Monday, July 20, 2015

Followers of the Way

In my recent article, The Ways of Life, I said that Jesus Christ called Himself the Way, and that we must walk in His ways.  In fact, the early Christians were more widely known as followers of The Way, as seen throughout the book of Acts. It is believed that this name used for the followers of Christ may have originated with the Lord, who is the Way. In fact, even after his disciples initially began to be known as Christians (Ac 11:26), they continued to be known as the Way long afterward.  So both before and after the term "Christian" came into use, they were still known as followers of the Way.

"Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." (Act 9:1-2)

"But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus." (Act 19:9)

"About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way." (Act 19:23)

Paul said, "I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison..." (Ac 22:4, NIV).

"However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets;"  (Act 24:14, NIV)

"But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, 'When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.'" (Act 24:22)

Brethren, it's time we once again become followers of the Way, not just in name, but to be so in all our ways.  Then we'll truly be working God's way.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend
The Ways of Life, The Straight and Narrow PathAsk for the Ancient Paths, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Michael Shigaba's Encounter with Jesus, Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Practicing Your Righteousness, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Doing What is Right, Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?, Faith Works!, The Judgment Seat of Christ, The Obedience of Faith, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Remember the Eternal Law of God, Purge the Evil from Among You, and The Righteous Will Shine Forth as the Sun. Other related articles are available on the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Ways of Life

"Walking on the Narrow Way" by C.V. Lacroix
In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter quoted Ps 16, in which David said, “You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with Your presence.” (Act 2:28)

Peter attributed David's words to Christ. For the Lord’s ways are the ways of life! So today I would like to talk about what it means to walk in the ways of life, and what that means for us as disciples of Christ.

Walk in His Ways
All throughout Scripture we are commanded to walk in His ways. Let’s look at those passages:

"Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. (Deu 8:6)

"Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, (Deu 10:12)

It's important to understand that God made His ways known to Moses.  The psalmist said, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.” (Psa 103:7). That means that the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) teaches us the ways of God that He revealed to Moses.  

"For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, (Deu 11:22)

“If you carefully observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in His ways always--then you shall add three more cities for yourself, besides these three.” (Deu 19:9)

"You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice.” (Deu 26:17)

Walking in His ways is a key to being established as a holy people to the Lord.

"The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.” (Deu 28:9)

“In that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. (Deu 30:16)

"Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,” (1Ki 2:3)

“That He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers.” (1Ki 8:58)

“That they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You have given to our fathers.” (2Ch 6:31)

"My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped." (Psa 17:5)

“How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart. They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.”  (Psa 119:2-3)

“How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.” (Psa 128:1)

That's working God's way!

His Ways Are Higher Than Our Ways
"’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isa 55:8-9)

Knowing His Ways
Therefore, since His ways are higher than our ways, we must seek the Lord and ask Him to make us know His ways. 

Moses prayed, "Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people." (Exo 33:13). If you want to know the Lord and find favor in His sight, you need to know His ways.

David prayed, “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.” (Psa 25:4). He will teach us His paths, so that we might walk in them.

The psalmist prayed, "Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Your ways." (Psa 119:37)

Considering His Ways
We must remember His ways and regard them. The psalmist said, “I will meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways.” (Psa 119:15, NIV)

"You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved?"  (Isa 64:5, NIV).

This applies to New Testament living. If a person does not walk in His ways, but continues to sin against them, God is not going to save them (1 Jn 1:6; 2:4; 2:11; 3:6-10). It's important to walk in His ways, and when your life comes to an end, He will deliver you from hell.

Teaching His Ways
David prayed, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.” (Psa 51:13)

Although Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord, Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God to him more accurately. "Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." (Act 18:24-26)

Paul instructed the Thessalonians how to walk. He wrote: "Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more." (1Th 4:1)

The Narrow Path of Life Leads Upward
The Scripture teaches us that God's ways are the paths of life.  This is the way that leads to eternal life. As David said, which Peter quoted in our opening verse, “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psa 16:11). 

He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray.” (Pro 10:17). You have to heed instruction of you want to remain on the path of life.

The path of life leads upward for the wise That he may keep away from Sheol [Hell] below.” (Pro 15:24)

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; And reproofs for discipline are the way of life.” (Pro 6:23)

"You shall also say to this people, 'Thus says the LORD, "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” (Jer 21:8)

The Lord Jesus also spoke about the way of life when He said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mt 7:13-14)

You must strive to enter this way, because many have tried to do so and failed. The Lord said, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luk 13:24). Therefore, you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Jesus.

When He said He is THE Way, it carried with it the connotations of all the passages I have just cited, as well as all the ones I am about to cite. Jesus said to him, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (Joh 14:6).  There is no other way to the Father, except through Jesus, Who is the Way. That does not negate the fact that it is a narrow way!

Walking as Jesus Did
We must walk in the same way in which Jesus walked. John wrote: "The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." (1Jn 2:6). The NIV says "walk as Jesus did."

