Well, greetings once again friends. I’m Loren Fenton, and this is Episode 44 of the GoodlifeNews! Podcast and Blog.
The focus of this month’s episode is the spiritual quality of “Righteousness.”
The content of today’s episode is taken directly from my book My Seven Essential Daily Prayers, Chapter 2, “Righteousness in My Heart.” Here’s a link to it at amazon.com
There is Hope for Hopeless Sinners!
Right in the middle of the beatitudes in Matthew, Chapter 5 I found these beautiful words: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled (v 6).
I read those words and I realized how hungry I am. Not just hungry—I’m starving! I’m totally empty. My natural spiritual heart is weak and fainting. I can’t even stand up on my own. If I don’t get revived, I’ll die for sure.
Revelation 3:17 says that we are all wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Quite a picture, isn’t it? And sadly, oh so true.
In the book of Romans we read, The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (14:17).
A few verses later Paul adds, Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).
Hope! What a powerful word—especially when we’re hungry! Jesus promises us in the 4th beatitude that people who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled . His assurance truly gives us hope, even in our hopelessness.
Here are three keys that—for me—help unlock the door of God’s storehouse filled with abundant grace for our aching needs for personal righteousness:
Key #1; Recognize and Embrace the Source of Spiritual Hunger
When I was thirteen years old, I entered my freshman year of high school.
Along with nearly all the other boys in our farming community, I enrolled in Vocational Agriculture and became a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). A major portion of the VoAg class was spent in shop activities, where we learned various practical skills needed for successful farming—things like welding, carpentry, machinery operation and repair, etc. The shop was well equipped with tools, workstations, and everything needed for us to learn the best practices for modern agriculture through hands-on experience.
One wall of the shop held a large panel displaying all the hand tools anyone would need for a project. Pliers, wrenches, various screwdrivers, hammers and such hung on the board, each with its spot marked by a painted silhouette showing the outline of the tool. Our VoAg teacher, Mr. Chevy Chase, very strictly enforced a rule that every tool must be in its place when the bell rang at the end of class. We were all supposed to return every tool we were using to the board, then we could be dismissed.
Mr. Chase’s system worked exceptionally well in preserving the shop’s supply of tools and equipment. One day, however, a small pair of pliers slipped into the leg pocket of my coveralls, walked with me right out the door, and found a new home on our farm. No one at school seemed to miss it. Not even Mr. Chase. I felt quite smug because I “got away with it.”
Fast forward a couple of years to the night under the stars when I walked and talked with God, giving my life to Him, and heard Him calling me to a lifetime of Christian ministry.
Not long after that life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit my father, my brother, and I were working on a project in our home shop shed. My dad went looking for something in his toolbox and came across a pair of pliers he didn’t recognize.
“What are these pliers?” he asked. “I never put them in here. Where’d they come from?”
I didn’t say a word, but my brother glared at me with an accusing stare. He didn’t tell Dad either, but later he confronted me.
“You stole those pliers from the Ag shop, didn’t you!” His tone carried more accusations than a question.
I still wouldn’t admit it, but he continued, “I know you did. I recognize those pliers from school. You stole them and brought them home!”
I didn’t say anything, and the conversation was dropped. I honestly don’t remember all the exact details of what happened next, but the pliers stayed in their new home. And, other than my brother, I don’t think anyone else ever knew. Except there was that little whispering voice in my head that popped up at the most unexpected times telling me, Thief! You know you stole those pliers. You’re as guilty as sin!
Fast forward again. This time about six more years.
Life was good in the Spring of 1967. I was getting ready to graduate from college with my bachelor’s degree in theology. The woman of my dreams—a newly minted Registered Nurse—had agreed to marry me(!), and we were getting excited as our big day in early June grew closer and closer. Immediately after my graduation in August, I would begin pastoral ministry in Portland, Oregon. We had a beautiful brand-new car that we both loved. We were young and alive with hopes and dreams for our future. We both had great jobs—and we both loved Jesus. I don’t think life could get any better. Love is grand.
