Ethics: When You Behave Like You Believe – Proverbs 21:3


“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).

Sometimes we don’t behave consistently with what we believe–or we claim to believe. What we purport is not how we comport!

Our behavior is defined by our beliefs–what we really, really believe, not what we say we believe.

It’s called ethics.

When we are more concerned with pleasing others, going along, or not standing out from the crowd than we are about doing the right thing, then we compromise what we believe.  We behave unethically.

And, it begs the question: If you don’t behave it, do you really believe it?

The wisdom writer made this point quite clear: Being religious isn’t the same thing as being righteous.

Doing what is right is more important to God than doing religious things like going to the temple and offering a sacrifice or going to church and and putting money in the offering plate.

Think about it. If God already owns everything,  why does He need our sacrifice?

He doesn’t, it’s for us!

Sacrifice is an act of worship to teach us how to love God and live for Him. It’s about giving–giving our possessions, our will, our bodies, our being–to Him, for Him. It’s about God being Lord and King of our lives.

If you really believe and accept that He is Lord and King over your life, then you will act like it; you will do what is right and just because God is right and just.

Your belief is a compass for your behavior. You know to behave because you know what you believe–because you know in Whom you believe!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1, NIV)

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Annoying God – Genesis 32:24-30

“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ … Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.'” (Genesis 32:22-30, NIV).

The method Jacob used here to obtain God’s blessing seems rather counter-intuitive to our innocuous efforts in seeking God. While we think we must approach God with religious formality and terminology to obtain His blessing, Jacob used an alternative methodology.  Jacob wrestled with and held on to God until God blessed him.

Prior to his wrestling match with God, Jacob was in the throes of a dilemma. God had commanded him to repatriate the land He had promised to Jacob’s father and grandfather, Isaac and Abraham. But, in order to do so Jacob had to confront his estranged brother, Esau–from whom Jacob had stolen his birthright–and Esau’s army of 400 men.

Anticipating a disastrous outcome to his rendezvous with Esau, Jacob had taken his family to a safe place. Then, Jacob proceeded to a place where he could be alone to seek God and plead for deliverance from Esau and reassure himself that he was doing God’s will by returning to the promised land. There, he encountered a man (an angel or theophany) and wrestled with him all night.

Jacob knew that he was wrestling with God (or God’s messenger) and gripped Him until the man promised God’s protection and deliverance on his journey to and settlement in the promised land. Despite the man wounding Jacob’s hip, Jacob continued to grasp the man until He agreed to bless him.

Jacob was what you might call indefatigable. Indefatigable means not yielding to fatigue, incapable of being tired out. Tireless or persistence is the more common way to describe this trait. Annoying and even obnoxious is this attribute carried to the extreme.

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The Wrestling Match – Genesis 32:27-31

“He said to Jacob, ‘What’s your name?’ and he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel, because you struggled with God and with men and won.’ Jacob also asked and said, ‘Tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why do you ask for my name?’ and he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.’ The sun rose as Jacob passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh” (Genesis 32:27-31,CEB).

I once heard it preached that choosing to believe Jesus was the Son of God and died for our sins so we could have eternal life was more plausible than choosing not to believe.  Because, if you believed and got to the end of your life and it wasn’t true, you still lived a good life with no regrets. But, if you didn’t believe and it was true then you risked a dreadful eternity.

In other words, it is more logical (and eternally safe) to believe in God than not to believe. And, we get to choose…

While our modern minds try to analyze everything, even faith in God, and make it logical and rational and human-centric, the biblical pattern is actually something quite different: God chooses us and we choose whether to accept His challenge or not.

And, it’s not like a debate.

It’s more like a wrestling match!

In fact, struggling with God is the normal Christian life.

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Why? – John 12:27

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came!” (John 12:27, NLT).

Recently, I’ve been reading Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. The premise of the book is that successful leaders influence loyalty to a product, movement or idea because they communicate why their organizations exist. According to Sinek, knowing your why is more important than  knowing what you do or how you do it. And, knowing your why will help you know what to do and how to do it.

So, apply this on a personal level. What’s your why? Why do you exist? Why do you do what you do?

In a conversation in John 12 that Jesus had with some of His disciples concerning His impending death, He seemed to be very aware of His Why. He knew exactly why He existed and why He did what He did.

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It’s Providential – Genesis 30

Simply stated, providence is God’s intervention in His creation. The theological concept of providence incorporates the foreseeing care and guidance of God. In fact, the Latin root of the English word has the sense of  knowledge of the future.

So, because God knows the future, He controls the present.

Providence is probably the main point in which a biblical worldview comes into conflict with contemporary worldviews. Certainly, the Old Testament worldview was more respective of God’s providence than is the modern, scientific view that asks “Why” and “How” about every occurrence in life and nature.

The Old Testament writers seem to have a rich understanding of God’s providence. To the Old Testament writer, it’s all providential!

The two major events from the life of Jacob described in Genesis 30 illustrate the Old Testament perspective of providence.

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Follower or Following? – Matthew 16:24

following“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT).

As I was praying one morning and yet again reciting to the Lord all my shortcomings and should-have-done’s, it occurred to me that though I profess to be a follower of Christ, am I really following Christ?

Just because I’m a follower of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean I’m following Christ!

I follow a lot of people on social media. But, just because I follow them on Twitter doesn’t mean I always read their tweets. Just because I like them on Facebook doesn’t mean I want to be like them.

But, it’s different with following Jesus. He says you can’t just be a follower, you have to follow. And, following requires you to do something–or not do something–depending on how you look at it.

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Folding – Romans 12:1-2

sheet_of_paper“So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” (Romans 12:1-2, CEB).

This meditation is a hands-on lesson in how God works in our lives. Give it a try.

  1. Take a blank sheet of paper and in the middle of the sheet of paper write in large letters:

MY WILL

  1. Then in the top left-hand corner write in smaller letters:

GOD’S
PERFECT
WILL

  1. Fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
  2. Then fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
  3. Again, fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
  4. And, again fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
  5. You should  now have a small square of paper in your hands that is 1/16th of the original paper size with the words printed on it: GOD’S PLAN FOR MY LIFE. These words probably fill or almost fill the small square of paper in your hand.

Here’s the point of this exercise:

We like to think of God’s will as something that is being revealed a little at a time. It’s like something we discover as if it is unfolding before us.

Actually, finding God’s will is more like folding than unfolding. It’s more like the displacement of our own will in favor of God’s will. It’s a place God leads us, not a place we discover.

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