“But if they (the prophets) had stood in My council, They they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way And from the evil of their deeds.” Jeremiah 23:22
In the Old Testament days, for every prophet that was willing to speak the truth and lay their lives down for the people of God to become clean and set apart for His purposes, there were hundreds seemingly that refused to admit the evil in their own hearts and the evil among the people. They chose the easier path of speaking what the people wanted to hear, which ultimately was out of self love, not love for God or for His sheep.
Jeremiah made it clear in this passage above what true prophets were called to do. Basically they were called to bring about repentance among the people from their sin and the evil in their hearts.
John the Baptist and Jesus followed suit by primarily preaching this timeless message wherever they went: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
So what about we ministers today? Is evil a problem among those we minister to? I recently meditated on this passage in Mark 7, where Jesus spoke to the roots of all the problems we deal with in the church and of course in the world, “….That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:20-23
Jesus twice referred to the problem of evil lodged within the hearts of men in this short passage. He referred to it many times elsewhere as can been seen by tracing the word “evil” through the four gospels.
Well if our job as ministers of the gospel is to help turn those we minister to “back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds”, how do we proceed?
I would suggest first by admitting to the reality of evil in our own hearts. Paul was not sheepish about this when he confessed, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.” Romans 7:21 How wonderfully cleansing it would be to the body of Christ if its leaders were willing to admit this!
John Owen, one of the greatest theologians and godliest men ever to live in the church age, put it this way, “The man that understands the evil of his own heart, how vile it is, is the only useful, fruitful, and solid believing and obedient person. Others are fit only to delude themselves, to disquiet families, churches, and all relations….” P. 29 in “The Nature, Power, Deceit and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers.”
Second, let’s make sure we are crystal clear that at the core of the depraved nature of man is the reality of evil. Note Romans 1:29, 30 in this regard.
Third, back to us ministers, let’s make sure on a daily basis we are not going so fast that we are ignoring little compromises in our character or minimizing the conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding inner motives and attitudes. This by the way will require that we are growing daily in an ongoing revelation of everything God says about evil in the scriptures. Our society has so watered down the reality of evil, and instead relegated it to only the worst among us (e.g. rapists, murderers, etc), that we have become desensitized to its prevalence. How easy it is to compare ourselves to such people (obvious sinners), and then deduct that we are sitting pretty well! The apostle Paul says we are to “…abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9), which leads me to believe he is not so much speaking of what is evil “out there”, as he is what is evil “in here”.
Fourth, let’s keep in mind that ranting and raving about evil is not the solution to the problem. Paul says instead we are not to “…be overcome by evil, but (to) overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 We ministers are an interesting breed. For years we don’t see something (like evil). Then we begin to see it, and we immediately start spouting off about it, when we would be much better off getting more deeply in touch with its reality in our own hearts and then following what our Biblical writers tell us about how to deal with it, first in our own lives and then elsewhere.
Going back to our original text, ““But if they (the prophets) had stood in My council, Then they would have announced My words to My people, And would have turned them back from their evil way And from the evil of their deeds.” Standing in Hiscouncil rather than the council of others (even well known leaders in the church), and announcingHiswords to the people is crucial since He alone knows how to set the captives free. BTW just citing scriptures without the clear leading and anointing of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily “announcing (His) words”. Remember the Pharisees and Satan himself could recite scripture.
Someday I hope to post an extensive study or Biblical theology of evil from Genesis to Revelation, which I made a good start on some time ago, but then had to leave it for other things. I encourage you to do the same if you really want to see it for what it is, and be used by God to see it overcome, not only in your own life, but in the life of every person you have influence over.
Finally I commend you to Him, “who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Galatians 1:4