Evil comes in different forms, and we must not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11). False prophets come in sheep’s clothing but are devouring wolves (Matt. 7:15). False apostles and deceitful workers appear as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Worldly wisdom is an imposter posing as truth (1 Cor. 3:18-20). Immorality presents itself as the answer to our longings but delivers death (Prov. 6:24-29; Gal. 5:19-21). False teachers bring in “destructive heresies” while endearing themselves to the naïve (2 Pet. 2:1-3; Rom. 16:17-18). We must test (examine) everything to approve what is excellent and abstain from evil in every form it takes (Phil. 1:9-11). That requires a standard by which to test all things. The “word of the truth of the gospel” is the only objective and verifiable standard of divine teaching and holiness that impartially judges right and wrong (Jno. 12:48; 17:17). Inspired Scripture must have the final say in “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Learn God’s word and examine “all things” by its truth (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11-12). Then, confidently cling to “what is good” and refuse “every form of evil.”
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
The effectiveness of prayer was not an afterthought to Christians of the New Testament age (Jas. 5:16). The apostle Paul often asked brethren to pray for him, and he repeatedly prayed for his fellow Christians (1 Thess. 3:10; Eph. 6:18-19; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:3, 9; 4:3). In today’s passage, Paul asked for specific prayers, something we ought to do, too. First, he asked for prayers that God’s word would triumph in its purposes (saving the lost and strengthening the saved, v. 1). The gospel was achieving these purposes in their lives (1 Thess. 1:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:3-4). We are confident they joined Paul in praying the gospel would win the race and be honored as other souls believed and obeyed Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Second, Paul asked them to pray for mutual deliverance from faithless, unreasonable, and wicked people (v. 2). Like the currents of a flowing river, forces of evil try to sweep us away and drown us in error and sin’s corruption. The Lord is active and faithful to rescue us and guard us against the evil one and his cohorts as we do what His apostles command (2 Thess. 3:3-4). May we offer such prayers daily.
18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. (2 Peter 2:18–19, NKJV)
With empty words that promise pleasure and freedom, the voices of error and evil use fleshly lusts and sinful abandon to bait, capture, and enslave souls. With swelling words, they offer people alcohol as a social beverage to mix and mingle, to relax, and to have a good time. What they do not advertise is the drunken stupor and addiction it causes (Prov. 20:1; 23:29-35). With swelling words, they offer people sex (from an early age) without shame and (supposed) consequences. Telephone apps make hooking up easy. The morning after pill, chemical abortions (RU-486 pill), and surgical abortions are the worldly person’s “get out of jail free” cards. Casual sex outside of marriage not only defiles what is holy in marriage, but it also erodes moral boundaries, often becoming just as addictive as alcohol (Heb. 13:4; Rom. 1:28-29). Those who urge you to defile yourself are “slaves of corruption” already (and misery loves company). The remedy for the spiritual, mental, and emotional trauma caused by sin’s enslavement is Jesus Christ. But it requires a determined faith to trust and obey Jesus instead of following the empty and deadly teachings of men that indulge the flesh and darken the soul (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Acts 18:8; Rom. 6:17-18; 12:1-2). Take God’s way of escape; it is there for us all (1 Cor. 10:12-13).
11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12 Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. (Psalm 34:11–16, NKJV)
Fear of the Lord is not theoretical. It is practical and reveals itself in how we live our lives. Here, the inspired psalmist David teaches how to respect and reverence God. We will know the fear of the Lord if we listen to his instruction, and our lives will be blessed. Living a full life that delights in its joy is realized when we 1) Control our language (v. 13). Our words reveal our hearts. 2) Turn away from evil and practice good things that advance peace (v. 14). Pursue peace with God and with others, and you will it replaces chaos with tranquility. 3) Remember that the Lord attends to the needs of the righteous (v. 15). God has promised to provide our needs when we prioritize His will in our lives (Matt. 6:31-33). He hears and responds to the prayers of righteous people. 4) Remember that the Lord opposes those who practice evil (v. 16). Pursuing evil does not bring happiness now or in eternity; only pain and eternal death. God and others see whether the “fear of the Lord” is in our lives. When it is, whatever life brings our way becomes a blessing (1 Pet. 3:8-13).
12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (Proverbs 8:12–13, NKJV)
Wisdom is the insight and discernment that applies knowledge sensibly and carefully. Solomon will go on to say that wisdom begins by fearing the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psa. 111:10). We cannot miss the point that wisdom hates evil because it fears the Lord. Wisdom does not love, endorse, or promote evil. Instead, wisdom knows and despises the evil of pride, arrogance, the path of sin, and the profane, perverse mouth. The contrast is vivid: Should we make life choices out of pride and arrogance, we are not fearing God, we are not doing His commandments – we are not wise. The gospel says, “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully, JRP), not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). Today, choose wisdom as your companion. Live carefully by fearing God and doing His commands, and it will be so (Matt. 7:24-25).
