By Irven Lee
The servants of Satan use cunning craftiness as they lie in wait to deceive (Eph. 4:11-14). This is one reason that teachers of the truth need to be strong. It is not easy to stop the mouths of false teachers, but this ought to be done (Tit. 1:9-11). If the servant of the Lord does not bring his own body into subjection and maintain a great faith, his own sins will aid the enemies of the Lord. Paul warned 6f this danger day and night with tears (Acts 20:28-31).
The Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2: 10). He was tempted in all points as we are, and He could not have been the Savior if He had been weak. He is looking for soldiers who will put on the whole armor and exercise their senses to discern between good and evil (Eph. 6:10-20; Heb. 5:12-14). The Christian is given good weapons, but there are some strongholds to be destroyed, and only the mighty are capable of fighting the good fight. (Read 2 Cor. 10: 1-6; 1 Tim. 1: 18; 2 Tim. 4:7,8.)
A strong Christian may be in a wheel chair. Physically he may suffer much from some thorn in the flesh. In fact, some good wholesome lessons may be learned from these trials that may strengthen him spiritually (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Certain parallels may be drawn between the true Christian and the soldier or the great athlete, but Christ leads His army in conflict against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). A wicked person who is marching with the Lord’s army is actually an enemy in the ranks. Only a few qualify for the Lord’s spiritual army. Some profess with their mouths to be with Him, but their hearts are far from Him (Matt. 15:8).
Fornicators, drunkards, thieves, and such like cannot inherit the kingdom. Heaven is not for them. (See 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9; Rev. 21:8.) A man who steals could hardly be expected to be a powerful influence against dishonesty. An adulterer is not the teacher the Lord wants to uphold the stability of marriage (Rom. 2:21-24). Immoral church members cause the world to blaspheme the church. The church should put away any such wicked member from its number (I Cor. 5:1-13). A little unholy leaven tends to leaven the whole lump.
Some believe for a while and then fall away (Luke 8:13). The love of the world destroyed Demas (2 Tim. 4:10). The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life entangle and overcome many in our generation. (Read 1 John 2:15,16; 2 Peter 2:19,20.) It never ceases to harm the church for teachers to be found who are thieves, drunkards, or fornicators. Have you known prominent church members to be found guilty? Have you observed the harm? Some preachers have lost their faith, and others have lost their good name. Their loss is great, and it is serious to cause others to stumble (2 Pet. 1:1; Prov. 22:1; Matt. 15:6).
“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Even people who make great sacrifices in this life for Christ receive a hundred fold now in this time and eternal life in the world to come (Mark 10:28-30). “The way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 14:15). It is not evident that those who sow to the flesh must reap corruption (Gal. 6:7,8)? Be sure your sins will find you out for the Lord will see to that (Num. 32:23). Believing these facts could protect us all. Understanding these things could make us strong.
Danger of Evil Companions
Beware of evil companions because they do have a corrupting effect (1 Cor. 15:33). Some young preachers have sat at the feet of infidels in modernistic universities to learn to preach. There is great danger there. Servants of corruption have allured some through the lust of the flesh (2 Pet. 2:18-22). All of us need to be among those who can encourage others daily lest we be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:12,13). Sin is deceitful, so “be not deceived” is good advice.
Peter was very confident about his faith and loyalty to the Lord, but he failed the test (Matt. 26:33-75). One is protected by humility and an awareness of his own littleness. Pride and overconfidence prepare one for a fall. Beware of the thought that “it won’t happen to me.”
God looks on the heart because He knows that deeds come forth from that source. (Read 1 Sam. 16:7; Matt. 12:3437; Mark 7:20-23; Prov. 23:7.) If we would keep ourselves pure we should guard our hearts because the thoughts precede the deeds. The evil thought is sin, but it can lead to more sin. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
Regular Study of The Bible
When the Master faced special temptations He answered each one with a direct quotation from the Scripture. A careful study of the whole armor for the Christian will make it clear that knowledge of and proper use of the Scripture make up the defensive armor, and this word is the only offensive weapon. It is easy to see why the psalmist could say: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:11). Those who meditate on His word day and night are blessed with spiritual strength. If the heart is full of the word it will not be full of lust.
