Archive for the ‘The Beatitudes’ Category

Beatitudes 52: Persecute 6

November 30, 2007

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

This really will be the last newsletter on the Beatitudes. In this article we want to look at the blessings promised for those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Our text has something different going on between verses 10 and 11. Verse 10 tells us this: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted” speaking of things that happened in the past. Verse 11, however, speaks of things that happen in the future: Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you.” This ties the persecution of the believer and his or her blessings with those who have gone on before. In fact, we are told that our reward in heaven is great. Notice from verse 10 that those who have been persecuted in the past are blessed while “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is in the present. Verse 11 then tells us that the believer is blessed when s/he is persecuted and insulted because the “reward in heaven is great.” Again, that is present. Then the next section tells us that “in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The text is connecting the blessings of being persecuted with the blessings of the prophets because both the believer and the prophets were persecuted in much the same way.

True believers are blessed. The persecutions, insults and lies don’t bring actual harm, but blessing. In reality God is working all things for good (Rom 8:28-30) to those who love Him. The view that faith gives at this point is that the persecutions, insults and lies are actually bringing a blessing to the person who is going those things in the name of Christ and for His sake. On the one hand it seems as if the blessing is something that will happen in heaven, but the text says that we are blessed “when” these things happen. Let us list the specific blessings listed in the text:

  1. You are blessed because yours is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. You are blessed when these things (persecutions and insults) are happening.
  3. You are blessed when these things happen because of Christ.
  4. You are blessed because you are going to rejoice.
  5. You are blessed because your reward in heaven is great.
  6. You are blessed in being like the prophets in being persecuted.

As noted in much earlier newsletters, the word “blessed” has the idea of inward joy and the idea of being in a state of blessing and so the joy is from God Himself. We must not try to separate blessing from the life of God in the soul. In fact, true joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and a blessing of God Himself in working His joy in the human soul. John 15:11 is instructive in this: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The context of this teaching is that of the Father pruning the branches so that they would bear more fruit. Jesus was the vine and the branches are told to abide in the vine. We are told, therefore, to abide in Christ and the love of the Father and they would abide in us. It is in this way that the Father is glorified by the fruit that is born from His people abiding in Him and it is that which flows from Him that comes out in them.

It is in light of fruit that is being born by the branches that Jesus tells us that He spoke these things to them “so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” We can pass over this text so easily and miss what it is really saying. Remember that the context is that believers are the branches and He is the vine. In another sense believers are in Him and He is in them. Jesus did not say that they were to have joy because of things that happened to them. He did not say that they were to have His joy because they would have joy in the same things He had joy in. But instead He tells them that He spoke these things to them so that His joy would be in them. The very joy of Christ was to be their joy. It is only then that their joy would be made full as it is the fruit of the vine.

Gal 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Col 1:27, “to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” and Colossians 3:4 have much the same idea: “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” These passages show that Christ lives in His people and is their very life. Therefore, we must understand the blessings from our text in light of these verses. The only true hope that people have is Christ in them who is their life. Blessing 1 is that of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus taught us that the kingdom was in our midst: “20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17). The kingdom of God is the arena of His reign and rule. God’s kingdom is now set up, not in a geographical area like Israel was, but in the hearts of His people. The ramifications are enormous.

The blessings of the life of Christ in a person can be seen in light of the six points above:

  1. Because Christ is in the person and living His life in them, a person being persecuted for His sake is a blessed person because Christ is in that person. That is the true meaning of having the kingdom of heaven and of God.
  2. The person being persecuted is blessed when the persecutions and insults are happening because Christ is being revealed in that person. The analogy to this is when Stephen was being stoned he looked and saw Christ at the right hand of the Father. So now we see the glory of Christ shining through us and we have joy at the sight of Christ. The blessing is to see Christ and to see self as an instrument of His glory.
  3. We are blessed when these things happen because of Christ. Paul spoke of wanting to “know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). Sufferings like this are the way we are conformed to Christ and He is in us working in us that we would be like Him and that is a blessing.
  4. Suffering persecution for Christ while Christ is in us makes us like Christ and so we have His joy. The persecutions are to cause us to joy. Hebrews 12:2 has some shocking words: “2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” It was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross and despised the shame. It is that same Christ that lives in us who works His joy in us so that our joy may be full and that during time of persecution as well. I Peter 4:13 tells us that to “the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” That is true blessedness.
  5. We are told that even a cup of cold water given to one of His little ones will not lose its reward (Mat 10:42). We are told that to die for His sake is to find life itself. It should not be anything but joy in the heart of the believer to rejoice because of the persecutions that come. No matter what happens the believer should be able to rejoice though this may take some time. The believer is building up a treasure in heaven and all love for Christ adds to that treasure. That is a blessing.
  6. The prophets were truly blessed in that they were men of God and the Spirit was upon them and strengthened them to stand firm for God. I Peter 4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Luke 6:23: “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” The prophets were abused and mistreated but they were treated like their Lord who was to come. 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. Hebrews 11:37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

As we look at this Beatitude in light of them all, we see that we will mourn and yet must be meek. We will be pure in heart and seek to be peacemakers, but we will be persecuted. When the life of Christ shines through us, those who hate Him will hate us as well. That will be true of religious people without Christ as well. We should not be surprised are ashamed when we suffer, but instead glorify Him (I Peter 4:16). A person that has the life of Christ will in some way be living the life of the Beatitudes because that is a description of the blessed life and Christ is most blessed. When the life of Christ shines through His people in that way, persecution and insults will come. We should have sorrow for those that treat us that way and pray for them to have our joy while we rejoice inwardly.

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Beatitudes 51: Persecute 5

November 15, 2007

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

We have been looking at those who have been martyred for the faith in terms of being persecuted. We can admire these men and women and wonder at the faith they had in choosing awful torments and death rather than deny Christ. We must be careful, however, not to think of martyrdom as something that belongs to an elite group. In reality all believers are called to be martyrs in at least one sense on a daily basis. Whether we are killed or not we are all to die to self on a daily basis and be willing to suffer persecution for the name of Christ. In one sense the daily life of the believer is to be a constant willingness to suffer persecution for Christ. In modern America this part of the faith is not seen and is perhaps even hidden. Instead of embracing the truth of Christ large segments of Christianity opt for finding ways to be more gracious and winsome and to water down the hard parts of the truth. While this makes it appear like we are trying to be like Christ, the reality of it is that it makes us quite unlike Christ who did not flee from applying the Word of God to the hearts of men and women in a way that the hatred in their hearts would come out. He suffered persecution and hatred for the duration of His entire ministry.

As we think back through Scripture, we find that persecution comes from two sources. One, it comes from the world. Jesus taught us this in John 7:7: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” When an individual or a group of individuals testify to the world that its deeds are evil, the world will hate the person or the group. Thus we see one reason that people are not being persecuted and that is because the “Church” in America will not stand up and declare the evils of this generation. It is true that the “Church” has picked out a few things and calls those things sin, but it is not standing against sin as sin. The world, then, does not hate because the “Church” is not declaring that its deeds are evil. One could also argue that the “Church” has become so much like the world that it has no basis for standing up and declaring anything against the world.

Jesus spoke on this several times: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18). “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved (Matthew 10:22). Paul teaches us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Tim 3:12). In this we can see how Paul writes in agreement with his Master. To live godly is to live with an attitude that is centered upon God and His glory and to do that is to go contrary to the world and its ways which is at enmity with God and even hates Him. The hatred of the world should be something that is expected rather than coming as a surprise: “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). In opposition to this we think that if we can be nice and gracious enough the world will not hate us but perhaps even respect us. While that is a nice thought, it is simply not biblical. The promise of Christ as spoken through Paul is that we will be persecuted if we live a godly life.

One thing we should notice is that living a godly life is not just being nice and helpful. Being gracious and winsome is not the same thing as being godly. There is a lot of talk these days about being like Christ, and in some ways that can be good. But notice what happened to Jesus when He spoke the truth of God and lived a perfectly godly life. He was hated and despised by all. He raised people from the dead and some hated Him (John 11:46-48; 12:41-43). He healed people and He was hated. He fed people with free food and they ended up hating Him. He preached the Word of God and they tried to kill Him. Why did they want to kill Him? Let Jesus answer in His own words: “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me” (John 8:45). It was not because Jesus refused to speak in love, but because He spoke the truth to people who hate the truth. People hate the light because it exposes their hearts and shows them who they really are. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:20). People get angry at the messenger rather than at their own hearts when their sin is exposed. They will hate when we preach the truth.

