Tag Archives: righteousness

Hypocrisy vs. Holiness

Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.
Luke 12:1a-2, NLT*

This is Jesus’ warning to His disciples. He’s just been to dinner at a Pharisee’s house and confronted the religious leaders about their hypocrisy (Luke 11:37-54). Perhaps some of the disciples were there too.

Jesus often called out the Pharisees for their showy ways and love of public admiration, and for the burdens they laid on the people performance-wise. One thing He said at the dinner was this:

What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. (Luke 11:42, NLT*)

Now He’s warning His disciples about the Pharisees’ contagious example. The point I’m taking for myself and this generation of the church, which has its own stain of hypocrisy, is this: Do the outward acts, the tithing and good deeds (The Book of James has a lot to say about that) but “do not neglect the more important things.”

What’s more important than doing? Being. (click to tweet that)

Being right with God. Close to Him, my spirit lined up with His, listening to Him and obeying. Worshipping. Living confidently in His care.

If inward purity is important – and it is – and if we’re cultivating “the more important thing” of a close relationship with God, it’s bound to show in our character and in our actions.

Not that we’ll be perfect. When we slip up, it may look like hypocrisy, but it won’t be. It’ll be a humbling opportunity to be open with the people around us about our – and everyone’s – need to rely fully on God’s grace, forgiveness and strength. We can’t allow fear of failure to keep us from shining for God, but we must be careful to shine to please an audience of One. Not for the people around us.

God our Father, You call us to grow in the image of Your Son, whose righteousness grew from His relationship with You. The outward life is easier for us to measure, but You see our hearts. Call us deeper in faith, love and obedience, purify and renovate us within, so that what comes out of us will be pleasing to You.

May God help us to pray this song back to Him and to really mean it: “Refiner’s Fire,” sung here by Hillsong.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Taking God Seriously

So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?
Luke 6:46, NLT*

Jesus’ miracles proved His power, authority and compassion. His message was direct and understandable, except when cloaked in parables. People flocked to Him.

Yet here, after a very practical sermon, He accuses them of not doing what He says. And He warns that putting His words into practice will be the difference between stability and disaster (Luke 6:46-49).

He’s just told them to love, bless, do good, not to judge or condemn, to forgive and be generous to friend and enemy alike. He’s told them to live like Himself, minus the miracles.

He tells us the same thing, sometimes through the Holy Spirit in our hearts, but it’s pretty plain in Scripture as well. And we have the Spirit to enable us.

God tells us how to live. And He means what He says. We need to take Him seriously:

  • for our own health (He designed us and knows us best);
  • as examples to show His love and care and righteousness;
  • to keep close to Him instead of letting us drift away;
  • because unrighteousness offends Him; and
  • because He has the authority to require it.

God our Creator and Redeemer, what is it we’re not doing that You say? Help us to hear and to obey, for our own sakes and for the sake of Your Kingdom – and to please Your heart. Forgive us for the times we’ve lived as if obedience were optional. Help us submit fully to Your authority in our lives, with complete trust in Your goodness.

If we lived like Jesus meant what He said, Matt Redman is right: “We Could Change the World.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Putting our Faith in Jesus

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Romans 3:22, NLT*

I like the NLT’s use of “made right with God”. The NIV equivalent is “righteousness,” which we can sometimes misconstrue. They really both mean the same, but this way it’s easier to see the focus on relationship with God rather than focusing on ourselves.

What caught me about this verse, though, is “placing our faith in Jesus Christ”.

This is more than intellectual belief, more than a casual agreement.

It’s an active trust, the same as we would sit in a chair or step onto a bridge. We place our faith in Jesus Christ. This suggests a few things to me:

  • following His way instead of living for ourselves
  • walking with Him each day and in each situation
  • relying on His leading, equipping, presence and protection
  • trusting Him to work things out as He chooses
  • trusting the goodness of His character
  • living to bring glory to God the Father

Holy and majestic God, there is none like You. Thank You for making a way for us to be right with You through faith in Jesus. Thank You for His death and resurrection, the most costly gift we’ve ever been offered. Thank You for the faith to believe. Help us to embrace this faith actively and fully and to let faith in Jesus change the way we live each moment, to Your glory.

