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Weekly Word

Entries in Division (2)

Friday
Oct132017

The Cry of 'No H8'- II

Galatians 5:19-21; Proverbs 26:24-28; 1 Peter 4:7-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 08, 2017.

Last week we talked about the Christians duty to love their enemies and to reject hatred.  We are called to live our lives by the truth and the love of Jesus.  This is easier said than done when destructive events happen in the life of an individual or a group.  If we were to investigate the roots of those destructive events within the perpetrators, without doubt we would find hatred in all its forms.  Many events are physically destructive: bombings, shootings, kidnappings, etc.  But, hatred may also target a person for political destruction, relational destruction, destroying someone’s business life, or social standing within any group.  These things can be just as devastating in the life of those affected as if someone had tossed a bomb into our life.

Those who suffer at the hands of hate can easily give in to the desire of the heart to hate back and to get even.  Why does Jesus teach that this is wrong, and even further that we must love them?  Well, let’s go under the hood of hatred (so to speak) and walk through some of the biblical reasons why God is dead set against using hatred to accomplish justice.

Hatred is a work of the flesh

In Galatians 5:19-21 we are given a list that is referred to as “the works of the flesh.”  This list is contrasted with the “fruit of the Spirit.”  Hatred is in the first list, which is clearly not exhaustive.  Thus the source of hatred cannot be found in the Spirit of God.  It is found within the sinful nature of us humans.  We are the source.  It is easy to blame everything, but ourselves.  However, God’s Word does not leave that option open to us.

Last week we defined hate as an intense ill-will towards another person or group.  Though this is a motivation of the heart, it always leads to outward actions of some sort, even if it is merely avoidance.  So when a person first embraces the inner advances of hatred, it may seem innocent and justified at the time because we haven’t done anything, yet.  Human courts at this point in time do not hold people accountable for thoughts and feelings.  In fact it would be impossible to do without error at this time.  They are held accountable when the hatred breaks out into an illegal action.  Yet, God has gone on record that he will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16).  So we should not sit comfortably just because we “haven’t done anything.”  God calls us to a higher “righteousness” than not doing certain things.  Like a seed, hatred will not remain static.  It is extremely industrious and your flesh will keep pushing you until the wicked fruit of hatred is brought to maturity.

Now, the problem here cannot be solved with a law.  No law, whether from God, or mankind can get rid of all hatred.  We would have to get rid of all people.   Scientists are working on ways to figure out how to read people’s minds and thoughts.  But even if we were able to identify it with our technology, the truth is that all people at one time or another have thoughts or feelings of hatred.  There is much in our inner life that surface in our heart and yet we mentally reject as acceptable and something we want to embrace.  We would have to have a world where everyone is connected to an Artificial Intelligence that can alert the authorities to an outbreak of hatred within a person.  Such a world would be chaos instantly.  God’s Word does not point us back to the Law as a solution for our salvation.  The Law is helpful for helping us to see that we have problems.  But, it is powerless to help us heal or to give salvation.  At the best we can only cut off those actions of hate that rise above the surface.  However, the roots will grow increasingly large under the surface.  Your flesh wants to hate.  It will be drawn to that direction.  But, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you towards loving people in truth.  So the answer is to repent of our sins and turn to the Spirit of God for direction.  It requires saying, “No!” to our flesh and, “Yes!” to the Spirit of God.  Yet, even this is not the foundation of our salvation.  The foundation of our salvation is the fact that Jesus paid the price for our hatred and other sins at the cross.  Those who repent of their self-justified life and put their faith in Jesus have their guilt removed from them.  They are freed to follow the Holy Spirit and become progressively more like Jesus.  Now let’s look at a couple of proverbs to help us pull apart some of the inner workings of hatred.