We have noticed that the world is one source of hate directed at the believer. The world will insult and call us names if we do things in a righteous way and will not insult and call us names if we are nice and take the edge off the sword. Another source of hate is “the Church” or religious people. One could argue that this is a major source of hatred and perhaps more than the world. Both have the same source because both are at enmity with God. There are people who are in the world and not religious and then there are those who are in the world and also religious. However, we can notice that in Scripture and during the time of the Reformation the source of persecution was from religious people above all. We should not deceive ourselves on this. To preach the truth means that there will be persecution. It might come from the world or religious people. It might come from liberals or conservatives. It might come from Arminians or the Reformed. People will fight for their doctrine and their own righteousness regardless of their creed. True life will be hated by people of all theological stripes and all of them will want the truth to be watered down in the name of tolerance, niceness and graciousness. It will happen and is happening.

In the Old Testament the Jewish people hated the prophets because they did not speak nice words. There were many false prophets and priests who hated the few true prophets. The godly prophets were abused, thrown into prison, sawn in two and put to death in many ways. They were mocked and ridiculed as a part of life. Things were no different in the New Testament. We know that it was the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus His entire ministry and were the major players in having Him put on a cross. The apostles also fought with the Jewish leaders and those who espoused their teachings. During the time of the Reformation it was Roman Catholicism that insulted and called the Reformers names for righteousness’ sake. It was also religious people who killed the early Baptists.

What makes us think that we are different today? Are human beings no longer born dead in sins and no longer at enmity with the God they hate? Has God changed so He no longer stands against sin and sinners? If God never changes and all human beings are by nature children of wrath, then things have not changed. The externals have changed and certain conditions have changed, but the nature of God and of fallen humanity have not changed. Unbelievers still hate God and will hate those who tell them the truth. All the humility, kindness, meekness, peacemaking and mourning will not change this fact. As we look at the rest of the Beatitudes one would think that people like that would be loved. But our text (Matthew 5:10-12) shows us differently. If we live a life of the Beatitudes we will be persecuted because that is what it means to live godly in Christ Jesus. People will hate you rather than love you if you live out the Beatitudes as they reflect the glory of God in the face of Christ.

While the world is working to make “the Church” like itself, those within the external church are working to make true believers like themselves. True believers have to fight the world and the external church. True believers are told that they must be more loving and more gracious so that the world will give them a hearing. We are told

to be winsome so that others in the denomination will not be so offended by us. But Jesus tells us that we are blessed if we are “persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” Jesus tells us that we are blessed when people “insult and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Jesus tells us that we are to rejoice when this happens because of His name and righteousness because the prophets were treated like this.

We live in a day full of milk toast “Christianity” that offends no one but God. Indeed believers should not try to offend others for the sake of offending, but we must proclaim the truth of Christ even if it does offend. We have become so afraid of the world and denominations that we are afraid to preach the true Gospel for fear of offending people. Notice, however, what we have done. Rather than standing for the truth like the martyrs have done, we have acquiesced and become like the world. This is utterly disgraceful to Christ. We have decided that we will not have to suffer persecution but instead we can just do things in a nicer way. We think that Luther was too bombastic and Calvin was too precise. We think that the martyrs, though we admire them in a way, should simply have been more gracious and winsome. In trying not to offend other people, we have offended God. We are under judgment.

However, it could be (I think it is a fact) that we have become weak by being afraid of being called names. It is not that we are unlike Christ in being gracious and winsome, but that we flee from true godliness by seeking to be like the world in its tolerance. If we were being godly, we would be suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake. If we were being like Christ, we would be called names by the world and the religious elite. Scripture promises blessing to those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, yet in our day we think blessing is found in outward peace. We must repent or we will continue to be effectively neutered from really being like Christ.

Beatitudes 50: Persecute 4

November 8, 2007

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Last week we looked at Christ and how people wondered at His gracious words until He applied the Word to them. Then they wanted to kill Him. Then we looked at men like Jon Huss and William Tyndale. Both men were burned because they stood for Scripture and would not give in to the pressure of Roman Catholicism to conform to it. They caused trouble and they would have been considered rude and crude in our day. They would have been accused of being divisive and of calling names in our day. In their own day they were considered as those who were causing disunity and bringing trouble to the Church, and they would have been accused of the same in our day. However, without Jon Huss there might have been no Martin Luther. Without William Tyndale our world would be different without the Bible in the English language that molded men and history.

If we look at men in Scripture and of the history of the Church, those that God used to change history were men who were not liked and caused trouble. As we look at more of those who were either martyred or heavily persecuted for their faith, we see a pattern emerge. God uses those with faith in Him and who love Him enough not to take the standard path of those around them to bring true change. We must always remember that when people try to bring change by something less than a firm standing for the truth that they themselves are the ones that are changed. This is something that is far different than just being a person that is stubborn or being a troublemaker, but this is something that God must put in a person and comes from a deep conviction that is moved from a fire for the truth and glory of God. Those that desire true change in our day will also be called names and will suffer insults and persecutions done in the name of religion and perhaps orthodoxy.

George Wishart was a preacher in Scotland who became infected with the Reformation teaching. He was forced into exile in 1538 after charges of heresy put his life in danger. He returned to Scotland in 1544 and was in Dundee ministering to those afflicted with the plague that had consumed the city. While there, Wishart was preaching and a priest under the orders of Cardinal Beaton confronted Wishart with a cloaked dagger. Wishart noticed the dagger and the intent of the priest and said, “My friend, what would you have?” The man was terrified and fell to his knees pleading for forgiveness. Those in the congregation of the sick were ready to do harm to the would-be assassin, but Wishart protected him.

Cardinal Beaton caught up with Wishart in December of 1545. Wishart was accused and put on trial for the following teachings:

  1. For refusing to accept that a confession was a sacrament.
  2. For denying free will.
  3. For rejecting the idea that an infinite God could be comprehended in one place between the priests hands. Instead, he said that the true Church was where Christ’s Word was truthfully taught.

Wishart dedicated his life to bringing Reformation to Scotland. He once said that “with the hazard of my life I have remained among you; and I must leave my innocence to be declared by my God.” He was burned in March 1, 1546 while Cardinal Beaton watched from a castle window. In the last minutes of his life he was like his Lord who prayed for the forgiveness of those who were responsible for his death. Wishart could have saved his own life if he would have given in to the teaching that a confession was a sacrament and to uphold free will. Today we think of free will as a rather small issue. Luther wrote in the Bondage of the Will that it was the heart of the Gospel. George Wishart thought the denial of free will was worth dying for. Wishart would have wept to see our day.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Felix Manz became enamored with the teachings of Ulrich Zwingli in 1519 and became associated with that reform movement. Within two years, however, he was wondering if Zwingli was compromising over the baptism issue. Despite Zwingli’s teaching, Manz and a few others could not find infant baptism in the Bible. If something is not in the Bible, they reasoned, it must have been invented by human beings. Sound faith cannot be based on things that are the result of human invention. The small group continued to dissent even after the Zurich City Council found in favor of Zwingli’s ideas. Four days later Manz and a small group met to pray over this issue. They ended up baptizing each other which was a crime against the state.

After two years Manz was arrested and put in prison. He was ordered to cease his radical reforms but he could not deny his faith. Manz was not even thirty years old when he was martyred by other reformers. On January 5 of 1527 he was placed in a boat and taken out on the Lammat River. He was bound and weighted with the intent to throw him into the river and drown him as was thought appropriate for a Baptist. On his way to the boat his mother and brothers urged him to remain strong. His faith endured and he was thrown into the river where he drowned. He left these words in prison: “I praise thee, O Lord Christ in Heaven, that Thou dost turn away my sorrow and sadness…already before my end has come, that I should have eternal joy in Him.”

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Michael Sattler was born in 1495 and eventually became a monk. Eventually he broke his oath of celibacy and married a nun named Margarita. They became part of the Anabaptist movement. At one point Michael renounced his beliefs in order to avoid imprisonment, but he returned with strengthened convictions in 1526. He began to preach in a strongly Catholic area of Austria. In 1527 the Anabaptists met in a small town in Germany and wrote out Seven Articles of Faith. Michael Sattler was one who helped to write this founding document. While traveling home from this meeting both Michael and Margarita were captured and their documents confiscated. They were tried before a judge in May of 1527. The charges against them were various violations of doctrine and practice, but the most serious were the charges against the Eucharist, baptism and the veneration of the saints. The court ordered that Michael would be taken to the square and have his tongue cut out and then chained to a wagon where his body was to be torn twice with hot tongs there and then five times at the gate. His body was to be burned to powder as an arch-heretic. While Michael cried “Almighty eternal God, Thou are the way and the truth, the sentence was carried out. Eight days later the same sentence was carried out on Margarita.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Whereas Wishart was burned because he would not recant his belief that the doctrine of free will was false and of issues on the sacraments, Manz was drowned in icy water over the issue of Baptism. Michael and Margarita Sattler were tortured and killed for their beliefs against the Roman Catholic way of salvation. There were others who died too and understood that they were not their own and were as sheep to be slaughtered. They understood that their first love was to Christ and so they did not seek an easy peace in order to live easy lives. They were willing to be insulted, persecuted and die for their love for the truth of God and His glory. The issues of free will and of baptism were not considered minor things, though today many think that they are. Luther suffered much over his denial of free will and the Gospel and certainly appeared ready to die for it. Wishart did die for his denial of free will as the essence of the Gospel was at stake. In our day in the United States we don’t face trials, tortures and then burnings for our denial of free will and of baptism. Maybe that is why we don’t see them as all that important any longer. We might get kicked out of a church or face some denominational ridicule at most if we really stood up. Some think it is foolish to cause disturbances within churches and denominations over free will. Nevertheless, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God for how we treat Him and the one Gospel of grace alone. The Gospel is not by grace and free will, but of grace alone. Love for Him should give us all that we need to stand firm. We will see.

