Lucia's Blog: 2021
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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

“THERE’S A RAINBOW IN THE CLOUD”

“This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you…I do set My bow in the clouds. 
Genesis 9:12-13


Noah and his family endured over a year of the storms that battered the ark. Although they were safely inside, they could only imagine the destruction that God poured out on the earth, destroying all of the world and its inhabitants, the world that they had spent their lives in. When finally God’s wrath was satisfied, and the family stepped into the new world, God smiled on them by placing a bow in the clouds with the promise that He would never destroy the earth again with such a flood. For thousands of years now, the rainbow has been a symbol of God’s grace and peace.

Our lovely song, “There’s A Rainbow in the Cloud,” expresses how God sets His bow in the cloud in His children’s lives.  Singing songs of praise comforts me when my heart is distressed because the songs compel me to look to God for strength and peace.  God’s children can confidently look for God’s rainbow amid life’s toils and tears.  Our Gracious God has promised His children He will hear our prayers when we cry to Him.  He will give us peace and make us smile, even in our moments of anguish (Psalm 39:12).  God’s rainbow reminds us that we lack nothing because our LORD is the Shepherd who will lead us safely into green pastures and beside the still waters.  But, we, His children, must trust Him (Psalm 23:1-2).  Since our Shepherd LORD leads us to peace and tranquility, we can live without the spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7).

God has given His children the assurance of a rainbow in the cloud when our nights are dark with worry, when they grow long and dreary, and no friend seems to be near.  The darkness of night represents loneliness (Ps. 6-6-7).  Indeed, our journey here on earth is often dreary and full of trouble because we are flesh (Job 14:1).  Yet, the rainbow reminds us that God is near to comfort us even when no friend seems near (Matt. 5:4).  

We can look for God’s rainbow amid life’s seasons: 
  1. Storm and rain.
  2. Fields of golden grain.
  3. Winter’s cold and pain.
  4. Summer’s harvest grain.  

And though our loving and merciful God gives us rain, we often think of it as a time of sadness and gloom (Jeremiah 10:13).  Winter also represents cold and pain, and it’s often thought of as a time of hardship (Song of Solomon 2:11).

Despite our seasons of life, the rainbow reminds us that there will be summer's harvest gain after the winter and the rain are gone (Acts 14:17).  

Indeed, we can look for the rainbow during our storms of life.  In the Bible, the storms often represent various trials and tribulations that God’s children experience in life (Acts 14:21-22).  However, the rainbow reminds us that there will be better days, days of joy, when life’s storms pass by (Ps. 30:5).  We must trust in God’s promises!  Since we trust in God’s promises, we look forward to being in that city fair to receive the crown of life as our reward (2 Tim. 4:6-8). 


CONCLUSION:

The chorus stresses the need for God’s children to keep on pressing on, looking for the rainbow that shines in the cloud to help us run life’s race victoriously and receive our crown.  Despite life’s troubles, toils and tears, we must keep looking to heaven to see God’s rainbow in the cloud.

I hope this beautiful hymn may stir your soul the way it stirred mine.

As I journey here mid the toil and tears,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
He will safely lead, I must have no fear,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

When the way seems dark and the night grows long,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
When my way grows drear and no friend seems near,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

After storm and rain, fields of golden grain,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
Winter’s cold and pain, summer’s harvest gain,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

When the storms all pass, comes a brighter day,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
In that city fair there’s a crown to wear,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.

Chorus, 

There’s a rainbow that is shining,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud;
When life’s race is run, and the victory’s won,
There’s a rainbow in the cloud.



Luci


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

REST A WHILE

"Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, 'Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.' For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.'" 
Mark 6:30-32


After Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to fulfill the task He had sent them to do in Mark 6:7, they returned to Jesus to give Him a report of their good works and teachings.  Afterward, Jesus encouraged the apostles to join Him to rest for a while when they could be alone.  It looks like their work in the cities of Galilee was highly successful because of the crowds of people who were coming to them at this time. As a result of their hard work, they became swamped and didn't even have time to eat!  They were overwhelmed by the people who sought healing and teaching.  Jesus and the apostles proposed to get some rest departing by boat to be alone.

As I read Mark 6:30-32, I acknowledge that it is suitable for Christ’s followers to take brief periods of rest from their hard and constant labor in His kingdom. It is wise and good to rest periodically and get away from the rapid pace of life. But to do this, we must say “no” to certain requests and opportunities to serve. It is indeed not wrong to do this!  Of course, it may not be good to rest too much, but it is not wise to labor without pausing to rest and reflect.  When we rest too much, it is poor stewardship and can lead us into the snares of sin.  Labor without rest can lead us to “burn out” and discouragement. Jesus encouraged His apostles to rest a while. It does not mean resting for an extended period. Jesus wanted the apostles to rest for a while and then get back to work.

We Christians must seek proper balance in this area.  Such balance will be different for each Christian. Let me explain myself.  Some require less sleep than others and can work diligently in God's kingdom with little rest. They can stay focused for long periods of time without becoming burned out and discouraged.  Others, however, require more frequent periods of rest to remain positive and focused. And although God has blessed each of us His servants in different ways (cf. Matt. 25:15), it is not our job to judge our brother or sister concerning the amount of rest and relaxation he or she may or may not require (cf. Rom. 14:10-13).  It is our job to encourage one another to live faithfully to the best of our ability, and of course, that will include resting and recharging as needed. A servant who rests all the time is not of any use to the Master and His kingdom. Likewise, a servant who is always working hard to the point of neglecting himself or his family will certainly not maximize his potential for the Lord.

