This whole issue was revived in my mind when two of my wonderful lady friends from the Americas (Julie and Lydia) pointed me to a sermon preached by a guy in Covenant Fellowship Church and he made this statement;
"The One who fulfills the Law for us demands uncompromised righteousness from us".
It sounds pretty "evangelical" doesn't it? But the one word that bothers me is the word "demands". Maybe it was a bad choice of words by a young preacher. But I have looked through the Bible and although the word "demand" was used rightly in the context of the Law, it was only ever used in a negative context in the New Testament and under the New Covenant. Rob Rufus made the best reply to that statement in his recent sermon; "Invading the Impossible Part 5". He was commented on Philippians 2:5 and said;
"What does 'being made in human likeness' mean? It means being made just like us! But He was righteous all the time! So are you in Christ. If you hesitate and say 'I am not righteous all the time' then you are still living dominated by Old Covenant mentality because the Old Covenant righteousness was demanded (there is the word "demanded" again) through keeping law perfectly. One failure nad the glory will fade. In New Covenant, you are righteous all the time as a gift therefore the glory never need fade".
So am I picking at straws? Someone help me here. What was Jared Mellinger trying to get at? Was he just preaching a sincere sermon and yet used a bad choice of word? Or was he really implying that we are actually no better off under the New Covenant and an even more perfect righteousness is still demanded of us ... and let us be honest here - none of us, not Jared Mellinger, not even C J Mahaney, not I, not you - can meet that perfect righteousness that is demanded. As Rob Rufus said - righteousness is given as a gift that is how we can fulfill it! Righteousness not produced of our own merit (for if we did indeed manage to produce it - we would become proud in our own efforts) but HIS righteousness.
I managed to find an interesting clip from the "Life on Wings" interviews where Ern Baxter deals with this vital issue. He too recognises that the modern evangelical view seems to teach some kind of pluralism that we are condemned to - an life-long struggle only ended by death - with our "sinful inner man". It's worth watching.
Ern Baxter: "Now what I have in me is not an old man and a new man with me in the middle. Then I’ve got some kind of plurality in here. All I’ve got in here is me. And the Holy Spirit who is working on me.
I’m being saved – not replaced.
When I became a child of God someone else didn’t come in there called the new man. Hopefully I was made the new man but lets not confuse that with the new man that Paul was talking about because he was talking about the corporate. So that its me that’s being saved, its my soul that’s being saved … its me that’s being saved!
And when I sin, I can’t say “Oh – that’s not me – that’s my old man”. And when I do something right I cant say, “Oh – that’s not me – that’s my new man”. It’s me. It’s all me. I’m the only one living in here with the Holy Spirit and He is working on me.
You see that old chorus was so accurate; “All my nature refine”. My nature has not been destroyed; my nature has not been replaced. My nature has been redeemed. And so now the Holy Spirit through the Word is changing me into the image of Christ from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord.
Dewey Friedel: So my sin is not the result of the old man’s nature still being in me – my sin is the baby in me that’s carnal, not growing up.
Ern Baxter: That’s one way of putting it. It’s what remains in your nature that has yet been sanctified. That tendency – you see?
Now the Corinthian accommodates it and we call him in theology “Antinomian”. The Galatian gets into bondage about it and gets religious about it. The Christian says, “I don’t want anymore to do with that and I’m going to walk in the Spirit”.
So he goes down the road speaking to himself in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs – singing and making melody in his heart unto the Lord – see? Now the average evangelical gets a bit unhappy with us at that point and they say, “Look at that guy going down the road talking to himself – well he must be crazy!”.
Well, I’d rather be crazy and victorious than sane and walk in bondage!".
So I repeat - I do believe that this is worth fighting for and discussing. Rather than coming up with techniques and strategies (which may not be wrong in and of themselves but without the power of the Holy Spirit they are useless) we can simply change the way we are thinking. Since I have been exposed to Rob's teaching on righteousness and our true standing in New Covenant life, I have never felt so encouraged, so motivated with a desire to live holy because I am in relationship with Almighty God and He accepts me because of the imputed righteousness of His Son. WHATEVER I do or do not do, God looks at me through His Son and I am accepted on high!