Are we putting Christ first? part one

8 Feb

Paul’s letter to the Colossians is all about Jesus Christ.

He goes to great lengths to prove that Jesus is most unique and important person in the Universe. In chapter one, he tells us that everything was created by Him and for Him. (1:16) In chapter two, he explains that in Him dwell all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and that in Him dwells the fullness of deity bodily. (2:3,9) In chapter three, he writes that He is the believer’s life. (3:4)

Those are magnificent statements and each one obviously has important theological implications. Paul deals with many of those in chapters one and two. He makes it clear that the fact Jesus is the most unique and important person in the universe has profound ramifications for what we believe. Each one of those statements also has important practical implications.

That’s Paul’s concern in chapter 3.

He makes it clear that the fact Jesus is the most unique and important person in the universe has profound ramifications for the way we live. Over the next several posts, as we look at this text I want us to carefully consider three questions which will help us evaluate if whether or not the way in which we live matches up with what we as a church profess to believe about Jesus Christ.

  1.  Are we controlled by the peace of Christ?

Paul writes in verse 15, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body….”

He’s talking here about the implications the Lordship of Christ has for our relationships. The peace of Christ should rule us.

I want you to zone in on that word rule. An image that might help you understand what Paul is talking about is that of an umpire. That’s actually the way the word rule was commonly used in Paul’s day. If you looked it up in a Greek dictionary you’d find that it comes from the Greek word for umpire.

Most of you have played enough sports to know what an umpire does. The umpire enforces the rules of the game. He’s supposed to be an objective observer who calls the shots. He’s the person who says you can do this – that’s fair – and you can’t do that – that’s foul.

Being from Philadelphia we’re trained to boo umpires, but it should be obvious that umpires are pretty important. If you’ve ever played a competitive game without an umpire you know that all too well. When I was in college we’d play a lot of pick-up basketball. My friends and I would go down to the court and so obviously we didn’t have refs or anything like that. And let me tell you the way you play pick-up basketball without a ref is very different than the way you play basketball with one. Let’s just say there’s a lot more pain. As my friends used to say when we’d play basketball – no blood no foul. We could hurt each other because there was no one there to call the shots.

But almost worse than having no umpire is having a bad one. A bad umpire can literally effect the outcome of an entire game. You can lose a game you were supposed to win because of a bad ump. I think of that recent scandal with the Winter Olympics where the biased judge from France caused the ice-skating duo from Canada to lose the gold medal when it was clear to everyone watching they deserved to win. Or even further back the 1972 Olympics where the referees made a bad call and put extra time on the clock which allowed the Soviet Union to upset the United States in basketball.

When it comes to sporting events, serious sporting events, you need an umpire and you need a good one. The game depends on it. And Paul by saying let the peace of Christ rule or umpire in our hearts is telling us when it comes to our lives and our relationships with others we really need a good umpire as well.

You see, all of us have an umpire calling the shots in our hearts. When it comes to basketball or some other sport you may be able to play without a ref, but when it comes to life, somebody is always working the game.   There’s always an umpire.

The question is – who?

Either we have a good umpire or a bad umpire.

James talks about the bad umpire in James 4. He identifies it as selfish desires. He asks,

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

You see how James describes selfish desires as clearly calling the shots. These people are quarreling and fighting, why? Because they are being ruled by selfish desires.   “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel.” You do what you do because you want what you want.   To borrow Paul’s terminology you’ve got the wrong umpire calling the shots.

Selfish desires are what I like to call the “default” ump. They are the umpire who shows up when we don’t call on the peace of Christ to work the game.

And selfish desires have a very specific way of umpiring. They call anything that goes against what we want out, and pretty much anything that goes along with what we want, in or fair.   You can imagine this umpire holding a big old fat book of rules and you look over his shoulder and every page says the same thing: What do I want? The book may have a lot of pages but there’s really one rule – what’s best for me?

You want me to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable?

Selfish desire steps up to the plate and says out! Not acceptable. Can’t do that!

You want me to do something that would require me to make a sacrifice?

Selfish desire steps up to the plate and says out! Not acceptable. Can’t do that!

You want me to do something I don’t want to do?

Selfish desire steps up to the plate and says out! Not acceptable. Can’t do that!

