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OVERCOMING EVIL BY BUILDING UPON THE GOOD IN PEOPLE

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
United Methodist - American Baptist
26 APRIL 1998

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
flh@all-creatures.org

 

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES:

Genesis 1:26
Exodus 2:11-15

            3:1-22
            4:1-17
Isaiah 6:8
John 3:16-17

Romans 8:19

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None of us are perfect, but most of us have the ability to make this world a better place.

The fact that I say that most of us have the ability, and not all of us, is because there are people in this world who are evil through and through.

These are people who have no redeeming quality.

But, there are many more people who just seem to go along with these evil people in this world.

They know the difference between good and evil, but they are either too timid or too lazy to do anything about it; thus they go along with the ways of the world.

Inside, they may be upset with the way things are, and they might complain to a few close friends or family members who think as they do, but that is their limit of resistance to evil.

These people may not actually participate in the evil acts, but they do little or nothing to stop them.

And there are others who recognize one type of evil in this world, but counter it with another type of evil.

This is exactly what Moses did while he was still in Egypt, as we are told in Exodus 2:11-15:

11    One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.

Moses knew that what this Egyptian was doing was wrong.

And we have to remember that Moses grew up with Pharaoh's daughter, who was like a mother to him, and he had access to Pharaoh.

So what method does Moses take to overcome the evil before Him?

12    Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

Moses used one act of evil to overcome another, and we know that Moses knew that what he was doing was evil, for he looked around to see if anyone could see him, and then he hid the Egyptian's body in the sand.

13    The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?"

Note that when it comes to a similar situation among the Hebrews, Moses takes a different approach.

This time he tries to use good to overcome evil, but will it work?

14    The man said, "Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses was afraid and thought, "What I did must have become known."

Because Moses, while trying to be righteousness, resorted to evil himself, his act of true righteousness was seen as another evil act, an act of his own pride.

The good in Moses was not seen by his fellow Hebrews; all they could see was that he was the man who murdered the Egyptian.

15    When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.
(NIV)

Thus God let Moses remain in the land of Midian for many years to contemplate his evil act, but God never lost sight of the good that was in Moses' heart.

Then God calls Moses into proper service.

He will work with Moses to build upon the good in his life to overcome the remaining evil within, and also to overcome the evil affliction of his people.

And do you know what was the hardest evil to overcome in Moses' life?

It was his reluctance to do what the Lord wanted him to do.

First The Lord shows Moses a miracle, the burning of the bush that was not consumed by the fire, and that act attracted Moses' attention (Exodus 3:2-3).

Moses even acknowledged that this miracle was from the Lord.

But when the Lord calls him into service, he starts to make excuses.

First he says that he is not worthy (Exodus 3:11), so the Lord lovingly responds that He has chosen him and will be with him all the way, in everything He wants him to do (3:12).

Next Moses tries to say that the people will not listen because they will not know God's name, and The Lord tells him His name, and continues to encourage him (3:13-22).

So, when these tactics fail to dissuade the Lord, Moses uses the excuse that the people won't believe him (4:1), and once again the Lord shows him that they will believe him, for God will grant Moses the power to do some miracles himself (4:2-9).

It is then that Moses begins to express his real fear of speaking before others (4:10).

And again the Lord tries to reassure him that if the Lord calls upon him to be His spokesman, that by the mouth that God created in him, he will be able to speak for God (4:11-12).

But Moses continues to make excuses, and wants the Lord to send someone else (4:13).

And this time the Lord gets angry with Moses, but He still will not give up on him.  The Lord still desires to build upon the good He sees in Moses, so He teams him up with his brother, Aaron (4:14-17).

And we know the rest of the story of how Moses did become  the man of God to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

God overcomes evil by building upon the good in His people, even His reluctant people.

In John 3:16-17, this same message is confirmed again:

16    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

17    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
(NIV)

This passage is not just talking about people; God is referring to the whole world, and that the world will be saved through the people who believe in Jesus.

God is not judging the sins of the world; He is weighing the potential goodness.

Jesus' death is not for the sins of the world; His death is to free the people who will receive Him from their sinful nature, that together with us, Jesus can build upon the goodness within us for the glory of God.

Now, with this in mind, let's look at Romans 8:19:

19    The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
(NIV)

The whole of creation which God loves is suffering from the sins of mankind, but neither creation, as a whole, nor God has given up.

They are awaiting the revealing of the sons and daughters of God, those who have allowed the Lord to rid them of their destructive sins, and build upon the goodness within to save the earth.

Is the saving of people important?

Absolutely!

Is the saving of animals important?

Absolutely!

Is the saving of the earth, the environment, important?

Absolutely!

All these things are important to God, for He loves His entire creation.

God established mankind as the caretaker of his earthly creation (Genesis 1:26), and it is through men and women just like us that God is seeking to once again restore His handiwork, which He lovingly created.

The Lord is ever trying to touch those soft spots within us and make them expand and rise as bread dough, that it would fill the whole of our body.

At the same time He is seeking to remove those hard spots within us, that nothing will hinder the expansion of the goodness.

But it all comes down to our willingness to allow the Lord to do these things in our lives.

And even more, it depends upon our willingness to extend this goodness with others, as one does when sharing a loaf of bread at the dinner table.

We who have allowed the Lord to build upon the goodness within us are these loaves of bread, and we need to share ourselves with others and the world around us.

We need to be as Isaiah, when God called out and asked, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?", and Isaiah answered, "Here am I.  Send me!"

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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