Holiness and God – Hebrews 12:14-17

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Pursue Peace

In a world where everyone is at odds with each other, it is not always easy to be at peace with people.  Although there is great evil in the world, Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  And as ambassadors for Christ, we need to live in this victory.  This is not to say that we will be able to be at peace with everyone.  This command is completely directed at us, not at the outcome.  Elsewhere, we are told:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This does not mean that you are to be a doormat.  Make every effort to live in peace with others.  They are responsible for their own reactions.  Otherwise, we would be their perpetual slaves, forced to do their bidding in an effort to bring peace at any cost to our relationships.

You can’t please all of the people all the time.  – Miranda Richardson

We have been set free, and should no longer be slaves to people’s desires or expectations from us or for us.  We are to instead be focused on the expectations that our Lord Jesus Christ has for us.

Seek Sanctification

We are to seek the Holiness of God in how we conduct our lives.  This is not works-based salvation, but rather a fulfillment of a Christ-proclaimed directive:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  It is for this reason that Jesus died on the cross, that we might have the opportunity through the righteousness (holiness) of Christ to be in the presence of God forever.

Being a disciple is more than mere intellectual ascent to the creed of your master.  It is the moment-by-moment imitation of your master’s activities, thought processes, and character so that you can be as near a perfect imitation of your master.  If a person thinks their way is better than their master, why waste the time, money, and effort of trying to learn their ways?  Discipleship is the recognition that your master knows how to do whatever it is you desire to learn to do better than you are able to do it.  God knows our hearts, and doesn’t seek people looking for “fire insurance.”  God desires those who espouse a great conviction that He is holy; He is truth; He is perfect; He knows best how to do everything; and we don’t.

Assist Another

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The simple answer is, “YES!!!”  We are to look out for each other.  When we see someone else begin to falter, we are to render assistance to them, help them back up, and restore them once they have begun to walk right again.

We are to encourage one another in psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  We are to greatly desire that each member of the body of Christ be built up in the Spirit, fully mature, and lacking nothing.  We are to agonize in prayer over this.  The world says, “Family First!”  The body of Christ needs to place this in its proper perspective:  God first, family second, everyone else third.  Let us begin to treat other believers in Christ in our local body (where we worship) as our family, just as if you were born and raised with them.  Then, after we have that down (how much less strife would be in the church if we did just that!), let us treat the OTHER bodies of disciples of Christ as though THEY were our family as well!  United we stand, divided we fall.  This is just as true today as the day it was pronounced.

Impale Immorality

Sexual immorality was just as prevalent two thousand years ago as it is today.  We are reminded that we are to put to death anything that impedes our walk with our Savior:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, 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. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, 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.”

Sanctification is the process of the renewing of one’s mind in such a way that not only do we desire to be holy, we begin to walk in the holiness of God, accepting the consequences of our actions without regard to their difficulty.  God is character-driven.  We are to adopt and emulate His character in how we conduct the lives that He has given us.  Immorality of any type is to be rejected.  God is the one who decides what is moral and immoral, for our hearts (the root of our emotions, desires, and motivations) in their natural state are wicked, and unable to properly discern the truth even about themselves.

Rejoice for the Reward

Finally, we are admonished to greatly desire the reward that awaits us in heaven. Esau, for a meal, gave away his inheritance.  He desired the immediate gratification of the flesh over the (seemingly) far off reward of his inheritance.  Like Esau, we are impatient, self-gratifying, self-seeking, and unable to keep everything in its proper perspective.  We need to put these things to death in us.  We need to embrace the same mindset as Christ, who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I not only long for, but ferociously seek the holiness of God in how I conduct my life every second of every day?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and You cannot abide sin in Your presence.  Thank You again for the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I might have the opportunity to be in Your presence.  Thank you for the very life and breath You give to me now.  Help me to actively seek and desire the character of holiness that shines forth from You and repels the darkness.  Help me to better understand Your holiness, and the principles of character that You desire to be perfected in my life.  Sanctify me so that I might draw even closer to You.  Help me to live in such a way that You are pleased with my conduct, my speech, and my every thought.  Test me during the day, and even at night, so that I will be prepared for the great and glorious day when Your Son returns in glory.  Help me to be like the virgins who brought oil with them as they awaited the bridegroom, for our bridegroom is coming, and is coming quickly.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Enemies of Israel – Isaiah 17:12-14

Great Destruction Will Come Up Against Those Who Oppose Israel

12 Woe to the many nations that rage-
they rage like the raging sea!
Woe to the peoples who roar—
they roar like the roaring of great waters!
13 Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters,
when he rebukes them they flee far away,
driven before the wind like chaff on the hills,
like tumbleweed before a gale.
14 In the evening, sudden terror!
Before the morning, they are gone!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
the lot of those who plunder us.

