Friday, April 18, 2008

Self-Righteousness versus the Gift of Righteousness

I've just published the transcript of Rob Rufus's sermon on the 9th December 2007. It's a really key foundational sermon that is "vintage" Rob. I'm sure many won't agree with it - but I'm increasingly coming to see that the stakes are just too incredibly high to keep this message quiet. This isn't just a question of a theological viewpoint - this is a question of people's lives! Scott and I had a mutual friend share something very personal to them recently that they found understably almost impossible to tell. They've sadly contracted HIV but absolutely will not contemplate telling anyone in the church. I'm sad to say I can understand why. But what I find so devastatingly sad is not only the evident lack of God's true grace in many UK churches but also the faith in signs and wonders and miracles to believe and see the healing of HIV along with cancer and other so-called "incurable" diseases.

It's not a question of "concepts" anymore or simply theological debate. This is a friend's life at stake! Either this teaching of grace and the "imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ" is absolutely true both and conversion and throughout life or it is not. And I am prepared to go for it. As I have said before, I have been in two legalistic churches that mixed Old Covenant and New Covenant teaching and I haven't seen signs, wonders or miracles or the manifest Presence of God (apart from small touches). I am hungry! I am desperate! And I think Rob Rufus's teaching of grace DEMANDS a hearing!

Here it is;

"It has been a long and tiresome year and we have overcome many challenges but I am standing and looking back with a sense of holy, righteous gloating. Can you have sanctified gloating in the Spirit? I am gloating because God showed me that everything the enemy had planned for this year has failed! A New Year Resolution should be; "Lord what do You want me to do this year?". Don't make promises to God! That's a stupid thing to do - a spirit of stupidity. Your New Year Resolution should be; "Father what do You want me to do with my life next year? What is Your will for this year? Where do You want me to be?". And so forth. God showed me some of the plans of the enemy for 2007 for us as a church and they were horrific plans. I want to tell you that right at the centre of the plan was the complete and utter elimination of the existence of this church. And after a year we sit here healthy, wealthy and wise! We sit here with the anticipation of 2008 being so awesome because this year was the warm-up. In 2008 we are going to walk into the realms of the glory a lot more!

Glenda and I have had 10 international ministry trips this year and it is not just going into churches and speaking for a Sunday morning but going in for 5 or 6 days and taking 16 meetings - 2 to 3 hours each meeting. Seeing leaders between meetings for dinners and breakfasts. We have been finding that pretty tough but we are finding this church is beginning to stand up more mature like you are the A-Team. We don't have an eldership team, the deacons and pew-warmers. There is no B-team! This is the priesthood of all believers! 3 and a half years of investing the grace message into people and being a God-centred church, a people-empowering church, a purpose-driven church - that is beginning to kick in and take effect you know. I am so grateful to God for this year and it has been an awesome year!

With all that trouble, we put on the "Grace and Glory Conference" and lives were changed all over the world. Every week we are getting reports that lives are being changed! On our website, we have had a report that downloads have gone up to 30, 000 and drop to 20, 000 when I preach too much. But goes way over that when Glenda preaches! But in this year alone and the God Channel which I preached on - we have literally preached over the website and Christian television - we have touched the lives of multiples of millions of people. And that is not just one or two people but we are the A-Team. If any person doesn't play their role then that limits the influence and our far-reaching effects that we can have. No matter how small you think your role is, you will be shocked if your role was taken out how it would affect every single one of us in ways that we wouldn't even be aware of but we would be minimised because your role was not there.

I am meeting with some folk after the service - Glenda and I and we are so keen about keeping impetus through the Christmas and New Year period. We don't want to slow down.

Momentum is more precious than diamonds and gold and momentum costs blood and guts to produce and if you lose it, it costs more than blood and guts to get lost momentum in action again.

Keep in faith and keep in prayer over this Christmas and New Year period - pray for this church. Pray for Glenda and me on holiday. When you go on holiday, the devil doesn't want you resting so everything breaks down and goes wrong. Pray for us to have a great holiday as I will for you! I believe we will see more people saved and more people added to this church! When we get back we will have more baptisms in this church. I love the moving of the Spirit and I love the gold dust!

A lady went back to Vietnam and was all frustrated with something and gold dust fell over her! We have people experiencing encounters with God with gold dust and so on - but it that does not translate into people being saved then what is it about? The church is being self-indulgent. I believe in 2008 we are going to see a lot of people saved!

