Love Your Enemies

I was raised in a church that taught love your enemies. In Sunday school we learned that we were to “go the extra mile” and “turn the other cheek.” I did that once when I was in fifth grade, and got clobbered in the choppers.

What a shock. The Bible doesn’t work? I mean, the way I’d envisioned it, the coals I was heaping on my enemy’s head would melt him into submissiveness and I would be the WINNER!

Well, you can see, I had a major problem with my attitude, but the idea that Christians are to love our enemies stuck. It’s a clear command, and lived out by one believer after the other across the pages of Scripture.

But somehow, it seems contemporary Christians have downplayed this point. I was reminded of it in a radio sermon this morning as Alistair Begg delved into a passage in the book of Titus. Here are the verses that apply:

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
– Tts 3:1-2

Among other things, Pastor Begg emphasized the “all men” in verse two. Not just the people we like or agree with or think are cool or popular or famous. We are to show every consideration for all men—atheists who hate Christians, radical feminists, noisy neighbors, lying politicians, gay pride marchers, gang bangers, illegal immigrants, sex offenders, greedy billionaire CEOs, British Petroleum officials, our President—no exception.

Notice, this Titus passage doesn’t give us the escape of telling us to love all mankind. Too easily we can say we’re delivering “tough love” to those who need correction.

Instead, this passage says we are to show every consideration, which I believe means we aren’t to shout rude comments at anyone or write rude letters or post snarky blog articles. We aren’t allowed to withhold common courtesy or snub our nose or pull in our skirts when “those people” walk by.

Do these acts of consideration “work”? No. Not any more than my turning the other cheek “worked.” The point isn’t to do acts of consideration in order to manipulate a response from the other person. We are instead to do acts of consideration because God tells us to.

When we do, then He can use them as He sees fit.

Can I still voice my opinion about a politician I oppose or a lifestyle that is sinful or a person who commits a crime? Sure. And so I ought—even as I show consideration to the people who will inevitably disagree.

Published in: on July 23, 2010 at 3:20 pm  Comments (3)  
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A Sure Sign of False Teaching

I’ve been on a rampag quiet campaign to uncover false teaching in the church. I feel a believer’s silence in the face of instruction contrary to Scripture is tacit agreement. By and large, I feel the majority of Bible-believing Christians have been silent longer than we should have been.

I understand why—we are all too aware of what the Bible says about judging. Who am I, then, to say that this person or that ministry is engaged in false teaching?

Well, I don’t think we need to do any finger pointing or heresy hunting. Instead, I think we can see what the Bible has to say about the subject, and then ask pertinent questions.

Up until a few weeks ago, I thought deciphering false teaching was easy. But in the almost-300-comments discussion we had here, I made the statement at one point that Christians have a set of essential beliefs we hold in common—that’s what defines us as Christians. The response shocked me. In essence, it was, Who says? In other words, we who don’t hold to those core beliefs still say we are Christians. Who are you to say we aren’t?

To me that’s comparable to saying, I live in Cuba which is near the US, so I’m a US citizen. Who are you to say I’m not?

Clearly, if we do not agree on an authoritative source or a set of core beliefs comprising Christianity, then anyone can claim a teacher with a differing message, is false.

But who’s to say?

I’d have to give this one to God, and He’s addressed the subject in His Word.

The other day, in a sermon at Truth for Life on Nehemiah, Alistair Begg dealt with false teaching. He referenced a passage in Jeremiah about false prophecy—I think this one:

But, “Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “Look, the prophets are telling them, ‘You will not see the sword nor will you have famine, but I will give you lasting peace in this place.’ ”

Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who are prophesying in My name, although it was not I who sent them—yet they keep saying, ‘There will be no sword or famine in this land’—by sword and famine those prophets shall meet their end!

– Jer 14:13-15

It struck me that these statements are similar to some of the teaching that passes as “Christian” today. I’m thinking in particular of any “universalist” teaching and any “Christianity will make you healthy and wealthy” teaching.

The first promises peace with God. All will go to heaven no matter what faith they embrace here on earth. In fact, there isn’t a hell to even worry about. This is nothing more than the spiritualized version of what the false prophets were saying in Jeremiah’s day.

The second is a peace-in-your-own-personal-world promise. Real believers, this false teaching says, will be rich and healthy. One particular TV false teacher scoffs at Christians who think God might be teaching them through affliction.

Jeremiah’s message to the people of Israel was that God was in fact teaching and punishing them through the drought they were experiencing and the war that threatened them, even though the false prophets said otherwise.

Which leads to the real sign of false teaching, according to Pastor Begg and his exposition of Nehemiah 9: God’s word—true teaching—will call His people to repentance. Here are two key verses in the passage:

While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God …

However, You are just in all that has come upon us; For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.

– Neh 9:3, 33

In contrast, look at what Jeremiah says in Lamentations:

Your prophets have seen for you
False and foolish visions;
And they have not exposed your iniquity
So as to restore you from captivity,
But they have seen for you false and misleading oracles.

