Bread – Standards

February 20, 2015


Readings for Friday, February 20, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 7:12-16; Titus 2:1-15; John 1:35-42; Psalms 31,35,95

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What standards shall we follow in our lives and why?

In our reading from Deuteronomy, God says “”And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that He swore to your fathers. He will love you, bless you, and multiply you…” Deut. 7:12-13

We call these standards the law. The judge of our obedience to these laws is God. Like all laws, there are penalties for disobedience. And as for God’s law, we have proven over and over again that absolute obedience to the entirety of the law cannot be achieved, if we are honest with ourselves. Unstated in this passage (but stated elsewhere) is that, if you obey the law, good things happen and if you don’t, bad things happen.

In Titus, Paul says “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness….that the word of God may not be reviled … so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:1-2,5,8,10.

We do not call these standards the law. Instead, we set them as high marks of living the Christian life. They are marks of underlying character, not following the rules but living the life.

With the law, disobedience brings death. With the standards, disobedience defames Christ.

With the law, God is our judge. With the standards, other people look at us and decide whether we are true ambassadors of Christ.

So, which standards do we follow? There are four choices: (1) God’s law, (2) God’s standards of behavior as good representatives of Jesus Christ, (3) man’s law, and (4) the world’s standards of behavior. In our legal system, there has historically been an attempt to unify the first three, so that man’s law is in alignment with God’s law and His standards of right behavior. The world’s standards of behavior are what, as Christians, we should avoid, because to follow them brings dishonor upon Christ. Unfortunately, as man-made laws begin to reflect more of the world’s standards of behavior and less of God’s, Christians will be required, more sharply than now, to decide whose standards and laws are to be obeyed.

The “why” part is trickier. One may be inclined to follow God’s law as the only way to assurance of salvation. However, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by works. Therefore, slavish obedience to the law as a path to salvation is a sliding backwards and a refusal to embrace the freedom we have as Christians. However, the law is not to be rejected because it stands as God’s outline of actions we can take and avoid to live fruitful, Godly lives.

If we are Christians, then we may be inclined to follow Christ’s standards of Christian behavior. But why? The key here is that, as disciples of Christ, we are light in a dark world, salt in a sick world, ambassadors of a kingdom which our world needs to know about. To be effective salt, light, and agents we need to reflect, in all we do, Christ. As Paul says to Titus, the downside of not striving to God’s standards of character, of not demonstrating our new character as new lives in Christ, we bring dishonor to Christ, feed our opponents with ammunition, and fail to put on the armor of God. We build up Godly character with sound doctrine fully applied because we love Who we represent, because we are citizens of Christ’s realm, because know that it is our sins which killed Jesus and we do not want to add to His burden to the extent it is in our power to do so.

As Christians, what standards of behavior should we expect in other Christians?

But will we get compliments from others in the world for following Christ’s standards? No, we will not. If we don’t follow His standards, then we feed the enemy with points to criticize, but we can never expect the enemy to compliment.

If you want compliments from others, then follow the world’s standards, and you will get lots of them.

So, if you want to try to earn your salvation, follow God’s law. If you want to be salt and light in the world and not feed the enemy with points of criticism against Christ, follow Christ’s standards of behavior and build godly character in the process. If you want to earn the compliments of men, follow the world’s standards.

What standards shall we follow in our lives? The question really should be what standards do we follow in our lives? And the best question is what standards do I follow in my life?

A worthy question for this period of reflection called Lent preceding the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.

What is your answer?

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© 2015 GBF

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