Proverbs 1:31-32 reads, “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naïve shall kill them, and the complacency of fools shall destroy them.” What is so perplexing about mankind is the way that we bring destruction upon ourselves. Judgments, sufferings and even the ultimate justice of Hell are results of our own decisions, our own shortcomings, our own selfishness, and especially our neglect of the way of righteousness.
When the great day of judgment arrives, and Christ parts the goats and the sheep, every person will receive the just recompense for a lifetime of either folly or purity. Note what the Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 12:14, “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” It is our actions that will determine our judgment, for Heaven or Hell. Our choice.
Unfortunately, most souls choose the sinful path in life. Sin is easier and more temporarily enjoyable than righteousness. Sin is appealing to people of all ages and environments. And sin is everywhere, it is accessible.
The inherent weakness in all of us is our inability, at times, to think about the future. Sin comes alive when our focus is too much on ourselves, now, and not enough on God always! And, in most cases, if people would simply stop to ponder their decisions, they would come to the logical conclusion that purity is more profitable than sin. For all logical reasons, smoking is asinine. If some teenager out there pondering a cigarette would think more about the future health problems and less about the present image-bolstering, the desire for a cigarette would not exist. Adultery is another example. And homosexuality. And every other sin, too!
My point, then, is this: we make ourselves worse. We choose to debase and digress from the path of righteousness, so that our second state becomes worse than our first state.
The phrase worse than before occurs many times in the Bible, in various forms. How do we make ourselves worse than before? What decisions do we make that lead us further from the Truth? So I want to spend some time examining the different ways that we make ourselves worse than before.
When We Only Negatively Obey
We make ourselves worse than before when we only negatively choose to obey God. By this term, I mean that we only obey those laws or regulations which are prohibitory in nature, or which condemn an action or attitude. This entails all of the “do not. . .” laws in the Bible.
You probably know people in your life who are like this. They are the ones who say, “Well, I’m a good person. I don’t kill, I don’t get drunk, I don’t steal from people.” They are the individuals who see themselves as good enough. As long as you do not commit adultery, you are a good husband, right? As long as you do not lie all the time, you are honest! As long as. . . and the list goes on and on.
Let us look at Matthew 12:43-45. What seems to be only a story about a demon really ends up being a story about ourselves! Too many have simply read over this small parable without proper application.
What Christ is saying is that we cannot simply eliminate the evil from our lives without replacing it with the good! This demon-possessed man was cured from his evils. He had set his house (spirit) in order, had nicely decorated it and furnished it, but had failed to fill his mind with such good things that would prevented the demon from returning.
Now, because the man did not pursue righteousness, this last state has become worse for him than the first! He is even more demon-possessed than ever.
The application to us becomes clear; it is not enough for us to simply remove the sin from our lives without afterward replacing it with the Truth of the Gospel. Simply not sinning is not enough. Simply abstaining from evil things is not enough. Simply removing all of the “demons” from our heads is not enough to prevent them from returning!
Confucius said a proverb once that is closely related to the proverb spoken by Christ. Confucius said, “Do not do unto others, what you do not want done to yourself.” Compare that to what Christ speaks in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them. . .” There is a fundamental difference between the two sayings. While the uninspired one is true in claiming that we must not do evil things to others, it says nothing of the good things that we must do instead! Christ makes it clear that actively doing and seeking good for others is much more valuable than simply not harming them.
The same message is expressed in Ephesians 4:22-25. Paul makes it clear here that we must not simply turn from our evil ways, but that we must also actively seek a new way. We must put on a new man after having taken off the old man. We must not simply lay aside the falsehood, but we must speak the truth on top of that. We must be made new, like God in “righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Turn to 2 Timothy 2:22. It is not enough to flee youthful lusts! We must also pursue righteousness! After all, it is the one who “practices righteousness is righteous” (1 John 3:7).
It is no secret that the world is full of “good people.” As described earlier, there is the philosophy that simply not doing evil things makes us good. People like this do not want to fully make God a part of their lives. They believe that baptism is not necessary. They believe that if they go to church on Easter, then that is enough. They believe that being a good citizen is all that is required of them.
But look again at the parable of the demon-possessed man. Does not this man characterize this idea perfectly. He did clean out his mind! He did eliminate the evil from his soul. He was abstaining from unrighteousness. He removed the demon from his life and cleaned out his mind. The house, his soul in this case, was well-prepared and ready for occupation. It was furnished.
But he did not replace the evil with active goodness and obedience to God. He did not occupy his mind with the pure precepts of God, and, instead, was again brought low by demon-possession. In fact, the second state was worse for him than the first!
When We Think We Can Do It Better Than God
For centuries, apostasy has been the theme of many “Christian” churches. But let me tell you that all apostasy starts when a man thinks that he can do things better than God. And when this happens, when a flawed, sinful human being tries to make the church or the Bible better, he simply makes his state worse than before!
Mankind has a way with mucking up things that already work perfectly. We can so easily ruin what is right and make crooked what is straight!