Detest Evil, Hold on to Good

>> Saturday, April 23, 2011

Romans 12 provides us with one of scripture’s clearest pictures of practical Christ-like living. We see scripture’s exhortation to live a life marked with action. I believe a healthy understanding and practice of these things help us “put to death” the old self and actively “put on” the new self, helps us in the practice of “setting our minds on things above”, helps our transformation by the “renewing of our minds”, helps us to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”.

Here is what scripture teaches us in Romans 12:9-13:
  • Allow love to be genuine
 Utterly detest evil and hold on to what is good
  • Love the body with brotherly affection
  • Excel in showing honor
  • Activate zeal and show intensity in spirit in service to God
  • Rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, constant in prayer
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek opportunities for hospitality

It's the Saturday of Holy Week and I'm wondering why it's taken so long to come up with this next entry in our blog series.  Thinking about the historic events of this week, I think I understand why now is the time for this thought.

Holy Week commemorates the events when our Lord purchased our salvation with His blood on the Cross...when our Lord defeated and demolished history's greatest evil - death...when our Lord claimed victory to deliver the kingdom over to God the Father...when our Lord took hold of history and set firm the eternal course of heaven and earth.

It's an important week as we remember and rejoice over God's greatness and certainly His goodness.

When thinking about the topic of this current blog series - Christ-like Living - and the words of Paul recorded in Romans 12, I think of two particular instances from scripture which remind me of this call to "utterly detest evil and hold on to what is good."

The first is from Luke 9, where Jesus foretells his death and instructs the disciples on how they must live going forward.  In verse 23, Jesus says,

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."  
This is a significant picture that Christ paints in his instruction to his followers, the picture of self-denial as"taking up our cross".  The reality is that in Christ's actions on and through the Cross, He faced the greatest evil in this world as we know it - death.  His cry "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" is the most sacrificial phrase ever uttered, when God the Father poured out His wrath on Christ the Son, as the perfect sacrificial Lamb, who took on himself the weight and guilt of every sin of every man ever committed and ever to be committed.

Christ sacrificed it all on the cross to rightly purchase the salvation necessary to restore a kingdom for the glory of the Father.  If it were for our benefit of salvation alone, why bother?  It is so much greater than that.  We see this in that Christ proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom, not the Gospel of Salvation.  For Christ to rightly sacrifice it all for God's glory and to stake a claim as conqueror of the last and greatest evil so that He could deliver the kingdom to God the Father - there is great value and beauty in that.  You see we are benefactors of a work done all to the glory of God.  Our salvation is a bi-product of the great story unfolding.  The story of God, acting as the Father, in great love toward us sent His Son to make a way for restoration.  A heroic story where Christ comes to seek and save what was lost to His Father, so that God could become our Father.  Our salvation is not the means or the end - it's a piece of a greater story.  This reality frees us to live a live pleasing to God, it endears us to our perfect Father.

The reality for you and me is that "taking up our cross daily" and "utterly detesting evil" are joined at the hip.  You see when we live all for ourselves and our selfish ambitions, we are actively refusing to "take up our cross" - in other words we are denying the powerful reality of the cross by the way we live.  When we deny the cross, we are openly disregarding the all significant reality that death is conquered.   Oh, but when we daily make it our aim to "take up our cross" we are living within the claim staked by Christ when he conquered death - we are living in a way that utterly detests evil itself - we are living breathing testimonies to the truth of Christ's own words "It Is Finished".

The phrases "take up daily" and "utterly detest" imply a personal effort that is intentional and constant.  Taking up our cross daily is the personal, obedient act that shows our heart utterly detests evil.

The second instance from scripture where I am reminded to "utterly detest evil and hold on to what is good" is found in Galatians 5, where Paul speaks to the freedom purchased by Christ's work on the cross, and to the calling on our lives to walk in the Spirit.  In verse 11, Paul states that by holding to the bonds of the law and not looking to the finished work of Christ on the cross, "the offense of the cross has been removed".  The offense of the cross being the conquering of death, victory over evil, the loosing the yolk of slavery to the law and to our flesh.  When we deny Christ's cross, we remove the offense - this is what we must avoid, and as we discussed above, we must actively "take up our cross daily" and live in the freedom purchased by Christ.  This gives way to the freedom to live a different way - free from the chains of the flesh and the bonds of our selfish ambitions.

Paul gives practical advice that when we "walk by the Spirit" we "will not gratify the desires of the flesh".  What does it look like to "walk by the Spirit"?  Paul describes the fruit of that kind of living as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against these things there is no law, only freedom.  To "hold on to good" is the twin brother of the "fruit of the spirit".

When we take up our cross daily, we are utterly detesting evil.

When our lives exhibit the fruit of the spirit, we are holding on to good.

It's not always easy, but it's not impossible either.  Christ's sacrifice some 2000+ years ago makes it possible.

Elvina Mable Hall captured this thought perfectly as she wrote this poem inside the cover of a Methodist church hymnal in the spring of 1865.  As her pastor prayed, Elvina was compelled to write,

I hear the Savior say, "Thy strength indeed is small,
Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in me thine all in all".
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

 For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim.
I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

When from my dying bed my ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,” shall rend the vaulted skies.
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

The modern version of this great hymn adds these words,

Oh, praise the One who paid my debt, who raised this life up from the dead.

We have benefited greatly from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  During Holy Week we have the great privilege to look on Christ's death, burial and resurrection with humility and great joy.  Oh, Praise the One who took claim of the Kingdom for our God and in doing so paid the debt I owed.  I am a great benefactor of the gracious actions of a glorious God.

Oh God may I see no other option but to utterly detest evil and hold on to good as I aim to "take up my cross daily" and "walk by the Spirit" displaying the fruit.

remembering and rejoicing and aiming to live accordingly,


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