ArticlesPoetry Feb 2, 2016 The Wealth Of The Father
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Creator and author, thinkheaven.com

The wealth of the Fa­ther is the Fa­ther.

The Re­quest

You will re­mem­ber that in the pre­ced­ing, we be­gan by look­ing at my re­quest be­fore God for the trea­sure of ho­li­ness. In the process, we got trapped into fig­ur­ing out why this heart of ours (at least of mine) is so prone to wan­der and so ea­ger to leave the God we claim to love. We then went on to dis­cuss why we have this burn­ing de­sire to es­tab­lish a free­dom from God in­stead of pur­su­ing a free­dom for God. Of­ten it is be­cause of our in­abil­i­ty to un­der­stand that love aris­es from the com­mand. In those mo­ments of flight, even from Eden, free­dom from God is all we can think about. We can­not con­ceive of a free­dom for God.

Hav­ing talked about the de­sire, now let us talk about the re­quest I made. I asked God for ho­li­ness, right­eous­ness or sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. Why did I do this? I did this be­cause, like every prodi­gal son, I un­der­stand that free­dom with­out pow­er (po­ten­tial) is mean­ing­less. Every child knows this. Lit­tle chil­dren with all se­ri­ous­ness, in a man­ner fun­ny to adults, will of­ten threat­en to run away. Some of them even do run away ... and then hope­ful­ly have the grace to de­fi­ant­ly slink back home when they’re hun­gry for lunch. Since we were ba­bies, we have al­ways as­sert­ed our in­de­pen­dence from our par­ents and de­sire free­dom from them. Yet we quick­ly learn that “free­dom”, with­out the pow­er to re­main free, is use­less.

Be­sides want­i­ng the pow­er to re­main free from the Fa­ther, why does the prodi­gal al­ways de­sire the wealth of the Fa­ther? Odd­ly enough, it is be­cause all his life, this prodi­gal son has only had one im­age to look up to: his Fa­ther. There­fore, the prodi­gal son mis­tak­en­ly sees the Fa­ther and His Wealth as two dif­fer­ent things and thinks that if he can have the Fa­ther’s wealth, then he can be­gin to be­come like the Fa­ther (si­cut deus). He wants to em­u­late the fa­ther away from the fa­ther. He wants to be his own man but he has only been a child and there­fore, he wants the free­dom and pow­er (wealth) to be­come a man and shape him­self into the im­age of his Fa­ther.

So some­where in my heart, I de­sire to be free from God even though, from the be­gin­ning, God had al­ready cre­at­ed me with this free­dom from Him­self. Yet I also un­der­stand that even with free­dom from God, to tru­ly nav­i­gate this world, I must pos­sess the pow­er to be free from God. I want the pow­er (and this is where the mad­ness be­comes vis­i­ble) to shape and fash­ion my­self into the im­age of the God ... Who al­ready made me in His Im­age! Now oth­ers may think that mon­ey will be enough but you will soon see the depths of my fool­ish­ness. The first trea­sure I hoped to take with me in my flight from Him is right­eous­ness. At this point, let us as­sume that God has an­swered my prayer. He has giv­en me my in­her­i­tance of right­eous­ness Isa­iah 54:17 and I have tak­en my right­eous­ness with me away from His Pres­ence and into the world where I be­lieve I can be good with­out Him. So to­day, let us con­tin­ue by pay­ing homage to that char­ac­ter of­ten ig­nored in the para­ble of the Prodi­gal Son: the Wealth of the Fa­ther.

