Abandoning Fleshly Righteousness

The fleshly nature has two ways of expressing itself. The first is the one we are most aware and ashamed of: it is our desire to sin. But the second way is also bad, and maybe worse because we are not ashamed of it – we’re even proud of it: it is our desire for self-righteousness.

When I say self-righteousness, I’m not talking about a holier-than-thou attitude, or a hypocritical righteous facade. I mean sincerely trying to do the right thing through one’s own willpower and determination, but apart from reliance on the power of God. This kind of ‘righteousness’ falls far short of the righteousness God requires for salvation or for living the Christian life. That law-keeping is insufficient for salvation can be seen in Mark 10:17-23.

A young man came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied with the commandments, “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not give false testimony, Do not defraud, and Honor your father and mother.” The man replied, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth.”

Jesus did not call the man a liar, nor did He try to undeceive the man on his ability to keep the ten commandments. This young man was able to keep the letter of the law – I’m sure not perfectly, but Jesus didn’t make an issue of it. But also notice Jesus did not say, “Don’t worry about it then. You kept the Law, you’re in!” Instead, He said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” Jesus said eternal life requires more than just keeping the ten commandments.

As he walked away in sorrow, Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” This amazed His disciples because the Law says nothing about wealth hindering one’s entrance into heaven. (Actually, the Law mentions nothing about heaven.) The Law even includes blessings of wealth on those who keep its commands (Deuteronomy 7:12-24, 28:1-14). But Jesus’ told the man to sell all he had, give to the poor, take up the cross and follow Him. The reason He did so was to reveal the fleshly heart condition that was keeping him from eternal life. The man was still a slave to his fleshly desires. 1

The righteousness of the flesh looks deceptively good because it claims the letter of the Law as its standard. We think if we can keep the letter of the Law, we’re righteous. We can see this in the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18:11-12:

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.

– Luke 18:11-12 (VW)

Again, there is no indication that the Pharisee was being deceptive in his prayer. He was able to live up to the letter of the Law. And yet, it was the sinful tax collector who left justified, not the law-keeping Pharisee.

I can see Paul in this Pharisee. Before he was saved, Paul was also able to live up to the letter of the Law “blamelessly” (Philippians 3:4-6). But once he was saved, Paul realized his legalistic self-righteousness had brought him no closer to God. You see, the letter of the Law covers only a portion of the standard of righteousness. It is only the beginning.

Imagine somebody handed you a bottle with the label “Lemon Juice” on it, but you were suspicious that it might contain something else that was perhaps poisonous. How would you know the contents matched the label? You would test it against the characteristics of real lemon juice.

Lemon juice is a slightly yellow sour liquid. As you look at the bottle, you see it is a yellowish liquid, but how can you tell it is sour without tasting it? You can do a litmus test. Blue litmus paper turns red when dipped in acid. So you dip the litmus paper in the liquid and it doesn’t turn red. You have proved the liquid is not lemon juice.

But even if the paper did turn red, that would not prove the liquid was lemon juice, because any acid will do that. To prove the liquid is what it says it is, it has to pass all tests for lemon juice (which goes beyond testing just for ‘a slightly yellow sour liquid’). Each test by itself can only disprove what it is. Only all of the tests together can prove what it is.

The Old Testament Law is like a litmus test for righteousness. If you break just one command, then you are not righteous. But even if you keep all of the Law to the letter, that still doesn’t prove you are righteous. The Law is only one test – just enough to disprove our righteousness, but not enough to prove it. Jesus gives more tests for righteousness in Matthew 5:17-48. You may have kept the letter of the Law in regards to murder, and yet still be guilty of murder. You may not have committed adultery by the letter of the Law, and yet still be guilty of adultery. Keeping the letter of the Law does not prove you are righteous, because you still fail the other tests. But by breaking the letter of the Law (i.e. any one command), you immediately prove yourself a sinner.

For whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

– James 2:10 VW 2

If you break one command of the Law, the Law has done its job in proving you a sinner (Romans 3:20).

