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If I am Saved by Grace, Why Pursue Righteousness?

1. If a person is genuinely born again, headed for heaven, not hell, they have had a heart change, the Holy Spirit is now living in them, and as a result they want to become holy like God, they have a desire to do good put in them by God. If the desire to be holy and righteous is not in you it is probably because you aren’t truly saved.

Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

2. God loves righteousness, and righteous people are His favorites.

Psalms 146:8c The Lord loves the righteous;

Luke 1:6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

Luke 1:30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

3 John 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.

3. God uses righteous, holy people to do His work. That super motivates me.

4. Those who are pressing on to grow in character, holiness, and righteousness sense God’s pleasure in them and, as a result, have a strong sense of self-esteem.

5. Those who are never standing still but always pressing on to grow and change, to become holy and righteous we do very well at the judgment seat of Christ, they will receive many rewards that will last forever.

6. Those who love righteousness will have a special power given to them from God and it will impact their entire life.

7. The righteous will have much better relationships with other people, especially family and friends.

Good Grief, I Sinned Again!

As we press on to maturity our attitude and right understanding of the process is important to keep us from getting discouraged with our progress. The key word is “train,” not “try,” we are training ourselves to be holy, not trying harder. In the process we will blow it and sin, and the natural response is to feel like a failure and give up, but what we need to do is humbly confess to God the details of our sin, and accept His forgiveness. Even if it is the 400th time that we have committed the same sin, we need to humbly declare to God that we did it, no excuses.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Psalms 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.

Proverbs 24:16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again,

Psalms 37:24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

It is important that we don’t make our confession a superficial act of religion, glossing over our sin because God forgives it. If I pray about my sin, remembering it, remembering what led up to it, I will grieve over my sin and the fact that this is the 400th time I have done this same exact sin.

When I have a prayer time of confession I will often pray on my knees as an act of contrition. I end my confession prayer times with a plea to God for His strength because I desire with all my heart to be holy as He is holy.

Sincere confession results in a growing determination and resolve to conquer this sin, insincere, superficial, rote confession results in comfortableness with our own sinfulness and apathy towards getting rid of it.

Psalms 51:1-4 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.

Psalms 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Holy Person of them All?

I have a mirror in my bathroom that I look into every morning. I look to see if I forgot anything in my morning preparations to go out into the world. If my beard trim is straight, if I combed my hair, and I smile at myself to see if I brushed my teeth. The purpose of my mirror is to find flaws; I don’t ever remember looking into the mirror and saying or thinking, “Wow, you are one good-looking stud!”

It would be cool if God would give us a special, supernatural mirror that would show us our character flaws when we looked into it, and as a bonus, it would show us each of the sins we have committed in the last 24 hours. Some wouldn’t look into it very often, too depressing.

1 Corinthians 11:28-32 But a man must examine himself. . . . He will receive judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.

Self-examination is absolutely essential if we are going to grow in holiness. Over time we all develop blind spots. A blind spot is a sin habit or character flaw that we have gotten so used to that we don’t see it, or at least we don’t see it as a sin or as a problem in our life. Self-examination asks and answers the question, “ who am I?”

My best and most accurate self-examination times take place when I write in my journal. When I write about my behavior, it is easy to step back and see myself from a third-person perspective without the excuses, blaming, and justification. As I regularly practice this basic discipline the things that I repeatedly do become obvious. I confess them to God as sin, and I work out a plan to conquer them.

You Dirty Rotten Sinner

One of the biggest problems Christians have as they pursue holiness is their judgmental attitude toward others. It is hard to move towards being holy as Jesus is holy without noticing all those around us who are standing still or even going backward. It is a tricky thing to remain humble and non-judgmental as we conqueror sin habits in our life, but we must do it; otherwise, we will go right back where we were and probably even further.

There are several keys to remaining humble and non-judgmental as we grow. The first is that we recognize that we supplied nothing in the pursuit of our righteousness accept our submission and humility at the beginning of the journey. There is not much to get prideful about if He did it all. This admission and attitude is essential to getting His power and in keeping it.

The second key is to be constantly examining our own life for character flaws and sin. We need to be ruthless in this step of our journey towards Christ-like behavior. Our flesh is notoriously bad about excusing, blaming, ignoring, justifying, and pretending. We tend to compare ourselves with other people because then we look pretty good, but what we need to do is compare ourselves with Jesus not others.

As we examine our own life honestly with no pretending, justifying, or blaming we then need to confess all known sin to God. To confess sin means that we own it, totally, we did it, no excuses. When we do that God forgives and cleanses and we grow.

