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  • Writer's pictureNathan Freeman

The Lord Our Righteousness: Christianity's Desperate Fight

When I was a boy, there was a mall near where I lived that paid homage to veterans by

displaying a replica statue of the Marines planting the flag at Iwo Jima. The soldiers are stacked atop one another and fighting to raise the waving flag, signaling victory at Iwo Jima. If there is one flag that must be fought for in the Church today, it bears upon it the inscription ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’

During the days of that passionate and pleading prophet Jeremiah, the Holy Land lay under siege from without and within. Within the walls of the Kingdom, the line of kings that ruled over the kingdom of Judah had led the people further away from the heart of God and further into the abyss of self-reliance. Outside the walls, grim soldiers armed to the teeth stood at the ready with chains in hand, ready to shackle those who survived the siege.

Rightly dubbed the ‘Weeping Prophet,’ the man of God was the mouthpiece of God during the violent and turbulent times that would see Judah torn apart. One of the loveliest messages came down out of Heaven’s throne room of grace to the prophet Jeremiah during these dark days.

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of

righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6 NKJV)

The banners that flew atop the walls of Jerusalem were about to be torn down and unceremoniously trampled upon by the muddy boots of the enemy. Strongholds would be pulled down and homes destroyed. The devastation was going to be real, but so was the promise that Israel would have a king again. In the hands of this king, the salvation of the people is held firmly in his grasp, for God’s name shall be upon him, ‘Jehovah Tsidkenu,’ meaning ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’

A grim enemy stands outside the walls of the Church today, shackles in hand and ready to cart its citizens away. It is an enemy which seeks to tear our eyes away from Christ and his

righteousness. There is a real danger we are facing that requires a fight of faith to believe. The grim-faced enemy outside our gates is crafty; the enemy's battle plan is not to just drive people into lives of complete debauchery – although he does do that. The real plan of attack is to pull you away from a life of dependency on Christ and into a life of self-dependence.

The propaganda of the enemy has even infiltrated our church walls today. The message usually comes as “the enemy doesn’t want you to know your value, that you can do whatever lies before you.” The enemy’s tactics are to subvert the gospel message and turn our preachers into therapeutic teachers. “You are enough; God loves you just as you are” is spiritually killing people. Satan smiles at this message. We must point people to the banner, “The Lord Our Righteousness.”

Yet another enemy exists, not just inside the walls of the church, but inside the walls of the heart. Even inside our hearts, we need to take up arms and fight the fight of faith against this insidious enemy. Our inner fight is to fight to believe that we were saved by a Person – and that Person is the Lord Jesus Christ, the one in whom is God’s own righteousness. Nobody is saved by faith in theological concepts; they are saved by faith in a Person. My growing fear is that many people are trapped in this wrong thinking, not enamored with Christ but with the gospel as a concept. Do a bit of self-diagnosis and ask yourself these questions: how real is Christ to you today? Are you trusting in Christ’s righteousness today or your own? Did you become a Christian by trusting in Christ’s righteousness, but now you live by your own? These are hard questions, but they are ones worth asking. We must remove all traces of our own flesh from our faith.

The Coming Righteous One

In Old Testament times, some people rightly understood that only Jehovah could supply the

required righteousness to obtain legal standing with God. Isaiah wrote of this ‘I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,’ (Isaiah 61:10).

He also wrote of how the perfect servant of God would make many people to be accounted

righteous ‘Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities’ (Isaiah 53:11). This servant would bear the punishment for the iniquities of others, and through the knowledge of him, many would be accounted as righteous.

We must understand that we are not cleared of our guilt ONLY because Jesus was killed on a cross. Many criminals were killed on a Roman cross, yet they did not procure salvation for

anyone. Post-resurrection, many people were later killed on a cross because they followed this king, and many of these people went singing hymns of praise. Our Lord, on the eve of his horrific death, was sweating blood at the agony of the thought of the cross. Why is this?

