Hatred

Have you ever hated someone?  Or is there someone you now hate?  To hate is to intensely dislike or have malicious feelings toward someone.  It may be because of what he has done or said to you or perhaps done to someone else.  You may wish that you could pay him back or that something bad would happen to him so that he would get what he “deserves”.

But hatred towards someone else is not what a Christian should have.  1 John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  If you hate your brother, you are a murderer because in your hatred you wish bad things to happen to your brother.  1 John 2:9-11 “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.  He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.  But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”  God is light, and for you to have fellowship with God requires you to also be in the light.  But if you hate your brother you are in darkness and walk in darkness because your hatred has blinded you.  1 John 4:20-21 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

Maybe the person you hate is your enemy and is against you.  There is still no justification to hate your enemy.  Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Your Father in heaven makes His sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  His desire is that good would come to all people.  In this respect, you should be like Him.  He wants you to love your enemies.  Hatred is the opposite of love, so you must remove hatred for others from your life.

If you hate someone, you may want to take vengeance for the evil he has done.  But vengeance belongs only to the Lord.  Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Rather than taking vengeance, you are told to overcome evil with good.

So how do you deal with the hatred that you may have?  I think the biggest step is to forgive him.  Jesus taught in Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Since it is very important for God to forgive your sins, it is vital for you to forgive the person that you hate.  Forgiving means that you no longer feel resentment towards the person.  The person still needs to answer to God for what he has done.  You may still need to be cautious to avoid future harm.  But you don’t hold resentment towards him.  When the resentment is gone, the hatred should also be gone. 

It may be very difficult to forgive another.  I encourage you to separate in your mind the trespass from the person.  The trespass may be very bad, but the person is a precious individual created by God; he needs God’s salvation.  Turn the individual over to God.  Jesus taught us to “bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)  Pray for the individual and pray that God would help you to forgive.

If there is someone you hate, I encourage you to give up your hatred.  You cannot love God as you are commanded to do and at the same time hate your brother.

Wisdom

Each day, you and I make hundreds of decisions – what we say, what we do, what we do in preparation for the future, how we react to problems we experience, how we react to people we interact with, and so forth.  Some decisions are small while others are large.  Some decisions are easy to make while others are difficult.  If we make good decisions, things generally go well with us, but if we make bad decisions, we will suffer the consequences.  We say that one is wise if he makes good decisions based upon a combination of knowledge, experience and intuitive understanding.  We say that one is a fool who consistently makes bad decisions.

King Solomon is known as one of the wisest men that ever lived.  His writings are included in the Bible.  Here are some things he said about wisdom.  Ecclesiastes 1:16 “I communed with my heart, saying, ‘Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.’” Ecclesiastes 2:13-14a “Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness.  The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. ” Proverbs 3:13-18 “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold.  She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.  Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor.  Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.” Proverbs 3:21-24 “My son, let them not depart from your eyes — keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck.  Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble.  When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 4:5-9 “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.  Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you.  Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.  Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her.  She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you.” Proverbs 8:11-12 “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.  ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.’” Proverbs 16:16 “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”  The book of Proverbs contains many wise sayings from Solomon.

God is wise.  His wisdom far exceeds the wisdom of anyone else.  1 Timothy 1:17 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  The commands and principles of God lead us to wise living.  Violation of God’s commands and principles leads to bad consequences and a foolish way of living.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”  Keeping the commands and principles of God is building your life upon a firm foundation so that you can withstand all the troubles and trials of life.  This is true wisdom.  The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-17 “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  I encourage you to read and study the Bible and follow its instruction so that you may be wise.  

