The Other Half

As with many parts of the Christian life, drawing near to Christ has several aspects. In the past few posts, we’ve examined focusing upon Jesus and turning away from sin. Well, rejecting sin is only part of what we are called to do. Not only are we told what to turn away from, we are told what to turn toward—the good.

We see this principle laid out in both Testaments of Scripture. Psalm 34:14 says in part, “Depart from evil and do good.” See the two parts? Departing from sin and wickedness is only the first step. Peter quotes this verse in 1 Peter 3:11, and Paul expresses the idea through different words in Romans. He says, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). It couldn’t be much clearer than that.

Think of this like shooting an arrow at a target. Simply saying, “I’m not going to miss,” doesn’t mean you’re actually going to hit the bullseye, let alone the target. Not only do you have to not focus on what’s surrounding the target, you have to focus on the mark you are supposed to hit. For us, that’s focusing on what is good and pleasing to the Lord. Just saying, “I’m not going to sin,” can result in either a focus upon the law (whether the Mosaic one or something we made up), or can simply lead to us “shooting” in the dark, hoping we’ve made right decisions.

But we don’t have to just wish we’ve chosen rightly. 2 Peter 1:3 says of the Lord, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” As we look to Jesus, we are going to find what is right, what is good.

Paul expresses this point quite vividly in both Colossians and Ephesians. In the transition between Colossians 2 and 3, Paul says that things like “self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body” may “have…the appearance of wisdom,” (Colossians 2:23). Yet he emphatically says they “are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Colossians 2:23). No amount of focusing upon law or trying to punish ourselves will keep us from sin. What we ought to do instead is “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). We have to look to Christ and seek what He says is good.

If we flip back to Ephesians, we find Paul using the illustration of light and dark to emphasize this point. He says, “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light…trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10). Our focus must be upon the light of Jesus, not the darkness we came from. Look to the light of Christ.

We could spend all day with Paul on this topic. In Philippians 4:8, he urges believers, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” It’s not that we just give them a passing thought. Rather, we are to intentionally choose to fix our mind and attention on things that have these characteristics.

So how does this play out? What does this look like in our lives? Well, consider what we are filling our minds and hearts with. What do we listen to? What movies or shows do we find ourselves watching? What do we think about as we’re working?  

Now I love a good instrumental tune, and I love folk ballads and some songs that aren’t overtly “Christian.” But I have to ask myself, is that my go-to style? Shouldn’t I want to listen to music that honors the Lord? No, we don’t have to exclusively listen to Christian radio, but do the songs themselves direct us to Jesus? It’s been years since I’ve read the book, but I believe I first heard this concept in “Jesus > Religion: Why He is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough” by Jefferson Bethke. I can’t remember everything about it, so I can’t say I recommend the whole book; I just remember reading that principle in there.

Another way is to hang plaques, pictures, or cards with Bible verses around the house. Practice memorizing Scripture. Talk about what you’re reading in the Bible with your family at the supper table. There are so many ways we can focus on the good. Whatever means works for you, great. The point is that we choose to focus on what pleases the Lord.

So how do we draw near to God? Well, primarily, that’s focusing upon Jesus Himself. Related to that is the two-sided coin of turning away from evil and focusing upon the good. Taking a stand against sin and having convictions is great, but it’s only going halfway. We need to go farther and seek, approve, and cling to the good. We will draw closer to Jesus as we do so.

2 thoughts on “The Other Half

  1. Thank you Luke,
    I enjoyed your comments. I agree that the more we practice good the better people we are. I think that another scripture that supports your thoughts is Galatians chapter 5. The sinful nature require the law however the fruits of the spirit require no law. Practice them without limits. Would like to hear your thoughts on Galatians chapter 5.


    1. Thank you. That is a similar passage. I’m actually about to start a Bible study through Galatians, so maybe that is something I could write about in the future.


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