The Righteousness of God – 7 part lesson series

 Introduction

        In Matthew 6:33 we are commanded to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”

          The Kingdom of God is one of the key elements of teaching in the New Testament. It is the center piece of Jesus teachings and every parable of Jesus is about the Kingdom of God or Kingdom principles.

        Righteousness is the platform, or position, from which all Kingdom principles operate. Understanding that we are the righteousness of God is paramount to obtaining and enjoying all the benefits of the Kingdom.

        The Kingdom of God speaks to where we are in Christ, while the Righteousness of God speaks to who we are in Christ. When these two truths become a part of us, a transformed, fulfilled life is the ultimate outcome.

        To function within the Kingdom of God we must operate according to Kingdom principles, and within the King’s legal jurisdiction. To operate outside of those boundaries prevents His power from being released and limits His divine influence into our life.

        We must understand who we are and what is available to us through the work of the cross. My prayer is that this teaching will bring understanding, inspire change, and create a hunger and thirst for righteousness that will transform your life.

Content

Class #1 … The Kingdom of God – Defining the Kingdom – part 1

Class #2 … The Kingdom of God – Defining the Kingdom – part 2

Class #3 … The Kingdom of God – For Conscience Sake

Class #4 … The Righteousness of God – Defining Righteousness

Class #5 … The Righteousness of God – The Mystery of the Two Natures

Class #6 … The Righteousness of God – Free from Sin

Class #7 … Free from the Law

 

Class #1

The Kingdom of God – Defining the Kingdom – part 1

        Authority is defined as the right to influence, command, control, direct, and delegate.

          Kingdom authority is based on ownership. The King owns everything within His Kingdom; the lands, the buildings, the resources, and the people. What the King owns, He has dominion over. What the King doesn’t own, He has no legal right to exercise His authority over. Outside of His Kingdom, the King has no rights, no dominion, no control, and very little influence.

          Christians, in general, have a catchy little phrase that they throw around, and it sounds like this: “God is in control!” Is He in control of everything? Do you really believe that? If so, I recommend you hide your religious cows because this teaching will likely take them straight to the butcher.

          Let’s start with you. Is God in control of you? Are you doing absolutely everything that the Lord wants you to do? Are you waking up every day and walking out God’s perfect will for your life? Have you done that every day of your life? Are you beginning to see the problem with the whole; “God is in control” theology?

          When God gave man dominion over the earth, He gave him all authority. Man had absolute control over the earth for a season. This is why man was able to give this dominion away to the devil. The dominion and control was eventually bought back by the precious Blood of the Lamb. Glory to God!

          The truth is, He has left most things of the earth in our control. The Kingdom of God on earth is ours to keep and steward. Our level of stewardship determines how much dominion we have on this earth. We need to acknowledge this and start taking responsibility for it.

          In an earthly kingdom, the king can decide to use his power and resources to overtake more lands, and thereby expand his kingdom. In the Kingdom of God, He has delegated that task completely to the individual members of the church. The community, which is the body of Christ, is not capable of expanding the kingdom as a group, it can only assist the individual in making quality choices in their lives that will expand the Kingdom within themselves. The size and strength of the Kingdom lies within your control.

Free Will – Your own personal authority

           The fact that you have a free will contradicts the very thought of “God is in control.” God did not create man to control him, He created him for a relationship. Specifically, son-ship. When God delegated His authority to Adam, He also gave Adam his own personal authority, his free will. Free will was given to man because God wanted a relationship, not a robotic slave that was forced to submit to His will. God wanted a people that would choose Him, that would believe in Him, that would love Him for who He is. This is the foundation of intimate relationship.

          Free will can be described as the freedom to make choices that are not controlled by fate or divine intervention. The power to act without the constraint of necessity, freedom to choose. For the purpose of this teaching, we will use a simplified definition of free will: The right to say NO to God.

          God doesn’t want you to serve Him. He wants you to want to serve Him. If you don’t want to serve God, you are a moral free agent, and you have the right to say no to Him. It is sad, but many are exercising that right every day and paying a terrible price for it.

The most dangerous thing to the Kingdom of God.

          How dangerous is this thing called free will? Exercising the right to say no to God resulted in the fall of mankind. It got Adam and Eve evicted from the Garden. It causes people to go to Hell. It causes eternal separation of man from his creator. Free will is the most dangerous and destructive thing to the Kingdom of God. This dangerous bit of authority called free will has been placed in your hands. What are you doing with it?

          Our free will was given to us for creativity and expression in relationship with God and others. It was designed to be used in cooperation with God, not in opposition. When we exercise our right to oppose our creator, we cut ourselves off from the life-giving Spirit of God and become a landing strip for demonic influence and every evil work.

