Posts Tagged With: righteousness

Faith, Righteousness, Rights, and Hard Times

“For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:37–38; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

When faith is genuine, it governs our lives. When we have true faith, God’s righteousness will grow in us. We will live by God’s standards of righteousness and justice.

While Christians should be eager to see God’s justice manifested, we cannot afford to make our rights our top priority. Americans stand up for our rights. However, God calls us to do what is right, no matter what. Sometimes, we may need to place God’s glory ahead of our rights.

This is one of the main themes of the letter to the Hebrews. The original readers were presumably Jewish converts to Christianity. When persecution hit, some were tempted to return to Judaism. Returning to their former, more “acceptable,” faith offered a better chance of keeping their homes, jobs, possessions, etc., instead of suffering persecution. The author (probably not Paul, but one of his ministry partners or companions) urged them to remain faithful to Jesus. The rewards of everlasting life are far greater than any earthly possessions or privileges.

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one” (Hebrews 10:32–34).

The early Christians did not expect “your best life now.” While Jesus had promised innumerable blessings to His followers, He said they would not come cheaply. The Christian life begins with repentance. It leads to self-sacrifice. Suffering frequently follows.

“Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first’” (Mark 10:28–31, emphasis added).

How do we measure up? The COVID pandemic has shown how weak we are. People thought some of the restrictions—including mask requirements—were the mark of the beast. Many ranted that we are approaching the Great Tribulation because officials urged us to wear masks in public for the past year and to get a vaccine. Jesus told us that there would be great tribulation in the end times, “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matthew 24:21). COVID-related restrictions are minor compared to the suffering of Jews in Nazi Germany, Black slaves in the pre-Civil-War south, or countless other oppressed people throughout history. The restrictions of the past 15 months do not qualify as signs of the end times.

The original readers of Hebrews showed us how to respond to difficult times. They joyfully accepted the loss of their property. If they were not the direct victims of reproaches and tribulations, they stood by their brothers and sisters who were. Instead of cowering in fear, they stood with their brethren. When trials came, they accepted them.

Christians today must learn again how to sacrifice. We must learn how to endure trials and tribulations and how to identify and sympathize with those who are suffering persecution or injustice. We should be ready to speak out for justice for all, but we must also be courageous enough to face persecution without a spirit of self-righteousness, rebellion, bitterness, or revenge.

We do not prove our faith by twisting Scriptures to explain why we should be comfortable. Faith is validated when we persevere during trials, tribulations, and persecution. We do not prove our faith when life is easy, claim our blessings, attend church, post Bible verses online, or celebrate our comforts. We show our faith when we remain faithful to God despite hardship.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If we grow discouraged or turn our backs on Him when things get tough, we do not have faith. The readers of Hebrews were tempted to give up—they had not done so yet—under pressures that would have destroyed most American Christians.

Are we strong enough to stand firm in Christ? Can we follow the example the writer of Hebrews sets before us? If not, what can we do to grow in true faith that can withstand hardship?

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Called to Share God’s Blessings

“For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him” (Genesis 18:19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Depiction of Abraham with the four heavenly visitors from a 14th-century French manuscript. Public domain, via Picryl.

Most Christians are familiar with the story about Abraham interceding for the people of Sodom. Three men [who turned out to be messengers of the Lord, one of whom spoke with divine authority (perhaps Jesus Himself)] informed Abraham that God would destroy the city of Sodom, where his nephew Lot lived. Abraham ended up bargaining with God, persuading Him to spare the city if He could find ten righteous people there (Genesis 18:16-33). God would not find ten righteous people, but He did spare Lot by taking him and his family out of the city before its destruction. (Judging by how Lot’s family conducted themselves after escaping Sodom, Abraham would have had to negotiate God down to finding only one righteous person.)

That is all merely for introduction. I want to focus on a few other aspects of this story. The Bible tells us that God chose to enter into a covenant with Abraham. He called Abraham to become the father of many nations, including “the chosen people,” Israel. Why was Abraham chosen? Why were his descendants chosen?

“Now the LORD said to Abram,
‘Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

God chose Abraham and his descendants to be His witnesses in the world and eventually to bring forth the Messiah, Jesus, to become our Savior. (See Galatians 3:1-7 for more on this.) God did not want Abraham to keep all of the blessings to himself, nor did He want Abraham’s descendants to horde God’s blessings. God blessed His chosen people so that they could bless others.

God’s covenant, calling, and blessing to Abraham were generational. He did not keep them to himself; he passed them on to his son, Isaac, who then passed them on to Jacob, and so on. Their mission was to be witnesses for the one true God to the entire world.

