Sunday, December 16, 2018

What Does It Mean To Become "Righteous"? #JesusFollowers


Do we become Righteous in the eyes of God by doing good, or can we become Righteous just by saying that we're Righteous? That later short-cut has been the teaching of most Christian pastors in recent years, and it's a very dangerous subversion of what Jesus and the Bible has always taught.

The teaching of modern Fundamentalist Christendom (of very recent origin) is that God can merely "pretend" that we've become Righteous, and will simply ignore our ongoing sinful acts, when we just accept His Son's sacrifice for our guilt.

Some even go on to say that Jesus' Righteousness is "imputed," or handed over, to us by God the moment we simply say that we accept Jesus as our Savior. All that's required for this transaction to take place is for us to mouth a "salvation prayer." That means we can keep sinning, but God will only "see" Jesus' goodness, "covering" our ongoing evil deeds.

As one preacher, Charles Stanley, put it once, "his righteousness becomes our righteousness the moment we, by faith, accept the work of his son of the cross and receive Jesus Christ as our savior, then we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ." (“We Are Justified,” Oct. 21, 2017 InTouch Ministries.)

Joseph Prince, another popular TV preacher, says, "Christ took our sins and gave us His righteousness the moment we believe in Him. ("Righteousness is Not Right Doing, It's Right Being." josephprince.org)

Here's why this teaching is so wrong: Jesus, our Master, never said any of this. And Jesus is our God-appointed Master, not TV preachers, theologians or any other men.

Jesus never tells us we can ever pretend to be righteous on the basis of another’s deeds. Nor did he teach that God will pretend that we haven't been sinning (or let us continue to do evil deeds) if we simply say we accept Jesus' death as a substitute, on the basis of our faith, alone.

In Jesus' preaching, there is clearly no substitute for DOING righteousness. Righteousness is always stated by Jesus as something we must DO, just as it was in all the other books of the Hebrew Bible.

"To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3)

"Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!" (Psalm 106:3)

"Thus says Yahweh: “Keep justice, and do righteousness." (Isaiah 56:1)

And if God were to see the righteousness of JESUS, and not our own UNrighteous behavior, he wouldn’t be accepting US, but Jesus' righteousness on our behalf. But if God is pretending that we are righteous, and we are actually not, how does He remain Just, if he knows we are doing evil and unrighteous deeds, while hiding under Jesus' Righteousness?

And further, if we accept Jesus' Righteousness as our own, without repenting, without changing our behavior, without performing the GOOD WORKS Jesus calls us to do, then are we not stealing his righteousness? How can any of our actions truly be OUR OWN? How can God see it as our own, if we did not earn it? And how can He hold us accountable for acts that are not our own?

The short answer is that we cannot be "clothed" in a borrowed, second-hand version of Righteousness. God through the Prophet Isaiah tells us (1:16) "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good." These are deliberate actions. They are acts we ourselves will be responsible for performing.

This isn't as easy as taking on another's Righteousness. But it's the challenge of the Gospel Jesus taught.

In fact, Jesus says we are judged not by our words, not by our intentions (and certainly not by another's) but by our own ACTS and DEEDS, and them alone. Period.

And the life that Jesus calls on us to pursue in his Gospel is a life of works, action, radical love and service to others.

The Good News is that we obtain forgiveness for past misdeeds when we seek God's mercy by repenting of those sins. God, we are told, is merciful to those who repent. The Prodigal Son required no sacrifice to have his father to accept him back warmly in his arms. His brother did not need to be put to death, nor did he have to accept such as grisly sacrifice in order for the father's acceptance to happen.

No one can be our "substitute" for us before God. Our repentance, our obedience, and our good works are all required of us, according to Jesus' express and clear teachings. Jesus is our Guide, who calls us to act Righteously before God and on behalf of our fellow human beings.

There's no substitute for personal repentance and devoting oneself to serving others alone, rather than living selfishly and wickedly for oneself alone.

So, we must reject the modern preachers' teachings. In truth, our acts, our repentance, and our Good Works must only be our own.

Jesus says merely mouthing words, like, "Lord, Lord," or reciting man-made creeds cannot substitute for our actions, our deeds, which develop our righteous characters. We are, says Jesus, to lay up good treasure in our hearts and in the storehouse of heaven, and we do this by our own actions alone.