People talk about how grateful they are that the downloads of messages are free. It costs us money as a church to run our website. International ministries around the world charge for their messages. You get one free podcast but all the other ministry you have to pay. We would be well within our rights to charge at minimum 30 Hong Kong dollars per download. 30 dollars a download - 30, 000 a month and we are looking at a million Hong Kong dollars a month! That could be coming into this church!

But I have this conviction - let's get this message out to as many people as we can and especially to people who can't afford it because it will lift their lives up.

That is the heart of this church - we want to be a blessing! We need resources in this church - we want to reach out to orphans. I need billions of dollars! I have got a vision that demands billions of dollars! To reach the homeless, the poor, the AIDS, the hospices and orphans and so forth! To plant churches and to resource leaders. I would love to resource one or two more leaders financially on salary in this church so Glenda and I can travel more into the nations and the home base can be looked after and I feel sometimes we neglect you a bit. We don't want to but we get back with jet lag and are pretty tired. We neglect spending time with leaders we want to bring through. God is raising up leaders and is raising up a team and I would love to see two or three full time leaders here helping us so the church can grow and not be neglected without travel. We feel we can't turn all invites internationally down. It is God! He is opening these doors!

Next year we are going to be holding a "Glory and Grace Conference" in Australia and speaking to 1, 000 key leaders in Europe that will affect many nations across Europe so we can impact nations! We can't turn that down but we can't neglect here either. That is abusive of you. So we would like to see another pastor come through. And I am being direct. We do need more money to bring in another pastor full time.

We are very grateful for the income of this church - as you know we don't preach tithing as a law. I reject that you tithe under law. You tithe as Abraham tithed because the heavens are open already. Tithing doesn't open the heavens - Abraham had an open heaven and 430 years before the law but he did tithe. Tithing is investing into God and helping the local church be guaranteed of the resource to do eternal work and do the fruits - that's all it is. If you believe tithing is of the law, then I beg you - don't tithe. Because you will be wasting your time. People who tithe under law are wasting their time. I don't need your tithes. I don't want anyone's tithe if you believe in tithing under the law. But if you believe in tithing 430 years before the law like Abraham and Isaac and Jacob did and the heavens were open not because they tithed but because they were under a covenant of grace, then we need your tithe and we need your offerings!

Open your Bibles please to Romans chapter 1. Grace brings incredible release to the captives! I decided this morning that I was going to teach on the manifest glory of God but I am going to go back and teach on something key - the righteousness of God. It was on teaching on righteousness that this lady with a suicide problem and sexual abuse and depression got set free. I am going to show you why. I want to bring some clarity today.

Father we pray for the spirit of revelation to come so that we will not just hear this message with our heads but light will be illuminated in our hearts and we will see things we have never seen before and have such a transformation that will cause us to have such rest and peace and confidence before You Father that we could walk in Your manifest Presence on a daily basis of open heaven over our lives. We pray that all gloom and doom and condemnation will evaporate and be dealt with and we will be equipped today Father to supernaturally live in Your freedom - in Jesus Name. Amen.

How many of you know that it says in Galatians 5:1 that it is for FREEDOM that Christ has set you free? It didn't say set you free to be an evangelist. It is for freedom! The objective of the Gospel is not to make you an evangelist or an apostle or a successful businessman or anything else - it is for FREEDOM! Freedom is the end in itself. Freedom is the end of the gospel. Freedom from gloom, oppression, condemnation and guilt - that is the goal of the gospel! The goal of the law and the Old Testament will rob you of confidence, strip you of all self-righteousness, crush you, curse you, condemn you and send you to hell and make you concious of sin every day. That is the purpose of the law. Because God wanted the law to show you that self-righteousness will never get you to heaven and would never produce miracles. But righteousness that comes as a gift is what God wants to show in the gospel.

How many believe that man fell in the Garden and was born again from spiritual life to spiritual death? What was his fall? What was his great sin? He ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Mankind was cut off God and all the generations up to Christ were cut off from God and Adam's death and disobedience was visited on the human race - everyone was born. The law didn't make you a sinner. Sinning was a condition you were born in from first Adam.

It is not your sin that essentially would send you to hell - it was first Adam's. And it is not your righteousness that will get you to heaven - it is Christ, the last Adam's righteousness!

