It's Just Righteousness
Sermon on Isaiah 59:1-20
Title: Just Righteousness
Sermon Theme: God redeems his people to live righteous lives.
Goal: to encourage God’s people to live righteous lives.
Need: Fast life often doesn’t take time to reflect on righteousness and justice.
Introduction: Story of ignoring the gravity of something important.
1. Righteousness cannot be passive
2. Righteousness includes actively being justice and compassionate.
3. Righteousness comes from Christ alone.
Conclusion: Nail the Goal. Righteousness. Its what God’s people are up to these days.
Over-looking something important leads to unwanted circumstances. Maybe you might call it the lesson of the lead foot. Honest officer, I just wasn’t paying attention to how fast I was going. Over-looking something important can leave you in a situation that you would have definitely tried to avoid had you been paying attention.
For some reason, I have had to learn that lesson the hard way a few times, as most of us probably have. You know what would make things so much better? If we could learn more effectively from other people’s mistakes. But that’s so hard isn’t it.
There’s a Bernstein Bear’s book called the bike lesson where papa bear is going to show his son how to ride a bike. And every part of the lesson papa bear gets hurt by not paying attention. Every couple of pages you have papa bear twisted up in some big mess saying, “Remember, that’s what you are not supposed to do.”
It’s a silly book. The Bible often reads like a more serious version of the Bike Lesson of the Bernstein Bears. So many places tell stories where the people involved have stopped paying attention to what God expected from them.
Most of the Old Testament are books of prophecy. These prophets are God’s rescue team trying to make God’s people realize they are over-looking something important in their lives. If they don’t pay attention to it, they are going to walk blindly into some terrible circumstances.
Its not tough to see when you read the book of Isaiah from beginning to end that Isaiah try to warn the people. Watch out! There’s trouble ahead.
Almost like that driver who got me to slow down coming into Colbourne by flashing his brights at me. “What’s that guys deal? Oh…. Hey…. Copper!”
Isaiah flashes the warning lights already at the beginning of the book through a prophecy from God. Chapter 1. Verse 15When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; 16wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, 17learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. 18“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; 20but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Your hands are bloody. I won’t even pay attention when you lift them up in prayer. Because you haven’t turned back to…. What? Doing right and seeking justice. Defending the fatherless and the widow.
What are they over-looking to their own detriment? Being a good person by seeking justice.
The title I put for the message is just righteousness. We’re not missing merely righteousness. We are missing Just righteousness. A righteousness that makes helping the down and out part of the basic way we try to honor God.
Righteousness is kind of a fancy word for being a good person. That`s something people everywhere understands. Its important to be a good person. That`s what it means to be righteous- to do what is right in God’s eyes.
God’s people in the Old Testament didn’t get it. They had made a life of breaking all of God’s law. They were worshiping other gods. “God gave ten commandments? Who knew?” You can find the list of detestable things they were doing throughout the old testament prophets. Hopefully we can learn the Papa bear lesson from them…. That was how not to make God happy.
Today at least we will acknowledge ten commandments. We’ll at least we say we do. Until we realize according to God’s law sex is for marriage, theft is wrong no matter if its shoplifting, downloading, or armed robbery.
But Christ wants more than just a passive righteousness of, o I haven’t done anything wrong. He wants us to actively find the places in our lives that we can be more righteous and better than we have before. He wants us to be even more pleasing to him. Finding new ways that we can show someone else the love and compassion of Christ. God doesn’t really want a passive righteousness from us…. I happened to not to do anything wrong today. He wants an active righteousness from us. One where we look for the opportunities to do something right.
Perhaps the simplest way to start that is changing your perspective on why you do something. I think of the Bible for mission store. An awesome ministry that puts the bible in the hands of people that never had it in their language before. Or where there weren’t enough Bibles in the first place.
But think about the service that it provides for the community here in Trenton as well. It probably saves thousands of tons of perfectly good items from needlessly going to the dump. And families that can’t afford new things, can find good things on a small budget. It provides a clean and well kept place for the people who can’t shop the big stores to find the things they might need.
And it keeps a lot of ebaying antiquers busy as well.
But even more than that. Its looking for ways to even more closely follow the commands of God. Its looking for even greater ways to look out for the people who just don’t have a chance.
Young People. As some of you went away from the service project in St. Thomas last week. Or as some of you spent a week in Halifax you have experienced a little bit of what it means to have an actively just righteousness. You have experienced what God calls his people to. Not just being a good person who doesn’t mess up anyone elses life. Being a good person who makes others peoples lives better when they haven’t been able to do it on their own.
What do we need to do to have a just righteousness? Think differently about things you are already doing. Will that new perspective on what you have been doing for years give you different motivation and drive for why you are doing it? Will it give more glory to God? Also, find opportunities to promote justice.
Just Righteousness is at the heart of searching out the most fair employers. We talked several weeks ago about Fair Trade, and how if you are going to finance a business with your purchase, shouldn’t it be one that isn’t resorting to slavery for its wealth? If you check out some of the links on our church website you can find some tools for evaluating which companies are good or bad when it comes to fair business practices.
I don’t think the only way we can find this sort of opportunity is to go on a service project and work at a soup kitchen, though those are awesome ideas. What about every day in your work. Do you encounter someone that you know just can’t get it going in life, is looked down upon by others, is judged because of something that is outside of their control. That person is the one God has placed in your sphere of influence to seek out justice.
Please, don’t passively be a good person, a righteous person, because you think that is the ticket into heaven. Its not about that. I’d even go so far as to say, don’t actively go out there and try to live and just and righteous life because that’s the way to get to heaven.
No. Just Righteousness. Being a good and just person isn’t what gets a person ready for heaven. Our desire to be righteous and be just comes because we believe in Christ. It comes because we have already been given faith and the only righteousness that counts in God’s book. We are covered by the good works of Jesus Christ. We are covered by his blood.
Romans5:17-21 say17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. See if you can make sense out of these words of Paul from Romans 5.
18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We live by grace don’t we? Our eternal life is assured because grace has given us faith in Jesus Christ? We don’t try to be righteous so that we can go to heaven. We know heaven is ours and because Christ’s righteousness fills us up, we can’t help but desire to actively do justice in the world. To see that every last person who is created in the image of God is treated fairly. Whether it’s the employee at our own business, the worker in the coffee fields on the other side of the world, those suffering from AIDS or mental disabilities poverty or abuse of any kind. Because Jesus Christ has won it all for us, we will be righteous and justice. We will shake the world for his sake.