Reckless Roaring

God does not take kindly to those who would overwhelm His people.  Even when He raises up those whom He would use to chastise Israel, their eventual end is destruction.  Even now, the offspring of Ishmael and many nations rage against Israel.  They roar against her like the sea of incoming tide, seeking to wash her from the face of the Earth, to remove her as her very presence is a painful thorn in their side.

The nations rage against her because they hate who protects her.  Her very presence, they beloved of God, is like the brothers of Joseph, watching him in his ornate coat, favored by their father, made them hate him and jealous of him.  And the nations do that today.  They fabricate lies against her and try to cheat her out of her inheritance – the land of Israel, given to her by The Lord God Almighty.  For years they tolerated her, broken and scattered among the people, scoffing at her and gloating over her as God disciplined her.  But when God did the impossible and gathered her again to her home and gave it back to her, it was too much for them to bear.  And even now, they seek to undermine, impugn, and utterly destroy what God has wrought – the fulfillment of His Holy Word.

Regal Rebuke

God, however, does not take this sitting down.  He has prepared a rebuke for the nations that oppress, antagonize, and refuse to recognize the sovereignty of Israel.  This is not some simple rebuke.  The people of the nations that are seeking the eviction and/or the eradication of every descendant of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob (now Israel) will come under a most difficult rebuke.  They will come under a rebuke that is even more terrible than that which they intend to inflict upon Israel

Terrible Terror

God will drive Israel’s enemies far from their homes.  They will flee with such speed that they will look like tumbleweeds in a great windstorm.  They will fly under the pressure of God’s rebuke.  There will be sudden terror in the evening, when light has fallen and they cannot see their attackers.  Terror will fill their hearts, and in a measure that pales in comparison to what they intended for God’s people.  So swift will be their flight, that by morning they will no longer be there.  No one will be exempt – they will all flee.

Guarantee from God

God has declared that this is the portion, the judgment upon and rewards reaped from their actions.  Any who loot Israel, any who plunder her, will be utterly destroyed and driven from their homeland.  Because God’s judgment is not swift and immediate, the nations brag that God does not see, or does not exist, because they do not immediately reap the consequences of their actions.  They incorrectly interpret God’s grace and mercy for impotence or imagination.  But God will certainly cause this, for He has spoken it, and it is the portion of God’s enemies to be reaped in its proper time.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I praying for Israel’s enemies to repent?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy and righteous, and every word that You have ever spoken has or will come true.  Father, remember the enemies of Israel.  Plow through the hardness of their hearts so that they will be positioned to receive the seed of the Gospel.  Grant them mercy in their cruelty, that they would see how good You are.  And when it is time, Father, may your rebuke upon them be so overwhelming that the nations would tremble, and that the fear of You would come upon all the Earth.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Character Development – 2 Peter 1:5-11

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Creating Character

Good character is created.  Bad character is following the path of least resistance.

Character progresses through four stages:

  1. Thoughts – our thoughts are the first step in what we will do.  We process our thoughts, and through our conclusions (right or wrong), we develop attitudes.
  2. Attitudes – We now move into beliefs.  When we have an opinion on something, we form beliefs.  We act upon our beliefs, because they form the worldview that we have.
  3. Actions – We are now putting our beliefs into action.  We project our worldview through the result of our beliefs in action.  We can say that we believe something, but if we never act on it, do we truly believe it?
  4. Character – As we act consistently, we form patterns of behavior that become character.  We may occasionally do something that is odd for us, or out-of-character, so to speak.  Character is the pattern of behavior that we instill in ourselves through repeated actions.

