This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, the account of George Jeltonoshko (a Russian Christian) provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:5-6)
George Jeltonoshko knew his government did not want people propagating the gospel of Christ, but he had a stronger conviction to obey the commandments of Christ--even if it conflicted with the laws of his country.
It was not a huge surprise when the police came to his door. He figured it was inevitable that they would find out about his ministry activities because of the literature he had been spreading. When his trial date came, he was given a state-appointed Communist attorney. George boldly told the judge, "I don't want a lawyer. I feel I am right, and righteousness needs no defense."
The judge asked him, "Do you plead guilty?"
He replied "No. To spread the good news of God's love is the duty of all Christians."
The judge then asked him to join the ranks of the "official churches," which were nothing more than state-run puppet churches. But George refused. The state church followed the commandments of the state, not the commands of God.
The judge was getting frustrated. "Where do you meet for worship?" he demanded.
Goerge answered, "True believers worship everywhere."
He was sentenced to three years in prison where George Jeltonoshko continued to carry out his work and worship. He was right. Righteousness needed no defense.
FURTHER: Doing the "right thing" may be a popular motto. That's easier said than done, however, because what is right in God's eyes often conflicts with popular opinion. The dispute between right and wrong often becomes apparent in a classroom, a workroom, and even a courtroom or church. We can't rely on our environment to tell us what is right. People can persuade us to confuse compromise with righteousness. God's Word is the only defense for determining what is right in every situation. Others may not understand or agree with the choices we make. However, God promises to honor our commitment to doing what is right. Those who observe us will see the light and feel the warmth of our righteous actions.
A moment of consideration: "Righteousness needs no defense." To agree with this statement (and I hope and pray we do), means that we accept the definition of righteousness--we adhere to moral principles, we are honest in all our dealings, we seek justice for all, we insist on fairness in our own actions and the actions of others; we practice virtuousness (living uprightly, with integrity), and live moral lives (living according to our Biblical beliefs and understandings). In these ways, righteousness needs no defense. Each facet of an upright life could well generate its own study from God's Word, and such study would be worth doing. God rewards the upright: (Psalm 18:20, 24) The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. God loves righteousness and justice (Psalm 33:5); He Himself is righteous and just. (Psalm 71:19).
How do we practice righteousness in our lives? Do we focus on solidifying our faith in God, in trusting Him with our lives? That is good, but it is important to realize that it is the process of right living that produces the righteousness of the Father in us. Consider the following observation:
Some time ago, I was chatting with a man who consults with some of the largest U.S. companies about their quality control. Because ministry is a form of human quality control, I thought I'd ask him for some insights.
He said, "In quality control, we are not concerned about the product." I was surprised.
But then he went on to say, "We are concerned about the process. If the process is right, the product is guaranteed."
How relevant to our Christianity.
We tend to be more oriented to the "product" of our faith than the process.
As American Christians, we tend to desire and demand products of righteousness, but give little attention to the process.
Indeed, there is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living. The "process" of faith in our lives involves honest dealings, honest verbalizations, honest relationships, honest testimony, "honest to God" (honesty before our Maker); these are part and parcel of right living--even as justice is a part of our Christian walk, too. Jean Jacques Rousseau was once quoted as saying that "an honest man nearly always thinks justly". Right living must avoid compromise, which will weaken our resolve to live righteously. Tryon Edwards wisely asserted, "Compromise is but the sacrifice of one right or good in the hope of retaining another--too often ending in the loss of both." Righteousness needs no defense. It is the weak man who urges compromise--never the strong man. (Elbert Hubbard) Righteousness is a strong position. It need not compromise. We know the Truth, and Jesus said that in that knowledge, the Truth will set us free. (John 8:31-32) Free from what? From the world's corruptions, the world's compromises and appeasements, from the world's sinful pride, and from our fallen and sinful nature. Jesus said that, if we abide in His Word, we are truly His disciples; we will Love Him and love the Truth revealed in God's Word.
Becoming familiar with God's Word is a part of right living. To the degree that Scriptures influence our decisions, our thinking, our actions, our relationships, our financial dealings, our dreams and desires, our perspective on life and understanding of the times we live in, etc., we are on our way toward righteousness in the Lord. Becoming familiar with, and abiding in God's Word is accomplished by studying the Holy Scriptures, and by applying them to more and more areas of our lives as we see opportunities. The Bible is our handbook for living; let us abide in it. Abiding in it, let us permit the Word of God to impact us and influence and prescribe our thinking and actions. The Psalmist insightfully asked God, "Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your Truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation, for You I wait all the day long." (Psalm 25:4-5) May God lead us, as we abide in Him and in His Word--learning of Him, obeying Him, and loving Him.
In a recent writing on righteous living, Pastor Wally Magdangal (Founder and President of Christians In Crisis) delved succinctly into the distinction between righteousness and unrighteousness. In this, he reminded us that the Lord watches over the way of the righteous. The righteous yield fruit for the Kingdom. "Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers, but the root of the righteous bears fruit." (Proverbs 12:12) Christ died, we're told, the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Peter 3:18); He died that we would be saved from our unrighteousness and live the lives of righteous believers. May we live--rightly and fruitfully for Christ! And may He "... make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:6)