If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29, NKJV)
The Bible says, “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Yet, the Scriptures identify many people as righteous (Abel, Noah, Job, Daniel, Joseph, etc.). How is the possible? Nobody is righteous through law-keeping; that requires sinless perfection (and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23). The harmony is that these righteous ones were people of faith, and their faith was counted to them for righteousness (Romans 4:3, 5; Philippians 3:9). Note please, the Scripture does not say Christ’s righteousness was imputed to them. Scripture says the sinner’s “faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). We cannot earn righteousness through law-keeping – we are sinners (law breakers)! But, we can “hunger and thirst after righteousness, and be filled (Matthew 5:6). By faith, we can practice righteousness (1 John 2:29). We practice righteousness as we live by faith, following the teachings of the Righteous One. The sinner who is born of God is counted righteous by faith (Romans 1:17). To practice righteousness, be upright in heart and faithful to Jesus, and your faith will be counted for righteousness.
12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. (Ecclesiastes 12:12–13, NKJV)
As you see from the above notation, this is the 1200th Sword Tip. Seeing that number reminded me of today’s passage. People will always write books. And, people will continue to read and study them. Yet, making intellectual pursuit the goal of one’s life “is grasping for the wind,” as Solomon explained in Ecclesiastes 1:17-18. God’s word, the Bible, is complete; it will not be added to by God, and it cannot be improved upon by human wisdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19). Bible study is essential. But, Bible study is not an end in itself. Reading and knowing God’s word is vanity, unless we “fear God and keep His commandments” (verse 13). That is the purpose of life. The Bible teaches us why to fear God and how to obey Him. This is why we read, learn and study the Bible – so that we may live reverently, obey God completely, and thereby, fulfill our God-given purpose. By God’s good grace, may that ever be the purpose that drives our lives (2 Peter 3:17-18).
1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. (Psalm 63:1–2, NKJV)
God is not a fire escape when trouble comes into our lives. God is the One who fills up our longings and satisfies all our needs. God is not a place mat on the table of our lives – useful, but often forgotten until needed. God is the Supplier of everything that sustains us, body and soul. He is the One we seek and trust. Like David, let us seek God early and always. Our soul must long for God like the thirsty man in a hot, waterless desert. Worship is our refuge and relief. In worship, we adore His great power and honor His glorious name. In worship, we bow before the One in whom we rely for life, for mercy, and for salvation. How big is your God? Truly, He fills heaven and earth (Jeremiah 23:24). The pertinent question is, are you seeking God by trusting His word and obeying Him, so that He fills your life? “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–2, NKJV)
The great grace of God is accessed by faith. Abraham’s faith is prototypical of the faith we must have in order to access grace (Rom. 4). Those who “walk in the steps of the faith” that Abraham had are those who are saved (Rom. 4:12-16). Notably, Abraham’s obedience perfected his faith (Jas. 2:21-24). In the same manner, obedient faith grants access to God’s grace today (Rom. 6:17-18). One greatly errs if he thinks God’s grace overlooks sin. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Rom. 6:1-2)? Faithful Christians will not develop a careless attitude toward what sin is, or toward what it does. The Holy Spirit warns us not to fall from grace, and persuades us to live by faith by obeying the “perfect law of liberty” (Gal. 5:4; 2 Cor. 5:7; Jas. 1:22-25). Do not falsely conclude that because God’s grace is so great, it will save you in spite of having unrepented sin in your life. That is not the faith of father Abraham. That will never be the faith that accesses and stands in grace.
9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9–11, NKJV)
Jesus reminded His disciples that now is the time for diligent work in the service of God (Jno. 9:3-4). Now is not the time to rest. God has created good works in which we must walk (Eph. 2:10). So, we must not be sluggish and neglectful, but energetically obedient in doing the will of God. Notice in verse 11 that obedience is equivalent to being “diligent to enter that rest” that awaits us, since not to be diligent amounts to disobedience. Here is another place where faithful obedience is defined as the “work” we do – not to earn heaven, but as our dutiful, faithful obedience to our Master. Death brings blessed rest “from their labors” to those who die in the Lord, and “their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Please do not confuse the diligent work of obedience with an attempt to earn one’s way into heaven. Obedience to the Lord is our faith doing His works, all the while anticipating our eternal rest.
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:1–2, NKJV)
Christ expects Christians to obey the truth. Our obedience is not meritorious; we do not earn the right to be saved in heaven through our obedience. Obedience is the natural and completing action of belief; without obedience, faith is incomplete and powerless to save (Jas. 2:17-26). Obedience to Christ is the reasonable response of observing the crucified Christ, who has been put on full display by the gospel. Like a billboard on the roadside, the gospel announces the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to the world as the means of our salvation (something the works of the law of Moses could not do). The “hearing of faith” describes the gospel, “the faith” preached by the apostles (Gal. 1:11, 23). The faith (gospel) produces personal faith, and personal faith is made complete by obeying the truth (Rom. 1:17; Heb. 5:8-9). Are you obeying the truth in faith, or are you relying on something less than the gospel and complete faith to save your soul? Live each day by faith in obedience to the truth of Jesus.
Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17, NKJV)
All of us live under multiple authority structures. In the home, at school, and as citizens of communities, state and the nation, there are layers of authority under which we live. We either respect the authority under which we live unto our benefit, or we defy the authority to our shame harm. The local church also has an authority structure which Christians are taught to respect. Since Christ is the head of the church, His authority (revealed in His word) rules. He has set bishops or overseers (also called elders and pastors or shepherds in the Scriptures) in each local church to rule or lead them. Each member of that church is to “be submissive” as we obey them. With willing hands and hearts, let us humble ourselves to the rule of our elders and be a source of their joy instead of grief as they “watch out for our souls.”