Righteous Living

I try to remain as spiritually pure as possible through Bible study and prayer. I try to avoid impurity because I think it pleases God when I can lead others by example. I want to remain as spotless as possible so that people cannot find fault with me when I tell them how to live their lives. I do not want to be a hypocrite. I want to practice what I preach. I do not want to live a reckless life. I do not want the dirt from my past to soil or contaminate the holy cleanliness I envision the church as having.

However, if we try to avoid contamination by living in a vacuum, we can create a very sterile environment. Avoiding sin may help keep us pure, but avoiding too much of life will stunt our spiritual growth and will rob us of opportunities to serve the Lord. And if we attempt to make ourselves righteous simply by avoiding certain sins, there will always be still other vile sins lurking in some dark corner, anxious to discredit our righteousness.

A self-righteous person gloats over being a self-made man. He is proud of his accomplishments. But a true servant of God is humble because he knows that he cannot earn his righteousness. A true servant of God knows that Christ has already paid the price for his salvation on the cross. A true servant of God is repentant; he knows he has sinned.

Sin should be avoided as much as possible. But we cannot remain free from contamination, even if we attempt to live in a vacuum. We are all human. So sinning is inevitable. We must seek and accept Christ's forgiveness to keep our spiritual lives pure and holy.

The Bible says we are to flee from temptation. But we cannot run from sin forever. We cannot avoid sin forever. We will yield to temptation at times. And since we cannot avoid all sin, we need to get better at dealing with sin by openly confessing our sins and repenting of them. We must try not to repeat our sins. But when we do, we must be honest enough to say, "God, I sinned. I chose to sin and must accept responsibility for my thoughts and my actions. I cannot remain pure simply by avoiding sin. I need your grace to cleanse my sins and make me whole once more."

When a Christian tells me of his broken past that is littered with sin and disgrace, I actually feel like he is a better person than someone who has not disclosed his sins. I admire and respect the person who has overcome a past riddled with sin. He has had to face up to sins that everyone can see. It seems that some people are terrible sinners because their sins are more obvious; their sins are more difficult to hide. And it also seems that some people never sin because their sins are not as obvious; their sins are very discrete. But we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all need Christ's forgiveness.

Once you have received forgiveness from your sins, there is no reason to dwell on your past mistakes. So don't look back at your life with regret. Don't wish you had done things differently. You cannot change the past. But you can learn from your past mistakes. And you can help encourage others not to keep repeating the same mistakes you once made. Christ can take what was once bad and find a good use for it. You can help others overcome the same temptations that used to defeat you. And you can teach others how Christ gave you victory over the sins of your past. That is something self-righteous people cannot do. They keep themselves too isolated from the world to have any effect on it. And they would certainly never admit that they have ever sinned.

Please open your heart, your past, your love, and your relationship with Christ to those who need strengthening. When someone confesses a sin to you that you have struggled with, try to offer him some comfort and encouragement. Tell him, "I know what you are going through. I have been there myself. I understand the struggles you are facing. I will lift your needs up to our Father in Heaven. What can I do to help see you through this difficult time?"

So when you see someone who has stumbled, stoop down and help raise him to his feet. And as you are stooped down to support the weight of his burdens, remember how you felt when you were in his position: flat on your back. Then say to him the words that you had longed for someone else to say to you when you were down. And do for him the things that you had longed for someone else to do for you.

When I was 16, I went door-to-door by myself and invited people to visit our church. I have done many things backwards, or in reverse order, in comparison to other people's lives. When I was 16, people told me I had a quiet dignity and a reach beyond my years. Now I am 36. But, still, someone at our church commented on my articles by saying, "Jeff, I find it interesting that a young person like you is leading and teaching us older people."

At the age of 16, I was years ahead of my time intellectually. Now at the age of 36, I am years "behind schedule" when it comes to finding a wife. But it is still not too late for me to start a family. I will make a better husband and father now that I am older and more mature.

I have discussed my life experiences with several Christians in cyberspace, on a computer network called America Online. I gave them a copy of a few of my articles. Betsy made the following comments about me. I am sure that this advice will apply to many of you, as well.

Here is Betsy's message. You know, Jeff, it's so obvious just from your writings that you are a sensitive, compassionate person with a strong desire to give to and help others. You are also just the kind of person who Satan loves to harass by making you feel personally responsible for all the needs of the world and then causing you to suffer burnout trying to meet those needs. This has destroyed many a minister of God.

You could never meet all the needs of your church, much less all of our town. And God is not calling you to that. Ministry, like a relationship, cannot be need-driven. The Lord will bring to you those He wants you to reach as you listen to the gentle leading of His Spirit, and not the screaming of the needs around you.

Also, you don't need to have experienced what someone is going through to be able to minister effectively in the Spirit and with compassion of the Lord. If that were true, few of us could minister to prostitutes, drug addicts, or homosexuals. People just need care from trustworthy people who will guard their confidences, love them unconditionally, be firm but patient with them, and minister in the wisdom and grace of God.

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