So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10: 31

This is one of the most inclusive statements in all of Scripture. Yet, it has a very narrow focus at its conclusion. Paul had lived out of a very ridged and fully articulated form of rules and regulations regarding what he could eat, how it was to be handled and prepared, and who he could take meals with. Now, in Christ, he had a form of freedom that he would have never experienced before. Still, he was a man who understood the importance of self-control, and he also understood that this self-discipline was a product of Paul’s submission to Christ and to following God’s will in everything. Thus, he comes to the broad and highly inclusive aspect of the statement in his letter to the church in Corinth when he tells them to “do all” to the glory of God.

This all is very big word, for it does not leave much out of its boundaries. There is no space for personal beliefs or for secret passions. This idea of living out each and every moment of life for the glory of God is not one that Paul invented, either. It is as old as is the existence of humanity, for fully engaged, all-in worship of the Lord a part of the way that we were created to exist. Thus, when we hold back parts of our lives or determine to live out aspects of it outside of God’s will and righteousness, we are actually setting a course for ourselves that is at odds with our deepest nature. People are most at peace in our souls when we are living in obedience to God’s Word and in harmony with His will. So, in order to do this with the totality of our beings, there is no area of life that we do not surrender to Christ and live out in the full instruction of the Word and the on-going council of the Spirit.

At the end of his thoughts, Paul takes us to the truly narrow and singular focus of what it means to “do all” in this context. God’s glory is made visible by the manner that His people live out our lives. When we pour out the presence of Christ into the world around us, we are reflecting that glory. This is seen in the form of sacrificial love that reaches out to others and seeks to uplift and care for them even when that means giving up something of importance to ourselves. It is also demonstrated when we are more concerned with justice and with mercy than we are with safety or gain. Christ’s presence is brought into the public square when we hold up righteousness as the standard for behavior and as the foundation for all forms of policy and practice in our society. There are many other situations and instances wherein we can choose to bring glory to God or to deny Him through our thoughts, words, and actions. Paul tells us to choose to do it all for God’s glory.     

As for man, his days are like grass;

   he flourishes like a flower of the field,

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

   and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on

               those who fear him,

   and his righteousness to children’s children,

to those who keep his covenant

   and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103: 15-18

Everyone wants to leave a legacy. We desire that there would be something left behind when we leave this life that people will look upon and see a reflection of our importance in the world. These life-defining accomplishments may be grand or powerful, and they might also be rather miniscule when viewed from the extremely high vantage point that God possesses. Regardless of what it is that we provide to our heirs or to our world by way of inheritance, they all have one thing in common, and this is the same commonality that all people are granted in the course of working out our lives. Our time here is temporary, for each of our lives will cease at the end of our allotted days, and the work of our hands will pass into history and gather its rightful dust as the produce of our hands becomes obsolete, is replaced by something more functional or useful, and as even the financial wealth that we accumulated and bequeathed is used up or its source is no longer known personally by its beneficiaries.

An enduring place in this world is something that only God actually possesses. He is the creator of it all, and it is by His hand alone that everything functional on earth and in heaven is set into motion and sustained in its trajectory. We may live lives that are glorious and provide various forms of beauty just as do the flowers of our fields and gardens. Yet, all that we bring to this world will end and our beautiful place will be nothing more than a fast fading memory. The Lord’s place in the world is an eternal one in which He provides the concept of what is beautiful to the canvas that is His masterwork. While the flower was a temporary resident in the soil of its planting, the Lord’s love, grace, truth, and life are an unceasing component of that same soil. All that is vibrant, everything that provides value and gives nourishment to our bodies, minds, and spirits is derived from God’s outpouring of Himself into the environment around us and into us as we feed upon His word of truth and life.

For you see, God actually wants each of us to leave behind a true and an enduring legacy. He grants us His infinite grace and unending mercy so that we have the opportunity to overcome our failures and our losses while claiming a place of honor and respect in this life and into the days to come after our bodies have left the earth. This real and enduring heritage is formed out of love given, grace extended to others, mercy granted, and righteousness lived out to the best of our ability to do so. The best way for each of us to be remembered is through the lives of others that have been touched by the presence of Christ because we cared for them and entered into traveling through a portion of life with them. In the end of these days, a desirable eulogy would not mention wealth gained and passed on, power obtained and brokered, or monuments of stone and steel constructed; rather, those final words become lasting ones when they describe a life that has been committed to serving God, wherein its memorial stone is carved in lives brought into relationship with Christ, and by which the desire to seek after righteousness and holiness are passed on to future generations.  

