Practical Application of the Word of God
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
I Thessalonians 5:22
I often am puzzled at how much disconnect there is, at times, among us as Christians between what we say we believe and what we actually do.
We’re all guilty of it somewhere – and, often, many somewheres – in our lives.
Part of the converting process, with the help of God’s spirit, is to find – seek, look for, examine proactively – and correct those disconnects in our lives so that we’re in sync with God.
Being in sync isn’t a two-way street: God’s already righteous, perfect, and holy so He doesn’t need to change, move, or come over to our side.
The changing, the moving, the coming over is all on us to God’s righteousness (Matthew 6:33), perfection (Matthew 5:48), and holiness (I Peter 1:16). This is the essence of developing the mind of Christ and developing God’s character.
I’m convinced that more times than not we look at the process of conversion – and developing God’s righteous and holy character – as a sort of nebulous, distant, and mostly unattainable “thing” that we kind of accidentally stumble upon doing it the right way every once in a rare while, but most of the time it sort of sits on an out-of-reach shelf where we admire it, but we rarely take it down and actually examine it.
Converting is an active and interactive ongoing process. It is not a one-time, past event (which is why I never use the word converted).
Converting is not a thing. In fact, it’s not a goal.
Converting, instead is an active way of being (attitudes, motives, thoughts, actions, words – in other words, everything we are and we think, say, and do in this life) as defined by God that we continually do and strive to learn to do expertly.
As always, without God’s help, this is impossible. But with God’s help, it is possible.
But how do we become experts in converting from our ways to God’s ways? The same way anyone becomes an expert in something: we live, eat, and breathe it 24/7.
One of the things that has always struck me by Paul’s letters in the New Testament are how many action statements they contain. A frequent set of action statements that Paul uses is put on and put off.
This is not accidental. The verb put implicitly requires conscious effort on the person’s part to whom it’s being said. In this case, that’s you and that’s me.
So we should be stopping at these places where Paul uses these action statements and really think about them and how they apply to us – to you and to me – and what we need to do in order to meet those directives, which God inspired.
So with this in mind, let’s take a look at some areas in our lives where we might not be abstaining from the appearance of evil, even if we’re not actually doing anything overtly out of sync with God’s instructions to us.
I will say up front that I am not convinced in some of these cases that there is no overt wrong with relationship to God and His word.
However, I believe the reason for these overt wrongs are a lack of conscious thinking and awareness about God’s word, God’s standard, and God’s way of life.
But that lack of consciousness in not thinking everything we are, we think, we say, we do through thoroughly and completely before we say and do them, is the result of the converting process being on an out-of-immediate-reach shelf where we admire it instead of it being the active, 24/7 force in our lives.
Today is January 1 on the Roman calendar (slightly tweaked by Pope Gregory XII in the 1500’s, after which it was also known as the Gregorian calendar), which is the calendar society has adopted as its official calendar. It is supposedly the beginning of a new year.
Last night, around the world, people celebrated the arrival of this new year. Many today – if they’re waking up (as I write this, I am reminded of the news on BBC early this morning that 35 people were trampled to death during New Year’s Eve festivities in Shanghai) – are awakening to killer hangovers from drinking way too much alcohol and fatigue from staying awake half the night to celebrate.
How did January 1 and its customs come to be? From simpletoremember.com:
So the origins of the “new year” tradition go back to Julius Caesar arbitrarily deciding when a new year would start (in the dead of winter, no less), followed by wholesale violence initially with riotous behavior including sex and alcohol not far behind and this became the customary way to acknowledge a man-made new year.
Now as Christians in a society that observes this tradition en masse, what should we do? This is where 24/7 converting as a way of life comes in.
The first thing we should do is ask, “What does God say?”
You can look from Genesis through Revelation and find that God doesn’t say anything about specifically about not celebrating New Year’s Day (or Valentine’s Day, or Easter, or Halloween, or Christmas).
Hey, it’s not a “You shall not…” so it must be okay, right?
Here’s why in a simple explanation:
God tells us when a new year begins. That month is Abib (also known as Nisan), which corresponds to the months of March and April on the Roman calendar. The literal translation of Abib is “ear of grain,” which would rationally translate to spring when plants are budding.
But notice in Exodus 12 as well what observances God commands in this first month of each new year. One is the Lord’s Passover (notice that the Passover is commanded to be observed only one time each year on the date and in the month that God specifies, not whenever and as often as we decide the way most religious organizations do with their interpretations of communion).
