Would You Die For Your Enemies?

“…God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

The Lord was pointing here to His reconciling death, which both His friends and enemies alike needed very much. The idea here is that sometimes a need is so compelling that a man might choose to die for the ungodly and his enemies even over the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the godly and his friends. This kind of love was the kind that Jesus had for man—demonstrated by His voluntary death on man’s behalf—which is the greatest love that there is.

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9).

Being now justified” means being pardoned, or accepted as His friends. When we were still His enemies, Jesus overcame everything that would keep us from being saved. So how much more reason we now have to expect Him to give us His protection, since we have become His friends. “By His blood” means by His death. Our value to God is in direct proportion to the value of the price of our redemption. We have been purchased and purified at the price of Jesus’ own shed blood, which makes us holy in God’s eyes. He will certainly keep His promise since we have been bought with such a very dear price.

“…if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

Jesus undertook this work while we were still His enemies. But it was by this very work that we were changed from His enemies into His friends. God laid its foundation while we were still opposed to and resisting Him. This revealed that God was determined on His part to perform it. And He has consequently made the solemn promise that it will be made perfect. “We were reconciled” means that we have been brought to an agreement in a state of friendship and union with God. We became His friend, laid aside our opposition, and welcomed Him as our friend. The great design of God’s salvation plan was to accomplish this very thing.

This means that obstacles existed before which had to be reconciled on both God’s side and our side. But His death removed them, on His part. And on our part, we were reconciled when we honored His Law which showed His hatred of sin and upheld His justice. A Christian is reconciled to God by overcoming man’s hatred of God and His Law, and by bringing man into submission to His rule. He is also reconciled when his former unwillingness to be reconciled is removed by bringing his heart under control—by changing and setting it apart unto God. Now man is able to become the friend of God. All of this was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son as an offering in our place. The two opposing sides have now been reunited!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).

How perfect the love of Jesus is to us. He described the people He died for as “His friends.” And His object and purpose was displayed by “laying down My life for My friends.” But they were not His friends originally. They were enemies and hated God—all at the very same time that His Son laid down His life for them in order to reconcile them to God!

By ‘friends,’ Jesus did not mean those who love Him, but those whom He loves. These ‘friends’ Jesus died for are the same people Paul referred to by the opposite name—he said Jesus died for His ‘enemies.’ They weren’t the kind who had behaved themselves like friends, or shown any love and affection to Him at all—they were the opposite. They were only called friends because He chose them to be His friends. And by dying for His ‘friends,’ Jesus reconciled the ones who were His enemies by His Spirit and grace, and made them His friends.

Therefore, this love of Jesus, shown in giving His life for His people, is greater than any example of love among men. A man might lay down his life for others who deserve it, or he might even be forced to do it. Some may die hoping for worldly applause and glory. But when Jesus laid His life down for His enemies, He had no evil or selfish views—He freely volunteered to do it at the highest ultimate cost to Himself. Jesus would never have had His friends if He had not died for His enemies. He shows the way we are to deal with those who are alienated and hostile to God—by pouring out His unselfish, self-sacrificing affection on them, which will conquer all in the end. The death of Christ has therefore become both the pattern for our life and the hope for our heart.

When Jesus hung on the cross dying, His enemies rejoiced and triumphed over defeating Him. Yet the true, ultimate outcome of His humble and weak condition was to reconcile us to God.

And if He had the power to accomplish such a great work as reconciling us when He was humble and despised and dying, then how much more can we expect Him to be able to keep us safely in His care now that He’s the living, lifted up, triumphant Redeemer! If His powers which were weakened in dying were enough to reconcile us, how much more will His full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer be enough to save and keep us! Judas “…betrayed Him…saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He…” (Mt 26:48). But Christ “kisses His enemies with the kisses of His mouth”, and makes them His friends—because He loves them! Now what He Himself said: “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19) is made clear. He willingly died for His enemies; will we willingly live as His friends?

This is a companion article to one written about Jesus dying for His friends. Please click here to read more.

 

[Image credits:(angry man) Rene Asmussenfoto/Freeimages; (angry woman) Cristina Matei/Freeimages; (cross) abcdz2000/Freeimages]

Where Is The Center Point of Our Faith?

A drawing of a plumb line attached to a small wall

Builders constructing a building make regular checks as they go to be sure that it does not lean in any direction. In spite of all the advanced technology available today, there is one ordinary, non-technical device still being used to make sure a structure being built is straight: the plumb line. This tool consists of just two simple components—a line, such as a string, a rope, or a strong, flexible wire, and the plumb—a small metal weight attached to the end of the line. When it is held at a specific position on a structure, it will show how far off center the building being constructed is, by revealing how straight the framework is in relation to the line itself. A plumb line left unhindered will always swing back to the center point in relation to where it is hung.

