Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty through forty-seven of the twentieth chapter. “And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace” (Luke 20:20-26).
“Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? For seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him” (Luke 20:27-38).
“Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. And after that they durst not ask him any questions at all. And he said unto them, How say they that Christ be David’s son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son?” (Luke 20:39-44).
“Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:45-47).
ROMANS 13! 1 CORINTHIANS 15! HEBREWS 11! When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find another account of Jesus and the vehement opposition the religious system and community had toward and against Him. Throughout the four gospel narratives. Of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ you will indeed find countless examples of the religious system and community rising up against the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in persecution and opposition. You cannot read the gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous amount of opposition that was directed toward Jesus the Christ, as Jesus would have undoubtedly posed a serious and tremendous threat to those present within that system. It wouldn’t matter if it were the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, or the scribes, or the chief priests, or the elders of the people, or the teachers of the Law, or certain rulers of the synagogues, or the like, for although Jesus’ public ministry only lasted three and a half years it was characterized by a strong and palpable affliction and opposition which was directed toward and against Him by the religious system of that day. It is absolutely impossible to read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely awesome and incredible truth that the Lord Jesus Christ would spend a considerable amount of time and energy contending with the religious leaders of His day, for they recognized and realized they could neither control Him, nor put Him in any type of box they thought they could create for Him. In all reality, it is truly remarkable to read the four gospel narratives and encounter the many times when the religious leaders and the religious system rose up in vehement opposition toward and against the Lord Jesus Christ—and not only rose up in opposition against Him, but also spent a considerable amount of time laying traps and snares before Him that they might catch Him in His words.
The more you read the four gospel narratives which were written concerning the person of the LORD Jesus Christ the more you will encounter and come face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth that the religious system—in addition to their vehement and passionate opposition toward Him and persecution of Him—would spend a considerable amount of time watching Him and hanging on His every word and every action. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when you read the gospel narratives, for within them you will find the religious system during Jesus’ day being perhaps one of—if not the greatest group of individuals who seemed to hang on Jesus’ every word. What makes this particular truth all the more astonishing is when you think about the fact that their hanging on every word Jesus spoke was not because of, nor did it have anything to do with their sincere desire to learn of Him and to understand the kingdom of heaven. You can read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry and you will find countless individuals in the midst of the crowds and multitudes which gathered themselves unto and around Jesus who would hang on every single word He would speak. In fact, it would be when many of His disciples would turn back and walk no more with Him that Jesus would turn to the twelve disciples and ask them if they too would turn back and walk no more with Him. Simon called Peter would faithfully and wonderfully respond by asking Jesus where they would go and to whom they would go unto, for He alone was the Christ and the Son of the living God. What’s more, is that Simon would also empathically declare unto Jesus that He alone had the words of eternal life. For Simon, the words which Jesus spoke were indeed spirit and life, and he could not fathom, nor could he justify ever leaving and departing from the presence and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Simon was absolutely and without a doubt committed to walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ—regardless and in spite of the tremendous opposition that would be raised up against Him during the time they walked with and followed Him.
