Sunday, August 24, 2008

Defusing the Enemy's Greatest Weapon

Today, I'm going to talk about one of Satan's great strategies in warring with the church. My family and I enjoy eating Chinese food. One of the highlights of our meal comes at the end, when we each read and share the pithy sayings contained in our fortune cookies. Being the joker that I am, I'm always looking for material that can be used in fortune cookies. I thought in light of today's blog entry, I would share one of my pithy sayings- how about this: "he who has not been offended this week has had no shortage of opportunities".

In the OT, King Saul became enraged when he heard those singing "Saul has killed his thousands, David his ten thousands". I believe habits & vices have claimed their thousands, but offense has slain its ten thousands. Offense is one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of the enemy- because it is primarily a "sin of the spirit" (i.e., it can go visually undetected unlike some other sins), it is all the more deadly. Coupled with the deadly sin of pride, this duo will not only spiritually destroy us, but will allow us to believe we are justified in our state of being offended. Allow me to share a few examples from scripture as an exhortation to us all today.

From the Old Testament, I'll use the illustration of Job. Now some faith teachers will dogmatically tell you that it was Job's lack of faith that brought his calamity upon him. But an honest reading of the text will reveal that it was indeed God's idea to try Job. God remarked that Job was a perfect and upright man and allowed Satan to afflict him. Now Satan's accusation against Job was that he merely served God for the "benefits". Satan felt that if he could apply pressure at the right points, he could cause Job to cave. Job's wife verbalized Satan's strategy when she said "curse God and die"(Job 2:9b). We have the benefit of hindsight that shows us God was there all along beholding Job's misery, and that He actually started the whole process (I know some Word of Faith teachers will part ways with me on that, but I believe the bible backs up this view). Now in the end, God has pity on Job and reminds him of His sovereignty. Some would say the motto of the book is "sometimes bad things happen to good people". No doubt this is an oversimplification of the book of Job, but there is certainly a truth in this. Many people struggle with the idea of "why did God allow this to happen?" Job struggled with it too. I believe if you will perservere like Job, God will reveal to you as well that His plans and purposes are greater than you can ever imagine.

How about a NT example? Let's look at John the Baptist (briefly). For a season, John had the premier ministry in Israel. He was drawing tremendous crowds and seeing tremendous results in his ministerial efforts. Even the religious elite were coming out to see what was all the fuss with this prophet with strange clothing and strange diet. John the Baptist had the unique blessing of baptizing Jesus Christ in water- seeing the Holy Spirit descend upon Him, and hearing the voice of the Father confirming Jesus' Sonship. John also says "he must increase, I must decrease." John also says "behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world". But fast-forward a little and something astonishing happens.

John the Baptist takes a stand against adultery. As a result he is imprisoned (and would later be beheaded at the request of another). It is at this point that he asks a very surprising question. He sends two of his disciples to Jesus and says (and I am paraphrasing here) "are you the one we were looking for, or should we look for another"? (the actual passage is found in Matthew chapter 11- I encourage you to prayerfully read it for yourself) Jesus makes the statement in Matt 11:6 "blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me"- some translations are even more emphatic and say "who does not fall away on account of me". So we see even a spirit-filled prophetic voice like John the Baptist was not immune from the test of offense. How much more should we be on guard against this insidious beast!

I have dealt primarily with offense towards God, because it is so prevalent, but the bible warns against a spirit of offense towards our fellow man as well. Peter warns that our prayers can be hindered if we harbor an offense against our spouse (I Peter 3:7). Jesus teaches that one of the conditions of our receiving forgiveness on a daily basis is our willingness to forgive others (Matt 6:14-15). Jesus also frames one of the great discourses on mountain-moving faith (Mark 11:22-26) within the context of having a forgiving heart. You may claim to have the kind of faith that will curse trees and cause them to wither, but a heart of offense will short-circuit that power!

There are a myriad of reasons why we allow offense to overcome us. This blog entry is not an attempt to trivialize any suffering or hardship you may have endured or are enduring at the present time. I have learned that trials and suffering are no big deal....when they are happening to someone else!!! But it's entirely different when we are the ones going through difficult circumstances. We are often offended by other Christians because our expectations are so high. We reason that "they should know better". Sometimes our offenses are because we think so highly of ourselves. We have an entitlement mentality that says "don't they know who I am?" "how could they treat me like that after all I've done for them?".

Offenses will come. And like my fortune-cookie words of wisdom indicate- there will be plenty of opportunities in our lifetime to become offended. We cannot control the behavior or others, or force believers to live out a Christian ethic in all of their dealings. But we can control how we respond to adversity. Sometimes the hurt is so deep that we experience, that it will take a Divine intervention to get through it. If you are one of those people today who are suffering with what seems like a hurt you cannot get past- let me encourage you. With men, it may be impossible- but not with God- for with God ALL things are possible! The same grace that is there to forgive you of your sins will empower you to forgive the sins of others. It may not be easy, but it is the only way.

Much love in Him- until next time my friends....