Beatitudes 46: Persecute 2

October 18, 2007

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

We will continue on in our thinking on the teaching of the blessedness of those who are persecuted for righteousness. In modern America we do all we can to avoid pain by having medication and medical technology go to extremes. We try to avoid all manner of bodily pains and inward pains. That has been translated into “Christian” thought by avoiding inward pain at all costs and do not cause another person pain as well. But Jesus taught that we will be hated and persecuted. Do we follow Christ or avoid the pain?

Persecution has been avoided by watering down the biblical teaching on many things. We avoid preaching on sin because it gets people mad. We avoid preaching on certain doctrines because it will run people off from the church. We avoid controversy because it will either make us feel bad or because it will hurt the feelings of another. When we back away from the truths of the Gospel to avoid controversy, though surely in an effort not to offend, we have offended God. There is an unnecessary offense but there is also a necessary offense. Sometimes it takes the wisdom of Solomon to distinguish between the two. Most of the time, however, the distinction is obvious.

Martin Luther faced a vast amount of persecution and insults during his life. In his commentary on Galatians he refers to the Gospel and conflict. It is very insightful.

Some charge that we break charity [love] to the great hurt and damage of the churches. We protest that we desire nothing more than to be at unity with all men; but accursed be that charity which is preserved through the loss of the doctrine of faith.

In this passage on Galatians 5:9 Luther teaches us that while love is important, it is of far more important to preserve the doctrine of faith. We are told that we are to “speak the truth in love” when hard things are said, though perhaps the context to that passage might have more to do with the way gifts are applied in the church. However, there is no true love apart from the truth. Nothing is true love if it costs us the truth and especially the truth of the Gospel. If we prefer love to the Gospel, despite our stated intentions, in reality we prefer to please ourselves and men rather than God. In our day people are calling for unity from all sides and seem to be willing to let the truth slide in order for there to be unity. Yet Jesus told us very clearly a different story: “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23). Unity is only found when Christ is in His people and Christ is the truth and love must come through Him. To seek unity apart from the truth on the grounds of love is to deny both truth and love. It may be that one can avoid persecution or insults by doing that, but it is still against Scripture.

Let us allow them therefore to extol charity and concord as much as they want; but on the other side, let us magnify the majesty of the Word and faith. Charity may be neglected in time and place without any danger, but the Word and faith cannot be. Charity suffers all things, gives place to all men. Contrariwise, faith suffers nothing, gives place to no man. Charity in giving place, in believing, in giving and forgiving, is oftentimes deceived, and yet notwithstanding being so deceived, it suffers no loss which is to be called true loss indeed, that is to say, it loses not Christ; therefore, it is not offended, but continues still constant in well doing, yes, even towards the unthankful and unworthy. Contrariwise, in the matter of faith and salvation, when men teach lies and errors under the color of the truth, and seduce many, here has charity no place: for here we lose not any benefit bestowed upon the unthankful, but we lost the Word, faith, Christ, and everlasting life. Let us not be influenced by the popular cry for charity and unity. If we do not love God and His Word what difference does it make if we love anything at all?

I hope that this quote from Luther is clear. If we have to choose between love and the Gospel, we must take the Gospel. However, if we choose the Gospel it will be true love though it will not appear to be that to many. True love is hated as demonstrated by the hatred of the world and religious people of love incarnate as it was in Christ. When we choose love over the truth and the Gospel we have denied the Gospel as surely as if we hated it. Many deny the Gospel and true blessedness when they want unity in the name of love and yet water down essential truths of the Christian faith. One can interpret that as fear of persecution and insults and hiding under the umbrella of love. In reality it is not true love and so true love and the truth have been cast aside in order to avoid persecution and insults. It is easy to hide under a biblical umbrella while denying Scripture the whole time. But in seeking an easy peace and unity all the while thinking that blessings are located there, true blessedness has been cast off.

No matter what the popular cry is for love and unity or where it comes from, whether from the world or a denomination, that might be nothing but a cry that will require of us to give in at some small point on the Word. We might think that it is but a small point, but Luther instructs us again: “Small faults grow into big faults. To tolerate a trifling error inevitably leads to crass heresy. The doctrine of the Bible is not ours to take or to allow liberties with. We have no right to change even a tittle of it.” The Gospel has no trifling parts and to deviate from any point of it at all is to deviate from true love and true unity. No matter what persecution, lies and insults this may bring, we must never deviate from the Gospel.

Bernard says that the Church is in its best state when Satan assails it on every side, by subtle slights as well as by violence; and contrariwise, that it is in worst case when it is most at ease….Wherefore Paul takes it for a most certain sign that it is not the gospel if it is preached in peace. Contrariwise, the world takes it for a most certain sign that the gospel is heretical and a seditious doctrine, because it sees great uproars, tumults, offenses and sects following the preaching of the gospel.

What we see here is a picture. The world thinks something is wrong with the Church when there is a lot of trouble following the Gospel. Yet in times past the greatest times of the Church and the greatest men of the Church teach and show that the Gospel will be followed by trouble and division. We can test our own thinking by this. Do we desire peace at all costs in a church and the denomination? Are we willing to compromise on things that are absolute verities for the sake of peace? Isn’t it interesting that the call for peace and harmony in the Church is often the same thing that the world is seeking. While we must seek peace and unity, it must never be at the expense of the truth of the Gospel. Persecutions and insults will always follow being true peacemakers though the world, churches and denominations will think we are being stubborn and unloving. True love is not always seen as love while pseudo forms of peace are thought of as true love. Scripture must takes precedent over worldly views on this.

The cross immediately follows the doctrine of the Word. Now the cross of Christians is persecution with reproach and ignominy, and there it is very offensive. First they suffer as the vilest criminals in the world; and so did Christ Himself…Moreover, murderers and thieves have their punishments qualified, and men have compassion on them…As long as the Church teaches the gospel purely, it must suffer persecution. For the gospel sets forth the mercy and glory of God, and it discloses the trickery of the devil, painting him in his right colors. Nothing so stirs up the devil than the preaching of the gospel, for it strips away his disguise and shows him to be the devil and not God. Wherefore as long as the gospel flourishes, the cross and the offense thereof must follow it, or else truly the devil is not rightly touched, but slenderly tickled. If he is rightly hit, he begins to rage and to raise up troubles everywhere.

There will never be a time when the cross or persecution will not follow true doctrine. There will be few if any churches where there will be little trouble. There will be no denomination where there will be no trouble over the Gospel, though it may be called a different name. If churches never have trouble and if a denomination never has trouble, that church or denomination is not preaching the Gospel. Unity in a large denomination is not a sign of the blessing of God, but the blessings and work of the devil. Liberals are very tolerant toward most anything but the true Gospel. Pharisees are intolerant of many things, but they especially hate the Gospel of the grace of God though they use different terms. There are many that love what they call the gospel of grace, but in reality they hate the true Gospel of grace that is opposed to free-will and sin. Many want a Gospel of grace that delivers them from hell but not one that delivers from sin. Many want a Gospel of grace that saves where their free-will ends. But the true Gospel of grace delivers from sin and says that the teaching of free-will in effect denies the Gospel.

The SBC is at a major crossroads. It wants to have peace within as well as peace with the world. All of the calls for civility and graciousness are to some degree true, but they can also be seen as cries for peace to avoid persecution and to be friends with the world. When there are cries for civility it is usually said that the world will see these things and mock. The world hates God and mocks God when the true Gospel is preached no matter what is done. The true Gospel will always be hated and if we are so civil and gracious as to remove the edge from the Gospel we have just become like the world instead of being like Christ who preached the Gospel with an edge. In fact, a gospel with no edge is not the true Gospel. While some see building bridges as a positive thing, it might be that a bridge is simply a way for the Gospel to be watered down enough for there to be unity and peace. If Luther was correct, when the Gospel is watered down enough for there to be unity and peace in larger groups, then it is watered down enough to make the devil happy. “Let us not be influenced by the popular cry for charity and unity. If we do not love God and His Word what difference does it make if we love anything at all?”