Peter taught that Jesus, who committed no sin, left us an example to follow in His steps and do what is right: "But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;" (1Pe 2:20b-23)

Walking in Him in the Light
Paul taught that we must walk in Him. "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." (Col 2:6)

John taught us to walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light. "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." (1Jn 1:7). 

The Way of Holiness
His way is the way of holiness for those who follow Him and walk on it.

“And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.” (Is 35:8, NIV)

"Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Jos 22:5)

The Way of Righteousness
The Scripture says that all His ways are just and true. "And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,  'Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!'" (Rev 15:3; cf. Deu 32:4)

Zacharias the priest prophesied over his son, John the Baptist, "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;" (Luk 1:76).  Now think about the ministry of John the Baptist, and how he preached against sin and called people to repent.   He proclaimed God's righteous ways.

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders regarding John the Baptist, "For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him." (Mat 21:32)

The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.” (Psa 145:17)

Wisdom says, "I walk in the way of righteousness, In the midst of the paths of justice." (Pro 8:20)

"He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake." (Psa 23:3) 

In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” (Pr 28:10)  

In spite of all this, many people who start out on this path have turned aside from it by turning away from the holy commandment handed on to them. The apostle Peter said, "For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them." (2Pe 2:21)

The Way of Understanding
"Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding." (Pro 9:6)

"A man who wanders from the way of understanding Will rest in the assembly of the dead." (Pro 21:16)

"Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?" (Isa 40:13-14)

Paths of Justice
The Lord guards the paths of justice and preserves the way of His godly ones. "For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones." (Pro 2:6-8)

Paths of Lovingkindness and Truth
"All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies." (Psa 25:10)

The Path of Peace
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied about Christ saying, "...the Rising Sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luk 1:78b-79, NIV). The Lord's way is one of peace. He gives peace to those on whom His favor rests (Luk 2:14).

The Wicked Have No Regard for His Ways
The Scripture tells us that the wicked have no regard for the ways of the Lord. They do not care about righteousness, holiness, and truth. They don't care about the commandments of God. Job, who lived before Moses and before the Law was given said, “Because they turned aside from following Him, And had no regard for any of His ways;” (Job 34:27).

"They say to God, 'Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways.'” (Job 21:14)

"Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not right.' Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?” (Eze 18:25)

“Now the end is upon you, and I will send My anger against you; I will judge you according to your ways and bring all your abominations upon you. For My eye will have no pity on you, nor will I spare you, but I will bring your ways upon you, and your abominations will be among you; then you will know that I am the LORD!” (Eze 7:3-4) 

Jeremiah prophesied, "Thus says the LORD, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.' But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'” (Jer 6:16). It's time once again, Church, that we Ask for the Ancient Paths.

For the way of life we inherited from our forefathers was futile. “Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” (1Pe 1:18).  The ways of the wicked are crooked. They leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Consider your ways!'" (Hag 1:7)
 

"Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you.” (Jer 26:13)

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" (Psa 1:1)

"For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish." (Psa 1:6) 

Also see Psa. 146:9; Pro. 4:4,19; 12:26; 15:9. 

Millennial Prophecies
"Prepare the Way" by C.V. Lacroix
Isaiah prophesied of a bright future day, saying, "And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.' For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." (Isa 2:3)

Micah prophesied, "Many nations will come and say, 'Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD And to the house of the God of Jacob, That He may teach us about His ways And that we may walk in His paths.' For from Zion will go forth the law, Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." (Mic 4:2).

These twin prophecies of Micah and Isaiah were speaking about the thousand year reign of Christ on earth, or Millennium, which is still future!!  It says that during that time He will teach us His way, so that we may walk in His paths, and the Law will go forth from Zion, even the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  Maybe that has you scratching your head and wondering how it could be yet future, but it's true! "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Rom 11:33)

His Word, His Will, and His Ways
In order to help you understand how this could be possible, please allow me to explain to you what I call "the www of God's kingdom". We all know that here on earth in the kingdom of this world, the "www" is short for the "World Wide Web". But the "www" in the kingdom of God is His "Word, Will, and Ways." These three things are inextricably connected to each other, and they connect everything else in His kingdom.

There are both similarities and differences between the World Wide Web and the www of God's kingdom. The World Wide Web is called an information superhighway, and it contains both a mixture of holy things and profane things, good things and evil. But "the www of God's kingdom" is the "highway of holiness" and wicked fools will not go about on it! There is no mixture on His www, nor is there any profanity or impurity of any kind.

His Word
First of all, His Word was in the beginning, and it endures forever. The Word was with God in the beginning and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. His Word is eternal.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God...And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (Joh 1:1-2,14; cf. 1Jn 1:1-2)

"Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." (Ps 119:89, NIV)

"The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." (Isa 40:8)

“For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the Word which was preached to you.” (1Pe 1:23-25)

His Will
The Lord made a direct connection between His Word and His will. His will is found in His Word. He said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." (Mat 7:21).  And He also said in that same context, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock." (Mat 7:24-25).  So the Lord tied together His Will with His Word, and since they are one and the same, the man who does His will by acting on His Word will inherit eternal life.

