What or who do you think of when you hear the word “righteous” or “righteousness”? Did you know that those two words appear in the book of Proverbs more than 90-times? As we continue our series, This is the Life, Todd Wagner walks us through many different Proverbs, showing us that righteousness is imputed, earned, and a choice.
Leadership: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
Who do you know that has modeled “skilled living” for you? Once you’ve identified someone, do two things:
What or who do you think of when you hear the word “righteous” or “righteousness”? Did you know that those two words appear in the book of Proverbs more than 90-times? As we continue our series, This is the Life, Todd Wagner walks us through many different Proverbs, showing us that righteousness is imputed, earned, and a choice.
Good morning. How are we doing? It is great to be back together again with our friends in Frisco, Plano, Fort Worth, right here in Dallas, and online. We are in the second week of a series called This Is the Life. It's the third volume of this series that we've done sporadically over almost our 20 years together.
What we're doing is taking a look at attributes of wisdom. We're studying the book of Proverbs. We have pulled out of Proverbs 36 different wisdom attributes that our children, K-5, study for a month at a time in a three-year rotation. They get it twice over a six-year period. What we're doing is looking ourselves at some of these. We'll take usually a week at a time for each attribute.
Next week it's on courage. It's going to be awesome. We see that's a wisdom attribute, when you have a skilled life. That's what the word wisdom means. When the word wisdom is translated out of the Hebrew, it's used of not just people who live well, but it's used of artisans. It's used of cooks. It's used of leadership. When you are good at something, you're considered a wise or skilled individual. What Proverbs is basically saying is you want to be somebody who in the way you do all of life people just go, "That is wise."
I mentioned to you the attribute we're studying right now to kick it off is righteousness. Righteousness in the English comes from the Old English phrase rightwise. You are rightly living. The way you live is skilled. What is the source of that? Our answer is we're not left to ourselves to figure out which way we should go. We have a loving Father who desires to bless us, and all he wants us to do is listen to him.
Now, I want to set this back up by reminding you what we spent the entire first week of this series doing as we introduced righteousness to you. When the book of Proverbs is talking about righteousness, it's not talking about being declared good enough for God. As we just spent the entire summer studying in the Sermon on the Mount, good enough for God requires perfection, and nobody lives that rightly.
So there is the righteousness, which we commonly use the biblical term justification, which is a declaration of "Not guilty." That is a word which is not used in the book of Proverbs. In the book of Proverbs, the word righteousness means that is working out rightly in life. Not perfectly, but that's good conduct, proper way. It's very similar to wisdom.
So let's take a look at it together. We're going to learn a few things as we dive in with one another. Let me start by saying this. Righteousness is something that is imputed (a fancy word meaning placed upon, ascribed to, attributed to) and earned. It's imputed, it's given to you by grace through faith, and it's also earned as you apply yourself to the text, to Scripture.
What I'm going to do with you today is show you from the Bible that if you are an individual who knows your life isn't right enough to live faithfully before God, that you would cry out to him for mercy and you would take his offer of Jesus' righteousness and have it imputed to you, or given to you, and you would take that. That's the kind of righteousness that leads to our salvation.
But then, having received from God this reconciled and restored relationship through his kindness and grace, you would say, "Okay. Now that I know you're not a God to be avoided and not a God who can be appeased with sacrifices and church attendance and Giving Day activity, now that I see that you're a God who makes up for my debt which I could never pay and I see you're that good and that kind, teach me more of your ways. Teach me to live rightly."
You need to understand this. When Jesus comes and offers you the abundant life, the eternal life, that's not just quantitative, like you'll live forever because you'll be with God; it's also qualitative. The righteousness we're going to study today is the quality of life. The righteousness that leads to being okay when you stand before God in the judgment, that leads to eternal life, quantity of life forever, is the one you get by grace through faith.
It's so interesting how many people miss this. I was speaking last week in a place about 12 minutes from the airport I flew into in Denver, and when I landed, I jumped in with my Uber driver, and we started talking right away. We ended up having a spiritual conversation. On the way over there, I found that this guy had no spiritual interest, no spiritual history of any kind.
