“Abstain from every form of evil.” (I Thessalonians 5:22 NKJV)
When I looked up the original word for “form,” I discovered it included the outward appearance of something. This verse isn’t just speaking about avoiding being involved with evil, but even just the appearance of evil; if it can look like you’re doing evil.
I would say that’s a pretty high standard, wouldn’t you? But if you are familiar with Scripture, you’d know there’s an emphasis on “walking worthy of the Lord,” and being “blameless.” Another verse says we are Christ’s representatives. That’s a big deal, a huge deal.
Jesus was morally perfect, completely blameless in all of His conduct. To represent that can seem impossible to many people, and it is—if you don’t have the Holy Spirit.
Christ came to utterly transform us, but, there is one major obstacle to the process of complete transformation: self.
Jesus told His audience that whoever wanted to follow Him needed to pick up his cross, deny himself, and follow Him. There is a prerequisite before a person can be transformed by Christ’s indwelling Holy Spirit: surrender. And I’m not talking partial surrender or lip-service, but true-blue, Jesus have it all, I’m done with my sins, my ideas, my desires, and I’m going to let You be my Master surrender.
I think there’s a few kinds of people. There are those who are interested in what Christ has to offer. Maybe they hear a sermon, or a friend tells them about Jesus, and they like the sound of forgiveness, grace, love, purpose, and escape from hell. But they are not aware of the depth of Christ’s love for them, and His perfect goodness, so they doubt if the Christian life is really all that satisfying, or they believe Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one can get to the Father except through Him, but they’re afraid of the unknown. Both have the solution to their problem in truly grasping that God is not a mean dictator, but rather a loving Father. And like loving earthly fathers discipline their children for their benefit, God even more so disciplines out of complete knowledge and understanding of what is absolutely best for you. Once this truth is grasped, it is easier to surrender.
But then there are those who truly just want fire-insurance. They believe in hell and don’t want to live there for eternity, so they confess Christ as Savior and Lord, but they never surrender. They maybe start a religious routine of attending church and going to a bible study, but they continue sinning and doing what they want to do. Tragically, Jesus says of these kinds of people:
Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:22-27 NKJV)
Jesus didn’t come just to save people from hell, He came to save them from being bound by hell. He defeated sin by the power of the Holy Spirit, and expects those who follow Him in surrender to do the same, not relying on their strength, but on His.
There’s loads of Scriptures on us being holy and different from those who do not know God, primarily how we love Him and one another. But love doesn’t harm, it isn’t selfish, it isn’t lustful or envious or prideful. Love keeps its clothes on and hands off until marriage. Love respects and does not belittle. Love doesn’t lie. Love doesn’t steal, it gives. Love isn’t out of control.
I feel for my generation because there’s so much blasphemy in “churches” today; people getting drunk, having premarital sex, dressing immodestly, cussing, lying, gossiping. These are not fruits of the Holy Spirit, but of the flesh, and it all leads to death. There’s these buildings with pastors who use Jesus’ name and some of the bible and then call themselves His church, when really, their heart isn’t surrendered. They treat His grace as something common and abuse it by continuing to sin and leading their congregation to sin. They talk about reaching the world, but they are still of it! They cannot save souls, but only draw them to themselves. They aren’t bringing people to Christ, they’re bringing them to themselves. It seems the majority of church-goers act like, look like, and talk like those who don’t know Jesus. They don’t realize that there is supposed to be a genuine life transformation; mind, heart, and soul, from the inside out we are truly new. Therefore, they not only miss out on genuine communion with God, but they also are on the wide path of destruction, rather than on the path to life.
The bible speaks of a “great falling away” of the church, and I believe this is the time it speaks of. More and more pastors are rising up, twisting or denying scripture, accepting sin and rejecting the power of Christ to really transform lives. Many are being led to hell and don’t even know it. Then, when someone confronts these pastors or the sin in their congregations, they are called judgmental and shooed out or silenced. The bible says those who do this have their just judgment coming.
But I know God is good. He seeks the heart that is truly hungry for Him, the person who is sick of following their own way and really wants to know Him. These He delivers, He “exalts the humble and gives them grace, but resists the proud.” Jesus visits these people and they surrender and become transformed. And that’s my prayer for you: that just like He visited me on February 22nd, 2009 and began radically transforming my life, that the same would happen for you. That you would come to know the depth and height and length and width of Christ’s love for you, and discover His good, pleasing, perfect and acceptable plans for your life. That by His power, you will be healed and through His Holy Spirit, be able to defeat the sin in your life. Then you too can be able to share Him with others and partner with Him in truly saving souls, storing up great rewards in heaven. But the best reward will be experiencing God here on earth, really experiencing Him; His love, His joy, His power, His grace, His leading, His favor.
If you’ll only surrender.