We cannot, says Jesus, demand eternal salvation from God and certainly cannot take Jesus' Righteousness from him and claim it for ourselves by vain words. The teaching of the Hebrew Prophets, along with Jesus, is that we will be judged by our own deeds, and by our deeds alone, and that we will be judged by God alone.

Jesus never taught that there is a substitute for God's judgment, nor for God's mercy on those who sincerely repent and ask for mercy. God doesn't say we get to judge our own actions as sufficient for eternal salvation, He tells us through his chosen Son, Jesus, that we must strive to make our actions more closely conform to the pattern Jesus sets for us.

In this way, Jesus calls us to a vigorous GOSPEL OF GOOD WORKS to actively build a Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in Heaven. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, to NOT selfishly seek to save ourselves, but to give up our selfishness on behalf of God's Kingdom.

And we are to begin  this work of the Kingdom RIGHT NOW. We cannot wait until our deaths to begin it, nor is anyone coming in the clouds to do the work for us. This Kingdom was proclaimed as being "in the midst" of those Jesus spoke to during his ministry. He proclaimed it at the behest of his Father - his God and our God, Yahweh.

(And Jesus told his disciples ALL that the Father taught him. Nothing was hidden. Nothing remained to be taught by a future teacher, theologian, or preacher.)

And to be clear, No, we don't "save ourselves" by doing good works without God. We do the works by which God alone will save us, if it is His Will. Christendom has warped and ignored Jesus' words and plain teachings that make this clear. They have substituted man's doctrines of Substitution, imputed righteousness and works-free easy-Believism in its place.

All of these doctrines were created by theologians, preachers and other men. We can easily ignore these doctrines, since they do not come from our one Master, Jesus.

Nineteenth Century minister Noah Worcester said, "Moral character is formed by a succession of moral acts; and this each moral agent forms for himself. Hence, every man must give account of himself unto God, and be rewarded according to his own deeds."

He was far closer to the teachings of Jesus than the preachers are today. What went wrong?

It's clearer than ever that we must force a New Reformation upon this wicked church. We must return to the very words of Jesus and the Bible HE knew to learn how we must live to please Almighty God. And then we must have the courage to live that faith by performing Good Works to bring in God's Kingdom, as Jesus commanded us to do.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

In Following Jesus, We Find The Joy God Wants Us To Experience! #JesusFollowers


Every holy principle rejoices in a connection with spotless purity. Every grateful sentiment is stirred by recollecting the labors of redeeming love; every generous affection is roused by the mildness of his yoke; and every hope is animated by the prospect of that life and immortality which Jesus has brought to light.

This joy, it's clear, can only be experienced by the consistent, faithful, practical believer. The friends of Jesus will possess the joys of Jesus; but the friends of Jesus are only those who do his commandments.

This is his own account of the matter, and therefore, when we lay this down as a rule, we are sure that we are right, for we are only repeating what he, himself has said.

We're called to study the attributes of God; the relations in which He stands towards us, and those duties which, consequently, we owe to Him. We're to make ourselves acquainted with the divine authority, the pure doctrines, the holy precepts, and the perfect character of the blessed Jesus.

Knowledge without virtue will do us no good. In the divine administration, which is wisdom and benevolence in action, we behold means and ends invariably suited to each other. Holiness is the great mean of real and lasting happiness.

If to grow in the likeness of our divine Master is the only preparation for the happiness he has promised, an unwearied attention to his precepts and example is strongly impressed upon us. 

We must be active, vigilant, and persevering. Prejudices must be eradicated, passions must be governed, appetites and inclinations to evil resolutely restrained.

The heart and the life must be kept with all diligence, if the prize of our high calling is to be made sure.

Jesus shows us that God is love, the original spring of happiness, and that the grand end he proposes, in the production of man, is the communication and extension of happiness. He shows us that no situation of human life can warrant a fretful and despondent attitude; but that, in. all cases, we may, and, in justice to our great benefactor, ought to encourage a cheerful, and even a joyful attitude.

Let us look for strength where alone it is to be found. Seek for salvation only in that way which the Gospel prescribes. Go directly to the narrow gate. Depend upon it that in no other way redemption can be found. Consult your reason. Make a worthy and noble choice. Aim high. Ambition here is a virtue.

(Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Edmund Butcher, 1805)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

#Jesus Calls Us to a Life of Works, Action, Love and Service! #JesusFollowers


God equips us, from birth, with gifts that are meant to be used for Good. Jesus - the one God has chosen and sent out as our perfect example - calls on us to do all that is within our power to perform Good Works, relying on these Original, Natural gifts, and seeking greater strength and wisdom from God, Who gives to us abundantly when we need spiritual renewal.

Jesus, God's spokesman and our example, did not chart out for us any new way to earn God's favor and eternal life. In truth, he taught the same path that always was, and always will be, the true path to eternal life; namely, keeping the commandments, or loving God and our neighbor, which is the same thing, and is the sum and substance of the God’s Moral Law.

Jesus' call, "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matt. 7:12) summaries his entire ministry and the Hebrew Bible's moral teaching.

By following after the path God wishes us to lead – the path of Righteousness – we will live fuller, more complete and more joyful lives. Jesus lays out for us this path clearly, plainly, and in a way that needs no further revelations or elaboration from men.

Jesus has clearly called us to a life of works and action, of radical love and service, calling on us to love our neighbors just as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:33; Matt. 22:35-40)

Jesus teaches us that we should humbly perform Good Works and Holy Service. As Jesus' brother James puts it, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:26.)

Jesus calls us to seek to become more holy people, to seek to act in righteousness.

Jesus calls on us to deny ourselves, and to serve others first. We should live our lives in the joyful service of others.

Jesus calls us to achieve, to do, to act, to work, to seek out the truth, to be humble, to worship and praise our God, and to love others.

‎Jesus‬ calls us to put his teachings into practice in our lives, lest we build our houses of faith on the shifting sands of mere words and empty praise, rather than the solid rock of obedience. (Matt. 7:24-26)

Jesus calls on us to not be hypocrites. He pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees – the religious leaders of his day – for being obsessed with man-made doctrines and rituals, but neglecting, "the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness." (Matt. 23:23)

And how do we know that we can do this, that we can do all that Jesus asks of us? Because Jesus lived in perfect obedience, doing in all things that pleased God (his and our Father) and showed by this example that ALL OF US are able to do as he did.

We are left without excuse, therefore, and are called to humbly seek the spiritual completeness Jesus achieved, asking God's forgiveness when we fall short, repenting of these sins, and seeking strength to continue in obedience.

Let us humbly and with reverence serve God according to the example He has chosen for us – through the life and the teachings of Jesus. Let him alone be our example and guide in all things.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Jesus’ High View of Human Nature. #JesusFollowers


Jesus uniformly expressed high views of human nature. It was over the perversion of its gifts, the abuse of its powers, that he mourned; but it seems never to have been his delight to magnify human guilt.

He found something in human nature, even in its humblest or its most distorted developments, worthy of love. You see him gathering around him little children, pressing them to his bosom, speaking kindly to them. He could not look upon the unwrinkled brow, the fair countenance of childhood, and contemplate the child as an object of God’s displeasure.

Look at his interactions with his immediate followers, how perseveringly obstinate was their hold upon long cherished prejudices! How slow were they to enter into his spirit, and to yield themselves to the full power of his instructions! Yet how patiently did he work with them! How kindly did he apologize for their lack of zeal in his cause! True it is, that he fearlessly rebuked sin; but in what spirit did he rebuke it? With the utmost compassion.

We look to the Reformers, who have appeared in different periods of the Christian church. We see in many of them high powers, determined hearts, and persevering efforts, qualities, which claim for them great respect. We see none, however, unbiased by local interests and prejudices.

Jesus stands at an immeasurable distance from them all. W see none, who are actuated by a generous, unmingled love, like that which Jesus manifested.

By the honest friends of Christianity, many devices have been invented and practiced to give power and interest to its instructions. The terrors of the Lord have been proclaimed, in the language of power acting for destruction. The passion of fear has been used without restraint, and all the passions associated with it have been addressed.

The power of party has been tried, and so has that of pomp, of show and of boasting, of forms and ceremonies, of fasts and prayers. But has the power of love been uniformly, and extensively tried?

Has the true spirit of Jesus ever yet been fully exhibited, either by his ministers or his church? I fear that it has not; and that even some good men are most woefully deceived as to the tendency of their own influence.

