I hope you never feel righteous.
We’ve already talked about how our righteousness comes from God, and not from our own actions or thoughts or… whatever. Righteousness is described repeatedly as something that we put on, something that covers us. Sometimes it’s a breastplate, sometimes it’s a tunic, sometimes it’s a robe, sometimes it’s blood. Regardless, it’s ‘on us.’ And I think such metaphors are great in explaining how righteousness works. I would like to add my own to the conversation.
Imagine for a moment that you are wearing nice clothes. ” Church fresh” as the young people say. The hair is perfect, the cloths pressed, the fragrance blessed…and you are transported to a basketball court. You like basketball, and you never miss a chance to play. So you begin playing ( just go with me here), with the same skill and focus you always do.
Well… it sucks. You’re not dressed. The opposition, who IS appropriately dressed, is KILLING you. Now you are playing in socks, because your heels/ loafers make movement impossible. Socks aren’t much better, but what can you do? Your cloths are messed up, and the aroma you are exuding..isn’t as blessed as it once was. Your team loses and blames you. The clothes you value are completely messed up, and as bewildering as that all is, which you also value, and generally, realize there are some consequences for scuffing up. Or maybe you don’t even think about that until the next time you find yourself on the court in your nice clothes.
If that experience is foreign at all, imagine coming in from the cold into an auditorium, keeping on your big fluffy winter coat, even as you go on stage to, I don’t know, sing in the choir, or perhaps play a part in a play. With those bright lights, and that heat going so well… eventually, it starts to get hot. Really hot. At a certain point, you are going to simply take off your jacket, because it’s too hot for all that.
The problem that you’ve run into is that your clothing is fit for your goals, but not your desires. You want to look nice for church or some outing, and so you’re dressed for that. You want to stay as warm as possible, but your body literally can’t handle being as warm as possible.
So, what happens if you keep dressing for your goals and not your short-term desires? Well, eventually basketball becomes a problem. You start playing less, getting worse at it, less up to date, less relevant and less interested. You may still know the game, still have a love for it, but it’s just not you in the way it used to be.
You keep that coat on? You gone be sweating like a mug. All those impurities keep coming out. You take off the coat, but then you sense you’re getting cold again and you put it back on. So continues the process, slowly over time building up a tolerance to that kind of heat as more and more impurities come out.
The way you dress, then can affect your habits, your body, and even your mindset over time. This is precisely how God’s righteousness works. As we put it on, as we say “Okay, God, whatever you want me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.” then he leads us into situations that allow us to do just that, as well as situations that pit what God has asked us to do against what we usually do. This contradiction is uncomfortable because this righteousness that has put on our bodies conflicts with what we normally do; so now watching the same things I used to watch, saying the things I used to say, doing the things I used to do, is as uncomfortable as playing basketball with church shoes on. I could do it, easily even, but I don’t like the effect it has on my church shoes, on my commitment to doing the things God has given me to do. It’s less fun, and I think about that next time. I may play 1000 games more, but eventually, if I keep putting on Christ, the game has to go. It’s literally just a matter of time.
Even when it’s too much, it’s too hot, and I take off the coat, I know what warmth is, and I’m going to want that back, even if it makes me uncomfortable at times. It’s a matter of time again, and my choice is simple… do I keep the jacket on or not? The longer I do, the faster the process goes, the quicker I throw it off, the longer it takes. The concern is not whether I’m going to hell or not; we only put this on after we’re saved, so there is that. Now, without the fear factor, the question is… how much time do I want to waste on things that don’t do me any good? How much time do I want to spend on things that are not improving my game, on things that don’t fit with where I’m going?
How much time are you going to spend being scared of the future God has for you, yet running back to the comfortable, safe things you hate?
I’ve asked around, and there’s no other process here. I talk to the most spiritual people I know, and they seem very convinced that they’re not righteous yet either. The hotter they get in their spiritual coats, the more they see how far they are from being as hot as the sun. The less they play basketball, the more they become aware of how often basketball is still on their mind. The more we experience Christ, the more we learn about how far we are from being like the Sun. The less we act out our sinfulness, the more aware we become about how often sinful thoughts are on our mind. The more righteousness we have, the more clear it becomes is that our righteousness is something that is on us, not in us. The more righteous we are, the less righteous we feel.
So… feeling righteous yet?