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Righteousness, Peace and Joy

Romans 14:13-18
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.
15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.
16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Sometimes, we can get a bit nit-picky with one another. We used to argue about small things which are not important and take crazy stands.

If we get this principle right, we're pleasing to God and approved by men. That's as good as it gets in the Kingdom--pleasing God and men. Some of us say, "God likes me, but nobody else can stand me". Others are more concerned about praise from men than from God. If we live the right way, it's possible to do both.

Paul says there are three keys to living this kind of life.

1. Righteousness.

This is a funny concept. It gets a reaction from everyone--never boring.

Acts 24:24-26
24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.
25 As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, "That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you."
26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

When Paul got a chance, he discoursed on righteousness, self-control and judgment. What do I discourse on when I have a few minutes? Sports, politics?. The judgment to come--now that's a conversation stopper. Righteousness always causes people to react.

How are we doing on our personal righteousness? The awkwardness that comes from unrighteousness can kill us spiritually. Righteousness is where the joy comes from, the source of our zeal. How much does it cut us when we make even one mistake?

We can be righteous in nine areas, but that one area can pull us down. You may do everything well, but if you're not bold, you feel weak. It feels so great to be bold, because righteousness matters.

2. Peace

Isaiah 32:17-20
17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
19 Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely,
20 how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

The fruit of righteousness should be peace. That's its effect in our lives. The world doesn't really value righteousness very much. They don't care if you're disciplined, if you get up and pray. The one thing they are looking for, though, is peace. Most of the time they think money, sex, success is the key to peace.

When you really are righteous, the result should be peace. People will be drawn to our lives when they see the peace that passes understanding. As a disciple, we're not going to avoid suffering. God does help us, though, and give us peace in our lives.

Many times we get too worked up about righteousness, and lose the peace. How secure are we? How much do people look at us in awe? At the end of our lives, we'll still fall short, no matter how hard we try.

It mentions hail here in this passage. When we put God first, he always takes care of us.

3. Joy

Luke 10:17-24
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
22 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."

This passage is interesting. The disciples are so fired up because they had a great day. Jesus warns them, even at the high time, not to depend on circumstances for their joy. If we tie our joy to results, we go up and down.

We train people after a while to discern what kind of state we're in. "She's in a bad mood. Stay away from her . . ." This is why Jesus challenged them to tie their joy to their salvation. Some days the demons submit, and some days they don't. Jesus wants our joy to come from the permanent place, in heaven.

In the kingdom of God, there's one guarantee. We can get to heaven if we want to. We never know our career will succeed. We never know, when we will get married, to whom, what will happen even after we get married. Things happen, but one thing is for sure, we can be saved if we want to. Your boss can fire you, your spouse can leave you, but nobody can take your relationship with God.

Romans 14:18
..because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.