<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Sacrificing Self on the Wheel of Perfection in Christ


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Our journey starts with being born-again and we soon realize we have born the indignation of the Lord because we have sinned against him. Christ has stood up for us and pled our cause with power because He performed ultimate love when he shed His holy blood on the cross for us. When we accept His appeal and our stay of sentence, He brings us into the light where we can see and live in His righteousness. We no longer have to wrestle with the frustration and guilt of our own ever failing, impotent 'righteousness'. We are able and free, free to live a life that pleases God because we can walk in His righteousness by the Spirit. The prophet Micah saw this power and grace coming. He saw its promise in and for his own life. "
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me." He will acquit us so we may turn from our unholy works and our vain trust in Flesh. "...He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." We can step out of the night of our soulish life, and step into the light of His Spirit. His Word and the right paths in which to make our way, to walk and even to breath the spiritual breathe of life are now wide open and laid clear before us. Micah had not only sought the righteousness of God, he believed in the righteousness of God, had seen it and made it his dwelling place and was saved. He was spared the imprisonment of the cares of this world, including having them become a ruling force in his sojourn and his daily struggles of life.

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by Terry Smith

             The gospels are replete with great challenges from Christ to His followers. There is no doubt that a person could not possibly incorporate or experience all of them in this life. We can only be obedient to His voice as we hear it spoken in our heart by the agent of Christ’s word, the gentle Holy Ghost. This is all God requires of us, hearing and obeying. It is as the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, the whole duty of man. Herein lies real perfection when we put on the breastplate of righteousness which protects our spiritual vitals against the mortal wounds which Satan and sin seek to inflict upon the ‘righteous’ saint. Like the knights of old, the white and pure linen of pure righteousness soothes the soul of the warrior of Christ cushioning underneath the protective hard shell of the breastplate and armor of God.  The challenges of fighting the good fight of faith, though vital to the dynamic Christian life and the convictions of a higher spiritual condition and manner, are often laid waste by an imbalanced encumbrance of the great commission to preach the gospel and the two greater church maxims of water baptism and communion. Yet each of Christ’s challenges presented in His Word should be met with reverence and determination to perform them by faith. Each imperative should carry the weight and authority of any directive or challenge given by a Lord and Master to a disciple. Getting the Gospel ‘in’ must precede getting the gospel ‘out’. If the armor of God and the breastplate of righteousness inadvertently prohibit the penetration of the gospel into the soldier it would be an utter disaster. The soldier would die of malnutrition if he could not get the manna into his system. Far from being least among the challenges of faith is Christ’s plea that we should seek the kingdom of God first and foremost in our lives. We must then trust God that all our needs will consequently be supplied in the wake of virtuous abiding in the kingdom. Matt. 6:33 In other words, get the beam out of your own eye brothers and sisters before worrying about the speck in your brother’s.
     Attached to this challenge is the challenge of seeking God’s righteousness and forsaking our own ideas of justice and goodness. If we must cast anything away let it first be our own sense and idea that we know for these are the starting blocks of those who race round and round on the false track of self righteousness. Though seeking the kingdom of God first is a challenge shunned by the slothful and weak in faith, it is a calling that has rich reward and wonderful promises of liberty to the diligently faithful. Hopes of deliverance from all of the weighty concerns of this life become a daily mark of the soldier in Christ. The born-again believer must take this seriously to the point of increasing his or her faith for attaining a better working knowledge of the righteousness that pleases God. Taming the tongue becomes a life-long vigil for an unbridled tongue causes endless and needless conflagrations that distract the warrior of Christ from the real battles of the Lord. The battles are spiritual and to know where the battle is we must abide in His word at all times. The soldier in Christ is instructed that the kingdom of God is “not meat and drink but, righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” To this credo of Scripture a disciple should submit his or her faith and their warrior’s will. 

