Right Actions with Wrong Motives

Gary Wilkerson

“[The] Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith” (Romans 9:30).

The heart of every follower of Jesus hungers to be holy before God — free from sin, victorious over flesh, pure and spotless before the Lord. This desire is planted in the hearts of man, an innate longing to live right. People of every religion — and even no religion — are moved to live well, love others, be the best person they can be. Some obviously do the opposite, but they still are conscious of a deep desire to do right.

We all fall short of this desire because of our sinful nature. For believers, failure to live in a way that honors God can crush the spirit. For nonbelievers, the spirt of this world can darken the mind to any sense of rightness.

The desire to live uprightly is behind the meaning of the word righteousness — to be in right standing with God. This means you live with right motives, emotions and behavior. It takes what is wrong in us — what is out of sync with God — and establishes right alignment with his purposes.

Is righteousness right behavior? Not necessarily. You can do the right thing while having wrong motives; in fact, some Christians do right things but are motivated by a pharisaical spirit. Their outward behavior is right but inwardly they are “dead man’s bones.” A lot of people seek righteousness with great passion but fail to attain it.

The key is justification. We know Jesus paid the price for our sins through his sacrifice on the cross to bring us into right standing once and for all. If we are not justified, we can never be righteous no matter how many good works we do or how many hours we spend in prayer.

And then there is sanctification. Both justification and sanctification are essential to our righteousness. Justification positions us as righteous and sanctification is the process of experiencing God’s righteousness functioning in our daily lives. This means we begin the ongoing process of walking uprightly before God. 

Jesus is your source for both justification and sanctification through his gift of grace. He is your power, your newness of life, so let him relieve you of any pressure you may have felt to be righteous. Trust in him alone for your victory!

Forgiveness Without Limitations

Claude Houde

One of the most devastating enemies of our faith is the matter of offense. At some point, you will be offended by someone and you will offend someone, not wanting to. Two responses are required: When you are offended, will you have the faith and obedience to say, “I forgive you of this”? And when you offend another, will you have the humility to say, “Please forgive me”?

When you have been hurt, Jesus has direction for your pain. In talking with the disciples, Jesus told them, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! … If your brother sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:1, 4). It was at this point that the disciples cried, “Increase our faith” (17:5).

Faith is absolutely essential for the healing of offenses. Without healing, offenses can become unforgiveness, which will cause death to spread to every part of your life.

In the case of offending another, the disciples were raised under a law that said you love the ones who love you and you hate your enemies. God understands any offense we endure and he does not make light of it. Jesus brought a new message of forgiveness, without limitation, and the forgiveness we give to others cannot compare with the unconditional forgiveness that we receive from our Father.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:11-13).  You will never be more like God than when you forgive in faith and it is the divine flow of the spirit of God that can rebuild you and allow you to forgive.

Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.

What Holds Your Heart?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

As we read Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, we see how he compliments them at length. He addresses them as “the faithful in Christ Jesus … blessed … with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-3).

Paul adds that they are a forgiven people, and he prays they would have “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know … what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (1:17-19).

In the book of Revelation, Jesus also compliments the Ephesian Christians, “I know your works, your labor, your patience” (Revelation 2:2). In other words, “I know all the good things going on in your lives. You are diligent in good works, and that is very commendable.”

Jesus continues to compliment them, pointing out, “You cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (2:2). He is saying, in essence, “You hate sin with a passion, and you don’t tolerate it in your life, your home or your church. You have not been tossed about by all the latest teachings of the flesh, and you’re able to rightly judge false teachers and false prophets.”

It is obvious that the Ephesians are not just a bunch of novices or lukewarm saints. Yet Jesus points out that something is deeply wrong when he says, “I see all your works — your hatred for sin, your love for truth, your righteous courage — and yet somehow in all your labors you have allowed your affection for me to wane” (see Revelation 2:4).

This should grip your soul! As you faithfully labor for him and practice righteous living, ask the Lord, “Jesus, have I lost my first affection for you?” A good measure of this might be found by a close look at what holds your heart right now. How do you spend your time? What robs you of quality time alone with him? What do you make a priority?

Go back to your first love today! Ask your Father for grace and strength to guard your affection for Christ, your Lord and Savior.

Not Above Temptation

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

It is wise to remember that no matter how pure, holy and spotless you feel or how secure you think you are, you are not above being tempted! When you love Jesus, when he is the savior of your heart and ruler of your will, you are a marked person in hell. Satan will try to cut you down to the ground and it is a wise believer who realizes this in order to be equipped for the battle.

Paul explains why God permits the devil to try us so severely, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Satan’s purpose is to engulf believers in guilt, fear and condemnation and make them discouraged and downcast, but the Lord takes care of his children.

David said, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive” (Psalm 124:2-3).

David was sorely tempted, fell into adultery, lied and murdered an innocent man. When the prophet Nathan exposed him, Satan surely was convinced that David was down for the count. He expected the king to throw up his hands and exclaim, “What’s the use? I have disgraced God and committed the very sins I’ve preached against. God can never use me now!”

But listen to David’s cries after he repented. “The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death” (Psalm 118:18). He said, “I was tempted and tried, but God would not turn me over to Satan’s power!”

Beloved, if the devil comes at you with powerful temptations, it is not always because you have sin in your life. He could be attacking you because you have turned to the Lord and he is trying to destroy your faith. Let the following scripture encourage your heart:

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The Absolute Mercy of God

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, vile wickedness ruled and God was not pleased. He sent two angels to Sodom to warn Lot, the nephew of Abraham, of the destruction ahead. Lot was a righteous man (see Genesis 18:19) who lived in this city full of rampant evil and God wanted to alert him to the upcoming annihilation of Sodom so that he could escape with his family.

Lot was hesitant to get out of the city, so the angels literally took him and his family by the hand and led them away from the destruction. “The Lord being merciful to him … they brought him out and set him outside the city” (Genesis 19:16). It is important to note that even though Lot was righteous and God saw something great in him, he was delivered because of the Father’s mercy.

In the church today are righteous people who serve God and live moral lives. Yet, it is only because of the blood of Jesus Christ and not because of any goodness or morality the Lord has seen in them that they are rescued. Think about when you were saved. The Spirit of God took you by the hand, pulled you out of your sins and set you outside the reach of wickedness and rebellion. He brought you out of judgment — out of Sodom — and led you far away from destruction.

We talk about the terrible sins of Sodom but looking around our world today, we see the sins of our society mounting to heaven. Sensuality, immorality and evil are growing bolder and bolder, unrestrained almost to the point of being unimaginable. How is it that we are not swallowed up in it? Why have we not been carried away with the moral landslide?

I tell you, it is all because of the absolute mercy of God! “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

Beloved, search God’s Word and believe all he has said about his mercy toward you.