Is there such a thing as ultimate authority? God, relaying a message to Israel through the prophet Isaiah instructed, “Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.” Why should he have to write it down? Wouldn’t they automatically remember a message from God? No, because in truth they were a “…rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They (said) to the seer, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel.’” Is. 30:8-11Amazing how little people change over time, for they really don’t sound much different than we do today. We get tired of being told what to do all the time. We want to make up our own minds concerning what’s right and wrong. After all, those are relative concepts, aren’t they? It all depends on the people involved and the circumstances we find ourselves in! Doesn’t it? Does it?
Scripture assures us that a voice, manifesting itself in the Word, sometimes through other believers, the Holy Spirit often pricking our conscience concerning our activities, will be ever-present in our lives; trying to induce us to proper behavior. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Is. 8:21 The question is – how will we respond? Either in acceptance, repentance and renewal or irritation, rebellion and rejection; often because of intentional un-understanding and disregard for God’s word.
Who decides what advice we listen to or what teachings we accept and apply? We do. Who should decide what is right and wrong? God should. Why? Aren’t we all reasonably intelligent people? Don’t we know how we feel, what we want? That’s the problem. How we feel and what we want won’t always jive with God’s expectations. Our emotions fluctuate and our physical and spiritual stamina waver, our expectations of ourselves and others often change. God’s doesn’t. We need a measuring stick above and beyond ourselves. For, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12 (See also Proverbs 21:2)
Why do we do what we do? Because we are genuinely concerned about others, realizing the need to conform to society’s norms and God’s expectations? Or is it because we feel compelled to, by God and society? Are we trying to impress somebody, hoping for something in return? Are we attempting to fool others, hoping to convince them we’re something we aren’t? Do we believe or are we just faking it? Remember, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2 He knows how contrary some of us can be even if we hide it reasonably well from others. He knows how people in the past, present and future, “…will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3 Go to any book store and browse down the self-help and philosophy aisles and you will find virtually every topic covered. It has gotten to the point where you can say or do most anything and someone else will buy into it. Even when the line is crossed from decent to indecent, self-enhancing to self-destructive; everyone believes the exception should be made for them. Their case is different, they have a right to do their own thing. Especially since the acceptable standards of the past have been challenged and changed, the world of ethics turned upside down. But God warns, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Is. 5:20-21
So how do we properly identify good and evil? Knowledge. Not as defined by the world but by the wisdom of the Word. Not a mere nodding acquaintance of scripture but a studied understanding of God’s will. The book of Hebrews calling such people mature men and women who have spent time and effort searching scripture for Godly definitions of right and wrong; “…who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:14 And yes, we all have busy schedules, time is at a premium and effort for one task takes time and energy from others. Besides, can’t we intuitively distinguish right from wrong, good from evil? Just look at the world and the mess it’s in. Everybody out there thinks they’re right. Consider Adam and Eve. You know the story of the forbidden fruit. Was their eating of it outright rebellion against God or a desire to be like their garden companion? Either way they were wrong, as they pursued the knowledge of God in the wrong manner; attempting to make their own way to God rather than gaining God-likeness through obedience. (Genesis 3:1-6)
In their counterfeit pursuit of Godliness, they didn’t realize they weren’t capable of handling such knowledge; not having grasped the concept of or come to terms with their own propensity for self-will as a result of God’s granting them freedom of choice. The problem is aptly stated by Paul. “…the sinful nature (or self-will) desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:17 This battle between good and evil has been waged throughout history and will continue to plague mankind until we reach perfection in Christ. Even Paul, whom many consider the best example of Christian living lamented that, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing... So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind…” Romans 7:15-33
That’s why we need a higher standard than one of our own making. We just don’t always do right even when we have the best of intentions. Can we look to our family and friends to help find that higher path? To a certain extent. But we must remember that they are involved in the same battle we are and at times fall prey to the same desires we do. The desire to fit in, to look good, to act confident even when they don’t have a clue. Can they be wrong? Absolutely. Will God be? Never.
The Bible assures us that, “You will find him if you look for him with all your heart.” Deuteronomy 4:29, encouraging us to, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is near.” Is. 55:6 Jesus instructing us to, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…”. Matthew 6:33 For, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10 He will be found because he wants to be! He is seeking us even as we search for him as, “…the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9
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