A Righteous Generation
For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
with favor You will surround him as with a shield.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their cry.
On June 21, 2009 we were in a church meeting in Singapore, happily listening to the message, when I heard this challenging question: “What do you literally believe and why aren’t you living it?” It was so clear I thought it was on the recording but when I checked it wasn’t there!
In trying to answer that question, so much of my life, beliefs and expectations have been challenged and it has been taking me to a new level of maturity and faith.
As he thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7).
So much of our belief system is defined by our thought life. Knowing something only changes our mind, but experiencing it changes our heart and lifestyle. As one speaker put it: right believing causes right living. Yet too often our beliefs have been lowered to match our experiences (especially the negative ones) rather than requiring our experiences to match the Word of God. In order to bring ourselves into true alignment, we must know the Bible and we must get beyond the black ink on a white page. At times we need to look to the original language for the fullness of truth to be revealed.
When the Children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die” (Exodus 20:19). They rejected the invitation to have a personal relationship with El Elyon, The Most High God.
In the third century AD, Constantine reinforced this by putting in place a structure that made communion with God about a man – the priest, pastor or preacher – who would tell people what to believe and expect them to follow what they were told.
The vast majority of the Church has not moved far from this, still depending on the pastor to provide fresh manna each week, rather than pursuing a personal relationship with Father or studying the Word for themselves. To see the fullness of God is going to take more than a Sunday experience; it requires a total lifestyle transformation.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19).
There are four levels in this verse and we need to live in the experience of all of them. Paul prays that we will have:
(a) enlightened eyes in order that we might also…
(b) know the hope that comes from God’s purpose and calling for us individually. We must see things as the Lord sees them and know our place in His plans. Seeing and knowing His plans for us will be immensely challenging and will require us to change in many ways. Yet without that, we cannot see the next two levels of Paul’s prayer:
(c) His inheritance in us; and
(d) the surpassing greatness of His power in us who believe.
I meet people around the world who hunger to experience and operate in His power but have no understanding and revelation of their identity and position in Christ. [In future posts I will look at the whole area of our true identity and position, as it is key to how we live in today’s world].
These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet… (Ephesians 1:19-22)
Most believe that Christ is seated in heavenly places at this very moment, at the right hand of Father God, which is the place of authority and a place of rest. We rejoice in the fact that everything is under His feet and that He is FAR ABOVE ALL things.
But, reading on, we come to Ephesians 2:6, which in the original manuscript flows seamlessly with no chapter break:
[But God] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7).
This is the position of the Bride of Christ. By overcoming the spirit of the last Church age (compromise and deception) she sits with Jesus on His throne for eternity. This will be a literal event when we enter heaven, but until then it is a spiritual position. Those who have made themselves ready get to enjoy it this side of death or Christ’s return.
He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:21).
It means that right now the Bride of Christ is seated in heavenly places with Christ at the same time as reading this book! It means we are FAR ABOVE every sickness, disease, demonic principality or temptation. Alan Redpath, a British Bible teacher in the 1950-60’s, wrote that a believer does not work up to the place of victory, but down from that place, because of the blood and name of Jesus.1 We so often try to do things in order to gain victory rather than living in the reality that this is already our position in Christ.
Graham Cooke recently put it this way: “We fight from victory not towards it. Therefore, we are never staring defeat in the face; the enemy is, when he looks at us!”2 John had this revelation when he wrote that, greater is He that is in me than anything and anyone in the world (1 John 4:4).
POSITIONED IN LOVE
In John’s first letter, more than once he writes that “God is Love”. This is not the phileo “brother” love that Peter said he had for the Lord in John 21, but agape, a pure, deep love. God gave Jesus all authority; He went about doing what the Father was doing and saying what the Father was speaking. Jesus was telling His disciples and followers that all He was saying was what Agape was saying, and all He was doing was what Agape was doing – that it was Agape love that gave Jesus all authority.
Jesus goes further and tells them that He and Agape are one, and that if they have seen Him, then they have also seen Agape. If you and I are to be “little Christs” as they were in Antioch (Acts 11:26) then we are going to have to experience His love and be totally transformed so we are the mirror reflection of Agape to a world and Church which are both chronically short of unconditional love.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12).
