I was striking up a spiritual conversation with a man in the mall Monday with thte Singing Churchmen in Cleveland,and I began asking him of his musical interests. He was a Believer and the B3 player at his church. I asked him if he just picked it up on his own or did he ever take lessons and he said he took lessons when he was young but didn't like it and didn't like his teacher. My wife is a piano teacher and has about 40 students, and I told him how I have observed through the years that virtually all of Julie's piano students want to play the piano. But not all of them want to LEARN to play the piano. They think that just because they take piano lessons from Julie and carry the label of being a piano student that somehow they will just become pianists. Not all the students count the cost of what it takes to become a piano player. There is something they must do everyday - it is called practice!
I think the same thing may be said of Christians who don't really practice their faith everyday and somehow think they will be all that God wants them to be by just having a belief system in the heads and their name on a church role, but not striving for holiness.
Now I know that Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus." And I know that many preachers love to proclaim this "positional truth" to their people with the intent of getting them to stop thinking they have to do things to achieve or earn a state of righteousness from God. I believe that the soul that has truly invited the Lord Jesus to come into their heart and has received God's forgiveness of their sins has also become an inheritor of eternal life. God in His mercy and grace will look upon us who have truly called upon the name of the Lord Jesus for salvation, and He will declare us righteous when we stand before Him at the judgment. So don't get me wrong - I am not about to say that we need to do anything to win God's favor because we can't! But being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a journey in the pursuit of holiness. This is called sanctification, and the Bible encourages us to endure the race we have begun with the assurance that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.
Here are a few scriptures that speak to this pursuit of righteousness: (Notice the choices that are up to you to make in this pursuit.)
Is 33:15-17 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar.
You have a choice as a Believer as to where you go, what you say, what you do with your income, what you choose to listen to and what you choose to look at. According to God's Word, the choices you make in these things will determine whether or not you dwell on the heights or the depths, whether or not your defenses will be like rocks or paper, whether or not you will struggle for the necessities of life, and whether or not you will "behold the king in his beauty" and sees His Kingdom. Someone may say "Oh, but that's from the O.T. - those people had to watch how they walked, but we don't have to because we live now under grace and Jesus will forgive us for all our sins" as if God just overlooks all of our sins and forgiveness is just an automatic benefit for the Believer. Jesus did not die on the cross to give us a license to sin. He calls us to follow him in crucifixion so that we would die to self and live in Him with His commandments now written in our hearts and stop sinning, living a life of obedience to Him! The people in Paul's day were dealing with this same struggle in the pursuit of holiness and what did he tell them? Romans 5-6 says, "There's no sin He cannot forgive, His grace is big enough to cover all of our sins. Where sin abounds, his grace abounds even more! But what shall we say then, shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? God forbid! How shall we who are dead to sin continue to live therein?"
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness. (You must do the "fleeing" part and the pursuing part. How good are you at that? Whatever your answer, strive to be a better "flee-er" and pursuer)
For Christ is the end (the purpose, the final result, the target) of the law (the Torah) for righteousness to everyone who believes. (You must do the believing part. Can you let go and trust Him more?)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (You must do the reading and studying of the scriptures in order to be trained and to show thyself approved. Can you get into it more?)
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 watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity and every good path. (You must do the walking in integrity part. Can you be more careful and conscious of how and where you walk?)
We are not just following a set of mental philosophies or internal beliefs. The question is, "Do you really want to please the Lord and show him you love him in gratitude for what He has done for you? Jesus said, "If you love me, (here is what you can do to show that love) keep my commandments!" When he said that, the NT had not yet been written, so what commandments do you think he could have been referring to? Someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was and you remember that he said the first is Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and the second is love thy neighbor as thyself. I have heard people deduce from these words of Jesus that we are simply to love God and love each other. But when Jesus stated that these two commandments were the greatest, he further said , "and on these two hang all of the Law and the Prophets" - meaning that all of the laws can really be categorized as being under the heading of how we respond to God and how we respond to each other. But Jesus also said in Matthew, "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law (the Torah or God's Instruction) until everything is accomplished." So, I think that we are to seek to obey God to the fullest - not because we have to in order to earn salvation or earn anything from God, but because we get to. We want to tell Jesus how much we love Him and He is the one that said, "If you want to show me your love, the best present you can give me is to keep my commandments." And I think this not only applies to the written commandments, but also the commandments that He speaks directly to only you.
Lastly, what do you do with this verse:
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects himself, and the evil one does not touch him.
Is there anyone here who is born of God and has stopped sinning altogether? What does John mean to say in this verse? Some paraphrases of this verse interpret this to say that a true Believer does not make it a practice to keep sinning, and that Jesus will protect the Believer from the Evil one. All I can do is explain it this way: In this earthly life we will never be sinless, but the longer we live in this life we should sin less. Let's just encourage each other along the way to be diligent in our faith and keep confessing our sins and let's be that army rising up to bring glory to our great God and HIs Kingdom!