Tag Archives: Righteousness

Achieving Excellence In Our Christian Walk — Robert Alexander

The Christian life can be summed up with just one word: walk. The term “walk” as found throughout the New Testament referring to the Christian denotes specific conduct. When an individual obeys the gospel he or she is raised from the watery grave of baptism to “walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:4). The life of a Christian is to be as becoming of one who is in Christ Jesus (Co. 1:10; 2:6). Because we are in Christ Jesus, we are to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ Jesus (2 Pe. 3:18).

The Christian “walk” is all about progression. It is all about not being satisfied with the “status quo” but going on toward perfection or spiritual maturity (He. 6:1). It is a life that is about becoming more like Christ every single day (Ro. 8:29; 12:2). The Christian’s life should be all about excellence, that is, it should be the best it can be. The mindset of the Christian should be: “How can I be better spiritually tomorrow, than I am today?” It should be a life that is never satisfied spiritually.

Unfortunately, there are Christians who are willing to accept the “status quo”, who believe that all they have to do is not engage in sinful behavior. These individuals don’t want to pray or study. They don’t want to work for the Lord. They don’t want to grow; they have settled for mediocrity and as such they possess a mediocre faith as a result of apathy and lethargy.

Why should we strive for excellence in our walk as Christians? Joe Theisman played quarterback for the Washington Redskins for twelve years and led the team to two Super Bowls, winning one and losing the other. After retiring from football, Theismann reflected on his final years in the NFL when he learned a hard lesson. Theismann,, in an interview with Readers Digest, (January 1992) said:

“I got stagnant, I thought the team revolved around me. I should have known it was time to go when I didn’t care whether a pass hit Art Monk in the 8 or the 1 on his uniform. When we went back to the Super Bowl, my approach had changed. I was griping about the weather, my shoes, practice times, everything. Today I wear my two rings—the winner’s ring from Super Bowl 17 and the loser’s ring from Super Bowl 18. The difference in those two rings lies in applying oneself and not accepting anything but the best.”

Excellence is the difference between winning and losing. Theismann believed his team lost because he did not fully apply himself to his craft because he was willing to accept good instead of greatness, mediocrity instead of excellence.

Excellence is the difference between an eternity in heaven or an eternity in hell. As Christians, if we don’t pursue excellence, we will not be able to finish our course (2 Ti. 4:7) because we will not be progressing in our course, our walk as Christians. We will not be able to finish the race set before us (He. 12:2) if we are not progressing. If we do not finish, we will not win the crown of life. If we do not win, then we will lose in eternity (Re. 21:8).

How then can we achieve excellence in our Christian walk? Let us consider briefly five things that will enable us to achieve excellence.

First, we must pursue righteousness. Sin is unrighteousness (1 Jn. 5:17) and it is diametrically opposed to God because He is righteous. When we obeyed the gospel, which reveals the righteousness of God (Ro. 1:17), we were accepted by God, who accepts all who work righteousness (i.e., do His will) (Ac. 10:34,35; Ja. 1:22,23; Lk. 6:46; Mt. 7:21-27). However, it is not enough to be made righteous in the sight of God; we must remain righteous. Righteousness, in its simplest definition, is “right doing” and it is the state or quality of being right. In a world of wrong doing, as Christians, we must be actively involved in right doing. If we are going to achieve excellence in our walk as a Christian we must make righteousness a continual practice in our lives and we do such by making it our life’s pursuit.

Second, we must prioritize righteousness. If we truly are making righteousness a priority in our lives we must seek it (which ties in with our previous point). Christ said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness….” (Mt. 6:33). To seek after is to search for something in order to find it. What is it that we are seeking after? Righteousness. When should it be sought? First. Righteousness should be at the forefront of our minds as Christians at all times. If it is at the forefront of our minds, it will be manifested in our lives; and if it is manifested in our lives, then our lives will be lived in such a way that we will not grow complacent or stagnant in our walk as Christians. We will be growing and improving spiritually day by day while we live here on earth. We will not fall into the pit of mediocrity.

Third, if righteousness is truly our priority, we will crave it. Christ said that those who are truly blessed are “they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). We all know what it is like to be hungry, we need food and thus when we hunger we seek food to satisfy our hunger. We also know what it is like to thirst, spiritually our souls hunger and thirst and our soul needs those things by which the soul is refreshed and strengthened. What is it that will satisfy our soul’s longing? Righteousness (in the context of this article, dealing with that which involves purity of life, correctness of thinking, feeling and acting).

