Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
October 9, 1998
Last Updated :
February 13, 2012
Turning The Other Cheek, Christian Fellowships, Sideshows Of The Spiritually Dead, Pride And Saving Face, Guarding Our Tongue, Godly Exhortation And Correction, Accountable To God, The Galatian Compromise, Hard Sayings, Man-Pleasing, Absoluteness And Authority Of God's Word, Harsh Legalism vs Love And Mercy, Light Of The Gentiles, Conversion Of Paul
I find it rather interesting how our pride causes us to react differently depending upon the situation in which we find ourselves. For example, some dedicated Christians have no problem when they are verbally challenged, attacked and criticized by unbelieving people of the world. For the most part, it is usually easy for us to endure this kind of persecution, because in our heart and mind we rationalize, "Oh, they are just blind children of the world who don't understand our Christian faith. They don't know the Lord or His Word, and that is why they act that way." Because we adopt this attitude, it is fairly easy for us to, as we say in American slang, "let their words roll off of our back". The verse that comes to my mind is the following:
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV
In other words, we know that their hurtful words are spoken out of ignorance of God's Word, and because they may not even have the Spirit of God, and thus no real spiritual discernment, so we don't let them bother us too much. In fact, sometimes, we have a tendency to become rather proud of the fact that we are able to, as Jesus said, "turn the other cheek" with the people of the world:
"And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also."
Luke 6:29, KJV
We feel so good and holy about ourselves. In a symbolic sense, we self-righteously give ourselves a little pat on the back and tell ourselves that we are being such a good Christian example to the world. Because of our pride, we sometimes convince ourselves that we have no problem dealing with criticism and other forms of verbal persecution. This kind of attitude can be very dangerous, because as we saw earlier, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
As proof of the above, consider that when we are closely involved in some form of Christian fellowship, such as with a church congregation, or with a prayer group, or with a Bible study group, our reaction to such hurtful words can be very different. Unlike the children of the world, such fellowships are normally full of Christians who do know the Lord, and who do know His Word. The spiritual standard in such gatherings of the Saints is normally much higher than that of the world, particularly if they are relatively small fellowships. In some cases, there is much greater spiritual intimacy and unity, although not always.
If you personally are involved in such a fellowship, you must maintain a seriousness about your relationship with the Lord; and you must realize that you are not just there to be entertained, or to be flattered. In other words, not only should you be there to be encouraged, to be inspired, and to be fed spiritually, but you should also occasionally expect to be corrected when necessary, and to be motivated to do more for the Lord. In other words, you should be there to grow spiritually, to make progress in your life and walk with the Lord; and this is not always easy. It requires a great deal of personal humility. There is no room for pride in such an environment.
Sadly, as I explain in some of my other articles, this is where part of the problem lies; because quite a few churches today are merely circus sideshows. They are there for the appearance only; they are there to entertain and to flatter only; they are not there to meet the spiritual needs of the congregation. They are cold, and they are dead. In fact, some people who attend such churches are no longer even interested in the spiritual aspects of their lives anyway. They are as spiritually dead as the dead stones of which their church is made. This is what the Lord was referring to when He told one person who wanted to follow Him, to let the dead bury the dead. Jesus was referring to letting the spiritually dead bury the physical dead, being as a physically dead person cannot possibly bury another dead person:
"And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."
Matthew 8:21-22, KJV
Some people within organized religion are only interested in creating the right appearance, and in giving the right impression, in order to maintain their standing within the community. They don't want their priest, pastor or minister to rock the boat. They love to have things just the way they are; but this is nothing new. The corruption and compromise of organized religion has been going on for literally thousands of years. Many of the Old Testament messengers, like the young Prophet Jeremiah, warned us about it; and the Apostle Paul likewise warned us that the very same situation would exist in the Last Days. Consider the following verses:
"The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?"
Jeremiah 5:31, KJV
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
2 Timothy 4:3-4, KJV
What a sad picture of modern Christianity! Thank the Lord that, while this appears to be the prevailing attitude amongst many churches, there are still some dedicated Christians who are sincerely seeking to please the Lord and do His Will. These are the kinds of Christians with which we are concerned insofar as this topic of pride is concerned.
