Christ, Our Righteousness

In Jesus Christ there is sure salvation. Why? Because those of us whom He saves do not depend on our own merits. Rather, He is our righteousness.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 23-24; Second Timothy 2

Selected Verses

 Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”  Jeremiah 23:5-6

 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Second Timothy 2:8-10

Reflections

The prophet Jeremiah had the uncomfortable, but important, task of denouncing the failed, rebellious kings and prophets of Judah. God promised to punish them, but He also gave hope to the faithful among the people. Here we have a clear promise of a future king from David’s line who would deal wisely, execute justice and righteousness, and bring salvation to Judah and Israel. This and other prophecies kept the believing remnant of Israel hopeful until Jesus Christ, the Messiah, came. [See Luke 2:25-38]. Jeremiah and his contemporaries probably could not have imagined in their wildest dreams the extent of this prophecy. God did everything He promised and far more by calling to Himself through Christ people from every tribe, nation, and tongue, all His elect down through history who in one voice confess, “The Lord is our righteousness.” [First Corinthians 1:30].

Paul was concerned that the Church, which was beginning to reflect this global, cross-cultural composition, would be faithful to the gospel and to her head, Jesus Christ. He gives instructions to Timothy about preaching the word, appointing qualified godly leaders (First Timothy 3:1-13), and insuring that the truths taught by the apostles to men like Timothy be passed on from generation to generation. Timothy needed to be careful about his own life, being watchful to avoid distracting worldly entanglements and foolish, ignorant controversies. He must do his best in handling the word of God. To do these things he will always need to keep Jesus Christ central in his mind.

Think about it

God’s word proclaims that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  But God declares all who call upon Him righteous before God. They confess that  “The Lord is our righteousness.” Be sure that is your confession and hope, even while you seek to be faithful in your service for Him.

Healing for Sin-sick Souls

Sin causes pain and death, but the sinless Lord Jesus Christ’s pain and death resulted in a full and final cure for the iniquity of His people.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 7-8; First Timothy 2

Selected Verses

 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? Jeremiah 8:21-22

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. First Timothy 2:5-6

Reflections

Jeremiah was in grief over the sin of Judah. He had a message. It was from God. It was true, but it gave him no joy. He had to proclaim to the people their sin and failure. No wonder people called him “the weeping prophet.” Sin has painful consequences for unrepentant sinners, but also for those who love them and can only watch them spiraling down into judgment. Jeremiah loved his fellow countrymen. He could call them to God, but he could not heal them when they refused to listen. In those days, Gilead was an area east of the Jordan known for its medicinal products. [1]  The prophet longed for some balm or ointment to cure the sinful populace.

I remember an old spiritual we sang in my childhood. The refrain is:

There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sin-sick soul.

Amen! Paul had the happy work of proclaiming that there is healing in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who gave Himself as a ransom. Our High Priest Jesus is the mediator between God and men. He took our sin upon Himself, dying on the cross, rising again, sending forth the Apostles to spread the news, and ascending to the right hand of God. Jesus cures not merely the physical body but the “sin-sick soul.”  Jeremiah longed to find such souls. But he found hard hearts, unreceptive to his diagnosis of their need.

Think about it

If you are sin-sick, find healing in Jesus who gave Himself for such as you.  [See Mark 10:45; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19].

[1]  Reformation Study Bible, note on Jeremiah 8:22, page 1276

Chosen By God

In God, we see our lives are not a result of random molecules coming together, but we are chosen by Him and for Him. We have meaning and purpose.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 1-2; Second Thessalonians 2

Selected Verses

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”  

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” Jeremiah 1:4-7

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Second Thessalonians 2:13-14

Reflections

Jeremiah heard God speak to him, but the message took some time to sink in.  God told Jeremiah that He formed him in the womb, but even before that, God knew him and consecrated him (ie. set him apart for a designated purpose).  What purpose? To be a prophet to the nations.  Jeremiah offered two excuses: his age and his lack of speaking ability.  God answered his excuses promising to send him.  Jeremiah had no authority from a human point of view.  He lacked maturity and experience.  But he needed neither because God was sending him.  Secondly, God would tell him what to say.  Jeremiah did not need to write powerful communiqués to the people.  He only needed to report the messages God gave him.

