How do we as Christians deal with the way in which the world is speaking about us in the public square? What I mean by this is that there is a growing level of bitterness and vitriol that is being expressed by those either in the media, or by those whom the media interview when it comes to the views of those who hold to Biblical morality. Early on we were referred to as intolerant and narrow-minded, but stronger rhetoric and more hated titles are being used as the world is calling us names for our moral stances.
After spending time looking on the internet at a examples of this I suddenly realized that I would not be able to put most of them in this article – they are too filled with profanity for me to do so. Where once we were referred to as bigots and homophobes – now we are being more and more referred to as ISIS, the Talaban, idiots, fools, morons, and a list that is honestly too long to reproduce. What is even more disturbing is that name calling that was once reserved to blogs and “comment” sections is now bleeding over into the mainstream. So how to we respond to these kind of attacks as believers?
Our first response should be to reserve any kind of response until we’ve examined Scripture – and I regret to say – at times our own past. Let me begin with Scripture first. Peter wrote to believers who were going through a fiery ordeal for their faith. Even though things are not great at the moment – and are probably going to get worse – I do not think we are to the point of being in a fiery ordeal yet. Here is what Peter said to those saints who faced difficult times.
1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
We should not be surprised at such things in a world that is turning from God and from what God has done through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself warned that we were going to face what He faced if we were His disciples. We will be reviled for being named with Jesus – and with Biblical morality. Earlier in Peter’s letter he said to the saints that people would malign us because we would not run with them into the same excess of dissipation they ran into in life. What excess was this? Sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries are on that list. Stand for righteousness – and you will be persecuted. That is what Jesus promised in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. So first off, we should not be shocked this is happening.
Second, we should make sure that we are not suffering because we ourselves tout one aspect of righteousness – yet tolerate open sin in other areas of our lives. Translation: If you’ve been or are currently a name-caller when it comes to other people’s sin (by this I am not saying calling sin what God calls it) then you have some repentance that needs to take place first. We are called to love those who hate us – and we are called to love sinners. Engaging in a heart or mindset that insults others is NOT love. Oh how we need to be so careful about this especially in regard to names we use to refer to those who engage in sin. Be truthful, but in every way you can be respectful too.
Third, our response should be to rejoice. Most of us are not expecting that one. I don’t know about you – but at times I would prefer reading some imprecatory psalms instead of rejoicing that I are reviled for the name of Christ. By the way – that means I am sinning and need to repent. When the first disciples were beaten for their faith – and for continuing to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ – they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name. The reproach and insult is not against us – and if we take it personally – it will not go well for us in our hearts (and honestly – it won’t go well for us in how we act or what we say either). The reproach is against Jesus Christ – and we should glory in being put in any association with Him.
Lastly, I would like to remind you that it is in moments like these that we have our greatest possibilities as those who preach the gospel. We have the opportunity to love when we are hated – to bless when we are cursed – to be kind when others are unkind to us. This is the essence of what Jesus did when He gave Himself on the cross. Oh that people would say, “You know, he’s the nicest, most loving, kind bigot I know.” Or someone would say, “For a guy who’s like ISIS, I am amazed that the only weapon he uses against me is kindness.” We are to react with love, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, and compassion – even on those who lack it in their dealings with us. Oh, and one more thing – when they want to know WHY we act this way – we share the gospel and point to the One Who did it best when He was treated the exact same way.
The Utter Uselessness of Spiritual Self Beat-Downs, part 5
Five Questions to Ask to Determine Whether You are in a Spiritual Self Beat-Down
For the last several weeks we’ve been looking at the total worthlessness of engaging in spiritual self beat-downs. This is the last week for this series of articles. In concluding them, I want to give you five things to ask yourself to determine whether or not you are engaging in a spiritual self beat-down or in genuinely constructive fellowship with God.
The first question is this. Is this leading you to confess specific sin to God? One of the hallmarks of a spiritual self beat-down is that specific sin is not being confessed to God. Instead either some sort of spiritual insult of your condition is being rehearsed for your self-non-edification or you are dealing in generalities. An example of this would be God saying you are bad – or that you are a complete failure – or you’re a doofus for doing the things you’ve done. The living God, as He works through the Holy Spirit, convicts of specific offenses. He does not convict in generalities. Therefore, if you are spending your time in generalities or in heaping spiritual insults on yourself, know that this is self working, not the Holy Spirit. If you, on the other hand, are confessing specific sin – saying the same thing God’s Word says about those sins – that is the work of God. Look at the confessions of God’s people in Psalm 51 and in Ezra. As God worked, His people knew the specific ways that they had sinned against God – and were confessing them specifically.
