When the sentence for a crime is not speedily executed, the hearts of men become fully set on doing evil.—Eccl 8:11
Have you ever ignored a nagging sense of conviction in your heart? Maybe you rationalized wrongdoing with the thought that if God were really upset, He’d put a stop to things by disciplining you. Psalm 50:21 reminds us that the silence of heaven does not mean approval. Remaining in sin is an abuse of the Lord’s patience.
When God seems slow to react, we might hope He’s overlooking our transgressions—we’d like to continue in sin because the momentary pleasure is more appealing than obedience. But thankfully, the Father knows our weaknesses, our innate carnality, and the state of our spiritual growth, and He therefore measures His response. Motivated by love and a desire to gently restore His children to righteousness, God refrains from instantly doling out punishment. Instead, He waits for the Holy Spirit’s prodding to impact the believer’s heart. The weight of conviction is actually an invitation to turn from wrongdoing and return to godliness.
However, we’re a stubborn people. There are times when we persist in sin because the sentence against an evil deed isn’t executed quickly (Eccl. 8:11). In this dangerous situation, it’s possible to immerse ourselves in sin and harden our heart against the Lord. Then the Holy Spirit’s call to repentance falls on spiritual ears rapidly going deaf.
As we learn and understand more about God and His ways, we are increasingly responsible to live righteously. Our heavenly Father is not slow; He’s patient. But don’t abuse that patience with callous disregard for His statutes. Repent and be holy in the sight of the Lord.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.— Romans 12:9
In Romans 12:1 the Apostle Paul beseeches the members of the church at Rome to present their bodies as a “living sacrifice.” A living sacrifice is a life lived in surrender to the will of Jesus Christ, rather than a life lived for its own sake. Most of the rest of the book of Romans gives us some idea of what it means to be a living sacrifice. Romans 12:9, for example, gives us three items that should be part and parcel of the sacrificial life of a Christian.
First, our sacrificial life should be a life of love without hypocrisy. Hypocritical love is love that is two-faced. On the one hand, there is the feigning to be what one is not a false impression of love given to another person. On the other hand, however, there is the real motivation of the heart a hatred and contempt for the other person. Paul’s teaching is that our love should not be like that. It should be sincere, not fake. The sacrificial life of love surrenders its masks.
Second, our sacrificial life should be a life that abhors evil. Perhaps this seems to some as an “It goes without saying” proposition. Of course the true Christian should abhor evil. However, we live in a world where that which is good is said to be evil and that which is evil is said to be good. It’s not always easy to go against the spirit of the times and abhor evil. Our sacrificial life of love, therefore, must conform itself to the word of God and the mind of Christ so that we will have the courage of right conviction to help us obey Paul’s command.
Finally, our sacrificial life should be a life that clings to what is good. We must not just abhor evil; we must also cling to that which is good. Once we conform ourselves to the word of God and the mind of Christ and come to know the difference between evil and good, we should abhor the former and cling to the latter. The sacrificial life of love is not allowed to be half-hearted in these matters.
The sacrificial life is, indeed, sacrificial. We don’t get to do what we want, but what Jesus Christ the King wants.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.
— Psalm 37:1 NKJV
People can become upset when they see the prosperity and success of others. They see what others have in comparison to what they have and it can upset them if they think that others have it better than them. If the others are also evil in nature, then the upset is all the greater. Why should the evil prosper and succeed? Why do they have it better than me? Instead of focusing on their own lives, they obsess over the lives of others.
We should not fret ourselves because of the prosperity and success of evildoers and we should not be envious of them. After all, we should not be envious of anyone. Envy is a sin (Romans 1:29). Covetousness is to desire the advantages that belong to someone else; jealousy is to resent a person for the advantages they have; but envy is the desire to be like the person who has the advantages. All three sins, closely related and often found in combination, result from an inordinate comparison between oneself and someone else.
Whatever advantages the wicked may have are transient and fleeting. The wicked have traded in eternal life and peace for temporary and limited advantage. If they don’t wither and fade in this life, they will in the next.
The news media frequently report stories of how the wicked have fallen. These stories are object lessons that confirm the truth of Psalm 37. Stop comparing yourself unfavorably with other people, and especially with the wicked.