Paul had a similar view of the work of God in the lives of the Thessalonians.  Like Jeremiah, they were chosen by God and set apart by the Spirit.  When they heard the gospel, they believed it and were saved.  God had called them through the gospel and they responded.  The ultimate result of this would be that they would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Think about it

Many today hold a worldview that sees our lives as essentially a result of a random evolutionary process.  There is no accountability and no boundaries, but then there is no purpose and no meaning.  Rejoice, if you know God has chosen you, called you, and set you apart  as a recipient of His mercy, grace, and love.  If He has forgiven and adopted you as His child to serve Him, praise God.  Give yourself fully to Him.  Glory awaits us.

The Extent of Salvation

How far does salvation extend? God saves people completely and He saves them everywhere–from every tribe and tongue and nation to the ends of the earth.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 50-52; 1 Thessalonians 1

Selected Verses

The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. Isaiah 52:10

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

Reflections

There are two dimensions to God’s salvation: the geographical dimension and the spiritual dimension. We see this today in Isaiah’s prophecy and Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.

Isaiah records the intention of God to show His power to all the nations of the earth. He would show this by revealing His salvation–His ability to redeem men and women, boys and girls from every tribe, tongue, and nation. This was always His plan.  Isaiah passes on more information about the details of this plan, which we will see in tomorrow’s reading.

With the coming of Jesus Christ, that salvation was more fully revealed. The kingdom of God was near. The apostles proclaimed the good news. The church was scattered throughout the Roman Empire taking the gospel to Jews and Gentiles on its way to the ends of the earth. Paul brought the message to Thessalonica. The people heard and believed. They received the salvation that is in Christ. Here we see how completely God saves people. They “turned to God from idols.” Why? They turned “to serve the living and true God.” Not only that, they set their attention on waiting “for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Think about it

The gospel proclaims salvation everywhere. Those who believe experience the beginning of a complete transformation. They continue to be changed by it throughout their lives. This is the message which the world needs to hear in every generation until Jesus returns from heaven. Pray, send, give, and, if God wills, go that the blind may see and the deaf hear the truth.

Spiritual Desperation-are you there?

Desperation, a sense of total helplessness and hopelessness, is essential to a minimal understanding of the love and mercy of God in Christ Jesus.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 19-21; Ephesians 2

Selected Verses

Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and of Egypt their boast. And the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, “Behold, this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?”  Isaiah 20:5-6

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:4-6

Reflections

God sent Isaiah to show Judah the folly of their trusting in Egypt and Cush for deliverance from the then-dominant power of Assyria. The prophet, under God’s direction, went about barefooted and naked for three years to show them how destitute they really were. God would have Egypt and Cush barefoot and naked before it was over.

Paul paints a vivid picture of lost people. They are not merely weak in spirit, not just sick. Rather, they are stone cold dead in trespasses and sins. They may have been trusting that they were good enough to pass muster in a relative sense, that is, good enough to pass if graded on a curve instead of against the absolute perfect righteousness of God. In reality, they deserve hell, but instead God, who is rich in mercy and great in love, makes “them alive together with Christ” and saves them by grace alone.

Then what? Does He send them back into the world to try to improve their future record? No. He raises them up with Christ and seats them in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And these were previously dead, hopeless people. Spiritually bankrupt, they had nothing to offer God.   They could not earn their acceptance nor pay their debt. All they could do was believe and receive what God did.

Think about it

Do you hold out some hope that you will eventually measure up to God’s perfection? Or does desperation describe your spiritual state?  Do you see your true condition apart from Christ: dead, alienated, condemned? It is not a good feeling to be desperate, but let us be desperate so that we can appreciate the great mercy and love of God for us.

Heart Check Time

We need to be watchful never to forget that the horror of our sin and the holiness of God put Christ on the cross for us who believe. It’s heart check time.

Today’s Reading

Isaiah 4-6; Galatians 3

Selected Verses

Man is humbled, and each one is brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty are brought low.
 But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.  Isaiah 5:15-16

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—  so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.    Galatians 3:13-14

Reflections

Failure to see the holiness of God and the horror of sin is a problem which repeatedly crops up in human hearts.  It happened in ancient Judah in Isaiah’s day and it happened in Galatia in Paul’s day.  It continues to happen today.

