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THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

24 NOVEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 14:1-3
Isaiah 1:18
        45:20-25
Jeremiah 23:1-6
1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Preparation Verse: (Isaiah 1:18)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

One of the names of God in the Bible is Jehovah Tseed-kay-noo, which means The Lord Our Righteousness.

Therefore, we could say that the Lord is our righteousness.

But what about our own righteousness?

As Paul tells us in Romans 3, and as the psalmist tells us in Psalms 14 and 53, we don't have any righteousness of our own.

Let's go back and look at these first three verses of Psalm 14:

1. The fool has said in his heart,
"There is no God."
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good.

It is obvious that we who are gathered here acknowledge God; thus we are not the one mentioned in the opening part of this verse.

But even we who believe have done some corrupt, and perhaps even abominable, things.

Do you think that this makes us part of those who do not do good?

Let's go on and see.

2. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men,
To see if there are any who understand,
Who seek after God.

What we are being asked to do is to look at ourselves as God sees us.

Do you really think that there is one of us here who totally understands the perfectness and holiness of God, and who seeks Him in order to be like Him?

We all may understand the ways of God to some extent, and I pray that most of us seek after Him; but do we seek after Him completely, with all our heart, soul, and might?

Therefore, from God's point of view, He can accurately say of us:

3. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.

Since true righteousness has no spot or blemish (as only Jesus was upon this earth), and as we all have some sin in our lives, we cannot be considered righteous in the eyes of our holy God.

Thus the psalmist is correct.

And since we have no true righteousness of our own, we must rely upon the Lord to be our righteousness.

But some might say, "What about our pastors and teachers? Aren't they to show us the ways of God, and set the proper example for the rest of us to follow?"

The answer is that we who stand behind the pulpit are to do just that; but will the congregation listen and follow?

I am far from perfect, and the closer I get to God, the more imperfect I see that I am.

Are you capable or (perhaps a better word is) willing to at least do as I do, and then help me to do those things that you do more righteously than I?

Even then we would not be truly righteous, but we would be better than we are today.

The Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah some 2,600 years ago, at the time when the Israelites were being led away into captivity in Babylon, and He addresses this same problem (Jeremiah 23:1-6):

1. "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!" declares the Lord.

2. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: "You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds," declares the Lord.

In our travels, it seems that every week we encounter someone who has left the church because of the hardness of heart and lack of empathy that church pastors and leaders have shown them.

Some religious leaders have, indeed, deliberately led their churches astray.

Others have done so out of ignorance, for they have never committed their hearts to the Lord, but are serving as they would in a “job.”

And still others truly try.

But does that exempt any of us from this observation of God?

Since none of us are truly righteous, then most likely none of us are exempted, no matter how hard we try.

But there is hope.

As we continue, listen to what the Lord says:

3. "Then I Myself shall gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and shall bring them back to their pasture; and they will be fruitful and multiply.

4. "I shall also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the Lord.

This, indeed, has happened; but once again, there are many who are afraid, and terrified, and missing, even when the Lord our God promised to give us His own righteousness.

5. "Behold the days are coming," declares the Lord,
"When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land.

6. "In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called,
'The Lord our righteousness.'

Jesus was the fulfillment of this prophecy some 600 years later, but over the past 2,000 years since His coming, not a whole lot has changed throughout the world.

But there has been a change!

Through Jesus Christ, all who believe in Him and seek Him shall receive His righteousness as a robe to cover our unrighteousness before the eyes of God.

With this being true, why do so many reject this most precious of all gifts?

And why do all of us who have been given these robes continue to soil them?

I truly wish I had an answer!

All I can do is continue to improve my own life and continue to call to those who will listen, as did the prophet Isaiah in 45:20-25:

20. "Gather yourselves and come;
Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations;
They have no knowledge,
Who carry about their wooden idol,
And pray to a god who cannot save.

Nothing that we place before God can save us.

God must be first in our lives, and in our hearts and minds.

In other words, we cannot fake our having God first, just by coming to church on Sunday. He must truly be first!

21. "Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the Lord?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.

22. "Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.

Without Jesus, without God our Father, without the Holy Spirit in our lives, there is no hope.

23. "I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, and every tongue will swear allegiance.

24. "They will say of Me, 'Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.'
Men will come to Him,
And all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame.

25. "In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
Will be justified, and will glory."

We have to remember that this is an Old Testament passage; yet in this passage is the entire salvation message.

First of all, God is calling everyone to repentance.

He wants us to see the futility of seeking our own salvation through any other means than Him.

In all His love, God even encourages us to come forth and argue with Him, if we think we have a case; but at the same time He reminds us that everything He is saying now has already been said before, and we should have heard and responded then.

But now is better than to not come back at all.

And even if you are angry with God about something, isn't it better to be put to shame by being shown the errors of your way, than to be cast out forever and ever?

Of course it is!

And it's about time we all start swallowing more of our pride.

The Lord our God is our only answer.

And the Lord our God is our only righteousness.

Truly think about the way of our Lord and how He deals with us.

Listen to how Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.

26. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;

27. but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

28. and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are,

29. that no man should boast before God.

And this even applies to trying to earn our way into heaven.

No one is worthy of heaven, no matter how much we possess, or what position we hold, or who we think we are in our own eyes, or how much we think we have accomplished; all of it is worthless if we have not accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and confessed our sins.

30. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,

31. that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."

You have heard me say many times before that true and unconditional love will fulfill most, if not all of the things required of us by God.

Every day, we need to ask ourselves, "What can I do today to be more loving to other people, to the animals who share this world with us, and to the rest of God's creation?"

If we truly want to do this, we will find that we are moving closer to the perfection of heaven being here on earth as it is in heaven, with do death or suffering, as we pray in the Lord's Prayer.

Even though I do this, as I hope you do, I, too, can only boast in the Lord, for I recognize that I am still unworthy of heaven; but by God's grace He has covered my sins and declared me righteous.

And because this is the desire of my heart, I know I am saved.

I know I am going to heaven.

Do you have that same assurance?

I pray you do!

But if not, now is the time to reach out and say, "Jesus I need you! Forgive me! Help me to change my life! Save me!"

For He is the Lord Our Righteousness.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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