We Trust in the Lord God of Israel
Putting Your Faith in Yahweh-Elohim When Wolves are Loose
Sooner of later, in this mixed up world, every Christian gets a hard knock. The hard knocks come in different kinds. Some arise from circumstances such as an accident, a mistake, or a natural disaster. These are not the hardest knocks to bear, for mostly they arise out of the inevitable conditions of our mortal life, and there is no evil behind them. The wound such events bring may be a deep wound, but it is a clean one. There is no poison or pus in it.
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak, or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death,a nd the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for My Name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known" (Matt.10:16-26, RSV).
The most difficult wounds -- the wounds that take a long time to heal -- are those which are deliberately given. The stab that is planned. The thrust is meant to be a thrust. The cruel slander. Some malicious gossip that goes right to the heart of your reputation. Can Christ help us to react correctly in such situations? He can.
Some people when slandered fight back fiercely and say: "But if I didn't -- what would become of my reputation?" A Christian, who links himself to Jesus Christ, and seeks to represent his Lord in this mixed up world, must learn to have victory over a nervous concern about his reputation.
The passage quoted above reminds us that we have no need to be afraid of our reputation. Even if we are called "Beelzebub" (the lord of filth) then, according to Jesus, there is nothing covered -- the truth will come out in the end. All we have to do is wait.
A Christian does not need to look after his reputation. All he has to do is look after his character, and his reputation will look after itself. We must be the kind of people about whom people won't believe slanderous things.
Sometimes we have to answer those who have wronged us. We might owe it to them, and ourselves, to clear up things by an explanation. If that is so then the explanation must be hammered out in a spirit of prayer. We must not seek to give people a piece of our mind. Satan cannot cast out Satan. By acting like the devil, we can never get rid of the devil. If a letter has to be written then write the kind of letter you would like to receive. And after you have written it, don't send it off immediately. Sleep on it. God may want you to change something, or even add something. More often than not, however, you shouldn't answer at all, but let Jesus answer for you.
How often do you let Jesus answer for you when you are criticised or slandered?
Christ's answer was deathless and redemptive. The disciples' answer would probably have been evasive and unreal. Yet there were times when Jesus' and His apostles openly attacked hypocrisy, pronouncing judgment on those holding high ecclesiastical office like the Pharisees. To what extent should we imitate Him? When are we permitted to judge, if at all?
"After He went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and He said to him, 'Follow Me.' And he left everything, and rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against the disciples saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' And Jesus answered them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' (Luke 5:27-32, RSV).
Throughout our short history, members of the New Covenant Church of God have grown accustomed to slander. Our reputations have been threatened and attempts have been made to destroy our livelihoods. Even today there are a group of people who have sworn not to rest until they have destroyed the Church and humiliated its leaders. Our reactions have been all too human -- we have been deeply hurt and distressed, sometimes we have lashed out in defence, and at other times we have offered the other cheek to be hit again and again. Sometimes it has felt that we have not only gone the extra mile but the extra hundred miles. We have witnessed those who loved and supported us turn against us and agree with our enemies, sometimes those in our own family. We have been accused to being a "cult", "brainwashers", "anti-Christ", "psychopaths", "child-molesters" and other shocking things we would not care to repeat. Such creates a bad taste in the mouth and the wounds linger because of the poison in them. It is all too tempting to strike out in anger. What should we do?
Today the Church has found peace. Though we are deeply wounded, we have the joy of Christ. We have learned to live with slander as an almost daily occurrence. Though we are tired -- sometimes worn out -- yet the Lord has always strengthened us.
What is it that has so offended our enemies? Is it our doctrines? Our practices? On the outside that is what it often seems to be but we have discovered that there is something else that angers them. And that something is called the Spirit of the Lord. We know what to do to appease our enemies -- abandon our faith, and the Spirit that the Lord has given to us. But that we will not -- cannot -- do, because it is the most precious things we have. It is what gives us our peace and joy. And it is the very thing our enemies unknowingly desire but do not have.
In answer to our frequent prayers the Lord has responded thus:
Because we trust in the Lord, and will not compromise our faith, our enemies are determined to force us to change to their way of thinking and being. This we will never do, because we see their spiritual bankruptcy. Let them slander. As for us, we will continue trusting in the Lord God of Israel. Amen.
"Do not be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along His pathway and in due season He will honour you with every blessing and you will see the wicked destroyed" (Ps.37:34, Living Bible).
This sermon was given during a time when the Church was being severely persecuted and tested.
This page was created on 1 June 1998
Last updated on 1 June 1998
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