I wanted to write a brief follow-up to the recent and prior post on “Is This not what it Means to Know Me?” The focus of the first one was on a recent experience where a homeless man showed up on our doorsteps. (By the way he came to our church on Sunday, two of us had lunch with him and then we set him up with a few things and hope to continue that relationship. But I have to say…another guy from the church, who went to pick him up with me and take him out afterwards…it was awesome to see his heart and generosity as he wanted to personally buy him the things we did even though the “church” would have covered it. Just seeing his heart and compassion for this man was beautiful).
But anyway, as I wrote in the first blog, it was an opportunity to know Jesus in a very practical way. As God spoke through Jeremiah the prophet about the present kings father, part of knowing God is “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.” (Jeremiah 22:16).
But that was not the only part of what God says it means to know Him.
That was the second part.
The verse before says this in Jeremiah 22:15: “He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.”
Lest we think we can separate and pick and choose between these two things (defending the cause of the poor and needy) and (doing what is right and just) I felt the need to write about this first aspect of truly knowing God (doing what is right and just). It’s important to examine our own lives lest we emphasize one over the other or to the exclusion of the other and deceive ourselves.
For example, I have found we can emphasize or focus on “right doctrine” and “proper living” but we can have a coldness, self-righteousness, lack of compassion, a lack of concern and giving or serving the poor and needy.
On the other hand, (and what I want to address in this blog) is how we can think that we “know God” because we give to the poor or we help or serve the needy or we “do good works” etc…but we are living a lifestyle of sin/living in sin. Those who live a lifestyle of habitual sin do not know God and are not walking in fellowship with Him. Scripture is very clear about that. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 John 3:7-10).
We can be very “liberal” in our giving or perhaps even helping the poor and needy, but then also be very “liberal” in our lifestyle in regard to sin. But 1 John 1:5-7 makes clear: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” John is saying: if we claim to know God but do not do what is right…we are living a lie.
It’s not just about defending the poor and helping the needy…it’s about doing what is right (righteous) and just in God’s eyes. Hebrews 12:14-15 reminds us to “Make every effort…to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” God calls His people to be “holy” as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). This means our lives are to be different from the world around us. We are to be “set-apart” unto God. We are to be “in the world”, but not “of” (or like) the world.
James 1:26-27 puts these two things together well: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Notice it’s not just looking after the poor and needy, widow and orphans. It’s living a holy, righteous, and pure life. It’s about not being “polluted” or “corrupted” or “tainted” and just going along with the sinful ways of the world…as we look after the vulnerable and needy. It’s living our lives in accordance with God’s Word as we reach out to others. It’s conforming our lives to His Word, rather than our lives being conformed to the world, as we minister to those in the world. It’s not just giving to the poor…but keeping a tight rein on our tongues. Notice the verse in James 1:26 says if we don’t we are “fooling ourselves” and our “religions is worthless.” It’s just an outward form but it hasn’t truly transformed our hearts and lives.
We can live a lie or live a life of contradiction. For example there are those who could be described as “generous gossips.” These people may give and serve…but they also maliciously slander others. Likewise we can be “compassionate compromisers.” These are those who care about others, but are not living in wholehearted devotion to God. They have sin in their life that they have accepted or are tolerating or have justified. Again, that’s a contradiction. There are also “serving swearers.” These are people who think that it’s ok to be using crude language, telling filthy jokes, using inappropriate language etc…that it is somehow justified or “acceptable.” But again this is a contradiction. These things reveal a lack of the fear of the Lord/spiritual immaturity when or if our lives are characterized by these realities. For some they simply need to see their need for “sanctification” (holy living…the process of becoming more like Jesus in character). Others are simply living in hypocrisy and living a lie.
The point is, it cannot be either/or. It’s both/and. God calls us to help others…and be holy. He calls us to be holy…and help others. We can’t pick and choose. To know God…is to do what is right and just…and defend the cause of the poor and needy. It is to defend the poor and needy…and do what is right and just. It is about walking “blamelessly” before God in fellowship with Jesus. This is about knowing Him. And this is what it means or looks like to know Him: Jeremiah 22:15-16: “He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.”
(By the way, these things can only be a reality through receiving the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit “regenerating” us and continuing to work in us, as we humble ourselves before Him and yield our lives to Him).