We don’t hear much these days about practicing righteousness, do we? Being holy in all our behavior? No, indeed. Our Lord Jesus’ Word, though, spends a lot of time detailing this spiritual necessity, this kingdom requirement. Here is just a brief smattering of passages.
Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
1 Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
Holiness is never legalism. In fact, the New Covenant record is mostly corrective. God loves us, but do not be conformed to the evil world, or a friend of it. If you are, then you are an enemy of God.
Naming names to identify and admonish sinners is a frequent occurrence. Brother James, the Lord’s own brother, calls supposed church members who walk unworthy of Christ terrible names for church going people. He obviously is not trying to win favor but only proclaim the truth.
James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:8-10 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
So, His Word speaks to the doctrine of “practice.” Just like not judging is judging, or no rules is a rule, not practicing a command is to practice something else of the devil. There is nothing neutral in behavior in God’s world. And, of course, we’re never to be sinners after salvation, only saints.
Jesus warned the newly healed and saved man in the gospel of John.
John 5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”
Our Lord did not say to the woman caught in adultery to join a 12 step group and work it out over time. Hardly…
John 8:10-11 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
The original apostles were vehement against the practice of any sin. Any sin. They take up right where the Old Testament leaves off on this vital doctrine. Here is just one of hundreds of examples, this particular one relating God’s voice through our brother the prophet Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 22:21 (God says) “I spoke to you in your prosperity; but you said, ‘I will not listen!’ This has been your practice from your youth, that you have not obeyed My voice…”
Now we turn to the record in the NT…
First, our Master relates to many church going members here in His audience that their apparent good deeds are worthless. They practice lawless evil in reality, for they do not “know” Him. They will be cast into the lake of fire based on their recorded works in the books. In modern times, we see hardly any of these types of good deeds in the western church, let alone good deeds from an evil heart with evil motives.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
Daniel 7:9-10 “I kept looking until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat. His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.
A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him. The court sat, and the books were opened.
Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Then the apostles. We begin with Paul and Romans. Notice how many of these sins are practiced in the modern western church and are totally acceptable. What, the leaders and people erroneously think, can we expect from “sinners?”
Romans 1:28-32 And just as they (sinners) did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Romans 2:1-3 Therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
Paul’s past life as a sinner declares he was unable to walk worthy.
Romans 7:19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
As unbelievers, we used to practice sin, but no longer.
Ephesians 4:19 …and they (sinners), having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
The famous fruit of the Spirit passage is preceded by the Galatians general non-exhaustive list of practiced sins. The current church behavior in the west at least is full of these sins.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In contrast is the Spirit’s work in true and perseverant believers. The flesh has been crucified – “has been,” past tense. It is part and parcel of the new person in Christ.
Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Paul rightly proclaims his life is holy and they should follow him as he follows Christ.
Philippians 4:9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
And to practice holiness, and to train our senses to discern the difference between God’s good and the devil’s evil. Inheriting the final kingdom is dependent on this work of yours fueled and led by the Holy Spirit.
1 Timothy 5:3-4 Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
2 Peter 1:10-11 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth…
1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
Even in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle John declares that unto the end all people practice something. That something is indicative of their nature: the divine nature of the saved, or the evil nature of the lost.
Revelation 22:11 “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”
The very next verse declares to us that the Lord Himself will come quickly and judge our works, and reward those of us who have been faithful in walking worthy. The encouragement and warning are complete.
Revelation 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Brother John then tells us that holiness is mandatory for the final entrance into the kingdom. Practicing sin disqualifies anyone for fellowship with God.
Revelation 22:14-15 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
An obvious question is this. What then is “practice” in the eyes of God? How do we know how often a behavior is a “practice?” And, why is this is so important to eternal life?
Practice is anything habitual, routine, and consistent. In my life, for instance, I practice the guitar, prayer, fasting, walking worthy, serving others, etc. As a former sinner and pagan, I wholeheartedly practiced back then many types of sins.
We can discern and know the truth in anything if God wills. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (John 16.13). We can know what is in the heart of a person (1 Cor. 14.25). By their fruits, we know the person (Matt. 7.20).
Thus, the Spirit will reveal if we are practicing righteousness, or sin. Other brethren who are holy can discern our life and we can listen to them. When in the Spirit, we too can discern the fruits of all people.
We are without excuse in this.
When we are really truly walking with our God in holiness, these wonderful promises from our brother Paul apply and we are approved by God.
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:31-34 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Romans 8:35-37 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But, brethren, if we entertain, flirt, and even succumb to the evil world’s ways, we have not buffeted our body and made it our slave. Paul, too, never wanted to be disapproved of God even after his great exploits in the Holy Spirit. He practiced discipline and self-control, a fruit of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
And the writer of Hebrews, possibly Paul, too warns us in no uncertain terms of the consequence of practicing sin.
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning willfully (practicing) after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.
He goes on…
Hebrews 10:29-31 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
We know for certain that God will provide always the way of escape for any potential sin (1 Cor. 10.13). In that way, we can always practice righteousness.
The choice is ours. Indeed, what will we practice? It is a matter of eternal life and death.
Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Your friend and brother in fighting the good fight,
Saints, we’re one day closer to Home, and Him! Love Him wholeheartedly!
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Please comment on this post right below. Feel free to write and proclaim your leadings in the Spirit in an honorable fashion.
Marc White, Director, Walk Worthy Ministries, www.WalkWorthy.org