Just one misstep in conduct or in attitude can disappoint another who is looking in to find in you the holiness of God.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Doing alright? Well, this is your good friend, Bob Cook, hoping that everything’s alright with you and that you are indeed walking with the King of kings step by step.
I remember that old song we used to sing when I was a boy going to Sunday school in the little white frame church in Old Fort, Ohio, that’s on the road from Fremont to Tiffin. And they would be singing, “How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior, stepping in the light, stepping in the light.” Oh, yes, it’s great to walk with God, isn’t it? Yes, it is.
Look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 with me. We’ve come along through these short sentences, “Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Two things that are said to be the will of God in 1 Thessalonians, one is to live a holy life, the other is to live a thankful life. “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” We got all through those verses.
Now we come to verse 22, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” A little word study here. The word “abstain” is a verb which… Well, to pronounce it, it’s apecho, which means hold off, but it’s in the middle voice so that it means hold yourself off. You hold yourself off of all appearance of evil. Word “appearance” means form, shape, appearance, or resemblance. And the word “evil” is poneros, which means intrinsically evil. It’s used of the devil and also of his demons. Used of Satan in Matthew 5, and then demons in Luke 7. So what he’s actually saying if you transliterate it literally, you hold yourself off from and away from everything that even faintly resembles the intrinsic evil that is personified by Satan and his demons, the evil of the world of sin.
Now, how do you apply that today on Main Street in your own life? The first fact to realize is that you are indeed kept by God’s power. “Unto Him that’s able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,” says Jude. “You who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” says Peter. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.” God’s faithful, God is able, and God does protect. “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them.”
So the first thing to realize is that as you are, and where you are, and in the circumstances in which you are, God’s keeping power is active toward you and in your life this minute. Now, there’s another sense then in which you and I are involved so far as our will is concerned. You have the opportunity of saying, “Yes, I will do this thing,” or “No, I will not do this thing.” “Yes, I will say this,” or “No, I will not say this.” “Yes, I will engage in this relationship,” or “No, I will not engage in this relationship.” “Yes, I will take part in this business deal,” or “No, I will not take part in this business deal.” You do have, what I mean to say, you do have daily many opportunities to exert your own will. Thankful that God’s angels are around you and God’s Spirit dwells within you and God is in the process of keeping you, oftentimes when you don’t even realize it. Still, there are these other times, without number, many of them, everyday, where you exercise your own will. You follow that?
Well, then, in the exercise of your will, you hold yourself away from that which even appears to favor, or to condone, or to be like the evil of the world. Let me take a ridiculous illustration. When I was a little boy living on the farm, of course we were told, “You must never smoke.” Well, two or three of us boys would get together out behind the barn and we would smoke corn silk. We thought we were big men then. And being discovered inevitably. [chuckle] Be sure your sin will find you out, you know, it always works. Being discovered, we argued, “Well, this is just corn silk, it’s not tobacco and so it isn’t wrong.” Now, what is the real force of that argument? It says this is not the real thing, it only looks like it. And that is precisely what Paul is saying, don’t say and do those things that look like, even look like you are cooperating with Satan.
A family I know years ago used to like to play rook. And I suppose there’s no sin in playing rook, is there? It’s played with a deck of cards. But one evening a neighbor went by and saw the family gathered around the table with their rook game and later was heard to remark, “Oh, they play cards just like everybody else.” Well, because that word got back to this Christian family, they said, “We won’t play cards anymore because we don’t believe in the gambling kind of regular playing cards.” Well, the Christian conscience has changed in those things, I suppose. There’s a lot of folk who play bridge and poker and whatnot, and say there’s nothing wrong with it. Personally, I never learned to play cards and I guess, I am not about to now at this young age of whatever it is because it was always associated in our culture with worldly things and gambling and all that.
But here’s a family, and this of course goes back, I suppose 50 years, but it’s clear in my memory because I knew about it when it happened. Here’s a family that says, “If the neighbors are gonna think we’re playing with playing cards and gambling, we just aren’t going to do that.” Well, you’ll say, “Brother Cook, that’s ridiculous.” Okay, it may be for you but I’m making the point that you’re to hold yourself off from the appearance of evil, whatever looks like it’s cooperating with the devil, be done with it. It’s too expensive for you. Why destroy your testimony for something that you have to defend and that looks suspicious to some folk? Why destroy your testimony for the sake of indulging yourself in something that you want to defend and argue about? Well, you may differ with me and if you do, that’s all right. We’ll be in heaven some day and then we’ll know the truth of the matter.
The point that Paul is making is a good one. Your life ought to be the kind that you don’t have to explain. My rule for many years has been, don’t explain, proclaim instead. Do things that you can proclaim not things you have to explain. If you have to explain your conduct, you’re in trouble. Avoid the very appearance of evil.
Now he says, “Hold yourself off.” How do you do this? Well, I think first of all, you establish an operating principle that what is most important is what the other person sees in your life. You see, it’s not what I say, it’s what he hears that counts, that’s the old salesman’s adage. It’s not what I do, it’s what the other person observes that counts. If somebody thinks you have offended him even if you know you didn’t, he’s offended. If somebody thinks you have gypped him, hurt him, or cheated him even though you could argue about it, still, so far as his perception of it is concerned, that’s how it is. You understand that, don’t you?
So I think you start if you want to apply this verse, you start with the idea that what is really important is how people perceive the life of, perceive that is, the life of Christ in me. And those things that would mar that image, those things that would confuse the message that is given from my life, those things that would blur the clear delineation of God’s holiness in my life, I’m just not gonna do that. See, “hold yourself off” means you make up your mind that anything that hinders the revelation of Jesus Christ through your life is gonna be gone.
Well, once having decided that, then it’s a very simple matter to identify as you go on through every day’s living, that which you are going to hold yourself away from. That’s not very good grammar but you get the point. “Hold yourself away from all appearance of evil.” Appearance is a form and it’s the resemblance, the external appearance, the form, the kind, all of that wrapped up in the Greek word “eidos.”
So now, how will this work? Do I have to be wary and afraid and suspicious of my every action, and explaining to people that I really? No, no, you don’t have to do that. It’s a positive reaction to the will of God. Everything that is clearly God’s will, everything that is clearly explained or commanded in the Word of God, everything concerning which you have the peace of God. Paul says, “Let the peace of God be the umpire in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” Everything concerning which the Holy Spirit as the umpire in your heart says, “That’s okay,” then go on. But hold yourself away from that which even faintly resembles the world. Alright? Yes, it’s a big order. And yes, we haven’t done with it just by talking about it. It’s a lifetime task, isn’t it? And it gets into where I live. Just one burst of temper can destroy the image of a very wonderful Christian life, isn’t that true? Just one misstep in conduct or in attitude can disappoint another who is looking in to find in you the holiness of God. Ooh, that’s such a frightening, awesome thought.
That’s why Paul says, “You hold yourself off from anything that even looks like cooperating with the devil.” Amen? Now, do remember that God does the keeping, you commit yourself to Him and He’s faithful. That’s what Paul says later on in verse 24, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”
Dear Father today, oh, may we be so with Thee that we are away from that which is evil. Help us to walk with God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Until I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing.
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