Tuesday, 25 November 2014

William Wilberforce 179 book condensed: Sec II : Evil Spirit - Natural State of Man

Section II : Evil Spirit – Natural State of Man

Human nature is only part of our problem. The Bible teaches that as well as our natural depravity there is in addition the Devil who rules in the hearts of the wicked. His rule is so general that the Bible calls him “the prince of this world”. But this very question of the existence of the Devil highlights the difference between the religion of the Bible and the nominal Christianity in our country today. The Bible is plain about the reality of the Devil but Popular Christianity laughs at the idea and says that in our enlightened age it cannot be believed.

People often dismiss the existence of evil spirits on the flimsy excuse that once ghost stories were believed but now we see through them as superstitious tales. But taking that argument we would end up denying the existence of any spiritual beings. As to temptation: we cannot see evil spirits but we do see some human beings who are clearly enemies of God and all that is good who try to get others to join them in perpetrating evil. So why should there not be spiritual beings who are likewise enemies of God and all that is good who try to tempt humans to perpetrate evil? It is inconsistent to admit that humans can tempt other humans to do evil but refuse to admit that spiritual beings can also tempt humans.

If the Bible is true, we face a grim reality: we are attacked from within by our corrupt nature and from without by the Devil's temptations. So how do we face the prospect of the coming Judgement? If we look at the qualities and character of the Judge and the rule he will employ our fears only get bigger.

As to his qualities: He has absolute power and knows everything we have ever done and our every secret thought. Nothing is hidden fro him.

As to his character: “God is a consuming fire” his “eyes are too pure to look on evil”.

As to the rule he will use: “the one who sins is the one who shall die” and “sin pays a wage: death”. If we don't think God means what he says just look at history. Look at what he did to Sodom and Gomorrah, what he ordered Israel to do to the idolatrous Canaanite nations. Look at Tyre, Babylon, Nineveh: God said through his prophets he would wreak judgement on them – and he did! How can people be so silly as to fool themselves that God will somehow let them off because 'it was just human nature'! True – along with the threats the Bible holds out the wonderful promise of forgiveness to those who repent. But the key is when they repent. “But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.” One cannot seriously read the Bible without realising the dreadful judgement that awaits people who refuse to heed God. Even in this world we see hints of God's judgement in the inbuilt 'cause and effect' nature of the world.

But praise be to God! He has not left us without hope in the face of awful judgement. Jesus came “to proclaim good news to the poor … freedom for the prisoners … sight for the blind … to let the oppressed go free.” People who realise their desperate need jump at the freedom Jesus offers them! But in order for people to realise their great need we must talk about human corruption. But no one wants to talk about it because it offends our human pride. So we see today much religion lacking solid foundations where no one is convicted to “flee from the wrath to come” and we do not “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”.

We must shake off this lethargy. A practical realisation of our natural depravity and weakness will help us here. Just as understanding this made us realise our need of God, so reminding ourselves of it will keep us depending on Him. Only obstinate stupidity can say that humans are basically good in the face of all the evidence around us and the voice of scripture. Don't be stupid - be wise.

We need to make this doctrine our habitual feeling. When we see acts of folly and vice we must always remind ourselves that we also share the same human nature which produced these bad things. Like one disease sufferer seeing another's symptoms we should pity the offender and be vigilant against the fault in our own hearts.

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