Joseph Herrin (03-07-2014)
The series I have just begun titled Foundations has elicited a significant amount of e-mails. One of the primary reasons I have not been posting to the Parables Blog as frequently as I have been accustomed to doing in the past is that many of my days have been entirely taken up in answering correspondence. There have been some very encouraging letters that have come in, for which I am indeed grateful. Some have written to ask for clarification of various things being set forth in this series. At the same time there have been those who have written to express disagreement. Of this latter group, there is manifested a variety of attitudes in their writing. Some are thoughtful and patient, while others are argumentative, impatient, and irrational.
One of the things the Father has emphasized to me ever since He called me into ministry back in 1999 is the necessity to not only communicate truth, but to communicate truth in a spirit that reflects His own heart. There have been occasions when I discerned that Yahweh would have me to speak sharply to an individual who was manifesting a stubborn and intractable spirit. This is in keeping with Paul’s counsel to Titus.
One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith...
There are Cretans among the people of God to this day. I have encountered many who wanted nothing more than to wrangle over words and to engage in endless disputes. Their heart was not set on apprehending truth. As a minister I need to be sensitive to know when someone is wasting my time, drawing me into fruitless discussion. On many occasions I have set forth lengthy explanations of a matter, looking to the Scriptures as a foundation for understanding while setting forth logical arguments, only to have the individual send back a quick retort that demonstrates that they are not interested in arriving at the knowledge of the truth. Regrettably, some desire only to engage in debate and argument.
On most occasions when someone expresses disagreement, I have discerned it to be the Father’s will that I prevail in patient discussion. Even when a person is writing in a petulant manner, using emotionally loaded speech, I most often find myself prompted by the Holy Spirit to manifest the exact opposite in my correspondence; showing great reserve, gentleness, and patience while assuring the individual that my motive is to see the people of God established on a solid foundation of truth. The Spirit of Christ frequently reminds me of the Biblical proverb that states, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”
A natural response of the sinful human nature is to become angry when people speak to us contemptuously, or in a dishonorable fashion. The Adamic nature wants to fight fire with fire. I recognize this tendency in my own flesh. I find that in my soul I am more inclined to unrighteous anger than I am to excessive meekness. Consequently, I have found the Holy Spirit speaking words of restraint to me over the course of my years of ministry. I have been reminded that even Moses, whom Yahweh described as the meekest man on the face of the earth, was frequently waxing hot. This chosen, humble servant of Yahweh disqualified himself for entry into the promised land when he angrily smote the rock and sharply rebuked the people when Yahweh had commanded him only to speak to the rock.
I empathize with Moses. Being a shepherd to a stubborn and rebellious people is an exceedingly taxing vocation. Yahweh was permitting Moses, His friend, to experience what He endured day after day. Moses found the burden difficult to bear.
So Moses said to Yahweh, "Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,' to the land which You swore to their fathers?... I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now - if I have found favor in Your sight - and do not let me see my wretchedness!"
As Christians we have a distinct advantage over Moses. Moses did not have the indwelling Spirit of Christ to supply him strength and to form in him the heart of Christ. He had only the Law. Of the Law it is said, “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law” (Galatians 3:21). The Law could only inform Moses of the will of God. It could not impart to him the divine life necessary to walk uprightly before Yahweh. We have something far better than the Law. We have been given the indwelling spirit of Christ.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Yahshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Yahshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.
The apostle Paul further tells us that God is at work in His people to impart to them both the desire and the power to do His will.
[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.
This transformation does not come without a struggle. We do not automatically progress from self-centered, easily angered, flame breathing descendants of Adam, to the meek and gentle nature of Christ without a battle.
For the life of Christ to be manifested in us, the Adamic nature must die. The apostle Paul in another place wrote:
II Corinthians 4:11
For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Yahshua's sake, that the life of Yahshua also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
If we do not mortify the flesh, putting its passions and desires on the cross, we will not be enabled to exhibit the life of Christ. Resurrection life flows only from the death of the old life. Therefore, I find myself being called upon to follow in the steps of the great apostle who testified, “I die daily.”
The apostle Paul knew very well the experiences of Moses. Both men were called to serve as shepherds and guides to God’s people. In many ways the experience was as bitter for Paul as it was for Moses. The apostle wrote:
I Corinthians 4:9-13
For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.
The truth is, every minister of Christ who commits himself to carry out his calling in a manner that is pleasing to God will experience to some degree those things described by Paul. They will be regarded as fools. Many will fail to show them due honor. They will be roughly treated, reviled, persecuted and slandered. Rather than being the head, they will be the tail. In all of this they must clothe themselves with humility, with gentleness, with love and peace. They must choose to not hold the offenses of others against them, but to freely forgive all men from the heart.
I have truly been amazed as I have watched the Father’s dealings with certain men and women. His patience has frequently astonished me. When I have thought that lightning might flash from heaven and leave a person a smoking pile of dust, Yahweh has often done just the opposite, showering the person with mercy and goodness.
