Home > Miscellaneous > The Key to A Life You Can Stand Up For

The Key to A Life You Can Stand Up For

Hey all. This isn’t a straight interpretation of a single passage, but a series of general thoughts on specific passages. It’s a walkthrough of an experience I recently had in the Scriptures as God answered a question I asked of Him. As He’s God, I think the answer is insightful, in spite of its simplicity.

It began in the slow read through of the Old Testament I’ve been doing (my last two blog posts are products of this). I was reading through Job and was struck by his insistence of his undeserving of what he was going through. Despite the constant persuasive attempts by his friends, they could not convince him that it was his guilt that caused his terrible suffering. He did not claim complete innocence, but he did claim obedience and righteousness and confidently asserted the injustice of his life circumstances. It seemed amazing to me, because there’s no way I could be so bold in my assertion of innocence.

Later, I was reading some Psalms to discover someone who could express toward God what was going on in my soul, and I discovered something different than what I was looking for. More people adamantly making their case before YHWH and appealing to their own righteousness and innocence. People saying things like, “Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High” (Psalm 7:8). Or, the most striking passage for me:

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.

For I have kept the ways of the Lord;

I have not done evil by turning from my God.

All his laws are before me;

I have not turned away from his decrees.

I have been blameless before him

and have kept myself from sin.
(Psalm 18:20-23).

That’s crazy talk friends. At least for me. Maybe not for you. But to me, it seems insane. Let’s be clear: I am not free from sin, I’m not even a good person. You should see how self-centered my heart can be. I didn’t get how someone could say this and be honest with themselves. I didn’t get asking God to deal with us according to our righteousness. Mine is so dim and frail. And you know what? I know people. Their righteousness is pretty subpar too.

I knew I wanted this righteousness though. I knew I desired it. I knew I was designed for it. I knew there was much more to the salvation from sins through Jesus than Jesus’ incessant forgiveness. I wanted to be righteous and to be able to confidently request that God judge me according to my righteousness. And so, I asked him how these people did it. I wanted to know their secret. It is obvious that God is the ultimate enabler of righteousness, but what is it that I need to do to be enabled?

Then I was led to and read 1 Peter. 1 Peter 5 is the chapter that struck me. It is tempting to read each paragraph or sentence as a separate thought or exhortation, but I believe written communication more cohesive than that. Peter’s closing injunction to God’s elect is that they would humble themselves “under God’s mighty hand” (1 Peter 5:6). Through this humility, God’s grace comes (1 Pet. 5:5). This grace is the lifting up of us (5:6), and this lifting up by God into the presence of God allows us to come before God baring ourselves and our anxieties (1 Pet. 5:7). By being humble under the hand of God, we are focused on him and He becomes the locus of our lives. When humility is our reality, self-control, specifically that self-control that is a direct act of resistance to the prowling devil, is the natural result. Through humility under God’s hand (as opposed to under someone else’s) we are lifted up by God to a place where, under Him and with Him, we are “standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). Righteousness is the result of humility… another passage immediately came to mind after coming to this conclusion about 1 Peter.

The epistle of James contains a very similar passage about the relationship of humility before God and the conquering of the devil (who, I would argue, is the ultimate instigator of all sin and propagator of evil). James gives the same Scripture quotation from Proverbs as Peter, that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Then James moves into exhortation to submit to God and to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Again there is this close connection between humility and resisting the devil. Humble submission to God gives grace to us and so makes victory over the personification of evil not only possible, but a natural part of a life lived in submission to God. James gives a more detailed picture of one casting their cares on the Lord and humbly displaying their souls to Him. “Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter into morning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” (James 4:9-10). Together, these two highly similar passages formed a pretty standard answer to my question, but it wasn’t the answer I was expecting.

I think I was anticipating something more along the lines of “man up, be more self-controlled, be more forceful and deliberate with your actions.” What I got was an answer about more dependency on God in order to live a life I can stand up for, not just being strong and standing up for my life before God. Indeed, God seemed to outright eliminate any sort of justification of myself before him or appeals to him on the basis of the ethicality of the life I live. Living an upstanding life and so living a life that I can stand up for requires that I deliberately fall down and be open-souled regarding who I am before God and under his mighty hand. It is not up to me to pull myself up, but in his due time, by his grace, He will lift me up from my place of anxiety casting and keep me standing as one to whom the very grace of God has been given. Living this humble life marked by grace and submission is one in which there is an active and evident disengagement from that which is evil opening the way for an engagement with that which is inherently good.

Coming Up Next (I think): Jesus And The Role of Satan In The World

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Categories: Miscellaneous
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