The Wealth Of The Fa­ther

When we say, that God has wealth, we do in­clude phys­i­cal wealth. I mean He made the en­tire uni­verse. He has called Him­self the own­er of cat­tle on a thou­sand hills. Al­though to­day this anal­o­gy may be some­what lost on our way of think­ing, con­sid­er how much mon­ey some­one would have if they were the largest provider of meat, fer­til­iz­er and wool in the whole world. Yet, if a son or daugh­ter were to go be­fore God and only ask for all of God’s “mon­ey”, then he or she would only be ask­ing for the least of God’s trea­sure. Mon­ey in many ways is like man­na Ex­o­dus 16:16-20. You can maybe ap­pear to have it with­out God. You can store it up and hoard it for some time so that it would seem that you will have it for­ev­er. To­mor­row, how­ev­er, the sun will rise and the mag­gots will be re­vealed. Just like man­na, mon­ey that is pos­sessed in a way that God for­bids will also be­gin to rot. And since Je­sus says that you can al­ways find your heart in the midst of your trea­sure, then when your trea­sure be­gins to rot, your heart will rot also. When your trea­sure be­gins to di­min­ish, de­voured by moth and rust, so also your heart will di­min­ish, a del­i­ca­cy for the rav­ages of time. This is the way with all phys­i­cal wealth.

Yet God who made the phys­i­cal is Spir­it. There­fore, He also pos­sess­es Spir­i­tu­al wealth. Spir­i­tu­al wealth is dif­fer­ent from phys­i­cal wealth. Phys­i­cal wealth is sub­ject to the laws of time and space. Spir­i­tu­al wealth is sub­ject only to the laws of eter­ni­ty. Phys­i­cal wealth is vis­i­ble and tan­gi­ble. Spir­i­tu­al wealth is in­vis­i­ble and in­tan­gi­ble. Phys­i­cal wealth, when pos­sessed ac­cord­ing to the laws of God, can nev­er pos­sess you. Spir­i­tu­al wealth, on the oth­er hand, is like love: it can only be pos­sessed as much as it pos­sess­es you. Now there are many spir­i­tu­al gifts 1 Cor 12:8-10 the Lord may be­stow upon a man or woman, but the one tal­ent Matthew 25:14-15 He will al­ways give to every ser­vant is the pre­cious coin of right­eous­ness.

Right­eous­ness

Again, you will find me here be­ing some­thing of a word ac­tivist. I am in­ter­est­ed in find­ing and sav­ing words that have suf­fered abuse un­der the tyran­ny of man for many years. And few words have suf­fered as much as "right­eous­ness“. What is right­eous­ness? What does it mean and why is it so im­por­tant? Well just look around you. The tem­po­rary suc­cess of every na­tion is di­rect­ly de­pen­dent on how well they can es­tab­lish the rule of law and a cul­ture of jus­tice and fair­ness. In the ab­sence of these things, wealth and pow­er will con­cen­trate in the hands of a few, the many will suf­fer and the na­tion will col­lapse. Yet to quote Job, these no­tions of jus­tice, fair­ness and the rule of law are just the fringes of right­eous­ness.

The dev­il would have us be­lieve that be­ing right­eous is about choos­ing to do good over evil. This has been one of his great­est tricks. Few will open­ly say that they de­sire to be free from God so that they can do evil. Nope. Every prodi­gal son or daugh­ter not only wants to be free from their fa­ther but also wants to be as good as or even bet­ter than their fa­ther. For this rea­son, when the dev­il de­ceived Adam and Eve, he of­fered to them a new source of right­eous­ness: the knowl­edge of good and evil Gen­e­sis 3:5. He es­sen­tial­ly told them, “Eat of the tree. You will be­come like God (si­cut deus), able to shape your­self into the Im­age of God! and liv­ing out of your knowl­edge of good and evil (tob and ra)“. Ever since then, we have con­strained right­eous­ness to sim­ply mean choos­ing to do good over evil. Like all His chil­dren, when I pray to Him for right­eous­ness, all I am of­ten ask­ing for is this abil­i­ty to do good in­stead of evil. But again I have been ask­ing as a stranger be­hold­ing the King­dom from afar and not as a son who sits be­side the King. We have been ask­ing for crumbs as if we were beg­gars at the Mas­ter’s ta­ble. How would it not of­fend God, our Fa­ther, to grant such a re­quest?

