Reading Time: 9 minutesEph 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)
I have learned some amazing things from Jesus this past week. One of the thoughts that came to mind as I read some of the stuff on the internet is that people are losing sight of Jesus and just sort of “replacing” Him with the fear of the moment that mass media entities would have us cowering in fear from. Some of the things we are hearing are very true; but many of them simply are not. Few there be that seem interested in verifying for themselves what we are hearing. “Social Media,” so called makes the most money when they sell fear. Doesn’t matter what its about, as long as people fear, they will buy. Its just how the internet has been set up. Use at your own risk. This could be called The Expected Storm.
But the Unexpected Storm comes at us from a very different perspective. All too often we hear stories, rumours, unproven “truth” that serve only to instill the same kinds of F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) and these stories and allegations are coming from The Church. We busy ourselves instilling great fear into people or individuals who have done nothing wrong, other than ask questions. Who have done nothing wrong, except to have different pet sins than we do. As if we somehow “sin better” than our current target. The Bible even tells us that:
“…many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Mat 24:11)
People have been leaving the Churches of the land in droves because when we talk about “prophecy,” we tend to simply make our respective lists about what we should fear. And here is the spoiler: Our lists have become almost the same as the worlds. Wars, pestilences, covid, unrest, calamities on every side. There is no end to the FEAR based preaching, as if we are to somehow glean a bit of Jesus out of it all and “surrender” to Him because of all this FEAR. But if we dont start talking about Jesus more, maybe we will be doomed! Its not even a question of “submitting” or “surrendering” to Jesus! Its simply a question of us coming to Him, just as we are, without trying to fix ourselves a bit first. Jesus invites us to do just that, and He promises the following when we do:
“I will never send away anyone who comes to me.” (John 11:28, John 6:37, NIrV).
Jesus further stated:
Joh 6:38 “I have not come down from heaven to do what I want to do. I have come to do what the One who sent me wants me to do. Joh 6:39 The One who sent me doesn’t want me to lose anyone he has given me. He wants me to raise them up on the last day.
A large part of The Unexpected Storm happens when people become offended. Jesus warned us about this when He said:
“…many will be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another.” (Mat 24:10).
We have become offended at almost anyone who isn’t just like us. And how is this any different with the propaganda and mass media based courts of public opinion?
But Jesus also said:
“Blessed are they, who shall not be offended in me” (Luke 7:23).”
Recently, I made a new friend and my friend said to me
“I could never enjoy the Bible with anyone other than my Mom. I have tried hard to with some, from church, but they are not really interested.”
Could it be that this state of things still exists in the church? Too often we are seeing the story repeat. New members come to church. They are interested in Jesus, yet all they hear is our FEAR based message, or personal condemnations from others in the church, who seem to feel that their sin is somehow “better.” But the condemnations never stop. Always someone willing to critisize to the point where the person being critisized just gets discouraged and quits. Check out your own church. Is it growing or shrinking? Do you have “revivals” with little to no people “responding” or sometimes, “deciding” for Jesus, based on our constant barrage of the beast-watching, FEAR based “gospel?”
Do we actually know the One whom we claim to be preaching about? In light of the following; it seems we need to re-examine what we are doing. Jesus said the following in His prayer:
“And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
The following paraphrase from a devotional in a book called Streams In The Desert, says this about being offended at people who are not at our level of Biblical understanding:
“It is sometimes very difficult not to be offended in Jesus Christ. The offenses may be circumstantial. I find myself in a prison-house– a narrow sphere, a sick chamber, an unpopular position– when I had hoped for wide opportunities. Yes, but He knows what is best for me. My environment is of His determining. He means it to intensify my faith, to draw me into nearer communion with Himself, to ripen my power. In the dungeon my soul should prosper.
The offense may be mental. I am haunted by perplexities, questions, which I cannot solve. I had hoped that, when I gave myself to Him, my sky would always be clear; but often it is overspread by mist and cloud. Yet let me believe that, if difficulties remain, it is that I may learn to trust Him all the more implicitly– to trust and not be afraid. Yes, and by my intellectual conflicts, I am trained to be a tutor to other storm-driven men.
The offense may be spiritual. I had fancied that within His fold I should never feel the biting winds of temptation; but it is best as it is. His grace is magnified. My own character is matured. His Heaven is sweeter at the close of the day. There I shall look back on the turnings and trials of the way, and shall sing the praises of my Guide. So, let come what will come, His will is welcome; and I shall refuse to be offended in my loving Lord. — Alexander Smellie
Blessed is he whose faith is not offended,
When all around his way
The power of God is working out deliverance
For others day by day;
Though in some prison drear his own soul languish,
Till life itself be spent,
Yet still can trust his Father’s love and purpose,
And rest therein content.
