Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Refraining from Disobedience

The first broken command was worded negatively: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Most of the Ten Commandments are also worded negatively. Starting with Deuteronomy 5:8, “You shall not” occurs eleven times in the next thirteen verses.

Disobedience is doing, thinking, or saying something we have been commanded not to do or think or say. It is also the opposite: not doing, not thinking, or not saying what we are commanded to do or think or say. For example, “Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment’” (Matt. 22:37-38). Neglecting to love the Lord in this way is a violation of the first and greatest commandment. It is easier to measure disobedience by what we do rather than by what we do not do. This, however, does not keep the latter (sins of omission) from being sin.

The first means of refraining from disobedience is to know the commandments. Ignorance does not keep your acts from being sin. Contrary to the view of many Christians, not knowing does not constitute a justification for sin. Not knowing you were not supposed to marry an unbeliever does not make it right.

Leviticus chapters 4 and 5 are given to the subject of unintentional sin. “If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, he is guilty” (Lev. 4:27). It is important to know the commands and obey them.

The second means of refraining from disobedience is to know God’s character so well that anything that comes across your path that does not have His characteristics will be recognized as from the enemy.

The devil is a liar. “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b). A liar does not say, “Do not listen to me because I am lying to you.” He says, “Listen to me; I am telling the truth.” Both the liar and the truth teller say, “I am telling the truth.” Therefore, you must know the truth teller so well that you will recognize a lie by the character of the teller.

There is a good example of this in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Both Lucy and Edmond had been to Narnia. When Lucy told Peter and Susan about the wonders of Narnia, she expected Edmond to back her up. Instead, Edmond said that Lucy was playing make-believe. One was lying, and one was telling the truth, but both said they were telling the truth. Peter and Susan went to see Professor Kirk for advice. After hearing the story, the Professor replied, “Does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is more truthful?” Peter said, “Up till now, I’d have said Lucy every time.” The Professor asked Susan the same question. “Well, in general, I’d say the same as Peter.” The Professor replied, “You know she doesn’t tell lies, and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then, and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

Do you know God’s character as Peter and Susan knew Lucy’s? You will find His character revealed in the Scriptures.

The third means of refraining from sin is to avoid temptation. Temptation is not the act of the enemy only. You also have a part. Your part is mentioned in James 1:14: “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”

The first way to avoid temptation is your own will: choose not to feed your evil desires. The second way is with God’s help: God will keep the evil one from tempting you. When temptation is cut down, sin is cut down. God’s part is in answering the prayer Jesus taught us to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matt. 6:13)

The fourth means of refraining from sin is do not be over-confident. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Sin is like falling off a cliff. Christians do not want to fall, but they do want to admire the view. They get as close to the edge as they can with over confidence and carelessness, knowing that they will not fall. Do not be confident or careless, and do not desire to admire the view. Stay away from the edge!

Sometimes it is necessary to get close to the edge when you are helping someone who has fallen or is about to fall. There are two strong texts in the New Testament referring to this action.

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Notice that only spiritual people should do the restoring, and they should watch out, not to keep from sinning, but to be kept from being tempted.

“Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 22-23). You must abhor sin if you are in the rescuing business.

A good, stout fence at the edge of a cliff is much more valuable than keeping an ambulance parked in the valley. Both may be necessary, but the rescuer at the bottom is not in as much danger as the rescuer at the top. Fences are made of the Word, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians. In addition, a support group of Christians in prayer for you is like having a safety line around your waist which is anchored to the Christians who are away from the edge. Do not be over-confident!

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13). We know of God’s faithfulness before temptation occurs and after sin occurs (1 John 1:9). This verse speaks of God’s faithfulness during the temptation. God’s faithfulness does not mean He will physically or spiritually pull us out of the temptation; He limits the temptations by their nature (“common to man”), by their strength (“not beyond what you can bear”), and by providing a way out. All of these require a decision on the part of the Christian.

The fifth and sixth means of keeping from sin go together. The fifth is to make a stand against the devil, and the sixth is to run away from him.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Tim. 6:11)

“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22)
Either the devil flees or you flee. One of the two should run. You should not sit around and chit-chat with the devil.

Resisting is by far the best way. Then the devil does the running. It is the way Jesus handled temptation in the wilderness (and other places where He was attacked). He turned the defense into an offense. The devil attacked first, and Jesus counter-attacked with the Word of God.

There is a condition that is necessary before you can resist and counter-attack. James 4:6-7: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” In order to resist effectively, you must submit to God in humility, whereby you receive grace.

In Ephesians, there are two conditions to our resistance of sin. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:10-11). Our stand against the devil is effective only when we have God’s armor and God’s power. It was the same with Jesus.

Prior to the stand, the resistance, and the counter-attack, you must submit to God in humility. You must have God’s power and God’s armor. If you cannot meet these conditions, then you must run.

Even if you are able to resist, there are certain temptations you must always flee from, such as the desire to get rich, the love of money, and eagerness for money.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).

You must flee the one and pursue the other.

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