The flesh thinks it can live up to the Law, but doesn’t realize the Law actually condemns it. Jesus shows us God’s righteousness is so perfect, we have no hope of fully meeting all of its requirements. We have to exceed the letter-of-the-Law righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). The Pharisee’s righteousness, and ours, are just filthy rags.

Self-righteousness is done in our own power, with no real need to be grateful to God. It is not the righteousness of (i.e. from) God 3. Only Christ’s righteousness satisfies God’s standard. But that righteousness will only do us good if we forsake our own weak, fleshly attempts. When Paul was saved, he abandoned his own “blameless” legalistic self-righteousness, and trusted entirely in the righteousness of Christ. Let’s follow his example.

But no, rather, I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

– Philippians 3:8-11 (VW)

Notes:

  1. Notice Jesus told the man, “One thing you lack,” then proceeded to mention four things: sell all, give to the poor, follow me, take up the cross. What the man lacked was not these things he had to do, but a heart that was fully submitted to Jesus.
  2. Likewise, Galatians 3:10 says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the Law, to do them.”
  3. Isaiah 54:17, Romans 3:21-22, 10:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, James 2:23

What Do I Mean By ‘Sanctification’?

This question came up recently on a Christian forum. Since I’ve written quite a bit about justification and sanctification lately, it would be a good idea for me to clarify what I mean by these terms.

In the Bible, justification has to do with righteousness. It is about being declared innocent – not guilty – before God. The Law, summarized by the Ten Commandments, reveals God’s righteousness, and therefore it is closely tied to justification. A person can only be justified if the entire Law is kept faultlessly. To break just one Law imputes guilt on a person.

Jesus Christ is the only Person to keep the whole Law without sin, but He did so in our place so we can have His righteousness imputed to us. When we repent and believe in Him, He takes our guilt and He gives us His righteousness. This is the process of justification by which we are declared righteous before God. When God looks at a saved believer, He doesn’t see sin. He sees the righteousness of Christ.

Sanctification, on the other hand, has to do with holiness, not judicial righteousness. It is about being set apart to God, and therefore it implies being owned by Him. As is also the case with the word “justified”, most uses of this word in the Bible are in the past tense, i.e. “sanctified”. When God justified us, He also sanctified us in that we became God’s own – holy to Him. Like justification, this was also a direct result of Jesus dying on the cross (Hebrews 10:29). 1

In the Old Testament, when God chose His people Israel, they became His own, dedicated to serve and worship Him (Deuteronomy 7:6). But that did not make them righteous, because sanctification is not about righteousness. When we are saved, however, we are both declared righteous (justified) and set apart (sanctified) to God. Both of these are the result of Jesus’ death for us, …but still, neither of these stops us from sinning.

The Bible also speaks of the on-going process of sanctification. This is the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:3) in making us holy like Christ in heart, mind and actions. It can only happen if we have first been justified and sanctified (set apart) for this purpose.

The Galatian believers were trying to achieve sanctification by works of the Law. But the Law is about justification, not sanctification. They were so focused on the Law, that instead of progressing toward holiness, they were losing their understanding of the more elementary principles of justification. The letter to the Galatians implies there is a close and dependent relationship between justification and sanctification. If we get one wrong, we’ll likely get the other wrong also.

Generally, I use ‘justification’ to describe what God does through Christ to save us from the legal consequences of our sins, and ‘sanctification’ to describe what God does through the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ. They are two different but related things, and they are both the work of God through faith.

Notes:

  1. In my writings, I’ll use the phrase ‘practical righteousness,’ as distinct from judicial righteousness, to mean holy living. This sanctification-type righteousness is spoken of in Titus 2:12, 1 John 2:29, 3:7.

Is Sanctification By Law Or By Faith?

We tend to misunderstand what was going on in the Galatian church. Well, let me rephrase. I have misunderstood what was going on in the Galatian church, …but I do think many of us share the same misunderstanding.

What I mean is, as we read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, we assume they were trying to be saved by the works of the Law of Moses. It’s real easy to come to this conclusion when we see warnings of “a different gospel,” and read statements like “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through the faith of Jesus Christ,” and “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” There is so much justification-by-grace-through-faith doctrine in Paul’s letter that we think he was correcting their misunderstanding about how we come to salvation. And there is nothing wrong with applying the doctrine in this manner. We are saved by faith, not by works. Any gospel that says otherwise is a false one. But salvation by works was not their main problem.