Blessed is he, who through long years of suffering,Cut off from active toil,Still shares by prayer and praise the work of others,And thus “divides the spoil.”Blessed are thou, O child of God, who sufferest,And canst not understand The reason for thy pain, yet gladly leavest Thy life in His blest Hand.Yea, blessed art thou whose faith is “not offended”By trials unexplained,By mysteries unsolved, past understanding,Until the goal is gained.– Freda Hanbury Allen
Scripture tells us that we are all made in the image of God. Our only help, our only hope, is to do what the Psalmist and other Bible characters did. Abandon any attempts to justify ourselves, and appeal, instead, to the character of God. Israel’s story is indeed a very long list of mistakes.Exodus 32 to 34 shows us some good examples of this. Many of said mistakes are very embarrassing. So is David’s story in Psalms 51. So is some of the behaviour of the disciples in the four gospels. So is the situation of the church, as depicted in the book of Acts by Paul. And so is the history of the Christian Church throughout history, including up to this our present day. Rev 2 & 3 informs us of the church in the last days. And the unexpected storm, by which many are condemned by the very church which should be showing them the love of Christ, is that if we were each honest enough, so too would our life stories have many embarrassing things in it. In short, one could say that Psalms 51 is all about us!
Scripture tells us that we are all made in the image of God. There are no exceptions. God doesn’t make junk. If indeed, humanity is “in the image of God,” then God too shares in our distress and suffering, even to the point of having gone there before. Jesus, who is the One recognized in scripture, as the complete embodiment of God, the perfect image of God, is also the One shown as the One who serves, by His own suffering. (see Isa 53).
God’s amazing self revelation in Exodus 34;6-7 is a good “template” for we, His Church, today:
“Exo 34:6 As he passed in front of Moses, he called out. He said, “I am the LORD, the LORD. I am a God who is tender and kind. I am gracious. I am slow to get angry. I am faithful and full of love. Exo 34:7 I continue to show my love to thousands of people. I forgive those who do evil. I forgive those who refuse to obey. And I forgive those who sin. But I do not let guilty people go without punishing them. I punish the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren for the sin of their parents.
During one of the darkest periods in their history, God “came down into the cloud” and revealed Himself to the people as the faithful God who is full of love. Does our church do the same? Do we “come down in the cloud” to people who are struggling with sin, poverty, sickness, and all manner of other tragedy, or hopelessness to reveal the God to them who will “come down in their cloud” and see to it that they know they are loved, welcome, and included in “the life of the church?”
Immediately following the self revelation of God here, Moses appeals to God, that the “Lord go with us” and “pardon our iniquity and sin.” (“forgive the evil things we have done. Forgive our sin. And accept us as your people.” Exodus 34:9). And praise be to God He responded by making a covenant; and it was already “the new covenant,” even back then. (see Exodus 24:1-8). Here, God promised to “perform marvels, such as have not been performed [created] in all the earth or in any other nation.” (Exodus 34:10). Folks, this is The Good News! It is God’s fundamental character to restore, rehabilitate, recreate people from all walks of life. Isreal’s life depended on it. King David’s life and dynasty depended upon it. The psalmist’s life literally depended on God’s character, and approach to sinners as being restorative. Our very life today depends upon the same thing. Our church’s life depends upon God’s character “coming down into the clouds” of division, fear, and legalism. Saul, the former murderer, has become Paul, a true ambassador for Christ! By God’s grace, everything has become new! And we each need to have the same experience today at church, at home. Everywhere.
Paul was well aquainted with such fundamental reality about God. He saw it most clearly revealed in Jesus Christ; and Paul proclaimed this very message to the Corinthians in promising terms that seemed to echo Psalms 51: 10-13
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:17-20, NKJV)
Let us personally, and collectively resolve to have a revival that will teach people how to be reconciled to God. And how can we do that, if that is not how it is with us? (see Rom 10:13-15)
The unexpected storm, as referred to in the opening text (Eph 4:29) is pointing right at the phrase “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” Paul warned us that such talk would be most vehement from those of our own churches:
For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. (Acts 20:29-30)
In response to this perfect storm that we are seeing in this “time of the end” (Dan 8:19, 11:40), Paul says the preparation for trying times is in just eight short words:
“…be renewed in the spirit of your mind,” (Eph 4:23)
There is nothing else we can do to prepare for the coming, final conflict, and world-wide disasters. (Rev 3:10). Eph 4:29 says to everyone of God’s people now:
“You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
I have a close friend who has been so discouraged by the church response to what they were going through; they they feel totally rejected by the church, yet that person is the only one out of the whole bunch who will just sit with me, and encourage me through the scriptures. I would suggest that there are many unknown friends of Christ and His church.
Truly, we can bring sorrow to the Holy Spirit by the way we live. Paul warns us against unwholesome language, bitterness, improper use of anger, harsh words, slander, and bad attitudes toward others. Instead of acting that way, we should be forgiving, and respectful, just as God has forgiven us.
Are you bringing sorrow or pleasing God with your attitudes and actions?
Please, before it’s too late, act in love toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, just as God acted in love by sending his Son to die for your sins.