March 1, 2012

Righteous

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” ~ James 5:16

Do you remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan? He was in the desert, fasting before beginning His ministry, and Satan (yes, really Satan) comes to Him and tries to tempt Him to sin. Having gone without food for so long, He would have been physically and emotionally vulnerable. I mean, I pretty much fall apart if I miss lunch. Satan saw an opportunity to ruin God’s plan for salvation – getting the spotless Lamb to sin – and took it.

 

Over and over Satan throws tests in front of Jesus and over and over Jesus resists and does not sin. Temptation is not unfamiliar to me. But the other day I understood this conversation in a new way.

Whenever I’ve read or heard the account, people like to point out that the way Satan tempted Jesus was to throw individual, out-of-context portions of Scripture at Him and pervert the meaning of the Scriptures for his own ends. The warning there is clear: Not everyone who uses the Bible to teach you or communicate with you is doing so the way God intended.

That’s why the Bible tells us to “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and says “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another (That is, “not another option” – to clarify); but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9) We’re to test all things according to the Scriptures, because there will be people who try and preach another gospel, a false gospel, and like Satan, the father of lies, will use twisted Scriptures to do it.

But that’s not my main point. Sorry. I ramble.

I’ve always thought Satan’s attack here was pretty obvious, on paper. I mean, daring Jesus to jump off a roof “if He really is the Son of God” because obviously angels would swoop down and keep him from coming to harm.

Really, Satan? Magic tricks? Why not dare Him to turn rocks into bread? Oh, that’s right. Ya did.

I guess I always figured that, if Satan was going to try and fool with Scripture to trip me up, I’d be able to recognize it in a flash. After all, I’m no rube. I don’t have a ThD or anything (and I don’t want one…yet….) but I have made Christian cults and false religions my pet study for years now. I know more about the history of false religions than probably half or more of their followers. I know what it looks like when people screw with the Bible to lie to you and control you. Pretty sure I’d easily recognize it if it ever came my way.

That’s Arrogance and Pride talking, in case you missed it.

So, a while back, I’m laying in bed, at night, praying. I think that’s when it was. That’s usually when my mind  and spirit are relaxed and focused enough – or upheaved and desperate enough – to pray. And suddenly that verse at the top pops into my head. “The prayers of a righteous man avail much.” And it stopped me in my tracks.

Righteous? I’m not “righteous.” Certainly not. I mean, that very day, I’m pretty sure I gossiped to one of my friends about someone. And grumbled about SoldierMan under my breath, to the wind, where only *gulp* God could hear. And lost my temper with the dogs, which is still losing my temper. I don’t remember exactly, but it’s not difficult for me to imagine that’s what was going through my mind. I know myself pretty well.

Not righteous.

So…if I’m not righteous…what will my prayers “avail”? Does it even do any good to pray? If the prayers of a righteous man “avail much,” can the prayers of the average stumbling sinner avail anything?

And I stopped praying.

Not that night.

Not for a few days.

For weeks.

Not righteous.

For weeks, I didn’t pray. How could I? I was still screwed up, stumbling, sinning. I felt like I could – should – pray for a friend who had a significant need, but anything for myself? For my family? Anything that would affect me personally? Absolutely not.

Not righteous.

And so I struggled. For weeks. Every night I would get in bed and need to pray but felt like I couldn’t. Every day I’d “try” harder to “do better” but, while certainly some areas improved, like personal Bible study and my patience with certain areas, I’d still finish the day knowing I screwed up somewhere. And wouldn’t pray.

Not righteous.

And then one day, I think I was reading a blog. I don’t remember where (though the likely candidates are here, here and here) but they were talking about this very verse. And in conjunction with it, brought up others:

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. Now every priest stands day after day ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. He is now waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.” ~ Hebrews 10:10-14
Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself-a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:1-6

This is a small sampling, but it hits the heart of the issue. The prayers of a righteous man do avail much. And who is righteous? Here, we see: anyone who is sanctified. And who is sanctified? Those who have accepted the offering of the body of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins.

Therefore, since Jesus is our mediator, our representative and our Savior, if we have a saving relationship with Him, then God sees Jesus’s righteousness on us.

It’s like with my Dependent ID. I’m not in the Army, so as a civilian with just a US driver’s license, I don’t have access to Army services, like the clinic and the Commissary and such. BUT – with my dependent ID carrying my husband’s information, I do have access to those services just as much as he does.

That’s what Jesus does for us, as saved Christians. He gives us “dependent status.” “But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” ~ John 1:12-13

Righteous.

 

I’m going to start repeating myself if I don’t stop here, but take a few minutes today and reflect on that.

Are you one of Jesus’ dependents?

4 comments:

  1. Lovely post; good reminder.

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  2. this was perfect for me today. thanks!

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  3. Great post! And I love the picture :)

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  4. You're so right... We're righteous because of Jesus' sacrifice and our prayers DO matter and make a difference. I've had a tough time praying lately, too. What is it about sucky life situations that sometimes make you not want to talk to God, when really that's exactly what we need to do?

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