Righteousness from God – believe and receive forgiveness

This is the seventh week of a series we are calling, “righteousness from God.” It is the weekend we celebrate Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus. This raising of Jesus from the dead is God’s true gift of righteousness. Christ is made available to all who seek him and will be righteousness for those who receive Him. We discussed righteous means we are in right relationship with God. It is a human quality but it takes on a divine presence when we allow God to make us righteous. We commonly think of it as being moral, being right in all that constitutes a moral persona. To be righteous we are right, we have right conduct which is pleasing to God. It can been seen as a state where you can be judged favorably by Jesus. If you are righteous you will receive a good judgement in the end, Jesus even refers to the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14)

God is a God who will do everything possible to make us righteous. We should also note our cooperation is required. We can’t be righteous if we do not accept it from God. God wants us righteous so we can be ever with God, now is the time to decide if we will accept righteousness from God, or not.

Over the last six weeks we have looked at righteous with a specific view from the readings of the week. We began by recognizing the word is near, the Word of God who brings living witness and leads us to be near God. Everything in the Word is meant for us to shed our old ways and take on new. We also saw that we are citizens in heaven, God has made us members of his kingdom and as such we are representing heaven and should model a good life for God and encourage others to want to become citizens. We saw we need to repent or perish, to repent is to change our ways to turn toward God and become like Jesus. If we don’t change we are left out and will perish. We saw that we were made a new creation in Christ. By accepting Jesus and turning to God we were made new, with a new Spirit and a new life. We also saw with must strain forward; to put effort into becoming this new creation and work to be more and more like Christ. Entering Christ can be as easy as accepting but becoming like Christ will take effort. Last week we were challenged to open our ears, in so doing we become like Christ in the face of difficulty and challenge. As he was being condemned to death his ears only heard the Father speaking into to him, you are my beloved with whom I am well pleased. This listening filled his heart and gave him the strength to carry through on the will of the Father. We too need to open our ears to the small voice of God.

As Jesus was being condemned to death his ears only heard the Father speaking into to him, you are my beloved with whom I am well pleased Click To Tweet

With God’s help we are moving more and more towards a life that is totally of God. We have the Spirit guiding us and making us aware of the work God is doing in our life to help us repent and learn the Word, become new, strain to work harder, and act as if we are already citizens of heaven, hearing the voice of God. These are efforts made by God to help us become righteous from God and be completely ready for new life. God’s plan is for us to succeed. We must pick up these aides from God and cooperate to become completely new.

This Week

This week the readings are signaling us to believe and receive forgiveness. Christ is raised from the dead as he promised and makes the righteousness of God available to us. We will see how Jesus’ followers slowly come to believe in Jesus and gain the courage and strength to share the Good News with others. He was put to death, but death was defeated through him. We are challenged this week and every week following this week to believe and receive forgiveness.

We are challenged this week and every week following this week to believe and receive forgiveness. Click To Tweet

The readings this week are from the Lectionary for Easter Sunday; The Resurrection of the Lord; Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4;  and John 20:1-9. The readings guide us to believe and receive forgiveness as Jesus overcomes death and returns to his followers to continue to spread the Good News.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we are invited to listen to Peter, an Apostle telling about Jesus in a short speech, that we might call an elevator speech today, something that can be told in a short elevator ride. Peter, starts with John the Baptist preaching baptism and Jesus being baptized by John. Jesus went around healing, and doing good. Peter and others saw what Jesus did and will speak about it at length for the remainder of their lives. How Jesus was crucified and on the third day God raised him from the dead and he was visible to many who knew him. Peter and others were anointed to preach and testify that Jesus is judge and that all of history pointed to him. Anyone who believes in Jesus will receive forgiveness and never ending life. It is a speech Peter gave soon after Jesus returned to his Father in heaven. It challenges people to believe in Jesus based on the words of the followers who were with Jesus through his life, death and resurrection. Peter we know as someone who was afraid of what might happen to him if he claimed to know Jesus during the time of Jesus condemnation and crucifixion. Now after Jesus returns Peter has the courage to publicly stand in front of anyone who would hear and claim his connection to Jesus and tell Jesus’ story, even when he was warned not to speak Jesus name any more. Peter who was there, certainly is convicted that Jesus died and rose. We have faith based on eye witness accounts like Peter’s. Their stories give us courage to believe and receive forgiveness.

