The Lord is Our Righteousness

“Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land…And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 23:5)

As we have been reading through the book of Jeremiah, I can’t help but say…it’s a bit of a bummer. There is page after page of sin and judgement on God’s people. It extends all the way to the leaders or the “shepherds” as Jeremiah describes them. Instead of protecting and keeping the sheep they have scattered them and driven them away (23:2) But, God steps in and makes a promise of hope. He promises to set over His people new shepherds who will care for the sheep and, “they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing” (23:4). God is going to make things right.

But, there is a question that the rest of what we have been reading in Jeremiah keeps on bringing up. What about the people? The shepherds of the people rightly deserve blame and condemnation but the people beneath them are not innocent. They have followed other gods and oppressed one another also. So, how will God make everything right if the problem is with the shepherds and the sheep?

The answer is that the shepherd God will put over his people isn’t just any shepherd. God declares that he will raise the “Branch” of David and he will bring about justice in his land. Moreover, he himself will be the righteousness that God’s wicked people desperately need. It is in his very name, “The Lord is our righteousness.” (23:6) Unlike Jeremiah, we know who this “Branch” is. We know that this king is Jesus.

You see, Jesus isn’t just a good example or teacher for us. He doesn’t just lead us on the way we should go. He actually goes where we, because of our sin and rebellion, could not go. He does what we were meant to do but never could. He then becomes our righteousness son our behalf.

How often have I prayed to God hoping he would hear me because of what I’ve done? Or, more often, how often have I prayed fearing he wouldn’t listen because of what I’ve done? But, that is not who our King is. “The Lord is our righteousness.” Praise God that I do not stand upon my own record. Like Israel of old, I know that wickedness is not outside me but inside my own heart. I need a righteous King who lives the life I never could. I don’t just need a king to lead me. I need a king to stand in my place.

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Reflecting God’s Generous Heart

Every morning while I get into my car, I have tried to remind myself that every breath I breathe is grace. It’s so easy to go about my day, not taking a moment to slow down to realize that I don’t deserve any of the countless blessings that God has generously given to me. Everything in this life is a gift that belongs to God. It is ultimately God’s grace through the gift of Jesus that should transform our hearts to then be generous to others.

 

Paul wrote to the church of Corinth in order to remind them of the grace they had been given and then encouraged them to give generously in response. He points out that the churches in Macedonia, whom have been greatly afflicted and tested, remain joyful and generous in their giving. Although they do not have much to give, the grace that they have received through Christ has transformed their hearts to love and give freely. (2 Corinthians 8:1-3)

 

I have been overwhelmed by the number of blessings God has given me in the past few months. Realizing where I was at spiritually even just a few months ago, I am fully aware of how undeserving I am of these gifts. It is also important to note that the biggest blessings have been through those who have loved and given to me so freely. They inspire me to do the same.

 

Paul goes on to encourage the church of Corinth to excel in the act of grace. He writes:

“I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” (2 Corinthians 8:8)

 

Reading this verse struck me. The grace I show to others is a reflection of my love for them. I am ultimately able to love others genuinely through the grace that has been given to me. Next, Paul says:

 

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

 

Jesus has taken on our sin and has given us his holiness in order that we might have a restored relationship with the living God. We are called to reflect this selflessness. We must realize that all we truly have is Christ. Everything is a gift of grace that belongs to God. We should be willing to love others by giving generously. How else are we capable of love? I have personally been challenged by this passage to be more giving of my time and to trust God through my tithing. I have been challenged, knowing that the Gospel calls me to love others and to give freely, just as Jesus has done for me.

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God Breaks the Second Law of Thermodynamics

In physics there is a law called the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The law states that the entropy of an isolated natural system tends to increase. In other words, every system, galaxy, and even the universe itself, continually moves toward a greater state of disorder rather than order. For a simple example of this, just look at a child’s room. When left to its own upon, it tends to become more and more messy rather than more orderly and clean.

This law of physics is also a law of human nature. It is the same for you, me, our family, and our community. We all are broken people moving towards disorder and and disillusionment because of the power of sin at work in us. But, we are not an isolated system. Something…or better yet someone has acted and brought order and life where there was disorder and death. Our God is a God of mercy. He has sent his son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins. From this good news, we see the Glory of God.

 “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4: 5-6)

This passage goes on to express how we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and yet not destroyed. (v. 8-9) We are not overcome because of the work of Jesus’ death on the cross. Although the world around us, and even our own bodies at times may feel like they are breaking down, we know that the Spirit is continually working to bring about life in us.

Moreover, it isn’t just us as individuals. Our community is of the same spirit of faith. (v. 13) We are not alone in the midst of our suffering and we will not be alone as the Spirit brings life out of suffering.

“Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” (v. 14)

We are told not to lose heart in the midst suffering because our Spirit is being renewed every day. All of these truths come together to give thanksgiving and glory to God. We know that the natural world is continually moving toward a state of disorder and death, but God has already begun the work of recreation right inside of us!

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What makes Christianity worth it.

“If Christ has not been raised, than our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:14) 

 
I’ve been thinking alot lately about the concept of positive thinking. Conventional wisdom tells us that if we are able to think good thoughts about ourselves, our lives will follow suit. I can do this! we tell ourselves. People like me, we think. Or maybe we even say, I’m a good person. While its a nice idea, and the logic of it makes sense, I’ve never been able to put it into practice. Every time I think to myself, It’s ok, you’re a good person, it knocks hollowly around my mind. I know deep down this cannot be true. I can put a good face out to the world, but deep inside, I know there is bitterness, ugliness, hatred and even death.

But, the Scriptures tell us that our value is not borne out of the strength of our resolve or the story that we tell ourselves and the world around us, but by a single historical event.