“You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
I don’t begrudge the immature, the carnal, and wicked the mercy that God shows to them. Yahweh’s goodness to the undeserving gives me encouragement that He will also be merciful with me in my failings, which are many. I choose to treat others in the same way I wish to be treated, in the way I would like God to treat me, for He has promised to do so.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”
For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Because this is a principle of God’s kingdom, I routinely find myself reviewing my e-mails before I hit the “Send” button. I find it expedient to examine my words to measure the emotional tone of the words. I want to see if I might make my communication more palatable by removing any unnecessary bone of contention. I want to assure the person that no matter what their motive is, my heart’s desire is to please Christ and to aid my fellow man in arriving at the knowledge of the truth.
Many years ago I was reading a book that gave some sage advice on framing one’s words so that they might lead to agreement, rather than prolonging disagreement. The author stated that we should express ourselves in a manner that allows the other person to “save face.” What he meant by this is that we should not intentionally embarrass the other party in our efforts to win an argument. If we take a prideful approach, requiring that another person confess openly that they were wrong and we were right, there is a natural impediment set before them. We should seek to remove that impediment.
When remonstrating with another person on some topic of agreement, I often seek some point to complement them on. This is not to be confused with flattery. The truth is, if we seek for some merit in another person, we will almost always find it. Men are not normally all bad, or all good. There is mixture in all of them. I may complement the other person for having taken the time to consider the matter before us. If they cite Scriptures in defense of their view, even if the Scriptures are misunderstood or misapplied, the person could be commended at the least for looking to God’s word as the authority to judge a matter. At times a person will write me a lengthy letter and I will share with them that I appreciate the patience that they evidently manifested to do so.
Words such as these defuse what could be a volatile communication. They inform another person that we are not their enemy. If we can persuade them that we are both seeking the same thing, which is truth, then it becomes far easier for them to adjust their views when they are shown their error.
Consider how different a conversation is when a person is careless in their speech. If they are prone to reviling, reproaches, and insults, then even if they have truth they have practically assured that no one except the most humble of men will be able to glean anything from their words. As a case in point, yesterday a person recommended that I watch a video of a certain Christian man. I saw that he had a video on a subject that I have frequently been invited to offer my thoughts about. I clicked on the video and was grieved to find that in the first minute of the video the speaker described those who disagreed with his view as “stupid.” By the 4th minute he had repeated this statement several times, and then complained that people would often reject his arguments only to return to "their selfish, stupid, ignorant lives."
This man is shooting himself in the foot. He won’t win anyone to his point of view through insults. If someone were to say, “You are right and I was wrong,” it would be tantamount to admitting that they were “selfish, stupid, and ignorant.” We should guard against demonizing others if we desire to lead them to truth. If a Christian takes such an evil approach, will not Yahshua hold them accountable for driving people away from truth, even if their core message was one of truth? Indeed, He will.
Our words and actions toward all men should flow from a heart of love, a love that seeks not its own and is not easily provoked. I am persuaded that Yahweh will hold me accountable for the manner in which I communicate truth to others. If my tone engenders offense, turning someone away from truth, then Yahweh will surely hold me responsible. Yahweh’s servants must always be cognizant of the fact that they must one day give an account for the manner in which they carried forth the ministry entrusted to them.
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
Most teachings on the verses above focus on the need to speak that which is true. I think the greater challenge is to speak truth in a manner in which God will approve. Do we seek to conciliate when slandered? Are we slow to anger? Are we willing to overlook offenses and continue to seek the welfare of the person to whom we are speaking? Do our communications manifest the fruit of the Spirit which include patience, gentleness, humility, longsuffering, and love?
As one who has been called to serve as a teacher to the body of Christ I continually am met with challenges. It is a small remnant who prove themselves to be lovers of truth in this hour. There are multitudes of carnal Christians who make the task of the Bible teacher difficult, and at times unpleasant. It brings grief to one who wishes to see all men standing in truth to observe men and women resisting truth to their own hurt and that of others.
II Timothy 2:24-26
And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
When I stand before the Lord to give an account of this ministry will the evidence reveal that I was “patient when wronged,” that I demonstrated “gentleness [while] correcting those who are in opposition”? Will it be shown that my heart’s motive was to see those who minds are held captive to Satan set free? I have made evident progress in these areas over the years. As the days grow darker, and the minds of God’s people come further under the sway of Satan, a greater conformity to Christ will be needed.
Don’t misunderstand me. There are times when a sound rebuke is called for. There are also times when an argumentative man is to be rejected, and the minister must no longer waste valuable time in fruitless conversation with such an one.
But shun foolish controversies... for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
II Timothy 4:2
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
We can only discern what the appropriate response is as we abide in Christ and have our senses attuned to the voice of God’s Spirit. Yahweh will communicate to us when He is angry, and when He is not. He will inform us when we are to show forbearance and when we are to cut short the foolishness of another. There are times when Yahshua spoke strong words of rebuke to the religious leaders of the Jews due to their intractable spirit. They were blind leaders of the blind, and they had turned a deaf ear to the voice of God. Gentle words could no longer move them.
Yahweh has bequeathed to man no greater power than the power of words. They have the ability to do great good, and to inflict grievous harm. When Yahweh entrusts great power to a person, He will also require that they wield that power in a manner consistent with His character and nature. Let us therefore give attention to the words we speak.
We must be careful to speak truth, but we must not stop there. We must also make it our aim to communicate through our words the heart of God. We must strive to harmoniously match the message of truth with the emotion of God’s heart.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
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