So the human race is either in first Adam or in last Adam. How did first Adam cause the human race to fall into spiritual death and be cut off from God? By eating a fruit of evil? No - when Adam ate from the tree of good and evil, he didn't extract all the goodness out and ate only the evil. Goodness is as much part of the fall as evil is! The answer to man's return to a confident face to face relationship with God can't be trying to be God and avoiding evil. Because good was as much part of the fall as evil was! Much of the church today is preaching from the wrong truth. Religion and the major religions at that preach from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You see that preaching produces self-righteousness which condemns men to be cut off from God. That is why most Christians don't see miracles, don't see signs and wonders, don't feel the Presence of God and don't walk in His Presence because they are coming from the wrong tree.

There is a tree we must preach from - it is called the Tree of Life and it is the Cross. On that Cross, Christ destroyed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and He cancelled the written code with it's rules and regulations opposed to us and disarmed the powers.

The Book of Romans is not a book about good and evil - it is not a book about a comparison between righteous behaviour and unrighteous behaviour.

The Church world is fixated and obsessed with morality. Jesus did not come to make immoral people moral. He came to make dead people live.

I am not against good morals but I am against the fixation and the obsession with just preaching right living. The Gospel is not right living - it is right believing. If you believe wrong then you will end up living with an outward appearance of righteousness but with condemnation and misery and you will be self-righteous and judgemental. The downside of self-righteousness is gloom and guilt. If you measure your performance as your basis for approaching God and you measure your own righteousness that is self-righteousness. So when you are doing things well (in your opinion) you look down your nose at everyone that is doing it less and feel superior. But when you are doing less in your own standards of self-righteousness you feel guilt and condemnation.

You need to say this tenderly to people living in guilt - the problem is you are self-righteous.

It will shock them because they only think self-righteous people are those who parade around. So you will never understand the book of Romans - and this is not some private revelation - the book of Romans is not a comparison between righteous and unrighteous living. If you think that you will never understand this book - it will be confusion to you! You will hate this book and you will be condemned by this book! This book does not speak from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This book is singularly, uniquely and entirely about the comparison between the gift of God's righteousness to you and self-righteousness.

The gift of God's righteousness to you (as theologians call it) is "imputed". That is imparted - it is not important, it imported - it is imparted! Imparted would mean it comes into you as a power that would make you live righteously all the time. It doesn't do that. The imputed righteousness that is a gift gives you perfect right standing before the Father irrespective of your failures, your shortcomings and your sins. That's what imputed righteousness is. You seem as perfectly righteous every second of every minute of every day of every week of every year for the rest of your life! That is what Hebrews 10 says! Hebrews 10:14;

"By one sacrifice He made perfect forever all those that are being made holy".

We are being made holy and we are becoming more like Jesus! How many of you are aware that some of you are not at all like Jesus?!

The Church is so obsessed with moral behaviour and changing people's external behaviour - and that is a focus on good and evil and produces an alienation from God - instead of focusing on the gift of righteousness that says you are perfect forever so that when you are being made holy and you make mistakes, God doesn't cut you off while you are in the process of being made holy because He doesn't relate to you on the basis of your holiness - He relates to you on the basis of the gift of righteousness which is righteous forever!

If I could take a pill that made me instantly like Jesus how many of you would take a pill and from that moment you talk like Jesus, walk like Jesus, be holy like Jesus, resist sin like Jesus - how many of you would take that pill?! I would - I would take it today! There is no such pill! That's why you have to have the Gospel - the good news! If you can't have a pill to make you like Jesus, then you need the Gospel to save you from going insane with guilt. If you live to be 120 years of age then you at 120 would still need to change in some area of your life to be like Jesus. So let's get off this trip; "I have got to change - I have got to change". When I didn't understand this message years ago when I was in Coastlands and Victory Faith Centre all I began to realise was that when I preached grace (and I would only preach it for about 2 or 3 weeks and then I would have to balance it with the law because I felt guilty because I thought it was too extreme and people would go out and sin and do wrong which some do) I felt happier in myself and I also noticed that I found it easier to love people!

I wasn't so judgemental about their behaviour - I just looked at them with more tenderness and grace and patience and kindness and goodness. I became a better husband! If you are living from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil then all you want to do is change yourself and change everyone else around you and it is disgusting. It is self-righteous. I felt better as I preached grace - even if my performance in holiness hadn't improved, even though it was the way it was I just felt a lot happier! Then sooner or later I would hear someone preach about how you have got to give more, do more, be more, pray more, stop sinning and then God will like you better! He will like you if you just do more. Like an idiot (because I respected some of these people) I would try and I would try to be more holy and try to do more good and try to avoid evil. You know what I noticed? Within days I was unhappy and miserable and didn't really love people. But boy was I en-route to be holy and to sort out my life!