A photo of a gold pendulum swinging on a printed diagram

A pendulum also follows the same principle as a plumb line. It is essentially a weight attached to a string, a rod, or a flat decorative piece of metal that is connected to a pivot point. A pendulum may swing back and forth in many different directions, but when left to itself, it eventually slows down and comes to rest at the center point.

We can apply these examples to our walk with God. If a plumb line was held next to our spiritual position with God, how far off would we be in relation to His straight standard? Our center point must always be Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. If we lean in any direction toward anything other than Him, the faith we are ‘building’ will become off center. And, if left unchecked, it will eventually lean so far off center that our faith will collapse and fall. Therefore, our central focus has to remain on Jesus and nothing else.

In order to stay right in the center of what God has planned for us, we need to stop trusting in our own efforts and start trusting in His Son instead.

Now, the question for us is, where is the center point of our faith? Is it in Christ and His finished work on the cross, or in something else? It doesn’t matter what we do that is good, bad, or somewhere in between—if Jesus is not the focus, the center, of our life, then we will always be ‘off.’ Whenever we turn to anything other than Him, we are swinging away from the center point of true peace in our heart.

When we put our efforts into other areas, we are basically saying that His sacrifice was not enough, that we also have to do something ourselves to make our life right with God. The more we try, the more we move away from the plumb line, and lean the wrong way spiritually. We need to stop swinging back and forth, like the pendulum, away from our center point.

The Apostle Paul said, “But to him that worketh not [himself], but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). Who is “Him that justifieth the ungodly”? Jesus.

By believing on Him and what He has done for us on the cross, our“faith is counted for righteousness.”

That’s it. We have no need for special programs and rituals, or counseling and treatment, or anything else. We just need to place our total trust in Him, keeping Him continually as the center point of our faith—not the world, not religion, not our own ideas, not anything else. Then we will be able to rest secure, trusting in the center point of our faith—our Lord Jesus.

 

[Image credits:(plumb line) Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain]; (pendulum) Manfred Antranias Zimmer/Pixabay]

The Masquerade

Photo of costume masks hanging on display

“Hey, Mitch, what are you wearing for the masquerade?” a voice yelled out from one cubicle. “Mitch, is the bell going to toll this year?” said another voice bursting out of one of the offices, followed by uproarious laughter. Mitchell began to hurry as he walked to the city planner’s office. He had often regretted his choice of dressing up as a Liberty Bell two years ago, ever since he first stepped foot in the annual gala. The masquerade ball, hosted by the city to benefit the abused children’s home, was one of the biggest events of the year. People from all over the region and even other parts of the world would attend, wearing some of the most elaborate costumes ever seen.

When Steve, the city planner, saw Mitchell at the door, he interrupted the others’ conversation. “Mitch, I know “gala planning” is not regular city business activity, but I’ve got to press you into going this year. I’ve heard you’re still reeling from the reaction to that bell costume a few years ago, but people loved it.” The others in the room readily agreed. “Look, you’ve got to remember that this whole event is for the children,” Steve pleaded passionately. “Oh, before I forget, here are the reports I wanted to give you. Don’t be a devil and let them ‘fall’ off the back of your motorcycle this time.” Mitch initially returned the quip with a sheepish look, but then followed up with a devious smile.

When Mitch woke up early the next day, his day off, he could hardly wait to get downtown to the theatrical supply outlet. He knew that if he was going make a big splash this year, his outfit would have to truly be out of this world. The clerks were few, but their knowledge was phenomenal. He eventually had enough supplies to make a dozen devils. After racing back home, he began composing all the elements for his breathtakingly ‘devilish’ design. His pinstriped suit was black and flaming red, his pointed boots—deep cherry, and his face, hands, neck and ears were all painted bright red. Even his hair was dyed a flaming red and spiked, complete with two curved horns. With pitchfork in hand and faux fangs in his mouth, he could have scared the devil himself! “Ha! Let’s see them in hysterics over this. I’ll have them hiding under the stage in sheer terror!”

man with devilish appearance with red candlelight underneath face

He arrived at the hall hours early, but the line to get in was already over two blocks long. “I can’t just stand here all afternoon,” Mitch thought as he surveyed the crowd. “Even fifteen minutes will take away most of the effectiveness of this outfit.” After driving around awhile, he discovered a place he could slip in unnoticed. He gloated to himself about how he just parked and passed hundreds of people in only ten minutes. “Why, I didn’t even pay the admission. My, my, how evil I am!”

