Blurred Lines of Right and Wrong: Hold Fast To Good; Abstain From Evil
Psalms 6:7-9 NLT My vision is blurred by grief;
my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.
Go away, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD will answer my prayer.
Hold Fast To Good; Abstain From Evil
This is gotten from this specific verse:
But test all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil [withdraw and keep away from it].
– I Thessalonians 5:21-22 [AMP]
Key Point: When we are satisfied that anything is right and true, and good, we must hold it fast, and not let it go, no matter what opposition or persecution we meet with – MHC.
Why should we “hold fast”?
We’re advised to hold fast to good in order to build up our faith. We must not always be seekers, going to and fro, blown about by every wind of doctrine, double-minded. Rather, we must be firm in our faith, knowing what we believe. We also hold fast to good to help us get through the bad times.
Jesus, because of the joy set before Him, was able to endure the cross! He focused on the glory ahead to get Him through His painful experience on the cross. And we must do the same! In life, there will be ups and downs, but we can get through these periods by discerning what is good and holding on to it.
How do we know what is good?
Paul specifically states that we hold fast to that which is “good.” In this verse, “good” is from the word kalos, denoting a thing that is sound and in order – tested, proven, and authentic. God’s word and the promises therein have been tried, tested and proven authentic – we must hold fast to them, for they are good. We must not let the troubles of life seize them from us.
Remember the Old Testament characters who received prophetic words, such as Abraham or Joseph, they had to “hold fast” to these promises before their fulfilment! Likewise, you must clutch steadfastly to prophetic utterances spoken over your life that you have tested to be legitimate and biblical. These promises often test us — just as the word of the Lord tried Joseph (see Psalm 105:19). Scripture says,
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
– Psalm 34:8
Some of us have had experiences that left a “bad taste” in our mouth and lead us to conclude that everything relating to God is not good at all. However, taking this approach is illogical. It’s like someone saying, “You know, I ate food once and got food poisoning, so I’ve made the decision that food is bad and I’ll never eat food again.” How silly! Instead, we apply longsuffering in our walk with God and our experiences with His people. The hasty generalisation that all things pertaining to God, or the Church is bad because of one or two experiences is no way to live as a Christian.
How do we Hold Fast?
Like our heavenly father, we hold fast by taking possession, affirming and sustaining it, by embracing it and refusing to let go – this is how God holds fast to His elect whom He considered good upon creation. We too must discern a good thing,
not by the standard of our flesh, but the standard of God’s will and intentionally hold fast to it the same way God holds fast to us with His love. Declare it out loud, just as God did when He declared that creation was good. Scripture says: out of the abundance of a man’s heart, his mouth speaks. Therefore, the very things we speak reveal the substance we hold on to in our hearts.
A few other bible verses which demonstrate ways in which we can hold fast to good include:
– I Corinthians 15: 1-2: By welcoming, accepting, standing on and faithfully remembering it.
– John 15.10: By consistently practising it.
With this final verse below I want to encourage you to discern the good, speak it out loud, focus on it, make it the subject of your thoughts and actions:
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].
– Philippians 4:8 [AMP]
STEP 3: ABSTAINING FROM EVIL
Abstain From Evil.
The battle of Christian living is mainly to get our emotions changed, not just our behaviour. Scripture says God loves a “cheerful” giver – it’s not just about giving, it’s also about the emotional state of the giver. This shows that God’s requirements for Holy living extend beyond behaviour to include our emotions!
So when Paul says, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good,” we must remember he is commanding our emotions, not just our behaviour. We may abstain from fornication, but if our emotions linger on it then we are not fulfilling the true calling of this verse!
But wait! What if your heart loves evil and hates good?
(one example is the person who loves pornography/fornication and hates sexual purity) How can such a person obey this command? The answer is that they must be born again. We can’t make ourselves immediately hate or abstain from what we love, only God can. Only by being born again can God give us new hearts and help us win the battle against evil in our lives.
Now, for those of us who have committed our lives unto God, abstaining from evil can be practised on two levels:
A. In our relationship with others
An important part of abstaining from evil is watching how we respond to offences which arise in the course of dealing with people, especially those who are in our family of believers. How many times have we held on to evil words and things that people have spoken or done to us? Not only do we hold on to them, we meditate on them, bury them deep in our hearts and regurgitate them as soon as we get the first opportunity!
Someone offends you, you bury it someplace safe in your heart, pretend you have forgiven them, only for it to resurface as gossip or a means to chastise the next time the same person does something wrong.
Beloved, God holds fast to our good, not our evil deeds and we who are made in His image ought to demonstrate the same in good measure to others! 3 John 11:
Do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.
B. In our relationship with God
When scripture speaks of abstaining from evil, we often imagine not doing bad things to other people i.e. wickedness, which is “action-based” and is committed by one person against another.
However, it is better to think of the general notion of evil in terms of sin.