Beatitudes 47: Persecute 1

October 10, 2007

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Last week I said that I was dealing with the last Beatitude. I received a phone call and decided to go ahead and deal with the next Beatitude. Perhaps down deep I didn’t want to deal with the issues that this particular beatitude raises and avoid the insults that might come. I will not deal with the more technical issues of whether there are one or two Beatitudes in verses 10-12, but will just treat them as one since at the least they are very close in meaning. This is perhaps the hardest of the Beatitudes and yet, after giving it more thought, one that is very relevant to our day in the United States in its own way and many other places too. All who are persecuted and insulted for the sake of Christ need to be reminded of the blessedness of what is happening to them. Of course that does not mean those who have zeal without knowledge and zeal from self-love that bring persecutions and insults on their own heads.

We can note how shocking it is to go from peacemakers to the blessedness of being persecuted and insulted. We know that peacemakers are blessed, but how is it that peacemakers are persecuted and insulted? How can it be that it is a blessing to be persecuted and insulted? It is shocking to our system when we think of Christ telling us that the one who mourns is a blessed person. But this one goes beyond that. We know that Jesus tells us that if people hated Him they will hate His people (John 15:18). We know that Paul told us that if anyone wished to live godly in Christ Jesus that person will be persecuted (II Tim 3:12). We know to some small degree the persecutions and sufferings that Christ went through and we have heard of some of the sufferings the apostles went through. We have heard of the sufferings of the prophets in the Old Testament. We have read and heard lectures of the sufferings of people through the centuries and during times of great upheaval when many within the visible Church were settled in to their religion with comfort and along came someone with a true love for God and was willing to stand up for it. We have heard of many who are dying for Christ even today in other nations of the world.

In the previous paragraph I kept using terms like “read” and “heard” to refer to things in the past or of happenings in other nations. We think that those things happen in uncivilized parts of the world. We might think that the United States is a Christian nation and so those things don’t happen here. We might even think that God has so blessed us here that these things don’t happen. But the text we are dealing with tells us with a great deal of clarity that those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed. They are the ones that it refers to when it says “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The persecuted are the ones that the text tells us “that your reward in heaven is great.” Is Scripture obsolete or archaic or both? Perhaps what we should begin to think about, however, rather than think of Scripture as anything less than the Word of God, is to come to grips with the realization that Christianity in the United States is so lukewarm at best that maybe it is being spit out of the mouth of our Lord. Perhaps the reason we don’t have many persecutions here is because true Christianity is so rare.

The United States is thought of as a “melting pot.” It is thought that all people are equal in all ways and their religions are too. It is said to be prideful if we speak out and say we have the truth. It is a sign of ignorance to say that one believes in moral absolutes. Everything that is said must be civil, winsome, kind (in a worldly way) and so on. We are not to say anything that would offend others. If a person gets angry we are speaking to we are said to be at fault. In rather blunt language, to live in a society like this and get along with all people it will effectively neuter Christianity and make spiritual geldings of us all. It is not possible to be like Christ and to be civil, winsome and kind in a worldly way at the same time. The prophets were not persecuted for being mean in truth, but by religious people for preaching the Word of God and pointing out sin. The apostles were greatly persecuted by the religious people of their day. It was the religious elite of His day that persecuted and eventually put Jesus on the cross. Are things different today or have we watered down the truth in order to avoid suffering the offense of the cross?

I think that that the visible Church is not being persecuted today because we are more like the world than we are of the real Christ. The modern conception of Christ today is of a man that walked around saying words that dripped with honey and offended no one. That is a lie. Virtually everything Christ said or did offended someone and the religious and moral people of His day tried to kill Him several times. When his apostles went out we are told that they were all martyred except for John who was sent into exile. Who killed them? Religious people did. When true Christianity confronts false Christianity and other religions, persecution will happen. There are some ways to do this that are nicer than others, but it will not be seen as nice. When we speak with clarity and true love, there will be persecution. Not many have the stomach for that. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that not many have the love of Christ in them so as to love Him more than self by telling people what they really need to hear.

There is another way that people flee from persecution too. That is by preaching in a hard way in order to gain the applause of many for doing so. They preach against others but only around those that agree with them. For example, an old style fundamentalist preacher rails against certain types of folks. But he is not telling the people who need to hear that, but to people who agree with him. This happens in all theological circles. Reformed people will say many things around those that agree with them but not around those who would get mad at them. There are also those with a lot of fire and they go out and say radical things that get people mad, but that is still not the type of persecution that comes from preaching the truth in love. People can get angry at being offended by many things and even the way things are said. But the kind of persecution that comes when people speak the words of Christ that reaches the hearts and consciences of others is different in many ways. A momentary anger at an insult is one thing, but a deep abiding anger that arises from an inner hatred of God is quite another.

We really should narrow this down and look at things within Reformed circles and the SBC. What things would a Reformed person do to keep others from persecuting him or her in the SBC? What type of things would people in the SBC do to keep others in the SBC from persecuting him or her? What things could the SBC do to keep people from persecuting it? To go back to the blunter type of language, what could we do to be neutered in the world and within religious circles? I think it is exactly what is being done right now. We would find a nice Jesus and tell people about Him (him?) in a nice religious way. We would water down the teaching of sin and make it more of a mistake rather than an act of hatred against God. We would tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for them rather than that the wrath of God is upon them. We would tell people they need to pray a prayer or sign a card rather than a deep repentance of the heart. We would tell them they need to make a decision rather than they need to be born again by the will of God. We would bring in the “niceness” of the world and want everything to be civil and winsome. We would call anyone who made a profession of faith a brother or sister.

Some other things that are done would be to forget the historical distinctions between theological camps and water things down to void those. In the past the distinction between Protestant and Roman Catholic was clear. In the modern day those differences are ignored. Is it because those differences are not really there? No, it is because people don’t study their Bibles or theology enough to see the real differences. Just as long as salvation is said to be of grace and Christ it is enough to wash away the other differences. In the past the distinction between Reformed and Arminian was distinct and clear as well. In the modern day those differences are all but ignored. As long as anyone professes some major doctrines and says that he or she was saved by faith that is thought to be enough.

What is being done, then, is clear. The distinction between Protestant and Roman Catholic theologies is being blurred because the distinction between Reformed and Arminian theology has been blurred. Roman Catholicism is Arminian at heart in its teaching. The heart of classical Protestantism was Reformed theology. When that is blurred the real differences between Protestants and Roman Catholicism is blurred. The desire to be civil has taken the edge off of our theological writing and the distinctions are blurred. We are afraid that some will say something bad about us and that we are not civil or winsome. A desire to be civil and winsome has dulled our theology. We desire to be approved by men more than God. We say we want reformation and revival but ignore the fact that God will not send revival to neutered religious people no matter what theology they profess with their mouths.

The answer is a true repentance in the hearts of all who love God. We must recognize that we have bought into a worldly way of thinking which has watered our theology and preaching down to where it is acceptable to all manner of people. However, God despises it. We are so man-centered and watered down that we are more concerned about civility than the truth of the living God. We have become neutered when we are satisfied with broad statements of orthodoxy rather than precise statements from broken hearts. When we are afraid of it being said that we are not nice enough or loving enough because of strong stands, we fear public opinion more than we fear God. That calls for true repentance. When we love to be called “civil” and “winsome” and want to be so-called peacemakers with those titles, we are not like the prophets, apostles, Reformers or our Savior. It might be that we are even non-Christian if we are so unlike Christ in this way. This is not a minor issue.

Do we really love what the great Protestant and Reformed preachers preached in the past? Are we so sure? Do we really love what they preached and how they preached? Howell Harris was persecuted and insulted by the religious people of his day and the world that he preached to. George Whitefield (pronounced Whit as if without the “e”) was despised by the religious leaders of his day too. He was insulted and persecuted. We love to hear of the thrilling stories of the men of old and think we are aligned with them, but we want to be known as civil and winsome in our day. We should ask ourselves if we are more like Howell Harris and George Whitefield or the last pope. Harris and Whitefield were men who were greatly opposed and suffered persecution. The pope sought to be tolerant of all and civil and winsome. Can we have the theology that Harris and Whitefield had if we are not of the same spirit? Does the rough theology that they had speak of a likeness to Christ and His prophets and apostles or does the civil and winsome spirit of today sound more like Christ and His prophets and apostles? I fear that Harris and Whitefield are more like Christ and His prophets and apostles and we are more like the world. They were blessed, had great rewards and theirs was the kingdom of heaven along with their persecutions. What is it that our age has? We have an ability to avoid any offense and any persecution. But where is the truth of the Gospel and the glory of God?

