God’s gold standard
As believers in Jesus, we have a gold standard by which we are to view the world. It’s God’s standard – and it’s revealed in the scriptures.
I know to modern readers, and especially those who have grown up and lived outside the influence or community of Christian faith, that sounds just a tad archaic. After all, we have technology. We have research. We have data. We have developed methods that enable us to dig into and understand the way things work (scientific, physical, sociological, political, therapeutic, psychological, etc.). It seems outdated and quaint to think that an ancient document that was written in an age when slavery was common and temples to temperamental deities stood tall over cities is what we should look to for guidance.
Aren’t we smarter than that, more developed, more progressive than that?
Just take a long, hard look at the overt silliness and stupidity that’s being passed off as “compassionate” and “enlightened” these days. What am I thinking about? How’s this for a starter list of idiocy that’s gotten up a collective head of steam…
- men can become women and vice versa
- the desire to do the preceding is OK
- taking action to do that first point is viewed as “courageous”
- gender identity is a human construct, not a fact of nature
- “equality” equals the erasure of differences, be they cultural, ethnic, gender-based, inherited social placement, or what have you
Do you get my point? The world has gone insane. And why is that the case? Because God’s gold standard for human life and vitality (His word) has been rejected.
The significance of God’s gold standard
Do you remember the account in Matthew 4:1-11 when satan met Jesus in the wilderness, hoping to take advantage of the physical weaknesses He experienced because of his practice of fasting and prayer?
The worm brought his best… and Jesus had only one response.
“It is written.”
Christians, take the cue from your Master. Turning to the word of God when you don’t know what to do, or say, or don’t know how to think is never passe or quaint. It’s essential.
The scripture itself couldn’t be more clear on this point…
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12
and this one…
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
and again, this one… which sounds eerily familiar when you watch the evening news…
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:1-2
That last one has teeth to it
Paul couldn’t have been more emphatic or forceful in urging Timothy to rely on and hold forth scripture as the gold standard for Christian living. Look at how his emphasis builds…
“I charge you…”
Who SAYS that these days? This is an emphatic, urgent, “you really need to do this yesterday” kind of entreaty.
“…in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus…”
In case this sounds foreign to you, it’s similar to our better-known phrase, “…with God as my witness.” Paul is putting what he’s about to say into a context of accountability to God and his Son, Jesus. That’s a pretty serious level of accountability, don’t you think?
Before we move on to the next phrase, ask yourself, “WHY would Paul put his exhortation this way? WHY would he want Timothy to recall that God the Father and Jesus the Savior are looking on as he contemplates this charge?” Could it be because the charge is one God has given Him? Could it be because Timothy will be called to account by God by how and whether he does what Paul is charging him with?
“…who is to judge the living and the dead…”
Not only does this expand the context of accountability to cover all of history (those who have passed on as well as those living, no matter when these words are read), it also strongly implies — because Timothy was at that time among the living and would one day be among the dead — that he will be among those judged by God.
“and by His appearing and His kingdom:”
When I first think about this phrase, it makes me laugh, not because there’s anything funny about the phrase itself but because the weight of Paul’s charge seems plenty weighty already. Paul tosses this “reason” to do what he’s about to instruct in for good measure. But don’t let that empty it of it’s heft. These two issues — the reality of Jesus’ promised return and the great commission charge to establish and build the kingdom — are vitally important to keep in mind.
“preach the word.”
This the task that required all that build-up and context of responsibility and accountability. It’s an eternally significant task because the word is our gold standard. That’s where I’m getting the idea that we have to constantly lean on and return to scripture, in every situation.
God’s people are to be taught the word, preached the word, guided by the word, saturated with the word exactly because it is God’s gold standard.
Cultural narratives and modern sympathies don’t determine our mindsets nor our actions. God’s word does.
Authorities and legal precedent are not the guidelines by which we primarily live (Acts 5:2), God’s word is.
God’s gold standard requires a radical shift
I didn’t walk us through the ridiculousness of the societies we live in just to point the finger at “those baduns” and feel smug. Quite the contrary.
Our world is in the shape it’s in because God’s people have failed to be heralds of God’s gold standard throughout history. I’m not saying we should be on street corners, preaching from soap boxes (necessarily… thought such a calling may be in God’s mind for some). I’m also not saying we should strive for high-profile, far-reaching opportunities to condemn sinful behaviors and those who are doing them.
It’s a more subtle thing than that. A more painful thing.
Christian, meet Jesus
The best place to start is with a good old fashioned introduction (or re-introduction) to our Savior. We will never have the courage or willingness to talk about and live out God’s gold standard if we don’t recognize who it is who gives it to us, and how. Remember Paul’s exhortation to Timothy from earlier in this post?
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead… (2 Timothy 4:1)
We are always in His presence. Always. ALWAYS. His future judgment of non-Christians and Christ-followers will flow from that fact.
He has seen every compromise and act of unfaithfulness. Those “nobody will ever know” moments were a deception of the highest magnitude. He witnessed it first-hand… and more to the point, He was dwelling in us as we quenched His Holy Spirit in preference of something far below the gold standard. That’s a realization that hurts… and it should. Because it’s the reality of how things have been.
Resist the temptation to run from that guilt. It’s yours to bear, at least until it drives you to your wits end and prompts you to lift your eyes to Jesus. Then you’ll discover this glorious truth: He has taken that guilt, rightly earned through such denials and betrayals, to the cross, and there He stamped them “Paid in Full.” (John 19:30)
A short little lesson from the original Greek language:
The Greek word Jesus used when He said, “It is finished” is “Tetelestai” (τετέλεσται) , which means “paid in full.” The grammatical tense of the word gives it a greater meaning than just “paid completely.” It’s what is called the perfect tense, which is a combination of two Greek tenses, the present tense and what’s known as the Aorist tense. These two tenses combined mean “something that happened at a specific point in time but continues on into the future.”