If we’re going to be honest, selfish desires work as umpire in our hearts far too often. Probably one reason why is because we like how they call the game. The thing that makes selfish desires such an attractive umpire is that they promise to work for free and they promise to call the game in our favor.

But know this, they lie.

You allow selfish desires to rule in your hearts and I promise you they’ll end up costing you the game.

To live for Christ you have to die to self.

We’ve got to ban selfish desires from ever working as umpire in our hearts. Instead as God’s people we must allow the peace of Christ to call the shots. That’s the umpire God wants working in our hearts.

To understand what Paul means by that I think it helps to circle the phrase of Christ in your minds. Paul is not talking about any old kind of peace but rather a peace that belongs to Christ.

Now that could mean a couple things.

When the Bible talks about the peace that belongs to Christ sometimes it is talking about our relationship with God. Christ reconciled us to God. But sometimes when the Bible talks about the peace of Christ it is talking about our relationship with one another. You see, Jesus has not only brought us peace with God, He’s also brought us peace with one another. He’s made us one.

I tend to think that’s the peace he’s primarily talking about here because of the context. The whole context is that of the way Christians should relate to one another. Besides that, you see how he emphasizes that aspect in verse 11, “There’s not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all…” There’s no more divisions between, there’s just Christ.

And here it’s as if Paul is summing up, saying the peace that Christ purchased should work as an umpire in our hearts. It should rule us, literally it should completely control our thoughts and actions.

If selfishness calls anything out that goes against our desires; the peace of Christ calls anything out that goes against the good of others. Specifically, that goes against the good of other believers in the body of Christ.

It means if you or I are in a situation and we have to make a decision we’re not asking ourselves, “What’s best for me?” but instead, “ What’s best for the body of Christ?” It means to quote Paul in Philippians 2 that we do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility we consider others more significant than ourselves. We don’t only look out for our own interest but also to the interests of others.

Now that’s a radical way to think. I realize that. That is probably why Paul doesn’t only give us the command but also adds an explanation writing,  “…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”  

When he talks about being called to one body, he’s talking about our salvation.

We as a church should relate to one another and make decisions in this radically new way, because we are radically new people. We must think different because we are different.

You are not just one body. You are part of one body. Therefore you must think about some body besides your body because your body is part of the body of Christ.

If we say Christ is Lord so we must not live as if we were.

He is our head, we are His body, therefore His peace must rule our hearts and one way we can evaluate whether or not we as a church are putting Christ first is by evaluating our relationships with one another.

Counseling: Flipping Worldviews Upside Down

3 Feb

I don’t know how anyone who calls themselves a Christian could argue about the importance of holiness.

And yet you know, the fact of the matter is, if you are serious about this, as a goal, if you make this a top priority, in helping others, helping them be holy, you are going to find this goal of holiness, is actually pretty controversial.

For most.

It is a controversial kind of goal, because when the Bible commands us to be holy, and the Bible talks about personal holiness, it’s not simply talking about being nice.

That wouldn’t get people too upset, I don’t think.

It is not even simply talking about going to church more often.

That wouldn’t be so controversial.

Or even being more religious.

It’s certainly not talking about having this long list of rules, of dos and don’ts.

And it is definitely not talking about this attitude where someone feels superior to others. Instead when the Bible calls us to holiness it is talking about something much more personal and intense.

The word the Scriptures uses when it calls us to be holy comes from a noun that basically means to be different. When we say the word holy we normally first think of good or pure, something we do, but it is actually a little deeper than that. Holiness starts with something God does.

It comes from a word that can be translated literally, set apart.

A holy person is a set apart person.

If you want a small illustration to help you picture what it means to be holy, someone has said, you might think of reading the newspaper.

“You’re reading it, getting information, and as you’re reading through it suddenly there is one article with some information you can use. You want to use it in perhaps in a lecture you are giving somewhere, or a paper, anyway, you want to use it. The only way to use it is to set it apart. You have to cut it out of the paper. You have to set it apart from the newspaper. If you don’t do that, you can’t use it. To cut something out, to set it apart for your use, is part of what the Bible means when it talks about being holy.”

Being holy is being set apart.

By God.

For a specific purpose.

We can think way back to the Old Testament where they had items that they set apart for use in the temple, and though they might have been everyday items, they couldn’t be used like that any longer, because they had a new purpose, they were sanctified, consecrated for God.