God spoke to me one day and said; "Isn't it amazing - every time you try to get more holy, you become more unloving". One of the things by which we recognise Christians is that we love one another. Have you noticed that self-righteous people on a quest to improve themselves and be more holy are very unloving?!

There is a friend of mine who preaches grace in the most beautiful way. You have never heard me say his name before. He preached on how you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus irrespective of your performance and if you have a self-righteousness then it depends on your performance but if you are in Jesus Christ then you are given all of Jesus' righteousness permamently as a free gift all your life. He preached this and he said; "Your obedience and your disobedience does not affect this righteousness because it has got nothing to do with you - you didn't perform it, it is not your own righteousness - it was given to you as a gift". He said; "So that means if we take it to it's logical conclusion you are always righteous in God's eyes and perfect forever - no matter what". People are scared to preach this because they think people will go out and sin. If it is the truth - I am going to preach it whatever people do with it! I am going to preach it!

When you preach grace you will find out that when someone is a gracious person who preaches grace Christians feel the safety to share their secret life with you. In the Church there are huge problems going on and everyone is acting all holy because we are all having self-righteousness being forced on the Church to behave like they are not! That's why Church is such a strain for some people because it is hard to act like something you are not. This guy came to my friend and said;

"Look I have been in this Church for many years and it is a charismatic, spirit-filled church and I have a problem with prostitutes. Every week I go and pay $100 and I sleep with prostitutes and I have been doing it for years - I am so trapped in this thing. Are you saying because I am in Christ that while I am doing the act of illegitimate sexual behaviour with prostitutes that I am the righteousness of God and afterwards I am still the righteousness of God?".

It is amazing how hypocritical we are in the church. Pride - conceitedness - gossip - well no you are still righteous if you do that. So my friend said;

"Actually sir, yes you are still the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus".

This guy very unwisely (he wasn't wise with the message) got up at his church and said; "I want to testify pastor!". This friend of mine was the visiting speaker by the way. "I was with prostitutes last night and I believe I am still the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!". This friend of mine said the pastor looked at him and if looks could kill - he would have killed him! He got my friend afterwards and had a go at him. My friend said; "Well you have been preaching law here and preaching if people sin then God withdraws from them. That is Old Covenant teaching and not the New Covenant. You threaten them with hell as a Christian if they sin. You threaten them with the anger of God if they sin. You have taken Scripture out of context from the New Testament and preached Old Covenant. Did it stop or help this man? It didn't".

Even fear of judgement will not stop these deep-seated patterns going on in people's lives.

Months later my friend went back to the city where he lived and this guy rang him. "Hi, hi I just rang to see how you are doing?". My friend said; "Well fine thanks - how are you doing?!". He said; "I am still going to prostitutes!". My friend thought; "Oh no - I am going to have to get a different job!". He went on;

"No - no it's not like that anymore! I will still go to them regularly and take my $100 and give it to them. As soon as I give it to them, they start to undress and I say; 'Don't undress'. What happened was that as I began to realise that I was sinning with these prostitutes yet God still saw me as righteous, I began to realise how valuable and precious I am to the Father and He really is My Father. I am not on prohibition or "if" - but I am His Son because I have the DNA of the re-birth and the Father is not my Judge or my Enemy but my Father and He still sees me as a son and the righteousness of God! When I began to see that I saw how valuable I am for the first time and then I began to see that these women who haven't come to Christ - there is a message that they are perfectly righteous forever! Then I began to see how God loves them and their esteem".

He said; "From that day on I saw that I am the righteousness of God despite the fact that I was even doing it with prostitutes for weeks and weeks after heard the message - I got delivered from my sexual addiction and I gave them the $100 paid for the hour and said; 'You don't need to take your clothes off, I will not have any kind of sex with you, for you or anything afterwards. I want to tell you that I as a one who came to many of you and paid you $100 not to have sex with you but to pay for the privilidge of telling you what Jesus did in my life and how He sees you as the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus".

The Church is going to have to wake up and is going to see world-wide that there is a gospel revelation that God is recovering the New Covenant again and He wants to remove the confusing cocktail of Old Covenant and New Covenant mixed together.