God’s Power Flows to Commitment

When I was a kid growing up on the farm one of the chores we had was irrigating the pastures and hay fields. We didn’t use sprinklers, we flood irrigated. There was a ditch running next to the various fields and we would put in a plastic sheet that would act as a dam and the water would run over the bank of the ditch into the field. My job was to walk around with a shovel and “herd” the water so that every square inch of ground got water on it. As Dad would give me instructions on how to irrigate with a shovel he would repeatedly say, “just remember, water always flows downhill, never up.”

The only way we can become holy and righteous and grow more every day is if we have God’s power. Christians talk a lot about God’s power, but the observable truth is, not very many have it.

The next step in our pursuit of holiness is to understand that “God’s power flows to commitment, the stronger the commitment the stronger the power.” A commitment is a promise that we make to God. When we commit ourselves to Him we are declaring Him our Lord, our master, our king, and our boss. We are telling Him that we will do His will no matter how hard it is, that we will obey Him, no matter what.

Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Romans 6:13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Psalms 37:5-6 Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light.

Luke 9:23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

To take up our cross is to admit that we are not in charge of our lives; Jesus is, and we need to take up our cross every day. Jesus did this very thing in the Garden of Gethsemane as He faced the cross.

Luke 22:41-42 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Every morning I pray a prayer of commitment to Jesus, presenting myself to Him as His servant confessing that I have no power and asking for His power to fill me for the day.

Superman

I grew up reading comic books. I had literally hundreds of them, and I would trade them with other kids for ones I hadn’t read. I specialized in the “super heroes” and my favorite was Superman. I also watched the black and white weekly television program of Superman as a kid. I have a DVD with every episode of those Superman programs that someone gave me as a gift several years ago. There was something very appealing to me as a young boy of being super strong like superman; I still daydream about being superman at 72 years of age.

Here is a summary of where we are right now on our journey of becoming holy like God is holy.

God expects that we as His children will become increasingly more righteous and holy, not just positional or imputed righteousness, but practical, everyday, live-it-out kind of righteousness. Most Christians have given up on succeeding at that expectation of God’s because they have failed so much and now they just fake it, project an image of holiness, as the Pharisees did. But the fact is we can become more holy every day of our lives. In order for that to happen in our lives we must believe it is possible, and we must want it with every fiber of our being. But with the wanting we need to acknowledge that we are powerless to make it happen, we don’t have 50% of what we need, we have zero ability, strength, or power to change our behavior. So how do we become more and more holy if we are wimps? God is infinitely powerful and He loves to give His strength and power to those who need it and want it. The key to receiving God’s strength is the total realization that I have nothing to offer, zero. The more complete my admission of zero ability and strength the more readily available is God’s strength. God isn’t going to give me His power if He knows that I will think I am pretty tough stuff after He does. “God gives strength to the humble, but He is opposed to the proud.”

Because we are so naturally proud we have to work on this constantly. “I can’t – He can; I didn’t- He did.” That self-talk over and over and over again and again.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. . . . for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Be Holy as God is Holy

You have got to be kidding me! I can’t be as holy as God is, that is impossible!

That is the second step, recognize and acknowledge that we don’t have what it takes to be holy, not even a little bit holy. We know this, we have experienced it over and over again as we fail in our attempts to be good. As many times as we have attempted to overcome anger, lust, greed, laziness, and come up short we still think that we can contribute something to the process of conquering sin, there is something in us that wants to carry part of the load, even if is just 10%.

This journey is a partnership with God, but our part is not in supplying the strength to overcome the sin that is in us, that is 100% God’s part, our part is first of all to admit that we are powerless, we have zero ability to pull ourselves up and be good.

John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Notice the word “nothing.” That means zero, not 10%, nothing.

What we often ask for is “help,” that is I will do my part and what I can’t do God will then supply. With God it is all or nothing, He gives all of the strength or none of the strength. When we admit that we are completely powerless to change or fix anything then He will.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

When I become weak then I will be made strong. But the problem is that when God makes me strong I succeed and then I think I am pretty tough and then it is back to square one.

Getting this principle figured out is easy to say and hard to do.

How to Be Good

We don’t have to be good to get to heaven. It is a free gift neither earned nor deserved. We are forgiven of everything we have ever done and adopted into God’s family when we trust Jesus Christ as our personal savior, when we believe the gospel, when we confess that Jesus is Lord of our life.

But now that I am born again my primary goal is to become holy in my behavior as God is holy, to be righteous in every area of my life. and to conquer sin so that it does not control me.

How do I do that? The Bible tells us how to be saved from hell to heaven, and it tells us how to grow and change to become holy and righteous in all of our behavior as a child of God.