We have faith based on eye witness accounts like Peter’s. Their stories give us courage to believe and receive forgiveness. Click To Tweet

In the second reading from the letter to the Colossians, Paul connects Jesus followers to Jesus in such a way that all of Jesus’ glory is available to them because they were raised with Christ. Paul declares that by following Jesus, we are raised with him, our life is no longer of this world but of the world in which Jesus reigns with God. Speaking most likely about baptism, Paul tells them they have died, meaning they have died to their old lives and now live new lives wrapped in the mantle of Christ who will appear and share his glory with them. Paul like Peter is convicted of the stories of Jesus life, death and resurrection. Paul as far as we know never met Jesus, but did have and encounter with the risen Christ. This encounter so impacted Paul that it completely changed his life of being a blasphemer, persecutor and arrogant man to a believer who dedicated his whole life to a ministry of bringing Christ to others so that they may believe and receive forgiveness.

Paul's encounter with Jesus completely changed his life of being a blasphemer, persecutor and arrogant man to a believer who dedicated his whole life to a ministry of bringing Christ to others so that they may believe and receive… Click To Tweet

In the gospel reading John tells of Mary of Magdala who was going early to Jesus’ tomb (most likely to anoint the body properly, as it was not properly anointed because the Sabbath was about to begin when they placed Jesus body in the tomb.) She arrives to an empty tomb and assumes his body was stolen. She finds Peter and another disciple and they run to the tomb to see what she has seen. The other disciple, who is unnamed, but we believe is the author of the Gospel, John, the beloved of Jesus, went into the tomb, saw and believed. For him this is an “Ah Ha” moment, when all that Jesus had been saying about destroying the temple and raising it in three days finally clicked. That the scriptures were finally making sense to him. He now knew that Jesus rose from the dead, he was not stolen. The empty tomb is the movement from a sadness about a friend who dies to a realization that everything has changed. Certainly not fully understanding all in this moment, but the Apostles would come to see Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit, Then they would share the message that Jesus came for them to believe and receive forgiveness. Their stories about Jesus were so compelling that others came to believe, and over time Jesus would claim more followers than any other leader of a God ordained movement. People would hear the stories of these first eye witnesses and they would have faith. They would believe, receive forgiveness and their lives would completely change.

There is no one who has encountered Jesus fully who has not been changed into a new person. In fact we know from the weeks building up to this moment, especially during week four of our series where we discussed that we are made new creations in Christ. We receive the Spirit from Christ and our lives are no longer the same. It is this resurrection moment that changes Jesus and changes us. God’s plan from the beginning was to provide us the means to decide to be like Christ, to become believers and receive forgiveness. It is in this moment the righteousness from God is made available to us. As believers who receive forgiveness, we should reach out and accept God’s righteousness.

God’s plan from the beginning was to provide us the means to decide to be like Christ, to become believers and receive forgiveness. Click To Tweet

Righteousness from God

Easter morning is the reason we follow Jesus. As @Andy_Stanley says, anyone who can predict their own death and return to life, then does it, is someone we all should follow. Jesus’ ministry built up to this moment while he was alive. He lived to create an example for us all. He instructed his Apostles who shared his teaching with us and that they saw the risen Jesus. He lived doing the will of his Father. Easter morning was God’s plan from the beginning and Jesus fulfilled that plan perfectly.

And billions of lives have been changed through Jesus. Even people who don’t follow Jesus are affected by the changes made in the world because he lived.  Jesus life changed what was normal to a new normal. Jesus lifted up women, even putting them on his team to spread his word. He changed how we see the sick and poor, that we should care for them and help them. Jesus pushed the idea that every individual has dignity and value apart from anything they own or do, that we are so important that God knows every hair on our head. For believers Jesus rising from the dead had another important message, as Jesus rose from the dead we are going to rise from the dead as well. Jesus changed everything and has grown in popularity from that first Easter as time as passed. He is followed by more people today than when he was first crucified and resurrected.