Defining the Kingdoms

            When we hear the phrase; “Kingdom of God”, our minds immediately think of another place such as Heaven. The truth is, according to Luke 17:21 the Kingdom of God is within us.

Luke 17:21 ~ Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.

         The Kingdom of God on earth is not the same as the Kingdom of Heaven. At least not yet. The Kingdom of God on earth is an outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven. God created Adam from the dust of the earth and placed him here as a steward to rule over His Kingdom. God delegated His authority to Adam and gave him specific instructions on how to exercise that authority. Adam was, essentially, the god of this world.

            Look at it like this; The Kingdom of Heaven is the place where God dwells, has supreme authority, and absolute rule. The Kingdom of God on earth is the place in our heart in which, at any given time, God’s rule and reign is acknowledged. Therefore, we have control of the Kingdom of God.

          We can cause it to grow and expand by our obedience and submission to the King. Or we can deny the King to rule in His Kingdom, and cut off all power and resources that the King has made available to us. We are the steward of our own heart.

          We know that there is a difference between the two Kingdoms because Jesus is going to deliver the Kingdom of God on earth to the Father.

1 Corinthians 15:24 ~ Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

        What Kingdom is Paul talking about here? Jesus is not going to deliver Heaven to the Father, but the outpost of the Kingdom of God on earth. When this happens, both Kingdoms will be congruent, they will be the same. Until then it is important to understand the differences so that we can function in the Kingdom that God has made us stewards over. The Kingdom of God residing in our own heart.

Class #2

The Kingdom of God. Defining the Kingdom – part 2

Boundaries of the Kingdom

          In every area of our life that we do not acknowledge God’s rule and reign, another king rules there. This other king is a selfish, childish, petty king. This king is influenced by lust and fleshly desires. This is not a loving, caring king. This king is vindictive, judgmental and prideful. This king wants to exalt his throne and be like God. This king is willful and disobedient. This king… is you.

          Yeah, I know, you may have thought that I was going to say the devil, but no, it’s you. If you have areas of your life that Jesus is not Lord over, then you have decided to preside as king over those areas. You have violated the most important Kingdom principle; Obedience.

The kingdom of me.

          Willful disobedience violates the light of truth and goes directly against the will of the King.

          When that happens you now attempt to serve two Kings. King Jesus, and king ……..……………<(your name here). The Kingdom of God and “the kingdom of me”. Just saying “the kingdom of me” sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Go ahead, say it out loud. How does that register in your spirit? Pathetic, right?  

          Before you serve a king, you need to consider the authority, power, and resources of the king you will serve. Is he a good king? Does the king have the power to save? Does he have the power to heal? Can he confer blessing and power? What are your rights and privileges under this king? Are there any kings more powerful than him? How long will his reign be?

          If you ask yourself these questions before disobeying God, you will be less likely to set up the “kingdom of me.” For in the kingdom of me you must get your own deliverance, your own healing, and your own provision, through your own power and resources. Obedience to the King prevents the kingdom of me from being established.

          Just like all other kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of me have boundaries. The boundaries of both kingdoms are established by the same thing; our free will. When we submit our will in obedience to the King’s word, the Kingdom of God expands and the King is exalted. When we disobey the King’s word, we set up our own kingdom with its own boundaries. The boundaries of that kingdom are set up to keep God and the light of His word out. Make no mistake, there are only two kingdoms in the spirit realm that we see in scripture. The kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of me is the kingdom of darkness.

          When we submit to our fallen nature, we are submitting to the kingdom of darkness. Darkness dwells in the fallen man. It is the same seed of the devil that was planted in Adam in the beginning. Darkness and light cannot dwell together. When the light comes, darkness must flee, however, when the light is removed, it creates a vacuum and darkness comes in immediately to fill the void. This is why it is so important to stay filled with His Word and His Spirit. It leaves no room, and gives no entrance to darkness.

          The Lord has made us stewards over the Kingdom of God in our heart. As wise stewards, we are expected to expand the boundaries of the Kingdom within us. God expects increase. The only way those boundaries are expanded is by proper stewardship of our free will. This equals dying to self and submitting in obedience to the King’s will and walking in the light of truth we have been exposed to. The more we obey the King, the more light we will be exposed to, and the more His Kingdom grows within us. The more expansive His Kingdom becomes, the more authority we are able to walk in, and the more power is released in and through our lives.

The Garden of God

          When we are born again, God recreates our spirit as a model of the Garden of Eden. Paradise within you, perfect and complete. In our inner man stands the Kingdom of God. What an awesome thought!