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Romans 5: 17

 

As I sit here and look at these words of Paul, I am taken aback by just how differently I seem to operate. It is not that I don’t believe in the concept of grace or that I don’t even think that I accept it and embrace it. However, I do tend to want to take control over the way that it connects to righteousness in my life. Things that simply are, especially ones that are by virtue of what another has done in a manner that eliminates all of my management, make me uncomfortable. My comfort zone is found in the world of plans, actions that develop from those plans, and of check marks after the items are accomplished. The idea of something as significant as my righteousness being received as a gift is troubling.

 

Yet, Paul has expressed it correctly. I might prefer to be able to look carefully at the text and to determine that some great translation error has been made so that God actually intended for us to own this process, at least to take over its completion. But that is not the case. We do not have the ability or the capacity to plan, devise or implement our own righteousness, for we do not have any of it on our own. We are fallen and broken creatures who started out our existence as the pinnacle of God’s creation plan, but we chose to grasp after a form of god-likeness that we could control rather than resting in the assurance of our God-image creation and in the impartation of righteousness that God granted to us as an aspect of an undiminished relationship with Him. We are a lot like the small child who wriggles and struggles to get free of the parent’s hand as they are heading out across a busy street. We desperately want our freedom despite the fact that safety and training in safe living are found in that loving grasp.

 

Christ grants us life. That is the gift of all life. It is not just one aspect or period of living; rather, it is life that spans all of our existence from this moment through eternity. This gift of life includes each and every aspect of who we are and of what we do. There is nothing that is outside of its boundaries. As I accept this gift, I am forced to recognize that it comes to me as a result of God’s grace that, through Christ, bridges the great chasm of division that my sinfulness caused to exist between my depraved self and God’s absolutely righteous being. Christ grants to me a righteousness that is real and that works within me to transform my heart and to restore my mind to that original God-image design. My part in this process is one of surrender, and it requires me to open my deepest places to God’s revealing light of truth. Here the sin that tries to continue to possess my soul is exposed, and here Christ takes my struggling hand and leads me into His peace and victorious rest.

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Isaiah 32: 17

 

It seems to me that there is a very wide spread misunderstanding of righteousness in our world. When righteousness is mentioned many people quickly envision a scene where there are individuals who are red-faced with anger shouting and waving signs of condemnation. Even if they have never actually encountered such a scene, the images of them have been portrayed so extensively for our viewing that they have created a lasting impression. It is, at least in part, this sort of misguided sense of righteousness that has caused division and hurt in many churches throughout history, and this same failure to understand God’s view of righteousness has fueled the energy behind far too many damaging attacks on people and their beliefs that are carried out in the name of God.

 

I would submit that God does not actually hold a view of righteousness. It is not something that is external. There is no force of nature or other influence that can bend, turn, or reshape righteousness. Rather, God is righteousness, for He is its author and its only true source. It is who He is. If we think that this foundational concept of living in a manner that is right with God and that is in total conformity with His will is worthwhile and desirous, then we must look to the author, Himself, for the knowledge and the understanding that makes the necessary personal transformation possible. God’s Word is filled with descriptions of the complex blend of characteristics that make up righteous living. In His dealings with humanity God has employed love, grace, mercy, justice, holiness, and wisdom in order to interact with us in a righteous manner. He leads us into doing the same in every aspect of life.

 

If we truly desire peace, especially the sort of peace that is deeply rooted in our souls and that is not easily shaken by the events of life; we need to dwell near its source, which is righteousness. So, it is essential that we claim property, build our homes, and establish our communities at God’s feet and fully in His presence. This is both a literal and spiritual location. It is spiritual in the sense that righteous living begins with a relationship with Christ, that wisdom and guidance are continually provided by the Holy Spirit, and that, in Christ, we are now citizens of the unseen but very real Kingdom of God. This location is literal by virtue of the community of faith that God desires for us to actively engage with. It is also made tangible by the way that we interact with and respond to our culture, for Christ calls us to function as living and breathing, image of God revealing citizens of our world. When we trust God enough to allow righteousness to reign in our hearts and minds, we will know the sort of peace that establishes a confident quietness in our souls.

 

For when I have brought them (the Israelites) into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and have grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise Me and break My covenant.

