Developing Righteousness (1)
develop righteousness through a single-minded devotion.
Jesus revealed that the greatest commandment is to love God and
our neighbor. Mark 12:28-34
states: “Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them
reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked
Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him,
‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our
God, the LORD is one. And
you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This
is the first commandment. And
the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as
is no other commandment greater than these.’
So the scribe said to Him, ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken
the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.
And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding,
with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s
neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and
sacrifices.’ Now when
Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far
from the kingdom of God.’” This
passage reveals that we must keep God supreme!
We must love Him with all of our being above anyone or anything
else. God does not want to
be our co-pilot! As the
scribe himself recognized, such a devotion to God and such a concern for
our neighbor goes far beyond coming to church!
Being single-mindedly devoted also means keeping heaven supreme.
Colossians 3:2-7 encourages us: “Set your mind on things
above, not on things on the earth. For
you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear
with Him in glory. Therefore
put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication,
uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons
of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in
uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and greed are no longer to drive our
Because we know there is more to reality than the passing
pleasures of this world! There
is another dimension to existence that Christ is preparing and will one
day reveal to us that will be so far beyond this life in its glory, joy,
and peace that we want to travel light while we sojourn on this planet
and we want to convince as many others as we can that the eternal home
where we’ll live forever with all the Godhead and the saints is really
where it’s at! As the old
hymn states it, “Heaven holds all to me!”
May the goal of keeping heaven as supreme help us to stay on that
straight and narrow path that leads to life everlasting (Matthew 7:14).
Keep heaven supreme! Lastly,
being single-mindedly devoted means to keep pressing on!
The apostle Paul wrote about himself in Philippians 3:12-14: “Not
that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on,
that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of
me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I
do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to
those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of
the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul
confesses that he was not perfect, but he kept pressing on so that he
could become all that Christ wanted him to be!
Just as Paul went from a ruthless murderer to a zealous
missionary, Christ wants to radically transform our lives as well!
Pressing on keeps us humble, pressing on keeps us growing,
pressing on keeps us looking to Jesus, pressing on keeps us
compassionate, pressing on keeps us learning, pressing on keeps us
forgiving. Keep pressing on
as supreme! Keep God
supreme, and heaven supreme, and pressing on supreme in order to develop
God’s righteousness through a single-minded devotion!
develop righteousness through a biblical conviction.
Conviction is being absolutely confident that something is true
or being strongly persuaded that something is right.
Conviction is the opposite of being doubtful or skeptical about
something. Conviction also
carries with it the idea that a Christian’s belief is so strong that
actions will be impacted. Biblical
conviction means that these beliefs are derived from Scripture, and they
greatly affect a Christian’s behavior.
Now here’s an example of conviction.
John Hus was a Bohemian reformer who was born in 1369.
His convictions were that the Bible should be translated into the
language of the common people and that the State Church should be
opposed for its promotion of using only the Latin Bible.
After a lifetime of preaching his convictions and translating the
New Testament into his people’s language, Hus submitted himself to a
rigged trial and said that he would not recant his convictions.
On 6 July 1415, he was carried to be burned at the stake.
Here is an account of the last few moments of his life: “The
executioners undressed Hus and tied his hands behind his back with
ropes, and his neck with a chain to a stake around which wood and straw
had been piled up so that it covered him to the neck. Still at the last
moment, the imperial marshal . . . asked him to save his life by a
recantation, but Hus declined with the words "God
is my witness that I have never taught that of which I have been accused
by false witnesses. In the truth of the Gospel which I have written,
taught, and preached, I will die today with gladness."
There upon the fire was kindled …. With uplifted voice Hus sang, "Jesus,
thou Son of the living God, have mercy on me, Jesus, thou Son of the
living God, have mercy on me.” (greatsite.com).
The apostle Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing, and
hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).
Three fundamental beliefs can strength our conviction.