So I said, "Man, listen. Thank you so much for getting me where I wanted to go. Let me just ask you a question. If I did know there was a truth about the fact that there was more to life than just this world, that, in fact, there was a God who cares about this world and cares about you in it and I understood how you could know that God and how he could make your life better, wouldn't it be kind for me to tell you that?" He goes, "Absolutely." I go, "So do you mind if I just take a shot at it?"
In about two minutes, I just shared with him what I knew to be true that God has revealed to me in the Scripture and through my own personal experience. I asked him before I told him. I said, "What do you think God would want from you? What do you think God requires of individuals? I know you have no religious history, no spiritual background. What do you think God requires of you if you're going to have a relationship with him?"
Guess what this guy said. He goes, "Well, I think you'd have to be pretty good and do the best you can and treat other people generally kindly, and then I think you'll be okay." I said, "Gosh, that's so interesting. Jesus actually said something similar to that. He said you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but he also said because you don't do that there's a consequence." I said, "None of us do that perfectly."
So I talked about sin and righteousness and judgment and grace. Here's what's crazy. Going back to that same airport, I'm in a car with another guy, and we start, and we have about 12 minutes. Somewhere in that conversation our conversation turns to spiritual things, and I find out what the guy is interested about. Actually, this is the way I did it. I asked, "What do you do when you're not driving an Uber?"
He goes, "Well, I love to travel. In fact, I had a job in the tech industry. I did very well for a long time. I'm just taking a little sabbatical, and I'm traveling all the ways I can." He told me all of the places he'd been traveling to. It was a pretty impressive list. So I said, "Man, that's amazing. As you go to those different places, have you bumped into a lot of people who believe a lot of different things?" He goes, "Oh yeah. Every place you go people believe different things."
I go, "Great. What do you believe?" He goes, "Me? Oh, I'm a Christian." I go, "Awesome. So here's the deal. Quick question before I get out of the car. You're a Christian. You're a traveler. You know the worst thing you can do when you travel is show up someplace unprepared. So if I wanted to be a Christian, if I wanted to travel to meet your God, if one day when I die I stood before him in heaven, what would I need to get into heaven?"
Guess what the Christian said. The same thing my non-Christian Uber driver said. He goes, "Oh, man, you have to be good. You have to do the best you can. You have to be kind to other people." I looked at the "Christian" and said, "Hey, man. Do you mind if I share something with you? I know that makes sense. I happen to also be a person who loves God and calls myself a Christian. Can I remind you what the Bible says about the visa that will gain us access to heaven?"
I shared with him about the righteousness which comes by grace through faith and about how God's standard is not that we would do the best we can. We are saved, I quoted him from Titus 3:5, not according to deeds which we have done in righteousness but according to his mercy and by the washing of his regenerating power and by the renewal his Spirit does in us. "Bro, if you show up and you have a résumé you're going to submit to him, that's not going to be good enough. That visa will not get you through, and you will be naked and unprepared."
Now, I'm going to tell you something else about what will make heaven a very dissatisfying place for you and probably an indication that you're not even headed there today. There's a righteousness which gets you into heaven, and there's a righteousness which will make you happy in heaven.
One last thing. I was actually speaking at the Compassion Global conference. They brought in leaders from over 40 nations who were leading the Compassion effort all across the world. One of the folks who spoke right after me was a woman who was talking about how we should view ourselves as leaders, that we're the ones who have an opportunity to bring about substantive change and make things better.
She said, "This is what I want you to do. I want you to envision…" She had everybody close their eyes. She said, "I want you to think about how you could revise something or double down on something to excel still more, because that's what a leader should do. They should define reality and then move to make it more of what God wants it to be. So I want all of you…" She challenged everybody to sit and think and just go, "What needs to change?"
Now, what do you think I thought of? I sat there and thought, "Okay, that's a good question." It's something I do naturally all the time. I said, "Okay, Lord. I'll take a second. What is it you really want me to change more than anything?" I didn't think about our student ministry. I didn't think about our children's ministry. I didn't think about our Sunday morning gatherings. I didn't think about the way we're doing community. Do you know what I thought of? The one thing in my life that needs to change more than anything else, the one thing in my ministry that needs to change is me.
