Do we abstain?
I’ve seen the rationalization, the accommodation and the giving of ourselves to other interests.
I’ve seen the rationalization, the accommodation and the giving of ourselves to other interests. But where is the purity, the power and the devotion to prayer?
When will we again see the glory which lays man low, the all-consuming fire which melts the hills like wax, and the holiness which causes the elders to continuously fall down before Him, crying out, ‘You are worthy, O Lord!’
When will it again be revealed to us - the revelations of God which humble us? For when we see Him clearly, no man can look upon His face and live, instead to the ground we must go, overwhelmed by His holiness in comparison to our frailty.
And in this word, ‘holiness,’ we have a potential controversy - He is holy, yes! There is no dispute here, but how holy are we supposed to be as a result? This is a question that demands an answer.
It’s easy to dismiss holiness as positional, “I’m declared holy because He was holy on my behalf.” But then where do your thoughts go? One of two places:
We either say, “He was holy on my behalf, therefore I do not have to live up to that standard of holiness.”
Or we say, “In light of Him, I must, ‘Pursue…holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.’” Hebrews 12:14
Do we pursue holiness and have we ‘crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts?’ (Galatians 5:24) Or do we go on in ‘sin because we are not under law but under grace’ and in doing so, crucify Him afresh? Romans 6:15
Why are we sick in body? Why are our hands so weak and our knees so feeble? Why do we have no enduring strength to stay steadfast?
It’s because we have not abstained, nor partaken of the holy things in purity. We have despised the command of the Lord to “come out from among them” and instead have listened to the advice of evil men, “Come, throw in your lot with us; we’ll all share the loot!” 2 Corinthians 6:17, Proverbs 1:14
Today, may we heed to words of wisdom and return to the narrow way of the Lord, the straight path, “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path.” Proverbs 1:15
Let us search our hearts, to see if we might find the truth of what is hidden there. Do we ever refrain? “For ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.’” 1 Peter 3:10
You may say, “He has my Sunday morning and He has my religious identity, I profess to be a Christian.” Yes, but does He have your life?
And if He has your life, does He have your tongue, your eyes, your hands, your mind and your heart?
May we examine ourselves in this moment. Can we speak of the command to abstain as people who have taken Him at His word? Or have we excused abstaining away as religious legalism, written for a different time and place?
In short, do we abstain as the Scriptures demand?
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22
“Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” 1 Peter 2:11
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;” 1 Thessalonians 4:3
Do not move on quickly from these words? Consider them soberly. And as you consider them, listen to this account from a convert who heard John Wesley speak in the open fields of Kingswood in 1739:
As soon as he [Mr. Wesley] got upon the stand, he stroked back his hair and turned his face towards where I stood, and, I thought, fixed his eyes upon me. His countenance fixed such an awful dread upon me, before I heard him speak, that is made my heart beat like the pendulum of a clock; and when he did speak, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me! When he had done, I said, ‘This man can tell the secrets of my heart; he hath not left me there; for he hath showed the remedy, even the blood of Jesus.’ I thought he spoke to no one but me, and I durst not look up, for I imagined all the people were looking at me. But before Mr. Wesley concluded his sermon he cried out, ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ I said, ‘If that be true, I will turn to God today.’ -taken from ‘John Wesley, the Christian Hero’
Stop and determine for yourself, if these words be true, resolve to turn to God today in holiness, purity and ‘abstaining from all appearance of evil.’
For those of you who have already felt this call to purity - have you held onto hope? Have you continued to proclaim and model this standard of the Lord, even if it meant scorn, ridicule or isolation?
Leonard Ravenhill put it bluntly when he said, “If you’re going to get mature in God, all the dwarfs around you will criticize and sneer at you and say, ‘You’re trying to be holier than the rest of us, eh?’”
Have you heard this call to holiness and dedicated yourself “before the throne of God,” serving Him “day and night?” Or have you grown weary in doing good? Revelation 7:15, Galatians 6:9
If this is the case, a story shared by Charles Finney in his book, “Revival Lectures,” will be of great encouragement to you:
A good man - an elder in the western part of this State, had been a long time an earnest Christian, and he used to talk to the sleepy Church with which he was connected. Presently the church grew offended and got out of patience, so that many told him they wished he would let them alone, and that they did not think he could do them any good. He took them at their word, and they all ‘went to sleep’ together, remaining so two or three years. Then a minister came among them, and a revival commenced; but this elder seemed to have lost his spirituality. He who used to be forward in a good work now held back. Everybody thought it unaccountable. Finally, as he was going home one night, the truth of his situation flashed upon his mind, and, for a few minutes, he went into absolute despair. At length his thoughts were directed back to that sinful resolution to let the Church alone in her sins. He felt that no language could describe the blackness of that sin. He realised at that moment what it was to be lost, and to find that God had a controversy with him. He saw that it was a bad spirit which had led him to that weak resolution; the same that caused Moses to say: ‘Ye rebels’ (Numbers 20:10). He humbled himself on the spot, and God poured out His Spirit on him.
Have you fallen asleep? Has God a controversy with you? Is it a bad spirit which you are now following? Then do as this elder, and “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,” that He may pour out His Spirit upon you afresh. 1 Peter 5:6
Come to Him. Return to Him. Abstain for Him. Set yourself apart for Him. May we join with the four living creatures, saying, “Holy, holy, holy,” and may we also respond as the elders, falling down and saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power.” Revelation 4:8,10-11