– Lam 2:14 (Emphasis mine)

God’s word read—the people confessed.

False teachers spoke—iniquity remained unexposed.

Does universalism prompt confession? Does the health-and-wealth teaching expose iniquity?

Published in: on March 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm  Comments (4)  
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Faith vs. Reason

Today I heard a sermon by Alistair Begg on the life of Abraham (actually, at the time still using the name Abram). At one point Pastor Begg said something like, When faith comes up against questions, then the questions have to go.

He was referring to 75-year-old Abram, having believed God when He promised to give his descendants the land He’d brought him to, confronting questions ten years later. How long do I have to wait? Is this really going to happen? Maybe I misunderstood and this nation will be built through my servant who stands to be my heir. No, God said, your descendants will be as numerous as the stars.

So, another 13 or so years pass, with missteps along the way. And when Abram knows it is impossible for he and his wife to have a child, God renews His promise. What’s Abram to believe? His rational understanding of the way the world works (he knew his body was as good as dead when it came to procreation and he knew his wife was past her child-bearing years), or the promise of God? His reason, or his faith?

“And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23). Abraham believed God.

He didn’t hope something into existence without cause and against all odds. Rather, he believed God was powerful and completely true to His word. He believed God was not limited by what Abraham had heretofore experienced. (I’ve never seen a 99-year-old man father a child, so it can’t happen.)

Oddly, this kind of faith is out of vogue. Well, I suppose it isn’t so odd. After all, Satan, a liar and the father of lies, has been lying about God and His work and plan since those days in Eden. Then along came modernism, buoyed by rationalism. And we have professing Christians saying things like this:

Our earlier understandings of Creation and of most Christian doctrines no longer make sense because we now know more about Creation, that is, we know more about God’s acts as Creator. We’re capable of higher understandings.
Acts of Being: Updating Thomistic Existentialism

So why, I wonder, wasn’t Abraham justified by reason instead of by faith?

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 9:42 am  Comments (8)  
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Our Invitation – God’s Revelation

In a radio message today at Truth for Life, Pastor Alistair Begg looked at one of the encounters people had with the risen Christ. The book of Luke records the incident.

Two of Jesus’s followers left Jerusalem the very day of the resurrection for the village of Emmaus. On the way, as they were discussing what the women had said about an empty tomb and an encounter with angels delivering a message that Jesus was alive because He’d risen from the dead on the third day as He said He would—information that seemed like nonsense to them—Jesus joined them on the journey.

He could have passed them by, but instead, Jesus engaged them by asking what they were discussing. They must have known that this man, who appeared to them as a stranger at this point, heard some of their conversation or maybe this was just such big news in Jerusalem that everyone was talking about it. At any rate, they reacted in an astounded way: Haven’t you heard of the things that have been going on?

Jesus asked in return, “What things?”

They gave a thumbnail sketch of what they knew—that the one they thought was the Messiah had been killed by sinful men but on this, the third day, some women reported they didn’t find His body in the tomb.

Then Jesus started teaching. He began with Moses and the Prophets and explained “the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

When the two men reached their destination, Jesus gave every indication of continuing on alone, but the men invited Him—no, urged Him—to join them instead. And He did for a short time. The meal came, and they asked their teacher/traveling companion to bless the food. When He did, “their eyes were opened.” They recognized they were with Jesus.

This historical account, recorded by Luke as part of his “careful investigation,” is one of my favorites of the risen Christ. There’s so much to learn, but it also reminds me of a verse in the book of James: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” There’s a synergy that brings us into relationship with God.

These two men traveling to Emmaus were discussing Jesus. They were confused and had things wrong, but they wanted to know more. Still, when Jesus joined them, they didn’t recognize Him. Scripture says “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.”

I could postulate why (in their excitement, would they have listened to what Jesus had to teach them from the Word?), but lots of other people might have better ideas. The point is, there was some joint cooperation between God and those men that brought them to the truth. The men were curious and discussing Jesus as far as their limited understanding took them, but that didn’t show them Jesus.

They engaged Jesus in conversation, and He opened up the Scriptures—that is, He explained what the Law and the prophets meant. He likely indicated which prophecies had Messianic implications, explained how Passover pointed to the Savior, taught how the rock Moses struck was a type for the crucified Christ who gives Living Water.

And yet, not until those men invited Jesus to stay with them, not until He blessed the bread, broke it, and gave to them, were their eyes opened. Somewhere along the line, what Jesus was teaching them about Himself took root. And at the right moment, their spiritual eyes were opened. By the Word? By the blessing? By a movement of God’s Spirit? The text doesn’t say.

What it does make clear is that, those men spent time learning about Jesus from Scripture. Afterward, their eyes were opened. The drew near to God. He drew near to them.

Published in: on April 9, 2009 at 12:22 pm  Comments Off on Our Invitation – God’s Revelation  
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