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Entries in Enemy (2)

Monday
Oct022017

The Cry of 'No H8'- I

Luke 6:27-31.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 01, 2017.

There has been a surge of protest movements that have demonstrated with signs saying ‘No H8.’  Of course this stands for ‘No Hate.”  Some of them have been entirely peaceful and represent a sincere desire for what they believe is hate to come to an end.  However other protests have become violent and hateful against those whom they are calling haters.  Which begs the question, “How can you say that you want a world without hate, while hating certain people?”  Typically the answer is something along the line that is a practical solution.  Hating haters is okay because it gets rid of the “bad people” and then we can all go back to being loving.  This kind of self-defeating logic can never lead to Utopia, just as sitting in a circle and singing Kumbaya also fails.  Hatred is one of those things that looks horrible on others, but often feels so right when we are feeling it.  We often feel justified for our hate of another person.  They did this, or that, said this, or that.  This sets us up for centuries of going after the “haters de juor,” like a dog chasing its own tail.

It is important to recognize that hating is something that all humans are capable and frequently do.  If you are truly going to fight hate then you are going to have to start with yourself.  Hatred has a feeling side of it that can be just as passionate for the harm of another person, as love can be passionate for the well being of another.  However, it also has a very, cold, rational side to it, in which a person has a heightened sense of another person’s faults and a perceived judgment and punishment that they deserve.  Often these judgments are overblown and twisted by the emotion or passion of hatred.  Thus, in our quest for Utopia, humans have to deal with this area of hatred because it is a problem that has roots in the hearts of every human being. 

So just how does someone come to hate another person or group?  Yes, it can be learned, but that cannot be the main answer.  To blame parents or a culture is the same as the problem of where evil comes from.  We end up in a series of regressions.  Who taught the first person who ever hated to hate?  If we say the devil, we are still left with the question, who taught him?  Did God teach the devil to hate God and mankind?  This is absurd.  Thus, free agents are quite capable of coming to hate out of their own ability, although it is often exacerbated by the world around them.  We must stop blaming everyone else for why we are so angry.  Yes, they may not be helping and in fact encouraging you to hate, but that is a cop out.  No one makes you hate.  It is something that you are tempted to embrace from within your own heart.

As Christians, we can admire the call for “No H8,” whether it comes from other believers, other religions, or even atheists.  This is something we should all want.  Imagine a world where there was no hate.  God doesn’t want any of us to hate.  Yet, we must be honest with ourselves as to the true sources of hate, which is bound up in the heart of every person on this planet.  It is a human condition.  Only the truth of Jesus can set us free from its seduction.

Jesus commands us to love others

The passage we are looking at today has Jesus telling those who will listen to him to love others.  Elsewhere he call this the 2nd greatest commandment- coming behind loving God with your whole being.  We will find in this passage two aspects.  We are to focus on our own hate, rather than using the hate of another as an excuse.  Also, this command is about actions rather than feelings, more on that later.  Now it is possible to love some people with our human ability.  But we cannot love everybody on our own.  Jesus rejects the idea of only loving those whom you find loveable.  This kind of hypocritical love is a hallmark of all of the world’s cultures and systems.  “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your’s.”  Most people who try to “love everybody” find that there are some people who are just jerks and they cynically give up on love or even on humanity.  But Christians are those who know that what is impossible with us is possible with God.  With the help of the Spirit of God we are able to love everybody.

So what about the situation where we are taught to hate by parents or our culture?  This passage opens up with the phrase, “But, I say to you.”  It is clear that Jesus is contrasting what he is saying with something else.  Luke does not record this.  But Matthew’s account in Matthew 5:43 proceeds this phrase with another sentence.  “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”  In the days of Jesus, the people of Israel were being taught that they were to love their neighbors (as stated in the Law of Moses).  But they were also taught to hate their enemies.  The Law emphasized loving your neighbor, which makes sense.  They are the ones who will help to protect you from enemies.  Self-preservation demands such alliances.   However, not all neighbors are neighborly.  Thus, they end up on our enemy list.  In fact a person can end up on our enemy list because they are not acceptable religiously.  Thus the powerful story of the Good Samaritan is told by Jesus to purposefully mix these ideas of race, religion, enemy, neighbor, hate, and love in a way that shows our hypocrisy.