Hatred deceives everyone

In Proverbs 26:24-28, we are reminded that hatred is deceptive.  When it happens in our heart, we embrace a life of deceiving others.  Because we fear others knowing what is in our heart and mind, we become deceptive in our life with others.  This can be simply for tactical advantage, or it can be because we know it is wrong and we fear others knowing about it.  Thus we are told that hatred masks itself or disguises itself.  We create a false persona towards those we hate, but it is often impossible to separate this false persona from the people we love.  Pretended love, pretended fellowship, pretended concern for truth, justice, and the good of all, are all deceits that make things worse for all.  Yet, it looks loving on the surface.

In verse 24 we are told that the hater “lays up deceit within himself.”  Hate is a growing thing that we can harbor in our heart.  Every day a person can be making more and more deposits of hateful thoughts and emotions.  You cannot harbor these things without deceiving yourself.  You may at first understand that there is something wrong with hating.  But if we allow it to remain and grow we will become hardened to love and become convinced of the “noble causes of justice” that our hatred drives us to pursue.

We are also told that those who plot the harm of others will eventually be caught in their own plots.  Like Haman in the book of Esther, they will be hung on the gallows that they made for someone else.  I know that there are people who are consumed with hate and seem to get away with it all the time.  They have mastered the art of hatred.  However, it will get them in the end.  Don’t let yourself be fooled.  If you pursue a life of ill-will towards another, no matter how justified, you will find yourself standing before a holy God who will be just as stern with you.  Hatred promised you justice, but didn’t tell you that you would also be hung on your own petard.

Hatred stirs up strife and discord

Another proverb about hate versus love is found in chapter 10, verse 12.  The Apostle Peter quotes part of this proverb in 1 Peter 4:7-8.  So we will look at both. Here is the proverb.  “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”  Proverbs 10:12.  This statement about hate is very straightforward.  It will not leave well enough alone.  It stirs up strife and discord, first within the individual that gives in to it and second among those around us, who are often innocent bystanders.

Why is hatred so discordant?  It is because hatred has the ability to watch people like a hawk, and to watch the situation for any favorable edge to bring about the demise of another.  It seeks any occasion: of fault for accusation, of open ears for gossip, and of imagining the worst motives for others.  It does not remain solely focused on those who initially stirred it up within us.  Like a wounded animal, hate becomes a weapon and way of life that lashes out at anyone who gets too close.  Any person who is willing to listen becomes a sounding board for our inner discourse.  This litany of errors of the other person may have some truths in it, but hate drives us to propagandize such errors into far more than they usually are.  It always consumes us with the worst possible motives of our target.  In this sense hatred truly becomes neurotic.  For every time it is correct in its analysis, there are dozens of errors in our own thinking, and harsh judgments.

In this way hatred is the opposite of a peacemaker.  In the beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  This will not be true for the person who embraces hate.  Instead of being a source of life and hope in a situation, the person of hate makes it worse and cuts off all hope of making peace.  They have become not like Christ, but more like the devil.  Now the passage in 1 Peter 4 only quotes the love side of this proverb.  He reminds believers that love covers a multitude of sins.  This is not the same as covering up sins.  This is not about avoidance, but about forgiveness.  Love forgives and moves on.  But hatred will never forgive and never moves on.  Peter warns believers that the end of all things is at hand, or near.  In other words, he is reminding them to love because the time of judgment is near.  Hatred makes us blind to our own coming judgment.  We can only see the judgment that we desire on the other person or group.  The judgment of God is coming upon this entire world, and we will want to be on the right side of that judgment.  The ends you were pursuing will not justify the means of hatred that you employed when you stand before Jesus.  Only the person who has trusted His way and followed the Spirit of God, who rejected hate and embraced love, who let the words of life flow through them to be a channel of the life of God, will be justified in that day.  Hatred blinds us to just how ugly our own sin is, and how dangerous a position we are in before God.  We become like the man, whom God forgave a gazillion sins, who then goes out to not forgive another who has sinned against us 100 times.  We undercut the mercy of God by our own lack of mercy.  It is only just that a person who has fed on hatred their whole life, be given hatred at the moment of their own judgment.