What then is this right­eous­ness I am talk­ing about? How can it be greater than the abil­i­ty to do good over evil? Right­eous­ness is just like the obe­di­ence we pre­vi­ous­ly talked about. Right­eous­ness is far far more than a se­ries of right ac­tions. Right­eous­ness is a state and a na­ture. Right­eous­ness is not just about do­ing the right thing. Right­eous­ness is about be­ing a right per­son. A wrong per­son can of­ten do a right thing and there­by think her­self right­eous. But do­ing the right thing does not make any­one right­eous and God be­lieved this so much, that He sent His Son to die. A right­eous per­son, on the oth­er hand, will al­ways be able to do the right thing and more James 5:16-18.

Re­turn­ing To Re­turn

Thank God for James. In all this talk about right­eous­ness, we might al­most for­get that those who be­lieve in Je­sus al­ready have it. It is the one gift that all His ser­vants re­ceive when they be­lieve in Him. I be­lieve in Je­sus Christ. I know that I am a Chris­t­ian. Yet I keep com­ing back to God to ask Him for that thing which He has al­ready giv­en to me. I am as the woman who lost her pre­cious coin Luke 15:8-12 and of­ten like her, I re­joice when I find my right­eous­ness again. Only for me, it seems that this tragedy oc­curs too fre­quent­ly and I find my­self search­ing again and plead­ing with God for my right­eous­ness again. This is not nec­es­sar­i­ly a fool­ish prayer. It may be a prayer of re­pen­tance and re­morse as with David Psalms 51:10-12.

Con­fes­sion and re­pen­tance are in­evitable and cru­cial parts of the Chris­t­ian walk. Con­fes­sion is an ac­knowl­edge­ment of a dis­tance be­tween you and God. Re­pen­tance is love as we de­fined it in the pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle. Re­pen­tance is when I use the dis­tance I sin­ful­ly cre­at­ed be­tween me and God to re­turn to God. Yet we must ask why. Why is it that I so of­ten have to come back? In my case, all too of­ten I go back to God, not be­cause I feel the sep­a­ra­tion from Him, but be­cause sin has been cramp­ing my style. I do not want the bur­den of sin but only be­cause it is ev­i­dence of my in­abil­i­ty to be my own lord, to be like God (si­cut deus). My sins re­veal to me that my knowl­edge of good and evil (tob and ra) is in­ad­e­quate and in­suf­fi­cient to even al­low me to choose good over evil. Un­like the prodi­gal son in the para­ble who re­turned in re­pen­tance, I of­ten re­turn be­cause my wealth of right­eous­ness ran out and I need some more ... so that I can run away again.

One of two things must there­fore be true: Ei­ther I keep los­ing my right­eous­ness when I run from the Pres­ence of God or I have the wrong idea about what right­eous­ness is and so I haven’t lost it at all. Ac­tu­al­ly, it turns out that both are like­ly true. First of all, I do have the wrong idea about right­eous­ness. Let us look at what the Bible says about right­eous­ness and ho­li­ness. God de­fines right­eous­ness in Gen­e­sis 17:1. The ad­jec­tive “blame­less” can ei­ther be ap­plied to Abra­ham or to Abra­ham’s walk. In oth­er words, the verse sug­gests that both the ac­tion and the ac­tor must be blame­less. The verse then has two equal­ly valid and equal­ly im­por­tant in­ter­pre­ta­tions de­pend­ing on the di­rec­tion you are look­ing from. From one an­gle, right­eous­ness is a blame­less walk be­fore God. From the oth­er, right­eous­ness is a blame­less per­son walk­ing be­fore God. Right­eous­ness means to per­form a blame­less ac­tion be­fore God. Right­eous­ness also means to have a blame­less na­ture be­fore God.