I thought, "You know what, Lord? You know what I need to double down on and pursue more of? It's your righteousness. I want more of you in my life. I want my life to be more of what you want my life to be, not so I can get into heaven, because that has been taken care of through the gracious provision of Jesus Christ, but because I know you're good and I see how kind you are. I know what you want from me. The number-one area I need to double down on and have a greater vision for what God wants in my life is me."
I'm going to say this to you again. I mentioned it last week, and it's worth saying again. I'm going to tell you, if you don't want to know more of God, I'm not sure you know him at all. If you had the opportunity to get anything from God and to make anything better and your choice isn't your life, because your life being better… When a leader gets better, everything gets better around him. Your marriage gets better. Your parenting gets better. Your dating life gets better. Your giving gets better. Your kindness gets better. The poor are better served.
It's what the wisest guy who ever lived said. "God, give me more skill in right-wise living." It's what you should want. Let me show you one thing, and then we're going to show you that righteousness is imputed by grace through faith when you say, "God, I can never be good enough for you. Thank you that you love me and Jesus died for me. And now, Lord, let me be righteous in the way I live. Let me learn your ways." That's what the book of Proverbs is for.
I was comforted, because right after I went through that little exercise, immediately, what shouted in my mind was Paul. Paul was a Pharisee. I mean, the brother spent all of his time doing everything he could to live in a way that the world thought was going to make God pleased with the way a man could live. In Philippians, chapter 3, Paul says, "You know what? None of that, I know now…" He understood that he needed grace.
Paul said, "None of that I count on." In fact, read this with me. We're going to read a good chunk of Philippians 3. It starts in verse 8. He says, "…I count all things [that I have done] …" That's his résumé in chapter 3, verses 1-7. He's referring back to that. "…I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things…" In other words, "I don't count them as important anymore. They're all rubbish to me".
"…so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law…" From being a law keeper. "…but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…" Do you see that? That's the imputed righteousness. That's when God places on you the goodness and rightness of your King Jesus in the way he lived his life.
" [I want to] know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." Paul is using fancy language there. What he's basically saying is, "I want to identify with Jesus. I know Jesus died for my sin. I want to die to sin. I know because Jesus paid the wages of sin, sin's curse was defeated and he lives newness of life."
He goes, "If I die by grace through faith with Christ, and the life which I now live in the flesh I no longer live according to what I want to do but by faith, the power of the resurrection that brought Christ from the grave is the power that's going to let me live today in the way God wants me to live in increasing ways."
Here's my question for you. If you're saved by grace through faith, how do you become a more faithful person? The answer is by living a wise life, by studying God's Word, by being a student of the Father who saved you. Look at what Paul says. "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."
Do you get this? What he's saying is "I'm not perfect. None of us are, but I want more of Jesus, this God who died for me, who is that kind and that good. Show me more of your ways." "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet…" That is why when I said, "God, if I could improve any one area of my leadership, what area should I improve…?"
He said, "Well, how about Todd Wagner? Improve that. Not so I can love you but so that my love can be evidenced through you, so that others will see the power of who I am because I make you, an impish, arrogant, impudent little wretch, not powerful enough to do right, all of a sudden have the power to do right." The world will marvel and say, "Todd, what's the source of your kindness and your love and your wisdom?" and I can say, "It's my King. It's Jesus. If there's anything good in me, it's him. I must decrease and he must increase."
Look at what Paul says. Verse 14: "…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are [already] perfect…" In other words, already have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. "…have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you…" He revealed it to me when I prayed to him recently. "…however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained." Which is the righteousness of Christ. Let us go toward that.
"Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us [spiritual leaders] . For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ…" In other words, people who have done works and gone around religious people and said religious things who are not now pursuing the God they say they love. He says, "Many, I tell you now weeping, are now enemies of the cross of Christ. They said one thing and they're doing another. Their end is destruction. Their god is not the God of holiness and the Scriptures."
" [Their] god is their appetite, and [their] glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things." But not us, folks. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…" Let me ask you a question. Are you eagerly waiting for Jesus because you know, first of all, you have peace with God, and secondly, because you're not going to be putting things in order…?
I did a wedding last night, and I always think about "This is my moment." When the doors are going to open… It's my favorite part of the wedding. The doors are shut. All of the bridesmaids have come in. All of the guys are up there, and we're standing there. Then all of a sudden, the processional music starts, and I always want the doors to stay shut a little longer, but then there's that moment when the door opens and the bridegroom is standing there, and then here she comes.
