Right­eous­ness that’s on the record


Last week, we saw the right­eous­ness that Je­sus “filled up” for us – and put on our record in our bap­tism. We saw him do­ing ev­ery­thing that was “fit­ting” for that right­eous­ness, liv­ing a per­fect life, more per­fect than even the most pol­ished celebrity at the most posh event could ever be.

Here’s why that mat­ters. That’s the right­eous­ness, that’s the record that God puts on our record. The apos­tle Paul says in Ro­mans 3: “This right­eous­ness from God comes through faith in Je­sus Christ to all who be­lieve.” He says it again in 2 Corinthi­ans 5: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might be­come the right­eous­ness of God.” What Je­sus filled up — that’s what God now sees in us.

And what hap­pened at that Jor­dan River where John the Bap­tist was work­ing … proved it. The story is the Bap­tism of Je­sus. It’s recorded in Matthew 3:13-17. Let’s look at what hap­pened as soon as John got done bap­tiz­ing Je­sus be­cause Je­sus told him it was “fit­ting to ful­fill all right­eous­ness.”

Verse 16): “As soon as Je­sus was bap­tized, he went up out of the wa­ter. At that mo­ment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God de­scend­ing like a dove and light­ing on him. 17) And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

Can you imag­ine be­ing there and see­ing that? I know, we are there, through Matthew’s record, we see it with the eyes of faith. But I’m talk­ing about see­ing that scene with our phys­i­cal eyes. Peo­ple go gaga over the movie stars on the red car­pet. Some of the big­gest fans would crum­ble if they had the chance to ac­tu­ally go talk with that star. They’d be speech­less. They’d be shak­ing and stut­ter­ing — with some­one just like them who hap­pens to work in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. Imag­ine what it would be like to come face- to-face with God — like those wit­nesses in our text did.

Heaven torn open, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, the Fa­ther speak­ing … talk about star struck! But now think about why God did that. Why this phys­i­cal, vis­i­ble dis­play of the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble, in­vis­i­ble, tri­une God? Why? To show that what Je­sus stepped into that wa­ter to do was done. The right­eous­ness Je­sus was fill­ing up was ap­proved. The right­eous­ness that is on our record is com­plete. How much more clear could he be?! “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased.”

And that’s the same thing that God said to you — his son or daugh­ter — in your bap­tism, when he clothed you with the right­eous robe Je­sus wove by al­ways do­ing what was fit­ting and proper for the Christ to do. Through the wa­ter made pow­er­ful by God’s Word he de­clares you His child. He de­clares you “Right­eous­ness” – pleas­ing to Him.

So now — what does that all mat­ter? Well, as Jan­uary draws to a close and we look back on all those New Year’s res­o­lu­tions that have fallen by the way­side, I want to us to make new New Year’s res­o­lu­tions. As we en­ter into Fe­bru­ary — our sec­ond-chance month — I want us to think about our com­mit­ment to God.

It’s only fit­ting to make com­mit­ments to God be­cause He has first com­mit­ted to us. Be­cause Je­sus com­mit­ted to do what was fit­ting to ful­fill all right­eous­ness, and be­cause God has given that right­eous­ness to you, com­mit this year to be­ing what God has al­ready made you, to liv­ing that right­eous­ness that is on your record. Be­cause as hu­mans, from time to time we need to hold our­selves ac­count­able, to stop and in­ten­tion­al­ize our ac­tions. Let’s make to­day one of those days. So take some time and con­sider your com­mit­ments. I’m not ask­ing you to tell me or any­one but your God how you will be com­mit­ting to liv­ing the right­eous­ness that is al­ready yours.

And re­al­ize, that even as you do this, Je­sus’ right­eous­ness will cover any fail­ures; he’s al­ready filled up the right­eous­ness. But to­day, let’s com­mit to be­ing more of what God has al­ready made us, to live as is fit­ting for his right­eous chil­dren. Take some time to­day and write down your com­mit­ments to be what God has made you – to do the things God says his sons and daugh­ters will do. He’s given you so much free­dom in how you do them, but th­ese are things right­eous peo­ple do. He made us to be with him, so do that as you com­mit to time in God’s Word and in His house for wor­ship.

He made us to trust and serve him, so do that as you com­mit to your­self what you’ll give to the work of the church. He made us to be His wit­nesses, so do that with your com­mit­ments to spe­cific ways to reach out to those around us. And let your writ­ing it down help you more and more to live that right­eous­ness.

Our God has made you right­eous and de­clared for all the world to hear that you are His child. Let’s com­mit to live like it in 2014. And may God bless us as we do that. In Christ Amen.

The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 8 & 10:30 a.m. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www.abid­ing­grace.com.

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