Friday, February 20, 2015

If It's Doubtful....

Good morning!

The text for today is 1 Thessalonians 5:22.  Here it is, in several versions:

Throw out anything tainted with evil.    {The Message}
Separate yourselves from all appearance of evil.  {Jubilee Bible 2000}
Abstain from every form of evil.  {New American Standard Bible}
Stay away from every kind of evil.  {Holman Christian Standard Bible}

Getting the message?  If it looks like evil, run the other way.

The late wife of the chancellor where I got my undergraduate degree taught home economics classes.
She became famous for this saying:  "If it's doubtful, it's dirty."  This admonition was applied to the decision of whether to launder something or not.  But, it is also pretty good advice about whether or not something is "evil".  If you are not sure, it's best to assume that it is, and act accordingly.  The Holy Spirit will testify to us, if we will listen to Him.  As the writer of Hebrews said - - -

I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.
Hebrews 5:11-14  {The Message}

Some things are obviously evil.  Those are the easier decisions because flagrant evil greatly offends our spirits.  Other temptations look to be somewhat evil, but we rationalize in our minds, convincing ourselves that "it's not really all that bad".  Still other times, something evil looks to be good!  Those are the situations that are the most difficult to discern.

This morning my older son left to go to the mountains with a group of friends on a pleasure trip.  He is a fine young man!  Before he left, I gave him the "mama admonitions" - - - you know, those things we say to our children when they are plunging us into a test of our faith in God!  One of the things I basically said to him was this verse.  I reminded him that he knows what is good and right; and, he should abide by what he has been taught.  Still, I'm praying and praying.  Please pray with me!

Discernment is a difficult thing.  The writer of Hebrews points out that discernment results from maturing in the faith, which comes about from spending time in the Bible and in prayer.  This is how we get practice in "telling right from wrong."

Paul issued this warning right after talking about false teaching.  So, its most immediate application is that, when we encounter false teaching, we should call it what it is, and get away from it.  There are currently some "big names" in the very broad name of Evangelicalism who have recently demonstrated that they are false prophets, by the words of their own testimony.  One of them had my curiosity, until I watched a prime-time interview of him on TV.  When directly asked, he refused to name Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation, the only way to God.  That is false teaching, and since that time, I have avoided listening to that man, have not read anything he has written, etc.

Some people use this verse to justify leaving a church or excoriating a pastor.  The decision to leave your church should not be made lightly, and only when "false teaching" concerns a major doctrine of the faith.  I've written on this before and so will not "plow that row over", as we country folk say.

To me, the Bible character who exemplifies the behavior we should emulate, in light of 1 Thess. 5:22 was Joseph, the chief household steward of a rich man named Potiphar.  It was a position of great responsibility.  The story is recorded in Genesis 39:6-15 - - -

6-7 Joseph was a strikingly handsome man. As time went on, his master’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, “Sleep with me.”
8-9 He wouldn’t do it. He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here—he’s put me in charge of everything he owns. He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn’t turned over to me is you. You’re his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”
10 She pestered him day after day after day, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her.
11-15 On one of these days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there. She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!” He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house.

We could argue that he should have gotten himself out of that situation as soon as Potiphar's wife began to put the moves on him, and perhaps we'd be right.  But, at least, when the push came to the shove, he hightailed it out of there.  :)  Even though this action did not deliver him from future troubles, it certainly kept him from committing a heinous sin.

It is so important that we not quench the Holy Spirit and that we listen to what He tells us!  We may not like it; we may not want to do it.  But, if we will be obedient, and flee from evil, He will deliver us from the potholes and the ditches of sin.

Dear God, this world is so seductive, so deceitful, promising all types of pleasures if we will abandon what we have been taught from Your Holy Word.  Please speak to us through the Bible and Your Holy Spirit, and please "deliver us from evil"  (Matthew 6:13) or as The Message puts it, "keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil" In Jesus' name, amen.

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