Aligning to God's Plumbline
January 01, 2016
The Bible is the perfect tool for evaluating the way we live.
I have in my possession an instrument called a plumb line. Brick masons and carpenters use this device to make sure the structure or wall they are building is straight. The plumb line has a sharp, weighted pointer at the end. When the weight attached to the plumb line stabilizes, it points to a precise spot, and the line above the weight is perpendicular. Using this tool, masons and carpenters are able to say with surety, “That wall is true. Everything lines up.”
The prophet Amos referred to a plumb line in Amos 7:7-8. We read, “Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more.”
Each of us is constructing a spiritual building, and God has a standard of righteousness that is precise. He is saying to us today, just as He did many years ago, “I have a standard that is exact, and I want you to align to it.”
The words in this passage, “the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline,” interest me. They indicate that a wall had been built, and at the time of construction that wall was accurate and plumb. But the Lord stood beside it “with a plumbline in his hand.” He had come back to evaluate. Was that wall—the structure which was once so accurate—still the same? Was it still in alignment, or has something changed?
The plumb line for our spiritual lives is the Word of God. It is the standard to which we must align. We thank God for church services, Bible studies, and camp meetings, and for the opportunity to read the Word. Each time we come to church or spend time studying the Bible, we are putting the plumb line to our lives. We pray that God will help us measure up to that standard.
Standards are a familiar part of contemporary society. For example, we know about “five-star” hotels. I do not always stay in five-star hotels, but I hear about them. I understand that the number of stars indicates how the hotel has been rated. Before a hotel receives a five-star certification, it must meet certain quality standards. When those standards are met, the location earns the rating. We can be five-star Christians! God can help us to align to His high standard. This is important because only those who meet His standard will make Heaven.
I used to be a lecturer at a university. One time we took students to the Rosenthal porcelain factory in Selb, Germany, to watch the process of making porcelain. Production started with raw clay. That clay was worked in one area after another until the product was complete. Then each piece was inspected to determine whether or not it met the Rosenthal standard. Pieces that did so were approved, while those that failed to meet the standard were discarded.
Standards are a part of spiritual evaluation as well. We have many Bible passages which point to this. For example, Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous. That indicates a standard! Jesus also referenced a standard when He said in Matthew 5:20, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We read in 1 Corinthians 3:13, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” God is going to check to see if we have aligned to His standard.
This standard is not one established by the Apostolic Faith Church. It is not one you set for yourself. It is not one put in place by your parents, your family, or even by society. Yes, there are certain things parents tell their children which they want them to do, and the children are expected to comply because they are part of the family. It is the same in the church; we have guidelines for our workers and we expect them to comply because they are part of this organization. However, let me be very clear: that is not the standard I am referring to. I am talking about the standard of righteousness which God himself has put in place for every Christian.
I want to assess my life from time to time to make sure it aligns to the standard of the Bible. We do not want to compare ourselves to other people. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:12 that those who measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves among themselves are not wise. We want to compare ourselves to the standards that are established in Scripture. If some area of our lives is not in alignment, God expects us to amend it. May God help us not to argue regarding any deficiency, but rather to say, “I see where adjustment is needed, and I will do something about it.”
The Word of God is relevant to every culture and every situation.
The Christian’s standard is not something from the past, as some people would assert. It is applicable today, just as it was many, many years ago. Do not be deceived into thinking that the standards of God’s Word were just for a bygone era. The Word of God is relevant to every culture and every situation. The world around us may change, but the Gospel standard cannot change because God, the One who put it in place, changes not.
The Christian’s standard is not based upon what we think. Our perspectives change. Often our viewpoint today is different from what it was yesterday. If we base our standards on the trends in society, we will be forever shifting from one position to another. So what is the basis of our standard? Whose rule governs our lives? Is it guidelines of the Bible or our own convictions—what we think is right? If we base the standard of our Christian living on the Bible, there will be no fluctuation. The standard is divine; it was set by God himself. It has been tested and retested, and never needs revision.