Beatitudes 46: Peace 8

October 6, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

This will be the last issue on the Beatitudes. However, as you reflect on the beauty and wonder of the Beatitudes, surely it is clear that there is much more that could be said. These wonderful words of Christ are simply full of wisdom, glory and truth. These truths run throughout the Scriptures and can be seen and applied at virtually any point. This week we will primarily look at what it means to be called a son of God. While it may be thought to be a minor thing to be called a son of God, this is something that the Scripture sets out as amazing.

This aspect of blessedness is actually part of the blessing of the other beatitudes as well. To be a son of God is indeed to have the kingdom of God in us. To be a son of God is to be comforted by God and to inherit the earth. To be a son of God is to be satisfied with Him, to receive mercy from Him and to see God. In one sense all of the blessings of the Beatitudes cannot be separated, but in another sense they all flow from being a son of God. We will look at several verses in an effort to draw out just a little of the blessing it is to be a child of God and to encourage us all to be peacemakers in the true sense so as to glorify our Father and see others as His children.

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1). While the world can read or hear this verse with barely a motion of the heart or mind, John did not write it that way and it should not impact the children of God that way. There is a great love bestowed on all who are the children of God because they are children of God. The children of God did not deserve to be His children, but instead this love was bestowed on them. In other words, these children of God have had love poured out on and in them by grace. Those who are true peacemakers, and not just those who run around doing something called evangelism, are those who have the love of God in their souls and have had it bestowed on them by grace. They are truly blessed people.

“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). This text points us to the alternative of being a child of God. It is to be a child of the devil. How blessed, then, are the children of God because they are no longer children of the devil. The child of God is blessed in many ways, but to be freed from the devil is to be freed from the kingdom of darkness and the bondage to sin and from eternity in hell which is the eternal home of the devil and all of his children. The love of the Father (from I John 3:1) is seen in an ever brighter light when it is compared to the hatred that the evil one has for his children.

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13). All who are children of God have been given this right or authority. Where did that come from? It came from God and they were born of the will of God and not their own. That shows that this is of grace and only of grace. To be called a child of God in truth is to be a true child of God which means that one is born of His Word and of the Spirit (John 3:5-8; I Peter 1:23-25). When one is born in the world one is born dead in sins and trespasses and children of wrath and the devil. When the Spirit works in and through the Word a person is born with life and holiness and is now a child of love and of God. That is true blessedness.

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:14-17). This text shows another beautiful part of the blessedness of being a child of God. It is to be led by the Spirit of God. The children of the devil are in bondage to the devil and are led by him to sin in all that they do. The children of God are led by the Spirit of God who is the Holy Spirit and He leads His children into true freedom. Those who are free in this way are heirs with Christ instead of heirs with devil of eternal torment. The blessedness of being a peacemaker by being a child of God should be evident at this point. If we could only see with spiritual eyes we could see how blessed it is to be led by the Spirit and to be an heir with Christ. Such the children of God have and are.

“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). Here is another glorious blessing of being a child of God and therefore a true peacemaker. God Himself is their Father. Not only is He a Father, He is all that a Father should be. He is the Lord Almighty and He is the perfect Father. He becomes the true provider and the true protector of His children. When a believer is a true peacemaker, that believer goes out in his or her duties as a peacemaker knowing that he or she has Almighty God as a Father to watch over and protect him or her. It is not that the Lord will make everything go perfect in the human sense of the word, but that all that happens comes though the perfect love of the Father.

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26). The true peacemaker knows how he or she came to be a son of God. It is through faith in Christ Jesus. Christ is the true Son of God and all who come to the Father come through Him by faith alone. The true peacemaker is blessed in that he or she has stopped all works to be accepted by God but now rests in Christ alone. In Christ, who is the perfect Son, one has union with Him and all the blessings of God in Him. The true peacemaker knows the blessing of being accepted as a Son on the basis of Christ. No one has the right to be a child of God based on anything but the work of Christ and the application of the work of Christ by the Spirit. Another way to put the same thought is Romans 5:1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” One must be declared just by God on the basis of faith in Christ to have peace with God. The true peacemaker is one that has peace with God through Christ and has that same message. It is the only way to the Father. But the peacemaker knows what it means to have peace with God based on justification by faith alone in Christ and so is blessed.

“Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6). Here we see the beauty of the New Covenant. In that New Covenant all who are justified by God have the Spirit of the Son in their hearts. They are not left to work their way into heaven or even part of the way. They are not left after justification to a system of works and self-effort for sanctification. But instead they have the life of God in their souls and they live by grace each and every moment. It is God who is at work in them to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). The Spirit is the one who is crying out “Father” which is one aspect of the testimony of the Spirit in the believer. Those were the same words that Christ used to refer to the Father and He is working that in the other children of God as well. This is true blessedness.

We must learn from this that there is no peace in us or others without the grace of God in Christ. We must learn that only those who teach peace through Christ and His cross by grace alone as taught in Scripture are true peacemakers. Anyone who teaches a peace with God apart from Christ and His cross by grace alone is a false preacher, a deceiver and a liar. They are the ones running around crying out peace, peace, when there is no peace (Ezekiel 13:10-16). There may be many with false theology telling us many things, but the true peacemaker is ready to go to war for there to be true peace. God has used strong and blunt men like Martin Luther and John Knox who were more concerned with truth than civility to build His Church on the foundation of Christ. It matters little what one’s external theology is if one is not willing to stand firmly for the Gospel and the true way of peace. It would then be a theology of straw. There are those who are more concerned with outward niceness than with the edges of the truth and they will never be used for true revival and reformation until they repent. The Gospel has an edge to it and it is always edgy and offensive to those who deny it whether they are admitted unbelievers or not.

True peace with God is a fruit of the Spirit and is not natural to a fallen nature. Human beings want peace on their terms and their own ways. All false gospels make salvation too easy, though some make it with many hard works. But this is a fruit of the Spirit and cannot be obtained by any work or works. True peacemakers realize their helplessness to be peacemakers and instead plead with God to do the work through them because there is no peace anywhere without Christ. The peacemaker realizes that the messages of sin and of repentance and even of justification by grace alone are hard truths. This means that this person will be persecuted. We are promised persecution and also blessings from that as well. The true peacemaker must cease from his sinful self-interest and pursue true peace at the expense of peace with men and religious groups. It is a great sin to be at war with God for honor in seeking peace with men rather than seeking peace with God. To be a true peacemaker requires us to be men and women to be tender of heart while using the sword of the Spirit and enduring hostility from the world and religious people alike. It is being a child of God and it is to be very blessed.

Beatitudes 45: Peace 7

September 25, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

The great issue of being a peacemaker is not a small thing. In one sense the blessing of being a peacemaker is set out in the Beatitudes. Yet there is even more to being a peacemaker than what we normally think of. In the realm of theology there is one attribute of God that is rarely mentioned. It is the attribute of simplicity. Historically this has a different meaning than what the word might imply today. What it refers to is that in a very real sense, that is, in the depths of the essence of God all of the attributes of God are really one. God Himself is gloriously one and He sees Himself in the beauty, splendor and glory of who He really is. That bright light shines out from the being of God and comes to human beings who cannot comprehend such glory. We cannot comprehend the blazing glory of God in His oneness so we have to have it broken down to us in little bits. We see His holiness and His love as attributes that are different, but in reality they are one. We see justice and mercy as virtual opposites in our fallen and finite state, yet they are really but one.

The beauty of the simplicity of God is not thought of very much today, but that does not negate its glory. This newsletter is not on the simplicity of God in a direct way, but that is being spoken of to point out another unity. That unity is the unity of Scripture which comes from God who is one in all of His being. More directly, the teaching of Scripture on the blessedness of being peacemakers is tied in with the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandments of God. All of the truth of God set out in Scripture is tied together as expressions of His glory. His glory is the effulgence or shining forth of Himself though Christ. While we see the oneness of His glory diffused as through a prism in and through Christ, we must recognize that God is essentially one in His being and all of Scripture flows from His character and being. Each verse of Scripture is intimately linked with all Scripture.

The blessing of being a peacemaker is not really distinct from the Great Commission given by Christ. Being a peacemaker is not really distinct from the Greatest Commandments either. If we love God, then we will want the glory of God to shine through the Gospel of His glory in Christ in all places on this planet. If we love God, then we will want His name to be exalted through the Gospel in all places on this planet. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, then if we would want someone to take the Gospel to us we must take the Gospel to the whole world. Simply put, being a peacemaker requires us to be global in our mindset. To be peacemakers might require you to go to a hard place because God deserves it and you must love your neighbor as yourself. What would you be willing for others to do to bring you the Gospel? What are you willing to do to take the Gospel to others?

