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

October 26, 2017: “Authenticity”

Authenticity

Authenticity cannot be faked.
That seems elemental but it needs to be said. We live in a world of images where what seems to be real, may not be real at all, and what is real may make so little noise that it is overlooked. In some organizations the truth gets handled rather than simply told. Theatrical gestures are used to signal some inner reality that may be completely missing. Great care and fuller resources are spent on the way a presentation looks and sounds rather than what is actually being said. This world is so image-mad that connoisseurs accept a well-done work of art regardless of the message it contains.

As we stand before the Lord this morning, it is impossible to fake Him out. He knows the deepest things about us. We hold no secrets from Him. As we pray, God looks deep into our hearts. What does He see?

God is never fooled.
In short, He sees what is there. Many wicked things can hide deep in the human heart, stealthy things that avoid the radar of our introspection. To others we can talk a good game. We have memorized our lines and we know how to present ourselves, not as we are, but as we wish to be. Because God is God, He cannot be successfully lied to. We can fool ourselves and our public appearance of spirituality may fool others, but God is never fooled. None of us has enough wool to pull over His eyes.

You cannot pray a lie.
Private prayer becomes a season of self-revelation as the Holy Spirit rejects lie and after lie as we try to pray them. This is a process called “The Refiner’s Fire,” from the words of the Prophet Malachi. Its purpose is to “purify the Sons of Levy” (NT believers) so we offer worship to God that is worthy—read that—“authentic.” The fires of His Holy Presence bring hidden things to light where we can deal with them.

Scriptures:
Malachi 3:1-4
… I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness … as in former years.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Matthew 6:6
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Luke 12:1 NKJV
For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You came to this earth as the authentic representation of who the Father is. You walked the same earth I walk, enduring the same types of temptations I face, yet without sin, the authentic human life. Now through Your death and resurrection and Your gift of the Holy Spirit, I can live an authentic human life. I am forgiven by faith in Your blood and I am empowered by Your Spirit, so let my life radiate with authenticity. My life will tell Your story and my works shall be works of praise. Search me, O God, and know my heart today! Amen.

Song:
Cleanse Me
Words: 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, where 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 our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved