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Mission Devotional - August 18, 2016

Opening Prayer: Lord God, thank you that you have declared us righteous in Christ. The pressure is off. Now we may live our lives in loving response to your grace and your kindness. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 5:20

Journal: What does it mean that your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law? What does the word righteousness do within you? How does it inspire you? How does it challenge you? How does it disturb you? What does righteousness look like in your life?

Reflection: I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the word righteousness I immediately start getting a little overwhelmed, as if my right standing before God was somehow all up to me. I guess I have a little Pharisee in me after all. So, when I hear that my righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, it makes me a little nervous. What, exactly, does that mean?

Righteousness is a tricky thing. It is something I am given (through Christ), yet something I still need to pursue. Which means that I can so easily get sidetracked into believing - and living as if - it is all up to me. I am so prone to performing and earning. It is a default that is set deep in my heart and soul. And if I start to live as if my righteousness is all up to me, then I start focusing on my behavior rather than on my heart - which seems to be the very thing Jesus is speaking out against. Righteousness is an inside out process, not outside in. Jesus wants my heart before he wants my behavior, for he knows that if he has my heart, then my behavior will follow. If he simply has my behavior, then my life with him will be all about appearances, legalism, and duty. I guess that's why he said, "This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me." (Matthew 15:8)

All too often I get it totally backwards, as did the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. It all starts with the heart. The fact that Jesus has given me his righteousness should capture my heart, fill me with deep gratitude, and bring me to life inside. This life within me then functions as the motivation - the fuel, if you will - for the life that works its way out through me. I have been totally captured by his love and, therefore, I want to please him in every way possible. That seems much less overwhelming, and much more of a possibility.

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

Vitaly and Oksana Voinov live in Moscow, Russia. Vitaly is working with the Institute for Bible Translation (IBT) in Russia/CIS as IBT's director. IBT has been serving the non-Slavic peoples of the former Soviet Union for four decades by translating the Holy Scriptures - Bibles, New Testaments, individual Bible books, and illustrated Children's Bibles. Pray today for the Voinov family as they enjoy the summer months and extra time together while their children are out of school.

InterVarsity's vision is to see students transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed. They live this out by inviting unreached students into life transforming encounters with Jesus Christ and training and developing them as disciples and leaders. Pray today for the staff and volunteers as they host small group Bible studies to introduce cultural Christians and the unchurched to Jesus.

Closing Prayer: Jesus, you are our righteousness. May we love and serve you today in response to the unfailing love and affection which you have showered upon us. Amen.