Here I see, what the spirit of Christ is, what the fruits of his influence are; and I utter in sorrow the deep conviction of my soul that the spirit of pure love, as it appeared in the teachings of Jesus, is not found extensively abroad for the reformation of the world.

Without this spirit, zeal may work with all the power of passion, sect after sect may put forth its rival claims, and missionaries may travel the globe; but the world will continue to writhe under the tortures of sin, and souls will continue to perish.

(Adapted from a Christmas Sermon by Rev. Nathan Parker, 1831)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Let's Be Thankful For The Gifts God's Given Us! #JesusFollowers


God has implanted within us original feelings of reverence, of gratitude, of kindness, and of love. He freely grants us all that we need, and more, to love both Him and others, then asks us to use these gifts.

If we revere God, we will conform our lives to God's moral commandments, which lead us to both gratitude, and holiness.

If we live lives of gratitude for all that God has given us, we live in unity with God and with others.

If we are kind to others, we model and grow into the life that God wishes us to have.

If we love God with all that we have within us, God assures us that our time with Him is eternal.

God has chosen and sent Jesus as a spokesman to call us to bring out these gifts from within us, and let all of them blossom in our lives. When we act upon them, they blossom also in the lives of others.

We are never left without the God, Whom Jesus calls "Father." The God of Jesus, and for us, is truly a Father who cares for His children.

The Wisdom of God is always available, at the end of a prayer to our Heavenly Father. Whenever we lack wisdom, God freely grants more of it to us. God’s wisdom can be found in the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets and in the words and example of Jesus. Wisdom is found in the example set by those who are seeking holiness today.

Our souls find refreshment in God, and are renewed by His eternal presence. We can stand in God’s presence at any time, in any place. When we walk with God in our darkest hour, He comforts us.

An attitude of prayer, gratitude and reverence puts us before the Throne of God wherever we are. No priest, no building, no ritual is required for us to have God embrace us daily.

If God did not love us and want us to become Spiritually Complete, He would not have sent us Prophets, would not have guided us with their words, and would not offer to grant us unending Wisdom whenever we asked for it.

Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God’s will all come from God, as do love and the path of Good Works.

God's wisdom is fully embodied in the message life and death of Jesus, who gives us a complete and perfect example of a life lived fully for God.

Jesus, a man like us, grew in wisdom and stature, prayed consistently to his God, and did not stray from God's commandments. Jesus challenged others to live just as he lived. That we may take up Jesus’ challenge and accomplish it is the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel.

We are weak, and grow tired, and often feel like giving up. But if we keep our eyes focused on the example of Jesus, and the love of God, we will have all we need to spiritually grow and flourish.

God surely doesn't give up on US, weak as we are. God granted us strong spirits, gave us the example of Jesus, and gives ongoing strength and Wisdom when we ask Him for more.

So let us give back in gratitude all we have been given, and let us to continue striving towards Spiritual completeness. We must not give up serving God and living as He intends us to live!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

We Are Given Moral Freedom By God! #JesusFollowers


Jesus, in the establishment of his religion, did not force his followers to accept him. He taught every essential religious truth, made laws for their behavior, and spoke to them with persuasive words.

He then left them to act freely, so the happiness of his disciples might be the reward of obedience, which flows from an enlightened mind and a teachable attitude.

Our Master exhibited the clearest proof of a divine mission. By his life, he displayed the moral worth of his character. He called on his followers to examine his doctrines, to reflect on his works, and to weigh the actions of his life; and for themselves receive his words, obey his commands, and rely on his promises.

Jesus recognized powers in us to judge the evidence on which his religion is founded, and to perceive that his instructions conformed to the unchangeable laws of truth. A number of important inferences may be drawn from this appeal of our Master to the human mind. One is that religion is a rational and voluntary service.

God has given us the attributes of reason and liberty. These make us the subject of a moral government, and make us capable of virtuous action. Take away these abilities, and we cease to be subject to reward or punishment.

To make any course of action good, in a moral sense, an agent must be conscious of duty, and have the ability and power to do it. 

Actions in which the will of the agent have no place have no virtuous properties; and doing those actions cannot be called "moral." The way in which the human mind is used determines our moral character. Our actions create the morality of human conduct.

