Doing Good

by Morris Ruddick on November 30, 2014


© Morris Ruddick


“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal 6:10

As a Body, we tend to get myopic. That’s not something new. It’s a plague that has been grappled with since there has been a household of faith. It’s why there are so many groupings

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and divides within those who bear His Name.

This myopia has made its mark following every biblical and post-biblical revival over the centuries. Genuine spiritual renewals have life-cycles in the dynamic of God’s manifested presence displacing evil. The reality-of-God imparted is so far beyond human grasp that anything short of the anointing, designed to prolong its potency, just tends to weaken and diminish the results. So over time, the progressive, imperfect blending of the natural and impure short-circuits the supernatural.

Revivals are times when God’s manifest presence expands and illuminates our horizons. Revivals create movements that change things. Historically though, movements have digressed into becoming institutionalized. In that process the fire and power fade. This is by no means a swipe at institutions, but rather a call to give focus to what is truly important in this process: knowing Him and being a light to those around us. It’s the reason why we need to overcompensate with listening hearts as different segments of the Body interact. No one group has a pure grasp, not to speak of the capacity, for the total picture.

In further illustrating this myopia, doctrine is the means rather than the end. When we stand before the Lord on that final day, we’re not going to be examined on the basis of doctrine, but rather our heart responses to God and those around us and the difference our lives have made. That also is not a swipe against sound doctrine. Rather, it’s to recognize the reality of the myopia — which has a long track record of missing the forest for the trees — in order to give focus to reaching for what’s most important.

Sound doctrine serves the purpose of establishing our identity in Him and the character to walk out the purpose of a life of faith: doing good. That’s not the premise of salvation, but rather the result of it.

Jesus punctuated this significant distinction, based not on our limited perceptions of righteousness, but instead on the evidence reflected by the consistency of our practices, as demonstrators of the truth we claim to believe.
“For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But he who DOES THE TRUTH comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John 3:19-21

All of which brings us to the point made by Paul in the opening scripture. In the mandate to “do good,” first priority is to be given to the household of faith.

Raising the Bar
Jesus came to raise the bar. Some within the Body have concluded that Jesus came to establish a new religion. Others have digressed into the same trap of elitism that snared the Pharisees, only with a Christian spin to it. Each is equally myopic.

Jesus made it very clear that He came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to bring fulfillment to that foundation. He went to the degree of saying that whoever broke one of the lesser parts of the law AND taught others to do likewise, that they would be deemed least in the Kingdom. He didn’t say they would be expelled, He said their impact would be diminished to where they would be considered among the least.

There’s something about these foundations that Jesus never intended to be excluded. It’s because truth can be overshadowed by short-sighted precepts. Watering down dilutes. Jesus said: “He who is faithful in what is least, is faithful also in much.”

That’s why we need to extract ourselves from the myopia and start reaching for the big-picture. Jesus always clarified and gave focus to central issues and the strategic. His response to the Pharisee who asked Him what was most important (Matt 22:39) was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as your self.”

To the rich young ruler’s query, Jesus first advised him (Matt 19:17-21) not to murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness — and to honor his parents and love his neighbors as himself. Self-righteously, the rich young man then asked what he lacked, since he met each of these criteria. Jesus’ response, “if he truly wanted to be perfect,” was to divest his assets and give it to the poor and then follow Him.

Jesus raised the bar. For each one Jesus called, it involved a step beyond themselves. Doctrines and followings have resulted from focus given to the uniqueness of the criterion for different callings. Yet, it wasn’t the same for each. The calling of Peter was very different from the calling of Nathaniel, as it was from the calling of Levi.

For each, it was very personal. The key was in the reorientation, in response to truth. and with that, in the walk that followed.

The significance is in the walk, not the criteria of the calling. For some, like Peter, it took longer than others. But then, perhaps it was because the bar was higher for his calling. Consistently, since His earthly ministry, Jesus has pulled people out of their short-sighted muck and set them on a big-picture course to make a difference. It is a course of “doing good” with a process that has as much significance as the ends.
“If you are presenting your offering at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, then go, be reconciled to your brother, before presenting your gift.” Matt 5:23, 24

The Challenge
Carol and I came to faith during a time of God-birthed revival. We were drawn and greatly impacted by what we saw operating in the walk of certain believers. We saw the reality of God being demonstrated. It was beyond the ordinary. It tied back to a leader who was nurturing God’s blueprint for a group of spiritually hungry pilgrims.

Over time, the growth of this man’s effort resulted in new leaders being brought in. Their approach was not as far-sighted and innovative as what the founder had established. Division resulted that ultimately scattered the foundational work. The confusion and disarray resulted in many casualties among those who had been in the process of being helped.

