“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV).
Conformity has a bad connotation in the modern mind. It is portrayed as being forced into an artificial mold that society (or government) has adopted as the correct way of thinking and behaving for its members. One popular expression denoting the concept is the demand to “stay in one’s designated lane.” There are many who understandably rebel at any requirement which seems to result in their having to be like everyone else, even to that of driving on their side of the road. Continue reading “Conformity or cooperation?”
As Jesus said Paul would “carry [his] name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel” Acts 9.15, the apostle preached righteousness to Felix, the Roman governor.
The subject of righteousness makes up part of the gospel and should be proclaimed today. See these points from the text of Acts 24.
1. Righteous and unrighteous will be resurrected
As Paul answered the false charges against him, he noted the great truth shared between him and his accusers. Continue reading “Speaking to Felix about righteousness”
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Jesus said that a person couldn’t enter the kingdom unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees. One might be inclined to ask: What, exactly, was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? And how can we exceed it?
To answer the first question in a word: self-righteousness. Continue reading “No righteousness at all”
The world isn’t much concerned with doing right. It prefers to do what feels good. People look for immediate gratification rather than adhere to a standard and enjoy the fruit of righteousness. Opinions then become an individual’s guide and the arbitrator of what is good and right. This explains a major part of the mess the world is in.
Those who have decided to be right about what God’s message is, and to get right with God, can then be certain of doing right. They then have the possibility of doing right.
Being right and getting right are the framework within which any doing must possess in order for us to do right. That means that two people can perform the same actions, and one will be doing right and the other will be doing wrong. Continue reading “Do right”
Have you ever had your worldview rocked? Have you ever been confronted with truth so clear and obvious that you either had to lie to yourself or change your thinking? Those who heard Jesus were presented with that very choice, lie or change.
In the monumental discourse which covers Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus challenges the worldview of each person.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:3-5).
From beginning to end, Jesus challenges their worldview and corrects their misinterpretations of God’s law. He places side by side godliness and worldliness, with both implicit and explicit calls to choose.
Continue reading “Seeking first his reign and righteousness”
Jesus pronounced a blessing upon the obedient: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” Luke 11.28. On the other side, he warned, “The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day” John 12.48. Disobedience to the gospel brings condemnation, 2 Thessalonians 1.8. Christians are described as “those who obey the words of this book” Revelation 22.9.
So after we find the right information, after we have resolved to be right in terms of what the truth is, we can proceed to the next step: getting right with God. We get right with God only because he makes us right with himself. It’s a divine task, not a human one. At the same time, there is a path we must follow, which God himself has established, in order for that change of status to occur. (This is a short series that starts here.) Continue reading “Get right with God”
It is altogether fitting that the last word on righteousness comes from the last chapter of the last book of the Bible. The old apostle John, last of his tribe, writes what are probably his last words to a cowed and persecuted church.
As he wraps up the series of apocalyptic visions showing the grand victory of Christ and his followers, he makes what at first glance appears to be a strange statement. Continue reading “The last word on righteousness”
When it comes to arguments, most of us like to be right. We want to win the contest of words. And there are those few who always have to have the last word, who always have to be right about everything. We hate them, because we can never get the upper hand.
Being right, then, is a competitive sport. Opinions are lethal weapons with which we destroy the opposition, by making them into statements of Absolute Truth. Whether by force of volume or repetition, whether by subtle arguments or twisting logic, the goal is to make our Rightness prevail.
In the spiritual realm, we need to be right, but not by our own lights. More than that, we need to get right (with God) and to do right (obey God). We need to get right, because we are at cross-purposes with God. We need to do right, in order to reflect God’s right-doing. Continue reading “Be right, get right, do right”
As we descended farther into the cave, the natural light grew dimmer until the only light that reached our eyes was artificial. It was then that the tour guide gathered us and had all light extinguished. As our eyes scoured our surroundings for light, a small match was produced. When the match head ignited, the whole room seemed filled with light. So it is that in the midst of great darkness, the smallest hint of light shines like the brightness of the sun.
Following the first sin in the garden, mankind’s relationship with God changed swiftly and drastically. The first murder was committed by Cain against his own brother (Genesis 4). It was not long before “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). Imagine a world where every thought is bent toward wickedness, and every deed is depraved.
This is the generation among whom Noah lived. A generation whose obscene conduct caused God to be grieved (Genesis 6:6). A generation whose darkness caused God to want to start all over. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8), for Noah was a “righteous man” (Genesis 6:9).
Continue reading “A Light in the darkness”
We are all seeking something. Some seek after affirmation, others after wealth, power, or prestige. Still others are seeking simpler things, such as daily food and clothing. Whatever we seek, it has the power to become our lives, to consume us entirely.
Knowing this, Jesus instructed those who would follow him to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). If you are like me, you probably read that with an emphasis upon the word “first.” We say we are to seek FIRST the reign and righteousness of God. Thus leaving the impression that God’s reign and righteousness are first among almost equals.
But the emphasis is not found in the order but in the object. The seeking of God’s reign and righteousness, in contrast to that of the Pharisees seeking their own (Matt. 5:20), should be stressed.
Continue reading “Who is your life?”