Tag Archive for righteous

Do Unto Others: Part 1–Justice

 

The Lord always does right and wants justice done.  Everyone who does right will see his face.  (Psalm 11:7 CEV)

 

 

 

Way back in 2012, we defined justice as “getting what you deserve.”

 

However, from the quote above, we can see that the Bible has more than one definition of justice, depending on the translation.  It wouldn’t make sense to interpret that God wants to see everyone get what they deserve, when His Word clearly states that, “He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act (2 Peter 3:9b GW).”

 

Instead, what the verse is saying is that the Lord does right, so that everyone who does what He does, having been created in His own image, will get to be with Him.  With this context, we can see that “justice” is referring to righteous deeds.

 

Now we also have established that salvation is by grace alone, and that through faith.  Our righteous deeds do not save us; rather, they are the evidence of our salvation.  Our making the decision to follow God and join Him in His work is what leads us to a state of righteousness.

 

Taking that into consideration, we can see that there is no separation between “being saved” and acting justly.  Doing justice (acting righteously) is the evidence of our salvation, because we are reflecting the image of the One who created us, the One who always does what is just.

 

Justice and Righteousness

 

 

Abraham is a perfect example of how this plays out.  Back when Abraham was still “Abram,” God made him a promise regarding his abundance of descendants, which Abram believed, even though he had no logical reason to do so.  Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

 

This example is frequently cited when people explain salvation by faith, but there is more going on here.  Abram’s act of faith entered him into a covenant with God.  God bound Himself with a promise because Abram fulfilled his part of the covenant, which was to believe and conform to God’s plan.  Therefore, the “righteousness” with which he was “credited” is something like a legal standing.  Abram isn’t just a good guy; he has a distinct position because of his act of faith.

 

In other words, he did the right thing, and it had a good result.  His salvation was through God’s grace, but it was also an act of justice.  Abram got what he deserved, because he did what God expected him to do.

 

The prophet Micah, in chapter 6 of the book bearing his name, asks rhetorically what must be done to get God’s attention and earn His forgiveness.  Then he answers his own question, saying:

 

The Lord has shown you what is good.  He has told you what he requires of you.  You must act with justice.  You must love to show mercy.  And you must be humble as you live in the sight of your God.  Micah 6:8 NIRV

 

The key word in that quote is “act.”  God wants us to do justice, not just think happy thoughts about it.  And how do we do that?

 

The simplest way is to stop thinking of ourselves first.  God wants us to think of Him first, because of who He is.  Next, as written in Philippians 2:4, He wants us to “look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own.”

 

Doing this can be temporarily inconvenient, but it will yield great rewards.

 

(For more on the “show mercy” bit, come back for part 2.)

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 1–What We’re Up Against

Lord, save our children.

 

When did it become not OK for kids to be kids?  There is hardly a child now that by the age of 14 hasn’t either cut themselves, questioned their sexuality or rejected God.  Anyone that tries to lead them to Truth is labeled intolerant, hateful, an ignorant bigot, or worse.

 

We are even accused of trying to indoctrinate our own children, but only because our parenting gets in the way of the attempts at indoctrination by our accusers.  And they want to call US hypocrites!

 

How fortunate then, that God already has a plan for these people.  He will have the last word, as he told His prophet Isaiah:

 

  I stop the highbrow intellectuals in their tracks,
and I show the fault of their reasoning.
  But I stand behind the words of My servants,
and I accomplish what they predict.
  (Isaiah 44:25b-26a VOICE)

 

We must endure.  As righteous as our anger may be toward our antagonists, we must remember these things:

 

  1. In our anger, we must not sin.(Ephesians 4:26)
  2. Vengeance is the Lord’s not ours.  (Romans 12:19)
  3. We do have a real enemy, but it is not a human enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:15, 1 Peter 5:8)

 

Our job is to spread the Gospel.  We can’t praise the name of Jesus and sully it at the same time.  If we take our eyes off of Jesus and start worrying about what other people are doing, then we lose sight of our mission.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his book, Strength to Love:

 

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence, you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence, you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

 

Our job is to bring the light of Jesus to a darkened world that does not know it is in darkness.

 

We shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter opposition to the Truth.  This has been going on since day one.  Jesus was crucified, the apostles were persecuted and martyred, and on and on through the centuries.  There may soon come a day when preaching the word of God becomes illegal in this country, as it is in many communist and Muslim countries.

