Robe of Righteousness
I feel like I have been placed in an accelerated class on salvation. Over the past few weeks and months I have had much more free time and I have been listening to a series of talks on the larger view of salvation. It has been extremely stimulating for me as it puts together nearly everything I have been learning about God over the past twenty years together in a way that links them all coherently. It is bringing into much sharper view the larger picture that I knew was taking shape but have struggled to see where all the pieces fit properly.
When I woke up this morning and dialogued with God as I usually do at that time, some of the old clichés suddenly began to make clear sense, ones that I have struggled with for years to figure out how they were supposed to apply to life. The one that came to mind this morning was the concept of putting on the robe of Christ's righteousness. When used in the typical legal model of salvation it more or less seems to make sense. But the more that I have seen how the legal model is inadequate to really explain the truth of what is really taking place in the universe the more this robe analogy needed a place to fit much better.
As my list of definitions has been updated for so many words and terms and phrases to a more biblically accurate understanding based on the larger view of a great war going on in the universe, I find them fitting with each other better than they ever did in the confusing legal applications typically used by religion. For many years I have been discovering that nearly every religious word and phrase has been outfitted with a counterfeit meaning that has resulted in pretty much a full spectrum of misleading meanings that is relied upon by theologians, teachers and preachers to inadvertently reinforce many of Satan's false accusations about our heavenly Father. Some people have attempted to resolve the resulting confusion by trying to make adjustments somewhere else in that model to make room for a more accurate definition of certain terms, but they still failed to get beyond that model altogether and see reality from a much higher view so they still find themselves at odds with many of the other things clearly presented in the Bible.
I feel like I have been pushed from the fundamental grades where I have been instructed in the basic alphabet and definitions of simple things to a little higher level of training where I am now to beginning to use what I have learned to make sense out of life and the real purpose the Bible record. When I use the updated definitions from the Bible to define its own terms under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as a tutor, I find that the new concepts and insights become exciting and far more effective to transform the heart better than anything I ever learned under the legal model of religion.
One of the most important things I have learned over the past few weeks is the truth about the legal model itself and how it actually fits within the context of the larger view of salvation. I have struggled for years to reconcile these two seemingly opposing views and have wondered why both of them seem to be supported in the Scriptures. Through the insights of others who are far advanced of me in learning of these things I am now realizing how the true legal view of religion properly understood is like a beginners school for those who cannot perceive anything outside of the atmosphere of fear that they grew up within. For those who can only relate to the language of fear, God has had to create an inferior construct, an emergency measure that vaguely reflects some of the key aspects of the larger view in order to get people's attention initially. But He takes great risk in doing so for many people then assume that the way He talks to us in the legal model is the ultimate truth that we must remain with instead of growing past that to see much clearer views of reality that transcend the very limited legal language.
Religion itself has terribly distorted and twisted nearly all of the meanings and reasons for the legal model far beyond the problems it already contained inherently, so as to reinforce the false ideas about God that Satan has been purporting about Him for eons. We are constantly facing the deceptions and schemes of the enemy to distort and taint the truth about God at least enough to make us afraid to trust Him. Satan knows that if we remain afraid of God and feel suspicious about His intentions deep in our heart, then the goodness of God and His feelings toward us will remain in darkness and the lies can continue to flourish. But it is the purpose of God to overcome the lies of the enemy with the light of real truth and that was the triumph that Jesus came to accomplish on this earth.
Without understanding the broader fundamental basics of the larger view it is impossible for me to adequately explain the insights I am now seeing based on that larger foundation. But for those who also have been advancing with the growing light of real truth these things become exciting to share with each other. They are truly 'good news', the gospel as it is revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus who came to reveal the real truth about God to all who had been lied to about what He is really like. This included not only sinful humanity but also the vast numbers of unfallen intelligent beings all throughout the universe. They too have had many unanswered questions about God's character that needed to be addressed, and Jesus' journey to this earth to reveal in sandbox-like illustrations the real truth about God answered many of the troubling issues that had been raised by the arch-deceiver.
