Can Any Good Thing?

Scripture: John 1:43-46
How could Jesus, the Messiah, come out of a wicked city? The Bible says, 'Come and see.' Jesus was an influence for good no matter where He was. Christ showed us we all can overcome evil no matter where we live.
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Nazareth of Galilee was situated in one of the most lovely settings in the country of Palestine. It would seem to be an ideal place for the Son of God to live as a youth and to manifest his sinless, holy life. Yet, history has something else to say about this beautiful town of Nazareth. It was distinguished by its depravity and evil reputation. In fact, the word had gone out to practically the entire world of that day, and Nazareth had become a by-word for sin and iniquity.

This little background helps us to understand what happened as Jesus went forth to call His disciples one by one. We'll read the story now from John 1:43-46: "The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see."

Here Jesus calls Philip to be a disciple, and he rushes away in typical Christian fashion to call his friend Nathanael. I could just imagine how excited and exuberant he was as he found his friend and told him about the Messiah. He said, "We found Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth." And then came that disappointing reply from Nathanael, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" You see, he was acquainted with the reputation of that place. If Philip had come saying that Jesus of Jerusalem had appeared on the scene, that would have been different.

Jerusalem was the capital city of the Jews. That's where the temple services transpired. The beautifully robed priests moved about in the precincts of that gold-domed place of worship. But Jesus of Nazareth? No, that could never be. Can any good thing come out of such a wicked and depraved place as Nazareth? Philip finally had to say just come and see and taste for yourself, you will know and believe as soon as you meet this Christ for yourself.

Friends, I want you to think of this for a moment. Why did Jesus come to the most wicked city in all the world to live as a child and youth? Why did He choose to rub shoulders with the most depraved young people on the face of the earth as He grew up in Nazareth? I believe that this is one of the greatest challenges that could ever face modern young people. I think I know part of the answer to this question. He came to such a place to live His sinless life because He knew there would be other Nazareths in the future. He knew there would be other cities just as wicked in which other young people would have to live and overcome temptations and sin. The Bible, of course, assures us that He was tempted in all points like as we are yet without sin. He did that, dear friend, in order to show us that it is possible for anybody to overcome under any circumstances as long as they put their trust in God.

There can never be another excuse for yielding to temptation as long as we have the experience of Nazareth of Galilee before us. The same victory Christ gained in that town may be imparted to all other youth for the same kind of victory. By the way, Nazareth is not dead today. This old world of ours could be compared to the Nazareth darkness of sin that enveloped that town of long ago. In 1 John 5:19 we are told that the whole world lies in darkness. We have been placed here as Christ was placed in Nazareth of Galilee. My friends, Jesus exercised no special powers that you and I may not exercise through faith in God. We can also live above the sins of the world and above the temptations that confront us if we put our trust in Him.

I know there are many people, and young people especially, who excuse sin on the grounds of heredity or environment. But all those excuses fall through in the light of Nazareth of Galilee. I think about those who have lived in darker-than-night situations. I think of Moses who was brought up in Pharaoh's palace in Egypt. He certainly had many, many things against him as far as environment was concerned. Joseph also had to stand alone against the entrenched wickedness of that heathen situation. Daniel and his companions over in the dark city of Babylon were surrounded by the influences of a heathen court and administration. Yet, they all stood firmly for the truth in spite of their circumstances. No, my friends, environment does not excuse transgression. It doesn't matter to God what the situation is, He has the power to lift us above the temptations of this world.

What is heredity? Some people say, "Well, I just inherited some weak strains of character, and I cannot resist temptation." In fact, some people can resist almost anything but temptation. I had a roommate once at college who felt that way. He could do very well during a week of prayer when special religious services were being conducted. But a week later, he dropped down into the pit of discouragement and defeat. Often he would say, "I don't believe that I have it in me. It doesn't seem possible for me to overcome and be saved."

What about that, friends? Is there an individual in the world who has been born with so much inherited weakness that he really cannot prevail for God? What about the text in Romans 5:20, "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. . . ." Isn't that wonderfully encouraging? God will take a person who is depraved, weak, defeated and make him an overcomer by divine grace. Ancestry, in other words, does not count with God. Environment does not disqualify a person from living a victorious life.

