Civil Righteousness is Subjective!

I teach one Christian Doctrine class this year for high school students.  We use, Called to Believe: A Brief Introduction to Christian Doctrine, edited by Steven P. Mueller, as our class textbook.  We just finished a chapter that mentions two types of good works, those from our perspective, and those from God’s.  Those works that our good from a human perspective are referred to under the classification of “civil righteousness.”

For a work to be considered “good” in God’s eyes the work must be in accordance with his will (his Law), it must must be done from faith in Christ, and proceed from a love for God.

Such a strict standard, makes it impossible for someone who is not a Christian to do any good work in God’s sight.  The world might see a “work” as good, such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie adopting kids from Africa, but unless their work is done in faith in Christ and from the love of God, it won’t be a good work in God’s eyes, even if it is in line with his Law.  Sad but true.  Such a strict definition of good works is very helpful to us; it reminds us that we cannot save ourselves by our own actions.  We are in desperate need of God’s saving grace, offered through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On a test, asking for students to list the two views of good works, a student wrote, “Civil good works are like buying everyone a pack of cigarettes, and God’s view of good works is doing objectively good things in line with God’s will.”  Obviously he missed the point of God’s view requiring the work to be done in faith and from love towards God, but his answer did strike a chord with me…

Thank You for Smoking

Would everyone agree that it is sinful to smoke? Yes or no?

Civil-righteousness, humanity’s view of what counts as good works, is totally subjective.  One person might think it is the best thing every to generously buy everyone a pack of cigarettes, while another person might think that promoting smoking in such a manner is horrible.  The smokers would rejoice and praise the man’s generosity, the non-smoker’s like myself would care less, and the anti-smokers would want to string him up and flay him for all to see.

The student pointed out that God provides an objective standard of morality.   We do not.  If anyone ever says, “God wouldn’t send me to hell people because I’m a pretty good person,” respond by sharing the two views of what’s good, let the person see that he or she might be good in some people’s eyes, but even by some of our own standards, he or she might not make the cut for being considered a good person.  By God’s standard, we’ve all fallen short, but praise be to God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that righteousness has been credited to us and that through faith we are declared holy in his sight apart from any of our merit and worthless ranking of civil-righteousness!

“Jesus could have had a twin brother.” – the script.

Since I had a conversation recently with someone who actually believed that Jesus probably had an identical twin brother that no one knew about who faked the resurrection, rather than Jesus having real bodily resurrection, this student written script from my apologetics class came to mind.  Hopefully, you like it.  Share some comments so the students can get some feedback on their work from outside our class.

Scenario: Jesus Christ had a twin brother

Setting: Ash Wednesday Chapel at school

Twin 1: Hey! Why did you get one?

Christian: This is symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from physical death to life. 

Twin 2: Resurrection sounds rather impossible. 

Twin 1: Yeah, what if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was all a lie? A fragment of people’s imagination?

Christian: What do you mean?

Twin 2: What if Jesus was like one of us? What if he had a twin brother?

Twin 1: Yeah, what if people mistook Jesus’ unseen twin brother as Jesus Christ?

Twin 2: As you can see, we are identical twins. [Pause] People mistake us for each other all the time. What if it was the same for Jesus? After all, Jesus Christ was fully human – so there is no possible and rational explanation for his coming back from the dead. 

Christian: Hmm….. That is an invalid argument. As seen in Scripture, Jesus’ town knew of his family well, many people grew up among them (Matthew 13:55-56 “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers– James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us.  Where did he learn all these things.”). Also people didn’t find Jesus in the tomb,  there were guards there the whole time (their life was on the line so they didn’t lie) and the rock that covered the tomb was way too heavy to move.  The shepherds came to the stable and saw him right after birth with his mother and father.  There was no way for Joseph and Mary to hide a twin, because they had no idea that Jesus was going to die in 33 years.   

Twin 1: Okay. So then, Jesus really did come back to life?