Jesus came as the Son of God. From His position as a Son He served and did everything the Father wanted doing. It was through His security in His Father’s love and through carrying the fullness of the Spirit of God, that He was able to see so many lives changed through miracles, signs and wonders. Since we now have access to the Father, we are invited to live like Him and do the same works He did. Through salvation we became the sons of God and that is what we are, even if we never live in the fullness of that identity or position.
But Jesus then went further still and not only fulfilled His own destiny, but left a future generation a legacy, a promise, that they will do even greater works. Over the last two thousand years, a few individuals have achieved that but never a worldwide company of people, never an entire generation, until now. Jesus is effectively saying, “Go and achieve even more than I did!” This promise is ours by faith and by position. Paul confirms this when writing the book of Hebrews:
For in the case of those who have
(a) once been enlightened and
(b) have tasted of the heavenly gift and
(c) have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and
(d) have tasted the good word of God and
(e) (tasted) the powers of the age to come… (Hebrews 6:4-5 emphasis added).
Isn’t it interesting how similar Ephesians 1:18-19 we saw earlier is with Hebrews 6:4-5? All this is available to us this side of heaven and the millennium reign of Christ. Paul describes a company of people on earth before Christ’s return who will live just like Jesus in the fullness of Holy Spirit; in the fullness of the Word of God; and with a supernatural power that is available today rather than ‘the age to come’. The world has never seen a move of power, miracles, signs and wonders on such a scale, and I for one want to be a part of it!
In the 1600’s, Isaac Newton is quoted as saying: About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the prophecies and insist on their literal interpretation in the midst of much clamor and opposition.
To live a life that does the greater works we need to overcome doubt as well as unbelief. Most of us could pray, “Lord I believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” Sadly, many have a “disappointment theology” rather than one of faith; a life of hope deferred than one of expectation.
Despite four hundred years of silence between the end of Malachi and the start of Matthew, both Simeon and Anna were in the temple each day with faith and the expectation of seeing the Messiah with their own eyes.
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Jesus came so that you and I would experience life to the full and not simply exist like the rest of the world. He came that we would not settle for a measure of what is promised or possible, but that we would live in the fullness of all that is available.
He wants His sons and Bride to stand out from the crowd, to live differently, to be a sign and a wonder to all men. It is our difference that will attract many to God, not our conformity to the image of the world. At the start of Malachi 3 we have the starting point for revival – that the Lord will come into his house as a refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap to purify the ministers of the day, so that He has those who will lead many to righteousness. It is through the process of purification that we are made different to those around us, so the light that shines through us that will draw many to Him.
Though not a Christian, Marianne Williamson describes this in the famous passage from her book, Return to Love:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
SINNER OR SAINT?
In order to do this, we must realize the fundamental truth that:
Anyone who is in Christ – the old HAS [completely] gone and the new HAS [completely] come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 emphasis added).Whether we see the reality of this is or not in our daily lives, the truth of this verse remains the same.
The old has completely gone and new has completely come, whether we see it or not. The truth is always the truth! We are already approved and accepted by God. To live in the fullness of these truths requires a transformation of our mind away from our upbringing and the influence of society, away from incomplete Church teaching and training.
This quote from American pastor, Bill Johnson, sums this up well: “To review my past, apart from the blood of Jesus, is to subject myself to the spirit of deception – because I’m visiting something that no longer exists”.
Many Spirit-filled, Bible believing people have an identity crisis and one of the biggest areas of crisis is that of righteousness. Sometimes in conferences or when teaching in Bible classes, I have asked for all the sinners in the room to raise their hands. I have yet to have less than eighty percent of the people raise their hands and most often it is close to a hundred percent of the people. How different this is from the reality of God’s Word:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 emphasis added)… and He will forget about it as far as the east is from the west… and yes, the universe is still expanding! For the meaning of the word “righteous” (Tsaddiyq article) check out this post, as forgiveness is down to his very character and nature.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits – who forgives ALL your sins and heals ALL your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness AND justice for all the oppressed. (Psalm 103:2-6 emphasis added).
There is more on “Righteousness and Justice” in this post
When Jesus hung on the cross and said, “It is finished”, He had overcome sin and restored a way back to a personal relationship with the Father. Death was defeated and eternal life was released to all who would believe in Him. Now we could eat of the tree of life that was in the Garden in Eden.
