THE REAL BATTLE
Greetings Narrow Gate,
With all of the violence and hyperbole and genuine concerns for justice being bandied about over the last few weeks, I thought it might be a good time to discuss our understanding of evil and how we deal with evil. I found a great blog by Justin Taylor, entitled How Should We Relate To Evil? This blog is on the Gospel Coalition website. It's a great list of which I will, as always, fill in the edges. But before I begin, I want to say something first.
For some reason, over the last few years, it has become acceptable, even encouraged, to equate someone that we disagree with as evil. In some cases this even extends to us saying we hate someone that we disagree with. I am here to disagree strongly with this recent trend, though you may hate me for saying this. It destroys legitimate discussions, hampering communication, and the ability of differing sides of an argument to sway others to their side. This then leads to a dumbing down of the discussion and the factors involved in the discussion. This leads to polarization of institutions and bureaucracies, hindering function and efficiency.
From a Christian viewpoint, going around saying you hate everyone you disagree with is more than unseemly, it is hurtful to our ability to share the Good News. It grieves the Holy Spirit and kills our witness. So, all this I've said for this reason: For our discussion today, evil is not someone you disagree with. We all have belly buttons and we all have opinions.
This is important, because evil is used by God to test us, and it seems today, some of us are not passing the test. We get provoked, and empathy and understanding leave us, and anger and rage then fill the void.
Allow me to begin with a quote from pastor and author John Piper, to spur our thinking on this subject of evil, sin and God.
"The question is not, Where is God in the storm? But instead, What is God's design for sin?"
We know that God is with us in every storm. But what is his design, his purpose, his reason, his use of sin and evil? Let this percolate in your mind for a little bit.
I do want to make an important distinction between God controlling evil and God creating evil. God is not the author of sin, but he can use sin to attain objectives. God uses our struggles, heartbreaks and tragedies in ways to bring about his glory and our good. These difficult times in our lives, even though we may not understand this, are all part of his perfect plan. If God could not control evil he would not be God.
God does not sin and performs no evil. James 1:13,
"A person must not say when they are tempted, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, and does not himself tempt anyone."
We live in a world that is broken and lorded over by the devil himself. Yet we seem surprised at violence, crime, war and death. But we should not be. For us to truly understand evil, we must acknowledge that on this earth, evil does exist.
* We must expect evil. 1 Peter 4:12, "And now, dear friends of mine, I beg you not to be unduly alarmed at the fiery ordeals which come to test your faith, as though this were some abnormal experience.
To do otherwise is to let our guard down. To do otherwise is to live a life of naivety. Evil confronts us daily. It confronts us individually and as a society and as a church. To not recognize this fact means that we are ignoring or not recognizing the real evil around us. This lack of spiritual awareness causes us to be vulnerable to Satan and his fiery darts.
We are called to be overcomers. We are called to persevere.
* We must endure evil. Mark 13:13, "There will come a time when the whole world will hate you because you are known as my followers. Yet the men and women who hold out till the end will be saved."
Our ability and skill and endurance in confronting evil is a skill set that we each must develop. Satan roams around seeking to kill and destroy as a lion would. A lion picks off the weakest in the herd. Do not be spiritually weak! It is our responsibility to not be the vulnerable member of the herd. Philippians 2:12-13,
"...so now that I am far away, be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose."
* We must give thanks for the refining effect of the evil that comes against us. Romans 5:3-5, "This doesn't mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys--we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us."
The evil that we overcome in our lives is what makes us who we are. It helps us to develop spiritual muscles. It helps us to then glorify Christ and disappoint Satan on a regular basis. We must hate Satan, not our fellow neighbor who is deceived by Satan.
* We must hate evil. Romans 12:9, "Let us have no imitation Christian love. Let us have a genuine break with evil and a real devotion to good."
This means what it sounds like, we must have a genuine break with sin and evil. If we don't, we're the weak link, we're the weak one in the herd. In this weakness we become more and more of a target for Satan. Our weakness and vulnerability to sin makes us easy pickings for Satan. When we're in the cross-hairs of evil,
* We must pray for an escape from evil. Matthew 6:13, "Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil."
He will. He will save you from evil. But remember salvation is an eternal view point. Plus it's your decision to believe in Christ as your savior. Again, there's that idea of responsibility of the believer. Plus, we are not just at evil's mercy. We are to confront evil.
* We must expose evil. Ephesians 5:11, "Let your lives be living proofs of the things which please God. Steer clear of the activities of darkness; let your lives show by contrast how dreary and futile these things are."
This is the verse for us as warriors for God's justice. But we must be careful that when we confront and expose evil, we are not committing evil in the process. This bit of advice from an old man, when we feel ourselves getting righteously indignant, it's easy to lose our control. It is better to keep a prayed up spirit with a cooler head. That way you can continue to be led by the Spirit of God as you confront evil. We must not confuse good with evil or vice versa.
*Because we must overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21, This is why I love the Phillips' translation, "Don't allow yourself to be overpowered by evil. Take the offensive--overpower evil with good."
Do good and continue to do good. Not because works get you to heaven (our belief in Christ does), but because that is another way that we can battle evil. In our lifetimes this battle will never be finished, unless Christ returns. So there is no giving up, no end to our doing good.
* We must resist evil till the end. James 4:7-8, "Be humble then before God. But resist the devil and you'll find he'll run away from you. Come close to God and he will come close to you."
Resisting evil can become a habit, even a skill. It is meant for us to do this. God through his Spirit will teach us and guide us in this confrontation with evil. Being tuned in to God's Spirit is the key. Because this is a spiritual battle.
Now, some of you may be (hopefully not) somewhat intimidated by what I've just taught you from the Bible. You might even be scared. So to encourage you and remind you that you are never alone in this fight with evil, I give you these four never-isms:
* Never despair that this evil world is out of God's control. Ephesians 1:11, "And here is the staggering thing--that in all which will one day belong to him we have been promised a share (since we were long ago destined for this by the one who achieves his purposes by his sovereign will)..."
God is in control, and he has a plan, and that plan includes all of us, if we want to be included. This is your decision and your responsibility to be included. Because God desires you and your fellowship. Not only is God in control, but God loves you.
* Never give in to the sense that because of seemingly random evil, life is absurd and meaningless. Romans 11:33 & 36, "Frankly, I stand amazed at the unfathomable complexity of God's wisdom and God's knowledge. For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory forever, amen."
Remember too, that Satan is always trying to discourage us as well as tempt us. Do not buy the lies. Satan uses modern media. He’ll get to you if you let him.
* Never yield to the thought that God sins or is ever unjust or unrighteous in the way he governs the universe. Psalm 145: 17, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways."
God is perfect. His will is perfect. Do you want to live according to his will and plan for your life or yours? I trust God's plan over my plan every day.
* Never doubt that God is totally for you in Christ. Hebrews 12:6 &7, "because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son or daughter. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what child is not disciplined by their father?"
If you trust him with your life, you are in Christ. never doubt that all the evil that befalls you--even if it takes your life--is God's loving, purifying, saving, fatherly discipline. It is not an expression of his punishment in wrath. That wrath fell upon Jesus Christ our substitute. Only mercy comes to us from God, not wrath, if we are his children through faith in Jesus.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC