By Fred Pruitt
(Reworked from a previous article called: Righteousness Does Not Come Out of Discipline)
Recently I sent out a short two paragraph article called, “What Is Righteousness?”
This is it:
Question: Fred, tell me in two paragraphs, what you know about righteousness.
My Reply: Only 2 paragraphs, eh?
Well, brother, righteousness is not something I know. At least in the way your question strikes me. It is like truth. God IS truth. When we are in God, we are in truth, and it is our being, because He is our being. So we ARE truth. Righteousness is the same way. God IS righteousness. “Christ our righteousness.” Therefore, Christ being in us, we ARE righteousness. It is outside of behavior or deeds.
Abraham believed, and it was “accounted” to Him, by God, whose WORD is the consistency, or being, or existence, or upholding, or truth, of all that is. Therefore, Abraham, being “accounted” righteous because of his faith in the promise God gave, IS righteousness, because God’s “accounting” is not the same as man’s. God’s accounting Abraham righteous means Abraham IS righteous, or is the living embodiment of righteousness. Abraham walked around not figuring out what to do and how to do, but simply walked around BEING righteousness, because He was pronounced so by God. Who is going to argue with God, or point out inconsistencies? We ARE righteousness. You wake up righteousness, walk around as righteousness, do righteousness all day long, and go to sleep righteousness, while sleeping are righteousness, and wake up again the next morning to be righteousness all over again. God has “counted” it so, and who will disagree with his math?
Another brother responded with the paragraph below:
It is hard for me to grasp that this righteousness is outside of our deeds or behavior. I know that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, however, it seems that we’d have to have a “disciplined” walk of “true faith” to attain the benefits of that righteousness.
Thank you also for your comments on my short little article on righteousness. Of course what I said there is not all there is to be said about it, and I take note of your questions and concerns back to me. If you don’t mind, let me give you another thought or two.
Of course I agree with you that righteousness manifests in our lives. I truly believe that in Him what we are inwardly, we walk in outwardly. “As He is [in us inwardly], so are we [outwardly] in the world.” (1 Jn 4:17). Of course those words in brackets are mine, but I think they are very much in the sense of the scripture.
I appreciate what you say. First of all, let me answer you by saying that I am putting first things first. Righteousness does not come from our “disciplined” walk, but from God, and in Christ we have actually become the righteousness of God — 2 Cor 5:21!
Where would that discipline come from? From us?
Now I know that what you are saying is the standard teaching, and has been so in most Christian churches in one form or another since the days of Paul. They teach our “position,” and then some say if you want your position to be your condition, you have to apply yourself, do this, do that, walk in a “disciplined” manner, etc. But that is exactly what Paul was combating — a subtle form of legalism couched in supposedly holy, reasonable terms.
Actually, it’s part of the reason they killed Jesus. They didn’t see Jesus as a righteous man. They supposed he was a sinner because he “ate with publicans and sinners.” They saw him as anything but a disciplined man, who kept every jot and tittle of the law, like they did. His disciples plucked grain on the Sabbath and He let them. He healed on the Sabbath. He let sinful women wash His feet with their hair — I don’t care where you’re from, that’s a very sensual act! But He countered them by saying He always did what was pleasing to His Father, because, “Of mine own self I do NOTHING!” AND, most blasphemously, “I and my Father are One!” That set their teeth on edge!
Who wouldn’t think that, IF we walk in a disciplined manner, applying ourselves to our faith, that we would attain what we are after? That’s what we’re taught from birth up. Apply yourself, be diligent, study, learn, etc., and you’ll achieve. Even the Bible, in our infant days, seems to say that. There is plenty of scriptural support for that point of view.
However, there is a reason for that. It is in scripture to drive us to death, not to the attainment of life by our “disciplined walk.” Jesus didn’t say to be disciplined, nor did Paul. Jesus said, “He who loses His life will find it, and He who seeks to save it will lose it.” Paul wrote that Abraham was righteous apart from the works of the law, or as we put it, self-effort.
No human effort produces the life of God in us. It produces Romans 7:24 (“O wretched man that I am”), because if we are that diligent, and we try to be that disciplined, and we seek that hard, it will drive us to the final death of the so-called “responsible” self, who thinks he can lives God’s life by applying himself. Almost all Christians will say we are “clothed in Christ’s righteousness,” but almost all will then either say, “But in this life it is impossible to attain it,” (thus making our position frustratingly for all of life, NOT our condition — which would be to me almost cruel of God and like a lifelong carrot in front of a donkey), or they will say, “And if you want to walk in that righteousness, then YOU must do ….”
But I stress again, Paul says first “Believe,” and then doing comes out of believing. Abraham’s story says, “Believe” and you are righteousness. Be it. Believe it. Abraham did not see the “Promise” (the birth of Isaac) for 25 years from the time He heard God pronounce it, but nevertheless he was walking in God’s righteousness the whole time of his life, because God had pronounced him so, and Abraham walked in the fulfillment of the Promise before his eyes ever gazed on the precious son, Isaac (laughter).
Remember, if God says, “Let there be light,” then Light IS. If He says of you and me, “You are righteousness in my Son,” then we are. Just because we do not see it according to human reason or sight does not mean it is not so. God SAYS IT! Let that sink into our ears, and let us hear!
