Step One: Abstain From All Appearance of Evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
This is a statement we have heard from pulpits, Sunday School classes and Bible Studies. It's a common scripture that most Christians should and do know. However, many of us have never examined it in full context.
What does it mean to Abstain?
Let's start by breaking down the scripture. Notice, it doesn't tell us to refrain from evil. This is a given. It tells us to go deeper than just avoiding sin and the filth of this world and the enemy. It tells us to abstain from the appearance of evil (aka temptation). Abstain means to absolutely refrain from something. So we are to absolutely refrain, not just from evil, but the temptation that leads us to it. That's a lot easier said than done. There's a lot of temptations that walk right in front of us everyday. Temptation lingers on our computers and television screens. It's in just about every place we go. So, in order to abstain from temptation, are we suppose to lock ourselves in a closet? Of course not. So how do we abstain from the temptations of the world while being in the world? The scriptures around our text reveals how to abstain.
The Steps To Abstaining
Note: While the following verses can be used to assist us in the resisting temptation and evil in our lives, they are not limited in this regard. These principles are excellent reminders of what it means to be a fully committed Christian and what it takes to get through life as one.
Rejoice all the time (v. 16). This is a special kind of praise that is expressive and infectious. When you rejoice you are genuinely happy about what God has done in your life. When you focus on God and what He has done, it's hard to get lost in the temptations that surround us.
Pray constantly (v.17). Once again, we aren't telling you to stay in your prayer closet. God doesn't want to isolate from the world and those in Christ (v.11-15). However, we have to consistently have prayer at the forefront of our minds. To pray is to converse with God. It's about being in the presence of God. If we are consistently in the presence of God, He's going to lead us away from temptation when it tries to draw us towards evil.
Give thanks for every thing (v. 18). This is telling us that in every thing we face and experience in life, we are to give thanks to God. That means that when things go bad, instead of letting the temptations of life get in our field of vision, we decide to give thanks to God for what He's going to do through this situation. The same goes for when things are going well. Temptation loves to hit us when we are in a place of comfort and on a high because the crash from the mountain top can often times be more devastating than when we are slogging through the valley. We must make sure to give God His due when we are blessed. To do so puts our focus back on God and that will keep us from those temptations lurking the realm of success.
Quench not the Spirit (v.19). To quench means to extinguish or suppress. We cannot quiet or tamp down the Spirit and its influence in our lives. God gives us so many provisions and protections through His Spirit. To suppress the influence of the Spirit in our lives means we are extinguishing all of those provisions and protections. hen that happens, temptation swarms in and attacks. So, let us not decide to take our destiny in our own hands. Let us not be ashamed of what God is doing in our lives, even when others look at us like we are weird for believing in the Supernatural and its ability to do great things even today.
Don't despise prophecy (v. 20). This is one that many churches have chosen to do for some time. The belief that prophesying is dead in Christianity is a dangerous belief that prevents us as a Body and as individuals form connecting directly to the mind of God. Prophesy is not meant to add to or change the word. Even in the Bible, no prophet changed the doctrines or will of God. They just explained it as God gave them the utterance. We must receive what God has to say to us today. A true word of prophesy will not contradict His Word and it will help us to see more clearly The Almighty and His plan for us. This will keep us from getting distracted by temptation.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (v. 21). This verse goes with what we were saying in the previous point. We must prove all things, not just prophesy. That means, when someone brings us a word, and opportunity or a potential relationship, we must search the scriptures and pray to God before pursuing it. Temptation may be lurking beneath the surface of that offering, and proving it with God's Word and presence will reveal its true nature. This practice will also reveal that which is good in our lives and thus we can do the second part of this command. Don't let go of any good thing God has give us, even when it seems like it is weighing down our pursuits in life. If something from God is weighing us down in where we are going, we need to examine whether that pursuit is worth our time.
From Abstinence To Sanctification
When we do these things, we'll be prepared to abstain from temptation and we'll set ourselves up to be separated unto God (v.23). Once we are in that place, temptation cannot overcome us or defeat us. We'll be able to serve God confidently and peacefully, knowing that the road we travel is illuminated by His plan and purpose for us.
A Chance To Go Further
The last point we want to make about this scripture is that it was delivered to a group of people that were highly valued by God and His servant, Paul. Throughout the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul heaps praise on the Thessalonians for their faith in God and their example to those around them. They were changing their community and the region around them. They were encouraging the leaders of the church and God was pleased with their faithfulness to the cause. This list we gave was not just for them to implement in their own lives. Most likely, they were doing this already. Paul gave the Thessalonians because he trusted that they would spread it to everyone. When we start living these tenants, we will rub off on those around us. We won't just be abstaining from temptation. We'll be helping others do the same. As a result, God and His chosen leaders will start trusting us more and more. How awesome! We get to be at the forefront of the fight for souls and all we have to do is abstain from the appearance of evil.
You may have notice that this headline had Part One tied to it. As this is an important part of this series, we have decided to take our time and do multiple parts. Look for part two tomorrow where we take a look at what happens when the devil comes at you even once you've gotten to sanctification. We look forward to sharing this with you at this time tomorrow.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.