You see, the fact that we are amongst other Christians in our fellowships, makes a difference in how we choose to react to suggestions and lessons, and even criticisms, which may be presented to us. While it may be easy to ignore or to disregard words which are launched at us by the unbelieving world, when a well-meaning brother or a sister in the faith says something which hurts or offends us, or which strikes a chord with us in some way, we often tend to just fall apart. The facade of false humility which we present to the outside world quickly disappears, and up go our walls of pride. The reason we do this is because we feel we have to save face. We have to protect our image. It is the very same syndrome of self-preservation. Our thin Christian veneer has been scratched, and everyone gets a look at the horrors within; but we don't want them to see those things, do we?
One thing we have already seen in this series, is that we are all sinners; we all make mistakes; even we Christians. Sometimes we do indeed say or do things which are hurtful and unloving. The Apostle Paul battled with the evilness of his own flesh, so why shouldn't we have to do the same? Sometimes these offenses are intentional, and sometimes not. Sometimes we simply do not take the time to prayerfully consider the results before we say or do certain things. Oft times we are distracted by other stressful situations occurring in our lives, and so we blurt out certain remarks which are filled with emotions which were not intended. In other words, we let our wrath or frustration be felt by the wrong person. This is not to justify such errors; after all, the Book of Proverbs is filled with such counsel as the following:
"In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise."
Proverbs 10:19, KJV
"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."
Proverbs 15:1, KJV
"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles."
Proverbs 21:23, KJV
Clearly then, we would all be much wiser if we would just let the stress or the anger of the moment pass before we speak, if we even choose to speak at all. At the same time, those whom we have offended need to put aside their wounded pride and realize that they too have undoubtedly been guilty of the very same thing at some point in their life, and probably on more than one occasion. What it all comes down to is our sinful human condition. When it comes to bridling our tongue, as the Apostle James wrote, none of us is perfect:
"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
James 1:26, KJV
"For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."
James 3:2, KJV
Instead of yielding to our pride and firing back an equally provocative answer which is only bound to make matters worse, we would do better to just turn the other cheek and keep quiet; but oh how our pride prevents us from doing this! We just have to have the last word, don't we? We have to re-enforce our ego and repair our damaged self esteem. We have to prove to everyone that we are right, and the other person is wrong. They are the guilty party, and not us! How it must anger the Lord and sadden His Heart when He sees us acting in this manner. I discuss this topic of offenses and forgiveness more in-depth in the article "Love, Mercy, Forgiveness and Chastisement". One of the key verses from that article which really sums up the entire issue is the following:
"And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Ephesians 4:32, KJV
For those of us who find ourselves in the position of being a shepherd of one of the flocks of the Lord, whether we like it or not, sometimes we are faced with the responsibility of having to correct another brother or sister who has erred in the faith. Knowing what a terrible mess we are ourselves, this is not an easy task; nevertheless, it is a vital part, as well as a Scripturally-sound part, of being a shepherd of God's heritage. We are obligated by the Lord to fulfill this responsibility, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us feel. Consider the following verses:
"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17, KJV
"He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue."
Proverbs 28:23, KJV
"But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
Hebrews 3:13, KJV
"Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."
Hebrews 13:17, KJV
"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
James 5:19-20, KJV
Looking at my personal situation, as a shepherd of one of the Lord's small flocks, I could easily do as some worldly preachers and church leaders do, and simply flatter people as the above verse states. I could just tell them what they want to hear. I could just tell them that they are okay spiritually. It would fit right in with the "I'm okay, you're okay" mentality which has been prevalent since the sixties. As Jeremiah wrote, some people love to have it so. Their spiritual leaders are paid to not rock the boat; to simply be politically correct and preach what is in fashion. They aren't paid to talk about the things which make people feel uncomfortable. They aren't paid to expose spiritual improprieties in the lives of their flock. If they did, they would quickly find themselves looking for another job!
Thankfully, I find myself in a position where I don't have to worry about such things, because I am not paid for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don't need to watch my mouth for fear of losing my paycheck. I can preach the full Gospel of Jesus Christ unhindered. The worst that could possibly happen is that I might lose a few of my readers; and this has indeed happened, but His Truth goes marching on. In the Gospels we discover that even Jesus lost some of His followers, or potential followers, when He said or did things which were too difficult for them to receive. Such was the case with His "eat my flesh, drink my blood" sermon:
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you . . . Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? . . . From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
John 6:53, 60-61, 66, KJV
As the previous verses clearly point out, if we don't tell people the truth, if we fail to fulfill our responsibilities as shepherds, God will not overlook such things; because as the Apostle Paul states, we are accountable for their souls; we are accountable for telling them not what they want to hear, but rather what they need to hear, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us feel; no matter how uncomfortable it makes them feel, and no matter how unpopular it may make us with them. As Paul wrote:
"Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"
Galatians 4:16, KJV
Paul wrote these words right after he had blasted the Galatians for compromising their new-found Christian faith with the Law-observing Jews who had snuck into the midst of their fellowship, and had convinced them that circumcision, and other observances of the Mosaic Law, were still necessary for Salvation. This compromise upset Paul very much, and he did not hesitate to tell them exactly what he thought. In one verse, he goes so far as to ask them who has bewitched them that they are no longer obeying the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain."