And so when we talk about helping people be holy then, if that is a goal, we are talking about helping them live distinctively different lives.

The command be holy comes from the noun holy.

Meaning really we are talking about helping set apart people live lives that are clearly set apart for God.

That’s what we mean when we say, we want to help people be holy.

Which, sounds nice here in church, and I am sure, we all nod our heads, and most of us would think great, that’s how we should live. But the thing is, when we are not here in church, and we are outside, actually working with people and trying to help them grow, what we find, very often, is that this whole idea doesn’t sound so great, to them, it is actually very controversial if you are working with people and getting involved in their lives and helping them change.

For one thing, it is not the first thing on most people’s minds when they come for help.

Instead, when most people come to you for help, you will find they are thinking primarily in reference to themselves and not necessarily to God.

He is on the outside of their concerns, maybe at best.

The pressing questions for them, the ones they are most concerned about, are how can you help me be happy and how can God help me be happy, that’s more what they are interested in.

And what we are saying is, where we are starting when it comes to helping people, is quite different. We are starting with God. This is the most urgent issue in our minds. And we are asking how can God use this situation in your life, whatever is happening, and how can you respond to it in such a way that makes it clear you are set apart from the world for Him, and for His use?

How can you be holy?

The way a lot of people look at the world basically, is they are at the center, and everything else is a tool for them to use, for their pleasure and for their good.

Even God, and even religion.

When we talk about being holy, though, it’s like, our goal is to flip that whole way of looking at the world upside down, and show people God is actually at the center, and that everything we see around us is an instrument for His glory and pleasure, even you and me and them.

It would be nice for example, if I have a spouse that treats me the way I like and is doing what I think a spouse should do, that’s great and we should work towards that, but when it comes to marriage, and the ultimate decisions I make about marriage, that’s not the most important priority at the end of the day, it’s I belong to God, and how can I live in this marriage relationship in a way that honors Him?

It would be nice, if everyone in my community thought what I was doing was great, and I was applauded and people said, that is some guy as I walked down the street, but other people’s opinions of me, can’t be the final factor when it comes to make decisions, what matters most is what God wants from me instead.

 

 

Righteousness is good for you: part three

28 Jan

Sometimes people look at others who are serious about obedience to God’s commands and feel badly for them.

“Oh.

What a sacrifice!”

But the reality is while obedience isn’t always easy, it is always good. God has stuffed His commands with His kindness.

In the book of Proverbs, Solomon makes a case for righteousness. He shows us that being righteous isn’t only something that is good for us in the future, it also is good for us right now.

We’ve been considering some of the ways righteousness helps us.

1.) Righteousness simplifies your life.

And,

2.) It maximizes your life.

Now, 3.) It stabilizes your life.

When you stabilize something you make it secure.

I remember when we lived in the United States in a place called Southern California there were a lot of earthquakes. And when we first got there, a couple years after we got there, there was a tremendous earthquake and stuff in our homes just went flying everywhere. After that people went out and bought nails and other things like that and started securing everything that was valuable to them in their homes. And so when you would go over to people’s houses you couldn’t just pick stuff up because it was somehow cemented down to table or whatever it was sitting on.

When you are living in a shaky place you want the stuff that matters to you to be secure so you don’t lose it.

This world we are living in shaky.

Spiritually.

We are living in a spiritually shaky place and so our lives spiritually need to be secure, fastened down, made stable and Solomon time and time again tells us that righteousness is valuable because it does just that.

Proverbs 10:25,

 “When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.”

Can you imagine, you and your friend are moving to this place that has all kinds of earthquakes, and you both purchase a house, he buys a house that isn’t built on a firm foundation and you buy a house that is, you both spend some money, maybe you even spend more money, and he thinks he got a great deal but then the earthquake comes and his house just falls down and yours is still there standing. Now who got the good deal? What a waste to spend all kinds of money on a house that won’t be able to stand up to a storm! No matter how good it looks on the outside. And that’s the way it is with the self-centered, me first, what I want above everything else life, Solomon says after the storm is over that kind of life is completely destroyed, it is no more; but not so with the righteous, the righteous is firm, established, and not just for a little while but forever.

