Vitally Right

I was going through some old seminary notes on ‘righteous’ and was impacted… and humbled… and blessed… by the power of righteousness.  The heart of the gospel and the centrality of the cross focus us on the gravity of thinking things that are right.

This is what I mean…

Righteousness is so significant that God nailed His only Son to a cross for it. 

In and of itself, righteousness is powerful.  And as we talk about thinking things that are ‘righteous,’ it’s downright sobering.  In a good way – being sobered in the Lord is always a blessing… maybe combined with a grand dose of humility and an initial bit of jostle… but a powerful blessing nonetheless.  You won’t want to miss it.

So we’re perched in this thought:

Righteousness is so significant that God nailed His only Son to a cross for it.

After all, if righteousness could come through any other means, Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).  Now hopefully no one would ever let anyone die needlessly… and especially not an all-wise, all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, purposeful God!

So the cross is a picture of the value of righteousness.  It conveys righteousness’s importance, significance, and magnitude.  It is a picture of righteousness’s worth.

For as powerfully as the cross portrays the significant worth of righteousness, it also conveys the extreme gravity of sin:

“Our sin must be extremely horrible… If there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, [our sin] must be serious indeed.”  ~ John Stott in The Cross of Christ

God bore our unrighteousness in Christ.  Sinless Christ became our ‘extremely horrible’ sin.

Sometimes when I start to feel tiredness…or laziness… or entitlement because others are doing it… or whatever creeps in, I find it helpful to ponder this.  Now I hope you’ll take the illustration I’m about to give as a helpful image in application ~ I hope you won’t go theologically crazy on me here on all the nuances of this!  But sometimes when my tiredness or justification or seeming patterns of others or whatever tempts me to veer ‘slightly’ off course – ‘oh, one little un-right thought is ok!’ or ‘they’re thinking ignoble thoughts, why shouldn’t I?’ or whatever other silliness my sinful self may consider, I find it helpful to reflect on the image of the cross.  On the selfless sacrifice of Christ.  And on the nails.

So when we consider thinking a thought that is not righteous – a thought that God tells us not to do – so sin – {deep breath} – is that worth Christ’s being nailed to the cross for?  If we feel entitled to think certain things – and those things are not true, noble, and righteous – are they worth nailing Christ to the cross for?  The Son of God, the Messiah, the Holy One, the Christ ~ it is our unrighteousness that He bore.  And all He’s asking here in Philippians 4:8 – all the one who became unrighteousness for us so that we may live in righteousness is asking – is that we live in righteousness by thinking things that are righteous.

Sobering it is.  But it also brings great vitality.  The gravity of sin is triumphed by righteousness:

[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.  ~1 Peter 2:24

Indeed, righteous Christ became unrighteousness for us, that we might become the righteousness of God!  He died that we may live in righteousness.  Here, in Philippians 4:8, that is simply by thinking things that are righteous.