Time and FateBy H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
A friend asked about what the Holy Spirit I does in the life of the child of God, and how he does it. He wrote: "Temptations, good and bad, arrive in my mind." He reasons that bad temptations come from Satan and some kind of "direct operation had to take place for the evil suggestion (temptation) to arrive in my mind." He also concluded "if good suggestions (temptations) arrive in my mind, then there would have to be a direct contact from God."
This idea of a direct, unaccountable, incomprehensible influence for right and wrong abounds in society. Many think they have to make themselves sensitive to the leading of the Spirit to know what God would have them do. They suppose there is a master plan for their life and the Holy Spirit gently hints at the direction they should go. They labor under the delusion that by sandpapering their fingerends they can detect the hints and nudges of the Spirit and discover God's plan for them in marriage, profession, education, recreation, and even worship. So, they go through life with antennas extended trying to pick up extrasensory perceptions like electromagnetic waves. God does not tell them plainly what they are to do so they have to guess and suppose. If it turns out well, then they properly detected the urgings of the Spirit, but if it is bad, it is the devil. They never know until success or disaster reveals what kind of fruit they have been eating. If it is peaches, then good; if it is oleander leaves, then death. The barely perceptible, slight indication of the right fork to take is tricky and often misread. People laboring under this misapprehension go through life wringing their hands, in great mental stress, and straining desperately to peer into the future.
One searches the Holy Bible in vain attempting to find where any inspired writer ever gave such advice. It cannot be found in either Testament. No suffering son or daughter of Adam was ever left to such devices or told to pursue such a nebulous course. God does not deal in hazy, misty, vague directions, but in unmistakable and clear counsel. God never responded to any who asked, Lord what will you have me to do? by saying, "Make a guess." Deity does not deal in table thumping, strange unintelligible sounds, and speculation.
God told Adam and Eve in plain language what to do and what not to do. They were not left to surmise the right course. "And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Plain, clear, understandable instructions. No conjecture was needed God spoke and man understood.
God gave Noah explicit instructions. He told Abram what to do. When the patriarch followed his own inclinations, he got into trouble-every time! The law given at Sinai was express and ten of the commandments written in stone. When God led by a cloud with a fieryheart, it was impossible to misinterpret where God wanted the people to go. From Balaam to Malachi, God gave crystal clear directions.
In the New Testament the same procedure is followed. People were told in understandable words precisely what to do and exactly what to avoid. There is no mistaking undisguised, verbal instruction - and that is the kind of communication God gives to man.
The Holy Spirit told Paul to put the proposition in this language: "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Tim 3:1617).
Though you have read these verses a thousand times, I pray you to once more reconsider them word by word and line by line.
"Every scripture" means all writing. Take note that God puts his message to man in writing. We have it in black and white. It is better to get anything in writing, because that is not left to human vagrancies. I want the title to my car, to my house, to my marriage, and to my heavenly home in writing. It is more difficult to misunderstand writing than vocal instruction. If a thing is in writing, I can study it, read it, reread it, and cogitate on it. If it resides in my recollection only, then it is apt to undergo alteration; if it is in the report of another, then it may be affected by human eccentricity. The written word is precise, subject to examination and less likely to change than recollection of mortals, or the undependable impressions of the heart. In other words, emotionalism is not a safe guide; a roadmap is trustworthy. Princess Diana learned that a car driven by a drunk is not safe. To follow unbridled human emotions instead of concise verbal instructions is stupid.
"Inspired of God" qualifies and modifies "every scripture." Not all writing is from God. Much of it is the rambling of human intellect. In the Bible we have a record of what God revealed. You do not need to be reminded that "inspired of God" means "Godbreathed." So, the apostle is not talking about all writing, but about all writing that God authorizes. This would include the writing already done when the Holy Spirit through Paul made this statement, and that which was to be done until the faith was once for all delivered. Jesus told his special men that he would give to them a speaking, teaching Comforter to guide them into the totality of religious truth. His exact words are: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come" (John 16:13). Not his own mind, but the mind of God. He shall speak, giving the message in words, or verbal revelation.
"Is profitable," advantageous, helpful, or serviceable. The tremendous worth of a Godbreathed message cannot be overestimated. It is like the pearl of great price, and the wise will sell all to have it. You cannot spend too much energy, time, effort, and wealth in the pursuit of this invaluable treasure. The priceless jewel is the written Word of God.
"For doctrine" or teaching. Ah! that is where we get instruction. Information comes to us from the revealed Word of a living God. It does not come from supposition, extrasensory perception, thoughts popping up in the head, but from the revealed Word of the Supreme Architect of the entire universe.
"Reproof," that is "conviction of a sinner, punishment, refutation of error." God condemns and encourages. Some think all revelation is affirmation and never denial. Inspired scripture identifies wrong things. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. There is a negative pole to divine revelation. The power of positive preaching does not negate the value of negative teaching.