The law is so radical! It is utter judgement! It demands perfect righteousness of your judgement. New Covenant is radical - it provides God's perfect righteousness for you. You cannot mix 2 radical messages together. But the Church has somehow succeeded in bringing them together and confusing believers world-wide. "Rob can you dare tell someone who's life as a Christian that you are the righteousness of God every second of every moment of every day?!". Yes! Because it is the only empowerment!

When you are free FROM the guilt of what you do - you get power OVER what you do.

But your guilt is a useless motivator and psychologists have preached against religion because they rightly realise that religion is the cause of guilt and psychologists will say that guilt is the major problem of mental instability and they can trace most mental instability back to guilt. The Church has got the audacity to stand up and say; "We are the answer to mental problems!". No - we are the cause of it!

Because we preach from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - where good was as much part of the fall as evil was. Preaching good against evil produces self-righteousness. The Book of Romans is not a comparison of righteous behaviour and unrighteous behaviour. But a comparison between the gift of righteousness and self-righteousness. Many of us don't understand a thing of what I have just said to you.

They quote Romans 1:16; "I am not ashamed of the gospel" but what they are saying is they are not ashamed is totally different to the context in which Paul is saying. For them; "I am not ashamed of the gospel" means I will stand at traffic lights and cars have to stop because it is a red light and open my Bible and preach in through their windows that they are going to hell and I will preach that they can be saved.

That's what they call being unashamed. It drives people to ram Bible down people's throats and force things on people out of their self-righteousness.

I am all for preaching the Gospel in streets. I preached Gospel in streets! I played my guitar and preached to those who would listen. I am all for preaching the Gospel to anyone who would listen either 1-1 or thousands. But that's not what Paul was referring to when he said; "I am not ashamed of the Gospel". You have got to look at the context! Paul was living in a culture and a context of a society dominated by Judaistic thinking. Now please don't get me wrong - I live Jewish people and I love Israel. I don't want to have to qualify that again. It was dominated by Judaic thinking. In Judaic thinking for anyone to say; "I am righteous apart from works - apart from holiness - apart from personal obedience - I am perfectly righteous apart from works" - for anyone to say that would have been frowned upon, would have been stoning, would have been hatred and religious disapproval to such an extreme!

But Paul the champion of the law - Paul, the legalist of legalists - got a revelation of the gospel! Not from Jerusalem or even the apostles there but in an Arabian desert where the gospel was revealed to Paul. When Paul saw that there is a righteousness apart from works and he realised that the society he lived in was dominated by anger and disapproval to claim that you are righteous apart from works, he could still say; "I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation" and (v17) - he tells us why it is the power. "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed by faith that is from first to last". Now the word "revealed" is very important and we are going to read it in a moment.

If this isn't revealed to you by the Spirit then you are not living in the reality of it yet but one day the light will come on and you will see revealed righteousness. When that happens to you, you will eat your Bible, kick chairs and go mad with joy for condemnation is over from that day!

This is a righteousness revealed from God. This is righteousness FROM God. It isn't a righteousness from the keeping of the law. It is not a righteousness from man's efforts. It's not man's best efforts. It is a righteousness from God. It is a righteousness from God revealed in the Gospel that is by faith - not works - by faith from first to last!

Now in the church world today you have got people that think they are so generous and say; "Oh I believe in grace - praise God". We say "by grace"! Yes when we get saved, God wipes the slate and all our sins are cleansed away and we are righteous but everytime I sin, I am becoming less righteous and now I am becoming more and more unrighteous. Then I have got to repent and confess and clean my slate and do a whole lot of good things and then the slate will be clean again and then it is only clean while I am maintaining it clean by my good works and my efforts". That is NOT the Gospel - that is heresy! That is demonic - that is Old Covenant. It has NOTHING to do with man - it is simply by faith from first to last. I don't just get saved by faith and am now righteous for a little while. It is a righteousness that is by faith from first all the way through eternity to last!

In other words when I stand after 10, 000 years in heaven I am as righteous on that day as I am now!

Let me quickly say this; when we go to multi-congregations and Cantonese congregations and ex-pat, mixed congregations, Filipino congregations and then meet together thousands of us in one big congregation once every three months - some of you sitting here today are going to be the preachers in those congregations and I hope you take notes! The DNA of those congregations is going to be this DNA!

