Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
June 24, 1998
Last Updated :
February 25, 2012
God Desires Repentance Forgiveness And Healing, How To Deal With Extremely Recalcitrant Brethren, Confronting Accusers And Troublemakers, Incest Occurs In The Church At Corinth, Commit Reprobates And Troublemakers Into The Lord's Hands, God's Unorthodox Methods Of Communication, Problems In Our Ministry, My Opinion Regarding Confrontations And Debates, God's Word And A Case Of Spilled Milk, Casting The Truth To The Ground, Neither Cast Ye Your Pearls Before Swine, Root Of Bitterness, Esau's Mistake: Don't Fail To Take Hold Of The Grace Of God, Keep Alert Sober And Vigilant, Fight The Good Fight Of Faith, Put On The Whole Armor Of God, Endure Hardness, Satan The Subtle Serpent Quietly Creeps Into Our Fellowships, Devil's Tactic Is Divide And Conquer, Attack One Person At A Time, Begin With Weakest Link, Counterfeit Milk Milkweed And Snake Milk, Destroy The Leader And Sheep Will Scatter, Caiaphas And The Sanhedrin Plot Against Jesus
While God may be forced to deal with us due to our rebellion and foolish behavior, as I mention in the series "Hell, the Lake of Fire and Universalism", the Scriptures also make it very clear to us that His ultimate desire and goal is not to destroy us, but rather that we will repent, and find both forgiveness and healing. Consider the following verses:
"In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer."
Isaiah 54:8, KJV
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Ezekiel 33:11, KJV
"For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men."
Lamentations 3:31-33, KJV
"And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
Luke 9:51-56, KJV
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
However, at the same time, until a true spirit of repentance enters into the heart of a recalcitrant brother or sister, exactly what are we supposed to do? How should we deal with them? As we saw in part one, in extreme cases, the Lord and His Apostles recommended excommunication from the fellowship; but is even that always enough?
In severe cases where an unrepentant brother or sister has begun to seriously hinder God's Work, it seems to me that we really have no choice but to change the manner of our prayer; and instead of praying, "Lord, please help that brother", we have to pray, "Lord, please stop that person from doing what they are doing! Please stop them in their tracks and prevent them from further hurting your Work!" What else can we do? It would certainly be a lot less severe than how the Apostle Paul was forced to deal with the evil sorcerer Elymas in the Book of Acts.
If a brother or a sister backslides from your particular church or fellowship, and then subtly begins to spread lies, rumors or other malicious propaganda about you in order to sow dissension and discord, and perhaps even to fuel negative publicity, and instigate a public outcry against you in your local community, are you really going to just keep praying "Oh Lord, please help that person!" while you are losing the weaker members of your fold one at a time? I hardly think so!
In the case of Jesus and the Apostles, they did not hesitate to challenge their accusers, and confront the troublemakers head on. Jesus went into the court of the Temple with a whip in His hand; Paul blinded the false prophet and sorcerer; and Peter and his companions said "We ought to obey God rather than men" -- Acts 5:29 -- and these are just a few Scriptural examples. Remember this: If you give the Devil an inch, he'll take a mile!
If you are a true shepherd of the Lord who loves his flock, you are going to get angry in the Spirit real quick, and you are going to rebuke that person! You are not going to pray for him, you are going to pray against him! In other words, to balance out all of the previous Scriptures, yes, we are supposed to love our enemies. However, if they don't respond to that love; if they don't respond to the prayers that you have prayed on their behalf; if they not only continue to resist God's Spirit, but actually begin to fight against you and undermine the Work the Lord has given you to do, then it is definitely time to change the nature of your requests before the Lord, in my view. As I shared with you in part one, the Book of Proverbs informs us that "Open rebuke is better than secret love" -- Proverbs 27:5.
In some cases, problems can develop within our fellowships which are so severe, that we are advised to simply commit the troublemakers into the Lord's hands. Depending upon the gravity of the situation, God may in turn simply hand over the troublemakers to Satan in order that they might feel his wrath. As sad as this may be, sometimes this is what may be required in order to wake up certain people, or at least to save their soul.
This is precisely what the Apostle Paul had to do regarding certain members of the Church at Corinth. As you may know, ancient Corinth was noted for its carnality, lasciviousness and promiscuity. Sadly, the First Century Christian Church there had to deal with this problem as well. When Paul was informed of a case of incest occurring within the Church, he wrote a stinging rebuke to the Church, in which he wrote the following:
"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."