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. 102 I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. (Psalm 119:101–102, NKJV)
Self-discipline is essential in keeping the word of God. Discipleship requires discipline, both to order one’s life after the Master’s teachings and to refrain from conduct that is against the Master’s instruction (Lk. 6:40; Jno. 13:13-17). Pride is ever ready to puff up our confidence in ourselves. It deceptively assures us we could never deny our Lord (Matt. 26:35; cf. Prov. 16:18). Therefore, since “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” we must continually “watch and pray, lest (we) enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). Utter commitment to God’s judgments (determinations) must governor our choices to refrain from evil and pursue good (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 3:8-11). When we argue with God’s word to justify our sinful choices and conduct, we have allowed personal judgments to control us instead of the decisions of God. (That’s pride at work.) Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). God does not delight in those whose evil (sin) is called good (Mal. 2:17). Self-disciplined faith in God helps us guard against reversing God’s judgments and calling good evil, and evil good (Isa. 5:20-21; Prov. 17:15). God is our teacher, and His word shows us what is evil and what is good. Walking in God’s word is how we “watch” and avoid entering into sin.
3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (1 Peter 4:3–4, NKJV)
Jesus taught that seeking the praise of men at the expense of truth produces spiritual grief: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Lk. 6:26). Seeking praise from peers tempts us to compromise truth for the sake of approval. Today’s passage also reminds us we are not defined by what others say about us. Here we have evil people speaking evil things about Christians who are not sinning, but who are doing the will of God (1 Pet. 4:1-2). We cannot expect people in the world to always think well of us. When they do not, it does not necessarily mean we have done something wrong in God’s sight. Jesus was hated without a cause, and He explained that will also happen to His disciples (Jno. 15:25, 18-20). We will be spoken against when we separate ourselves from worldly people and their excessive sins. It is unrighteous to judge a Christian guilty and reproachable merely because a worldly person has something evil to say against him or her. God’s approval is our goal. Therefore, “who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed” (1 Pet. 3:13-14).
“He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chronicles 21:20, NKJV)
Thus is the summation of the life of a particularly wicked man, Jehoram, king of Judah. He was a murderer who killed his brothers after the death of their father, king Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 21:1-4). He was an idolater, having married the daughter of king Ahab (Athaliah), he led Judah astray into pagan worship (2 Chron. 21:6, 11; 22:2). During Jehoram’s reign, Edom and other nations revolted and plundered Judah (2 Chron. 21:8-10, 16-17). Jehoram suffered an ignominious death following a two-year, incurable disease (2 Chron. 21:12-19). Everyone, it seems, was glad to see him go. No achievements of his reign were recognized. No state funeral was held in his honor, for nothing about him was honorable (v. 19). No one grieved his death. What a tragic legacy! And, the worst of it is Jehoram died condemned in his sins. What sort of legacy will you leave when you die? Let it be a life well lived for Christ and others. Let it be a life faith, holiness, service, and devotion to the gospel of Christ. Let it be a legacy of righteousness that will speak long after your departure (Heb. 11:4). Be a Christian, faithful and true to Christ, and it will be so.
“For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4, NKJV)
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Allied invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy, France. Their goal was to liberate a continent captured in the grip of Nazism. Their success continues to be felt to this present hour. As we honor the sacrifices of that day and the freedom it signaled for millions of souls, we ought to remember it is God who ordains civil authorities. The governments of men are intended by Him to execute justice, and to apply punishment (wrath) to evildoers. Therefore, we are to submit to governing authorities out of our respect for God (Rom. 13:1-3). They are God’s servants for us to administer what is good. But, what happens when governments before evil and oppressive? Since God rules the nations, He raises them up and He brings them down when their rulers and their citizens refuse righteousness (Prov. 14:34; Dan. 4:28-35). We must keep on doing good and not take personal vengeance against evil. Instead, we are to give place to the wrath of God: “for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). He did. And, He continues to do so. Let the righteous be patient, and “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:20-21).
13 Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. 14 They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13–14, NKJV)
Jerusalem and Judah were headed for destruction in the days of Jeremiah. Covetous hearts – greedy for power and wealth – guided both prophet and priest to speak falsely to a population that loved to have it so. These religious charlatans “healed” the spiritual ailments of the people with superficial dressings. They proclaimed “peace, peace,” even though hostility toward God and men ruled the day. Even now, religious leaders, with many followers, preach messages that fail to heal men’s soul – even as those souls rush headlong toward eternal ruin. Messages of peace that tolerate immorality are proclaimed. “Peace” is advanced at the expense of divine truth. (Indeed, evil is called good, and good is called evil, Isaiah 5:20.) Jeremiah’s warning remains relevant, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jer. 6:16). No peace can exist where sin reigns. Changing its definitions and ignoring its reality reveals hearts that are greedy for selfish gains, not selfless hearts devoted to the Almighty.