James describes the difference between demonic wisdom and Godly wisdom.  James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.  For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

I encourage you to be wise in how you live.  Ephesians 5:15-17 “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  If you desire to be wise, read and study the Bible.  You can also ask God for wisdom.  James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” 

All Things Are Possible With God

Consider the story about Jesus recorded in Matthew 19:16-26 “Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘’You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”  A rich person usually trusts in his riches to save him in the trials of life.  Therefore, it is hard for a rich person to discount his riches and instead trust in God.  But I want you to consider the last statement that Jesus made:  “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The important point is that all things are possible with God.  Many times, in the scripture we have recorded works by God that man thinks are very unlikely if not impossible.  Let us consider a few.  Man says that it is impossible to create something from nothing, but that is what God did when He created the heavens and the earth.  Man says that a 90-year-old woman cannot give birth, but that is what happened to Sarah, Abraham’s wife.  Genesis 18:12-14 “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.’” Notice what the Lord said: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  Man says that it is impossible for animals to talk and carry on a conversation with man, yet Balaam had a donkey that did just that (Numbers 22:23-30).  Man says that it is impossible for the Israelites to walk across the Red Sea on dry ground.  But consider Exodus 14:21-22 “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided.  So, the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”  Man says that it is impossible for the sun and moon to stand still but that is what happened in the time of Joshua.  (Joshua. 10:12-14)  A similar sign was given to King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:8-11 when the shadow of the sun went backward ten degrees.  Scientists tell us that the earth is spinning rapidly on its axis and for it to suddenly stop or go backwards would cause everything on the surface to fly forwards because of the momentum they have.  And yet, God performed these impossible feats.  Then, of course, there are the miracles of Jesus.  He turned water into wine, instantly healed those who were sick, fed great multitudes from a small amount of bread and fish, and even raised Lazarus back to life after he had been dead for four days.  Jesus also was raised from the dead after being crucified.  God has demonstrated that nothing is impossible for Him to do.

The early life of Moses was that he was brought up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  When he was grown, he defended a fellow Israelite and killed an Egyptian.  He fled to the land of Midian and became a shepherd.  Many years later, the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to deliver the Israelites.  But Moses had many excuses why he should not go.  He said that he had no position that Pharaoh would listen to him.  He said that his fellow Israelites wouldn’t believe that the Lord had sent him.  He said that he was not eloquent, but he was slow of speech and slow of tongue.  He wanted God to send someone else.  Exodus 4:11-12 “So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?  Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’”  As you continue reading, you discover that God worked through Moses in a mighty way to deliver the Israelites from Egypt.  You also might say “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do that”.  You might say “It is impossible for me to live in this relationship.”  Or, “I can’t talk to them about Jesus.” Or, “I can’t resist that temptation.”  Or, “I can’t forgive him.”  Like Moses, you and I have many excuses for why we can’t do something.  But the truth is that through God’s strength, we can accomplish much.

What impossible situation are you facing?  With God, all things are possible.  Ask for His wisdom, His direction, His strength, and His power.  The Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

So That You May Not Sin

I wish I could say that I never sin, but that would not be true.  The apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Sin is literally a “missing of the mark.”  If the mark is what pleases God, sin would be what displeases God.  Examples of sin might be lying, hatred, adultery, lust, and laziness.  The apostle John said that all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17).  To me, sin falls into several categories.  There is the sin of commission where you violate a command of God.  There is the sin of omission where you know to do good but don’t do it – James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  Then, whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23); in other words, if you question if something is wrong and you do it anyway, it is sin for you.  There are many ways you can sin and displease God.

The apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:1a “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.”  My encouragement to you is similar to John’s; I write to you so that you may not sin.  But then John continues in the second half of this first verse:  “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  An advocate is one who pleads our case for us.  Our Advocate is Jesus Christ the righteous.  He pleads our case before the Father in heaven.  Jesus Christ is our High Priest.  Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  How wonderful that we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses and can plead our case before the Father!

The apostle John continues writing about Jesus Christ in 1 John 2:2 “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”  A propitiation is an atoning sacrifice.  He is the means by which our sins are forgiven.  Jesus took our place and received the punishment that we deserved.  Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”  Jesus took your sins upon Himself.  Not only did He take your sins and mine, but He took the sins of the whole world.

What love God has for us that He sent Jesus to die for us!  Romans 5:6-8 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This demonstrates the wonderful grace of God.  This grace should teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; in other words, it should convince us to stop sinning.  Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”  When we fully appreciate what God has done for us, we should love Him and want to do what He asks us to do in this life.  1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Do you know Jesus? Are you truly a Christian?  John continues in 1 John 2:3-4 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  If you say that you know Him and claim to be a Christian but you do not keep His commandments, if you continue to be a sinner, if you continue to practice sin, then you are a liar.  I understand that this is not talking about you and I who, through weakness, say and do the wrong thing but soon thereafter are sorry for what we have done and we confess to God our sin.  I understand that this is talking about the one who does not keep Jesus’ commandments and practices sin.  Such a one is a liar if he says he is a Christian.

