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Monday, April 19, 2021

Consumed in a Higher Purpose

By Joe Chesser

    I love to read things that seem to jump off the page to challenge and inspire me to be better than I am, to open my mind to greater depths of God’s word, and to motivate me seek the higher calling of God. That happened when I read Mike Ireland’s devotional message for March 23rd in From Morning to Evening: Every Day with Jesus. Based on Matthew 5.38-42 where Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek and to go the extra mile, Ireland wrote: “Our rights have been consumed in a higher purpose: displaying the righteousness of God.”
    In a materialistic, self-centered, rights-oriented world, the words of Jesus just don’t make much sense, even to Christians. We would rather argue about and try to rationalize what Jesus really meant in an effort to skirt around the truth and impact of his words. When we do this long enough our consciences become seared; we continue to live like everyone else around us. We hoard our possessions and insist on our rights. Just let someone slap me or try to force me to do anything I don’t want to do. Go ahead. Sue me.
    Somehow that doesn’t sound much like the righteousness of God towards which Jesus is calling us, does it? It sounds more like the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” kind of righteousness that had for so long been practiced by the Pharisees and was consuming the hearts of men. Jesus challenges us to be better than that. He said, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.20). Anyone can live by the rights-oriented “eye for eye” principle, but Jesus’ disciples are to be consumed in a higher purpose … the righteousness of God! Note: God's righteousness is more about being righteous than about doing righteous things.
    When consumed in the higher purpose of being the righteousness of God, turning the other cheek makes sense. So does going the extra mile, lending to anyone who asks, and giving more than is expected. Are these not traits our Righteous God has exhibited time and again? The more we are consumed with the ways of God, the less we will be consumed with ourselves. The more we die to ourselves and follow Jesus (Luke 9.23), the less we will be concerned with our rights and possessions. This transition from “me” to God is a work in progress. It does not happen easily or quickly. But remember Jesus doesn’t call us to something unattainable (unless we try to do it by ourselves). With His help the righteousness of God is an achievable goal.
    Thank you Mike Ireland for the inspiring thought!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


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