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Echo Evangelique

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Living in Light of Christ’s Return: Abstaining from all Forms of Evil

Text: 1 Thess. 5:22

Key Concepts:

  • The Devil uses lies and confusion to keep us way from God’s truth
  • Christians must test all things to distinguish truth from falsehood
  • What do we test?
  • Two outcomes arise from testing all things

The Devil uses lies and confusion to keep us way from God’s truth

Scripture is filled with warnings about liars. God hates liars. The Bible tells us that God cannot lie; He always speaks the truth because He is truth. However, Satan is a liar. He is in fact the father of lies (Jn 8:44). We have to be able to discern between truth and falsehood with regards to everything that God has revealed to us. We are warned in Scripture about listening to teachers who tell us what we want to hear, with feel-good messages. We are warned about doctrines of demons, destructive heresies, and perverse teachings.  We are cautioned against speculations that people come up with, against deceitful spirits, fables, false knowledge filled with empty philosophies. We are warned about wolves in sheep's clothing who come along simply to devour. They come as if they are prophets, but they are destructive agents of Satan. These warnings are all over the New Testament. Satan is very skilled, very adept, and clever and he knows how to use all of this to keep us away from God's truth to keep us wrapped up in his evil lies. We must be able to discern the truth.

Christians must test all things to distinguish truth from falsehood

It is essential for us Christians to be discerning if we're going to make wise decisions. The Church cannot afford to lose its discernment. It is true that some issues are not black and white but there are many issues to which the Bible speaks very clearly. There are principles in scripture that we can use to discern the things where it is not clear. The line of distinction between truth and error, between wisdom and foolishness, is currently being obliterated. Unfortunately, there are church leaders who are more than happy to oblige. In truth, there are more matters that are black and white than there are gray areas. Every Christian has the responsibility to judge truth from lies based on the Word of God. There is no exception clause about the messengers to dictate whether or not we believe their message. Rather we must “test all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). All teachings, writings, doctrines, opinions, and practices must be measured up to the standard of the Bible. When it is consistent with Scripture then we believe and obey but if not, we reject, refuse, or cast it away. The Greek translation of ‘testing’, ‘dokimazo,’ means to test and examine carefully for authenticity. It means subjecting it to scrutiny and analysis. It speaks the ability to judge truth from falsehood, right from wrong, good from bad.

What do we test?

Believers must test the content of messages. If the Bereans tested Paul’s teaching to confirm its consistency with Scripture (Acts 17:11), how much more should we test what we hear today? We also should test the character of the messengers. The Bible teaches the characteristics of preachers and teachers of the Word of God (1 Tim. 3, Tit. 1). If the character is not consistent with God’s Word, we should not be listening to them.  This command is universal for all believers. When you are not testing what is being taught, you’re being spiritually lazy and disobedient. Examination should start with the self before moving on to others (2 Cor. 13:5). The Apostle John likewise taught us to test every spirit (1 Jn. 4:1). Paul tells us even within the Church, after the Word has been proclaimed, to judge it (1 Cor. 14). It is obvious that it is the duty of every believer to be discerning. In fact, Jesus commanded the church of Ephesus for testing “…those who say they are apostles…“ but were in fact liars (Rev. 2:2).

Two outcomes arise from testing all things

Believers are commanded, upon testing all things, to hold on to what is good and “abstain from evil” (1 Thess. 5: 21-22). When believers hear what is good, they must embrace it wholeheartedly and make it their own (1 Thess. 5:21, Rom. 12:9). The Greek term Paul uses to speak of goodness, ‘kalos’, refers to that which is inherently noble, right, and genuinely true (Rom. 16:19, 2 Sam. 14, Phil 4:8). We must be utterly consumed by what is right. Our mind, heart and entire being needs to be committed fully to what is true and good. The Bible is our measure for what is true and right; we must use it to judge, test and analyze all things. Using the wrong standard leads to wrong conclusions. Only the true standard of God’s Word is sufficient to help us reach the right conclusion.

The Greek term for abstain means to stay at a distance. This is to say that the believer should completely avoid evil teachings and stay far away from evil behaviors (1 Thess. 4:3). Scripture does not permit a believer to expose her/himself to the influence of evil and falsehood. Instead, we should flee evil and falsehood (1 Tim. 6). Evil refers to what is actively malignant, it is not static. It is harmful and detrimental to our well-being. It is like a virus, it destroys, and it hurts. It comes in various forms. Jesus sought to distance Himself from evil (Matt. 4:10, 16:23). Can you tell when evil shows up in its various disguises?

In conclusion….

If we are going to be discerning Christians, we need to return to the commitment that compromise is unacceptable. We need to affirm that we must test all things according to Scripture. We must commit ourselves to believing that discerning between truth and error, while sometimes it will be unpopular, and sometimes people might not like it, that it is the most loving thing that we can do. How would you feel if your doctor instead of telling you the truth lied to you? You would not appreciate it at all. The same thing is true spiritually. Sometimes there's no good way to tell the truth. The problem that people have is not with how you tell the truth, it is that they don’t like the truth itself. So, just speak the truth, for no matter how you say it, they will still dislike it.  How do we become discerning people? It starts with desire (Prov. 2:1-6). If you ask God for wisdom, He will grant it (Jmes 1:5-6). The next step is to follow godly teaching because that will teach you discernment. Then you must submit to Scripture, because that is the standard by which we measure all things. In order to be discerning, we need to follow the Bible as our fixed point of reference, as everything around us is constantly changing. But the Word of God remains true yesterday, today, and tomorrow and that will never change. We can stand firm on it. Test all things, cling to the good and flee from evil.

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