Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Abstain from all Appearance of Evil

Several times this past week, this verse has came up either in conversation or across my mind when reading something. Different situations, different scenarios, but that verse held as common to all of them.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 King James Version
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Have you ever stopped and just thought about that verse, what it means and how powerful it is? It applies to so many things in our lives! I want to start with the dictionary definitions of the words abstain, appearance and evil.

Abstain: To hold one's self aloof; to forbear or refrain voluntarily, and especially from an indulgence of the passions or appetites.

Appearance: Semblance, or apparent likeness; external show. pl. Outward signs, or circumstances, fitted to make a particular impression or to determine the judgment as to the character of a person or a thing, an act or a state.

Evil: Having qualities tending to injury and mischief; having a nature or properties which tend to badness; mischievous; not good; having or exhibiting bad moral qualities; morally corrupt; wicked; wrong; vicious;  producing or threatening sorrow, distress, injury, or calamity; unpropitious; calamitous

Okay, so, having read those definitions... I think it's safe to say that when that verse says to abstain from all appearance of evil, it's pretty specific, right? We are to voluntarily keep ourselves away from having the apparent likeness or outward signs of anything that is not good, corrupt or wicked. Pretty simple, right? 

Wrong. It's incredibly hard, I'll be the first to admit, although it does get easier.

As a believers, we are to be Christ like. We're to walk, talk, dress and have attitudes that reflect Him. People should be able to tell by our words, by the way we react to situations, by the way we act and the things we do, and the places we go, that we are followers of Christ. Part of that means abstaining from things we know are not glorifying to God. It means not giving room for doubt, not allowing yourself to get into a situation where others could say you compromised and letting your testimony be ruined.

I know I've talked on this before, but I'm going to reiterate that I believe 100% in chaperones. I don't care if you are 15 or 50. If you're not married to them, you shouldn't be alone with the opposite gender (unless it's a parents or siblings or relative). If for no other reason than, again, your testimony, you should want someone (a friend or family member, but definitely someone you know) there as a witness that the two of you did nothing you can be accused of later.

And I don't want to hear "Well, we were in public, there were witnesses!" Umm, do you know those strangers' names and numbers so I find out if you're telling the truth? No, you don't. Sorry. Anyone can say there were 'other people there' but you don't have an actual witness that can say from the time the outing started to the time it ended -the whole time the two of you were together- nothing happened. I'm not for that. I want accountability. I want there to be no room for doubt, gossip or lies.
I'm going to abstain from all appearance of evil by never being alone in a room or vehicle with a guy unless it's my brothers or husband (Not future husband, mind you, but my husband!)

It's so, so, so easy to fall into acting like the world. We're bombarded on every side by the world, and the flesh loves to give in. I could easily act just like girls around me that aren't saved. I could walk the same, talk the same, and go to the same places and dress the same- but I choose not to. I choose to abstain from all appearance of evil.

I don't flirt and throw myself at guys.

I don't worship and idolize and spend all my time following after celebrities and musicians who are obviously not believers and are living ungodly lives.

I don't use cuss words or swear words (Who honestly wants to look that ignorant?)

I don't dress in skimpy no-nothing, shorty-short clothes with my body hanging out and more skin showing than is covered by clothes that look painted on.

I don't spend my time in place with rock or rap or country music blaring.

I don't go in places I know that no truly born again Christian has any business being (And believe me, my local mall is FULL of them).

I don't listen to music that praises everything but God, and encourages ungodly behavior, thoughts and actions.

If I did all those things, would I look any different from the world to a random stranger walking by? NO! They would not see that I'm a saved person who is trying to live for the Lord. They wouldn't be able to tell by my appearance that I'm a Christian. 

Can I be blunt? If you're doing those things, don't expect people to know or even believe when you tell them that you are born again. This is where the verses about knowing people by their fruits comes into play. You act like the world, people will think you are of the world.

I know that God knows each of us by heart. But I also know the world only sees what is on the outside. They only see what we talk like, what we do, how we dress and where we go and judge by that.

You could ruin a chance to witness to someone by being just like them. 