          We know from scripture that the Garden of Eden did not cover the whole earth, but was located in a small area in Africa at the head of four rivers. Adam was placed in the Garden and was instructed to fill the whole earth and have dominion, bring it into subjection, and subdue it. When we are born again, the Kingdom of God within us is small, but just like the first Adam, we are commanded to be fruitful, multiply and fill it up! We are to fill ourselves up with God and take dominion over our entire being, subduing the carnal man and bringing him into subjection. We should always be taking new territory in our hearts. This results in the restoration of the image of God in man, which is our original created purpose. Jesus didn’t die because we were sinners, but to restore what Adam lost, which is the ability to be one with the Father. To be the embodiment of God and a reflection of His Image.

Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

        There were many trees in the midst of the garden that were beautiful and good for food. The two trees specifically mentioned in the midst of the garden where the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God’s instruction to Adam was to eat of every tree in the garden except the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because, in the day he did, he would surely die. (Genesis 2:17)

          Just like the original Garden of Eden, there are two trees in the midst of the garden in our heart. We have the Holy Spirit representing the tree of life, and we have our free will, our own personal authority, which represents the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

          We are the body of the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). We can walk with God just like the first Adam did by the Holy Spirit living within us. The model is very much the same, with one little difference; we are the last Adam’s body. Instead of Adam walking around in the Garden, Adam walks around with the Garden inside His body. This is one reason Jesus is called the last Adam.

          We have a stewardship just like the first Adam, and in like manner, we have only one thing that we must not do. We must not eat of the tree of our free will and exercise our right to say no to God, for in the day we do, we will surely die. Our free will represents our ability to know evil. To know evil, all we have to do is say no to God. If we continually walk in obedience to God, we will only know good. Saying no to God always brings death in some measure, but saying yes to God brings abundant life. Disobedience not only brings death, it makes it painful the whole time we are dying.

Class #3

The Kingdom of God. For Conscience Sake

        We do not hear much taught on the conscience. This is a revelation that the apostle Paul had, and I believe it to be of vital importance if we are to be a people of faith. Understanding the function of our conscience will help keep us out of the “kingdom of me.”

Conscience is commonly defined as the voice of the human spirit.

          The apostle Paul was aware that a clear conscience is essential to our relationship with God. He makes reference to its importance throughout the New Testament. In the book of Acts Paul makes this statement:

Acts 24:16  And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.

        When we are feeling conviction from the Holy Spirit, that simply means that our conscience has been offended. We have done something that is in direct disobedience to the Lord. Be it a sin of commission, or omission, the bottom line is, when we violate the King’s word, our conscience knows it and communicates that in the form of conviction.

          If we are not a born-again citizens of the Kingdom of God, our conscience cannot always be trusted because our perception of everything is based solely on our natural senses and life experience.

A better definition of conscience is: Co-Perception or Co-Perceiver

2 Corinthians 5:17 (Amp) Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].

        Our conscience is no longer limited by our senses and experience. It has been altered because we have been born again. We now have a co-perceiver. The Holy Spirit perceives the mind and will of God and communicates that to our conscience. Our conscience perceives the amount of light and revelation that we have and holds us accountable for walking in that light. They work together to give us a co-perception.

          Let me explain the function of conscience in a little more depth. Let’s look at two scriptures from Proverbs:

Proverbs 20:27 (Amp) The spirit (conscience) of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching and examining all the innermost parts of his being.

Proverbs 20:5 (KJV) Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

          These two verses are tied together. In Proverbs 20:27 the word lamp could also be translated candle. In modern terms, we would use the word flashlight. God uses our spirit like a flashlight so we can search for His council by the Holy Spirit in our inner man. (co-perception)

          Our inner man consists of our spirit, our soul, and our mind. These three parts of our being are spiritual. I think we miss that truth sometimes. Words are spiritual, therefore thoughts, your mind, and your soul are spiritual. They need to be in the proper spiritual environment and fed the proper spiritual food to rise to the place God intended. Our conscience resides in our soul, our mind.

          Our spirit is incorruptible, our soul and mind are not. They can be corrupted. When corruption takes place in these areas we have a breakdown in communication between us and the King. Our conscience is our protection against corruption and deception in these areas.

          The word for spirit in the bible can also be translated breath. The Holy Spirit breathes life giving communication to our spirit. That breath of God is then filtered through our soul and mind. If those filters are not continually renewed, and washed by the Word of God, we will slowly but surely lose power and eventually stop moving forward altogether.

          We must discipline ourselves to constantly renew our mind to the Word of God. Read it, study it, meditate on it, speak it, and pray it out over our lives and circumstances. When we do this, our conscience becomes an internal compass that can be relied upon to lead us through this life supernaturally, and into God’s will and purpose for our life.

          The Holy Spirit always guides us into truth, (John 16:13) therefore our conscience can always be trusted. If we continually give heed to our conscience, we will become sensitive to the voice of the Spirit. When we live this way, supernatural encounters with God and a knowing of the future are the natural byproduct.

John 16:13 (Amp) But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future].

          The account of the Pharisees and scribes bringing a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and “testing Him” to see if He would violate the law is a great example of how our conscience works. When Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” something amazing happened.