I always think, "Lord…" Because what that girl has been doing is getting ready all stinkin' day. I mean, nails are done. Everything is clipped and trimmed and tucked. She'll never have a more custom-made anything on, and the hair is just right. She did everything she could for when those doors open to make herself as lovely as she could for her bridegroom. But wouldn't it offend you if she showed up at the front and just went, "You'd better love me, because look at this. You'd better lay down your life for me, Jack, because look at this." It would offend all of us. I don't care who she is.
No, she's there by faith. That guy said, "I will love you, and I'll meet you at 5:00 at 7540 LBJ, and I will complete my intention to be one with you in all of its fullness." But because she loves him, she did all she could to make herself presentable, knowing that it's the offer of love of that man that's going to make that thing go down. She's not getting one long, lingering kiss in back there with the world. She doesn't have her old boyfriends lined up, going, "I think we have a few more seconds before the door opens. Come on." How awful would that be? How awful would that be if that's what you're doing?
I'll read this to you. This is from my friend J.C. Ryle. He said, "Suppose for a moment that you were allowed to enter heaven without holiness [without righteousness]. What would you do? What possible enjoyment could you feel there? To which of all the saints would you join yourself, and by whose side [in heaven] would you sit down?" If you've said you love Jesus but you've been about loving the world, what true saints of God are you going to enjoy?
"Their pleasures are not your pleasures, their tastes not your tastes, their character not your character. How could you possibly be happy [in heaven], if you had not been [righteous] on earth?" You need to know there will be no other company but the righteous in heaven. How can an unholy man ever find pleasure in such a place as this? The righteousness which is justification and the righteousness which is sanctification are joined by God.
You are never justified if you're not sanctified, and you are never sanctified if you're not justified. What God has joined together let no man separate. Hear me. I'm about to tell you why you should want more of this God who has offered to save you. I'm going to give you today righteousness' résumé. Not the righteousness which saves. Has that been made clear? The righteousness that will take this reconciled relationship with God and will benefit you in every area of your life.
This is why the church in America is so feckless and weak and ineffective. We talk about, "Oh, you can be righteous. You can be saved." We buy fire insurance. We say things about God, but we don't love him. We just know the story, this propositional statement. "Man is bad. God is good. Jesus died. Trust in him and you're saved." Then we just go on acting like we love the world and not the God who saved us.
That is evidence that you have a love with your lips but your heart is far from him, and it is not a righteousness unto salvation. You are not loved because of what you do; you do what you do because you know you're loved. If you don't want to know more of God, I don't think you know him. Righteousness is imputed, and it is earned.
Watch this. Proverbs 2. "My son [my daughter] , if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you…" Again, we're talking about the sanctification, the right-wise living. "… [if you'll] make your ear attentive to wisdom, [if you'll] incline your heart to understanding; for if [and only if] you cry for discernment, [if and only if you] lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then [you'll start to live a little bit more righteously] ."
You need to know God does not sanctify a stupid Christian. I know of no man or woman who is conformed in the image of their Father who doesn't seek their Father in intimacy with the Word of God, who doesn't surround themselves with holy brothers and sisters and say, "Teach me more of the Father's way. Drive me more toward him." He's saying, "If you want this right living, you have to sit at my feet."
Verse 6: "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. [God] stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice…" It goes on and gives you the résumé again and again and again. He tells you righteousness is a choice when you get down to verses 13-22. He says, "You have to choose this."
Verse 13: "Don't leave the paths of uprightness. Don't walk in the ways of darkness. Don't delight in doing evil and be with those people, but choose to know more of this God you say you love and saved you." It's what Paul says a little bit later. "Flee from the wickedness that has been a part of the judgment you are due, and pursue righteousness."
Listen, church. You cannot pursue salvation. You have to accept it as a gift, but having accepted the privilege of being reconciled to the God who loves you, you ought to want to sit at his feet, and you ought to want to learn his ways, because again and again through Scripture this is what he's telling you to do.
I don't have time to go there, but if you'll just go look at the beginning of Proverbs, especially… In Proverbs, chapter 3, he says, "My son, don't forget my teaching." Proverbs, chapter 4: "O son, listen to my instruction as a father." Chapter 5: "My son, give attention to my wisdom." Chapter 7: "O son, listen to my words." It's like God is pleading with you. When you get to Proverbs, chapter 8, God is there again, and he personifies wisdom as a woman.
