Article 16

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"Abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thess. 5:22).

When a believer reads this brief yet all inclusive command from Christ he or she may be prone to experience anxiety of the heart and mind for a time. Every true believer certainly knows their own obedience to be far lacking from what they would like it to be. We even know our obedience to be lacking in what it should be. But these are not what brings about the anxiety of heart and mind of which I speak. The anxiety generally stems from the result of having been taught error in times past, or being constantly surrounded by it at present. Whether or not our hearts and minds were given to this error if taught it in the past makes no real difference, for even the constant bombardment of error affected the way the heart and mind thought and perceived things to have been. The continuing presence of error yet today tries to constantly force itself into our hearts and minds. Thus, apart from the Spirit of God guiding us now those past errors heard and continued today are inward blocks to our thought and perception even at present.

There are those who yet perpetrate a two-fold error concerning this command. In claiming to be champions of liberty they are the servants of corruption. Since the command includes abstaining from "ALL" appearance of evil the direct interpretation brings some feeling of guilt to every conscience not seared with a hot iron. Guilt, to these then, is a sure sign of not being what they claim. By reason of their profession to never have failed God they then are forced to begin with a false assumption by an incorrect interpretation, living in hypocrisy and promoting it in their hearers. By their reasoning they conclude that Christ certainly is not commanding us to abstain from ALL "appearance" (form or sort or kind) of evil, but rather to abstain outwardly from all things perceived, or which could be perceived, as evil by others. After all, who could truly always obey such an all inclusive command? They reduce the force of ABSTAIN from ALL EVIL by "appearance" being interpreted as, "Something perceived but not necessarily true." In claiming not to be "too hard" on people they then allow indulgences as long as no one else sees it or perceives it to be evil! The two-fold error then is this: while claiming to be they are no champions of liberty, they are promoters of lasciviousness; and, while claiming obedience they actually promote hypocrisy rather than honesty.

The testimony to this error is evidenced in our communities, our so-called churches, our governments, and every other aspect of our society for that matter. If our community, church, or government says something is evil, or not evil as the case may be, then these rather than God's word are the rule. If these three are in disagreement then we can choose which one to heed in accord with which ever one we are under direct scrutiny. We can then be one way in the church and another in the community or another in the government, which ever the case may be. Our society is then divided into different aspects for the sake of convenience only. This prevalent error is that which causes the anxiety of heart and mind we may experience in this command. Honesty tells us that we do not always abstain from all appearance of evil. May it be that God's Spirit enables us to confess our sins as believers, be constantly seeking the straight path of this command, and not become hypocritical in playing the part of whatever crowd of which we are in the midst. Even though the world will never see it as so, true honor to the name of Christ is for believers to be constantly confessing and repentant of our sins and not covering them up with convenience and hypocrisy, ever looking to Christ only as our hope before God..

Since the scriptures are clear that God the Father chose His own in Christ before the world was and redeemed them by Christ and His sufferings then anything contrary to that is evil, for it is a lie, and the devil is the father of all lies. If the so-called church we attend rejects this truth then we are to abstain from all appearance or form of evil. Since we are directly told that the worship of God must be in spirit and truth, and we are to come together and worship and praise God in spirit and truth by prayer and song and the reading and teaching of God's word, then gathering together for basketball, seniors parties, and skiing trips while calling it spiritual is evil. Entertainment is the name of the game today, not the worship and praise of God in Christ. The fact that such entertainment is evil is evidenced in that many who profess Christ as Lord and Saviour demand such entertainment. If an assembly refuses these things people refuse to come. If an assembly has these things and then does away with them to seek Christ and His gospel alone then they will be accused of hating the young and old and not caring for their souls. What a sad state! Since the scripture says that fornication and adultery are sin, even the looking at another to lust after them is to have committed adultery in our heart, then the "legality" of such acts by man's law or his seared conscience is evil nonetheless. It is not a sin to "look" is a statement I have often heard. While seeing is not evil "looking" is the beginning of lusting to evil. It is not evil to be drunk in public or drive while drinking above the legal limit. It is evil to be drunk at all. It is not evil to be a pedophile only if the youngster consents not, or be homosexual as long as between "two consenting adults." Sexual relationship outside of a man and woman coming together as husband and wife is evil altogether. Such deeds as these are under the judgement of God. Even the plowing of the wicked is sin. The reason for this is because they plow not in faith. That is to say, they plow not in the free gift of faith God gives concerning Christ, although they do plow with human belief based upon prior experience that their crops will grow.

When will the world (religious or secular as men like to separate them) see these things? Never! But let every one of us who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity. God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness or separation. The earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up, and since they shall be dissolved the manner of God's people ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness. God's people look for that day of judgement to come on this earth. Nevertheless, God has promised new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Righteousness will then dwell, not as the world presently holds or as society has deemed fit, but righteousness will dwell on an earth wherein the very Righteousness of God dwells bodily -- Christ our Lord. Then and then only will God's people obey and honor God without fault in their every thought, word, and deed as God both demands and deserves. Our only hope for the present and entrance into that which is promised to come is that God has provided what He demands and deserves in the Substitute -- Christ Jesus the Lord! When the command comes to our hearts and minds that we abstain from all appearance of evil let us not be as the hypocrites who adjust scripture to fit their own situation. Let us even abstain from professing that we have always abstained and never failed. Let us be honest and acknowledge to God our sin and sins against Him and seek His face and favor in Jesus Christ our Lord, our Redeemer, our Substitute.

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