All form of sin is evil.
Therefore, to abstain from evil is to abstain from sin and maintain intimacy with God. He alone is good, and we must hold fast to Him and throw whatever threatens our hold on Him in the gutter. In Matthew 18:9 Jesus makes a very chilling statement:
If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
This begs the question, how serious are you about avoiding sin?
Are you serious enough about holding fast to God that you would cut off anything that prevents you from doing so? Are you serious enough about abstaining from every form of evil that you would go to great lengths to tear it out and throw it away?
These are questions worth thinking deeply about. How committed are you to holding fast to God and abstaining from evil? Will your hold be affected by life’s circumstances, internal/external forces or the opinions of people? As you ponder on these questions, I leave you with one last charge:
Abstain from sin, and whatever looks like sin, leads to it, and borders upon it. He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of it, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to it, will not long keep from doing sin.
– Matthew Henry’s Commentary
Contributor to the Religion News ∗ SELAH ∗ https://gossipforjesus.com/2018/12/04/no-more-blurred-lines-hold-fast-to-good-abstain-from-evil/
Jesus drew lines in the moral landscape of Israel. He opposed the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees and set a proper distinction between what is holy and what is hypocrisy (Matt. 23). For this, he was killed. But, the powerful testimony he left before his death and after his resurrection is recorded in the Bible. His words and life are a beacon of light to all who want truth and desire to know the difference between right and wrong. With Jesus, there were absolutes. With Jesus, there really is such a thing as truth and error, right and wrong, eternal life and eternal death.
However, in today’s world, relativism, which is the bedfellow of the secular, is becoming the temptress of the sacred. In the world of the secular, people are taught to avoid passing judgment, whether it be in regard to other peoples’ beliefs, or lifestyle preferences, sexual orientation, moral judgments, faithfulness, and personal ethics. The secularists want tolerance shown to their ungodly lifestyles. So, they consider sin to be an anachronistic and meaningless concept. The world does not want the Christian to shine a holy light on its sin. Instead, the world wants to have its sin without condemnation, without guilt, and without consequence. The world offers a philosophy of “It is right if it is right for you,” and “What is wrong for you is not necessarily wrong for anyone else.” In the secular realm of relativism, there are no absolutes. There are no paradoxes. There are no truth statements except to say that all views are acceptable — except the biblical one. In Judges 17:6 it says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” When there is no King, when there is no God, then truth becomes a disposable opinion. The secularists of today, like the kingless people of ancient Israel who have no direction, want to do what is right in their own eyes.
It doesn’t take long for any serious Bible student to recognize the problems of relativism aren’t only in the secular realm. It is in the Christian church as well. We see so-called Christian denominations and churches that approve of homosexuality, or couples living together, or who preach from how-to books and not the Bible, who water down the gospel, and teach a weak doctrine of God, sin, Christ, and salvation. Unfortunately, these kinds of churches are in bed with their secular mistresses and are being seduced into further and further spiritual adulteries. Their eyes are not on God’s word but on relativism. That is why the lines that Jesus drew so sharply in the Gospels which separate the sacred from the secular are becoming more and more blurred by the relativism of today as it seeps into the Christian church.
The blunt truth is, however, that there is an absolute right and wrong. We find it in the Bible which says that homosexuality is a sin. It is not an “alternate lifestyle.” It is a rebellious act of people who oppose the God-ordained institution of marriage between a man and a woman (Gen. 2:18-25). The Bible says that living together is a sin. It is wrong since it is the participation of the sexual union outside of the covenant establishment of marriage. The Bible teaches us about husbands and wives, not about “significant others.” The Bible teaches us to NOT bow to social norms if they contradict God’s word. Therefore, it is always wrong to lie, always wrong to commit adultery, always wrong to steal, always wrong to bear false witness, etc. It is wrong because God says it is wrong because what is right is based upon God’s holy character.
Furthermore, doctrine is important and there can be no compromise on the truth of what God has revealed. There is only one God in all existence who has always been God (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8; Psalm 90:2). God is a trinity (three persons in the Godhead – Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 13:14). Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:1,14). Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). If you do not believe and trust in Christ alone for salvation, then you are damned to eternal hell (John 3:17-18; Matt. 25:46). These are only some of the many truths of the Bible that are under attack from the world, from the cults and other false religions. As unpopular as they may be, they are still true.
We Christians are to sharpen the lines between truth and error. But, to do this we must first know what the truth is. We must know what the Bible actually says about right and wrong, about doctrine, about God, about ourselves, about judgment, and about Jesus. And then, we must be willing to say, “That is sin,” when we see sin. We must be willing to stand up for righteousness, even if it costs us. Far too many Christians compromise and let the world take their truth and gospel in exchange for comfort and safety. The manifestation of this compromise is found in churches with social agendas instead of biblical mandates, who do not condemn sin but practice it and who seek ways to appease the world instead of God.