I have taken a break from social media, especially Facebook, to avoid burnoutFacebook is a toxic bowl of depression!  There is so much noise, whining, and negativity on this platform that one finds it necessary to take a break from all these disturbances that don’t edify our souls.  The layers of distraction have left me vulnerable.  Because I didn’t take time to rest and be refreshed, my trials (persecution, death, sorrow, and sickness) have weakened me.  I realized that I must take a break to be more effective in God’s kingdom.  I can't be of any use for our Lord when I am mentally, emotionally, and spiritually burned out.  A servant of Christ who is always working hard and is not resting at some point in his life runs the risk of neglecting himself, his family and will undoubtedly fail to maximize his potential for the Lord.  I want to be a useful and productive worker for the Lord.  And though we must slog through the mud and garbage of everyday battles, we must find rest to be re-energized and work with new vigor, especially in God’s kingdom.  The rest has indeed been good for me!

I’m so grateful to God for strengthening me when I am weak.  I am also thankful to my husband, children, friends, and church family for their steadfast love and encouragement amid my trials.  To God be the glory!


I.   JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES SOUGHT TO REST FOR A WHILE:

In the context of Mark 6, it is possible that the disciples were not resting from their physical labors and travels. Perhaps, the news of John the baptizer's death (cf. Matt. 14:13) stirred up enough excitement (as Herod had initially feared).  It is also likely that John's disciples delivered the message to Jesus, expecting Him to do something about John's unfair death. The people knew that John was Jesus’ friend and that He intended to set up a kingdom. They also believed (erroneously) that this would involve overthrowing Herod. They wanted to force Jesus to be their physical king, hoping to obtain revenge.  But Jesus did not intend to establish a physical kingdom. This was a good time to be alone and find rest from their labors, mourn John's death, and calm the disciples.

Let us consider another occasion when Jesus sought a break from His work.
“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”  (John 6:1, 2, 15

We often push ourselves beyond our limits, and we become weary. Our work and accomplishments define us.  We fill our plate with unnecessary work and achievements until we forget who is in charge of our lives.  Of course, God is in charge, not us.  We busy ourselves so much that we forget to stop and use our time to focus on God.  Our need to accomplish unnecessary tasks often leads to a misuse of time.  We get so busy in our daily routine that our busyness prevents us from resting.  In our busyness, we forget that quiet living leads to peace in Christ.  Being still in God’s presence leads us to spend more time with Him to be more fruitful to Him as we connect with Him.  Busyness isn’t a virtue; it’s often a vice. Of course, God has told us, 
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”  (Ps. 127:2)

Our God is not impressed by busyness, for He is moved by love.  Because He loves us, He has promised us rest in Him at the end of all our work.  But He wants us to depend on Him for everything so that we may rest well. Really well!  Sadly, the god of this world is the author of a system where busyness is a status symbol, not the true God.

Today most of us are cluttered.  We seem to be drowning in unfruitful activities such as social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on ), entertainment, and pop culture.  We want more and more earthly pleasures without reservations.  The bombardment is constant!  A life of constant connectedness through the Internet, especially Facebook or other social media,  does not give us a healthy sense of security, relaxation, peace, and joy.  Living in the fullness of Christ helps us find the life that Jesus speaks of in John's writingsThus, we must turn off our computers, phones, IPads, tablets, Androids, and iPhones. We will sincerely regret spending too much time with such things if we spend too little time with God and those God has put in front of us. Our useless connectedness leaves us no time to live a life that glorifies God.  Because of this, we find ourselves cluttered by layers of distraction that do not satisfy us.  It is indeed a spirit that lives at a fast and frantic pace! 


II.   GOD RESTED AFTER HE CREATED THE UNIVERSE:
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”  (Genesis 2:2-3)

The Bible tells us that God took time for rest.  What does it mean that God rested on the seventh day?  What does rest mean to you?  For many, rest can mean watching TV, reading, camping, and napping.  When God rested, He didn’t load up His SUV and go camping or kick back in His La-z-boy to watch “Touched By An Angel.”  God rested!  His concept of rest is different. When God rested, He “ceased His creative activity.” He didn’t work.  He focused on what He had accomplished. God focused on His new creation, especially on a man named Adam and a woman named Eve.  

In Exodus 31:17, we read,
“It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”

When God stopped all activity,  He ceased His work and was refreshed!  I love the word “refreshed” in our context! God was “refreshed!”  Since God thought it necessary to be refreshed by stopping and enjoying the creativity of His Creation, we are compelled to follow His example.  We, too, can be refreshed!  Don’t you think so?  

The dictionary defines “refreshed” as “to renew the well-being or vigor of oneself.” We can “renew” ourselves or, in other words, we can become “like new” again through rest.  

In Exodus 23:12, we read,
“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.”

The word translated “refreshed” also means “breathe.” The Sabbath in the Old Testament was a God-given opportunity to catch one’s breath during a weekly work routine.  

  • The Need For Rest And Refreshment:
We need rest and refreshment.  In Genesis 2:2-3, we find three essential words or concepts: 
  1. “work.” 
  2. “rested.”  
  3. “blessed.” 
  4. ”made holy.”  

We find the word “work” three times in this passage. The word “work” is mainly used for human work.  Many Bible scholars suggest the word “work” deliberately implies that man should stop his daily work on the seventh day.  And since God “rested,” they indicate that the word must mean “to cease,” “to desist from work” (Shabbat, “to rest”). The word "rest " does not refer to remedying exhaustion after a tiring week of work. Instead, it describes the enjoyment of accomplishment, the celebration of completion.  If God rested in Genesis 2:1-3 after His work was complete, why can’t we?