Peter also mentions the need for serious prayer.  The prayer is called serious in the sense that it is sober.  The restraint is in reference to our flesh and inner life.  God is not interested in prayer as a movement of your lips and the recitation of particular words.  He wants serious, sober prayers that are honestly wrestling with the inner life in response to the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  If you have been injured and hurt, do not embrace hurt.  Rather, through prayer, lay your petition before God.  Through prayer, calm your tumultuous heart so that you can talk with others about what has been done to you.  Through prayer, reject the tendrils of hate that seductively wrap themselves around your heart and let God’s Spirit replace it with His love.  Ask God to help you to guard your own heart and to love as He loved.  Trust completely in the justice that He has promised all who follow Him, rather than the deceptive promise that hatred gives to us.

No H8!-- II audio

Saturday
Jan242015

Fire Upon The Earth

Today we will be looking at Luke 12:49-53.

It has often been the dream of man to have a place where everything was peaceful and people coexisted in perfect harmony.  In the 1970’s there was a famous Coke commercial that had a group of young people singing about such things.  It was a bit cheesy however, with a line about buying the world a Coke.  Regardless, even the politics of the day differ not because we can’t agree that a world in perfect harmony would be good.  Rather they differ due to disagreements about how that can be done, and whether it can be done at all.  This brings us to Jesus.

Today, many see Christ as the perfect picture of world peace.  It is true that he is the Prince of Peace and at his birth the angels proclaimed, “peace on earth and good will toward men.”  Yet, our passage today makes it clear that the message of God to mankind through Jesus was more complex than a simple slogan like, “make love not war!”  In this chapter Jesus has been warning his disciples that he would go away and the condition of their hearts would be tested.  How they respond to these tests will affect how Jesus treats them when he does come back.  It is the misconceptions we have about Jesus and the “Messiah” or Savior, that cause us to miss what Christ is actually doing.

His First Coming Brought Fire Upon The Earth

Jesus starts out with a statement of purpose.  “I have come to bring fire upon the earth.”  If this doesn’t sound very much like Jesus to you then it is probably because you have fallen into a common misconception about him.  It is the view that at the first coming Jesus had come to fix everything wrong with the world.  That is, he would remove all the bad guys and put all the good guys in charge.  Of course the people of Israel were wrong about Jesus removing all the bad guys.  Yet, the misconception only changes.  Now we say that Jesus took out the real enemy (Satan and sin’s guilt).  Thus now we can fix it all and the world is on an ever progressing trek towards Utopia because of what Jesus did.  This passage along with many others stands as a roadblock to such thinking.  The statements of Jesus here stand much of modern Christianity on its head, at least in the West.  We tend to labor under the misguided principle that Understanding and Compromise will unarm every warrior and solve every dispute.  It tends to think that people are basically good and the real problem is miscommunication, or perhaps better, malcommunication.  Jesus lets his disciples know that they are not headed into a peaceful situation, nor would it develop down the road.  In fact Jesus is going to make it much worse, i.e. he is bringing fire upon the earth.

The symbol of fire is connected to judgment in general.  However, more properly think of it as making a distinction.  It always burns up the bad and leaves behind the good.  Thus when the Bible uses the image of purifying metals, it is the fire which breaks down the metal so that the bad impurities can be brought out and removed.  The good metal is then poured into a cast and tempered.  So fire is only bad to that which is impure and bad.  However, it is good to that which is pure and good.  Similarly, Paul uses the image between wood, hay, stubble and metal.  Things that are done for our flesh and the purposes of this world are considered wood, hay and stubble. But the things we do for Christ and his eternal purposes are like precious metals and precious stones.  The fire of Christ’s judgment will distinguish which works are worthless and are burned from those works which are valuable and still remain.  Thus the test of fire reveals Truth and Eternal worth.  So what is this fire that Jesus is going to ignite?  The fire could be connected with the Holy Spirit poured out upon believers.  This is true and the picture is given in Acts 2.  However, the context does not point towards the Holy Spirit.  This fire is going to cause division.  I believe that Jesus is the fire (His works and His Teachings).  It is he himself who is the polarizing fire and in fact he is also an accelerant to the underlying divisions that already existed in the hearts of people.  When the truth of Jesus is taught and the life of Jesus is lived out, it is like fire in the midst of a culture that consumes the bad and purifies the good.  It is easy to accept that there is a God.  But, once Jesus says that this is what God looks like and what His nature is like, you are going to have those who disagree.  When Jesus gives commands to his disciples, you will immediately have people who are going to disagree with such narrow commands.  When Jesus says that the cross is the path to salvation (i.e. Utopia), even now we can feel our flesh shrinking back from such a thing.