Likewise, the apostle John, who said we must keep His Word (1 Jn 2:5), makes a connection between His Word and His Will. He wrote, "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1Jn 2:17).  John seemed to be alluding to the passage in Isaiah 40 where it says the Word of God endures forever. Where Isaiah said the grass withers and the flower fades, John said this world and its lusts are passing away. And where Isaiah said the Word of God endures forever, John said that the one who does the will of God lives forever.

His Ways
In the same way, the ways of God are also eternal. Habakkuk said, "His ways are everlasting." (Hab 3:6b). David prayed, "Lead me in the everlasting way." (Psa 139:24b). The Lord is eternal and does not change (Heb 13:8). His ways are still the same today as they were in the past; they are still holy, righteous, and good. What was morally evil in His sight thousands of years ago is still evil today. It did not become good or right in His sight just because of the New Covenant.  Likewise, what was morally right then is still right today. His ways never change.

Just as the will of God is found in the Word of God, so are the ways of God. And as I have shown you from the Scriptures throughout this article, the ways of God are the ways of life, which lead to immortality. We are commanded to walk in them, regardless of what part of God's Word they are found in. Since God made His ways known to Moses, you will find the ways of God in the books Moses wrote, as well as the rest of the Bible. Those who walk in the ways of God ascend upward, away from hell, until they reach the Father's throne in heaven, where they enjoy eternal pleasures in His presence forever.

The www of God's kingdom
As I have already said, the Word of God, the will of God, and the ways of God are completely harmonious and connected together as one, in a similar way that the worldwide web is one vast network made up of many parts.  This is why I use the expression "the www of God's kingdom".

In this world we have various domains like ".com" for commercial content, ".edu" for educational, ".org" for organization, etc.  There are also country specific ones like ".us" for United States, ".ca" for Canada, ".hu" for Hungary, ".nz" for New Zealand, and ".eu" for European Union. For the sake of this analogy, we could say that the kingdom of God is the ".kog" domain.

And if we take further liberty to expand this analogy, we could define what corresponds to the URL, which is that address you type into the bar at the top of your web browser. URL stands for Universal Resource Locator.  For example, the URLs for some of my websites are www.eternaldestinations.info, www.Jesus-Reigns.org, www.dmiworld.org, and this site you are on is www.len-seekingthelord.blogspot.com.

So to complete the picture for you, some of the universal resources locators (URLs) you might use to locate resources on the www of God's kingdom could be www.holiness.kog or www.righteousness.kog or www.truth.kog or www.commandments.kog.  We could also have www.genesis.kog, www.law.kog, www.prophets.kog, and www.gospels.kog. But they are all tied together on the same ".kog" domain, which is the kingdom of God. There are no web filters on the www of God's kingdom that allow you to filter content you don't like or don't wish to see.  You cannot separate His Word, His Will, and His Ways (www) from each other.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2Ti 3:16-17)

Putting it All Together
The Lord’s ways are just.
All God's ways are righteous and true (Rev 15:3). His ways are unfathomable. They are the ways of life. The path of life leads upward. His ways and His will are one and the same, and “the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 Jn 2:17b). If you want to inherit eternal life, you need to repent and follow Jesus.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except by Him (Jn 14:6).

His ways are not only found in the pages of the New Testament, but in all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. He has revealed to us His ways in the whole Bible, the Word of God.  We are commanded to walk in His ways always. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable. (2Ti 3:16-17). So don’t compartmentalize the Bible and refuse to listen to certain verses simply because they are found in the Old Testament, or because they are found in the Pentateuch.

The Lord is eternal and does not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb 13:8). His ways are still the same. What was morally evil in His sight thousands of years ago is still evil today. It did not become good or right in His sight just because of the New Covenant.

Let’s be careful not be like those who say, “The way of the Lord is not right” (Ez 33:20).  They have turned aside from following Him and have no regard for His ways. If you have done that, then repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Ac 3:19).  He wants to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways (Ac 3:26). For the way of life handed down from our forefathers is futile.  But all the Lord’s ways are profitable. The way is broad that leads to destruction, but the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt 7:14). His way is the way of the cross.  It's the way of righteousness and holiness!

Therefore, I exhort you to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Then He will fill you with joy in His presence, with eternal pleasures at His right hand forevermore (Ps 16:11).