An Au­di­ence Of One

Let us un­pack this a lit­tle more to make it clear. God gives only one cri­te­ria for de­ter­min­ing the right­ness or the blame­less­ness of my ac­tion: I must per­form the ac­tion be­hold­ing Him as my Only Au­di­ence and Spec­ta­tor He­brews 11:27. This is con­sis­tent with Je­sus who told us NOT to per­form right­eous­ness for the pub­lic Matthew 6:1-6 for then it is not right­eous­ness we have per­formed but some­thing else for which God will NOT re­ward any of us. So blame­less­ness is not de­ter­mined by how much plan­ning, or how much ef­fort or even if your in­ten­tions are good. Right­eous ac­tions are those that are per­formed while be­hold­ing Him who Is In­vis­i­ble, God Almighty. Plan­ning, great ef­fort and good in­ten­tions will def­i­nite­ly come along once you see the God for whom you are per­form­ing. If you are do­ing some­thing for the pres­i­dent, you will do it at least a lit­tle bet­ter than if you were do­ing it for your­self. How much more if you were per­form­ing for God?!

You will of­ten hear a ques­tion that goes like this: If there was a man or woman who did good all their lives but nev­er be­lieved in God, will they go to heav­en? It is a good ques­tion but there are many sub­tle mis­un­der­stand­ings be­hind it. Let us say for a sec­ond that heav­en is noth­ing more than God’s re­ward to those who do good things. Well, based on what God said to Abra­ham and what Je­sus said in His Ser­mon, the ques­tion God will ask is, “Who you were per­form­ing for?” Some­one who “did good” but did not do it be­fore God will NOT re­ceive God’s re­ward. To beat a liv­ing horse: right­eous­ness is not just about what you did but also about who you did it be­fore. There is no heav­en­ly re­ward for ac­tions per­formed to the stan­dards of men and for their ap­proval. The heav­en­ly re­ward is only for those ac­tions per­formed so that God may be pleased.

But let’s be re­al­is­tic. No one does good all their lives so there goes get­ting into heav­en be­cause I was per­fect in ac­tion. Fur­ther­more, the judg­ment of the crowd is like the judg­ment of the mob: it is evil and only wa­vers in the de­gree of evil from one sun­rise to the oth­er. How many a politi­cian has lat­er lament­ed that they “had to get their hands dirty for the “greater” good”? Try­ing to seek the ap­proval of the crowd (i.e. face­book, twit­ter, your friends and so on) will dri­ve you crazy. God, on the oth­er hand, does not wa­ver. There is no shad­ow of turn­ing with Him. He is the only One you can strive to please and gain your soul in the process.

A Right­eous Na­ture

Yet ac­tions per­formed that God may see are not enough. These ac­tions must be per­formed by some­one who pos­sess­es a blame­less na­ture. Here is the equiv­a­lence to help keep this straight: only those who are right­eous can do right­eous. So how does one be­come right­eous? Aha. The beau­ty of it all. First let us talk about growth in right­eous­ness. You grow in right­eous­ness by walk­ing be­fore God. In this you can think of God as an act­ing coach Deut 8:5, Job 5:17-18, Psalms 94:12, Proverbs 3:11-12, John 15:2, 1 Cor 11:32, He­brews 12:5-11, Rev­e­la­tions 3:19. As you can see, from be­gin­ning to end, the Bible re­peats this truth over and over. Only those who be­long to God and have a re­la­tion­ship with God can grow in right­eous­ness. Je­sus fur­ther clar­i­fies in John 17:17 that the only means be­com­ing more holy and more right­eous is through God’s word to us. By speak­ing to us, and us to Him, we have a re­la­tion­ship since the ba­sis of all re­la­tion­ships is the word. So as I live and move be­fore Him, speak­ing to Him and hear­ing from Him, we cre­ate a re­la­tion­ship, a sanc­tum in which He dis­ci­plines, cor­rects and sanc­ti­fies me. For me to be­come more right­eous, I must be with Him in re­la­tion­ship.