In fact, you can picture righteousness a little like a trustworthy trained security guard and sin like a well-known thief. If you have something that is important to you, you don’t entrust it to a thief. Can you imagine actually asking someone who is a thief to watch out for something that is valuable to you? Here are the keys to my car, you say to someone you know is a thief. What? No, if you have to make a choice between a thief and a trustworthy security guard to watch out for something that is important to you, you choose the security guard of course and that’s the way it is with wickedness and righteousness.

Proverbs 13:6,

 “Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked.”

When you consistently seek to obey God’s Word and to disadvantage yourself for the good of others, those actions function like a kind of security guard for your life but when you put yourself first and what you want first, it’s kind of like you are unlocking the front door to your home and throwing it wide open with a sign on the front saying, if there are any thieves in the area, please come on in and take what you want from me and my family.

Righteousness secures your life.

Solomon makes this point over and over and over and over again.

Proverbs 10:30,

“The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.”

Proverbs 11:4 and 5 and 6 and 8,

“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their own lust. The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into instead.”

Proverbs 11:19,

“Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.”

Proverbs 12:3,

 “No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.”

Proverbs 12:21,

“No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.”

 If you want peace, righteousness.

 Righteousness simplifies your life.

 If you want joy, righteousness.

 Righteousness maximizes your life.

 If you want safety.

 Righteousness stabilizes your life.

Righteousness is good for you: part two

19 Jan

It feels a little funny to talk about the benefits of righteousness.

We all know self-centered people who are doing this or that simply for their own advantage and we don’t really want to have any part in that. And so we might wonder, is there really a place for us to think about the benefits of righteousness for our own lives?

But, there must be a sense in which it is right for us to talk about the benefits of righteousness for our own lives, because reading Proverbs, we find Solomon repeatedly talking about just that.

Throughout this book, he’s constantly bringing us back to just how good righteousness is for us and obviously, if he is doing that, as an inspired writer, there must be a place for us to think about it as well.

And really, it just highlights God’s grace.

After all, God could have made it so obedience was only hard. But instead He’s stuffed each one of His commands to us filled with delight and joy. If we look at the way He’s designed this world, His goodness keeps breaking through, because He’s made the world in such a way that righteousness is not only right, it is also very good. And what’s even better is that as Christians, he has not only commanded us to do what is good and made it good for us to do it, he’s also enabled us to do what is right.

So when I talk about the benefits of righteousness, I want it to cause you to rejoice in Christ and His work on the cross, because you know it’s only through what Jesus did and what the Spirit has done in your life, that now you are able to actually pursue righteousness like this.

In a previous post, we saw one way righteousness helps you.

It simplifies your life.

Now for a second way righteousness benefits you.

It maximizes your life. 

To maximize something is to make the most of it and righteousness helps you make the most of your life.

You might think of life as a little bit like a car.

If someone gives you a car, that’s great but if you don’t know what a car is it’s not going to do you much good. The fact is, even if you know what a car is, but you don’t have a key and you don’t have any petrol, you are going to have this great gift that it is just going to sit there and go to waste.

Wisdom and righteousness are a little bit like the key to helping us use this gift that God gave us in life.

Specifically, righteousness helps us make the most of our lives in four ways.

1.  Righteousness frees you to actually live life.

Listen to Proverbs 28:1.

What happens when you focus on yourself first is that self-focus actually ensnares you. It grabs hold of your leg like a trap and makes it difficult for you to move forward.

As Solomon explains in this verse, “The wicked flee when no one pursues.”

Here’s this person who is wicked and what does the wickedness do to him?

Does it give him courage?

It makes him paranoid.  As a result, he’s constantly reacting and doing all these crazy things because he thinks people are out to get him when no one really cares. He is fleeing but no one is pursuing.

What happens when you become really concerned about people’s best and you are really concerned about what God wants is that you become less and less concerned about what people think about you and so as a result, you become more and more courageous.

In Solomon’s words,

“But the righteous are as bold a lion.”

And what’s the benefit of that? Well, what does boldness and courage do? It enlivens you. It frees you to do what really needs to be done instead of wasting your time enslaved by fear, running around when no one is even pursuing.    

Proverbs 29:5 and 6 give us another very graphic and practical real life illustration of this.

“A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.”

