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THE PERVERSION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

18 OCTOBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 15:6
Psalm 119:137-144
Habakkuk 1:1-4
Matthew 5:44

Righteousness is the quality of God which is given to all who truly believe, even though we don't deserve it.

This is God's grace!

God freely bestowed the quality of righteousness upon Abraham, as we are told in Genesis 15:6.

6. Then he [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and He [God] reckoned it to him as righteousness.

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible, knew this; but he also saw that God's righteousness was being perverted.

Most people wanted to do their own thing.

They didn't really care about God or His righteousness; all they wanted was their own way.

They also didn't care about those who tried to live in God's righteousness; in fact, they tried to hinder them, which, unfortunately, is all too true today.

As we look at Psalm 119:137-144, note how similar it is to today.

137. Righteous art Thou, O Lord,
And upright are Thy judgments.

138. Thou hast commanded Thy testimonies in righteousness
And exceeding faithfulness.

God wants nothing to stand between Him and us.

He is to come first in our lives, as the psalmist says:

139. My zeal has consumed me,
Because my adversaries have forgotten Thy words.

This is a healthy zeal.

This is a real zeal for the ways of the Lord, so that things would again be as pure and honest and as full of love as the Lord originally intended them to be.

This doesn't mean that we are to run around shouting "Praise the Lord!" all day long to everyone we meet.

This zeal also doesn't mean that we are to go about quoting Scripture to everyone, either.

This zeal simply means that we devote a small portion of each day to reading our Bibles and to some study of His word, so that we would know God's ways.

And then we are to live our lives that way, every moment of every day, no matter what other people around us do to pervert God's word or ways.

And if there is ever any question of how Jesus wants us to live, today, read the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew 5-7, and apply it to the whole of creation (to every other human, to every other animal, and to the world in which we all live).

We are to be as the psalmist says:

140. Thy word is very pure,
Therefore Thy servant loves it.

141. I am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Thy precepts.

If some people don't like us because we won't go along with their unrighteousness, that's all right; we are to be faithful.

We are to continue to live as an example of God's righteousness, so that others will see the truth; even if they deny it and cast insults at us in the process.

Remember, it's not what we say that counts; it’s the way we live.

142. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Thy law is truth.

143. Trouble and anguish have come upon me;
Yet Thy commandments are my delight.

144. Thy testimonies are righteous forever;
Give me understanding that I may live.

"Give me understanding that I may live."

That's quite a profound prayer.

God's word is always true. It never changes. It always means the same.

It is people who pervert God's word.

If we have a Godly understanding, we will not let this happen in our lives, and we will live forever with Him.

The perversions of God's word and His righteousness do not last forever, and when their season ends, so do the lives of those who follow those ways.

The truth is so simple, and the way to understanding is not difficult.

If we fully and completely love God, we will not do anything to hurt Him or His creation.

If we fully and completely love God, the way of His righteousness will just come naturally.

Please turn in you Bible to the Book of Habakkuk 1:1-4, and listen carefully to his words, for I have heard others in this congregation express similar thoughts in recent days.

1. The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.

This is God’s grace.

It is part of the understanding we are to pray for.

God reveals the truth to all who truly seek Him.

Thus God will reveal to us the perversion of His righteousness, as well as the way He wants us to live.

Feel the pain and anguish in Habakkuk's heart and soul, for it is the same as I heard from some of you, as you see what others do to the truth.

For when we feel this pain and anguish, we can understand how God feels.

2. How long, O Lord, will I call for help,
And Thou wilt not hear?
I cry out to Thee, "Violence!"
Yet Thou dost not save.

3. Why dost Thou make me see iniquity,
And cause me to look on wickedness?
Yes, destruction and violence are before me;
Strife exists and contention arises.

4. Therefore, the law is ignored
And justice is never upheld.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
Therefore, justice comes out perverted.

I have heard some of you express almost these same words.

If God is so loving, why does He allow so much evil to exist?

To answer this question, we have to remember some of the other things God has revealed to us.

Heaven is perfect; and when evil appeared, it was cast out.
Remember, also, that we have been given a free will; and that one day we who use our free will to follow God, will enter heaven which is perfect.

But in the meantime, those who are following the darkness and the perversions need to see a light; for like us, they have a free will, and if they see the truth enough times, they might change. God wants to give them every possibility.

It is we who see the truth by God's grace, so that we are this light in the world.

The pain and suffering here on earth lasts only for a little while, when compared to the eternity of heaven.

And, yes; I know it hurts, for it hurts me, too.

But it hurts God even more.

Trust God in His infinite knowledge and wisdom; He really knows what He's doing.

And at the same time, continue to pray for the end of the suffering, corruption, and injustice upon this earth, and for the Lord's return.

Also trust Him in His selection of you as His light and witness to those who pervert His righteousness, and be thankful.

See beyond your own pain and anguish, and that of the innocent ones who suffer with you, for this pain will end soon.

See the pain and suffering of those who pervert righteousness, whose pain will never end.

Take the responsibility that God gave you, and use it to encourage others, so that they will not lose hope.

Use your gift to be God's witness in the world.

For your part, continue to show God's love, to bless those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44), that they too may receive your understanding.

44, “But I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

Don't give up!

Continue to love where there is no love.

Continue to be compassionate where there is no compassion.

Continue to be a peacemaker where there is no peace.

For it is that love that helped make you like you are today; others need that love, too.

God is still in control, and He loves you very much.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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