Sermon 20~~~{The Lord our Righteousness}

“This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.”

Jer. 23:6

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.

Sermon Six Righteousness of Faith

The righteousness of the law given to Moses expected perfection. There was no allowance made for falling short. It was all about being perfect without interruption or intermission.

Wesley argues that righteousness of faith is different from its counterpart of the law. The law is perfect, it comes from the Lord and He is perfect. But we are not. Anyone who thinks they no longer sin is kidding themselves and Wesley points out the errors in this thinking. We are given the gift of faith and forgiveness, covered in a covenant of grace.

We don’t deserve salvation, we don’t deserve anything from the Lord. We are not entitled to anything. But He loves us so much, the whole world and everyone in it, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ. Righteousness of faith is the condition of justification and present and final salvation.

It has been described to me that to aim to be Christ like we actually have to aim. There is no gain in firing arrows at the floor if the target is on the fireplace. But we have to start somewhere. Some people won’t come to church because they think they aren’t ready enough, clean enough, good enough or worthy enough. If we are to reach out to people in this world, we have to somehow show that walking into church is just like putting a stamp on a letter and posting it. It in itself is an act of faith. The first step into a building, for some people, is a giant leap of faith. They don’t know what we will make of them or what they will make of us. There are so many barriers to that first initial step, our role is to not make ourselves a barrier too.

There is a swathe of moral relativism and being part of a church community does not change this. Perhaps we expect more of our pew partners, but why should we? Unless we walk in another’s shoes we can not know where they are at and what has brought them thus far.

John Wesley said at the end of the sermon:

Now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou
art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness,
and thy iniquities will I remember no more.”

In our English:

Now in this very second, this moment, and just as you are, yes you are a sinner so am I, but just like that, with all your stuff, all your backstory – believe, have faith in the gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ and He will be merciful and forgive your sins, and they will be forgotten. No need to hang onto old friends, shame & guilt, make new friends with LOVE.