There are many places of dire need in the world today. I think that the United States is in dire need of hearing the true Gospel rather than the culture of religion that goes under the guise of Christianity today. However, there are places that have never heard the Gospel and there are places that were under communistic teachings for a long time and are virtually swallowed up in an atheistic worldview. There are places where the Muslim religion oppresses anything that appears as Christian. Our God deserves His glory to be made known and those people have no right to live in a way that is not to His glory. We simply must, whether we go ourselves or finance others going, take the message of His glory in the Gospel to our neighbors. It is not an option. The only question that remains is how we are going to do this. It is easy to think that others will do it. Without trying to get the quote exactly, I think it was Jim Elliot who put it this way: “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”

A missionary in Indonesia is crying out for help. Perhaps his cries for help and this newsletter are not like the dream that Paul had of a man calling out to him to come and help. But let us make no mistake about this, the area where the missionary in Indonesia is asking for help is a dark place in terms of the Gospel and virtually no one is there with the Gospel. If the love of God for His glory and your neighbor is in your soul, how can this bit of information not move you? There is a place on this planet where God is not being glorified and many of your neighbors there have not heard the Gospel. There are a few believers in the area of Indonesia but the few need to be discipled and the many who have not heard need to hear. Let us all who read this not blow this off as we do so much other information. It is easy to stand back and argue about the fine points of theology and various issues and deceive ourselves into thinking we are doing something. Nonsense!! The only question left is what are we going to do? Are we hearers who walk away without doing anything? Is our faith accompanied by love?

Romans 5:1 tells us this: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are to proclaim the Gospel to the people in Indonesia so that they would bow in submission to God and have peace with Him. Until that time they will be at war with the One we say we love with all of our being. With John Piper’s book in mind, don’t waste your life. If you have wasted your life in one sense up to this point, then don’t waste the rest of it. You have been created for the purpose of manifesting the glory of God. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Are you looking for a life of ease and comfort? If so, that is not the life of Christ in you that is doing so. The same Christ that lives in His people is the Christ who did not have a pillow to lay His head on when on this planet. He is not leading you to a life of ease and comfort. If Christ is in you He is calling you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him. That may be to the hard places of the world, but that is also to the blessedness of knowing what it means to be a peacemaker.

The missionary in Indonesia is looking for people who would be willing to be part of a team working with the local people and other team members. The plans are to be “circuit riders” in a sense by using boats and planes to go to surrounding tribes. If someone has an interest in teaching children, someone could go to teach the children of other missionaries. This is not a call to those who want an extended vacation or to those who have a romantic idea of missions. This is a call to go and suffer hardship for the sake of His name in getting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who have never heard it. We are told to pray for the Lord to send workers to the harvest. Let us all commit to doing that, but some of us need to bow to the lordship of Christ and go. We live in a day in the United States were we don’t waste things but instead are told to recycle them. You cannot recycle your life and use it again, so don’t waste it. We are also told that we only have one life so live it with gusto. We have only one life so we must not waste it but use it as an expression of the glory of God. Pray for the grace to live to His glory. Pray and see if it is you that God would send as a peacemaker to the hard places of the world. By pray I am not meaning to offer sounds from the lips, but earnestly and honestly pray to the Lord about this.

If anyone is interested in going to a hard place in Indonesia, please get in contact with me. I will get you in touch with the missionary on the field. Did I mention that there are security concerns? More importantly, however, there are eternal security concerns. First make sure that it is out of love for the glory of God and the souls of your neighbors that is your motive. This is something that will require a willingness to act and tenacity of love to keep acting. This must not be just a momentary flare of desire. If you have a real desire to join this team, your airfare will be paid if all that is needed is a visit to confirm your call. Several families are needed in order to maximize the impact there. Don’t just think that another will do it, the need is for several. There will also be opportunities for shorter term missions in the coming months. Perhaps some would go and build an airfield or help build a house. There is always the need for financial help too from individuals and churches.

One example of the great need there is that there are villages that are not accessible at the moment by any other method than on foot. What that means is that it may take ten hours to hike to a village. One aspect of a work like this is that it will take a lot of work in some of these areas to build airstrips so that there is easier access to the villagers. As you can see, the need is great and the hardships are many. It will take a lot of grace and love in the hearts of people to go to places like this and labor in many ways to get the Gospel. Is this a real obstacle? Yes, but not one that God cannot overcome. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? You don’t know how long it will be no matter where you live. What is the purpose of your life? In reality it is not your life and it is not your choice. You don’t belong to yourself and you have no right to disobey God. The real question, then, is whether God is calling you. If He is, you have no option. The only option you have is to go as you are commanded. That is what a peacemaker does who is more concerned with the kingdom of God than his own kingdom. After all, it is His kingdom that we still pray to come. Do we mean that prayer enough to go?

There is also a place in the Czech Republic. A man and his family have been in a city in the Czech Republic laboring away for several years in the Gospel without apparent outward success, though there is always true success when one lives out of love for God. He can promise no outward success if anyone would come. However, the need is great. He would love to have someone come and help there. It would be great if a person could go over and teach English at the university there as that would be an opportunity to build relationships. Here is a man that is wearied at times from the burden of working many hours and trying to minister. Will someone go to stand alongside this neighbor of ours and our brother and hold up his hands?

Sometimes I feel the burden of being in Kansas and having the need for the Lord to send workers into the harvest as the need is so great. There are so many towns here that are without a Gospel witness. There are so many churches that are in need of ministers to preach the true Gospel to them. The need in Kansas is so great, yet it seems as if the need in Indonesia and the Czech Republic is even greater. The vast majority of people in those places have never even heard the true Gospel. The reality of it all is that there are many other places in the world where God’s name is not loved either and the Gospel has scarcely been heard or not at all. Let us quit playing with our tinker toys of the world and quit being so concerned about what others think of us (family and friends) and simply bow to what Christ teaches us in Scripture about being peacemakers, the Great Commission and the Great Commandments. All of those things are telling us the same truth about the same God and our duty. All of them are utterly impossible to carry out in the strength of the flesh. The Gospel of the glory of God will never shine through people; regardless of how religious they are, if the love of self dwells in them rather than the love of God. Let us be broken from our self-love, selfishness and self-centeredness and go out in the strength of grace. I can only hope and pray that some will go out in the strength of grace to Indonesia and that others will go to the Czech Republic while still others will go to other places. Maybe some will even come to Kansas. May the rest go by supporting those who do go. May all of us never forget the blessedness of being peacemakers which consists in seeing the glory of God shine through ourselves and others.

Beatitudes 44: Peace 6

September 19, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

The Gospel is a Gospel of peace and this is truly a glorious thing. This is one reason that peacemakers are blessed and that is because they see the glory of God shining in this Gospel of peace. One blessing of being a peacemaker is to behold the glory of God in the Gospel of peace and to go around shining forth that glory. As the Gospel shines out through us we see that which we love the most and that which brings true blessedness and joy. It is the glory of God in us and through us as it shines out to others.

If we go out with the Gospel and do not understand that unbelievers truly hate God, we might be surprised by the reaction of people. The natural person, even though s/he may be very religious, hates the true God. If we go out with the Gospel of the glory of God and people see the true God, they will hate Him and our message. The reaction is then to water the Gospel down in order to make it more palatable to people. We will water it down in order to make it more man-centered in some way. That can take one of two directions, though in reality both will be done. We will water the message down about man and his true enmity with God or we will water the message down about God. It will start with one or the other but will inevitably lead to a watering down of both.

What we must see and come to grips with is that the Gospel is the Gospel of God. It is all about God and is about how God saves His enemies by grace alone. God’s glory shines in the Gospel of peace, but it is a God-centered Gospel rather than one that is centered upon man. God’s glory shines in the fact that the Gospel is all about His grace and nothing to do with the worthiness of man (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14; 2:1-10). Man wants a gospel that is all how much God values and loves him. Man wants a gospel that he can accept or reject at his pleasure and according to what he thinks is his freedom. But the glory of the Gospel is the exact opposite of that. The character and attributes of God in His grace and sovereignty shine in and through the true Gospel of His glory. These are not things to hide from people, though indeed they hate this and despise us for it. We must know that if we change the message we are no longer shining the glory and beauty of God’s freedom and grace to people. If we change the message we are no longer teaching human beings how opposed they are to the true God. If we change the message of the Gospel, then we are no longer doing it to the glory of God and of the true good of human beings.

Peacemakers know that God’s glory is at stake in the Gospel. Those who are war with God are only at war with God over the parts that attack their self-centeredness and positions of influence. This was like the Pharisees and the Jews. Their positions were in danger. “Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:47-48). We must never forget that man is a self-centered creature apart from the grace of God. We must also never forget that man believes that he is on the throne of his life and that he runs and rules it according to his own self-determining power. When the peacemaker comes along and tells man that the truth of the matter is that man is dead in sin and is in bondage to the devil that gets man upset. When the peacemaker comes along and tells man that God is sovereign and man cannot bring God under his obligation at all in any matter, this goes against all of man’s beliefs and all that his heart loves. The Gospel of peace is in one sense bringing man’s war with God to a head.