While there may have been exceptions, for the most part, the Galatians were not trying to earn their salvation. They had already received the true gospel (Galatians 1:9,4:9), and as a result they had already received the Holy Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:2, Ephesians 1:14). Getting saved was not their problem. The issue was how they lived after they were saved. They had a misunderstanding of sanctification.

That their problem was a practical one can be seen in Galatians 2:10, where Paul mentions Peter, James and John’s instructions on how believing Gentiles are to live, while leaving out any instructions on how Gentiles are to be saved 1. But it becomes much more evident in chapter 3 where Paul really starts chewing them out:

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

– Galatians 3:3 (KJV)

This is the first place where Paul directly confronts them with their error. Notice the word ‘Spirit’ here. This is a gigantic clue he is not talking about how to become or stay saved …otherwise he would have said something like, “having begun in Christ.” It is the Holy Spirit’s role to make us practically righteous, not to declare us righteous before God.

The Greek word for ‘perfect’, epiteleo, is used nine times elsewhere in the New Testament. Every one of those usages refer to accomplishing something through actions 2. Epiteleo is never used in reference to our gaining or maintaining a right standing before God. In other words, we have no need to perfect our righteous status before God, because Jesus has already perfected it.

Also notice Paul did not condemn his readers merely for seeking perfection. He condemned them for the manner in which they sought it. This is another clue that sanctification is the topic at hand. The Galatian believers were trying to attain practical perfection through the Law. They thought they could achieve sanctification by works of the flesh. But sanctification is purely God’s work (John 17:17, Romans 15:16, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 5:26, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 2:11, 10:10, 13:12, 1 Peter 1:2, 3:15). They began their walk correctly (‘by the Spirit’), but then they ceased submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit and let the Judaizers divert them. No wonder Paul was upset with them!

Although we apply the doctrine of justification in this epistle to our evangelism of the lost, it was written primarily to us believers, because we are vulnerable to the Galatians’ error. Sanctification by works is a much subtler error than justification by works, because it infects our minds so easily without knowing it. In some churches today, the Holy Spirit’s role goes no further than doctrine. Practically speaking, the Trinity becomes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Scriptures. Perhaps this is a reaction against the errors of some who tend to have a fixation on the Holy Spirit at the expense of good doctrine. I don’t know. But I do know there are serious dangers in trying to live by the Law:

• It actually empowers sin in our lives (Romans 5:20, 7:5,8, 1 Corinthians 15:56). The more we seek to live by the Law, the more power sin has over us, even if that sin is only a prideful self-righteous attitude over others. It’s not the Law’s fault – the Law is righteous and good. But our flesh still has sinful desires which attempts to use the requirements of the Law to make itself look good.

• We downplay what Paul said in Galatians 3:10, that those who insist on living by the law are under a curse, because they put themselves in debt to keep the whole law, with its sacrificial system, holy days, circumcision, etc. While this is not the curse of Galatians 1:8,9, it is still a very bad thing.

• And a legalistic sanctification mindset slowly infects our justification mindset, eventually sowing seeds of doubt about our salvation.

I think a big part of the problem is our lack of appreciation of the gospel. When we read or hear a message about the death of Jesus, or the importance of trusting in Him, we file the information away under the heading ‘How To Be Saved’, not realizing the gospel is also good news about what God does to enable us to overcome sin in our day-to-day lives 3. Jesus’ death on the cross not only has justification benefits, it has sanctification benefits (Romans 8:3-4), and both come on the same basis: by grace through faith.

The Christian life is not one of following a standard but of following a Person. Many believe the only way to avoid sin is by keeping the Law. They are unaware that walking in the Spirit and abiding in Christ prevents sin, and does so much better than trying to obey the Law. (I’m not advocating lawlessness – that would lead to sin. Instead, we are to live by a different law: the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2-4).)

But we lack faith to live this way. We’d rather hold on to our own works through law-keeping because we’re afraid to trust God to make us holy. As a result, we find no real victory over sinful habits.

Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

– Galatians 3:24-25 (KJV)

Justification happens as a one-time event, but sanctification is a process that continues for the rest of our lives. We don’t drop law-keeping at the point of salvation, and then immediately take it back up again afterwards. We are no longer under that schoolmaster 4. We live by faith. Faith is not only the beginning of the way of life but its entirety. The faith that trusts God to justify us when we abandon our self-righteous works and believe in Jesus is the same faith that trusts that He will sanctify us as well when we abandon our self-righteous works and walk in His Holy Spirit. It is part of the same gospel. This is why Paul uses the doctrine of justification to address how the Galatians lived the Christian life. Sanctification is tied inseparably to justification.

We do not partake of a partial grace that gets us into heaven but doesn’t make us fit to live there. The gospel is the good news of all that God does to restore us to Himself. If we continue to rely on law-keeping to make ourselves presentable to God, it would be well to ask ourselves what Paul asked the Galatian believers: “Are we so foolish?”

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of {i.e. ‘in’} the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

– Galatians 2:20-21 (KJV)

Notes:

  1. This is also seen in the practical words “our liberty in Christ” in verse 4, and “walked” in verse 14. Even the word ‘gospel’ in chapter 2 is repeatedly used in the context of how believers are to live, showing the gospel includes the doctrine of sanctification as well as justification. When Paul rebuked Peter in Galatians 2:11-21, it was over a practical issue of how he lived, not about his lack of faith in Jesus to save him.
  2. The word is used elsewhere in Luke 13:32 (‘perform cures’), Romans 15:28 (‘I have performed this’), 2 Cor. 7:1 (‘perfecting holiness’), 2 Cor. 8:6 (‘he would finish‘), 2 Cor. 8:11 (‘perform‘), Php 1:6 (‘He will perform‘), Heb. 8:5 (‘make the tabernacle’), Heb 9:6 (‘accomplishing the service’), 1 Pet. 5:9 (‘afflictions are accomplished‘).
  3. Another confusing point is that Paul uses the word ‘justified’ six times in his letter, while never using ‘sanctified’. We like to separate the meanings of the words into how to get saved and how to live. But these words are sometimes used interchangeably. We need to pay attention to the context. In this letter, even though we see Paul using the word ‘justified’, he writes about how we are live.
  4. The Law still has a purpose: to convict men of sin and to lead them to Christ. As the standard, it remains. But the Mosaic Law is eliminated as a means of living (Romans 7:1-6). Look at Paul who used to follow the Law “blamelessly” before he was saved (Philippians 3:6). After he was saved he didn’t use his salvation as an opportunity to keep the Law more perfectly. Instead, he counted law-keeping a total “loss”. This is what he meant when he called the Galatians (and us) to “be as I am; for I am as you are.” If you find this difficult to accept, I suggest reading straight through the epistle to the Galatians once a day for at least a week, so you can get familiar with the flow of Paul’s argument.

Thoughts On Running The Race

Picture of older runner

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

– 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (ESV)

The way a runner runs depends on the kind of race he’s in. When the distance is small, an all-out sprint to the finish line is probably best. But when the distance is great, more self-control must be exercised.

For the best possible chance of making it to the finish line first, a runner must control his expenditure of energy such that he has just enough strength to make it across the finish line. If he runs the course with some energy left over, he hasn’t run as fast as he could have, and someone else might win. If he seeks to be the fastest at all points in the course, he exhausts himself before he gets to the finish line… and again, someone else might win. The goal is not being the fastest on the course or not being out of breath at the end. Getting to the finish line first is the goal, and sometimes that is only possible by treading the fine line between running too fast and too slow.

Paul compares our lives with running a race, but how does this control-of-energy idea play out in the spiritual realm? We don’t know how far away our finish line is (i.e. how long we are going to live), so how can we know if we should be trying for speed or endurance? What if I try to pace myself spiritually for a long life, but I die early? Or what if I go all out for Jesus, and burn out decades before I die?

