(photo by Elsa Mesot Photography)
Yesterday I was thinking about my relationship with God and how much I have learned over the last 8 years of trusting Him. I know that many of my blog-readers don't call themselves Christians and are not so interested in hearing about things that relate to faith, and that's okay with me, but for those of you who are pursuing a relationship with Jesus I want to start sharing more directly some of the things I have learned and am learning about doing life as a believer. I don't know how often I'll do these devotional style posts, and I won't be taking a lot of time on them, so it's likely they won't be the most creative or inspiring things you've ever read. But that's okay. My purpose is simply to invite you into my journey of faith and hopefully encourage you in your own. I trust that whoever needs to see these posts will, and for everyone else, you'll just keep on keeping on.
Here's a little something on righteousness and reading the Bible...
“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You. Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them. Let those also who love Your name, be joyful in You. For You O Lord will bless the righteous, with favor You will surround Him as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12
I remember when I first started to put my faith in Jesus back when I was 17 years old and how I couldn’t seem to find encouragement in the Psalms because so many verses refer to how much God loves and protects “the righteous”. I knew too much about my own failures to consider myself a “righteous person”, so naturally I skipped over those verses believing that they were not about me yet but about the people who lived really Christian lives and made really Christian decisions. I thought that maybe once I had gone a few years making good Godly choices then those verses would start to apply to me, but until that time I reserved them for the other more Christian people in the world.
As I started to read the Bible for myself, specifically the books in the New Testament about Jesus & His life on the earth (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), I began to understand that God wasn’t so interested in me “acting like a good Christian”. In fact it seemed that Jesus got most frustrated with the religious people of his time because they “acted really Godly” but actually their hearts were distant from God. I was surprised to see how Jesus scolded the religious people who had track records of making, “really Christian decisions”, while He was completely compassionate and tenderhearted toward people who didn’t appear righteous at all ... prostitutes, uneducated fisherman, poor widows, tax collectors... etc. These people were more like me, they had been living Godlessly, they were failures compared to the really religious people, and yet Jesus showed them loving kindness and treated them with dignity.
I came to discover that righteousness has very little to do with our actions and everything to do with the postures of our hearts before Jesus. When we put our faith in God, repenting of our sins and receiving the gift of salvation that He offers us through Jesus, the Bible says that we take on the righteousness of Christ. Literally, it is as if our own righteousness, or lack thereof, has been buried in the grave, and we are given a completely new life and reputation in Christ. Righteousness happens through faith in Jesus, it doesn’t come through acting perfectly, nor do we become more righteous the less times we fail, but because Jesus is perfect and He has paid the price for our sins, in Him we have complete righteousness. This enables us to relate to God with confidence knowing that He is not disappointed in us.
God loves and protects the righteous. It’s true. And it’s also true that every believer is righteous because of Jesus. It doesn’t matter how much we have blown it or how many times we have failed. When we surrender our lives to Christ we receive His righteousness. This means we really can get excited when we read the Bible and see the different ways God promises His protection for “the righteous”. Those verses aren’t for other “more Christian” people. They are for us. Everyday, the stuff we read in the Bible applies to us. When we understand that, reading the Bible becomes a lot more encouraging.