The answer is simple and should be taught to our children. The agony of Gethsemane was much more than the beating, the whipping, the spitting, the thorns, and the nails; the agony our righteous King felt was the cup of cursing he was drinking from. That bitter cup full to the brim with the wrath of God that you and I deserve.

It is important that we make this distinction: you and I are not saved just because Jesus was

tortured and crucified. We are saved by His obedient and righteous life that He lived on our behalf then he took the cup of cursing so that we may drink the cup of blessing. The Righteous One is living and dying in our stead. He did not just die for you, Christian; he lived and is living for you!

We know today that the promised King was murdered at the hands of lawless men. But this is where we need to press into something important that I fear we overlook today. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, has made and will make many to be accounted righteous, not just by his bearing of our iniquities, but by his beautifully obedient life it was made possible that he could bear those iniquities on our behalf.

Let us ponder the beauty of this truth for a brief moment. While the infant Jesus lay in the arms of his sweet mother, he was fulfilling the life of obedience. When the tears of Anna and Simeon fell upon the infant Lord in their arms, he fulfilled our righteousness requirements. When the young boy Jesus stood in the temple and taught the teachers, he was fully obedient to the Father’s will. When he wiped the sweat off his brow as he toiled under the hot Galilean sun, he was loving the Lord God with all his heart, perfectly obedient to the Father’s will. From the moment of inception to the moment of crucifixion, Jesus was performing the work of redemption. He was at work on behalf of his people from beginning to end. By his death, he washed away our sins; by his life he covered us from head to foot. His death was the atonement to God, and his life was the gift to man that satisfied that righteous demand of the law: perfect obedience with all the heart and complete love of God and neighbor. This is the one you have obtained – “we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10 NKJV)

Spurgeon said of Christ, “He was through his life spinning the web for making the royal garment, and in his death, he dipped that garment in his blood. In his life he was gathering together the precious gold, in his death he hammered it out to make for us a garment of gold.”

Going Deeper Into Our Faith

How does understanding this help us go deeper into our faith? Dear reader, let us press on a bit further, and let me help you understand something that has taken me nearly a decade to begin to fully understand.

When first a sinner is led to trust in Christ for salvation, he looks more to Jesus’ work than His person. As he looks at the cross and knows Christ suffered there, the righteous for the

unrighteous, he sees in that atoning death the only sufficient foundation on which he can come to God and ask for pardoning mercy. However, as time goes on and the believer seeks to grow in the Christian life, something must take place. He must learn that he doesn’t just obtain peace with God, but he obtains Christ. He begins to understand something of the union Christ has with believers. This is where we must take up arms and fight the fight of faith to believe.

Once you begin to understand how inseparable righteousness and life in Christ are, contentment doesn’t come from ‘imputed righteousness’ as a robe only but as the putting on of Jesus Christ. Your righteousness is a person who has given himself to you and taken you for himself. Christ is more than a shield by which we thwart God’s plan to smash us and judge us. We have Christ! He is our life! (Colossians 3:4)

As we grow, or rather to grow, we understand not just that we are pardoned but that there is

union with Christ. The condescension of Christ is almost too good to believe if you know anything of your own sin; faith is required to venture down this path of understanding. The gospel is not a concept to be believed. The gospel is a person: The Lord Jesus Christ. Because we have Him, we have his righteousness. More than that, we understand that we have all the riches that are found in Him because we have Him. First, we understood only that righteousness comes through Jesus dying for sin, but as we advance, or to advance, we come to know that Jesus, the Living King, IS our righteousness – in fact, is everything – and because we have HIM, we have righteousness too.

We began our Christian walk because we pursued righteousness. We came to know of our

desperate need, and we gave a desperate plea – we saw our only hope was in the work of

another. We sought righteousness through faith in Christ. We then continue the Christian life

pursuing Christ.

The banner flag that flies atop our hearts, that conquered battleground, must be a flag that carries that old promise: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. In me, there is no good thing, but Christ has been made unto us—righteousness. The beauty of the Christian life isn’t that we get to go to Heaven someday when we die. The beauty of the Christian life is that Christ has been made ours now and forever – and because we are his and he is ours – we have his righteousness.

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