Know Your Bible

VOL. 13                                                                                                                         November 2, 2014                                                                                                                            NO. 35



...abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).  This short verse (actually it is just the second part of the verse) would be a fine one to commit to memory. It states or implies at least three vital points.

First, there is such a thing as good and evil. People used to understand that. We used to know that one is supposed to keep his word, that greed is a bad thing, that marriage is for life, that homosexuality is a perversion, etc. Now, several generations have grown up listening to denominational preachers say that it does not matter what you believe, thereby undermining Bible authority.

We have heard libertarians rationalize any and every kind of conduct. We have grown accustomed to comedians making daily fodder of sin of every kind.  Is it any wonder people are confused?  Come to think of it, this is nothing new. Long ago Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; . . . who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:20-21).

Second, it is both possible and necessary to discern good and evil. Personal preferences and moral relativism leave us adrift. There is a fixed standard. It is God. He is right or righteous. “A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). His word, His self-revelation, is the yardstick by which all conduct is measured. It is the standard by which we shall be judged (John 12:48).

Discerning right and wrong begins with the “thou shalt/thou shalt not” passages. We must also take into account principles of conduct, such as maintaining a clear conscience (Romans 14:22-23), not putting other things before God (Matthew 6:33), leaving off questionable things that would lessen our influence for good (Matthew 5:16), etc. Paul often prayed that Christians would grow in this area of distinguishing conduct (Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12).

Third, we must act in keeping with the quality of any given behavior. If a thing is good we are to cling to it. The original verb in our text is from the Greek noun for glue; be glued to it. On the other hand, if conduct is bad, we are to abhor it. Abhor is from the Latin word for horror, which literally means to shudder. We should shudder at the very idea of some kinds of behavior [misbehavior].

Simply put, Romans 12:9 tells us to use God’s word and draw the line between good and evil. Once that line is drawn, do not see how close to it you can get without stepping over; stay as far away from evil and as close to God as you can.

—Frank Himmel

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While recently traveling to some gospel meetings with my wife, I read an article entitled "American Workers Rethink Priorities" in USA Today (October 4, 2001). Concerning the priorities of American workers since the September 11 attacks by terrorists, Stephanie Armour wrote, "American are back at work, but something fundamental has changed." She explained that the attacks had "jolted people around the country into re-evaluating choices they've made about their jobs, family, and career choices." Some specific cases, based on interviews, were then described. Quotations from employers, employees, religious leaders, and grief counselors appear in the article.

The writing of human history and the experiences of all of us verify that human beings do sometimes have to be jolted back into reality. It is the age-old story of what happened to Israel, after she came into a land handed to her with all the blessings provided by God (Deut. 6 and 8). Even after the Lord's warning that she not forget the Lord as the Giver of all benefits, she still departed from Him. The prophets repeatedly deal with the same development.

Riches somehow lull us into spiritual stupor. Power makes us feel invincible. Leadership moves us to arrogance. Pleasure stimulates us to forget God as we focus on self. The same three avenues that were used by Satan to lure Adam and Eve away from God are still heavily traveled by people today, with Satan still leading the way (1 Jn. 2:15-17). He also tried the same kinds of attack on the Son of God, but in Him he found no reception (Mt. 4). With Him the will of the Father came first!

Whether sent by God or simply used by Him for our testing, the events of recent weeks ought to wake us all up. The spiritual indifference that has plagued our land in recent decades must end if God spare us from destruction (Prov. 14:34). Just as the Lord sometimes sent partial judgments (destroying 1/3 or some part of the land of crops) on ancient nations or cities to alert them to the need to repent, so He might be trying to gain our attention.

The priorities of American workers before the attacks and after them do say something, if not enough, has changed.

Before September 11:

1. Career

2. Heart

3. Wealth

4. Health

5. Family

6. Home

7. God

8. Country

After September 11:

1. Family

2. Heart

3. God

4. Health

5. Country

6. Home

7. Career

8. Wealth

Careers have certainly come more into proper perspective, haven't they? Family is now more important, as it ought to be. Wealth has also changed for the better. Observe, however, that the improvement of God's ranking is not nearly good enough. He must have first place if anything else is going to fit into its proper place (Deut. 6:4-6; Matt. 6:33). Apart from the right ranking of God, nothing will ever be right. Whatever rules our lives becomes our God, whether family or career; nothing deserves the place of God except God! When He is in His rightful place, all will be right with the world.

Do you see yourself in these two comparative sets of priorities? Has your judgment in such matters improved in recent weeks?  Where does God come with you?  Really?

—Bobby Graham

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