Part 9: Turn From Evil and Do Good (Christian But Not series)

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Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:16-18)

For “whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12, quoting from Psalm 34:12-16) 

This is a crucial time in the U.S. for everyone, but especially Christians. I believe God has been sending us warnings for many years that He’s going to pour out His wrath on our country for our sins. As a country, we have turned our back on Him in favor of the ideology of the American popular culture. We have compromised, turn our eyes, remained silent, or even totally sold out to ways that are not God’s ways. And God’s not happy with that.

There are many individual Christians within the church body that have not sold out, nor hidden. Their lights are shining bright. But there’s so few of them, comparatively speaking, that they seem to be swallowed up by the rest of the country, just like those few campfires in the analogy in my last post. The rest of us have banked our fires or let them go out altogether. God is saying no more. No more sleep. No more compromise. No more hiding. It’s time to choose which side of this spiritual war over our country we want to be on. The fence is shaking and we will fall on the enemy’s side if we don’t jump to God’s side first.

So how do we do that? How do we choose His side? How do we stoke our fire? Is it a matter of words? Do we just say “God, I’m on your side,” and go about out life as usual? Many Christians will no doubt find this adequate. After all, they accepted Jesus and have eternal life. But disciples – the Christians But Nots – those who are…

– Christian But Not satisfied with the minimal requirements of salvation

– Christian But Not satisfied with living a self-centered life

– Christian But Not willing to compromise with evil anymore

– Christian But Not lukewarm in their love and commitment to Jesus

… back up their words with action. They search their hearts and lives, and ask God to show them anything that is not pleasing to Him. And when areas are revealed, they turn from them. They don’t make excuses. They don’t try to justify. They don’t pretend they hadn’t heard. They don’t compromise. They don’t try to interpret them in the light of their American world view. They humble themselves by acknowledging them, asking forgiveness, and turning away from them.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:14)

and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. (Jer 18:8)

Does God want us to pray for Him to relent from the wrath He has warned us about and to save our country so that we can go back to our comfortable lifestyles? No. He wants His Name glorified. He wants to draw as many people as possible to Himself, to save them from the evil one and to live with Him forever. He wants our fires to burn brightly 24/7. He wants that fence permanently gone and our fires to penetrate the enemy camp. That is what Jesus called us to from the beginning.

The war is intensifying. The enemy is on the move and it’s time for the rest of us to join the battle. It’s time to repent and to rekindle our fire and let it burn brightly along with the faithful ones already burning. The future of our country depends on it.

Turning From Evil

What is the evil we need to turn from? Some of it is easy to detect, but most of it has crept into our lives and hearts in deceptively subtle ways.

The sins of some men are obvious, going ahead of them to judgment, but the sins of others do not surface until later. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even the ones that are inconspicuous cannot remain hidden. (1 Tim 5:24-25)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today”, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb 3:12-13)

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

Let’s look at what God considers evil based on a few more passages of Scripture.

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.(Rom 1:29-31)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Col 3:5-10)

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Eph 4:30-32)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

Those lists are quite detailed. The funny thing is, if we just knew how to love each other the way Jesus loves us, we wouldn’t need lists like these. But we don’t, and so we do. How many of the sins listed by Paul to these four churches do we engage in but dismiss because we are “under grace”? Paul addressed this in Romans 5 and 6. Just because we are under grace doesn’t give us permission to live a sinful life. There are other numerous reasons we excuse our sins.

How often do we laugh them away, such as saying, “I know I’m not supposed to gossip but…”?

How often do we compromise in order to fit in with our colleagues, such as obscene jokes, boasting, or sexual immorality?

How often do we do them secretly, such as adultery, having a haughty attitude towards others, or entertaining impure thoughts?

How often do we do them for power or to be noticed, such as slander, swindling, or being ruthless?

How often do we use the excuse “everybody does it”, such as obscene talk, dishonesty (deceit), or stealing (like small office supplies from work)?

How often do we refuse to acknowledge them for what they are, such as murder (abortion), hating God (choosing the world over God), or idolatry (worshipping something other than God)?

How often do we just flat out enjoy them, such as foolish behavior, sexual immorality, or greed?

How often do we feel the other person deserves them, such as wrath, maliciousness, or being heartless?

How often do we dismiss them as not as important as others, such as lying (you know, those little white lies), disobedient to parents (they can’t tell me what to do), envy, or an insolent attitude?

How often do we do them because they bring us some kind of relief for our pain, such as stirring up strife, getting angry, being a drunkard, or joining with revilers?

How often do we side with our society which considers them human nature or the way we were born – and thus excusable, such as acting haughty or engaging in homosexual acts?

Struggling with a sinful behavior is not the same thing as living in it. In our human weaknesses, we are not capable of living a sinless life. We will and do fall at times. However that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about sin that we hold on to, refuse to acknowledge, or refuse to give up. We justify that it’s not really sin, or we buy in to the idea we were born with it and can’t do anything about it, or that the good we do in our lives outweighs the sin. We might even feel guilty and ask for forgiveness over and over and over again, knowing deep down in our hearts that we’re just going to engage in it again. We live in our flesh instead of living in the Spirit. We prefer the pleasure of the sin over the displeasure of God.

It’s time to stop making excuses. It’s time to love what God loves and hate what God hates. It’s time to judge ourselves so God won’t have to.

If we were judging ourselves correctly, we would not be judged. But when the Lord Jesus judges us, he disciplines us so that we won’t be condemned along with the rest of the world. (1 Cor 11:31-32) [Note: I’m aware that Paul was addressing the Corinthians behavior at their Lord’s Supper, but I think what he said about judgment and discipline applies to any wrong behavior we consistently engage in.]

Doing Good

Once we turned from sin and returned to Christ’s ways, we can’t hide away in our homes. We need to shine our light into the darkness by doing good whenever we get a chance. God calls us to do both – turn from sin and do good. And not just to those who love us. We are called to do good to everyone, including those who hate us.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)

But I say to you who hear; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-28, 33, 35-36)

Just as God was clear on what He calls evil, He’s also clear on what He calls doing good.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause (Is 1:17)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matt 25:35-36)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thes 5:12-22)

If we, as the Body of Christ, cleaned up and got busy doing good wherever we could, our country would see such a difference. I’m reminded of a city in the Old Testament who was also given a warning from God.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles; let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:3-10)

If a great city like Nineveh could do it, certainly we can do it, too. And maybe, just maybe, we can save our country and avoid the judgment of God.

Let’s all turn away from evil and toward the light of kingdom living.

Let’s all be Christian But Not.

Amusement park: Puppet Show

Amusement park: Puppet Show

The sound of lively music greeted Amalia and Jesus as the merry-go-round slowed to a stop. The fast, happy notes hinted at something fun that was about to happen, and Jesus and Amalia decided to check it out. Along the way they walked through drifting scents of popcorn, barbecue grills, and funnel cakes.

“Mmm… that’s smells delicious! Can we get something to eat next?” Amalia asked, taking a big sniff.

“Sure.” Jesus grinned at her as her stomach gave out a loud rumble. “Sounds like your stomach agrees with your nose.”

A few minutes later, they found a group of chairs lined up in front of a curtained stage. Some of the chairs were occupied by a few people, but most chairs were empty. Jesus led Amalia to a couple of chairs in the first row. Just as they sat down, the music stopped, the curtain opened, and a man walked to the center of the stage.

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen! I am thrilled that you are here! We have a special treat for you today. The Teppup family has invited you to join them as they work in their garden. Mr. Teppup is digging up the ground with the help of his older daughter, while the younger two kids are helping their mother with the flats of small plants. It seems they are having a wonderful family bonding experience…” The man hesitates as the sound of yelling comes from behind the curtain. “Or maybe not. We’d better go see what’s happening.” He motions to the curtain, which opens as he backs his way off stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Teppup family!”

Amalia smiled when she saw the family. She loved puppets! This was going to be great!

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“I want to plant the purple flowers!” yelled a small girl. “Purple is my favorite color!”

“No, I chose them first, so they’re mine!” the smaller boy yelled back while grabbing the flowers out of her hands.

“Mo-om! Make him give me the purple ones!”

“That’s enough. From both of you. I’LL decide who plants what. Right now I want you to work together to get all the plants out of the flat regardless of the color of the flowers.”

With some grumbling, and a little pushing, the kids got back to work. The mother sighed, “Those kids must hate me. They’re always making my life hard,” as she turned around and continued removing the small plants from her flat. Sometimes she could slip the plant easily from the flat, loosen its roots, and lay it on a tray. But more often the plants didn’t come out without a lot of tugging, shaking, and prodding. And these plants didn’t always make it out in one piece. Mrs. Teppup got increasingly frustrated and began complaining against people who pack plants in stupid flats that make it impossible to get the plants out without damaging them. Suddenly a squeal erupted from behind her, and she turned just in time for a small plant to crash into her face. The kids, covered in dirt, were pointing to each other.

 “It’s her fault!”

“He did it!”

“No I didn’t ! You did!”

Mrs. Teppup groaned, and then said, “Both of you – get inside and clean up. And don’t come back out until you can get along.” She picked up the tray, took one last look at the mess her kids had made, then walked to the garden plot her husband and older daughter had just finished tilling.

“How’s it going over here?” She asked as she set the tray on the ground.

“From the sound of it, better than it’s going over there with you and the kids.”

“Yeah,” the older daughter agreed. “Those two are always a pain.”

“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Teppup said. “I said…”

“It doesn’t matter,” Mrs. Teppup interrupted. “Let’s not get into another debate. Is the ground ready?”

“Yes it is. And we did good, didn’t we dad?” the girl answered.

“It’s perfect,” he said as he touched the dirt. “You can start planting whenever you want.”

“Aren’t you going to help?” Mrs. Teppup, eyebrows raised, looked from father to daughter.