As I sit here this morning and consider the four gospel accounts which are found in the New Testament concerning the person of the Lord Jesus Christ I can’t help but be absolutely and completely gripped with the fact that the disciples walked with and followed the person of Jesus during times of intense affliction, opposition and persecution. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and realize concerning the disciples walking with and following Jesus the Christ it’s that they would walk with Him through and in the midst of the tremendous persecution and opposition He would face at the hands of the religious community and system of that day. This reality is quite astonishing when you take the time to think about it, for it calls and draws our attention to something that was absolutely critical and vital within the lives of the disciples and those whom Jesus called and invited to walk with and follow Him. Within the four gospel narratives we find three specific times and examples when Jesus would call certain individuals to walk with and follow Him as disciples. There would be the call and invitation given unto Simon and his brother Andrew to walk with and follow Jesus there by the lake as they were mending and cleaning their nets after laboring all night in fishing. There would be the call and invitation given unto James and his brother John—the two sons of Zebedee—when they were together with their father by the lake cleaning and mending their nets. Finally, there would be the call and invitation given unto Levi also called Matthew when he was sitting at the receipt of the custom. These five men each heard the call, the voice and the invitation of the Lord Jesus Christ to come after and follow Him, and each of them would heed that call and would leave everything and forsake it all that they might walk with and follow Jesus.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable and astounding truths found within the four gospel narratives is that while it is indeed true Jesus would call each of these twelve men to come after, walk with and follow Him, He did not initially speak unto them, nor make them aware of the fact that walking with and following Him would mean they would walk with one who would draw the ire and angst of the religious community and system of that day. Jesus would declare unto Simon called Peter that from that day forward he would be a fisher of men and would be used in an entirely different way than he had previously. What we never find with any of the calls and invitations given unto the twelve disciples when Jesus initially called and invited them to walk with and follow Him is a declaration of what it would mean—not only what it would mean for them as and while they walked with Jesus, but what it would mean for them after His departure and return to the Father. Oh there would come a point in time later on during those three and a half years when after praying all night Jesus would call unto Himself His twelve disciples, would ordain them as apostles, and would send them out into the world as sheep among wolves with the need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. If there is one thing I find so incredibly powerful when reading the four gospel narratives, it’s that while Jesus didn’t initially reveal unto these men what walking with and following Him would mean for them within and throughout their lives, He would indeed provide glimpses of what walking with and following Him would undoubtedly mean for their lives and the tremendous opposition they would experience. In fact, there are at least four distinct times within the three and a half years when Jesus would not only speak unto His disciples concerning the assignment that was before them, but would also prepare them for what continuing to walk with Him would mean for their lives. What’s more, is that as early as the Sermon on the Mount Jesus would prepare His disciples to walk through intense periods of suffering, persecution, opposition and affliction—a reality which we must needs consider before delving into the passage before us:
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecute they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:9-12).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compoel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
“And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whososever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Matthew 10:11-15).
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before gobernors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: For it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and, hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the vety hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own househohld. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reard. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:40-42).
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him,s aying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save. His life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? OR what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with his angels; and then he shall reard every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:21-28).
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).
“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (John 15:17-25).
“These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God a service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to Him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?” (John 16:1-5).
We cannot miss and lose sight of the words which are found within each of these passages, for within these passages of Scripture we find Jesus making ready and preparing His disciples to walk through and experience persecution, affliction, opposition and suffering. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely undeniable truth surrounding Jesus’ preparing the disciples to walk through some of—if not the same persecution, opposition and suffering He Himself walked through. Oh it was indeed they true that while they walked with Him they would not experience that suffering and persecution to the degree and measure He taught and spoke unto them about, however, in the absence of the Son and in the presence of the Spirit they would begin walking through and experiencing the very things He spoke unto and taught them. Within the four gospel narratives we find Jesus taking the time to prepare and make ready each of His disciples for a time that was to come when they would not only be persecuted, but would also be scourged, would be killed, would be brought before kings and governors for His name’s sake and for a witness and testimony unto them. So long as Jesus walked with and among them this personal persecution, this personal suffering, and this personal opposition would essentially be held and kept at bay. In all reality this is quite astonishing and telling when you consider it, for it almost seems and appears that so long as Jesus was present within and upon the earth He would keep the personal suffering and persecution which the disciples would indeed and would undoubtedly experience at bay. So long as Jesus walked among them as the Word made flesh He would be the target and object of the fierceness of the animosity, the anger, the malice and the hatred of the religious system and establishment of that day.
