In Romans 6, Paul, in light of who we are through our identification with the death and resurrection of Christ, exhorts us to " offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." Again Paul explains to the believer that we "have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."
Christians have a different status with respect to sin and righteousness than the world. Mankind is caught in eternal struggle between his desire to do good and his capacity for evil .
We are altogether free with respect to sin and free to live as righteous people. BUT it seems that so often and certainly as young believers we completely miss the heart of God as to the heart of righteousness.
What Righteousness is Not
Success vs. Failure
Is righteousness defined as the freedom to say no to addiction so that you can save your money better than the proverbial Jones'? Certainly, no longer following youthful lusts is a big plus, but many, I dare say most, unbelievers have the same life pattern too. We experiment as kids, and then, when the responsibilities of life come upon us, we grow up and put childish things behind us. For those who have a history of failure in life or were born in poverty, freedom from oppression and poverty seems like the promised land, and the temptation to call this liberation the freedom Christ promises is very emotionally seductive. Succeeding in life is still not yet righteousness. Success is better than failure no doubt, but Jesus didn't set us free from failure to make us alive to success. Jesus died to set us free from our sinful nature to make us alive to righteousness. So what is righteousness?
I could go on and on about confusing the American dream with the promised land. The cry of the urban poor and the global realities call us to a righteousness far greater than just being free to succeed. To hear the call to righteousness, we must put the call to succeed behind us and press on to the upward call.
Making the Good Confession with our Words
Is being Righteous maintaining our good confession? Bob, at Mr Steadfast, posted a few days back on the value of our testimony that "Jesus is the Son of God". This testimony is a great and valuable pearl. The testimony is a light to the world. But is this the light we are to shine? At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, from which we get the call to be lights to the world. Jesus warns us that confessing "Jesus is Lord" is not in and of itself a commendable service to His cause. Ain't that the truth!!! Jesus closes by saying, "He who hears THESE commandments and puts them into practice..this one is like the man who built his house on the rock." So to be righteous and to present ourselves to God as His instruments does not mean to carry the confession in our words. To talk the talk can be obnoxious to others, and to God too, without a presentation of righteousness. So witnessing with our words is not the distinctive quality of righteousness that can be considered presenting ourselves to God as His instrument of righteousness.
What about shunning the culture around us?
I have an on-going discussion with G. over at Blue Goldfish. I like System of a Down and Morrissey and I wish we could play music like both in church. I am a total music junky. I am downloading my Stiff Little Finger's CDs onto my iPod as I write. (I am switching over to "The Buzz*&^%" as I write.). So am I worldly because I like the cultural artifacts of the world. Paul says it is nothing to enjoy the by-products of idol worship. Paul literally says it is no big deal to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Think about that. We eat the Lord's Supper. This symbol is holy and to some has power in and of itself. To a pagan, such a mystical connection to a magical substance was an easy leap to make. But Paul says, "Nope, the meat is nothing. Eat it if you like. Now if there are still superstitious Christians around you who can't make the leap to put all this superstitious thinking behind them then eat the idol meat at home. But certainly the meat isn't actually unclean."
What a great analogy to music. To some, System or Morrissey is just pure devil music. Both groups are into eastern mysticism and certainly Moz isn’t voting the family values ticket. But, just because one likes the artifacts of Satan worshippers doesn't mean one is worshipping Satan. In fact, their Angus is just sometimes better than our Angus. Certainly, when it comes to music, this is true.
So, shunning the cultural artifacts of the world isn't worldliness, and burning all your old Black Flag records isn't the path to righteousness. Trust me. I know this from personal experience.
So the question remains, what is righteousness and what does it mean to be a distinct light in the world? Well that will have to wait for tomorrow.