John 8:7-9 (NKJV) So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

          I find it interesting that the oldest began to leave first, and then on down to the youngest. The older ones had enough experience to know that they could not keep the law, they had tried. The Pharisees and scribes had violated the law so much that their conscience was desensitized, calloused, and seared.

1 Timothy 4:1-2 (KJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,

          Their seared conscience made them legalistic and judgmental. They could not keep the law themselves, so they tried to hold everyone else accountable to it. Yet when Jesus spoke the truth, their conscience immediately responded in a right way. Jesus is the Light, the Word, and the Truth. He was speaking the word of truth and shining a light on their sin. Even their seared conscience wasn’t calloused enough keep them from doing what was right.

    Your conscience, when exposed to the light of truth, will hold you accountable for walking in that light. This is the primary function of our conscience.

          If you know anything about cooking a good steak, you know that you must put a good “sear” on both sides of the meat. It creates a barrier to hold in all the flavorful juices and helps to keep the meat from drying out.

          When our conscience is seared it also creates a barrier. That barrier holds inside the destructive sin that brings death and darkness and hinders the light of God’s word from entering in.

          When Jesus confronted them with His profound statement “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” the candle of their spirit burned bright and exposed their sin. They dropped the rocks that they were so eager to throw and turned away from their sin because of their conscience convicting them.

          James says the Word of God is like a mirror.

James 1:22-24 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

          When our conscience is confronted with the truth, it will always make us look at our self, as if in a mirror. It will point to what is right, true, and just, as well as what is wrong and needs to be changed. If we willfully and continually violate our conscience, it becomes seared, desensitized, and numb. The more it is seared, the more indistinct the voice of our spirit becomes, and being led by the Spirit becomes increasingly difficult. It is an extremely dangerous place to be.

Avoiding shipwrecks

        In 1 Timothy we see a powerful truth about faith, and how its function is tied directly to our conscience.

1 Timothy 1:19 (NIV) Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.

           You may be familiar with the term “shipwrecked faith”, but are you aware that this shipwrecked condition comes from a violation of conscience? Oh, how important it is to listen to our conscience! It is our direct line to the Holy Spirit.

          When our conscience is violated we lose peace, and carry around a strong sense of emptiness and conviction. Our heart is telling us that we have missed it, we have gotten off track, we have violated a Kingdom command. Our faith then becomes shaken, and our confidence in God’s ability and provision is compromised.

          We believe with the heart and the mind. If our heart is in perfect harmony with God, faith comes easy, but a violated conscience will not allow our own heart to believe. We may still agree with it and acknowledge it in our mind, but in our heart, we don’t have the ability to believe because of a violated conscience. Look at what John says about how our heart works.

1 John 3:20-22 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

          Our confidence in God comes from knowing in our heart that we are in good standing with God. When we walk in willful disobedience, we try to function outside of kingdom principles and cast away our confidence.

Hebrews 10:35,36 (NKJV) Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

          To violate our conscience and not address its conviction is to cast away our confidence in the King, and our faith becomes shipwrecked. Our clear conscience keeps our faith ship sailing smooth.

 Class #4

The Righteousness of God. Defining Righteousness

          In most dictionaries, righteousness means right conduct. It describes behavior that is characterized by accepted standards of virtue and morality. In the Bible, righteousness is the condition of being in right relationship or right standing with the Lord. The thing that blinds people to a true understanding of righteousness is confusion about how we become right in the sight of God.

          It is commonly thought that our actions, conduct, and behavior determine God’s judgment of our righteousness. That is simply not true. We are not made right in God’s eyes by what we do, but by accepting what Jesus did on the cross, and acknowledging who we are in Him. Righteousness is not about what we do, it’s about who we are. We are new creatures. WE ARE SONS!

          The righteousness of God is what gains us access to God’s presence. Not the righteousness of the law which is by works, but the free gift of righteousness which comes by faith. To approach God requires a righteousness equal to His own. Any vestige of sin would not be able to stand in His presence. The greatest benefit we have from the righteousness of God is our ability to stand in His presence and have intimate relationship with Him.

          Righteousness is a gift. We can’t earn it, and we certainly don’t deserve it on the merit of our performance. It must be received by faith. Righteousness is obtained by what we believe, not by what we do. If we embrace the gift of righteousness and believe that it truly has made us right in God’s sight, it begins to change our behavior. Our conduct begins to line up with the truth and it produces the fruit of holiness in our lives without straining and striving to “do better” to produce our own righteousness and holiness.

          Failing to understand this truth is at the root of all guilt and condemnation. Satan’s only entrance into our lives is through sin. If we understand our right standing with God on the basis of what Jesus did for us, and not by our performance, then Satan’s power to condemn is gone. Those who live with feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness are not believing in God’s gift of righteousness, but are looking to their own works to obtain right standing with God. This will never work. It will only bear the fruit of frustration and produce more guilt, shame, and condemnation.

