Tag Archives: Revive

Righteousness Ain’t No Church Lady

When jazz musicians use the term, righteous, they are describing music that is harmonious, in a groove, following the established principles or rules of music but using those rules to launch a new, delightful and creative line of music that is a real treat to the ear and soul of the listener.  Sadly, when the terms, righteous or righteousness, are applied to a Christian context, too often the associations made are more about the uptight “Church Lady” from Saturday Night Live.

Dana Carvey as The Church Lady

Dana Carvey as The Church Lady (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is nothing righteous about being a prude.  Religious, frowny-faced, so-called righteousness stems from the impossible attempt to be good enough for God.  As we have  discussed in the previous posts it is impossible for us humans to act in harmonious, righteous ways with God when we are disconnected from His Spirit.  You cannot harmonize with music you can’t hear.

But when God “lives with” a person (Isaiah 57:15), He establishes the connection with His Spirit.  He does so to “revive” him, to bring him to life in a new way, thus enabling him to live with the best and most beautiful kind of righteousness.   Righteousness does not come from human effort; it is a gift from God.  Here is how Paul explained it:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Romans 3:21-22a

Paraphrased, this says that the ability and tendency to live in tune with God’s beautiful music comes from Him, the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) explained had to happen.  This harmonious and beautiful capacity, righteousness, comes as a gift to those who put their faith in Jesus.  Paul describes it later as “walking in the newness of life.”(Romans 6:5)

See dat?  This is the exact opposite of the commonly held notion of what happens to a person who trusts Jesus.  You don’t become an uptight, holier-than-thou, pinched-face church lady.  That’s not real righteousness.  Instead, you discover a new life from God that emerges from inside, with increasing righteousness – in the jazz sense of the word!

 (To read these posts in a logical order, click on the “New Here?” page above, or on THIS LINK)

Jamming in God’s Band

If you have been following these posts, you know I’ve compared “dead” humans to dead cell phones that have lost their signal. (You can read all the posts in the right order HERE. In Isaiah 57:15, God said He wants to connect us to the signal of His Spirit and “revive us,” bring us to life.  (See “In a Nutshell”)  The problem with that analogy is that humans think and decide; cell phones are machines and only do what they are told.  God did not create us to be robots who blindly follow rules, but to be connected to Him by His Spirit in a harmonious way.  Here’s how He described the process of “reviving” us to Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27

God’s plan is not to control us like machines, but to “move us,” from the inside out, by giving His Spirit in us to motivate our new, responsive hearts.  See that?  Here’s how Paul describes it:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,  Romans 12:2

The end result of this process of being “revived” by God’s Spirit, is not to become automatons who woodenly follow God’s rules, but living beings who, by being in tune with God, act in sympathy with His principles.

A shot from a 2006 performance by Peter Brötzm...

A shot from a 2006 performance by Peter Brötzmann, a key figure and doyen in European free jazz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time for a different analogy:  Beginning music students study and practice scales, because in music, scales are the “rules.”  Accomplished jazz musicians improvise in harmony with one another, not by playing scales, but by following the principles of the scales to make their music “work” together.  When a jazz musician plays a solo in a particularly harmonious and exciting way, the others say “That was righteous!”  God isn’t looking for robotic obedience to the rules, He’s looking for people who are in harmony with Him and with His principles, so much so that the way they improvise in life is “righteous.”

Chew on that…

Resetting Your Receiver

The Rockies were playing the Diamondbacks but the only thing on my TV was an error message: “searching for satellite signal…”  The help screen suggested my receiver needed to be reset.   There it is, folks, a great metaphorical description of the human condition!  We need to be reset.  We are dead, disconnected and searching for the signal, searching for the Spirit of God.  That’s what makes Isaiah 57:15, where God says He will “revive the spirit of the lowly,” such great news.  To revive means the same as to reset – to do what is necessary to connect the signal and bring us back to life. (If you don’t follow this, check out “Dead Man Walking”

But, maybe you don’t feel so dead.  Maybe you are wondering if this idea fits with the rest of the Bible.  It not only fits, it’s the whole point.  In the first few pages of the Bible, Adam and Eve stopped trusting God, were banished from the Garden of Eden and prevented from getting to “the Tree of Life” (Genesis 3:24).  That is a picture of their spiritual deadness, the condition of all humankind.  But the last chapter of the Bible shows a picture of how that condition will be reversed, for those given “the right to the Tree of Life” (Revelation 22:14)!  Spiritual deadness and how it can be reset or revived is the basic theme of the Bible.

John wrote of Jesus: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4).  The thing that was different about Jesus was that He had life.  He was not spiritually dead, like everybody else.  Moreover, He was “The true light that gives light to every man” (John 1:9).  Jesus taught that this life and light is in the Spirit: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63).   

Jesus knew we were spiritually dead, but could be reconnected.  He said:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to lifeJohn 5:24  

He came to reset us.  Now, if getting my TV working were only that simple…

The “Why?” Question

Isaiah 57:15 can be seen as the key to the message of the whole Bible.

For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15

The question we raised last time (see: “In a Nutshell”) was why?  Why would the God of the universe, the One Who “lives forever,” Who exists beyond all time and space “in a high and holy place,” also live “with him who is contrite and lowly”?  Set aside the “who” question – what is it about the contrite and lowly – and focus on the “why?” question.  The idea seems preposterous, that Almighty God would somehow choose to inhabit humans.  Remember the vast size and scope of His Creation, and what a tiny speck our whole solar system is in that universe?  Even our Milky Way Galaxy, at a mere 100,000 light years wide, is only a tiny speck in space.  

English: Artist's conception of the spiral str...

English: Artist’s conception of the spiral structure of the Milky Way with two major stellar arms and a central bar. “Using infrared images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists have discovered that the Milky Way’s elegant spiral structure is dominated by just two arms wrapping off the ends of a central bar of stars. Previously, our galaxy was thought to possess four major arms.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why would God care about a certain life form on earth, much less arrange to live in us?  King David asked that question, roughly 3000 years ago:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?   Psalm 8:3-4

The answer to the “why?” question is given in  Isaiah above .  It is ” to revive the spirit … and to revive the heart …”  God does it to revive us. The original word translated, revive, means “to bring something back to life!”  It means to take something that is dead and make it alive.

Chew on this: If God lives with someone to bring him or her back to life, it follows that this person must be dead.  But she or he is also “lowly and contrite,” attributes that cannot belong to the dead.  Dead guys don’t have character traits.  So then, in what sense are they (are we) dead?   Stay tuned…