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

My Personal Apocalypse

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…”
(Colossians 3:5)

I don’t usually put a lot of stock in my dreams – rarely do I even remember them.  Dreams are open to so much interpretation, and there are so many things that can influence them.  Who knows but that on those nights when my dreams are rather disturbing that maybe I didn’t have too much salsa before going to bed?  It’s like the line from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge tells the ghost of Jacob Marley, “There’s more gravy than grave about you!”  I trust the Word of God that says in Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughter shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions…” I just don’t often associate my dreams with the fulfillment of that prophesy.

Still, there are times when I think my dreams are helping to reveal what God is trying to say to me.  Take, for example, a dream I had not too long ago – I call it, My Personal Apocalypse.

My life had become its own dystopian future (think Blade Runner not Hunger Games).  I was spiraling out of control.  I don’t know what happened to my family – I’m guessing they had left me, or I had driven them away.  Who would want to stay with me.  I was unkempt, frazzled, disheveled; I had really let myself go.

I found myself surrounded by illicit and wanton behavior.  There was drug use, fighting, and scantily clad women in the cloudy periphery of my dream.  I knew it was there, but I did not partake.  And while I had kept myself clean from the drugs, the sex, and all the rest of the debauchery; I soon realized that the whole dream was set inside a McDonald’s, which was apparently my drug of choice.  My sin was gluttony, sloth – but not just physically, it cut even deeper to a spiritual apathy and lethargy that was doubly fatal.

Suddenly – because time is rather “wibbly-wobbly” in dreams – I met someone, one of my high school teachers with whom I had recently reconnected  on Facebook.  There he was, in my dream, pointing to the door, and telling me it was time to leave.  He said I had really let myself go, that I needed to get up and engage in the fight for my life.

That’s when my alarm went off.

Now, just as a side note, I use my iPad as my alarm clock and on its lock screen in the following picture:

IMG_0706

In case you can’t read this, it is a quote from the Puritan pastor, John Owen, which says, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

This is the image I saw when I woke from that dream.  Make War!

Are you engaging in the war for your life, or are you listing to the false prophets who cry, “Peace, Peace!” when there is no peace.  There is, in the life of every believer, a necessary and unavoidable conflict with the old life – if you are to become more like Christ you cannot also remain like you were before knowing Christ.  The Westminster Confession teaches us that our growth in holiness is imperfect in this life, and “there abides still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”

Each of us is in a battle for our lives.  We are fighting against sin, sin which is so entrenched in our lives, so natural and instinctual, that often we don’t even know what we’re doing.  No one needs to teach you to lie, to take what you want, to put yourself first.

For those who put their faith in Christ, we realize that only through His victory over death on the cross will we ever know victory over sin, and we trust in His grace, His righteousness to cover us.  But that does not mean that we are exempt from taking up arms in the battle.  Once He brings us to life in Christ, the Spirit then reveals the depth of our sin, and equips us with His grace to mortify more and more the old man, and to live in the new.

To sum up the Owens quote, make it your daily work to put kill your sin, or else your sin will be killing you.

Are you engaged in the battle?

SDG

            Next Week – How to Mortify Sin.