          Righteousness can’t be produced by works, it can only be obtained by submitting to it, by believing in it.

Romans 10:1-4 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

          To submit to righteousness means that we must believe that what God said about us is true. We must believe that He looks at us as if we have never sinned. That belief is established by how we act. Unfortunately, we have a problem acting like we have never sinned because we know we have. We see our ability to sin and fail and it makes us believe that we are sinners and failures. We look at our actions and consider our past and we walk by sight and not by faith in what God has done for us.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (AMP) For we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises

          God wants us to live with no consciousness of sin. He wants us to live as though sin never existed. He made us equal to His righteousness because He loves us and wants relationship with us. He gave us the ability to approach Him unveiled, unashamed, righteous, and holy IN HIS SIGHT! For righteousness to become a reality, we must become righteous, holy, and blameless IN OUR SIGHT. This can only be accomplished through faith, no amount of striving to “be right, or do good” will produce it.

          We are born with a sin nature because of Adam. A sin nature has a strong voice. It is always saying, “You are a sinner, you are going to fail, you are not worthy, you are not righteous, and there is no way you can be.” When we listen to that voice we become alive to it, and then we become a slave to it. We have no power over something we are a slave to. We must learn to die to this sin nature so that we may live unto righteousness.

Romans 6:8-11 (NIV) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Class #5

The Righteousness of God. The Mystery of the Two Natures

          When making reference to the “nature” of something, it refers to its inherent fundamental qualities. In the case of mankind, his nature is the hereditary physical and spiritual characteristics that drive his thoughts and actions and influences the direction of his life.

          God’s original design was for man to have the nature and image of God.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

          When Adam sinned, his nature changed, and the image of God in man was lost. Now fallen man had the nature and image of the devil. The nature and image of God is love, the nature, and image of the devil is carnal, prideful, and selfish. They are polar opposites.

          Man went from being love (God’s image) to needing love (selfish, self-centered). He lost his dominion and authority and he lost his created purpose which was to manifest/reflect the image of God. He was cut off from the Holy Spirit and lost the peace that kept him in perfect unity with the Father. His intimacy with the God was compromised and now his fellowship with his creator was only available from a distance, it was almost non-existent. He stepped out of the kingdom of light and into the kingdom of darkness. He chose the “kingdom of me” over the Kingdom of God and it produced a separation in relationship.

          This wasn’t just a sad day for Adam, but for all mankind, for every human being born on this earth is born into sin and death because of Adam’s sin.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned.

          We are born with a fallen, carnal nature by no fault of our own. God knew this, so He sent Jesus to pay the price that no man could pay. He redeemed man from sin and death and restored the possibility of the nature and image of God back to mankind. For man to enjoy this restoration of the nature and image of God he must be born of Adam, (natural birth) and born of the Spirit. (born again)

John 3:5-7 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

          We are, by default, born of the first Adam, born with a fallen, corrupt, and carnal nature. When we are born again, we suddenly have a new nature on the scene that is diametrically opposed to the old carnal nature. Now we have the chore of stewarding these two opposite natures. This is the biggest challenge that faces us in our Christian walk because we were never created to live with two natures. We were created to have the nature and image of God.

          We find in scripture a description of the two natures and the results of yielding to each.

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

          We see here that yielding to one nature produces death, and yielding to the other produces life and peace. At first glance, we see the obvious choice, life and peace. It seems so simple, yet the obvious choice is not the easy choice.

Galatians 5:16-18 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

          There is a tug of war inside of us, a great battle going on between our two natures. Each nature operates according to very different spiritual laws. Because of this opposition within us, we find ourselves not doing the things that we know to be right. The apostle Paul saw this struggle in his own life and ministry and writes about it in his letter to the Roman church.

Romans 7:15-17 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

          Notice Paul’s perspective here. He identifies himself with the new man, the born-again man. He views the fallen man as a completely different person, to the point that when he sees sin rearing its ugly head in his life, he says; “it is no longer I that sins.” He sees it as a different person committing the act of sin. Paul refuses to identify with the fallen nature, instead, he chooses to embrace his new identity which is the righteousness of God.

          Paul’s response to the new nature dictates his response to the old nature. Most folks have that backwards. They allow the old carnal man, (that should be dead) to dictate how they respond to God’s amazing gift of righteousness. Paul understood that the man he used to be, is not the man he now is. Look at Romans 6 again in the Message;

Romans 6:2 (Message) If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?

          The place we used to be, is not the place we belong. Pack up and leave that old house for good! Sin will always call us back to live in the place we were redeemed from, but when we know who we are NOW, we can’t be seduced by who we WERE. We need to let who we are get bigger in our heart than who we were. When we settle that in our life, transformation and fulfillment will follow.