This week’s song is Chris Tomlin‘s “Jesus Messiah“.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

[Linked with Wednesday’s Word]

Reminded of God’s Holiness

Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
Exodus 19:18-19, NIV*

The people of Israel have gathered at Mount Sinai three months after leaving Egypt. They’ve had to consecrate themselves for three days before this meeting, and they still can’t be near enough to God to even touch the mountain—on pain of death.

Many Old Testament passages emphasize God’s holiness and power, the splendour of His majesty that make Him unapproachable except by His chosen few like Moses.

Since New Testament days, believers can come to Him in boldness and confidence.

God didn’t mellow over the years or decide to have an open-door policy. From the very beginning He wanted a close relationship with us. Our sin broke that fellowship.

When we read passages like this one from Exodus, it’s a good reminder of how holy and terrible our God really is. A good reminder to cultivate a holy fear of Him even while we’ve been granted safe access through Jesus Christ. A good reminder to live holy before Him in the Spirit’s strength, and a good reminder that He who is for us is greater than whatever is against us.

Holy and majestic God, who dwells in inapproachable light, we could never be clean or pure enough on our own to approach You. Thank You more than we can say for Your grace poured out through Your Son to redeem us and to clothe us in His righteousness. Thank You for the wonder of restored relationship with You. Help us not to take it for granted, and let the open door to Your throne room not lull us into forgetting the holiness that dwells within.

To help us think about God’s holiness today, here’s Third Day with “God of Wonders.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Healed and Free

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25, NIV*

Peter’s words echo Isaiah 53, and to me they speak of a spiritual healing: from sin into righteousness, from our transgressions and iniquities and sorrows into peace.

I have no insights about physical healing, but spiritual hurts go even deeper—and they are clearly promised to be  healed.

The Apostle Paul tells us to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, and he doesn’t mean to ignore our failings and pretend they don’t exist. I think he means to walk in the truth of God’s Word and not give in to the old ways.

To take Jesus’ promises as true and trust Him to be at work in us. To believe that His power is greater than our pain. To cooperate with Him as He changes us into what He designed us to be.

Father, there are so many things You want to heal and change in each of us. So much pain in the world. You are the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. The Message says You have named us and keep us for good. Help me love, trust and obey You.

I know I referred to this song last week, but I can’t read these verses without hearing Peter Furler’s impassioned recitation of parts of Isaiah 53 in the newsboys’ song (extended version), “I Am Free.” What I’d really like to share with you is the 7-minute version on the special edition Go CD, but this is at least more of it than you’d usually hear on the radio. It’s loud, but take the words to heart. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

When Our Best isn’t Good Enough

Peter blurted out, “Even if everyone else is ashamed of you when things fall to pieces, I won’t be.”
Jesus said, “Don’t be so sure. Today, this very night in fact, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”
He blustered in protest, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” All the others said the same thing.
Mark 14:29-31, The Message*

Jesus has been preparing His disciples for what’s ahead, but it’s too much for them to grasp. Except for the traitor, their intentions are the best – but Jesus knows that won’t be enough. He knows how each one will fail.

He knows the same thing about each of us, and I’m so glad we have this example to keep us from despairing when we mess up.

Instead of condemning Peter – and us – Jesus takes on our unrighteousness so that we can find His righteousness in us. Pastor and teacher Charles Price says this is the heart of the gospel: “Salvation is primarily from unrighteousness to righteousness.”**

There’s nothing in me – in you – that’s worth much, but Christ in us is our hope of glory. He wants to grow us into His image, to direct and equip us to live worthy of His Name.

When I fail, He doesn’t turn me away. He just picks me up again and goes on working with me. I think it was The Shack that suggested God, instead of being put off when someone rejected Him again, counted it as one less rejection left until the person finally chose right. What a comforting perspective.

As the Apostle Paul would say, that doesn’t mean we should be slack and keep going our own ways. But if we’re doing our best and it’s not enough, we can rejoice that God isn’t finished with us yet.

Father God, You are holy and we worship You. Because You love us so much, we want to please You by living righteous lives. Thank You so much for the Holy Spirit who helps us, and for Your patience and mercy to forgive us and to continue the work You’ve started in each of our lives.

Our song this week can encourage us all: Brandon Heath’s “Wait and See (Not Finished With Me Yet).”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

**Paul: Moulded by His Message,  Charles Price (Kingsway Publications, 2001) page 116.