       On a bright, sunny day nearly two thousand years ago, at the dawn of the age of grace, two men stood side by side in the wilderness of Galilee listening to a prophet preach about the coming of the kingdom of God. The prophet, named John the Baptist, had labored untiringly for many years, eating only locusts and wild honey, preaching to the poor, rebuking the religious hypocrites of his country, and preparing the way for the coming Christ. Then, suddenly, the moment the prophet had anticipated came. When John first laid eyes on Jesus he at once declared Him to be the long awaited Messiah. “Behold the Lamb of God!” was his bold and excited announcement. Instantly, John’s two disciples turned from him and began to follow Jesus. Without saying a word they followed Jesus along the dusty road, wondering who or what He could possibly be, until unexpectedly Jesus turned to them and startled them with this simple but hard-hitting question: WHAT SEEK YE?
       The grave incident cited above comes from the Gospel of John 1:35-38. As stinging a question as ever there was, so it remains one to this day for anyone who would consider following Jesus Christ. If Jesus turned to you suddenly right now and asked, “What seek ye?” how would you answer Him?
       For a stranger to ask such a blunt question, as Jesus did to the two men, may at first seem rude or forward, but it is a question that God has a right to ask any person, at any time, who shows an interest in following Him. What are you after? What do you want? No matter who we are, whether we are Christian or Atheist, we are all looking for something. We are all spurred on to action by certain motives and inner drives that are aimed at a desired end. Christ wants to know what our motives are for following Him and He wants us also to know what our real motives are. He wants us to be honest with ourselves about what we are actually seeking, so we can understand what the driving force in our life actually is. Each day, every hour, we seek to achieve an end to our goal. Whether we know it or not we are all after something, it may be as simple as a bed upon which to lay our weary head or the best sandwich we can find for lunch. It may be something as mundane as a new job, or as carnal as a good-looking spouse. Christ hopes we are seeking after spiritual riches: like peace and holiness and a new and better life in God. But one thing is sure -everybody is looking for something, everybody is seeking after some desired result, seeking a new acquisition. Most people are seeking a myriad of things all at once. What we seek after compels us to action, in a way it controls our behavior. This is why Jesus asked these two followers bluntly, “What seek ye?” He wanted to know, and wanted them to know, that what ye seek after is a huge determining factor in our behavior, whether we will be holy or unholy, whether we will act and be righteous or unrighteous.
         Jesus declared two things that should be sought after, first and foremost, by anyone who would want to be an intimate disciple of His: God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. (Matt. 6.33)  We invite the Born-Again Christian to search their immortal soul in the light of Scripture to see if one of the things they are pursuing in Christ is true Christian righteousness. We urge readers to ask themselves,  “If Jesus had turned to me this morning and asked, ‘What seek Ye?’ what would I have been able to answer? Were the primary things you sought today God’s kingdom and His righteousness? Or was it low on the list, or not there at all? Perhaps you’re not even sure what is meant by HIS righteousness. You may say, “Why not just plain old righteousness and leave it at that.” The following tries to answer this question and give direction to those who are seeking after God’s righteousness. 

         By rights, the Born-Again Christian ought to be a sincere follower of Christ. But some follow at such a great distance behind Him that Jesus has to yell at the top of his lungs just so they can hear Him. Others follow here and there as it suits their purpose, swerving off the path into the woods or taking illicit excursions to unseemly places. Some unwise servants like to get ahead of Him and are constantly trying to lead Him, which is really ridiculous for a person claiming to be a follower of someone. But then there are those faithful servants who follow so closely that they are walking in His footsteps one step behind, these people are so close they can hold His hand and hear His most quiet and intimate whispers. Regardless of your distance, whether you need to get closer and stop fooling around, or whether you are close enough to touch the hem of His garment and look into His eyes, the big question is: Did you seek God’s righteousness, or your own today?

THE ARTICLE’S TEXT FROM MATTHEW 6:24-34                                        

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they?

