Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Be Good?

 Dear Friends,

Thursday mornings usually find me at Smart and Final having a nice conversation with Mike the produce manager. We talk about politics, faith, his family and some of his struggles with life. Last week, as I left his department to continue shopping, he said, “Be Good!” and I began to wonder just how we can do that. Because today there’s no agreed upon good or bad or right or wrong in our society – not even within our church traditions. We can’t depend on society, politicians or pastors to determine what’s good and what’s bad. So how in heaven’s name can we “Be Good” and become a better person if there is no agreed upon moral truth that would define for us what “good” looks like?

But of course we actually do have a Book that contains the absolute moral truths that we need to know in order to become a better person. The problem is that so few of us Christians actually read it. Like the rest of the world, many believers have let the progressive “woke” and “elite” ones in our society (the large majority of whom are atheists) determine what is “good,” “right” and “correct” for us to believe. But does it make sense that we’ve ignored the Word of God and have let non-Christian politicians, educators and the media determine our beliefs and values?

Polls show that 100% of churchgoers read news, watch TV commentary and/or engage with news on social media, but only 19% of them read their Bible on a daily basis. In fact, 40% of churchgoers never read a Bible or do so just a just a few times a year. And yes these are the churchgoers! For self-identified Christians who do not attend church, the statistics are even more depressing. But if we do go to church, are we not taught what is good and bad and right and wrong? Let’s see. 

There are two large branches of the Lutheran church in our Nation. One preaches that same sex relationships are “bad”–that homosexuality is a sin. The other branch preaches same sex relationships are “good” and they proudly have a bishop and his husband, a lesbian bishop and a transgender bishop to promote their new doctrine. The “law of non-contradiction” means that one of those two Lutheran denominations is teaching Biblical truth and the other is teaching heresy. One preaches the Word of God while the other preaches the politics of the Woke Elite. Many Christians today cannot tell whether it’s the “Woke” or the “Word” being preached from the pulpit because they have yet to read and discover the absolute moral truths that can only be found in our Bible.

If the Word of God is indeed true and immutable as we claim it to be, then everything we need to know about good, bad, right and wrong is written in our Bible. So, in order to “Be Good,” we need to find out what God defines as good.

And if we are sincere about obedience to God and making a good faith effort to avoid sin, we also need to know what sin is. That’s why you need to read your Bible. Everyone who has ever told me they don’t understand their Bible has a King James that they’re trying to read. We all need to get a Bible that uses common English words. The New Living Translation (NLT) is a literal, accurate translation in English that you and I can easily understand. The NIV and ESV are also easy to understand Bibles.

We need to find a Bible that is readable and then, we need to read the New Testament. That’s where we find the good, bad, right and wrong stuff for those of us who are Christian believers. The Old Testament is the Jewish law which is not as helpful for us in determining what is “good” unless you’re looking for the right way of presenting your sheep for sacrifice at the Temple. We’ll read the Old Testament later.

Once we know how Jesus, Paul, Luke, John and Peter describe core Christian beliefs and a righteous way of living, we then need to take a hard look at ourselves. Many years ago, I was at the funeral of a co-worker where the priest attempted to preach one of the most malefic humans I have ever known into heaven. I knew the guy. Baptized Catholic, this now self-described atheist was abusive to his family and to those he supervised at work. But out of consideration for the grieving family, the priest selected three good attributes (loved his two dogs, loved his motorcycles, was a good provider) and the dude was on his way to glory. We need to make sure that when we’re self-evaluating, we’re not just looking at the good things. We don’t want to pat ourselves on the back for dropping the dollar in the beggar’s cup and overlook the shabby way we treat our family members. Like the priest working hard to promote the deceased to sainthood, we tend to brush aside our sinful behavior and spin the highlights of our own existence into something close to angelic. 

Steven Covey once said that we “judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their behavior.” And our behavior, or more specifically, the “fruit” of our lives is what we need to look at. We are saved through Christ alone by faith alone, but the evidence of our salvation is our good works and changed life. As Jesus said, we are to judge others by the  “fruits” of what their words and actions produce. By using the metaphor of a good tree producing good fruit, He gives us the metrics to measure our own life as well. Matthew 7:18-20 

We need to first read our Bible to understand what is Biblically “good” and what’s Biblically “sinful.” Then it’s time to get on your knees. Self-examine. Remembering that God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way. So “Be Good.” Okay?

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