I've heard people in the past try to justify acting, talking and dressing like the world as a means of winning others to Christ. That's a really ignorant way of thinking and trying to justify sin, let's be honest. I'm not going to drink poison along with someone to keep them from dying. I'm not going to rob a bank to pay someone else's bills. I'm not going to pop three tires on a car to keep one from going flat.

God won't bless acting like the devil to win someone to Him. He never has nor will He ever tell you to sin to be a witness to someone. He doesn't condone acting like the world to win a lost person to the Lord.

And Anyone who tells you that you have to act like the world to win them seriously needs to read their Bible and study God's Word better, because they lack understanding what God's Will is for believers!

God has set us apart on purpose, to be different than the world so others can see Him in us. If you're acting just like the world, no one is going to see God in you!

Abstaining from all appearance can be hard, but the more we do, the easier it gets. Saying no is difficult, I understand, but not impossible. Especially when we choose friends who are not living godly lives, we make it harder for ourselves.
That's why it's so important to surround yourself with believers who are trying to live for God and are also abstaining from all appearance of evil. That's why it's important to avoid going to places where we will be tempted to sin. That's why it's important to guard what our eyes and ears are filled with. That's why it's important we be careful watch we watch and what we listen to. That's why it is important we don't idolize and follow every move of famous people who we Know are not living for God by their words and actions. That's why it's important we live every moment of our lives as if Christ were coming back, and ask ourselves would we be comfortable doing that/saying those words/dressing that way/listening to that song/acting like that/walking like that if Jesus were standing right next to us? Would you really? Would you see Jesus joining in? 

Honestly, it boils down to this: God has given us commands and specifics about how we are to live our lives. Those things that are sin, He died to forgive us of them. Do you really feel no conviction over living like the world, even though it cost Christ His life to pay for those sins?

If you are a child of God, if you are saved, then God will chastise you- He promised to in the Bible. You won't get away with living that way for long without God correcting you like a earthly father corrects his child. He wants us to understand why He said in His Word to abstain from all appearance of evil, and He corrects us when we start to drift and stray away from Him. It's a dangerous place to live when you are saved and purposefully ignoring the commands God has given us. You not only lose the blessings God would have given you if you were living your life according to His Word, but you lose the ability to serve Him wholly and have your service blessed!

If you feel no conviction over living in sin and living like the world, then I hope you would truly search your heart and make sure of your salvation today, because God says in the Scripture that if you are not chastised then you are not His child. There can be no more important decision you can make in your life than choosing to accept the free gift of salvation Christ offers to anyone who will call on His Name. 

If you are saved, and you've been letting the world and the flesh win, and haven't been living for God... why continue another day in that? I'm SO thankful God will forgive us when we sin, and is always ready to hear our prayers when we come to Him confessing our sins!

I know I am in need of that forgiveness everyday of my life. I need God's grace and mercy every minute of my life, and I could never repay Him for it. But what I can do is to live for Him, to live not to please anyone- not even myself- but God, and to encourage others to also 'abstain from all appearance of evil' so that we can be an effective witness to those around us.

To those who are striving to abstain from all appearance of evil, I hope this has been an encouragement to you. I hope you know that you are not alone. I pray God strengthens you in your desire to please Him by your actions, your choices and your appearance. Please don't give up your standards or give in to the flesh when it looks easier to be like the world than to fight against it. God sees your life and knows your desire is to please Him, and He will bless that.

Your sister in the Lord,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Convincing Youself

Time for a rather serious discussion, my friends. Something that has been weighing on my mind for a while now. I debated whether I should write this or not, but it keeps going thru my mind and I think I need to. Maybe one of you needs to read this because you are struggling with this. Maybe I just need to say what's on my mind. Who knows! But I pray this helps someone else out there.

How many times have you heard someone say "Tell yourself you can do this, and you can do it." Basically convince yourself you can do whatever it is you need to do. Yes, I understand this is meant to be encouraging and help you get thru whatever it is you are trying to do. And that in itself isn't bad. Sometimes we need someone to tell us we have what it takes to get thru our situation, to get us to convince ourselves we can finish our tasks.