John continues in 1 John 2:5 “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”  If you keep His word, His commandments, then your love for God is demonstrated in your life.  When you keep His word, then you know that you are in Christ – that you are a true Christian.  John concludes by saying in 1 John 2:6 “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”  If you say that you are a Christian, you ought to follow the example of Jesus and seek to live as He lived.  The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us what Jesus taught and how He lived, so we can study them and follow His example.

My encouragement to you is that you may not sin.  But if you do, you have Jesus pleading for you before the Father.  He is the atoning sacrifice in that He bore your sins upon the Cross.  Because of God’s grace, demonstrate your love for Him by keeping His commandments.

Joy and Patience in Trials

I have trials and everyone I know has trials.  So I’m pretty confident that you have trials too.  Here is what James wrote about trials.  James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James tells you to count it all joy when you fall into various trials.  How can you have joy when you have trials?  I think there are two ways that you can have joy.  First, you can have joy in the sense of being cheerful instead of complaining.  When they experience a trial, most people want to tell everyone how bad they have it.  It seems that they want you to feel their pain or at least be sympathetic to them by listening to them complain.  But a Christian should not be a complainer.  Philippians 2:14-15 “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”  You will be a light in the world if you have joy (cheerfulness) when you experience trials.  God knows what your trials and needs are without you telling Him (Matthew 6:8).  A Christian trusts in God and appreciates that He is in control.

The second way you can have joy is to be happy in the knowledge that your trials will make you into a better person.  I believe that God works in your life to make you what He wants you to be.  Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  If you let God, He will use trials to perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.  1 Peter 5:10 “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

Trials test your faith in God.  God has allowed your trials to come into your life, but He can deliver you.  Do you trust Him?   The apostle Paul had experienced severe trials.  2 Corinthians 1:8-11 “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.  Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.”  Trials should cause you to trust more in God to give you the wisdom on how to deal with your trials as you seek His deliverance.

James says that trials produce patience.  Of course, you could be impatient.  You could blame others, get angry, seek some way of taking vengeance, or you could give up and quit.  But the proper response to trials is patience.  It is acceptable to seek wisdom in dealing with your trials and to seek solutions for them.  But patience means that you endure your trials calmly and without complaint.  It is commendable before God to suffer patiently when the trial is not your fault.  1 Peter 2:20 “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.”  Patience in your trials is what God wants.

James continues by saying “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  I understand this to say that when you endure your trials calmly and without complaint, and you remain faithful and let God do His work in you, you will become the mature, complete Christian that God wants you to be.

James has more to say about patience in James 5:7-11 “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.  Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.  Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord — that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”  Patience is not a one-time thing for just one trial.  You need to be patience in all of your trials and let patience become a way of life.  Then patience becomes endurance and perseverance.  The Old Testament has many examples of suffering and patience.  We have the examples of the prophets of the Lord.  Perhaps the greatest example we have is the man Job that we read about in the book of Job.  After he had suffered and persevered, God greatly blessed Job.  In the same way, God will be compassionate and merciful to you when you have joy, patience, and perseverance in your trials.

My encouragement to you is given in the words of James.  James 1:2-3 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

Offenses

Have you ever stumbled and fallen?  Most likely you have.  When I was a child and in a hurry, I would sometimes stub my toe against a rock or the root of a tree and fall on my face.  When we are old, it is a serious concern that we will stumble over something in our path and fall and break an arm or a hip.  Stumbling can lead to falling and can be very serious.  Stumbling and falling in a spiritual sense can also be very serious.  We can cause someone else to fall by our words and actions.  The word is offense.  Jesus said in Matthew 18:7 “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!”  Sometimes we may misuse the word offense.  We might say “That offends me”, meaning that we don’t like what someone says or does.  But their action is likely not going to make us stumble and fall.  The biblical meaning of the word offense is to cause to stumble, to sin and to fall.  You can then see how serious it is to offend another Christian.  Jesus was speaking of little children when He said in Matthew 18:6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

