March 15 “Good”

Good

When times are truly evil, good becomes the object of ridicule.
Words for good things become words of derision:

  • “Virgin,”
  • “Goody-two-shoes,”
  • “Teetotaler,”
  • “Boy Scout,”
  • “Choir boy,” and the most derisive of all,
  • “Holy-roller.”

People want the freedom to do as they please and, in a telling phrase, “ let the devil take the hindmost.” He does. Anyone who takes a stand against evil will be subject to appellations such as these.

Turning the Tables
On the other hand, the same people who want to be unmolested by those who promote goodness want to be treated well; they want goodness coming their way. They may be cheaters but they don’t want to be cheated. They may stretch the truth beyond recognition but they resent being lied to. Young men may enjoy the company of bad girls but they want to marry a good one.

How to Be Good
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed the issue of goodness. He employed two common metaphors: salt and light.

“You are the salt of the earth”
“You are the light of the world”

These everyday things help us see the importance of good in the world.

  • Salt—Good is a preservative. Unbridled freedom to follow our impulses will destroy a society. Goodness is the necessary restraint. It was good that tamed the Wild West, not the Colt .45. The Rule of Law is the rule of restraint.
  • Light—Good is illumination. Good points us to the next step, a “lamp for our feet and a light for our path.” Without a standard of goodness, we stumble in the shadows of our darkened minds. Creation cycles between daylight and dark. The light Jesus spoke about goes beyond the turning of the earth. It is light in darkness, a shining city on a hill whose illumination pushes ignorance back and makes us safe within our dwellings.

How then should we live?
The Bible makes it clear that being completely good is a hopeless goal on our own. We all fall short of the glory of God. Jesus came to forgive us of those shortcomings and to empower us to live good lives.

  • Christ-followers must be the salt of the earth. We must live lives that marked by restraint. Goodness expressed in every day choices and actions is a preservative for this world.
  • Christ-followers must be light-bearers. Each of us has an inner light—the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We must not hide this light. It shines when we refrain from evil in all its public and private manifestations. Together, our lights combine to make that “shining city on a hill,” so often referred to by visionaries. It is more than a vision; it is the reality of the church.

We are not showing off. The world can spot a phony in a minute. If we live with the restraints of holiness, people will know. Our workstation will become a bastion, a refuge, a place of prayer and hope. Our lives will be preservatives functioning against the chaos of impulse.

The Light within in us is Jesus Himself. We can be the light of the world because He is the Light of the World. Walk in the light as He is in the Light. We will not stumble when others lose their footing. Standing firm in a pool of light called grace, people will see and give the glory to God.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:13-16
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Hebrews 12:14-16
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Romans 6:22-23
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Isaiah 60:1-3
Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are my example. Thank You for forgiving my sins and calling me to this life of being salt and light to a decaying and dark world. Holy Spirit, empower me to “live a holy life, to shun the wrong and do the right.” When I hear the derision of the world leveled at me, help me to respond in love. Let Your voice, coming from the Light, sound louder than all those voices coming from the dark. May all who witness my life see You in it and give glory to God. Amen.

Song:
Take Time to Be Holy
Words: William D. Longstaff; Music: George C. Stebbins

1. Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.

2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

3. Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

4. Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

November 28, 2017: “Pretense”

Pretense

Actors act; believers behave. Fakers fake it; those who are real, really are.
Jesus walked in truth through a world of deception.

  • Once, the world was “good” in the eyes and judgment of the Creator.
  • Now, it was bad, corrupted by the contents of the human heart.
  • Once, the True Religion of the Covenant with Jehovah was pure and powerful, running like a well-tuned clock ticking off the hours of prayer through the day and the night, the seasons of the year, and the generations to come.
  • Now, it was putrid and pitiful, reeking of the power-grabbing machinations of Herod and Caiaphas. They had turned the Covenant with God into a power structure for sinful leaders, smart in the ways of men but ignorant of the ways of God.

A World of Pretense
They misjudged Jesus, thinking of Him as unlearned and unsophisticated, an opponent scarcely worthy of their superior skill. So they pretended.

Luke 20:19-20
And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.

They were defeated before the game even began.
Jesus saw through their pretense like a clean window made of the clearest of glasses. Their wicked hearts were laid open to His perusal. He found hate, ambition, deceit, violence, and duplicity coursing through their veins, sourced in and pumped by those wicked hearts.

They thought they had Him this time; they would ask a question that had no correct answer.

Should faithful Jews living under Roman occupation serve God or Caeser?

With the simple toss of a Roman coin, He answered the unanswerable question:

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Stunned, there was only one course left to them, something that had never tried before; “they kept silent.”

We laugh at them, but we should also learn from them.
Let us keep silent in prayer so that the holy light of the Holy Spirit can search our hearts. Because we are human, pretense may lurk in our hearts, too. The world doesn’t need any of our preening pretense; the world needs to see real followers of Christ—people who walk in His steps, people with a different vocabulary, a cleaner sense of humor, a higher sense of honor and a genuine sense of purpose. Life isn’t a show; it is a real life drama. We do not “present” ourselves to this world, we occupy it. We do not “strut and fret our hour upon the stage,” as Shakespeare said that actors must do. We live a larger life than a play within a proscenium, a theatrical stage. Our story is one of eternity, a grand narrative of good conquering evil, light destroying darkness, and life defeating death.

Actors act; believers behave. Fakers fake it; those who are real, really are.

Only the foolish think they can fool God.

Scriptures:
Luke 20:19-26 NKJV
And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people — for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.
Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 19:7-14 NKJV
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Help me be real as I walk through the events of this day. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O God my strength and my Redeemer. May my choices reflect the values of Your Kingdom. May my actions spring from Your love in my heart. May my story be yet another chapter in Your grand narrative, the story of God’s love come to earth, God’s compassion reaching to the wounded hearts of men. Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Amen and Amen!

Song:
Cleanse Me
Text: J. Edwin Orr; Music: Maori Melody

1. Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free.

2. I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy Word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, when once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.
3. Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self, and pride;
I now surrender; Lord in me abide.

4. O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival—start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply the need;
For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved