Sword of JoshuaSword of JoshuaSword of Joshua


Copyright © Jules Dervaes

November 5, 1983

Here’s a chance to use a vivid imagination. Picture, on this side, a nice big enticing gooey mud puddle and, now, on this side, a small child. To add spice, dress him in clean clothes complete with a brand spanking-new pair of shoes. Now, in your mind, bring them closer and closer, until right up to the very edge. Is there anyone here who does not know, or could not predict, the immediate future of this child? The next step would be the child in the mud puddle, right? Is it any wonder, then, that parents, when perceiving such circumstances, would warn their children of the danger? Realistic parents, knowing better, would not say “Don’t go in the mud puddle,” but, rather, “Don’t go near the mud puddle.”

I would like to talk to you about the mud puddles of life that we, as adults, face and to stir inside you to stay clear of all forms of evil. The best way to show you how they can pop up at any time would be for me to describe one mud puddle that I encountered recently.

These thoughts led me in the wrong direction. See if you can follow along and maybe identify with me, if this has ever happened to you, too:

I have a half hour to waste. TV is usually junky but, maybe, there is something that’s halfway decent. Might as well look and see.

I had seen a few shows of this series many years ago. It was OK then as I recall. At least it should be cleaner than the others made today. It’s got to be better.

I don’t like this particular situation; but, I guess it’s not too bad overall. This one scene shouldn’t make the whole show bad. After all, this is just a comedy, harmless entertainment. I just want to relax and have a good time.

Slight innuendoes. Not explicit. Not really saying anything wrong, so don’t be too picky. Think how much worse it can be.

It’s nothing that I haven’t heard before. Nothing shocking. I’ve gotten used to this stuff. Can’t really expect a perfectly wholesome show nowadays. Be realistic.

I know the children are listening but they don’t catch all. Just laughing at the silly stuff. They don’t pay attention to the small details. They wouldn’t want me to turn it off.

So what if it’s making light of what God thinks is wrong. I’m just watching it. It hasn’t become excessive yet. This is really mild compared to others.

Maybe it will get better. The next scene might be more acceptable, so I’ll just wait-and-see. I’ll watch a little longer and see if it will change.

I’ve watched this much already now. I might as well find out how it ends. Besides, if I get up to turn it off now, I’ll just have to turn it back on in a few minutes.

I felt dirty. I was dirtied because, slowly but surely, I had slipped into a puddle full of mud of offense against the pure and holy way of God. This pattern of reasoning fits everything we do. It can be applied to conversations, music, reading material and even thoughts.

God does not accept in any way, shape, or form any amount of spiritual mud on us. He wants the Church to be without spot or blemish. It comes down to us individually. We must be striving to measure up to the highest standards of cleanliness. How can we do that? It isn’t possible; it isn’t even human to be as clean, pure, and sinless as God.

It goes without saying that we should avoid evil. Obviously, an alcoholic should abstain from a drink. But I Thessalonians 5:22 has God’s warning that we are told to avoid any appearance or form of evil. We are to judge by appearances (if it looks like a mud puddle, don’t go near it). At the first sign of sand and water, then stay clear because there will soon be mud. Don’t toy with any form: large/medium/small. Don’t fool yourself that you can get so close and not be tainted by sudden, unexpected splashes, flirting with lawbreaking.

This, then, is the challenge here for us. God is asking something special of us. Consider the forgiveness granted by God. He has given us a brand new suit of clothes, bright and white. It is our duty to keep them spotless. In order for us to be holy and perfect it is absolutely necessary that we learn to stay as far away as possible from anything that looks, listens, smells, tastes, or feels like sin. In advanced Christian training, whenever we find any appearance of sin, we should be heading–even running–in the opposite direction. It is good and worthwhile at this time of year to reflect and examine where our paths are taking us. Are we going back to the same puddle, after getting dirty, time and again? Are we puddle-jumping from one to another? Are we just managing to tiptoe on the very brink of falling in? Our way will be cluttered with many murky situations, no doubt. Recognize they are all around. So we must be quick to spot them and just as quick to turn from them. It is not a game–there is mortal danger involved. Playing in puddles may seem harmless child’s play, but we adults could lose our lives.

In Arizona people have a saying when parting company. They say “Stay between the ditches.” That phrase had a lot of meaning when you took a drive in the country. All along the desert roads on both sides, running parallel, were deep irrigation ditches. They were wishing you safety as you went on your way by staying on the road and away from the edge of the sand and water.

We are on the road to the Kingdom and, all along the way, there are these deep, dangerous ditches so great that it could wreck your chances. Don’t be caught near the edges; stay as far away as you can, right down the center.

In this Passover season I wish you the safety and security that you can have if spiritually you do everything you can to avoid all the mud puddles of sin. And, so, I leave you with these words of encouragement for your eternal life: “Stay between the ditches.”

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