“When you know who you are, you can’t be seduced by who you were.”

          If you sin, how do you respond to it? Do you look at the act like it wasn’t even you who did it? Do you say to yourself, and to God, “that wasn’t me, that is not who I am. I thank you Lord for opening my eyes, I am the righteousness of God in Christ, and I thank you Lord that you see me as holy in your sight. I thank you for fathering me and showing me who I am in you, for producing the fruit of holiness in my life so that I don’t stumble”? This is what “confession of sin” should look like according to the New Testament. To confess means to say the same thing about it that God says. Say what God says about you and it will change your desires, your behavior, your thought processes, and eventually, YOUR IMAGE.

          I think most of us respond to sin by being disappointed in ourselves, crying out to God for forgiveness, weeping and wailing and filled with regret that we missed it again. We become ashamed, disgusted with ourselves, condemning ourselves, and judging ourselves unworthy, unrighteous, and unqualified. We open the door to condemnation and turn inward instead of running toward God. We respond from the place of the dead man, identifying ourselves with the sin and therefore giving it power over our lives to bring us into slavery. This response to sin opens the door for the Devil’s tricks and torments. It reactivates the law of sin and death in your life.

          It’s all about perspective. Seeing ourselves from the position of sin prevents us from realizing who we are created to be. It sends a message that we are not righteous and Christ’s sacrifice was not enough. It is an affront to the work of the cross and a denial of your position in Christ as a child of the living God and a citizen of His Kingdom.

          The Jews at Rome had this same problem. Look what Paul says about it:

Romans 10:2-4 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

          Righteousness must be submitted to. It has nothing to do with our performance, it has everything to do with what we believe, and who we believe. This is the righteousness of faith. Righteousness has already been established by Jesus Christ, there is nothing we can do to make it more or less. If we respond from a place of guilt and condemnation it says that we don’t believe, or don’t understand, that the cross was enough to make us right before the Father. We say in our heart that Christ has to come from heaven and be sacrificed again and be raised from the dead again because the last time he did was not quite enough.(Romans 10:6-7) This is the response of the fallen nature, the one we must put to death.

          The response of the new nature is one of faith and life, declaring the great work that Christ has done in you. It responds as a righteous son, a worthy heir with head held high in gratitude for the completed work of the cross. It responds by running to the Father and taking the seat beside Him which was prepared for you before you were born. It responds with the truth that “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!”

Romans 6:22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Class #6

The Righteousness of God. Free from Sin

Righteousness has a Voice

Romans 10:6-13 (NKJV) But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

          Righteousness has a voice, a specific way of speaking. There are laws that govern the way righteousness is expressed verbally. If we adhere to these laws it builds a stronghold of faith and we become established in righteousness. This, in turn, produces the fruit of holiness in our lives.

          Notice in the above passage that the first thing righteousness does is to NOT SAY in your heart. Words are not used in this instance but our thoughts and actions tell what we are saying in our heart.

           When we act like sin still has a hold on us, that it still has a stain, a voice, a judgment, and an impact, we act as if the sacrifice Jesus made was not enough. This is garden variety unbelief. It stops the grace of God from molding and shaping us into His image. Notice, this is done without speaking a word, simply thinking we are less than what God paid for, saying in our heart that we are not worthy (condemnation), believing we are still sinners (shame), thinking we are worthy of judgment (guilt). This is the very definition of having a sin consciousness. This is the same consciousness of sin they had in the Old Testament because the blood of bulls and goats could not take away their sins.

Hebrews 10:2-4 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

          The good news is that the blood of Christ CAN take away our sins, and HAS taken away our sins. Past, present and future! Glory to God! He took our sins to the grave AND LEFT THEM THERE! We should do the same, becoming dead indeed to sin, leaving our old man buried with Christ.

Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

          To “reckon” means to think, or imagine. How we think about ourselves determines how we act and how we speak. When our actions and words speak against righteousness, it produces a sin consciousness and is an affront to the work of the cross.

          When it comes to operating in faith, it is just as important to know what NOT to say, as it knowing what we SHOULD SAY. Faith always has a voice, a specific language. When we align our speech with the language of faith it makes our faith active, alive and fruitful. It activates grace and all of its transforming power in your life.

          The importance of our words are stressed throughout the entire bible. We have the same type of creative ability that God has. In fact, we are co-creators with Him. He has given us the building blocks, the raw material if you will, of His word. When we put His word in our mouth we release creative power.

          The righteousness of faith only speaks what God has said about us. It only speaks of our Son-ship, our righteousness, our position as an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ. It speaks of us being holy and blameless children of the King. It doesn’t even acknowledge the old dead man. Not with our thoughts, not with our actions, and certainly not with our words. Look at this passage a little closer;

Romans 10:8-12 But what does it say?The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

          What does the righteousness of faith say? …THE WORD! Specifically, THE WORD OF FAITH.

