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?

Continue reading

Your Brother’s Keeper – 1 Corinthians 8

BrotherkeeperIf food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13, NASB).

In Genesis 4, Cain killed his brother, Abel, out of jealousy. When God asked Cain where his brother was, Cain answered with that ageless question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?: (Genesis 4:9).

In 1 Corinthians 8 the Apostle Paul addressed a moral dilemma confronting the Corinthian Christians, that of eating meat that was offered as a sacrifice to an idol in a pagan temple. While this issue is not one to which we relate today, the resolution to the dilemma that Paul presents here has relevance for any moral dilemma of any age and culture.

Because these pagan temples offered parts of animals in sacrifice to idols, they also often functioned as butcher shops and banquet halls. Public and private dinner parties were held in temple dining rooms and meat from the temple was sold to the public in the marketplace.

Continue reading

Maligning the Truth – 2 Peter 2

true_and_false“Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” (2 Peter 2:2, NASB).

In this chapter the Apostle Peter describes the rise and fate of false prophets. He says that heresy grows concurrently with truth. As the truth of the gospel is more widely and broadly proclaimed, there is a corresponding increase in the willful perversion of it.

Deceit is a growth industry that is fiercely competitive with the truth. In fact, the misrepresentation or distortion of the truth of the gospel seems to be as prevalent as the proclamation of the true gospel.

Continue reading

You Can’t Sweet Talk God – Jeremiah 3:4-11

no_talking“So you talk, but you keep on doing all the evil you can” (Jeremiah 3: 5, NLT).

At the time of Jeremiah’s ministry, the northern kingdom of Israel had been captured and exiled by the Assyrians, and now over 100 years later, the southern kingdom, Judah, was about to be conquered by the Babylonians.

Continue reading

They Will Want What You Have – Acts 13:4,9-12

“So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit…Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye…Then he said….the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind…When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.” (Acts 13:4,9-12, NLT)

Barnabas and Paul’s first missionary journey was undertaken by the leading and in the power the Holy Spirit.

Continue reading

Santa Claus Theology – Matthew 18:21-22

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times? No, not seven times, Jesus replied, but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22, NLT)

In a series of stories and parables Jesus explained how His followers should get along with one another.

So Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him.

Peter probably supposed with his suggestion of seven times he was being magnanimous. But Jesus’s recommendation of seventy times seven was astounding!

It was the same as saying always forgive someone who sins against you!

While it is quite ordinary behavior not to allow someone to mistreat you repeatedly, but it is most extraordinary behavior to forgive them if they do!

And Jesus constantly encouraged such radical behavior from those who followed Him.

But this radical behavior can’t be formulated into a list of do’s and dont’s. It’s a matter of the heart, a lifestyle!

Jesus’s intention was not to create good people out of His disciples, but to establish God’s righteousness in their hearts.

And forgiveness was a matter of the heart, a lifestyle, not a one-time, or seven-time, or seventy-time, or even seventy-times-seven behavior.

C.S. Lewis once said that improvement is not redemption. He said that being Jesus’s disciple was more than a matter of being a nice person, or even an extremely nice person!

Jesus is preparing us for eternity and so the real issue is not how many times your were nice to somebody but how your heart is. Not what your are, but what you are becoming!

Unfortunately, our understanding of what Jesus was teaching us about God’s righteousness is sometimes based on a sort of Santa Claus theology: “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

And then we become like Peter in this story.

We perceive God as being up in heaven keeping a list of how many times we have been naughty or nice. And, if at the end of our lives we have more good behavior than bad behavior, then we make it into heaven.

But God is not keeping score to determine your eternal outcome.

And you couldn’t be good enough, even if He was. God knows that. That’s why He sent His Son, Jesus, to conquer sin and death for us!

Eternity starts now and how you choose to spend your eternal life is not a matter of being naughty or nice. It’s a matter of a transformed heart and a redeemed life, which occurs when God imputes His righteousness into your life by your faith in Jesus, God’s Son.

“If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us,”(1 John 4:12, NLT

Additional Instructions for Eternal Life – Matthew 7

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, much of the focus for discussion is often on the first part of the Sermon containing the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.

In fact, the last admonition of Jesus in Chapter 6: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (vs. 6:33, HCSB), somehow seems to conclude the Sermon.

But Jesus provided many instructions for His disciples in Matthew 7 as well! The Golden Rule that we all learned as children is vs. 12.

The behaviors Jesus identified in these additional instructions in Matthew 7 were taught in the context of eternal life.

In other words, these are instructions we should live by in our present life in preparation for eternal life.

When Jesus said to treat others the way you want to be treated (the Golden Rule), He meant the criteria you apply when making judgments about other people could be the criteria God applies in determining your place in eternity.

So here’s some additional instructions from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 that will help us live a life focused on God’s Kingdom and eternity:

  • Pardon and forgiveness (Matthew 7:1-5). While these verses seem to be saying do not be judgmental or critical toward others, the real message is to be abounding in pardon and forgiveness toward others as God is toward you. If God is exceedingly merciful toward you, then you should certainly be the same toward others.
  • Discretion (Matthew 7:6). While admission to God’s Kingdom is available to all human beings, it cannot be and should not be forced either directly or indirectly on anyone. While this admonition is certainly not meant as a condemnation of any class, race, educational level, or socio-economic class of any human beings, Jesus’s disciples should direct their efforts at proclaiming the Kingdom of God to those people—individually or collectively—with whom their efforts can be productive and not argumentative.
  • Mutual loving relationship with God (Matthew 7:7-11). The basis for establishing a personal and intimate relationship with God is based on the interaction of giving and receiving. Jesus is saying that the Heavenly Father wants to give you all aspects of abundant and eternal life if you are willing to receive it. We know this is not hyperbole because Jesus says that even people who do not know God love their children and love to give them gifts. In Luke’s version of these verses the “good gifts” are the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Heavenly Father gives His Own Spirit to dwell in the His children.
  • Respect for humanity (Matthew 7:12). Known as the Golden Rule, this verse sets the universal standard for getting along with others. You have to start with a basic respect for human beings.
  • Convictions/principles (Matthew 7:13-14). Know what you believe and stand up for your beliefs because it is always easier to follow the way of evil (through the wide gate) than it is to follow God’s way (through the narrow gate).
  • Discernment (Matthew 7:15-20). Following the instructions of Jesus will sharpen your senses so that you can better recognize what proceeds from good and what proceeds from evil. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit (or no fruit). It is the same way with people, so determine what kind of fruit a person is bearing and you will know what kind of person he or she is.
  • Obedience (Matthew 7:21-27). By obeying the instructions of Jesus you will fulfill God’s will for your life. When the challenges of life confront you, you won’t fall apart because your faith is built on the absolutes of God’s will and God’s truth and reality.