20 February 2013

The Perfect Righteousness of Your Father

You are to be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect: whole and complete, holy and righteous.

Indeed, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of heaven.

But Whoever keeps and teaches the commandments of God, the Law and the Prophets, He shall be great in the Kingdom of heaven.  That is to live according to the Word of God — to find life in His Word — and to confess and teach His Word to others; especially to your own children, that they might learn to love the Lord, and to live by faith in His Word, a good, long life on this earth.

So are you called, on the one hand, to live as an obedient child of God within your own particular place; and then, on the other hand, to become a true father or mother to those who are entrusted to your care.  This rhythm of receiving from your Father in heaven, and handing over what you have received to those who come after you on earth, is fundamental to the Christian faith and life.

For Christ Jesus has come, the Son of God in the flesh, not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them in Himself, in His own body and life.

What does this mean?  The Lord Jesus lives His entire life, and He lays down His life in death upon the Cross, in perfect faith and love for His God and Father in heaven, and in steadfast love and with forgiveness for His neighbors on earth.

He lives ethically and morally, to be sure; that is a given for the One who fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things.  He possesses His own vessel, His body and life, in purity and holiness and peace.  But, more than that, He deals with His neighbor (even you) in gentleness, by grace.

So fully and completely does He trust His God and Father, even unto death, that He also fully and completely offers up Himself and sacrifices Himself, as the Charity of God, in order to save His neighbor from sin, death, the devil, and hell: in order to save you for the Kingdom of heaven.

This, then, is the royal law: that you are to love your neighbor as yourself.  Not only your kinfolk and buddies, and those who do you well, but also your enemies and persecutors, who hate you and hurt you; who take advantage of you, and take you for granted, without any gratitude or thanks.

For the love of God, do not seek revenge, but reconciliation with those who have done you wrong.  By the same token, do what you can to make amends, and to be reconciled with those whom you have hurt.  For your part, you are to be at peace with all people, and to live with them in peace.

So shall you be and live as a son of your Father in heaven.  Which is really to say that you live in Christ Jesus, as He has lived for you, and as He ever lives to do you good, in spite of your sins.

His mercy triumphs over judgment, just as His Cross and Passion, and His Resurrection from the dead, not only prove but have actually achieved, for you and for all people.  By His holy, precious blood, and by His innocent suffering and death, you are set free from the Law of transgressions, now then to live, by His grace, according to the Law of Liberty:

That is the glorious freedom that is yours through His forgiveness of all your sins.  It is the true freedom of faith in Christ, because there is no condemnation for you, who are in Christ Jesus.

Such is the freedom truly to love and forgive your neighbor; because your life in Christ is secure, and God is your dear Father, and you are a free citizen of His Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.

Therefore, it is the case that you love your neighbor, not only as you love yourself, but, so much the better, as the Lord your God loves you.  That is not to harbor anger and resentment, and not to hurt your neighbor, whether with your fists or your foul mouth, but rather to help and assist him.

It is not to covet what your neighbor has, but, content with whatever the Lord has given you, to use what you have, be it little or much, to care for your neighbor in her need, and in her hurt; to give your neighbor rest, as you are given rest in the Word and works of God; to forgive, as you are freely and fully forgiven; and to be reconciled with your neighbor, as you are reconciled to God.

This is the righteousness of God in Christ, which far and away surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and by which you are saved.  By faith in Christ, by faith in His Gospel, you have entered the Kingdom of heaven, and you live by His righteousness.  In Him, you are right with God.  You are not condemned, but rescued from all evil.  You are safe and sound forever.

This is your confidence and courage before God, which undergirds your charity for other people.

This is your perfect righteousness; because this is the perfection of your Father in heaven, that is, the fulfillment of His good and gracious Will in the flesh and blood of His only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus, your Savior.  He not only fulfills the Law and the Prophets, but He Himself is their perfect Fulfillment: For He was crucified for your transgressions and raised for your justification, and He has thereby reconciled the whole world (including you) to God the Father in Himself.

He has made Himself the Poor Man, in order to make you wealthy with His grace.  He has given up His outer coat and His inner shirt, in order to cover your nakedness and shame, to clothe you with His righteousness, His holiness, and peace.  He has gone the full distance to save you, and by His fair Name He has called you from death and the grave into the resurrection and the life everlasting.  So, then, as He offers up Himself in perfect faith and holy love, He also brings you, in and with Himself, to God.  And so are you made perfect in the righteousness of His mercy.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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