From the moment we are born we thrive on approval. We desire approval. We seek approval. Just think about it. When you smile at a baby you usually get a smile back, right? Children learn at a very young age that approval will result in good stuff. Even with zero knowledge of the law they know what it is like for a parent to approve or disapprove. As a child they begin to learn “rules” and “good behavior” based on approval. Introduce “law” and the desire for approval is the tool used for discipline. We have always wanted approval. It has been with us from the beginning.
Gen 4:3-5 Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk. (The Message)
Don’t miss however the rest of the story:
Heb 11:4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice. (The Message)
The word righteousness is one of those words that religion has used against us. The Bible pounding disciplinarians have threatened their partitioners with God’s impending dis-approval as soon as they mess up. They wave around the stick of punishment and dangle the carrot of approval. For 2000 years theologian after theologian has wrestled with this idea of righteousness. They have come up with all kinds of stuff that isn’t in the Bible like “positional” verses “practical” or “actual” righteousness. Too bad. It is and has always been about Jesus. He is our righteousness. Our righteousness is from God. He already approves of us. Jesus is the proof of His love and commitment to us. He is the expression of God’s approval towards us. Righteousness or righteous or right (just) are actually very simple words in the original language. It begins with this word:
díkē – properly, right, especially a judicial verdict which declares someone approved or disapproved
and the word as used in Hebrews 11:4 is this word:
díkaios (an adjective, derived from dikē, “right, judicial approval”) – properly, “approved by God” (J. Thayer)
This passage uses another form of the same word:
1Co 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (ESVST)
dikaiosýnē (from 1349 /díkē, “a judicial verdict”) – properly, judicial approval (the verdict of approval); in the NT, the approval of God (“divine approval”)
Our righteous is actually His approval of us. It comes from Him. We can believe it because of Jesus. He took our sin so there would be no more excuses for us to disagree with what He has said:
2Co 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESVST)
Our righteousness which is His approval is based on our faith (believing, agreeing, trusting what He says is true and it is His nature because He can’t lie):
Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: (ESVST)
We do nothing. Jesus did everything. We just believe. Even Jesus wanted to demonstrate God’s approval of Him:
Mat 3:15 But Jesus answered him, “ Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “ This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (ESVST)
Boy was that a demonstration. Paul cherished this gift of righteousness from God and understood the value of an approval of God:
Phi 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — (ESVST)
There is a righteousness from God and we have it. There is an approval of God and we have it. We are “right” with Him. We have always, in our lives and in the history of mankind, sought the approval of someone. That someone has always been God. We have desperately desired His approval. Sometimes we look to man as a substitute. We so desperately want approval we will do whatever it takes. We will climb the ladder of success. We get a haircut. We buy new clothes. We say the right things in church. We seek the approval based on the Law. We create all kinds of outward appearances or behaviors to win the approval of leaders, peers, pastors, friends and families. It is all rubbish (Paul’s words).
Instead we should claim what God has offered us. We should seize what Jesus died to give us. We should leap for joy with the Holy Spirit as he convicts us of it. WE ARE RIGHT! Every time we agree with the opposite we are agreeing with the enemy. We are giving ground to the devil to trip us up. We are disagreeing with God and creating a separation from the one who is joined to us. We have a right to declare we are right. We have the approval to say we are approved. We can absolutely declare, I’m Right!
In the next post I will discuss why this is so important. For now look in the mirror and tell yourself…I’m Right!