Yet growth in right­eous­ness is like the growth of a tree from a seed. Be­fore a par­tic­u­lar tree can grow from a par­tic­u­lar seed, that seed must pos­sess the na­ture of the tree. There­fore, even be­fore this process grow­ing in right­eous­ness, I must al­ready be right­eous. Not only this, I can­not have just any right­eous na­ture, I must have His Right­eous Na­ture. A grape vine does not grow ap­ples be­cause the vine does does not have the na­ture the ap­ple tree. So also, a per­son with an un­right­eous na­ture can­not pro­duce right­eous ac­tions. From an­oth­er per­spec­tive, if right­eous ac­tions are those per­formed be­fore God, how can I ever get into His Pres­ence with­out a right­eous na­ture? How could I even see Him when He Is Right­eous and I am not? Light has noth­ing to do with dark­ness, good can­not mar­ry evil. Be­ing a son, a seed, and im­age of God means I must have the na­ture of God.

And so be­fore the mar­riage comes the wed­ding. Be­fore sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, comes sal­va­tion Ro­mans 3:20-26, 4:2-8. As far as God is con­cerned, be­ing right­eous, hav­ing His Right­eous­ness means only one thing: be­liev­ing in God. The only way to be­lieve in God is to meet and know Je­sus Christ Matthew 11:7, John 14:6-9, 2 John 1:9. It is through know­ing Je­sus and ac­cept­ing His Sac­ri­fice, that I come to pos­sess the right­eous­ness of God 2 Cor 5:17. Only af­ter I am born again in His Right­eous­ness, can I then be­gin to grow in His Right­eous­ness.

The Trea­sure Is The Own­er

Now that we have dis­cussed what right­eous­ness is, a few things make a lot more sense. The rea­son why my right­eous­ness keeps seem­ing to dis­ap­pear is be­cause I am try­ing to be right­eous and do right­eous out of the pres­ence of God and with­out a re­la­tion­ship with God. Right­eous­ness, as physics would say, is a vec­tor quan­ti­ty. It has both mag­ni­tude (good ac­tions) and di­rec­tion (ori­en­ta­tion to­wards God). The dev­il’s trick was to sep­a­rate the two as­pects of right­eous­ness and make us think that right­eous­ness means only do­ing good ac­tions. If that was the case then you don’t need God. All you need is a knowl­edge of good and evil. We only need to look at our world to see the ev­i­dence that we need more than our knowl­edge of good and evil. The most im­por­tant part of right­eous­ness is be­ing in the Pres­ence of God, be­ing ori­ent­ed to­wards God. In terms of ac­tion, right­eous­ness is about do­ing good be­fore God. In terms of na­ture, you be­come right­eous and grow in right­eous­ness by do­ing good be­fore God. There­fore, by God’s de­f­i­n­i­tion, it is im­pos­si­ble to ei­ther be right­eous or do right­eous out­side of His Pres­ence.

The most im­por­tant thing I can ever do then is get into the Pres­ence of God and the only way to do that is by be­liev­ing in Je­sus Christ. Praise God that I have al­ready done that when He made me a Chris­t­ian. Now that I think on it a lit­tle more, the first and the only good thing any­one can ever do is be­lieve in Je­sus Christ. This is why Je­sus said John 6:29. This is why Paul said what­ev­er is not faith is sin Ro­mans 14:23. This be­lief in Je­sus has to take on flesh through many dif­fer­ent ac­tions and many dif­fer­ent words but no mat­ter how many sac­ri­fices it em­bod­ies, it is still one thing: be­lief in Je­sus Christ. As Kierkegaard says, “Pu­ri­ty of heart is to will one thing.”

So let us sum up in one sen­tence what I have learned so far. For me to stop be­ing prodi­gal and start be­ing a son, I must use my free­dom from God for God in the Pres­ence of God. To make it even short­er: I must be­lieve in Je­sus Christ and do what He says. So when I think to take an in­her­i­tance of His Right­eous­ness so that I can run away from God and be like God (si­cut deus), I am fool­ing my­self. There is no such thing as right­eous­ness out­side of the Pres­ence of God. There is no such thing as ho­li­ness with­out a deep liv­ing re­la­tion­ship with God. The wealth of the Fa­ther can­not be tak­en out of His Pres­ence. The Wealth of the Fa­ther, His Right­eous­ness, is His Pres­ence.

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