Walking in step with the righteousness of Christ (3)

Bible Readings

  • Titus 3:1-11
  • Philippians 3:12-4:1


I grew up in a house where about all of us loved pets.  We had a cat, a budgie, and at one stage even a crow.  What we did not have, was a dog.

We were driving along one day and we saw a very scruffy looking dog by the roadside.  It was clearly underfed, tired, hungry and thirsty.  He was clearly lost, but dad could not just drive past.  He pulled over and without resistance the dog was loaded it into the Kombi.  To be honest it smelled and you could see the fleas were having a field day on it.

I think the idea was to take to home to give it some food, water and a good scrub down—and then to see if we could find out who the owners were.

We never found out where it came from and it stayed with us.  He got a very apt name:  Pickup!

There was one big problem with Pickup: he was not used to be inside of the yard.  He had to be trained—as a matter of fact, he had no manners: he barked all the time, even at visitors. He jumped up onto beds and furniture.  It took a lot time before he adapted to our lifestyle, because Mom insisted that if we want him, he has to obey.

Sinners in God’s home

It had me think about me, a sinner.  God picked me by the road.  There was nothing good in me to attract his attention.  I smelled of sin and needed to be bathed in the righteousness of Christ.  God took me into his home, looks after me, feeds me and gives me shelter.

Of every sinner we can say this:  God takes us as we are, warts and all. He gives us a righteousness which is foreign to us, and He adopts us as his children.  Taking us in, He gives us a future:  heaven and all which belongs to Christ.  But, and this is where so many Christians go wrong, although He saves me as I am, He then takes me under his roof and He teaches me to live as his child.  This calls for obedience. Day by day I have to conform to his will.  This is the “now” (or presence) of my “walking in step with the righteousness of Christ.”

Living up to God’s standard

We must live in agreement with what we have come to be in Christ.

Our past

In the first delivery of this mini series we met the apostle Paul telling us about his past and what it means to come to know Christ and his righteousness.  He came to this conclusion:

It was wrong to think that one can live in the right relationship with God while trying to achieve it by keeping the Law.  What is necessary to live in the right relationship with God, is Christ who achieved what we could not. By committing ourselves by faith to Him only, God grants us what is necessary to live in relationship with Him based on what Christ did on my behalf.

That’s our past:  just as we are God takes us in, saves us, and freely declares us righteous because of Christ’s righteousness.

Our future

We also looked at the future:

but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20, HCSB)

Hebrews 12:22-24 helped us to rejoice in this our eternal home:  It’s the place of grace, a perfect city of God filled with myriads of angles doing the bidding of Christ; by faith we are already joined with those who have finished the race; we are already gathered around the throne of Christ, saved by his blood.  This place stands firm and will withstand the final shaking out the elements of this dispensation after which we will forever live in the presence of God.

The pilgrimage between our past and our future

Between our sinful past and your glorious destination we find ourselves on a pilgrimage.

Philippians 3:16:  “Let us live in keeping with”, or “let us walk in agreement”.  Where have come from?  A life outside of the right relationship with God; a life of trying and despairing DIY righteousness.  What have we come to be?  People with a hope in eternal life with Christ. How did this happen?  Christ made it all possible by achieving the righteousness acceptable to the holy Father.  We took hold of it by faith.

What difference does it make to the way we live now?

1.  Take hold of Christ because He took hold of us

Paul writes:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

Jesus took hold of him and he pressed on to take hold of the reason for Christ grace:  a life giving glory to God, determined from eternity.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)

If ever there you thought that being a Christian is to follow a set of “do’s” and “don’t’s”—in other words, moralistic living—stop doing so!  It is a lie Satan would want you to believe.

What does Paul say happened?  By the grace of God he was taken into the household of God.  In this household he receives what he needs for free.  He life was determined by the reality of eternity.  Living in God’s household opened his eyes to another way of thinking:  his thoughts, emotions and desires are now driven by a completely new way of living.  His eternal destiny shaped his present living.

This is important:  God did not invade his mind or enter into his world; what happened is that he was transplanted into God’s world and was given a new mindset.  He declares:

For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:19–20, HCSB)

You have to understand what this verse says:  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.” Passive tense.  Makes a statement; he does not imply some command somewhere.  He in no ways implies that he has been crucifying himself.  No!  When, by God’s grace he came to know Christ and put his trust in Him, by faith God united him to Christ, so that what Christ did was as if he did it himself, only that he didn’t because he couldn’t.  Therefore, when Christ was crucified, he was crucified (passive tense).  When Christ rose to live, by faith Paul rose to a new life, so that he from then on he lived by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for Paul.  And this is true of every Christian.  It is therefore not surprising that he writes:

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24–25, HCSB)

Let’s pray that God will free us from the sin of self-centred “Christian” living; for as long as we think that we need God to come into our lives, we will struggle and stumble over the perceived need to do things in order to be saved.  We must understand that God does not enter my life to be on my side, but that the opposite is true:  God calls me heavenward in Christ—I, by grace, enter into his world, I die with Christ and I rise with Christ so that I now think his thoughts after Him, and live his life following in his footsteps; this is not to get there one day, but because I am already there.  Remember the verse in Hebrews 12:22:  “You have come to Zion, the holy city of God.”  That’s where our citizenship lies.

Like Pickup I was picked up, and living under new management my mind thinks along the new manager.

This the Bible calls sanctification.  Every Christian finds himself living out two realities: what he is in Christ, and what he is at present, wherever he happens to be in his earthly pilgrimage. The one reality is the fact of justification from the guilt of all sin and his personal union with Christ crucified, risen again, and received up into glory. The other reality is the Christian’s degree of personal sanctification.

2.  Grace is not cheap

Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18–19, NIV)

Some Christians and teachers who come on the scene after Paul left the congregation he planted, never understood what it means to live in step with the righteousness of Christ.  They spoke the same language of some who tell you that you are saved by grace, and therefore good works do not count. Paul touched on this Romans 5:20-21:

The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20–21, HCSB)

He continues:

So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. (Romans 6:11–12, HCSB)

3.  Following the example of those who finished the race before us, and of those who who mature in their Christian walk

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Philippians 3:17, NIV)

God was gracious to give us people like Paul, Silas, Timothy, Peter, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Bunyan, Billy Graham, Martin Lloyd Jones, R.C. Sproul, godly grandparents and parents.  They are examples of people who knew Christ and were found in Him. But there are others, older men and women, others who have advanced in their walk with Christ, who are mature, take them as a role model, spend time with them, learn from them.

Make time to read biographies of godly men and women in Christ.  Missionaries like John Paton, Braynard, and others.  Model your walk in Christ after those who have been through the rough spots and came out on the other side as conquerers.

4.  Renounce the world

Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18–19, NIV)

The world seem be attractive, but those who are in Christ now live with a Kingdom mindset, not fulfilling their fleshly desires, with their backs on all this world can offer, with the mind controlled by heavenly principles.


Sermon preached by Rev D.Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28 January 2018

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