Back to our train of thought now…
So all those ways we’ve dropped the ball and have failed to advance the Kingdom purposes of King Jesus were dealt with at the cross and continue to be dealt with as more crop up. Rather than being perpetually down on ourselves for our failure, it’s more appropriate to be perpetually amazed by His grace and moved by it to live out our gratitude.
Meeting Jesus anew in this way reminds us that He’s loving and gracious and kind and merciful and over-the-top amazing. Add to that the incomprehensible reality that he puts us back in the game after we’ve blown it so badly, knowing that as we trust Him in the moments of temptation and not knowing what to say or how to respond, He will come online and give us the words we need, the mindsets we ought to have, and the power to love, bless, heal, comfort, and otherwise extol His majesty.
Next, repentance is needed
We need to humbly confess and repent, not only for the abdication of our role in society as heralds of our Father’s gold standard for humanity, but also for our unwillingness to adapt our lives to it from the inside out. Flat out disobedience is in view here… and it comes in all shapes and sizes.
For example: We can’t expect to positively impact society with a gospel message that we claim is transforming when our own lives don’t appear to be transformed. We won’t win a hearing that way and the only attention we receive will be for the degree of hypocrisy we’re able to display.
Think of it this way… a man can’t expect others to eat his wife’s cooking if he raves about how delicious it is but he refuses to eat it himself. Though people are very stupid these days, rank hypocrisy of this stripe is always noticed, especially in God’s people. The devil makes sure of it. Anything he can do to discredit the message of the gospel is fair game, and sadly, we’ve played into his schemes.
We must begin with repentance… a soul-searching, heartfelt repentance that flows out of the realization that we’ve denied our Savior in those moments when we were asked directly about our faith and we backpedaled, watered down the message, or talked about “church” or “faith” instead of the Savior.
We must repent of the sinful habits we’ve allowed to hang on or have spent years nurturing because in all truth, we have preferred them over God’s gold standard. That may sound harsh but that is what sin is. It’s preferring other things to God.
Notice that last phrase… sin is a preference, a desire, a condition of the heart even more than it is actions. The actions that we typically look on as “sins” come from the condition of the heart Jesus said as much (Matthew 15:18-19). And repentance — the kind I’m talking about here (which is biblical) — turns the heart toward God in simple faith, recognizing that He is the “all” that fills our “nothing.
Though repentance may sound like a miserable experience (and I won’t deny there are some dreadful aspects to — appropriate contrition could never be categorized as “fun”), the outcome of repentance is liberation. It sets us free from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22) and the power habitual sin has long had in our lives (Romans 6:6). Repentance also opens us up to the possibility of greater things ahead and sets us up to experience the help of God in our lives (James 4:6-10).
Repentance, which is itself a change of mind (Greek: metanoia || μετάνοια**)** leaves us in a place where we are aligned with God’s gold standard — in heart, in reality. But reality has to be embraced and applied if it is to be experienced. In other words, we have to align ourselves with reality by an act of the will, a mindset.
What does this mindset look like?
Simply put, it’s a continual process of reordering our beliefs, mental filters, and overall view of the world to make God’s gold standard our standard. There’s plenty of biblical teaching about this ongoing mental alignment I’m describing…
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind , that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:1
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37
and yet again…
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:4-6
and again, again, again…
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. – Ephesians 4:17-18
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. – Colossians 3:2
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:13
The mindset shift in a nutshell means…
- Agreeing with God that His gold standard is THE way to human flourishing
- Committing to adhere to that belief, no matter what comes at us
- Preparing ourselves for the friction ahead. When our commitment to God’s gold standard is challenged, our default position is to question the challenge itself, not God’s gold standard
- Preparing our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13) and our souls for opposition (Romans 5:3-4)
The kingdom is advancing
We have the incredible honor of being included in what Jesus is doing in history, our history. His activity didn’t stop after He ascended to heaven or after his 12 disciples pass away. He continues to work through this thing we call “the church,” which happens to be you and me and a bazillion other people He’s called to Himself.
Jesus’ statement about what His kingdom would do in the world is hopeful…
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” – Matthew 13:31-33
We know about seeds and we know about trees. And the best representation of these two coming together, at least in my mind, is an acorn. Think about how an acorn turns eventually into an oak tree, little by little, according to God’s plan for oak trees. Growth is what it does. Unless you poison the tree, cut it down, or deny it the things it needs to grow, it will grow. That’s what trees do.
We also know about yeast. It makes bread out of potential dough-rocks and fluffiness out of denseness. You add it to a lump of dough, work it in, add a little heat, a little moisture, and an amazingly aromatic and delicious thing results. Yeast will not do its thing if you deprive it of heat, or the right amount of moisture, or a number of other things. But when it’s given the right environment, it produces a marvelous loaf of bread.
Jesus’ kingdom is the acorn, the yeast. It will grow. That’s what it does. One of the primary ingredients it needs to go is citizens of the Kingdom who are all-in for the advancement of the Kingdom. That means they must live according to a common standard, the edict of the King.
That edict of Kingdom living is God’s gold standard, the word of God. It’s the handbook for human flourishing, which is in fact, Kingdom flourishing. We cannot lose sight of that. We cannot let its truths devolve into a tidy set of rules we follow and apply heartlessly, dispassionately, or without conviction.
Our King has called us to more than that and implores us, much like Paul implored Timothy, to join Him in His work of building it.
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