There are several ways that you might offend another Christian and cause him to sin and fall.  One way is to encourage someone to participate in your sin.  Maybe you encourage him to lie about where you have been or what you have done.  Or maybe you ask him to participate in stealing and taking what is not his from a neighbor or a business.  Or maybe you tell him it is OK to break the law since it isn’t a good law and nobody will find out.  Or maybe you commit fornication or adultery with him or her and sin.  There are lots of ways that you can encourage another to sin.  God knows what you are doing.  Perhaps this is what is referred to in Romans 16:17-18 “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”  Your heart is not right if you persuade another person to sin.

You may remember the story of Balaam (Numbers chapters 22-24).  When the Israelites came out of Egypt, Balak, the king of the Moabites, saw the great multitude of the Israelites and he was very much afraid.  He sent for the prophet Balaam to come and curse the Israelites, but the Lord did not permit Balaam to do so.  When Balak sent to Balaam the second time and Balaam inquired of the Lord, the Lord said to go on, but the Lord was angry that he went.  The Lord sent his angel to kill Balaam but twice the donkey Balaam was riding avoided the angel.  When the donkey saw the angel the third time, he lay down under Balaam.  When Balaam beat the donkey, the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey so that it spoke to Balaam and the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam so that he saw the angel.  Balaam proceeded on to king Balak but multiple times he blessed the Israelites and did not curse them.  Finally, Balaam returned home.  You would think that was the end of the story, but it was not.  The story continues in Numbers 25:1-3 “Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods.  So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.”  Why did the Moabites have their women commit harlotry with the Israelites and invite the Israelites to participate in the worship of their gods?  We are told in the writing to the church in Pergamos in Revelation 2:14 “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.”  Balaam taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the Israelites.  Apparently the church in Pergamos had individuals that did a similar thing as Balaam did by putting a stumbling block before the children of God.  Beware of such individuals.

You may somewhat innocently offend your brother by doing something that you think is OK but is contrary to the conscience of your brother.  Since they see you do the thing, they are emboldened to follow your example.  The case given in the Bible is eating food sacrificed to an idol.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.  For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?  And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?  But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”  Your situation will be different.  There may be something you think is OK to do but your brother sees it differently.  The apostle Paul said that if meat caused his brother to stumble, he would never eat meat.  You can avoid offending your brother by restricting your actions because you love your brother and you do not want him to stumble.

Causing someone to stumble and fall is very serious.  My encouragement to you is to avoid people who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Christ.  Also be careful that your actions do not offend others. 

Darkness And Light

It seems that many evil deeds are done at nighttime when it is dark.  This is likely true because people doing evil deeds do not want to be seen.  1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.  But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”  John 3:19-21 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Evilness has come to be known as darkness while goodness, righteousness and truth are known as light.  Ephesians 5:8-14 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.  Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’”

God’s truth is our light.  Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalms 119:130 “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.  For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus came to be the light of the world.  John 12:44-46 “Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me.  And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.  I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” John 8:12 “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’” John 12:35-36 “Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.”  Jesus came to the world to be our light so that we can become sons of light.

God dwells in unapproachable light.  1 Timothy 6:15b-16 “He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.”  The Bible tells us that God is light.  1 John 1:5-7 “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  God is the source of wisdom, knowledge, holiness, and truth.  In him is no darkness at all – no ignorance, no imperfection, no sinfulness, no falseness.  We can never come close to being perfect light as God is light.  But through His grace we can have fellowship with Him.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him but we walk in darkness (living our lives in sin and evilness) we lie and do not practice the truth.  This is not to say that we never sin, because we do.  1 John 1:8-9 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  But if we walk in darkness (continually practicing the deeds of darkness) we do not have fellowship with God.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light (bearing the fruit of the Spirit of goodness, righteousness, and truth) we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

God has chosen us to walk in light.  1 Peter 2:9-10 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”  Romans 13:12-14 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  My encouragement to you is to cast off the works of darkness and walk in the light.