First of all, we must firmly believe that the Bible is God’s
Word! It is not myths, not
legends, not the product of some kind of conspiracy plot among its
writers. The apostle Peter
explains in 2 Peter 1:20, “… no prophecy of Scripture is of any
private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but
holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”
The Bible is “God revealing Himself through the written
word,” and it is internally consistent, historically accurate,
archeologically sound, and textually supported by many ancient
manuscripts (more than any other document from the ancient past) (Knechtle).
The Bible’s ringing theme proclaimed hundreds of times by both
prophets and apostles was: “Thus says the Lord …”.
The Bible is God’s inspired message!
Secondly, we must strongly believe the Bible reveals the best
way! When you bought your
car, it came with an owner’s manual.
That little book was designed to tell you, from the maker of the
car itself, what you can do to make that machine perform in an optimum
way. Well, the Bible is like
that as well. It gives us
the best way to live our lives in an optimum fashion, from the Maker
Himself! One fellow
evangelist made this great observation: “Wherever the Bible has gone,
civilization has been lifted to a higher plane.
It has made better husbands and wives, better fathers and
mothers, better sons and daughters, better employers and employees.
It has been the strongest influence for good in the history of
the world…. Knowing what we know about cause and effect, we cannot but
conclude that the good influence of the Bible is another evidence that
it within itself is eminently good” (Baxter).
Some books can tell us a better way to live, but the Bible
reveals the best way! Thirdly,
we must ardently believe that the Bible has the final say!
A preacher from Missouri published a book of 20 of his best
sermons, and he concludes each one in this way: “God said it; I
believe it; that settles it. The
Bible is right” (Hancock)! Oh,
but many people say today, “Psychology teaches that …, Sociology
shows that …, and Science proposes that …”.
Now, those sciences can be beneficial, but in the final analysis,
all those sciences begin with men and focus only on this world.
The Bible, however, begins with God and focuses not only on this
world but also on a supernatural world.
God has had a much better track record for consistency than do
our modern sciences. New
theories replace old ones, but God’s truths abide forever.
Let’s allow the Bible have the final say! “In
the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, I
will die today with gladness (sing) Jesus, thou Son of the living God,
have mercy on me.” Let’s
develop righteousness through a biblical conviction!
develop righteousness through a sacrificial lifestyle.
Jesus serves as our primary example.
One writer puts it this way: “… several levels of sacrifice
are evident in the Savior’s surrender that set the perfect example for
us. His sacrifices actually began when He emptied himself of His
privileges and the prerogatives that were His as the second person of
the Trinity. In becoming man, He veiled and laid aside the voluntary use
and glory of His many attributes as God the Son. Then, in this life on
earth, He did without wealth, position, status, and even acceptance
[since] He was rejected by His own [race].… Ultimately, of course, He
made the greatest sacrifice of all in that He who knew no sin became sin
for us by dying the ugly and horrible death of the cross—a sentence
reserved for the worst of criminals.
The bottom line is this: Christ voluntarily emptied Himself of
anything and everything that stood in the way of the glory and gain of
His Father [through Him]. What
about us? Although rights,
privileges, pleasures, possessions, expectations, and well-formed plans
may not be wrong in and of themselves, are we willing to hold them
loosely and even let them go—to sacrifice them—if emptying ourselves
of them will enable us to fulfill God’s agenda for our lives?” (Keathley
III) How can we learn to
sacrifice? Jesus helps us.
First of all, to live sacrificially, we must take up our cross.
Jesus teaches us in Luke 9:23: “If anyone desires to come
after Me, let Him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow
Me.” After the sermon
during a gospel meeting in Italy, it is customary for there to be period
of time for questions from the audience.
One young man asked the speaker, “If persecution was to come
and you were arrested, would you be willing to die for Christ?”
Without hesitation, the evangelist responded, “Yes, I would,
because Jesus has already shown me how.
