Saturday, April 9, 2016

Do We Have the Power to do Good?

by Eric Chang

One can be moral without being spiritual, but one cannot be spiritual without being moral. That is to say, one can be some sort of “good” person without being spiritual, but one cannot be spiritual without being a good person. We need to understand this principle if we are to avoid error.

You can be poor without being spiritual, but you cannot be spiritual without being poor. By “poor” we mean an attitude of dependence on God that doesn’t regard our possessions as being our own but as belonging to the lord Jesus, God's anointed one.

Living a life in which the anointed one Jesus is lord; in which all my possessions, learning and achievements belong to him; is humanly impossible.

Where it is easy to go from good to evil, and easier still to go from evil to evil, it’s impossible to go from evil to good once we understand what is involved.

You can still choose good even if you’re in bondage to evil. With your mind you can still choose good, as was the case in Deuteronomy 30 when Joshua asked Israel to make a choice. They publicly declared their choice for God, but Joshua knew that it was just a mental choice, for in all the things they had been doing, they revealed their love for Egypt, a symbol of the world.

In their entire wilderness journey, they were always hankering after the things they had left behind. They had indeed physically left those things behind in Egypt, but their hearts were still longing for them. Joshua knew that they wouldn’t be able to break free from the strong grip of the world, or to move from evil to good despite their declaration of choosing the good.

Commitment is more than an intention to commit. Intention alone won’t take you from evil to good. If it were possible to move from evil to good on your own, you would be able to save yourself by sheer determination.

By sheer determination you may be able to quit smoking or even drinking, though the chances of success would be far worse in the case of drug addiction. But when it comes to the power of evil, no determination in the world will break you free from evil and take you into good.

In your own strength, it is impossible to be a committed follower of the lord Jesus in the biblical sense. It must be something that God does in you.

Understand that the difference between good and evil is so vast that you cannot pass from evil to good except through a radical transformation. Your whole life has to change totally from being self-centered to being God-centered.

Note: The root of evil, in its very essence, is the love of self. Why? because the love of self gives rise to all other sins. 

Solution: Enabled by God's Spirit one can put aside the love of self, and love God with one's whole being, which we also do indirectly, by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

Many people, after realizing that only God can rescue them from evil, are far from being happy about it. Why? because they don’t want to yield their lives totally to the lordship of God.

If we could break free from evil and become good in our own strength, we would be able to save ourselves and be the master of our own lives. But because we cannot save ourselves, we realize we are not our own masters. We then realize we need to depend on our God and Father to save us, allow­ing Him to become the master of our lives.

In the whole universe, only one being can be properly called good; and that is the only true God, Yehovah.

James says: Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. (James 1:17, NASB)

The truth that only God is good is seen in James’ statement that every good thing comes from God, who is the only source of good. Good is defined not by what a person does but what a person is!

James is saying that just as God is the Creator of all things and the Source of all physical life and blessing, so He is the Source of everything that is good in the spiritual and moral sphere. He is both the Creator of all physical life and the Giver of all spiritual life. The material creation and the spiritual world are presented in parallel. Just as God gives us all physical blessing, He gives us all spiritual blessing.

There is no “variation or shifting shadow” in God who is the source of all good. God never changes. The heavenly lights like the sun and the moon may wax and wane, but God’s character is consistent.

The same is true of the Son of God: “Jesus the anointed one is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). You can put your trust in him, knowing that the kindness, goodness and faithfulness you saw in him yesterday, will not disappear today or tomorrow. People may change but the anointed one Jesus never changes.

In committing to God our Father, it is most important to see God’s goodness and consistent character if we are to place our full confidence in Him, and in the one who perfectly shows forth the glory of his God and his Father, the anointed one Jesus.

The next thing we need to understand is that, in Scripture, good and life are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin, as are evil and death. Where there is good, there is life. Where there is evil, there is death. In talking about good and evil, we are also talking about life and death. We are not discussing good and evil merely for their moral signifi­cance, but because they have to do with life and death. Just as Yehovah God is the supreme embodiment of all good and there­fore of all life, Satan the devil is the supreme embodiment of all evil, so much so that the Bible simply calls him “the evil one” (e.g. 1 John 5:19).