Deuteronomy 31: 20

 

This is strong language that comes from the mouth of the aged Moses as he faced into his own death. God has granted to him a view into the future that is thrilling in the way that God will fulfill His promises to provide a dwelling place that is bountiful in all areas of human need. However, Moses also is made aware of the fact that these people who have been so hard for him to lead have not changed all that much. They will enter into the riches of God’s blessing, and they will become complacent and bored with it all. They will go off searching for something better, and they will abandon the hard discipline that righteous living demands.

 

It seems that there may very well be a cautionary tale in all of this for people today. For the most part we have it all a lot easier than the people that Moses was leading. Yet we still live in a hostile land where the only true and reliable provider of what we need is God. We live today in the shadow of constant peril. There are evil giants roaming our landscape, there are false gods calling to us with their winsome voices, and our culture makes it easy to ignore active involvement with God’s Word and in Christian fellowship. So the words of Moses are speaking loudly to me, and they cry out a challenge and a warning, “You are growing fat; you are acting like you no longer fear God and desire to serve Him with all of your heart.”

 

The righteous life is not a sedentary one. It requires that we remain active and highly vigilant. In order to avoid becoming fat in our spirits and complacent in our minds we need to continually seek out God. He desires for His people to turn to Him in prayer with worship, praise, and thanksgiving on our lips. Our Lord wants for us to stay lean and light on our feet through the constant practice of reading His Word and discussing its content, meaning and application. Christ implores us to join Him in the daily battle for the souls of people and for the healing of our sin ravaged lands. Regardless of age or physical condition, in Christ we can all remain hungry, stay lean, and be fit for the contest as we passionately serve the King.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

[For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]

Matthew 6: 13

 

With temptation, evil, power, kingdoms, and glory all mixed together Jesus gave us the content for a great adventure or fantasy story. But He was not telling a bedtime fable or giving us some light entertainment. Jesus was entering into the holy realm of prayer, and He was speaking about the reality of life when He did this. There are no wasted words here. All of the content is important, and that is why I have chosen to add the bracketed last line from the New American Standard text to my usual ESV version here. There is a completion of thought that these final words of this prayer bring out that seem to matter to me today.

 

Temptation swirls about us every day. God does not place it there. In fact, it comes about because there is a very real and quite active presence of evil in our world that is continually working in opposition to God, for we live squarely in the center of today’s battlefield where Satan engages with God for power and dominion and for the ownership of souls. Temptation and the sinful thoughts and actions that it can lead to are placed before us and are used as weapons of war by Satan in order to distract and disable followers of Christ from our callings as servants of the true King. When we pray for protection and for deliverance from these temptations and in repentance for our sinfulness, we are recognizing that Christ is our Lord and Master and that He will lead, guide, and empower us in living righteously.

 

Jesus is giving us words of respectful and loving submission to Christ, and He is our one and only hope for walking through these perilous days in a manner that conforms to God’s Word and that brings honor and glory to the Lord. Yet, this singular hope will not be frustrated or defeated if we continually reach out in faith and trust to Christ who does actively work to save us and to redeem this world, for God does rule this world, and He has granted to Christ the power and the authority to save people and to enact that same sovereign authority on Satan’s attempts to exercise false rule over people and places here. As people who know God and who seek to follow His will, we must continually seek out His protection and guidance as we trust Him in all aspects of life’s journey; so, we pray from deep in our hearts as Jesus models for us.

 

Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own initiative, as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”

John 5: 30

 

Here is one of my real personal challenges; I believe that God has equipped me to make decisions and to handle issues in life; so, I can so very easily get into an action oriented, just get it done mind set that moves to conclusion regarding what needs to take place without taking the time to consider what God would desire me to do. Also, the actions that I take are not usually the biggest issue; rather, the way that I deal with people is what makes the difference in the way that I either do glorify Christ or not.

 

If Jesus needed to obtain the Father’s will when He was considering how to handle people, why should I think that I don’t need to do the same? If I care enough about someone, care enough to want to interact with that person in a loving, concerned, and relationship building manner, why wouldn’t I also want to allow God’s wisdom to guide me?

 

Perhaps the most important aspect of the resourcefulness and the decision-making ability that God has designed into people is our capacity to access Him. We are given the gift of our ability to seek out His way of responding to life; so, we can lay the issues and the challenges that we are facing before God and let Him talk to us about them. We can choose to follow Jesus and let God be the initiator of our actions, allow His judgment to prevail in our actions, and set aside our own desired outcomes in order to achieve a truly righteous one.