I want to simply record here for my own benefit what I sense this morning about how the robe of Christ's righteousness fits into the larger view as I am now seeing it more clearly. In the legal model this robe is considered as primarily an issue of protection against the wrath of God and to avoid punishment for our sins. It is taught that trusting in Jesus' perfect life in our place is the way to shield us from the punishments due us for our sins. This is the widespread view of most religious people but falls far short of the real meaning of this analogy and fails to address the fundamental problem of our mistrust of the Father. Using the idea of a substitute righteousness in place of our righteousness can get us into a beginner relationship with God through fear, but if we do not grow past that immature way of thinking about God we will remain stuck and unable to grow in the kind of grace that will enable us to relate to God in more adult ways. We will remain as babes in the truth thinking that we have all the truth while God is longing for us to become willing to grow into a maturity where He can have much more trusting interaction with us.
When we finally begin to grasp the fact that the legal model is woefully inadequate to conceptualize the real truth about God and reality, we are then positioned to begin to adopt new meanings and insights about all these terms and can begin to see how the many other seemingly contradictory statements in the Bible fit together more perfectly. As we begin to realize that the real problem of sin is rooted in our distrust of God because of the many lies we believe about Him rather than being an issue of broken rules requiring arbitrary punishments, then all of these analogies suddenly take on radically new dimensions and the new insights begin to draw everything together in surprising new ways.
I am now realizing that since the real problem God has with us is our fear and distrust of His heart which runs far deeper than simply not obeying His rules, I am also seeing more clearly each day that this fear and distrust can only be addressed by convincing us of the truth about His goodness, His love, His passion for our freedom and His perfect consistency. He has to convince us that the fundamental lies about Him – that He is exacting, arbitrary, vengeful and severe – are all fabrications of His enemy. But He has to do more than simply insist they are not true, He has to demonstrate by producing evidence through many different situations and over long periods of time that all of these charges against Him are false. He has to do this in such a way as to appeal to our hearts and minds and in a way that can make sense to us. And He chooses to do it this way because that is the only way He can ensure that our love and obedience are based on real love and not on intimidation, force or fear. For if God were to violate our freedom in any way or try to force our love, then our capacity to be able to truly love Him would be lost and the potential for sin to return again would remain in place for eternity.
In that context, I now realize that the more accurate meaning of the analogy of Christ's robe of righteousness is actually for one to be covered and filled with the attitude of being completely convinced that God is good all the time. Even more directly, His intentions and actions toward me in every respect are actually good without any of the above negative insinuations believed by my heart. The very term 'Christ's righteousness' is the embodiment of the truth that Jesus came to show us what the Father is really like, that the Father loves us and that He treats us exactly the way Jesus relates to us and that we have no reason to be afraid of His heart. When this truth gets through our head and seeps into the deeper recesses of our hearts where all of the darkness and false notions about God have resided all of our lives, then that revelation of the real righteousness of God will result in our reflecting His goodness and love and character in every respect in the ways we relate to others around us.
Being covered with Christ's righteousness means that when others look at us all they will notice is the goodness of God like an aura around us emanating through what we do and say to others.
Wearing the robe of His righteousness means being so saturated with a sense of the goodness and passionate love of God that we see everyone around us through heaven's eyes and with God's heart.
Accepting the righteousness of Christ means to believe fully that God is exactly like Jesus made Him out to be and that all of the insinuations of His enemy about Him are false and have no shred of truth to them.
Having the robe of Christ's righteousness does not mean that we finally get our act together enough to imitate Jesus' perfect character and finally keep all the rules. It means that we believe that the goodness and kindness and compassion and forgiveness and irrepressible love that Jesus demonstrated is exactly how God feels about us and nothing else. The resultant life that then proceeds from this deeply experienced belief is just symptomatic of the perspective we then will have, not an effort to keep a list of rules or to impress anyone.
As I have immersed myself in the Gospel of John to find out the real meaning of belief that pervades so much of that book, I am coming to realize that this belief is totally focused on coming to see God through radically different lenses than what I am used to using. As the lies in my heart and mind about God become exposed in various ways and I allow His truth to replace those lies one after the other, I find that all my relationships and my perspective on reality and my attitudes toward God all are becoming transformed from the inside. I no longer have to spend wasted energy trying to conform my life to long lists of requirements in fear of punishment, but rather I find myself more and more craving the presence of God, communion with God and the perspective of God at my heart level that then spontaneously results in genuine reflections of His righteousness.
As I pondered this this morning I remembered the incredible excitement and activity that resulted from Jesus' simple but profound conversation with the woman of Sychar at the well of Jacob. She believed His words about God so thoroughly that the immediate results evidenced themselves in her life powerfully. She indeed accepted His spring of living water into her heart and very quickly many other thirsty people around her began enjoying the same refreshment in their own lives. That is the kind of experience I crave in my experience.