 

But here’s the thing.  Even if they put us in prison, God’s word can not be bound.  As Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy:

 

Remember always, as the centre of everything, Jesus Christ, a man of human ancestry, yet raised by God from the dead according to my Gospel.  For preaching this I am having to endure being chained in prison as if I were some sort of a criminal.  But they cannot chain the Word of God, and I can endure all these things for the sake of those whom God is calling, so that they too may receive the salvation of Jesus Christ, and its complement of glory after the world of time.  (2 Timothy 2: 8-10 PHILLIPS)

 

We are called to persevere under trial and not to give up.  Even if we get tired and weak, God won’t.  So if we trust Him to carry us when we can’t go on, He will be faithful to do it.

 

We must stand firm, not only for our children’s sake, but also for our own.  Will you join me in praying for our youth today to be Truthseekers and not herd followers?

 

Whatever We Ask: Part 4–(Un)answered Prayers

All prayers are answered.  Sometimes the answer is, “No.”—Bono

 

 

One of the pitfalls of the Christian life is how easy it is to backslide from “highly favored child of God” to “spoiled brat.”

 

We have seasons of life where everything seems to be going our way, and we give God the glory for that.  But then life throws us a curveball, and the whining starts.

 

“Why isn’t God answering my prayer?  He said He’d give me anything I ask for.  Haven’t I been ‘doing it right’?”

 

The truth is that God does answer prayer, but not always in the way that we expect.

 

Sometimes we get excited and run up ahead when He needs us to hold back and notice something He wants to show us.  Sometimes selfishness creeps in and the “desires of our hearts” become more like the cravings of our appetites.  And sometimes, we simply don’t recognize the answer for what it is when it comes.

 

God is not a vending machine or an ATM.  We exist to serve Him, not the other way around.  For this reason, the point of prayer isn’t primarily to address our own needs.  Jesus explained it this way:

 Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them.  Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants.  Then all your other needs will be met as well.  (Matthew 6:31-33 NCV)

Prayer is your Out box.  When you put something in your Out box at work, do you pull it back and put it in your In box again?  No, you put it in the Out box because you are finished with it.

 

Whatever it is that you are praying for, God has a plan for it.  It may not be the plan you would have scripted for yourself, but think for a minute.  Who’s smarter, you or God?  Don’t you think it might be possible that Father knows best?

 

There’s more to it than that though.  Logic alone will tell you that God is bigger, more powerful and more able to meet your needs.  The question is, “Do you TRUST Him to do that?”  Do you believe that He not only knows what’s best for you, but that He WANTS what’s best for you?

 

How you answer that question will determine how you respond to His answers.  If you really believe that God’s way will lead to a better result than anything you could have come up with, then it becomes a lot easier to roll with the changes when they do come.

 

(But what happens if we don’t?  Come back for Part 5—Unstable)

 

DN=: Part 16–Hypocrisy

 

I find it interesting that the Greek origin of the word “hypocrisy” comes from the theatre.  You may know that ancient Greek plays were performed by actors wearing masks.  These actors were called hypocrites, not because of any character deficiency, but because they were literally “pretending under a mask.”

 

This meaning makes sense when you think about people whom you may have considered guilty of hypocrisy.  What they are doing is showing the world one face, their “mask,” while pretending to be something they are not.  One of these masks is self-righteousness.

 

 Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you have the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!  (Matthew 7:3-5 CJB)

 

Jesus’ warning against hypocrisy from the Sermon on the Mount is one of the most humbling passages in scripture.  However, as is so often the case when people use the Bible as a defense mechanism, many of us want to put a period where God put a comma (or in the case of the translation used here, a semicolon).

 

Notice that Jesus did NOT say, “You hypocrite!  First, take the log out of your own eye” PERIOD!  There is a “then” after the “first” and a “so that” after the “then.”  The purpose of taking the log out of your own eye is to clear your vision.  And the purpose of clear vision is to successfully complete the task of helping get the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

 

Jesus is clear in noting that the fault does not lie with the person giving correction, but with the spirit in which it is given, namely that people with issues of their own ought to address those before pointing out someone else’s.

 

Nowhere in the passage above does it say that it is OK to have a splinter in your eye.  It also does not state that one must be perfect to remove a splinter.  After all, no human was ever perfect besides Jesus.  And since He is clearly advocating the removal of splinters from eyes by people who are less than perfect, it should be equally clear that imperfect people, under the right conditions, are qualified to remove eye splinters.

 

IMPERFECTION DN= HYPOCRISY

 

Have you ever tried to be perfect or maybe felt that you wouldn’t measure up if you were anything less than perfect?  It’s stressful, isn’t it?

 

Many Christians fall into this performance trap.  Sometimes we get the impression that in order to be worthy bearers of the name of Christ, we can’t slip up, lest the onlooking world should accuse us of hypocrisy.

 

I would like to do my part in helping break this cycle by saying that it’s actually a good thing for the world to see us fail.  It doesn’t seem so at first, when we are enduring the taunting, the ridiculing and the finger pointing, but when the dust settles, we have a unique opportunity.

