What Everybody Needs and Nobody Has, Part II

The New Testament does not teach a religion where you just sit back and say, “Lord, please save me; I am just going to trust You to do it,” and then you do not do anything. That is New Theology, but that is not New Testament religion.

New Testament religion is when you see that you have a besetting sin and you go to the Lord and say, “Lord, I have this problem in my life. I know I cannot overcome it by myself, but Lord, You have promised that You are going to work in me what is according to Your good pleasure.”

If we are not willing to maintain a stern conflict against our besetting sins, then we will not overcome. That is what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3, when he says, “Forgetting those things that are behind—all those sins I have committed—I cannot change that, but I am stretching forth to what is in front of me; I am pressing toward the mark of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Ellen White wrote, “Their [God’s professed people] constant stumbling and falling reveal that they have not maintained a stern conflict with their besetting sins. They have not depended wholly upon Christ, because they have not realized that they are in peril of being overcome by these sins. It is the sin which appears small and unworthy of our notice against which we should be on our guard. If we could understand how deeply we injure our own souls and cause unhappiness to those around us by giving loose rein to unsanctified thoughts and unholy actions, we would strive to put them away. We would co-operate with God in working out our own salvation.” The Signs of the Times, December 13, 1899. That is so true! It is the little sin that you do not think amounts to anything, but if you do not overcome it, it will lead to a bigger one and a bigger one and a bigger one.

Powerful Mediator

Hebrews 7:25 is a wonderful text. It is a text that will encourage you if you have been discouraged: “Whence also He is able to save perfectly those who come to God through Him, since He always lives
to make intercession on their behalf.”

We have, in the courts in heaven, an all-powerful Mediator. Do not for a moment think that you are such a great sinner that Christ cannot save you. That is not true. There is not a single person who can say that, for if you are willing to be saved, He will save you. You cannot dictate to Him how you are going to be saved, just as you cannot go to a physician and say, “I only want you to treat me the way I want to be treated.” The physician has to decide what he needs to do to try to help you get better, and then you have to decide whether or not you are willing to accept the treatment. Jesus is called the Great Physician because He is a physician Who can heal you from the sting of sin which will cause you to die eternally. But, He can only save you if you are willing to accept the cure that He offers.

“The religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penitent confession of sin ascend from true believers as incense to the heavenly sanctuary, but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless purified by blood, they can never be of value with God. They ascend not in spot-less purity, and unless the Intercessor, who is at God’s right hand, presents and purifies all by His righteousness, it is not acceptable to God. All incense from earthly tabernacles must be moist with the cleansing drops of the blood of Christ. He holds before the Father the censer of His own merits, in which there is no taint of earthly corruption. He gathers into this censer the prayers, the praise, and the confessions of His people, and with these He puts His own spotless righteousness. Then, perfumed with the merits of Christ’s propitiation, the incense comes up before God wholly and entirely acceptable. Then gracious answers are returned.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 344.

One of the biggest problems we have as human beings is that we do not realize how defiled we are. It is when a person starts to think that he or she is a terrible sinner and that there is no way to be saved that there is hope. It is then that he or she is ready to say, “Yes, Lord, whatever it takes. I will commit my case to You. I know I am never going to make it on my own.” That is when there is hope.

Do you see that our prayers, our worship, our service are all defiled? They are all worthless unless Christ adds His righteousness to them. We cannot generate it; we can only receive it. Once we start to get an understanding of this subject, then we begin to realize how salvation is absolutely hopeless any other way but this. There is not any other way. That is why Peter said, “There is not any other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

There is not any other way to be saved because He is the only One who is righteous, and He is the only One who can give us righteousness, because we of ourselves do not have any.

It is an awful fact that, when we are studying things that should be simple, preachers and theologians for some reason use language that is difficult to understand. People then have trouble figuring out what is meant! So, I have been wondering how to present this subject and state it so simply that it is easily understood. I recognize that this is a major subject and that it encompasses more than can be presented in a brief article, yet we need to be practical Christians. We need to be able to relate this topic to our everyday lives and understand how we are to have this experience.

Last month, in Part I of this article, I stated that we must have righteousness to have eternal life, but you and I do not have any! “All our righteousness is like a defiled garment.” Isaiah 64:5.

Just Such Simplicity

To help in our understanding, I would like to relate a very short story that occurred in 1843. Ellen White knew these people, and she wrote about their experience. By the way, if you are married and are having trouble in your marriage, read this story carefully. The example it holds may help you!

“I remember in 1843 a man and his wife . . . who expected the Lord to come in 1844, and they were waiting and watching. And every day they would pray to God; before they would bid each other goodnight, they would say, ‘It may be the Lord will come when we are asleep, and we want to be ready.’ The husband would ask his wife if he had said a word during the day that she had thought was not in accordance with the truth and the faith which they professed, and then she would ask him the same question. Then they would bow before the Lord and ask Him if they had sinned in thought or word or action, and if so that He would forgive that transgression. Now we want just such simplicity as this.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 193.

What would happen in our families if we, before going to bed at night, quizzed each other and asked, “Did I say anything to you today that is not Christlike?” It is not for us to decide the answer to that question. The ones who heard us are qualified to answer it. We have to take counsel, if they say something like, “Well, it seemed to me that when you said such and such, that was a little short.” “Now we want just such simplicity as this.”

