I spoke this weekend at a church in Wisconsin. I’ve been connected with the church off and on for exactly 40 years. I spoke to them on the topic, “Being Right vs. Being Righteous” because I wanted to study the topic. I began with Psalm 40:10 where David says, “I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.”

God’s righteousness is equated with His faithfulness in relationships and His saving or rescuing of those He comes in contact. The Kingdom of Heaven is a Kingdom of Righteousness. It is a Kingdom where the King is fully devoted to having relationships with His people. It is a place where the leaders working with the King have His same love, His same heart, and with one mind all the people are faithful to care and protect one another.

I shared yesterday how Jesus lived out this kind of righteousness with a passion that confounded many of the people around Him. While the Pharisees were muttering about the character of the woman who was washing Jesus’ feet, Jesus was caring about her. Jesus initiated a conversation with the woman at the well while the disciples conferred about why He would be talking to a woman, and a Samaritan to boot. When Zacchaeus climbed the tree to get a view of Jesus, His response was to have lunch with him while the Jews stood outside and discussed Jesus’ poor choice of friends. There are dozens of examples of the ways Jesus prioritized right relationships as the key to righteousness.

God’s Priority

Since the beginning, God’s priority has been to walk in close relationship with man. But our sin, our disobedience, has broken that relationship. Righteousness, God’s righteous, is not about being right. Rather it simply involves fulfilling the demands of the relationship that He has desired to have with us from creation.

We know and understand that we are not saved by our works. We know and understand that the word of God and the souls of people are the only two things that will last for eternity. Yet many of us, and I am including myself in this misguided group, appear to work hard in serving God. We’ve been privileged to lead and disciple many in The Way. We’ve seen miraculous healings, and even personally experienced and witnessed demons cast out Jesus’ name. However, what will Jesus say to us? Well done good and faithful servants [1]? – or – I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers [2]?

Jesus recognizes and agrees that these later “followers” did good things in His name, but He makes it perfectly clear that they were not doing “His” will. His will is for us to be in close relationship with Him, to know Him and to make Him known. All of the right activities done outside of a relationship with Jesus will fail to withstand the fire [3]. In John 5, Jesus rebukes the religious leaders who questioned Him saying, “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to Me; yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.” They were studying the Scriptures and doing the right things, but they were not pursuing a close relationship with God.

Our Sin

As I shared with the church, any sin that stands between brothers who are striving to be righteous is an affront to God. Consider the New Testament, a vast majority of the passages about sin are concerned with a relationship and/or a failure to practice “loving one another.” I have taught on all 59 of the “one another” passages several times. The “one another” passages are not rules for our personal behavior. Rather, I believe they are intended to reveal the struggle of God to accurately present the nature of His righteousness. What does that mean? It means that whatever action, word or thought that breaks a relationship or destroys unity is unrighteous. That which builds up and promotes unity is righteous.

In our workplaces, our families, our communities, whatever we do, we must strive for righteousness.

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:3.

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:10.

So shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22.

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

1 John 2:29.

[1] Matthew 25:23
[2] Matthew 7:23
[3] 1 Corinthians 3:13

 

 

PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for other 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.