Galatians 3:1-4, KJV
Paul was one "tough cookie" as we say in American slang; but what he wrote, he wrote in love, because he truly cared for the spiritual welfare of those whom he had helped win to the Faith. Like Paul, I too can sometimes be a bit rough with those with whom I am dealing; but don't think for a minute that I am not ever-conscious of my own sinful condition. It is difficult to point out a problem to another person when we know that we have been guilty of the very same thing ourselves. Satan is very quick to accuse us of being hypocrites. Oh, he is a pro when it comes to pouring on the condemnation! "Who are you to tell them that they are wrong? Who are you to tell them how to live their lives? Who are you to tell them what their sins are? Are you any better, you hypocrite?"; and on and on he goes. Of course we aren't any better! We are all sinners; but that still does not relieve us of the responsibility that God has given us as shepherds of His flocks!
Sadly, sometimes we listen to the Devil and we don't do what God expects us to do. We fail the Lord, and we fail them. We become menpleasers instead of God pleasers. We become more concerned about the opinions of men, just like the Scribes and the Pharisees, instead of only being concerned with what God thinks. I know that I personally have done this on a number of occasions. I did or didn't do or say something because of the way I knew some people would react to it. I bowed to pressure. I put their opinion above God's opinion. Instead of telling them what they really needed to hear, what I knew would really help them if they received it, I put friendship first, or I placed my pride first.
Let me tell you, once you become a man-pleaser, it is hard to break out of that mold. Once you get caught in that rut, your wheels just keep spinning in the mud, and you lose your spiritual effectiveness for the Lord. As leaders of the Lord's flocks, we must have some godly conviction burning in our hearts, or else we will be rolled over every time. The only way to get that godly conviction, is by knowing the Word of God. When you know the Word of God, and you stand upon the Word of God, and you quote the Word of God, then you know that you are right; because God's Word is never wrong! In fact, as I have pointed out quite a few times before, God's Word is so important to Him, that He has magnified it above His very Name:
"I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."
Psalms 138:2, KJV
When you are forced to deal with certain problems in your particular fellowship, you must ask the Lord for His wisdom as James says, and you must give them God's Word, and not just your own human counsel. Maybe they can argue against your word and what you think is right or wrong, but they certainly can't argue against God's Word if they know what is good for them. Consider these verses:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
James 1:5, KJV
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12, KJV
As I point out in "Exposing the Judge Not Fallacy", when you quote the straight Word of God, you bring people to a decision. They have to either accept the authority of God's Word, or else they have to reject it. There is no middle of the road about it. Of course, there is an inherent danger here which I feel that I should point out to you; and that is this: The Scribes and the Pharisees of old also knew the Scriptures. In fact, they knew them better than anyone else. Time and time again we find them questioning Jesus about a certain law found in the writings of Moses. They were pros; they were legalists; they were just like our modern-day prosecuting attorneys; but they were wrong! Why? Jesus exposed their sin quite thoroughly when He told them such things as the following:
"And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Matthew 9:11-13, KJV
"But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day . . . But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless."
Matthew 12:2, 7, KJV
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
Matthew 23:23, KJV
You see, the Scribes and the Pharisees were right about a lot of the things which they said and did; at least as far as the Mosaic Law was concerned; however, where they were wrong was in the spirit in which they administered the Law to the people. Instead of being loving and merciful, they were harsh, cold and cruel. They only used the Mosaic Law as a sword to cut people to the heart and to tear them down, instead of to lovingly woo them into the Kingdom of God. The Lord accused them of this very thing when He said:
"But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."
Matthew 23:13, KJV
The Scribes and the Pharisees used the Law to emphasize their own righteousness while condemning and oppressing the common people through the same. In other words, they boasted of their own goodness by comparing themselves to the common people whom they made to feel condemned and lost through their interpretation of the Law. All of this was in direct contradiction to what we find written in the Epistles of Paul and Peter:
"For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
2 Corinthians 10:12, KJV
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock."