  • God Rested Because He Completed The Job:
God rested when He had performed the most important job, Creation.  He created everything and completed the job in six days. For Him, it was presumably easy. There is nothing God cannot do within the realm of logic.  In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was a day of rest after six days of work (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11).  Since the Jews began their days at sunset instead of sunrise, the seventh day began at sunset on Friday and ended on Saturday evening.  So, “the Sabbath” mainly refers to Saturday in the Bible.  Although the Jews were commanded to observe the Sabbath Day in the Old Testament, we wonder if Christians who live under the New Testament (Heb. 8:7-13; cf. Jer. 31:31-34) are commanded to keep the Sabbath?  Does “the Sabbath” still take place on Saturdays…or is it now on Sundays since that is the day when Christians go to church?  In truth, there is no parallel between the Sabbath rest of the Old Testament and the New Testament practice of assembling on the first day of the week to take the Lord’s Supper.

In Genesis 2:1-3, we see the first mention of the Sabbath Day in the Old Testament.  However, there is no further mention of it from Genesis 2:4 all the way to Exodus 15.  There is no mention of God’s righteous men throughout Genesis (Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah Melchizedek, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, etc.) observing the Sabbath Day as holy or a day of rest.  Some might ask about Genesis 2:3 of God blessing the seventh day and making it holy because He rested on that day.   Indeed, God blessed the seventh day right after Creation. We learn from the book of Hebrews that all the worship authorized in the Old Testament Law was but a shadow or type of the New Testament life and worship under Jesus Christ. The New fulfills and replaces the Old.

   
III.   RESTING WITH PURPOSE:

It might sound antithetical to call resting a discipline.  After all, resting demands that we stop doing things.  So, how can we be disciplined at not doing anything?  It is normal for us to live our lives filled with crowds of people, lots of noise, and a never-ending routine of busyness in our Western culture. Rest is the least familiar spiritual discipline we are acquainted with or practice, but we need the discipline of rest very much to survive.  

  • Pauses Are Necessary:
God rested after He had completed the job of Creation, and we must too. God did not need a day off. He does not get tired or run down. However, we humans are finite creatures with finite energy stores. We need to eat, drink and sleep. And though God does not get tired, depressed or discouraged, He took time, even placing a night between each day of His marvelous work, to stand back and look at His work. On the seventh day, he rested and declared it Holy.

Jesus understood the importance of rest.  We find in the Gospels that Jesus went off by Himself several times to be away from people.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”'  (Mark 6:31)

  • Pauses Allow us to See What We Have Already Done:
We often overwhelm ourselves with never-ending to-do lists.  We feel like we are never done, failing to stop and appreciate what we have done or what others have done for us. But when we pause, we can stop and appreciate what we have done or has been done for us.  The most excellent rest we have is the one we have In Jesus Christ. 
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”  (Colossians 3:16)

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Corinthians 1:4)
 
  • Rest Helps us to Focus on God:
Isaiah 58:13-14 says, 
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.”

When our focus is God, we find delight in Him. The essay called Hebrews in the New Testament compares this rest to our heavenly rest toward which we strive to enter even as the Ancient Israelites pressed forward to enter the Canaan rest when they had escaped the slavery of Egypt.

Hebrews 4:9-11 tells us,
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”

Psalm 62:5, 
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

  • When We Focus on God, We Put Our Works and Lives Into Perspective:
God created the universe, not us.  We like to think that we are extremely irreplaceable in what we do. This way of thinking puts our life into perspective as to what we do.  And although the world thinks this way, God does not because He finds us essentialHe has given us important roles to fill in our homes, friends, and the church. What we do in those areas is far more important than anything else. 
  1. It is far more important and everlasting that our children,  friends, and coworkers hear and see the Gospel lived out in our lives than anything else.
  2. It is far more important that we demonstrate our faith to others for them to take us seriously.  

When we focus on God, we can see what He has done for us and what we do for Him.  What has God done? Just take a look around you and notice the world God created and everything in it. He sent His beloved Son to save the world from sin and His wrath.  We can find rest in Christ Jesus. We can be made holy just like the Sabbath. The author of Hebrews says,
“For both He who sanctifies [Jesus] and those who are sanctified [Us] are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”  (Hebrews 2:11)

When we learn to master this restfulness through God, we start to act in a way that brings honor to Christ, our Lord and Savior.
"But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect."  (1 Peter 3:15)

  • Resting is Trusting God:
When we trust God, it is easier to bear life’s demands and busyness.   Trusting God allows us to know our limitsRest makes us aware that everything is not in our hands or that we are in control. Allowing ourselves to live within our limits helps us to see God working in our lives despite our efforts.  It also allows us to acknowledge that God will take care of us. 

  • Resting is Imitating Our Lord And Doing His Will:
When we rest, we imitate God. No matter how busy and how hard we work, we are not busier than God.  God will always have abundant work for us to do, no matter how much work we think we are doing.  Even at the very beginning, the very unfolding of history, we see a very active God setting aside time to rest from His creative work (Genesis 1-2).  

When we pause or rest, we make more time for listening to God and strip away unnecessary layers of distraction that must go away.  Resting allows us to be still in God’s presence in prayer and worship.  
"But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray"  (Luke 5:16).

If our Lord Jesus had to retreat from all earthly distractions to call on God, where do we stand? Are we making time to pray, study God's Word and meditate on it so that we may be strengthened and gain wisdom to save us from the dominion of darkness?  I am afraid many of us don't! 

When we fail to retreat from our unnecessary busyness, our activities become a stumbling block. If our Lord Jesus found it necessary and vital, how much more is it necessary for us?  How will we be grounded in His Word and learn how to teach the lost if we don't take the time needed for study and prayer?  Of course, that will demand resting and being still in God’s presence.  Jesus provides us with the greatest example of this rhythm of purposeful rest during His time of earthly ministry. He would often go to be alone and pray in silence and solitude All layers of earthly distractions must go away!
"It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God"  (Luke 6:12).

We must go against the grain of constant clamor!  The noise of this life can only make us miss the purpose God wants for us!