Having the Reason to distinguish good from evil, and the liberty to choose the one and refuse the other, make us capable of moral conduct and moral self-government. If our freedom and agency is taken away, we are no better than animals, or we become like mere machines.


It is the duty of human beings to enlighten their minds about religion. To act rationally and freely in the important aspects of our faith, we must know its foundation, and learn its essential truths and duties.

We cannot consistently perform the duties of religion, while ignorant of its first principles, any more than we can converse intelligibly in a language with which we are unacquainted.

(Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Aaron Bancroft) 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Gospel Of #Jesus Is A Challenge To Serve Others #JesusFollowers


In his ministry, Jesus challenged all those around him.

He challenged the religious authorities who led a faith of empty ritual and mindless words to instead embrace an authentic faith of love and devotion.

He challenged the wealthy to give up the idol of money.

He challenged those who would exclude the weak, the poor, the “outcast” and the outsider to be fully inclusive, because God loves all people equally. (Luke 4:12-13)

And Jesus challenged average people to “come, follow me,” and change the world with their works of Righteousness. (Matt. 4:19)

Jesus’ teachings, when seen as the core of his ministry, challenge us today, as well.

In fact, the Good News that Jesus preached is nothing but a challenge to our comfortable lives. It challenges the lazy faith which is based on mere words and devoid of love of others or Good Works on their behalf.

It’s a challenge to us all, individually, to begin to reach our full potential, by living the way God wishes us to live – lives of selfless service and love.

The words, life, teachings and death of our Master, Jesus, challenge us to do, to act, to follow, to serve, to be better, to do more, to try harder, to be humble, yet Righteousness, to serve God not money, to lose ourselves, but gain eternity.

Jesus preached to challenge us, and calls us today to live as examples in his name. As God’s chosen Spokesman, Jesus authoritatively calls us to take up his challenge and to follow his example.  (John 13:15; 14:12)

We are called by Jesus to seek and do Good, in order to advance God’s Kingdom on this earth.

Jesus lived, taught and died as a pure moral example for us, so that we should follow him and be made perfect in Righteousness. We do this with God’s help and a reliance on God’s holy Spirit.

And we are required, on this journey of Faith, to always seek God's forgiveness for our faults and failures as we strive towards the perfect expression of Righteousness God's Anointed Son, Jesus, has modeled for us.

We must seek to follow Jesus in ALL his teachings – because Jesus followed God in ALL things, and said we could do all that he had done. (John 8:29; 12:50; 13:15; 1 John 2:6)

We are called to show by our ACTS that we are heeding his call, and are taking up his challenge – not in a prideful way, but in a way that is pleasing to God.

Jesus clearly calls us to an active Faith - a Faith that Works. His teachings, his Gospel, is a challenge worth accepting and worth LIVING, because it leads to directly to a spiritually complete life and, God willing, to eternal life with our Creator.

Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30.) That’s complete and total love, not just lip service or weak emotionalism.

Jesus calls us to love each other, our neighbors, with the same zeal with which we love God – a complete and total love. (Mark 12:31)

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves take up our cross and follow him. (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23.) We are to be “other-centered,” not focused on Self.

Jesus calls on us to do the will of the Father – His God and our God, the Creator of all that is. (Matt. 12:50; John 5:30) Mere words and vain professions are NOT enough to ensure eternity with God (Matt. 7:21.)

Jesus calls on us to forgive others, and makes this duty a condition of being forgiven by God (Matt. 6:15-16.)

Jesus calls on us to let our Good Deeds shine like lights in this world, so that others will see by that light the goodness and love of our Father and Creator, which He has placed within us all. (Matt. 5:15-16)

And Jesus calls on us to “go the second mile” (Matthew 5:38–42) which is not a challenge to be lukewarm or partially committed to serving others.

When we encounter what is being claimed to be “the Gospel,” if it fails to challenge us to pursue Good Works, we know that it's a false and easy Faith we've encountered – a wide gate, rather than the Gospel preached from the very mouth of Jesus.

That Jesus challenges us with incredibly high goals is undeniable. That he believed we could achieve them is proven by his words. And because Jesus, a human being like us, has done this, we are assured that we, too, may accomplish God’s will for our lives.

So let’s take up the Good News of Jesus’ challenge in our lives and let it shine within us for all to see!