1 Corinthians 5:3-5, KJV
As you can see from the previous verses, not only was this sin not done in secret -- Paul says that it was "reported commonly" -- but it also seems that the wayward brethren in Corinth were quite puffed up -- or proud -- about it. Paul was basically telling the leaders in Corinth to just give up on the offender, and to let Satan have his way with him. If Satan destroyed the man's flesh, Paul writes, then so be it. At least he will stop sinning, and maybe his spirit will be saved. Even two thousand years later today, that is still a very powerful judgment to pass on someone. The main point to consider here, is that sometimes the situation can be so bad, and the individual so backslidden, that there is really nothing more to do other than to commit them -- and their fate -- to the Lord.
If you are interested in learning more about the topics of repentance, forgiveness and Divine Chastisement, I encourage you to read such articles as "Love, Mercy, Forgiveness and Chastisement", "Beholding the Evil and the Good", "The Fruits of Disobedience", "Are Personal Tragedies Due to Sin?" and "Do You Want Love and Light, or Rod and Wrath?".
Having now shared all of the previous information with you, I would like to relate a personal experience which occurred over thirteen years ago.
Allow me to first mention that I believe that God can speak to us in any way that He deems appropriate. Furthermore, I believe that sometimes the methods He chooses can be rather unorthodox. However, if it gets our attention, and causes us to see what the Lord is trying to show us, then that is what is most important. Some worldly people who don't understand the things of the Spirit will probably view the following incident as being rather absurd; but for those of you who are sensitive to the Spirit, perhaps you will be able to relate to this unorthodox means of communication.
At the time that I wrote the original version of this series, for a period of several weeks, I had been dealing with some people who were involved in this ministry who simply were not yielding themselves to the Lord. This was not my observation alone. Other brethren took notice as well, and later agreed that I had acted appropriately in dealing with the people who were causing the problem.
For the record, I don't like to confront people. It drains me both physically and spiritually. In fact, I don't like to become entangled in doctrinal debates either. As I explain in the article "Should Christians Engage in Doctrinal Debates?", not only is it because debates likewise drain me physically, and spiritually, but it is also because I consider them to be an exercise in futility, as well as contrary to the counsel that we find in the Bible. Please refer to the aforementioned article for more details.
Due to a particularly evil, extremely condemnatory message which I received at that time from one of these unyielded people, I became physically sick with a very upset stomach. I have suffered from digestive problems -- not an ulcer -- since I was a young boy; and I learned a long time ago that drinking milk would help to alleviate my stomach problems. So upon reading this one particular message and immediately becoming sick afterwards, I began drinking milk as I always do.
At that time, during one of my short breaks from working on an article, I returned to the kitchen in order to take back the empty cup, along with a few other items. While doing so, I accidentally spilled the small remainder of the milk on the floor. Thinking nothing of it at the time, I cleaned up the mess, finished my business in the kitchen, and then returned to my work with a new glass of milk.
Several hours later, I stopped to take another break, and to once again return the empty cup to the kitchen. To my extreme surprise, I repeated the same exact accident I had performed only a few hours earlier. However, this time it stopped me in my tracks. I just received that sudden witness of the Spirit that the Lord was trying to tell me something. At first, I tried to ignore it, thinking to myself, "Oh well, you can't cry over spilled milk"; but then the Lord came through loud and clear with the following verse:
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:"
1 Peter 2:2, KJV
All of a sudden I began to understand the message! Twice I had spilled milk on the floor. Milk is symbolic of the Word of God; and twice I had spilled the Word on the floor. What could this possibly mean? Again, the answer came to my mind in the form of the following verse that is found in the Book of Daniel, right after the previous verse that is from the first Epistle of Peter:
"And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered."
Daniel 8:12, KJV
Needless-to-say, after receiving these first two verses, I began to view my two accidents of spilling milk on the floor as no accident at all. God was apparently trying to show me that in some way, I was allowing the Truth of His Word to fall -- or to be cast down -- to the ground. After receiving the first two verses, another one entered my mind which left me with no doubt -- and which clearly confirmed -- what the Lord was trying to show me. That verse was the following:
"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."
Matthew 7:6, KJV
This final verse was rather difficult for me to receive. In fact, I was so taken back by it, that I was even thinking to myself, "Lord, this can't possibly be your voice. This is one of your own children. This person isn't a dog or a reprobate".
Allow me to explain. You see, at the time that these two "accidents" occurred, the writing project which I had been working on was the original version of the four-part series "The Battle is Not Yours Alone!". As I was writing it, I was specifically thinking to myself that perhaps I should send a copy to a certain person who had been trying to stir up some trouble on the now-defunct EDGE Mailing List. However, by way of these two "accidents", it became apparent that God wanted something else to be done. While I still wanted to show mercy to this person, the Lord was clearly telling me that it was time for me to commit the situation into His Hands, and let Him deal with it as He saw fit.