It is easy to see the fire that is raging throughout the Middle East due to the promotion and rejection of Jesus.  However, we should recognize the same thing is being played out here in the West and especially here in America.

Notice that Jesus first has to go through a baptism.  He had already been water baptized and Spirit baptized at the same time.  So the imagery here is pointing forward to a baptism of suffering culminating in the cross.  Another image Jesus uses is that of a poisonous cup of suffering.  On the night of his betrayal he asks the Father, “if possible may this cup be taken from me.  Nevertheless Your will be done.”  The cross and the death of Jesus were a critical part of this fire that Jesus was igniting.  After he suffered these things, he is resurrected and spends many weeks explaining to his disciples what he wants them to do.  Like a small fire being kicked, the disciples become many different embers catching flame in dry tinder.  This necessity of the cross in the life of Jesus and his followers becomes a stumbling block that our flesh hates and rejects.  “I will not be a doormat!”  “Forget being crucified!  I am going to do the crucifying!”  These harsh rejections of the way of Christ make the fire all the hotter.  As long as God’s people entertain the delusion that God’s path would not involve suffering, we would continue to resist His plan and stand in the way.  Thus Jesus brings fire that polarizes not just the world, but even his own people Israel.  “Who’s on the Lord’s side?  Come on over here to the Messiah who died.”   It doesn’t sound like a winning proposition does it.  A true follower of Jesus is one who has crucified the objections of their mind, heart and soul and cling to Jesus no matter what suffering comes their way.  Why?  They do so because they are convinced that it truly is the path to salvation and Utopia.  However, much of the world today is not enamored with such a vision.  Why do we need God and such a horrible plan of salvation?  We will build Utopia ourselves!  Whether it is radical Muslims hacking heads off of Westerners, or scientists manipulating DNA in a laboratory, in many different ways mankind is seeking a way of its own making.

In verse 51, Jesus comes back to this.  Rather than peace, he would bring division to the earth.  He goes straight to the one institution that is the most resilient against division and that is the family.  Now don’t get Jesus wrong.  He definitely is the Prince of Peace and God really does desire peace for any who will come to Him to receive it.  But the reality is that many would reject his terms of peace.  The work and teaching of Jesus would bring in a good harvest and yet, it would be hated and ignite a war even among family members.  The point here is not that it is inevitable.  Clearly a whole family can serve Christ and live in peace together.  But if they do, it will not be because of the familial tie.  It will be because they have all embraced Jesus and his peace reigns in their hearts.  Believers have peace with God in that we are no longer His enemies.  We are also given the internal peace of God that passes all understanding.  This gives us the ability to live in peace with each other.

However, no Utopian society would be brought to the world through the First Coming of Jesus.  How we deal with this concept of Utopia is at the heart of who Jesus is.  We have two choices before us: the path of the cross, which is submission to God’s way, or the path chosen at the Fall, which is rebellion and rejection of God’s way.  Essentially it is, “We can do it.”  We will do what we want.

The world has many divisions (race, gender, religion, and politics to name a few).  However, Jesus points to the most basic of all biology.  Even families will split over the reality of who Jesus is and what he calls us to be and do.  Remember, “There is a way that seems right in the eyes of a man, but in the end it leads to death.”  Which way will you choose?  The path that looks like death leads to life and the path that looks like life leads to death.  The fire throughout our land is only going to burn hotter.  Israel’s greatest fire was ignited right before its judgment.  We as a nation are at a crossroads and many are in the valley of decision today.  Make sure you don’t allow misconceptions about who Jesus is cause you to choose the wrong path.

Fire Upon the Earth audio