Powerful Properties

Peter advises us to build our character in stages.  God says things in specific ways so that we can be better prepared to follow Him.  In this case, there is a progression of character that Peter advises us to adopt.  We are to add onto the next AFTER we establish the previous.  Just as in any learning endeavor, we need to follow the steps to ensure that we get the full foundation of understanding and knowledge.  Here are the aspects of character, IN ORDER, that we should inculcate into ourselves:

  • Faith
    • Faith is the beginning foundation for our eventual goal – love.  Without faith, it is impossible to proceed in learning Godly character, which (eventually) displays itself in love.
  • Goodness
    • Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  We need faith first, and then we can begin to understand the goodness of God.  As we understand God’s goodness, and walk with Him, we are to emulate what we see.  And God IS Good…
  • Knowledge
    • As we grow in modelling goodness, we desire more knowledge of God.  We are turning away from worldly knowledge and towards Godly knowledge.  God will only provide you the knowledge that He knows you can be trusted with, for you will be held accountable according to the knowledge that you have…
  • Self-Control
    • Once we receive knowledge, we need to put it into practice.  This requires consistency.  Self-Control is the next step in our foundational building block of character.  Without it, we are merely doing what we want, when we want, and it is impossible to move forward.  How can we develop perseverance without first being able to do something consistently?
  • Perseverance
    • As we act upon our knowledge, we strive for consistency.  It does us no good to act Godly one day, and evil the next, with no rhyme or reason to our behavior.  We are to seek out perseverance in our pursuit of Almighty God.  But without the foundation of faith, goodness, knowledge, and self-control, we very well would pursue the WRONG path to perseverance…
  • Godliness
    • As we grow in our perseverance, we begin to truly experience Godliness in our actions.  We are now (fairly) consistent in how we practice what we have learned, and are growing in His character daily.
  • Mutual Affection
    • Is it not odd that mutual affection is this far down the line in the development of Godly character?  Just as in anything else, when we jump to the end, and don’t put in the time learning the basics, our ability to succeed rapidly approaches FAILURE.
  • Love
    • Once we have the basics, and are implementing them consistently, making the effort to embrace the body of Christ, we begin to show love.  God is able to help us to love one another as Christ loves the church.  He fills in the gaps where we are weak, and helps us by slowly weaning us off His overwhelming power so that we can pursue Godly character, which results eventually, in love.
    • He still helps us to love, for we cannot love as God loves apart from God, but we grow in His character by consistently CHOOSING His ways.
    • God will slowly remove the training wheels from our bicycle as we learn to ride.  If He was to constantly and consistently help us, how would we learn to make the right choices?  Do we not do the same for our children?  This is how we grow…

Each of these steps are necessary, in order, so that we can develop and grow in Godly character.  We do them out-of-order, or ignore them, to our spiritual peril.

Always Advancing

Peter next implies that in order to advance in our Christian Faith, these “qualities” need to be a part of our lives in increasing measure.  Each of these steps are to be pursued constantly, not just one after another. Each of these should CONSISTENTLY and CONCURRENTLY growing in our lives.  We just should not pursue the next step until we have a good handle on the previous step, however.

Becoming Blind

When we ignore these steps, we become nearsighted (unable to see what God is doing, and where we SHOULD be going) and (spiritually) blind.  We become like the person who proudly says, “I am a babe in Christ!  I’ve been walking with Him for 30 odd years or so!  I’m goin’ to Heaven.  Woo Hoo!”.  Imagine a 30-year-old man walking in diapers, throwing temper tantrums, drinking formula from a baby’s bottle, and acting like a baby.  What would you think?  That is what we look like to mature, Spirit-filled Christians when we do not grow in Godly character over time (let alone those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior)…

Confirm your Calling

Peter then urges us to be diligent in this.  The verb that translates here as “make every effort” in the Greek is spoudasate.  It means “endeavor with great diligence!”.  It is an imperative command.  This is not a suggestion, but an exhortation!  When we pursue Godly character in this manner, it “confirms” our calling and election.  It is VISIBLE FRUIT that shows that we are saved.  We have the responsibility to learn Godly character as part of our sanctification.

Anyone who does not embrace sanctification is not willing to die to self.  This should be a “red-flag” to us that there is something not right in our heart.  Whatever the issue may be, get it resolved (seek Christian counseling if this sounds impossible), and begin your spiritual development and training in Godliness.

Rich Reward

Peter then says if we do these things, we will not stumble.  Are you tired of stumbling in your walk?  Are you tired of being tripped up?  Here are the steps to fill in the gaps in your spiritual training.  Did you miss a step?  Is the foundation a little shallow at one end?  Go back to the beginning, and lay the foundation deep and wide, with Christ as the cornerstone (of your faith).  Once the foundation is solid and secure, the building that is built upon it will withstand the attacks of the enemy.

