Living Out of Christ’s Righteousness: A Choice I Make

As we discovered yesterday, those who have expressed faith in Jesus are righteous. We’ve been declared so by God when He justified us according to His mercy and by His grace.

We left off with the question “Why then are we so adverse to admitting that we are righteous?”

When I asked a group of Christians “Are you righteous?” they became very uncomfortable with the concept of their own righteousness. There’s little doubt that you and I struggle with God’s truthful declaration that we are righteous in Christ.

Why? I the answer is so simple that we often miss it.

We Can’t Believe It & We Don’t Choose It!

I believe the answer is two-fold. First, we just don’t believe it. I mean, come on! It is too incredible to imagine, isn’t it? A holy and righteous God like ours declares us righteous? He just declares it and makes it so. Just like that! It’s a matter of faith, belief, and trust that it’s true.

Second, and maybe more significant, we don’t choose to live from our true center, our true self in Christ. Since it’s so hard to believe God’s declaration of our righteousness, we try to live by our own power rather than the true life that is in us because Christ is in us and because the Spirit now indwells and fills our lives. Let’s look at some realities from God’s Word, the Bible.

Christ Is Our Life Now!

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:4 NASB

When we read this, we focus on the “glory” of Christ’s revelation. What we should be focusing on is this, “…Christ, who is our life.” He is our very life.

It is only “in Christ” that we are capable of living up to the declaration of God that we are righteous! It is only “from Christ” within us that we have the power to choose righteous actions. And our choices affect how we feel about ourselves. If we choose righteousness, we feel righteous. If we choose unrighteous actions, we feel unrighteous.

When I see that Christ is the very source of my life and I choose Him in every moment, in every decision, in every action, my life becomes exponentially more righteous. Now I am not only declared righteous, but I am choosing righteous living by the strength of Christ’s life in me!

He’s Chosen To Live In Us Because He’s For Us!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB

Since we are “in Christ,” since our true life, our true self is found in Him; and since we are indwelled by the Third Person of the Trinity – The Holy Spirit – we need to see ourselves as we truly are. You and I are a temple – no less than the Tabernacle of the Old Testament days of Moses, and no less than the Temple of Solomon in the days of Solomon and his descendants.

A temple is a place for God to dwell, to live, and to meet humankind; because He loves them because He’s “for” them. People would come from far and wide to meet with God in the Tabernacle and then the Temple. The New Testament teaches that you and I are a dwelling place for God because He’s “for” us, not at all against us!

He’s chosen to live with us, in us, because He’s “for” us! He’s with me right now as I type out these words, guiding my thoughts and hands. He’s also right there with you today as you read these words, guiding your understanding and responses.

And since we are “in Christ,” we have been ransomed, “bought with a price.” He paid our debt, and because He did so, we should spend our lives choosing to live from His power rather than our own.

But it’s a life-long quest to give up trying on our own and pick up living from the strength of the resurrected Christ living in us! The more we choose Christ, the more we want to choose Christ. The less we try to make life work on our own, the less we want to make life work on our own!

My Old Self Was Removed By Christ & Now I Live By Him!

Paul seems to have it down well in this passage here…

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 2:20 NASB

Paul’s words echo of hope! My old self was “crucified with Christ!” I’m free to choose Christ and not my old ways, my own strength! Even though they’re still with me, and they seem very much alive, they are dead; and they have no power over me!

And I now live “by faith in the Son of God,” choosing His life in me rather than the dead old ways of making life work on my own!

It’s all by faith, isn’t it? Everything we’ve talked about! It’s all by faith!

It’s by faith that I believe that God has honestly, truly declared, “You are righteous my son!”

It’s by faith that I choose to see Christ as my very life, instead of my own old ways!

It’s by faith that I choose Christ and live from His power within me rather than trying to make life work on my own old power!

It’s by faith that I choose to believe that I’m God’s temple because He loves me and is for me!

It’s by faith that I choose to see my old self as crucified and choose to live from the power of Christ in me because He gave Himself to ransom me.

Everything, I mean everything, is by faith. It’s no wonder the writer of Hebrews wrote this famous words…

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 NASB

Let’s choose faith! Let’s choose Christ!


Pastor Mark

Living Out of Christ’s Righteousness: A Declaration By God

A few weeks ago, in one of our small group meetings at Renewal Chapel, I asked, “Are you righteous?” The responses ran the gambit.

“Yes,” exclaimed one man. “I just don’t see myself as a righteous person,” said one woman who is struggling to overcome her past. “No,” a man with little doubt in his mind bluntly retorted. I would venture to say that everyone present was very uncomfortable with the question.

But As Jesus’ Disciples, We Are Declared Righteous

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Romans 5:1 NASB

Based on the passage above, as well as many others, everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord is undoubtedly righteous. The word, “justified,” means “to be declared righteous.

Based on God’s declaration, everyone who is saved though expressing faith in Jesus Christ is a righteous woman or man. God said it. That’s it.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

Christ bore our sins on the Cross of Calvary. He paid our sin-debt. And we are saved when we merely express faith in what He did for us and thereby declared righteous by God.

This transformation takes place when we understand that there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation, or declare ourselves righteous and we turn to Christ for salvation! We can’t fix our own mess. And we realize that He can.

This salvation comes not from what we do to make ourselves righteous, but “according to His mercy” and “by His grace.” Look at the passage in Paul’s letter to Titus below…

He (God) saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:5-7 NASB

What does this passage say? So many truths are communicated in this one sentence! Let’s list a few…

  • God is the One who saves us. We don’t save ourselves!
  • Our salvation isn’t based on righteous deeds that we’ve done!
  • God saves us because He is merciful – He is holding back from us what we deserve to receive!
  • God accomplishes salvation in us through the Holy Spirit who regenerates and renews us, indwelling our lives the moment we realize and express faith in Jesus.
  • God declares us righteous because He is gracious – He is giving us what we don’t deserve and could never accomplish on our own.
  • God’s salvation makes us heirs together with His Son, Jesus.
  • God’s salvation gives us hope, not only to have in this life but in eternity as well.

As a woman or man who has expressed faith in Jesus’ generous and sacrificial gift of Himself for your sin, you are declared by God to be righteous. You and I are righteous.

Why are we so adverse to admitting our own righteousness?

We’ll get to that question in my post tomorrow. Be watching for it on Wednesday morning.


Pastor Mark

Shift: Living Christ in You

Are you righteous? If not why? Jesus made us all righteous and know matter what you have done you are righteous. Don’t allow your faults, imperfections and society tell you are not be all are made righteous once we believe our Lord.


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Presence For Us. Participating With Us.

God Is Present For You NOT Against You!

For far too long we’ve been taught that God is watching us in negative ways. “You’d better watch your step! You know God’s always watching,” we hear from an early age!

I believe we’ve painted God in such dark colors that He has become to most people a kind of “Cosmic Super-Cop” waiting in a speed trap so that he can give us a ticket.

Listen to what Paul says about God that this negative portrayal of God dismisses…

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1 NASB

God is not waiting around the next bend to condemn us with a “religious ticket.” Paul tells us that God wants to bless us!

The fact is that God is longing to bless us, all of us, all of the time! He’s not a Cosmic Super-Cop, He’s our Creator and not the one who condemns us.

He is present. But what He has already given us proves He’s for us, not against us…

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Romans 8:15-17 NASB

God has graciously taken us into His blood-line, His own family! We are sons and daughters of a living and loving Father God who says you can cry to me, “Abba! Father!” It’s like a child crying out to her or his father, “Daddy! Daddy!”

In addition, His Spirit, indwelling our lives, prays for us, interceding for us when we don’t know how to pray about something that is going on in our lives!

And on top of these two, we also get to share in Christ’s inheritance, just like we were brothers or sisters of His very own!

Then Paul ends all arguments about God’s “for-ness” for us with these words…

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:31-39 NASB

God Is Longing For You To Participate With Him!

God is present, and God is for you! Let there be no doubt about it. But there’s even more!

