In part one of our study on imparted righteousness we saw that it often takes more than human willpower for us to overcome our sinful habits in life. It takes a miracle of God. We must receive imputed righteousness by faith not merely to cover the past, but imparted righteousness by faith to keep from falling in the future – that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Oh, the blessed Jesus who covers my past with His life now brings His life into me.
I think we all believe what we have been going over. But, in being very practical, I think part of our problem is that we don’t achieve one hundred percent at it. It leads us, therefore, to sometimes question the process.
–The Process of Righteousness by Faith–
I want to ask you something: How many of you ever studied arithmetic in school? Did you learn the multiplication tables? Did you learn how to divide? Did you learn about fractions, decimals, percentage? Did you ever get any problems? I suppose if you studied very much arithmetic you worked hundreds of problems. Now I want to ask another question: Did you ever get any of them wrong? What did you do about it? You tried to learn something from your mistake, right? Or did you just simply leave that school and hunt for another school that would teach another system of arithmetic?
If you had, you know that you’d just be going from one school to another and one system to another, hoping to find some system where you would always get the right answer every time you worked a problem. That’s what some people are trying to do with righteousness by faith. That’s why some people are so affected by every wind of doctrine that comes along. They think there is something that is going to fix them up so they will never fall again.
I want to read you something that has been a help to me on this matter of righteousness by faith. One thing I like about the Spirit of Prophecy – it’s very practical. It takes us to the height of Heaven in the glorious ideals, but it is right down where we are in the dust of the daily life that we all must walk. That’s what I love about Jesus – He came down here and pitched His tent by the tents of men, and walked our dusty roads. And His advice to us is very practical.
There are those who have known the pardoning love of Christ, and who really desire to be children of God, yet they realize that their character is imperfect, their life faulty, and they are ready to doubt whether their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. To such I would say, Do not draw back in despair. We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes; but we are not to be discouraged. – Steps to Christ, pg. 64
Suppose I don’t like that. Suppose I want a system where I can buy a ticket and get on the train and say to the porter, “Wake me when we get into Grand Central station.” Or at least where I can sit in the observation car and watch the scenery go by and not have to worry about anything. There are religions that teach that. But Paul put the truth of it in three words:
“I die daily.” – 1 Corinthians 15:31
Every day, he had the battle.
“Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” – Ibid
Let’s see how the Bible teaches this great truth:
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. – 1 John 2:1
What is God’s plan for us? Not to sin. Is it necessary to sin? No. Has God made provision to keep us from falling? Yes. Nothing that I am saying or reading is to give you the idea that you can make provision for failure; nothing that will give you the idea that you can say, “Oh well, I used to pick pockets every day, now I only pick pockets once a week.” “I used to smoke two packs a day. Now I only smoke one cigarette a day. So I’m making progress.”
That is not the point at all. These things write I unto you that ye sin not. God knows there is so much in our hearts and lives that needs dealing with that there is going to come to us from day to day a fresh revelation of our weakness, our need, our failure. And we’re going to say, “Oh, Lord, I thank you that you took this away and that away, but my, my I didn’t know there are so many other things in my life that need attention. Oh, Lord, what am I going to do? Is there no way?” What does the rest of the verse say?
And if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:1
Let me put it this way: That righteousness that covers us when we come to Jesus, we’re going to need it day by day along the way. When He gives me that righteousness to do His will, and I take that righteousness that He gives me, and, putting my poor little will along with His greatly mighty will, I seek to do it, I might be like the little fellow who is learning to walk, I might stumble. But God doesn’t kick me out any more than you parents kick your children out. What does He say? Be of good cheer. That blood that I shed on Calvary was not only to cover all those past sins, it’s to cover this one you just committed.
Is that true? If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t even start. I wouldn’t have courage to help anyone else to start. No matter how many times you fail, the important thing is to never stay in the ditch. There are going to be some people in Heaven who have failed a thousand times, and by the grace of God they’ve accepted the blood to cover those failures and start over again. There are going to be some people in hell who didn’t fail near as many times; but the last time they failed, they stayed down.