Despite the fact that this person had totally rejected my counsel, and had even gone so far as to send me several very damning messages full of hate and extremely harsh criticism, nevertheless I continued to pray for him. I was hoping that perhaps the aforementioned article might finally get through to him. But as I said, through these two "accidents", I knew that this was not what God wanted me to do at all. I came to realize that this person's heart was so full of delusion, and such a strong root of bitterness, that nothing would get through to him, other than direct intervention by the Lord Himself. I am reminded of these verses:
"Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."
Hebrews 12:15-17, KJV
Those are very interesting verses, because for one thing, they reveal to us that sometimes, as a result of our own rebellion, hard-heartedness and procrastination, we can wait too long to take hold of the Grace of God in our lives. That is precisely what that word "fail" means in those verses. It is derived from the Koine Greek word "hustereo"; one of the meanings of which is to come late or too tardily. That is what happened to Isaac's son, Esau. By the time he realized his error, it was already too late for him, because the Lord had passed His blessing on to his deceitful brother Jacob.
But notice what else we are told in those verses. A root of bitterness can be an extremely dangerous thing for the Body of Christ. Why? The phrase "thereby many be defiled" provides us with a very clear answer. If we as shepherds of the Lord's flocks fail to nip a root of bitterness in the bud, just like a virus, it can very quickly spread and infect other people in our church or fellowship, and then we will have an even greater, more serious problem on our hands to deal with.
This relates directly to the account I was sharing a moment ago. Through a bit of foolishness of my own, I unknowingly created a back door which allowed this same person to attack one of the sheep in the small online fold which the Lord had seen fit to give me at that time. This attack by the enemy was totally unanticipated on my part; however, it bore good fruit in several regards. First of all, it allowed this wayward person to fully show his true colors. While I had hoped that the previous few weeks leading up to that point would give him time to seek the Lord and reconsider his ways, he did the exact opposite. Instead of reaching a state of repentance, he had only hardened his heart further, and had just been waiting for an opportunity to attack the rest of the fold. I gave him that opportunity through an unwise decision on my part.
If there is one important lesson that I hope you learn from this, it is that we must all be very careful that we don't unknowingly create opportunities which will allow the enemy to enter into our midst, and wreak spiritual havoc on our flocks. We must remain alert at all times. As the Apostle Peter admonishes us, we must remain sober and vigilant, as we see here:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:"
1 Peter 5:8, KJV
Thank the Lord that the dear sheep who was the object of this person's attack, was wise enough to see through the sweet talk, and detected the treachery being planned by this person. Not only did this sheep inform me of the situation -- which was obviously the right thing to do -- but he also went on the offensive and dealt with this situation as was appropriate of a true soldier of Jesus Christ. As both the Apostles Paul and Jude write:
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses."
1 Timothy 6:12, KJV
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
Jude 1:3, KJV
Of course, by taking this stand for the Lord in order to protect the rest of the flock, this sheep also became the target of this other person's wrath. In other words, the unyielded person further revealed his true colors when he launched a mean assault against this wise sheep as well. Thankfully, this sheep had already been alerted to the potential danger. As a result, he had donned his armor of the Spirit in accordance with the advice of the Apostle Paul, and he was able to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, as we see by these verses:
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Ephesians 6:10-12, KJV
"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
2 Timothy 2:3, KJV
Of course, in order to wage successful warfare against the enemy of our soul, we must fully understand exactly how he chooses to operate. Thus, we are now going to take a closer look at some of the Devil's primary tactics.
One thing we all need to realize is that when Satan attacks a certain fellowship, he usually doesn't attack everyone at the same time. To do so would make his devious plans too obvious to those in the group who possess some degree of Spiritual Discernment. Remember; this evil serpent was the most subtle creature in all of the Garden of God. He is not going to announce himself when he arrives. He will creep in quietly, just as the false Jewish brethren of old had done. As we read in the Book of Genesis and the Epistle of Jude:
"Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
Genesis 3:1, KJV
"For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
Jude 1:4, KJV
Satan's tactic is "divide and conquer". His strategy is to attack one person at a time. He will seek out the weakest person in the group, and then he will proceed to deceive them with his lies and doubts. Once he has infected them with his poison, as we discussed earlier, he will then use that person to infect other members of the group. Unless it is detected, the poison will slowly spread throughout the entire body, until it becomes spiritually paralyzed and ineffective as a witness for the Lord.
