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  • July 2009
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Tempted to Do Good

A few days ago, I had an interesting and novel thought.

What if we were tempted to do good instead of to do evil?

Would that make it easier for us to do good – and to refuse evil?

Actually, the Holy Spirit does tempt us to do good. That is at least one of the roles the Spirit plays as He serves as our Comfortor and Helper. He nudges us in the right direction.

Have you felt his nudgings? Have you experienced times when you had an unusual urge to do a good deed – or make a needed phone call. Maybe you had been experiencing a bout of anger at someone and said things you later regretted. Then you had that nudge to apologize and try to set things right.

How did you respond? Did you immediately set about following that urge? Or did you put it off for a better (more convenient?) time? Did you stiffle the urge altogether, saying something like, “Why should I make the first move and apologize? If he was offended at what I said, let him come to me!”

In Ephesians 4:30-32, the apostle to the Gentiles (I think that includes most who are reading this) wrote:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Look closely at that list of things we are told to get rid of: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. These make up a very destructive sextet of disharmony. What harmony can there be when these fiends are raging within us?

But God is the God of Peace. He calls to into His peace that passes all understanding. But how do we get there from here?

Do you think it is for nothing that Paul led into that list by saying, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit”? What if the Holy Spirit is providing nudges to us all along that will help us rid our hearts of these agents of Satan? What would grieve Him? Would there be grief in the heart of the Spirit of God if I sloughed off those nudges that push me ever so gently into the path I should take?

But someone objects, “The Holy Spirit works today only through the inspired Word of God! It [people who think this way usually want to depersonalize the Spirit, so they tend to speak of the Spirit as “It,” not as “He”] does not teach us anything except what is in the Bible. If the Spirit gave us nudges, such as you are suggesting, It would interfere with our free will.”

Really? I am willing to dare suggest that you have felt such nudges, and if you are honest with yourself you will admit it. Furthermore, I dare suggest that sometimes you have followed that leading. When you did, where did the impetus come from? Was it from your own highly developed desire for goodness and the humility that resides in every fiber of your being that you followed the urge to set aside your anger for kindness and compassion? Or was it God working in you to desire his good purpose for you (see Philippians 2:13)?

It is amazing to me that we can all recognize that the Devil tempts us to do evil. Now Satan does not (usually, anyway) put a gun to our heads and say do this evil thing or else I’ll blow your brains out! Temptation is subtle. Old Scratch sets the trap for us gently and with guile. He convinces us that it’s really not such a bad idea after all – or that just this once won’t matter.

Now how does he put thoughts like that into our heads? Of course he uses other people to influence us – and our thinking is molded by the things we read, hear, see, and experience.

My question is, if the Devil can do this against us, doesn’t it stand to reason that the Holy Spirit of God can do this for us? Or does the Devil have powers to influence us that the Holy Spirit does not have?

Now, “The Devil made me do it” is not an excuse for sin. But why not? It is because, when all is said and done, we have the say as to whether we yield to temptation or not. The Devil tries to influence our desires, our emotions, and even our intellectual convictions to get us do his bidding. He can make sin awfully appealing and attractive. But he does not have power to make you sin because God has promised that with every temptation He will make a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So why is that when we talk about spiritual influence from God’s side of the battle, some among us raise their voices in holy indignation saying that if we believe in such a thing we have denied man’s free will and that God should then be blamed if any given individual is lost?

If the Devil does not have power to make us sin against our will, even though he tempts us mightily, can we say with conviction that God has no power to at least nudge us in the right direction?

I may be totally off base in this line of thinking. If I am, will someone please show me where I am wrong. But it sure seems to me that if the Devil can tempt me to do wrong then it stands to reason that God can tempt me to do right.

Church Growth in Ukraine

Most of my life I’ve wanted to see a church grow and prosper without either a church building or a paid preacher. Finally, as I’m nearing the end of my seventh decade of life, I have seen this — in the church-planting activities of Alexander Prokopchuk in Ukraine.