          We have made Romans 10:9,10 the “go to” scriptures that we share with people when we are convincing them to give their life to the Lord. Unfortunately, we have reduced this to just praying a prayer to go to heaven someday. When we read the entire passage, we see that it is not talking about saving us from hell, but saving us from the law of sin and death. Its emphasis is more about us living a transformed life than it is going to heaven. Look at verse 10 again.

Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.

          We are capable of believing ourselves into actually living righteous and holy. Not by doing, and not doing. Not by works, and struggling to live right, but by submitting to the finished work of Christ. We must start where He finished and believe Him to produce the fruit of holiness in our lives, even in the face of sin

          If we really believe that what God said is true, we will confess that it is true, and this leads to salvation. Salvation from what? From sin and death, from the carnal nature!

          Yes, we are saved from hell, but the entire book of Romans is about living unto righteousness and being free from sin and its effects. It is about being alive to God and embracing the work of the cross. It’s about us becoming who God created us to be. It’s about us being transformed into His image.

          How does this transformation take place? How do we die to sin and come alive to righteousness? By speaking righteousness, by the spirit of faith, and with the power of words!

          Before we learn what, and how to speak, think about this:

          What is a word? Why are words so powerful? Why, according to Proverbs 18:21, is death and life in the power of the tongue?

“A word is a verbal or written expression that carries ideas and creates IMAGES. The very nature of the word shapes the image that it produces.”

          If I say; “Black Labrador Retriever with a red collar,” I just put a specific image in your head. You took what I said, you processed it through your memory and experience, and it produced a specific thought/picture in your mind. It produced an image!

 The word of God produces the image of God! When we keep God’s word before our eyes, in our heart, and in our mouth, we become CO-CREATORS with God, producing His image in us which is our original created design.

          We must have a preconceived image already present in our thinking for images to form. Unfortunately, we have so much memory and experience of our fallen, carnal nature that these images tend to dominate our thought life and make up our minds in advance that this is who we really are. Jesus didn’t die for us to remain the same and someday go to heaven, He died so that we could be transformed into His IMAGE, so that God’s original purpose for mankind could be restored in you.

          If we read the Bible, keep it before our eyes and in our thoughts, we will have a good idea of what the image of God is because Jesus was the express image of God.

          The whole reason He was able to redeem man from sin was that He was the Image of God.

Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

          We see in this verse that Jesus was not only the express image of God, but He upheld all things by His word. This means that, among other things, the image of the Father was upheld in Him by the power of His words. This brings us full circle, back to our original text in Romans 10. We looked at what the righteousness of faith doesn’t say, now let’s look at what the righteousness of faith DOES say.

Choosing a Master

Romans 6:19-22 (NIV) I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

          We see in this scripture that being a slave to righteousness, in other words, serving the master of righteousness, yields the fruit of holiness without you trying to be holy! Glory to God! This way the Lord gets all the glory, and no one can lay claim to being a “Super Christian.”

          We are to be DEAD to sin, but ALIVE to righteousness. The one we choose to serve (verse 19), sin or righteousness, causes us to be dead to the other. If we are alive to sin, we are “free” from the control and influence of righteousness. The results are death according to Romans 6:20. However, if we present ourselves as an offering to serve righteousness, we are free from the control of our carnal sin nature (verse 22).

          We cast our vote for who will be our master by our confession. Confession means to agree with, to acknowledge, to say the same thing as. We must acknowledge and agree with what the Bible says about us if righteousness is to be our master.

          Righteousness must be appropriated by faith, not by works. The righteousness of the law DOES, but the righteousness of faith SPEAKS. The law is about doing, whereas faith is about believing and speaking.

2 Corinthians 4:13 (NKJV) And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,

          It’s not enough for us to understand the concept of righteousness and mentally agree with it, we must open our mouths and SPEAK IT. LET THE REDEEMED OF THE LORD SAY SO!

Psalm 107:2 (NKJV) Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

          It doesn’t matter how many books we’ve read on righteousness, or how many sermons we have heard. We must believe it and speak it for it to become a reality in our lives.

          If we sin and fall short of the glory of God, we must not respond like Adam hiding and blaming others for our mistakes. Instead, we run to God and say something like; “I thank you Father for exposing that act of sin and helping me to see that it is not who I am. I thank you Father for paying the price for sin and clothing me in your righteousness. I thank you for delivering me out of the kingdom of darkness and translating me into the kingdom of your Son Jesus. I am free from sin and death and I thank You for Your great mercy. Where would I be if you didn’t love me and Father me? I am so thankful that you redeemed me.”