Here is a wicked man who is not concerned about his neighbor’s good, instead he is thinking about how he can take advantage of his neighbor and so what he is doing is lying to him for the purpose of getting his neighbor to do what he wants. He is spreading a net for his feet, he’s trying to ensnare his neighbor in other words.

But what happens?

“An evil man is ensnared in his transgression.”

This person is flattering the other person, why, because he thinks by deceiving him he will get ahead, but what actually happens is that he traps himself through his deception. He lays the trap for the other person, but he also gets trapped by it.

The righteous man on the other hand, Solomon says, “sings and rejoices.”

He escapes the snare, in other words and as a result is freed up to experience profound delight and joy.

2.  Righteousness causes you to flourish in life.

If you have two seeds and you plant them in different soils.

There is a certain kind of soil that can produce a strong and mighty oak. Where there might be another kind of soil that you plant that same seed in and it just ends up this weak, little pathetic branch almost.

It’s so small, you can’t quite call it even a tree.

Righteousness is the soil that helps produce strong oaks of a life.

Take, Proverbs 11:28 and 30.

 And really these verses are the conclusion of a whole bunch of verses starting all the way down in verse 16 where Solomon is contrasting someone who cares about others and looks out for the good of others and someone who doesn’t.

He says things like verse 17,

“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.”

And verse 18, sure while the wicked may get rich, (there is a little bit of a confusing statement for some in verse 16, a gracious woman gets honor and violent men get riches) yes, but keep reading, verse 18, “the wicked earn deceptive wages” that money they get is not quite what they think it is, it is a lie, where “the one who sows righteousness” gets a reward too, it is a “sure reward,” one they can count on.

Solomon keeps pounding home the rewards of a righteous life in the verses that follow.

Verse 19,

“Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live.”

Verse 23,

“The desire of the righteous ends only in good, the expectation of the wicked in wrath.”

Verse 24,

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he should give and only suffers want.”

What’s Solomon doing with all this?

He’s describing the fruits of the righteous life. What happens when you disadvantage yourself for the advantage of others and what happens when you disadvantage others for your own advantage?

Verse 25,

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched and one who waters will be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it.”

When the soil you are planting your life in is self-centered soil, you don’t flourish, just the opposite.

Verse 28,

“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.”

You want a life that is like a dried up tree knocked over by the first storm, focus on yourself and put your trust in what you can earn for yourself.

But, if you want a life that flourishes?

Give.

Freely.

Bring blessing.

Diligently seek good.

And what happens when you plant your life in soil like that, verse 30, what happens when you pursue righteousness is that you bear fruit and what is that fruit?

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.”

The fruit that comes from living a righteous life is a tree and that tree is the tree of life and of course the tree of life is a picture of abundant life, I think for you but also for the people you interact with. By pursuing your own interests above all else, by putting what you want above what God wants and your good above other people’s good, you don’t make your life bigger, you make your life smaller.

3.  Righteousness enables you to enjoy the life you have.  

This is part of the idea behind the ‘better is’ passages in Proverbs.

Proverbs 15:16,

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”

Proverbs 15:17,

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.”

And Proverbs 16:8,

“Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.”

Now those are passages that are a little hard to believe at first. Because here you take a guy who has a treasure and you compare him with someone who is very poor. Or you take a guy who is eating meat and having a feast and you compare him with someone who is so poor, he’s basically eating grass for dinner. Or you take a guy who has all kinds of money coming in and compare him with someone who is barely making a living and if you were comparing lives, your first instinct would be to say who has it better?

The guy with the treasure.

The guy eating meat!

And the guy with all kinds of money coming in.

That seems kind of obvious.

Like a no brainer.

But Solomon says let me just kind of tweak this whole comparison a little bit, and say you add wickedness and righteousness to the mix.

So say the guy who has the treasure doesn’t fear God.

Say the guy who is eating meat doesn’t love others.

Say the person who is getting all this money is doing it through wickedness.

And the person who has little, let’s say he fears God, he loves the people around him and he is seeking their good.

Now, who has it better?

“Better is a little,” Solomon says, “with the fear of the Lord, with righteousness, and love.”

That shows you how valuable the fear of the Lord, righteousness, love is and how devastating wickedness is. Because you know what wickedness does, what self-centeredness does, it sucks the joy right out of stuff.

