Three Lenses for Life, Pt. 5
Study Guide, March 24, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
One of the popular notions and even goals of many people is to try to think outside of the box. “Hey, you just need to ‘think outside the box’”, they say. The concept is used a lot in business in relation to thinking creatively, freely, and off the beaten path. And it can be a very productive way to approach thinking about things in general. And in a spiritual sense, thinking outside of the box should be the goal for everyone. But it’s right here that this concept runs into a stone wall, because in reality, the only way that anyone can think outside of the box is if they think inside the Book! What do we mean?
What is the box in a spiritual sense? The box is this world, our world, the Earth. And you can’t get outside of the box until you get into this Book. The Book, or the Bible, is the only revelation and information about truth and righteousness and reality that was given to us from outside the box of our world. The only way you can think outside of the box is by getting into the Book and then thinking about life and seeing all of life through the Book, or through the Scriptures…through the lenses of the Word of God. So, spread the word: ‘If you want to think outside the box you have to think inside the Book’, because everything else is still inside the box!
And we have been looking into three things that God’s Word reveals that God uses to think about and to see our world, as in three lenses through which God sees the world. And they are found ‘in the Book’. Now, we have looked at them individually, so in our study for today, we are going to put them all together. And, once more, these three things are: Jer 9:24- “I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” NASU
So back to the box and the Book: Again, the only way anyone can think about life and look at life from outside the box of this world is by looking at it through the teachings and the truths of the Book that has its origin from outside of our world. And until a person is redeemed by the King and Savior of this world, he or she is still a spiritual prisoner of sin and is actually imprisoned in the world; imprisoned in ‘the box’. Gal 3:22- “But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” NLT
So the unrepentant, unredeemed people of this world, are prisoners of sin and they are living out their lives imprisoned in this world of sin. Thus, this world is the box. But when anyone comes to their senses and repents and receives Jesus Christ as their Savior, their spirit is born again, born from above, and they are freed from their bondage of sin and from the prison of this box, this world of sin.
So now, as spiritually free people, we are to think differently from when we were imprisoned in the box. Do you remember what the Apostle Paul said about that? Rom 12:2- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” NASU Unless you and I commit to getting our minds transformed and renewed by the Book we will naturally become conformed to the box…conformed to the thinking and the mindset of the world around us. But we not only can actually think and live outside of the box, we are, in fact, commanded to think and live outside of the box by thinking and living according to what God has revealed to us in the Book…His Book, the Bible. Which brings us to those three virtues in particular in which God both delights and sees the world. Which also brings us to this particular point: Those things in which God delights and through which God sees the world are to be the very things in which we also delight and through which we are to now see everything in our world. The things in which God delights are also to be the very things that drive our behavior. Since God delights in mercy, justice, and righteousness, we are to be driven by mercy, justice, and righteousness. And thus, these very things are then to be what directs our thoughts and what determines our behavior throughout life. Basically, these three delights of God are to be the three lenses through which we see all of life and think about all of life and deal with all of life.
For example: Since mercy, justice, and righteousness are now the lenses through which we see all things around us, when it comes to things like social issues and value issues, since we are no longer thinking inside the box, but now in the Book, the views and directives of the Book are what are to determine how we see and where we stand on all of these issues as well. And while the culture around us, which is still stuck in the box of man’s philosophies and opinions, and as such, is getting tossed all around by every wind and wave of compromise and peer pressure, instead, God’s followers are freed from this box and we are now anchored to the timeless truths and the standards of God’s Holy Word. And so while others look inside the box of man’s sin damaged reasoning and distorted judgment God’s people look inside the Book and find God’s timeless truths and eternal standards of righteousness. And then like Martin Luther said before his persecutors, we stand before our world and say: “Here I stand; I can do no other!” You see, You either stand with the Word of God or you fall with this ungodly world.
Which, by the way, this ‘stand’ also frees us from something else. By standing on the promises and the values of God’s Word, we are also freed from falsehoods of the world’s charges that our views and beliefs are due to biases and prejudices and personal opinions or hate. Those charges are absolutely baseless and completely false, because when you’re thinking outside the box and thinking inside the Book, all spiritual issues, all social issues, all value issues are not about our personal opinions on these matters; no of course not; they are all about the views and the standards of God’s mercy, God’s justice, and God’s righteousness…the very things in which God also ‘delights’! And so in every matter in life, we first look to see what delights the heart of God and then we choose those very things in how they relate to everything, whether it be a government issue, or a marriage issue, or a social issue, or a personal issue. We choose to delight in these very same things and also then choose to think about life and look at all of life through these lenses of God’s mercy, God’s justice, and God’s righteousness.
Again, we first decide and we then determine that we will choose to delight in these three things in which God delights. And when we do, then these three things become the lenses through which we see, evaluate, and then act on everything. Like our God, we start with looking at others through the lens of mercy. Mercy is like our default mode, as in ‘For God so loved the world’… We always start with lovingkindness, or mercy. Remember what the Apostle Paul said about that? Eph 4:31-32- “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” NASU We practice mercy because God is so merciful to us.
