Abhorring Evil

“Abhor Evil…”
Rom 12:9

We are living in evil days.  There is boldface murder of the unborn under the guise of “reproductive freedom,” and the profiteering and politicizing of this atrocity.  Around the world Christians are persecuted for their faith with little to no repercussion.   Politicians pander in deception, misdirection, and lies, and advance their careers upon their falsehood with impunity.  In our culture wickedness and godlessness are not just tolerated but encouraged, and those who are most provocative are set forward as “role models” for our young men and women.

And so when the Spirit teaches us to “abhor evil” in Romans 12:9, we find this something we are ready and willing to do.  It is easy to identify the evil and wickedness of the age.  The filthy and lurid putrescence of the day stands out like soiled garments to those who are even tangentially familiar with godliness.  We are quick to decry the offending evil around us and to pronounce our condemnation upon the evil in the lives of others.

But what about the evil in our own hearts? We certainly may have routed out the more visible sins in our lives – immorality, licentiousness, drunkenness, and the like – but we gladly turn a blind eye to the gossip, the bitterness, the envy, and the judgmentalism in our own hearts. It is easy to hate the evil of others and to dismiss our own.

The Westminster Confession reminds us that repentance, which is a gift of grace, leads a sinner to realize the “filthiness and odiousness of his sins” that he might grieve for and hate his sins, “to turn from them all unto God.”  (Notice that the direction of repentance is inward, not dealing with the sins of others, but with our own.) We don’t come to abhor our sins by the power of our will or a determination to better ourselves.  This conviction of our sinfulness and repulsion for our sin, is the working of God’s Holy Spirit within us. As the Spirit leads us to know and understand the greatness of the glory of God, the depth of our depravity, and the extent to which Christ has gone to purchase our salvation, we will come more and more to hate our own sinfulness and to turn from it.  Charles Spurgeon once said, “I hate sin not because it damns me, but because it has done God wrong. To have grieved my God is the worst grief to me.”

And therein lies the key to hating sin and evil. It is not enough to simply stop doing evil and picking up a few good habits. Doing this will only replace the wickedness of our hearts with some rigid morality and legalism – which may be an even more pernicious evil.

This was the fault of the pharisees. They practiced outwardly the habits of ceremonial cleanliness, while their hearts were far from God.  Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt 23:27–28).

What we need is  what Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” The only way to truly abhor the evil of our hearts and of the world is to find a new love.  As we turn our eyes to Christ, and find in Him the deeply satisfying glory of purity and holiness, we will see more and more the emptiness and futility of evil.  As we come to know the sweet and refreshing fragrance of the joy of Christ, the foul offense of evil will become detestable to our senses.  As we behold more and more the beauty of our ascended Lord, the hideousness of evil will cause us to fly from this world into His everlasting arms.

So let us learn in the Spirit to abhor sin, the sin of the world, and the sin in our hearts. But let our hatred of sin come only as we gaze upon the goodness and loveliness of Christ our Savior!

SDG

Facing the Reality of Evil

“Then the dragon became furious with the woman
and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring,
on those who keep the commandments of God
and hold to the testimony of Jesus”
(Revelation 12:17)

October 1, 2015 brought us another school shooting; this time, at a community college in Oregon.  The shooter in this horrific tragedy reportedly asked his victims if they were Christian, and shot those who answered “Yes.” In all, 9 were killed, and 9 others wounded.

Setting aside all the political debate that has arisen from this, what we can say for certain is this: we are witnessing evil in this world, and our hearts are crying out for an answer. Politicians will debate this to try to find the best policy (either to fix the problem or get them re-elected); that’s what politicians do.  As I wrote in my previous post, it is the role of the pastor to stand in the middle of such senselessness and point to the end of the story, and the One who has written it.

I’m currently in the middle of reading a rather long commentary on Revelation. I realize that doesn’t sound like the most exciting reading. In the light of recent events, however, Revelation and the commentary speak powerfully to our lives today.  Consider this:

The victory won through Christ’s blood must be the basis, not only for the saints’ earthly victory, but also for Michael’s triumph in heaven. V 11 summarizes the purpose of the whole chapter and especially of vv 7-12. The single intent… is to assure those who meet satanic evil on earth that it is really a defeated power, however contrary it might seem to human experience. Christians can be assured that the serpent begins to battle against their bodies only after he has lost the battle over their souls. This expresses one of the major themes of the book: the suffering of Christians is a sign, not of Satan’s victory, but of the saints’ victory over Satan because of their belief in the triumph of the cross, with which their suffering identifies them.

If the devil’s accusations had been effective with God, then all of God’s people would have been cast from his presence and would have begun to experience the anguish of the final judgment, which would be consummated at the Last Day. Instead, the devil was cast out from heaven, because his charges had become groundless. The saints’ status in heaven has been legitimized finally by Christ’s suffering on the cross. All believers, past, present, and future, have overcome the devil because of the blood of the Lamb.

How have they overcome the devil? Through Christ’s death they have been declared not guilty of the accusations launched against them. Therefore they are exempt from the ultimate punishment. Satan’s accusations are unable to unleash the infliction of the “second death.”

Beale, G.K., The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation. (Eerdmans Pub Co, Grand Rapids MI, 1999) Pg663-4.

What you’ll hear from the politician is this shooting is evidence that we need better gun-control, better health-care, better control of such “toxic-masculinity” (whatever that is).  What we need, they’ll tell you, is for the government to fix this; we need a stronger, more powerful, state.

The reality is, Satan has been cast down, and he is raging against the church until he is finally conquered by Christ (Revelation 12). As the old hymn goes:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure…

This is the reality of the evil we face today, but is also the reality of our conquering King Jesus the Christ.  This evil will continue to rage against His rule until the very end, and our only hope in the face of such evil is found in Christ our King, the one who died and is alive forevermore.  You won’t hear that from your politicians.