Proverbs 21:21 (NIV)
Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.
Our Verse of the Day comes from the wisdom literature attributed to King Solomon. It affords us a simple directive for life: “Pursue righteousness and love.” His instruction is not difficult to understand, but far too often we miss the calling. If we want to experience “abundant” life … a life that God intends for us … I believe we need give this further consideration.
As I thought about these two pursuits for our lives, I found some other Scriptures that I believe will give us some additional insight for contemplation. Romans 5 is a good place to start if we want to look at the pursuit of righteousness. The theological premise that Paul sets forth is quite innovative … and well, of course, inspired. I encourage you to read the entire chapter (click the link above), but I think it’s important to point out that righteousness is a gift from God – for it is what we receive when we place our faith in Christ Jesus. His blood atonement for our sin imputed His perfect righteousness to us. Indeed, it is through grace that we have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8) Indeed, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8-10)
If we want to pursue righteousness … we must pursue Christ Jesus with all of our hearts. We must abide in Him and He is us. It is only through Him that we will receive a righteousness that is acceptable to God the Father. In contrasting the issue of death which came through the disobedience (sin) of Adam with life that comes through the obedience (holiness) of our Lord Jesus, Paul reasoned: “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man (Adam), how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Cf. Romans 5:15-17)
To pursue righteousness is to receive righteousness … and this through the abundant riches of God’s grace and mercy revealed in Jesus Christ. As I mentioned above, if we want to experience abundant life, we need the righteousness of Jesus applied to our hearts. And Paul will continue in Romans 6 to unfold what this means in practical terms. Again, I urge you to read the entire chapter, but I want us to see the application of His righteousness to our lives:
Romans 6:11-23 (NIV)
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The pursuit of love is similar to that of righteousness. If we want to pursue love … what is means to truly love … then we must pursue Christ Jesus with all of our hearts as well. The Apostle John is a great resource for us in this quest, so I will quote the beloved disciple for our study:
1 John 4:7-21 (NIV)
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
In John 13:34-35, Jesus declared: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Indeed, our pursuit of love is a commandment! And the standard is quite high – to love others as Jesus loved us! Yet consider the outcomes of both righteousness and love: You will find life … prosperity … and honor! Yes, you will experience life to the full (Cf. John 10:10) because Jesus came to give us true life … eternal life! For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Cf. John 3:16) And I love this following verse: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” (Cf. 3 John 1:2-4) Yes, when we walk and live in the truth (Jesus), we will prosper in all things just as our souls prosper….
Well, I am prayerful this study provides some food for thought and some application for you.
So Now You Know…
Have a Blessed Day!
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:26-31