Oh I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by this particular reality, for while it was indeed true Jesus would prepare and make ready His disciples to walk through and experience tremendous suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition, it would be held at bay and almost kept back while He was still present with and among them. When, however, the time and hour came for Him to depart from the earth and return unto His Father who was in heaven the time and period of their own personal suffering would begin. Not only this, but you will find that almost immediately after the Son departed from this world and the Spirit entered into it the suffering and persecution would begin within their lives. Although I would not say that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of suffering, I must nonetheless say that upon the arrival of the Spirit within and upon the earth the suffering the disciples would face and experience would indeed become personal. What’s more, is not only would it become personal, but it would also become tangible among them and within their lives. If and as you read the second New Testament book written by the physician Luke you will find that not only would Jesus’ departure lead to the arrival of the person and presence of the Spirit, but it would also seem to usher in the personal side of suffering, the personal side of affliction, the personal side of opposition, and the personal side of persecution. For three and a half years the disciples walked with and followed Jesus and witnessed the religious system and community vehemently oppose and persecute Him. For three and a half years the disciples walked with and followed the Lord Jesus Christ and witnessed as the religious leaders and the religious system constantly and vehemently opposed Him. For three and a half years the disciples would walk with and follow Jesus as He would not only experience opposition and persecution from the religious system and community of that day, but He would also experience tremendous opposition and persecution from the Jews themselves. In fact, as you read the fourth gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will encounter a tremendous amount of persecution and opposition which would rise up against the person of the Lord Jesus Christ at the hands of the Jews which were present in Judaea.
In all reality, it’s truly something worth thinking about when reading the four gospel narratives written concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, for within the four gospel narratives we find and encounter the tremendous opposition and persecution Jesus would walk through, face and experience. What’s more, is that for three and a half years that persecution, that opposition and that affliction would almost be impersonal for the disciples as it would not directly touch them, nor would it touch their physical persons and bodies. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that for three and a half years while Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh and publicly manifested and revealed unto men, the persecution and the opposition expressed during those days would indeed and would in fact be directed toward Jesus. Oh it was true there were times when the religious system and community would direct their ire and angst against the disciples in the company and presence of Jesus—namely, when they plucked the ears of corn in the field on the sabbath and ate, and when the religious leaders watched and observed that they did not wash their hands before they ate. There would be certain and specific times during and throughout those three and a half years when the disciples would be the target of the ire and angst of the scribes and the Pharisees, and they would voice that unto Jesus—not only as a complaint directed against the disciples, but also as a complaint against Jesus Himself for the actions and behavior of His disciples.
I am absolutely convinced that we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth and reality, for the more we think about and the more we consider it the more we encounter and come face to face with the fact that while Jesus was present among them—not only would and could the Spirit not come and be present in the midst of the earth, but the persecution and opposition would be directed toward Jesus Himself rather than the disciples themselves. Although Jesus did indeed and although Jesus would prepare and make ready his disciples for intense suffering, affliction, opposition and persecution, that suffering and that persecution would be kept in check and held at bay. So long as Jesus walked among and was present among them, and so long as the Spirit was present with the Father in heaven and not yet released and poured out, the suffering and persecution Jesus spoke of would not directly touch the disciples, nor their physical persons and lives. Oh it is truly something worth thinking about and considering when you read the four gospel narratives, for within the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry you will find that so long as He was present within and upon the earth He would be the target of the malice, the anger, the hatred, the rejection, the resentment, and the opposition and persecution of the religious system and community. When, however, He would depart from this world and return unto His Father in heaven, and when the Spirit would be sent from the Father who was seated at the right hand of the Father, there would be this tremendous and powerful clash that would take place between the religious spirit and the eternal Spirit sent from heaven within and upon the earth. Once again, I cannot and will not declare that the Spirit is a Spirit of suffering, but what I can and will say is that in the absence of the Son and in the presence of the Spirit suffering and persecution would no longer be impersonal within the hearts and lives of the disciples, but would now become personal.