Disclaimer: As we walk in His ways, we are not to concern ourselves with ceremonial law like circumcision, rituals, dietary laws, or animal sacrifices. We are not endeavoring to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ. We are not justified by doing the works of the Law.  It is only when we put our faith in Christ that He justifies us, so that we have true righteousness, the righteousness of God, and this is the intent or “end goal” of the law. Once we are justified, we will be led by the Spirit to be a doer of the Law (James 1:25; 4:11). Keeping God’s commands in what counts! (1 Cor 7:19b). Just remember that we can do nothing apart from the Lord Jesus (Jn 15:5), and if you keep His commandments, you will abide in His love (Jn 15:10). It's not something you have to force, or do legalistically, but it happens as you open up and receive the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to flow through you.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The "Walking on the Narrow Way" and the "Prepare the Way" illustrations, as well as the "Holiness" calligraphy are by my seventeen-year old daughter, C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her lovely artwork on A Brush with Life.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend
James Agboola Revelation of Heaven and Hell, Followers of the Way, The Straight and Narrow Path, The Way, Will, and Word of God, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Michael Shigaba's Encounter with Jesus, Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Practicing Your Righteousness, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Doing What is Right, Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?, Faith Works!, The Judgment Seat of Christ, The Obedience of Faith, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Led by the Spirit, Remember the Eternal Law of God, Purge the Evil from Among You, The Spirit's Law of Life, The Book of Life, Pleasing the Lord, and The Righteous Will Shine Forth as the Sun. Other related articles are available on the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?


“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Righteous Will Shine Forth as the Sun

The Lord Jesus said "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mat 13:43)

He used this term “the righteous,” which is found all throughout the Scriptures back to the book of Genesis. It is found before, during, and after the Law of Moses in the New Covenant, so it is not a legalistic term.  For all that the righteous do is by faith, as Paul said, “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.’" (Gal 3:11)

This term, “the righteous,” refers to those who serve the Lord, and live in such a way that has His approval.  They live according to the pattern of God's Word, doing His will. As I explained in my previous article, “Practicing Your Righteousness”, these are the ones who are doing righteous deeds, such as prayer, fasting, worship, Bible reading, giving tithes and offerings, not stealing, not accepting bribes, serving in the Church, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, entertaining strangers, visiting those in prison, and giving to the poor.

When Jesus described the final judgment, He said, "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' (Mat 25:34-40)

Whenever the righteous do these things to one of the least of the Lord’s brothers, they do it unto Him. However, the wicked are the ones who do not do these things. "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mat 25:46).  We like the part about the righteous going away into eternal life, and shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. We as Christians all like to assume we are among the righteous.  But the Lord looks at our deeds, not just our beliefs. Are you truly one of the righteous?

Peter said, “And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (1Pe 4:18) Therefore, we know that it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved. It’s through many hardships and trials that we enter the kingdom of God. Peter was referring to the suffering of the righteous when he said that, and the fact that judgment begins with the household of God (1 Pe 4:17). But he also referred to the Lord’s righteous ways that we must live by. This is evident in other parts of His epistle, when he speaks about obeying Jesus Christ (1 Pe 1:2), obeying the truth (1 Pe 1:22), being holy even as the Lord is holy (1 Pe 1:16), putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander (1 Pe 2:1), abstaining from fleshly lusts (1 Pe 2:11), living as aliens and strangers, keeping your behavior excellent (1 Pe 2:12), doing good deeds (1 Pe 2:12; 3:11), doing right (1 Pe 2:15,20), and living to righteousness (1 Pe 2:24), keeping your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies, and being zealous for what is good (1 Pe 3:13), being of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Pe 4:11), and remaining fervent in your love for one another (1 Pe 4:8). And Peter says that God impartially judges each man’s work (1 Pe 1:17). Therefore, it is evident that when Peter said it is with difficulty that the righteous are saved, he was referring to the exemplary kind of behavior required of the righteous.

In the third chapter of his epistle, he says:

For, "The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the lord is against those who do evil." (1Pe 3:10-12).

In this passage, Peter was quoting Ps 34:12-16, in which David used the term “the righteous” four times (Psa 34:15,17,19,21). So Peter was very intentional in his use of the term “the righteous” in his epistle, and he used it with the same meaning that David did when he used it.  He was not merely referring to those who possess positional righteousness, but to those who practice righteousness.

Other Scriptures About the Righteous

Before my conclusion, I would like to list for your benefit most of the Scriptures in the Bible, which I have not already mentioned, that refer to “the righteous.” If you will take the time to read through these, I believe you will be edified, and then I will make my closing remarks.

Abraham came near and said, "Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (Gen 18:23)

"Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" (Gen 18:25)

"Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. (Exo 23:7)

"You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. (Deu 16:19)

"If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, (Deu 25:1)

then hear in heaven and act and judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness. (1Ki 8:32)

then hear from heaven and act and judge Your servants, punishing the wicked by bringing his way on his own head and justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness. (2Ch 6:23)

"Nevertheless the righteous will hold to his way, And he who has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger. (Job 17:9)

"The righteous see and are glad, And the innocent mock them, (Job 22:19)

"He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous; But with kings on the throne He has seated them forever, and they are exalted. (Job 36:7)

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. (Psa 1:5)

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.
(Psa 1:6)

For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield. (Psa 5:12)

O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. (Psa 7:9)

