A Closer Look at Negative


I have been talking a lot in this blog over the past few months about ‘course correction.’ I realize that much of what the Prophets did was to bring correction to a leadership that was leading people away from God, not toward Him. Their Messages were of correction … not encouragement or inspiration. They were there to make a corrective appeal to the direction they were headed. The Bible does speak to us about negative things, especially when it comes to the areas of correction or rebuke:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

One of the early pioneers in radio broadcasting was J. Vernon McGee. He had a distinct southern dialect but was a Verse-by-Verse commentator who was well respected in Evangelical circles. I found an article he wrote that I would like to share with you today and he called it ‘The Power of Negative Thinking.’

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‘Accentuate the Positive’ was not only a popular song many years ago, but it has been the popular philosophy for America for many years. A prominent preacher in the East has incorporated it into religion with the catchy phrase, ‘the power of positive thinking.’ It has become a fad today and a form of fanaticism with multitudes of people. There are dedicated disciples to this cult that make it a sin to say no to anything. You have to be positive. You are not to use the word no. In fact, the word no has all but disappeared from the English language in the thinking of many people today. Negative is a bad word, and you don’t use it in polite society. The chamber of commerce has adopted the positive approach and developed it. Politicians and automobile dealers are always in a positive frame of mind. Radio and television announcers are splendid examples of the positive cult that is in our midst. In fact, our nation has had difficulty saying no to any nation that wanted to borrow money. Today many parents just don’t say no to a child. They think they must not say no to any of their whims or any of their wishes. Someone asked a modern father the other day, “Do you strike your children?” He said, “Only in self defense.” America today has become the land of the positive and the home of yes men.

We need today men and women who can do some old-fashioned negative thinking like Moses, who turned his back on the pleasures of sin, said no to the throne of Egypt, and walked out to take a stand for God. We need young people today who can say no to temptation, as Joseph said no to Potiphar’s wife. We need to put an emphasis on the negative as well as on the positive.

The Bible is filled, it is true, with positive thinking. It is likewise true that the Bible is filled with negative thinking. We need to be well balanced; we shouldn’t go overboard on either side. You see, God actually began with a negative in the Garden of Eden with man. God wrote in neon lights over that garden the word no.

And the LORD 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. (Genesis 2:16-17)

God put a not over the Garden of Eden, and He asked man to do a little negative thinking.

It was Satan who came along and suggested that man emphasize the positive. He said to him, “I don’t think you ought to put the emphasis on the negative. I think it would be very nice if you did eat of the tree because you would then have the knowledge of good and evil. Then you would become as gods.”

It is interesting to see as you move through the Bible that the Ten Commandments major on the negative. Eight out of the Ten Commandments contain the negative. (Exodus 20:1-17)

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any carved image.

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.

Thou shalt not murder.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not bear false witness.

Thou shalt not covet.

It looks as if God puts the emphasis on the negative in the Ten Commandments.

Then when you come to the first beatitude given in the Bible, which is in the first psalm, you find that it really majors in the negative. There are three negatives in one verse:

Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. (Psalm 1:1)

Other Negative Examples

Then when you come to the Sermon on the Mount, to which the liberals like to run, you will find many dead-end streets that are blocked with the negative. You will find our Lord saying, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law” (Matthew 5:17). Think not is negative thinking. Then He says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Matthew 6:19). Also He said, “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1). Our Lord put the emphasis on the negative. Then as you come to the epistles you find there also an emphasis on the negative. Paul has a little expression that occurs in many of his epistles, and it is “Know ye not?” (e.g., Romans 6:3, 16; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 5:6; 6:19). Paul suggests to believers that they try the negative approach. Also Paul says, “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (Romans 14:22). Then when we come to the marvelous love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13, we find that, although love is the subject of the chapter, there is an emphasis on the negative. It tells us that love “rejoiceth not in iniquity” (1 Corinthians 13:6) and that “love never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:8). That is a good, hearty negative.

Then when you come to the final message which our Lord Jesus Christ gives to the church, the Laodicean church, the lukewarm church that was torn between yes and no, you will see He did not mind giving a negative message. He said, “Thou … knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). You will find all through the Word of God an emphasis on the negative.

Now this does not always mean negation; nor does it mean that you are being contrary. It does not mean that you are being disagreeable if you emphasize the negative. You see, the negative sometimes is the most positive approach you can make. For instance, I see signs which read Do Not Touch in many places of industry, especially around certain materials. That is one of the most positive statements you can find, and the emphasis is upon the negative.

The church has come to the place where it is attempting to take a position that reveals it has no conviction whatsoever. As a result, compromise is the motto of the present-day church.

We do need people who will say no at the proper time, who will say no in a lovely way, who will say no without being controversial, who will say no to that which is wrong, and say yes to that which is right.

In conclusion let me turn to a statement that our Lord gave which I think is the greatest negative statement that has ever been given. It has three negatives in it:

He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)

There are three nots in that verse; you could hardly get more than that in one sentence. We think that a double negative is bad, but in the Greek language the double negative is for emphasis, and the triple negative increases the emphasis. Here it is triple. “He that believeth on him,” that is, on the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God who was lifted up on a cross, the one whom God gave that men might not perish but have everlasting life. “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” But if you do not believe, you are condemned already. You and I are born lost sinners. We are born in a world of sinners. We have a sinful nature. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” Why? “Because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Our Lord put up three great signs at dead-end streets. He says if you believe in Him you are not condemned. On the other hand, He says if you do not believe, you are condemned. And you are condemned because you believe not. You see, that not takes us down the road of leaning on our own understanding.

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Well this is a longer blog than normal, but I thought J. Vernon McGee makes a point that is credible. Our positive nature is only one side of the equation when it comes to living life, yet we cannot dismiss the warning and the instruction of God, which has a tendency to be negative. This may not sell the idea of God on a Sunday morning, but it does make the emphasis on the Whole Counsel of God.

Keeping Life Honest and Truthful … Larry Kutzler

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