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God Calls His People to 'Turn from Their Wicked Ways'


The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol attack held its first prime-time hearing last night. The committee showed visceral footage from the attack, focused on former President Trump’s demeanor and actions during the riot, and included testimony from a Capitol police officer who was injured by the rioters.

The composition of the House committee is a significant part of the story. The Wall Street Journal explains that no one offered an opposing view last night because there are no advocates for Mr. Trump on the committee. Here’s why: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named the nine-member committee, including two Republicans who have been critical of Mr. Trump. She barred two Republicans supportive of Mr. Trump from the committee, so Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew his other three selections in response. In the Senate, Republicans blocked an earlier effort to create a bipartisan independent commission.

As a result, the commission’s composition reflects the partisan divisions that have characterized our nation for many years. For example, an NBC News poll conducted last month found that 45 percent of Americans thought Mr. Trump was solely or mainly responsible for the riot, while 55 percent said he was somewhat responsible or not really responsible.

"There are only two restraints on behavior"

Political scientist James Q. Wilson observed: “There are only two restraints on behavior—morality, enforced by individual conscience or social rebuke, and law, enforced by the police and the courts. If society is to maintain a behavioral equilibrium, any decline in the former must be matched by a rise in the latter (or vice versa). If familial and traditional restraints on wrongful behavior are eroded, it becomes necessary to increase the legal restraints.”

For decades, our postmodern culture has assured us that all truth claims are personal and speculative. As D. A. Carson has noted, tolerance used to mean that people had the right to be wrong; today, tolerance means there is no such thing as “wrong.” As a result, “morality, enforced by individual conscience or social rebuke” is minimized or rejected altogether.

Pastor Paul Powell was right: “Without belief, people won’t take a stand for righteousness. They just don’t care enough. ... Belief is the cement of society. It holds the home, the school, the community, and the nation as well as the individual together. Without belief, convictions, and values, they all fall apart.

“The falling apart of society we are experiencing is in reality a crisis in belief. Easy divorce, crime, suicide, alcoholism, youth runaways, abortion, drugs, and the like are all expressions of the emptiness of our lives. We don’t believe anything and so nothing matters.”

In such a society, Wilson alleged, “law, enforced by the police and the courts,” must be increased. However, these “legal restraints” are increasingly under attack for being discriminatory and threatening to “personal authenticity.”

Without either of the “only two restraints on behavior,” is it any surprise that our society cannot “maintain a behavioral equilibrium”?

The pathway to "life and peace"

This week, we’ve been exploring God’s promise to “heal our land” if his people will “humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways” (2 Chronicles 7:14). We’ve discussed the humility that admits we need what only God can do, the intercession that seeks his gracious favor for our people, and the importance of seeking his “face” in personal intimacy with the Almighty.

Today, we’ll consider God’s call for his people to “turn from their wicked ways.” How can we live in such spiritual victory each day?

Paul assured us, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). If we live in submission to the Holy Spirit, we will still encounter these “desires,” but we “will not gratify” them. Conversely, if we do not “walk by the Spirit,” we will inevitably exhibit the “works of the flesh”: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (vv. 19–21).

In contrast with these “works of the flesh,” “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (vv. 22–23). As an apple tree produces apples, so a life submitted to the Spirit produces the “fruit” of the Spirit.

This is why Paul stated, “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). He added: “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (v. 6).

This is why we must be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) so that the Spirit can guide our thoughts, empower us to defeat temptation, and lead us into victorious faith. Then we will “turn from [our] wicked ways,” receive God’s healing for our “land,” and thus experience and advance the spiritual awakening we need so desperately today.

"To find the idea for which I can live and die"

Søren Kierkegaard testified, “The thing is to understand myself: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. That is what I now recognize as the most important thing” (my emphasis). What is this “idea”?

Paul’s answer was clear: he chose to “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). Knowing means to “experience intimately.” The apostle dedicated his life to knowing Christ and making him known and called us to do the same: “Let those of us who are mature think this way” (v. 15).

Will you be “mature” today?

Publication date: June 10, 2022

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Dundanim

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

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