This reality of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit seeming to introduce suffering and persecution within the hearts and lives of the disciples is actually quite remarkable when you consider it, for so long as Jesus was present among them within the earth He would be the object and target of the tremendous murmuring, grumbling and complaining of the religious system and leaders. So long as Jesus was present within and upon the earth He Himself would be the object and target of the tremendous opposition and persecution of the Jews, as well the religious system and community of that day. Time and time again you will read of the religious system and community rising up against Jesus in vehement and adamant persecution and opposition, as they had an incredibly difficult time with the words He spoke and the actions He wrought within the earth. Throughout the public life of the Lord Jesus Christ the opposition and persecution the disciples would witness would indeed and would in fact be impersonal as it would not directly touch them, nor their lives. Oh by walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ they would indeed be directly associated with Him, and would witness that opposition and persecution, however, it would not directly touch and impact them within their own lives. Eventually, however, there would come a point within their lives when persecution, when opposition and when suffering would not longer be impersonal and directed solely and exclusively toward Jesus, but would indeed and would in fact touch them and their physical persons.
I cannot help but be absolutely captivated and challenged with this particular truth and reality, for within the four gospel narratives written by these authors we find the opposition and persecution experienced during the days in which Jesus walked upon the earth being directed toward Him and Him alone. Oh it would indeed be true the disciples would witness that suffering and that persecution toward and against Jesus, however, it would be something that would be somewhat removed from them and their persons. This is incredibly important for us to think about and consider, for it forces us to think about and consider something within our own lives. I am absolutely convinced there are those who read the gospel narratives of Jesus’ life and ministry, and even the rest of the New Testament, and they watch as the suffering, the affliction, the opposition and the persecution is directed toward Jesus and Him alone. Such individuals are content with the opposition and persecution being directed toward Jesus the Christ, and yet they have absolutely no desire for it to become personal within their hearts and lives. Even as I sit here and write these words I am finding myself coming face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that what we are witnessing within this nation and within this country is a strong assault and attack of the enemy designed to cause men and women to become offended. What’s more, is that not only is there an assault and attack in this nation against men and women and offense, but the enemy and adversary is directly presenting them with carrying and picking up the offenses of others. It is true that we have all experienced times within our lives when others have trespassed against us, and when others have somehow wronged and offended us, however, for the most part, what we are witnessing within these days and within this culture and society is the strong temptation and push to cause men and women to not only live in an offended state and mindset, but also to take and pick up the offenses of others.
Over the past year plus we have watched and witnessed countless opportunities to be offended, to be angered, to be outraged, and a whole host of other emotions, thoughts and feelings. If you have paid attention over the past year plus you will find men and women being offended when Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, which would subsequently result in his death. Within the past year you have watched as protestors would storm the Capital Building in Washington, D.C.—and act that would result in the lives of capital police officers present in the midst of the building. You have watched and witnessed as Antifa and other protests and movements have rioted within cities within and throughout this nation and country, and how for a certain period of time you almost felt like this nation was entering into a realm and world that was epitomized and presented in the movie series The Purge. Throughout this past year there has been no shortage of means and avenues for men and women to be offended—and not only to be offended, but to be offended at what they have watched and witnessed on the news. This isn’t even taking into consideration the tremendous amount of offense that is present within the hearts of countless men and women who were outraged and incensed against President Donald Trump—an offense that was quite honestly steeped and rooted in four plus years of hatred, anger, animosity, resentment, and the like.
Now you might be wondering why I would take the time to write these words and what they would possibly have to do with what is before us in this passage of Scripture. If there is one thing I can’t help but be brought face to face with during these days is how one of the enemy’s greatest tactics and strategies is to keep us offended, and to keep us picking up and packing on the offenses within our hearts and souls. One of the enemy’s greatest tactics and strategies has been and is most certainly the case within this present generation to keep men and women offended—and not only offended, but offended with what they witness and behold within the news. Oh we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this, for I am convinced that so long as men and women are offended—particularly and especially those who profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ—they will be unable to stand during the days and times of intense suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition. Even as I am writing these words I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the tremendous reality that men and women within our culture and society today, and men and women within this generation are being assaulted, attacked and assailed by the enemy and adversary with offenses—and not only with offenses, but also with being offended themselves. Jesus Himself declared that it was impossible but that offenses would come, and it was Jesus who emphatically declared unto his disciples that many within the Last Days would be offended in those days because the love of many will wax cold, because iniquity will abound, and because of everything that is taking place before and all around them. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that one of the enemy’s greatest tactics and strategies within this generation and within this culture and society is to bombard us with so much before and all around us that can captivate our attention, grip our emotions, and cause us to be offended.
