God's Law Leads to God's Righteousness

(Summary of Sermon from Sunday, September 25, 2022)
By Pastor Kevin Williamson

Turn with me in your Bibles to I Timothy.

I Timothy 1:8-10 says, “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”

Today we want to frame God’s grace through God’s Law. God’s Law is good. That is what the Apostle Paul conveys to Timothy here in this passage. But there is a qualifier for the Law’s good use . . . The Law must be used lawfully.

God’s Law has an agenda: First, the Law of God announces penalties for breaking His Law. We see that repeatedly in the Old Testament. Secondly, the Law of God exposes sins that we cover up and also can expose false happiness. Without the Law, we often think sin will make us happy. And that is true to a certain extent. Sin can bring fleshly enjoyment for a season, and so we pursue it. Hebrews Chapter 11:25 tells us this. 

But the Law of God, used lawfully, interrupts this pursuit.
Romans 7:7-12 states, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.  Therefore, the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”

Paul, like all of us, was not fully aware of sin and its deadly consequences without the Law. Paul experienced this. He said, “I would not have known what coveting was unless the Law had said ‘You shall not covet.’”

We too experience this. All of God’s Word (including the Law) many times issues a "Call to Change" for us. It exposes sin in us, even the secret sins that we selfishly engage in. That is one reason people keep their Bibles closed, and they stay away from church. If they can avoid hearing the Word of God, then they can avoid hearing that Call to Change.

Now notice that a strange thing happened when the Law of God pointed out Paul’s failures. Instead of bringing life to Paul, the Law’s commandments brought death. How could that be? Because the Law has no power of itself to change a person’s heart; it only has the ability to point out what we are doing wrong.

And the Law is good at this. This is the job of the Law. The Law is not timid about doing its job. The Law didn’t even back down from the Apostle Paul. It said, “Paul, you are a sinner!”  God’s Law is bold. It is confrontational.

We know what the Law says . . . It says things like:
You shall not murder.
You must not lie.
You shall not steal.
You must not covet what your neighbor has.

So, let’s personify the Law and imagine that we could have a conversation with it. Let’s call the Law, Mr. Law.
Maybe the conversation would go like this: “Mr. Law, help me not to do wrong things.”
“I cannot help you. I can only show you your failures." 

If there was such a person as Mr. Law that represented the Law, that's exactly what he would say.

One writer said it like this: “Some people will be shocked by the assertion that there are some things the law cannot do. The law can only reveal sin. It can show us our weakness, but it cannot provide strength. It can only condemn, but cannot justify. The law commands, but does not enable; the law slays, but grace alone can make us alive.”

So, the legitimate use of God's Law is to point out sin. The Law declares, “This is what God expected, and this is what you did. You came up short.”

That is what Paul was saying in I Timothy 1:8 when he stated, “the Law is good if one uses it lawfully.”  The Law compares God’s expectations with our performance.

Now notice that Paul says God’s Law is NOT made for a righteous person.  What does this mean?  It means that a person who conforms to the law is innocent of any wrong-doing. There are laws of society and laws of God. When we obey these laws, we will not be found guilty when justice prevails.

Now which of these laws – God or society – has more authority over our lives?  Let’s look at Acts Chapter 5.  

Acts Ch. 5: 26-29 . . . “Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

God is the ultimate authority for our behavior. When the expectations of our society contradict the expectations of God, we must choose to obey God.

Now let's go back to I Timothy 1:9, which tells us that the Law is not for a righteous person. So who is the Law for? Verses 9-10 of I Timothy 1 tell us. It’s for the lawless, the ungodly, and the insubordinate. Those type people defy the ways of God. The Law of God is for them.

But the Law of God is not for those who submit to Christ for their righteousness.  Galatians 5:16-21 reads like this: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

When the Bible tells friends of God things like this, what do His friends do? What do those who are truly surrendered to Jesus do?

They run! When the Word of God points out their sins and failures, they run to Christ. That is how they became friends with God in the first place.

The friends of God know that their escape from the punishment prescribed by God’s Law is only by the righteousness of God Himself, which is given to us in Christ. That is what Romans 3 says.

Let’s close with Romans 3:21-24 . . . But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Praise God for the righteousness of God to us through Jesus Christ!! That is the righteousness that saves us eternally from God’s wrath.

Continuing Passion of Christ

By Kevin Williamson
April 5, 2021

Easter Sunday 2021 (or Resurrection Sunday as I prefer to call it) has just passed. Christians around the world celebrated the “Passion of Christ” and His resurrection.  We remembered His final days of earthly ministry and sacrifice – the fact that He suffered and died so that our sins might be forgiven. We are forever grateful for His ultimate sacrifice on Calvary and that He came forth from the grave to live forevermore.