Christian: Yes. There are six evidences that support the resurrection of Christ. These are the empty tomb, the postcruxifixion appearances, the transformation of the apostles, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, emergence of the Christian Church, and a switch to Sunday as a Day of Worship. I would love to spend more time discussing these evidences in more depth, but we are running out of time. Chapel is about to end. 

Twin 2: Okay. Now, Jesus’ resurrection makes more sense. Hmm.. we should get the ashes! 

Twin 1: Yeah!

Christian: Let’s go!

Romans 6:23 Journals from High School Students

Romans 6

One of our school’s 60 memory verses is Romans 6:23.  For the day we were looking at this verse, the assignment was to read Romans 6:23 in context.  I let them students pick if they wanted to read the whole chapter, or just read some of the verses preceding and following it.  The prompt was to write a reflective journal on their reading.  They could write if reading Romans 6:23 in context added any additional meaning to the verse for them.  They all had study bibles and I shared that if a verse or section stood out to them or led them to have questions, that they could read the footnotes and share what they learned.  I also prompted them to consider looking up cross-references for verses that they wanted to learn more about.  Finally, I gave the option of making an application journal, writing law and gospel applications for their lives, a practice we did with the memory verses last year.  Here are a few of the journal posts from one of my classes:

1.)  Romans 6:23 in context is a closing statement to, in my opinion, an excellent essay on the meaning of Christianity; that we, being saved, are to go on sinning no more. I believe Paul, who wrote it, makes an excellent case that having been saved by grace we are to go on living no more in sin but accept righteousness, as exemplified by his question, “how can a man live in his death?”

I also believe it makes an excellent case for the Reformed theology as well. As we were slaves to sin, we are now counted as “slaves to righteousness”; irresistible grace. It also offers a strong caution against those who proclaim that because they are saved, they may live on in the way they had, like adulterers, homosexuals and addicts; “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God.”

We should look to this passage and this chapter as a guideline for our Christianity. Do we aspire to conquer our sin, or do we continue to be mastered by our own humanity?

 

2.) I think Romans chapter 6 is somewhat of a downer. It says that we use to be slaves to sin and that now we basically should be happy because we are now slaves to another master; righteousness. I think it would be better described not as slavery, because in my opinion that is not really what being righteous is. But, Romans 6:23 makes me feel a lot better because that righteousness is a gift, and not a form of slavery, and I think that is a better way to portray it; a gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ, and not a form of slavery.

 

3.)  Death to Sin, Alive in Christ

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too many life a new life.” The verse says it all. We are given new life because Christ had died for us. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” We don’t have to earn it; we just have to have faith.
Slaves to Righteousness
“Whether you are slaves to sin which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, through you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted…When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” God has freed us from the control from righteousness. We were once slaves to sin but God had saved us. There are so many verses in the Bible that tell us how if we sin, and do not have faith in God, we are not saved. But if we have the gift of God, which is salvation, it is by faith we are saved. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How can one believe that we have to do good works to get to heaven? It is right here in the bible. God is telling us we are saved through faith. It is a gift. We do not have to earn it. “The gift of God is eternal life…” It says it is a gift. We do not have to earn this gift. It also says that the wages of sin is death. If we do not let God take control or have faith in him and know he is forgiving, then we will not be dead forever.

 

4.)  Proverbs 10:16 “The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.” Proverbs 10:16 and Romans 6:23 are parallel verses with the same meaning. They are both talking about how we deserve death for our sin, but we are saved by the righteousness of God. I liked Romans 6: 21 which says: “What benefit did you reap at the time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” I liked this verse because it’s pointing out how useless the things of this earth our, and how our sinful desires bring us nothing but death in the long run.

 

5.)  I really like verse 19.
“I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”

I like when it says “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves.” It shows that we are sinful and cannot even begin to understand God’s love for us and how much we mean to him even though we are all terrible people.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That is our verse and it shows perfectly matching with the verse I liked earlier in the chapter, that we are sinful but God saves us always.