When are we going to believe God and not our eyes, which see only an extremely small chunk of reality as compared to the whole that God sees? We must believe HIS assessment, not our own, which continually sees lack, incompleteness, etc. God sees the whole, and in His Single Sight HE sees us in that wholeness! When we begin to see ourselves from His perspective, our lives flow out of that perspective, and we experience the death of this false self that thinks it somehow has some ability to apply itself, believe right, think right, do right. We have none of that ability, and cannot even do all that “with God’s help.” He doesn’t need our help. And we don’t need His. We need Him to do it all!
The Old Covenant is “God does His part, and you do your part. IF you do your part, God will do His.”
And the Old Covenant fails and eternally fails, because it is “weak through the flesh.” We must see flesh not as our physical makeup or as a perpetual sinful nature competing with the new nature, but instead as this “mindset” it speaks of in Romans 7 & 8. It is a mindset of independence, of “I can do it,” which is a subtle form of reaching out and partaking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which promises if we do, we will be “wise as God.” THAT is sin and idolatry! To believe and live out of the belief that we can be “wise as God,” by the knowledge of good and evil. That is the devil’s chief deceit of the human family. To repeat, that mind IS SIN, and produces all sins. This is the root of sin.
It is precisely that mindset that dies, that Jesus took into Himself on the Cross, a mindset from and of the devil, which IS sin, that I can apply myself and “take advantage” of that which I am clothed with. How can someone dead do that?
Romans 7 again says we are DEAD to the law — the law of attaining by our efforts and obedience to precepts — in the death of Jesus Christ. DEAD is dead, and teaching people to be “disciplined” is not telling them they’re dead. “Disciplined” people are still trying to do it, and it is continually elusive, if people are honest. The danger of that so-called “disciplined walk,” is that people can attain a self-righteousness, by which they consider themselves righteous because they somehow have learned to follow a few outer rules of whatever church or group they belong to — like ladies not wearing pants to church, or attending every service at church or whatever, not going to movies on Sunday, etc. – silly things which have nothing to do with the real righteousness of God.
Discipline’s only benefit is that it would kill that false self in us (the independent self mindset) that thinks it can do ANYTHING of itself, and realize the New Covenant is only applicable to the New Man — which is Christ and ourselves joined as One (1 Cor 6:17), by grace, through faith, and not of works, lest any man should boast.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (by the self-effort of keeping the law)
The New Testament is a covenant of ONE, “I will dwell in them and walk in them, and be their God.” It is GOD who fulfills the New Testament, because it does not depend on man. That lesson is taught over and over, “For ye ARE dead, and your life is hid in Christ in God.” What “discipline” can a dead man have? You ARE, not “must become.” Someone wrote me once that the “part of me that isn’t dead ….” Where does the Scripture say there are parts of us which are not dead. Where does it say that there are parts of us where Christ does not dwell. God is eternal “I AM” — NOT “I must be,” or “I become.” I AM dead to sin. Therefore I AM alive unto God. Be an “I AM-er,” as NPG used to say.
But oh how we will fight to keep ourselves alive, to keep our responsible selves, because in the final analysis, it is all we have. Take everything away, and we only have ourselves, or our view of ourselves. But the final nail in the coffin of that false reality is Jesus’ word: “Whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
Since from birth we have only seen appearances and outer things, we immediately think he’s talking about giving up material things, houses, boats, property, family ties, etc. to follow Him. And on a certain level according to one’s individual calling, He is. But the universal meaning for us all in that admonition, is that we give up OURSELVES, INCLUDING our own self abilities, our own self responsibility, and accept the finality of death for our own proclivity for attaining or acquiring anything for or by ourselves, even with God’s help, because it is not our cooperation He is looking for, but faith only, which is the simple capacity to stand there and just receive. We don’t go out and “get” faith, but He comes to us and our “choice” is not to do, but to receive. He will DO by us as He pleases, but first we must realize, like Jesus, “I can of mine own self do NOTHING.” If the Holy Son of God/Son of Man says He can do nothing, what can we do?
Lazarus’ raising is a picture of this. Lazarus is a parable of our lives in Him. Lazarus could not keep himself alive and went into the finality of death. Total. Complete. In the Cross I DIE. What can a dead man do? Nothing! His only hope is that he is called back to life by Another. And that Other is Christ, Who alone IS life, and lives His life in us.
So that’s where we live, too. “O Lord, you are gracious and know I cannot live this life. But you can! I know and trust that you DO live this life in me, since in finding myself crucified in Him, having died, I then find myself raised again in Him, but finding out in that raising, that it is no longer I, but Christ living this life in me. So I now do, like Jesus, NOTHING of myself, but it is YOU who lives in me, to will and to do of Your good pleasure!”
That’s the only liberty. Christ must do it all! It is idolatry and sin to think we can be like God and do His works. We receive what He has done. It produces great freedom, the Spirit’s John 3:8 freedom, which is often “out of the box” for many people, outside of the traditions of our churches and past associations, but that’s what Christ was, and IS, in us.
Someone once said, “Well, if I do nothing, nothing will get done.”
I know plenty of people who lives this way and they fulfill this word that Norman Grubb wrote: “No one out-works, out-thinks, or out-prays a man in whom the Spirit of God is!”
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus …” “I and my Father are One.”