The truth of the glory of God in the Gospel must be seen so that people will see their true enmity with God. As long as we tell them the pleasing things, they will just think that they love God and never see their enmity with Him. A peacemaker must be willing to suffer to proclaim this message of truth of the glory of God in order to be a true peacemaker between God and human beings. We must never forget that the Gospel is all about the glory of God and is not centered upon man. The Gospel is about how God can be just and the justifier of sinners (Romans 3:26). The Gospel is all about the righteousness of God and how He can give a free gift of righteousness of man while maintaining His holiness and justice (Rom 3:24-31). The Gospel is all about His grace. These things will never be popular, but these are part of what we must do to preach the true glory of God in the Gospel.

We take the glory of the Gospel out to human beings so that people will see the glory of God and realize their true danger. Part of that true danger is that they are at enmity with God and we must get them to see that. As long as we tell them pleasing things, they will think that they love God and will never see their true enmity with God. A true peacemaker must be willing to suffer in order to proclaim this message of truth to the glory of God. A peacemaker has to show people their war with God in order to declare the peace of God. If people do not see that they are at war, then they will not see their need for peace with God. This means that we must go out with the message of the glory of God to show men that they are at war with God so they can see their desperate plight.

We must also see that changing the message of the Gospel is really a changing of the presentation of the character of God. The natural man will always follow the path of Romans 1:18-32 which is a constant suppression of the truth of God that shines in nature and in human beings themselves. All that humanity does is really an expression of enmity toward God whether it is murder or of committed religion. When we come to humanity we must always bear in mind that man wants to suppress the knowledge of God. If we bring this message of the glory of God to him he will react in a way to suppress that information and that might be an effort to suppress the peacemaker. If we water the message down we are helping that person suppress the truth and we are doing the same thing too.

All of the things above are reasons why the Gospel is so man-centered today. This is true in the Reformed ranks as well as others. Our so-called Gospel presentations are canned messages or generalized talks that are focused on the human being. It is no wonder that people don’t see their hatred for and enmity with God and so see no need of the Gospel. The visible Church today is as guilty of suppressing the Gospel as anyone. From its desires for numbers, honor and influence it has chosen to take out the hard parts of the Gospel which has left it with a false gospel. It has also left the visible Church teaching about a false god and trusting in one as well. The true peacemaker must never water down the character of God in proclaiming the Gospel of the glory of God. If we water down the character of God, we no longer have a Gospel of the glory of God. It becomes a gospel of the glory of man.

For some reason the Jesus Christ was heavily persecuted during His ministry on earth. He was perfect and perfectly loved, yet He was hated, despised and eventually killed. Why is that? Because He was the temple of the living God (John 1:14) and He was the outshining of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). Wherever He went He was perfect love and yet He was hated as the glory of God shone through Him. When people saw Him they hated the God who shone through Him. If we are to be true peacemakers we are to go out with the life of Christ as our life and strength. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God. We are promised that men will hate us because they hate Him. If we can go out and tell what we call the gospel and no one is really all that mad, it may be because we are not declaring the Gospel of the glory of God. Man hates God and when he sees God he will react with anger.

In our day we have seen what happens when the Gospel of the glory of God becomes the gospel of the glory of man. Multitudes are deceived with an easy way to “believe” in Christ, yet many others are inoculated to the truth of the Gospel by someone watering it down. Church buildings are filled with unbelievers and all are in search for something to tickle their ears in order to keep their deception going. Since church buildings are filled with unbelievers if anyone speaks of the Gospel of the glory of God it makes people very angry and they fire the pastor. A peacemaker will face fierce opposition in most “churches” today precisely because man has become the center of all things and it is even taught that God is centered on man today as well. But despite the opposition and hatred that the Gospel of the glory of God brings, we must never water it down at any point. To do so is fatal.

We have seen (though to a small degree) that the Gospel is primarily about the glory of God (II Cor 4:4-6). We have seen that human beings that are not true Christians hate God and suppress the truth about Him. It is in Christ that the glory of God shines when Christ is presented in truth. This brings us as peacemakers into a position of considerable tension. If we water the message down enough that people will not get mad, we are suppressing the truth of God and we must question our own hearts as to whether we love God or ourselves in trying to please others. What are we to do? We must be humbled in order that God would deliver us from our self-love and self-pleasing ways in order that we would love Him enough to declare His glory despite the opposition that we will face from professing believers and unbelievers alike. The glory of God is the most beautiful sight that a person can ever have. However, it is the most hateful sight to unbelievers and perhaps especially to unbelievers who are very religious. They hate a free and sovereign grace which stands against their belief in their own free-will. We must love God and His glory enough to proclaim the Gospel of His glory to fellow human beings who will hate us and mistreat us. That is what Jesus did and that is what we will do if Jesus is the life that is in us.

Beatitudes 43: Peace 5

September 17, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

One vital element in being a true and consistent peacemaker is one that cannot be instilled by human effort. It is also something that will never happen as a result of simply reading a book on evangelism or what it takes to do this vital element or to be what this vital element is. This vital element is to be one that truly fears and loves God and does not live to please men. One that fears men will never be a true peacemaker. One that fears men will always be guided by what other men think and say rather than the Word of God. One can be an outstanding preacher in one sense, a great historian, an academic theologian and still fear men in the sense that he wants men to be pleased with him. One can gain much repute in denominations or organizations while being a pleaser of men. But one will never be a true and consistent peacemaker while one is a pleaser of men.

The heart of man is such that he loves himself rather than God. Instead of doing all out of love for God, man does all out of love for himself and the things that he considers best for his own situation. While he will do things in the name of God, the real motive behind all that he does is himself. To be a true peacemaker one must preach the Gospel which is not a Gospel that pleases men. One must preach the Law in such a way that strips the person of any hope in himself and even to show the person that he cannot hope in himself. The Law must be preached to the heart and the spiritual nature of it shown to the hearers. That is not what a pleaser of man is really willing to do on a consistent basis. But the person must not just be made aware that s/he is a sinner, but that person must come to the point of feeling the weight of sin on his or her conscience. Those whose hearts want to please men are not willing to do that unless it pleases others who are watching or are aware of what is going on.

Hear the words of Paul:

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Gal 1:6-10).

Verse 10 is important to what he is trying to say. It is true that Paul was talking about how important it is to preach the Gospel. He was saying that there was only one Gospel and a person was to be accursed if he preached a different Gospel. But he then goes on to say in this very context that if he were still trying to please men he would be not be a bond-servant of Christ. What was true of Paul has been true of every person who has lived between Paul and today and is true of all people today as well. Where you find a person that tries to please men you will find a person that is not a bond-servant of Christ no matter the external results. One thing that Paul was communicating here is that those who try to please men are not those who preach the true Gospel. If a person does not preach the true Gospel but waters it down a little to please men or to make it more palatable or acceptable to fallen man, that is a person that is not preaching the Gospel. That is a person that is obeying self instead of Christ.

When we look at Christ and His life in the world, we see Him healing people, feeding them, and even raising some from the dead. The people flocked to hear Him. However, when it came time to teach those people that flocked after Him He would not compromise. The same people that wanted to make Him king wanted to kill Him when He preached the truth to them. The same people that He gave free food to wanted to kill Him after He taught them. In fact, Jesus told them this: “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44). Receiving glory and honor from men is the same as trying to please men in this context. This fits perfectly with what Paul taught in Galatians 1:6-10. The statement of Jesus, boiled down, is saying that those who receive honor and glory from men rather than seeking the glory from God cannot believe in God as their deepest conviction. It is one thing to believe in God, but it is quite another thing to live to His glory regardless of what happens. This type of person will preach a form of the Gospel in order to appear to men to be a peacemaker and this can also be used to deceive themselves that they are peacemakers. This person will not stand firm for certain aspects of the Gospel because it is hard to hear and displeasing to men.

Paul also spoke of this in another way:

“But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:19-21).

In this case Paul wanted to send the Philippians a pastor but he did not have one person who would be genuinely concerned for the welfare of the people. Why is that? When men seek their own interests, they will not be truly seeking the interests of Christ. If men are not seeking the interests of Christ as Christ has set out, then they will not be seeking the welfare of the people with a genuine interest. This is another way of pleasing men. One that seeks his own interests will please others rather than God if it is in his own best interests (according to the fallen mind) to do so.