But there's a negative side in convincing ourselves of things. There's a danger in talking ourselves into things. I'm completely guilty of doing this far too often. I can talk myself into almost anything. Give me a couple days and I can convince myself of almost anything. The problem with this is I'm usually A. Following my emotions, B. Going on little bits of information I convince myself is fact and C. I'm not praying about it, but blindly following my own will. It's a dangerous habit that can have consequences we don't foresee.

Let's use some examples.

I can convince myself that someone is mad at me (I've done this so many times). If someone I know acts the least bit different from their normal attitude when they are around me, by the end of the day, I can talk myself into believing I've offended them or they are mad at me for some reason or another.

I can convince myself that a decision I've made it the logical one when in all honesty, it's the stupidest choice I've made in my life. I can convince myself that I have peace over a choice I've made when it's really just me hoping for peace and ignoring God (I've done this too, too many times. Way too many times.)

I can convince myself that how I'm handling matters is the best way, and that I've got everything under control when the truth is I am wrecking everything.

Do you see the common theme in all these? I'm convincing myself that what I want is what is right. I'm following my own desires, my own judgement. Kind of goes along with the post on following your heart versus following God.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, when we talk ourselves into something, we're hurting ourselves. We're taking away God's ability to bless us with what He wants to do or give us, and replacing it with setting ourselves up for failure and pain. By convincing ourselves that what we want is what is right, or what we did is right, or what we have decided is right, we are choosing to walk a path that leads to pain, disappointment, and consequences that we will have to face.

Another thing to consider is, when making a decision that affects those around you and not yourself only, convincing yourself that your decision is right hurts them too. Talking yourself into believing what you are doing is right for everyone can be a life altering choice for more than yourself.

I know it's hard when you can talk yourself into something, but it's even worse when you have others encouraging you to walk the wrong way, or encouraging you to convince yourself that you are making the right choice when you know it's not. To make decisions that at present look good, but in the future will hurt you. Though they may mean well (or may not, as the case may be), listening to the advice of those who will talk you into running away from God and listening to your own voice convincing yourself that your opinion is the only one that matters is going to destroy you. No if, and, or buts. You will end up ruined and in pain.

The obvious solution? Stop.

Stop talking yourself into believing what you want is what is right.
Stop ignoring God.
Stop pretending that what you want is what God's Will is.
Stop turning a blind eye to the warnings that you're going down the wrong path.
Stop following the advice of others that encourages you to ignore God.
Stop letting yourself ignore your prayer and Bible time thinking that if you don't listen to God you can get peace.
Stop ignoring the warning signs, the red flags.

Once you've stopped doing those things, do me another favor (or ten)?

Do listen to God. God isn't the author of confusion. He's not going to lead you down a path that will ruin your life or hurt you. He isn't a cruel Maker who wants you to suffer and languish. He wouldn't give you peace over something isn't what is best for you, or over something that wouldn't honor and glorify Him.
Do listen to the counsel of those who are in tune with God. Parents, pastors, and older people (most older people, for the most part) are wiser and follow the Lord because they know from experience that He won't lead you down the wrong path. If your elders are telling you something is not right or that a decision you are talking yourself into isn't going to be good, odds are they are right.
Do pray about it. Earnestly seek God's Will and don't ignore when He answers, even if it isn't the answer you want. If you ask Him to show you, and He does but it's not what you want, don't keep praying in hopes He changes His answer. Ask God to change your heart and mind about it instead.
Do be willing to listen to what God says. Don't ask for an answer then reject it. Don't seek God's Will and then ignore it when He shows you what that is.

I know most of the do's and stop's are easier said than done. It's a constant struggle to battle the flesh and our own desires. But the more time you spend with God in prayer and His Word, the easier it's going to be to avoid convincing yourself that what you want is what He wants. It'll be easier to avoid talking yourself into decisions you will regret later. It'll be easier to follow His Will with a joyful heart and true peace.

Listen, I'm praying for any of you that have trouble with this. I'm one of you, too, so pray for me. Sometimes it's easier to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with this, and that makes it easier to tell myself I need to stop listening to my own voice and listen to God's. And that pretty much sums this up...

Listen to God's voice, not your own.