“Um… I thought we just had to dig up the weeds…” the girl said. “I… have some… things I need to do.”

“And the football game is about to start,” Mr. Teppup said. “You knew that.”

“But I thought… forget it. You do whatever you want. I don’t need you.” She bent down, picked up a plant, and shoved it into the dirt. In a low voice, she grumbled, “They’re just like everyone else – always letting me down. They…”

 

Amalia stopped listening and turned to Jesus. “I thought this was supposed to be funny. But it’s not. I don’t want to watch anymore. Can we leave?”

“I agree with you. Let’s go.”

They got up quietly, and headed back towards the food area. As they walked, Jesus asked Amalia a question.

“What was Mrs. Teppup’s main problem?”

Amalia wasn’t sure. “Her family?”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because the kids kept fighting and her husband and older daughter left her to plant the flowers by herself.”

“I’m sure Mrs. Teppup would have agreed with you. But think a little deeper. What was really happening?”

“Well, the kids each wanted the purple flowers… Mrs. Teppup was complaining about everything, and Mr. Teppup and the older daughter wanted to go do their own things… so… maybe they were all thinking about themselves, and not each other.”

“Right. What should Mrs. Teppup do about that?”

“Trade them in for new family members. Or treat them like they are treating her, and not do anything for them.”

“Really?”

“I guess not. Maybe have a family meeting. She could tell the others how she feels when they act that way.”

“That’s a good idea. But there’s an even better, more important, one.”

Amaila thought, but couldn’t come up with any other ideas that topped this one. “I give up. What?”

“Mrs. Teppup’s struggle is not really against her husband and children. It’s against the unseen puppeteers who are controlling the strings. So she should pray. ”

Amalia laughed. “Of course! They are just puppets!”

“But it’s kind of like that with people, too. There are spiritual forces influencing how people act. These forces don’t actually control people like the puppeteers control the puppets, but they can influence people to think and act in ways that may bother other people. Or may make someone feel more bothered than they should be.”

“So Mrs. Teppup should look past what she sees to what she can’t see, and pray?”

“Exactly.”

“But pray what? That God makes her family act better?”

“Well, if she prayed that God changed their hearts, including her own, to be turned towards Him, and if she looked for ways to share His love with them, the end result would be a more loving family.”

“But what about the spiritual forces?”

“God will fight those battles for her, if she trusts Him to do so, and doesn’t try to do it on her own.”

“One more question,” Amalia said, sniffing the air. “Can we go eat now?”

 

 

 

Scripture

Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

2 Cor 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Philippians 2:4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

The War Within

I wish sometimes she would just shut up and let me have what I want without making me feel guilty about it. I’m talking about that inner voice, the one that puts a damper on everything.

All I wanted was some of those sugar crusted spice drops.  I could just taste the sparkly sugar dissolving in my mouth…  Or that buttered popcorn, dripping with golden deliciousness…

But then the voice. “You don’t need it.”

Fine. I don’t need it. But I definitely want it.

“Your body doesn’t need it. Let it go. Fill your hunger with something healthier.”

Now my choices are to heed or to ignore the voice. Either way I will live with a regret. IMG_20180503_103424152Either momentary regret passing up something delightful to my senses, or lasting regret living with the effect it has in my body.  I’d love to say I had the discipline and maturity to choose the latter each time, but I don’t. There’s a battle between my inner child and my inner adult, and it’s evident when you look at my body, that my inner adult doesn’t always win.

The same holds true in the spiritual world…

That gossip sure sounds enticing. Just the thought of staying abreast of people’s lives and being in the know… Or that computer game that I just might beat with a little more time…

“You don’t need it.”

Sure, I don’t need to do either. But I want to.

“Your spirit doesn’t need it. Let it go. Fill your time with something healthier.”

The choices remain the same: heed or ignore the voice. The consequences also remain the same. Momentary regret or lasting regret. I’d love to say that I had the spiritual maturity and discipline to win these battles, but just like in the physical world, I don’t. In fact, I find winning these battles harder because it’s way easier to live with a fat, sluggish spirit than it is to live with a fat, sluggish body. No one can see it so it’s easy to hide it and even live in denial.

Why not end the war and just do what I want? After all, it’s not a salvation issue.

Maybe not, but it’s definitely a health issue.

Being healthy provides a higher quality of life than being unhealthy. I feel better when I’m healthy. I can be more active when I’m healthy. I can better enjoy interactions with my family and friends when I’m healthy.

Again the same is true with my spirit. Being spiritually healthy provides a higher quality of spiritual life than being unhealthy. I feel better and can be more active for God when I’m spiritually healthy. I can have more fun following God’s lead as I interact with people when I’m spiritually healthy.

So… maybe I don’t want that inner voice to shut up after all.

 

 

 

Relevant Scriptures:

1 Corinthians 10:23 Amplified Bible (AMP)  All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life].

1 Tim 4:7b Amplified Bible (AMP)  … discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (keeping yourself spiritually fit).

Romans 7:23 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)   I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body.