“This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.”
Wesley finds himself once more in the middle of a religious dispute. He really does seem to take the middle road on many doctrinal issues. He has a logical, rationalising mind that methodically looks at all the evidence and then responds in a measured way.
He first speaks of how disagreements turn away people from the church. And in turning away from the church turn away from the Lord: sinners openly wanting to know Christ and yet constrained to “weep secretly” because of arguments amongst denominations over this or that.
The “this” in sermon 20 is indeed a page turner. The truth of “The Lord our righteousness” Wesley argues enters deep into the nature of Christianity and supports the framework of it. Wesley is shocked that not all who follow Christ would agree on this issue. The righteousness of Christ is in the first instance a divine righteousness – He is the Son of God, equal in divinity with Him. Secondly there was his righteousness as human, this is the internal and external righteousness that he carried with him as human.
I only heard the word impute in a sermon three weeks ago and didn’t know its meaning. On locating the definition I spent some time with all the different meanings and especially on the obsolete meaning to charge a person with a fault but that meaning is in the context of another sermon where sin was imputed. A charge of sin is against all of us.
I therefore find interesting this alternate idea of imputation, that of vicariously attributing a quality that belongs to one person on another. I think that if God could not look on me without looking through the eyes of Christ, i.e. through the righteousness of Christ because God cannot be where there is sin. Christ is our bridge, our righteous bridge that allows the conversation flow once more.
I recall when someone came one time talking of being sanctified and righteous I got awfully muddled because he was a nice guy and all that but if we are in this broken world we are sinners, due in first part to the original sin in the Garden of Eden and then because our human nature gives in so easily to temptation.
Last week I was walking with a bunch of people who wanted to go into an amusement arcade (gambling den) for me and my past I so did not want to enter. I subscribe to the Methodist non gambling rule because a) it suits me not to gamble and b) if I were to I would be ruined. Nevertheless I entered in and stood in this tempting arena, I stood steadfast and sure, praying in my heart for continued deliverance from the surrounding temptations. Others were at home in the surroundings and joined in with the gambling. One person noticed my detachment and suggested a walk, which I gladly took thanking the Lord for protection.
I am not full of righteousness, every day is battle with the temptations that lurk in the cobwebs of my mind. But in Christ is the victory, in Christ I am seen by the Father as righteous because Christ died for my sin and fully atoned for all of my sin. He took all my guilt, all my shame, all my back story and it died with Him on the Cross and when he burst from the grave I was set free, free to follow Him all the days of my life.
Now try to get me to say that under duress and you’ll get maybe John 3:16 if you are lucky.
Wesley when he wrote his sermons wrote in plain English for his time. When I write mine I write them in plain English for my time. But the sentiment, the kernal of truth, the truth that is indestructible is very much unchanging. In recording this sermon I was reminded of the first time I attempted to question someone on their theology. They had spoken from a platform of authority that “God didn’t have to be good, he chose to be good.” In my head I was thinking “No, God is good, it is one of his character traits, he didn’t choose it any more than I can choose not to have inherent addiction issues.” He is good, God is good all the time. Of course I didn’t get an answer from the person except to question the theological proclivities that I had and was passed off as an experiential comment rather than his eternal nature.
The doctrine of imputed righteousness is from the Reformed tradition, Wesley and Methodism does not believe we can state our righteousness in the present moment, in our situations so full of temptation and sin. We are made acceptable to the sight of God only through Christ and the moment our eye gets distracted we are back in the world. A friend said at the weekend, we can only get through “xxx” with our eyes fixed solely on Him. True words spoken.