We must make time for God and His kingdom.  What that means is that we must choose to have days with "nothing" on our plate.  Nothing does not mean being free from basic daily tasks, but it can simply look like not adding extra activities, extra busyness for a while.  Let us not fill up our life with unnecessary layers that prevent us from being in the presence of God through prayer and Bible study. 

So, let us not jump-pack our days to feel good about ourselves.  A full schedule does not necessarily have a purpose in life.  God already has a great purpose for us, and that is to do His will and further His kingdom for His sake.
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven"  (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

God is the Author of time.  He gives it to us to do His will and do everything He sets before us in each designated season of our livesEach season will demand time well spent to be still in His presence. Let us make the best use of the time granted to us here on earth! Otherwise, we will never know what we must do with that time of life that God has given us.

During each season of our life, God will give us abundant life to do His will.  Thus we must not fill up all of our time with distractions and busyness because we are afraid that maybe God has planned more for us.  It is His will that we walk our path of faith here on earth pleasing Him.  He has only our good in mind, for He is a flawless and unselfish God.
"Who shows loving kindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The Lord of hosts is His name"  (Jeremiah 32:18).

Our earthly and futile busyness will bear no good fruit to God's Glory.  Take Heed!
"The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh"  (Ecclesiastes 4:5).

CONCLUSION:

Our world considers busyness a virtue. Our people believe that the more we do, the more excellent value we hold. Do you find yourself running around with a to-do list with more tasks than you have time? Do you ever find yourself bragging (or complaining) about how busy you are? Are your conversations with others about who is busier? Some even get offended at those who rest and relax for a short period of time. Be honest.  Rest. Yes, that’s it. Rest.  Think about it.

Life’s demands and busyness drain us and may eventually make us crash. That’s why it is vital to take time to rest and be in the presence of God through prayer and Bible study.  In the same way, we must take time to reevaluate what we are doing and how we are doing it.  We must step back and make changes.   God did not create us to fill every moment with something futileHe designed us to work hard and to work well to bear abundant fruit to His glory.  He also designed us to make time for meaningful and purposeful rest regularly.  So, we must find time to rest, turn off our computers, phones, TVs, and truly break from any type of work or busyness to be refreshed.  It will be wise to use that time to draw closer to God, reading and studying our Bible to enjoy His presence,  and spend precious time with those God has entrusted to us:  our home and our church family.  It will be a tremendous blessing!  

 In my walk with God, I have learned that life is more than endless moments of consuming work, stressful problems, and chaotic busyness.  The god of this world is a taskmaster who demands constant busyness.  As I look around me, I see many people getting very little rest or refreshment because they are too busy working too hard to gain earthly goals, not God’s goals. Sadly, their busyness gets in the way of connecting and developing a relationship with their Creator, God.  We forget God’s purpose for us.  He has designed us to find rest in HimAnd that must be our longing!  When we fail to rest and be still in God’s presence, we start to feel all sorts of sickness, anxieties, and weariness.  Did you know that the busier we are, the more we rely on ourselves and our strength rather than God’s?  Resting reminds us of our need for Christ.  It takes us back to the source of our strength to live the life God has called us to.

Although it is good to be busy, especially laboring hard and steadfastly for the Lord, we Christians must take brief periods of rest and get away from the rapid pace of life.  Thus it is necessary and not wrong to say “no” and pause from our opportunities to serve.  You see, Jesus encouraged the apostles to rest a while after they had fulfilled the mission on which He had sent them (cf. Mark6:7ff). They returned to Jesus with a good report of their good works and teachings.  Jesus then encouraged them to come with Him for a period of rest where they could be alone. Their work in the cities of Galilee was highly successful because many were coming to them at this time. But they were so busy that they didn't even have time to eat! The people were overwhelming them with many requests for healing and teaching.  Jesus and the apostles were encouraged to get some rest by departing by boat to be alone.  

In today's world, being still has become a challenge.  In a modern culture where technology seems to have total control of our lives, cell phones, fun apps, computers, social media, TV, and web surfing can be fun.  Sadly, many of these gadgets and distractions take us away from being still in the presence of God.  Let us be still in the presence of God.  We forget that being still in the presence of God brings us direction from God’s Word and breathes life into us.  It helps us not only to speak to God but to listen to Him through His Word.

Social media is one of the greatest distractions of this age.  Our slavery to social media is likely to have a dramatic negative effect on our diligence and productivity. It can become an excuse for not accomplishing anything.  It shows the marks of distraction and dissipation.  Too much social media can give the impression of having done something while neglecting what ought to be done. 
"In all labour there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty."  

Are our online interactions more than idle chatter? Or is our life mastered by the empty blather characteristic of so much social media?  If your online engagement is dragging your soul down to hell, then it would be more profitable for you to cut the cables and cast away the wi-fi than to be up-to-date with all the latest trends and technology even as you descend into the pit. Walk away!  Take a break!

Therefore, let us purpose in our hearts to find time to rest and be still in His presence, whatever season we may be. I assure you your perspective will change.  It will bring you peace, contentment, and great understanding.  And most importantly, it will help you declutter all the unnecessary layers of earthly distraction in your life.  Remember to find the time to rest in Him. Choose to be less busy.  Allow yourself to be refreshed so that you may be encouraged to go back to work in God’s kingdom. It is a rest of encouragement and motivation for the soul.  It is a rest that will stir us to live and undertake our God-given tasks with enthusiasm, vigor, and endurance.  

May we work diligently for the Lord and rest when we need to. May we never forget that there remains "a rest for the people of God"--the glory of heaven (Heb. 4:9), which is a much better rest than anything we can enjoy in this life. May God help us to declutter our souls of distractions that rob us of everlasting life.