And be assured that if you follow these steps, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you as you pray for deliverance, strength, and wisdom to complete each of them, you will receive a rich welcome into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  And certainly, you will hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Have I laid down the right foundation in my pursuit of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the wisdom and revelation of Yourself in Your word.  Help me to review my foundation, and see if there is anything that I am lacking.  If I have missed a step, I pray, Father, that You will help me to see it.  Take me back to my earlier training, if necessary, and help me to learn each lesson again as You know that I need to.  Help me to shore up the weak points in my walk.  Father, strengthen me as I humble myself before You.  I know I don’t always do things right.  I stumble and I don’t know why.  Thank you for reminding me that to truly learn, I must put in the time and effort in the right way and in the right order for the results to bear great fruit.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to honor you in every action, word, and deed.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Children and God – Psalm 127:3-5

Children Are A Reward From God, Not A Punishment Nor A Curse

3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.

Helpful Heritage

God gives us children as a heritage.  While culture preaches from its bully pulpit that children are a curse and must be eliminated as masses of cells before they destroy the lives of the women who bear them, God sees them in an entirely different way.  “Back in the day”, when people still relied upon God for their very sustenance through working the land, it was a blessing to have ten to twenty children in the family.  The family farm would provide all of the food and resources needed to sustain the family, and as the children came of age, they could work the farm and contribute to the family.  This taught them selflessness, love, hard work, and the ability to work in conjunction with others towards a common goal.

Righteous parenting will not eliminate the bad apples of the group.  After all, God did give us all free will, and even the most loving and caring parents will encounter a child who refuses to embrace their love and the truth of God.  These children abandon rational thought in the pursuit of selfish pleasure and “freedom” from what they perceive as the “punitive restrictions” God requires of those who seek righteousness.  The good news is, none of them are immune from the answers given by God in response to the prayers of their righteous parents.  Yet most of the children in that era grew up to be great people, and sought the welfare of their families, their communities, their countries, and most importantly, their God.

If abortion is to be embraced, and God is to be abandoned, then we have doomed our race to extinction.  For if abortion is higher and mightier than God, in a generation or two or three, there would be no more humans.  And while some might consider the human race to be a curse upon this Earth, they are only half right – it is the curse of sin that Adam brought upon us that infects and affects each and every one of us.  And it is for this reason that Jesus Christ came down to Earth as a man, to be an example for us, and to die for our sins upon the cross at Calvary so that we could be redeemed from the bondage of sin and free to choose to serve God rather than Satan.

Real Reward

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Emphasis added)

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Emphasis added)

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Emphasis added)

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Emphasis added)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Emphasis added)

Culture teaches us that children are a burden, and that they are an obstacle to our path to:

  • Our enlightenment,
  • Our enjoyment of life
  • Our success
  • Our freedom
  • Our lives
  • Our careers
  • Our happiness

Because we have become a people who are self-centered, narcissistic, self-focused, self-absorbed, and self-conscious, we believe culture and abandon that which God has said in His holy word.  Children are a reward, not a curse.  Every child has a purpose that God has specifically given to them:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. –  James 2:14-17,26

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has planned in advance, before the foundation of the universe, the works that He has assigned to each and every one of them.  When we view children as burdens rather than rewards, that attitude will infect their souls.  So we should not be surprised when little Johnny turns out later in life to be a drug addict pimping women in dark street corners when he grows up, hearing throughout his childhood how he kept his parents from achieving their goals.

Children are God’s reward to parents.  They are to be a blessing, cherished in every way, raised in the Lord according to their own individual gifts, talents, and tendencies that God has placed in their lives.  We do them and ourselves a disservice when we try to make our children carbon copies of ourselves.  When we yield to God and allow Him to direct the way that our children are to be molded and shaped, God will be given the greater glory and honor, the child will be MUCH happier, and the life and ministry of that child will increase and blossom as they embrace God through the love that their parents showed them.  Children model us.  Let us be the right model for them.

Wonderful Weapons

God does not look at children merely as rewards and a heritage; in the battle of sin and righteousness, they are to be powerful weapons – highly skilled warriors.  The Psalmist Solomon, who was the wisest man (apart from Jesus Christ) to ever walk the Earth, uses the imagery of archery to convey this point.  An archer is responsible for aiming the arrow, providing the right angle for it, and releasing it at just the right time with just the right force to accomplish whatever goal the archer has been given.

