Friday, November 23, 2007

“Why Can’t We Still Ask God to Destroy Our Enemies, Like King David Did?”

Shawn has people in his life that really want to see him fail. They actively talk about him negatively, and literally do what they can to see him lose at life. They even let him know in no uncertain terms, that they hate him! Jesus said that we were to love our enemies, but Shawn also reads in the Psalms, how King David asks God to eliminate his enemies. So what about it? Why can’t we call down some lightening? Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:43

Back when the Israelites were receiving the Levitical law, Moses told folk what to do to those who wrong them:

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:18

We who believe know that God is Love. But we also know that there is a war going on. There has been this war going on in the heavenly realm since before mankind fell in the Garden of Eden. Heavenly things are not confined to time. And we know the ending of this war already. It is recorded in scripture. We needn’t worry, but we who belong to the Kingdom of Light are still expected to fight. There’s been no truce called by either side. And nice as you are, if you are a child of God, you have an enemy.

Since the fall, man has always had struggles. God has not changed from the time of David to now. He is immutable. And that is a good thing for us:

“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”

Malachi 3:6

God has an enemy. Satan’s enmity with God and His children, was announced when Adam and Eve fell. What has changed is that unlike in King David’s time, followers of God now become born again; transformed into new creatures.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-19

David was not born again, and indwelt by God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit "came upon" David, to lead a kingdom of people who were set apart as God's own people: a nation where the world could see the amazing faithfulness and holiness of God. In those days, worshipers of God came from all over, to worship God in Jerusalem. Our battle plan changed when Christ rose victoriously from the dead.

Now since the resurrection of Christ, believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Instead of people coming to a Temple in Jerusalem to meet God, we who believe become mobilized Temples of God, being sent out by the church, "into all the world.” The war is still on, but the battle plan has changed due to Christ’s decided victory on the cross. Our mission now is to bring His message of reconciliation to those yet lost. It is a message of love. And that is hard to convey if we ourselves are not filled with God’s love.

David was not equipped to fight spiritual battles. He was not a "new creation." In Christ we have been so equipped. David’s foes were people who were against the kingdom of God on earth. Earthly battles were fought, and God was sought for strength and protection and to defeat David’s enemies. The smallest nation around, surrounded by enemies, was promised protection by God. Even today’s maps of the Middle East, show her surrounding nations as sworn enemies of Israel. Yet after thousands of years, she stands while her enemies gnash their teeth and raise fists and burn effigies.

David knew that it was God doing battle for Him. This hasn’t changed. In the Psalms, David didn’t boast of how he would defeat his enemies. He cried out to God while being pursued and attacked, for God to do as He had promised him.

“Give us aid against the enemy,
for the help of man is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
And He will trample down our enemies.”

Psalm 60:11,12

God had promised that He would deal with David’s enemies. David was fine in asking God according to God's promise to him. If you want to see God’s promise of protection, it makes wonderful reading. (See: 2 Samuel 7.)

David fought human enemies, but the battle lines have changed. Jesus came and brought about resurrection power for those to be born anew in Christ. God has not changed. He changes men and women into new creatures! The war is still on. But now followers of God are released to fight heavenly foes. No longer headquartered in Jerusalem’s Temple; only armed with truth, Jesus said that now God wants us to worship in Spirit and in truth. (See: John 4:21-24). As new creatures in Christ, we have been changed into spiritual soldiers.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12

Paul wrote to Timothy:

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
1 Timothy 6:12

There is a battle that you entered the moment you confessed your faith in Christ. Paul must have sensed that his time on earth was ending when he later wrote to Timothy:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7

People in Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and so able to fight spiritual battles. Still, we cannot run about boasting as if we are doing anything of our own power. It is still God’s Spirit who enables us to battle. What is there to boast? The victory was decided before we were born!

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38,39

In David’s time, Jerusalem was to be a beacon of God to all nations. Constantly under attack, men like David fought for Jerusalem, crying out to God to take care of their enemies. Since Christ’s victory, the believers’ role and our very nature has been changed. Equipped by His Spirit inside us, we are to “go into all the world.” And in order to show the world His reconciliation, we need to be a forgiving people. God hasn’t changed. God used the nation of Israel to show the world His ways. Jesus came, showing the world God Himself! Now the church is being used by God, to display to all of the beings in the heavenly realms, His amazing wisdom and glory and intentions.

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Ephesians 3:10,11

I guess that kind of makes us as instruments of God's object lessons to the heavenly rulers and authorities. We continue to do battle, keeping this faith, while bringing God’s message to the world. We trust God, that as we fight, and deliver His message to those yet lost, that He is using us also in the heavenly realm, to display His wisdom and purposes to these powerful beings we don’t see with our earthly eyes. To enter the battle today, we must forgive the flesh and blood which tries to oppose, going after their darkness with His love and light. We don't ask God to destroy our enemies, because our mission is to help rescue them from the spiritual darkness that enfolds them.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Ephesians 6: 13-18

Friday, November 2, 2007

“How Can I Shine For Jesus, When I’m Surrounded By Imbeciles?”

Bob lives in a prison, where Christian kindness gets misinterpreted as weakness. How he loves his neighbor can look quite different. This week while Bob tried answering one neighbor’s sincere question about God, 3 or 4 inmates, listening in adjacent cells, would clamp their hands over their ears and start shouting obscenities, specifically to drown Bob out? According to my dictionary, an "imbecile" is “any adult with the mental capacity of a child, who needs constant supervision to perform daily tasks.” So I chose not to edit Bob’s question.