God’s standard is a matter of the heart. It works from the inside out, not the outside in.
Some people get it wrong by focusing on externals, supposing these are the standard. However, God’s standard is a matter of the heart. It works from the inside out, not the outside in. What is inside will come out, so let us deal with the inside.
Salvation will take care of the inside—that experience is powerful; it makes a real change. Old things pass away and all things become new! Sanctification will bring holiness and purity and deliverance from the carnal nature. The power of God from on high upon our lives will enable us to be effective witnesses for God. These are part of the plumb line that God has put in place by which to evaluate our spiritual lives, and God will help us to align to His standards.
Each time we hear or read the Word of God, He is giving us an opportunity to check the works of our lives. For example, one standard in the Word of God is found in 1 John 3:9, which tells us that those who are born of God do not commit sin. Many people will tell you that is not possible, but it is what the Word of God says. Are you aligning to that plumb line and living a life of victory?
When God said, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), He didn’t say, “as your parents are holy,” or, “as your pastor is holy,” but as He is holy. We do not preach absolute perfection, but being holy as God is holy is possible because God has made the provision for us through sanctification. Sanctification provides a perfect heart—a state of living where a person loves the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. It provides restoration of the pure moral nature that mankind enjoyed before the fall. Although God’s standard is very high, we cannot say, “It is too high; I cannot attain it,” and then sit back and fold our hands. God can empower us to attain to His standard.
We are taught in the Word of God about restitution: the necessity of making right the wrongs of our past. Some people will tell us, “Restitution is not necessary. What’s past is past!” What kind of teaching is that? When we look into Leviticus, chapter 6, we see a list of behaviors for which God required restoration. He was establishing a principle: wrongs have to be made right. That principle is reiterated in the New Testament. After Zacchaeus met the Lord, he pledged to restore fourfold what he had taken wrongfully. Paul the Apostle said, “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). When we become God’s children, God expects us to straighten out our past. That is part of God’s plumb line.
If you lied to someone, if you obtained something wrongfully, if you have false papers, God is saying there is a standard you must meet. You must make it right. If you slandered someone or deceived someone, that must be dealt with according to God’s plumb line. The Spirit of God is telling you, “No, I will not permit you to go forward as if that never happened. You need to make that matter right.” I implore you to do so! The devil will tell you, “Making restitution will be so embarrassing! What will that person think of you?” Leave that to the Lord; He will take care of it. You need to do what is right. God has a standard that you must meet.
God has a standard for marriage. The Word of God tells us that His children are not to yoke themselves together with unbelievers. That may be hard, I understand, but is that instruction just an unimportant detail? No, it is vital. There may be a cost involved—a price to pay—but do not marry an unbeliever. Samson did, and that marriage ruined his life.
It is the standard of God’s Word that marriage is for life. Many people today have divorced their first spouse, and while that individual is still living, have married another. The law permits it, but that is not according to the standard of the Word of God. Marrying another person while the first companion is still living is adultery; God’s standard is “till death do us part.” That does not mean there will be no issues or challenges in marriage. Those may come, but we must purpose to stay true to what is stated in the Word of God.
Does God have a standard for husbands and wives? Yes, He does. Marriage entails responsibility. In the Book of Ephesians, chapter 5, we read, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Do you see the standard? Here it is: “As Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Husbands, let us apply that standard to our marriages. Let us always measure our commitment to our wives by those words.
The idea of submission is not popular in today’s world. But what does the Bible say? In that same chapter in Ephesians we read, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). It will not be hard for a wife to submit to a husband who loves her as Christ loves the Church.
God has a standard for how we dress and adorn ourselves. In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul taught that women are to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” He wrote to the Philippians, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Philippians 4:5), and to the Corinthians that they were living epistles “known and read of all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2). How we dress and adorn ourselves is a matter of the heart; what is in the heart will be what comes out. The world has its own standard, but in Romans 12:2 we are warned not to conform to it.