In the same way, children are like arrows.  We train them up in the way they should go, preparing them to be used by God for His purposes, and when they are ready, we release them into the world to accomplish the goals God has already planned for them to do.  As a parent, you are to be the archer, listening intently to your Commander-In-Chief for instructions on how and when to arm yourself with your weapons, pointing them in the direction they should go, and releasing them with just the right force at just the right time to be effective.  That is both a great responsibility and a great honor.

Capable Candidate

And when we raise our children correctly, they will be formidable opponents against the evil of this world.  Even when they are falsely accused and brought before the courts by those who would seek to destroy them, they will more than adequately refute their adversaries in the courtroom battle, for it is not we who fight, but the Lord who fights for us:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

“no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord. (Emphasis added)

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I cherish children the same way that the Lord God Almighty does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your heritage, blessing, and challenge of children.  Give me the right mindset as I interact with them, whether they are my own, or someone else’s, for they are Yours and Yours alone.  Just as you make us managers over your creation, You have chosen us to manage children in the same way, loving them as You love them, training them as You train us, and remembering that they are Yours and not ours.  Give us the wisdom, discernment, and ability to raise them up in the way they should go, not the way we desire them to go.  And help them to be mighty weapons, straight and true arrows in the quivers of their parents, ready to be aimed and deployed when and where You see fit.  And may they be mightily effective in every battle that they engage, for You, Lord God, go before them and fight for them with zeal and with their guardian angels.  Strengthen them, and keep them from evil.  Let them be light and salt to this wicked generation.  Give them a focus upon Jesus that we cannot even comprehend, and may their children be doubly effective for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Rewards of Righteousness – Proverbs 21:21

The Intellectual Pursuit Of Anything Pales In Comparison to Reaping The Rewards Of Experiencing It

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Rewards of Righteousness

The disciples of Christ read in the word of the Living God that we are to live lives in righteousness.  (Self-)Righteousness is not required because we have been adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters.  We receive our righteousness though belief in Jesus Christ, made possible by His perfect life, death, and resurrection on the cross.  His shed blood covers our sin, and we are clothed in His righteousness.  Our sanctification is the application of our imputed (legally acquired) righteousness in how we live our lives in holiness before God.  Righteousness (in this case, the pursuit of sanctification) has its own specific rewards.  We can rest assured that God both rewards faithfulness as well as punishes wickedness.  The author of this Proverb, however, links love with righteousness

Linked with Love

Love is THE defining aspect of God’s holiness and righteousness.  A person cannot be righteous without displaying agape love – a love that is volitional, sacrificial, and unconditional.  The two greatest commandments in the Law are:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love [agape] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love [agape] your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Notes in brackets added for clarity.)

Without love, we cannot be righteous.  And righteousness, or even exercising spiritual gifts without love is worthless:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

When we pursue righteousness and love, we are shown* that we will find three things – Life, Prosperity, and Honor.

Long Life

The very first promise is that we find life.  But we don’t just find life here on Earth – we find Eternal Life with God in His kingdom.  As we pursue righteousness and love, freed from the bonds of sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are obeying God’s will for our lives.  We find spiritual life in abundance:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Powerfully Prosperous

Most people use their physical eyes to see the world.  God challenges us to see with our spiritual eyes and listen with our spiritual ears:

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

All Earthly wealth will eventually rot and burn, but spiritual wealth has made us wildly rich:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

When we have eyes that see and ears that hear, we recognize that we are being made prosperous in heavenly treasures.  And while God may or may not prosper us here on Earth, our reward will be great in Heaven as we pursue righteousness and love.

Heavenly Honor

There is but one note of praise that every disciple of Christ desires to hear.  That praise is not from men, but from our Lord Jesus Christ when we go to be with Him:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Those who pursue righteousness and love labor for the reward of praise from a most holy God.  It is the greatest honor for God, as our master (for we each should be a doulos** to our Lord) complements us in being faithful to His commands.  This is the equivalent of the highest form of accolade and accomplishment possible.  This is the Heavenly equivalent of getting a Grammy Award in music, or a Nobel Prize, or a Congressional Medal of Honor.  It is the highest achievement possible in our field of endeavors.