For your encouragement, let me mention the story of Abraham in the Bible. Humanly speaking, what kind of person did Abraham promise to be as he grew up in his heathen home in Ur of the Chaldees? His family were worshippers of idols. Undoubtedly, this young man grew up in a home of heathen influence. Even though they had a knowledge of the true God, they had conformed to the pagan influences of that country. Were it possible for us to look in upon Abraham as a youth, we would have discounted the possibility of his prevailing for God. But, the call came to him as a youth, and he stepped out in faith to follow the call of the great God of heaven. Abraham became the father of the faithful, the head of a loyal line of others who were willing to trust God in spite of circumstances or heredity.

All through the ages God had been looking not for the learned or distinguished but for those who would trust Him and move out in simple faith. I think of Ruth, the Moabitess. She had been born into a tribe of apostates on the eastern side of the river Jordan. Her family was noted for rebellion against God. Her life as a child had been permeated with the godless unconcern of those Moabite people. And yet, when the call of God came to her, she responded gladly, crossed over the Jordan and settled among the people of God. Her faith was fastened at last upon the great God of heaven. And do you know, friends, that the name of Ruth is found today in the Bible as one of the ancestors of our Lord? Ruth became one of the progenitors of the Lord Jesus Himself. Doesn't this testify to the power of God's grace to change the life of anyone under any circumstances?

But now let me mention another name that is almost unbelievable, the name of Rahab, who lived in the little city of Jericho. If we could have seen Rahab as a youth and a woman, we would say, "It's impossible for her to ever be saved." She was abandoned to the immoral life of the streets of Jericho. Yet, when the call of God came to her, she responded immediately. She was removed from that sinful environment of Jericho and became an overcomer for God. And, friends, you will find her name, believe it or not, in the Messianic line of the Bible. She also became one of the ancestors of our Lord Jesus Himself. It's hard to believe, and yet it's true. It proves what God is able to do to help anybody to overcome their inherited or cultivated tendencies of sin.

We could bring this thing down to our own modern time just as well. A few years ago in the large city of Bangalo, India, a barefooted Indian boy came in day after day and sat in the front row. This young Hindu lad possessed practically nothing of earthly goods. He had no shoes, he had only a shirt and one pair of trousers. But he was hungry to hear the gospel of salvation. Night by night, he drank in the truth; and on the first call for surrender, he came forward to be baptized. Because Jacob wanted to be a Christian minister, we helped him through a Christian college in India; and he graduated at the head of his class. He married a lovely Christian girl from Ceylon, and together they went back down to that island field to preach the gospel of Jesus.

Recently Jacob came to this country to get his Master's Degree in Theology. He came to visit me and preached a tremendous sermon at a public meeting. As I listened to his fiery evangelistic address that day and his ringing appeal, I remembered that little barefooted Hindu boy who walked into my tent a few years ago. To see what God's grace had accomplished in the life of that young man was full proof of the power of God's transforming grace.

Some time ago, I met a man by the name of Kata Rongoso who had been brought up in a cannibal home. Kata Rongoso's father had been a flesh-eating cannibal who raided their neighboring tribes to bring back human flesh. If you and I could have looked upon him as a child in that kind of environment, we would have made no allowance for a Christian future. And yet, that young man became a Christian and became an ordained minister and was actually the president of an organized Christian work in the South Sea Islands for many, many years.

Thrilling stories like this could be multiplied in testimony of what God is able to do for the individual who relies entirely upon Christ. Those who put their trust in Him are not to be enslaved by any hereditary or cultivated tendencies. Instead of being held in bondage of the lower nature, they are to rule every appetite and passion. God has not left us to battle with evil in our own finite strength. Whatever may be our inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong, we can overcome through the power that He is ready to impart. What an encouragement this subject ought to be to every one of us today. Surely no one listening today has had greater disadvantages or more discouraging background, degraded environment, than some of those who have been mentioned in this broadcast. It doesn't matter which side of the tracks you were born on, friends, or where you have lived as a child, youth, or adult. There is victory for you now as you put your trust in the One who was able to overcome to the uttermost.

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