This is what the Lord says:
“Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
Blessed is the one who does this—the person who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.”
Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
For this is what the Lord says:
foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
In my daily devotion, I am reading the Psalms, Isaiah and Matthew together. It is beautiful. Here is what they say. The Spirit in the Psalms, the Father through Isaiah and the Christ in the Gospel all of them say this; if you say you love the Lord, if you want to be saved then you will pursue righteousness. Labels do not apply here.
I was struck by this passage in Isaiah, where God says he will save the foreigner who does right, rather than the Jew who didn’t. To the Jews, this would have been anathema, even blasphemous. As Jews, they could do what they liked, and salvation was still theirs. Yet across the entire Scripture, the triune God crushes that notion as being empty, something made up by man. God wants righteousness and obedience in our lives. I wonder if we could apply the same to Christianity today?
A girl we are discipling was looking for a flat, and she wanted to find a Christian flat share. Eventually she found one, but came to us surprised as the ‘other girl’ said she had her boyfriend around to stay quite a lot. The ‘other girl’ who was prominent in a large local church, also said, “whatever you do, don’t tell the pastor.”
A week before that, another Christian girl who had been witnessing to her unbelieving flatmate, came home to find the unbeliever sitting around with a group of believers, all on the way to getting drunk. Apparently this is the great thing about modern-day Christianity, as opposed to all that old fashioned sort; you can simply believe in Jesus, carry on living how you want, and still get to heaven. How good is that!
Christianity in the West is dying. Numbers are down, and we live in a post-modern society. In our rush to stem the flow, we have softened the Gospel, lowered the bar and differentiated the God of the Old Covenant, with the God of the New. We paint an easy faith, one with few demands. We now say that belief equates to faith, that faith is a noun not a verb and that Christ’s dying on the cross got rid of all that old ‘needing to keep the law stuff.’ In so doing, we have twisted the notion of Grace.
For one who always has an eye on disciple making, I am able to evaluate in my own life, the truth of what happens. When I am too cosy with the world, then my passion to tell others of Christ diminishes, I start talking about business, or politics or even worse. The Spirit will usually offer me a sound warning when this is happening and admonish me to correct the focus in my life. If I choose not to correct it, then the righteousness in my life – that is, my passion to do the things of the Lord rather than the things of the world, begins to slip. Eventually, as the Israelites were like in Isaiah’s day, my spiritual life is one of just going through the motions, of living a duplicitous life before God.
But, here’s the thing. God will always catch up with us for his sake and ours. He will pursue us until there is a shift, unless – unless of course, like the Israelites of old, we continue to ignore him. Then collectively, like the Israelites, our delusion becomes so great that he has to destroy things and rebuild. For the Israelites it was exile, for the church, well who can imagine. Something though, is coming.
One thing is for certain. God is going to rid us of any idea that we can proclaim his grace in our midst, while continuing to blatantly sin. He will never tolerate that. What on earth does the world think, when they see us like that? A twisted form of Grace, how abhorrent.