Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
For our Scripture reading this morning let us turn to the Book of St. Matthew Chapter 3, verses 13 through 17
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The world hungers to be right. We love to be in the right place at the right time with the right facts so that our actions will be right. Deep down everyone wants to be right, for being right is equal to being a winner. Oh, how we love to win.
The world is driven by an innate need to be right. How many arguments have you seen who was right and who was wrong? Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change. And when we are right, make us easy to live with.
We live in an age that believes you must stand up for your rights. In our society, people commonly say that everyone must determine what is right for oneself. Most are more than willing to change the rules to make themselves right. All this reveals that we are driven by a sense of what we ought to do and what we ought not to do.
We will do almost anything to be right. In 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction–or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.
In 2016 a container ship left the United States while a hurricane was approaching and it got caught in the middle of the storm and the outcome is the ship was battered in the storm and subsequently sank and all lives lost. There was enough warning, but the captain was too big for the storm. He thought his judgment was right and his ego was too high and want to prove his manhood. The innocent lives paid for the captain’s ignorance.
The word “righteous” sounds too religious to some of our ears. But a desire to be right is a desire to be righteous. Used with reference to morality, “righteous” means living or acting in the right way. I think most of us have a desire to be right and make things right, but we just don’t always know how.
With the complexity of today’s social, educational, and medical issues, more and more people are having trouble knowing what’s right. In grappling with being right, we may resort to all sorts of ideas to make us right.
Often our pride leads us to believe that we can make it right. Many seek to make up for their wrongdoing by offsetting their bad deeds with good ones. When we do something bad, we seek to do something really good to make us feel better. We may try to balance the scales of justice between the good and bad in our lives.
What Motivates Our Righteousness
To be right is important to us because we have a deep need to justify our actions. When we can’t justify our actions, we often resort to denial of our wrong or seek to cover up our actions. We may do this in an effort to make ourselves look good or appear righteous in the eyes of others.
King David was a man, according to God’s testimony about him, after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). In a moment of weakness, he committed adultery with Uriah’s wife. Rather than admit his sin, he sought to cover it up.
2 Samuel 11:5-15
The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
When David was told, “Uriah did not go home,” he asked him, “Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?”
Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it to Uriah. In it, he wrote, “And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.” (2 Samuel 11:15)
Why do we convince ourselves that it is easier to deny and hide our wrongdoing than to make things right with God and man, which only increases our sin? Adultery wasn’t the worst part of David’s sin. He sought to cover his evil deed with multiple evil deeds.
Jesus spoke a parable that reveals two distinct ways we deal with our sin.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, robbers, evildoers, adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
We seek to justify ourselves because sin places us under condemnation when we do wrong. When Adam and Eve sinned in Eden sinned exposed their nakedness. Satan’s desire led them to seek fulfillment of their appetite. Their nakedness was exposed the moment they took a bite of the forbidden fruit. God comes to them asking them, “Who told you that you were naked.” They knew they were naked before God came to them. Satan stripped them of their dignity. Sin had left them condemned and naked. Satan left their nakedness exposed with nothing but leaves to clothe them.
Sin convinced them that they could cover their own nakedness. Often our pride seeks to cover our nakedness by denying our wrongdoing. We may seek denial as we attempt to change the standards of right and wrong. We may convince ourselves there is no absolute standard of behaviour. So we set out to determine what is right or wrong in each situation we face. What is right for us is whatever seems good for us at the moment. If it turns out to be wrong in a similar situation, we convince ourselves that it was right for the previous situation.
Jesus Came to Make Us Right
Our desire to be right is designed by God to point us to the one who can make us right. It is designed to point us to God provisions to make us right. Every rule and regulation laid down in God’s law is designed to lead to understanding our need for Christ to make us right.
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Rules and regulations were not designed to condemn. They were designed to lead us to Christ. God enters our lives to make us right with our world. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Satan enters our world to strip us naked.
If we fail to understand the purpose of rules and regulations they will only bring condemnation. They will leave our lives naked and barren. Paul reveals what happens when rules and regulations become the driving force in our lives.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
The law is like a dentist’s little mirror, which he sticks into the patient’s mouth. With the mirror, he can detect any cavities. But he doesn’t drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can’t provide the solution.
The law is also like a flashlight. If suddenly at night the lights go out, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box. When you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out. But after you’ve removed the bad fuse, you don’t try to insert the flashlight in its place. You put a new fuse to restore the electricity.
The law is like a plumb line. When a builder wants to check his work, he uses a weighted string to see if it’s true to the vertical. But if he finds that he has made a mistake, he doesn’t use the plumb line to correct it. He gets out his hammer and saw.
When rules and regulations are designed to help us do right they only increase our awareness of our need to be right. The moral law is such that it reveals our need to be made right.
Do you know why rules and regulations can’t make us righteous? It has been said that rules are made to be broken. Has there ever been a rule in your life that hasn’t broken in one form or the other?
Have you ever decided to go on a diet? Maybe you have sat down and determined what foods you were going to eat. How long was it before you broke all the rules you laid down for yourself? Now you know how Adam and Eve felt when they ate of the tree of knowledge planted in the middle of Eden. They had as much trouble staying away from the tree of knowledge as many of us do staying away from our refrigerators.
The rules reveal our need to be right, but they don’t have the ability to make us right. The rules are designed to reveal our nakedness. The rules are designed to reveal how wrong we are. We end up trying to make rules to help us keep the rules. We may make rules to change the rules we don’t want to keep. It makes us conscious of our inability to be right without God through rules and regulations. They are designed to show us our deepest need–our need to be clothed with God‘s righteousness.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin. (NIV)
God wants to clothe us with his righteousness. When we realize our inability to be right, it should lead us to the One who can make us right. It should lead us to the one capable of covering our nakedness.
Christ came to fulfil every righteous demand for us.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.” (NIV)
The reason John baptized Christ was to fulfil all the righteous demands of God’s law. Jesus was baptized to meet the righteous demands of the law for each of us.
Jesus said, “it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Christ came to make us right. He came to make us acceptable to God.
God covered for Adam and Eve in Eden. God sacrificed those animals in Eden to provide clothing for Adam and Eve. God covered their nakedness. He didn’t approach Adam and Eve to get them into deep trouble; he came because they were in deep trouble. He just wanted to cover for them until he could make things right for them.
When God killed those animals in Eden to provide a covering for Adam and Eve it pointed to the ultimate sacrifice God would make for all of us through Jesus Christ. Christ came to fulfil every demand that righteousness makes upon each of us. He did this so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Christ came to fulfil every righteous demand rules and regulations impose upon us. Christ came to atone for our sins. The word atonement means “to cover.” Christ sacrifice covers our sins. Jesus came on God’s behalf to cover for us.
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it what as snow.
In times of weakness, we must find in Jesus Christ our all in all.
He can melt the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone.
Have you ever had someone to cover for you? Maybe you messed up big time at work and one of your co-workers or even your boss covered for you. They may have even saved your job. How did that make you feel–hopefully you were appreciative. In much the same way God wishes to cover for us because he loves us.
God covers for us when we are baptized into Christ. Paul writes, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (NIV)
or I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (NIV)
This is the Conclusion:
Since the very beginning, God has desired to clothe the world in his righteousness. God wants us to understand that he is not present in our lives to strip us naked through condemnation—sin has already done this. Sin has unclothed us.
What you can offer God to be accepted into heaven? Give Him your sins and trust Jesus to save you. Our “rags” become our claim to the robe of His righteousness.