In the book of Romans, Paul uses the word “sin” forty-seven times, but only once is it a verb or action. The other forty-six times the word for sin is a noun, used to define a place or position. Yet over the centuries preachers and teachers have emphasized sin, the verb, until many are confused as to whether they are still a sinner or not, because they sin at times. The problem for many comes from being sin conscious rather than being righteousness conscious.
How shall we who died to sin [place] live any longer in it? (Romans 6:2)
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin [place], but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:10-11).
We now live on the other side of the cross, no longer in a prison of sin but one of righteousness. Jesus came to take us from being trapped in a prison of sin to a place of righteousness though His death and resurrection. The word Paul uses for righteousness is also a noun! In this prison or place of righteousness we sometimes sin (verb), yet if we confess our sin (verb) He is faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When we get our clothes dirty, they need to be washed to make them clean again. The same goes with our spiritual robes, but we wash them from the place of righteousness, not back in the place of sin!
In the Jewish betrothal ritual of Jesus’ day, after the bride accepted a proposal, she would call her friends together to celebrate her betrothal. At the end of the celebration she would have a Mikvah, a bath, which is where we get water baptism from and why Jesus taught the need to repent AND be baptized in order to be saved. The Mikvah was a ceremonial cleansing and, as the bride left the water, she would be dressed in a new robe which had been provided by her husband, as she was now his responsibility. Symbolically this is you and I being given a robe of righteousness. She would then apply a veil across her face which symbolizes holiness and separation, because she was no longer available to the world. Like her, we are in the world but not of the world (John 17:16).
Time and again water is used to represent separation. Jacob wrestled God all night for a blessing and when he received it everything changed for him and future generations. He then crossed the Jabbok river at the start of the new day and there was no way back to his old character or nature. The Children of Israel crossed the Reed Sea out of Egypt (representing captivity and sin) and there was no way back when the waters closed. Forty years later a new generation crossed the Jordan River out of the wilderness and into the promises of God and there was also no way back for them. Jesus goes to the same river to be baptized and leaves filled with the Spirit of God at the start of His ministry.
It is the same for us. When we confess our sins at the time we are saved, He is faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, both the sin and the fruit of it. Everything changes and there is no way back. We are moved from one place to another place and we are clothed in righteousness.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness… (Isaiah 61:10).
Because righteousness is a place, it does not depend on how we feel or think, or about what lies the devil tells us. In fact, the more we know the truth and the Word, the easier it is to deal with the enemy. It is not about right doing, but it is about right believing that leads to right living!
Your position in righteousness, is like having a brand-new home but never allowing yourself to enjoy the benefits or privileges of it. It is like having a mansion but living as a pauper, like being the ambassador to another country and sleeping in the cellar rather than the private suite of the embassy; never using the status and authority the position gives us. That was the issue in the parable of the prodigal sons. The older brother had everything but lived as a slave not a son. He had no revelation of his true identity and his wrong believing led to wrong living! Despite having everything possible around him, he failed to live life to the full because of a poverty mentality and an orphan heart. Even within the place of righteousness these areas can rob us of fulfilling the promises and calling of God.
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ Again he said to him, ‘See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.’ Then I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by.’” (Zechariah 3:3-6).
Joshua has his iniquity removed from him and he is then clothed in “festal robes”. The Hebrew word used for the new garments given to him actually means a robe of state. It signifies him holding a position of authority.
And the angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “If you will walk in My ways and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here.” (Zechariah 3:6-7).
There will be a generation that lives the life of a Tsaddiyq (Liz: link to Tsaddiyq article) rooted in a place of righteousness and in our true identity as Sons of the Kingdom and joint heirs with Christ. They will walk in the fullness of truth and from that place fulfill God’s call on their lives whilst having full access to God and heaven. I do not apologize for wanting that level of relationship and access, but to get it will take a walk and life of intimacy.
More messages in the Righteousness Series will be available soon including one on “No Record of Failure in Heaven”.
© David Powell, 2020
1 Alan Redpath, reference to follow when I find the piece of paper again!
2 Graham Cooke, Facebook status, 1 February 2013
3 reference to follow
4 Bill Johnson, Facebook status, 26 March 2013