The first step is to want to be holy and righteous, to hate the sin that is in you, and to grieve over the things you do that are wrong. Just because our salvation is free doesn’t mean that it is OK to sin now that we are headed for heaven.

Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

1 Peter 1:15-16 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

2 Peter 3:11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

Romans 6:12-13 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

A lot of Christians have become defeated by sin in that they have tried and failed so much they have given up trying to be holy and righteous, and have settled for “good enough.” God would not command us to do something we can’t do, He would not command is to do something that He wouldn’t give us the strength and ability to do.

The Bible teaches us how to conquer sin, there is a plan, a strategy that works, let’s learn what it is and put it in to practice.

Step one: hunger and thirst for righteousness. Step two tomorrow.

Beating my Body

The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians says, “I beat my body and make it my slave.” Paul wasn’t physically whipping himself, but he was doing things to help himself exercise self-control over the natural tendencies of his flesh. Our flesh is prone to laziness, overeating, and addiction to a whole host of things. Our flesh hates to read the Bible, to pray, to worship God, and to give our money to serve God

The way I exercise self-control over my flesh is to set goals, make commitments, establish routines, and establish accountability in my life.

My flesh hates to pray but prayer is very important in my relationship with God and is the most important discipline in my life to experience the blessings of God in my life. So to overcome my flesh and make it submissive to me I set goals, I read the goals everyday and share them with other guys to hold me accountable. People often ask me for suggestions on goals they can set for themselves. A prayer package I often give is “one hour of corporate prayer each week preferably with others in our church, 15 minutes of devoted private prayer every day using a prayer notebook, and three times each week praying with your spouse.” It isn’t a magical amount, but it is an amount that makes a difference in those around you and in your own life. Without the commitments and goals in our life we naturally drift away from the spiritual disciplines to increased television viewing and other things that have no real benefit in our life.

Nobody is naturally self-controlled; you have to train yourself to be self-controlled like an athlete trains himself. The best tool there is to help us in this training process is goals. What is your Bible reading goal? What is your prayer goal? You don’t have any, you say, well, my guess is you don’t pray much and you don’t read the Bible much.

9/11

I can remember specific dates and experiences in my past quite well. I remember when Dad retired from the Navy and we moved to the farm, I remember my first deer killed, I remember where I was and what I was doing when President Kennedy was assassinated, I remember my High School graduation, I remember the first time I kissed Patty, I remember our wedding, I remember my first sermon at Jefferson Baptist Church as the Pastor, and I remember watching the events of 9/11 on the news.

A group of us from JBC had gone on a short-term mission trip to China. We had been there about ten days, and we were in a motel the night before we were scheduled to fly home. The television was on in the room for no apparent reason because everything was in Chinese. On the television, the image of a skyscraper being hit by a plane and lots of smoke was being shown repeatedly. At first I thought it was a movie, but as it kept being repeatedly shown I thought it must be something else. I called the rooms of the others and asked them to watch it and see what they thought. The missionary that we were there to help finally gave us a very limited explanation of what had just happened back home. We wondered all night long about the details, imagining the worst possible scenario, and in the morning received a printout of a computer news summary of what had actually happened.

One piece of news was that we could fly to Hong Kong, but we would be stuck there indefinitely because all airports in the USA were closed until further notice. The big problem for us was how we could manage a long-term layover in Hong Kong financially. We found a YMCA that had room for us to stay fairly cheap as well as meals. We spent much of our time prayer walking around the city and also going to the airport to find out the latest news about being able to get back home. I don’t remember how many days we were there but I think it was less than a week.

One of the most memorable experiences was the discussions among people who were also stuck at the airport that I witnessed as we waited there for news. Many of the discussions were very heated, and several almost came to a physical fight; the airport police even arrested one guy.

The content of the discussions was all over the place, but one thing that regularly was said was very critical remarks about the United States, and some even said that they were glad that the event happened. I never entered into any of the discussions but I often had the strong urge to punch someone in the face.

It is now twenty years later and the number of critical statements made about the United States that I now hear are many times more and almost daily. Probably because of the volume of those statements or maybe because of my age I don’t have the urge to punch anyone in the face anymore.

But I am still a very strong patriot and supporter of my country. Often in the Bible God urges Israelites to be loyal to their country, and though the USA is not Israel and we are not Jews, I think the principle of loyalty and patriotism is applicable to us as well.

Psalms 122:6-9 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
“May peace be within your walls,
And prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

I am committed to praying for my country and her leaders, and doing what I can to support her as a loyal, patriotic citizen.