I am grateful for my Pastor's ministry in the Word of God that led me to take a new look at an old subject. A number of years ago it struck me that in my ministry with young people I needed a simple, biblical approach to working with them. God gave some great insight into how to deal with the presence of evil in our lives through our text verse. God led me to a concept that Brother Bill used just this last week. His focus was on the phrase "Mercy and Truth" as it related to the Beatitude: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Matthew 5:7
I made a small poster to hang in my office a number of years ago to remind me to share with my students that there are three clear steps to cleansing evil from our lives and overcoming it. Hopefully, this simple message will be helpful to someone struggling with evil today. Let's take a quick look at this verse.
1. "Purging" is an act of atoning for, or cleansing. "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name's sake." Psalm 79:9. It is a washing (see, Titus 3:5) or cutting away of that which defiles or has become unproductive (see, John 15:2). The thing being purged in our verse is iniquity. "Iniquity" is sin, a transgression or breaking of the law, a willful disregard for the ways of God. "And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist (know) it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity." Leviticus 5:17. None of us is exempt from the need for this cleansing. Unbelievers need it to begin a life with God. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;" Isaiah 1:16. And believers need it for a proper fellowship with God. "If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:" 1 John 1:6. The provision of God for our cleansing is the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;" Titus 3:5-6
2. "Mercy" is the kindness of God toward the undeserving. It is also the way we should approach every person with whom we come into contact. If I approach another with a judgmental, self-righteous, and pompous attitude I may not get very far in convincing them that I believe in mercy or am merciful. In the Titus passage above we have the idea of washing and mercy in the same verse. Mercy is like soap and the Word of God is the water. "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word," Ephesians 5:26. Soap needs to be added to water to be effective. Here we have an enlightening truth. Science tells us that soap is a surfactant. A surfactant is something that helps a liquid to adhere to a solid. Mercy is the soap that helps to apply the truth of God to the soul. Hallelujah!
3. "Truth" is the standard of God. "All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies." Psalm 25:10. It is a correct belief, doctrine, or action. Truth has a cleansing effect when it is applied to the mind, heart and life. Mercy is the soap that makes the truth cover the surface of a problem and cleanse it. Mercy alone may overlook or ignore a transgression. Truth alone may demonstrate the need for cleansing but not actually produce that cleansing. But the scriptures declare that mercy and truth together produce a cleansing effect, a purging. "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;" 2 Timothy 2:24-25. Mercy and truth are the first step in repentance and now we go on to the next.
4. "The Fear of the LORD" completes the triangle by causing the repentant one to "depart" from evil. "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil." Proverbs 3:7. The fear of the LORD is an important concept in the Old Testament. It refers to the one who bows to a higher power and admits his need of that authority in his life. The unbelieving bow to idols and concepts that can not free them. (See, Psalm 115:1-8). The believer bows to a true and living God and accepts His direction (Proverbs (9:10), discipline (Proverbs 10:27), defense (Proverbs 19:23), and even delight (Proverbs 22:4) in his life. Fearing the LORD in the Old Testament is roughly equivalent to believing in the Lord Jesus, being born again and being saved that are terms we use in the New Testament era. Jesus said to the people of His day, "You fear men who are able to kill, you ought to fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell."
We live in a world where people proclaim, "No Fear!" but all the while they are surrounded by fears from which they can not hide: Fears of catastrophe, of political unrest, of financial collapse, of injury, of insult, of loss of freedom (the list goes on and on). These fears are present in every person alive today. But the believer who trusts in the kindness (the Mercy) of his God, walks in the ways (the Truth) of his God and enters the Temple of his God, the Lord Jesus, (who is the Fear of the LORD) learns of Him that he is freed (John 8:31-32) from fear (2 Timothy 1:7) by faith. This person learns the importance of "departing" from evil. He learns also that he does not depart from evil in order to be saved but he departs from evil because he is saved.
Dear friend, you and I need these three steps of cleansing. We need the overcoming power of God to depart from evil. We can not have it unless we are willing to bow to the Savior and accept His grace that is freely given to us by God. This gift can only be acquired by faith in Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9). I am trusting Him. Won't you join me in this walk and life of faith? He will bring cleansing and provide power to overcome evil. "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" 1 John 5:4-5.