God, knowing what God knows and this is what God knows; you have no need to sin, to grasp for life, for life Himself has been given to you (John 3:16).