How to Get It

Continuing our study about the righteousness of Christ and how we can get it, read John 1:29. “The next day he [John the Baptist] sees Jesus coming to him, and he says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ ”

How did He bear the sin of the world? How did He take it away? Another text will help us to see the thrust of the message. “For the One who did not know sin He made to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 11 Corinthians 5:21.

How did Jesus take away the sin of the world? When He went to the cross of Calvary, the God of heaven knew all the sin that would be committed from the beginning of the world to the end of time, and all of that was placed on Jesus Christ. He did not have any sin of His own, but the One who did not know any sin He made to be sin for us, on our behalf, so we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (11 Corinthians 5:21.)

When we confess our sins to Him, He takes away our sins; He bears them away from us, and then He gives to us His perfect righteousness. What is perfect righteousness like? You may read about it in Hebrews 10 and in Psalm 40. The fuller description is given in Psalm 40, which contains a prophecy of Jesus Christ and describes the righteousness of Christ. Verse 8 says, “I delight to do Your will, O my God. Yes, Your law is in my heart.” This is the kind of righteousness that Jesus had. He delighted to do God’s will, and God’s Law was in His heart.

When He gives His righteousness to you, then you begin to enjoy and want to do God’s will, and His law begins to be written in your heart. This writing of the law in the heart is not something that happens in an instant; it is a process that happens over a period of time.

Theologians have all kinds of terms for this, but I am not going to confuse you with all of their theological terms. I find that even preachers get confused with the theological terms! So I will just stay away from theology and try to explain it simply.

When you confess your sins and exercise faith in Jesus, you realize that you do not have any righteousness. You know you cannot go to heaven without it, but you do not have any and you cannot make any. But Jesus has said, “I will give you mine. I will take your sins, and I will give you My righteousness.”

Holy Spirit’s Work

Then the Holy Spirit starts writing on the heart the principles of God’s Law. As that happens, you look at your sinful life, and you say, “Lord, I cannot live like this anymore. I cannot think like this anymore. I cannot feel like this anymore. I cannot talk like this anymore. Lord, I . . .”

That is always what happens when a person receives Jesus and begins to see His righteousness. The person sees the way he or she really is, but the Lord says, “I can save you.”

The sinner says, “How can you save somebody that is as bad as I am?”

The Saviour says, “I can save you perfectly. Anybody who comes to God through Me, I can save perfectly. My Holy Spirit is going to start writing God’s Law in your heart. You are going to learn to love to do God’s will.” (Hebrews 7:25; see Jeremiah 31:33.)

You will not do God’s will because you think you have to or because you think you are going to go to hell if you do not. No, that is not the Christian religion. When the Holy Spirit begins to write God’s Law in your heart, you want to do what is right. Actually, the more you think about it, is that not the kind of religion you want? Do you want a religion where you do not have a desire to do what is right; you just do right so you will not go to hell? Is that the kind of religion you want?

Struggle of This World

In this world, we have to struggle, because, in our flesh, we have a sinful nature, so we have to fight the sinful nature. The Bible talks a lot about that. It talks about fighting the fight of faith.

Paul talks about keeping his body under, about not doing what comes naturally. (1 Corinthians 9:27.) Doing what comes naturally is what the heathen do; that is what the unconverted do. You cannot do what you wish; you have this sinful nature and that has to be put to death.

In heaven, when you no longer have a sinful nature, you will never have to struggle with yourself. You will no longer have to fight. What a wonderful life to which to look forward! Every time you are struggling to overcome a besetting sin, just remember, the time is coming when the struggles, the fight, will be over! You will not have a sinful nature with which to contend anymore. In heaven, you will not have to contend with the devil or the flesh or the world. That will all be in the past. If it is going to be in the past for you someday, you have to receive the righteousness of Christ in this life.

Righteousness is . . .

“Righteousness of Christ imputed to men means holiness, uprightness, purity. Unless Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us we could not have acceptable repentance. The righteousness dwelling in us by faith consists of love, forbearance, meekness, and all the Christian virtues. Here the righteousness of Christ is laid hold of and becomes a part of our being. All who have this righteousness will work the works of God. . . .” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 134. [Emphasis added.]

If you have the righteousness of Christ inside, you have love in your heart.

Righteousness is forbearance. Do you know what forbearance is? It is refraining from the enforcement of something that is due. For example, as a child, if a friend hit you but you refrained from returning the blow, you were practicing forbearance.

Righteousness is meekness; that is gentleness or humility.

Righteousness is “all the Christian virtues.” To know what all the Christian virtues are, study Romans 12, Galatians 5, and 11 Peter 1.

Fear and Trembling

At the beginning of Part I of this article, I stated some introductory facts about righteousness, which included the fact that you cannot be saved without it. Then we learned that we do not have any nor can we generate any, and the only way that we are going to get any is from Jesus, because He has enough for all of us, if we commit our lives to Him and choose to cooperate with Him.

Paul said that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12.) In other words, we are to struggle and fight against the sinful nature, against the besetting sins. Then he said, “God will work in you to will and to do His good pleasure.” Verse 13.

Do you want God to work in your life, to work out His good pleasure? Oh, friend, God has something for us that is so much better than anything we can think of ourselves. As Paul said to the Philippians, “God is going to work in you that which is His good pleasure.”

[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]

Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.