Track 1: The Word Is in Your Heart
Today let us dive into the foundation of righteousness. Judaism understood that the only way of being righteous and pleasing God by the law was by keeping the entire Mosaic Law without fail. No one had ever done that before Jesus. Jesus lived his entire life without sin, thereby fulfilling the righteous requirements of the Law.
The Apostle Paul explains, however, that before the the Mosaic Law was given, there was Abraham:
What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. (Romans 4:1-5)
In today’s Epistle reading, Paul goes into greater depth concerning the righteousness by faith:
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?
“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” (Romans 10:5-11)
What is Paul saying? Jesus, the word made flesh, is the answer to righteousness. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Do we know2 him? If we do, he is ever so close to us.
But how do we know him? Mary Magdalene knew Jesus as her deliverer and closest friend. She was the first person to witness his resurrection. But she did not yet grasp who Jesus was when she encountered him after the resurrection. Jesus said to her:
“Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
Jesus was her friend, She did not want to lose him to heaven. We cannot bring Jesus down from heaven to experience him on our terms.
The Apostle Thomas was very loyal to Jesus. He loved him so much and could not accept that he had died. It was not so much a question of faith for him as much as it was his profound sense of loss. How could his Lord and friend have died?Thomas wanted to bring back Jesus from the dead in the form that he knew him. But Jesus was no longer that person. He was now present to everyone who believed in him and understood his death and resurrection. All that was required now was faith in the risen Lord to satisfy all our needs, including our need for a right standing before God.
Do we know this Jesus? Do we know him in our hearts? Is he on our lips? Are we ready to give our testimony that we are sinners saved by grace? We have done nothing to deserve this great gift. We have simply joined the ranks of Abraham. We have believed God and he has reckoned it as righteousness.
The paalmist wrote:
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him,
and speak of all his marvelous works.
Glory in his holy Name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Search for the Lord and his strength;
continually seek his face. (Psalm 105:1-40)
Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth. But that does not tell us entirely who Jesus is. He wants to engrave his word in our hearts.
Track 2: Give Glory to God
Do you remember the phrase: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”? This phrase pretty much describes what the Prophet Elijah esperienced in the Old Testament. Elijah had humiliated the prophets of Baal in a contest to prove to the people who’s God was real. God had sent fire from heaven upon the altar that Elijah setup while the altar of Baal failed to ignite. Not only did the false prophets lose the contest, they also lost their lives. Reading from First Kings:
King Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. (1 Kings 19:1-3)
Hi=ow quickly had the scene changed fro Elijah:
At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:9-10)
In somewhat similar experience, Peter, on a lesser scale, pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory. It began when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea:
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:22-27)
Peter became excited when he realized that who he was seeing was Jesus and not a ghost:
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-32)
I only know of two people who have walked upon the water: Jesus and Peter. I never have, Have you? So perhaps we should not be too critical of Peter.What went wrong for Peter? What went wrong for Elijah? Reading again from First Kings:
God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:11-14)
Elijah thought he was alone, facing evil and his potential death. He had just won a major victory over the prophets of Baal, because God was with him. Where did he go wrong? Perhaps he took his eyes off of God and could only see his circumstances, which were grave.Surely this was the case with Peter. Perhaps Elijah, in his mind, hand taken credit for the victory over Baal. Pride gowa before a fall.
God was not finished with Elijah. We was not finished with Peter either. God’s ministry never ceases. To Elijah he said:
Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15-18)
Peter was bold, but Peter stumbled. He denied his Lord three times. Yet we remember that Jesus restored him. He became the rock and leader of the Early Church. His leadership and example has resonated down to this day.
God calls upon us to do his ministry, but it is his ministry, not ours. We cannot take credit for it. And when we stumble all is not lost. God still has a plan and he will continue to use us if we have a heart of repentance. So let us rejoice and leave all who we are and all that God has called us to do in the skillful hands of God.