"What does the gift of righteousness mean? Let's quickly define what it means (and I am going to say some things here that are going to thrill you). It means "right standing with God!". The gift of righteousness gives you permament, unconditional, irreversible, from first to last right standing with God. Now what does that right standing with God mean? It means that there is nothing between you and the Father. It means the Father is looking at you as if you were perfectly righteous all the time. He is not just looking at you; "Just as if you had never sinned" (as great as that would be) but He is looking at you "JUST AS IF YOU HAD ALWAYS OBEYED!".

Christ's obedience has made the many righteous. His obedience has been credited to you in fulness forever.

So He is looking at you and you are saying; "Well I went with a prostitute last night - am I still the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus?". If this gospel is true - yes.

If you are not ashamed of this gospel then you are going to have to tell people that who are in Christ. That is the issue - are they in Christ!? Oh we are ashamed! We can say; "We are saved by grace up to a point" but we won't go the whole way because we are ashamed. Many of the church - many preachers today - are ashamed to preach this gospel as Paul preached. We live in a modern age of fundamentalists who are self-righteous. I love Christian TV and I am not a judgemental person but more and more if I was not a Christian and heard the way some Christians preach I would hate the Church. It is SO self-righteous. It is SO disgustingly self-righteous. I love people like Joyce Meyer - she preaches grace.

Righteousness as a gift means you have perfect standing before the Father - all the time. No matter how much you have prayed or haven't prayed. No matter how much sin you have done or haven't done - no matter how holy you are or how unholy you are at that moment. I have got to say that because if you could take a pill to be like Jesus but the fact is we have all tried to be as holy as we can and the more holy we try to get the more unholy we become.

So we may as well just settle this - there is a Gospel that has made us perfect forever and there is a process of being made holy but while we are growing in sanctification and holiness God is not relating to us on the basis of our unholiness but is relating to us on the basis of righteousness.

Let me make this point - Jesus was so desirous that we would have this one to one fellowship and right standing with the Father that before He went to the Cross He prayed a prayer and Jesus ALWAYS gets His prayer answered! He said in John 17:20-23; "Father" (talking about the Church - He is talking about us those who would believe through the message are those disciples and future generations - us included!) "Father, I pray that they may be one with US even as WE are ONE Father". He says it three or four times in the next three verses in different ways that we the Christian would be one with the Father as Jesus and the Father are ONE. Now that is His desire and then He goes to the Cross and He becomes all our sin so that we may become all His righteousness as a gift so that we may become one with the Father because He is one with the Father!

Right standing - nothing seperating us! Does the Father have any problems with the Son? Is there any conflict between the Father and the Son? Does the Father point out the Son's faults?

No you are in Christ and through what happened at the Cross you are ONE with the Father! So actually friends - every second of every moment of every day you are as close to the Father as Jesus is.

I know I cannot convince all of you with this. "Ooh I haven't heard this before". Well then my darling - you haven't heard the Gospel. You have just not heard the Gospel. You were sold a bed of lies. But it is not too late to get free. You may not have the manifest glory Presence on your life every day all day. I don't - I would love to but I don't! It probably would kill me because my mortal body couldn't handle it. That is why we will need an immortal body but what I do feel all day, every moment of every day - every second is open heaven - fellowship closeness with the Father - no condemnation - even when I do wrong and I don't want to do wrong - I don't feel condemnation!

Feeling that freedom of security of in Christ has made me a lot more loving and I can say sorry a lot more quicker to people I do wrong to but if you are self-righteous then "sorry" admits that you are wrong. You don't want to be wrong because "sorry" admits that you are self-righteous. When I gave up trying to be more moral and more holy and more ethical and better and pray better and be better, I just started relaxing on the inside. It still doesn't work in the traffic with slow drivers!

Go to Romans 1 quickly. Let's read this. I wanted to give you much more. Let's read these marvellous words here;

(v16); "I am not ashamed of the Gospel". Are you ashamed of this Gospel? "Because it is the power of God unto salvation of everyone who believes first for the Jew and then for the Gentile". (v17); "For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last - just as it is written, the righteous will live by faith".

A few more Scriptures and then we will close. Go to Romans chapter 9. I used to try to be so desperate to become more righteous, not realising I was becoming self-righteous. I lived uptight all the time but I was more angry with those who didn't change fast enough but the ones I was most angry with were those who didn't change and didn't care about not changing and were happy! Isn't it amazing that when a man goes out and squanders his father's wealth and goes out and spends it with prostitutes and whores and then comes home and the Father runs out and welcomes him and people think the Bible is trying to show something about the Father but He's not - He is trying to show something about the older brother.

