This passage is from today's Daily Lectionary reading, 1st Peter 2:11-12:
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
RM: If you think about it, think about all the false accusations leveled against Jesus, especially near the end, Jesus was never slandered or falsely accused for doing the kinds of things that would have been the expected, religious looking actions, which he occasionally did do along side the other religious people of his day, such as going to religious festivals or obeying religious laws and such things. He was never later accused or slandered for doing these types of things that would have been the right, religious things to do of his day. The things that Jesus was accused of were either actions and behaviors that looked on the outside like immoral and sinful types of things, such as spending time with prostitutes, or for doing things that confused people, such as speaking symbolically so often of things, such as tearing down temples, etc. Let's then apply this to what our passage is calling "honorable conduct" or good Christian "deeds" which we are supposed to do in front of others, and what such actions are supposed to look like, if we are to follow in Jesus' foot steps.
People often think that what the Bible means, when it says that Christians are supposed to put their good conduct on display for an onlooking world, is referring to what you might think of as "religious" looking actions of morality. I am convinced that such actions and behaviors are NOT the type of conduct to which this passage and others are referring. I think this is a very confusing and easily misunderstood point, which is difficult for legalistic, "religious" types of people to understand.
I am convinced that true Christianity, the real essence of it, the true feel and heart understanding of it, is sadly so very different from what many evangelical people in our society believe that it is. I am submitting to you that what might be called the grace approach or gospel approach toward God is the essence of true Christianity. And if you study and follow Paul and Jesus in their argumentation in most of their dialogues in the New Testament, they were constantly trying to steer believers away from legalism much more than they spent time steering them away from base immorality.
The impulse of legalism in the fallen, human heart is the natural thrust in all of us that leads to a more self-reliant, performance based, legalistic version of Christianity, which the Bible seems to be saying is actually not Christianity at all. ("I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one" Galatians 1:6-7a)
So, then, what are these "good deeds" and "honorable conduct" which we are to perform before an onlooking world? What DOES real holiness look like? ....it looks like love. It looks like a NON-religiousy, non-condemning, warm, accepting kind of person, who is safe for bad or hurting people to confide in and rely on. It looks like a person who is willing to go far out of his or her way to help someone regardless of that person's integrity. It actually looks NOT very religious, and yet somehow it is quietly holy, in a tattered, messy kind of way. True "good deeds" put on display will look something like Jesus' life looked, which consisted in spending time with bad people. It also looks like having an understanding of Jesus' grace approach, which was often, honestly, very confusing for some people and required much more time to understand it. Jesus' conduct more often than not did NOT look like the expected religious activities of his day. To those who were a part of the religious establishment, it looked more like irreligion than anything, though of course he was constantly healing, helping, comforting, and renewing.
Let us keep fighting ourselves as God commands us in this passage, to "abstain from the passions of the flesh", and "flesh" so often means 'self-reliance,' the impulse of legalism, but of course we could also include all the other immoral desires that spring up in us as well. Let us keep fighting ourselves to abstain from any and all passions which would hinder us from giving TRUE holiness to those around us. And, as always, let us do it motivated by and based on our desperate need for Jesus' grace, which he keeps giving to bad people like us, through his act of atonement which now counts for those who accept it, hallelujah.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for loving us so much. Help us to follow in your footsteps as a church, and to have the type of "good deeds" that you had, Jesus, motivated by your grace for us, so that others might "glorify God on the day of visitation." We love you, and we need you. Amen.
A short devotional from today's Old Testament Daily Lectionary reading, Exodus 13:3-10:
3 Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.
Again, if Jesus really is the interpretive key to the entire Old Testament, just as he said he was in Luke 24: 25ff, 44ff, then that tells us that this passage is really symbolic for Christ, and God taking us out of the greater slavery from which Jesus, the "true Moses," liberated us, the slavery of death and sin, and his making us born again, and changing each believer now from unbelief to belief, and all of the experiences and treasures and truths that come from it.
What's so important about making a choice to accept Christianity, is not the choice, but all of the benefits of salvation which come from it and after it. What the Israelites did in their liberation was fairly insignificant compared to what God did. And, it's the same for us!