Second question: Is this leading you to turn to God, expecting to be received lovingly by Him? A great example of this is the prodigal son. The father in this story is a type of our heavenly Father. The wayward son had turned to his father already in his heart – admitted to sin within himself – and was on his way to confess his sin to his father. What did he find as he got home? Did he find a father who received him lovingly? Did he find himself shut out and not received? Did he come to his father – only to get the cold shoulder after he confessed his wrongs? What he found was probably pretty shocking. His father was waiting for him – and when he saw him returning, ran to embrace him and greet him. Once he confessed his sin – he didn’t get the cold shoulder. He was lovingly received by his father – who subsequently threw a party celebrating his return. Too often we want to impose on God how we might receive someone else who has hurt our feelings. We hear their confession – but want to make them pay a little more for how they’ve hurt us. That is completely contrary to God’s heart and how He receives repentant sinners. He runs to us and embraces us – already knowing the change in heart that is about to issue forth in a verbal confession of sin. How does He receive us? He does so with rejoicing, with a party to celebrate repentance, and with an embrace that does not require some additional payment commensurate with the annoyance we’ve been in the past. That may be what some humans require – but God responds with grace, forgiveness, and love!
The third question is similar to the second. Is this leading you to experience forgiveness from God? The answer we get from our spiritual self beat-downs is this – eventually. He forgives me – but only after I’ve had a good quiet time. He forgives me – but only after I show that I’m going to be good, by acting right for a few hours, days, weeks, months, etc. What God says is that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. That is what is written in 1 John 1:9 – and God meant it. In the moment we confess our sin – in that moment He has forgiven our sin, no longer counting it against us. He does not hold grudges for our behavior – not even partial ones. His forgiveness and restoration to fellowship are instant! There is no required testing period where we have to behave much better. There is no confession plus penance in doing some religious stuff first. There is just forgiveness – full and complete – the moment we confess sin.
Is this leading you to live in expectancy of God’s blessing? Here is a hard one for most of us. How long after we’ve confessed sin are we in line for God’s blessing? If we see what God says in Scripture – it is immediate. We were out of fellowship due to our sin – but the moment we confess it to God – we are returned to fellowship and the blessing of God. Far too often Christians feel there is a period between getting right and getting back under his blessing. Just as forgiveness is immediate – so is the expectancy of blessing from Him. We cannot make God out to be mad and sullen – refusing to receive and bless us because, even though He has forgiven us – He still is pretty ticked about what we did in the first place. Remember . . . the Father received the prodigal immediately into his blessing – even after all he has done – all he has wasted – and all he did to shame the family name. Boy, you’d think God would make him pay for all this. But the truth of the matter is Christ Jesus paid for ALL OF IT – for ALL PEOPLE! Therefore as we come confessing sin – we are received with all the same astounding grace the prodigal was received.
The last question is this: Is this leading you to enjoy renewed fellowship and intimacy with God? Spiritual self beat-downs do not lead to renewed intimacy or fellowship. They lead to being able to talk – but it is talk where God is distant. He might say something like, “Oh, it’s you – wow, you are actually coming to talk to me?” There are numerous other ways we sadly impose ourselves on God with how we’ve been treated or treat others when we are offended or sinned against. We need to grasp something. God is NOT sarcastic with us! He does not take the “poor pitiful me” stance where He reacts with passive aggressive statements. This is a very sinful and sad representation of Him and His glory. He provided a payment for the full price of your sin. Because of this – and this alone – He hears your confession, forgives your sin, and restores you to full, complete, loving fellowship with Himself. That means that He will once again embrace intimacy and gracious fellowship with you – without you sitting in spiritual time-out for an hour or two after your confession.
What is the hallmark of God’s dealing with us when we’ve sinned? It is this – mercy and grace. First, He does not give us what we truly deserve for our sins. Second, He gives us what He Himself purchased with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – GRACE! You may not want to give yourself grace as you come near Him to confess your sins. Know this though – that is your issue, not His. He hears, forgives, and restores – all by the grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Learn to receive that and humble yourself as His astounding love overwhelms you in its generous graciousness!
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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