You know that moment, when you read that Bible verse, and you’re like, “That’s it! That’s why that’s true!”
For many years now, I have understood that it was important not to give approval or encouragement to people, posts, behaviors, opinions, beliefs, that I knew to be contrary to God’s truth. Like Saul holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen, I knew I would be just as guilty before God for my approval of what was wrong as the person would be for doing what was wrong.
My heart has ached for people that I have watched, people who claimed to be Christians, who have publicly approved such a wide variety of things that God abhors…Some have been public figures, some have been friends or acquaintances or family members…Some have been specific, individual life decisions; some have been broad statements of how they think life should be; and some have even been teachings designed to convince other Christians…
The professing Christian who claimed that God showed her how to force her husband to give her a divorce…
The professing Christians who claim that God made all things by evolution rather than creation…
The professing Christians who have claimed that all religions are equally true and all good people go to heaven…
The professing Christians who shared their favorite songs from Eminem or Kanye West, who are themselves professing Christian artists…
The professing Christians who support a woman’s right to choose abortion, or a child’s right to choose their gender, or a couple’s right to enter into same-sex marriage…
And most recently, the professing Christian who explained why she not-only prayed for our President (as we all should), but approved of him personally, of his policies and of his leadership and of his platform.
I used to think that these were demonstrations of someone who just needed more instruction, and that may yet sometimes be true. I used to think that sharing the truth from God’s word on the particular topic would be met with gratitude and new understanding, and that may yet someday be true. But what I have learned is more often the case is that these are simply the fruits by which you now know them. These are the outward demonstrations overflowing from the heart that has already been set on something other than God’s truth, and which can now be seen for what it is by what it approves.
You will be seen for what you are by what you approve (Romans 1:32)…Approve God’s truth!Tweet
In Romans 1, beginning in verse 18 (read the full passage here), God’s wrath against sin is being described. Many kinds of wickedness are listed, including:
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful. They invent new forms of evil; they disobey their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, merciless.Romans 1:29-31, BSB
It’s a pretty horrifying list. These are the characteristics of the wicked. We know that people who fit the descriptions in this list are living their lives opposed to God, are darkened in understanding, without light or truth, and certainly in need of prayer for their repentance and restoration.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things are worthy of death, they not only continue to do these things, but also approve of those who practice them.Romans 1:32, BSB
God reminds us that these wicked people do actually know God’s word. They know right from wrong. And yet, they choose wickedness. But what really struck me this time was that the wicked are identified not only because they practice these things, but also because they approve of those who practice them!
It is a characteristic of the wicked to approve of the wickedness of others. And this is why it’s so important for us to guard what we give our approval to. If we approve of the wickedness of others, we have only shown that we are one of them.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil…Isaiah 5:20, KJV
If we will call what is evil good, we will ultimately find ourselves in the company that we have chosen by giving our approval to it.
He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.Matthew 12:30, BSB
I am often amazed by the depth of God’s word. I have read these passages many times without previously discovering this severely simple truth about the things that we approve in this life. It is a standard by which to test our own walk, and a measuring rod by which we can discern where others stand. Better to know we must pray for someone’s repentance and restoration than unwittingly encourage them along (or worse yet, join them) in a path to destruction.
I hope that there are many of you, today, who will join me in seeking God’s grace to only approve those things which are good and pleasing and holy in His sight, guarding our hearts in God’s truth so that we may be found gathered with Him when the day arrives!
…in real life…
A few years ago, even before I had yet encountered the striking clarity of this verse, the Holy Spirit convicted me of this truth rather sharply. I was spending some time with a family member and her husband at a nearby campground. The camp hosts stopped by to chat. As we sat around the fire, I tried to be friendly and pleasant. The chatter was worldly, ordinary small-talk, the odd cuss-word intermixed, places you’ve been, things you like, what was on YouTube, why various other people are idiots…I listened, contributing little, trying to stay alert for a chance to share about God in any way.
As the camp host cracked a joke, I joined in the laughter, and was stopped mid-chuckle by a rebuke, clear as a bell, in my head: “Don’t laugh at sin. It’s not funny.”
For the wages of sin is death…Romans 6:23
Don’t laugh at sin. It’s not funny. The price is too high. ~For the wages of sin is death…(Rom. 6:23)~Tweet
It was sobering. I suddenly realized just-how-very-much this was not funny. Here were four people, grown adults, who didn’t have the slightest grain of respect for God’s word and God’s ways, blindly and cheerfully walking a path to eternal destruction. In the cases where I had offered some of them an opportunity to learn more about God’s truth, they had politely declined, smiled and nodded and changed the subject, maybe gone to grab another beer, confident in their own knowledge and the path that they had chosen. A path that I know leads to a very-specifically-detailed, never-ending torment. Truly, what was funny? And if I laughed and encouraged them along, what did that make me?
And now I know. If I persisted in my approval, in my encouragement, in my participation, it would make me wicked, just like what I was approving. *shudder*
Pursue peace with everyone, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.Hebrews 12:14, BSB
by Sydney Michalski
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