Thursday, June 26, 2014

Living Righteously in an Unrighteous World

As a Christian, I often feel that I am swimming against the current.  The world is going in one direction while I go the opposite way.  There's so many times that I wish I didn't have to put up with it all and could just be transported away from this sinful world and be one with our Heavenly Father.

I'm sure that many Christians feel the same way. While it is indeed discouraging at times, we must remember that this is part of are calling.  To be in the world, but not conformed to the ways of the world.

Philippians 2:15 ...That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world...

Christians are constantly bombarded with evil will, temptation, and false doctrine!  How are we to live righteously in a world that is anything but?  How could God possibly expect us to follow Him when we are surrounded by sin?

The Bible is full of examples of righteous people seeking to serve God while living in a world that is unrighteous.

Obeying God (even when the rest of the world isn't)

Noah lived at a time when the world was so sinful that God resolved to destroy the Earth with a great flood.  The only person who remained faithful to God was Noah.

Genesis 6:5-8 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

I think that it’s safe to say that we live in a society much like that found in Noah’s time.

However, just like Noah, we should seek to serve God and remain faithful regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.

Psalm 119:1-3 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord!  Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with their whole heart!  They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways.

We should strive to be spiritually minded instead of carnally minded.

Romans 8:5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Not Giving in to Temptation

Recall that Joseph was trusted by Potiphar to oversee the business of his household.  But Potipher’s wife was attracted to Joseph and enticed him several times to lay with her and engage in an adulterous affair.  Joseph refused.

Genesis 39:9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? 

Even though we are surrounded by temptation, we much rise above it and seek the higher path that God intends for us.  Sometimes this isn't easy!  Sometimes temptations come from our friends and families, and, let’s face it, the things we are being tempted by are enticing (otherwise they would not be temptations)!

As Jesus told the disciples in Mark 14:38 - Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

We should overcome temptations and seek the higher path of God!

1 John 2:16, 4:4 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. ; You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Remembering that God Loves Us (even when the world tells us otherwise)

We are familiar with the account of Job.  In the early part of Job, God and the devil are having a conversation about Job’s righteousness.  The devil thinks that Job is so faithful because God had blessed him so much and that if His blessings were taken away that Job would turn away.  Job loses everything.

Job 2:9-10 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job remembered that God’s love always prevails, even through adversity.  This remains an encouragement to all who follow God!

What could possibly separate us from the great love of Christ?

Romans 8 :35-38 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:“ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come...

Praying for Encouragement

You can imagine David writing his most famous psalm during a time of intense stress in his life.

Psalm 23  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul;  He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me  All the days of my life; And I will dwell[a] in the house of the LORD Forever.

It’s so easy to get discouraged living in a world full of non-believers.  Praying for encouragement is necessary for peace of mind!  No wonder we are encouraged to “pray without ceasing!” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Surrounding Yourself with Believers

Together, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego all refused to obey legislation to bow down to a false god.

Daniel 3:18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.

Something that can make the life of a Christian easier is surrounding yourself with Christian friends who are focused on serving God as well.

I think it’s fairly obvious that just as it’s much easier to do the wrong thing when your friends are doing it, it’s also easier to do right thing when your friends are doing it too!  (A little leaven leavens the whole lump! - 1 Cor 5:6)

Obviously, the best way to surround yourself with Christians is to join the Church, which is God’s family!  This is what God intends for us as Christians: To meet with one other, to study, to encourage, and to work and grow together as Christians.

Ephesians 4:16 ...From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

So many try to walk this path alone when God didn’t intend us to.  We are surrounded by so many discouraging attitudes and events in this world of sin and we need all the encouragement we can get.  I think that is why the Bible puts so much emphasis on prayer (Again:  Pray without ceasing!) and assembling with the saints!

Psalm 122:1  I was glad when they said to me,“Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Preaching to the Lost

While it is indeed helpful to surround ourselves with Godly people seeking to do right, we can’t live in a bubble our whole lives.  We can’t separate ourselves from the sinful world we live in.

Even though he was criticized for it, Jesus recognized that His work took Him among the sinful.

Mark 2:16-17  And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  

The majority of our work as Christians should be done among the sinful.

However, notice that Jesus did not allow the world to corrupt Him.  As in all things, Christians must strive to follow His example.

Being Steadfast!

We must be careful.  Christianity loses credibility when Christians are indistinguishable from the rest of the world!

Proverbs 25:26 A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well...

Therefore:  As Christians, we must do our best to set a good example!

Matthew 5:13-16  You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Do Not Judge!  Avoid hypocrisy!  It’s easy for Christians to come off as being hypocritical.  We must be careful to live as God would have us to live and avoid judging others!

Above all: We must study the Bible!  We must exhibit a Godly attitude!  We must emulate Christ in all things!

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

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