Jesus stands firmly against those who teach that it is okay to hate, for any reason, even if that person is our enemy (vs. 27).  Jesus gives the statement to love your enemy in a command form.  If you are going to truly be his disciple and learn from him then you are going to have to reject the tendency to hate those who “deserve it,” and love them instead.  This doesn’t just go against the standards of most cultures, it goes against our own personal standards.  Who is on your “enemy list?”  How did they get there, or what did they do?  Sometimes people have done things to us personally that were hurtful.  Other times they are part of a group that has either harmed my group or caused me personal hurt.  Lastly, maybe they have done nothing to me or my group, but you simply have been taught that they are your enemy for reasons that have little connection to you.  What is interesting here is the fact that Jesus uses present tense verbs in verse 27.  Here is a translation that emphasizes the present tense.  “But I am saying to you, be loving your enemies, and be doing good things to those who are hating you.”  Jesus is not talking about being nice to someone who hurt us 20 years ago, i.e. forgiveness.  He is teaching something far more radical and, in fact, far more impossible.  Can we really love people and do good to them even as they are hating us as an enemy, even as they are doing hurtful things against us?  It is wrong to hold grudges over sins of the past.  However, Jesus is speaking about the fresh sins of those who are not asking for our forgiveness.  Hurtful actions stir up noble feelings of injustice.  But, they also stir up ignoble feelings of anger, hate, and rage.  There is a whole spectrum of hateful actions, of which some are passive-aggressive and others are aggressive-aggressive.  Regardless, Jesus calls us back from the brink of the chaos of hate.  Hate compels us to jump off the cliff of restraint and surrender to its powerful forces.  But Jesus calls us to step away from hate and to step towards love.

How do I love my enemy?

This is the impossible ask, that only the Spirit of God can help us to accomplish.  So what does it look like to love one’s enemies?  Jesus starts with the general principle, but then moves to more specific situation.  I said this earlier, but I want to emphasize it again.  Notice that Jesus is not commanding us to have loving feelings towards those enemies who are doing hateful things.  The command is about our actions.  It is natural to hate and not love those who hurt you.  Jesus is not commanding us to feel something.  But, to control those inner feelings and make a choice to obey his command instead.  In fact, when we acknowledge our own hate and anger, but refuse let it control our actions it does something to our heart.  I am not talking about stuffing emotions or ignoring them.  But rather recognizing the dangerous path they are compelling you to follow and choosing a different one.  It doesn’t cause our heart to have warm fuzzies for our enemies.  But it does change our perspective.  Suddenly, we can see the other person and their hate as a person who is in bondage to their own feelings of hate and hurt, aperson who will have to stand before Jesus one day and give account for all the hateful things that they did.  In fact everyone in the world has been hurt in many ways and could be controlled by the hate that comes out of those hurts.  Hateful actions will always hurt.  That cannot be changed and we should never pretend otherwise.  However, we can refuse to be controlled and derailed by that hurt.  We can rise above the beastly level of simply responding to hurts by lashing out, to the spiritual level of hearing the voice of God calling us to a better way, “Love them back.”  In a sense we are making a choice of who we want to be like, Jesus or the devil.  Hurt and hate call us down a path of becoming like the devil, no matter how justified.  But the love of God calls us back to the path of becoming like our Creator, like Jesus.