This brother (Sasha, as he is affectionaly known) preaches on a national TV program. He offers some free literature each week, and receives an average of 300 requests for material weekly. Each request is promptly answered, including the introductory lesson of a Bible Correspondence Course. Thousands have completed his courses over the past half–dozen years — and hundreds have obeyed the gospel. These are scattered all over the country — a family here, two or three families there, a group of a dozen or so studying together in another place. These scattered groups are taught how to start a church in their own homes.

To strengthen them and inspire them, a seminar is offered each year. “Newbies” are invited — along with some other recent converts who have previously attended a seminar and who are doing what all of them are taught to do at the seminar:

1. Worship, even if it is only “two or three gathered in Jesus’ name.”
2. Tell other people what you are doing and why.
3. Make a difference in your community by showing the love of Jesus.

They are shown a very practical way of doing this through working with the many government-sponsored orphanages found throughout Ukraine. This work with the orphans parallels the work of the ancient church in rescuing children who were “exposed” to die when the father did not want them. In the ancient world, only the “pimps” and the Christians would offer these children shelter — the pimps for their own ungodly purposes and the Christians for the glory of God.

In Ukraine, the “graduates” of the government orphanages, shown the door on their 16th birthday, have a grim future. In the first year, 20% commit suicide. Of those who survive five years, 80% of the boys are in organized crime and 50% of the girls are prostitutes.

But the orphans touched by the Christians have a different future. Not only do the Christians work with them in the orphanages, many become fostor parents and even “adopt” children into their own families. The impact of this God-filled life-style is making an impact on the peoples of Ukraine. Though all of this is done quietly with no national fanfare, people are seeing it — and coming to Jesus.

I was privileged to visit one of those seminars last September. It was the most inspirational event I have ever attended. There were between four and five hundred people present — and every person hung on every word that was being said. Simple, real gospel messages were delivered — and some of the more recent converts told of their experiences in their own cities.

New Christians left with the feeling, “These people are just like me. If they can do this, so can I with God’s help.” I met a coal miner who has started three congregations in his town — and who is making a real difference in his community with his work with orphans (including taking some of them into his own home).

A lot of money is being poured into this work — but it is not going for a paid preacher in every little congregation and a building for them to meet in. Rather, it is going to the preaching of the word on TV, in printed material, and at the seminars. Where there is a cluster of students, Sasha goes to meet them, and get them started in the Way.

Eastern European Mission, a ministry I work with as a fund-raiser in my home state of Florida, helps in this work by providing the means for the work – but, as I said, what we provide goes into the teaching and preaching of the Word, not into building a clergy class or a nation-wide series of church buildings, each with a struggling group of saints who are barely hanging on – as I have seen in most mission work I have observed, both as a “missionary” and a supporter of missions. (I was a Missionary in New Zealand from 1963 through 1971, except for two years at Sunset School of preaching from 1965 to 1967.)

Communion Meditation (3) Fulfill All Righteousness?

Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. – Matthew 3:15

These were the first words of Jesus recorded by Matthew, the first words in red in a red-letter Bible.

Bread and WineJesus had come to John for baptism, but John was reluctant. This is what Jesus said to him to persuade John to baptize Him. But, what did He mean by what He said?

I remember learning as a boy that all of God’s com­mands are righteousness (Psalm 119:172), so Jesus was simply saying God commanded baptism, and He wanted to obey God.

This is true, but there is more. Jesus Himself “became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). This demanded the cross.

Was Jesus saying, even at His baptism, “Father, I am ready to obey you to the uttermost – even to death on the cross?”

In fulfilling all righteousness, Jesus included my righteousness as well. Certainly, I am not righteous myself, but only in Him. “By one man’s obedience many [including me] will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).

He obeyed God in every thing. When He became flesh and dwelt among us, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).

That is why I confess Him as Lord and worship Him at this table.

– Not By Bread Alone

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