Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Integrity in the Faith

March 21st, 2018

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house… (Psalm 101:1-2 ESV)

David’s psalm describes the source of his integrity and the manner in which it impacted his personal life and his relationships with others.

  • The source of his standard was God’s steadfast love and justice
  • God’s character impacted his personal life in his thoughts and private life
  • He then, as king, acted justly in dealing with others

These three are the basic steps we all need to take if we will be people of integrity.

God’s standard

First, the standard we use must not be our own capricious, flawed thoughts. It should be God’s standard, not our own personal preferences, or what others have told us, or what we may “feel” is the right thing to do at the moment. Some people’s thoughts of what is the right thing to do come from very shallow sources – their own anger and desire for revenge, the impure thoughts of our friends who are influenced by their own hurts and wounds, or the latest movie we might have seen or romance novel we might have read.

God’s standard is pure and holy. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19) “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Psalm 145:17). David longed not only for the knowledge of the Word of God, but also the presence of God’s Spirit to guide him to understand it.

David’s private thoughts

The second essential element of living in integrity is to honor God’s standard, once we know it, in our own private life. He “pondered” on the truth of God, which meant his basic approach was positive – not merely to avoid the impure but to take into his heart and his mind the pure truth and pure ways of God. Within his own house he would walk with integrity before the Lord. The original Hebrew word was tome and it meant wholeness or integrity. When a ship does not leak or a building is solid and securely built we say they have integrity. To lose their integrity means that the ship leaks and will sink, and that the building is structurally unsound and might fall. Integrity is that quality in our life that keeps us solid, sound, and secure.

David went on to say in his psalm: “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (101:3). He protected his own thoughts. This seems like a description of a life that was free from enslavement to pornography, and it certainly included such a thought – that David did not have a wandering eye that lusted after women. (We remember the time that lust did enter his heart with Bathsheba and the tragedy that followed – 2 Samuel 12.)

But from the context we see that his protection of his heart did not end there. He also avoided gossipers, proud and arrogant men, liars and evildoers. Pornography is an evil addition of many people – one that God can cure us of if we will let Him – but it is not the only evil in the world. David realized he was subject to temptation, to be drawn away from God’s will, so he kept his heart with all diligence.

David’s dealing with others

As king he held a judicial role, a divinely given obligation to winnow out evil from his presence. From Moses onward, the leaders of Israel had an obligation to bring justice to the people (Exodus 18:13). Though this psalm focused on removing from his presence and even destroying evil men, this was merely a prelude to the greater goal, and that is to establish justice in the land.

Jesus summed this matter up by saying:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5 ESV)

If we want to help others we must (1) know what God’s standard of right and wrong is, (2) we must adopt this in our own lives, confessing our faults, surrendering to God our ways, blocking from our lives all evil and impure influences, and (3) do and help others to do the right thing.

The biggest error we usually make in this process is to ignore the second step of personally adopting the principles and righteousness of God. We falsely think that all that matter is that we know what is right and tell others to do it. But unless we also embrace it personally, we are mere puppets and not true disciples or true followers of Christ.

 

 

Evening Devotionals, Uncategorized

Good for Evil

October 18th, 2016

See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. (1 Thes. 5:15 NET)

The world’s way, and the way of our fallen nature, is not merely to return wound for wound – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – but to always injure the person more than they injured us. The truth is if you hurt someone the sinful nature in them wishes to hurt you more. Violence, left unchecked by God’s Spirit or by legal powers or social constraints, always escalates among people.

Th Christian community is to be marked by gracious responses to people who treat us ungraciously. The desire for revenge or even vindication is an ungodly desire that comes from our fallen natures. Whenever we find ourselves getting angry toward another person, wishing to hurt them the way they hurt us (or more than they hurt us), we are not listening to the Spirit’s voice, but to the old sinful nature. It is godly to forgive others from our hearts and to live a life of grace and kind consideration of those around us.

Forgiving others is good for us, good for our souls, and good for those around us – family, friends, church members, colleagues. The desire for revenge colors our world dark and foreboding. We will rob ourselves of joy each day we wish to hurt another person. Forgiveness liberates us from this darkness.

To the Israelites who were taken in captivity to Babylon, God said, through the prophet Jeremiah, that they were to bless their captors and not curse them:

Work to see that the city where I sent you as exiles enjoys peace and prosperity. Pray to the Lord for it. For as it prospers you will prosper. (Jer. 29:7 NET)

This is the idea that Paul is teaching the Thessalonians. Forgiveness liberates all and blesses all. Unforgiveness curses the one who possesses, and his loved ones, more than those it is directed toward.

Christ, in fact, told us to not only not to hate our enemies, but to love them and to pray for them. If you want to be liberated from hate, pray for God to abundantly bless the person who has hurt you. Christ said:

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mathew 5:44-45, NET)

Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, is a classic tale of revenge. It is the story of Edmond Dantes, who as a young man is betrayed by three men who were jealous of his success and handsomeness. Falsely accused of treason, Dantes was arrested on his wedding day, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned. In the depths of despair he meets Faria, an Italian priest and intellectual, a fellow prisoner, who over the years educates Dantes and also bequeaths to him a great treasure if he ever escapes.

When Faria dies Dantes hides himself in the shroud and is thrown out to sea with the corpse. He escapes, finds the great treasure and learns that his father died in grief and his bride-to-be had married one of his enemies. He creates a new identity for himself and emerges years later as the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. Unrecognized by those who had betrayed him, he sets about the business of punishing the three men who had falsely accused him and put him in prison. He destroys all three of their lives, yet he finds that revenge-taking is a hollow and tragic experience, and often the innocent suffer at Dantes’ hand.

In the end of the tale, Dantes realizes that human revenge is always flawed, that we lack the omniscience of God and can never understand how or who to punish. Dantes writes to a friend at the end of the story: “Until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words,—‘Wait and hope.’”

Dumas’ message is that we must leave these matters ultimately to the hand of God, that God providentially will punish the guilty and reward the righteous, and if not in this life then in eternity we will all stand before God.

There is a lesson here for us, that unforgiveness does great harm to the one who harbors it, and, if vengeance is ever attempted, it will cause innocent lives to suffer. It is better to forgive and move on with hope for a better tomorrow, in God’s care.

1 Thessalonians, Uncategorized , ,