“What things were gain to me, those I have counted loss for Christ…. all things loss…. count them as rubbish….” (Philippians 3:7-8)
Rubbish may not be the best translation of skybala, a word found only this one time in the New Testament. Various scholars make it “refuse, rubbish, leavings, and dung.”
Dung. Get it? Our culture has stronger names for this. (Someone asked Bess Truman about Harry’s use of the word manure. “Can’t you get him to say something instead of ‘manure’?” She said, “You don’t know how long it took me to get him to say ‘manure’!”)
Skybala is manure. Dung. Human refuse. Okay….
I want to ask a question to those who received the constant inflow of emails from the outfit calling itself Ashley Madison (a made-up name, presumably because it sounds so normal and feminine), under the tag line “Life is short. Have an affair.” To those who clicked on that website and signed up for what they were offering, I want to know: Where was your skybala detector?”
Detection of skybala is one of the many works of the Holy Spirit within a person. He exalts Christ, brings to our remembrance what Jesus said, comforts us in our need, intercedes for us with the Father, and–here it comes–He (convicts) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8).
Whatever else that means, and it clearly has multiple applications, it means sending out alerts to the faithful when something is not right, when it is unrighteous, when it is sinful.
You’re listening to a sermon and something does not sound right. You make a note of what the preacher is saying and look it up later. It may turn out he was way off base. Your detector was working well.
You welcome in the religious visitors who knocked at your front door. They seem so nice and they just wanted to talk about the Lord, right? And where is the harm in that? Soon, your detector went off. Something was not right in what they were sharing. They were using the same words we use in church but giving them seriously different meanings. You stood to your feet and said firmly, “I’m sorry. You are not who I thought you were. Good day to you,” as you showed them to the door. (You may have to be insistent.)
You were in a distant city, in a hotel room alone. Late that night while surfing the channels, you come upon a television movie showing pornography. As a human being with the sexual parts intact and in working order, you feel a strange fascination with what you are seeing, a curiosity even. But the skybala detector goes off. Danger! This is not good. This stuff poisons the well from which you will need to drink. It corrupts relationships and will not leave you unaffected. You will never again, for the rest of your life, be able to erase these images from your mind. Do not allow these people to deface the Temple of the Lord. Flee this and do it now!
“Do not quench the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19).
When His Spirit says something is wrong, get up and leave.
As a new Christian, Lawrence Bryant was on fire for the Lord. He was so eager to receive everything the Lord had for him, he accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a “businessman’s luncheon” to talk about Jesus. Everything sounded fine until the end, when the crowd was invited to remain afterwards “if you want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Lawrence was in his early 40s, a successful businessman, and plenty smart. Since his conversion he had made a complete reversal of his worldly ways. The first year of this new life he read nothing but the Bible. He was a zealous witness, a faithful tither, an ardent Bible student. Noting his profound generosity, his wife Helen told her mother, “If we come home and find a moving van backed up to the house, Lawrence has given away the furniture.” And now, in this luncheon meeting he is being invited to go deeper with the Lord. That surely was good, wasn’t it?
However, something happened that sent cold shivers down his spine.
In a private room where the smaller crowd gathered, the leader urged all the men to get on their knees and pray. And what were they to pray? “I want you to say over and over, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus….'” the man said. “Keep saying it until you feel something come over you, like a hypnotic trance.”
Lawrence began praying as he had been instructed. And then he stopped.
“Everything inside me said, ‘No. This is not right. Get up and leave.'” And he did.
His detection apparatus was working fine that day.
Let us pray that skybala detector will always be working and that we will have the wisdom to heed its signal.
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