Luci


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

DISTORTING GOD'S MESSAGE

 

"Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene... They are upsetting the faith of some.” 
2 Timothy 2:14-18


From Adam and Eve to the present, mankind has always been easily deceived into believing a lie rather than the Truth. Satan has been the biggest liar of all time. He deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden by adding a word that God had never said. God explicitly said that they would die in the day they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan added the word “not.” It was easy for Satan to lie and deceive them. Because both Adam and Eve believed Satan's lie, they died.

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."  (Genesis 2:17)


God permitted Adam and Eve to do anything they pleased in that beautiful Garden except to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They would die! God did not give them a long list of prohibitions. He only forbade them one thing that is recorded in Scripture. It was something that was not essential to sustain life. Sadly, when Satan tempted them,  Adam and Eve surrendered to that temptation. They violated God's law.

Although they continued to live physically, they died spiritually.  They were separated from a close fellowship with God, their Creator. Why? Because they had sinned and rebelled against God's will. Our iniquities or sins separate us from our Creator. They build a wall of separation between us because God hates lawlessness, which is sin.
"Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness." (I John 3:4)

Sin is lawbreaking. It is breaking God's Law! The Old Testament is full of examples of people who disobeyed God’s Law and the consequences of that action.

When Jesus came to this earth, He challenged and defeated the Jewish philosophies that disregarded the Word of God. He warned His disciples of false teachers among them.  Jesus used Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6-7, applying it to the Jews of His time.

"And the Lord said:  Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men."  (Isaiah 29:13)
"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."  (Mark 7:6-7)

Jesus rebuked them because they had abandoned the commandments of God to follow the traditions of men. Likewise, the early church had to face departures from the Truth. False teaching was as bad as lawlessness and immorality. Many among them turned the hearts of the disciples away from God’s Truth.  They created walls to keep themselves from obeying the Truth. Take, for instance, the first letter written to the Corinthians, which dealt strongly with some serious errors that needed to be corrected. 

In the letter to the Thessalonians, the disciples who jumped to the wrong conclusions about the second coming of Christ were causing problems. The apostles expected this to happen and warned them about straying from the inspired Word.

"And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability." (2 Peter 3:15-17)

There is no doubt at all that Satan and his false teachers have twisted and continue to twist and pervert the revealed Word of God to their own destruction. They pervert the pure Gospel of Christ, changing God’s Truth to their liking and making it a different "Truth" than what it is supposed to be.
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, le  t him be accursed."  (Galatians 1:6-9)
"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.  20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."  (Col. 2:18-23)

You see, one of the biggest systems of false doctrine in the first century was Gnosticism. It created numerous errors that allegorized the Scriptures to get to “the real meaning” of what they supposed was missing. They had a false attitude about love which was predominant in Gnosticism just as it is today. Another of their major errors concerned the person of Jesus and the nature of God. The apostle John answered them accurately by using their own definition of love, demonstrating what real “knowing” and genuine “love” meant with the Scriptures.
"And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.'"  (1 John 2:3-6

You see, real knowledge comes by revelation rather than subjective thinking and feeling. The Gnostics (and many other similar groups today) failed to prove what they claimed. Each generation of Christians must continue to look into the "Perfect Law of Liberty" to make sure that they are in the only true faith. In the first century, apostasy came quickly, and it increased in the centuries that followed. What was once sound and solid Bible teaching or doctrine strayed or deviated into mere human inventions. Sadly, digressions and divisions have afflicted God’s children ever since. You see, all this started with Adam and Eve back in the Garden. 

Such attacks plague every generation of Christians. They strike at the foundations of our faith: 
  1. The person of Jesus.
  2. The nature of God.
  3. Creation.
  4. Unscriptural unity in diversity.
  5. A new “hermeneutic.” 
  6. And divorce and remarriage. 

Today, many have compromised doctrine for the sake of unity, disregarding God’s commands or authority. God never allowed disobedience in either of the Great Covenants, Old or New! God has already spoken His mind to us through His revealed Word. He has also given us specific instructions that we must pursue to understand the authority of God’s Word. These instructions may be in the form of commands or statements.  Did you know that even the parables in the Bible contain instruction? Thus such statements must be considered in determining any specific teaching. Likewise, examples may contain implications about a particular instruction.  

Many make distinctions between the Gospel and “doctrine,” employing a liberal hermeneutic and the so-called “Unity in Diversity” propositions. To them, the Gospel is just “the basics,” “the fundamentals.” The Gospel, according to them, is believing in God, Christ, repentance, and baptism. That is basically what the Gospel is all about to them. However, if you will study the use of these words through the New Testament, the Gospel is the good news of the New Testament, precisely because everything that God has revealed to us is good news about our eternal salvation. The Gospel is the Truth, the faith, the Word, and sound doctrine. 

To limit the Gospel to what they call just “the essentials” is to nullify or make void the rest of the New Testament, allowing false doctrines to be multiplied. From the beginning, God has given us instructions or rules that must be followed.  God's instructions or regulations must rule our conduct even today.   Consider some rules or instructions that must be followed.  


  • Marriage: 
"He answered, 'Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.' 7 They said to him, 'Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?' 8 He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.'"   (Matt. 19:4-8)

  • Sexual Immorality:  
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral... will inherit the kingdom of God. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two will become one flesh.'"  (1 Cor. 6:9-16)

  • The Roles of Men and Women: 

"For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man."  (1 Cor. 11:8-9)

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.'"   (Ephesians 5:22-23)

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."  (1 Timothy 2:12-15)


  • Principles of Righteousness:  
"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.  28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."  (Romans 1:24-32)

  • Moral Conduct:  
"For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous... Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."   (1 John 3:11-18)

Many other rules are found in the Scriptures.


CONCLUSION:

God has given us regulations about marriage, the roles of men and women, principles of righteousness, and moral conduct.  These are rules established by God Himself since the beginning of Creation. God has given us everything we need to know to complete and furnish us to every good work in His revealed Word. God expects us to use our own discernment and judgment of good and evil so that we may know how to apply what He has taught us.