The more I sit here and write these words the more I am convinced that the man or woman who professes to be a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ and yet lives with offense in their heart, or lives in an offended state cannot and will not be able to stand in the hour and time of persecution, opposition, affliction, and suffering. I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the main and underlying purposes of offense within the heart, within the mind and within the soul of men and women is to keep them bound by bitterness, bound by unforgiveness, bound by offense, bound by grudges, and bound by emotions, thoughts and feelings, and thus eliminating the ability to stand in the midst of suffering, opposition and persecution. What’s more, is that over the past year plus we have watched and witnessed that it was much easier to rise up and give oneself to protesting in the streets than it was to praying in the closets. One of the greatest dangers present within the past year plus has been men and women who would and could commit themselves to protesting in the streets and making their voice be heard in the streets while their closets were empty, and while their voices were silent before and under heaven. Oh tell me dear brother, oh tell me dear sister—where is your voice and where is your cry the greatest? Where is your voice and your cry the most effective? I seem to recall and remember James the half-brother of Jesus emphatically declaring that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Notice that James did not write, nor did he declare that the effectual and fervent protest of the righteous man availeth much. You cannot and will not find within the gospel narratives, nor within the New Testament epistles any place where it is stated that the protesting of men and women has greater value and greater worth than prayer.
As I think about and consider all the events that have taken place within the past year plus I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that so long as the enemy and adversary can keep us offended with and by the events we witness before and all around us, there is and there might be very little ability within our hearts and lives to be able to stand when persecution and suffering arises. I am finding myself being brought face to face with the fact that perhaps the single greatest reason and purpose for all the offenses which are present before and all around us is not necessarily to fill the earth with offenses, nor to fill the earth with trespasses, nor even to fill the earth with wrongs. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the single greatest reason for all the offenses, all the wrongs, all the injustices, all the trespasses, and everything we have witnessed before and all around us is to keep men and women offended and bound in the prison of unforgiveness, bitterness, as well as perhaps grudges and the like. You cannot convince me that the reason there are so many offenses present before and all around us, and the reason there is so much to be offended by is to keep men and women in the attitude and posture of offense rather than prayer and supplication. Oh I would dare say that those who choose to live with offense in their hearts, and those who chose to remain offended are those individuals who will find it incredibly difficult to stand during days of such tremendous suffering, affliction and opposition. Have you ever stopped to think about and wonder there seems to be such a plethora and vast array of offenses to choose from in this culture, society, nation and generation? Have you ever stopped to think about and consider why there seems to be no shortage of offenses and things to be offended by within our culture and society during these days and times? There seems to be a tremendous spread, buffet and smorgasbord of offenses before men and women during these days, and men and women can choose offense from this part of the buffet, and can choose bitterness from this part of the buffet, and can choose unforgiveness from this part of the buffet, and so on and so forth.
Oh if you are reading these words I would like to ask you to mark my words and mark them well, for the single greatest reason there are so many offenses to choose from and pick up—particularly and especially for those who profess to be disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ—is to keep them offended and in an unforgiving and bitter state. It is when and as you are in an offended and bitter state you can and will find yourself unable to stand in the midst of suffering, in the midst of persecution, in the midst of affliction, and in the midst of opposition. What’s more, is that because there has been so much offense and so many reasons to be offended within our culture and society, men and women have somehow become numb and indifferent to everything that has taken place before and all around them. NUMB & INDIFFERENT! BITTER AND OFFENDED! I firmly believe that if the enemy and adversary can keep us numb and indifferent and/or even bitter and offended he can indeed and can in fact keep us from being able to stand in the hour of persecution, in the hour of suffering, and in the hour of affliction and opposition. With this being said I feel compelled to emphatically state and declare that we have not yet experienced persecution, suffering and affliction within this nation and within this country. There would be those who felt that the church buildings and churches being closed and shut down due to the global pandemic as being suffering and persecution in this culture and society, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not and has not been the case. If you thought for one moment that churches and church buildings being closed was indeed persecution in this country then I would strongly and emphatically declare that you will be in for quite a shock and rude awakening when persecution truly does arise in the midst of this nation and society before and around us.
