By Benjamin H. Liles
Originally I wanted to title this "Heart Issues," but it dawned on me how that would come across to those of you who read and follow this site. Follow me on that thought a moment; considering some of the health issues I faced this past year, having "Heart Issues" as a title would make everyone think, "Oh, he's having problems with his heart." Rather, I want my heart to reflect God's heart. On that note and side of things one matter stands out most: His righteousness. What does that mean? How are we to do this?
One of the very first times we encounter God and His righteousness is when He's talking to Abram (before God renamed him Abraham). He's talking to Abram and He tells him, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward. Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be" (Genesis 15:1, 5, New King James). The nest line says it all about Abram's faith in God and His ability to do things: "And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).
Please, I want you to understand me on this, when God speaks to us, we aren't just supposed to throw caution to the wind. Paul tells us, "Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test all things. Hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22, Berean Study). This man, Abram heard God calling Him from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to a place He would show Abram. Abram listened and obeyed. What is faith but believing in Him who calls out to us and obeying His very words? Let's look at what God just told Abram, and what He did on account of Abram's faith: "I am your shield; your great reward. Look toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be."
Yes, Abram already had a son in Ishmael, but God was giving Abram a promise that He Himself would quicken Sarai's womb and cause her to be with child. Is anything too hard or impossible with God? I contend not. So, if you spend any amount of time with the Lord on High you end up believing in what He says He will do. When you put your faith in Him and have seen Him work on your behalf it makes sense to continue to bank on Him. So, going back to Abram. He's seen God's love and kindness extended; it wasn't hard for him to believe. Therefore, God "accounted [his belief] to [Abram] for righteousness."
Let me make this example even more real for you. As a child my dad put together a telescope. We weren't a church-going family, at all. It was right around Christmas time and we were looking at the night sky together, just him and I. I took one look at the stars in the sky, and this "feeling" came over me: "Wow! There must be a God in heaven who put these stars in their place." This is put on the heart of a child who has believed in that moment in time and has held it dearest. Yes, I have forgotten God over the years, His vast and innumerable love and guidance toward me, but He had my fullest interest the night I was about to go into surgery.
I didn't see heaven open to me, nor did I see a pit either, but let me say it this way: I knew I was dying. If you've been anywhere close to death and have seen it's horrifying results and effects it's not pretty. I have never been on a battle field (another credit I give to God on high). But I do know what it's like to see death, or at least heard of it. Yet, that night before my gall bladder surgery I knew I wasn't destined for being by God's side. To put it mildly, I knew I was going to be without God. Let that sink in.
If you've been anywhere close to where I have in life and have seen miraculous things happen you know for a fact there are powerful forces shaping this planet, this Universe, and this place we like to call "home." This is only a temporary place which we are passing through. At this point in my life, I call planet earth a proving ground to determine our eternal fate: what do you do: believe in God and have His righteousness credited to you? Or do you go your own way, praying your works gain you access to Him?
Works are nothing compared to the substance of faith. Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God on High said, "You do not know Him, but I know Him. If I said I did not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know Him, and I keep His word. Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see My day. He saw it and was glad" (John 8:55-56, Berean Study). Christ is saying Abraham's faith in the works of God so much and so well that he was overjoyed at the coming promise of God as it concerned him.
Righteousness is a matter that we are to model after God and what He tells us to do. When we read what He says to Micah, to "live justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8), it's not a suggestion or some piece of advice we might want to practice. No, God wants us seeking His justice to render to others. It means we deal fairly, accurately with others. It means we value life, and to treat it as precious as He does. Failure to do so means we don't belong to Him.
To conclude this on what matters to the heart is that we ought to do those things that God, the Father does. To value one another, to lift one another up, to encourage, to warn, to love unflinchingly and unfailingly, to keep going even when things are tough. As God said to Abraham: "I am your shield, your just reward."
You can trust in Him and what He says. It's why the writer of Hebrews could say, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore" (Hebrews 11:8-12, New King James).
Without faith and belief in the promises God gives we cannot hope to inherit any promise He gives to us. This includes a Savior He has bestowed upon us so we might receive forgiveness of sins. It is through the cross that our sins are dealt with. That is God's justice towards us so that we aren't condemned to eternal separation from Him. If we read what He said to Isaiah, "Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land" (Isaiah 1:18-19).
I believe in the God who not only carved out the oceans and shows the depth and richness of His mercy. I believe in the God who has given me life and determines the breadth of my life as well. It is Him alone who determines the span, the length, and how each man, woman and child lives. The important part falls to us, however: do we believe and follow Him, or do we go our own way to destruction? I follow Him alone. I pray this helps, encourages and blesses you to no end. I want for you what He has given me; faith in Him and what He says He will do. He can and will preserve the saints, and that even includes sinners like you and I when we choose to believe on Him and His everlasting, enduring word. In Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.
* Side note - sorry for the length of this letter.