Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. --Psalm 86:11

Friday, October 21, 2011

Navigating Life with God

If life is like a sea voyage:
  • God is like a lighthouse; he defines the boundaries and he is the source of guidance for making our way on open seas, up coastlines and through narrow straights
  • Jesus is like another ship; in a sea of chaos and confusion, he points us toward our destination offering a real historical example of a righteous life
  • The Holy Spirit is like the wind; he fills us and enables us to live the life God demands and Jesus demonstrates
So the triune God defines, displays and empowers our lives as his people.
We could put it another way:
Biblical Ethics Begin with God
Biblical Ethics Live in Jesus Christ
Biblical Ethics are Empowered by God’s Spirit
Biblical Ethics Begin with God[1]
What do we mean by “God”? God is a loaded term. Many say the same word and mean different things. Any Christian definition of God, must be informed by what God says about himself.
So what does the Bible mean by God? It is not just any god; it’s YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who created, called and commissioned the people of Israel.  Who is YHWH and what is he like? The question is crucial because YHWH’s identity and character are the basis of our ethics. We become like what we worship. We must strive to know and worship YHWH as he truly is. Who is YHWH?
  • YHWH is the God who reaches out in grace. Ethics are our response to his action (Exodus 6 5-8; 19:4-6; 20:2; Deuteronomy 7:1-9). Obedience follows redemption (Deuteronomy 6:20-25; John 15:12; 1 John 4:19).
  • YHWH is the God who gave his people true and trustworthy words (the Law) to reveal his character and will and to give them life, guidance and correction (Psalm 119, esp v. 105; Micah 6:8).
  • YHWH is the God who is on mission. His gracious redemption and instruction has a purpose: he will use in his mission to conquer evil and restore goodness, peace and blessing to his creation. Our ethics are the means to God’s goal (Genesis 18:18-19; Deuteronomy 4:6-8; Ps 67).
  • YHWH is the God whose ways are good, righteous, just and holy. He desires his people to walk in his ways and reflect his character (Leviticus 19:2; Deuteronomy 10:12-19; Psalms 111-112; Jeremiah 9:23-24; 22:15-16).
  • YHWH is the God who blesses his people individually and corporately. He’s not just good; he’s good to us. So we thank him in worship and by extending his love and goodness to others (Leviticus 25:35-55; 26:1-13; Deuteronomy 15:14-15).
Biblical Ethics Live in Jesus Christ
Like God, Jesus is the subject of much confusion and debate. Culture often tells us we can take what we like of Jesus and leave the rest. But Jesus calls his followers to emulate his love and self-sacrifice, to follow him in death, and to obey everything he commands. NT authors also hold him up as the supreme example of how to live.
  • Jesus lives the life that all people, including God’s people fail to live (Matthew 3:13-4:11).
  • Jesus holds himself up as an example to his followers. We are to love as he loved and obey everything that he taught us in word and deed (John 13:34; Matthew 5:17-20; 28:18-20).
  • Jesus is our example of right attitudes (Philippians 2:1-11).
  • Jesus is our example of righteous actions (Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 2:21-24; I John 1:16).
Biblical Ethics are Empowered by God’s Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the subject of great misunderstanding, debate and unfortunate neglect within much of the church.  But the Bible makes a few things clear.
  • God’s Spirit makes our hard hearts tender so we can obey God’s law (Ezekiel 11:16-21; 36:22-36).
  • God’s Spirit gives us power to overcome our sinful nature and embody God’s character in our lives (Romans 8; Galatians 5:13-25).
  • God’s Spirit empowers us to show humble love to one another (1 Corinthians 12-13).
  • God’s Spirit empowers our witness to Jesus in the world, even when we face hostility (Acts 1:8).

[1] This section is drawn from Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004), chapter 1, “The Theological Angle.”

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