It is absolutely inescapable within my heart and mind how there is so much room for offenses and being offended within this generation and within the culture and society in which we live. There is absolutely no denying the fact that over the past year plus—perhaps more than ever before—there has been a tremendous amount of wrongs, trespasses, and offenses that have been committed in this nation. We would have to be incredibly blind and naïve to think about and consider the fact that there has not been a plethora of instances and opportunities whereby we can not only be offended, but can also harbor grudges and unforgiveness within our hearts and minds. What’s more, is that I firmly believe within all my heart that so long as the enemy and adversary can keep us in an offended state we cannot and will not be able to stand in the midst of suffering and persecution. What’s more, is that if you live in an offended state with bitterness and unforgiveness within your heart you will undoubtedly take and carry that over with you when suffering, when persecution, when opposition and when affliction truly does arise within this nation. I am completely convinced that the enemy and adversary can and will flood this nation together with its streets and cities with wrongs, with offenses, with trespasses, and the like in an all out attempt to ensnare and entrap us in an offended state of mind and heart. There have been countless opportunities to pick up and carry offenses and to be offended within our heart and our mind, and as a direct result there are countless men and women—particularly and especially men and women who profess to be disciples and followers of Jesus—who can and will be unable to stand when persecution and suffering arises. What’s more, is I would dare say there will be men and women who can and who will be in an offended state of mind and heart if and when persecution and suffering arises, and as a direct result they will take and carry that offense into the suffering and persecution.
OFFENDED ENTERING INTO SUFFERING! OFFENDED BECAUSE OF SUFFERING! With all of this being said I am absolutely and completely convinced there are a number of men and women who are presently living in the state of heart and mind of being offended. There are men and women who have witnessed and beheld everything that has taken place within this nation over the past year plus time, and as a direct result they have allowed themselves to be captivated, ensnared and entrapped with and by offense. In all reality, I am convinced there are and there can be two distinct and two different types of people present when the suffering and persecution finally does strike this nation. There are going to be those who are already offended when the suffering and persecution arises and presents itself within this nation, and as a direct result of this they cannot and will not be able to stand in the midst of it. It was Jesus Himself who declared that those who endure unto the end will be saved, and the enemy and adversary knows this. Not only this, but the enemy and adversary also knows how incredibly important patience and endurance is within the heart and soul of one who professes to walk with and follow Christ. The enemy and adversary can and will do anything and everything to assault and attack your endurance and your patience, and one of the single greatest ways he will do this is through offense. If the enemy can keep you offended within your heart—and not only offended within your heart, but surrounded by new and old offenses—he can indeed keep you from being one who has any endurance and patience in the midst of suffering and persecution.
OFFENDED AND SURROUNDED BY OFFENSES! Perhaps one of the greatest challenges and struggles that we as the people of God can and will face during these days is guarding ourselves from being offended. It is absolutely unavoidable to deliver ourselves from the offenses which are present all around us, however, that which we can and must do is deliver ourselves from being offended. There is no way we can or ever will be able to deliver ourselves from living and being in a world filled with offenses, nor can we ever deliver ourselves from the offenses which are all around us. The one thing we are responsible for, however, is ensuring that we guard our hearts, our minds and our souls from being offended. I continue to be absolutely and completely convinced that right now we are presently living in a culture and society where offenses abound and where one of—if not the greatest temptation we can and will face is to be offended. I have long believed that two of the enemy’s greatest tactics and strategies in the Last Days can and will be deception and offenses. If you trulyl study the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples at the mount of Olives you will find Him emphatically declaring that in the Last Days there will be rampant deception as false Christs, false prophets, and false teachers will rise up in the midst of the earth. What’s more, is that you will also read that because iniquity will abound the love of many can and will grow cold, and as a direct result of this many will be offended. What’s more, is that when Jesus provided the interpretation of the seed which fell on the stony ground He declared that this represents those who hear the word and receive it with joy and yet when they begin to experience persecution and suffering because of and for the sake of the word they are offended. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for I am absolutely and completely convinced there are essentially two distinct traps and snares for offense in the days in which we are living, as well as the coming days. There is of course the danger and snare of being offended because of the myriad of offenses surrounding us within our culture and society, and there is the danger and snare of being offended because of and when persecution and suffering finally does arrive and manifest itself within this nation and country.
