We often hear of the righteousness of Christ and of the new birth, but sometimes we tend to theorize it so much that it becomes an academic question. For new believers in Christ, certain aspects of the faith may baffle them as well. Last Sunday, Elder Saw Lip Hean shared a very practical and relational message about the new identity, basing his sharing on Philippians.
The Book of Philippians was written by Paul to the church at Philippi. It was probably written while he was being blessed by Lydia with hospitality in that city. In it he spoke of the Philippian church with gratitude. According to the letter, the Philippian Church had sent Epaphroditus as an envoy with contributions. This was an expression of their partnership and concern to meet the needs of Paul.
Among the counsel he gave to the church through Epaphroditus, the Apostle Paul also spoke of his upcoming sentence in Rome and of his optimism in the face of death (Phillipians 1:18-26). Along with this, he gave exhortations to imitate his capacity to rejoice in the Lord despite one’s circumstances (Phillipians 2:14–18).
Despite his circumstances, the Apostle Paul was able to find joy through a quiet peace and confidence. Elder Saw conveyed that this kind of joy is what every Christian should seek for. Just as was with Paul, the purpose of the Christian life is to spread the Gospel. In Chapter 2 of Phillipians, Paul wrote of the sort of example that ministers of God were called to aspire to.
What does it mean to have the righteousness of Christ? The very first thing we need to establish is that our goodness does not save us, and our badness does not immediately disqualify us from a redemptive relationship with God. Why? Because of the very fact that our righteousness in God had nothing to do with us.
None of us are exempt from sin, and the Bible tells us that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sin sweeps us away like the wind (Isaiah 64:6). This is how far we have been separated from an All-holy God.
This is why our only hope out of the road of sin must come from God. It was the reason for Calvary, and the way we are redeemed is through having faith in Christ. Elder Saw related that having faith is like the analogy of the professional tight-rope walker and his passenger.
It is easy for people to say that they trust a trained tight-rope walker to carry them across the tightrope. However, the rubber meets the road when the walker asks for an actual passenger. Suddenly no one is willing to offer themselves for the demonstration. In the same way, the difference between real and false faith will be revealed in such challenging times.
What about the other side of the equation? If we take for granted that everything about our righteousness and salvation has to do with Christ and nothing to do with us, wouldn’t it lead to spiritual lethargy and spiritual license? Since righteousness comes wholly from Christ, wouldn’t it mean that we can still go on to live our lives as carnally and selfishly as before?
Elder Saw communicated that the dangers of antinomianism is very real. But such an attitude to the Gospel is like the bankrupt who has been blessed with riches by the millionaire, only to leave it all untouched in his bank account. The millionaire blesses the bankrupt, and lets him know about it. The bankrupt knows about the blessing and receives it as good news, but goes on to live in struggle with hunger and poverty. Such an attitude is irrational and nonsensical.
When we acknowledge Christ as our Saviour and Lord, God deposits into our spiritual bank account the righteousness of Christ. We receive the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and we receive the power of the Resurrection. This new deposit in our spiritual account empowers us to walk in the full righteousness and power of Christ. It will change our identities and transform who we are.
Ephesians 2:8 says that we are not saved by the Law, but by faith and in coming to naturally love God and His commandments. Knowing the person and righteousness of Christ will help us to learn how to utilize our spiritual deposit. What sort of power will we have in Christ?
Elder Saw shared that humanity have come so far in developing technology for destruction. With one press of a button, we can bring the world to a nuclear war. But while men have tremendous power in bringing death and destruction, only God have the power to bring the dead to life. Such is the power that we have in Christ, doing the works of God through the power that is given by Him.
Very often, all this seem like castles in the air. The fact is, that while most humans look good and problem-free on the outside, underneath, most of us know what it is to have difficulties and troubles in life. We are like the swans on the lake, beautiful and serene above the waters, but paddling like crazy underneath. The promises of God and of our new identities seem like wishful thinking.
How do we get out of this rut? We need to align ourselves with the Spirit. Christ didn’t die on the cross to make us happy. He died and rose again so that we could be redeemed and reconciled unto God. He did not count His nature and equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself out of love and sacrifice, even death on the cross.
Christians are called to live in the Spirit, to take up the cross and to die to self. It is inevitable that we will suffer during the process. It is necessary, however, so that we can free ourselves from bondage to the world into the full freedom of our rightful identity. Essentially, Paul was writing to the Philippian Church in Philippians 1:29 of the privilege of suffering for the sake of Christ and His Gospel.
Elder Saw expressed that there are many who try all their lives to avert suffering, so much so that they avert God’s will for their lives. They never go through the moulding process and so they never grow. In such difficult times, there is one assurance that we can hold on to, and that is the providence of God. The Bible tells us that God even takes care of the sparrow. He is faithful to take care of His children.
The resurrection power will lead us to a full life in service to God within our community. It is our purpose. It is like the farmer who leads his buffalo in plowing a straight line into the soil, focused on a point across the field. Through discipline, the field can then be sowed, and in time, harvested. We need to press on, staying fixed on Christ and in our righteousness through Christ.
NOTE: This is an adaptation of the message shared by Elder Saw Lip Hean in FGA KL on the 18th of October 2015, written through the writer’s understanding of the message. It has not been vetted by Elder Saw or FGA KL.
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