Submission To God's Righteousness

Friday, October 11, 2013, 6:00 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Return to Me” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 10 (ESV).

Not According to Knowledge

Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~ Rom. 10:1-4

To whom might this apply today? This is speaking of those who think they have a relationship with God, but who are not truly saved. So, why are they not saved? It is because, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, they are seeking to establish their own righteousness, rather than submitting to God’s righteousness.

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” ~ Matt. 15:8-9

First off, they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. In other words, they lack understanding of the true nature of God’s grace. I believe this is evident, not just in the legalists, but in those who view themselves as free from the confines of legalism. The legalists attach a whole list of man-made rules to follow which they add to grace, just as the Judaizers of Paul’s day did when they tried to force the Gentile believers into following old Jewish laws and customs. These people are probably sincere in their beliefs, but they are not following the teachings of scripture, because they are adding burdens to people’s lives God did not intend for them to bare, which means they are also adding to grace. They focus more on what is external, rather than on what is internal and eternal, much as did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

Yet, for many of those who feel they have been liberated of the confines of legalism, they are still following the teachings of man, just in a different way, perhaps. Today’s modern and liberated church still, in many cases, puts much value on attendance at an official “worship” service on a Sunday morning at what they consider to be “church.” They are more wrapped up in the institution of religion than they are in relationship with Jesus Christ. They study books written by mere humans often in place of the study of God’s word. Entertainment has become a strong focus of the times of “worship”, as well as is much worldliness, which is used to attract the world to the worldly church. Marketing techniques for how to build big businesses have often times become the “bible” of the church leadership, rather than the teachings of scripture. They may have much zeal for what they are doing, but it is misdirected, because it is not based on the knowledge of God’s word.

They seek to establish their own righteousness. The legalists do this through adding man-made rules to God’s grace, yet the non-legalists also have their set of man-made rules, too, some of it based upon culture, tradition, religious upbringing, and worldly influences. One adds to grace, and another may subtract from God’s grace and add man’s thinking and philosophies in place of the teachings of scripture. Both may be focused on what is external, i.e. on appearance, i.e. on following and/or pleasing humankind rather than on pleasing God. Today’s modern church works hard at attracting the world to the church using worldly methods, and oftentimes they dilute the gospel of grace so as not to offend those whom they are trying to attract to the “church” and to the “gospel.” So, whether adding to or subtracting from God’s grace, they are still seeking to establish their own righteousness.

They Do Not Submit to God’s Righteousness

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~ Titus 2:11-14

To submit to something means we “accept somebody else’s authority or will,” i.e. we willingly yield control to another or we “defer to another’s knowledge, judgment or experience” (Encarta). It also means that we surrender and we relinquish control; abandoning our own rights, perhaps. God’s righteousness is his purity, sinlessness, holiness, uprightness, virtue, etc. So, what does it mean to surrender or to defer to his righteousness? For one, it means that by God’s grace, through faith, Jesus Christ’s righteousness is thus credited to our account. We will never be good enough in our own strength, willpower, knowledge, etc. We cannot earn God’s favor through our own goodness, for our good can never outweigh our bad. Only through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins can we be made truly right with God. Yet, faith, which is required for us to receive his righteousness, involves this submission and surrender to God’s righteousness, not just being credited to our account, but being lived in and out through us.

In other words, if we yield control of our lives to Jesus Christ, and we truly accept his authority over our lives, and we are truly submitting to his righteousness, then we are allowing God to work his will and purposes in our hearts, we are willingly giving up our rights to live as we please, and we are choosing to walk in the Spirit of God, allowing the Spirit of God to transform our hearts and to give us new lives in Christ, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (see Eph. 4:17-24). Jesus Christ did not die on the cross for our sins so we would continue to live sinful lifestyles. His grace teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live upright and godly lives. We cannot do this in our own flesh, but only in the power of the Spirit of God living within us. Yet, faith in Christ means we die to our old lives of living for self and sin (daily), and that we follow our Lord Jesus Christ in obedience to his righteousness being lived in and out through us (see Lu. 9:23-25).

You Will Be Saved

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Rom. 10:5-13

Always, when studying scripture, we must be careful that we don’t take scriptures out of context and build entire doctrines around them. I have seen this done with this passage of scripture. When the Jews of Paul’s day confessed publicly with their mouths the Lordship of Jesus Christ and they believed in their hearts that God had raised him from the dead, this was a BIGGIE! This meant that they accepted that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, and it meant that they went against the established religion of their culture, which was still holding on to the old covenant, and had not yet, as a whole, embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. And, they knew that it could cost them their lives literally. Yet, when translated into American culture, it can be reduced to a mere voicing of “Jesus is Lord,” and/or of mere acknowledgement of his death and resurrection, and yet there be no effectual heart transformation taking place, because most of us, in America, do not have the same concept of what this means as did the Jewish people of that day, because most of us are not taught what this really means.

So, this must be read in context of the entire book of Romans, or at least in the context of the first ten chapters. For instance, we read in Romans 6 that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin and that our old self is crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. Sin should no longer be our master, because we are not under law, but under grace. And, we read in Romans 8 that if we are still controlled by the sinful nature, we cannot please God. If we still live according to the sinful nature, we will die, but if, by the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the body, we will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Faith in Jesus Christ is not mere verbal acknowledgment of the Lordship of Christ, but it is surrender to the Lordship of Christ in our lives. Faith in Jesus Christ is not mere acknowledgement of what Jesus Christ did for us in dying on the cross for our sins and in being resurrected, but it is yielding to his righteousness, it is dying with him to what once enslaved us, and it is allowing him to set us free from slavery to sin.

Disobedient and Contrary

But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” ~ Rom. 10:21

True Israel today is the true church, i.e. we are God’s people (both Jew and Gentile), who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior of our lives. The Israel of Paul’s day refused to believe in Jesus Christ. Many, even within our institutional churches today, also refuse to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, submitting to his righteousness. They may think they are saved, either because they follow a set of rules, or because they said the right words, or because someone told them that they were saved if they just repeated a prayer or they went to church regularly, or whatever they may have been taught. But true faith in Jesus Christ does not give lip service only in its confession of Christ as Lord, but true faith submits (surrenders) to Christ’s righteousness and does not try to establish their own.

Return to Me / An Original Work / September 5, 2013

Based off Jeremiah 31; Cf. Rev. 2-3

I have loved you with an eternal love,
Which I give to you, in my faithfulness.

Keep your voice from weeping,
And your eyes from tearing.
You will be rewarded
With much fruitfulness.

There is hope for you that My family
Will return to Me; live in victory!

Though I discipline in My love for you,
My heart longs for you that you walk in truth.

Turn your thoughts to your Lord.
Choose to walk in His ways.
Turn from your sins daily.
Follow Jesus Christ.

Oh, how long will you wander in your sin?
Give your hearts to Me; be restored within.

I will satisfy ev’ry weary soul
Who repents of sin; is renewed within.

Behold, days are coming;
It will surely happen;
Though I discipline them,
They will thrive again.

I will be their One and their Only God.
They shall walk in white; be in Me, made right.