Go to your Roman calendar, that new one you opened for the first time today, and find the month that has Passover listed. In 2015, the calendar says that date is April 3. Now counting back 14 days, according to Exodus 12, the new year according to God starts in the third week of March.
Not January 1.
God specifically tells those of us who claim to obey and follow Him to not participate in nor adopt the ways of those who aren’t following God and not to take their rituals and use them to worship Him.
But are we really taking those words to heart?
Are we participating in the activities of New Year’s by going to parties, watching celebrations, and promoting things we’re selling or doing using the new year as a plug? Are we doing year-end wrap-ups on social media and are we wishing people a happy new year?
These are all examples of the appearance of evil.
Not doing those things? Great! Let’s go deeper then. There’s a subtle angle to this that we may not have considered.
Have you used or are you using the phrase “the new calendar year,” because you recognize that we’re not supposed to be engaging in New Year’s-related activities?
Stop and think about that for a minute. Whose calendar? Whose calendar are we supposed to be using?
If it’s God’s calendar, then this is not a new calendar year for us yet. So using that phrase “the new calendar year” in January is untrue for us unless we are letting the Roman calendar supercede God’s calendar.
Again, I imagine that this will seem incredibly picky to some of you reading this and there will be tongues clucking, heads shaking, and eyes rolling.
But you know, Jesus Christ was pretty picky when He talked about not a jot or a tittle passing from the law until it was all fulfilled (which it has not been yet), so I think I’m on pretty solid ground in this as I strive to follow and emulate Him.
But because it’s not scriptural or Christian, those of us who proclaim to follow God and Jesus Christ should not observe Christmas nor do anything to give the appearance of evil regarding this season of the year.
And I refer again to Deuteronomy 12:30-32 for those who want to argue that they’re just worshipping God and Jesus during the Christmas season:
So are we considering the appearance of evil when we don’t observe Christmas and partake in its rituals, but we shadow it with a big congregational get-together, during the same time, in a central location (which requires a substantial amount of money for travel, lodging, and food costs), ostensively to give our children an alternative to celebrating Christmas (since they’re out of school anyway), to be with their friends and enjoying sports and other activities with them, while we adults go to Bible seminars and fellowship with other adults?
For me, personally, the answer is “yes,” based on Deuteronomy 12:30-32.
I find it particularly distasteful to hear these gatherings referred to as “mini-Feasts,” in a reference to God’s Feast of Tabernacles, which we observe during the autumn of each year. It’s as though we’re somehow giving it a godly credibility by using this moniker.
Yet, I can’t help wonder what God thinks, because even though it has different wrapping, it has some of the same trappings as Christmas.
For me personally (and I alone will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for my life and my choices, so since this is a matter of faith for me, if I participate in it then it’s sin for me), it gives an appearance of evil, even though what happens may be perfectly within the bounds of God’s word.
I looked at a couple of the activities at one of these gatherings and again I thought about how it seems we admire converting sitting up on an unreachable shelf, but it sometimes doesn’t really penetrate our thinking in what we are, say, and do.
There were themed dances at one of these gatherings. At both dances, dressing in costumes (a lot of social activities within the body of Christ are themed around costumes, and costumes remind me of Halloween and its costumes) for prizes was encouraged.
One dance’s theme was the “Wild West” and the other dance’s theme was “favorite sleuth, mystery, or puzzle solver.”
How about the other theme of sleuths, mystery, or puzzle solvers? What are sleuths, mystery and puzzle solvers generally doing as an avocation? Solving a crime. Again, how godly is this?
I’m not picking on anyone nor am I giving anyone a hard time, but I am trying to spur us to think in terms of godliness in all that we are, that we say, and that we do. Only then will we really be on our way in striving to abstain from the appearance of evil.
A close friend of mine, who is in her early 20’s, and I had a long conversation about godliness a few months ago. She said something about how she considers whether to do something or not that struck me as very unique. She said, “I don’t ask whether something is ungodly, because I find I tend to find ways to excuse or give myself permission to indulge to some extent. Instead, I ask whether it’s godly. That makes it black and white and easy to choose.”
That is a 24/7 converting process. And that mindset is the mindset of abstaining from the appearance of evil.
What are we – you and I – doing?