There is an old expression in my family. It is not unique to us, but growing up I heard this from a grandmother, aunt…I am not sure. The expression goes like this: “The world is going to hell in a handbasket.” I have always remembered that expression.
I use this saying to open Billy Graham’s* comments on the Holy Spirit because preventing the world from destruction is one of the reasons that man has received God’s gift of the Holy Spirit. I hope if Pastor Graham were alive today that he would not be too upset with the use of my familial saying.
But let’s stop and be “real” before you think that I advocate using our saintly lives to combat the evil of the world. We are not in any position to do that. We all know we “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3: 23]. Alone, none of us has what it takes to live in righteousness. We all suffer that nasty sin nature that we inherited from Adam [our ancestor made some pretty disastrous mistakes in the Garden of Eden].
Essentially, we all have this natural tendency to sin.
But Graham says it best: “This sin nature is a root and sin can also be the fruit.”
Note the little word “can”. That little word makes all the difference.
We have choices.
We don’t have to sin, do we? We can go another way.
I found it very significant that many people who attended Graham’s crusades left the crusade shaking their fists in anger at the pastor. What was that about?
In his preaching, God was using him to make them aware of their sin and guess what? The Holy Spirit awakening and saying “you are not right” is not a pleasant experience. Maybe they were being called upon to change their ways and they just did not want to. It is not fun to suddenly be aware of a new label, especially if that new label is “sinner.” Awareness of sin is one major reasons that the Holy Spirit is in the world.
Maybe some of those angry people came to the point in their lives where they realize that Jesus is the way to truth. They see the need for God and to get to God they need to believe in Jesus Christ. When they are at that point, they realize the value of a righteous life. The Holy Spirit is used to teach us about righteousness.
Maybe some of those angry people choose to live as they want. Certainly God told Adam and Eve what not to do and they did it anyway. The Old Testament is full of examples of men who did as they pleased rather than doing what God told them to do.
Actually this opens us up to some pretty bad news. Choosing to go our own way will reap consequences. People who turn their backs on God and refuse the offer of everlasting life won’t receive everlasting life when life comes to an end. [Yes that is pretty bad news, isn’t it].
Rather than spending too much time on bad choices, let’s focus on the person who makes a good choice, accepts the need for Jesus, and begins the long road toward living a more righteous life. What does this have to do with combating that “world is going to hell” situation?
It is pretty awesome.
The Holy Spirit in man is God’s weapon against lawlessness. I know the everyday news is full of violence, perversion, hatred and fearfulness but God is depending on individual people to counteract all this negative news. To confront all this negativity we all have to accept the Apostle Paul’s mission that he accepted on the Damascus Road: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins” [Act 26: 18].
You have heard it before (countless times) but we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Salt was used in the time of Jesus to preserve things. We are to help preserve the law and combat the lawlessness. We are to be the light because light dissipates the darkness of evil.
I love this idea. Maybe I am an optimistic guy but the changing of the world is act by act, done by people just like you and me. Too often we think only the rich can have an impact or the powerful are the only ones who can accomplish a lot. Too often we think only megachurch pastors have the ability to change the world.
No, the ability to change the world resides in you and me.
When the world sees our good works, the world knows our light is shining.
When the world sees our moral choices, based on Christian values, the world sees our saltiness.
We don’t do this alone. It is done through the Holy Spirit working within us. We don’t have the power to do it on our own, but we are not powerless.
God, through the Holy Spirit which resides in us has a simple but profound message to all of us. He is saying this: “Let your light shine” [Matthew 5:16].
*From Graham’s book The Holy Spirit