Final Instructions: Keep far, far away from Evil
"After Joseph had been taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelites, Potiphar an Egyptian, one of Pharaoh’s officials and the manager of his household, bought him from them. 2As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him. He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master. 3His master recognized that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did. 4He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide. He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. 5From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian—all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, 6and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day. Joseph was a strikingly handsome man. 7As time went on, his master’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, “Sleep with me.” 8He wouldn’t do it. He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here—he’s put me in charge of everything he owns. 9He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn’t turned over to me is you. You’re his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?” 10She pestered him day after day after day, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her. 11On one of these days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there. 12She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!” He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house. 13When she realized that he had left his coat in her hand and run outside, 14she called to her house servants: “Look—this Hebrew shows up and before you know it he’s trying to seduce us. He tried to make love to me but I yelled as loud as I could. 15With all my yelling and screaming, he left his coat beside me here and ran outside.” 16She kept his coat right there until his master came home. 17She told him the same story. She said, “The Hebrew slave, the one you brought to us, came after me and tried to use me for his plaything. 18When I yelled and screamed, he left his coat with me and ran outside.” 19When his master heard his wife’s story, telling him, “These are the things your slave did to me,” he was furious. 20Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the jail where the king’s prisoners were locked up." (Genesis 39:1-20, The Message)
"Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute. He went to her. 2The news got around: “Samson’s here.” They gathered around in hiding, waiting all night for him at the city gate, quiet as mice, thinking, “At sunrise we’ll kill him.” 3Samson was in bed with the woman until midnight. Then he got up, seized the doors of the city gate and the two gateposts, bolts and all, hefted them on his shoulder, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. 4Some time later he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek (Grapes). Her name was Delilah. 5The Philistine tyrants approached her and said, “Seduce him. Discover what’s behind his great strength and how we can tie him up and humble him. Each man’s company will give you a hundred shekels of silver.” 6So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me, dear, the secret of your great strength, and how you can be tied up and humbled.” 7Samson told her, “If they were to tie me up with seven bowstrings—the kind made from fresh animal tendons, not dried out—then I would become weak, just like anyone else.” 8The Philistine tyrants brought her seven bowstrings, not dried out, and she tied him up with them. 9The men were waiting in ambush in her room. Then she said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” He snapped the cords as though they were mere threads. The secret of his strength was still a secret. 10Delilah said, “Come now, Samson—you’re playing with me, making up stories. Be serious; tell me how you can be tied up.” 11He told her, “If you were to tie me up tight with new ropes, ropes never used for work, then I would be helpless, just like anybody else.” 12So Delilah got some new ropes and tied him up. She said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” The men were hidden in the next room. He snapped the ropes from his arms like threads. 13Delilah said to Samson, “You’re still playing games with me, teasing me with lies. Tell me how you can be tied up.” He said to her, “If you wove the seven braids of my hair into the fabric on the loom and drew it tight, then I would be as helpless as any other mortal.” When she had him fast asleep, Delilah took the seven braids of his hair and wove them into the fabric on the loom 14and drew it tight. Then she said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” He woke from his sleep and ripped loose from both the loom and fabric! 15She said, “How can you say ‘I love you’ when you won’t even trust me? Three times now you’ve toyed with me, like a cat with a mouse, refusing to tell me the secret of your great strength.” 16She kept at it day after day, nagging and tormenting him. Finally, he was fed up—he couldn’t take another minute of it. 17He spilled it. He told her, “A razor has never touched my head. I’ve been God’s Nazirite from conception. If I were shaved, my strength would leave me; I would be as helpless as any other mortal.” 18When Delilah realized that he had told her his secret, she sent for the Philistine tyrants, telling them, “Come quickly—this time he’s told me the truth.” They came, bringing the bribe money. 19When she got him to sleep, his head on her lap, she motioned to a man to cut off the seven braids of his hair. Immediately he began to grow weak. His strength drained from him. 20Then she said, “The Philistines are on you, Samson!” He woke up, thinking, “I’ll go out, like always, and shake free.” He didn’t realize that God had abandoned him. 21The Philistines grabbed him, gouged out his eyes, and took him down to Gaza. They shackled him in irons and put him to the work of grinding in the prison." (Judges 16:1-21, The Message)
What’s the difference in these two stories? One man fled from temptation—that was Joseph. The other man flirted with temptation—that was Samson. In the Christian walk, it is a robust sign of spiritual health to have a fear of and a shrinking back from all that would grieve our Lord, and to obediently separate oneself from whatever the Spirit reveals as wrong.
In his final set of instructions to the believers at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul instructs them to abstain from every form of evil.
I. REFUSE TO BECOME INVOLVED IN EVIL ANYWHERE YOU FIND IT
- the word abstain in this verse is one of the strongest verbs there is in the original language of the Bible
- the verb's meaning literally implies to hold back
- the verb's mood is in the middle voice which makes it intensely personal — to hold one's self back
- the verb's tense is a present imperative which means to constantly hold yourself back from
- it’s a word that calls for a radical separation from every form of evil
- what are Christian to so religiously avoid?