Let me say it again: The world wants to blur the lines that separate the absolutes of morality and truth from its lies and compromise. The world wants Christian morality and absolutes removed. It wants moral and truth grey areas to overshadow biblical truth. By contrast, however, the Christian church is supposed to sharpen those lines by preaching, teaching, and standing up for the absolute truths of God’s word.
But, should we be a people that stand united in truth with fists raised in stern defiance against the world’s relativism and moral compromise? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that we are always to stand up for what is right. No, in that if standing up for what is right is not done in love, then our message of truth cannot be heard. Truth without love is hypocrisy. Love without truth is a lie. Both truth and love must be presented in harmony. The Christian church should be true and it should also be beautiful. In other words, it should teach what is right and it should LIVE what is right. 1 Tim. 1:5 says, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
In your life, are you living both the truth and the love that Jesus presented to us? Are you proclaiming truth at your job? Are you teaching it at home? Are you standing for truth in society? Are you proclaiming truth in love? Are you teaching truth by a loving example? Are you living the truth?
Now, lest I risk teaching moralism and further the degradation of truth in the world, I must make it clear that both truth and love are based on the cross of Christ. At the cross, we see the perfection of truth and love realized together on the hard lines of that bloodied tree. It is true that Jesus died and rose again. It is true that his love for us bought us our salvation. It is true that the cross is the only hope for mankind. It is true that people need to die to themselves. It is true that love is sacrificial and that it can cost us our lives. It is true that there is such a thing as sin and it is true that we can point out what is right and wrong in the world because Jesus lived what was right and wrong, died, and rose from the dead to prove that what he said was true.
The church that has lost its truth is a false church. The church that has lost its love is a godless church. The church that has lost Jesus is a church of the devil. The more the lines are blurred between the sacred and the secular, the more we move towards apostasy. May it never be! We must firmly trace out the lines already drawn and lovingly point out that there is a right and a wrong. We point this out by pointing to Jesus. But pointing this out must be preceded by living the truth, not simply proclaiming it.
We need to make sure that the lines between the sacred and the secular do not become blurred. We must make sure that they are sharp. We must proclaim Christ and Him crucified and that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. Without Him, there is no truth.
What the Bible says about Blurring the Lines
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 14:23, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” This indicates that there is more to Christian living than merely following rules. It is key for a Christian to understand the principles involved in God’s laws, not just the letter-of-the-law wording.
Those in the world argue that the law is done away altogether, and believing this, they find numerous gray areas. To support this belief they will use I Corinthians 6:12. However, just a few verses earlier, he seems to say something totally different! Notice verses 9-10:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul does not intend for this list to encompass every sin possible, but he does cover a lot of ground. In addition, he begins verse 9 with “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom,” which casts a wide net. So if fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, the covetous, and drunkards will not enter the Kingdom of God, how then can all things be lawful?
Verse 12, we find, is a poor translation. Paul is paraphrasing what some people were saying—and still say today. Notice that he repeats “all things are lawful for me, but . . .,” following each phrase with an objection. The Contemporary English Version renders verse 12 as, “Some of you say, ‘We can do anything we want to.’ But I tell you that not everything is good for us. So I refuse to let anything have power over me.” The New International Version is similar: “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” Clearly, Paul is telling us what others have said and giving his response.
We are free-moral agents, in other words. We can make our own decisions. We can sin, if we wish to, but there are consequences. Paul says he refuses to let “anything have power over me.” He implies that he keeps a close watch on his thoughts and actions.
Notice verse 9, again from the Contemporary English Version:
Don’t you know that evil people won’t have a share in the blessings of God’s kingdom? Don’t fool yourselves! No one who is immoral or worships idols or is unfaithful in marriage or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual . . . .
Are there gray areas here? Not to God, but our definition of “evil people” might be different. Certainly “immoral” is open to wide interpretation these days in the world. To “worship idols” can be looked at in different ways. Is “unfaithful in marriage” just an affair or is it more? Each of us knows exactly what these things mean to us, and that is as it should be. We do not need an exhaustive list, or we should not, of all the possibilities of each category. We should know the principle involved.
This is one reason we do not see many lawyers as members of the church. Lawyers are taught to see everything as a gray area. “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” as the lawyer Bill Clinton famously said. It seems that, as we grow in the faith, gray areas disappear, and the line becomes clearer. Satan and his world, on the other hand, are busy blurring the lines, trying to make us feel guilty or prudish if we judge something to be sin and choose not to participate.
I have known ministers who thought they were the town sheriff and had to be in on all decisions in our lives. Others, though, taught the principles involved and left it to church members to make decisions for themselves. Once our teachers have taught us God’s way, the burden is on us, not them, to know right from wrong. We must know where the lines are.
Acts 17:10-11 King James Version (KJV)And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
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