A New Kind of Righteousness
There are two Psalms David wrote about his sin with Bathsheba: Psalm 51 and Psalm 32. Both are powerful descriptions of the devastating effects of sin in our lives and hearts and the path to restoration and forgiveness with God
There are two Psalms David wrote about his sin with Bathsheba: Psalm 51 and Psalm 32. Both are powerful descriptions of the devastating effects of sin in our lives and hearts and the path to restoration and forgiveness with God:
What was particularly grievous for David about his sin of adultery and then murder was that God made no provision in His Law for such sins. There was no offering David could bring, nothing he could do to repair the immeasurable harm he had done no matter how intense and sincere his confession of sin and his repentance:
(“Surely” is a Hebrew intensive which means the murder will certainly, without fail, be put to death. It was what God said to Adam: “You shall surely die.” (Gen 2:17).)
So, David was a dead man, without hope, without any recourse under the Law of God. What was he to do? What could he do? He did the only thing he had learned to do through all the experiences of his life: He threw himself upon the mercy of God.
Notice that David is not only appealing to the God he has come to know as merciful and compassionate, but he is also at pains to make clear he is the only one at fault. There is no blameshifting; he alone had committed these two grevious sins. God is just and righteous; David is the sinner, and thus he says,
Yet God forgave David, despite what the Law of Moses required! There would be consequences necessary for David’s salvation, but equally important, so that none could accuse God of partiality or injustice. In David’s life, God would clearly be shown to be just and still be a justifier of those who would put their trust fully in Him. And herein we are presented with powerful instruction about what God really wants to find in us:
Consider the details from these verses:
- “broken” = to be utterly broken; like the hail did to the Egyptian trees; like Israel had to do to the images of false gods.
- “a broken spirit” = that human spirit that would seek to justify itself, deny any wrongdoing, seek to vindicate itself: this is the spirit that is utterly broken. It is the opposite of a “proud spirit.”
- “contrite” is very similar to “broken” = crushed to pieces.
- “a broken and a contrite heart” = a conscience and heart overwhelmed and crushed by the enormity of one’s sins and failure to remain true and faithful to God. A heart where the obstinacy of pride is crushed small and completely broken down.
These are the responses God is looking for in us. These He will not despise, no matter how horrendous the sin.
BASIS OF FORGIVENESS — RIGHT ATTITUDE OF MIND
Amazing, isn’t it? God forgave David based on an attitude of mind that was within him, not on something David did or could do—which in this case he couldn’t; he was utterly helpless in the face of these sins. Compare this to Jesus’ well-known parable about the Pharisee, who trusted that he was righteous, and the tax collector:
The tax collector was greatly humbled by the consciousness of his own unworthiness, his own failure to live up to what God desired. This man threw himself upon the mercy of God. God’s response?
That is, God forgave this man and counted him to be a righteous man before Him. However, the Pharisee who thought he had done everything necessary to be righteous before God, didn’t go back home a righteous man in God’s sight!
THE OLD RIGHTEOUSNESS
We can understand why the arrogance of this Pharisee did not find any acceptance with God, but not all Pharisees were like this. Many were deeply religious men seeking to live their lives in faithfulness to God and His Law. Remember that the essence of God’s Law through Moses rested on the two great commandments: love God and love one’s neighbor.
The multitude of do’s and don’ts were only an elaboration of how one was to love God and love one’s neighbor. What was the problem then? As guidance for daily living, the Law of Moses was, and still is, wonderful instruction (e.g., see Lev 19). The problem was not in what the Law taught. It was in what men thought it could do to give them approval before God.
The Pharisee thought he would be able to go down to his house justified, a righteous man, because of his deeds and his blameless life. But the Law couldn’t do this, it could only show how far short we fall from being fully and truly like God:
Sometimes I think we can misunderstand sin. It is much more than what we do or don’t do. Ultimately, it is our failure to be all that God desires! What can we do then? We may well understand the repentant attitude of mind that can move God to forgive us, but what are we supposed to do to live righteously, and therefore acceptably, before God?
If we will ultimately always fall short of what God desires and fail, how can we ever hope to please Him and gain the salvation He promises? Here is where Paul introduces us to…
A NEW KIND OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
What is this new kind of righteousness? It is a righteousness through faith in Christ. Since all have sinned, whether Jew or Gentile, this avenue of righteousness is open to all without distinction! Notice too, this new righteousness is based wholly on the grace of God freely given to those of faith. It is not something we can somehow earn by our religious behavior, no matter how devout, for:
Notice again how the foundation of this new righteousness is based on a full acknowledgement of our own sinfulness and God’s just judgments. Just like David, when God is justified by us and we take full responsibility for what we have done:
But what exactly is this new kind of righteousness? How am I supposed to live before God now?
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH
Did you see what Paul said? This new righteousness, the “it” in verse 3, is our faith. When Abraham believed God’s Word without reservation in Genesis 15, God said, in essence, “that conviction of yours, Abraham, that unshakeable confidence you have put in Me and in my promises is your righteousness before me!”
Paul brought this point home with another example from Abraham’s life:
Here is what is wonderful about this new righteousness. When we spend all our time thinking about how not to sin, guess what we spend our time thinking about? Even psychologists have come to recognize that if you want to put away old habits of thought and behavior, you must replace them with new thoughts and behaviors.
So, here is God’s wonderful message to us: “Stop thinking about sin and all your failures; rather, focus daily on trusting Me and following faithfully My son. Don’t waver in your trust so that I can work out my salvation in you through My son!” As James so eloquently argued:
We can now appreciate more fully Jesus’ appeal to each one of us:
Here is the gracious invitation to stop struggling against the heavy burden of sin:
Listen in conclusion to Paul’s insightful words:
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