Once inside the auditorium, Mitch was stunned by how lavishly the building had been transformed. After severely startling three people and causing another to faint, he decided to sit in a darkened corner and nap until the crowd really filled the building. Loud trumpet blasts from the band soon awakened him, so Mitch decided the time was now right to make his entry. Assorted screams and gasps emanated from those at the tables he passed as he made his way over and sat down. All eyes were on him as he slowly lifted his head and looked around, or so he thought.

But, across the vast room, there was another man drawing the attention of almost everyone in sight. His eyes captivated anyone who looked at him. They were totally enamored with him. It seemed that everything he said or did left them in awe. But he had no costume. He was simply dressed impeccably instead. No suit in the world could even remotely come close to the one he wore. Even his hair was styled perfectly.

Mitch was crestfallen. He had one of the most striking costumes in the building, but it was no match for this individual. He tried parading about with a vicious sneer and an evil laugh that would chill anyone’s spine, while shaking and pointing vigorously with his pitchfork, but to little avail. Almost everyone gravitated toward the slick and amiable stranger. Finally admitting defeat, he decided to leave. On his way out, he passed near the man of the hour. As he glanced over in the other man’s direction, he paused as he was conversing with the multitude and remarked: “Hey, nice outfit. I appreciate the publicity.” Mitch nodded in return, finding himself totally unable to speak. He finally broke free from the hold this guy seemed to have on him and managed to leave. But the man’s words continued to ring in his head. He blurted out, “Who does he think he is, the devil himself?” as he walked toward his motorcycle.

When the word ‘devil’ is mentioned, the most common image that comes to mind is some creature resembling Mitch in his outfit. This is just what the devil wants us to believe. While there is no denying that the inhabitants of the underworld are grotesque, the fact of the matter is that deception is not usually presented by slimy, repulsive, obnoxious and horrifying creatures. We are, instead, most easily fooled by what is familiar to us. As master of lies and deception, the devil loves to make himself and his work look extremely appealing, while at the same time, it is breaking us down and destroying us.

If someone quickly ran up to us in a terrifying costume with arms waving about and a deep growl in his voice, we’d most likely flee for our life. We wouldn’t calmly stand there and engage him in pleasant conversation. Yet the devil himself, or one of his demons, can casually stroll up to us in a fine suit with fine speech and great charisma and we are totally mesmerized. When the devil came to Eve back in the Garden of Eden, he did not scare her into disobeying God. He was subtle and pleasing, and he even used God’s word (incorrectly, of course) to deceive her.

The devil uses any available means that will make us more susceptible and vulnerable, such as alcohol, drugs (legal or illegal), pornography, audio, video (like certain kinds of music, movies, video games, and television) and even what we eat.

As our resistance goes down, a door opens spiritually for his ‘helpers’ (demons) to enter our life. We may not always be actually occupied by these spiritual entities, yet we may still allow them to control us. This is why the Bible warns us to keep far from evil. Look all throughout the Old Testament and you’ll find instances where people fell for the devil’s charm and deception and became corrupted.

The point is, we are not to be fooled. The Bible speaks of the devil as “transformed into [masquerading as] an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and as a roaring lion, [who] walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He is also mentioned as one who “cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). The devil plays for keeps, using anything and everything within his power to try to deceive us and bring us down. But we don’t need to fear him, since his power over us is only as great as we allow it to be.

When Jesus sacrificed His life at the cross, He took away the devil’s power and authority over the children of God. When we stand on that finished work of Jesus and His victory on the cross, then we can have victory over the devil too. The key to victory is to increase and deepen our relationship with Him. Just saying that we have received Him into our heart is not enough. We must follow up and cultivate that bond through prayer and reflecting deeply on his Word. On the other hand, the less time we spend with God, the more vulnerable we become to the devil’s subtleties. As a result, we actually give him power over us, because we have turned our eyes off of Jesus and onto whatever the devil cleverly tries to slip in. He knows he has already been defeated by Jesus, but continues to do his best to keep this revelation away from us.

Don’t be entranced by his masquerade as a suave, savvy and reputable being. Keep your focus on Jesus instead, and leave it there, and you won’t be fooled when the devil masquerades in front of you.

No Power

lighted tent at nightunlit tent at night

While cleaning his attic one afternoon, the pastor of a small church rediscovered a medium-size tent he had purchased years ago. As a result, he considered doing something different for vacation that year. Instead of staying at their usual retreat near a large lake, he convinced his wife that they should head out camping in a tent and travel to different campgrounds across the region. After considerable preparation, their vehicle was fully packed and they hit the road.

