25 Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. (Ezekiel 18:25–26, NKJV)
When pointing out the Bible teaches it is possible for a Christian to fall away from Christ and be lost, we hear the same objection that was made by Israel in the days of Ezekiel: “That’s not fair!” (See yesterday’s Sword Tips #1078 on Ezekiel 18:24, as well as Gal. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:1-3.) Nevertheless, God rebuts and rejects that objection for what it is, an inversion of the truth of the matter (cf. Isa. 5:20). God said it is unfair to conclude that a person can be rewarded, even though he “turns away from his righteousness” and “commits iniquity” (v. 26). It is a slanderous and appalling insult against God and His justice to propose that one can do evil and the outcome be good (Rom. 3:8). “The soul who sins, shall die” is given as a warning that sin – whether committed by God’s people or by God’s enemies – will receive a just and impartial punishment (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Rom. 2:6-11). Be careful not to attribute any unfairness to the Lord God. Instead, let us humbly conform our faith and our lives to His word, because “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9).
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NKJV)
We have been reared to think of ourselves as autonomous, in control of ourselves and unfettered by the authority of others. In one sense, this is true, for we are free moral agents – each one morally responsible and accountable to God and others for our actions. This demonstrates that while we are free to act without regard for others, such a decision is sinful and foolish. We must regard God and man in all our actions. Not only were our bodies were given to us by God, we were “bought at a price” by the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:28; 10:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Instead of using our bodies to fulfill sinful lusts through sexual immorality, we are to offer our bodies in the service of the Lord to do His will (see Rom. 12:1-2). Coming out of the sinful defilement of the world, God will dwell with us and we with Him (2 Cor. 6:16-7:1). So then, both our redemption and our subsequent relation with God demands that we “flee fornication” and pursue righteousness (1 Cor. 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:22).
9 I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, You Yourself know. 10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great assembly. (Psalm 40:9–10, NKJV)
Over the past two days we have briefly considered the Ad Council’s campaign, “Love Has No Labels.” Today, let us commit ourselves to a different sort of campaign, one needed by our nation and the whole world; a campaign of righteousness. It is led by Jesus Christ, who was prophetically described as “David a Brand of righteousness,” and as King, who executes “judgment and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 23:5-6). As David proclaimed good news to the great assembly, even so His physical descendant Jesus Christ proclaims “the good news of righteousness” to the world. Let us join His campaign and proclaim God’s salvation in Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Be a foot soldier in His campaign of righteousness and be the “salt of the earth” who flavors this world with righteous living. Join His campaign of righteousness and be the “light of the world” who exposes this dark world to the light of truth (Matt. 5:13-16). God’s grace calls on us to live righteously and godly (Titus 2:11-12). Such living demands that we “do not restrain our lips,” but declare God’s faithfulness, mercy and truth.
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3–5, NKJV)
One does not accidentally stand in the presence of Almighty God. Fellowship with Him is a privilege. Only the one who is holy as God is holy will be granted a place in His presence. One cannot live in the defilement of sin and properly claim a place of blessing in His holy place; such would be incompatible with the holiness of God. If you wish to ascend to God’s holy hill of habitation, the psalmist David explains the faith that must characterize your life. First, cleanse your hands. You cannot do impure things and stand in God’s holy place. Pure actions require a pure heart. Purge your mind of evil thinking so that you may stand in God’s presence. Additionally, you must not lift up any idol in your heart. Only the true and living God has a place in the soul of the person with whom God has communion. Finally, be an honest person, one who does not deceive or mislead with your words. God’s blessing of righteousness and salvation is given to the person of faith who is holy in heart, in word and in deed (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7–11, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit is “the Helper” Jesus promised to send to His apostles, who would “guide them into all truth” (Jno. 16:13). Jesus kept His promise on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4). By the preaching of the apostles, the Holy Spirit began convicting the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. By their word, the Spirit of God convicted the audience of their sin (“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,” Acts 2:37). He convinced them how to become servants of righteousness (“repent,…and be baptized,” Acts 2:38). And, he convinced them of judgment (“save yourselves,” Acts 2:40, ESV). The Holy Spirit continues to convict the world by the inspired message of the apostles, and by it, to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned— In these ways we continue; and we need to be saved. 6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:5–6, NKJV)
Far from confirming the false teaching of total depravity and a “sin nature” inherent in humanity, this passage explains the sinfulness of a rebellious nation. Neither does it teach that we can do nothing that impacts our salvation. Israel had turned from God’s ways to idolatry, eliciting God’s wrath (“we have sinned,” v. 5). Indeed, even after repeated warnings, Israel continued in the ways of sin instead of turning back to God’s “old paths, where the good way is” (Jer. 6:16; Isa. 65:2-3). The people needed to be saved. None of their sacrifices pleased God; in their sin they were unclean like a defiled garment (Isa. 1:10-15). It was their sins (not some “sin nature”) that separated them from their God (Isa. 59:2). Like Israel, God’s people can still turn away from God’s way, become defiled in sin, and face divine wrath. God spares the one who “rejoices and does righteousness” (v. 5; Acts 10:35). But, those who practice sin are like a dead leaf, blown away by the wind. So, rejoice in God’s salvation and walk in “true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart… (Psalm 15:1-2, NKJV)
The one who “works righteousness” finds a place of spiritual rejuvenation in God’s tent. Working righteousness has a bad theologian reputation due to a dramatic failure to properly demarcate works of merit (by which one earns His standing before God, Rom. 4:2, 4; Eph. 2:9) from works of faith (the obedience that completes faith, Jas. 2:17, 20, 22, 24). The apostle Peter told Cornelius and his house that God accepts all who fear Him and “work righteousness” (Acts 10:35). We are confident He still does. God’s inspired word contains the “instruction in righteousness” that equips us “for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). John said, “He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). Without living in obedience to Christ’s truth we will not be righteous nor dwell in God’s presence.