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For and Against

It isn't hard to complain about something you don't like.  However, identifying the real problem is harder.  Thought and effort are required to analyze a situation and recognize the root cause of the problem.  Solving the problem is the hardest task of all.  Solutions often require change, accountability, and responsibility, which many of us prefer to avoid.  Because these things are true, complainers abound and fault-finders are common, but problem-solvers are rare.

The messengers of God have always been problem-solvers.  Of course, to solve problems they have to identify them first, but they don't stop there. For example, Old Testament prophets were sent by God to the various nations, primarily Israel and Judah, with charges of sin, warnings of destruction, and instructions for repentance. In other words, the prophets identified the problems, warned of the consequences, and gave the solutions.  This is the same basic pattern seen in the preaching of the gospel of Christ.  The gospel tells us that the problem is sin, the consequence is death, and the solution is Christ.  Specifically, the solution is that Christ died for our sins, rose from the grave, ascended to heaven, and gave us instructions to faithfully obey for salvation. This is the solution that the world needs to hear, and we who are Christians have been sent by Christ as messengers of this solution.  We have inherited the commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20:

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

If we merely complain about the problems of the world or just identify them without offering the solution, then we are failing in our mission as messengers of God. Gospel preaching is not only pointing out the sins and errors of others, but it is primarily telling them about the Lord and what they must do to be saved from their sins.  For example, consider the first gospel sermon preached on Pentecost by Peter (Acts 2:14-41).  Peter charged the Jews with the murder of Jesus, but he also told them how to escape the guilt of this unthinkable sin.  When they asked, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).  Rather than telling the Jews how wicked, evil, and sinful they were and then walking away, Peter told them how to be saved from their sins.  We must do the same for the sinners of our time.

Here is the point: It is not enough just to be against sin; we must also be for God. We must be opposed to every kind of sin, and we must also promote God's cause of compassion and deliverance for all sinners.  This opposition and promotion must go hand in hand.  For example, if we are against false teaching (2Pet. 2:1-3), then we must be for the truth of God's word (2Tim. 4:1-4).  Likewise, if we are against fornication (Heb. 13:4), divorce (Matt. 19:1-12), and homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27), then we must be for chastity (2Tim. 2:22) and marriage (Eph. 5:22-33).  If we are against abortion (Ps. 139:13-16; Prov. 6:17), then we must be for life and children (Ps. 127:3-5; Eph. 6:1-4; Jas. 1:27).  If we are against denominationalism (1Cor. 1:10-13), then we must be for Christ's design for the church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4).  The examples could go on and on, but the point is made.  With every "against," there must be a corresponding "for."

Otherwise, we may find ourselves guilty of the same fault as the Ephesian church (Rev. 2:1-7).  These Christians diligently opposed sin and false teachers, but Jesus said, "You have left your first love."  The Lord told them to repent and do the deeds they had done "at first."  At first, the word of God had sounded forth from Ephesus so that all who lived in Asia heard the gospel in a period of only two years (Acts 19:10, 20).  The "name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified" (Acts 19:17) in Ephesus so that many repented of their sins and turned to the Lord.  The Ephesian Christians had not only been opposed to sin, but they had also promoted righteousness in Christ.  By the time John wrote the letter in Revelation, the Ephesians were still opponents of sin, but apparently the name of Jesus was no longer being magnified by them.  Likewise, if we merely oppose sin without promoting Jesus, then we stand in danger of Jesus removing our lampstand out of its place.

Therefore, let us be for what is right and not just against what is wrong.  By doing so, we not only help to lead sinners away from sin and toward the Lord's salvation, but we also keep our own minds on what is good, right, and true.  Remember, Paul wrote, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things" (Phil. 4:8).  In this way, we can prepare ourselves to help solve the problems of sinners and to magnify the name of Jesus.

Stacey E. Durham




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