Sent To Make Us Righteous
Rev. Bryn MacPhail
There was a time, not too many years ago, when you might have heard someone described
as 'so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good'. Have you ever heard that phrase?
I suspect for every person who is, today, described as so heavenly minded that he
is no earthly good, there are ten thousand people who are so earthly minded that
they are no heavenly good!
The accepted creed of our society is, 'Life is short. Play hard'. Life is indeed short,
but the Bible teaches that an eternity awaits us. An eternity awaits us, yet, it
is clear that our society is far more concerned with the few years we spend on earth
than with the eternal nature of heaven and hell. I find this strange. I find it strange
that we spend so much emotional and physical energy on the here and now when it represents
only a minuscule amount of our life.
I remember once visiting a friend in a fairly new condominium complex. If you have
ever been inside some of these newly built condos you will have noticed that, quite
often, all of the doors look the same inside the condo. As I was leaving my friend's
condo, I opened a door thinking that it was the exit, only to discover that I had stepped
into his hall closet! Quite embarrassed, I stepped out of the closet and closed the
door. I was probably in there no more than a second or two. Now wouldn't it be odd
if I were to spend the rest of my life talking about that little closet?
Since it is true that we will spend 99.9999% of our lives in heaven, or wherever it
is we are going, then why do we spend all of our time talking about this 'little
closet' which will be but a moment passing compared to eternity?!
When the Son of God was born two thousand years ago, He came with the purpose of setting
us free from our 'little closet'. Yet, we have His purpose for coming all mixed
up. We think that Jesus came to make our 'little closet' more comfortable. It is
a terrible twist of irony that, while the purpose of Christmas was to incline our hearts
heavenward--to a God who loves us, cares for us, and calls for our obedience--Christmas
has, instead, become a very worldly celebration. Christmas in North America has become a celebration that centres around commercialism; around the buying and exchanging
of presents, decorating our homes, and hosting turkey dinners for family and friends.
The way we live our lives betrays our beliefs. By the way we live our lives, we demonstrate
that we think Jesus came to help us get along in this world as opposed to getting
along in the next. This certainly describes our society, but I pray that this will not describe you and I. I pray that you will prove me wrong this Christmas season
by putting Jesus first.
On the one side of salvation, Jesus came to bear and take away our sins. On the other
side of salvation, Jesus came to make us righteous and to prepare us for our heavenly
existence. While Isaiah 53 describes the Messiah's role in bearing our sins, Isaiah 61 describes the Messiah's role in making us righteous.
We rightly refer to Isaiah 61 as a 'messianic text' because it is the passage which
Jesus chose to read in Nazareth as recorded in Luke 4:16-22. The passage begins with
a very significant statement, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me
"(v.1). In that single statement, the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity function together,
"Spirit . . . Lord God . . . Me
This buttresses what Isaiah has said earlier about the Messiah--that God is coming
(Isa. 53:1b). What then, is God the Messiah, coming to do? "He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the
year of the Lord's favour, and the vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion--to give them a head-dress instead of ashes, the oil
of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit
We must keep in mind that a prophecy in Scripture will have a component that will
be fulfilled in the immediate context and a component that is fulfilled much later.
To the Israelites of Isaiah's day, this was an announcement that Babylonian captivity
would soon come to an end. To the Israelites of Isaiah's day, this prophecy was a promise
of temporal freedom from literal bondage.
There is a danger, however, of reading Christ's fulfillment of this prophecy in the
same way. Jesus did not come to free the Jews from Roman control. Jesus spent His
time condemning religious authorities, not political authorities. If Jesus sought
to accomplish temporal freedom, His mission was a failure. The Jewish temple was burned to
the ground in 70 AD.
Jesus did not come to earth to provide us with temporal freedom; He came to provide
us with spiritual freedom
. The good news Jesus proclaimed was that our oppression from sin
was coming to an end. The "year of the Lord's favour
" is not 'health, wealth, and prosperity', but rather, divinely bestowed forgiveness
In Isaiah 61:1-3, notice all of the actions
the Messiah is engaged in, "He has sent me to bring . . . to bind up . . . to proclaim . . . to comfort . . .
to provide . . . to give them
". What for? For what purpose does the Messiah "bind up
", and "provide
" for the people of Israel? The answer comes at the end of verse 3: "that they may be called trees of righteousness
The Son of God came to earth 2000 years ago to do a number of things and, in accomplishing
these things, His goal was create a people characterized by "righteousness
As I said last week, Jesus did not simply come to give us a 'Get out of hell for free'
card--He came to shepherd His flock; He came to make us righteous
The apostle Paul states this purpose in the clearest of terms in his letter to the
Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 8 to 10: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is
the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast. For we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works
, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them
What Paul is saying here is that we are not saved by our works, but we are saved for
the purpose of doing good works. We owe our salvation to "grace
" through "faith
", which "is the gift of God
". At the same time, the purpose of our salvation is "good works
" and that "we would walk in them
By "binding up the brokenhearted
", by giving "liberty to the captives
", by releasing those imprisoned by sin, the Messiah--Jesus Christ--purposed to make
us "trees of righteousness
And as "the planting of the Lord
" why is our righteousness so important? Why does it matter whether we are rehabilitated
from our sin if we are already pardoned from it? Our righteousness is important because
God has chosen it as the means of "displaying His glory
Let me ask the question, how are we doing? How visible is God's presence in the world?
How visible is God's presence in Beeton/Tottenham? If God is not visible, we are
to blame. We have been charged with the blessed responsibility of displaying God's
In the sermon on the mount Jesus says, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father who is in heaven
"(Mt. 5:16). When people see your good works, do they praise you or do they praise
our heavenly Father? It should be clear to everyone around us that our righteousness
comes from God. Isaiah reminds us that we were made "trees of righteousness
" in order to "display (God's) glory
". Jesus says that we should "let our light shine
" so that others would "glorify (our) Father who is in heaven
A minister once said, 'Don't worry about what your neighbours think about you. Worry
about what your neighbours think about God because of you'. What do they think about
Him because of you?
I don't know too many Christians who are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly
good, but I do know that most Christians I encounter are so earthly minded that they
are no heavenly good. This should not be. This should not describe us, but I'm afraid it often does.
I often hear Christians talk about knowing God's will. Christians want to know if
it is God's will to take a particular job. Christians want to know if it is God's
will to marry a particular person. Christians want to know if it is God's will to
undergo a particular medical procedure. For all of the eagerness I see from Christians who
want to know God's will, I'm sad to say that I find little enthusiasm for the aspects
of God's will that are so clearly revealed to us.
It is God's will for you to be righteous
. There you have it. You now know God's will. He does not want you to continue in
sin. He wants you to "display His glory
The good news is that the Lord does not expect us to accomplish righteousness on our
own. Jesus, before He gave the instruction to "let your light shine
", said "blessed are the poor in spirit
"(Mt. 5:3). 'Blessed are those who recognize their spiritual poverty'. The psalmist
simply exhorts us to ask for help, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me
The Giver gets the glory. God is glorified when we turn to Him for help. This is what
it means to live righteously. Living righteously is not about self-generated perfection, living righteously is about
depending on God's perfection
Jesus instructs us to "let our light shine
", yet He promises to be our power source. The question is, are you plugged in?