The Life of Righteousness-Part 1 covered the first reason I believe that it is difficult, hard even, for me to live a life of righteousness. These reasons may very well apply to you as well. I believe they are common to all of humanity.
Honestly I find it difficult to live a life of righteousness all the time. Do you? I sin, often with the best of intentions, yet I knowingly do wrong. I know better yet I do not do better.
If this describes you too we are in good company, as the saying goes, for I believe no one accounts this better than Paul in Romans. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the member of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:15-25 NIV)
As a layperson and a flawed human being, there are I believe, three things that make living a righteous life seem difficult:
We arrive in this world with the capacity for both good and evil.
- In order for us to learn to choose to do the right thing God left some specific instructions in His Word.
- We have a responsibility to ourselves to recognize our inability to be likely to choose to do evil rather than to choose to do good, to live a righteous life.
- I realize that this goes against the view of society that men are inheritably good. I do believe mankind is capable of great human kindness to our fellow man. But I also know that without intervention man, woman or child will most often choose to look after number one and to do that it often means we break someone else. I also believe that intervention has to be the Lord, His teachings and His presence in our hearts.
- Which leads me to the conclusion we get the “cart before the horse” oftentimes. We want to live a “righteous” life, be a “good person” but we leave Christ completely out of it. True righteousness comes from following Jesus. This means we must absorb as our own belief what Paul was given by God to write in Romans 3:21-24, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
- Satan preys upon us in multiple ways.
- One is that he preys upon our weaknesses.
- Satan also distracts us from the Word of God and God himself. Satan appeals to our sense of self-pride. Peter, dear disciple that he was, struggled with pride and anger. He swore that Jesus would never die the way He told His disciples, the way the prophets of old had foretold. Jesus rebukes Satan in Peter in Matthew 16:23. It was the same trap Satan laid for Eve in the Garden of Eden.
- Satan deceives us as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 through false teachers.
- How often we underestimate the abilities of Satan to test our faith, to distract us from a life of righteousness that honors God! Furthermore how much more often do we overestimate our ability to recognize a scheme of Satan for what it is, a way to pull us from doing God’s will!
This isn’t to say that we can fall back upon the old cliché because Satan can’t FORCE us to sin. “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” Romans 8:9 N.I.V. Along with this is the assurance we have from God as He inspired Paul to write in I Corinthians 10:12-13 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
We CHOOSE to sin. We CHOOSE evil. We CHOOSE to take the easy way. Instead of the small gate and narrow road that leads to life that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:13-14 we choose the wide gate and the broad way.
Everyone has a choice.
- Eve and Adam had a choice. (Genesis 3:7)
- David had a choice concerning Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12).
- Jonah had a choice in the book of Jonah whether to follow God’s directions or not.
- Judas had a choice whether to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ or seek and choose to betray Him in Matthew 26:14-16 and Mark 22:1-6.
- The list could go on and on for everyone whose testimony God inspired the authors of the books of the Bible to record had a choice, right or wrong, good or evil, God or Satan.
- So too do we, have a choice.
It occurs to me that righteousness was never promised to be easy for Jesus never promised us choosing to follow Him, choosing to seek His way would be easy.
- In fact, He told us just the opposite, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
- Furthermore Jesus told the disciples, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-38)
- Therein is the grave mistake in my previous reasoning, in my initial question and the truth behind my initial confession; living a righteous life, choosing Jesus’ way every time was never supposed to be easy. Or simple. Nor is it meant to be lived alone. Jesus is beside us, in the form of the Holy Spirit, every step of the way. Did He not promise to send us a Counselor in John 14:26-27, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
The best words I can convey to you is this that in order to live a life of righteousness which we are called to do as Christians, as true Believers in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is simply this.
- Pray unceasingly as God had Paul instruct us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
- Study God’s Word. Devour it daily as if it is your last meal.
- Respect the law of the Old Testament but do not forsake the grace in the New Testament that frees us from the legalist following of the laws given before Jesus’ died on the cross. . Romans 7:5-6, “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law, were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”
- Stay connected to a body of Believers who seek to live the Scriptures under grace and truth as you can cling to as the absolute truth.
- Live it. Do it. Be it. Be consumed by it. Choose it daily. In every decision choose righteousness. Our goal is to be imitators of Christ. We will not be perfect as long as we are alive in this imperfect world but we must give it our best.