In a previous lesson, we saw that “for [Christians] to make
progress in sanctification, [or] in learning to please God, [we] must
have a clear idea of what [our] goal is….Jesus stated it this way in
Matthew 6:33: ‘Seek first [above all else] the kingdom of God and
His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’
The seeking of God begins at conversion, [but it continues
as] a lifelong pursuit” (Sproul).
We are to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
But what exactly does such righteousness look like?
Someone has written: “Righteousness has rules, but it is more
than rules. If we care for
rules without caring for people, we have missed the goal of
scriptural rules come from God precisely because He cares about people.
We need rules to be righteous, but they must be the right rules.
They must be God’s rules. We
may accept no substitutes. … If we abide by those rules, we are not
goal-less fanatics but true children of the King.” (Ibid).
How do we develop such righteousness?
What does it take to make progress in sanctification?
What aspects should we focus on?
We have no single book in the New Testament that was written
specifically to address these questions.
So, we must examine a wide range of aspects.
As we’ve examined them in several sermons, there is no pretense
here that those offered should be seen as a final, authoritative, and
exhaustive listing. They are
presented as aspects that we all as Christians need to be developing
continually with the understanding that we’ll probably never master
them completely. In one
sermon, it was suggested that we develop God’s righteousness through a
single-minded devotion, a biblical conviction, a sacrificial lifestyle,
and a fearless courage. In
another lesson, a virtuous perspective, a servant attitude, a holy
self-control, and a devoted faithfulness were emphasized.
Today, we’ll examine four more areas: a godly example, a group
orientation, an enduring perseverance, and a warfare mentality.
To develop God’s righteousness, we must display a godly example.
It is natural for children to imitate their parents, for students
to become like their teachers, and for people to follow their leaders
and heroes. The same is true
in the spiritual realm. Paul
told Timothy to be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in
love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
To become a godly example, we also must be careful about what we
imitate. Here are four
things the scriptures say that we should NOT imitate.
Deuteronomy 18:9 states that the Jews were not to imitate the
abominable practices of the nations around them—burning children as
sacrifices, practicing witchcraft or sorcery, conjuring spells, and
calling on the dead. We
might ask ourselves, “How in the world could the Israelites get caught
up in such horrible practices?” But
before we are too critical of them, maybe we should reflect on the
horrible practices in our own nation—gay marriages, student killings,
drug trafficking, rampant gambling, and child abuse.
Let’s take heed that we do not imitate our culture’s
abominable practices. According
to 2 Kings 17:15, the Jews were not to imitate the pagans in their
idolatry (and they often did so when they abandoned God’s law).
Someone has calculated that 58% of U.S. adults never read another
book after they graduate from High School, and 65% of those who go to
church have never read the entire New Testament.
What are our modern day idols—glitzy films, heavy metal, mean
wheels, sports dynasties? Let’s
resist the idolatry around us by keeping God’s Word in our hearts!
Ezekiel 23:48 says that the Jews were imitating the lewdness of
those about them, their carnal and impure sexual practices.
Again, before we criticize the Jews, let’s take stock of our
own culture—child molestation, immoral affairs, internet pornography,
binge drinking. Let’s not
imitate our culture’s lewdness! Hebrews
4:11 warns us not to imitate the Jews in their disobedience.
Through their disobedience the Jews lost their chance to enter
into the Promised Land, and had to wander for 40 long years in the
wilderness until a new generation arose.
Disobedience can bring severe consequences.
Let’s not disobey God’s directives for the benefit of our
lives. Now there are four
things that the scriptures say we CAN imitate.
Paul told the Corinthians in 11:1 to imitate him as he imitated
Christ. The context above
this verse discusses being sensitive to another member’s religious
outlook on certain practices. So
Paul is telling us to imitate his sensitivity towards other members.
Hebrews 13:7 admonishes: “Remember those who rule over you, who
have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow (or imitate),
considering the outcome of their conduct.”
Imitate the faith of those good church leaders who rule over you.
We see how God’s Word has influenced their lives, so we strive
to be obedient like them. 1
Peter 2:21 tells us that we should follow or imitate the good example of
Jesus who did not retaliate or seek revenge when He was mistreated, but
He committed Himself to the Righteous Judge or God.
Likewise, let us trust God to be the judge and not take matters
of vengeance into our own hands! 3
John 11 tells us to imitate good, and not what is evil.
In this context, imitating good was showing hospitality to other
members. Let’s grow in
opening up our homes to other members.
Now if we don’t imitate abominable practices, modern idolatry,
current lewdness, and disobedient behaviors, but do imitate being
sensitive to members, letting faith control our lives, trusting in God
to be the judge, and offering hospitality to others, then we also will
be godly examples like Timothy which others can imitate!
You can then say like the apostle Paul, “Brethren, join in
following my example” (Philippians 3:17). To
develop God’s righteousness, let’s set a godly example.
To develop God’s righteousness, we must have a group orientation.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 teaches us that a three-fold cord is not easily
broken, or we might say that there is strength in numbers.
Romans 15:1-2 tells us that strong members should bear with the
mannerisms of weaker members so that all may benefit from edification.