And God will not only honor us there.  When we pursue righteousness and love here on Earth, He will acknowledge us among men as well, regardless of our circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, say to me when I am reunited with Him in glory?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who raise people up and bring people low.  You alone are sovereign Lord over all.  Thank You for adopting me as Your child.  Please help me to grow in grace, love and righteousness, that I may honor and glorify Your name.  Show me what I am to do, for You already have prepared my work for me in advance.  Help me to submit myself to you as Jesus submitted to You.  Watch over me, and use me as You see fit.  I look forward to my report from You when I will be joined with You in glory.  Help me to have the best report that I can.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Please Note:  This blog has been edited for clarity (changes have been made in the first paragraph to provide better insight into the difference between the imputed righteousness of Christ and the pursuit of sanctification [holy and righteous living in the presence of God]).

* The proverbs are not promises, but rather generalized truths about life and spiritual matters.  We are able to glean great wisdom and insight from their truths, but it is not proper to interpret the proverbs as being absolute promises.  God is still sovereign, after all…

** A doulos is a slave, but not in the ordinary sense of the word.  Slaves had no say whatsoever in their situation.  A doulos was a slave who was freed by his master, but loved that master so much that he begged his master to take him back as his bond-slave.  The doulos‘ ear was pierced by an awl on the door, and everyone would recognize that mark as one who loved his master and voluntarily submitted to him because he was treated so well.

In a spiritual sense, the word doulos speaks to the willingness of the disciples of Christ to submit themselves to the Holy Spirit, being freed from the bondage of sin, and voluntarily submitting themselves to the commands of their Savior.

Many of the Epistles in the New Testament were written by those who identified themselves as a doulos of Christ.

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:40-42

God Will Certainly Reward Each And Every One Of Us For What We Have Done In The Flesh

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Welcoming the Witness

Jesus proclaims something very profound here regarding witnessing for Him.  When someone accepts you, they are accepting Him.  Those who witness for Christ at His request are His ambassadors.  They have the full weight and power to go out and represent the person abroad.

The disciples of Jesus have been given His full authority to act in His name – His very character – to represent Him to others.  And when we represent Him, we are, in fact, representing the One who sent Him – His Father.  Jesus was God the Father’s ambassador to men, and we have now in turn been passed the baton in this relay race.  Everything that we do will reflect upon not only Jesus but also God the Father – for good, and for bad.  We should keep that in mind before we form conclusions in our minds, say anything to anyone, or do anything that might bring shame upon God.

Receive the Reward

Jesus also clarifies what type of reward we receive when we welcome His ambassadors.  Those who welcome a prophet (as a prophet) will receive the reward of a prophet.  That should cause us pause.  Even if we are the lowliest workers in His kingdom, when we receive a prophet of God as a prophet, we receive his reward as well:

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

If we receive a righteous person, we receive a righteous person’s reward.  There is only one who is righteous, and He is Jesus Christ.  He received a great reward – eternal life.  In a like manner, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness:

1 “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Retain the Reward

Gaining the reward is the first giant hurdle.  We have an obligation, a blood-debt, so to speak, with the One who purchased our lives with His very own blood.  Jesus died upon the cross for our sins, offering His blood as the final, and only permanent atoning sacrifice for them:

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

We are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.  And Jesus provides us with the litmus test:

If you love me, keep my commands.

When we aid and assist an ambassador, we are, in effect, aiding and assisting the one who sent him/her.  Even providing relief of the desert sun by giving a cup of cold water to the least of his disciples (ambassadors), we are, in effect, doing it to Him:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

And although the gift of salvation is a free one, insofar as we do not have to earn it but merely accept it, how ungrateful would we appear if we did not thank the One who made it, and show our appreciation for His efforts?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask some questions:  How do I receive ambassadors from God?  Am I living in such a way that I am a faithful ambassador for God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have sent Your prophets and recorded Your words through them in Your word.  Help me, Father God, that I would listen to Your word, and receive them as You sent them – as Your ambassadors.  Help me to yield myself to Your Holy Spirit, for He testifies about Your Son and is the One You have sent as a down-deposit on my inheritance in You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient to His voice as He speaks to me through Your word.  Guide me so that I would be a faithful ambassador for You as well.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Poverty and God – Luke 16:19-23

Poverty does not predispose us to moral depravity.

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.”

