In our quest to mature and become conformed the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29), it is essential that we can distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 ESV For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, (13) for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (14) But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
In our lesson from Sunday, November 26th, we looked at the growth process that this requires. In the sermon which you can hear here, we also noted that Satan is trying to get us to shortcut the path God has in mind for us. Obedience brings to our lives the things that will bless our life. Adam and Eve choose a shortcut and it was a disaster. In an abbreviated blog post here are the main points.
Discernment can and should be achieved over time.
It is expected that we will grow to be able to discern good from evil. The Hebrew writer says that his audience OUGHT to already be teachers but have continued in a state of immaturity and perhaps even regressed a little.
Growth is expected. If you are not growing, you are dying. In our walk with God, stopping or turning back are not options for the Christian. We need to develop an ability to see good and evil for what they are. This comes from practice.
There are no skills which we learned that we did not need to practice. Everything learned from using a fork, tying our shoes, dressing ourselves, riding a bike, learning to speak, learning another language and YES….learning God’s Word takes time and practice to become competent at.
I believe that we have some discernment built into us by God.
Romans 2:14-15 ESV For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. (15) They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…
However, beyond murder and stealing there may not be as much agreement. Sexual immorality is one of those sins that gets clouded and even many professing Christians have little or no problem living together before getting married or approving of many different variations of this in their life, the lives of those they know, or in their entertainment.
What follows are three things that will help us discern Good from Evil.
#1 Is it clearly condemned?
The easiest way to know if something is good or evil is to see if it makes the list!
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
If it is on that list, don’t do it. Discernment is easy in such cases. Perhaps we might need to check with a dictionary for proper definitions but for many people this will settle the question when we ask “Is it evil?” This isn’t the only list of “evil” things. But it is a start.
Sometimes, knowing the opposite of something helps. So the other list is good to know too.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
If it is on this list, go for it! These are good things.
But what if it is not on either list?
#2 Your conscience and wisdom from another may help.
The conscience when properly trained is a wonderful tool. We should never violate it. However, even Paul, who persecuted the church in good conscience was not doing good! At the very least, if your conscience calls into question what you are doing, you should stop and consider it carefully and perhaps….
Get help from another.
Philippians 3:17 ESV Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
After all, the Hebrew writer wanted his audience to reach a level of maturity where they would be able to discern right and wrong. Find someone who can do so and get their help.
#3 As always consider ALL of God’s word.
This is the ultimate source for knowing right from wrong.
Gambling is NOT specifically forbidden but a search of the Scriptures will show that the principle of putting your money up for chance is not a good activity. So let’s ask the questions.
Does it violate my conscience? If yes, then don’t do it. If no, well, you are still not done asking questions.
Ask a mature Christian. Again, not a definitive source but I venture most mature Christians are going to discourage gambling.
Ask the Bible. Though not specifically condemned (and this is not a full study on gambling) here are two passages to consider.
Proverbs 13:11 ESV Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
1 Timothy 6:10 ESV For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
While small increases in your income which come over time from salary increases and savings allow a person to adjust to wealth. The rapid and sudden endowment of it can be a problem. (It also can happen in inheritances but more so in gambling winnings.)
Many will say that I play the Lotto in order to help the schools out. It would be much better to give the school the whole dollar because they only get 19 to 29 cents of that money. “What?!”, you say, “But why waste that money when you might win?” Yep…and now we see the “love of money”; helping the schools then becomes a justification and not the real reason.
The best way to grow to maturity and being able to discern good from evil is by learning and knowing God’s word. Then, of course, you have to put it into practice to become better at it.
What are some things that you understand better NOW which you were a bit unsure of as a new Christian?
Genesis Chapter One: Here, we learn the origin of everything we see (and even those things which we cannot see). We also learn the esteemed position that Mankind has been given-that of being created in the Creator’s image.
That God created it all tells us of His power and authority. (As we tell our kids sometimes: My house, my rules.) That God made us in HIS image tells us that we can aspire to be more than base animals living by instinct and desire alone, we can exercise the self control necessary to NOT sin and to live by His rules.
Last Sunday’s sermon was taken from Jeremiah 36 and you can listen to it here.
In the days of King Jehoiakim, Jeremiah sent his scribe to read to the people in the temple a message from God. Eventually, that message was brought to the King and his response was not too different from the response many people, both inside and outside of the Church, have today…he took a knife to it. Whether people do this literally or figuratively, they cut out from their life words that they find offensive, insignificant, or of no use in their opinion.
As you read Jeremiah 36, you will notice that God sends a message to the people which might cause them to change their ways. This message is heard by some God-fearing men who then want the message read to the King. Jehoiakim, on the other hand, as he listened to the scroll being read to him, took a knife and, every so often, cut what had been read from the scroll and burned it. God told Jeremiah to have it rewritten and added more words to it-specifically condemnation of Jehoiakim.
So what can we learn from this? Here are a few lessons.
First, God is a merciful God who wants all to be saved. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17) and so God sent His word to the people and to the king with the hope that they would repent. If you read from 2 kings 22, you will see what happened when Jehoiakim’s father Josiah had God’s word read to him; he humbled himself and made reforms to cause the people to serve God. God’s word will lead us in the ways we should go, if we will only humble ourselves, listen and do.