Galatians 6:1-2 tells that spiritual members should help fallen
members with the proper spirit. Ephesians
6:10-17 encourages all to put on the whole armor of God to oppose
Satan's attacks as we stand together.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 shows the great concern we should have
for one another as we warn those who are unruly, comfort the
fainthearted, uphold the weak, show patience towards all, and do good to
everybody. Let's quickly
examine the importance of a group orientation and some implications
involved with this concept. First
of all, with all the power that Jesus possessed, it is very interesting
that He also manifested a group orientation with the training of His
disciples. He enlisted
common men who had their weaknesses—they were impulsive,
temperamental, easily offended, short-fused, and had the prejudices of
their environment. Now if
that all sounds sort of like some church members that we know, then love
them, work with them, and serve them, just as our Lord worked with His
group! Secondly, the New
Testament definitely emphasizes unity rather than distinctions based on
education, cultural habits, prejudices, and opinions.
Thirdly, group orientation enables common members to do uncommon
things! Fourthly, for the
church to function effectively in the world, there must be group
orientation where all members share a common goal which takes a
cooperative effort, and each member does his or her part to work
together with others. Now
let's look at a few implications. First
of all, we not only share a common salvation, but also we share a common
ministry of outreach, comfort, support, and service.
Secondly, one with a group orientation does not work as a one man
band. Thirdly, with group
orientation, there is a certain trust and reliance on the skills and
abilities of other members to do their part.
Fourthly, group orientation abhors the “spiritual king of the
mountain game”. Fifthly,
when there is disunity and failure to function as a group, the church
limps along as an uncoordinated body with only a few members doing most
of the work. Someone has
rightly observed: “Having a group orientation is another one of the
litmus test qualities of [Christian] maturity” (Hampton III).
The early Christians saw themselves as fellow citizens of God's
kingdom, fellow heirs of heaven, and fellow workers in the church
laboring and serving together in unity to show Christ's sincere and pure
love to the world (Ephesians 2:19 and 3:6; Philippians 4:3).
To develop God's righteousness, let's have a group orientation!
To develop God's righteousness, we must display an enduring
perseverance. In the opening
ceremonies of the 1964 Olympic Games, this message was spelled out with
lights: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win
but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not
triumph but the struggle. The
essential thing is ... to have fought well” (quoted by Hampton III).
The Christian race is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash.
Jesus told a parable about those who began well, but they had no
root and soon fell away. Others
fell out of the race by leaving the arena to pursue riches, pleasures,
and affairs of the world. But
then, there were those “who heard the word with a noble and good
heart, keep it, and bear fruit with patience (this last word could be
translated perseverance)” (Luke 8:11-15).
Endurance is continuing on despite adversities, hardships, and
temptations. Perseverance is
steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a
purpose. So how can we have
such an enduring perseverance? Let's
look at five passages very quickly.
The first is 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5: “So that we ourselves
boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in
all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is
manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be
counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.” Paul
says that when we endure persecutions and tribulations for Christ's
sake, we can know with great assurance that we are undoubtedly IN God's
kingdom; we are ON the winning team!
Knowing that we are in the right can help us to endure!
Now look please at 2 Timothy 2:10-11: “Therefore I endure
all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the
salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
This is a faithful saying: 'For if we die with Him, we shall live
with Him!'” Paul says
that he endures all things because such perseverance is leading to
others' salvation. Then
notice how Paul drives down a stake with a saying that you can depend
on: “If WE (that is you and your fellow members) die with Christ as
our Lord, then WE (all of us) will get to live eternally with Him!”
Knowing that others are being saved can help us to endure!
The next verse is Hebrews 6:15: “And so, after Abraham had
patiently endured, he obtained the promise [of having a son].” Now
how did Abraham endure? Verse
17 then gives us two ways—He trusted in the unchangeable nature of
God's truthfulness. When God
promises it, it is filled with truth, and we can count on it because it
will not change! God will
keep and follow through on His word; in fact, when God promises it, it's
really “a done deal”! Knowing
that God's promises are truthful and unchangeable can help us to endure!
Now look at Hebrews 11:27: “By faith, Moses forsook Egypt,
not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him [i.e.
God] Him who is invisible.” How
did Moses endure? He kept
living by faith in God; he lived as though the Invisible One was always
present and close to Him. God
was real, God was alive, God was up close and personal to Moses.
Knowing God is so concerned with our lives can help us to endure!
Now look at Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus, the author
and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right
hand of the throne of God.” How
was Jesus able to persevere under the weight and torture of the cross?
He did it because He knew the pain would be worth the gain—joy,
triumph, and victory would be the ultimate outcome of His ordeal!
This earth's trials are so brief in light of eternity's joys.
Knowing the joy of heaven with which God is waiting to bless and
crown us can help us to endure! One
writer puts it this way: “Endurance and [perseverance] give us the
capacity to plod on with joyous, hopeful, and loving determination in
spite of disappointments, rejection, persecution, and other pressures
that might otherwise cause us to throw in the towel.
Endurance and perseverance give us the willingness and capacity
to continue on because our hope is fixed on God's ... purposes [as sure
as God's] eternal rewards [as future realities]” (Hampton III).