So we always start with mercy in our dealing with others, but it’s like what Paul also said in Rom 12:18 – “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” NASU Don’t you love how liberating and practical the Word of God is? ‘As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.’ As in, you are only responsible for your part in extending mercy and promoting peace. You are not responsible for when this mercy is spurned or when this peace is rejected or neglected. The other side is responsible for that. And if mercy is spurned, then something else steps up. Or, just like with God, when mercy is spurned, justice then steps up. Remember, Jesus instructed His disciples to act upon this step of justice when mercy is spurned when He taught them this: Matt 10:12-15- “As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” NASU
Do you see what Jesus taught about how serious it is to spurn God’s mercy, even when offered through God’s people? Mercy is not something to be trifled with nor trampled upon. Those who choose to reject, neglect, spurn, or spite the mercy of God, have just chosen justice instead. And justice carries a judgment, either in the form of an immediate correction or a coming chastisement, but either way it carries a change in the relationship. And even when the offense is forgiven, the consequences may carry some tough ramifications. And that is what most people tend to completely misunderstand about forgiveness. They don’t face the reality that sin sets consequences into motion that often move separately from forgiveness. The offender can be forgiven for their offense or offenses, but the consequences of their sin may still trouble them for some time.
Case in point: King David once sinned against God in a situation where he proudly relied upon the power of his army instead of humbly honoring and relying upon the power of the Lord God alone. And though God forgave him, notice the consequences. 2 Sam 24:10-13 – “Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord , please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” When David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the Lord says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”‘” So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” NASU
The point is that forgiven sin may still hold severe consequences for the forgiven person. Sin changes the landscape of relationships from nations to cultures to even families and friendships. And this is just another reason to fear sin. We should fear the consequences of even forgiven sin. So mark it down: Justice will always be done…now, soon, or later, but justice will surely be done.
Which brings us then to also delighting in righteousness, and looking at life through this lens of Biblical righteousness. And since we’ve been speaking of things that most people don’t understand; one thing that people continually trip over is this: Prov 14:12- “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” NASU More death and destruction has occurred in man’s history because of ‘what seemed right’ than anything else. Earth’s history is littered by the demise of societies that were shaped by following the philosophy of ‘what seemed right’ for them.
Think about that in relation to that well known Scripture of Prov 14:34- “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” NASU Or, sin is the ‘destruction’ of any people. Now let’s connect Prov 14:12 with this verse and put it this way: ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but ‘what seems right’ is the destruction of any people.’ Remember, wars have been started by ‘what seemed right’, but it wasn’t righteous at all. Cultures have collapsed because those in power forced ‘what seemed right’ on their citizens, but it wasn’t righteous at all. Families have fallen apart because of those who pushed their opinion of ‘what seemed right’ on the others, but it wasn’t righteous at all. Marriages have broken apart because of the selfishness of ‘what seemed right’ to one at the expense of the other, but it wasn’t righteous at all. And many individual lives have self destructed because of their insistence on getting their own way which ‘seemed right’ to them, but it wasn’t righteous at all. From our first parents in the Garden of Eden, who chose ‘what seemed right’ to them, to today; our world is being destroyed by ‘what seems right’, but isn’t righteous at all.
If whatever you choose is not righteous, then you have just chosen the curse, even if it seems at the time like a blessing to you. Remember: Righteousness is not defined from inside the box. Righteousness is defined from inside the Book! This world doesn’t define righteousness – God does! And therefore, as God’s people, righteousness is what is to decide and determine everything we now do about anything we have to do or get to do. When you are looking at life through the lens of ‘righteousness’ you no longer evaluate the things in life around you on the basis of ‘what seems right’ to you or to anyone else. No, you look inside the Book to find what is right according to what God says is right, and then you choose to follow that, because this is what will exalt your life.
Righteousness exalts your life; it builds up your spirit, it strengthens your soul, it enlightens your mind, it brings joy to your heart, and more. But if it’s not righteous, then it’s like poison in your mind, like black mold in your soul, like decay in your body…whatever is not righteous will work its destruction in your life.
That’s why God wants us to choose His words of life to follow. He wants to bless our lives, both now and throughout the Kingdom ahead. But when people choose the curse instead of the blessing and choose man’s opinions instead of God’s words, they also choose the consequences that are set into motion by those choices. And the consequences of ungodly choices are always destructive, no matter how much those choices might ‘seem right’ at the time.
So remember to run everything inside the box of this world that ‘seems right’ through the filter of ‘what is right’…the filter of ‘righteousness’ as found inside the Book of God’s Word before you choose to believe it or act upon it. Actually, practice looking at all of life through these lenses of mercy, justice, and righteousness. And the more you do, the more you will also come to delight in these things. And the more that you come to delight in the things in which God delights the more you will become like your God who made you. And He made you to be more and more like Him. And you can’t get any better than that!
Prov 21:21- “Whoever pursues righteousness and mercy will find life, righteousness, and honor.” God’s Word Version