The foolish members of the church or fellowship will become so divided amongst themselves -- fighting and arguing over doctrinal issues, and any other lies which have been spread by the malicious party -- that they will totally neglect joining together in order to fight against the common enemy who started it all. In fact, as amazing as it may seem, as a result of their spiritual blindness -- and lack of Spiritual Discernment -- the people who swallow the lies of the enemy will sometimes choose Satan's human tool to be their new leader. The Book of Proverbs make it very clear that sowing division amongst the brethren is an abomination to the Lord. Consider the following verses:
"These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
Proverbs 6:16-19, KJV
As you will recall, I mentioned earlier that God's Word is likened to spiritual milk in the Scriptures. As the Lord was revealing to me the significance of my two milk accidents, He showed me that there also exists a counterfeit milk. It may look just like the real thing to those people who don't possess Spiritual Discernment, but it is in fact a bitter and poisonous brew!
As a good example of this counterfeit milk, let us consider a plant which is quite common in the northeastern portion of the United States of America. This plant has been assigned the scientific name of "Asclepias Syriaca"; but it is more commonly known as milkweed. From what I recall, this plant is the primary diet of the larvae of the Monarch Butterfly. When I was a small boy, I enjoyed pulling apart the large tough seed pods of this plant in order to release the seeds which would be carried aloft by their buoyant silvery filaments.
Commercially speaking, the milkweed plant has a variety of applications. Not only is it used for medicinal purposes, but the different parts are also used for making thread or cord, and for stuffing pillows. While playing with the seed pods was fun, there was also a bit of danger involved if one wasn't careful. As some of you will know, the milkweed plant contains a thick, sticky, white sap, which is obviously what gives this plant its common name. In its raw state, this sap is very toxic, or poisonous. In fact, my research indicates that while some parts of the milkweed plant are edible, they must first be boiled three or four times in different pots of water in order to remove the toxins. This is Satan's kind of milk!
To give you another example which is even closer to home, consider the fact that snake venom is sometimes referred to as "snake milk". This is because in order to make antidotes for snake bites, a trained specialist must first extract -- or "milk" -- the venom from the poisonous vipers. This is a job which I most certainly would not like to have! How about you?
These two examples show us precisely what Satan's milk is like. His doubts and lies may appear to be the truth; they may appear to be safe to consume like God's spiritual milk; but the end result is only bitter agony and spiritual death; so watch out! His milk is not the true milk of the Word of God which joins us together in one Spirit. If you would like to read about additional parallels between the snakebite and our common foe -- Satan -- I invite you to read such articles as "Are You Every Whit Clean?" and "Leviathan: An Ancient Dragon of the Sea?".
The main point I wish to emphasize is that Satan -- through his foolish human emissaries -- wants to destroy the Work of God in all of its various forms; whether it is the unity of your own Christian family, or your church congregation, or your home fellowship, or your online fellowship, or whatever means you use to fellowship with other Christians. The Devil utterly hates to see Christians united together; and so he will use whatever tools are at his disposal in order to try to divide them the one against the other. Do not doubt this for a moment; for if you do, you may very well be his next tool! You must always remember that we are in a battle royal with the enemy; and it is now -- and not some time in the future -- when we must remain vigilant, keep our guard up, and fight the good fight of faith!
As I point out in "The Battle is Not Yours Alone!", when Satan does attack, quite often he will attempt to destroy the leadership first. He knows that if he can successfully destroy the leadership, then the flock will be scattered. This is precisely how he operated almost two thousand years ago; and this is how he has continued to operate since then. The Jewish high priest Caiaphas certainly realized this. It was he, after all, who informed the rest of the Sanhedrin that Jesus' life must be placed on the altar, in the hope of avoiding the wrath of Rome, as we see here:
"Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death."
John 11:47-53, KJV
In other words, their hope appeared to be that by eliminating Jesus, his followers would eventually disband, and thus not give Rome a reason to have to forcefully put down a rebellion in Israel. The reason why they apparently believed this, is because they had watched as other rebel leaders had risen and fallen over the years, and their followers soon disappeared after them as well. This becomes evident when we consider the wise counsel that the Pharisee Gamaliel offered to the Council of Seventy, when they were considering how to deal with the Apostles and Disciples following Jesus' Ascension to Heaven. In the Book of Acts we read the following:
"Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
Acts 5:34-39, KJV
Jesus likewise prophesied that His flock -- the Apostles -- would be scattered once He -- their leader -- was taken out of the way that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. Consider what Jesus told His own Disciples just prior to His arrest, judgment and Crucifixion:
"Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad."
Matthew 26:31, KJV
Please go to part three for the continuation of this series.
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