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:20)

If Christ has not been raised, I have no reason to keep going. All of my time in church, volunteering, studying and praying has been some kind of weird hobby. I am stuck in my depravity with no hope for me to turn to. I should just give up.

But the resurrection changes everything. Instead of hopeless striving, I have confidence that one day,  I will become my true self; the image of God unhindered by the darkness of sin. Instead of pretending to like myself, I will be able to say along with Paul and the prophets “Oh death, where is your sting? Oh death, where is your victory?” This victory will not be mine, but will be given to me by the One who holds death under His feet. Because Christ has been raised, today I know the Living One is crucifying the bitterness, hatred and lies that live in me.There is no room for false pride, but there is also no room for despair. Take heart. In this bitter, ugly, sin-filled world, if you labor in Christ, you do not labor in vain.

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Confessing your Idolatry

Jeremiah 2-3 is a scathing indictment on Israel’s sin.

The leaders have ignored God’s call (2:8) They exchanged the truth about God for a lie (2:11-13), which is the essence of sin. If that were not enough, they double-downed on their sin, going further into idolatry instead of returning to the Lord (2:17-19) .

In response to all this, God reveals their state:They are guilty and can not cleanse themselves (2:22).Graphically, they have chased other gods like an animal in heat (2:23-24). No self-soothed conscience can change the fact (2:33-35): in their relationship with God, they have committed adultery and are inheriting the consequence (3:1-3; 2:4-5).

It’s not a fun passage to read.

It’s graphic and intense. Also, it’s tough to read that and not find yourself in there too…I’ve gone astray from God, the fountain of living waters, and I’ve tried to find life apart from him. Idolatry is a real deal. There are a million things that demand your attention and promise the good life apart from God. Any honest assessment of your heart will reveal the ways you have wandered from finding life in Him.

 

In the midst of this reality, God’s gracious character shines forth! He is the merciful God (3:12-13) who will restore and care for Israel (3:14-17).

 

The one requirement?…”Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God” (3:13).

Not clean yourself up. Not offer a formula of penitence.

Simply, own your idolatry. Confess it and turn back to God.

 

Jesus is God’s mercy revealed and fulfills the hope of Jeremiah 2-3. He fulfills it not only for Israel, but for the world. Through Jesus, our guilt which we could not remove (2:22), is cleansed: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:8-9.

 

God has been merciful even toward those who have run away from him. He offers life even to those who have sought life in other places.

What do you need to confess? Where have you turned from God and trusted in idols?

“Return O faithless son; I will heal your faithlessness.” (Jer 3:22) Confess and worship Jesus!

 

“Behold, we come to you, for you are the LORD our God. Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.” (3:22-23)

All other treasure is trash compared to Jesus!

Every other love is a lie.

Jesus, whose love is eternal, is the hope of my heart and my life!

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Weak Fools

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise: God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1: 26-27)

 

Christianity is not a religion of self-esteem. The Bible is not a place to find uplifting statements that will make you feel good about yourself. In fact, it is often the place where we are confronted by the depths of our own inadequacies. As I read this passage this morning, I started to wonder, “Is this really me?” Am I weak? Am I foolish? Paul’s answer is yes. God chooses the weak and the foolish to shame wise. If God chose me than I am weak and a fool.

Our weakness and our foolishness is not just a statement about ourselves. It is a declaration of the thing we put our hope in, the cross of Jesus Christ. This is what Paul calls a “stumbling block” to the Jews and Gentiles. Whether we are religious or irreligious, the cross shatters our expectations. It isn’t the display of power longed for by the religious and it isn’t the wisdom so valued by the world.

But, for us, the cross is wisdom and power and so much more. “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:24-26) It is only when we embrace our weakness that we may begin to see the God who triumphed in weakness on a cross. It is only when we embrace our foolishness that we begin to see Christ who “foolishly” gave his life on a cross in order to complete God’s wise plan of salvation. Being called weak and foolish may for a moment hurt my self-esteem. It may make me feel small. But, then I remember, it isn’t about me. It’s about the God who endures the cross to bring weak fools to himself.

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A Good Friday for the Outcast

“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Is. 56:7-8)

Today is Good Friday. It’s the day we celebrate Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s the day we remember his sacrifice for our sins. It’s the day we remind ourselves of how Christ made a way to be forgiven and accepted by the Father. These are incredible blessings that we should meditate on and praise God for. However, if all we celebrate on Good Friday is what God has done for us, we fail to see the full scope of Christ’s work on the cross.

Isaiah 56 anticipates the Lord’s salvation of his people. For several chapters, Isaiah has been describing the servant of the Lord who will come and take the sacrifice for God’s people. However, lest God’s people begin to think salvation ends with them, chapter 56 declares that God’s plan is to bring in not just the outcasts of Israel, but the outcasts of the whole world. He wants the “eunuch” and the “foreigner.”

These are people who would not even be allowed to enter the temple where God’s presence dwelt. They were viewed as unclean and unwanted. But, the glorious truth of this passage is that God has given the outcast of the world a, “monument and a name better than sons and daughters…an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Is. 56:5) He will bring them to his mountain and give them joy. The marginalized of the world will be invited in as family of the king.

Jesus didn’t give his life simply to make a way for you and me alone. He gave his life to make a way for the world. He says, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (Is. 56:8) So, throughout this Easter, remember that Easter is not just a celebration. It’s a calling. It’s a calling to adopt God’s vision for those whom the world wants to reject. It is a calling to gather the outcast. It is a calling to invite those who do not look like, act like, or sound like us to come to Jesus because he has made a way for them. He has a name ready for them and a seat at the family table. Good Friday isn’t just good for us. It’s good for the world.

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