Last Sunday at Fellowship I led the congregation in a Scripture reading and prayer. The text was Deut. 30:11-20. A key verse in the text was Deut. 30:16:
For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
Often the temptation is to respond to such a text by praying something like this:
Heavenly Father, help us to keep your commands so that we might live and receive your blessing…
We’re tempted to pray this way because we want God to bless us. We want God’s favor upon us.
The problem is that this kind of prayer is, in some way, unnecessary.
You and I will never (this side of heaven) be able to walk in perfect obedience to God. We will never be able to perfectly keep all of God’s commands. We will never be good enough to receive God’s blessing.
God actually knows this.
So why then does God give us commands?
God’s commands exist for two reasons. First, they exist as a reflection of the character of God. God’s commands show us just how holy God is. Second, God’s commands show us just how unholy we are.
In other words, the commands of God show us we need help. They show us we need a savior.
Jesus Christ is that Savior.
When Jesus lived on earth he did what we could not do. He walked in perfect obedience to God the Father. He fulfilled every command of God. He showed us what a perfect life actually looks like.
But Jesus did more than just show us how to live. Jesus lived a righteous [right relationship to God] life for a bigger reason. He desired to give his righteousness away…
In Romans 3:21-24 the Apostle Paul writes:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Paul’s point is this: because none of us can keep the commandments of God perfectly, none of us on our own can be righteous [in right relationship to God]. Therefore we need another way of being righteous. A way that is outside of the law of God. Jesus is that other way.
Furthermore, when we put our faith [trust] in Jesus Christ, we are justified [judged innocent] by God. And redeemed [put back in right relationship] by God.
This is called “The Great Exchange”. When we repent and put our faith in Jesus, he takes on all our sin, and in turn gives us all his righteousness.
This changes how we pray.
Now when we read verses such as Deut. 30:16, we can respond very differently than before.
Our prayer no longer needs to be “God help me to keep your commands,” but instead something like this:
“God, thank you that you sent your Son, Jesus, to keep all the commands on my behalf.
Thank you, Jesus, that you lived a righteous and perfect life, and that you gave the righteousness you earned to me. Thank you that by your grace you delivered to me the favor and blessings of God.
Jesus, I want to do your will—not so I can earn your favor, but as an act of gratitude for what you have done for me!“
When we see Jesus Christ as our righteousness, we will no longer be burdened by the law of God. What is more, the entire Old Testament will open up to us, beautifully displaying just how much Jesus has done for us. Understanding this will allow us to pray in a better way.
Today, I pray that you will put your trust in Jesus. That you will trust that Jesus has made you righteous. I pray that you would know that, because Jesus has made you righteous, the favor and blessing of God is already upon you. And I pray that, because God’s favor is already upon you, your life today will be filled with grace and gratitude.