1 Peter 5:2-3, KJV
This is why the people loved Jesus so much; because His approach was the exact opposite of that of the Scribes and the Pharisees. He told the people the same things as the Scribes and the Pharisees, but His delivery was totally different. He tempered everything He said with love, so that He gave people hope. Whereas the Scribes and the Pharisees only offered them gloom and darkness, Jesus offered them Light and Salvation. When Joseph and Mary went to the Temple in Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised on His eighth day of life, the old man Simeon referred to Jesus as:
"A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. "
Luke 2:32, KJV
In one of his final sermons in Jerusalem, when he appeared before King Agrippa just prior to being sent to Rome, The Apostle Paul said in part:
"That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles."
Acts 26:23, KJV
Both Matthew and Paul also quoted from the prophecies of the Prophet Isaiah concerning the fact that Jesus would offer hope and Salvation to the Gentile world:
"And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust."
Romans 15:12, KJV
These are but a few of the many verses which describe how Jesus came to be the Light and the Salvation of the world. If you are interested in a more in-depth study of this topic, allow me to encourage you to read the article, "The Children of Light: Are You One of Us?". It will thrill your heart.
As I point out in "Biblical Cafeteria Or The Whole Course?", the Scriptures clearly indicate that before his miraculous conversion, the Apostle Paul was very much like these self-righteous Pharisees; after all, he was one of them for many years. He was totally overcome by the legality of the Law; and this is why he had no problem arresting the early Christians; and even escorting them to their deaths. Exactly as Jesus had prophesied only a few years earlier, Paul was convinced in his heart, that he was in fact doing God's service by killing the first Christians:
"They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service."
John 16:2, KJV
The Lord had to totally break and remold Paul during that incident on the road to Damascus. Once He had, Paul became an entirely new creature who administered to others in a spirit of meekness and love, instead of with the harshness of the Law. Knowing in his heart what a sinner he was himself, how could he do otherwise, even when they did err from the Way? This is why in his concluding remarks to the brethren in Galatia, he writes:
"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
Galatians 6:1, KJV
What a far cry from his previous attitude when he had deceived himself into believing that he was so good and holy like his pharisaical brethren! I suspect that when Paul wrote his world-renown chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, it may actually have been his public confession of his own personal weakness. Because of the overpowering influence of being a legalistic Pharisee for so many years, since his youth in fact, he must have had to constantly remind himself of his own inadequacies in order to make sure that he tempered everything with love. In fact, this is evident throughout his writings as I point out in the aforementioned article.
If we do find ourselves in the position of having to administer godly correction to someone; and if we do it in a spirit of love and meekness as the Scriptures advise us to do, according to that previous verse which I shared from the Book of Proverbs, if that person's heart is right with the Lord, they are supposed to be thankful that we had enough love for them, that we were willing to take the time to try to help them to see the error of their ways. In fact, the Book of Proverbs also tells us that they are supposed to love us for it. They are not supposed to resist us and argue with us:
"Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee."
Proverbs 9:8, KJV
"He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue."
Proverbs 28:23, KJV
You see, a person with a healthy spiritual attitude will say, "Thank you brother for helping me to see the error of my ways. Thank-you for loving me enough that you were willing to leave the ninety and nine and help out this one lost sheep. Thank-you for helping me to not fall over that cliff". Isn't this what Jesus instructed us to do?:
"How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?"
Matthew 18:12, KJV
Sadly, as the previous verse from Proverbs makes clear, this is not the way things always work out. Our attempts to resolve an issue, or to help a certain brother or sister to gain a needed victory in their life, are often received with resentment. It is for this very reason that we sometimes try to avoid correcting others because we simply do not wish to deal with the mess which we know will inevitably follow once a person's problem has been exposed. Godly correction is hard work. It is a real drain on one's spirit. It can really wear you down; particularly when the person being dealt with is not receiving a single word you have to say; or at least very little of it. As I pointed out earlier, quite often their pride quickly come to the fore, and they begin to present all of their excuses as to why they are right and you are wrong. Oh, they will come up with what will seem like very logical, rational and valid excuses; but are they acceptable to the Lord?
In the third part of this four-part series, we will be taking a close look at some of the tactics which are used in order to try to resist godly counsel and correction. As you will see, all of these tactics are motivated by nothing more than that loathsome spiritual disease of pride. I hope that you will join me.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .