Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

Last night, the expression “the paths of righteousness” stood out in my mind. I began to think about it, and what it had to do with God’s name’s sake. It came to me that we are not interpreting the term “righteousness” correctly. We have been taught so much about “justification” that we are confusing the two terms. If I understand the true definitions, “justification” concerns God’s approval of us. It is not something one can see. David would not say, “He guides me in paths of justification for His name’s sake.” Why not? Because “righteousness” is a description of behavior that God approves. Justification is not a description of behavior.

The normal use of the word “righteous,” as it would be employed by a person of the world, describes behavior. “He is a righteous man” as used by the average person would mean the individual is a person of integrity. He is honest, faithful, kind, truthful, and so forth.

However, we Christians many times use the word “righteous” to mean imputed righteousness. We do not behave righteously, but we believe God says we are righteous because we “accepted Christ.” Jesus said, “Let your light shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify God.” This can mean only righteousness of behavior, because imputed righteousness cannot be seen.

It seems to me that “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” is referring to the fact that when people see our good works, they will glorify God. This is why God leads us in paths of righteousness — it is for His name’s sake, that is, so people will glorify God.

Imputed righteousness is not something people can see, and so they do not glorify God because of our imputed righteousness.

How we got so far from the Gospel of the Kingdom I do not know. Endless sermons are preached about imputed righteousness. But how many times do we hear ministers of the Gospel speak of the paths of righteousness? Not often enough, I believe. As if this were not bad enough, too many ministers do not live righteously themselves, especially in the area of money.

If a preacher does venture to admonish his congregation to live righteously, he may follow it by saying, “Even if we don’t practice righteous behavior, we still are going to go to Heaven by ‘grace.’” The result is, when a member of the congregation is beset by the demons of lust, he may fall into sin. He figures in his heart, “I really should not do this, but I am going to go to Heaven anyway by grace, so why should I deny myself something I desire so intensely?”

The paragraph above is very significant, I believe. When ministers of the Gospel proclaim that salvation is a sovereign work of God and our behavior does not matter, they remove the fear of God from people. When a believer is facing a severe temptation, he will reason, “I know I should not do this, but I will go to Heaven in any case because I have ‘accepted Christ.’” So he will sin because of the attractive temptation, and he will bear the physical and spiritual consequences. If he had been told that his behavior at this point is likely to determine both (1) his reception into the spirit world when he dies and (2) what will happen to him when he is raised from the dead, he very well might have made the effort to turn to Christ for help, instead of succumbing to the temptation.

Thus we see that the current teachings of lawless-grace and escape-by-rapture are destroying the moral strength of believers.

In the present time, God is looking for strong, holy people whom He can use as members of the royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9). The present teaching is making many believers unqualified for the royal priesthood, unqualified to be a member of the Wife of the Lamb, unqualified to be a member of the Body of Christ.

Here is the issue as plain as I can make it: does God expect His people to live righteous lives, or has God given us a new covenant in which righteousness of behavior has been replaced by the ceremony of “accepting Christ”?

The Bible used to be called the “Good Book” because it taught us how to behave. Has this been changed? Does the Bible now present “accepting Christ” as the way to go to Heaven apart from righteous behavior? Is this change, which has been accepted today by numerous people who say they believe in Christ, really of God?

I do not believe it is. I believe it has come from Satan who does not fear our going to Heaven. What Satan fears is people who live righteously. When we resist the devil, he flees from us.

How do you feel about this? Is God ready to have fellowship with unrighteous people on the basis of their “accepting Christ”? Has God joined the ranks of sinners? Is there no more need for iron righteousness of behavior, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father?

This probably is the greatest question facing Christian people today.

  • Those who choose to confess their sins and to turn away from them, with Christ’s help, will save themselves and their loved ones during the days of Divine judgment which America is approaching.
  • Those who choose to trust in lawless grace will, when they die, find they have been deceived. Then they will receive the results of their behavior. They may turn with fury on those who deceived them, if they are present. But I feel certain that their worldly teachers will only laugh at them and tell them they should have known that God will not receive people who have continued to yield to their sinful nature after having made a profession of Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

We of today do not mind receiving Jesus as our Savior as long as he does not try to be our Lord and interfere with our sinful, self-willed behavior.

Did you know righteousness is a way of living? Grace is not a way of living. Supposedly, grace is a ticket to Heaven that we receive when we “accept Christ.”

Grace does not glorify God. The way of righteousness, meaning righteous behavior, glorifies God when people see a believer behaving righteously.

Is there an actual “way of righteousness”? Are there paths of righteousness?