Righteousness is a very positive matter. There are, of course, many things that are forbidden by the Lord, but the perfect law also assigns good things to be done. The breastplate of righteousness is a wonderful part of the defensive armor. The fiery darts of the wicked one do not pierce a good breastplate. The one who thinks and talks about the will of God and seeks to obey it will be delivered from evil. “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46.) Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). The preacher or other teacher who becomes a fornicator has not been thinking enough about things that are lovely, of good report, virtuous, and worthy of praise.
Cost of Sin
Let the Christian who is tempted stop immediately and count the cost of sin. The pleasure of sin is but for a season, but the scars that are left may be permanent. Does any one suppose that the alcoholic or drug addict is happier than the sober person or that the adulterer is happier than the faithful marriage companion? God knows what is best for us, and His counsel is “for our good always” (Deut. 6:24). The terrible cost is passed along to children of the guilty party, the marriage partner, the church, the partner in guilt, and the family.. Stop and count the cost and stand amazed. Sin becomes repulsive to one who does.
It is alarming that so many are falling into unfaithfulness after years of active service in the church. This does not prove that all that service was hypocritical. David had a good record in the sight of God before he sinned with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11). That does not indicate that his sins were not grievous. (See Psalm 5 1.) Sin is failure to serve God.
Sin can be forgiven, but the effects may continue over the years. The bird with the broken wing may never fly as high again. How can one expect the brethren to pass over the unholy deed without notice? God knows when there is genuine repentance, but we may not. Pilate could not wash the blood off his hands. If a man has stood before an audience again and again as a gospel preacher and the people learn that he has been involved in immorality, it may be that his “I’m sorry” will not remove all doubt. People can be sorry they were caught. If they have been living a double life there will be questions in the minds of some in the future. We may not all forgive as we should. Those who are guilty will find that it takes a long time to prove themselves.
It has been over fifty years since I saw a certain young preacher cheating in his history class. This preacher is not young any more, but I remembered when I heard him preach several years ago. I am not boasting about my attitude. I am confessing that seeing him would bring the picture back to my mind of his almost standing to see the paper of a good student who was two seats away from him. Several other people may be a little like me in this way. “A good man is rather to be chosen than great riches” (Prov. 22:1).
People can have an influence without its being a wholesome influence. Unrighteous people can encourage unrighteousness in others. This is obvious, but to effectively encourage righteousness the teacher must be righteous. Satan can use his own ungodly servants to have an ungodly influence, and he can place some among the servants of righteousness. We remember the Savior’s remark about wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). Let every servant of the Lord that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10: 12).
I am asked what I think is the big problem that the church will face in the future. Worldliness is a perpetual problem. There may be special dangers lurking in the unseen future. In general terms we can say that unbelief, worldliness, and doctrinal errors are the big problems generation after generation. The popular doctrines about us and the popular sins in the world tend to come right on into the church.
Immodesty, vulgarity, alcohol, violence, and greed or covetousness to the point of idolatry are very conspicuous in the world. Expect these things to be in the church. America entertains itself by watching the sins just mentioned on the television screen. When divorce became so common among entertainers and in their dramatic performances, the church began to suffer much from the same evils. There is that ever present tendency to conform. The love of the world is in conflict with the will of God, but it obviously gets into many hearts.
It is not easy to convert men to Christ in our materialistic and ungodly world. The need for laborers is very great to turn the tide toward a reformation in America. It is sad to see one disciple after another entangled and overcome through the lusts of the flesh. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12,13).
Unbelief may be the “besetting sin” back of the crime wave in America and the heartbreaking downfall of so many Christians. The Spirit has revealed that the unrighteous shall not inherit the eternal blessings, but people do not tremble at the thought. Men who are weak in the faith do not abhor sin. The hunter may need to keep his gun loaded. The Christian needs to have a great faith.
The television networks are directed to a great extent by secular humanists who are atheists. They seem to be about as determined to destroy faith as they are to encourage the sex revolution’. Evolution dominates many of the programs that are not given to violence and lusts. What shall the end be? Who will fight a good fight? “Keep thyself pure.”
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 1, pp. 2, 25-26
January 5, 1984