What's so interesting is Proverbs 2 and 5 and 7 and 9 and 23 and 30… I mean, all over. Five of the first 10 chapters warn you away from the woman of folly who is boisterous and who is trouble and who leads your life to the pit. Sometimes it's actually an adulterous woman or an adulterous man, but a lack of wisdom is ultimately the thing which will lead you to all of those things.
It is true that our greatest cravings in life are physical and our sexual urges are so strong, so you'll find it five times in the first 10 chapters of Proverbs where he's warning you again and again, "I'm going to keep you from the adulteress." The adulteress is an actual person, an activity, but it's also representative of anything that makes you love something more than God.
Now here's what's amazing. Let's get to Proverbs 8 for a second. The whole chapter is talking about wisdom in general, and wisdom is personified as a woman. There's another woman you'll see in chapter 9 who is also trying to seduce you and get you to come and follow her. What you're going to have in Proverbs, chapter 8, verses 1-21…
Again, what's happening is that Solomon is lifting up the virtue of wisdom, the beauty of wisdom. What he's saying is, "I can make your world better. I can make you a better 20-year-old, a better freshman in high school. I can make you a better father. I can make you a better philanthropist." There's nothing God cannot make better if you'll just let him and learn from him.
There's not a problem in the world that cannot be traced to our unwillingness to let God be our Father and our mentor, and there's not a problem in the world that cannot be erased if we'll just go to him and say, "Lord, help me fix it. Help me own it. Help me leave the way which seemed right to me which got me into a world of hurt. Teach me your ways."
So many of us think, "I don't know, man. I don't know if I'm good enough to sit at God's table. Todd, are you telling me that I could sit at wisdom's feet?" You need to know you are wisdom's desired guest. You will never want to know God's will more than he wants to reveal it to you. That's Proverbs 8:1-21.
She is whistling. "Come here! Please sit with me. Let's go on a date." Then what he does is convinces you in verses 22-30… He just says, "Nothing could have made a better world but wisdom." In fact, what he says is, "God used wisdom, this thing I want to give you, to make this world."
You might go, "Really, Todd? So that's supposed to be wisdom's résumé? This world where folks walk into a Walmart with an automatic weapon and kill 20 people? This world where there are pedophiles? This world where there are rapists? Wisdom made this world?" No! Wisdom did not make this world. Wisdom made the world that existed before man said, "I don't really like your world." Wisdom made Eden. Wisdom made the beauty of creation.
If you've been around for very long, especially the sciences, and you get inside… I can remember when I was in college. I was thinking about a lot of different careers, and one of them… I thought, "Man, I'd love to be able to help people in their brokenness physically," so I wanted to consider medicine. So I went, and I had the privilege of getting in the hospital and actually doing an autopsy with a pathologist.
I can remember the first time I was there and I saw a human body broken open. I had seen drawings and charts in biology, but when I saw the sternum cracked and pulled back and I just saw the way everything was put together, it reminded me of a book by Dr. Paul Brand called Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and how he basically came to faith as he studied the human body.
He was like, "There's no way this just happened through nothing plus time plus chance. That's crazy." Darwin thought it was crazy that the human species could have evolved in the finite history of time, but nonetheless he speculated it, and the world followed his speculations. I can remember… I had an amazing dog when I was a young man. He was a beautiful dark Golden Retriever, a Golden Retriever but a dark, deep red, athletic Golden Retriever that was really smart and brilliant.
I would always have other folks go, "Hey, would you breed your dog with mine?" I finally met a guy with a family I knew that had a really beautiful dark Golden Retriever gal, and we let them go on a date. I didn't grow up on a farm, so I had never seen dogs make love. Let me tell you, you shouldn't use the phrase "make love" with dogs. It was like, "Wow! That's kind of a violent act right there." It kind of ends with somebody grabbing a hose and spraying them. It's kind of like, "Okay. All right. Moving on." It was just violent.