The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. (Proverbs 11:5)
In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. (Proverbs 12:28)
For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:32)
It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. (II Peter 2:21)

“The way of righteousness.” What does that mean? It means the way God’s people of time past have endeavored to live, such as those described in Hebrews chapter 11.

The wretched theology of dispensationalism, which numerous Evangelical preachers have been taught, tells us that such verses do not apply to Christian believers. We are saved by “grace,” and so the way of righteousness, or the paths of righteousness, can safely be ignored. I tell you, words fail me when I think of the damage the theology of dispensationalism has caused. I was reading today in the newspaper of a prominent Christian couple who have been caught in lawlessness. They are ministering to millions of Christian believers, but they themselves are not walking in the paths of righteousness.

The Christian people are mocked in America and, I think, will be facing severe persecution. The worldly people know instinctively that they have been let down by the Christian churches, and they are going to seek revenge.

Our government includes many liars and self-seeking people who are the despair of ordinary Americans. I believe the doctrines of lawless grace and escape-by-rapture have played a prominent part in the moral destruction of America.

Have you ever heard “the paths of righteousness” preached? Probably what you have heard is how God overlooks our sins because we believe in Christ, and the escape-by-rapture. People from many parts of America are telling me that they cannot find a church that preaches the righteous behavior that is part of the Kingdom of God. Only rapture, rapture, rapture.

Our true goal is not eternal residence in Heaven. It is to grow spiritually until we attain to the measure of the stature of Christ. It is for accomplishing this goal that the Holy Spirit has given the gifts and ministries of the spirit of God.

We must attain to holy living. Why? Because we are members of the royal priesthood. We are members of the Bride of the Lamb. We are members of the very Body of Christ. It is to these roles that we have been chosen. Therefore the demands on our behavior are severe. We are to be holy as the Lord is holy, not by imputation, but by purifying ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (II Corinthians 7:1).

Most of the preaching of today is wrong — dead wrong. It is not preparing people for the days of Divine Judgment that are on the horizon for America, and for the rest of the world.

Some of the other nations may be beaten with few lashes. They do not know of the demands of Christ. But the erstwhile Christian nations, including the United States, are going to be beaten with many stripes because they know the Bible is God’s Word and yet have been willing to be led astray.

We have been taught that God does not see our sinning but views our behavior through Christ. This is a monstrous lie. Of course God sees our behavior. God knows every thought we think, every word we say, every decision we make, every action we take. If you think He doesn’t, ask Him right now if He knows who you are and everything you think, say, and do. You may be surprised, whether or not you are a Christian.

We may think that we need not employ for His Kingdom the resources He has so lovingly given to us. We may think we are saved by grace and God sees only Christ when He sees us. Go ahead and don’t employ the resources you have been given in order to build up the Kingdom. When Christ returns, He will call you a wicked, lazy, servant. He will not gush over you with tender words, as your local pastor may be prone to do. Christ will take your resources from you and give all of them, including the crown that belongs to the members of the royal priesthood, and all the rest of your inheritance including the people you were to govern and bless, and give it all to someone who has been diligent with the things of Christ. But you will be led away into the outer darkness.

Are you going to wait to see whether I know what I am talking about, or are you going to draw as close to Jesus as you can, take up your cross of deferred gratification, and follow and obey Christ every day and every night for the rest of your life?

Do not listen to those ministers who are telling you how God loves you unconditionally and no matter how you live, He is going to take you to His bosom when you die. They are lying to you. They are seeking their own glory, not the things of Christ.

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4)

A license for immorality! That is the case in America! Jude described clearly many of today’s Christian preachers and teachers. They have changed the grace of God into a license for immorality. They talk about the Lord Jesus but they deny His Lordship. They do not obey His commands or those of His Apostles.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (II Timothy 4:3)

This is the condition we are in today. The pastor who will tell the people that any effort they make to live righteously is as filthy rags because they are saved by a sovereign grace, and they are about to go to Heaven in a rapture so they may recline on their sofa in their mansions, may soon have a large congregation.

The pastor who tells the people that they must take up their cross of deferred desires and plod along after Jesus if they are to please God, and to put on the whole armor of God that they may stand in the evil day that is coming, probably will not serve in a mega-church.

The American people want to hear how God loves them and will not permit any harm to come to them, even though they are living a casual Christian life, placing many other aspects of their lives in a place of higher importance.

The Lord knows who are His, and He will guard them carefully in the coming period of judgment. But the careless, lukewarm church-attenders of our day are facing a dreadful future!

(“The Paths of Righteousness”, 3198-1, proofed 20211022)

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