The Right Way: His Righteousness
Note from James Robison, Stream Publisher: We have many reasons to be concerned about the national challenges we face, and they go far beyond the November 3 election. We have been reaping the consequences of what has been sown in personal and collective lives for many years. Positive changes and corrections have occurred in many ways the last few years, because wisdom was received and proven-to-work principles were put back in place, bringing meaningful results. The most important changes will be made by changed people who are led by wisdom from above and purpose-inspired living — God’s purpose.
Do not blame a person who has been elected, a party, the media or highly visible individuals of influence for our problems, or give any one person too much credit for positive change. And do not be manipulated into looking to any politician or party for hope. The Lord is our hope, and Christ revealed in the fullness of His life — love, joy and peace expressed through us — will lead to purposeful, principled choices.
Never forget, it is only the church — the body of Christ — that the gates of Hell, deception and destruction cannot prevail against. Christ in us is the only hope for His glory and grace to be revealed to people groping in darkness. We must learn from the past but look to the future while trusting God for wisdom, guidance, protection and provision. We fear no evil while trusting the Lord to deliver us personally and nationally from the divisive, adverse effects of the evil one, Satan.
The following outline of truths, shared by the late Dr. Dallas Willard to church leaders who met at LIFE Outreach in 2011, emphasizes the power of Christ’s righteousness and how we can become the “city set on a hill that cannot be hid.” Many of the highly respected church leaders who attended this conference were part of the faith council of pastors and leaders who shared biblical principles and wisdom with national leaders, including the President at his personal request. Everyone was greatly impacted, and every Christian should take these lessons to heart.
When the Righteous Become Great, the People Rejoice
It is the task of Christ’s people to produce righteous people spread throughout the population of the earth: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit [in the power of His manifest presence], teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)
Righteous people must be made. They must be taught and trained. They are not born.
Righteous people are people who routinely act in the character and power of Jesus Christ, because of transformation of all dimensions of their personality—heart, soul, mind, strength and social relations. (Mark 12:29-31)
They do not work by human force, but by divine influence working all around them through who they are, what they do and what they say. (John 7:38; Acts 1:8) They are bearers of the kingdom of God to their surroundings. (Luke 10:9-11)
1. The Way of Humility
“If My people, over whom My name is called, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)
Humbling themselves, etc., is not a “day” but a “way.” It is not an episode but a life. It is a matter of an identifiable group of people living in dependence upon God, constantly calling out to and listening to Him, making it a point to live before His manifest presence, and doing what they know to be right and good before God. These are the “righteous.” They are the ones who build their house upon the “Rock.” (Matt. 7:24-25) They “hear and do.”
2. Discipleship, Not Just “Saved”
But this life must be taught and learned. And today our standard is professing “Christians” who are not disciples (students, apprentices) of Jesus. Hence, our congregations and groups are not centers for the production of righteous people who live their lives in the kingdom of God. That is not what those groups are about. The essential message they now present is about escaping punishment from sin, not about escaping sin. The “good news” presented is that Jesus took your punishment, and if you will trust that you will not be punished. This has nothing essentially to do with the kind of person you become, and you can be “saved,” according to this message, even though you are quite unrighteous—just how unrighteous is left unclear. (“Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”—bumper sticker theology)
3. The Kingdom of God
Is forgiveness good news? Indeed it is, and guilt must be dealt with. But Jesus is and brings good news about life, not primarily about death and hereafter. The New Testament gospel is about life now in the kingdom of God. That is what he preached and practiced. (Matt. 4:17 & 23, etc. etc.) That is what the “birth from above” (John 3) is about. That is what Paul preached and taught. (Acts 20:25 & 28:23-31, Rom. 14:17) Those who are Christ’s have been “delivered by God from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13)
What is the kingdom of God? It is God in action, God “reigning,” it is where what God wants done is done—the range of God’s effective will. The “good news” is that Jesus the Door and the Way has opened this domain to all who trust Him—not just trust something he did or said. And trusting Him naturally leads to becoming his apprentice in kingdom living. As Jesus’ apprentice I am learning from him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of God as he would lead my life if he were I. The outcome is that “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17) Hence, the picture of the righteous life in Christ given. (Col. 3:1-17) Take a moment to just imagine what this kind of life would mean for our public life today. For our “church life.”
4. The Whole Life With God
“The blessing of Abraham” (Gal. 3:14, Gen. 28:4) is not just the forgiveness of sins, but whole life lived within the action or kingdom of God. Abimelech (Abraham’s nervous neighbor) said, “God is with you in all that you do.” That is “the blessing of Abraham” spoken of by Paul in Galatians 3. Not just forgiveness of sins by faith, but life covered by the Spirit in the Kingdom of God. Not just miracles. Not just prosperity. These are dimensions of the whole life that Abraham lived “with God.” The “With God Life” is the life of the righteous person.
5. Complete Transformation
Now once again: Where do righteous people come from? From gatherings of disciples in Trinitarian presence, undergoing transformation of every dimension of their being so that they routinely and easily do the things that Jesus commanded.
The people thus formed are, of course, already in “the public square.” That is where they live—“Oaks of righteousness.” (Is. 61:3) There they stand in the character and power of Christ doing what is right and good in every domain, private and public.
To see this happen, we have only to preach the good news that Jesus Himself preached, in the manner he preached it, and make disciples (not “Christians” only), and teach them in such a way that they do what Jesus told us to do—not legalistically, but because of who they have become in their companionship with Jesus.
6. The Most Important Battle
But this will be a battle, for it lies at a great distance from what is now accepted practice among Christians, and the forces of evil are arrayed against it at many levels of “world” organization. But the first battle, and the one most important to win, is within “the church” itself.
When we become in Christ what you just read, His light will reveal clearly what we are to turn from and what we must turn toward personally and nationally in order that we can continually be a blessing to our neighbors, our nation and the nations of the world.
Dr. Dallas Willard was hailed as an icon of Christian scholarship. He was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at USC Dornsife, having taught at the School of Philosophy from 1965 to 2012. Willard was also an award-winning writer. One of his most beloved books is The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God (HarperOne, 1998).