How is the soul’s hunger and thirst for righteousness satisfied? By feeding on (studying) the word of God, which instructs us in righteousness (2 Ti. 3:16) It serves as our spiritual food as well. It is our milk (1 Pe. 2:2). It is our meat (He. 5:12-14). It is our bread (Jn. 6:35-ff). It is our water to assuage our spiritual thirst (Jn. 4:13-14). Because we will be feeding on the spiritual food that God has provided, it logically follows we will be applying the teachings of God’s word to our lives. This nourishment, in turn, will lead us to…

…practice righteousness. Practicing righteousness begins with right thinking. Our thoughts reveal who we are (Pr. 23:7). If we think unrighteousness, our actions will produce unrighteousness. If we think righteously, then our actions will manifest righteousness. The key for developing such thinking is to make sure our affections are set on those things which are above rather than on those things here on the earth (Co. 3:2).

However, it is not enough to think it, we must do it. It is both simplistic and true, but there really is nothing more to add but just do righteousness. John wrote “Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 Jn. 3:7).

If we think righteously, we will act righteously, which in turn will result in a continual pursuit, prioritization and practicing of righteousness and as a result of such actions we will then produce righteousness in our lives by the fruit that we bear because that fruit will be that of righteousness (Ja. 3:18; Ep. 5:9). The fruit we bear glorifies God (Jn. 15:8). But, it is not enough to bear fruit, we must keep on bearing fruit lest we become a fruitless branch within the true vine which is Christ and thus become cut off from the vine fit to be cast into the fire (Jn. 15:4). The necessity of continual bearing of the fruit of righteousness in our lives will stimulate us to a life of spiritual excellence.

Finally, we must purge unrighteousness from our lives. This purge implies the need for constant improvement as a Christian. The temptation to commit sin is an ever present danger for us (1 Pe. 5:8; 1 Co. 10:13) and as such reveals the importance of striving to grow and improve spiritually day after day so that we can overcome temptation and consequently, sin.

A righteous state of life involves a forward and upward direction (which is what walking in the light entails per 1 John 1:7) and not a backward and downward direction (which is to walk as the world does). In order to maintain righteousness in our lives we must examine our lives (2 Co. 13:5) to make sure sin has not reentered. If it has we must have the willingness to repent and confess those sins unto God (1 Jn. 1:8-9).

Maintaining righteousness and keeping unrighteousness out starts by laying God’s word up in our hearts (Ps. 119:11; 1 Jn. 3:9). We do this by consistently turning to its pages and meditating and properly applying its teachings to our lives. This process must be an ongoing thing in our lives. We will never master the Word of God, but we can allow it to master our lives by keeping it at the forefront of our lives by spending time in personal study.

Why strive for excellence in our lives as Christians? Because excellence, in its simplest definition, is being better tomorrow than we are today. Is this not what Christianity and personal growth is all about? If we are not seeking to be better tomorrow than we are today, we are not seeking to become more Christ like, and we must if we desire heaven as our home (Ro. 8:29). If we are not seeking to be better, we are in essence saying that who we are now is as good as we can get. We are accepting mediocrity, but God will not accept mediocrity, He expects and demands our best in all we do, including how we live (Re. 2:10).

We can achieve excellence in our walk as Christians because we can be a better Christian tomorrow than we are at this present time. However, in order to achieve excellence, we must possess the discipline and tenacity necessary to accomplish the task. When we pursue, prioritize, practice, produce righteousness in our lives, and keep unrighteousness purged, we will be improving day by day which produces true excellence, genuine, consistent, and constant growth as a Christian.

roblee79@netzero.net

Editor’s Note:  Robert preached a lesson on this topic earlier this year.  You can listen to his lesson here.

Will God Always Bless America? – David R. Pharr

When the representatives of thirteen original American colonies met together in the Continental Congress trying to devise a plan for a strong union of the states, Benjamin Franklin addressed George Washington, who was presiding: “I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live the more convincing proof I see of this truth: that God rules in the affairs of men.  If a sparrow cannot fall without his notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid?”  The founders of this country sought to establish a “nation under God.”  It used to be popular to sing:  God bless America, land that I love; Stand beside her, and guide her, Through the night, with the light from above.  (John Gipson)

That God has blessed America can hardly be questioned.  But will God always bless America?