Jesus tells us to let our light shine. Recently I felt like I wasn’t really “shining” for God. I too asked Him, “How can I shine for Jesus here?” Though I can’t say what I would do in Bob’s situation, God opens ways for us to shine His light into the darkness.

Last week three different people asked me to lie for them. One wanted me to lie to my insurance company. Another wanted me to lie to their parole board. And then a young man came to my door, wanting to sell me a newspaper subscription, to a paper that I don’t much appreciate.

When I declined he asked why. I explained that I’d read that paper and didn’t want my children exposed to its obvious agenda. Then he leans closer and says, “Well, how about just ordering the newspaper and then canceling after your first week? That way, I’ll still get credit for the sale.”

He didn’t actually nudge me and wink but the idea was there. I said, “I just wouldn’t do that.” Then as if I didn’t get it, he clarified, “But if you’ll just subscribe, I’ll get points towards my scholarship?” And I said, “I just can’t do that.” He merely shrugged and walked away.

Later, rolling my eyes, I told Ann about these requests for me to be dishonest. Then I felt conviction. For the Christian, conviction means that God is about to do something in us, that we’ve asked Him to do. I didn’t yet know what He was doing, but God was about to show me how to shine for Him, while also correcting a lie that I was perpetrating.

After talking with Ann about my conversation with the newspaper salesman, the verse that invaded my head was:

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
Romans 2:1

Whenever the Lord brings this verse to my attention now, I respond, “Okay Lord, I don’t see how, but I believe You. How am I doing these ‘same things?’ ” I couldn’t see how I was doing what that man at the door was doing. But if I were, God would show me. First I tried thinking about how I might be doing this, but nothing came to mind. I finally stopped trying, and waited for God to speak.

Later, the only examples that He brought up were old ones, which I had long since repented of. I asked why He was only bringing up the old stuff. I wasn’t feeling guilty, but what was the point? Then the very words I had spoken to that young man at my door came back to me. I’d said to him, ”I wouldn’t do that,” and then “I can’t do that.” And that was what God wanted me to see.

Wouldn’t I or couldn’t I lie, or encourage others to do so for me? Obviously from the old examples, I would and could do this. That I don’t do so now is from my not wanting to grieve the Holy Spirit. I know what that’s like, because I’ve done it. And for those of us in Christ, grieving God’s Spirit is painful because He indwells us. Our sinful speech can grieve Him:

“And do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Ephesians 4:29,30

That was my forehead-slap moment. I had not been honest with these men. Truthfully, the only reason I wasn’t helping them lie was because it would grieve the Holy Spirit Who is living in me. It had nothing to do with my being morally superior! Christians don’t stop lying because we are morally higher than others. We stop lying because God in us grieves when we do, and we experience that grief. Saying “I wouldn’t do that,” is misleading (A lie). I should rather have said, “No way. My Lord would not want me doing that.”

Had I said something like that it would have been spiritual seed sown, which God could use. The salesman may still have turned and walked away, disappointed in me. But I wouldn't have left him thinking either: 1. “That guy is better than I am.” Or 2. “That guy must think he is better than I am.” The first statement is certainly not true. The second had better not be true if I’m going to have any kind of a prayer life! And so I repented.

Ann and I once lived in a city where buses were crowded, and pickpockets were many. Bus thieves there could rob you without your ever knowing it! Mashed into these buses, you were pressed on all sides. Usually the only foreigner on the bus, I was presumed to be a rich tourist. Before learning to put my money in my socks, I was getting ripped off left and right!

Bus pickpocketing there was so frequent, that there was a customary response when someone was ripping another off. Sensing the thief upon them, the would-be victim would say quietly, but firmly, “It isn’t necessary to steal.” And that would actually get the thief to stop stealing. It worked amazingly! In time, we foreigners were saying it ourselves.

Then one year someone brought in thousands of gospel tracts that were both beautifully illustrated, and pocket-sized. After having one stolen from me, the light bulb went on, and a new “ministry” was born! We called it, “Victim Evangelism.” We would carry these tracts in our pockets, with notes to the thief, asking them to read this message of love, from God to them, and expressing that we forgave their thieving of us. I’d get on the bus with a tract in every pocket, smile my way through the trip and get off, having been robbed 6 or 7 times; then refill my pockets for the ride home. Glory!!!

Christian literature was illegal to hand out there, but there weren’t any laws about having it stolen from you. Hundreds of tracts went out this way! Bringing Jesus into this once dreaded situation totally changed how we rode buses. Now I was eager to get on the most crowded of buses as we watched the stack of literature deplete. “Rip me off! Make my day!”

When the tracts were all gone we had to go back to the, “It isn’t necessary to steal,” line again. And while that got the thieves out of our pockets, it didn’t satisfy. Where was God in that? So to bring God's presence into light, we started saying to the pickpockets, “God can see you, sir.” That not only got them to stop just as well, but it felt right. If we believe God is omnipresent, then He is here now! Why not point Him out, making the most of every situation?

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

Psalm 139:7,8

Jesus is with us:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

We shine for Jesus, by revealing Him among us. Last week I wasn’t shining for Jesus, when I wasn’t saying that my Lord is why I wasn’t about to lie. If I don’t lie, or cheat, or steal, it is because God is holy, and He has chosen to live inside me. And if He’ll live in me, then there is hope for anybody that I meet each day.

Hopefully next time I decide to be of no help, I’ll say something true that the person asking can take away with them. Like me or not, here’s a seed that can really bless them!

“Now, Lord, please help me to get into the habit of revealing your presence in my every situation.”

I can’t imagine how Bob will manage to bring Jesus into his situation. But knowing Bob, by his next letter, God will have shown Him a way. We are all to shine for Jesus, who is our Light; however dark the world around us.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:14-16