So let’s go down the list of actions that give us a quid pro quo for the hateful actions that might be done against us.  The general is that we love those who are our enemies and do good to those who are hating us.  Thus the principle is to counteract hate with an action that is connected to the harm done and yet is truly for the good of the other person.  Vs. 28 gets more specific.  What about when someone curses us?  We are to respond with a blessing.  Cursing involves using our words to either verbally abuse someone or even to cast curse or hex upon someone.  If they are using words to try and harm you then respond by using words to bless them.  The second part of this verse uses a word that also has the idea of verbal abuse, such as threats.  Instead of threatening them back we are told to pray for them.  Right away I can hear everyone of our inner hearts saying with dripping cynicism, “O, yeah, that ought to do it.”  Remember, Jesus is not telling us what to do to stop our enemies or to make their hate stop.  The response that he gives us is not to stop them, but the proper response to them.  So what would you pray for your enemy?  Yes, our flesh is tempted to pray for lightning bolts to strike them or the earth to open up and swallow them.  However, this is clearly what Jesus is saying.  Rather, you would pray that God would open their eyes to what they are and where they are headed.  Pray that their soul would be delivered from the hatred that holds them under its control and the judgment that they are rapidly approaching.  In verse 29 we have the famous turn-the-other-cheek statement.  Now this verse is often misunderstood.  Jesus is not talking about self defense when you are physically attacked by another person.  A person can defend themselves, without becoming engulfed in the rage of hate.  Being struck or slapped in the face was considered a great, public insult.  The emphasis here is on refraining from retaliation.  When you are deeply and publically insulted you tend to strike back in kind.  It is easy to be nice to people until they cross the line.  We then feel justified in making them pay.  If you are insulted, then you are not to insult back.  But, rather, you are to prepare yourself to handle further insult.  Thus, a Christian prepares for further insult, rather than plotting assault.

Jesus keeps going.  At the end of verse 29 Jesus refers to a person who takes your cloak, to which we are to be willing to give up our tunic (or under coat) as well.  Though this may appear to our eyes to be about theft, the wording ties it back to debts that we may owe someone, and even lawsuits in which we are required to give up the collateral for our loan.  The point about the cloak and tunic being taken brings a very specific idea to mind.  Only a poor person would put their cloak up for collateral.  But only a hard-hearted person would actually take it.  In fact the Law of Moses restricted the seizing of collateral that was considered basic to a person’s well being.  Thus to seize a person’s cloak and coat would be considered an unreasonable, and heartless act.  It is easy to absolve ourselves of any error when we collateralize something that we cannot afford to lose.  I was desperate.  Yet, Jesus calls his disciples to be willing to give up even our very basic needs to pay off our obligations.  Why would he command this?  Instead of relying on our rights to avoid payment, we are to be willing to lose everything in order to be square with others.  Though it is unreasonable to take a person’s protection from the environment and cast them out on the street, believers know that they have a Father in heaven that cares for them.  In fact, Jesus told us elsewhere not to be anxious in such moments.  He tells us to put God’s kingdom first (i.e. obey what God asks of you) and that God will take care of your basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing).  So this is really about an act of faith just as much as doing something loving to the other person.   We are quick to use the sins of others to absolve ourselves of the obligations we have, and even to sin back against them.  Christians are able to endure the unreasonable, because of the greatness of our God.  Truly, we are never desperate.  We may be desperate in our circumstances, and we may feel that there is no hope.  But, our God has pledged himself to take care of us.  Can you lay your desperations at the throne rather than taking them out on those who make you desperate?  Only God and a confidence in His care can enable you to do it.

Verse 30 starts out with the imposition of people asking you for something.  Christians are called to be giving people, rather than stingy.  As a general rule, we are to help people who ask us for help.  That doesn’t mean they get to set the terms of how you help.  But essentially we should give to those who ask of us.  However, sometimes people borrow or ask for loans that they don’t pay back or never intend to pay back.  In such cases Christians should not hunt them down and try to force payment back.  In fact Jesus gives us a different path.  If someone borrows from you then you need to prepare yourself to never see it again.  Similarly if you lend to someone, you need to do so while never expecting repayment.  I know that this sounds stupid to many.  However, Jesus is not talking about a blind giving that just keeps giving and giving.  Rather, He is speaking to those areas of our heart that do good, as long as it isn’t going to cost us.  When people take advantage of our goodness, we get angry and harden ourselves.   Jesus is not just calling us to loving feelings, but to that hard path of crucifying our flesh that wants to hate, and choosing love, all the while the other person does not.  We should give without expectation.   Frustration is the source of much of the hate in this world.  Jesus says to quit expecting from people and start trusting in God.  This will make you a much better person and a much happier person.

