You know what? God’s not bad.
Wow. What just happened? Did the atmosphere shift, or what? You’re probably feeling a little weird right now. Like, “What do I do with that? Am I supposed to say, ‘God’s not bad, all the time’? That doesn’t really work, does it? Does it mean He is bad some of the time?”
Okay, let’s resolve this quickly: God is good (“all the time!”)!
I’m glad we cleared that up! But what did happen?
It was an example of negative versus positive. I spoke a negative and it changed the atmosphere, and not for the better. The positive brought it back, and then it did feel much better. I vote for positive!
We all can change the atmosphere because of the Holy Spirit in us, and we are supposed to do so. There’s that song lyric, “When You walk into the room, everything changes.” It’s talking about Jesus, of course, but with Jesus in you it means you too. Bishop Joseph Garlington says your attitude should be, “Hey, I’m walking into the room here, and everything is going to change!”
Why is this important? We all want revival, right? We all want more of the Presence of God, not only for ourselves, but also for the people and world around us. Well, it starts with us. Ephesians 5:14-19 says,
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
In part, the Apostle Paul is saying, “What are you waiting for? Get out there with a positive attitude, and the glory of Christ will shine out from you for the world to see, and that will change the atmosphere like nothing you’ve ever seen!”
When we change the atmosphere for the better—that is, positively—the glory of Christ shines out, which attracts people to Him, which leads to revival, which is life. When we change the atmosphere by negativity, the opposite happens. It leads to death. With Christ in us, we not only have the authority to represent the Presence of God, we also carry it with us!
Even though that Presence is always positive, we can still choose to be negative. The Bible says daily choose life or death. Let’s form positive habits so we don’t have to keep choosing.
First of all, how do we change the atmosphere?
Sometimes the Holy Spirit in us just interacts with the spirits of the people around us and causes a shift. Sometimes it’s by how we behave, the example we display.
But most often it happens by what comes out of our mouths. So, if you want to know how to change the atmosphere, start by looking at both what you say and how you say it.
Jesus anticipated the old Johnny Mercer song, and He accentuated the positive, eliminated the negative and didn’t mess with Mr. In-Between.
Words matter, and Jesus is The Word.
Let’s talk about Negative and Positive for a minute. Near my house there’s a small park with a sandbox, playground equipment and picnic tables. At the entrance there’s a sign that says “Carolina Laurel Park. Closed Dusk to Dawn.” You may say, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, all the information is there, but what if the sign said, “OPEN Dawn to Dusk”?
For me, “Open Dawn to Dusk” is much more uplifting, more inviting, less legalistic, happier even. It’s positive! A small example, but little things like this can add up to a lot.
For a historical example, did you know there is a positive and a negative version of the Golden Rule? Yes, it’s true. Both are based on Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here’s that verse:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
Now that’s a positive statement, direct from God to Moses. However, what the Jews were actually taught in Mosaic Law prior to and during the time of Jesus was very different.
Hillel the Elder (c. 110 BC – 10 AD) was one of the most respected Jewish teachers. He was teaching just prior to Jesus’ ministry time on earth, and there is a story that he was challenged by a gentile who agreed to be converted to Judaism if the Torah could be explained to him while he stood on one foot. Hillel accepted the man’s terms. In his answer he did draw on Leviticus 19:18, but what he said was: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn” (Shabbath folio:31a, Babylonian Talmud).
That sounds good, but now let’s compare that to the version Jesus gave us:
Mosaic Law: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.
Jesus: Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
The Law leaves wiggle room, doesn’t it? You can rationalize mistreating someone by saying, “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily like it, but it might be okay if he did that to me, so it’s okay if I do it to him.”
The Law’s version is negative— “Do not do.” Jesus’ version is positive— “Do!” It has a whole different feel, doesn’t it?
Jesus leaves no room to rationalize behavior that’s contrary to the spirit of the command. “DO to others as you would have them do to you.”
Moses had it right, but by the time Jesus came, the devil had already, as the saying goes, “counterfeited the sound of the Shepherd’s voice.”
Here’s another example. Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The warning is a valuable one, but we could also say, “Where there is vision, the people flourish.” See the difference? Negative vs. positive. Negative words create negative expectations and results. Positive words create vision, inspiration and greatness.
What does it mean practically, “Where there is vision, the people flourish”? It means we need to give people vision!
Jesus modeled this in John 1:43-51, where Nathanael, who had a negative outlook and probably low self-esteem, insults Jesus behind His back, saying “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” But Jesus tells him, “You are an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. You tell it like you see it, and by the way, you’re going to see more great things in your life!” In other words, Jesus compliments Nathanael as a truth-seeker, speaks identity into Nathanael’s life, builds him up and gives him a vision for himself. Nathanael heard that Word and saw the Light, and it shifted his atmosphere! After that, he became a Disciple, and he flourished!
We can all do the same, as in Nathaniel’s case by finding and speaking positively about someone and not going with the popular view. And we need to do so in these days of intensifying spiritual warfare over our country and the world.
We need to know that God always sees us in a positive light. He wants us to develop positive thought and communication patterns that are uplifting to ourselves and others.
Do you have any Nathanaels in your life? Do you know any mighty warriors of God hiding in an olive press like Gideon because they don’t know who they are? Do you know a Margaret who has a great idea for how her work team can succeed but doesn’t believe she has the ability to lead them in it? Encourage them and build them up instead of tearing them down as the world wants to do.
Remember, we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16b) and the freedom that comes with being His friends and heirs to the Kingdom. Let’s use it responsibly and positively. Our words carry weight. We have authority, and because of that, people will tend to believe whatever we say, so we need to be careful how we use our tongues.
Negative is the same as putting out a curse or prophesying a death sentence. Positive gives life, and it moves mountains. Speak the truth and speak Positive. Declare Positive.
Accentuate the positive and speak with the Shepherd’s voice, and in so doing display the fruit of the Spirit— love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—all positive!
You are the light of the world! You’re not just a mirror that reflects God’s glory. No, God’s glory actually shines out from within you. We can’t see the wind, but we can see its effects. Likewise, the Light within you can’t be seen with our eyes—it’s in a spiritual frequency beyond our human senses—but it’s shining out all the time, and the world can see its effects.
Think of yourself as a bright spiritual searchlight that’s always turned on!