But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. - Luke 6:27-28
What does it mean to love your enemies? Did Jesus command us to conjure strong feelings and affections for those who hate us and that we also hate? Is it even possible to have good feelings toward someone we despise? If we are totally honest with ourselves we must admit that we harbor strong negative emotions to those we call our enemies. Isn’t it a contradiction to say we love whom we hate? How could God make such a contradictory demand upon us? Is the command to love our enemies some kind of divine prank?
The answer lies in Christ’s words – we love by doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us and praying for those who abuse us.
These principles seem straight forward enough but confusion can arise. What does it mean to bless someone? Isn’t doing good and praying for someone in fact, blessing them? Is there a difference in the meaning of these seemingly synonymous terms? Bless here in the Greek means ‘speak well of, praise’. Instead of indulging human nature’s propensity to gossip and slander our enemies (no matter how justified we feel in doing so) we should build them up and find what is praise-worthy and proclaim it. The all-encompassing love to our enemies we are commanded to fulfill is simply doing good to them, speaking well of them and asking God to care for them, despite the way we may feel. (more…)
Here is a clip from a CrossTV series investigating the modern evangelical tactic of moving people to ‘make a decision for Christ.’
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:33-39)
The Apostle Paul asks several important questions in this text. He also gives his readers profound answers.
Who can accuse God’s people of any crime?
No one. God alone justifies the guilty. He answers to no man. He has mercy on whom he will have mercy.
Who has the right to sentence his saints to death and hell?
No one. Christ took our condemnation up on himself. We are free from the sting of death and the punishment of hell.
Who can separate God’s people from the love of Christ, which has been freely bestowed upon them?
Nobody can and nothing will. No circumstance or trial can wedge apart this bond. Through God’s love we have been made more than conquerors. Again, he reiterates that no being (angels nor rulers), thing (the sword, death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth) or circumstance (tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger) can separate us from the love of God. He even goes so far as to say ‘nor anything else in all creation’. I think that pretty much covers everything, don’t you think? (more…)
Here’s a video explaining the top 10 best ways for a worship leader to hinder a church.
(HT: Christian Research Net)
As I was writing my last post on a weekly scripture meditation, it occurred to me that I need to define what meditation means from a biblical perspective.
When I speak of meditating on scripture I AM NOT advocating any form of contemplative spirituality now so popular in many of our churches. This form of meditation calls for emptying the mind of all thought and entering an altered state of consciousness. There are many other aspects to it of course, but it has its origins in paganism, eastern religions and Roman Catholicism.
Apprising Ministries by Pastor Ken Silva is an excellent resource for sharpening your discernment about this spiritually devastating practice. Keep your eyes open, contemplative spirituality may be coming to a church near you!
Sigh! It disturbs me that every time I want to discuss a biblical concept it seems I first need to recover the original definition of the term from the clutches of heretics before proceeding!
When I speak of meditating on the word, I mean it in the way the Psalmist prescribed it when he wrote:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Meditate is the Hebrew word ‘Hagah’ and its meaning here primarily is ‘to ponder’. In other words think upon these things which were written for doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness. Meditate does not mean to empty your mind of all thought and wait for subjective emotional experiences. We are never commanded in the scriptures to pursue such disciplines.
WARNING! Swallow your pride before engaging these verses, for they speak to all of us without exception. You may believe this is not a very encouraging passage to think upon, but it relays an essential doctrinal truth. These scriptures are foundational to the teachings I am preparing to post concerning issues like free will and man’s ability and willingness to embrace the gospel message.
as it is written: “There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.” “They are all gone out of the way, they have together become unprofitable, there is none that does good, no, not one.” “Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they have used deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness;” “their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their way, and the way of peace they did not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Meditate on these verses throughout the day and ask yourselves the following questions:
- If no one understands spiritual matters or seeks after God, how can we be saved?
- If all man has become unprofitable (worthless) is there anything he can do of himself to become profitable (worthy)?
- Can you possibly believe that man is basically good with a few inherent flaws that cause him to make some ‘mistakes’ in life after reading this text?
- Do you agree with Paul’s assessment that man is corrupt in every part of his being; including the mind, will, emotions and spirit?
- Knowing the sorry state of man’s nature, how important do you think the ministry of the Holy Spirit is in leading us to Christ in repentance and faith?
“Whatever religion or doctrine condones or makes allowances for sin is not of Christ. The Doctrine of Christ everywhere teaches self-denial and mortification of worldliness and sin. The whole stream of the gospel runs against those things. Scripture emphasizes the ‘holy’ and the ‘heavenly’ (not the sinful and the worldly). The true gospel has not even the slightest tendency to extol corrupt nature, or feed it’s pride by magnifying it’s freedom and power. And it rejects everything that undermines or obscures the merit of Christ, or tries to give any credit to man, in any way. And it certainly never makes the death of Christ a cloak to cover sin, but rather it always speaks of it as an instrument that destroys it!” – John Flavel
I actually read most of the best-selling book, “The Purpose-driven Life” a couple of years ago. At the time I thought it was a refreshing blast of gospel simplicity. I was thrilled at Rick Warren’s approach because, in hindsight, it was reflective of the way my church conducted service. It was a natural synopsis of the philosophies I had been raised upon in my first decade of spiritual growth. Of course I loved it! I heartily recommended it to a friend struggling through a divorce for encouragement, without a moment’s hesitation.
However, my suspicions concerning the state of the modern evangelical church continued to grow from that time until just over a year ago. It all came to a head in a prayer I voiced to God in the cool darkness of my backyard one late autumn night. My prayer went something like this: “Lord, my spirit is troubled over the church and the way it is handling the precious gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I fear that error is spreading like a plague through the churches of our land. More than anything, I desire to know the truth, and to live by that truth no matter the personal cost. Humble me that I may choose to follow you, Lord wherever it is you lead me. Open my eyes that I may perceive, unstop my ears that I may comprehend.”
For 10 years I cruised down the smooth asphalt highway of free-will theology. Gradually I began to take notice that the pristine world scrolling past my vision started to lose its luster. The rolling green hills and bright blue sky had become washed out, dull and lifeless; a barren winter landscape. It was then I noticed it wasn’t the environment that had changed, but it was the Lord removing the rose-colored spectacles perched on the end of my nose. Spectacles, that up to that point in my spiritual walk, I had been blissfully unaware I was even wearing. For the first time in my born-again life I saw the modern church from a perspective outside my own limited worldview. I began to question doctrines and church traditions I had firmly believed in for a decade. I marveled at methodologies that didn’t spring from the pages of scriptures, but were fermented in the minds of well-meaning modern evangelicals. Thump! Thump-Thump! Where did all these potholes come from! Oh my. This highway, I’ve discovered, has a toll booth. The price, I fear, is too high to pay. (more…)