Jesus ends this section by restating what has come to be called The Golden Rule.  Do to others what you would want them to do to you.  He doesn’t give this up front as a plan A.  It is the plan period.  In the face of an enemy that is doing hateful things to us, Christians are called to do back to them what we would want them to do to us.  The Golden Rule is not about winning friends and manipulating people, er… I mean influencing people.  When it doesn’t work, our flesh wants to jump to a different rule and a different plan.  So why in the world would we give goodness to people who don’t deserve it? Basically it is because we don’t want to become a casualty to hate ourselves.  Yes, a person may have made themselves your enemy, but you have an even worse enemy yourself.  The devil wants to use the sin of others to plant the seed of bitterness and hate.  He will use that to destroy your soul at the expense of your eternity.  You are going to lose to one of these enemies.  You can’t win both.  If you sacrifice the long term so that you can feel better in the temporary then you might destroy your earthly enemies.  But, then again you might night.  However, if you surrender the fight against your earthly enemies to God, and pay them back love for hate, then you are guarding your heart against the spiritual enemy.  You sacrifice the temporary in order to gain the eternal.  Do you want a world of No H8?  Then choose to quit hating even the hateful.  Overcome their hate with counteractive actions of love rather than more hate.  You cannot defeat hate with more hate because in the end you will be defeated internally, and eternally.

No H8! audio

Tuesday
Apr232013

The Holy Spirit in Spiritual Warfare

Today we are going to look at how the Holy Spirit is involved in Spiritual Warfare.  We are going to start in Ephesians 6:10-12.  When we look at this passage the work of the Spirit doesn’t readily jump out.  But in truth, He is all over the place in this passage.

Now before we begin let’s keep in mind that spiritual warfare is not some kind of mental video game where we visualize slashing demons from behind every tree.  The truth is found in this passage and understanding just how we fight the enemy.

 

He Helps Us Stand Against The Devil

These two verses emphasize the need for believers to lean upon God’s strength and His armor.  Since it is by the Holy Spirit that we know the Father and the Son, it stands to reason that the main way God’s strength and protection come to us is through His Holy Spirit that lives within us.

Now the reality is this, there are evil spirits in this world.  Now the occult world has tried to minimize this by saying that there are also good spirits that we can tap into and be protected.  However, the only spirit in the Bible we are given the green light to seek and approach is the Holy Spirit.  Thus the idea, that the spirit of long dead Grandpa being summoned to give us wisdom is actually a spiritual trick that the enemy uses to trap people.

Notice, that this passage lets us know that without the help of the Spirit of God we are not going to be a match for these kinds of tricks.  The Bible is an excellent source for studying the methods and schemes of the devil.  He employs many different “cons” on people in order to get them under his control.  However, the Holy Spirit within us-who was also directly involved in the writing of Scripture, can also give us warnings from within us.  This is where we need to truly be in prayer and sensitive to what God may be saying.  Anything short of complete dependence upon God and His wisdom will cause us to be entrapped by these demonic schemes.

Another thing to notice in Spiritual Warfare is that our enemy is not a physical enemy.  We are not fighting against people or nations even when they are treating us as their enemy.  In fact, demonic ideas and beliefs always lie behind those who mistreat us.  We don’t “see” them or sense them.  Rather, we recognize their influence through teachings, beliefs, lies, sinful lifestyles, and attitudes, whether they are religious or secular.  Thus we need the Holy Spirit to help us see how the enemy uses others to try and promote ungodly lies to us and to see through this.  The people themselves may not be even aware of this dynamic.  Thus our problem is not generally with someone who is possessed by a demon, but rather with someone who has been tricked and trapped into an ungodly mentality.  Recognizing this will go a long way to helping us keep from getting angry with people and avoiding the pitfalls the enemy sets for us through them.

He Helps Us Advance Against The Devil

Now the next verses in Ephesians 6:13-18 lay out the “Armor of God.”  Paul uses the armor of a Roman soldier to help us recognize the reality and seriousness of the battle around us.  We need to be spiritually prepared.  It will not come by dreaming about slaying demons.  It comes from listening to God’s Word, doing it, getting knocked down, getting back up, and repeat over and over again.

Though much of this armor seems defensive, many of them also have an offensive aspect as well.  Just as the battle is not physical, so our protection and weaponry are not physical as well.  So let’s look at the list.

The belt of Truth points the believer to live their life based on the Truth of God’s Word, especially the Truth about Jesus.  We should be truthful and receive a love of the Truth that the Holy Spirit is seeking to give us.  In fact in John 16:13 The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Truth.”  Thus, we should have an intimate relationship with the Scriptures and spend time in prayer understanding it. We need to make truthfulness the basis of all our relationships.  This is not only a protection, but it is a weapon that God uses to set us and others free.