If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?" (Psa 11:3)

The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates. (Psa 11:5)

There they are in great dread, For God is with the righteous generation. (Psa 14:5)

Let the lying lips be mute, Which speak arrogantly against the righteous With pride and contempt. (Psa 31:18)

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry. (Psa 34:15)

The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psa 34:17)

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Psa 34:19)

Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous will be condemned. (Psa 34:21)

The wicked plots against the righteous And gnashes at him with his teeth. (Psa 37:12)

Better is the little of the righteous Than the abundance of many wicked. (Psa 37:16)

For the arms of the wicked will be broken, But the LORD sustains the righteous. (Psa 37:17)

The wicked borrows and does not pay back, But the righteous is gracious and gives. (Psa 37:21)

I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread. (Psa 37:25)

The righteous will inherit the land And dwell in it forever. (Psa 37:29)

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. (Psa 37:30)

But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. (Psa 37:39)

You love evil more than good, Falsehood more than speaking what is right. Selah. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah. The righteous will see and fear, And will laugh at him, saying, "Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches And was strong in his evil desire." But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.  (Psa 52:3-8)

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (Psa 55:22)

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. (Psa 58:10)

And men will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely there is a God who judges on earth!" (Psa 58:11)

The righteous man will be glad in the LORD and will take refuge in Him; And all the upright in heart will glory. (Psa 64:10)

But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. (Psa 68:3)

May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous. (Psa 69:28)

In his days may the righteous flourish, And abundance of peace till the moon is no more. (Psa 72:7)

And all the horns of the wicked He will cut off, But the horns of the righteous will be lifted up. (Psa 75:10)

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. (Psa 92:12)

They band themselves together against the life of the righteous And condemn the innocent to death. (Psa 94:21)

Light is sown like seed for the righteous And gladness for the upright in heart. (Psa 97:11)

For he will never be shaken; The righteous will be remembered forever. (Psa 112:6)

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly. (Psa 118:15)

This is the gate of the LORD; The righteous will enter through it. (Psa 118:20)

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous, So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong. (Psa 125:3)

Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name; The upright will dwell in Your presence. (Psa 140:13)

"Bring my soul out of prison, So that I may give thanks to Your name; The righteous will surround me, For You will deal bountifully with me." (Psa 142:7)

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous; (Psa 146:8)

So you will walk in the way of good men And keep to the paths of the righteous. (Pro 2:20)

The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous. (Pro 3:33)

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. (Pro 4:18)

The LORD will not allow the righteous to hunger, But He will reject the craving of the wicked. (Pro 10:3)

Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (Pro 10:6)

The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot. (Pro 10:7)

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (Pro 10:11)

The wages of the righteous is life, The income of the wicked, punishment. (Pro 10:16)

The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little.
(Pro 10:20)

The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding. (Pro 10:21)

What the wicked fears will come upon him, But the desire of the righteous will be granted. (Pro 10:24)

When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation. (Pro 10:25)

The hope of the righteous is gladness, But the expectation of the wicked perishes. (Pro 10:28)

The righteous will never be shaken, But the wicked will not dwell in the land. (Pro 10:30)

The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. (Pro 10:31)

The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted. (Pro 10:32)

The righteous is delivered from trouble, But the wicked takes his place. (Pro 11:8)

With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered. (Pro 11:9)

When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting. (Pro 11:10)

Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, But the descendants of the righteous will be delivered. (Pro 11:21)

The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath. (Pro 11:23)

He who trusts in his riches will fall, But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. (Pro 11:28)

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls. (Pro 11:30)

If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, How much more the wicked and the sinner! (Pro 11:31)

A man will not be established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous will not be moved. (Pro 12:3)

The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. (Pro 12:5)

The wicked are overthrown and are no more, But the house of the righteous will stand. (Pro 12:7)

The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit. (Pro 12:12)

An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, But the righteous will escape from trouble. (Pro 12:13)

No harm befalls the righteous, But the wicked are filled with trouble. (Pro 12:21)

The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Pro 12:26)

The light of the righteous rejoices, But the lamp of the wicked goes out. (Pro 13:9)

Adversity pursues sinners, But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity. (Pro 13:21)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. (Pro 13:22)

The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, But the stomach of the wicked is in need. (Pro 13:25)

The evil will bow down before the good, And the wicked at the gates of the righteous. (Pro 14:19)

The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, But the righteous has a refuge when he dies. (Pro 14:32)

Great wealth is in the house of the righteous, But trouble is in the income of the wicked. (Pro 15:6)

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. (Pro 15:28)

The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous. (Pro 15:29)

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD. (Pro 17:15)

It is also not good to fine the righteous, Nor to strike the noble for their uprightness. (Pro 17:26)

To show partiality to the wicked is not good, Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. (Pro 18:5)

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe. (Pro 18:10)

The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, But is terror to the workers of iniquity. (Pro 21:15)