One night we parked under the stars and talked about the life we were entering together, and about the Second Coming of Christ. The greatest event of all ages seemed so near. We both wanted to be ready for Jesus to come soon so we could live eternally with Him in the Earth made new. Our hearts beat as one that evening, swelling with love and hope.
Thief! You know you stole those pliers. You’re as guilty as sin!
There was that pesky voice reminding me again of such a little transgression from years before. Why wouldn’t it just go away!
Not only that. You also lifted a can of pop from the grocery store that same year. What makes you think you’re good enough to go to Heaven?
I took Ruth’s hand in mine. “Sweetheart,” I began, “There’s something I need to do. Years ago, when I was just starting high school, I stole a pair of pliers and a can of pop. I need to go home and make those things right. I don’t want to miss out on Heaven for a pair of pliers and a can of pop.”
The next day we looked at the calendar and chose an early upcoming date when we could visit my old home 100 miles to the west.
My parents were delighted to see us. Ruth stayed and visited with them while I drove into town. It was a weekday, so I knew school would be in session. I drove into the high school parking lot and found a spot near the VoAg shop and classroom. It seemed like my heart was beating 100 miles per hour.
Mr. Chase was still teaching the same classes all these years later. I saw him sitting at his desk as I entered the classroom and glanced through his office window. A quick knock on the open door brought an instant surprised grin of delight to his face.
“Loren Fenton? What a surprise! Come in and have a seat!” He motioned toward a chair across the desk from his. “What brings you here? It’s good to see you!”
“Well,” I began, “I came to bring you something.” I pulled a new pair of pliers from the bag in my hands and handed them to him. “This is to replace some pliers I took out of the shop when I was here as a student. This has been weighing on my conscience for the last eight years, and I decided I’d better come and make it right.”
He shook his head in disbelief.
“Really? That’s hard to believe. I never knew. I would never suspect you for doing something like that. But I appreciate you coming. It is encouraging when these things happen.”
“I’m sure you’ve probably had others come with similar confessions,” I said.
“Yes, I have,” he answered. “But not after eight years!”
The folks at the grocery store were equally as gracious. And I felt a great weight leave my spirit. It wasn’t the value of the items themselves. It was knowing I had done the right thing making restitution for a couple of stupid actions from my youth. That condemning voice in my head was silenced forever about those pliers and that can of pop. I was free!
I also learned a great four-part truth: (A) Sin creates “Spiritual Anxiety,” aka “guilt.” (B) This Holy Spirit-inspired guilt convicts me of my wrongness, which (C) creates remorse, and (D) leads to repentance and restitution.
Owning the guilt is the first step toward receiving the fullness of God’s promises and power to live a life of righteousness.
Key #2; Personally Accept (by faith) Christ’s Righteousness as Your Own
I relate that story above, not to say or imply that two little incidents from my early high school experience are the worst things I ever did, or that we gain God’s forgiveness by our works of restitution.
Far from it, on both fronts! Sadly, I’ve had to own and confess far more serious sins more times than I can count. It breaks my heart that my heart still wanders away from God.
But I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. The Apostle Paul exclaims in Romans, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Paul doesn’t stop there, however. He immediately answers his question, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
The central theme of Paul’s entire ministry was that the only hope for sinners lies in the righteousness of Christ and that as we put our faith and trust in Him, he exchanges His righteousness for our filthy rags of sin. “God made him (Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[ See 2 Corinthians 5:21]
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Such a simple truth. Righteousness comes to us not by our efforts, but as a gift from a loving God who cares for each of us personally.
All we must do is accept His gift with thanksgiving and praise. As we trust His promise, He fulfills His promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
Key #3; Choose Every Day to Live Righteously
Nevertheless, we have choices to make every day.
“Do not be deceived; ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:33, 34).
In other words, we can—and must—choose to live for Jesus, and that choosing positive, godly people as our primary friends can help reinforce our decision. We must realize and live by the truth that on our own we are helpless and doomed to failure. Even so, the righteousness of Christ is our all in all.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next month’s episode. I’ll be sharing some thoughts “Gratitude.” Watch for it on November 28—just after Thanksgiving Day !
Mark your calendar! Be sure to tune in and invite someone else to listen with you!
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