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Thursday, July 20, 2006

(Today's message is admittedly "heavier" than usual as well as a bit longer. I believe what's on my heart needs to be stated. Although I certainly encourage you to read it I also have a short message and challenge of an entirely different sort at the bottom.)

"Hating Evil"

"You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell" (Psalm 5:4). "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9).

Several years ago there was a case of vehicular murder in our area. A man, high on drugs, sped through the city and crashed head-on with another car killing himself, his young daughter and the young couple driving home from work in the other car. Our area was understandably outraged but I still recall a comment by one of the man's close relatives who wanted everyone to know that he was a "good man."

There is much confusion today about what constitutes good and evil. Obviously even the most evil person who mocks, rejects and lives in disobedience to God has done some good things in life and likewise the person who earnestly seeks to serve God and live a good life has done some bad things. Moral equivalence seems to say that since this is true we have no business making a hierarchy between good and evil and thus essentially the terms become meaningless.

But God's Word declares that there are people who do good and live upright lives and there are people who do evil and live godless lives. Our first daily text states, "You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell."

We are to hate what is evil.  This can be misunderstood, so let me elaborate.  We rightly acknowledge love to be a fundamental Christian virtue. Thus there is a tendency to believe that hate must be forbidden.  Yet the apostle Paul commands the early believers in Rome to "hate what is evil."  In the early chapters of the book of Revelation the church in Ephesus was commended by Jesus for a specific hate which He also had. "You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate" (Revelation 2:6).

Let me be very clear.  We are to hate evil.  We are to hate evil practices such as the scourge of intoxicating drugs and sexual perversions.  We are to hate evil religious systems which lead men to hell.  However we are to be agents of God's love and truth to those that are ensnared by these horrific evils.  Hatred toward people merely because they are Arabs or are ensnared by the damning religion of Islam or drug addiction is wrong.  These are all among the people whom Christ died for and there are many from each of these backgrounds who've come to trust in Jesus Christ, repented of their sin, and are now our brothers and sisters in the true faith.

The true church needs to speak with forthrightness and clarity.  Several years ago in an interview a prominent representative of the "Christian" clergy urged people to turn to the scriptures of their faith for comfort and direction and included along with the Bible, the Koran! 

Will the Koran lead people to saving faith in Jesus Christ? Of course not!  Shame on this man for conforming to such a fuzzyheaded spirit of this age.  True Christians must provide an unambiguous declaration of truth, remembering the words of our Lord who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).  The declaration of the apostolic church was, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).  And the apostle Paul writes, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).

But we are also "to cling to what is good."  Hating evil and clinging to good will surely include a strong stand of contending for the truth and that includes calling good, good and evil, evil.  A powerful verse states, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20). 

Be encouraged today,

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, it is only through Your name that I gain admission into heaven and it is only by Your life-giving blood that I am set free from the bondage of sin.   Through Your representation on my behalf I gain audience with the Father. I know that I cannot remain neutral but must stand for that which is good or that which is evil.  Help me to cling to that which is good even when it comes at great sacrifice.  I seek, with Your help, to be keenly discerning of the spirits of this age.   I want to courageously assert that "There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."  You are the only way to the Father, and I come with great humility today thanking You for showing me the way.  Amen.

Personal note and challenge: Last night we had a small group study in our home, sitting around our dining room table studying a portion of Acts.  After we were done with the study we shared personal prayer needs with one another. Ester will need her pacemaker replaced in the near future and we will be traveling to Boston Children's Hospital for the procedure. Of course we requested prayer on her behalf. A brother in the group prayed for Ester and as he prayed I merely concurred with his prayer by saying, "Lord, touch my girl." 

I didn't think anything of this but as we left a young lady came up to me and told me how she had overheard me as we prayed and how much that meant to her.  She was certain that her dad had prayed for her, but had never heard him do so.  That reminds me to challenge you to pray verbally for your children, regardless of their age. I still recall some meaningful prayers from my dad, although it was many years ago.  Let your children hear you pray for them. In our family we often have a family prayer hug in which we pray for each other.

(I had the young lady's permission to share the above story.)

Brooksyne's Note:  May I encourage parents to go one step further in their prayer commitment to their children.  Many of you have young people heading off to college next month and others returning to school at the end of summer.  Consider writing personalized prayers and sending it to them via letter through the mail for your college student.  For your at-home student insert a prayer note in their lunch box or book bag.  Parents should be well-acquainted with the worries and weaknesses their children deal with.  What a loving way to let them know you're thinking of them throughout the day even when you can't be with them. 

Since I'm in this frame of mind let me add another prayerful suggestion.  When Ester was about 18 months old I began the practice of praying for her before I would apply discipline.  She was (and is) very head-strong and sometimes the resulting battles really brought out the worst in me.  For her sake and my own I would take Ester in my lap, hold her hand and pray for both of us.  It helped me to keep control so that the discipline I applied was for her good and not from an out of control mom.

In my prayers I always identified with her weakness so that it would not be a prayer of judgment upon her, but rather a prayer crying out for God's help and mercy to help her have the mind of Christ being shaped into His likeness (of course at a level of understanding she could relate to.)  I found that my "mommy prayers" were of utmost benefit to her and especially meaningful to me.  We still do this from time to time, though the methods of discipline have been modified according to her age.

Due to the length of both the message and footnotes we won't add supplemental resources today!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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