Code of Conduct Determines the Outcome

Code of Conduct Determines the Outcome

In every aspect of life, we encounter a code of conduct. Our greatest satisfaction and highest achievement exist within those guidelines. Ignore them and life becomes increasingly uncomfortable.

I’ve spent my fair share of watching and coaching little league sports. Initially, the equipment used and the playing field dimensions are the strongest indications of what sport is involved. The more rules become understood and applied, the more exciting the game also becomes.

Many say, “Rules are meant to be broken!” Broken rules lead to penalties of one kind or another, adversely affecting the individual’s performance and the entire team’s outcome.

What holds true in sports certainly holds true in our daily lives.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”
Philippians 1:27

Why do we value rules and codes of behavior in sports and the workplace, but so easily reject them as Christians? The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, amplifies the importance of God’s code of conduct.

Wisdom and Insight

“Oh how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.”

Psalm 119:97-104

The wisdom and insight we wish to possess comes from understanding and following God’s commands and rules. Just as a game of sports quickly becomes chaos and confusion when rules are thrown to the wind, so our lives reflect the same.

Full Potential

Whether a team sport or an individual endeavor, we only reach our full potential by adhering to a code of conduct. The scriptural term sanctification primarily means “holiness, to sanctify, or make holy.” But another meaning is “the state of proper functioning.”

To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. Through Christ’s atonement, we are set apart unto service for God A pen is “sanctified” when used to write. Eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends. A person is sanctified, therefore, when he or she lives according to God’s design and purpose 1.

God ultimately designed within each of us a unique and fulfilling purpose. The only avenue to achieve His full purposes for us comes through adhering to His code of conduct.

I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Romans 6:19

Throw away the code of conduct and our world, including us, becomes a free-for-all! Learn from God’s perfect laws and everyone thrives. One leads to “lawlessness” the other to “sanctification” — the fulfilling of God’s intended purposes for our lives.

Grace

But alas! Rules are difficult, even impossible, to consistently follow.

So by God’s great grace, He gave us Jesus Christ. By living in and through Him, He enables us to overcome the draw of lawlessness and walk in the freedom of becoming. Freedom comes as we are motivated by love, respect, and grace. These three form the true motivation behind God’s code of conduct.

He desires everyone to reach their full potential and intended use. So, He gave us the freedom and the power through the Holy Spirit to go that direction.

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
Romans 6:13

The word “offer” signifies a once-and-for-all surrender of ourselves to God, like a gift of gratitude.

Practical Steps

We recognize following God’s code of conduct cannot be done in and of ourselves. But as we surrender, first in our hearts and minds, once-and-for-all to Him, we begin the process. Then, we learn to daily walk it out.

Here is how:

  • Read the Bible to discover who God is and His design for us.
  • Pray. Prayer, honest communication with God, forms the bedrock of our relationship with Him.
  • Repent of attitudes and actions misaligned with His code of conduct.
  • Consecrate ourselves, committing everything to Him — our hands for His service, our hearts for His molding, our minds to His instruction, our feet to His direction, our motives to His desires.
  • Dedicate. We also choose to dedicate all we are (or ever will be), and all we possess to His service. We are nothing and receive nothing apart from Him. Each day, we have the privilege of committing it all back to Him.

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand.”

Isaiah 64:8

Prayer

Lord, teach me Your ways — Your code of conduct. Instruct me and show me how to reach the full potential You have designed for my life. I confess that I have attempted to live by self-made rules. Thank You for redirecting me back to You. Holy Spirit fill me with the power and desire to walk according to God’s ways. Because life is not a game to be casually played, I recommit myself to You, Lord. May I experience the joy and freedom of living a life set apart for You, fulfilling You purpose and calling. Amen.

1. Walter A. Elwell, Ed., Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Entry for Sanctification, (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House Company, 1996)

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Pass the Tests – A Lesson From Nehemiah

Pass the Tests – A Lesson From Nehemiah

What thoughts do you associate with tests? Are they fear-filled or hopeful? How can we prepare to pass the tests life throws our way? Writing this blog became a test when my website crashed midway through preparation!

Nehemiah teaches us how to pass the tests, even when they come in unexpected ways. Each test presented a different range of problems he overcame as he consistently moved toward his goal.

We, too, will face challenges and hurdles as we press toward all God has for us, testing our character, commitment, and courage.

Nehemiah began his journey the best way possible through prayer.

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah 1:4

Nehemiah had received news that the walls and gates of Jerusalem lay in piles of burnt rubble. Deeply distressed, he sought God’s direction and intervention. Unprotected, vulnerable, and open to enemy attack, the people he loved were in the worst possible position.

Serving under the king’s authority, Nehemiah set out for Jerusalem.

Test of Motive

It didn’t take long for Nehemiah’s enemies to push back. Whenever we attempt to serve God, we will experience similar opposition. Three men, in particular, faced off against Nehemiah — Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.

” . . . they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing? . . . Are you rebelling against the king?'” Nehemiah 2:19

Their attacks against Nehemiah aimed deep. Verbal arrows pointed at his motivation, judging him as rebellious.

“I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.'”
Nehemiah 2:20

Some people may delight in questioning our motives — even publicly.

Without anything to fear, this test offers a perfect opportunity to expose our true motive for the Lord’s examination. With the king’s orders in his hand, Nehemiah knew their empty claims were groundless.

Test of Ability

When Nehemiah passed his first test, his enemies became even more aggressive.

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing. Will they restore their wall . . . offer sacrifices . . . finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?'”
Nehemiah 4:1-2

Our inner critic echoes similar questions. Will you? Can you?

Nehemiah wasted no time defending himself. He knew the task far exceeded human ability. The test of ability drove Nehemiah to his knees before God, asking Him to turn the enemies’ insults back upon them.

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” Nehemiah 4:6

As a result, God protected the hearts of the workers. With hearts completely dedicated and trusting in God, all things are possible. Ability with heart will take anyone anywhere God leads.

Test of Courage

To pass the tests of motive and ability Nehemiah and his team consistently focused on the goal. Immediately, the troubling trio enlisted the assistance of Arabs, Ammonites and the people of Ashdod — increasing the troops of opposition.

“They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.”
Nehemiah 4:8

Nehemiah faced the threatening declarations of war in the same way he withstood every test — through prayer. The mission conceived in prayer continued in prayer. Prayer formed a solid foundation for effective, continued ministry.

“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
Nehemiah 4:9

Little by little, a wall began to rise from the rubble. The warrior-builders proceeded with “swords, spears, and bows” strapped to their sides (4:13).

Test of Dedication

As the work continued unabated, the trio attempted to lead Nehemiah into yet another trap. Without a leader, the work would surely stop.

” . . . Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”
Nehemiah 6:2

No matter how persistent, we must never “meet together” with the enemy at Ono or anywhere else! Four times they sent the same message. Four times Nehemiah refused (6:4).

“I sent messengers to them with this reply” ‘I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?'”
Nehemiah 6:3

Distraction and failure to recognize the significance of a task may become the greatest obstacles to reaching any goal.

In the fifth attempt the enemy added even more lies and intimidation “trying to frighten us” (6:9). Again, Nehemiah prayed.

Taking everything to God in prayer will strategically lead us to victory. We may consider our mission minor compared to what God asked Nehemiah to do, but whatever our mission, may we face every test with determination and dedication. The smallest actions may prove to have the greatest impact in the Kingdom of God.

Test of Reliance

One final test of reliance awaited Nehemiah, when a false prophet attempted to entice Nehemiah to protect himself.

” . . . Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you — by night they are coming to kill you.”
Nehemiah 6:10

Nehemiah trusted God alone as his protection. Self-protection placed above the call to shield his people would be nothing short of sin!

“But I said, ‘Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!'”
Nehemiah 6:11

Even here, Nehemiah would pass the tests with character, commitment, and courage. As servant leader, Nehemiah set the example by placing the needs of the vulnerable above his own.

Passing the Test

By the grace of God, they completed a humanly impossible task in fifty-two days (6:15). Nehemiah trusted in God, leading the people to accomplish God’s desire for Jerusalem.

What is our calling? What mission has God placed before us? Is it raising our families, teaching a Sunday School class, or leading a small home group? Perhaps, it is boldly living our faith in the marketplace.

May the testing of our motives, ability, courage, dedication, and reliance show a depth of character, a commitment to God, and an unwavering courage in the face of opposition. From here forward, may we learn from Nehemiah’s success and emulate his consistency in prayer. Whatever God calls us to, He will equip us for. There is no shortage with our God!

“Lord make us bold for the task. Give us ears to clearly hear your direction. Grant us a steadfast heart to serve You. Through You, we pick up spiritual weapons in one hand and tools to build your Kingdom in the other. We turn our whole hearts to follow You.”

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