Awake To Righteousness!

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Awakened To Righteousness!

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday, 21st October, 2018

Last week we had a look at how the disciples in the early church positioned themselves for the Holy Spirit to move upon their lives to raise up a counter culture to the generation they were living in.

Throughout history, the church has moved away from its roots, becoming more of a religious institution.  In an attempt to change society through religious practice, in some cases hypocritically, many lives have been damaged in the process.

But I believe we have the opportunity in our generation, to reveal Jesus Christ to our culture, as we ourselves become aligned with the true gospel message.  

It’s only as we walk in genuine Christ-like love, and in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, are we going to bring any godly influence to our world.

There were more tragic examples this week of how our society is spiralling downward – with some even celebrating another victory for the deliberate killing of unborn babies. 

But I’m not even going there today.  The darkness of this world will not be overcome by talking about what darkness looks like.

Only light will overcome darkness.  

I remember saying last week that the first Christians, who weren’t even yet called Christians, where characterised by a “burning conviction” – a passion so on fire – that their very lifestyle brought about massive change to the society they were in.  Thousands were added to their number daily…  

They did what they could do – and God supernaturally poured out His blessing and favour upon them.

There was something about how they lived and loved and related to one another that shone even brighter than the entrenched culture they lived in.

Why can’t that happen today?  Our society has become blinded by self exalted, self righteous agendas…  and if things are to change, we are the ones that will carry that change.

It’s not everyone who is celebrating evil.  It’s amazing how a minority can have so much influence.  

But in some ways that encourages me because it says to me that if we can position ourselves as the true church of Jesus Christ today, just like the early Christians positioned themselves, we can push back with even greater influence.

It sounds a bit militant – and it is! We’re in a battle.  It’s light verses dark.  It’s righteousness verses evil. 

I’ve said it before – the high tech computer games that our kids are playing on iPads have nothing on the reality of what’s going on in the spirit realm all around us.

Proverbs 28:1,  “The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.”

The righteous!  Those who are righteous are as bold as a lion.

Last week we looked at the incredible love and compassion, selflessness, generosity, sacrifice…  all those amazing qualities of the church that were expressed with burning conviction!

Well this morning I want to take a look at what it means to be righteous! 

What is righteousness?  How does righteousness make us bold?

I read this little sentence in an article this week, and it might as well have been written in neon lights.  It said:

“Jesus upset the religious system of His day by awakening the desires of people’s hearts!”

Now I’m not sure exactly what the writer was intending to say, or the extent of it  – but this is what it said to me…

The religious system was a system of laws, rules and regulations that were all based on the outer appearances of righteousness.  The Pharisees who upheld and promoted this religious farce, were the epitome of self righteousness and religious pride. 

And Jesus went straight to the heart of their motivation and exposed their lives as white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.  Jesus certainly had a way with words!  And His words cut straight to the heart and straight to the truth!

But I don’t think it’s the religious system that Jesus is calling us to challenge and upset now as much as it is the hearts and motivations of those who are pulling down everything that is sacred, pure and holy…  things like the precious lives of unborn babies, the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman, the innocence of our children and grandchildren – their true identity and purity of heart…

But don’t get me wrong.  When I talk about awakening the desires of people’s hearts, I’m saying – let’s bring light into the darkness, let’s bring vision to the blind, let’s awaken people to the truth so that they can respond.

Jesus didn’t come to condemn – but to save.  And now as His ambassadors, this is what we are called to as well.  

When Jesus entered into a person’s life…  when he came into a situation where unrighteousness and evil ruled…  he had a way about Him with His manner of speaking and the actual words He used, to confront and challenge in a way that invited people to respond.  

A classic example is the woman at the well.  Jesus told her that he knew she’d had five husbands and that the man she was living with now wasn’t even her husband.  But he didn’t say it as a judgement!  He wasn’t there to condemn her as an immoral woman.

In a very real way He was saying I know your life has been full of brokenness, shame and grief.  Let’s face the truth!  Let Me bring some healing and restoration to your life!  Let’s awaken what you carry in the depths of your heart.

He was leading her to repentance which is a gift – and it was His goodness that drew her.  It’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance.

And it was really interesting that they were both positioned right next to a well full of water.

And His comment to her was (John 4:13-14),  “…Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Jesus wasn’t really interested in that moment about her previous marriages.  He was identifying that she was thirsty…  He was helping her to see that there was a deeper desire and need that was driving her and that hadn’t yet been quenched.  It hadn’t until this moment in time even been acknowledged and awakened.

He was presenting Himself to her as the bearer of God’s gift of life…

John 4:10,  “Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

Now let’s go back to Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes:

Matthew 5:6,  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”

To hunger and thirst for righteousness means to desire to be right with God – to live in the refreshing streams of living water – to be filled and be satisfied with a way of living that has congruity with God, His Word, His Spirit – and the life that we live outwardly.  

When I think of righteousness I think of integrity of heart – integrity in living – where what we sing in our times of worship together, what we read and hear from the Word, what we experience in intimacy with God…  it becomes a stream of living water that flows through into our everyday life, our relationships, our choices, our true desires.

I believe that the woman at the well really deep down desired a life like that – and finally, Jesus was revealing it to her in Himself.

She hadn’t done anything to deserve it.  In fact her life up to that point displayed quite the opposite.  But that’s the thing with righteousness.  What we desire and thirst for can’t come from within us.  It comes from faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s go back even further to Abraham – and we can look at his life through the words of Paul.

Romans 4:20-25,  “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”

This and other scriptures confirm to us that righteousness comes from God through faith.  Just as it was for the woman at the well, and just as it was for Abraham, so it is for us.  Righteousness is also the gift of God – given purely by His grace – received simply by us opening up our soul and spirit in faith.

