Monday I wrote about righteousness and humility together, but I wanted to share a little more of what the late Quaker Thomas R. Kelly had to say about righteousness in his book,
A Testament of Devotion
. . . God inflames the soul with a burning craving for absolute purity. One burns for complete innocency and holiness in personal life.
The key word is “craving.” All of us know we are not absolutely pure. We are sinners, and to our utter disgust we continue to fall short even after deciding to follow Jesus. Sin is not the marker that separates the saved from the unsaved; the craving for purity is what separates. Followers of Jesus have this “burning craving for absolute purity.”
A true follower of Jesus is deeply troubled by sin -- his own and in the world around him. Put more bluntly, this understanding of salvation illustrates the difference between church membership and citizenship in God’s kingdom. Accepting Jesus into your heart at age 9, like I did, is not the same as the ongoing decision of will to follow Christ. That initial decision of will to accept the gift of salvation is only the beginning.
The pursuit -- stress pursuit -- of righteousness, rightness with God, is the litmus test to take when evaluating our lives. We are not saved by the pursuit; we are saved by grace through faith. The pursuit shows that it is real. The Holy Spirit, working within us, gives us this desire. As Kelly said, “God inflames the soul.”
Baptists do not talk this way enough, but to not stress the importance of God’s work in our lives, guiding and pushing us toward right relationship and right living, is to ignore the full gospel.
No man can look on God and live, live in his own faults, live in the shadow of the least self-deceit, live in harm toward His least creatures, whether man or bird or beast or creeping. The blinding purity of God in Christ, how captivating, how alluring, how compelling it is! The pure in heart shall see God? More, they who see God shall cry out to become pure in heart, even as He is pure, with all the energy of their souls.
Kelly is not talking here of attending church and acting religious; he is talking about something much more authentic.
No average goodness will do, no measuring of our lives by our fellows, but only a relentless, inexorable pursuit of the divine standard. No relatives suffice; only absolutes satisfy the soul committed to holy obedience. Absolute honesty, absolute gentleness, absolute self-control, unwearied patience and thoughtfulness in the midst of the raveling friction of home and office and school and shop.
God-possession leads to a lifting of our standards for living. No longer are we seeking to be “as good as” others in our church or family. Our model is beyond what we see in front of us; our model is the Christ, the perfection of God’s love revealed in time and place centuries ago and alive still with us through the Holy Spirit, which stirs and prods and moves us toward God-honoring life.
A prayer: Convict me, oh God, and your church. Convict of me, us, of settling for a shadow of righteousness. I, we, asked You into our hearts, but we so often ignore You. Love us. Forgive us. Lead us into Your righteousness. And strengthen us for struggles this will bring.