The death of Jesus would not have been necessary, had it not been the Heavenly Father’s will to redeem us from our sin and reconcile us to Himself. Yet it was God’s will that we be ransomed from sin and eternal death, so the man Christ Jesus allowed Himself to be hung on that cross. There were not enough Roman soldiers in the world to nail Him to the Cross, if Jesus had not been willing to go there. But He was willing. He submitted to the Father’s will and took the shame and punishment for our sins.

Jesus’s atonement for our sins was concluded when He cried out from the cross, “It is finished” and then later was raised from the dead. However, in a sense His passion for us did not end there. His passion for us continues to this day. He is now our great high priest who intercedes on our behalf – He prays for us.  We see this in Hebrews 7:25, where the Bible says He always lives to make intercession for us. Romans 8:29 (NKJV) notes this:  “29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”  So, because it is God’s will that believers be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, there can be no doubt that part of Jesus’s intercession is that such conformity is accomplished. He has a desire, a continuing passion, for us to be changed to be more like Him.

1 Peter 1:13-17 (NKJV) gives us further instructions along this line of thinking.  “13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”   This passage tells us to put our minds in “constant preparation” for obedience to God, to focus our hope on the return of Christ, to refrain from any intoxicating things that inhibit such focus, and to pattern our lives after the paradigm established by Jesus. We are not to live like those who do not know Christ as Savior.

Such godly living is the desire of God for us . . . it is the never ceasing passion of Christ for us!  As born again children of God, we have the privilege of living differently, of pleasing God in our conduct by the power of the Holy Spirit inside of us. It’s important to recognize that a “saving faith is a conforming faith.” True faith in the finished work of Christ always involves the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and in the Spirit’s ongoing refashioning of our lives so that we increasingly reflect the character of our Savior.

Following the Pattern from Heaven

By Pastor Kevin Williamson
March 22, 2021

We often hear in church that “God has a plan for your life.” It’s true. So what is that plan? Romans 8:29-30 unfolds part of the plan for us: “28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (NKJV). There is a lot packed into those two verses, but let’s keep the focus on a single point today . . . the point of being conformed to the image of God’s Son.

That’s very plain, yet what a tremendous goal it is! God wants us to become less of what we are and more of what Jesus is. God’s goal for us is similar to what He shared with Moses when He gave Israel’s leader instructions about building the tabernacle for His Presence to dwell in. “8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it” – Exodus 25:8-9 (NKJV).

God did not want Moses to gather the finest Jewish architects and engineers to design the tabernacle. He simply wanted Moses to build it by the pattern He showed him. The pattern was of heavenly origins, from the mind of God, and had future ramifications that Moses was not aware of. Moses obeyed. He built and furnished the tabernacle just as God commanded.

The man Christ Jesus also obeyed the Heavenly Father when He lived on the earth. The Bible says this about Jesus’s obedience: “19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” – John 5:19 (NKJV).  Jesus witnessed the pattern from heaven, the Father’s plan, and followed it. Part of that plan was that Jesus would suffer here as no other person has ever suffered. Jesus did it. He suffered here so that He might appear there in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).

Today He still appears in heaven in a glorified human body to intercede for us as our great high priest. But He also lives inside of believers by His Spirit (Galatians 4:6-7) so that His power might help us reflect His beauty and majesty through our thoughts, words, and actions. It’s a daily change, and we sometimes stumble along the way as we attempt to conform to the plan of heaven, but the plan of God remains . . . that we replicate Christ in the world in which we live. He is the One we pattern our lives after.

Pastor's Corner

A Clean Conscience 

By Pastor Kevin Williamson
March 11, 2021
How much would you pay for a clear conscience? Probably as much as you could afford, because no matter how much wealth or influence you enjoy in this life, a scarred conscience diminishes every measure of enjoyment. In our March 10 blog entry, we learned that nearly everything under the Jewish Old Testament sacrificial system was cleansed with the blood of animals. Those things included the tabernacle, the Book of the Law, and the instruments used in Jewish religious ceremonies. According to Hebrews 9:13, this sprinkling with the blood was for “the purifying of the flesh.” It had significance in the Old Testament sacrificial economy of Israel, but one thing it could not do was purify the conscience of the worshipers.

