The Book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom—wisdom on how to live one’s life. One of its early pieces of advice is this: “My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not.” The passage then continues to warn against joining with thieves and murderers. But the principle applies more broadly. We must not let a sinful world seduce us to do any kind of evil. Exodus 23:2 says, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” In Psalm 1:1 there is a blessing pronounced upon the man that “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
What we see and hear can have a tremendous influence on our lives. We must, therefore, always be on guard that the world does not draw us away from God’s standard. In speech we must not imitate the world’s profanity, in dress we must not follow society in immodest apparel. We must beware that we are not caught up in the world’s emphasis on material success. We must not let our secular society steer our eye away from heaven and things eternal.
In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul writes: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” This passage gives some vital instruction on how Christians are to get along with each other.
The apostle presents the negative side first. There are certain things which are out: 1- Bitterness (long-standing resentment), 2- Wrath (outbreaks of passion), 3- Anger (long-lived anger), 4- Clamour (loud talking and insulting language), 5- Malice. As Christians we should work to remove all these from our lives.
Next the apostle presents the positive side. He says, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” We are all imperfect human beings. We will not be able to live at peace with our brother if we demand perfection from him while we ourselves are yet imperfect. The Christian attitude toward an imperfect brother should be one of kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness. When Christians manifest this attitude toward one another, Satan is hard pressed to disrupt the harmony of God’s people.
A few years ago the Winston-Salem Journal carried a news story on the Druids. The lead paragraph begins, “Druids have been worshipping the sun and earth for thousands of years in Europe.” The article further elaborates on this ancient religion saying, “They worship natural forces such as thunder and the sun and spirits that they believe arise from places such as mountains and rivers. They do not worship a single god or creator, but try to cultivate a sacred relationship with the natural world.”
How is it that ancient people such as the Druids came to worship the sun and earth and other natural forces? We might enlarge the question to include not only the Druids’ worship of nature but other ancient practices such as idolatry, witchcraft, astrology, divination, etc. For that matter we might ask how is it that so many people in modern society are turning to these same pagan practices.
The Bible gives a very clear straight forward answer –when a people reject the one true God, the Creator, they just naturally turn to one foolish thing or another. The apostle Paul states the governing principle in his letter to the Romans: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things…Who change the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-23, 25)
Now take a look at the modern world and you can see the same thing happening all over again. As people today reject the one true God, they turn to the same foolish practices so prevalent in the ancient world. Some like the Druids worship the forces of nature. Others turn to such superstitions as astrology or divination or witchcraft or necromancy. This is all the natural out- growth of forgetting the one true God.
A few years ago this headline appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal: “Weddings drop to lowest level for over 100 years.” Much of the article had to do with present economic conditions and the effect it has had on marriage. But it also contained this statement: “Marriage rates have been declining for years because of rising divorce and an increase in unmarried couples living together.” We now live in a society in which cohabitation without the blessing of marriage is generally accepted.
The Bible, however, is very clear: God expects all sexual activity to be confined to marriage. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (Hebrews 13:4) “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that everyone of you know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
As we stand for Christian morality we find ourselves out of step with society. But we should not be surprised—Christianity has always been a counter-culture and it is no different today.
The apostle Paul wrote: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
There are numerous good works in which Christians can participate—feed the hungry, cloth the naked, shelter the homeless, etc. I would like to remind all of us of one standing opportunity that is always there—our shut-ins. We have members of this congregation who for years were faithful worshipers of the Lord but who now are confined to their homes. These all appreciate a visit from their Christian friends.
I guess it would be fair to say that none of us visit enough. So this is a reminder to us all. Why not make out a list of those whom you feel you should visit and resolve to do so. Maybe determine to make at the very least one visit per month. Then when you have finished, start over. This is a good work in which every able-bodied person can participate.
The apostle John in a message to his fellow Christians wrote: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
First, it is to be the goal of every Christian to rise above sin—to make every effort to purge it from our lives.
Second, when we fail and do sin, all hope is not gone. We have Jesus who is totally sinless as our advocate. He will speak to God for us. Also, He is the propitiation for our sin. That is, He is Himself the offering for our sin.
Third, not only is Jesus the propitiation for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world. That is, everyone in the whole world has the opportunity to become a Christian and have the forgiveness of sins. But how are they to know? That’s where we come in. It is our responsibility to tell the story.
In the church office we get all kinds of advertisements. A few years ago we received one entitled: “Rock the Universe.” It was a religious rock concert being held at Universal Studios theme park. The ad even admitted that it was entertainment. The price for tickets was $44.95 for one night and $69.95 for two nights plus tax. That’s the group rates. Individuals pay more.
Why in the world am I writing about a religious rock concert? It is a sign of the times. Religion is big money. There have always been charlatans out to use religion for financial gain. Remember the novel: Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis. Today it’s the rock concert. The apostle Peter wrote of those in his day that used religion to “make merchandise of you.” (2 Peter 2:3) That’s exactly what is happening today with the modern religious rock concerts. The promoters and performers are using religious entertainment to make money.
In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John there is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five loaves and two small fishes. The following day the people came to Capernaum seeking him. But Jesus rebuked them saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.”
For these people it was a case of misplaced priorities. The miracles that Jesus performed were the proof that he came from God. But this is not why they were seeking him. Rather they sought him because of a free meal. Jesus went on to say, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” (John 6:27)
What about ourselves? In our lives do we have our priorities straight? Do we put first things first?
As God’s people we have certain obligations such as family, work, civic, etc. We also have evangelistic obligations. And like everything else the extent of our evangelistic responsibility is determined by ability, opportunity, etc. But whatever the limits of our abilities, opportunities, etc. we need to always be keenly aware of our obligation to try to reach others with the gospel.
The apostle Paul often expressed his feeling of evangelistic responsibility. Consider these statements:
“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” (Romans 1:14-15)
“Yea, woe is me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 1:16)
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
While none of us would anticipate spreading God’s word to the extent that Paul did, nevertheless we should take seriously our obligation to do what we can.
Paul in his letter to Titus whom he had left in the island of Crete, wrote, “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, ‘The Cretians are way liars, evil beast, slow bellies.’” (Titus 1:12) He then adds, “This witness is true.” The problem was that the Christians there were falling into some of the same sins characteristic of the people around them.
Christian people always need to be careful that they do not fall into the sins of the nation in which they live. What are some of the great American sins?
- Profanity is certainly one. The taking of God’s name in vain as well as other forms of unacceptable speech is so common in America that we must all beware lest we fall into this bad habit.
- Materialism is another. As a people Americans seemed obsessed with material things: houses, cars, clothes, etc. Money and the things money can buy dominate the lives of many. We must beware that we do not become caught up in the fixation with material prosperity.
- Cares of this world is still another. Jesus said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put.” (Matthew 6:25) Then He adds a few verses latter, “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.” (Matthew 6:32).
It would certainly be correct to say that after all these things do the American people seek. Let’s be careful that we do not let the cares of this world run and ruin our lives.