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Tag Archives: righteousness

When Faced With A Decision, Ask This Insightful Question…

Asking-Front[1]Bobb Biehl is the master of questions. He is the President of Masterplanning Group International, and years ago wrote a beautiful little pamphlet which I have personally referred to off and on through the years. A year or so ago I bought one for all our full-time staff. It’s titled, Asking Questions, and it’s not fancy – it’s really just got a bunch of questions in it. There is a chapter on questions to ask to avoid small talk, another on focusing or refocusing your life, one on planning, and quite a few more. Biehl writes,

“Great questions help us think through a wide variety of options…between the time we see an opportunity or problem, and the time we make a final decision/take a final action. There is a gigantic difference between the person who has no questions to help her/him process situations and the person who has profound questions available.” Asking Questions, Bobb Biehl

I bring up Bobb’s writings because recently I read a great question from John Piper which I thought was paradigm-changing. It’s based on Hebrews 12:1…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (ESV)

In the context, Piper first heard this question from another pastor, and he is speaking about that. Read closely – it just might change your life: 

And the preacher said — and I am the preacher now saying it — this text says, “Look to Jesus and lay aside sins for sure and lots of other stuff, too.” Now that is a different way to live. Well preacher, as a 13-year-old or 14-year-old, what question should I ask if it is not, “Is it a sin?” And the answer is, “Does it help me run?” That is the answer. “Does it get in my way when I am trying to become more patient, more kind, more gentle, more loving, more holy, more pure, more self-controlled? Does it get in my way or does it help me run?” That is the question to ask.

Ask the maximal righteousness question, not the minimal righteousness question.

You know why that question isn’t very often asked? Because we are not passionate runners. We don’t want to run. We don’t get up in the morning saying, “What is the course today? What is the course of purity? What is the course of holiness? What is the course of humility? What is the course of justice? What is the course of righteousness? What is the course of love? What is the course of self-control? What is the course of courage? O God, I want to maximize my running today.”

If you have that mentality about your life, then you will ask not, “How many sins can I avoid?” but “How many weights can I lay down so that I am fleet-footed in the race of righteousness?”

Love it. I need to start doing this – not asking, “Is it a sin?” but, “Does it help me run?”

That’s worth remembering.

For tomorrow, Friday, October 2nd: Hebrews 13

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2015 in sin, Uncategorized

 

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I’m So Glad That I’m Not Like That Sinner Willy Loman

In college I took a Short Stories class to meet an English requirement, and after about half a semester in the class, I approached the professor asking if she would give us a few stories to read that actually had happy endings.  It seemed that almost everything we were assigned was dark and depressing, and personally, I like to feel good after immersing myself in literature. Well, we watched a movie the other day based on a play that would have fit right into this class.  It was an abridged version of Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman.  Josh had mentioned that he loved the play after being exposed to it in high school, and so I decided to surprise him for Christmas.  Now this was a sad story that I approved of (I’m sure Arthur Miller would be glad to hear that).

If you don’t know, Death of a Salesman tells the story of Willy Loman, a 60-year-old washed-up salesman who has blown just about everything in life.  The story is a recounting of his life and failures.   In short, Loman is a man without substance – a salesman on a short fuse who is not about making sales but about having contacts, always longing to be “well-liked” and to have sons who are well-liked too.  He dreams of the numbers of people who will one day come to his funeral, testifying to his beloved status. And at the heart of the story is a Boston mistress and a motel on his sales route, where Willy heartbreakingly fails everyone in his life, and forever drives a wedge in the relationship with his son Biff.

Viewing Willy Loman’s life is…uncomfortable, for through his skillful and subtle writing, Arthur Miller points his narrative finger at the failure in all of us.  In fact I think that whereas we are tempted to ask the question at the end of the story, “Am I Willy Loman?” the better question is, “Where am I Willy Loman?”

I think this is the heart of the challenge that Jesus offers his disciples in Matthew chapter 5, the first third of the Sermon on the Mount.  The Lord wants us to see what so many never do see, that we have failed God in almost every way.  Adultery and murder may seem like unreachable sins to many, but Jesus brings them right down to shelf level where we can all partake:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

– Matthew 5:28 (ESV)

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;

– Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)

It’s easy to look down on the Willy Lomans among us, but Jesus says that none of us will get to heaven if we don’t have a righteousness that surpasses the scribes and Pharisees. (Verse 20) And who, pray tell, could ever be that righteous?  And then, of course, we can’t forget the impossibly high standard that closes this chapter, the standard that neither Willy nor anyone else will ever meet: “Therefore, you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

Maybe our first step, therefore, is to recognize that, indeed, we are, all of us, Willy Loman, and in light of that truth, begin following the Lord as He points us to another way of righteousness.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Living the Perfect Life

Imagine living a life where you never messed up, where everything you did was right and true. Imagine living a life where you never sinned.

Such a life would be full of peace and joy. And we know why, right?  Because sin causes such pain, doesn’t it? Just think back to the Holidays that weren’t so long ago: That Thanksgiving meal which became so uncomfortable because of the shouting match between the two sisters…would have never happened, and the turkey would have tasted so much better. Or consider the dreaded credit card bill which is now on its way to so many homes because, among many other things, Mom and Dad felt such need to get little Suzy the latest and greatest dolly with all the clothes and houses. And the idolatry that led Suzy’s momentary joy has stolen away the lasting joy of her parents.

Without sin there would be none of this…just tasty turkey and stuffing…and blessed contentment.

And such was the life of our Lord Jesus, alluded to verse 15 of Matthew 3…

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (ESV)

The context is with the crowds on the banks at the Jordan River, when John balked at baptizing the Lord. And why did Jesus insist that John baptize Him? Because it was the right thing to do. Glorious. This was the every-moment life of our Lord, at every turn making the right move, saying the right thing.

Oh, there was pain in Jesus’s life, mind you, the pain of seeing others hurting, the overall pain of existence in a fallen world. But never any of the existential angst you and I deal with every day from our own folly and sin. What a life of peace and joy, always doing the Father’s will, always walking down the clear path and staying out of the ditch.

Never any emotional or physical pain from sin…that is, until Calvary. And then…it was complete and total, absolutely overwhelming pain. There on the cross He felt the pain of the broken relationships of a million turkey dinners, all at once. There on the cross, He experienced the shame and regret of a million bad financial decisions. And more, of course. There was physical pain too, but the worst of it was not the agony of the torturous cross. The worst of it was the agony of the Father’s face turning away from One now so completely…sin.

And all so that if we would place our faith in Him, we might receive His record of “fulfilling all righteousness”…and the glorious peace and joy that accompany it.

Tuesday, January 6: Matthew 4

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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