Today's Word of Encouragement

Moral and Formal Righteousness


Saturday, June 27, 2020

    Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 6:1).

     In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus spoke on the significance of the Law of God - You have heard that it was said to those of old. . . . Then He reintroduced the spirit of the Law, it’s full meaning as God intended it - But I say to you . . . .
     Beginning in chapter 6, Jesus focused on the practicality of the Law. Instruction without application is useless. The Word of God is intended to impact a person, arrest his mind, awaken his spirit, affect his attitudes, mold and shape his life.
     Whereas chapter 5 emphasized the principle of moral righteousness with 6 examples, chapter 6 emphasized the principle of formal righteousness with 3 examples centered on religious practice: giving, which demonstrates mercy toward others (6:2-4), prayer, which demonstrates humility toward God (6:5-15), and fasting, which demonstrates discipline toward self (6:16-18).
     The principle of moral righteousness addresses the inner person. The principle of formal righteousness addresses the outer person. Moral righteousness is given to the Christian upon salvation. It is not his own, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ. His righteousness is ‘imputed’ to the Christian, meaning the only righteousness the Christian has is the righteousness of Christ attributed to him. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Isaiah 64:6).
     Formal righteousness springs out of moral righteousness. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
     We would do well to remember this principle. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasized attitudes (moral righteousness) first, then proceeded to discuss actions (formal righteousness). Actions follow attitudes. Repentance is a change of mind/heart then a change of direction. What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:20-23).
     “Father, Your servant David said, ‘Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.’ I confess the continual struggle I have in serving Jesus Christ comes from within me, my heart, my affections. You gave me a new heart when You saved me, but the heart of flesh lingers still. Cleanse and purify my heart afresh and anew that I may serve You with my whole heart and being. Amen”


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