It's a marathon! Bear
fruit with perseverance! To
develop God's righteousness, let's have an enduring perseverance!
To develop God's righteousness, let us keep a warfare mentality.
One good brother has observed: “In the New Testament, words
such as warfare, soldiers, weapons, armor, conquer, and other
military figures march across the pages. ... Our perceptions of war and
actual vile, muddy, exhausting, terrifying reality are poles apart. ...
True soldiers don't have the luxury of deciding where and when they will
go into battle. ... You know I can't recall hearing anyone referred to
as 'fellow soldiers' these days. ... Soldiers fight in armies.
Armies fight in wars. If
we are soldiers in an army, then we must be at war” (Whitsett).
Here are five concepts to keep in mind concerning our warfare.
First of all, we are to be on the offensive in exposing sin.
Ephesians 5:11-13 affirms: “And have no fellowship with the
unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done
by them in secret. But all
things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever
makes manifest is light.” The
deeds of the flesh and darkness wage war against people's souls.
It is time for us to take a stand, expose the evil, and make a
difference! We don't do that
by sitting in here; we do that by taking the light into the
darkness—attending public meetings, writing letters and articles,
speaking out, running for office, becoming active in whatever that we
can. Evil will not go away
by our ignoring it; we must turn on the floodlights of truth and expose
sin for what it is, however unpopular that may be.
Secondly, we must never underestimate the enemy.
1 Peter 4:8-9 warns us: “Be sober, be vigilant, because your
adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may
devour. Resist him,
steadfast in faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by
our brotherhood in the world.”
Satan is the enemy, and he is no pushover.
Who caused the destruction of Job's family and livestock?
Who caused the death of 70,000 Jews?
Who caused Judas to betray Jesus?
Who caused Peter to deny Jesus?
Who caused battles and hardships in the book Revelation?
Satan is powerful, shrewd, and deceptive.
His mission is to turn us away from God and to turn us against
each other. Will we allow
him to seduce our congregation into worldliness in order to make it
become ineffective in our community?
We must never underestimate our enemy.
Thirdly, we must become fighters on the battlefield.
In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, the apostle Paul declares: “For the
weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down
strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts
itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into
captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
One brother puts it this way: “A revolution will occur when the
army of light becomes eager for the fight!
When we actually seek positions to struggle against the
dominion of darkness, we'll see some action!
[Christians] will endeavor to become teachers, reporters,
publishers, makers of motion pictures, writers, preachers, shapers of
public opinion. They will
engage in furious combat [in whatever circumstance] for the hearts and
minds of men, women, and children. ... Can you hear the trumpet [call]?
Let the soldiers of Christ counter-attack the dark army in the
mountain passes of the media, on the plains of our educational systems,
on the beaches of our social services, in the streets of our
law-enforcement agencies, and in the jungles of our judicial systems”
(Whitsell)! My beloved
brethren, we are not called to be wimps on a playground, but fighters on
a battleground! Fourthly, we
must be watchful at the fort. Paul
once wrote to the Corinthian brethren in 2 Corinthians 12:20: “For
I fear lest, when I come, I will not find you such as I wish; lest there
be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions,
backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults.” Ignorance
of God's word, complacency in our ranks, laziness with regards to sin,
quarreling and bickering among ourselves, and those who seek to run the
church on their own because they love the preeminence—these are some
of Satan's strategies for capturing the fort and rendering it useless.
The army of God cannot afford any “friendly fire” and any
infighting because such armies that turn upon themselves will
self-destruct (Whitsell)! Fifthly,
we must ever follow the orders of our Commander.
Hebrews 10:35-36 exhorts us: “Therefore do not cast away
your confidence, which has great reward.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the
will of God, you may receive the promise.”
Doing God's will is our sword of the Spirit.
Jesus foiled Satan's attacks each time by saying, “Thus it is
written, ...” That's the
same as saying, “God's will on this matter is ...”
The devil will flee from us if we resist him (James 4:7).
But we must put our wills under the control of God's will.
“What is God's will in this situation?” is always a good
question for us to continually ask ourselves.
And if we can't answer that, maybe it’s time to consult other
fellow soldiers who might be able to help us figure it out.
We must ever follow the orders of our Commander.
To develop God's righteousness, let's keep a warfare mentality!
The great British leader Winston Churchill was once asked to give a speech at his old alma mater. He had a wonderful command of the English language, he had made many speeches, and he knew how to inspire. The crowd was excited, and there were many reporters. On this occasion, he went to the podium, placed his hands squarely on the podium, looked everyone in the eye with a bulldog ferocity, and said, “Never, never, never, never, never give up!” Then he sat down. How many times was that short speech repeated time and time again by many a British soldier out on the battlefield when it came time for flight or fight? Set a godly example, have a group orientation, display an enduring perseverance, and keep a warfare mentality. Dear fellow Christian, in your walk with our Lord, never, never, never, never, never give up! Are you setting a godly example for others to follow? Are you thinking congregationally or selfishly? Are you persevering or have you grown weary and quit? Are you fighting the good fight?