The offering of Christ was different. His blood was much more precious and powerful than the blood of innocent animals. The sheep, calves and goats were deemed innocent, and thus used as a sacrifice for humans, because the animals never violated a commandment of God. Why? Because there was no commandment directly from God to the animals to violate. Thus, they were innocent. But Jesus, as a man, was born as a Jew under the Law of Moses. Galatians 4:4-5 tells us this: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

There were commandments that directly applied to Jesus and every other Jewish citizen. Jesus, with the pristine nature of God inside Him, met every expectation of The Law and thus became eligible to be the vicarious sacrifice for the rest of humanity. His blood did more than purify ceremonial vessels and the flesh – His blood has the efficacy to cleanse the human conscience of its contamination. That’s wonderful news for us, because the conscience is our inner sanctum, part of the temple of the heart where we meet with God. However, because the human conscience has been so violated by sin since The Fall, men and women have attempted to escape from their own inner temple. They don’t want to meet God there, because they know they are guilty. The inner temple of every human being is defiled with guilt and remorse. Using the analogy of a human civil or criminal court, when a person is found factually guilty then they anticipate with anxiety what their punishment will be. They know they have to pay a fine or go to prison or both. Waiting for the judge to issue the final verdict creates very anguishing moments inside the defendant’s mind. Well, in a similar way anxiety violates the human conscience because each of us knows we have committed infractions against the moral law of God. We know we are guilty, and remorse fills our hearts.

Remorse can be a very distressing emotion. It ruins everything. It is impossible to thoroughly enjoy family, friends, job, hobbies, and all of life when distress is seated on the throne of your heart. Distress irritates you, gnaws at your mind, and robs you of peace and joy. It causes us to abhor “down time,” for that is when the distress of conscience shouts the loudest. So, to alleviate the distress inside us, we occupy every moment we can with music, TV, social media, and any other activity that helps drown out the internal voice of guilt. We avoid “down time” by attempting to fill every moment with something . . . anything that will deafen the annoying voice of our conscience and give us rest. The absurdity of this approach is that constant physical or emotional activity never produces rest. Instead, fatigue is the eventual result.

One of the gifts we receive from trusting King Jesus is rest. Hebrews 9:13-14 records this: “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Did you get that? The blood of Jesus carries such potency that it is able to purify the inside of you. The failures and conduct of your past (your dead works) is erased from your record in the Court of Heaven. Hebrews 8 tells us so: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

This new covenant was introduced first to Israel by Christ and later to the rest of us (the Gentiles) primarily through the missionary work of the Apostle Paul. Now, knowing that our sins have been fully paid for by a sacrifice that has eternal value, we can live liberated and peaceful lives in service to our God. A born again believer abiding in a relationship with the Lord Jesus by the Holy Spirit has no reason to house guilt or remorse in his or her conscience, because the priceless blood of Jesus has made the believer innocent in God’s Court. That is what the Bible teaches. When the conscience of a believer abiding in Christ tries to persuade otherwise, the believer must accept the Word of God over his or her own conscience. Part of faith is believing God over your own feelings.

The Precious Blood of Jesus

By Pastor Kevin Williamson
March 10, 2021

Jesus is so unique, precious, and powerful! There is no one else like Him, because He is the God-Man, the one who came to earth as God in a human body for the purpose of redeeming us from our sins. The ransom He paid for our freedom is of infinite value, as no amount of currency in an earthly or heavenly economy could ever pay Him back for the blood He shed . . . it was the blood of God flowing from a human body. We know that because of what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in I Timothy 3:16 (NKJV): “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.”

 A ransom, as you likely know, is an amount demanded for the release of a prisoner. From the Bible narrative we can ascertain that God was not interested in an exchange of money or any other earthly goods as the payment to redeem man from his sinful position; instead, God was looking for something much more valuable than gold, silver, precious stones, or any other earthly asset in order to lift humanity from its fallen state of rebellion. It would take the blood of a man – a perfect Man – to restore humanity to its uncorrupted relationship with God, the kind of relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before their disastrous choice (Genesis 3:1-21).  For many years, humanity’s sin was excused, but not expunged, by the blood of animals sacrificed under the covenant instructions God gave to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Hebrews 9:18-22 says it like this: “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

That passage from Hebrews 9 has a very clear message:  there is no remission (which means forgiveness) of sin without the shedding of blood. But the blood of animals could not fully pay the redemptive price required of humanity. That is why Jesus, who is God in the flesh, arrived in the tiny nation of Israel some 2,000 years ago. He came then to shed His blood as the payment for our sins. His payment has eternal benefits for those who trust in His finished work, but it also delivers tremendous blessings to us now, as we live on this earth. We will look at some of those blessings in the next entry.