We must look at this with great care. Not many people would consider themselves to be pleasers of men. They prefer to think of themselves as being nice, tolerant, gracious, and even winsome. They prefer to think of themselves as being those things in order to gain a hearing for the Gospel or to gain a political position in which they would have influence. This can happen at a job, in a local church and at differing levels of a religious organization or denomination. Jesus Christ never commands anyone to please men in order to gain a hearing for the Gospel. He commands His people to love Him at all times as the supreme love in all ways. He commands His ministers to preach the Gospel even if it means losing their jobs. He commands that He have the hearts, love, fear and respect of His people at all times.

In the United States we have not seen a real revival since the time of the Civil War. Perhaps it is because we have become more concerned with pleasing men than with pleasing God. Perhaps it is because when we become more concerned with positions of influence and pleasing men rather than preaching the Gospel to them out of love for God and their souls that we have lost the offensive nature of the Gospel and of the cross. It could be that we have become so enamored with the smiles of men that we have forgotten that to love them in truth they must hear a very offensive message from us. A peacemaker is one that will offend others in order to stand and proclaim the Gospel.

This brings in some other issues that relate to the other beatitudes. A peacemaker is one that mourns for others because the peacemaker can see that the other person hates God. The peacemaker mourns out of a true concern for other people. The peacemaker who mourns is one that is willing to suffer that the other person will hear the offensive message of the cross. The peacemaker is also one that is meek. He is willing to suffer the abuse of others and return love to them. The peacemaker is one who is merciful. He does not have a false mercy which just feels sorry for people and desires to relive their pain in order to feel better himself, but this is a person that sees that sinners are truly helpless and in dire need of the mercy of God. True mercy comes in and brings the Gospel to the person even though it may bring persecution on the peacemaker. That is true mercy.

Being a peacemaker requires that man die to their self-centeredness and self-love. Being a peacemaker is not really possible for those who want influence and position. It is not possible to be a true peacemaker when a person is more concerned with being winsome and gracious than he is to please God. We might think that by being those things we are showing the love and grace of God, but that is not necessarily true. “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Part of being a godly person is to be a peacemaker in truth. All who desire to be peacemakers will be persecuted. This is in line with the next beatitude which tells us that blessed people are those who are persecuted. It does not say “blessed are the tolerant and the winsome that please men at all times.” A peacemaker is one that does not pare off the rough edges of the Christian message or the Gospel in order to be accepted before men, but instead leaves them on in order to please God. That is, after all, what is truly good for men as well. A peacemaker is one that is willing to suffer so that God would be pleased and men would hear the Gospel in order that they would be saved. Death to self and the esteem of others is required.

Until men are truly humbled and broken, as opposed to a mask of humility called “tolerance” along with a veneer of niceness, we will not see revival. True peacemakers will be those who will be persecuted. True peacemakers will be those who have to stand for the Gospel and all of its rough edges. True peacemakers will be those who will not want to pare off the rough edges of the Gospel because they love the Gospel and the glory of the God they love that shines through it. True peacemakers will want to set forth the truth of God in order to please God and those that they reach even though others get so mad they insult the messenger. This is part of what a peacemaker does.

Beatitudes 42: Peace 4

September 5, 2007

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:8)

Last week we looked at the fact that human beings are to be peacemakers. This thought should chill us to the bone to think that we reside in a small fraction of eternity in the presence of the majesty of an omnipotent and omnipresent God who is thrice holy. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. All human beings are born with a nature by which they are at enmity with God. All of them will fall into the hands of that living God from whom there is no escape or hope of anything but eternal torment. There is one way and one way only of peace with this God and human beings are to proclaim that way of peace in the Gospel. It is vital to understand the sinful nature of human beings and then the true nature of the Gospel if we are going to be peacemakers. A peacemaker is one who understands both parties and the way of reconciliation between them. If we misunderstand one of the parties, we will not have a way of peace to proclaim but will instead be crying “peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). Being a peacemaker is deadly serious business.

In the first newsletter dealing with this beatitude (peacemaker) it set out how we must understand the fact that men hate God and are at enmity with Him. That was set out to show that the hatred human beings have for God demonstrates that we must have peace with God and what kind of peace is being discussed. In this newsletter we are going to look at the nature of man in order that we are sure we understand the kind of people we are dealing with in order to approach them correctly and in order to know in a fuller way the kind of peace they need. Without going over the same ground to the extent that we did in the first newsletter on this issue, we can simply give one verse or so and point it out again as a way of refreshing our memories.

James 4:4: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

All across our land we see people in and out of churches that are friends with the world. We must remember that even in our church and denomination we can be friends with the world in the way we do things and in our attitudes and approaches. We can be conservative in theology and still be friends with the world in our approach. It can be as simple as making people of the world more comfortable at church. We are to take away all things that would cause one to be offended unnecessarily, but if we are not careful we will offend God. Our greatest duty and love in the church is to be a dwelling place of God. He is the One that we must not offend at any cost. If we are more concerned with not offending men than God, we are idolaters. The world could care less about offending God and so they are at enmity with God. They don’t want to offend their friends, but they don’t care about offending God. This shows the enmity of the heart and hostility they have toward God. A person that we don’t care about offending is a person we have no respect for and is in some way our enemy. That is the way the world treats God.

Part of being at enmity with God and hating God is to do all things out of self-love and concern for self. Romans 3:23 defines sin for us “falling short of the glory of God.” What is it in what we do that displays enmity with God? It is that we do it for ourselves and our own pleasure, honor and glory rather than God’s. If we are not doing something to the glory of God, we are doing to the glory of ourselves. We take the image of God (ourselves) and live in such a way that we desire glory for ourselves rather than for Him. Here are some texts which teach this:

Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Romans 8:7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,

2 Timothy 3:2: “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy.” 3:4: “treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

Philippians 2:21: “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.”

Seeking the interests of self instead of the interests of Christ is to be at war with God. Those who love pleasure rather than the true God, even though they may seek a false god and find pleasure in that, are at enmity with God because of selfish pleasure. It is as lovers of self (II Timothy 3:2) that men love money and become boastful and arrogant. It is love of self that make men treacherous and reckless rather than lovers of God. When the mind is set on the flesh (fallen self) it cannot please God and is hostile toward God. All that comes from the flesh even though it may be very religious is that which is hostile with God. The Pharisees were very religious and they did it for selfish reasons. We must get at the true heart of sin if we are going to be true peacemakers. When the Pharisees prayed, fasted, and gave alms they were demonstrating hatred for the true God because they did all of those things for selfish reasons and to gain honor from men rather than honor for God (Matthew 6:1-7, 16-18).

True peacemakers must understand this selfish and self-centered aspect of men or they will be like the Pharisees who crossed land and sea and simply made sons of hell: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). In this there will be no true peace, but in fact increase the war with God in the name of religion. It is possible to take those with no religion and make them religious and the result will be that those people are simply deceived and even greater enemies of God. Men are born children of the devil and unless they are born from above they will always be children of the devil even if they are the most outwardly religious people in the church. They have no peace with God in reality and go around with nothing more than words of deception as their father the devil did. Here are two verses that show that people are children of the devil and that in the first verse this is not contradictory to being religious people.

John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” In this text Jesus is speaking to very religious people and even those that the text says believed in Him (v. 31). They came to some form of outward belief but they were still not at peace with God. Acts 13:10: “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?” Here we see how Paul addressed a man who opposed the message of the Gospel. Unbelieving people are indeed children of the devil because all men are liars in their unregenerate nature. Many people will try an outward form of religion but inwardly they are still children of the devil. We must understand something of this or we will not be true peacemakers but will actually deceive people.

Unbelievers are spiritually dead in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-3). They don’t need to pray a prayer and put on a dress of religion, they need to be made alive in Christ and reconciled to God. If we approach the duty and privilege of being peacemakers without realizing that people must be made alive, we are in great danger of deceiving them. Many of those in bondage to the flesh and self-love are ready to pray a prayer or make a moral reformation from self-love, but they are still dead in their sins and trespasses. What will we tell a dead person to do to make peace with God? Will we tell a dead person to reform his life and be good? Will we tell a dead person to make his peace with God? Will we tell a dead person to go to church and get involved as a sign of life? What is a sign of life? We must know these things if we are going to be peacemakers in the biblical sense of the word.

We must also know that those we are going to have no ability of themselves to make themselves alive and savingly come to Christ. Jesus taught this in multiple places: John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 3:3: “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Paul taught it in Romans 8:7: “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” We must understand that a person that is at enmity with God really hates God, lives out of love for self in all that he does, is a child of the devil and is dead in sins and trespasses is a person without ability to help save himself in the smallest of ways. Peacemakers go to men who need to have peace with God armed with the necessary understanding of those they go to. If they don’t, the self-love of others will do many things they think leads to peace. But they are still spiritually dead children of hell and we will have helped deceive them.