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Vieraskieliset / In-english

Righ­te­ous­ness, pe­a­ce, and joy – the tre­a­su­res of God’s king­dom in our he­arts

Vieraskieliset / In-english
17.12.2014 17.52

In his let­ter to the Ro­mans, Paul te­ac­hes about God’s king­dom: It is that which we ex­pe­rien­ce in­ter­nal­ly, and it is not a qu­es­ti­on of ex­ter­nal mat­ters. God’s king­dom is righ­te­ous­ness, pe­a­ce, and joy.

On the street of the wa­ter gate, a woo­den pul­pit was const­ruc­ted. The cong­re­ga­ti­on gat­he­red una­ni­mous­ly to hear God’s word. The priest Es­ra brought the Bib­le, and Je­ru­sa­lem’s first sum­mer ser­vi­ces be­gan. The spe­a­kers in ad­di­ti­on to Es­ra, were the pro­con­sul or go­ver­ner Ne­he­mia and ser­vants of the word Jes­hua, Bani, She­re­bi­ah, Ja­min, Ak­kub, Shab­bet­hai, Ho­di­jah, Maa­sei­ah, Ke­li­ta, Aza­ri­ah, Jo­za­bad, Ha­nan, and Pe­lai­ah, They read God’s word ver­se by ver­se, from the Bib­le, and at the same time, they exp­lai­ned and taught it. The mot­to for those sum­mer ser­vi­ces was “For the joy of the Lord is yo­ur strength.”

This de­pic­ti­on of the sum­mer ser­vi­ces at the street of the wa­ter gate is in the eighth chap­ter of the book of Ne­he­mi­ah. The Bib­le does not ac­tu­al­ly call the hap­pe­ning sum­mer ser­vi­ces, and those ser­vi­ces did not have an of­fi­ci­al mot­to. But ac­cor­ding to the Bib­le, those ser­vi­ces’ main mes­sa­ge was: “For the joy of the Lord is yo­ur strength” (Neh. 8:10).

The de­pic­ti­on of this an­cient ser­vi­ce wors­hip spe­aks to me gre­at­ly. The dwel­lers of Je­ru­sa­lem had re­tur­ned from for­ced mig­ra­ti­on in Ba­by­lon along with the pe­op­le of Ju­dah just over a half ye­ar be­fo­re this. The city was still most­ly in ruins. It’s wal­ls had on­ly just been re­built with great ef­fort, and the new temp­le was on­ly a pale sha­dow of the temp­le of Sa­lo­mon. There was im­men­se work ahe­ad of them, and the world­wi­de po­li­ti­cal si­tu­a­ti­on was not stab­le. In that si­tu­a­ti­on, the dwel­lers of Je­ru­sa­lem felt that the most im­por­tant mat­ter in their li­ves was that they could hear God’s word and it’s exp­la­na­ti­on. This is why they or­ga­ni­zed these ser­vi­ces.

The fact that the ser­vants of the word ex­hor­ted the pe­op­le to re­joi­ce, des­pi­te all the out­ward dif­fi­cul­ties and thre­ats, es­pe­ci­al­ly spe­aks to me. The ba­sis of this joy was that the Lord was their strength. I think that in the midst of those out­ward dif­fi­cul­ties, those an­cient lis­te­ners of the word were ab­le to own in their he­arts the tre­a­su­res of God’s king­dom. Paul even wri­tes about these to the Ro­man Chris­ti­ans hund­reds of ye­ars la­ter: God’s king­dom is “righ­te­ous­ness, and pe­a­ce, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). They ow­ned these tre­a­su­res, and thus they re­joi­ced.

We love our weak dear ones

In his let­ter to the Ro­man Chris­ti­ans, Paul te­ac­hes what God’s king­dom is. Paul’s te­ac­hing re­fers to a to­pic that was ti­me­ly in those days, the qu­es­ti­on of ri­tu­al­ly ea­ting unc­le­an meat. Some Chris­ti­ans felt they could eat this type of food with a good cons­cien­ce, when ot­hers could not eat it be­cau­se of their cons­cien­ce. Paul ex­hor­ted the Ro­man Chris­ti­ans to watch that they would not lead their friends in faith to stumb­le and fall. Trus­ting in the Lord Je­sus, Paul su­re­ly knew that there was no food that was ac­tu­al­ly unc­le­an. But he al­so knew that if so­me­o­ne holds so­met­hing to be unc­le­an, it truly is unc­le­an to that per­son. This is why he taught: “But if thy brot­her be grie­ved with thy meat, now wal­kest thou not cha­ri­tab­ly.” He war­ned against using food to bring ruin to the one for whose sake Christ has died. In con­nec­ti­on to this, he then re­minds: “For the king­dom of God is not meat and drink; but righ­te­ous­ness, and pe­a­ce, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:13-17).

Paul’s te­ac­hings ac­tu­al­ly inc­lu­de two im­por­tant core mes­sa­ges. First of all, he taught that God’s king­dom is not a qu­es­ti­on of tem­po­ral is­su­es such as food or drink. God’s king­dom is so­met­hing that we ex­pe­rien­ce in­ter­nal­ly: righ­te­ous­ness, pe­a­ce, and joy. Se­cond­ly, he taught, that be­cau­se this is so, no out­ward is­su­es should be­co­me the point of di­sag­ree­ment. Ins­te­ad, love gui­des us to no­ti­ce our weak dear ones and to be ca­re­ful that we would not, through our own de­ci­si­ons, make him “stumb­le” and give up faith. So if some of our tem­po­ral ha­bits of­fend anot­her Chris­ti­an, it is bet­ter to give up that ha­bit for the sake of the love of this dear one. In this way we are not le­a­ding our dear ones to per­di­ti­on, for whom Christ died, in the same way that He died on our be­half.