The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, And the treacherous is in the place of the upright. (Pro 21:18)

All day long he is craving, While the righteous gives and does not hold back. (Pro 21:26)

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. (Pro 23:24)

Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not destroy his resting place; (Pro 24:15)

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion. (Pro 28:1)

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, But when the wicked rise, men hide themselves. (Pro 28:12)

When the wicked rise, men hide themselves; But when they perish, the righteous increase. (Pro 28:28)

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan. (Pro 29:2)

By transgression an evil man is ensnared, But the righteous sings and rejoices. (Pro 29:6)

The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern. (Pro 29:7)

When the wicked increase, transgression increases; But the righteous will see their fall. (Pro 29:16)

An unjust man is abominable to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked. (Pro 29:27)

I said to myself, "God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man," for a time for every matter and for every deed is there. (Ecc 3:17)

Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, For they will eat the fruit of their actions. (Isa 3:10)

"Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. (Isa 26:2)

The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level. (Isa 26:7)

The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; And devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil, (Isa 57:1)

Yet, O LORD of hosts, You who test the righteous, Who see the mind and the heart; Let me see Your vengeance on them; For to You I have set forth my cause. (Jer 20:12)

Because of the sins of her prophets And the iniquities of her priests, Who have shed in her midst The blood of the righteous; (Lam 4:13)

"However, if you have warned the righteous man that the righteous should not sin and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; and you have delivered yourself." (Eze 3:21)

"Because you disheartened the righteous with falsehood when I did not cause him grief, but have encouraged the wicked not to turn from his wicked way and preserve his life, (Eze 13:22)

"The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Eze 18:20)

and say to the land of Israel, 'Thus says the LORD, "Behold, I am against you; and I will draw My sword out of its sheath and cut off from you the righteous and the wicked. (Eze 21:3)

"Because I will cut off from you the righteous and the wicked, therefore My sword will go forth from its sheath against all flesh from south to north. (Eze 21:4)

"When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die. (Eze 33:13)

"When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. (Eze 33:18)

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them. (Hos 14:9)

Thus says the LORD, "For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for money And the needy for a pair of sandals. (Amo 2:6)

For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, You who distress the righteous and accept bribes And turn aside the poor in the gate. (Amo 5:12)

Therefore the law is ignored And justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore justice comes out perverted. (Hab 1:4)

"Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. (Hab 2:4)

So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. (Mal 3:18)

so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Mat 5:45)

"So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, (Mat 13:49)

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, (Mat 23:29)

"It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luk 1:17)

"And you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luk 14:14)

having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. (Act 24:15)

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith." (Rom 1:17)

Jesus Did Not Come to Call the Righteous to Repentance
One final point I would like to mention is that Jesus said He did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners. 

In Matthew's gospel, He said, "But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mat 9:13).

In Luke's gospel, He said, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luk 5:32)

In Mark's gospel, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mar 2:17)

I realize someone might use that as a reason to argue that somehow the Lord loves sinners and not the righteous.  But that's not what He meant.  The abundance of Scriptures I have just cited from the Old and New Testaments, including the words of the Lord Himself, prove that He loves the righteous. So what did He mean then?

The Lord meant by this that if someone considers himself righteous in his own eyes, as did the scribes, Pharisee, and experts in the law, then He was not calling them to repent and follow Him. Those who are self-righteous, content to have a righteousness of their own that comes from the Law, and outwardly pious cannot be saved, because they rely on themselves and do not submit to God's righteousness. They reject God's authority.

Therefore, He was calling sinners to repent and follow Him. These are the people He spent time with, because they were heeding His call to repent and follow Him. The reason is that as long as you think you are a good person or a righteous person, and you do not see your need for Jesus, you cannot be saved. You must admit you are a sinner and repent of your sins, asking the Lord to forgive you and to come into your heart as your Lord and Savior. Only then can He cleanse you of your sins and give you His perfect righteousness. Once you do so, then you are righteous in God's sight, and the righteous should not sin, according to Ezekiel 3:21; 18:24; 33:12; and 1Jn. 2:1.

The apostle John said you may not sin:

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous;" (1Jn 2:1)

"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him." (1Jn 2:29)

"Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;" (1Jn 3:7)

"not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous." (1Jn 3:12)

It cannot be more plain and clear that the righteous practice righteousness and the wicked practice evil.  Therefore, Jesus never condoned sin when He said he came to call sinners. For He came to call sinners to repentance, which requires that you depart from sin and follow Him.  The righteous walk by faith in the ways of the Lord.

Putting it All Together
There are so many wonderful promises for the righteous contained in God’s Word. I hope that these have blessed you, and I hope that you will lay hold of these promises for yourself, appropriating them to your life by faith.  But more importantly, I hope that I have proven from Scripture that the righteous are those who practice righteousness. Everyone who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous (1Jn 2:29; 1Jn 3:7). Not every so-called Christian or person who was once "saved" is among the righteous.  So let us make every effort to be found spotless and blameless in the Lord Jesus Christ when He returns. As Peter wrote:

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Pe 3:13-14, NIV)

Only the righteous will inherit eternal life. Only the righteous will dwell with the Lord in glory forever. Only the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The Scripture says that heaven is home of the righteous whose spirits have been made perfect.