          When we respond to sin like that, God’s grace acts as an etching tool to mold and shape us into His image. We are saying in our heart that we submit to His transforming work of grace and we believe that He is working on us to produce the fruit of holiness in our life, removing even the desire to sin. This is how we become righteous conscious.

          When the righteousness of faith speaks like this; it shuts the door in the enemy’s face and prevents him from seducing us into condemnation, guilt, and shame, producing a sin consciousness.

          Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters. We must be consistent in the confession of who we are in Christ, even in the face of falling short. Habitual declaration of our right standing with God gives no entrance to the enemy’s deception.

          When we get attacked by the devil, he is never after the NEW man because he is no match for someone who knows who they are IN CHRIST. He is after the “OLD” man (that should be dead) so he can resurrect old things, old habits, and old thoughts, to disturb the new man, and trick him into giving up his dominion, keeping him from flourishing and producing the fruit of holiness. This is what happened to Adam.

          Don’t let a moment of weakness, or a misstep, or a hundred missteps, break the habit of your declaration of righteousness. Hold fast to your confession and God is faithful to continue and complete His transforming work in you. Your confession of righteousness keeps the potter’s wheel spinning, and His shaping hand of grace on your life.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

          In conclusion: God has forever removed the barrier of sin. He has, through the offering of His Son Jesus, gained us access to His transforming power by making us the Righteousness of God IN CHRIST. He did this because He loves us. He did this because we are so valuable to Him. He did this so that we may be restored back to our created purpose, HIS IMAGE.

Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Class #7

Free from the Law

          Understanding the purpose of Old Testament Law is the beginning of understanding your imputed righteousness in Christ.

          I’m going to make a statement that may be foreign to most Christians.

 “God never gave man the Law to keep, He gave man the Law to break!”

          Does that sound contradictory or confusing? It shouldn’t. No man in history was able to keep the Law, except Jesus Christ. Never has any man succeeded in making himself acceptable to God by keeping the Law. Didn’t God know this? Of course He did. So why did God give us a Law that we are unable to keep? So that we would come face to face with the fact that we are incapable of doing anything right or just apart from His grace.

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.

          The Law exposes our true nature apart from God. It teaches us that we need something far greater than our own strength and will to please God. The Law helps us to see our inadequacies so that we can be honest with ourselves and say: “I am a sinner through and through, and of myself I can do nothing to please a holy God.”

          The Law was not given with the expectation of us keeping it. It was given in the full knowledge that we would break it; and when we have broken it so completely as to be convinced of our absolute need for a Savior, then the Law has served its purpose. It has fulfilled the role of a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, so the He may Himself fulfill it.

Galatians 3:24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 

          We are all sinners by nature because of Adam’s transgression. The Law makes that sinful nature manifest. When a holy Law is applied to a sinful man, then that sinfulness comes out in full display making the fallen nature of that man manifest.

          God knows who we are. the trouble is, WE don’t know who we are. The Law brings us to a place where we see who we are apart from Him and shows us our utter helplessness and need for a Savior. If not for the Law we would never see how weak we are apart from Christ. We would continue in the futile pursuit of trying to please God with our own righteousness.

          The Law was given to make us lawbreakers, to expose our sin, not to the world, but to ourselves.

Romans 7:7-9 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

          We need to have our weaknesses proved to ourselves beyond a shadow of doubt. It is at that point we are able to understand our need for deliverance from the Law. We must be delivered from the Law to receive the free gift of the righteousness of God.

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

“The Law shows us our need to be free from it. Free from our own works of righteousness so that we can see our need to embrace the grace of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.”

Law vs. Grace

          In a nutshell, Law means that I do something for God. Grace means that God does something for me. If Law means that God requires something from me for it’s fulfillment, then grace means that He no longer requires it from me, but He provides it for me Himself.

          Where we fall into trouble is our tendency to live by Law. We are far more comfortable with a “quid pro quo,” mentality. Do this to receive that, receive something for doing something. This is rational and easy to wrap our head around, but it is not faith. Faith doesn’t come natural because with faith, we don’t have the ability to understand everything. We feel the need to do something to earn what we have been given.

Galatians 3:19-25  What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

          Once faith in Christ has come, we no longer have need of the Law. We then must transition from operating under the Law of sin and death, to the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 

          Old habits can be hard to break. We are born and raised under the Law of sin and death. Faith in Christ, in His imputed righteousness, in our change of status from slaves of sin to adopted children of God takes a concentrated effort. Learning to live by the new Law of the Spirit is a process. We are born into this new life as infants, and for us to mature properly and thrive under this new Law we must reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God by what Jesus did on the cross.

Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

          So why do we continue to try and live by the Law? Because we don’t understand that the Law was never intended for us to keep. It was intended to show us how futile our efforts are to keep it, and to expose our fallen nature to such a degree that our only option is to believe in our Savior.

JC

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