Second, God’s word remains. Even though Jehoiakim cut and burned the scroll with God’s word on it, God had it rewritten. 1 Peter 1:22-25 tell us that God’s word lives forever. It is relevant and is able to save us. We can try to fight against it but there is no way to change it, it will either change us…or we will break ourselves against it.
Third, people today fight against what the Scriptures say and cut out or ignore God’s word. Here are somethings they do:
- Ignore God’s plan of salvation- Mk 16:15-16, Acts 2:38, 2 Thes 1:8
- Ignore God’s plan for marriage-Eph 5:22-33
- Ignore God’s plan for assembling with the saints- Heb 10:24-25
- Ignore God’s plan for modesty- 1 tim 2:9-10
And many other passages people cut out of their life and ignore. However, God’s word is still there. Perhaps if we would spend more time reading it and doing it, our lives would be more at peace….Certainly, we would be more at peace with God.
Living by faith requires that we listen to God’s instructions. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) Which is to say, as I understand it, that living by faith requires living by the Word of God.
When we do things based on what God’s word says we are doing things by faith. When we presume that God will act on us our behalf when he has not said so then we act upon non faith.
Joshua’s battle against Jericho shows us the benefit of listening to God’s instructions.
Do you live your life by faith? Look into God’s word and see! The sermon on this topic can be heard by following this link.
There are many valuable lessons we can learn from the mistakes of others. In today’s lesson we learn something from the mistakes of a very well known Bible Character.
Which Bible characters have taught you the most?
Two weeks ago we discussed the Bible as God’s word. While Christians do not doubt the Bible being God’s word, those who have questions might be interested in some of the facts about the Bible which may help them draw the same conclusion we do. (Unfortunately, part 1 did not get recorded)
Jer 10:2 Thus says the LORD: “Learn not the way of the nations…
Do not learn the way of the heathen God says. How hard it is to live in a culture that says that it is “Christian” but lives in a way that shows it is clearly not.
Our styles of dress, venues of entertainment, ways of speaking, goals and purposes for life are all things that the world has an opinion on. The problem is that the world’s opinion is not going to promote the Glory of God.
We need to consider these things, but not by asking the world what is acceptable. We need to ask God what is acceptable.
2Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17) that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
We can learn from God’s word what things are good works and what are not.
We may not agree at this moment on what types of dress or entertainment we should avoid but…if we can agree that God has an opinion on the matter and search the Scriptures to see which things are spoken about, then I believe we eventually will agree.
It may not be easy to avoid the influence of the world. It may take work to learn what God wants (i.e. reading more than a couple of chapters from the Bible every so often) but the change in your life will be worth it and the praise you will get from God will be worth it too!
2Cor 6:17-18 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
When you ask the question “Does it matter?” you are not simply asking if “it” (the choice) matters, but you are actually asking if the “consequence” matters. In many of our choices in this life, such as our choice of lunch or the car we drive, it really does not matter. The consequences are generally not significant and, if they are negative, can be changed with relative ease.
However, when it comes to faith-what we believe and practice-the question of “Does it matter?” is very important!
The only way that a Christian has of knowing whether it matters or not is by asking God if it matters to Him. What does God’s word say about the choice you are considering making? Only by understanding what God’s word says can you decide if “it” matters!
The Scriptures are both living and active and also able to train us into godliness. They also reprove us and correct us when we are wrong. (Heb 4:12 and 2 Tim 3:16-17)
Today’s lesson explored this question in more detail. Listen to it if you like but I encourage you to search the scriptures to see if it matters! (Acts 17:11)
Genesis chapter 4 narrates the sacrifices which Cain and Abel brought to God and the events which followed. You should consider reading the chapter and see if these thoughts fit with what the Bible says:
Cain and Abel both brought sacrifices to God. Abel’s was acceptable and Cain’s was not. The book of Hebrews tells us that Abel offered a sacrifice by faith (11:4). If we accept what Paul said in Romans (10:17) that faith come by hearing the Word of God, the we are safe to conclude that God told them what was acceptable and that one did it, while the other did not. In other words, God does not make us guess about what is pleasing to Him, he clearly lays it out for us.
Of course, the problem was not just an incorrect sacrifice, but the reaction to God’s rejection of that sacrifice. Cain got angry! His countenance fell. In other words, he was highly upset that his sacrifice was not accepted and perhaps even more upset that Abel’s had been. Yet God still took time to talk with Cain, encourage him to do right and warn him about the consequences of doing wrong.
Cain, however, choose to reject God’s counsel and do things his own way. He reacted by killing his own brother. Whatever the motive for Cain to do this (and many have been suggested), Cain did not rule over sin. He allowed sin to rule over him. He soon found out that the consequences were more difficult than if he had simply humbled himself before God and had done what he had been asked to do.
The lesson we can learn for ourselves is that, even today, God has not left himself without a testimony of what He wants from those who will follow Him. However, many of those who want (say they want) to follow Him do not even take a moment to read what God has said. They go through life, offering up sacrifices which God neither requested nor desired. They should not be surprised when God rejects the sacrifice and suggests that “if they do well, they will be accepted”.
Are we like Cain who does not listen to God’s word or are we like Abel who did…and through it, though he is dead, he still speaks?