“For we are God’s fellow workers…”
1 Corinthians 3:9 NASB

Did you ever consider that God is your partner and that you are His partner? He longs for us to partner with Him, not only in our lives, but also in the work of His kingdom in this world.

Jesus said that we will do greater works than He did when He was on earth! And as we looked at yesterday, the Apostle Paul proclaims that we can, “do all things through Him who strengthens” us!

God is great because He is always present for us! And God is great because He is longing for you and me to partner with Him as He is partnering with us!

God is longing for us to engage with Him and to participate with Him! He wants to make us more capable and more usable for His kingdom’s progress!

How About Changing Your Paradigm Regarding God?

Isn’t it time we stopped looking at God as a Cosmic Cop? Isn’t it time we started seeing Him as He truly is – Present and For Us?

And isn’t it time that we realize fully what it means to choose God because He’s chosen us? He longs for us to engage with Him, participating together with Him in this world!

Today, right now, let’s not only change the way we think about God but let’s engage together with Him for this day! He’s present to create in your life not to condemn your life! And He’s longing for you to partner with Him in His creative work in your life and through your life!

Let’s Do This!

Here’s To Life Renewed In Christ,

Pastor Mark

We Can Live Fruitfully Even Though We Are Imperfect

Some years ago a man came to me for comfort. He was hurting. Nearly a decade earlier he’d gone through a painful divorce. Three years after his divorce this strong man of faith remarried a great woman of God. Together they were rearing a family – his, hers, and ours. But, he was hurting.

Within a few minutes of entering my office, tears lined his cheeks. “They won’t let me serve as a small group leader,” he squeezed out the words through tears. I gently responded, “Who won’t let you and why?” (I already knew the answer.). “My pastor and the elders,” he said. “It’s because I’m divorced.” He continued, “And they won’t allow Nancy to work in the children’s ministry either because she’s divorced!”

My heart broke for Bill and Nancy. In the Christian culture of their church, divorced people were “marked.” In the eyes of cultural Christianity, they were “tainted, soiled saints,” useful only in the most menial of church-related ministries.

That same pastor preached of the grace of God that not only forgave sin but forgot about it too! And those same elders would proudly shout, “AMEN” as he proclaimed God’s forgiving and forgetting grace from the pulpit. When it came to serving in the church, their actions told another story.

A few days ago, a woman who attends Renewal Chapel with her husband and children called me. We spoke about how much she enjoyed our church, how free she felt, and how much she enjoyed the teaching and the fellowship.

Then she told me about her experience at another church. After she began working with the children, the children’s ministry leader and the pastor came to her privately. “We need you to cover up all of your tattoos and remove the piercing from your nose if you’re going to work with the children,” they said.

“I did as they asked and it didn’t make me mad. I wanted to serve God, and if I had to do that to serve Him, it was no big deal to me.” I smiled all over!

I’ve seen her tattoos. They’re not evil, no vulgarity, no nudity, no coarse references. Just generic tattoos. What was the big deal? And the tiny diamond stud in her nose? Give me a break!

The Great Double Standard of Christian Culture

We have been taught a double-standard by our Christian culture. In Christ all sin is forgiven and forgotten – If you’ve sinned too greatly or in certain ways, you’re limited in what you can do for God in His church.

Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words about himself…

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Timothy 1:12-17 NASB

Paul describes his life with some strong words – “blasphemer,” “persecutor,” and “violent aggressor.” And he also said that he, a Pharisee, one of the religious giants of his day, was a man who didn’t believe! He said the entire time he was a very religious giant; he had no true faith!

He also speaks of God’s mercy toward him. Mercy is God holding back what we deserve.

Then he speaks of God’s grace with him. Grace is always a release into our lives of what we don’t deserve and could never earn on our own.

He finally speaks of God’s “perfect patience” with him. And God’s patience made Paul an example to those who would believe in the future.

When we limit people from serving because of past choices, be they sin or simply choices different than our own…

Are we showing mercy?
Are we giving in grace?
Are we revealing our patience with them for others to see and come to Christ?

Dropping The Double-Standard

How about you and me dropping our double-standard, telling people they’re forgiven, then unmercifully holding their sin against them?

How about we start revealing grace to those who’ve made different choices than we have, instead of holding them to a cultural standard that’s gone with history?

How about we start echoing the patient understanding of God Himself with us in our relationships with others, instead of being so very impatient with those who’ve sinned differently than we have?

This is more than “just a thought.” We need to do this, folks!

Here’s To Life Renewed For Everyone,

Pastor Mark

Doing Life Wrong Can Lead To Hope!

Good times. We long for them. We’ll do just about anything to keep the good times rolling!

We love it when things are going our way. We bask in the relaxing reality that everything’s right in our little world. When all is well, we can truly enjoy life.

But what about when things go wrong? What about when hard times arrive?

We reject problems. We don’t like problems. They bring pain and struggle. Hardship makes life so much more demanding.

Illness, loss of our job, divorce, demanded by our spouse, children who’ve chosen a life of drugs or alcohol addiction, abusive husbands, or failure at business – each of these are challenges to happiness in our lives. They bang at the door of our lives and, if we don’t open the door to them, they burst in anyway.

We are forced to deal with them, and we can no longer ignore them!

And what’s worse, we realize that many painful struggles are a result of our own actions. By our own poor choices, our sin, our mistakes, and missteps; we must admit that our biggest challenges in life are of our own making.

“We learn,” says Richard Rohr, “not by doing it right. We learn by doing it wrong!”

Richard is right! We don’t want him to be right. But he is.

You and I learn and grow much more in dealing with our mistakes, missteps, and sins than we ever do from the successes, right steps, and good choices we make. It just seems to be the nature of humankind.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28 NASB

Every time something negative, painful, hard, harsh, or challenging comes into my life, in Christ I have the opportunity to learn, grow, and change in Christ. Even when the painful circumstance is caused by poor choices or sin in my life, God in Christ can turn it around.

The question is not can God turn it around, but will I allow Him to use it to turn me around!

The prodigal son learned much more about his father’s love by sinning than he would have learned had he not made his ill-fated choice to take his inheritance and waste it all.

You and I can be assured that, if we choose Christ in all things, even dealing with the negative outcomes of our own sinful choices, He can turn life around, using our bad to accomplish His good!

And the choice is ours. We can choose to refuse God’s calling to us through pain and grow not one fraction of an inch. Or we can receive God’s calling into our lives through that same pain, and find great growth and encouragement from it.

It begins with submission in confession…

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 NASB

Confession of sin is simply agreement with God – “Father, You’re right. I’m wrong. I’ve sinned. Please forgive me!”

It continues with repentance…

“Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;”
Matthew 3:8 NASB

Repentance simply means a change in mind with a corresponding change in actions. That’s why Christ said what I just quoted in Matthew 3:8.

True repentance, or true change, will always be reflected in a new and different kind of fruit in our lives. There’s a change. There’s a difference. There’s a new path, and our lives are simply different.

It grows with needy prayer for strength to make the needed changes…

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13 NASB

This is simply and plainly, choosing Christ in the midst of the pain and problems in my life. Without Him there is no way that I can overcome, change, and grow through my suffering in life. In Him, though, there is nothing that I cannot accomplish!

So What Will You Do Now?

Will you choose Christ? Or will you choose to continue rejecting the negative outcomes and consequences of life?

Will you choose to find Christ in your problems and pains, or will you continue to complain and cry about what’s happening to you – as though you had nothing to do about it?

I’ve chosen both. Choosing Christ is best. It’s not the easiest, but it always leads to growth and release.

Choosing to reject the pains of life is easiest to do. But it leads to no hope at all.

Choosing Christ in pain always leads us to an improved life of fruitfulness.

Let’s choose Christ in all things, even the most painful!

Here’s To Life Renewed In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Shift: Participation

We have to move forward with our relationship with participation in what God has given us. Even on those days that we have doubt our don’t feel near him. Moving forward in our faith will grow us near to God and the truths that he has in store for us in eternity.


Living “YES!” With Everyone – Part 3

Being Served, We Can Choose To Serve Others As Our Lord Did Us.