27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

While preaching to the multitude Jesus taught that we cannot serve two masters. He used for His example, God and money, for we will love one and despise (or forget) the other. He warned potential believers that food, drink, raiment and the general provisions of life were what unbelievers continually sought after, and generally, this is what they pursued with their whole heart. He hoped to encourage them to trust God enough so they could believe their Father in heaven would provide those things for them. They only needed to trust and believe in Him. It was then that Christ issued His famous challenge of faith to His disciples: “See ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt.6:33) And what a challenge of faith it is.
            Our first impression may be that Jesus was advising His disciples to have two primary pursuits in their spiritual lives: His kingdom and His righteousness. But Christ coupled theses two challenges of faith together because they are sine qua non, for one cannot have reality in action and faith without the other also being vibrant and active. He wants His Church to understand that finding the kingdom and having God’s righteousness are indivisible, inseparable and indispensable to one another. They must be held in tandem. It is paramount that the born-again Christian who aspires to the highest faith (that which we call the Philadelphia Faith) realize that finding true righteousness is the key that unlocks the door to the blessed realm of the Kingdom of God. Christ is the one who bound seeking the kingdom of God together with seeking GOD’S righteousness, because no one can attain “citizenship”, with all its spiritual privileges, in the kingdom without casting off their own righteousness and putting on the righteousness that is of God by walking in the Spirit.
    This is why Christ did not simply tell us to seek righteousness and leave it at that. No Christian may live well if they try to enter the kingdom of God by virtue of their own righteousness. We enter by faith in Christ’s righteousness that His innocent death on the cross provided the needed substitute for our unrighteous ways and has bought our entrance into God’s kingdom. “For with the heart man believes unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10) The prophet Isaiah was clear about our own righteousness when he said, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isa. 64.6) We can only enter into the kingdom by putting on the righteousness of Christ, by being covered in His shed blood which gives us forgiveness of sin. But the reason Christ has made a point of noting a difference between plain righteousness and God’s righteousness is that there are two very different forms of righteousness that can be aspired to and understood in the Christian life: one is God’s righteousness; the other is our own self-righteousness. We cannot enter the kingdom by our own righteousness. The Galatians, for example, had slipped into a form of self-righteousness by trusting in the works of the law rather than trusting God by faith. Paul asked, “Who has bewitched you?” God’s righteousness is gained by faith through reliance on and yielding to God. Our righteousness is often sought after by following some form of Christian legalism or trusting in our own personal ability to make right judgments or leaning on our own sense of goodness. Either one is a form of self-righteousness. Regardless of the brand of self-righteousness we choose, it is fatal to the quest of seeking the kingdom of God.
          We have clear examples and precedents for repentance from our own righteousness set in Scripture. Job stands as an eternal example for the Christian showing us that there are two types of righteousness which a man can seek after-his own or God’s. The Biblical standard of the quintessential problem for universal man, Job and his sin of self-righteousness, stand as common to all people. We mistakenly think of ourselves as being right and justified in our judgments and that we have seated within us a sound sense of justice and what is good. We inherently believe we know how the world should work and that God not only should, but will, act according to our idea of fairness and goodness. Oh sure, we mouth the Scripture that God’s ways are not our ways and that as the heaven is higher than the earth so His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and this we usually apply to some other person’s struggle or trial, but personally we remain inclined to impose our ways and thoughts on God while we inwardly question His way of running the world, sometimes even doubting His method or tactics for bringing people to salvation. We may wonder how He can let children in Bosnia die or how He can permit a tornado in Tennessee to destroy lives and property. When we silently question these things and many more besides, we are actually saying in our hearts that we know better than God, we are declaring in our hearts that we are more righteous than He. We are showing that we are like Job. And after all, is it not stated clearly in the Bible that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness”? If we believe in our heart that God is unrighteous in any of His ways or that we are more righteous, that in certain matters we could do a more fair and just job at running things, then is there any reason for us to believe that we have put on the righteousness of God? If we are truly seeking the kingdom of God we will allow it, not only to inhabit our spirits on Sunday, so to speak, but we will allow it to invade every part of our thoughts and minds. We will make room for God’s judgments and His righteousness. Did not Jesus say; “The kingdom of God is within us.” We are taught by the Bible that the kingdom of God is not outside in things we can eat and drink and touch and smell, but it is the fruits of the Spirit of the living God that take root and grow inside our heart and mind. “The kingdom of God in not in meat and drink, but in righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
            Job, too, believed that he was righteous, even more righteous than God, and in spite of his spiritual folly God mercifully judged Job and saved him from the fate of all self-righteous people: eternity in the pit of the lake of Hell fire. How often have men thought, as Job did, that they knew better how to dispense justice and mercy than God Himself? How often do we thing we are right and good when we have no notion of what God’s will is in a given matter? James tells us that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”. Man, by himself, cannot bring about righteousness. The epistle to the Romans schools us that, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one”. (Rom.3:10-12) Jesus drove this hard-to-be-believed point home in this startling exchange with a young man: “…when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:17-18) Jesus was not saying He, Himself, was not good (because He even then counted Himself equal with God, and we know that Jesus was without sin and is perfectly good), but He was emphatically declaring that no other man was inherently good. The prophet Jeremiah put it this way: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) The point is: it is not enough for the disciple of Christ to want righteousness; we must diligently seek HIS righteousness if we hope to stand righteous in the presence of God. We must trust and believe that, no matter how things look, God’s ways and actions are perfect and righteous altogether. “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Ps.19:9)
            All true righteousness begins by accepting the fact that we must serve somebody. No one can serve himself and the kingdom of God, any more than one can serve money and God at the same time. True righteousness begins when we make a decision to seek and do God’s will rather than our own. This is why Jesus spoke as He did, saying, “Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matt. 12:48-50) Seeking God’s righteousness means, then, that we seek the will of God and not our own. For this we must begin by trusting Him implicitly. We must lay aside our righteous notions and the way we think the world should operate. We must step down for the judgment seat which we occupy in our own deep-rooted ideas of righteousness. We are not the righteous judge, but God is. The disciple of Christ is freed from the law, free to love, and, when he has decided to trust in God’s righteousness, he is also free from the misguided belief that he is somehow responsible for being judge and jury of mankind. Forgetting our miserable and limited sense of right and justice, and letting Him show us His true ways through His Word and by the guidance of the Holy Ghost is the only way to seek His righteousness. This is the only way we can approach Him with confidence knowing we are pleasing to Him. Then we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb.10:22)