A Righteousness That Works

 “We are not to conceive the Christian faith as a bare knowledge of God which rattles around the brain and affects the heart not at all…but it is a firm and solid confidence of the heart by which we securely repose in God’s mercy promised us through the gospel.”

John Calvin wrote these words in his Catechism of 1538. “Ideas” or “information” about God, are not the same thing as faith. Faith is a firm and solid confidence, security and repose. These are not disembodied “ideas.”

Knowledge is nothing, unless it becomes understanding. And understanding is action.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; (Proverbs 1:8–11).

Parents who instruct their children, are teaching them how to react to the enticement of sinners. Its real-world, right-now, practical – action. Habakuk 2:4 and Romans 1:17 both state it plainly, “the righteous live by faith.” Living is action.

Calvin explains in his Institutes, “The word is not received in faith when it merely flutters in the brain, but when it has taken deep root in the heart, and become an invincible bulwark to withstand and repel all the assaults of temptation.[1]

Turning away from temptation is an expression of faith. Putting the beer down, before it becomes one too many. Closing your mouth when the opportunity to gossip presents itself. Telling the truth. Confessing sin. Putting a filter on your computer. Reinforcing your children’s good behavior instead of yelling at them for their bad behavior. Complimenting your spouse. Taking out the trash. Putting the phone down, to play with your kids. Folding your hands in prayer. Taking up the bible to read. These are all actions of faith and righteousness.

Trust what the Lord has provided and is providentially doing. Do not seek the desires of your fleshly heart. Deny those desires, instead believe that the good and powerful God of the Old and New Testaments, is your God.

C.S. Lewis wrote that for the saved, “‘Works’ have no ‘merit’, though of course faith, inevitably, even unconsciously, flows out into works of love at once. He is not saved because he does works of love: he does works of love because he is saved. It is faith alone that has saved him: faith bestowed by sheer gift. From this buoyant humility, this farewell to the self with all its good resolutions, anxiety, scruples, and motive-scratchings, all Protestant doctrines originally sprang.”[2]

We are not talking about works righteousness. We are talking about a righteousness that works. Obedience is what we all need a great deal more of, at the moment. Let us grab hold of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and continual mediation for us before the Father.

And get to work. 

Prayer

Blessed God! I flee to your almighty power.

You see me surrounded with difficulties and dangers, and stretch out your omnipotent arm to save me.

Today I put myself under your protection. Let me make the shadow of your wings my refuge. Let your grace be sufficient for me, and your strength be made perfect in my weakness.

I dare not say, “I will never forsake you, I will never deny you,” but I hope can truly say, “Lord, I resolve not to do it. I would rather die than offend you.”

Root out the corruption from my heart. In an hour of pressing temptation it might sway me to view things in a different light, and so might betray me into the hands of the enemy!

Strengthen my faith, Lord, and encourage my hope! Inspire me to opposing every thing that blocks my way to heaven. And let me set my face against all the assaults of earth and hell.

If sinners entice me, let me say no. If they insult me, let me ignore it. If they threaten me, let me not fear!

Give me instead a holy and ardent yet prudent and well-governed zeal to see others convicted and turn to you.

Let me never be ashamed to plead your cause against those who oppose the faith. As the psalmist says, “Make me to hear joy and gladness in my soul, and I will teach transgressors your ways, that sinners may be converted to you.”

My fears continue, Lord, but there is no one to blame but myself. I join you in blaming me for my folly.

Keep me, O Lord, now and always. Whatever age or place in life I attain, never let me think I am strong enough to maintain the combat without you.

And even in my young faith, never let me imagine myself so weak that you cannot support me.

Wherever you lead me, let me follow. Wherever you take me in life, let me work there faithfully. Let me fight the holy war against the enemies of my salvation. And let me fall fighting rather than abandon my post.

You are my glorious Redeemer, pioneer of my salvation, the great Author and Finisher of my faith. When I am in danger of denying you, as Peter did, look on me with your majesty and tenderness. Keep me from falling, or quickly lift me back up to God and my duty again!

Show me how to learn from my missteps and to humble myself in even greater diligence and caution. 

Amen.[3]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1845). Institutes of the Christian religion (Vol. 2, p. 139). Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society.

[2] Lewis, C. S.. A Mind Awake: An Anthology of C. S. Lewis . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

[3] Doddridge, P. (2019). I Need Your Protection. In R. Elmer (Ed.), Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans (pp. 84–85). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Author: Michael Kloss

There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week. - Charles Dickens

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