For believers Jesus rising from the dead had another important message, as Jesus rose from the dead we are going to rise from the dead as well. Click To Tweet

As we moved toward this great Easter event in our message series we looked at several aids we received through the scriptures that help us get ready for Easter. We look week after week at the word and discovered words in scripture that God has given us to help us understand who we are and whose we are.

We look week after week at the word and discovered words in scripture that God has given us to help us understand who we are and whose we are. Click To Tweet

We began with the message that the word is near (Romans 10:8.) The word is so near that God tells us the word is in our mouth and in our heart. If we confess what we know with our mouth, that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead we will be saved. From the start we have hope, there is more to who we are than just existing. We can never forget the word is near, in our mouth and our heart. We have in our heart a yearning for something, a desire to be fulfilled, an ache that can only be filled but one thing. “We are restless until we resit in you of God.” (St. Augustine)

We also learned that we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). We have a new home. This home we live on today is not where God intends for us to live. We are not meant to struggle and fight to survive and hope to find reward in life. God has created us to be citizens of heaven. In heaven we have a savior, Jesus Christ, who saves us because we are significant and important all on our own. God wants us to know we should live as citizens of heaven, like the most significant beings in all the universe. After all our fellow citizens include God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Prophets and Saints, Angels and Principalities and all people who will be born after us and come to believe in Jesus. There is no greater citizenship that we could receive, it is free gift from God, through Jesus life.

We know this is not without effort, we can’t just say I believe and then do whatever we want, to live as if we don’t truly believe. We must put in an effort to draw nearer to Jesus, to show our faithfulness and to be people who others look toward and say, “I want to be like them.” We are talking about changing and continuing to work toward that change, we must repent or perish (Luke 13:5) God will give us the grace to help us, but we must work each day to avoid temptation, to push away evil and welcome good so that we will be transformed. God’s grace is enough but we show our dedication by changing.

Through all this we learned we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17.) Jesus coming into our lives changes us, we receive the Spirit of Christ and we are new, the old things have passed away. Like Jesus on Easter morning we are changed. After his resurrection, those who know Jesus do not recognize him when they first see him, it takes some opening up on Jesus part for them to look at Jesus and declare he is Lord. Jesus has been glorified and in his glory is radiant and attractive. This glory comes to us, and we will enter fully into the glory of God in time. But for now know you are different, when you believe, even your own family may wonder who you are and why you speak so differently. It is Christ in you, the risen Christ who can be in you and everyone else.

We spoke about the need to strain forward (Philippians 3:14) It is the means by which we work to pursue our goal, the prize of God calling us to the banquet. We forget about what is in the past and we pursue the best God has for us. We discussed that in order to strain forward we must use great force, severe strength, receive an excessive push and we should expect to leave some things behind. Jesus often tells us not to look behind but only ahead. God is waiting for us and God is not in the past, only the present. Put the effort in to pursue the goal and receive Jesus Easter morning life. As we move closer and closer to God, we receive this upward calling, God’s prize in Jesus Christ.

We are blessed that God opens our ears (Isaiah 50:5) and thus we can hear God. Because Jesus died and rose it does not mean our life will be easy. Jesus’ life was not easy. But as we struggle and live we have the voice of God in our open ears telling us we are his beloved. God speaks whispers into out ear telling us how important we are to him, how much value and dignity we have as his adopted son or daughter. If we don’t turn away God will constantly lift us up, reminding us that we are his, and nothing will stop the love of God for us.

This Easter event is the culmination of all God has been telling us in word. We are significant and worth more to God than anything else in the universe. God died on Good Friday at the hands of those who persecuted and rejected him. But death was put to death on Easter morning when Jesus returned from death and did what he had always planned, rose, meet his friends, have them use his life to change the world, and change each of us.

This Easter event is the culmination of all God has been telling us in word. We are significant and worth more to God than anything else in the universe. Click To Tweet

Jesus is the righteousness from God. We receive Jesus and thus we receive the righteousness from God. We are now righteous, we receive the gift of righteousness from God, through Jesus. Easter resurrection is the event that makes it all possible. God’s perfect plan to perfect his creation. Thank God for Easter!

Jesus is the righteousness from God. We receive Jesus and thus we receive the righteousness from God. Click To Tweet

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