Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, August 1, 2014


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  -- Matthew 5:6

Whether we are conscious of it or not, whether we realize it or not, the one thing that the human soul seeks is righteousness.  If we pursue it consciously and intentionally, we are blessed:  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33). 

On the other hand, not being conscious of our essential need for righteousness leads us, often, to seek other sources of satisfaction to our detriment.  I get thirsty sometimes and don’t realize it.  Being dehydrated makes me extremely anxious and irritable to the point that I will go berserk.  I’ll start raving and cussing and throwing things over nothing.  After years of experiencing this, I have learned that if I start feeling overwhelmed and irrationally disturbed, I need water.  It’s the strangest thing to one moment be agitated and crazy, chug a quart or two of water, and instantly be calm.  You’d think water was a tranquilizing drug.  Water is an essential, basic need that my body craves.  When my distracted mind ignores the need for whatever reason, the body starts sending signals that I may easily misinterpret. 

Righteousness is like water to the soul.  As the body is seventy percent water, so righteousness is the essence of the soul.  So what is righteousness?  The Hebrew tzedak/tsaddiyq  or its Greek equivalent dikaios/dikaioo appears hundreds of times in the Bible.  At root, the word means to be just or equitable, clean and innocent of any wrongdoing.  We sometimes say that it means right-standing with God, that we do that and only that which is pleasing to Him.   The righteous one is morally correct, justifiable, and upright.  If you are righteous, you can look God in the eye. 

It’s not just us dependent on righteousness.  As we were talking about yesterday, man was created as the lord of the rest of creation.  One of the reasons some Christians reject the idea of a universe 13 or 14 billion years old and carnivores of various kinds roaming the earth for millions of years before man appears is that they say there was no sin in the world until Adam’s fall, and without sin, there would be no death.  You can address this by pointing out that members of the angelic order whose existence precedes, we assume, the creation of the material universe, had already rebelled and fallen.  A second way to understand it, though, is to see how God does not impute sin apart from understanding.  As He allowed life on Earth to develop, only when His hierarchical agent, man, entered the picture would God’s law have begun to apply, e.g.,  Apart from the law, sin lies dead (Romans 7:8b).  Adam’s job was to bring order, equity, justice, and mercy – i.e., righteousness, to life on Earth.  That’s still our job when we are ready for it: 

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22).

We are to seek God’s righteousness, not only because this is the very thing our souls crave, but because it is the very thing all of creation craves, and it has to come through us.  Adam’s fall brought death to man even as it shattered, for a time, the hope of the entire natural world.  Through Christ Jesus, we are delivered from the bondage of death and the rest of creation once again may hope to be delivered from its bondage to corruption. 

It’s a beautiful thing when you think about it.

Meanwhile, man makes the mistake of pursuing his own righteousness. We are so desperate to be in right-standing that we set up our own standards of righteousness, rejecting God’s.   I’m not going to put the link in, but I’m sure you can do a search (use ixquick not google) for vegan cat food [ok, here it is].  There are people who believe that their cats want to be cruelty-free.  In a way, looking at our verses above from Romans 8, there’s some truth to that view.  But if you try to impose it from outside, there’s a good chance your cats will be plotting at night to kill and eat you.  Name your kitty Cassius for he has that lean and hungry look.  If you want to save the world, you had better get your own bad self saved first.

I think if we could dig down under all the troubles and suffering and ugliness in our world, we would find this craving for integrity, justice, and righteousness driving us to do crazy things and destroy ourselves.  The first defense mechanism was a fig leaf.  It didn’t work.  God had to clothe the naked, exposed souls of our First Parents in the skins of slain beasts, shedding blood to shield us from our pain. 

Today our defenses are more sophisticated but no more effective.  We try and try and try again to establish our own righteousness.  Self-righteousness and self-justification fail to satisfy the thirsty soul, and we can’t seem to understand why.  

I used to run every night when I lived in Texas.  In the summer, even after sunset in the Dallas suburbs, you sweat, a lot.  One Sunday afternoon, I was playing softball with my church youth group and belted a line drive deep into the outfield.  As I sprinted around second base, my right calf locked up tight.  I was still limping a couple of days later at work.  As I hobbled along, an athletic co-worker asked me what was wrong.  I told him.  He asked me if my urine was dark.  I laughed and said I hadn’t been paying attention.  He told me I needed to drink water.  He had a Dr. Pepper in his hand, “This stuff or all the coffee you drink won’t fix it.” 

We cannot fix creation until we are fixed, and we cannot be fixed without the righteousness of God.  In the end, whether we sew together vegan fig leaves or the bloody skins of beasts, whether our standards are ephemerally post-modern or staunchly traditional, they will not quench the thirst of the soul.  Only the righteousness of Christ meets the absolute standard.  Only Jesus can look the Father straight in the face.  Only when we put on Christ are we perfectly justified and our innocence restored.   


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Today our defenses are more sophisticated but no more effective. We try and try and try again to establish our own righteousness. Self-righteousness and self-justification fail to satisfy the thirsty soul, and we can’t seem to understand why."

Whenever Patti and I used to argue I would often be guilty of seeking my own righteousness.
Because I felt I was right during most disagreements I HAD to be right.
My pride rarely allowed me to to let it go, but was it really that important that I be right?

No. It wasn't. I began to question my motives, regardless of who was specifically right pertaining to the disagreement.
Why was it so important to me? Shouldn't our relationship be more important?

After nearly 33 years I started to realize that there is much wisdom in choosing your battles with the utmost of care, and that diplomacy was better than battling the one you love anyhow, and love is better than being right all the time, no matter what the facts may be.

mushroom said...

Because I felt I was right during most disagreements I HAD to be right.

Yep, I know what you mean. Defensiveness can be a sign to us that we are trying to cover a weakness or a perceived weakness. People who are unsure about some area of their lives are more likely to try and protect that area instead of just accepting that we all have our strengths and frailties.

I think the Lord would rather we shed all our defenses and open up our vulnerabilities to Him as well as to our loved ones.

Anonymous said...

There might be something to nothing is dead.
Some sleep, and move in dreams.
Then, humans would be here to fix what is broken.

Sometimes, the what is called dead walk around and are seen by what is called living. Heaven rejoices, even if that scares the sleeping.

That is Angel stuff, pretty hidden, but humans are once again out of Time.

mushroom said...

Steve Finnell invites you to read his blog.

I think Steve is a member of the Church of Christ. If I am wrong, I apologize. The Church of Christ is a Protestant denomination. There may be some variations, but the ones with which I am familiar do not allow instrumental music. They do have wonderful A Capella congregational singing. To their credit, A Capella means "in the manner of the chapel".

Church of Christ also believes that the ordinance of baptism by immersion is an essential part of salvation -- specifically baptism into the Church of Christ. They are Sola Scriptura and what many people would call fundamentalists.

Steve's comment that I deleted is a refutation of the intercession of the saints. You can read it here if you like.

I am sure he is a better Christian than I am. Not that that is saying a whole lot.

mushroom said...

Steve, please feel free to comment and leave a link to your blog anytime. I will not delete it.

Do not, however, stick your day's post in my comments and run. That is not courteous.