Hijacking Jesus

passionhome“From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17, NIV).

It’s quite interesting to hear marginal Christians, the secular media, politicians, and liberal theologians describe Jesus’ essential message as one of tolerance without any expectation of change or conformance to his Father’s moral code and standards. In fact, the primary, essential, and original message of Jesus has almost been drowned out completely and hijacked (to divert from the original message, destination, or purpose) by a chorus of voices demanding that the Church of Jesus Christ cease its stand for righteousness. Jesus certainly came to this earth to die for the sins of mankind because of love, but Jesus’ first message was not tolerance or love. His first message to the world was, “repent” which means to change your mind with a corresponding change of behavior. People today want the love and favor of God but they do not want the message and mandate of repentance that goes with the broader message of the gospel. Jesus has been hijacked so that people can live how they want to live, justify that lifestyle, and decry any divine accountability for living that way.

Take, for example, the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Jesus knew this woman was being used to try to trap him into saying or doing something that the Pharisees could use as a basis to accuse him. Jesus’ response is amazing but it also reveals the connection between his love, compassion, and the need to embrace his requirement of repentance. He challenged her accusers to go ahead and throw the stones and let the one without sin begin the execution. Of course, one by one they withdrew starting with the oldest among them. Jesus then issued the powerful statement together with a caveat: “Then neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:31). Notice he did not say, “I don’t condemn you and feel free to sin even more.” This is the missing element. Yes, there is grace, love, and mercy for the sinner – for all of us, but there is also the command to “sin no more” not to sin all the more. In one powerful moment Jesus gave this woman God’s compassion, God’s correction, and God’s power to make the necessary changes, for the Lord never gives us a command without giving us the power to keep that command.

In this current environment where what is wrong is called right and what is right is called wrong (Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”), the Church needs to stand up boldly and declare that we do preach the love and mercy of God but we must also follow Jesus’ example and preach repentance as well, which means to stop the offending behavior (stop the behavior that is offending God’s heart and His Word). To preach mercy and love without repentance is to hijack both the message and mission of Jesus Christ and to totally misrepresent the truth (the misrepresentation of the truth is also known as a lie). In the end it is not loving or compassionate to let people believe a lie to their own destruction. The handwriting is on the wall and the moral trajectory has become clear – our society more and more is rejecting the clear teachings of Scripture and choosing a philosophy where everyone does “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Yes, it would be less controversial and we could save ourselves from further name calling and vilification if we just say the “ship has sailed” on opposing the moral slide of this nation, but the consequences of this would be to hijack Jesus ourselves, dishonor His sacrifice, and then render ourselves completely irrelevant in the process.

The Force of Righteousness

“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17, NIV). “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Romans 3:21, NIV). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

One of the most life-changing revelations for the believer is to discover that God through Jesus has taken our sin and given to us the gift of righteousness. You will often hear people quote the Scriptures that declare that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and there is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). But these Scriptures actually refer to righteousness that is before and without Christ. They refer to our fleshly attempts to earn our own righteousness, not receive his, and therein lies the difference. When Jesus told the people their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (who by the way were purported to be the most moral people of their day) he was speaking of a righteousness that can only come from God and cannot be earned by human effort (Matthew 5:20).

Righteousness can be defined as the God-given ability to stand in the presence of a holy God without a sense of guilt, shame, inferiority, or condemnation. We understand from Scripture that there is no way that this can happen in and of ourselves. That means that the only way to tap into the righteousness of God is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It also means that on the day you received Christ you were “made righteous” not based on your past, present or future behavior, but based on the right standing you have been given through Jesus Christ.

More often than not, people confuse righteousness and holiness. Righteousness is a gift and force of the born again spirit that pushes us toward right thinking, speaking, and acting, but holiness refers to the result of that force on our lives. Holiness is separation from sin and separation unto God for his purposes. We are not righteous because we live holy (for that would be a gospel of works), we have the capacity to live holy because the force of sin has been neutralized by the blood of Jesus and we have been given the gift of righteousness. This means that when we sin as Christians, we do so by choice, and not because we had to or because the Devil made us. No, the dominant force in the believer’s life is now righteousness and not sin. This is a great gift but it comes with great personal responsibility and a great need for personal revelation.

The more you understand righteousness the more your thinking and conduct will change. Rejoice and be glad because a great exchange has been made (your sin for his righteousness). You don’t become righteous when you get to heaven one day. You have already been made righteous through the grace, love, and mercy of God. Follow along in the coming weeks to discover just how powerful the righteousness of God is in the life of the believer. Learn to stop saying, “I’m just a black-hearted sinner” and start saying boldly, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” and don’t stutter, make excuses, or apologize for the gift of God.