 

6.)   The passage is talking about how weak we are as humans. We are enslaved to sin and those sins that we have committed had maybe felt good at the time, but in the end they result in death. It then says that now we have been freed from sin and are of God now and instead of death, we will reap holiness. We are dead in our sins, but through Jesus Christ, we are set free and have the hope of eternal life, and that is so comforting. Knowing that I am dead in my sins and alive in Christ gives me hope that I can get through life and enter into Heaven and leave this sin behind. I think 6:23 points us to our baptism. We lay down in death with Jesus, but resurrect with him when we come out of the water. When we are baptized, we are clothed in his righteousness and are made holy in God’s eyes, which is what this chapter is talking about. I looked up cross-references in Matthew and Ezekiel, and they both talk about being dead, but having eternal life. It’s amazing to see this concept throughout the Bible, even in the Old Testament.

 

baptism

 

7.)  Romans 6 is all about slavery concerning if you are a slave to sin or to righteousness. You’re either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. If you are a slave to something or someone that means you obey them, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-…” If we are slave to sin we inherit death but if we are slaves to righteousness we inherit life, “The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.” Proverbs 10:16

How is Christianity Different From All Other Religions? – High School Students Answer

How is Christianity Different From All Other Religions? – High School Students Answer

Christianity differs from all other religions in more ways than one.  First of all, in Christianity God makes a divine intervention on behalf of all of humanity.  In other religions, Jesus not seen as the Savior.  Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for all of humanity.  In no other religions do you see a perfect, blameless God take on being a humble man sent to Earth.  You don’t see a perfect God being humiliated and tortured for our salvation.  In other religions, there are lists of works you must perform to be saved.  We, as Christians, are saved by God’s grace through faith apart from our works!

Christianity is different than any other religion.  Christianity does not require any good works for salvation.  Our faith isn’t even of our own doing.  In all the other religions we have studied so far we have seen a list of requirements to reach “enlightenment” or “nirvana.”  Christianity isn’t like that.  It doesn’t mean that if we slip up and don’t follow the law laid out by God that we will go to hell.

 

Christianity is different from other religions because of divine intervention.  Christianity is the only religion in the world where God stepped in to save man.  Christianity is not man’s attempt to reach God, rather God’s saving grace which he has made available for all.  While other religions will require strict adherence to a set of laws, rituals, or codes, the only thing required for a Christian is faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.  What also sets Christianity apart is that our future is certain.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts, if you believe in Jesus, you have been given the gift of eternal life in heaven.

 

Matthew 4:19 – Come Follow Me!

The following is taken from a student’s notes on our classroom discussion on Matthew 4:19.  Remember, these are just notes, a lot more was shared in class, but maybe you would want to add to the holes in the classroom discussion, or give additional information that maybe we didn’t even consider by commenting on this post.  The students periodically check in on the blog to see the comments.

Matthew 4:18-22

Matthew 4:19 – “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

  • Jesus saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew.
  • Jesus then said 4:19.
  • They immediately followed him.
  • He saw two more brothers, James and John.
  • Immediately they followed him too.

It’s interesting how they immediately followed Jesus. How did they know this guy is legit?

Is it possible that the passage doesn’t record everything Jesus said? Did Jesus say more than just “Follow me…”?

Mark 1:14-20

Gives a little more detail than Matthew does. It suggests that Matthew doesn’t say all there is to know. According to Mark, the fishers might’ve known Jesus from his preaching.

Luke 5:1-11

Gives a much more detailed version; Simon and Peter witnessed an entire sermon from Jesus that he gave from within their boat, and they witnessed a miracle!

John 1:35-42

John the Baptist saw Jesus walking by and recognized him and proclaimed him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Two of John’s disciples begin to follow him, one of them being Andrew.. Jesus asked what they wanted and they asked where he was staying, Jesus told them to follow him and see and they spent the entire day with Jesus.  Then he calls them to follow him after they already recognized that he is the Messiah.