Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
THE ABILITY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 JUNE 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Genesis 15:6)
Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
The ability of righteousness is something that we all should have. For if we believe in Jesus Christ, and live Christ-like lives, then God gives us the ability to accomplish far more than we could ever accomplish on our own. This is a promise.
Our rebirth, coupled with a righteous attitude toward God, allows us to receive this ability and use it.
Then why don't we all have it?
It's because we don't fully believe God's word, and we fail to recognize His ever presence.
This is the problem that Jacob had before he recognized God as truly being interested in him personally.
Jacob deceived his brother Esau once too often, and now he fears for his life and is sent away by his parents to his uncle's house in Mesopotamia to acquire a wife.
As we pick up this story in Genesis 28:10-17, Jacob is just leaving his parents’ home.
10. Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.
11. And he came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place.
12. And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
Jacob may have been physically tired from running away from his brother, but he was also spiritually tired from running away from God and His righteousness.
And he is now in a frame of mind to receive what God has been trying to tell him all his life.
God shows Jacob a vision of a ladder, a symbol of our ability to come to God, but which will still require our own effort.
And at the same time, God shows Jacob that there is a much easier way to communicate with God.
Note specifically that the vision shows the angels already in Jacob's presence, as they are in ours; for the angels first ascended upon the ladder, and then descended.
The angels are our prayer messengers, taking up our prayers to God, and bringing back answers.
13. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.
14. "Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15. "And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
Jacob surely had heard this promise of a nation coming forth from the descendants of Abraham, for it was given to both his father and grandfather before him.
And now it is being given to him also, as a direct revelation from God, so that he might truly believe.
We have been given a similar promise in Jesus Christ, but most of us go
around like Jacob: hearing it, but not receiving it. Thus we are weak, for our
ability comes with our belief and action upon it.
Until we come to that time in our lives when we are willing to recognize this fact, we will remain weak.
16. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it."
17. And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
The Lord is in this place, too!
And this, too, is the house of God; and the gate of heaven is in the word spoken in this place.
Our problem is that we don't fear or reverence God enough.
Our God is holy and righteous, and He desires us to truly try to be the same.
But we are not always willing to accept His terms.
We are not yet willing to give up our pet sins and remove our idol habits from our presence and from the presence of the Lord.
We are not the peacemakers we are called to be, for human being still war against each other and the animals, and we destroy God's beautiful earth, for selfish reasons.
As a society we keep going along with the crowd, for we fear being ridiculed if we take a stand against the evil things of this world.
And because of this, millions of our fellow human being, and billions of other animals suffer and die every year, because too few people are willing to take a stand against it.
Thus we are weak!
We say we can't do something, and we are correct; for we lack the strength and the ability to do it.
We lack the strength because we don't have the ability to overcome our problems.
And we lack the ability because we don't truly desire to be righteous.
Remember what we are told in Matthew 6:33.
33. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Jacob arrived at his time of recognition; have we?
People hurled all kinds of abuses at Jesus, yet He always held His peace; and in that example of righteous attitude, He encouraged His disciples to be strong, for He knew that they would have the ability to overcome all sorts of problems, if they listened to Him and followed His example.
Listen to what He tells us and His disciples in Matthew 10:24-33.
24. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.
25. "It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
Jesus is reminding us that Satan tried to supplant God, and failed; but we are not to do that.
There are some, however, who are like Satan. Knowing that they can't achieve to the example of God, they try to diminish God's Messiah to a lower position than themselves by referring to Him as Beelzebul, the Lord of the Flies, the demon god of Northern Palestine and Syria.
But Jesus says that if they call Him that, and if we truly believe in Him, it shouldn’t make any difference to us, even if they call us such things, too.
Our belief will give us the ability to overcome the abuses and persecutions.
26. "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
27. "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.
28. "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
29. "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
30. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31. "Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Does God care less about me and other bald people, because we have fewer hairs on our head to number?
Not at all!
He cares for us all, equally.
He also cares about the sparrows and the other creatures, and not one of them dies away from God's presence.
But we are of more value, not because God loves us more than His creatures, but because He has given us the ability to do His work.
Then why do we fear the people of this world who go against God and threaten us because we believe?
We had better fear God, who can condemn us to hell, than people who can only kill our body.
But most of these people we fear will not even come close to killing us; they usually only abuse us verbally.
Why don't we fear God enough to quit testing Him with our unrighteous ways?
How long do we think we can get away with flaunting our sins before God and the world, and have God ignore it?
Everything will be revealed.
32. "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
33. "But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."
If we haven't been doing what God wants us to do; if we have been fearing other people more than God; if we haven't turned away from our sinful lives; then today is the day to start afresh, and our Father who is in heaven will forgive us and give us the ability to overcome all sorts of trials and tribulations.
Believe this, for it is true!
Listen to what Paul tells us in Romans 5:12-19.
12. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned –
13. for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offence of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
Adam was the first man, and he was also the first to sin; and through him, sin and death entered into us.
And even though there was no Law until Moses, sin was still considered sin in the eyes of God, and thus all were responsible.
Do you remember what God told Cain in Genesis 4:7 before he killed Abel?
7. "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."
There was no law when God said this, but God still was willing to give Cain the ability to master the sin that enticed him, if he was willing to believe in Him and live a righteous life.
And the same promise is given to us, even after the Law was given, if we are willing to receive it.
Adam, the first man, was created not to die; but through sin he died.
Jesus was the first man born without sin, so that He would not have to die; but He willingly died for us – for our sins – so that we might live.
Jesus held steadfast to the righteousness of His Father even unto death.
Listen to Paul, as we continue with our Romans passage:
15. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
16. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
17. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation of all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
19. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Jesus Christ is our free gift of salvation, if we are willing to receive Him into our hearts.
On our own, we struggle so hard to accomplish something that may, or may not, work.
And we worry about the outcome.
But, we who believe are given the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we will have the ability to accomplish all things in Jesus Christ.
It's not the work we do to get there that counts; it’s the work we do with God that is pleasing to God.
It really is simple; all we have to do is believe, and we will be justified as being righteous, just as the Lord told Abraham in Genesis 15:6.
It isn't we who have to be obedient unto righteousness; but Jesus Christ, who was obedient to free us from our life of sin and death, justifies us as being righteous.
All we have to do is step out in faith, and do everything we can to do the will or our Father who is in heaven.
God will do all the rest and, in the process, give us our ability in His righteousness.
We just have to be willing to receive and act upon this gift.
Your Comments are welcome
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