Even great stuff.

Because look it is not better just by itself to eat grass than it is to eat meat.

If you go to someone’s house for a braii and they just give you some pieces of grass on a plate, you don’t say wow, this is so much better than if you had meat. But what wickedness and self-centeredness do, they are so joy destroying that they can take something great like a treasure and actually ruin it.

Wickedness can ruin a million dollars.

That’s pretty powerful.

You look at a million dollars and you think that is so much money, can anything ruin it? Yes, easy, wickedness.

Righteousness, on the other hand, what righteousness, and the fear of God and love can do, they can actually take something that is little and something that is by itself not really all that enjoyable, like say eating herbs for dinner or living in a house where the roof leaks, and righteousness and the fear of God and love can stuff joy even into that.

Which you know, is practical, if you are thinking this year, what is the thing I can pursue this year that will produce the most joy in my family, it’s not going to be stuff, it’s not going to be an income, it’s going to be righteousness, the fear of God and love.

Righteousness maximizes your life by enabling you to peace and joy in whatever circumstance God places you in.

4.  Righteousness gives you confidence about the future.

If I want to take away all your motivation for living, I just need to take away your hope.

How excited would it make you for example if I said I will give you a brand new Mercedes Benz today, but you are going to crash it and die in the afternoon?

Proverbs makes it clear that self-centered wicked living eventually results in disaster and righteous, God first, seek others good living will eventually produce just the opposite.

Proverbs 13:21,

 “Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good.”

Now ultimately we can say that with complete confidence because of what we know about eternity. Even when someone does what God wants and we know he is going to suffer for a little while as a result, Solomon expects us to keep the big picture in mind. There is such a thing as eternal life and so of course if someone says to you I am going to show you a great time and then they purchase a ticket for you to go to an island like Mauritius and on your way, the plane ride is a little bit bumpy, you don’t get off the plane in that island paradise and say, oh man, you didn’t keep your promise because the plane trip was so bumpy. When we get to heaven and God rewards us for righteousness, there is not going to be one person who is asking whether righteousness was worth it.

I remember when I was younger and my grandmother died, I received one thousand dollars as an inheritance. Now the other members of my family took their money and spent it, where I was always a saver, I didn’t like spending money, and so I took that money and I put it in an investment and ten years later, I had more money than I had at the start and I think what I was doing, was maximizing that money, I was taking the money I got and getting more out of it, that money did only help me in the moment when I was eleven, it also helped me later when I was twenty. And righteousness does that with your life. It is like a great investment. You can spend your life on self-centered living, sure but that’s a terrible investment because it not only doesn’t bring the joy you think it will now, it also brings disaster upon you in the future; where with righteous, lay yourself on the line for the good of others, when you make righteous choices, those choices bless you in the moment definitely, but those choices also reward you in the future.

This is why it is kind of silly to talk about righteous living as if it were this terrible sacrifice; sure, sometimes when you do what God wants and you sacrifice for the good of others it is going to make your life for a while less comfortable, there’s no doubt; but really if I say, I have one hundred dollars and I put it in an investment that is guaranteed to produce a million dollars, do you look at me and say oh poor man, you don’t have your hundred dollars because you put it in that investment, no you say, wow, so you are not able to use that hundred dollars now, that’s too bad, but look at what’s coming!

If you don’t want to waste this next year, if you want to make the most of it, to really live it, to flourish, to enjoy it, and to do something that will really last, endure, pursue righteousness.

Righteousness is good for you

18 Jan

Sometimes people talk as if obeying God was only hard.

The fact is most of us are pretty good at seeing the difficulties in living a righteous life and the benefits that comes from compromise.

Especially when we are being tempted.

That’s part of how sin has broken us.  Even now that we are Christians, when we really want to do the wrong thing, it can be so hard for us to believe that doing what is right, is best.

And the thing is, it really is.

Best.

There are many positives to obeying God! God’s not unkind. Righteousness is not only right, it is good for you. And over the next couple of posts, I want to point out four ways in particular that Proverbs tells us that righteousness benefits us.

First.

Righteousness simplifies your life.

There are several Proverbs that make this point, but let me just show you one.

It is Proverbs 4:18.

Solomon tells us that righteousness is like a light.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of the dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.”