 

We have the chance to publicly demonstrate personal responsibility by swallowing our pride and owning our fail as well as the consequences thereof.

 

In other words, we can take off our masks and show the world what’s underneath.

He turned now to his disciples and warned them, “More than anything else, beware of these Pharisees and the way they pretend to be good when they aren’t.  But such hypocrisy cannot be hidden forever.  (Luke 12:1b TLB)

The few of you who have stuck with me during the LONG pauses between posts in this series may have wondered what the delay was all about.

 

I knew that I was going to be closing out my series exposing the hypocrisy of the “=” movement by talking about hypocrisy itself and how those who bring that charge the most strenuously seem to be the guiltiest of it themselves.

 

Then I looked in the mirror one day and saw the log.  So I’ve been spending the past several weeks trying to figure out what to do with this log in my eye.

 

You see, the thing is, I’m a wanderer.  I guess we all are, because we are all susceptible to sin in general and the sin of pride in particular, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of wandering lately.  I can totally relate to what Paul was feeling when he wrote this to the Romans:

 

 I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I do what I don’t want to—what I hate.  I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. But I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it.  It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things.

I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned.  No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right.  I want to but I can’t.  When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.  Now if I am doing what I don’t want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.

 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned;  but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  In my mind, I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.

So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin.  Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in!  Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?  (Romans 7:15-25 TLB)

 

I think at some level I just knew that I wouldn’t be able to finish this without dislodging my log.

 

But then I considered the question that ends the passage above.  Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?  Well, duh.  Jesus already did.  I’m still working on my wood-vision, but at least I’m aware of it.  The fact that I want the log out of my eye is the evidence that it is possible.  Especially when I consider the alternative:

 

If anyone sins deliberately by rejecting the Savior after knowing the truth of forgiveness, this sin is not covered by Christ’s death; there is no way to get rid of it.  There will be nothing to look forward to but the terrible punishment of God’s awful anger, which will consume all his enemies.  (Hebrews 10:26-27 TLB)

 

The unfortunate fact that I am prone to wander from the Truth does not make the Truth any less true.  Therefore, it is not hypocrisy for an imperfect messenger to deliver a perfect message to someone that would benefit from it.

 

For these reason, I will press on, and continue doing what I have been called to do.

 

Because falling down DN= falling away.

 

DN=: Part 6–Judgment

 

Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.

 You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

 You’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of God adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, God’s fiery and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you—Real Life for those who work on God’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!

 If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

 If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

Romans 2: 1-13 The Message

Sorry for the long quote there, but I wanted to point out two phrases in the very same passage: “Judgmental criticism” and “righteous judgment.”  Both phrases have forms of the word “judge” in them, but they are very different.

 

It should be clear from the context that righteous judgment belongs to God alone, for God alone is righteous by nature.  Because of His unattainable righteousness and holiness, He alone has the authority to judge in the sense of meting out justice for our sin.

 

As we have talked about in Part 3, righteous DN= self-righteous.  The only way that a person could attempt to judge another’s destiny would be from a position of self-righteousness.

 

But as we have also discussed, self-righteousness is unrighteousness.  How then can the unrighteous judge anyone?  Indeed, they have already been judged themselves, not only for the sins they themselves have committed, but by the greater sin of attempting to push God out of the Judgment Seat which is rightfully His.

 

This is the difference between judgment and being judgmental—it’s all about who is passing the judgment.  God is qualified and has the authority to judge sin.  We aren’t, and we don’t.

 

EXERCISING JUDGMENT DN= BEING JUDGMENTAL

 

Although self-righteous, judgmental criticism is a problem for all people, the distinction between God’s judgment and man’s judgmentalism is relatively clear.

 

What is not as clear as it needs to be, however, is the difference between judgmentalism and exercising sound judgment.

 

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion. Proverbs 3:21 NIV

 

One of the complications of the English language is words with multiple meanings.  “Judgment” is one of those.

 

God will sit in judgment of us all; therefore, we should not stand in judgment of one another.  Yet we are to preserve sound judgment?  How does that work?

 

It’s really not that difficult when you stop to think about it.  If your judgment is toward a person and stems from motives of criticism and self-righteousness, then you are being judgmental.  This is the bad one.

 

However, if your judgment is focused toward an action or situation, and is based upon wisdom, common sense or sound reasoning, then this is the good kind.

 

Where the problems arise, is when a spirit of offense prevents the person being judged from distinguishing between the two.

 

If someone attempts to shame you for your sin, make you feel like a bad person, tells you you’re going to Hell, calls you a name, places a group label on you, or blames you for something for which you are not directly responsible because of your association with that group, then that person is being judgmental, and your offense is justified.

