God is Righteous

Sistine Chapel, fresco Michelangelo,
Sistine Chapel, fresco Michelangelo, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”

Psalm 89:14

I have devoted my Thursday posts recently to an examination of the four basic attributes of God that form the basis for our understanding of the gospel.  So far we have seen that:

Today, I would like to look at the third major attribute of God— He is Righteous or Just. In English the terms righteousness and justice are different words, but Wayne Grudem points out that in the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament, “there is only one word group behind these two terms.” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.203)  He goes on to say that “God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.” (p.203)

The word “righteous” often invokes negative feelings in people.  We all know people who are self-righteous and look down on others.  Most of us also know people who try to impose their own standards of righteousness on other people.  We often refer to these kinds of people as being “self-righteous.” Thankfully, the righteousness of God has nothing to do with either of these kinds of people.  When we say that God is righteous, we mean that He cannot make a rule or a promise and then not keep it.  In other words, God is always faithful to do what He says that He will do.  This attribute of God helps us to understand the penal or legal aspect of the gospel.  To see what I mean it may be helpful to read Genesis 2:16-17 and 3:1-24.

In Gen 2:16-17 God gave Adam permission to eat from every tree that was in the garden except for one, which is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  This is a simple and straightforward command.  At the end of v.17, God established a penalty for breaking this command, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  This is a simple and straightforward command; don’t eat of this one particular tree because if you do you are going to die.  For God to be righteous, He must carry out the penalty that He attached to this law.  In other words, Adam and Eve had to die after they ate the fruit or God would not be righteous.  God cannot simply overlook or ignore the rule.  God’s righteousness compels Him to carry out the penalty for sin and this is exactly what He does in Genesis 3:13-19 when announces the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A.W. Tozer points out that God’s righteousness would seem to “destroy the hope of justification for the returning sinner.” (The Knowledge of the Holyp.94) This raises the age-old question that can only be answered by the gospel “How does God spare the wicked and yet maintain His own righteousness?”  To answer this question we must look to the cross of Jesus Christ, where the full measure of God’s righteousness and justice was poured out upon Jesus as He bore the full penalty for our sin.  In the cross, we can fully see both the righteousness and grace of God being displayed.  This is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Come back next week, when we look at God’s grace.

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Part 3: The Cure for Anxiety

Anxiety - Stress ... Time management vital for...
(Photo credit: marsmet481)

A couple of days ago I started a series of posts dealing with the issue of anxiety.  The response to these posts have been overwhelming and goes to show how great an issue this is in our society.  As I shared on Monday, according to Dr. Robert Leahy, “The average American child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950’2.”   In the first two installments of this series we looked at how:

  • Part 1:  The Soul Corroding Acid of Anxiety – In this post we looked at how anxiety is caused by a limited worldview, a low theology, an overestimation of our own ability and underestimating God’s love.
  • Part 2: The Curse of Anxiety – In yesterday’s post we looked at how anxiety traps us in a vicious cycle that never ends up resolving the underlying problems.  It erodes our faith, causing us to trust more in our own abilities than in God’s providential care and how it isolates us from the people who love us the most— including God, our families and our fellow church members.

Today, I would like to turn our attention to the cure for anxiety.  How do we manage and overcome the issues of stress, anxiety and worry in our lives?  I would like to suggest that the Bible points us to at least three steps we can take to counter anxiety in our lives:

  1. Learn to trust God by getting to know Him better this my seem simple but the truth of the matter is that often anxiety in the life of the believer is a sign that we don’t know God as well as we should.  The better we know God the more we will understand His ways and His purposes.  But even more importantly, the more we know Him the better we will learn to trust Him.  Specifically, I would suggest that we focus on understanding His knowledge, His providence, and His ways.  We need to know that God knows what we are going through.  In Matthew 6:31-32 Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all of these things, and Your Father knows that you need them all.” I underlined that last phrase because it is a key to overcoming anxiety.  God knows where you are, what you are going through and what you need.  No matter what is happening in your life right now, GOD KNOWS!  But these verses also teach us that GOD CARES.  He cares for His people by providing what they need in life.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:30, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…Therefore, do not be anxious…” God knows, God Cares, and God provides.  Learn to trust Him by getting to know Him better and you will be able to overcome the issue of anxiety in your life.
  2. Make the things of God the number on priority in your life– far too often we experience anxiety simply because our priorities are out of line with God’s will and purposes.  As human beings we have a tendency to focus an inordinate amount of our attention and concern on the temporal things of this world, and not on eternity.  I have heard people say that someone is “Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” but my experience is just the opposite.  I have served as a Pastor for nearly twenty years in three different churches and my observation is that far too many Christians are “too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good.”  If we would start setting our hearts and affections more on the things of God, I am convinced that our levels of anxiety would decrease.  That is why at the end of this passage in Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Anxiety will always fill the heart of the person who is trapped in the temporal concerns of this world, but peace and contentment will come to those who “seek first the Kingdom of God.”
  3. Remember who holds tomorrow– One of the most important lessons that every believer needs to learn is that God is in control!  There is no reason to worry about the future when you know who holds the future.  So much of our anxiety is caused by a fear of the future.  I shared with you in one of the earlier posts that last month I spent several days in the Intensive care unit with issues relating to my blood pressure.  When I went into the hospital I was having stroke like symptoms — my entire left side went numb and I could not control my hand or leg.  My speech was slurred and for a moment all I could think about was “This is it!”  My older brother had a series of strokes before he died last year and I was certain that things were going to go very badly.  Honestly, while I was laying on the bed in the emergency room waiting for the ambulance to come and take me to Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, KY all I could think about was what it might be like if I did not recover my speech and control of my left side.  I had watched my brother struggle with similar issues and suddenly my future was looking bleak.  I was very scared about what the next days, weeks, months and years would hold in store. The tests showed that this was not a stroke and that the entire problem was created by my blood pressure, which is now being controlled by medication.  But for those few days that I was in the intensive care unit, I learned first hand what anxiety about the future means.  But I also developed a deeper level of trust for the one who holds my future.  The key is this, “None of us can control our future, so we must learn to trust the one who does.”  God is in control and He holds all of our tomorrows.  The more we learn to trust Him today, the less anxiety we will have about tomorrow.

These three posts have attempted to lay out what Jesus has to say about anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34.  I am certain that there is much more that could be said about this subject and would like to invite you to share some of your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.