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Judgment and Salvation…one goes with the other

“And not intimidated in any way by the adversaries, which is for them an indication of destruction but for you of salvation, which is from God.”

(Philippians 1:28)

In our culture today, it seems, we talk at length about the troubles caused by bullying, particularly amongst children. And indeed, bullying is sin and condemnable. Yet bullying is also not constrained to the behavior of children nor is it something that is found only in our modern age. As it is a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we find people using manipulation, coercion, and bullying to get their way rather than pursuing what is True and beneficial to all. And next to Jesus, we could argue that the Apostle Paul is the poster-child for having had to face-down wicked men with ignoble schemes who were only interested in intimidating others to preserve their own power.

And Paul, who had to face down so much intimidation, says to us as well, “don’t let them intimidate you.” Why should we not be intimidated? In a similar context, Jesus’ answer was that we should not fear those who can only kill the body because that was all they could kill; God can kill body and soul in eternal judgment (Matthew 10:28). Paul speaks very similarly. Paul essentially is saying to us that when we stand in confidence of the Truth in the face of all adversaries, that very reality is a condemnation of those who would oppose us. Why is it a condemnation? One can stand in confidence upon that which is true; one cannot so stand when it is not truth that is stood upon.

When you know that which is right, what do you have to fear from those who would challenge it? On the other hand, if you are basing your ideas, your lifestyle, your preferences, your power and influence on things that are unproven, established by men, and are built on the power of men and not on the power of God…you have a shaky foundation at best. It is you who have the right to fear, and fear you should. For when you stand against God’s people, you stand not only against the people; you also stand against God himself.

And thus, the salvation of God’s own is also eternal condemnation for those who stand against him. God promises throughout the scriptures to preserve the elect; but in doing so the reprobate are judged. Both go hand in hand. There is no having one without the other. And yes, all of this is from God. He is sovereign over life and death, salvation and judgment. There is no other. And if we serve this God, what earthly thing have we to fear? What earthly power ought to intimidate us? No, not one.

So, how do we get out of being bullied? We stand up to the bully. We don’t back down from the one who would twist ideas to coerce us. We do not compromise truth. We stand  in the confidence of knowing that we serve a God who is sovereign over all of the affairs of men and who will crush those who stand in rebellion against him. That’s how we not get bullied…and folks, this kind of confidence applies not only to defending our faith against atheists or whatever “flavor” of unbelief that people are sporting in the culture; it applies to all things. It applies to business, to politics, to home life, to school, to sports, to whatever activity that God sets before you. If you do all you do to the glory of Him who gives you life; you will not fear what the wicked devise for you will know the end of the wicked. You want to take back the culture? Be bold in your faith and live it out everywhere and in everything you do…no compromise, the world should not intimidate you.

Politics in Church Life

“They said, ‘If you are the Christ, tell us.’ But, he said, ‘If I told you, you would not believe and if I were to question you, you would not answer.’”

(Luke 22:67-68)

 

Jesus breaks his silence, though not for very long. They press him about whether he is the Messiah — their accusation is that Jesus is a blasphemer — and Jesus responds in an interesting way. Essentially he is saying to them, why are you asking me this question, you aren’t interested in hearing the answer! The only thing that the priests were really interested in hearing was those things that they could twist to justify their seeking Jesus’ execution — why feed their frenzy?

The next statement is a curious one. Some have taken this to imply that Jesus is saying to the priests, “if you were in my shoes, you wouldn’t answer either.” Yet, I don’t think that is the thrust of the comment. I think that Jesus is turning the tables on the priests and saying, “Look, if I were to question you as to whether I am the Christ, you would give no answer.” Why would they remain silent? Because they did not want to place themselves in a position where they were self-condemning.

A very similar confrontation had taken place just a few days earlier (Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8). The priests and scribes had challenged him as to his authority to teach. Jesus turned the tables on the priests by challenging them as to who had given John the Baptist authority? The Jewish officials recognized that if they said that John’s authority was from God they then authenticated John’s ministry and condemned themselves as they had stood against John, but if they rejected John’s ministry, the people, who revered John as a prophet (and rightly so!) would be up in arms. Jesus is pressing them with the same basic matter here. If they testify that Jesus is the Christ, then what are they doing arresting him? If they testify that Jesus is not the Christ, what happens if he proves them wrong? The priests were concerned with preserving their power and control — to do so, in their own eyes, Jesus had to die so they could not answer his question.

Loved ones, there is a very basic principle that can be gleaned from this interaction. Politics in church is bad news. If you would see something accomplished, don’t maneuver and manipulate things to bring about said effect. Walk uprightly and with integrity, do not bully those around you to gain your way, and interact with others with humility, meekness, and truth. Sadly, all too often fallen people in the life of the congregation seek to bring things about by their own means and God does not bless that behavior.

Scorn

“And the men who were restraining him mocked and beat him. And they covered his eyes and questioned him, saying, ‘Prophesy, which one is it that struck you?’ And many other blasphemous things they spoke to him.”

(Luke 22:63-65)

 

Mockery and scorn seem to be two of the devil’s favorite tactics. They are the tools of the uninformed cowards because no understanding, knowledge, or reasoning skill is a prerequisite for such actions. And, like a pack of dogs, these wicked men have descended upon the Lord of peace. In terms of covering Jesus’ eyes, there is a good chance that it was a hood that they placed on him, not a blindfold — the text simply says that they covered him so he could not see — and again, this kind of tactic is the mark of cowards who cannot bear to look their victim in the eyes and who, in the midst of the other brutes, has no sense or care for justice. This night was the devil’s field day.

Yet, I wonder how often we give way to things like mockery and scorn — even to abuse. Though we know what is right, we allow these tactics to silence us as Christians in a world that considers Christianity to be little more than a personal preference and irrelevant to the rest of life. Then again, if Christians are silent, one might be tempted to suggest that we have conceded the field of engagement to them. Sad, because we are armed with Truth while their weapons have no substance of their own.

Remember, Christ chose to accept and receive scorn on your behalf — we ought to be ready to endure scorn (or worse!) on His behalf.