Here, in this Exodus 13 passage, with the interpretive key of Christ being read back into it symbolically, as every Christian should, it is saying that it was no small thing for God to make atonement for us and to deliver His people out of their terrible slavery. Jesus said, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" but "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34ff)
Here's another symbolic point. The rush to eat quickly and get out of Egypt, is a warning and reminder to us personally in our practical daily lives, that we should "rush" to get out of the various and specific sins we find in our own lives. We need to think that we need to rush and fight ourselves to get out of the kinds of sins Jesus taught so much about, such as hypocrisy and performance based self-reliant religion, the sin of stinginess, the sin of impatience and non-forgiveness, the sin of non-trust and fear in Him practically today, the sin of lust and gluttony, the sin of pride and using our tongues in unloving ways. God wants us to rush and make a big deal about getting out of these things.
In fact, what you could really take God to mean when he says remember the day of His atonement, is that we, the church, need to really remember the day of our greater atonement which the greater Moses secured for us, by his passion of what happened on the week of Easter, as we all just celebrated last week. So then, symbolically, we could say that what God is saying here in this passage is that we need to make Easter a really big deal in our hearts and in our lives, individually and corporately, and never forget it or the greatness of what it accomplished for us!
Let us rejoice in the liberation and joy we have in having our sins atoned for and our perfect reconciliation and adoption by God now as our gentle, loving, and perfect Father. And, let us use all that treasure to motivate us to rush out of the various sins in our lives.
I want to encourage you now to take these beautiful truths, and spend a few moments sometime today to get alone with God and apply these truths specifically to your life, and always do it resting in the security which our greater Moses has so thoroughly secured for us. Have a great week.
"Faith" really is required in order to have any human framework of reality or existence, atheism or otherwise. All worldviews are based on faith.
There are many lines of argumentation for this. I'll give you just one. I submit to you that the concept of a "law," as in, the idea that there are "laws" of nature, is a concept that has to presuppose the existence of God.
If you don’t presuppose the existence of God, then you can’t really consider the uniformity of nature a "law" in the way that that word has been historically used. In fact, without the existence of God, there is no basis for the concept of "law" in just about any other sense as well, i.e. laws of logic or societal laws, at least not in the way that the word has always and essentially been understood.
An example which helps to get at this point is the question: on what basis can you trust that 2+2 will equal 4 every time? The CHANCE that it might have worked out in the past when you’ve tried it before, is not a basis which we would call a "law," which is a universal reality that can ALWAYS be trusted, regardless of your beliefs, which is what we mean when we use the term "law." Without a God, how do YOU account for the universality of a law to exist? And yet, we're trusting in the existence of the laws of logic and math in order to trust that it will be 4 on the next attempt. Christianity has a worldview where this makes sense. Atheism, I submit to you, does not. If you are an atheist, upon what do you establish the existence of universal laws in the first place? Is it that the attempt to do the math just HAPPENED to work before? That’s not a "law." I submit to you that an atheist cannot account for the existence of such a thing as a universal "law", if there is no God. And of course, it is irrationality to trust something without a reason or basis for it. Without a God, you can only HOPE that it will equal 4 the next time, but there could be no "law" for it.
But an even bigger implication, if you could concede the point, is that no one really LIVES as though such things are only a "hope." Instead, we are all forced to live as though there really ARE such things as laws. And we are doing this with a great deal many other things, all the time. Deep down, we really all know that there is a God, even if we are very personally committed to repressing this knowledge. We can’t help but live as though there really is a God, no matter how badly we might want there not to be.
The Bible says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20
Let us conclude by saying this: we should all have a lot more charity, and I'm speaking particularly to atheists here, about the fact that everyone has faith, meaning that we all have some worldview which is based on some set of unprovable assumptions, which we have to take on faith in order to hold that worldview. Christians readily admit this about their worldview, but (most) atheists have yet to see it about their own. But, then again, I'm basing everything I say on my presuppositions aren't I! And, that's the point. We all are. We all have "faith" in the assumptions our worldviews are based on. All human thinking is based on first taking by faith some set of assumptions which they can't prove. It is not possible to do otherwise. I only wish that more atheists would see this, so that they might be more humble and charitable toward other "religions."
May the Lamb, who delights to die for sinners, grant you to accept His forgiveness, that you may discover the joy and security of knowing Him personally. Amen.