Righteousness is imputed to us.  In other words it is made ours, it’s put into our account, it becomes part of who we are.

Sometimes when I’m preaching a word like this, I feel as though I need a year’s preparation, not just a week or even a few days…  And yet, much of this truth is simply meant to be received by faith, and allowed to settle in our spirit as a gift.  

How can this imputation possibly happen?  Why would God place His righteousness in us?   There’s only one answer.  

2 Corinthians 5:21,  “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

God imputed our sins onto Jesus Christ, who was the perfect, sinless, righteous Lamb.  And in exchange, He also imputed Christ’s Righteousness onto us, the ones who deserved the punishment for our sin.

If that doesn’t awaken something within you about the overwhelming love and grace of God, then I’m not sure if I can put it in any clearer, or use any more powerful words.

If you believe…  if you have faith in Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you accept the gift of His sacrifice on your behalf, then His righteousness is yours.

You are sitting here this morning clothed in a beautiful garment called righteousness.

The words of Isaiah 61 are a declaration of faith and celebration, but they are also prophetic as they speak into our hearts this morning:

Isaiah 61:10-11,  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”

I am praying that the righteousness of Christians, not only here at Seacoast, but all across this nation, will spring forth in such a way that we will bring about change in our culture.  

It doesn’t happen instantly.  It’s like the earth bringing forth its bud and the garden springing forth with its fruit. 

Of course the enemy will have a field day as the time gets closer to Jesus’ return…  But I know in my spirit that there is going to be an uprising of righteousness across this land that will be an invitation and an opportunity for those who are just like that woman at the well, hungering and thirsting for something they have not yet found…  And they will be filled!  They will be satisfied!  They will be quenched with rivers of living water…  streams of righteousness…

Can I be really blunt?  It’s a rhetorical question because I’m going to be anyway!

While some of you are sitting here celebrating this word and dancing on the inside…  (I know you are…  it just hasn’t yet leaked to the outside),  there are others of you who know you are not living out of your true identity as a righteous son or daughter of God.

And my guess is that you are pretty miserable about that, because the Holy Spirit will be on your case.  

Are you saved?  Well if you have received Jesus Christ as your Saviour, then by His sacrifice and grace, yes you are!  

Are you righteous before God?  Are your sins hidden by a robe of righteousness around your shoulders?  Yes.  Because your righteousness is not your own doing, it’s God’s.

But hopefully your hunger and thirst for righteousness and to live righteously is still like a craving on the inside.  Hopefully there’s some kind of conviction of the Holy Spirit when you fall short of living the life that Christ paid for.

I say hopefully, because there’s a place we can come to where we’ve given in to temptation so often and we’ve quieted the promptings of the Holy Spirit enough times, that we can potentially become numb to our inner discernment and righteous desire.

You know, my first thoughts about today’s message were along the lines of conviction – not righteousness!  But as I took it further, I thought, I don’t want to risk coming across with a Pharisaical message that condemns.  I don’t want to take away even one small thing from the incredible grace that abounds towards us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We are saved by grace, and by faith and grace we continue to live.  There’s no way that God is wanting to put us under the law or under a gospel of works this morning.  

But what if we have become numb to the promptings and the conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding sin?  Are we grieving the Holy Spirit if we continue to ignore what He is trying to reveal to us?

I think what I was originally getting from the Holy Spirit was a warning about becoming lukewarm.

In Revelation, Jesus is speaking and prophesying over the various churches:

Revelation 3:14-19,  “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say,  ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.”

Jesus is speaking to the church – not to the world.  He’s still speaking to the church.  If He is bringing chastisement and even a rebuke around your life right now – then know it’s because He loves you and has only the very best life prepared for you.  You know the classic saying – He loves you too much to leave you where you are!

And as with the other six churches that are mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3, we need to prayerfully discern if these words are speaking to us as a whole, or perhaps even as individuals…  because each one of us make up the church.

And if our lack of living out of the righteousness that has been imputed to us through faith in Jesus Christ…  perhaps lack of faith that we even are righteous at all…  then let’s take an honest look at our lives and face up to any lukewarmness that has crept in.  It’s really important because it makes God sick!

But praise God that He provides an answer and a way out through zealous passion and repentance.

The response I’m looking for from you this morning is simple.

Here is your invitation and opportunity to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within you – Your Helper – Your Comforter – Your Revealer of Truth – Your Spiritual Empowerment…

And ask Him if there is any barrier, blockage or unbelief to you not only receiving God’s righteousness as your own – but living in it – walking in it – revealing it through your every day life!

Sometimes it’s like we have the keys to a life full of absolute freedom and joy, and yet we forget to place them in the lock and open the door.

A convicted, unrepentant Christian can be a miserable and unhappy creature!

Just to finish with a couple more scriptures:

Ephesians 4:1,  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,”

Ephesians 4:23-24,  “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Ephesians 5:8-10,  “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”

And the very last one – from Revelation again:

Revelation 21:6,  “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.”

How thirsty are you this morning?  How willing to are you to be filled and satisfied?  

There is not one reason under the sun why you should not walk away from here today knowing that you are righteous, filled, satisfied and free.

Run to Jesus like a thirsty man in a desert – listen to the conviction of your heart – respond to His goodness in repentance… not only saying sorry but turning your life back in the direction it’s meant to be going.

Jesus Christ did it all for you to have that choice!  

He may be talking to you right now just as He reached out to the woman at the well…  He wants us all to be filled and satisfied with deep streams of living water.

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