(Sacrament meeting talk given on 14 August 2016)
In Psalm 11 we read:
The Lord loveth the righteous . . .
. . . For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.JST Psalms 11:5, Psalms 11:6-7
Let me repeat that:
The Lord loves the righteous.
The righteous Lord loves righteousness.
Who is the righteous Lord? Jesus Christ answered that question when He said:
Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.Mark 10:18
Thus the righteous Lord is God our Eternal Father in Heaven.
On another occasion Jesus taught:
[T]he hour cometh . . . when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.John 4:23-24
We come here each week to worship God the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit. We are therefore followers of the righteous Lord and thus followers of righteousness. Indeed this is the pledge – the covenant – we made with Him at baptism: We will follow the paths of righteousness.
But how can we follow righteousness if we do not understand what it is?
Answering this question is my subject today.
I’ve mentioned before that I love words. They are full of meaning when we learn to understand them – and how to pull them apart to find their meaning. If we dissect the word righteousness we get the following parts:
right = (adjective)*
- That which is morally correct, just or honorable
-eous = (suffix which forms adjectives)*
- Resembling or displaying the nature of
-ness = (suffix forming a noun chiefly from adjectives)*
- Denoting a state or condition
Thus the word:
righteous = displaying the nature of that which is morally correct, just or honorable
and the word:
righteousness = the state or condition of resembling or displaying the nature of that which is morally correct, just or honorable
This understanding of righteousness makes me think of a passage of scripture in which God tells Moses something about Moses:
. . . [T]hou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth . . .Moses 1:6
Moses was in the similitude of Jesus Christ. Or in other words Moses was in a state of resembling or displaying the nature of Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ was chosen as our Savior because He was full of grace and truth – two attributes of His Father. The Lord told Adam:
Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge.Moses 6:57
In Adam’s language the name of God the Father is “Man of Holiness.”
And the name of Jesus Christ is “the Son of Man” and He is a righteous judge.
Thus Jesus is in the similitude of His Father. Or in other words, Jesus is in the state of displaying the nature of His Father. Indeed Jesus said the following about himself:
[H]e that hath seen me hath seen the Father.John 14:9
The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.John 5:19
Thus Jesus is righteous because He is like and acts like His Father.
So. What does all of this mean? What’s the point I am trying to get at? It is this: Jesus Christ lived a life that followed His Father’s will perfectly! And it is against Him and His life that we will be measured when we are judged. This is why he is described by the Lord in the verse above as a “righteous judge.” It is in part because he was perfectly upright before His Father in Heaven and we will be compared to Him.
This image of Jesus being perfectly upright before God allows us to understand righteousness in a different way. We can now speak of righteousness in terms of justification. Justification is a concept spoken of frequently in the scriptures as the process by which Jesus redeems us.
The word right means, “that which is morally correct, just or honorable.” Thus if Jesus is a righteous judge He is also a just judge. In other words He justifies us.
In the book, “The Anatomy of Peace,” the term justification is presented in a way that makes it easier to understand:
One of the main characters, a man by the name of Yusuf tells of an experience he had with his father:
My father was a carpenter. When I was four or five, I remember going with him on a job where he was helping to rebuild a house. I remember in particular a wall in the kitchen area of the home. It turned out that the wall was crooked. I remember this because of something my father taught me about it. ‘Here, Yusuf,’ I remember him saying . . . ‘we need to justify this wall.’
“’Justify, Father?’ I asked.
“’Yes, Son. When something is crooked and we need to make it straight, we call it justifying. This wall is crooked, so it needs to be justified.’The Anatomy of Peace – Arbinger Institute – pg 93
Can you see in your mind this wall and its crookedness? Can you see the ground which is flat, perpendicular to the force of gravity? And can you see the wall shooting out from the ground at an odd angle?
More importantly, can you now figuratively see yourself as this wall, sticking out from the ground and not at a perfect 90 degrees? Jesus Christ was the only individual who was able to do that. He was the only one of us able to be at 90 degrees in relation to our Heavenly Father. This is why the Lord said to Adam:
Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence . . .Moses 6:57
It is because we are all crooked that we all need to be justified. In other words we all need to be straightened out and repentance is the process we go through to become perfectly upright – or at 90 degrees – before the Lord. And in order to do this we need something to compare ourselves to.
A plumb line is, “a . . . cord that has at one end a weight . . . and is used . . . to determine [how vertical (or straight up and down) something is]” If you were to hang a plumb line from a wall that is crooked it would not fall perfectly in line with it. The weight at the bottom would hang on one side or the other indicating how crooked the wall is.
Spiritually speaking if you hang a plumb line from each one of us in this room you would see the string not in line with any of us. Our spiritual plumb lines would show that every single one of us is crooked and that we all need to be justified. We would all need to be made right or righteous again because we are no longer in a state of resembling that which is morally correct or just.
But where do we find justification? Who has the ability to justify us? Certainly not ourselves. We’re the ones who got us into our crooked state in the first place. Certainly not the person sitting next to us. Their plumb line is also hanging crooked and if we were to try and justify ourselves to them we would only become more crooked. We could try changing the angle of the ground by shifting the dirt around – but the ground represents the laws defining morality or the laws of God and not one of us has the right to change those for any reason, let alone to justify ourselves.
Who then can justify us? Who then can make us righteous again?
The answer is Jesus Christ – our righteous judge. This is why we come partake of the Sacrament each week. He alone is the plumb line against which we can compare ourselves. He is the only outside source that can come to us and tell us not only that we are crooked, but how we are crooked and how to become uncrooked.
And how does this happen? Well, certainly it starts by knowing His life and teachings contained in the Holy Scriptures. But that limits us only to comparing ourselves to Him. More importantly we need Him to compare us to Himself and let us know by exactly how much and in what way we are off. And this occurs as we keep the sacramental covenants we make each week – to always remember Him and keep His commandments so that we can have His Spirit to be with us. Thus when the Lord needs to correct us – to justify us, to make us straight – He tells us through His Holy Spirit. And when we obey that Spirit we become justified, we become righteous again. And thus we come full circle back to being true worshippers who worship God the Father in spirit and in truth, justified by Jesus Christ, who is full of grace and truth and is our righteous and just judge.
So. As we go through life please remember this:
When we were baptized we made a covenant to follow righteousness. And righteousness comes from being perfectly in line with Jesus Christ and by following His Spirit. And when we get off – which we all do – only He can put us right again. And the joy of the gospel is that we can be right again through our righteous judge, even Jesus Christ.
I extend to all of us in this room an invitation to examine our lives and to seek out Jesus Christ and learn from Him what we need to do to become more in line with who He is and the life He lived – a life that is in the state of displaying the nature of God our Eternal Father. And as you find things that are not in line with Him – please change them. Please repent. Please let Him justify you and make you righteous again.
*Definitions found in the Oxford English Dictionary mobile app. Links to the online dictionary are not available as it is not a free service.