It isn’t the number of times you fail that’s going to keep you out of Heaven; it’s what you do the last time you fail. Make up your mind that there will never be a time that you fail but what you’ll get up on your knees and say, “God, forgive me. I’m sorry I did it. Now please help me to get up and go on again.”
That’s not making provision for failure; that’s not saying I’m planning to fail and that’s what I’m going to do. No. But it’s making provision for what to do if failure should happen. That’s an entirely different thing. The same blood that covered you when you first came to Jesus will cover you if you should fall. Whatever the nature of the sin, whatever the nature of the failure, we need that justifying righteousness day by day to cover our poor efforts.
I said a little while ago that when you study arithmetic and make some mistakes, you study those problems where you made the mistake to try to learn something. You remember that experience Peter had? He was in the boat. Jesus came walking on the water. Peter thought it would be nice if he could walk on the water too. Peter always said what he thought, so he said, “Lord, bid me come to you on the water.”
What did Jesus say? “Come.” And that’s what He says to you. But walking on the water is a miracle, isn’t it? In faith and obedience to Christ’s word, Peter got out of the boat and stepped on the water, and what happened? He walked. Think of it: A man walking on the water – poor, weak Peter. Isn’t that wonderful? Yes. So he walked and two or three things began to happen at once. He got to thinking, “I wonder what James and John and Andrew think of me now. Oh, my, isn’t this great? I am walking on the water just like Jesus.”
Did you ever get proud because Jesus had helped you to get the victory over some sin? Danger, brother, danger; that water is just as fluid as it was last week. It would be too bad if you have to find it so by experience. The fact that you got the victory last week doesn’t mean that it’s easy from now on. You had better not be proud; you had better not preen like a peacock. No. It was a miracle that saved you, and it will be a miracle that will keep you.
There is Peter on the water, and he’s thinking of what the others think of him. Then, as the devil would have it, and as God would have it, a big wave came along and got between him and Jesus. He got scared. That’s the way pride is. The bottom dropped right out. Down he went in the water. He wasn’t walking on the water anymore. He was sinking in and sinking fast. What did he do? Oh, I’m glad he did the right thing. He had been doing the wrong thing a minute before, but he did the right thing then. He cried out, “Oh Lord, save me. I perish!” What did Jesus do? He reached out His hand and lifted him up. He gently reproved Peter for his lack of faith. Then a subdued Peter walked back to the boat with Jesus, arm in arm. He was walking on the water, but he wasn’t proud of it now. He’d almost lost his life because of pride.
–Learning the Lesson–
I want to ask you: Was that a good experience for Peter? Yes. He had another one like it, though infinitely more terrible the night of the last supper, in Gethsemane, and the judgment hall. What happened out there on the water was a little picture where Jesus tried to teach him the lesson. He learned it a little that night, but thank God he really learned it the night of Gethsemane.
How many times will it take us to learn the lesson? But I want you to note this: None of those lessons were lost. If you have a failure, don’t write it off as a total loss. If you have made mistakes, and you see them and regard them as beacons of warning, we’re told thus that you turn defeat into victory, disappointing the enemy and honoring your Redeemer. I’m so glad for that. Aren’t you?
I am thankful for righteousness by faith. I trust we see these things from the Scriptures we’ve read. First, that the great goal of it all is that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Second, that this is righteousness by faith. And faith is believing God. If we believe God when we give Him our sins, we believe that He forgives them and covers us with His life. If we believe God when we ask Him to give us power to meet temptation, then He does that, and we have the power to live the life that was merely counted to us when we come to Him.
If in doing that we fail, the thing to do isn’t to run around hunting for some new system or new recipe. The thing to do is to get down and say like Peter, “Lord forgive me for being a fool. Forgive me for not keeping my eyes on You. Help me to be more trustful, more humble, more believing.” And whether it takes us one time to learn that lesson or a thousand times, let’s keep on until we learn it! May God add His blessing!
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.