Why Do the Right Thing?

It is no secret that God asks us to give up our sins, some of which may be very dear to our hearts. He asks us to change our lives in ways that can be difficult or painful. He asks us to give up our pride. He asks us to step out in faith and do things that get us out of our comfort zone. He asks for a lot.

So why should we do what He asks? Why do the right thing? Here are some possible answers:

So that life will be better for us here and now. After all, God’s commands are designed to protect us from harm. There can be no question that following where He leads is beneficial. In Mark 19:30, Jesus says of anyone who gives something up for Him, “he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age.”

So that we can go to heaven. In Matthew 6:20, Jesus encourages us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Romans 2:6-7 tells us that God “WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” Some day we want to hear Him say “well done.”

So that we won’t go to hell. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 says plainly, “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” For those who really believe all that the Bible says about hell (and the Bible says a LOT about it) this is a real motivation to do the right thing.

There are many other possible reasons to do the right thing. To be a good example to those younger than us. To avoid hurting family and friends. To keep a clear conscience. To maintain personal credibility.

But there is one primary reason to do the right thing that we must not forget.

We do the right thing because, as Christians, we don’t have a choice. God owns us. We gave up our rights when we died with Him through baptism (Romans 6). We signed up to be slaves of righteousness (also Romans 6). It is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Our lives are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

We live in a society that esteems personal freedom over duty. Others may give us advice, but they are not to control us. No one can tell us what to do, we get to weigh the pros and cons and decide for ourselves. But the relationship between the Christian and his God is not this way.

God can and does tell us what to do. If you want to follow Him, you only have one choice: submit. We don’t get to pull out a list of pros and cons every time we want to sin, assess the situation, and decide whether discipleship seems personally advantageous. God either owns you or you do not belong to Him at all.

“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

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The Renewed Mind

Ephesians 2:2 refers to Satan as “the prince of the power of the air.”

Indeed, spiritual decay is in the very air we breathe.  It can feel like there are a thousand forces working against our desire to know God and delight to do His will.  So many ideas have so permeated our cultural environment that it feels impossible to escape their effects.

  • Individualism separates us from our neighbors by teaching us that we should all just focus on ourselves instead of others.  Even in our own families and churches we are often so unaccustomed to opening up to one another that we cannot get the help that we need from each other.
  • Consumerism tells us that the way to happiness is through electronic gadgets, sophisticated machines, and expensive imported goods, and materialism provides us with an endless supply of such consumer goods to purchase or covet.
  • Electronic entertainment numbs our minds as it literally puts our brains in an alpha brain wave state, and hypersexualization teaches us that personal fulfillment is impossible without constant sexual gratification.
  • Industrialization means that many of us spend most of our time indoors, away from the beauty of God’s creation.  It also means that time is money, and thus we are always busy maintaining our standard of living, which makes finding time for God more difficult.

Even though I can identify these and other hindrances, correctly responding to them is another matter.  It is important to know that the Biblical answer to our dilemma is about more than changing our actions.  The Biblical solution is a mind renewed by God (Romans 12:2).

This world is a place of spiritual darkness, but it is where we are constrained to live out our days for the time being. Thus Jesus prayed for us: “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (Matthew 17:15-17)

By the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, “you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:4)

Our minds must be renewed by the sanctifying knowledge of God and Jesus Christ contained in God’s word so that it can be said of us: “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13)

Spring Meadow

Living Life to the Fullest

Henry David Thoreau, the American philosopher born 1817, spent two years living simply by himself in the woods. In a well know passage from his work, Walden, he explains why he decided to do this:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau voices a concern that many of us sometimes face: the feeling that we are not living life to the fullest. There seem to be many forces working against us in our desire for fulfilling lives.

Daily routines make life seem mundane.
Modern jobs are often so specialized that they involve repeated tedious tasks.
Countless responsibilities such as taxes, utility bills, and insurance policies drain our hard earned income.
Physical ailments may provide unrelenting discomfort.
Modern individualism eats away at a sense of community.
Mindless entertainment is constantly available in limitless quantity to absorb our free time.
But Jesus Christ says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

He frees us from the fear of death. (Hebrews 2:15)
He frees us from guilt and shame. (Hebrews 9:13)
He gives us a Spirit which lives in us and encourages us. (Romans 8:14-17)

He invites us on a journey too rich and full to be described in a small bulletin article. It is a journey full of words like justification, sanctification, faith, hope, love, peace, fellowship, etc. It can be so easy for these words to become meaningless to us over time, but may we hear Jesus loud and clear as he invites us to live life to the fullest. That is a work that He is starting in us now, which will be completed when He comes again (Romans 8:18-25).

Life to the Fullest