Next is the Breastplate of Righteousness.  Foremost we are to understand the need for the righteousness of God.  My righteousness falls short without Jesus.  Within the covering of His righteousness then we can embrace doing the right thing.  In fact part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of righteousness.  How much more can he lead the believer in living out the righteousness of Christ is this world?  As we lean on Him, He will help us to live righteously and treat people as God would have us.

Next is the Gospel of Peace.  Paul ties this in with the feet particularly because in the Old Testament the prophet says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them who bring good news.”  The Gospel of Peace with God through Jesus needs to be the flag of every believer’s life.  Thus our feet are prepared to walk tough roads, whether to distant places or across the street, in order to share the Gospel.  This too is aided by the Holy Spirit as He leads and directs us in this endeavor.  Part of our preparation to share the Gospel is knowing the Word.  2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study to show ourselves as approved workmen.  Yet the other side of it is to recognize that because we have studied and internalized the Word, the Holy Spirit comes along and directs us in what to say.  In fact Jesus promised His disciples in Matthew 10:19-20, “Do not worry about how or what you should speak.  For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”  Wow, what a promise for those who take this spiritual battle seriously.

Paul goes on to mention the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the Sword of the Spirit, Prayer of all kinds and in the Spirit. The Spirit is involved in bringing us to Faith and Salvation.  Also the Sword of the Spirit implies that though we may quote Scripture and share it with others, it really is the Holy Spirit who is using it like a spiritual knife to cut through the layers down to the tender part of their heart.  Prayer becomes important for us and for those that we battle.  In all kinds of prayer and praying in the Spirit we present our needs and also present ourselves for strengthening.  When we live a life filled with these things we combat the enemy in our life and the lives of those around us.  No wonder the enemy spends so much time undermining our faith in God’s Word.

Now I do want to take some time to talk about demon possession because it is a real phenomenon.  Though it seems common place in Scripture we do need to realize that our culture exists upon the foundation of the Christian ethic.  In countries that do not have a biblical foundation demon possession is not rare.  Today anti-spiritualists try to explain everything away as mental illness and of course mental illness does exist.  In fact, Jesus didn’t cast demons out of everyone, some he simply healed.  So, even the Bible recognizes that sometime the problem is merely physical.  However, sometimes a spiritual element exists beyond the physical.  Most likely we will see more and more of this in our country as we continue to cast off Biblical guidance and wisdom.

If you look at the passage in Acts 19:13-17, you will see Paul in the city of Ephesus.  God was doing unusually powerful miracles through Paul there.  Part of that was the deliverance of those who were demon possessed.  It caught the attention of many in Ephesus.  They had tried to deal with the demon possessed people in the past without any effect.  In this passage 7 sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sceva try to copy what Paul was doing.  Thus they go up to a demon possessed person and say, “we exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  The Bible says that the evil spirit responded, “Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?”  Then the man jumped on the 7 guys and proceeded to overpower all of them until they ran from the house naked and wounded.

Here we see that without a true living relationship with Jesus himself, we are not prepared for spiritual battle.  No “magical” phrase will make demons come out of a person.  In fact demons don’t always manifest brutally.  Sometimes they come on sickly sweet.

Jesus told his disciples that some demons are harder to cast out than others.  In fact we need to pray and fast as we approach such serious business.  The demon has invested a lot of work to get control of a person and they will try every trick to remain.  The key is that Jesus has all authority over all spirits, both good and evil.  Thus as long as we are anchored in Jesus and take the situation seriously, we can grow in learning how to combat such unseen enemies.

Final Thoughts

Living for Jesus and sharing the Gospel is God’s plan against the enemy.  This doesn’t need to change because we are closer to the end times.  It is simple and yet serious.  When we have the Holy Spirit in us we become a light in a dark world.  How important it is for us to work with Him to take down any strongholds in our life and to take that light into the lives of those who are bound under ideas and philosophies of demons.

When you speak to the lost, pray for insight in how the enemy has trapped them and how to use the Truth to set them free.  Sometimes we can be saying true things, but they are the point that attacks the lie that they have believed.  Take time in prayer and in asking questions and simply listening so that then you can truly be a warrior for God in this life.