I'll tell you why I tell you that. Because 60 days later, out of that R-rated, X-rated, violent activity, there was a basket of 12 Golden Retriever puppies, which are maybe the cutest things on earth. I go, "How did we go from that to here?" You know what? I literally thought, "Proverbs 8:22-30." That's some wisdom, how you can redeem that and make that. It's a crass example. (I'll acknowledge it's crass.)
You look at that and go, "No way you can do that." Right? I mean, if I filmed that and go, "I'll tell what we're going to do. I want you to imagine the most beautiful thing on earth. That's coming in 60 days from that." You're like, "How is that going to happen?" When you see this world in all of its chaos and you go, "How did that happen?" the answer is we said we're smarter than the God who can do that. When you think of wisdom's résumé, think about what was there when there was peace on earth and we were naked and unashamed. That's such a crazy word.
Can you imagine being naked and unashamed? Think about how self-absorbed and self-obsessed we are. Think about how lustful. Think about how when I see you I want to use you for my pleasure and I want to make sure you think well of me. We can't even imagine a world where we can be naked and unashamed. Wisdom created one. There was nothing around all of creation that was a problem except a liar who told us, "Don't trust this God. Go your own way. You don't need to live his way."
What I want to do is take a few minutes and share with you wisdom's résumé. This is what wisdom, or righteousness, will bring you. Specifically, the word righteous shows up 90 times in the book of Proverbs. Of all of the things we're going to study over the next weeks, righteousness and righteous shows up the most in Proverbs.
I hope you've been reading with me through the Proverbs this week. I hope today you're reading Proverbs 15. I hope you repeat that with me all through the fall. You're going to be amazed at how much you learn, how much more skilled you are in living. Let me show you a few. We're only going to get through the first couple. Proverbs 10 and 11 are just thick with the word righteous.
So this is righteousness' résumé. We've already talked about how righteousness is imputed and earned. We're talking about how you earn and become more righteous. It's a discipline. You're disciplining yourself for the purpose of righteousness. You're taking wisdom's invitation to sit at her feet.
You don't have to wonder if you're good enough to go to her classroom. If you're an idiot and your life is in ruin, you especially should be in her classroom. If you know that God is good and you see his beauty in all of creation, sit at his feet. Let him make you a new creation, and then let him turn you forward.
Now here's the dirty little secret about the prosperity gospel. Are you ready? I told you I was going to read this. Look at Proverbs 3:33. "The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the dwelling of the righteous." Sometimes, rightly, these people who will tell you if you trust God you'll be healthier, wealthier, and wiser…
The reason the prosperity gospel, which is a perversion, is so powerful in people's lives is there are verses you can read that seem to indicate that your life is going to be blessed if you do it, and we think, "What greater blessing is there than good health and riches?" You see verses like this where it says he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
So in the health, wealth, and prosperity nonsense world, what they'll do is say, "Hey, if you're not healthy and rich, it's because you haven't trusted God enough." Conveniently, they'll say, "Give more to God, and God will give more to you." Now it's true. You give God more attention, you sit at his feet more, you study his Word, he's going to give more of himself to you, but it's not going to always turn out with health and riches.
This is true. This is Joshua 1:8. "This book of the law…" Which is God revealing to you, "This is a better way to live." There is a law that God has fixed. "You rebel against me, and it's not going to go well with you. You walk with me, and there's going to be a strength and a dignity and an honor to you, a right-wise living."
"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do [everything] according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." If I wanted to manipulate you, I could go right off that.
"Okay, people. You want more success? You want more prosperity? Then let's just drop a little bit more in the basket. Let's get it passed around right here. Are you sick? Have more faith. Seek more of God. You won't be sick." I can always hold up some example of somebody who did that, and you would think, "Okay. Well, that guy had it happen. He just gave a testimony. Todd brought him up here. Maybe I just need to give more and do more, and maybe the reason I'm not well is because I'm not trying enough." No. There are all kinds of reasons you might not get well.
We just taught this recently at The Porch on Tuesday night. We were talking about this Instagram theology that's out there, stuff that's posted online that people believe. A gal actually grabbed me… I was up on campus. I was teaching somewhere else. I was walking across campus. She had just heard the message. She saw me and she came up. She goes, "I just want to rest. I want to believe God will deliver for me if I just trust in him, that my life will be blessed. I don't want to keep having to work. Can't I just find some rest?"