Isaiah warned Judah of her sin and reminded them of the reality of death, the gaping mouth of Sheol consuming all humanity one by one.  The people were living in denial.  They presumed upon the grace and mercy of God as they relied on their own wisdom and ignored the perfect holiness of God.  It would take a reawakening to the imminence of death and their utter failure to attain to God’s purity to humble them.  They needed to see Him “high and lifted up” (6:1).  At the same time, they needed to see themselves as people of “unclean lips” (6:5).  They needed to see how darkened were their minds as they reversed the definitions of good and evil (5:20).  We do too.

The Galatians situation is even more perplexing.  Here were people who had heard and believed the gospel, repented of their sin, and had received the Holy Spirit by faith, but now through the influence of some false teachers were turning away from trusting Christ and returning to law keeping as the basis for their hope.  Paul is astonished.  Yet experience tells us that this is always a potential problem.  It appeals to our pride to achieve our own acceptance before God.  This attitude comes from either not seeing the holiness of God or not seeing the heinousness of our rebellion against Him. In our minds, we either dilute God’s holiness or our sin.  Usually both.

Think about it

God means for us to humble ourselves before Him, to see the awfulness of sin as reflected in the agony of Christ’s death.  He had to become a curse for us to free us from the curse upon us through the law.  Do a heart check today.  Beware of any creeping self-righteousness that diminishes your complete reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ for your standing before God.

More than Forgiven

The Psalmist prayed for mercy and forgiveness, but God in Christ has given all that and much more. We are more than forgiven.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

Selected Verses

 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!  Psalm 79:8-9

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Romans 8:3-4

Reflections

The Psalmist cries out for forgiveness for the sins of the nation that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. He laments their suffering but, even more, the disgrace brought on the name of God. The writer does not look for excuses, nor does he make promises to do better. He pleads for God Himself to atone for their sins. Truly, he grasps the seriousness of sin. No one is able to justify himself by turning over a new leaf. No one is qualified to repay the debt of offending our holy Creator and Lord.

Paul explains to the Romans just how God has answered this prayer of the Psalmist from so many centuries earlier. The law could only show us our sin, never save us. The law was weakened by the flesh, because our flesh is inclined to use the law as a springboard to rebellion. We do what the law says not to do (Romans 7:13-25).  He has freed us from the law of sin and death, that is, the law that says “you sin, you die.”

Think about it

As usual, God’s answer goes far above what the Psalmist (or we) could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He has given His Spirit to those who are in Christ. Through Him we have life, peace, and guidance. Through Him we are adopted as God’s children and, so, we call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-17). Sure, we suffer with Christ in this world, but we know that the glory to come far exceeds these present afflictions.

Does your sin and guilt weigh you down? Trust in Christ for the complete forgiveness of your sins. Rejoice that the law of sin and death is overcome, but more than that, in Him you have His Spirit and are adopted as His own child.

Shut Mouths; Believing Hearts

God’s Law and Christ’s Gospel combine to change us from arrogant unbelievers to grateful disciples–people with shut mouths and believing hearts.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 68-69; Romans 3

Selected Verses

More in number than the hairs of my head
are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.  Psalm 69:4-5

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.   Romans 3:21-22

Reflections

The Psalmist cries out in anguish for the injustice heaped on him, but, at the same time, he recognizes his own folly and wrongs.  He knows that God knows them.  He may have tried to hide them, but they are not hidden from the Lord.  No one is completely righteous before God.  True, some suffer great injustice, but such suffering does not blot out the record of sin committed and establish the sufferer as righteous before God. We are all both victims and perpetrators.

Paul tells the Romans that the law is given to shut our mouths and to hold the whole world accountable to God.  Where can we turn?  We can only turn to Jesus Christ through Whom the righteousness of God apart from the law is manifested.  By God’s grace, salvation from the condemnation of the law is through Him for all who believe.  In Christ, there is justification (the declaration that all debts have been paid in full), redemption (the price paid to purchase freedom from slavery to sin and guilt), and propitiation (the offering made to satisfy the just wrath of God).  It is a gift.  So it cannot be earned but can only be received by faith.