May we be on guard against all the deceptions that Satan inspires in the hearts of men. May we be masters in the understanding of God's Word and never compromise the Truth, disregarding God’s commands or authority.

"Not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."  (Galatians 1:7)

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)


Luci



Thursday, August 5, 2021

SOWERS OF DISCORD

 

"There are six things which Jehovah hateth; Yea, seven which are an abomination unto him:  Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; A heart that deviseth wicked purposes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness that uttereth lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."   
Proverbs 6:16-19


Our world is filled with violence and conflict. One of the greatest, most hopeful prophecies of Isaiah is that under the influence of Christ, men would convert their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. The Gospel and its Message of the cross gives Christians strength to lay aside their bitter resentments and forgive all men. Forgiveness brings peace. Unfortunately, old habits die hard.

It is sad that many can't get along with others. Sadder still, many Christians cannot get along even with their brethren in Christ.  The proverb does not say that God hates the sowing of discord. It says that God hates the person who sows discord among brethren.  In God's eyes, such a man is worthless, wicked, abominable, detestable, disgusting, and revolting.  In Proverbs 6:14, the worthless person has a perverted heart that devises evil, continually sowing discord.  God looks upon this sin of discord with great disgust.   Even though discord is wrong and abominable, it is the sowing of discord that is sinful and abominable to God.  How easy it is to divide!  It is like taking a clock apart and putting it back together so that it will function effectively.  By the same token, it is easier to tear down than to build up.  It is easier to destroy than to build.  So what is the remedy? How can we avoid this terrible and disgusting sin of discord?  First, we must stop it early before it breaks out (Prov. 7:14). We must heed the pleading of the Lord to get along with each other. 
"I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord."  (Phil. 4:2)  

Sadly, some Christians confuse contending for the faith (Jude 3) with being contentious.  God is a God of peace (1  Cor. 14:33).  When we create disharmony among brethren, we work against the very nature of God.  God wants unity among His children.  Sowing discord among brethren is like working against God.  That is very serious!  Discord impairs God's purpose for us. It harms the Gospel, our fellowship, worship, spiritual growth, and the saving of souls.  You see, discord hurts everyone in the family of God. It causes weariness of heart, mind, and spirit. 


I.  SOWING SEEDS OF DISCORD:

The word discord means "strife, a lack of concord, disagreement, dissension, conflict, arguments, fighting or quarreling."  One who sows discord loves to start fights, stir up problems, and cause trouble, among others.  So what does the Bible say about the terrible sin of discord and those guilty of this sin?  

  • They are worthless and wicked:
 "A worthless person, a wicked man... he devises evil continually, he sows discord" (Prov. 6:12, 14).
  • They are an abomination to God: 
"These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him... one who sows discord among brethren"  (Prov. 6:16-19).
  • They are perverse: 
"A perverse man sows strife" (Prov. 16:28).
  • They are a stumbling block: 
"And he said unto his disciples, It is impossible but that occasions of stumbling should come; but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were well for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble"  (Luke 17:1-2).  

A person who starts fights causes offenses and is a stumbling block to others. The Lord pronounces woe upon him.
  • They are focused on foolish and ignorant things:
 "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife" (2 Tim. 2:23).
  • They are earthly, sensual, and demonic: 
"Who is wise and understanding among you? let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter jealousy and faction in your heart, glory not and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not a wisdom that cometh down from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace"  (James 3:13-18).

Our actions and behavior show what is inside our hearts.  Troublemakers reject the wisdom from above but instead choose the wisdom from the world. 
  • They want to rule and be in charge: 
"I wrote the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us"  (3 John 9).
  • They will go to hell: 
"Now the works of the flesh are obvious... hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy... I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God"  (Gal. 5:19-21).
  • Those who divide must be marked and avoided: 
"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them" (Rom. 16:17).

"Throw out the mocker and strife departs, too; furthermore, quarrels and discord will end"  (Prov. 22:10).

Indeed, we fight a great war against Satan with the special arms that the Holy Spirit provides for us, and we do very well against the enemies on the outside. However, our most destructive enemies are within our own fellowship. Let us consider the strong warnings our Lord gives us concerning the sowers of discord.


II.   GOD'S WARNINGS AGAINST SOWERS OF DISCORD:

The Word of God speaks with a clear voice against sowing seeds of discord among brethren.  Through His inspired Word, God urges His children against the wrong seeds that bring discord and displease Him.  Our God in heaven wants His children to be united. We must learn to get along!  He wants His children to live in harmony with one another It pleases Him!
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!"  (Psalm 133:1
 
This concerns Him so much that Jesus, in one of His famous prayers, prayed for this unity, saying:
 "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."  (John 17:20-21)

Let us keep in mind that sowing strife is not the same as standing up for the Truth.  Sometimes if we stand up for what is right, there will be strife.  In these cases, the problem is on the back of the one who chooses to oppose what is right.  "Sowing strife" is another way of saying "causing unnecessary trouble" or being a "trouble-maker."  Those who sow discord are like a plague, and God says they must be stopped.  God wants His children to worship in a healthy manner and have healthy spiritual lives.  God wants us to have good spiritual health.

The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, made an appeal to them concerning living in harmony with one another, saying:  
"Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment."  (I Corinthians 1:10)  

He also exhorted the brethren at Ephesus, saying:  
"Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  (Ephesians 4:3)

Our God loves peace.
"He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it."  (I Peter 3:1)
Unfortunately, many among us are willing to disrupt that peace because of our evil desires or intentions.  Intentions to cause harm and sow seeds of discord, nothing more. In James, we have been warned about the evil that jealousy and selfishness produce in our hearts, sowing discord.
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing."  (James 3:16)

It miserably robs us of that peace and harmony that we need so much.