Most of us don’t know how long our race is. But the writer of Hebrews tells us to assume we are in it for the long haul:

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …

– Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

We are in a spiritual endurance race, and so we must seek to make the most of the strength we do have. We must avoid stumbling blocks, making level paths for our feet. And we must seek out and remove whatever will slow us down unnecessarily.

Many of today’s athletes wear high-tech outfits designed to minimize wind resistance (or water resistance for swimmers). The tiniest detail of these clothes may make the difference between first and second or third place. In ancient Greece, runners would run naked for even greater speed advantage. They were not concerned with appearances. Their eyes were fixed only on the goal: a temporary crown of leaves.

In our race, our eyes are to be fixed on Jesus Christ. Like those ancient runners, we are also commanded to lay aside everything that hinders. The most obvious candidate for what hinders us is sin, but we must be aware that our fleshly nature will also slow us down tremendously. It’s those little details we tend to overlook that can take our prize away from us – details like false humility, love of money, apathy, jealously, and the like. We usually overlook these things because we think if we haven’t outright sinned, we aren’t hurting ourselves …but we are. These internal attitudes of the flesh will drag us down unless we deal with them as seriously as sin.

The finish line is the goal, but notice Paul does not tell us to merely make it to the finish line. He tells us to run as if there is only one prize, and you intend to be the one to obtain that prize, whatever it takes. Not knowing if our race is long or short, I believe the only right way to run this race is to rely on the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11, Ephesians 3:20-21). When we learn to rely on God’s power, we will be able to run the spiritual endurance race as if it is a sprint. We will be able to go all out, exhaust ourselves, and yet continue running on God’s power.

May you finish your race and receive your prize! (2 Timothy 4:7)

Is Jesus an honored Guest?

Today’s Christians, myself included, tend to think of God wrongly. We think of Him as the honored guest in our lives.

My wife and I like to have people over for dinner at times. Wanda likes to cook, and whenever we have guests, she’ll cook up something special – and maybe go overboard with it. And that is a good thing. It’s part of being hospitable.

We also spend time talking with our guests, and maybe we’ll watch a movie together. But eventually, it’s time for the guests to leave. We then clean up and retire for the evening.

That’s the nice thing about guests: you can enjoy the fellowship, and then enjoy getting back to your own lives when they leave. Generally, guests don’t overstay their welcome.

A guest may be greatly honored, but a guest does not have the same rights as the home owner does. A guest can’t rearrange furniture, move his stuff in and yours out. He can’t dictate what kind of food will be served and when. None of that. A guest just comes, and then leaves.

When we enter into a relationship with our heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, it is not a guest relationship. Rather, it is one where God now becomes the Owner and Master, and we become His children. He has the right to dictate what stays and what goes in our lives. We don’t have the right to kick Him out when we feel He’s overstayed His welcome – when we think He’s getting a little too demanding.

We worship God, but do we seek His will and obey Him? That also is worship.

What Doesn’t Produce Righteousness

…for the anger of man doesn’t produce the righteousness of God.

– James 1:20

It’s a familiar verse… one that is easy, in hindsight, to apply to the rash actions of a believer who has let his temper fly with disastrous results. Those who have a temper problem may acknowledge the truth of this verse when everything is going according to plan. But awareness of such truth seems to flee when they need it the most.

Those of us who do not have a problem blowing up may think we are safe here. Yet, we can take the word ‘anger’ out, replace it with another word, and the verse will address our weaknesses also.

…the love of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

…the apathy of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

…the work of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

…the wisdom of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

The truth is, nothing that is of us will produce the righteousness of God. God has to make us righteous – both positionally and practically.

But of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, “He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord.”

– 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

“Have this mind in you…”

“Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”

– Philippians 2:5

This phrase begins the best known hymn of the early church, a hymn of praise to Jesus who humbled Himself to the level of a slave, and died a slave’s death, to reconcile us to God. But we tend to overlook this command for all the good doctrine about our Savior that follows it. And when we consider obeying it, we think only in generalities.

Next time you spend time in the gospels reading about Jesus, frequently recall this phrase: “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Every time you see Jesus heal the sick, instruct His disciples, speak of the kingdom of God, deal with those who oppose Him, etc., ask yourself why He did what He did or said what He said, then ask the Holy Spirit to transform your mind to think the same way. Discover the mind of Christ, then have the same mind in you.