This mission would reach this climax when Jesus came. His disciples were not supposed to keep His message to themselves. They, too, were called to bless the entire world with the testimony that the one true God had offered salvation through Jesus Christ:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Like Abraham, we have a mission. We have received a covenant blessing to be children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. We do not keep this blessing to ourselves. We must share the good news with all who will receive it.

God called Abraham to “keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.” We, too, must make righteousness and justice our aims. Let us devote our lives to pursuing righteousness and justice for our communities, culture, country, and the entire world. He did not call us to cling to our rights, privileges, and comforts, but to keep His way and do His will.

In Genesis 18, God revealed His will to Abraham. Note that Abraham did not pray only for his nephew. He probably thought, “I know there are some bad people in that city, but I cannot believe they are all bad. There have to be some good people in Sodom. I don’t want Lot to get hurt, but what about them?” Abraham was willing to pray that God would even spare sinners so that the righteous would not suffer.

How do we pray? Do we pray merely for our own comfort and blessings? Do we pray only for our families, friends, and other people we like? Are we willing to pray for the people who are hard to love? Are we bold to pray that God would show His righteousness, justice, and mercy to all people, even those whom we think are undeserving?

Are we eager to teach our children and grandchildren to live and pray like this: To share God’s blessings with everyone they can reach?

We cannot afford to hold onto God’s blessings. We must share them with others. Most importantly, we must train future generations to share God’s blessings and Gospel with others. God’s call upon your life is bigger than you may think. It is not limited to you. It extends to all nations and until He returns.

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Family, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Children of the Covenants

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Christian is a citizen of a cosmic kingdom. Our citizenship is in heaven. While we currently live in the physical world, our true home is in a very different perfect world. Although we have numerous relationships in this world (family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, enemies, and general nuisances), many of those relationships are temporary. We are already in fellowship with those who have gone before us, the “righteous made perfect.” We will live eternally with them and with the Lord. Those “righteous made perfect” constitute a “great cloud of witnesses” who are already celebrating our spiritual victories and encouraging us to stand up when we falter.

The church is a covenant community, united under Jesus. That covenant is eternal. That covenant community received instruction from Jesus that is preserved in the Gospels. The covenant was sealed in His body and blood, given on the cross for our sins. Its promises were secured in Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Ancient Israel was part of a covenant people who received their instructions at Mount Sinai. On that mountain, God showed His power: fire, a loud voice. The message was clear: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The same God who had rescued the Israelites by leading them through the Red Sea had destroyed the Egyptian army in the same sea. You cannot play games with God and hope to get away with it. “And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am filled with fear and trembling’” (Hebrews 12:21).

On Calvary, Jesus forged the New Covenant, which showed another aspect of God’s power. Here, Jesus showed His mercy. Yes, God revealed His power that day: darkness covered the land, an earthquake occurred, and the veil of the temple was torn asunder (Matthew 27:45-54; Mark 15:33-38; Luke 23:44-47). Onlookers saw the power of God on full display. But, Jesus willingly surrendered His life. The One who created the universe subjected Himself to humanity’s ability to destroy life. Yet, at that moment, He conquered death. A preview of His power to conquer death was seen as several Old Testament saints rose from the tombs and appeared to people around Jerusalem. (Some readers are probably imagining a zombie apocalypse like “Dawn of the Dead,” but I doubt it was anything that morbid: Perhaps a little unnerving, though, especially if they appeared to people who had known them while they were alive.)

By faith in Him, we come to a spiritual Mount Zion, the “heavenly Jerusalem.” “You have come,” the writer of Hebrews tells us. We are not looking forward to our heavenly destiny. It is not something we hope for with uncertainty. Our destination is guaranteed in Christ, as certain as if we are living in it now. Yes, suffering surrounds us, but we can live in victory because the One who dwells in us is more powerful than the forces of hell and evil (1 John 4:4).

Today, those of us who follow Jesus are part of that righteous community. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, “the righteous made perfect.” One day, we will shed our mortal flesh and be fully united with them. This is our goal. Let us take comfort that God, in His power, has given us righteousness and mercy, which can guide our steps as we journey through life to the spiritual Mount Zion where we live forever in His presence, glory, and joy.

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Righteousness and Hate Sin

“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Hebrews 1:9, English Standard Version).

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

When you hate something, do you want to keep it around? Do you wish you had the thing you hate?

I hate COVID-19. My wife and I had mild cases early into the pandemic. We also know people who endured serious cases of the disease. Some spent days or weeks in ICU. Some never made it out of the hospital. I hate this disease and want to see it become a thing of the past.