“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. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.” (Heb 12:22-25).

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. They did not escape when they refused to obey Moses who warned them on earth, and much less will we escape if we refuse Him who warns us from heaven. He is coming right away, but He is only coming for the righteous, those who are truly holy. You ought to live holy and godly lives. Bear in mind that it's difficult for the righteous to be saved. Therefore, repent and seek the Lord while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near, so that you may live a life worthy of His glory, worthy of the calling you have received, and receive the reward of the righteous to enjoy throughout eternity.

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. The Good Samaritan by Dan Burr of Dan Burr Illustration copyright 2013 used by permission.  "Welcome My Child" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist. 

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend Righteous Deeds and White Robes,
Practicing Your Righteousness, Doing What is Right, Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?, Faith Works!, The Judgment Seat of Christ, The Obedience of Faith, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, and The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer. Other related articles are available on the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?

If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Practicing Your Righteousness

I’d like to discuss the righteousness of three men found in Scripture – Noah, Job, and Daniel. These men, who lived so long ago, are still godly examples for us as Christians today.

There is a righteousness that is imputed to the believer as part of his justification by faith in Christ.  It is the righteousness of God, and although it does not belong to the believer, it is attributed to him. But there is also a righteousness that is imparted to the believer as part of his sanctification, which is also by faith. This has to do with the righteous acts of the saints, practiced by faith in God through the power of the Holy Spirit, for which God confers, gives, or bestows righteousness to the saint for his or her godliness.  This second kind of righteousness that is imparted in connection with sanctification is the kind I would like to focus on right now.

There are many references to this practical righteousness in the New Testament, but a few examples will suffice. For instance, Jesus taught us the level of righteousness required to enter the kingdom of heaven. "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Mat 5:20).  While the scribes and Pharisees had a righteousness that comes from the Law, they did not have God’s righteousness that comes by faith in Christ. But they also practiced their righteousness before men to be noticed by them. Therefore, the Lord said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 6:1).  Immediately after saying this, he gave two examples of practical righteousness, namely prayer and giving to the poor.

Once you have been justified by faith and received the gift of God’s righteousness in Christ, you must practice your righteousness.  That involves doing righteous deeds, such as prayer, fasting, worship, Bible reading, giving tithes and offerings, not stealing, not accepting bribes, serving in the Church, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, and giving to the poor (Mt 25:35-36).  The Lord calls this "your righteousness."

In Revelation, John mentioned the reward the saints receive for this practical righteousness.  He wrote: “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Rev 19:6-8).

As Matthew Henry said, "God takes notice of the good that is in his servants, to their honor and benefit."

Don’t Trust in Your Own Righteousness
Now I would like to turn to the Old Testament for some passages about practical righteousness, which teach us more about what it is and warn us not to trust in it. Ezekiel wrote:

"But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period-- if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully--he is righteous and will surely live," declares the Lord GOD. (Eze 18:5-9).

In that passage, we learn that when a man is righteous and practices righteousness, then He is considered righteous in God’s sight.  Several examples of righteous deeds are given. However, listen to the following warning against trusting in your own righteousness:

"And you, son of man, say to your fellow citizens, 'The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble because of it in the day when he turns from his wickedness; whereas a righteous man will not be able to live by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin.' "When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die. "But when I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. "None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he shall surely live. "Yet your fellow citizens say, 'The way of the Lord is not right,' when it is their own way that is not right. "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. "But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them. (Eze 33:12-19).

While a sinner who turns from his sin and serves God in righteousness will live, the same cannot be said of the righteous man who commits sin. The Lord says a righteous man will not be able to save his life by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin. Put differently, a righteous man will not be able to live by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin. When the righteous man trusts in his righteousness such that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; rather he will die in that same iniquity of his that he has committed. This is the danger of getting comfortable once you become justified as a Christian, and thinking that from now on the matter of sin will never have any bearing on your salvation.

Job was a righteous man
Job is a good example of a righteous man.  He was a man of integrity, who prayed and interceded diligently for his children, feared God, and turned from evil.  “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:1)

The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." (Job 1:8).

"As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. (Jas 5:10-11).

Job was godly, harmless, true, abstaining from all evil, and clinging to innocence.  He endured suffering patiently and practiced righteousness.

Noah was a righteous man
Another excellent example of a righteous man was Noah.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’"  (Gen 6:5-7)

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” (Gen 6:8-9)

“Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.’” (Gen 7:1).

Noah did according to all that the LORD had commanded him.” (Gen 7:5)

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Heb 11:7)

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;”  (2Pe 2:4-5)

So the Scriptures say that Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time. He was a preacher of righteousness, who walked by faith with God and did according to all that the Lord commanded him.

