Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
Many people who have not chosen God still feel they have chosen to be good. They assume it’s possible to achieve goodness without listening to God, and this clearly implies that they feel they have not chosen evil. This is a plausible view, because only a tiny percentage of atheists and agnostics are pursuing an obviously wicked agenda. Most have good intentions. They want to do right. This profile can also fit many religious people, as we shall see.
The early Quakers made it clear that Jesus meant what he said: “He who is not with me is against me.” [Matt. 12:30] Those who are not for God—who is all good and all goodness—are against Him and against goodness. Not necessarily by intending to do evil, but because of our condition as created beings.
Isaac Penington said, “[T]he will … either stands in the image and power of him that made it or in a contrary image and power. … [T]here is no middle state between [God and the devil], wherein the will stands of itself and is free to both equally, but it is a servant and under the command of one of these powers.”
Lewis Benson also spelled this out: “We can hear and obey the voice of the creator, who speaks in the accents of steadfast love, or we can hear and obey the tempter whose purpose is to destroy us.”
But if it’s true that there is no middle state—that the “middle state” is actually a choice for evil—why do so many who reject God, or merely profess belief in Him, appear good? Lewis Benson also wrote, “The scrupulous observer of the legal [religious] code may be living a life that is far removed from the obedience that God is calling for in his particular life situation.”
That scrupulous observation of the legal code can include many things beyond just obeying the Commandments, all adding to the appearance of good, and sincere intentions:
--being active in one’s church, meeting, or community
--being warm, friendly, and polite to all
--living one’s life with honesty and generosity
--standing up for what one believes in
The problem with this apparent middle state is twofold: 1) it hides from the person their pride and self-superiority that inevitably arise from humanly-initiated efforts to be good 2) it deceives that individual into thinking he or she is on the right side of the line separating good from evil.
But we only cross that line, in the right direction, when we start listening to God; and listen with all our hearts, minds, and souls, holding nothing of ourselves back, and with complete openness to any changes in attitude or behavior He might require. If we travel the other way, we are opposing God—and all true goodness—no matter how this state appears to us and others.
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