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What is righteousness? (Christopher's letter)

(A letter which Christopher, one of the younger participants in our local fellowship, recently wrote to a Christian brother.  Posted December 3, 2009)

November 15, 2009

Ever since our conversation, which started with food and moved on to the subject of righteousness, I have been considering what righteousness is.  When Jesus said things like, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled, the kingdom of God is neither eating nor drinking but righteousness, it seemed He placed a lot of importance on righteousness.  In fact, the whole of Scripture is filled with righteousness.

So I must ask myself, what is righteousness?  What is His righteousness?  As well as I understand it, to live righteously is to live rightly; to live according to His way is righteousness.  I must also ask, what is His way for His children to live, for His kingdom to function?
Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Redeemer, who took on the sin of the world, was crucified, and rose triumphant over sin and death.  He is the only one who is capable of leading men on paths of righteousness; only by listening to His voice can men and women be led on that path.  How do men begin to hear His voice?  Only by humbling themselves and acknowledging Him as the only one who can save them from sin.
Sin and death of the spirit came through one man's disobedience.  Adam chose not to listen to the voice of his Creator, but rather to the voice of the father of lies.
He chose to disobey the One who created him.  That is what sin is, living in disobedience to the Father.  Righteousness is the opposite of sin, to live in obedience to the Way of the Father in all things.  Man apart from the Spirit of God cannot live in righteousness.  Man cannot govern himself; left to himself, he continues to walk in the darkness, living according to his flesh.
Praise the Lord that we no longer have to be separated from Him and left to ourselves.  If we choose to, we can be redeemed from the darkness that the world walks in.  But we must die.  We are born into this world dead to God; our spirit is dead and we are living under the power of the flesh of sin.  To be born again and enter into the Kingdom of God, our spirit must be reborn and the flesh and it's desires must begin to die.
What a glorious and wonderful truth that our spirit can be born again.  We can walk according to the way that was created for us at the beginning -- to be in constant fellowship with our creator.  But we must die to ourselves; we must be dead to the world and alive to God, and only by being alive to Him can we be dead to the world, sin, and unrighteousness.
We who are alive to Him, live in His domain.  Our spirits, that can find life only in Him, exist in that heavenly realm.  We can be in constant fellowship with Him.  Our spirit and His spirit have become one through Christ Jesus. 
We exist in the Father; we are no longer separate from Him.  We live in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, who is one with the Father, and we are one with Jesus.  Our will and desires should now be one with His will and desires.
Men apart from Him are still blind; they still walk according to their own passions and desires.  These men are still living in disobedience to the Father of Light and listening to the father of lies.  The world is still trying to be like God under their own strength and wisdom.  They are living in opposition to Christ and His Way.  Fear still fills their hearts and minds and because of this, the way they have arranged their lives brings death and destruction.

Men, living in rebellion to the Kingship of Jesus Christ, have set up their own kingdoms in opposition to His Kingdom.  They have put their trust in their own knowledge.  They do not acknowledge Him in their ways, so He does not direct their paths.  The world is still living in a way that seems right to itself but the end of it is death.  They still walk on the path that is wide and leads to destruction.  Their social, economic, and religious systems are founded in their own way and therefore end in destruction and chaos.  Those who put their trust in these systems will be disappointed; they will fail because they are built on sand.
We, as His people, are called to be living sacrifices, to offer ourselves completely to Him.  We are called to be dead to the world and its ways and alive to God and His way; to no longer be conformed to the patterns of this world, but to set our minds on things above, and to be transformed by the renewing of them; to begin to put all of our faith in Jesus Christ, trusting that, as we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness first, He will supply all of our needs according to His riches and His glory in Christ Jesus, not according to the way of the world.
The more we submit to Christ and abandon the way of the world, the more we cling to faith in Him and His Kingdom, the more He can prove Himself to be a faithful and worthy provider.  It is not a partial submission or a partial sacrifice of ourselves to Him.  We don't just sacrifice our "spiritual life" to Him but not our "physical life"; neither do we sacrifice our "work life" and not our "recreational life".  All aspects of our life, we put on the altar.  Whether it is work that we do with our hands, our thoughts, what we do for enjoyment, our "free time", our eating habits, how we treat others, how we treat the earth, if we should drive, or if the fruit of our labor should be offered to the world.  There is not one aspect of our life that should go untouched by the will of the Father.  As Jesus said, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  We must never go through life blindly, just doing things the way most of mankind does things.
Does the life that we live as Christ's Kingdom on the earth encourage or discourage the darkness?  Does the fruit of my labor go to the world to further its institutions that act in rebellion to Christ and His Kingdom?  Does my marriage get licensed to become legal and recognized by them, as a creation of their system?  Does the fruit of my marriage, which is my children, get labeled and taught by their system that does not encourage them to listen to the voice of Christ, but rather teaches so many things that are in opposition to the way of righteousness?  Does the food that I eat encourage the mistreatment of other men that are also created in the image of God?  Does the food that I eat perpetrate the cycle of men that rapes and destroys the earth so that they can attempt to satisfy their greed?  Should I be content to seek the entertainment that the world offers so that my flesh can be satisfied, rather than seeking to use my time to have my mind on things that satisfy my Creator?
Should we spend so much of our time and energy investing our lives in the darkness?  Or, is there a different Way?  Should we be using our time and energy and resources that we have been given as stewards  to invest in the Kingdom of Christ to meet others' and our needs?  Where does our trust and our security lie?  That is a very serious question.  In whom and what do I put my faith for salvation?
Have I given everything about me to Christ?  Am I sacrificing myself completely to Him?  Am I completely "sold out" to Christ and His Kingdom?  Or are my loyalties divided by my offering something of myself to the kingdom of darkness?
How separate should I be from the world?  How much fellowship can light have with darkness?  How radical should my obedience be to Jesus Christ?  How much should my life turn the world upside down?  How much should my life speak of a different master, a different way and kingdom?  How much is my light supposed to shine in the darkness and make the darkness flee?  How much freedom from the world should my life portray?
Does this mean that my life should be one of comfort and ease?  No.  Does it mean that all men will desire it?  No.  Will it possibly bring ridicule and persecution?  Of course.  Will asking myself these questions and submitting my will to Christ, saying, "Your will, not mine, Lord,"  bring peace that passes all understanding?  Definitely.  Will submitting to Him lead me on a quiet and simple life, not pursuing the madness of the world, and not accepting what they offer as security, life, happiness and freedom?  Yes.  Will submitting to Christ cause me to have peace and all the fruit of His spirit, regardless of who comes against me, and no other matter how rough life can become because of following His will?  Praise the Lord.  Yes!
I have counted the cost of complete submission to Christ in all areas of my life, which is now His, and like Moses I consider the reproach of Christ to be of far greater worth than anything that Pharaoh and his false hopes, dreams and securities can offer.   Like Joshua, I say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  Like the New Testament followers of the Way, I would consider it a great joy to have my goods confiscated for the sake of Christ.  I am willing to preach the Good News of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to any who will listen, because only in His Kingdom can true life be found.  Yes, it requires dying to my flesh and its desires; it requires dying to the world and its lusts, its ways of false hopes and securities, and it can be a very hard life.  It requires much self-control and much thought, not taking things blindly, but being as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.  It requires my giving up everything that man can offer.  It is something that I do gladly give my life for.  I pray that all men would submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, because only there will the Life of the Most High God ever be found.