Luxurious Living

God gives to us that which we are able to use.  When we are provided more that we can handle, we either tend to abuse it or lose it.  Many dream of having great wealth, but most would not be able to manage it well – we simply do not have the skills.  This comes through two things – training and faithfulness.

In this scripture, we see a juxtaposition between one who is rich, and one who is poor.  The rich man is dressed in purple (purple dye at that time was VERY expensive to make and use – only the very richest people could afford it) and lived in luxury.  The rich man lacked nothing material in his life on Earth.  He was well off, and would have been able to address any Earthly need or desire that he had.  Most of us, without the wisdom and instruction in the Lord provided by God’s word, would be envious of this man and the apparent ease in which he lived.

Sick with Sores

Jesus then describes a man living in a starkly different lifestyle.  Lazarus – the only person in any of Jesus’ parables to actually be named by name – was a beggar at the gates of the rich man’s home.  Rather than living in a life of splendor and ease, he was destitute and dependent upon the charity of those who were able to provide him with their overflow of provision by God through empathy.

In stark contrast to the rich man, dressed in purple, the poor man was sporting sores.  And to add insult to injury, the poor man’s sores were licked by unclean animals – the dogs.  Having no money, no food, and poor health, this man waited patiently for assistance, and would have been willing to eat even the scraps of food thrown out from the rich man’s table.

Righteous Reward

Jesus indicated in this parable that when both died, angels bore the poor man’s spirit to Abraham’s bosom.  Many scholars believe that this is the location where the souls of the righteous were kept until the time when Jesus was resurrected, and they could be fully in the presence of the Father.  We see, however, that at least two of those who were declared righteous because they believed God were in the presence of Jesus before the resurrection.

The poor man received his reward – he was in the presence of Jesus after death.  This is very important since it shows that the physical conditions that the poor man found himself in during life – physical and financial poverty – did not equate to spiritual poverty.  Even in his horrific state of life, the poor man – Lazarus – believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Rather than receive his reward on Earth, he received it in Heaven.

Terrible Torment

The rich man, however, received his reward on Earth.  Jesus says that Lazarus was at his gate, and longed to eat what fell from the rich man’s table.  This indicates that the rich man would have had to pass Lazarus every time he left his home and every time he came back home.  He had shown no pity to Lazarus; otherwise, Lazarus would have been eating the scraps from his table.

The rich man, after he had died, then received his spiritual reward as well.  He was thrown into Hades, where he was tormented by fire (the same torment that those who are thrown into the lake of fire receive).  His lack of compassion for the poor, and his self-serving use of what God had provided to him was evidence that He did not believe God.  For if the rich man believed God, he would have obeyed what God had told him to obey – love your neighbor as yourself.  Lazarus was his neighbor, as Jesus pointed out through the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Misleading Manifestation

Taking care of the poor is not the job of the government.  It is the job of everyone whom God has blessed.  However, there are many wicked people who cry out that they are in poverty, and try to exploit the compassion and generosity of those who would help people in need.  And often, those who are generous become known among the community of the poor.  And the generosity of feeding one beggar might turn into the undesirable state of being mobbed by a multitude of beggars.

And while discernment should be used when engaging in acts of charity, those whom God has blessed should give what they need, not what they ask for, to help them out, and leave the results up to God.  Does a person say work for food?  Give them food, not money.  Most people who say they will work for food will balk if you offer them food in return for their labor.  In that, their cry for help is deceitful.

The physical and financial state of a person does not necessarily indicate the person’s spiritual position.  Even James warned us about showing favoritism to the rich over the poor in the church.  Besides, God has chosen people who are financially poor to be rich in faith.  God, because He is sovereign, wants all who are His people to be well provided.  And when they are not, we should help them out as we are able to do so, regardless of who they are:

but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.'”

“If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.”

Note that the poor are to be given the opportunity to work for their food.  Back when the Bible was being written, it would have been the opportunity to gather the gleanings from the field.  In today’s tight profit margins of businesses, what can be done so that the poor can do work and thereby use their hands for the benefit of others rather than just putting out their palms for charity?  When we give money and food away, it detracts from the dignity that all human beings find in work.  Work is a gift from God to feel useful as well as to provide for a person and their family (if any).