No Change

When we look around us, we see change in many things.  We see change in the environment and the weather with global warming.  We see change in technology with computers and cell phones being very common and very powerful.  We see changes in our governments and in those that are in power.  We see change in the popular fashions and the clothes that people wear.  And we see change in people as they grow older.  There are many other things where we observe change.

Many people resist change.  They want everything to stay the same.  Often they are afraid of change because they are comfortable with the old and they are unfamiliar with the new.  Why can’t things stay the same?  But sometimes change is good.  As Christians, we must change from our old sinful life so that we live in ways that please God.  Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”   Here the apostle beseeches or pleads with us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We must change the way we think which in turn will change our actions.

However, we can take comfort that God does not change.  Revelation 1:8 “’I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”  Psalms 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”  Psalms 102:24-27 “I said, ‘O my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days; Your years are throughout all generations.  Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed.  But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.”  God has always been and will always be.  The earth and the heavens will grow old and God will change them.  But God Himself will not change.

The nature of God doesn’t change.  He is and always will be holy.  Revelation 4:8 “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:  “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, was and is and is to come!” Psalms 86:15 “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.”  God is and always will be full of compassion, gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.  God is love.  1 John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”  God is also a God of judgement and He takes vengeance.   Hebrews 10:30-31 “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  James 1:16-17 “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  There is no variation or shadow of turning in God the Father.  We can take comfort in the fact that He does not change.  He has revealed to us His nature and we can depend upon that nature always being the same.  He has also revealed His plans and His promises and His promises are sure.  Hebrews 6:17-18 “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,  that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

Jesus Christ also does not change.  In speaking to the Jews, Jesus stated in John 8:56-58 “’Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’  Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’  Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”   Jesus, the Word, is described in John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  His becoming a man did not change His nature.  Hebrews 13:8-9a “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.”

Do not follow various or strange doctrines.  Since God and Jesus are unchanging in nature, their teachings and their doctrines also do not change.  That which is revealed to us in the Bible has been and will always be true.  We do not need a new revelation or new prophesies or a new gospel.  Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,  which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

Praise God and Jesus Christ that they are the same and will always be the same.  You can depend upon their nature and their promises.  I encourage you to not follow new and strange doctrines but hold on to that which has been revealed to us in Scripture.

The Matthew 18 Principle

What if your brother in Christ sins against you?  Maybe he says something unloving.  Maybe he says something about you that isn’t true.  Maybe he destroys your property.  Maybe he physically assaults you.  Maybe he cheats you.  The possible list could go on and on.  This shouldn’t happened, but sometimes it does happen.

You could take your brother to the civil authorities and charge him with an offense.  Apparently that is what the brethren in Corinth had done.  The apostle Paul was critical of the brethren there for their actions.  1 Corinthians 6:7 “Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?”  Going to the civil authorities is the wrong approach.  Paul says that it would be better to accept the wrong or let yourself be cheated.  Jesus taught in Luke 6:29 “To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.”  Therefore, one way you can deal with the situation is to accept the offense and don’t fight back.  At times, this may be the best way to deal with the brother who sins against you.

Since it is your brother in Christ who sins against you, there is a possible problem with just accepting the offense.  It is possible that your brother in Christ is on a path of sin that could lead to spiritual death.  James wrote in James 1:15 “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Since you love your brother, you want your brother to have life so you don’t want your brother to keep sinning.

Jesus gave the pattern for dealing with a brother who sins against you.  Matthew 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’   And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

The first step is to go to your brother and tell him his fault privately.  This may be a difficult step for some to take, especially if you perceive that your brother is not easily approachable or doesn’t listen to you with an open mind.  It would be easier to complain to the elders or to your spouse or to some other sympathetic ear or to gossip about your brother rather than confront your brother.  But slandering or gossiping about your brother is the wrong approach.  It is necessary to go to your brother privately.  Maybe there is a misunderstanding and your brother really didn’t sin against you.  By going to your brother privately, you can come to the correct understanding.  Or maybe your brother is ignorant of what he has done and once he sees what he has done he will quickly correct the matter.  It is also possible that you will convince your brother of the sin he has committed and convince him that he needs to correct the matter.  If so, you have gained your brother.