Think about it

Beware of trusting in your own works for acceptance before God.  A careful look at God’s law and our own works will show that we cannot satisfy its demands.  We can only shut our mouths and flee to Christ.  In Him alone, we find the gift of salvation which encompasses everything we need to restore us as God’s beloved children.  Be sure you trust Him as the only basis for your justification, not your works or a life relatively better than someone else’s.  We should have shut mouths and believing hearts.

Salvation Belongs to the LORD

God is sovereign over salvation. He uses means, such as gospel preaching but also works directly opening the hearts of His own so they hear and believe.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 1-3; Acts 16:1-15

Selected Verses

Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Psalm 3:8

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.  Acts 16:14-15

Reflections

The Psalmist was in dire straits. According to the title of Psalm 3, David wrote this during his exile from Jerusalem while his son, Absalom, briefly overthrew his father’s kingdom. David turned to God in the crisis, recognizing that only the Lord could save him. “Salvation belongs to the LORD,” he affirms. Absalom had skillfully won over the people of Israel to support him. David fled Jerusalem. But it seemed inevitable that David would be assassinated and Absalom would take firm control of the kingdom.

Yet, “salvation belongs to the LORD.” David held to that truth, and, against all odds, Absalom listened to David’s planted advisor, Hushai who purposely gave him bad advice. Absalom followed it, and died in the ensuing battle (2 Samuel 17-18). God saved David’s life and kingdom. The odds set by probability cannot limit God.

Lydia was a worshiper of God, a Gentile woman who believed in the God of Israel and the moral law of Moses without adopting the dietary and ceremonial laws. Luke tells us that the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul said. Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, neither a Lydia nor anyone else is able to hear and believe the gospel (Jeremiah 13:23; John 6:44, 65; Romans 9:16; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10).  God saved Lydia spiritually. [1]

Think about it

God saves kings and Gentile women, like David and Lydia. How does the truth that “salvation belongs to the Lord” affect your prayer life and your daily confidence in Him? Can you lie down and sleep, knowing the Lord will sustain you? Trust Him when in danger for He saves.  Proclaim the gospel to others knowing that God opens hearts as He wills and saves lost people.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible notes p. 1945

Why We Choose Belief or Unbelief

What makes a person choose to believe or not believe?  Here we see some perplexing examples but also a clear answer from Jesus.

Today’s Reading

Second Kings 20-22; John 6:45-71

Selected Verses

But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.  2 Kings 21:9

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”    After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:65-67

Reflections

People choose to believe or not believe, but without the work of the Spirit in a person’s heart there will be no inclination to believe.

Today’s reading demonstrates the ups and downs of the kings of Israel and Judah.  Hezekiah had led Judah in a period of faithfulness like none before him.  We also read about Josiah who repaired the temple, rediscovered the book of the law, and led the nation to revival.  But in between these two godly kings was Manasseh who had the longest and worst reign in the history of Judah.  He led the people to do more evil than the Canaanite nations that God had judged and destroyed under Joshua.  How do these things happen? Why would a great and godly king (Hezekiah) have such a wicked son (Manasseh)? How does such a wicked king (Manasseh) father such a godly son (Josiah)?

Clearly, something is at work in these fathers and sons besides mere heredity or environmental influence.  The difference, we discover, is God the Father who draws people to Himself (John 6:44).  It is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63).  It is Jesus whose body and blood gives eternal life to the one who believes in Him. Those who heard Jesus either responded with disbelief and even disgust, or they drew near to Him concluding like Peter did when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69).

Think about it

To whom will you go?  Jesus’ words either comfort or repel you.  If you believe, you may be sure it is the drawing of the Father and the life-giving ministry of the Spirit.  If you do not believe, but are troubled by your unbelief, that, too, is the work of God in you.  Call to Him for faith to believe and grace to repent of your sins and come to the Bread of Life.  You are not controlled by your family history or outward circumstances either for good or bad.  Your choice reflects your heart.  May God give us His Spirit so that we can believe!