You can imagine having to walk somewhere you have never been before.

Maybe you are in a forest and you have to get through the forest to the other side. You know what will make that walk so difficult?

Darkness.

If it is dark outside and you can’t see, the easiest little walk will begin to feel incredibly frightening and difficult. Especially if there are obstacles in the way. When it is dark, they wouldn’t even need to be big obstacles to get you to trip. A small little hole could bring you down when you can’t see.

On the other hand, if the sun begins to rise as you are walking, and light starts breaking through, everything becomes easier and easier.

It’s not hard to avoid a little rock when you can see.

And Solomon is making that contrast between self-centered, don’t care about what God wants living and the righteous, let me put God’s will above my own and let me disadvantage myself for other people’s good lifestyle.

What happens when you set after righteousness and start structuring your life after God’s Word and you begin thinking carefully about how to put yourself out for the good of others is that your life becomes more and more clear, you can see more easily, the way you should go lights up in front of you, but when you walk down that selfish, me first path, what you will find is that your life becomes darker and darker and more and more complicated.

You see this in marriage counseling.

All the time.

I mean, marriage. You would think how complicated can marriage be? Here you have got two people who say they love each other, and how hard and confusing can it be for them to live together? And yet if you ever talk to someone on the edge of divorce, you know that it can be incredibly confusing and you sort of wonder how is that amount of confusion possible in something that should be so beautiful? And it’s this, self-centered me first thinking that makes life so dark so you can’t even see the step in front of you and a little obstacle can bring you down; where righteousness on the other hand, is like the light, it is like morning coming after a long night and you can start seeing again.

Righteousness helps you in that it simplifies your life.

Which means, if you want to take some of the obstacles out of your way this year and make things clearer in pretty much every area, just keep asking yourself these two questions, how can I be obedient to God right now and how can I look out for the best of the person I am dealing with?

Your low view of yourself probably isn’t low enough

15 Jan

“Once in a seminary class John Gerstner told of preaching in a church in Baltimore. Apparently his sermon had been on our depravity, our utter wretchedness in sin and our total inability to commend ourselves in any way to God outside of Christ. After the service a woman told Dr. Gerstner – as she held her thumb and forefinger with a minuscule space in between, ‘That sermon made me feel this big,’ to which Gerstner retorted, ‘That’s too big!’ Apparently she had missed something about the totality of sin.'”

Dale Ralph Davis

Leaving it to His Secret Counsel

22 Dec

Does believing God mean believing every thing is always going to go exactly the way you want?

For example, we are praying for a church building.

Does believing God mean that we think we’ll get a church building this year?

Are we doubting if we are not sure?

Sometimes you can get yourself in a little trouble by looking to certain Old Testament stories for principles, but let’s at least think for a moment about Joab and the Ammonites. In 2 Samuel 10, Joab is warring against the Ammonites and the Syrians, and as the battle is raging, he says to his brother, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.”

He’s confident, but not certain.

Is this faith, or a lack of it?

I think John Calvin’s comments help. He writes,

“If someone claims that Joab did not show that he trusted in God, that he was not thoroughly assured of the promises of the Law, the reply to that is that God does not give particular promises about this or that to his children. We certainly have this point which should firmly persuade us that God will never abandon us, and that in the end he will show that our hope in him was not in vain, so that our faith will not be frustrated when it rests upon his mercy and his truth. Nevertheless, we must remain in suspense about many things. For instance, when we ask God for our daily bread, it is not that we are assured he will send us a good harvest or a great vintage. When we have any illness, we must rest well assured that he has not forgotten us, and that we have success access to him that, in the end we will feel that he has looked upon us in pity. The promise of God should be fully sufficient in regards to that. However, when we would like to have the word that today or tomorrow he will restore our health, we do not know – we are even in doubt of living or dying.”

Joab couldn’t be assured what God would do with the Ammonites, because he didn’t have a specific promise about that.

“We see,” Calvin goes on to say, “therefore, that Joab’s uncertainty was not lack of faith, for we can certainly doubt, although we embrace the promises of God and hold them as absolutely certain and infallible. What we doubt are the things which are not clear to us. That is how he wants us to remain in suspense about many things and to leave it all to his secret counsel and his providence.”

 

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