- even the appearance of evil
- that word means every kind or every form of evil whether visible or invisible
- in other words we avoid the evil that others can see
- and we avoid evil even when we're the only ones around to see it and nobody else will ever know whether we participated in it or not
- the word form or kind is the word from which we get our word species
- the idea is that evil manifests itself in many different shapes and sizes
- sometimes evil is so big, so horrendous, so obvious that we recognize it for what it is—evil
- ILLUS. Ethnic cleansing is an example. Killing a few million men, women, and children for the sake of national purity is pretty big, pretty horrendous, and so obvious that only the most hardened of hearts do not recognize it as evil.
- ILLUS. Embryonic Stem Cell research comes to mind. What’s the harm in taking a Blastocyst and harvesting its stem cells? After all, a Blastocyst is not even considered an embryo yet—it’s only four or five days after conception, and it only contains about 150 cells. Think of all the good that can be accomplished if those harvested stem cells can be transformed in healthy heart cells, or liver cells, or even brain cells. The evil of embryonic Stem Cell research is less obvious, more subtle, and even masquerades as good—but it is still evil.
- FIRST, we have our own Christian honor to uphold
- "A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; ... " (Proverbs 22:1, The Message)
- Christians are a righteous people because God has gone to great expense to make us righteous
- if we are righteous — and we are — then we must play the part and let our righteousness be obvious to all
- "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16, KJV)
- our actions as a Christian must never bring reproach upon the Body of Christ
- "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:21, KJV)
- ILLUS. In his first letter to the believers at Corinth, the Apostle Paul harshly criticizes the Christians of that congregation for giving the church a bad name because of their divisions. He writes: “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you: and I partly believe it.” (1 Corinthians 11:18, KJV)
- "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—" (1 Corinthians 10:31-32, NIV)
- God's glory is very important to Him
- anything that diminishes that glory in the eyes of the world is offensive to Him
- as believers, we must uphold the glory of God by our constant pursuit of righteous living
A. BELIEVERS MUST NOT GIVE EVIL A FOOTHOLD IN THEIR LIVES
- ILLUS. An Ethiopian Proverb says, "Evil enters like a needle and spreads like an oak tree."
- in other words, evil may penetrate our lives like the prick of a needle
- but once it is introduced into our lives is takes root and can eventually crack the strongest life just like the roots of an oak will crack the strongest wall
- the great tragedy of our society is an increasing incrementalism toward an acceptance of evil
- what was evil and sin fifty years ago is now merely an alterative lifestyle
- what was spiritually correct yesterday is now politically incorrect
- ILLUS. Once upon a time, in a far away country, there lived a little girl called Red Riding Hood. One day her mother asked her to take a basket of fruit to her grandmother, who had been ill and lived alone in a cottage in the forest. It happened that a wolf was lurking in the bushes and overheard the conversation. He decided to take a short-cut to the grandmother's house and get the goodies for himself. The wolf killed the grandmother, then dressed in her nightgown and jumped into bed to await the little girl. When she arrived, he made several nasty suggestions and then tried to grab her. But by this time, the child was very frightened and ran screaming from the cottage. A woodcutter, working nearby, heard her cries and rushed to the rescue. He killed the wolf with his ax, thereby saving Red Riding Hood's life. All the townspeople hurried to the scene and proclaimed the woodcutter a hero. But during the inquest several weeks later a number of facts emerged: The wolf had never been advised of his rights. The woodcutter had made no warning swings before striking the fatal blow. The Civil Liberties Union stressed the point that, although the act of eating Grandma may have been in bad taste, the wolf was only "doing his thing" and thus didn't deserve the death penalty. PEDTA contended that the killing of the grandmother should be considered self-defense since she was over 30 and was probably prejudice against wolves in the first place. On the basis of these considerations, it was decided there was no valid basis for charges against the wolf. Moreover, the woodcutter was indicted for unaggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Several nights later, the woodcutter's cottage was burned to the ground. One year from the date of "The Incident at Grandma's," her cottage was made a shrine for the wolf who had bled and died there. All the village officials spoke at the dedication, but it was Red Riding Hood who gave the most touching tribute. She said that, while she had been selfishly grateful for the woodcutter's intervention, she realized in retrospect that he had over-reacted. As she knelt and placed a wreath in honor of the brave wolf, there wasn't a dry eye in the whole forest.
- ILLUS. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “Of the lesser of two evils, choose neither.”
II. HOW DO WE AVOID EVIL?
- man, that's a good question, after all evil is all around us
- the world is full of it
- in this passage the word evil refers to a behavior that is actively harmful or malignant
A. BY LEARNING TO RECOGNIZE EVIL WHEN YOU SEE IT
- "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14, ESV)
- let the bible be you rubric
- a rubric is a set of criteria for grading assignments
- "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." (Acts 17:11, ESV)
B. BY REFUSING TO PARTICIPATE IN ACTIVITIES INITIATED BY OTHER PEOPLE WHICH MAY LEAD US INTO EVIL
- this may mean refusing to bow to peer pressure or going along with the crowd
- "Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, ESV)
C. BY KEEPING OUR OWN DESIRES AND ATTITUDES THAT MAY OPEN THE DOOR TO EVIL UNDER CONTROL
- "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:7-8, ESV)
- people do not need Satan to recruit them to evil a. we are quite capable of recruiting themselves
D. BY DOING GOOD
- "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21, ESV)
Con. To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.