Daniel was a righteous man
Another excellent example of a righteous man was Daniel. He prayed on his knees three times a day, even when it was illegal to do so, and the penalty for it was death. He continued as always giving thanks, making petition and supplication to God three times a day.

“Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.” (Dan 6:10-11)

He refused to defile himself with the king’s meat and wine, preferring instead to fast and pray.

“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” (Dan 1:8)

Daniel possessed an extraordinary spirit, and was known as a man who served God continually. He was faithful. Even his enemies could find neither grounds for accusation against him, nor any evidence of corruption in his conduct.

“Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. Then these men said, ‘We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.’" (Dan 6:3-5)

No negligence or corruption was found in him.  He was reliable and did not do anything wrong or dishonest. Daniel was an excellent example of a righteous man. By his faith, he shut the mouths of lions (Heb 11:33).

Noah, Daniel, and Job
In fact, God Himself recognized the righteousness of these three men. And it's worth noting that two of them -- Noah and Job -- lived before the Law of Moses was given, which proves that righteousness does not depend on the Law. We saw that Noah found favor with God and the Lord saved him and his whole family from the flood that destroyed the earth.  Job’s health and possessions were restored to him and God answered his prayers for his friends. Daniel had dreams and interpretations of dreams. God protected him from the mouths of the lions, and answered his prayers. The Lord also spoke to Ezekiel about these three men and their own righteousness.

“Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,’ declares the Lord GOD. ‘If I were to cause wild beasts to pass through the land and they depopulated it, and it became desolate so that no one would pass through it because of the beasts, though these three men were in its midst, as I live,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the country would be desolate. Or if I should bring a sword on that country and say, “Let the sword pass through the country and cut off man and beast from it,” even though these three men were in its midst, as I live,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘they could not deliver either their sons or their daughters, but they alone would be delivered. Or if I should send a plague against that country and pour out My wrath in blood on it to cut off man and beast from it, even though Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, as I live,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘they could not deliver either their son or their daughter. They would deliver only themselves by their righteousness." (Eze 14:12-20)

The point that God was making here to Ezekiel was that when He decides to bring judgment on a country, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were there, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves.

This reminds me of when Abraham said to the Lord, "Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23). Abraham interceded for Lot and managed to get God to spare him from the judgment that was about to come upon Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord still brought judgment on those cities, but spared Lot and his family.

Likewise, when God has determined to bring his judgment down on a place, even the presence of these three righteous men altogether – Noah, Daniel, and Job – would not stop Him from carrying out His plan.  Those men by their righteousness would only save themselves. And in fact, Daniel was carried away into exile along with the other Hebrews when God sent the Babylonians to bring judgment on Israel during this period when Ezekiel received this message.  Daniel’s life was spared and it went well with him in captivity, partly because of his righteousness. But his presence did not spare the nation from God’s judgment.

How This Righteousness Works 
I'd like to touch briefly upon how this righteousness works, because it is such a foreign concept to most people these days in the Church. The Bible teaches us that your faith and your deeds work together and your faith is made complete by what you do (Js 2:22). James also taught, "that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." (Jas 2:24).  He said our righteous deeds are part of our justification.  King Solomon referred to this as God "justifying the righteous by giving him according to his righteousness." (1Ki 8:32; 2Ch 6:23). We are justified not merely by having a certain opinion about Christ, or profession of Him, or by believing without obeying, but by having the kind of faith that produces good works. These are works of self-denial like the ones produced by Noah, Daniel, and Job, as well as others like Abel, Abraham, Lot, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The apostle Peter said we must die to sin and live for righteousness (1 Pe 2:24). Therefore, we must sow in such a way as to receive a harvest of righteousness (Js 3:18). The one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward (Pr 11:18, NIV; Gal 6:9).

Putting it All Together
My point in all of this is that in addition to the righteousness imputed to us when we are justified by faith, which does not belong to us, but is God’s perfect righteousness, there is also a practical righteousness that is given or bestowed by God as we grow in sanctification, which is the character of Christ. This is what Jesus called “your righteousness.” The Lord said we need to practice our righteousness, and taught us how to do so in a way that pleases God. Noah, Daniel, and Job were good examples of how we as disciples of Christ should practice our righteousness. And He is coming with His reward to render to every man according to his deeds. "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Rev 22:12).

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. The Good Samaritan by Dan Burr of Dan Burr Illustration copyright 2013 used by permission. The Daniel in the Lions' Den painting is by Briton Rivière (1890) and is in the public domain.  The Noah painting is by Joseph Anton Koch circa 1803 courtesy Wikimedia. Painting of Job and his Friends by Ilya Repin, 1869, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend Righteous Deeds and White Robes, Doing What is Right, Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice, The Righteous Will Shine Forth as the Sun, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?, Faith Works!, The Judgment Seat of Christ, The Obedience of Faith, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, and The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer. Other related articles are available on the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?

If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.