Finally, remember that the condition of poverty does not necessarily predispose a person to moral failure.  Moral failure is a choice that each and every one of us makes, regardless of our financial position or the pressures that are placed upon us.  It is up to each and every one of us to do what is right in the eyes of God, as we will be required to give an account of all that we have done, good and evil, while we were alive on Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  If financially possible, am I looking after the needs of the poor around me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have said that the poor will always be among us, and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Father, show me how I can love the poor around me, as they are my neighbors as well.  Give me a heart for those who are poor, and to see the poor through Your eyes.  Help me to set aside time, talent, or treasure that it may be used to help the poor as You provide all things to me.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Stewardship with God – Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The great equalizer of man is time.  Everyone gets exactly 24 hours in a day (unless it is their time to give an accounting of themselves to God), and can manage that time any way they choose.  Like the parable of the bags of gold, God has given us various amounts of material wealth, and gifts as well to use for His purposes and to bring glory to His name.

These can be summarized as follows:

Time

  • Every second of every day, we choose how to apply ourselves.  Some watch TV for hours on end; others play video games;  some invest in their family;  some in their job; others in pursuits that bring them pleasure or to fulfill their obligations; some choose carousing and sleep.  Lastly, there are those that invest in God’s kingdom for God’s purposes during God’s timing.
  • We cannot ever get even a second of time back.  Once it is spent, whether for good purposes or not, it is spent; it becomes one less second that we have left in the life that God has provided to us.  Use your time wisely.

Talent

  • What gifts has God given you?  Are you a word-smith?  An artist?  A teacher?  An athlete?  A scientist?  A pastor?  God has given us all gifts that can be used to further His purposes, or squander on our own lives.  The Holy Spirit has also provided you with Spiritual Gifts.  What a tragedy when someone with a great gift refuses to use it!  Imaging the world today if Marie Curie chose to write limericks?  How about if Albert Einstein chose to play tiddlywinks?  Or, Christopher Columbus decided to make rock gardens?  What if Martin Luther chose to tan leather?  You have talents!  How you choose to use them, or not, is up to you…
  • For most people, working at a job – whether their own business or in the employ of someone else – is a daily need and responsibility.  God has provided you with talents that, when used for Him, will bring differing levels of wealth in compensation for the efforts applied, risks taken, and perceived value by others for your skills.  The Holy Spirit has placed within you special talents in addition to your other talents.  Find the one (or ones?) that give(s) you such great joy that you cannot wait to go to work!  Remember that the Sabbath was made for man – God intended for work to be so satisfying that we might forget to set aside some time to worship our creator!  Don’t believe culture – find what God has placed in you and live a more rewarding life!
  • Even if you are scrubbing toilets, do it with all your might as unto the Lord.  Others will notice your diligence, and will provide you with better opportunities to make them more money (if they are wise).

Treasure

  • Whether you inherited money, make it from working, get it from a charity, or receive it from the government, you have been entrusted with wealth.  Even if you have no money, the fruit of your labor is your treasure.  Be aware of what treasure you have, so that you can honor God with it.
  • Remember that money is merely a medium of exchange – it allows you to freely trade the fruit of your efforts for the efforts of others in goods and services.  Use it wisely.
  • If you don’t have money, barter your goods and services well.
  • Some people want to win the lottery.  Why?!?!  It came from the backs of the poor, the destitute, and math-challenged people looking for a quick fix to their financial woes.  Unless a person has experience in managing great wealth, they are more likely to abuse it, and end up worse once the money is gone than when they were before they received “the blessing”.  Who would want to have to give an accounting to God for what they did with it?

When we bring these three things – Time, Talent, and Treasure – into submission to God, our lives will begin to become more focused and effective.  God rewards faithfulness in stewardship with more responsibility.  And with more responsibility comes greater reward – not just worldly wealth, but treasure in heaven – when it is used for God’s purposes.

So, let’s ask the question:  How effectively am I managing the Time, Talent, and Treasure God has provided to me for His purposes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we praise You for You are wonderful.  We thank You that You have seen fit to permit us the opportunity to work, and to use skills to create and flourish.  Father, we are humbled that You provide this knowing that we mess things up.  I pray that You will show me, Father, how I can better use these resources to bring glory to Your name.  Reveal in me the talents You have placed in me that will bring me joy when used in Your service.  Help me to make any adjustments in life to fulfill this calling that You have given me, and fill my heart with joy knowing that doing this pleases You.  Forgive me, Father, for I don’t like change, and uncertainty causes me anxiety.  Remove these things from my heart that I may  die to self, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus with complete abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?