Righteousness

Tuesday Devotional: Judges 17

bible

Read Judges 17

6In those days Israel had no King; everyone did as he saw fit.

What do you do when there is no King?  At first, the absence of a King seems like a gift, a sigh of relief.  No King means no rules.  No King means freedom to do as you please, as you see fit.  However, as the rush of excitement in the face of total freedom to have our own way wears off we’re faced with the reality that we are unprepared, ill-equipped to lead ourselves, and we begin to scramble and guess our way toward what we view as success.

Micah’s mother wanted an object.

 We all have a thing, an object that we either believe will give us peace once we’ve obtained it or gives us peace as long as we retain it.  To some it’s money.  To some it’s education.  To some it’s clothes.  To some it’s a house.  The list goes on and on. Take a second and find yours.  We all have one.  Most of us have many.  Due to our human natures and more importantly our sinful natures we rely on our physical eyes to see and not the spiritual eyes that God, the true King, has promised us.  The promises of God are amazing but, like Jesus, they are in this world, not of this world.  The true gifts that Christ has lavished on us are intangible.  They are not necessarily around us, but are found within us, waiting for us, guaranteed to us in Heaven.  Unfortunately, if we see nothing, most of us believe in nothing.  So as great as those intangible gifts are, we’d simply rather have a thing that we know will make us feel good, no matter how temporary the satisfaction, even if we know full well that our emptiness will soon return and we’ll need a new thing to bring us back our peace.

The Levite wanted a place.

In each of our minds there is a vision of a place that is perfectly made for us.  It’s a place that needs us where we are important and highly valued.  Throughout life we often move from place to place searching for this picture, our place.  In some places we get close, but it’s not quite what we were looking for.  Without a King leading us into our purpose or position in a specific place, we are left to the process of trial and error and are ultimately disappointed in the outcome.  In the same way that our eyes deceive us, our imagination leads us astray.  We strive year after year investing time, money and energy along our vision quest to arrive and we never do.  Somehow, some of us manage to arrive, and soon realize that what we found looked different than what we had imagined. We regret.  Some of us have announced our purpose and destination over and over to the people we know that to admit that we are misplaced is to admit defeat, or look stupid or be wrong, so we fake it until we make it.  Sometimes we force ourselves into a place or a purpose that not only isn’t good for us but could be a detriment to the people around us.  Without the wisdom and guidance of a true King, we evaluate and determine far more than we are made to.

We do our best. God is greater than our disobedience and by His grace there is mercy for our mistakes, but the fact remains that determining our own purpose and place for ourselves always leaves the door open for sin to spread and our distance from God to increase.  While we may feel like we’ve arrived, until the King declares us found, we are still lost.

Micah wanted righteousness.

Why do you go to church?  Why do you read your Bible?  Why are you reading this devotional?  Is it helping you to understand the greatness of the living God?  Is it helping you to understand our sin nature or our need for Christ?  I truly hope so.  Unfortunately, for many people, including myself for many years, the answer to the previous questions would most likely be, “It makes me feel good.”  It makes me feel good because it means that I’m doing what I’m supposed to.  It makes me feel good because it means that I’m doing extra.  It makes me feel good because it makes me feel superior to the people I know that don’t.  As much as we desire an object and a purpose or place to give us value, we also desire to “be good”.  But in the words of Jesus, “…what is good?”  The word “good” is relative. Without a King to define the word for us we are left to define “good” for ourselves.  For many people our goodness is goodness by way of osmosis or by association.  In other words, even though we know that we’re not always doing the right thing, as long as we surround ourselves with things or people that do more good than we do, in turn our goodness increases.  This spirit is rampant in religion.  This IS religion.  Religion is, “I do and therefore I am.”  The gospel and the central message of the Bible is, “God is and therefore I do.”  No matter how many things we do and where we position ourselves we will always fall short of pure goodness or righteousness.  Falling short either makes us feel useless or makes us feel self-righteous.  Neither of these outcomes is the desire of the true King.  God pleads with us to admit that we do not know what we need, where to go, who we are and how to be good.  His response to our helplessness is mercy and truth.  Jesus says, “Come and see.”  Jesus says, “Follow me.”  When we turn to the true King we find what we’ve been looking for. We discover what the living God is willing and able to do and what he deems possible.

Tuesday Devotional: Jude 3-16

bibleRead Jude 3-16

In the world today we are taught that there is no such thing as “evil.” The world claims that to erect walls separating “good” from “evil” is insensitive, counterproductive to the well-being of society.  It is now a flaw to see flaws.  It is a sin to identify sin.  In this cultural and social climate it is increasingly difficult for Christians to contend for the gospel; if, that is, the Christians are attempting to fend off this cultural attack without the aid of Jesus Christ.  A Christian’s attempt to stand up against the tidal wave of cultural and social sensitivity that allows no room for the gospel truths will result in failure.  This is not a fight that can be won by a single person or a group of people. It can only be fought by the Lord, and by realizing this gospel truth, we will discover that this fight has already been fought and won by Christ himself.

Along with Jesus Christ’s completed mission to redeem this world, a Christian must cling to another truth in order to stand in faith.  This truth is that, although increasingly unacceptable to the world, there is a very real and definable line between “good” and “evil”, and that sin exists in the world today.  Taking a passive or naïve position toward these issues does not spread the gospel and therefore will not result in the greater healing of the world.  By erasing the lines of “good” and “evil” we allow for no standards at all.  Without a standard of righteousness, man is left to his own devices. Human history proves that man alone, with the world at his mercy, is a destructive force more terrifying than any other being or species on the face of the earth.  We are dangerous.  We are destructive.  We have the potential for great beauty but alongside this exists a great evil that lurks and waits for an opportunity to be set free.  The Church and every Christian must acknowledge the standard of the gospel of Christ if there is any hope for the life, death and resurrection of Christ to heal the sick and free the captives of this world.  Dismissing the righteous standards of God dismisses his work, and dismisses him entirely.  Ignoring the standards of Christ removes any commonality between a Christian and Christ, and along with it, any meaning or power in bearing his name as a Christian.  Holding tightly to standards that acknowledge “good” and reject “evil” resists the current of the cultural and social flow of this world and follows the spirit of God from the beginning and through to the end.