Three Irrefutable Truths

God does indeed rule in the affairs of men.  “Blessed is that nation whose God is the Lord…The Lord looketh from heaven, he beholdeth all the sons of men” and Jeremiah reminds of God’s power to “speak concerning a nation…to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it…” and of his speaking “concerning a nation…to build and to plant it” (Psa. 33:12f; Jere. 18:7ff).

Men are of limited capabilities.  The best diplomacy of statesmen and the keenest judgment of rulers cannot themselves guarantee the survival of nations.  The further men try to go without God the more helpless they are.  “It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps” (Jere. 10:23).

Righteousness is a nation’s hope for survival.  “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).

Destructive Trends

The trend in America is away from belief in a Supreme Being.

State and secular colleges and universities teach atheistic infidelity in many departments.  Amazingly, this is also the case of many religious institutions.  The wide spread teaching of evolution as if it were scientific fact is undermining trust in the Scriptures among an entire generation.

The United States Constitution mentions the “Supreme Being” four times.  No doubt, however, if it were being written now such references would be omitted.  As a public document, if it were not itself the Constitution, the courts would declare such references as “unconstitutional.”

Patrick Henry, the American patriot who is famous for saying, “Give me liberty or give me death,” also said: “It is impossible that a nation of infidels should be a nation of free men; it is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”  Those Communist governments, which have a national policy against religion, make slaves of their people.

The trend away from belief in God fuels the growing emphasis on materialism to the exclusion of spiritual values.  Worldly wisdom assumes that if there is no God, no judgment, no heaven or hell, all that matters are the “cares and riches and pleasures of this life.”  Is it not a great irony that a nation that stamps “In God we trust” on its money in reality stamps “in money we trust” on its heart.  Theodore Roosevelt warned:  “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

Another writer has observed that, by and large, the objectives of America today are success, status, and security, followed closely by self-indulgence, pleasure, and comfort.

This is to the neglect of spiritual values.  Paul wrote of those who are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4), and of those who “seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s” (Phi. 1:21).  Will God always bless a people who covet more of His goodness while ignoring moral and spiritual responsibility?

Freedom and Duty

The freedom of the citizenry is a precious heritage and ought to be used as the freedom to do what is right.  Today freedom is widely interpreted to mean license to almost anything without regard for what is right, leading to excesses of sensuality.  The liberty our forefathers intended was not a casting away of moral restraint, but that is how it has come to be interpreted.

“Choice” has become the rallying cry for hateful abominations.  Millions of infants are slaughtered on the altar of “a woman’s right to choose.”  The blood of innocents drips from the hands of abortionists, while courts and congress and society are complicate in the crime.  A “right” granted by courts and Congress does not make wrong right!

We do hear voices of national concern over such things as alcohol, illicit sex, and drug abuse, but the emphasis seems more for health concerns.  Moral implications are largely ignored.  It is right, certainly, to be alarmed about harm to the mind and body, but should it not also be urgent to guard the soul?

Arnold Toynbee, the famous historian, said, “Of the twenty-one civilizations fallen, eighteen of them have fallen by the time their moral standards had reached those of America today.”

Nation’s Strength

Where is a nation’s strength?  It is not in the size of its armies.  Joab reminded David of this when the king decided to number (measure the strength) of his people (2 Sam. 24:2f).  It is not in the strength of its weapons.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

It is not in its prosperity and resources.  “The Lord maketh poor, maketh rich: he bringeth low and lifteth up” (1 Sam. 2:7).

It is not in scientific achievement.  Someone said recently that unless the United States gives greater prestige to science we might as well “write this country off the books.”  But if science is all we have to trust in, this country is already “off the books.”

It is not alone in our freedom.  Our free choices can either save us or destroy us.  Only when freedom chooses to do right is there strength in freedom.

What, then, is a nation’s strength?  The right kind of people is the greatest strength a nation can have.  “Righteousness exalteth a nation…”  The Frenchman de Toqueville is reported to have said, “America is great because she is good; when America is no longer good she will no longer be great.”  Another writer said, “A nation’s greatness is found in the quotient of its goodness.”  Historians have noted that most civilizations have decayed from within and that the outward manifestations of their decay were drunkenness, idleness, and immorality.  Virile civilizations have been characterized by sobriety, industry, and clean moral living.

We do not understand God’s specific purpose and plans for our nation, or any other.  We do not pretend to know, for example, why God allows some extremely evil powers to continue as long as they do.  But we do understand that men and nations are blessed who seek the favor of their Creator.

(No originality is claimed for these observations.  They are from notes from various sources that I had collected for a sermon. – David Pharr)