17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
I like how this sermon explains Paul's warning message in this passage:
When you’re on the golf course and you see a ball that you just hit is lining up to smack someone a couple of hundred yards downrange, you yell out “FORE.”
When you’re working on a construction site, and you see something falling, you may yell, “watch out,” or “duck,” or, you may even yell, “HEADS UP!”
Whatever it is we say or yell, it’s intended to get the attention of those that are in danger of being hurt by something. It’s intended to grab someone’s attention and put them on guard. Paul, in these verses, is telling us, “HEADS UP!” Because we need to keep our wits about us in this world. He’s warning us to keep our eyes open and our minds focused, because
not everyone that comes through the church door is seeking God!
not everyone that comes through the church door is looking to serve God!
not everyone that comes through the church door is humble and meek!
We live in a society that preaches tolerance. This mindset, and the constant persecution that Christianity receives by its lack of tolerance in the eyes of the world, has undoubtably caused divisions between Christians. It becomes easier to accept the ways of society than to take a stand against it. Paul issues the warning that we all need to have our "heads up" to the damage that it can cause when we fail to be strong against what the Word of God teaches.
We are all sinners and a slave to sin. It is our sinfulness and selfishness that keep us separated from God and when we do not repent of our sins we turn from God and our sin will threaten to overtake us. The problem is that usually we do not turn away from God alone and usually our example or our actions drag others along.
Again from this sermon:
Paul points out in these verses the qualities of the natural man. Or, the man that is without God. Now, we can safely assume that if there is someone in the church that is causing divisions and offences contrary to the Word of God, they are following the sin nature and he gives those characteristics that we will see develop or be exhibited in these kinds of people. In modern language these characteristics that Paul gives us are: Laziness, self-serving, vain, two-faced, hypocritical, and quick to condemn, and quick to hurt someone that gets in their way. These types of people are foul-mouthed, and quick to judge others, and they do not delight in following God’s Word, or having God’s Word placed before them in the form of rebuke or correction and we must be on our guard constantly.
We need to make sure that we are not leading others into sin as well as making sure that we are not being lead by others away from God. We need to be aware of our actions and aware of our attitude and aware of the example we set for others. People are watching. Our children, our coworkers, our neighbours, strangers, family, and friends.
It reminds me of a joke I read recently:
We need to remember to "walk the walk" and to keep away from the things that society thinks is acceptable or tolerated. We are called to be different and Paul says we should be "wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil". Wouldn't it be awesome to be so focused on "what Jesus would do" that we wouldn't even consider any other alternative? What would that look like? What would that mean to the people around us?
But what about people who try to sway us from what Jesus would do?
Again from this sermon:
Paul says in the second half of verse 18:
by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
But they don’t stop there…Through their talk, through their actions, they practice deception. What should we do with them? What should be our reaction?
Well, if they’re in the church, we need to take them aside and talk with them and point out just whom they seem to be serving, which is themselves. If they are not in the church or have just arrived and are seeking to divide the people and corrupt the church what do we do?
Mark (identify) them
That’s it. We simply identify them, before everyone.
By staying in the Word we will be able to identify and refute, rebuke and correct those things that may be said or done in error, or for the wrong reason.
By staying close to God and walking in the Spirit, He will enable you and guide you. He will give you the choice that needs to be made. He will give you the discernment in a situation. He will allow you to resist and be wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 16:20-24