In the Old Testament, we have been warned that of the many things the LORD hates, sowing the seeds of discord among His children is right there in the top six or seven:  
"There are six things which Jehovah hateth; Yea, seven which are an abomination unto him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood; A heart that deviseth wicked purposes, Feet that are swift in running to mischief, A false witness that uttereth lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren."  (Proverbs 6:16-19)

This is not the character of God in us, and God disapproves of it. It is a serious thing because it divides us and makes us unlike God. It robs us of our faith and hope.  We must stay away from those who sow discord because they cause severe damage to the body of Christ. They are selfish, for they're serving their own appetites, not the Lord.  They are not walking the narrow way. They deceive with empty and shallow words, taking many innocent souls captive.  
"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive."  (Romans 16:17-18)

God values unity, harmony, and peace. So should we! Paul urges the brethren in Ephesus and us to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). To reject the words of the Holy Spirit is to fail to  “walk worthily of the calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1). Paul likewise pleaded with the Philippian brethren to “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same life, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:2).  Sadly, not everyone seeks to be of one accord.  Some delight in "sowing discord" instead of accord. 

"Planning evil with a perverse mind, continually stirring up discord."  (Prov. 6:14)


“Discord” is elsewhere translated as “strife.”

"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." (Prov. 10:12)


Discord is contention and quarreling. Some feel pleasure in stirring up arguments and quarrels.  God abhors those who sow discord among brethren, Prov. 6:19!  

Sowing discord is in the same company with sins as arrogance, lying, murder, and perjury. 

So my question is:  What are the "seeds of discord"?  Consider the following causes and the cure for these wrong kinds of seeds and diseases of the heart: 


II.   DIVISIVE BEHAVIOR:

Let us consider ten divisive behaviors that can damage and destroy relationships causing seeds of discord and ugly divisions among us, the body of Christ, His church:  

  • Evil Pleasures, Fleshly (Lust) and Worldliness:   
"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures."  (James 4:1-3)  

James 4 starts by saying, 
"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?"  

In this Scripture, James is talking about strife and quarreling and the origins or source of verbal conflicts and arguments among us.  Notice how he answers this question with another question.  
"Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?"  (James 4:1)  

You see, bickering and quarreling originate in our own physical desire for pleasure.  That is, getting and having things our own way!  The truth is that selfishness is the cause or source of all conflicts.  Although the word "selfishness" is not in this verse, the concept definitely is.  When someone desires to have something, they will try to get it at any cost, and thus conflict is unavoidable.  There will be conflict unless everyone surrenders to that person's desires.  Indeed, this is a powerful truth! 

The consequence of following the wisdom of this world and not the wisdom of God is bitter jealousy, envy, selfish ambition, chaos, ruin, and every vile practice.  The result of worldly wisdom is disorder and every vile practice. Following the wisdom of the world destroys our souls and creates serious problems for the Lord's church. Why?  Because we sadly see Christians fighting with other Christians.  So our divisions, hurt feelings, tension, and strife are readily seen by outsiders.  The church is crippled by so much carnality (division, fighting with one another) that it becomes dysfunctional and stops shining its light amid so much darkness.   James 4 identifies the sinfulness of these brethren that are causing these problems among themselves.  

Worldly wisdom leads to fighting and quarreling (James 4:1).  

  1. We quarrel and fight because of pride, malice, covetousness, ambition, and revenge
  2. Setting our hearts, minds, and souls on earthly pleasures weakens us and divides us. 
When we are led by the lust of the flesh and its pleasures, we are not walking in the Spirit. You can be sure it will bring us conflict and quarrels that cause war among us.


We live in a pleasure-driven world where everyone's desire is to be happy no matter what.  
  1. They are slaves to their passions (evil pleasures, lust, and worldliness).  
  2. They hunger and thirst for them.  
  3. Their passions are at war within themselves.  
  4. So they have "wars and fights" among themselves.  
James 3:13 poses the question, 
"Who is wise and understanding among you?" 

Notice that he is talking to Christians as he observes their conflicting problems, quarrels, fights, and strife among themselves.

Often we blame others when there is strife. We blame those whose actions hurt us. But that is not James' answer! James clearly states that the problem resides within us!  Each one of us is guilty!  Why?  

  1. Because battles and fights often spring from our selfish hearts, the desires to please our flesh. 
  2. Because we choose to reject the wisdom of God for the wisdom of the world.  
  3. When we allow the wisdom of God to rule our hearts and mind, the result will be peace, gentleness, openness to reason, the fullness of mercy, and the bearing of good fruits (James 3:17-18).  


Once again, where do fights and quarrels come from? Obviously not from the wisdom of God! They originate from our selfish passions and desires that are at war within us.  It is sinful to have fights, quarrels, and strife among Christians. Rather we Christians must submit to God’s wisdom when there is strife. Quarrels and strife have no room in the kingdom of God and His righteousness! 

We desire and do not have, so we murder.  We fight and quarrel because we covet and cannot obtain what we want. The problem is a self-centered heart and mind.  Notice the parallels between "desire and do not have" with "covet and cannot obtain." Also, "murder" parallels "fight and quarrel."  James is revealing the malice and animosity among themselves.  In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus declared that hating our brother was a sin just as murder.

James explains two reasons why they do not have. 

    • First, they do not have because they do not ask. 
It seems to me that their prayers to God had ceased entirely.  They were failing to ask God for the things that they needed the most. They were ruled by their carnal desires, running amuck without any control or discipline at all. They wanted, wanted, wanted. How terrible is that!  The writer of Proverbs stated, "The leech has two daughters: Give and give" (Proverbs 30:15).  Aren't we guilty of this at times?  We seem to want and want. We think we deserve it all.   Our degree of materialism is astounding!  We desire power, respect, honor, popularity, and the like instead of examining our hearts and seeking God.  Why are we so self-seeking?!  It is time to repent!