I said, "Yeah, here's your rest. Your rest can be found this way. He tells all you who are weary and heavy-laden to come to him, to follow his way. Here's the thing. The rest can be that you can go to bed and not have to worry that because of the way you lived in rebellion against God trouble is going to come to your life at your own hand. Even when you're falsely accused, you'll know you're being falsely accused and that the only opinion that matters has your back. But I can't tell you there's anything you can do that will keep you free from a drunk driver or a cancer diagnosis."
I go, "But wouldn't it be awful if I told you that you were going to be the drunk driver, that the reason you're going to be paralyzed and eating your meals through a straw is because of your own rebellion against God, that the reason your own heart is going to be torn out is not because some evil rapist took advantage of you but you freely gave yourself to guys who wanted to take advantage of your insecurity?"
I just said, "Hey, look. Here's the deal. You want rest?" This is John 16:33. Jesus says, "Listen. These things I've spoken to you so that in me you might have peace, because in the world you're going to have trouble, but take heart, because I have overcome the world." This world is not your home. I want to remind you, the world we live in right now is not wisdom's world.
This is a world that is following after something other than righteousness, so people drink and drive, people watch porn and look for somebody to rape, but that doesn't mean you have to poison your own liver by being an alcoholic and that you have to devalue yourself by participating in illicit sexual activity to see if it might numb your pain. There's a whole different kind of pain when you don't live rightly and you realize the pit you're in you dug.
You want peace? This world is not your home. The world you're in right now is not your Father's world, and he's going to let you suffer in it, but when you suffer in it, he's going to let you suffer with dignity and hope, with grace and forgiveness, and people are going to go, "Who are you that you're not filled with bitterness and hate even though that was your dad, even though that's your story?"
The answer is, "I'm a child of God, and I realize that this is just a vapor, and there's going to be a time when I'm going to be home and I'm going to be blessed. He's going to remove me from sin and death. He told me that because this world isn't run by wisdom, I might be in Walmart minding my own business on tax relief day, and I might get shot or my spouse might get shot, and though it hurts, I have hope." There's your rest. There's a blessing which comes from that kind of confidence.
Proverbs 3:24 says, "When you lie down, you will not be afraid…your sleep will be sweet." Wow. What a promise. Righteousness does lead to blessing. It's not the blessing that false prophets and false teachers tell you, but it's a good blessing. Watch this. Righteousness should increase in your life. This is Proverbs 4:18: "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn…"
What if I told you that starting today your life can become better, your life can become more skilled, your life can become more rightly ordered, properly acted? You're like, "Todd, I think I'd be interested in that." You could have a better life now by starting to live more in tune with your Father. It doesn't mean you'll get a better job or you won't have an abusive boss; it means you're going to understand how to handle all of those things.
What he's saying in Proverbs 4:18… "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day." In other words, just watch. Get up early tomorrow morning. Get up around 5:30 and watch how dark it is. It's darkest before dawn, but all of a sudden, here comes the sun. In that rising of the sun every day, God is showing you, "This is what it should be like."
There's now a slight glow on the horizon, and then ultimately, it gets a little brighter and brighter and brighter until the noon day, the full day, comes and light covers the whole earth. That ought to be your life. If there is not more of Jesus in your life, if there's not more excellent living, if there's not more right-wise, if people aren't seeing a sanctification in your life, it's probably because you don't know the God who justifies.
Wisdom and righteousness does this. The path of the righteous is a path where it always gets better. You don't become older and more crotchety; you become older and more like Jesus, but only if you sit at wisdom's feet and meditate in her ways. Part of righteousness' résumé is it increases in glory every day.
How about this? Proverbs 10:2: "Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death." I got a text late at night on Tuesday that T. Boone Pickens had died. So early the next day, I sent an email to my kids. I go, "Hey, I want you guys to read Proverbs 11 and tell me a verse that you, had you been T. Boone's friend, would have begged for him to know and believe." One of righteousness' résumé is that it's more beneficial than wealth. You'll see it again and again and again. "Seek me more than gold and riches."