The most commonly asked question whenever they checked in at the campgrounds was, “Do you want a site with power (electrical hookups) or with no power (no electricity)?” Being the rustic and frugal type (sites with power cost more), his usual response was that ‘no power’ would be fine. But his wife (who always brought the microwave) would often beat him to it, and insist on a site with power. Not being one to start an argument, especially on vacation, he would always agree and pay the extra amount. After several attempts to impress his wife with his fine outdoor cooking skills over a fire, he concluded that a microwave on hand wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In the end, they had a delightful trip overall, although he conceded that a motel room would probably have been better in the long run, and considered doing this again at some future date.

After they returned home, the pastor began thinking about the “power or no power” question—that churches today are offering the same kind of deal. But the difference is that they don’t ask those who regularly attend which choice they want, because the overseers of the church have already chosen “no power.” Then he considered the multitude of churches that are spiritually in the dark. Sure, the lights are on, the music is playing, and the temperature is adequately controlled—but spiritually there is “no power.”

Why is there no power? How do these churches survive without it? They are operating in their own human power, not the power of God. Most of us are taught that to make it in this world, we have to be strong and powerful. We have to be constantly building up our mind, soul, body, spirit, etc. If we show any signs of weakness, we will be overtaken and dominated by someone else. How often this is seen in the business world, where ‘stepping on someone else’ is necessary in order to get ahead and be considered successful. “Survival of the fittest” is definitely the modern motto!

Yet God would have us do the opposite. He wants us weak so that our strength and power come solely from Him. This means that we are to yield our self-centered life over to Him, similar to the way that children submit to their parents and are dependent on them to provide a way through difficult situations. The Apostle Paul was considered to be one the most powerful men spiritually in the Bible. He wrote that Jesus “…said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 emphasis mine). The power of any body of believers in Christ can only come through God and Christ.

man doing pull-ups

man standing with arms folded in prayer

It is good to build ourselves up physically. We need to strengthen our muscles and keep our bodies in shape. When our physical bodies are inactive, we begin to waste away and leave ourselves prone to sickness. But spiritually, our self-centered flesh (the part of us that desires the sinful and godless things of this physical world) needs to surrender and no longer be allowed to control us, so that our spirit can grow strong through Christ. We need to yield ourselves to Him because He must be in control of our lives, not us.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16 emphasis mine).

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18 emphasis mine).

When “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is the focal point of the message being proclaimed in the church, then there will be power. The churches with no power have downplayed or rejected what Christ accomplished on the cross. They seek and worship God in their own strength and power. They therefore have “…a form of godliness, but [deny] the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5a emphasis mine). If they preach a crucified Christ instead, they go in the opposite direction of what they have been taught. This makes them appear weak to others. Then they lose their ‘dignified image’ to the sinful and ungodly community around them. In other words, their true colors are exposed—that they are pleasing the world and not God, in order to get ahead. They fully realize that people are not going to give generous sums of money to a church that appears weak and powerless. But God will not honor or bless the works of self or the flesh. This is what happens when a church tries to win the favor of the world.

cross on mountain

A church that has no power leaves those who attend with no power to overcome bondage. Only belief in Jesus and His finished work at the cross can bring true victory. That is where the power is. When a church leader proclaims that we have to work our way to holiness or righteousness ourselves to be in right standing with God, he cancels out all that Christ taught when He was here on earth. Sin continues to control us if we don’t confess it and turn it over to Him. No multi-step programs, secret codes to be unlocked, or special seminars, meetings or retreats will set us free from the oppression of sin. Only by faith in the victory of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross can true freedom be brought into our life, because we then have access to the power we need.

Has your church or fellowship chosen power or no power? Do you leave satisfied in your spirit after each service? Or does emptiness still remain in your heart? Is the finished work of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross proclaimed from the pulpit? Do you know more about the latest events on television or some popular movie than you do about the Bible? Is there a passionate desire to know God more intimately, or another fundraiser or new building program continually? Does your place of worship leave you confident that you are able to take on the world by yourself? Or does it bring you to the altar, knowing that you have no power unless Christ is leading you each day?

dark gothic building at sunset

If your church or fellowship has lost its power (or never really had it in the first place), seek God to lead you to one that has the power of God. Maybe the power is dimming where you currently attend. Your prayers are greatly needed there. Call upon the Lord on behalf of the church and plead with Him earnestly that they would choose power instead of no power. Impress upon other believers to do the same, and put to flight the efforts of the devil to kill the power of God there completely. Don’t succumb to peer pressure from other members of your church or fellowship and do nothing. There is no power in inertia or tradition. These things should not dominate your actions. A church that chooses the “no power” option yields a congregation that has no spiritual power.