Since Yehovah God is the source of all good, and since God is a spiritual being, good and spiritual cannot be separated.

Correspondingly, because evil is embodied in Satan the evil one, we now see the spiritual dimension of evil. Evil is not simply a matter of morality but a matter of spirituality. That is why Jesus in the Lord’s prayer says “deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13, NASB) or “deliver us from the evil one” (NIV).

Every choice for evil and every act of evil, knowingly or unknowingly, is a choice for the evil one and an advancement of his interests. Every sin you commit advances the power and the kingdom of the evil one.

But not every act of good advances the kingdom of God. There is no exact parallel here. You can be moral without being spiritual, but you cannot be spiritual without being moral. A moral act is not necessarily a spiritual act, but a spiritual act is necessarily a moral act. Paul gives us an example of a moral act that is not spiritual:

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (1Corinthians 13:3, NASB)

If I show genuine love to someone, that love will be expressed in some concrete form called good. If I give to the poor out of love, it is because I am spiritual by the grace of God. But if I give to the poor for any other reason, perhaps to gain a good feeling, that won’t advance the kingdom of God one bit.

Good comes solely from God, whereas evil is embod­ied in Satan, the evil one. Life comes from God because life and good cannot be separated, but death comes through Satan; though not only through Satan; because Satan has the “power of death” (Hebrews 2:14). If you choose God, you have chosen life. But if you don’t choose God, you have chosen death.

Evil is death, and the one who holds the power of death is Satan, the embodiment of evil. You can no more pass from evil to good than pass from death to life, or from the power of Satan to the power of God, by your own strength. That would be impossible!

There is no way for you to pass from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God, from death to life, except by God who alone has the power of resurrection.

To be delivered - saved; to become a follower of the anointed one Jesus is to pass from death to life. This takes the power of creation which God’s life-giving power creates life out of death. To become a follower of the anointed one Jesus in the biblical sense of the word, doesn’t simply mean to get baptized or to go to church.

A follower of the anointed one Jesus is someone who has passed from death to life by God’s life-giving power, which is His resurrection power.

We are talking about life and death not merely as passive states of being but as active powers. When we say that God is the source of life, we don’t mean that He is like a container that contains life, but that He has the power to make us alive. And when we say that Satan holds the power of death, we don’t mean that he is like a bottle that contains death, but that he can inflict death on others:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil. (Hebrews 2:14, NIV)

In what sense does the devil hold the “power of death”? It is that he can inflict death on those who are under his power. It is a fearsome thing.

I am trying to show that we cannot go from evil to good in our own strength because we are dealing not merely with states of being but with powers that are too strong for us. It takes power to deal with power.

As we saw in Romans 12:21, we can “overcome evil with good”. This important truth is established, firstly, from scriptural revelation, and, secondly, from experience. The Bible will be real to you if you experience it. It won’t be real to you if you don’t experience it.

In the experience of many people, evil is stronger than good. Paul describes a period in his life when he was unable to do the good he wanted to do, but did the very evil he didn’t want (Rom.7:15). In his own experience at that time, evil was more powerful than good, so he was always fighting a losing battle.

It is only through commitment to God, the source of all good, that good will always triumph in your life. In talking about good and evil, we are talking about practical everyday living.

The best way for you to know that every good thing comes from God is to experience it. The psalmist says, “O taste and see that Yehovah is good” (Psalm 34:8, NASB).

So in the final analysis it come down to what do we choose good or evil, Yehovah or the Adversary Satan. If we don't choose to be obediently committed to Yehovah, and a slave to righteousness, then we automatically choose to be a slave in bondage to the Adversary Satan!

You were dead in your transgressions when you lived under the control of the flesh which is self-centered by nature. But this death has now been overcome in God's anointed one Jesus by the power of the resurrection. That is what happens in baptism when you enter into a new life; the life in God's anointed one Jesus.

The choice is yours, choose life or choose death, there is no in between! Jesus says if you are not with him you are against him. Choose to be with him!

Edited by Bruce Lyon

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