This is not about T. Boone in particular, but I said, "What does T. Boone Pickens know now more than anybody?" One of my kids shot me back Proverbs 11:4, which ends the same way as Proverbs 10:2. "…righteousness delivers from death." Proverbs 11:4 says, "Riches do not profit on the day of death, but righteousness does." You can't buy your way in. You can't give your way in. There's nothing wrong with having the opportunity to give, but if you don't take what God has given to you…
Proverbs 10:3. This is part of righteousness' résumé. "The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked." Sin never satisfies, does it? Do you know what sin does? It only tantalizes, and it creates addiction and dependency and despair. I say it all the time to myself and to my kids and to others who will listen. "Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay." Yet we keep on bellying up to the bar, don't we?
It never delivers. It does for a fleeting moment, but it doesn't ever satisfy. Righteousness satisfies. You lie in your bed at night… Have you ever done this? Let's just say you've sinned. You've lived a wretched life that day. You've done something. I don't care if you just had the most illicit fantasy experience of your life. You lie in bed and go, "Man, tomorrow… Wow. What else is next? What else could I do?" You don't lie in bed and go, "Okay. That's it. I'm done."
Do you know what satisfies you? When you find moments in your day… "God, when I was on that plane and I was just looking to do what I wanted to do and for a moment I carved out some time and really cared about the person next to me and engaged them, and I used those 15 minutes on earth to love somebody else, and it turned into a conversation that could be a pivot point in that person's eternity…" I lie in my bed at night and I'm just so satisfied.
"You know what, God? Today I could have done this with some resources, and instead of giving myself a little bit more comfort, I moved some of it over here to provide comfort for somebody else. It's just so satisfying." That new Amazon box that just showed up and you opened just isn't satisfying, but when you do and live what God wants, you go, "That was right and good," and Jesus says, "I know, man. Do it again. Your life will be full."
So here's what I want you to do. This résumé of righteousness… I have 90 things. We're not going to do week three and week four and week five and week six. We could. We're going to move on now to a different part of skilled living that if you'll sit at wisdom's feet, part of your right-wise living will have courage, hope, humility, and all of these other things I'll get to. But righteousness is a great way to start Volume 3.
Here's what's amazing. Remember I told you what we do with our kids? We introduce what righteousness is. We talk about, "This is what happens when you don't live that way, and then here comes the rescue of living that way." Then we love to say at the end, "And Jesus is the ultimate picture of that." Jesus is the ultimate picture of that. There was some right-wise living in Jesus.
Let me tell you what he did. He came and justified us by his death on the cross, but this is what Scripture says. He humbled himself by becoming obedient. In other words, he did what the Father said, and this is what he did with this Jesus. Not only did he use Jesus to redeem us, but it says in Philippians 2:9, "God highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, every tongue will confess, whether in heaven or on earth, that Jesus is Lord."
Is there anybody more loved than Jesus? Of course not. Atheists love Jesus. Muslims love Jesus. Buddhists love Jesus. Hindus love Jesus. They redefine him, but, Christian, do you love Jesus? Do you want to learn more of his ways? Then sit at the feet of that which made Jesus Jesus. "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation…"
It doesn't say work for. That's the imputed righteousness. But work out your salvation. Sit at wisdom's feet so you can be conformed in his image, and do it with fear and trembling, because do you know what's at stake? What's at stake is the rising sun of glory in your life. What's at stake is the world seeing the power of the resurrection in your life and people wanting to know the source of your right living so you can testify as if God himself was pleading through you, that they might come to know the God who loves them.
What's at stake is you want those wedding doors to be opened, and you want to be standing there in all the beauty of right living so you can give to him everything you can give to him, knowing that he's the one who's going to make you beautiful. There's a lot at stake.
Father, I pray we would be righteous in our living, that we would be about what you want us to be about and do what you want us to do so the world might know that you are King. God, thank you for wisdom's gift and for righteousness' résumé. I pray that this body would study, they would look at the word righteous again and again and again as it pops up, and they would just see and describe, "Okay, this is what it says is true of the righteous. This is the résumé that is produced if I would just sit at your feet."
Thank you, Father, that we don't need to submit to you a résumé. We need to submit to you our sin and our need for mercy and grace, and we find provision for that on the cross, but having received a testimony of your kindness, let us sit at your feet. Let us be right-wise. Let us be your people. For the rising of the sun of Christ-conformity in our lives and for your glory throughout all the earth, I pray, amen.