PERSECUTION AND SUFFERING ARE ACTUALLY INVITATIONS TO LIVE OFFENSE FREE! PERSECUTION AND SUFFERING ARE INVITATIONS TO LIVE WITHOUT GRUDGES! PERSECUTION AND SUFFERING ARE ACTUALLY INVITATIONS TO GIVE AND COMMIT ONESELF TO FORGIVENESS! I recently listened to the book I Am N, and one of the things within the book that struck me was how those who experienced suffering and persecution—perhaps being beaten, tortured and/or imprisoned, or perhaps experiencing the death and murder of a loved on, or some other atrocity or tragedy—were given a tremendous invitation to love their enemies and to walk in forgiveness and free of offense. In all reality, I am convinced that in those moments and during those times we are indeed and are in fact invited to step into three distinct realms within our walk and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Actually, I would say there are four realms which we are invited to step and enter into during those times of suffering and persecution. The first realm is the invitation to love our enemies when everything inside us may want to hate them within our hearts, and hate them with a complete hatred. The second realm is to pray for those who persecute us rather than protesting, or rather than complaining, or rather than gossiping, or rather than targeting and going after them. The third realm is actually to walk in forgiveness of and toward those who might have wronged and offended us, and those who might very well have persecuted and inflicted some degree and measure of hurt, pain and suffering within our hearts and lives. The fourth realm is actually to live our lives and to guard our hearts and our minds from any and all offense, and to essentially be “unoffendable.” Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we have within our hearts and lives is that of not only guarding ourselves against offense, but also living offense free—this despite the fact that we live in a world of offenses and are constantly surrounded by and bombarded with offenses.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I feel it is absolutely necessary and imperative to call and draw our attention to the incredibly challenging place it is to not only live our lives offense free, but also to live lives of forgiveness toward, love of, and praying for those who might very well have wronged us, trespassed against us, or even persecuted us. We are living in a culture and society where offenses abound and where atrocities and wrongs are committed and are being committed at an alarming rate. You cannot go one week without hearing of another shooting, or another officer killing an unarmed suspect, or any of other hot buttons and hot topics present within our culture and society today. It is absolutely undeniable to live in this nation and this culture and society and not see before your eyes each and every day countless opportunities to be offended—and not only to be offended, but also to hold on to grudges and to remain embittered. We are living in absolutely unprecedented times when offenses not only can abound, but are also abounding in great measure. With these offenses come choices and decisions we must needs make whether or not we can live in a world of offenses and yet remain without offense in our hearts and minds. Not only this, but we must needs recognize that if and when we give ourselves to offenses within our hearts—not necessarily giving ourselves to the offenses around us, but being offended within our hearts—we are crippling ourselves and the endurance that is needed when persecution and suffering does in fact arrive and emerge. There is a great need for us as the people of God to recognize and understand that there is a tremendous danger in being offended when the persecution and suffering arises and thus causing us not only be offended with and by those who might persecute us, but can entirely and altogether jeopardize our endurance and patience in the midst of the suffering and persecution. If there is one thing we must needs acknowledge within our hearts and lives during these days it’s that we must vigilantly and diligently work to guard ourselves from offenses living in a world and time of increase offenses and that we not be ensnared with and by the traps of unforgiveness, bitterness, grudges, malice, offense, and even judgment, criticism, accusation, and condemnation.