 

If, however, the other person is attempting to help you correct your behavior respectfully, sharing from his or her own experience a bad result from their having done something similar, calling you by your own name, looking you in the eye, emphasizing the solution instead of the problem, but most importantly, is focusing on the behavior without attempting to analyze your motives or your character. . .then you need to work past the emotional reaction of offense and listen to what you are being told.

 

Chances are this person knows something you don’t.  And they are exercising sound judgment, without being judgmental, by telling you that.

 

(Coming up next, STORYTIME! Going to do something a little different for Part 7–Hatred.)

 

DN=: Part 3–Righteousness

One of the pitfalls of using churchy jargon is the proclivity for misunderstanding of these terms by those outside the church.  (For more on this topic, check out the Saved series.)  One of those commonly misunderstood words is “righteousness.”

 

To be “righteous” is to have “right standing” with God.  This is not a status that can be achieved through human effort.  As Solomon pointed out, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV).”

 

This concept is explained further in Romans 3:

 

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.  As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”

 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

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.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.  (Romans 3:9-12, 19-26 NIV)

The passage above contains the word “justify” a couple of times.  Justificiation is the act of being made righteous by one who has the authority to do so.

 

In other words, since we can do nothing to make ourselves righteous, God makes us righteous through faith in Jesus.

 

 

When we were slaves to sin, we were lawbreakers and were therefore under the penalty of the law.  That penalty is death.  Jesus paid that penalty for us in order to pay our debt to God.  This is the “redemption” spoken of in the passage above.

 

The danger for Christians, having been made righteous by faith, is to forget that we had nothing to do with being forgiven.  Sure, we made the choice to follow Christ, but we are forgiven because HE says so, not because WE say so.

 

If we become too accustomed to our view from the mountaintop, and forget how we got there (by God throwing us down a rope, not by our climbing), it is all too tempting for us to look down on the people still “down in the valley.”

 

Basically, if you ever find yourself looking down on someone else from a position that you have not earned, you have crossed the line to self-righteousness.

 

RIGHTEOUSNESS DN= SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

 

For Christians, self-righteousness comes from the mistaken idea that we are somehow better than other human beings are because of our relationship with Jesus.  For a non-Christian, self-righteousness occurs when one must put another down in order to elevate oneself.

 

Since true righteousness comes from faith in Jesus alone, a person without that faith would have no means of being made righteous.  Since no one can earn the favor of God by good deeds, anyone who boasts in those deeds would be self-righteous as well.

 

Simply put, self-righteousness is unrighteousness.

 

(For more clarification of church jargon, come back for Part 4–Holy)

 

Intolerance: Part 3–Righteous

 

Since no one can measure up to the standard of God by his or her own efforts, it is therefore senseless to expect anyone else to measure up to our own standards.  

 

We are in no position to judge the nature, or character, of another, because we share the same sinful character.  To attempt to judge someone in this way would make us guilty of self-righteous intolerance. 

 

However, there is such a thing as righteous intolerance.  This cannot come from any person’s will or way of thinking, as Solomon wrote, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins”  (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NIV). 

 

The only possible source of righteous intolerance is the only person who never sinned–Jesus.

 

One of the central tenets of Christianity is that Jesus is not just the only begotten Son of God, but is in very nature God Himself (see Philippians 2:6).

 

Being God in His nature, Jesus visibly displayed all of the invisible attributes of God’s goodness.  Being all good, He is diametrically opposed in His nature to all evil.  Therefore, Jesus is opposed to intolerance—the self-righteous intolerance toward people.

 

John 3:17 tells us that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it.  This was not because we deserved saving, but because He is good.  This is the essence of grace, which is the ultimate expression of tolerance. 

 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows his tolerance of people by showing mercy and grace toward sinners, even the very ones who put him to death. 

 

However, it cannot be disregarded that while Jesus was a friend of sinners, He was never tolerant of sin.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He uses over-the-top imagery to illustrate his intolerance for evil behavior:

 

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30 NIV)

 

One of the most common Bible verses to be quoted out of context by non-Christians (usually in attempts to self-righteously justify sinful behavior) is John 8:7.  The religious leaders are preparing to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery. In response, Jesus is quoted as saying, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (KJV).”

 

Although this passage does not appear in original manuscripts, and therefore may not have actually happened, the point of the story remains clear:  because we are all sinners, no other person is qualified to cast a stone at us. 

 

Nevertheless, though none of us are righteous, we must remember that we will all be judged one day by the One who is. 

 

This is why, after showing mercy to the woman caught in adultery, He admonishes her (and us) to “go, and sin no more (John 8:11b KJV).

 

(Stay tuned for Part 4–Our God is a Jealous God)