A little over prepared and a lot nervous. Actually, looking back I was a lot over prepared and maybe not as nervous as I assumed I would be. It was my first time preaching, something I always wanted to do, something I always thought I could do and something I always worried would be a total disaster. There were and are much smarter people that stand at the pulpit or music stand or circular table or… you get the picture, they stand in front of a crowd week in and week out and preach. The closest I had ever come to preaching a sermon was delivering memorized lines as a conjured up character in plays, but this was different. This time I had to play myself and deliver applicable truths taken from the manual of life, the Bible, all of which had to conform to the Holy Spirit inspired text.
I’m not a preacher I just play one on Sunday mornings.
It has been a long time since the first time I preached and a lot has changed. I learned very quickly, if you like to walk around as you preach (I do) be careful not to walk too far or you may find yourself in a pile of mic cords. Nothing breaks your concentration like looking down at what can only be described as a nest of coiled snakes and wondering how you are going to get back to the pulpit without becoming entangled and prematurely ending your first sermon with a memorable fall. Thankfully, I made it through without a stumble both physically and verbally.
Since then my nervousness has been replaced by excitement, there is nothing I like more than preaching. I no longer write my sermons two weeks ahead of time so that I can practice them every day, over and over until it is time to speak. Now I usually start working out what I am going to say in my head, five or six days before and then spend four to six hours creating my sermon notes. I have gone from preaching once in a while to every six weeks, to every second week, to every week. All these things may have changed but the one thing that hasn’t is the basis for my first sermon. I believe that rightness gets in the way of righteousness.
Righteousness and rightness, aren’t they the same thing?
If it wasn’t for sinful arrogance and our deep desire to be in the right, righteousness and rightness would be the same thing. If we could fully overcome our tendency to think we have God’s way of doing things all figured out, righteousness and rightness would be interchangeable because everything we thought and did would be the result of seeking God’s point of view. We are, however, more likely to come up with our own actions and reactions to the things of this world and live accordingly. I do it and you most likely do it; hopefully we have gotten better at avoiding it as we have matured in our walk with Christ. We observe the sin of someone else and assign a penalty based on what the Bible says but forget to apply the grace that God has given. We are right about what they deserve but not righteous (acting in line with God’s point of view) in how we respond.
Jesus is the ultimate example of choosing righteousness over rightness, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
You may not have thought of it this way but it would have been right for Jesus to refuse to die. Death exists as the payment for sin and Jesus did not sin. It would have been right for Jesus to walk away from the cross because it was us that deserved to die, not Him. Jesus did not stand on rightness but instead on righteousness, He did not claim His rightful place free of pain and death but instead willingly completed God’s plan. Jesus acted in line with God’s point of view which is always righteousness.
How will you view the world, what attitude will you choose the next time you encounter someone living a sinful life?
Rightness: the wages of sin is death
Righteousness: the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 6:23 (NIV)
God’s attitude toward each one of us was to send Jesus to take our place even though we deserved death. No one was deemed unredeemable, no one was doomed because of their sin. All were and are offered grace through faith including you and me.
It would be right to say “you are all going to Hell and there is nothing you can do about it.” It would be righteous to say “Jesus completed God’s plan, so you don’t have to end up in Hell even though you deserve it.” Both are true but only one incorporates God’s entire point of view toward His creation. Only one is the good news of the gospel. Only one trusts God’s plan for the world’s redemption, offering grace not judgement because all of us have sinned and fallen short and all of us are offered a way out.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)