Step 1 – Desiring What God Desires
What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
A: Discovering the Truth
Many envision God as He appears to be depicted in the Old Testament as a God of wrath and judgment. In contrast, others tend to have an impression of God from the New Testament as one of compassion and grace. But God does not have a personality disorder nor has His nature changed over time. God has always loved and continues to love mercy. At the same time, His Holy nature demands that He act with justice. These qualities are not contradictory. They are, in fact, quite compatible. Reconciling His love of mercy and His Holiness that demands justice is the grace bought and paid for by the sacrifice of His Son. Because of this, God is able to pardon and forgive the repentant sinner. But when the heart is not penitent, God will, in Holy wrath, tread sin underfoot in judgment.
B: Exploring the Truth
Living a Godly life should be the goal of every Christian. It is certainly something that God desires for us. Being Godly means aligning our desires with His. He has shown us what this requires, in the Old Testament no less. They are to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly. Not simply mercy, justice and humility. Those are mere nouns. God calls us to love mercy, to act justly and to walk humbly. Our mercy, justice and humility involve action. These actions saw their ultimate fulfillment with Jesus death, burial and resurrection. He humbly walked that path to the cross. His act of dying on the cross paid the penalty for our sins and satisfied what justice required. His resurrection demonstrated God’s loving mercy towards us in accepting the sacrifice Jesus made.
But loving mercy, acting justly and walking humbly are foreign to our sin nature. In our natural sinful state we have a tendency to be just the opposite. We love power, we act evilly and we walk proudly. These are all the hallmarks of worldliness. These two forces continue to do battle within us. But thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, God tread our sins under foot and is able to show us compassion if we accept His Son’s sacrifice. He in fact delights in showing us mercy. As a result we can aspire to God’s desires, we can act in obedience to Him and this can develop into a consistent lifestyle. We can be transformed from the worldly creature that is our nature into a new creation with a Godly character.
C: Knowing and Understanding the Truth
In order to live Godly lives, it is helpful to better understand the nature and character of the God we serve and not the stereotypes that were discussed earlier. Of course our finite minds can never fully grasp the awesome nature and character of an infinite God. After all, if the whole universe cannot contain Him, an eight and a half by eleven inch sheet of paper cannot either. But we can understand Him to the extent He has revealed Himself to us. Even then we are only able to see the “outer fringes” of His true glory. Indeed, what we see and hear is but a “faint whisper” of reality.
Some of the things that God has revealed to us about Himself fall into three broad categories, if we can indeed categorize anything about Him. At any rate these three categories are: His Being (infinite, unchangeable, eternal) His moral character (love, Holy, good, truth and just) and His nature (omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient). His Being and nature are absolute attributes that only the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have. We cannot aspire to these at all. Satan aspired to them and he fell. We can aspire to His moral character attributes, however. Of course only the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have these attributes absolutely. But we can aspire to them in relative terms.
To aspire to what God desires, to aspire to Godliness we need to grow in love, Holiness, goodness, truth and justice. As these characteristics grow and develop in our lives, we become better at loving mercy, acting justly and walking humbly. We become less likely to love power, act evilly and walk proudly. For in the process God is teaching us to say no to our worldly passions and to live Godly lives.
D: Weighing the Truth
While worldliness is the natural enemy of Godliness, and something we continually must be on guard against and resist, we must also be aware of another more subtle enemy – compromise. Compromise is the attempt to have it both ways, to gain Godliness while enjoying the pleasures of this world. It is a lie of the enemy. In His message to the Church of Laodicea Jesus had this indictment of compromise:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Those I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” (Revelation 3:15-17, 19)
Which way are the scales tipping in your life?
E: Questioning the Truth – For Musing on Your Own
1. How is God perceived in today’s world?
2. How has your perception of God changed since you accepted Christ? Who changed (you or God)? Explain.
3. Why is loving power likely to result in evil acts, while loving mercy is likely to result in just acts?
4. Why are we instructed to love mercy and act justly? Why not love justice and act merciful?
5. Why is humility so important to our “walk”? Why might loving mercy and acting justly not be enough?
6. Which one of God’s absolute attributes (being and nature) do you think is the most impressive and why?
7. Which one of His relative attributes (moral) do you think is the most difficult to aspire to and why?
8. Given His absolute attributes, why is it a comfort to know that God has no dark side (i.e., all of the relative attributes are positive)?
9. How would you explain the difference between God is loving and God is love? How do we aspire to that?
10. Can a person be right without being righteous? How does it make you feel to know that God is not only right, He is righteous and just? Why?
11. Which is a greater hindrance to Godliness – worldliness or compromise? Explain.
12. Why is “what possesses us” a better indicator of contentment than “what we possess”?