It is the older brother who says; "All these years I have been labouring for you". What is that? The ugly boot of self-righteousness. The Father turns to the older brother and says with amazement; "Everything I have is yours!". You thought you could earn it!? You are my son - it's automatically yours! Irrespective of your behaviour - it BELONGS to you! What is Jesus trying to do!? Under the New Covenant the standards are higher under the New - God help those people! Because in that case everyone in this room has committed adultery!

That is insane to preach that to the Bride of Christ. Jesus was not preaching the New Covenant Law - He was letting them know that this is what God revealed to Moses and let Me show you the real spirituality of the Law. You people that are so self-righteous that you think you are keeping the law because you have never got into bed with someone! Let me tell you the spirituality of the Law and how it will scrutinise you and rob you of any ounce of self-righteousness. It is so perfect! Even if you don't murder someone physically but hate them in your heart then you are guilty as if you had actually murdered them! What is the Law doing? Not to give you a standard to live up to - that is evil self-righteousness! The Law comes to tell you - give up! Give up pursuing self-righteousness! Stop it! Have fun! Enjoy Jesus! Enjoy one another! Enjoy life! Be happy!

Some will not change even when you preach this even for months. But hope returns! Otherwise you are living in misery. Be careful what you listen to. Sift preaching through the Word of God. The problem with most legalistic preaching is that it does not read the New Covenant in context and what it does read, it reads through the lense of Old Covenant thinking. I am not ashamed of this Gospel.

I was not pursuing righteousness! I was pursuing drugs and rock and roll. God encountered me and saved me and has kept me for 30 years in love with Him. I believe the fundementals of the Bible but the fundementalist culture is no fun and it's mainly mental. I watched them trying to pursue their own righteousness and they are not happy! Others - righteousness is dumped on them as a gift and don't realise how happy they are!

The ones who are pursuing don't get it and the ones who aren't pursuing it - get it!

It isn't fair! Thank God it isn't fair because it was fair I would be on my way to hell! Romans chapter 9 and let's read from verse 30;

"What then shall we say? That the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have obtained it?". He didn't understand it and wanted to put them under the law to understand better. "A righteousness that is by faith - Israel who pursued a law of righteousness has not obtained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone". What is that? Every week millions of people around the Church world are stumbling! It can't be that good! Jesus is the stumbling stone! True Christianity is a stumbling stone to self-righteousness! The Church world is riddled with self-righteousness dressing itself up as if we were New Covenant people and it is a mixture of Old and New. God says in Galatians 4; "Kick out Haggai and Ishmael". Not people - the mentality.

Look at (v33); "See I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame". If you trust in this Gospel of grace and the gift of righteousness then you will never be put to shame, therefore you should never be ashamed of this Gospel - as great as it is, don't stumble over how great it is. There are dear people in this church who have stumbled as I have preached this. It is a stumbling. For the Chinese evangelicals in Hong Kong. Up to a point we believe in grace - but not this far Rob! I want to open the gates and let the light of glory to come into Hong Kong.

This is the Gospel that Paul preached. It's not so good to be true - it's so good it is true!

Two more Scriptures. 10:1; "Brothers my hearts desire and pray for the Israelites is that they may be saved for I can testify for them that they are zealous for God". Self-righteous people can be very zealous - don't be impressed by that. They zealous for God but their zeal is not based on knowledge. (v3); "Since they did not come to know the righteousness that comes from God and saught to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness". What is seeking to establish a righteousness of your own? That is self-righteousness. (v4); "Christ is the end of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes". I believe! (11:6); "And if by grace then it is no longer by works and if it were, then grace would no longer be grace".

Romans 4:4; "Now when a man works his wages are not credited to him as a gift but as an obligation. However to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works. Blessed are they whose trangressions are forgiven - whose sins are covered - blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him!".

How long is never?! Your sin will never be counted against you because you are as close to the Father as Jesus is to the Father because you are given Christ's righteousness to stand before the Father as your status. Romans 3:19; "Now we know that whatever the law says - it says to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God".