The Righ­te­ous will re­cei­ve the call to he­a­ven

To be­co­me and re­main righ­te­ous is life’s most im­por­tant mat­ter, be­cau­se righ­te­ous pe­op­le will re­cei­ve the call to the he­a­ven­ly king­dom on the last day (Matt. 25:34). Righ­te­ous­ness me­ans that God has ac­cep­ted man­kind in­to his fel­lows­hip. When a per­son is righ­te­ous, there is not­hing that can se­pa­ra­te him from God. When we are righ­te­ous, we are wit­hout fault, and the­re­fo­re can stand be­fo­re the face of God.

But the truth found in the Bib­le is that not one li­ving per­son is righ­te­ous in the face of God (Ps. 143:2). We as pe­op­le would wil­ling­ly try to be­co­me righ­te­ous through our own as­sis­tan­ce, but our own righ­te­ous­ness is not ac­cep­tab­le to God. This self-dri­ven as­pi­ra­ti­on is like filt­hy rags in God’s ey­es (Isa. 64:4-5). Paul bor­rows from the Old Tes­ta­ment when he no­tes that among man­kind there is not one who is ac­cep­tab­le to God (Rom. 3:10-12, Ps. 14:1-3, 53:2-4). As hu­mans, we can­not be righ­te­ous in our­sel­ves in the face of God, but God must make us righ­te­ous.

Ac­cor­ding to the Augs­berg con­fes­si­on, God ma­kes one to be righ­te­ous, or ac­cepts man in­to his fel­lows­hip when a per­son be­lie­ves his sins for­gi­ven for the sake of Christ. The tre­a­su­re of God’s king­dom is found when the Holy Spi­rit cre­a­tes faith in us sin­ful ones. Through this faith, we own Christ’s righ­te­ous­ness and the for­gi­ve­ness of sins pre­pa­red by him. The ow­ners of this righ­te­ous­ness will re­cei­ve the call to the ever­las­ting king­dom on the last day.

The pe­a­ce and joy gi­ven by Je­sus

Ac­cor­ding to the Bib­le, pe­a­ce is a state in which we feel se­cu­re and are not lac­king anyt­hing es­sen­ti­al. In God’s king­dom, pe­a­ce is the he­art’s tran­qui­li­ty which this world can­not give. Our Re­dee­mer through his suf­fe­ring, dying on the cross and re­sur­rec­ti­on, has pre­pa­red this pe­a­ce, which can­not be comp­re­hen­ded by us. It dri­ves away all sad­ness and fear (John 14:27). It brings us se­cu­ri­ty, not on­ly with ot­her pe­op­le, but al­so in the face of de­ath and God’s judg­ment. From this co­mes the foun­tain of joy, which at one time held to­get­her the fel­lows­hip of the Chris­ti­ans in the ear­ly cong­re­ga­ti­on (Acts 2:42-47).

Re­mai­ning in the fel­lows­hip of Christ ma­kes the joy of the child of God per­fect and le­ads us to love one anot­her (John 15:11-12). The gre­a­test joy is that which we re­cei­ve from the Re­dee­mer’s pre­pa­red sal­va­ti­on. Al­re­a­dy in this life, we can re­joi­ce over the for­gi­ve­ness of sins and that our na­mes are writ­ten in the book of life (Luke 10:20). One day, we can re­joi­ce eter­nal­ly, when the Lord Al­migh­ty has ta­ken the kings­hip and the wed­ding ce­leb­ra­ti­on of the Lamb will be­gin (Rev. 19: 6-7).

The holy spi­rit ma­kes us ow­ners of a tre­a­su­re

The tre­a­su­res of God’s king­dom can­not be bought with mo­ney or ear­ned through a good life. On­ly through the inf­lu­en­ce of the Holy Spi­rit can we re­cei­ve these tre­a­su­res as our own. The small Ca­tec­hism te­ac­hes that wit­hout the li­ving wor­king Holy Spi­rit, we can­not be­lie­ve or ap­p­ro­ach Christ. The Holy Spi­rit cal­ls us through the gos­pel and cre­a­tes faith and new life. The Holy Spi­rit gi­ves us Christ with all his gifts and all the tre­a­su­res of God’s king­dom. It al­so pro­tects us in the one true faith.

So li­ving in God’s king­dom is not li­ving ac­cor­ding to man-made ru­les and bans, but new life in Christ. This new life al­so inc­lu­des strug­g­les. We can live with free he­arts as God’s child­ren, and this is why we want to fight against sin which ta­kes us from this free­dom. On our own, we are weak sin­ners, and we need to con­fess that des­pi­te our strug­g­les, we sin eve­ry day in thought and word, deeds and fai­lu­res.

From God’s king­dom, we can hear the proc­la­ma­ti­on of the for­gi­ve­ness of sins which he­ar­tens us to be­lie­ve all our sins for­gi­ven through Christ’s per­fect ato­ne­ment work. If some spe­ci­al sin is left bot­he­ring our he­arts, we can con­fess this in con­fes­si­on and hear the free­ing word of ab­so­lu­ti­on. We do not be­co­me righ­te­ous through our own strife, but as be­lie­vers of Christ’s re­demp­ti­on work, we can live each mo­ment ac­cep­tab­le to God. We can be­lie­ve that the Lord is al­so our strength, as he was to the dwel­lers of an­cient Je­ru­sa­lem thou­sands of ye­ars ago.

Text Juk­ka Pa­lo­la

Trans­la­ti­on A. H.

Pub­lis­hed SRK:n vuo­si­kir­ja, Ajan­koh­tais­ta 2012 / Ju­ma­lan val­ta­kun­nan asuk­kaa­na

Jul­kais­tu eng­lan­nin­kie­li­ses­sä kie­li­lii­tees­sä 11/2014.