For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 NASB

So far this week we’ve talked about God’s approval of us and our approval of others. Yesterday we spoke of God’s coming near to those who try to distance themselves.

But why? Why’d He do this for us? We’ve rejected Him throughout our lives? Come on!

In the story that ends with the statement by Jesus above, the disciples are arguing about which one of them is the most important, the one of greatest power. Sounds like us, doesn’t it? Always evaluating and comparing ourselves! Always trying to “one-up” the other guy!

Jesus says in this passage that life is not to be lived this way. No one is greater than another, for all are loved equally! For, in Christ, power is found in powerlessness!

Two great gifts from God are flowing to Jesus for Jesus, then from Jesus to us for us. They are a servant’s heart, serving and providing; and a willingness to give Himself up as payment for a debt that we could never pay.

The approval we spoke of on Tuesday, and the loving movement toward us and drawing us to Himself by God that we spoke of yesterday are now perfected in Jesus serving us and giving up Himself for us.

This servant’s heart and generous giving of Himself is only natural. The Father pours Himself into the Son. The Son pours Himself out for us. Then He pours the Spirit of God into our lives. We, in turn, are to generously do the same for others.

It’s about a choice again. We have to make a choice for power or powerlessness.

God chose to pour all of Himself into the Son, who chose to pour all of Himself out for us, and the Spirit pours Himself into all of Jesus’ disciples. It goes without saying then that Jesus’ true disciples will be people who are just like Him – pouring themselves out for others!

Power in the kingdom of God is only power when it’s given away! I cannot retain power for myself. If I do, it stagnates and turns to pride, posturing, and eventually “politicking” for greater positions!

As Jesus’ disciples, you and I are rivers for God’s approval, drawing near, and service. We’re rivers flowing full of these from God for us, then through us to others for others!

And this takes a willingness to be generous. Generous to the point of giving myself up for other people.

As the weekend approaches, would you ask yourself three questions?

Do I really approve of people as they are not as they should be? (This doesn’t mean you approve of their actions or choices!)
Am I a woman or man who gets close to people and draws them to God?
And, when I do, am I willing to serve them by pouring myself out for them?

That’s what God has done for us in Christ! Let’s do it for others. He chose to empty Himself for us rather than retain power. Let’s do the same thing for others!


Pastor Mark

Living “YES!” With Everyone – Part 2

Being Loved, We All Can Love and Draw Others To Our Lord.


“The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying,
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.'”
Jeremiah 31:3 NASB

We are so far from one another. The distance is suffocating!

Yet we promote it ourselves as we self-protect in relationships, separating ourselves from others more and more. We’ve been hurt far too often! So we keep even our closest friends at a distance. And the distance that we thought would give us room to breathe becomes even more suffocating, because we’re so lonely.

Why did God say in the verse above that He “appeared” to Israel “from afar”? Was it because God had utterly forsaken His beloved people? Absolutely not!

Just like us, Israel waxed and waned in their intimacy and interest in God. Don’t for one minute think that you and I are not like them.

I’ve heard people say, “I can’t believe Israel and how they acted! If I’d seen God work in the miraculous ways that He did in the Old Testament, I’d never leave His side!”

The distance between Israel and God is the same as the distance between us and God. It’s a man-made distance! You made it for you, and I made it for me! There’s no one to blame but ourselves.

But God came from “afar” to speak lighting love to Israel. He did to us as well in Jesus…

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
John 1:4 NASB

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:9-14 NASB

We can be like our Father God! We can approach people, through the power of the love that we receive from Him, and through that love, bring light and life into their lives. It’s a choice, however.

Notice that God doesn’t only come from “afar.” He also “draws you with loving kindness”!

The distance between people will only be changed when people who know they’re loved by God begin to close the gap. No longer afraid of being hurt, or being embarrassed, or being rejected, we move toward people and draw them to us so they can find Christ.

God lives with you with an eternal shout of, “YES!” It’s because He’s willing to come close and draw you even closer since He loves you.

Why can’t you and I do the same for everyone we meet?

In His Grace,

Pastor Mark