"Correction" means "straightening up again." It means reformation. This word may cast an eye back over human history and remind us that mortals have ever had an inclination to abandon religious faith. It is a solemn warning. Adam did not remain in the garden. A universal flood purged abounding iniquity. The Hebrews often were recalled to righteousness. The church purchased by the very blood of God's anointed One departed from the faith and the man of sin took control. History shouts the need for improvement and regeneration. There is an unending danger of drifting from safe harbor.
"Instruction in righteousness" is the whole training and education of children, which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs commands and admonitions. It also includes instruction aiming at increasing virtue. Righteousness is doing right according to divine revelation (See Psa. 119:172). In a broad sense, it is the state of him who is as he ought to be, the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God.
"That the man of God may be complete" (fitted, perfect, lacking in nothing) "furnished completely unto every good work." If the man of God is complete and furnished perfectly to every good work, what more is needed?
The Bible is enough. It is sufficient. It is all sufficient. It is alone sufficient. It is absolutely adequate to make us full grown in righteousness before God. There is neither need nor possibility of supraliterary support, strength, and wisdom. We have what we need, and all that we need, in the teaching of God's Holy Word.
God has given to us a revelation, and by that word edifies, directs, instructs, admonishes, corrects, and disciplines his child. God does not teach us and move us into right paths by some inexplicable means, but by intelligible teaching. The idea that good or evil pops randomly and unbidden into the mind is absolutely foreign to the sacred scriptures, and furthermore is contrary to the nature of God, who does not leave us in the dark but gives us light by which to walk (see 1 John 1:7).
Paul told Timothy, "Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth" (2 Tim 2:15). The word translated "give diligence," which is rendered "study" in the King James Version, means: "1) to hasten, to make haste, 2) to exert oneself, to endeavor" (Thayer). It carries the idea of earnest labor, or urgency and hard work. Studying is not an easy thing to do. The apostle expected his protégé to pour over the sacred writings and learn from them.
He also told this evangelist, "Till I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy progress may be manifest unto all. Take heed to thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee" (1 Tim. 4:1316). Timothy was appointed to his evangelistic work by elders' hands. He had a solemn duty to perform admirably in his preaching work. Paul required Timothy to give himself "wholly" to reading, exhortation, preaching. He was to do nothing else, if he gave himself "wholly" to study and teaching. The apostle clearly thought it was vital to make a dedicated and supreme effort to learn the wisdom of God as revealed in the inspired writings. Learning is, for the most part, an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution. "Much study is a weariness of the flesh."
Noble thoughts and good instruction do not fly through the air and lodge mysteriously in the mind. In every case, where the details are recorded, people in the first century were told what to do by words or by the signs and symbols of ideas and never by an unconscious process of assimilation. They were always fully aware that they were being given explicit directions that could be obeyed or disobeyed. They were told what to do but not overwhelmed and had the option of submitting or rebelling.
Evil thoughts, in like manner, do not show up in the mind without rhyme or reason. We have control over our thoughts. We can decide what we will allow in and what we will expel. When a revolting notion comes into the mind, it arises from within us and is the product of past experience, impure desire, or what we have permitted to enter through the windows of the eyes or the portals of the ears. We would not be admonished to "keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life," if we had no control.
Demons are not poking things into our subconscious self without any participation on our part. If an empty, swept, and garnished mind is what an unclean spirit finds, he will take seven spirits more evil than himself and they will take up their abode, and our last state is worse than the first (See Matt. 12:4345). Jesus is saying that when we decide to do better and throw out bad thoughts and purposes we had better occupy our mental space with something good and wholesome, or we will revert to a worse condition, and be like a dog licking up his own vomit. The point is that we have responsibility and therefore power to take up the reins of our mind and prevent the passage of unauthorized impulses. Otherwise how could we be told not to look on a woman to lust after her. "For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:2123). "For as he thinketh within himself, so is he."
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death (James 1:1315).
The Flip Wilson attitude of: "The devil made me do it. He pulled a gun on me," will not work because it is not true. Each one of us must say, I did it and had control over it. No power outside of yourself can produce in you either sin or righteousness. If this were not true, we could not be held accountable and judged both now and in the final day.
We are players and not victims. Unbelievers and liberals take the Omar Khayyam position that an unseen hand moves us like pawns across a checkerboard of nights and days "and one by one back in the closet lays." Believers will faithfully follow God breathed scripture, realizing that each is the "master of his fate, and the captain of his soul." You have the power to rule out wickedness and opt for clean living by deliberately doing the will of the heavenly Father.
In the elder days of Art,
"The stars of heaven are free because in amplitude of liberty their joy is to obey the laws."