It is also possible that your brother will not hear you and correct the matter.  Then you must proceed to step two which is to take with you one or two more and go to your brother so that they will serve as witnesses in what was said between you and your brother.  These one or two additional individuals might see that you were mistaken and you are the one who needs to make things right.  Or, if you are right, they may be able to convince your brother that he is wrong and really needs to correct the matter.  This second step should be powerful in correcting most problems.

It is also possible that your brother will not hear you or the witnesses that you have taken with you.  Then you must proceed to step three which is to take the matter before the whole church.  Let the whole church hear the matter.  Any reasonable person would listen to the church and the matter would be resolved.  But if your brother who has sinned against you does not listen to the church, then you are to let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.  The people Jesus was talking to knew how they treated heathen and tax collectors: they didn’t associate with them.  On a similar subject, the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.  Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.”  This is how you must treat a brother who sins against you and doesn’t listen to the church.

When a brother sins against you, it is important to deal with him in love.  1 Peter 4:8 “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”  You use the three steps of the Matthew 18 principle because you love your brother.  Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”  James 5:19-20 “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

I encourage you to use the Matthew 18 principle whenever a brother or sister sins against you.

Growth

When you were born as a baby, you were small in size, you lacked strength and you were ignorant of most things in life.  Praise God that you didn’t remain a small baby, but, according to God’s wonderful design, you grew in size and strength and in knowledge and wisdom.  If you had not grown, your parents would have been most concerned about you because it is normal for a child to grow.

You understand that you grew up from being a baby.  But there is also a similar process in the spiritual realm.  Jesus taught us that we must be born again.  John 3:5-7 “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’’”  For you to enter the kingdom of God, you must be born again spiritually.  Then you should desire to grow spiritually.  1 Peter 2:1-3 “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  You should appreciate the wonderful grace of God to give His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place so that you could receive the forgiveness of your sins and become just and righteous before God.  God has also adopted you as His child and will bless you in many ways.  Since you have tasted how gracious the Lord is, you will want to lay aside all of your sinful practices of the past and desire the milk of the word (the Bible) so that you may grow spiritually.

To grow means to start small and increase in size.  There are a number of things in your spiritual life where there should be growth.  Let us first consider 2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”  The first area of growth should be in the grace of our Lord.  I understand this to mean that you grow in His favor and that you do things that are pleasing to Him.  In the past, you have done things that pleased yourself and displeased Him.  Now you seek to please Him in your actions.  1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”  At first, as a Christian, you may find it difficult to please God.  It may be that you still fall back into your old actions and habits.  This is an area where you need to grow so that you will abound more and more in your walk to please God.  This might include improvement in the things that you say, what you think about, how you spend your time or in your works.  Are you growing in God’s grace?

In 2 Peter 3:18, Peter said to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.  So the second area of growth should be in the knowledge of the Lord.  The Bible is the best source to begin to know the Lord.  You should read and re-read the Bible to grow in this knowledge.  Keeping His commandments demonstrates that you know Him.  1 John 2:3-6 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”  Being filled with love for others also demonstrates that you know God.  1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  You also should spend much time with God in prayer.  Spending time in the Bible and in prayer are two of the best ways to know the Lord.  Are you growing in your knowledge of the Lord?

You came to God and Jesus because you believed.  Now your faith needs to grow.  Luke 17:5-6 “And the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’”  I do not have the faith to tell a tree to be removed and have it planted in the sea.  But I do pray that God will increase my faith.  As your faith grows and you see God working in your life, you will trust more and more in the love and the promises of God.  How you live your life as He asks you to will demonstrate your faith in Him.  Is your faith growing?

Another area that needs to grow in your life is your love for others.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more.”  Is your love for others growing?

There are other areas in your spiritual life that need to grow.  These might include self-control, resisting temptation, patience, strength and in the fruit that you bear.  When you look back on your life as a Christian, do you see growth as you think God would desire?  As you consider yourself over the past few weeks or the past few months or the past few years, have you grown spiritually?  I encourage you to pray to God for his power to cause you to grow.