August 11, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together. You see that his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2.21-22)
What would the Church truly look like if we listened, obeyed and did what God called it to be and to do? Of course, this includes each of us as members of “the Church,” the body of Christ in whom the glory of God is made manifest. What would “we” truly look like if we listened, obeyed and did what God called us to be and to do? As James makes this similar proposal to those under his care in the community of faith in Christ in Jerusalem, the word “righteous” becomes the benchmark against which all things are evaluated. Paul wrote to the community of faith in Corinth “God made Him who had no sin to be [identified as] sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5.21) How that happened and happens still for those in the world is the balance of “faith and works.” It is not about “works righteousness” because there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Salvation comes by believing so much that Jesus is the Christ, the only Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world, that we not only give our living to Him but allow Him to become the “Word” of our lives. That “Word” defines, refines, cultivates, engages, empowers and strengthens us to live in this world as we will in Heaven. How are we then to live? We live so that all we say, think and do honors God and brings Him glory. It is not our first calling but our only calling. It becomes the rubric by which we determine who and whose we are. We are, as Paul declares, “the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” For James, who speaks of Abraham as the teaching moment, the righteousness of God is the product of when our faith (the words we say of what we believe) and our works (the activities of our lives) become one. In fact, our words and actions ought to become so united that it would be difficult to see them as separate entities: words are the works and the works are the words.
We can see this in another example, too. It is, of course, Jesus of Nazareth, that I am reflecting upon. The disciple John writes in his gospel rendering of the life and ministry of Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God. In fact, nothing that exists could exist without the presence of that very Word.” (John 1.1-3) It is by that very Word which was spoken into the chaos of nothingness that the truth of the matter came to life. God spoke His Word to His Spirit and in obedience the Spirit acted upon that Word and life came to light. So strong was the light of that life that the darkness could not overcome it. That darkness is the word of ignorance, poverty, destitution, disease, dishonor, disbelief and dismay. It is spoken by the enemy which is not of God. Imagine if, in our world today, we spoke light into the culture and climate of the community around us. You can start with the words used to describe the fruit of the Spirit: peace, patience, kindness, goodness, mercy, gentleness, meekness and self-control. These are the descriptors of the nature and character of Jesus who lived in this same world that is filled with chaos rebooted as we do. His Word (His faith) and His Action (His works) blended into the living example of “righteousness” on earth as it would be in Heaven with one major difference. On earth, death has become the requirement of righteousness so that there would be, and there is none, no death in Heaven. Jesus reveals that truth to John during the final revelation of John’s ministry to the Churches of Asia Minor. He declared “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain of any kind. Why? Because the ‘former’ things will have passed away.” (Revelation 21.4) The former things are those dark shadows of death which loom around us and over us seeking to become a part of us from the inside out. Their intention, the intention of Satan, is for the soul to own those dark realities as so inescapable that life in this world becomes blended with the melding of “sin” as worldly righteousness. We see the conflict happening even in the life of Jesus as He prepared for the final step of His ministry on earth in the world of His sojourn leading to the cross. In the Garden where He was praying, He peered into the darkness of the shadow of death. Interesting, is it not, that it was at night, when He prayed “If this cup could pass from Me, please Father, make it so.” The darkness crept in as the “shadow of death.” How could there be a shadow in the middle of the night? We might have forgotten that the season of Passover is determined by the lunar calendar, as was the entire Jewish year. Passover happens with the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox, the beginning of Spring. It was a super moon the night Jesus was betrayed. It also happened to be followed by a total solar eclipse the next afternoon. But, regardless of how bright the night might have been and the shadows fell on the ground as if it were midday, the shadow of death fell on the soul of Jesus. Yet, the righteousness of God, God’s Word in Action, was alive and well in Him. It spoke the truth and the truth set Jesus free to be and to do what He had been called to do; that which He accepted as the course of His life for His people. He then could respond faithfully, “Not My will but Yours be done…on earth as it is in Heaven.” He was the righteousness of God, made to be identified as the sin of all humanity, so that we might be saved from the penalty of sin which is eternal death and brought into the light which the darkness cannot consume.
So, now, let me ask again the question I started with: What would the Church truly look like if we listened, obeyed and did what God called it to be and to do? Of course, this includes each of us as members of “the Church,” the body of Christ in whom the glory of God is made manifest. What would “we” truly look like if we listened, obeyed and did what God called us to be and to do? What if we brought to “light” the glory of God and His will into all the troubling situations, fearing nothing but God because nothing can separate us from His love which we profess to dwell in by faith? What if we allowed His Word, which is exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God for us, to define our actions and reactions in this world. We would be clothed in righteousness as with the full armor of God. We would be able to resist the Devil and praise God as we watch Satan flee from our presence as He did when Jesus refused to submit to temptation. We still can, mighty ones of God. We still can! Why aren’t we?
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, You have made it possible for us to be Your mighty people, a priesthood of all believers and a witness to all the world. We grasp that opportunity and put ownership to our decision for “Your will not ours to be done.” This we declare in the name of Jesus, our Savior. AMEN.