I also hate cancer. I watched my sister take her final breaths after battling lung cancer. Several years earlier, the same disease spread rapidly through my father’s body, robbing him of vitality. I have known many others who have had different kinds of cancer: Some survived, but too many did not. Others seem to gain victory over the disease only to see it rear its ugliness somewhere else in their bodies.

I will do what I can to avoid catching COVID-19. I will do what I can to prevent cancer. I will take all reasonable actions to avoid having these things in my life. I wish such diseases would just go to hell.

I suspect many of you who are reading this share my contempt for these diseases. You might want to add a few more to the list. In each case, I am sure you would do whatever you can to avoid the thing you hate. If you could eradicate it from the world, you would.

Scripture says Jesus loves righteousness and hates lawlessness, wickedness, and evil. He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). He did not come to play games. He did not come to snicker at sin or shrug it off as “not a big deal.” He hated sin more than He loved His earthly life. He was willing to die to destroy the works of Satan. He refused to give in to temptation for even a moment:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:13, New American Standard Bible).

Jesus knew temptation. He hated sin. He would not compromise with it for a moment.

What about those of us who call ourselves Christians and claim to follow Jesus? Do we hate sin the same way we hate disease or discomfort? Do we really want nothing to do with it? Do we want to avoid it like the plague that it is?

Or, do we obey God begrudgingly? “I’m not going to do that, because Jesus told me not too,” we say, while we think, “Oh, that was so much fun back in the day! I wish I could still do that!” Do you watch movies or television shows that glorify the sins you used to commit before you came to Christ? Do you laugh and joke about those old sins? Do you daydream about them?

Do we love righteousness and hate wickedness, or do we feign righteousness and crave just a little mischief?

Many of us have taken drastic action to avoid COVID-19 over the past 13 months. Some of my friends still refuse to go to diners or restaurants, even when strict safety precautions are followed. They never leave their house without a mask. They almost obsessively wash and sanitize their hands. They are willing to make what seem like extreme sacrifices to avoid the disease. I know other people who also take what seem like extreme sacrifices to avoid cancer or heart disease. They hate the disease enough to make health their all-consuming passion.

Are we ready to vaccinate ourselves against sin, lawlessness, wickedness, and immorality? Do we love God and His righteousness enough that we will pursue it with passion?

“Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly devoted unto thee; and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Line Dividing Good and Evil

“But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all’” (Acts 3:12-16; all Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One of the great ironies of the Gospel is that Jesus, the Righteous One, was killed by religious people.

It was not harlots, tax collectors, murderers, drug addicts, sex offenders, or child abusers who led the cries urging Pontius Pilate to “Crucify Him!” It was the chief priests, the teachers of the Jewish Scriptures, and other religious leaders. The people who claimed to know and obey God called for the execution of the Son of God.

Jesus brought life and healing. Religious men brought death.

Jesus brought forgiveness and salvation. Religious men demanded condemnation.

Religious leaders of the people of God mocked Jesus while He died. It took a pagan “godless” centurion to declare, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54).

Religion, ritual, rules, tradition, and dogma do not guarantee righteousness. The men who demanded Jesus’ death were seeking God, but they sought Him on their terms, based on their finite understanding of God’s Word. When they encountered Jesus—the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature—they could not recognize Him.

It is easy for us to condemn the chief priests and Pharisees. However, is it possible that we can be more like them than we are willing to admit? Do we really hold to the righteousness of God, or do our own biases sometimes get in the way? Do we sincerely love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Do we truly love our neighbor as ourselves? Or, do we find more entertaining things to lure us away from God? Do we find excuses why the other person might not count as our neighbor?

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of their own heart?” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn).

Photo from imgur.

Perhaps most of us struggle with the same challenge. We start our day well. Maybe, like me, you find time to pray and read the Bible before starting your workday. Perhaps you find ways to serve God and His people in ministry, either through your church or other avenues. Maybe you spend most of your day “doing the right things.” At some point, though, temptation takes over and you live more like the devil than like a child of God. The line dividing good and evil had cut through your heart.

The great message of the resurrection is that Jesus lived a righteous life and then died for our forgiveness and salvation. Whatever evil exists in your heart and life, Jesus offers forgiveness and cleansing. He rose from the grave to conquer death, the ultimate evil.

Today, let us bring our entire hearts to Him—the good and bad, the righteous and unrighteous, the religious and profane—and welcome His cleansing power. He came to give us life and to shine His light and glory through us:

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10).

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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