Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Whoever pursue righteousness and kindness, will find life, righteousness and honour. Proverbs 21:21
We have this tendency to sometimes look at what the bible says without the filter of who Jesus is and what he did to rescue us. That's especially tricky when we look at book like proverbs, when on the surface it looks like advice on how we should live. The problem is when we look at things apart from the finished work of Jesus, it puts the work back on us. Instead of bringing life, it becomes an endless cycle of trying harder and harder until we eventually give up because it's impossible. Take this Proverb for instance. Without Jesus and the empowerment and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, it becomes try hard to be righteous (that is truthful and justified before God) and kind (that is loyal, good, faithful). The thing is, scripture tells us no one is like that, no one is good, no one can be justified by his own works before God, no one can earn anything. Our brokenness would tell us otherwise. Consequently, our religion has gone off in all kinds of tangents to try and come up with a system (much like the old system of the law) to keep us on track and moving in a right direction so we can attain that second part of the verse where we find life, righteousness and honor. But in our own attempts it all leads to frustration and failure and guilt and death.
So lets slow this train wreck down and see what it looks like through the lenses of Grace. It's so good that Jesus has restored our sight so that we can see the word through the reality that Grace has come to set us free from the nonsense of religious trial and failure. Romans 3:21 says, "but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the profits bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." According to Paul, all that the law ever did was point out our sinfulness, in fact not only point it out but stir it up. But Jesus came, without sin, to show us what righteousness really looked like. So if we are to listen to the wisdom of this particular proverb in the light of Jesus, it means we pursue Jesus because he is the righteousness of God revealed to us so that we can understand it. If you want to know what the righteousness looks like look at Jesus, he's the visible image of the invisible God. So get to know him, talk to him, read his word, let the Holy Spirit whisper his love into your heart.
Now of course Jesus went back home, so the way we now pursue him is through the Holy Spirit who he so generously poured into our hearts to reveal his love to us. The second pursuit in this proverb is kindness, which has a far deeper meaning in the original than being nice to people. It's actually a picture of the fruit of the spirit, those things that don't come naturally to us because of our brokenness but exude out of us when we're living by the the power of the spirit. Love, joy patience, kindness, goodness... all the things in Galatians 5:22 that are promised in a life lead by the spirit. These don't come from us, we can try hard and pretend, but human love, human kindness, human goodness, doesn't hold a candle to the overwhelming reality of those things empowered by the holy spirit.
So, now that we know what we are actually to pursue out of this little tidbit of wisdom from Solomon, enlightened by the truth of the Gospel and and power of the Holy Spirit, let's look at the promise because if we don't know the realities of the promise through the lenses of Love and Grace, they become self-serving falsities that distract us from the reality of life in Christ.
First promise: life
If we pursue Jesus and life in the spirit, we get life; new life, abundant life, restored life, healed life, whole life - something far beyond the shadow of life that we know before meeting Jesus. The emptiness of what the world has to offer in trinkets and treasure and momentary pleasure get blown out of the water when he heals our broken sense of reality and opens our eyes to the reality of whole life in him.
Second promise: righteousness
If we pursue Jesus and life in the spirit we get Jesus - the righteousness of God. He actual gives us himself, he replaces our broken nature with his perfect nature. He clothes us in his righteousness and destroys our filthy rags. He makes us his brother. He gives us our inheritance as full heirs in the kingdom of heaven, "so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21)
Third Promise: Honor
If we pursue Jesus and Life in the spirit we get honor. Not earthly honor, not the esteem of people who raise us up on a pedestal because of our abilities or accomplishments, but honored before God. We get to share in his glory. We get to have our dignity restored in front of a perfect loving God who sees us, because of Jesus completed work, as holy, blameless and above reproach (Col 22) God is not going to look at you and say, look at all your failures, look at all the times you let me down, look at all you sins. He's going to look at you and say, hello my beloved in whom I am well pleased. He's going to let you experience the reality of life with Jesus.
So pursue him. Open yourself up to the free gift of reconciliation and healing he has for you through his Spirit and watch him transform your life into what he designed it to be, an abundant whole life, in the presence and power of the the one who loves you and makes you righteous in front of your Father, dignity restored and forever established in the mystery revealed, the hope of Glory, Christ in you, who accomplished everything at the cross you never could and set you free from trying harder to do it on your own,
You are forgiven
You are free
You are loved
So pursue Him and the life in the spirit he offers and you'll find abundant life, the love of God revealed in Jesus and the Hope of Glory, Christ in you.