Another example took place in a completely different time frame in another part of the world. The founder of a far-sighted work brought much benefit to the entire household of faith in this area. However, a member of his board became offended. Despite public overtures, the result was the offense becoming a seedbed taken up by others in the leadership. Deceit ran rampant and eventually the founder was squeezed out. The short story is that the “ousters” failed in their attempt to replicate what had been established and the entire effort floundered and was shut down.

Many other examples of misuses of authority, presumption, blind-spots and misguided tongues mark short-sighted spiritual conditions that create fleshly responses to and within otherwise God-birthed agendas and movements. Peter advised us to be wary of our adversary the devil. We indeed live in a fallen world.

Misguided Influence
On the other hand, James warned that teachers would be held to a higher standard and judged more strictly. So it is with those in leadership. The tripping point bearing myopic ripples underscoring this warning is with the factor of community influence.

The tendency is to bypass the standard for biblical community and God’s blueprint for His followers, by myopically making an idol of the community/ ministry effort rather than it being the platform for nurturing and serving.

God’s design for biblical community is as a safe place. It’s a place where the diversity of gifts and mantles within its members can flow, grow, give benefit to one another and be a blessing to all exposed to it. Instead, it too often can be a war zone. Far too often, that is how the world sees us as a people of God: for the differences, emnities and division.

Jesus said we would know “them” by their fruits. The fruits from the founders of these two examples above fit the criteria Jesus spoke of in being a light on a hill that could not be hidden. However, the fruit for those whose efforts brought down these works — are the casualties and those who never got helped by the imperfect, although anointed efforts of the founders.

Whenever the fruit involves a history of casualties created by those whose ends seem to justify short-sighted means, if correction is not prompt, the result will be judgment. It bears on the myopia, the maturity and the maintenance required for those wielding the mantles of leadership. Within the crucible, even among the elite in Jewish circles, is Jacob’s corner-cutting iniquity and Ephraim’s enmity.
“Ephraim was called as a watchman and prophet to the surrounding nations; but has become a fowler’s snare in all his ways. There is enmity, hostility, and persecution in the house of his God.” Hos 9:8

Similarly, throughout the household of faith, are the misguided crusaders who would tear down established works for flaws and premature judgments, driven by myopic blind spots, which overshadow the good. Hypocrisy defiles the standard and the process.

Defining the Focus
Jesus said (Mark 9:49): “Everyone will be seasoned with fire and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.”

This statement follows Jesus’ comment (v 42) that whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better if a millstone was hung around his neck and he was cast into the sea. That’s pretty strong.

Matthew has a parallel reference to this truth (Matt 18:6,7). It highlights the OFFENSES of causing ones less mature, under one’s influence, to stumble. Jesus’ reference to offenses wasn’t about hurt feelings. He was talking about short-sighted applications of power and truth. Jesus was pointing to those whose blind-spots or immaturity result in misguided use of their authority and influence, which creates casualties among those under their authority.

The answer is in the application of the truth, in the salting, which preserves and gives flavor and life to the walk and to the work. Jesus’ solution doesn’t pamper. He says if your hand causes you to sin, then cut it off. If it’s your eye, then pluck it out. He was drawing from Isaiah 33:15, a truth which illustrates a standard in which one keeps his hands from taking bribes and his eyes from considering evil. It’s about relationships.

It emphasizes the importance and assurance of a trustworthy relational foundation that reflects the seasoning needed to operate in peace toward one another.
“Have salt in yourselves and peace with one another.” Mark 9:50

One of the most profound doctrinal statements I’ve yet to hear is: “God is a good God and the devil is a bad devil.” Trust is a mark in the dividing line between good and evil. Jesus raised the bar so that the household of faith would uphold that standard and become that “city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.”

The Apostle James strongly emphasizes holding to the standard as DOERS of the word. The admonition is to make it a lifestyle.
“Prove yourselves to be doers of the word and not merely hearers, who deceive themselves.” James 1:22

Jesus points to the big-picture with the priority He calls on to be given to the stewardship of preparation and doing.
“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion in due season?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so DOING when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But the one who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” Luke 12:42-45

The big picture purpose will become clearer as we get our interim priorities aligned. Then God’s judgment against evil will trigger the gates to His glory being manifested within the household of faith.
“Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts, You are the King of glory.”Psalm 24:6?10.

The world sees beyond the press releases and promotional spins given by the household of faith. The world is looking for the reality of God. The process, as a people — not the end — is our witness. That’s why revival is so significant. God’s presence is a consuming fire. It’s the irresistible draw that cuts past the superficial and phony and gives focus to what matters and what is real.

For those awash in the evil and turbulence taking place in the world today, we — the household of faith — are the signposts and lifeboats. People will be drawn by what they see operating within our ranks. When we get the “doing good” right, THEN the reality of God is demonstrated, which draws the world like a magnet.

The big picture is in doing good, but getting it right first within the household of faith.
“So, let your light shine before men, that they may see your GOOD WORKS and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matt 5:16

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