Fashion Show

(Here’s a half-developed idea for your perusal…)

In the clothing industry, big name fashion designers show off their latest designs at fashion shows. Each model wears the designer’s clothes and walks up and down a catwalk while photographers and others look on. This is so they can see how the clothing looks and fits as the model moves and poses.

Yesterday, I thought of a strange twist on this. I’m a down-to-earth guy who’s not so much interested in form as function. I’d rather see how useful the clothing is than how it looks. (My wife would rather me be otherwise.) So, I wondered how typical designer fashions would fare in real-world conditions. My idea is to have a fashion show with powerful fans blowing lots of cold air, rain, and snow on the models. I want to see how well the fashions perform in bad really weather. After all, I don’t want to wear something that can’t handle the real world!

Ok, so it’s a stupid idea, even if it would make for a cool LL Bean outerwear commercial. But, I am going somewhere with this.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, …

– Romans 13:14

When Paul told us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, he used a picture of putting on clothing. I usually take this to mean I need to put on Christ for the personal benefit of my day-to-day living in the world. But yesterday it occurred to me that we Christians are also to be like fashion show models, walking up and down the catwalk for all world to see. Like those models, our job is to draw attention to what we’re wearing, not ourselves. We’re displaying the Lord Jesus Christ.

In order to do that, before we get in the spotlight, we have to take all our raggity old clothes off, and put on the Designer’s clothes exclusively (Colossians 3:5-11). We’re here to showcase Jesus and Him only. Everything else is a distraction. (That means no prideful strutting about.) Like all fashion shows, all the glory must go to the Designer, not the models.

This show we’re in is not like any earthly fashion show or beauty pageant. It runs 24 hours a day for the rest of our lives. Instead of photographers and fans of the Designer, we’re surrounded by His competitors – His enemies. They don’t want Jesus to look good, so they throw mud and all kinds of nasty stuff. When we get hit, we mustn’t take it personally. After all, it’s not us they hate so much as Christ.

And so the show goes on. But because we’re wearing Christ, we don’t respond in kind. When they curse, we bless (Luke 6:28). When they abuse us, we intercede for them. When they hate us, we show love to them. (The garment of Christ enables us to do this.) And after all is said and done, the clothing of Christ is no worse for wear. He wears well no matter what we’ve been through!

First Or Last

Supernatural revelation played a major part in how people saw Jesus when He was born. There were those who welcomed Him as the Messiah, and there were those who knew nothing of Him or tried to kill Him. Zacharias knew Jesus was coming through an angelic visit in the temple. Mary also received a visit from an angel. Joseph saw an angel in a vision, and the shepherds saw a host of angels. God told Simeon he would see Jesus before he died, and the Magi came through a supernatural star.

Without revelation from God, nobody would have known who Jesus is. Everyone would have assumed Mary was a fornicator, and Jesus an ordinary child born out of wedlock. (Even today many think this because God hasn’t revealed it to them through the testimony of the biblical witnesses.) No doubt those at the inn in Bethlehem had no idea Who Mary was about to give birth to or they would have made room somehow. After all, if Herod had stooped to stay the night in Bethlehem (…not that he would), he wouldn’t have been forced to spend it in a stable!

She brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn.

-Luke 2:7

Last Saturday I went to Walmart to do some shopping and pick up a Christmas card for my wife. There was a huge selection of cards available – maybe 30 feet or more of aisle space full of Christmas cards. Since Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Christ, I tried to find a card that spoke about Jesus, but I didn’t find any. Even the ‘religious’ cards were not about Christ. Two thousand years after His birth, there was no room for Jesus in the Christmas card aisle either.

Jesus is either all or nothing to you. If you don’t put Him first in your life, He becomes last. You cannot put Him in second place, because over time He will be completely crowded out. He will become a threat to your goals and aspirations. You either see Him as your Savior or your enemy.

For a much better take on this, take a look at The Threatened King or the Sacrifical Father at Michael Kelly Ministries.