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Children of God and Lights of the World

“in order that you may be without blame and pure, children of God, without blemish in a generation that is bent and perverted, in which you might shine as lights in the world,”

(Philippians 2:15)

What does it mean to be without blame and pure? Certainly, as fallen people, we cannot achieve this state here on earth on this side of the eternal veil, can we? Could Paul be speaking of the imputed righteousness of Christ here — that righteousness given to us in our salvation by Christ who paid the penalty for our sins? First of all, we will never realize full sanctification here on earth on this side of heaven unless Jesus happens to return swiftly. We will struggle against sin for all of our days; such is the lot for the believer in this world and such is the way that God purifies us for heaven…it was good enough for Jesus to enter heaven through the road of the cross, why do we balk at our own suffering so?

At the same time, in context, this does not seem that Paul is speaking of the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to the believer. Why? Because that righteousness is a one-time measure that permits us to stand blameless before the presence of God in judgment and Paul is speaking of the importance of striving and laboring toward this on earth.

Thus what we are seeing, in context, is the goal to which believers are to strive. It is indeed a lofty goal, but it is toward that goal that marks us as children of God. People often comment to me, “Isn’t every human being God’s child?” While such is commonly taught in the society, it is not taught in the Bible. A mark of being God’s child is that it is toward blamelessness and purity that we are to strive. If we are not interested in striving toward such things or if we pursue that which is sin, that is a sign that we are children of the Devil (see 1 John 3:4-10 with emphasis on verse 10). There are two races of people throughout history…the children of God and the children of the Devil…a designation that goes all of the way back to Genesis 3:15 but that Jesus also echoes in his Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30).

Our job, then, as believers, is to strive to live in such a way that our lives are unblemished and given entirely to Christ. Does this mean that we will never fall into sin? Of course not. There was a movement in Wesleyanism that was called the “Holiness” movement which argued that with a sort of second conversion experience, you could complete your sanctification on earth and never sin again. Apart from causing many to shipwreck their faith over doubts and a lack of security, it also caused many to shipwreck their faith in pride and arrogance arguing that they had not sinned in “x” number of years (see 1 John 1:8 and 10 for an Apostolic comment on this idea). Thus as believers, we will sin, but when we do (this is 1 John 1:9), and we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Therefore, as forgiven Children of God, we are to live as those who are unblemished by this twisted world — like living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) — like unblemished Passover Lambs just as our Master and Lord was the unblemished Passover Lamb.

Why? So we might shine as lights in the world around us. The language that Paul employs is a word picture of the stars in the night sky. Have you ever been out on a very dark night, but the heavens are filled with the light of the stars? That is the idea. We cannot shine like the Sun…that is Jesus’ place and he does through his Word. But as we take that Word of God and apply it to all areas of life, we also shine that light in the darkness…and if the light of the stars is bright enough, you can see a great deal in this world. May we intentionally be such lights.

The Letter or the Intent of the Law (Luke 16:12)

“And if in what belongs to another, you have not been faithful, who will give you something of your own?”

(Luke 16:12)

 

As we have been discussing, the Pharisees, for all of their zeal toward protecting the letter of the law, had missed the point of why the law was given and what the law meant.  They, in fact, had added series upon series of lists and rules to the law with the intention of aiding their understanding of how to obey the law, but that had rapidly degenerated into a legalistic set of rules that was an unwieldy burden for most men and women. 

With that in mind, we must not miss the parallel that Jesus is making between the things of this world and the things that belong to the next.  This steward is called a steward of unrighteousness, using the language of unrighteousness almost metaphorically to refer to the wealth of this world.  Yet, parables also contain a deeper meaning as they apply to the kingdom of God.  Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees, ones who were entrusted not only to steward the word of God, but also the righteousness of God, as they were one of God’s representatives to the people.  Not only did they fail to demonstrate God’s righteousness, keeping it honored amongst the people, they were often guilty of defaming God’s righteous name because of their hypocrisy.  Thus, Jesus writes, if you are not faithful with keeping that which belongs to another, how can you expect anyone to give you anything of your own.  Or, more specifically, if you have proven yourself unfaithful in protecting and stewarding the righteousness of God, how is it that you expect God to impute righteousness to you?

This language of imputed righteousness is essential in our understanding of Christ’s redemptive work.  Men and women before God’s throne are judged on the basis of righteous actions; hence, we all deserve utter damnation.  Yet, Jesus, having lived a perfect and sinless life and having borne the guilt of our sin upon the cross, imputes his righteousness to his people.  This does not mean that we inherently become righteous and it does not mean that Jesus’ righteousness mixes with our righteousness, kind of blending it into something that might be acceptable to God.  No!  God cannot accept sin in his presence and even the most righteous amongst us has all of his righteous actions tainted by sin and sin’s motives.  Both the Apostle Paul and the prophet Isaiah described their own righteousness in the most lowly and despicable ways (Isaiah 64:6, Philippians 3:8).  No, it is imputed to us, credited to our account.  When we stand in judgment, we stand not clothed in our own rags plus the garment of Christ, but we stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ as if a clean, white robe were placed over our filthy and wretched selves.

Now, please understand, this imputed righteousness is not something that you earned by your actions in any way.  It is not a reward that is given to you as a result of your faithful honoring of God’s name, His Word, or His righteousness.  In fact, you cannot even begin to honor God’s name, Word, or righteousness until you have been born again by the blood of Jesus Christ and have Christ’s righteousness imputed to you—your new clothing will shape the way you live and behave.  But let us talk honestly with each other.  Though we have received this gift, all too often we who have been re-clothed in Christ live as if we were only wearing our own filthy rags.  All too often, we take the gift of grace all too casually and live like the pagans do.  Beloved, let us turn away from the temptations of our own pride and treasure the unsurpassed gift of Christ, living like Christ’s sacrifice has made a difference to us in this world as well as the next—living in such a way that others see the change that Christ has wrought within us and come to see what Christ might do in their life.

All to Jesus, I surrender,

All to Him, I freely give.

I will ever love and trust him,

In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all.

All to Jesus, I surrender, I surrender all.

-Judson Van de Venter