You see, my good friend, I die to myself each day, so persecution
would just be a climax to that which I have been doing all along.”
Let’s take up our crosses daily and die to ourselves.
Secondly, to live sacrificially, we must become a seed.
Jesus explained it this way in John 12:24-25: “Most
assuredly, I say to you [that means “really tune in to what I’m
about to say”], unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and
dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in
this world will keep it for eternal life.”
To be a fruitful church, we must be a dying church.
For the kingdom’s advantages, we may have to give up our
advantages. To produce much
grain, we must disdain the constant calls to worldliness that Satan will
keep sounding before us, especially through all our electronic media?
Only by becoming a dying seed will we ever become an abundant
harvest. Thirdly, to live
sacrificially, we must give a gift!
Jesus again sets the pace by telling us: “It is more blessed to
give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
And He not only taught it but lived it; He gave healing, and
food, and battle with evil spirits, and teachings, and tax money, and
patience, and prayers, and compassion, and money for the poor, and His
own flesh and blood, and forgiveness, and grace upon grace.
What we give as Christians is not only a glaring barometer of our
love and gratitude for God but also a fiery shield against the besetting
sins of greed and materialism. Let’s
learn to sacrifice by taking a cross, becoming a seed, and giving a
gift. Such a sacrificial
lifestyle will then help us to develop God’s righteousness!
develop righteousness through a fearless courage.
“One Christian writer has correctly observed: 'Courage is not
simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing
point of highest reality.' Without
courage, we will fail to be loving, to sacrifice, to count the cost, to
tackle the challenges, or take on the responsibilities to which God
calls us” (Keathley III). To
enhance our courage, let's remember three truths.
First of all, the source of courage is God's will.
Perhaps the apostles best expressed this truth when they told
those rulers on the Jewish Supreme Court of their day: “We ought to
obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Since the apostles knew that preaching Christ was God's will,
they fearlessly continued to preach about Him all over Jerusalem
regardless of what would happen to them!
Like the old hymn states, “While we do His good will, He abides
with us still. Never fear;
only trust and obey!” The
source of our courage is God's will.
Secondly, the support of our courage is Christ's victory.
Jesus' resurrection is our guarantee that we can be victorious as
well; even we must face death for our faith.
The passage we read this morning states it so well, “For He
Himself has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'
So we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 3:5-6).
God's exaltation of Jesus is the assurance that He can do the
same for us as well! Thirdly,
the strength of our courage is the Holy Spirit's help. Look at Hebrews
9:14: “... how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the
eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your
conscience from dead works to serve a living God?”
A commentator observed: “If there ever was an occasion on which
we may suppose Jesus was influenced by the Holy Spirit, that of His
sufferings and death referred to here [would be it].
... it was the most trying time of His own life; it was the
period when there would be the most strong temptation to abandon His
work, and, as the redemption of the whole world was dependent on that
act, it is reasonable to suppose that the richest heavenly grace would
be imparted to Him, and that He would then be eminently under the
influence of that Spirit...” (Barnes).
The same Spirit that helped Jesus is the same Spirit that Paul
prayed would help the believers in Ephesus: “... that God would
grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with
might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
The Holy Spirit can help us to “courageously face the hurdles
and continue to run the race God has laid out before us” (Keathley
III). May these three truths
fortify our courage: its source is God's will, its support is Christ's
victory, and its strength is the Spirit's help.
“While we do His good will, He abides with us still.
Never fear; only trust and obey!” Let's develop righteousness
through fearless courage!
What sweeter words can there be than to hear Jesus say one day: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We all long to hear those words in that Great Day. If we are to hear that blessing from Christ, then we must be diligent now, faithful to doing the work that He has called us to perform. We must seek first (above all else) God's kingdom and His righteousness. May we develop God's righteousness through a single-minded devotion, a biblical conviction, a sacrificial lifestyle, and a fearless courage. In doing such, we will ever continue in our spiritual growth!