Thursday, 27 October 2011

Gen 15:6 - Living on Credit

And that was the moment something amazing happened. In his heart, Abram said "ok". In the next few milliseconds his thoughts would expand into  a "yes, that will happen. I don't know how but I will. Wow. Good" but by that time the transaction was complete. 

I've come to what must be one of the most significant verses in the whole bible:

And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (ESV) Gen 15:6  

The LORD promised the sonless Abram more descendants than the stars in the sky, Abram believed him and got more than he bargained for. He received something that we all need but cannot get and that something is righteousness. I wonder if he realised it at the time? He must have come to know that it happened at some stage to pass this story on.

So what is righteousness? It's a right standing before a Holy God and it's lost when we do or think something unrighteous, ie wrong. Once its gone no amount of good will get it back. Having knocked a hurdle over in a race no amount of running and jumping will make it stand up again.

Now there are people described as righteous in the Old Testament such as Noah.

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. (ESV) Gen 6:9  

Noah is described as righteous and blameless. A man who "walked" with God, that is he lived his life in the context of a relationship with God. That would have meant, at least relatively speaking, he did the right thing a lot of the time but its still a puzzle as to how people like him are called righteous given they were not perfect:

as it is written:  "None is righteous, no, not one; Rom 3:10  

Here though we have the answer. Believing God puts all our fallen hurdles up, every one, and we are counted righteous.   

Where does this righteousness come from? In the accounting of heaven how can righteous be counted to us when we are not? Does God have an infinite supply that he can give away without diminishing his supply? No. For one I'm not sure that there are any actual infinites but in any case perfection cannot be shared out like that. God cannot print more righteousness in a kind of moral quantitative easing strategy without undermining his own goodness. So where does this righteousness come from? Jesus works to earn it. The Son of God becomes a man, and runs our race for all of us without knocking down a single hurdle. He gains the medal of  of righteousness and then hands it to us. 

But what about all our knocked down hurdles? Well, as he places us on his podium he stands in our prision and takes the wrap for us. What a shame to run and jump to try to please God and gain his acceptance when Jesus has already gained it for us. All we need to do is take his word for it and his life and death are credited to our account. In a moment. Just like that.       

The new testament talks about all this a lot. One key verse is:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- (ESV) Rom 3:21  

It's saying that the whole Old Testament points to and backs up the fact that there would be a righteousness made avaaiable from God to us. That there would be two ways to be righteousness. One is to obey the law fully in every way. In terms of gaining Gods approval, and love and riotousness, the law is like a climbers rope. If it is broken in just once place it becomes useless. Like a climbers rope, this way only helps us if it remains unbroken in every part.   

But instead of trying to inch our way up a rope that we have dropped in a blender, we are offered a hand by one who says "trust me". I remember trusting the LORD when I became a Christian at Uni. It was a simple act of faith, believing that what God said in the gospel was true. I trusted that Jesus' death on the cross had paid for my sin, that I would never be held to account for the trail of fallen hurdles behind me, nor the ones I would knock over in the future and I would know God has my loving heavenly father forever and ever, even through death. In fact especially through death. There was so much I didn't understand. My love for him and obedience to him went up and down over the following years but I never lost what I gained then. Righteousness. 

Abram's faith was not perfect or fully formed and he did seem to wobble a bit here and there as he walked with God and got to know him. It's been the same with me, but what has never faltered or faded is my God given righteousness. I believed God and it was credited to me as righteousness. I don't know about you but I love living on credit.      

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