Extreme Righteousness

Adam and Abraham

African woman accepts Christ

Most Christians can “share their testimony” of how they “got saved.” However, I am not so sure most understand, or are even aware of the spiritual principles and dynamics of that experience. As a result, they struggle in self-effort to achieve righteousness. They lack a foundation for spiritual growth. They may know a lot about the Bible, but are well-educated spiritual babies. They lack a foundation for righteous living, so they strive to live by the letter of the law, seeking “holiness” by living up to rules plucked from both the Old and New Testaments, and constantly failing, repenting, failing, repenting, ad infinitum. Over the next few blog posts, I want to lay that foundation of understanding the spiritual dynamics of salvation. Understanding how we begin the Christian life can make a world of difference in how we live the Christian life.

God has always wanted a relationship with man. He walked with Adam in the Garden. Adam, which means mankind, being the only human at the time, was all of mankind, both male and female. It wasn’t until after the 1st sin, that man designated himself as Adam and his wife as Eve. Through Adam, sin entered the world, and with it, death. The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell of this relationship and how it was disrupted by man’s sin. During this time, God is depicted as relating to man on an individual basis.

Coming on the heels of the stories of the fall and corruption of mankind, is Abraham. In Abraham, God’s relationship with mankind takes a new twist. God narrows the focus of redemption history to one select group, a chosen people. Just as there are significant lessons to be learned from the concept of mankind beginning with one individual created by God, there is significance to God’s establishing a covenant with a one man and thus establishing a chosen people through whom He would relate to the world. And there is significance to the specific man He chose.

Abraham and Sarah had no children, and were too old to start. They were in effect dead to childbearing. Paul says Abram was as good as dead, and refers to the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Out of this death God provided life through the miraculous birth of Isaac. This significant beginning was also the beginning of the ancestry of the One through Whom “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Abraham became the father of Him who was before him. God demonstrated through Abraham that life comes out of death.

This concept is the basis of the old covenant system of sacrifice. That’s for upcoming posts. For now, let’s look at Adam and Abraham.

  1. With both, God was the prime mover. In other words, He acted first. He created Adam. He walked with Adam in the garden. He sought out Adam after he sinned. God came to Abraham (Abram at the time), and established His covenant with him.
  2. The idea that God created Mankind beginning with one individual teaches the value of each individual. To the Jews, killing one individual was equivalent to killing mankind. More than that, the idea that God took the time and effort to specifically form one individual speaks to the personal value of each individual to God. Random evolutionary process just doesn’t communicate that concept.
  3. When Russian President Putin was asked what he thought of American President George W. Bush calling the 9/11 terrorists “evil,” and how that compared to President Ronald Reagan referring to the USSR as an “evil empire,” Putin had a very insightful reply. He said Reagan’s comments did not bother him. It was just the kind of rhetoric one nation uses to describe a political adversary. “But,” he said, of the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, “they are truly evil. To them we are but dust.” What an accurate description of evil. God lovingly formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life. Evil, in direct opposition, sees living men and women, values them as no more than dust, and ultimately seeks to return them to dust. Kill, mutilate, rape, destroy, covet, commit adultery – it doesn’t matter. It is just dust. You cannot get there if you truly believe that God lovingly created that individual.
  4. When God came to Abram, He was not coming to a religious group. He was not coming to an existing nation and telling them a specific way to worship. (That came later). He came to one man and established a relationship. It was a relationship based on His promises. He promised an old man with an old wife descendants as numerous as the stars. He did not give Abraham any rituals to follow (circumcision came later), or any laws to obey. He just gave Him promises. All Abraham needed was faith. That’s why Paul declares that Abraham was the father of all who are of faith, and that if you come to God on the basis of faith, you are Abraham’s descendant. That’s why Rich Mullins sang, “Sometimes I think of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for me.” God loved Abraham. When God told him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, if you have come to God on the basis of faith, one of those stars represented you. Even then, He had you in mind.

Do you find yourself struggling with righteousness? When you fall, do you sometimes want to just give up? Do you know that God loves you because He chooses to?