Staying Out Of Spiritual Ditches

A wealthy home will have articles of gold and silver—candlesticks, silverware, fine china, expensive furnishings and rugs. It will also have articles of wood and clay—in the first century, these would be serving utensils and vessels used by the slaves, and the facilities for personal functions. Some are “noble,” some “ignoble.” One article cannot be both. To be fit for the Master of the house, the article must be clean, holy, useful, prepared for the good works for which he intends the possession.

How do we make sure we are clean, holy, useful, prepared for the good works for which God intends us? Flee the evil desires of youth, “lusts peculiar to youth” (v. 22a). Paul probably has in mind sexual temptations, insecurity, immaturity, and so on. To know if there are “evil desire” you must flee, ask your Father.

In their place, “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (v. 22b). Measure your every action by these questions: is it right? Does it honor God? Will it promote love and peace? Will those who have pure hearts affirm it? Avoid godless desires, and you’ll avoid the ditch of the soul.

Avoid godless arguments (vs. 23-26)

Now Paul moves to the enemy’s last strategy. If he cannot get us to use godless language or pursue godless desires, he’ll entangle us with those who will. He’ll catch us with “foolish” (lacking character) and “stupid” (lacking education or knowledge) arguments.

How do you know that an argument is foolish and stupid? If it “produces quarrels” (v. 23). If it divides the family of faith. Satan always attacks the church first at the point of unity, from Ananias and Sapphira to the present. Jesus prayed that we might be one, so the world would believe that the Father sent his Son (John 17:21). He taught us, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35). Arguments which divide the people of God are condemned by the word of God.

How do we respond to them?

“Gently instruct”: “gently” means to refuse to seek revenge, but to keep your emotions and pride in check; “instruct” means to speak the truth.

Be gracious: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6). Take the high road.

Go to them: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15).

Refuse to be drawn into conflict with them: “Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because they are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3.9-11).

Ultimately, seek their restoration. Pray that God will lead them to repentance, so that they come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil (vs. 25-26).

“Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name” (Malachi 3:16).

Conclusion

It comes to this: be Christlike. Ask of every word you are about to speak or hear: would Jesus say this? Ask of every attitude and desire: would Jesus pursue this? Ask of every argument you are tempted to begin or enter: would Jesus do this?

God’s purpose for every one of us is that we be “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Do you find in your language or heart places where you’re not like your Lord? Where people do not see or hear Jesus in you? Where you’re outside the word and will of God? Those are the places where you’re in the spiritual ditch today.

So ask for help. Don’t try to climb out yourself, because you can’t. Here’s where Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code is at its most damaging: it is happy to make Jesus a model and example, but it refuses him the divinity and present power which can help us follow him successfully. He’s not just a standard—he’s a Savior. Your living Savior, today.

So ask him to forgive you. If you have wronged a person and confessing would help them, go to them. Ask the Spirit for the strength to get out of the muck and mud you’re in. If you’re not in the ditch, renew your commitment to the standards we’ve discovered today, lest you drive off the mountain. That’s a slippery slope you don’t want to find.

In 1865, the Secret Service was established; its founding purpose was not to protect the president but to fight currency counterfeiting. Lately it’s been busy in this regard. The new $20 bill was released this past fall, with new color schemes and background art. New $50 and $100 bills will be released next, as the Treasury continues to respond to counterfeiting techniques. But the criminals always have an answer. They “leech” the bills, bleaching out the ink and replacing it with higher currency features. Or they digitally reproduce them.

And so banks still teach their tellers to fight counterfeit bills the way they always have. They give them so much time with the real currency that they can spot a fake the moment they see or touch it.

Let us pray.