What is the purpose of the law? To shut everyone's mouths! If you read the symptoms of self-righteousness from (v10-19) then you will see the ugly fruit of self-righteousness. Violence, judgementalism and misery. They think they are righteous because they have got the law. He comes to (v19) and says the purpose of the law is to hold everyone accountable and to shut every mouth. The law is meant to show you how high the standards of God is - your self-righteousness is like filthy rags so give it up! Give up the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and find the gift of righteousness. It is not based on righteous behaviour or unrighteous behaviour but a gift!

There is so much confusion that the law is not doing it's job that the law is being preached as the thing that can make you righteous. It is meant to be preached in a way that will silence every self-righteous mouth. The reason it isn't because people are confused. (v20); "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law, therefore we become concious of sin".

How do you become concious of sin? Through the law. How many of you are concious of sin? If you put up your hands then that shows you still have a law mentality. The law is still operating in you and you haven't seen this clearly enough. If you are concious of your sin then you still have a legalistic mentality.

"There is now therefore NO condemnation". If Christ is the end of the law and the law is what makes you concious of sin then in your own mind you have not come to the end of the law in Christ yet. Because you are still concious of sin. But if I am not concious of sin then I could be an axe murderer.

No you won't - you will be concious of grace, of the love of God, of desiring to walk with God and when you fail and sin it won't cripple you with condemnation but you will move on without a conciousness of sin because you are not into good or evil but LIFE and wanting to walk with God.

Conciousness of sin means being condemned by sin. You know when you have sinned. That isn't conciousness. (v21); "But now a righteousness from God apart from law has been made known to which the law and the prophets testify - this righteousness from God comes through faith in God to those who believe - there is no difference". This is what is making churches break out in revival! We are still too conservative!

There is nothing in worship that is to cater to your temperament. Worship is to cater to God's temperament and His Bible invites His people to do this and the reason why they don't do this is that they are still self-concious and legalistic, condemnation control. When this message gets into your heart ... the level of your worship is determined by the level of your revelation of grace. If you feel condemned, then how can you worship a God you feel is condemning you? When you know there is NO condemnation, NO seperation from the love of God then you will worship!

(v21); "But a righteousness from God apart from law has been made known to which the law and the prophets testify".

What do they testify to? A righteousness that is from God that is apart from the law! So the law under the New Covenant is testifying to the fact that you now have a righteousness that is apart from itself - the law! Under the Old Covenant the law was your judge! Under the New Covenant the law has stepped into a whole new category in the court of God's justice! The law under the New Covenant - once you come into Christ - the law is no longer your judge! It is now a good report, witness and testifier that you have obtained a permament perfect righteousness without the law's help!

The law is God's perfect integrity! Under the law, the perfection of the holiness of God's law testifies against every devil of condemnation! Glenda Rufus, Heather - the law says in the courts of God says;

"I the law testify that this person has received a righteousness that I never gave them! But I as the perfect standards of God declare that they have a righteousness apart from me that is the perfect standard of God's righteousness and they have it forever! I witness! I testify!".

The law is no longer your judge - but is now your witness in the high court of glory testifying that you are the righteousness of God. But if you are not in Christ then the law judges you and silences your mouth and holds you accountable and makes you concious of sin. The law now is making you concious that you are righteous by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Good news?! Good news!

3 comments:

lydia joy said...

Dan,
I am sorry about your friend. I can't imagine how he must feel. I am sorry too that he has no confidence in the church to bear his burden with him -and I completely understand why. Although I do not have HIV, I had my own issue back in the day, one that would create potential judgement and criticism and felt mortified to be around the church....
I Know God is redeeming the years in these days in His church, He is restoring the church in this day!

I loved this message!!

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Lydia! That's really kind!! The reason I shared this was because this is the first close friend I know who has been in this situation and is really seriously in need. And this sermon - this VERY sermon - it seems to me demands a reality that the Church simply isn't giving at the moment.

I may be wrong, and I would love to hear from UK churches who can honestly say they would welcome friends like mine suffering with HIV and even better have faith to believe in praying for their healing. And welcome them - and not judge them with condemnation, with law, with Old Covenant!

God is redeeming the years indeed! GOD WANTS HIS CHURCH BACK!! And it's been too long ...

Anonymous said...

Oh Dan,
I am sorry about your friend.\
I remember a LONG time ago at my former PDI/sgm church there was a guy dying of AIDS. He was so weak that he had to lay down on a lawn chaise. I hadn't remembered that until your posting. I don't think that would ever happen at that church now.

Ellie