    • The second problem is that they were asking “wrongly,” though they were asking God.  
Have you ever thought that you might be praying wrongly? We deceive ourselves when we believe that all that matters is that we pray.  You see, how we pray to God does matter to Him.  James said that they prayed to ask for things to spend on their passions. In a few words, their prayers were selfish and self-absorbed.  They were not praying according to God’s will or their spiritual well-being.  They were praying to fulfill their passions and desires. Do we expect God to respond to our prayers when they are selfish and self-absorbed?  What do you think? 
 
  • Unrighteous and Godless Judgment:   
Are we, Christians, supposed to judge one another? Let us consider a few texts that would point us both ways. Let us first focus on those verses that exhort us not to judge 
"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you."  (Matthew 7:1-5)  
"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven."  (Luke 6:37) 
"The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son."  (John 5:22) 
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself."  (I Corinthians 4:3) 
"Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God."  (I Corinthians 4:5)  

All this being said about not judging, let us look at some other passages that point in the other direction: that we should judge:  
"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."  (John 7:24)   

In I Corinthians 5:12-6:7, we read how the church must judge all matters of life involving everyone in the church.

"For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?"  (I Corinthians 5:12)
"Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?"  (I Corinthians 6:3)  

So the question is:  
  1. How does one judge righteous judgment rather than godless judgment? 
  2. Should we judge at all?  

YES, but we must use good and righteous judgment as taught in Scripture, considering what the Word of God has to say on all matters. This, of course, requires us to study what Matthew 7:1-5 says in context.
 "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye."'  

Matthew 7:1-5 is one of the most well-known, misquoted, and abused Scriptures in the Bible. 
  1. So, is it right to teach that we Christians should never make any judgment about others? 
  2. Is that what Jesus implied? 
  3. How does one judge righteous judgment rather than godless judgment?
  4. Does He want us to keep silent, do nothing, and make no judgments when others are doing wrong and walking in rebellion? 
  5. Must we not rebuke sin? 
  6. Is it wrong to correct sin? 

As Christians, we must exercise righteous judgment with each other.  All mature Christians must discern (judge) both good and evil. We must discern (judge) between the righteous and the wicked, the faithful and the unfaithful, the one who serves God and the one who does not.

When any follower of Jesus corrects someone and rebukes sin in their life, they quickly get angry and lose self-control. But the Bible commands that we warn others about sin.   Jesus, the meek and lowly, rebuked sin and commanded His disciples to rebuke it as well. We see this clearly throughout the New Testament when they condemned sin with Jesus’ approval. Many think that one cannot rebuke or correct sin unless he has never sinned. But is that correct? No! Why? Because Jesus Himself commanded His disciples to rebuke sin even though they had committed sin, which they had repented of. We have many Scriptures that teach us to judge all things. Obviously, we don’t need to have a sinless life to rebuke sin, for if we fail to do it, we will have sinned because we disobeyed those passages that command us to do it! We must understand that the Bible does not prohibit judging sin but even demands that we do so. Take, for instance, John 7:24.

 "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."


    • "Judge not, that you be not judged." (Matthew 7:1
Let us not take this verse out of context.  Isn’t it something how many people use this Scripture when they know so few other Scriptures, but they use this one when a child of God must correct their sinful behavior!  Their favorite response is, “The Bible says to not judge me.” “How dare you question me or suggest that I am wrong?!”  Thus, they use Matthew 7:1 as a weapon to teach that zero judgment must be made about others.  But, really, is that what Jesus taught? Did Jesus teach that we must leave one another alone without making any judgments about sin in our lives? What do you think?  Jesus never intended for His words to be misinterpreted.  So why not study the Scriptures to discern what they are teaching us about judging others?  Christians are commanded to judge all things. 
"The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one."  (1 Corinthians 2:15)  

The following are some Scriptures that speak about judging.
  1. "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside" (1 Corinthians 5:12–13).
  2. "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).
  3. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
  4. "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned"  (Galatians 2:11).
  5. "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother" (Matthew 18:15).
  6. "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (John 7:24).
  7. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15–16).
  8. "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3).
  9. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).
  10. "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (2 Tim. 2-4).
  11. "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.  10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth"  (Titus 1:9-14).
  12. “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
  13. "As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear" (1 Tim. 5:20).
  14. "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (1 Thess. 5:14).
  15. "As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him" (Titus 3:10).
  16. "Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (Titus 2:15).
  17. "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned" (Gal. 2:11).
  18. "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal. 6:1).
  19. "Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue" (Prov. 28:23).
  20. "Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”  will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, 25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,  and a good blessing will come upon them" (Prov. 24:24-25).

The Scriptures are clear enough about making judgments. In fact, Jesus commands us to judge in Matthew 7:1-6 to determine whether or not a Christian has a speck in his eyeJesus, in no way, implies that we may never make any judgment.  If we want to please the Lord, we must rightly divide the Scriptures to determine just what exactly Jesus does not want us to do.  Why not read the rest of the paragraph to draw the proper inference or interpretation of this command? 

    • The reason not to judge:  (Matthew 7:2-4)  
"For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?"

Jesus warned us to not judge others because “with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” He was not speaking about making right and godly judgments.  Why?  Simply because He was talking about making human, unrighteous, and unreasonable judgments. Jesus’ command was to help us make sound and fair judgments about others.  Since God judges us justly and mercifully, we must do the same with others.  Thus, He commands us to judge others justly and mercifully.

Now in verses 3-4,
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?"

We begin to see how Jesus is dealing with the problem of judging. 
  1. Jesus uses the example of someone who eagerly wants to see and point out everyone else’s faults but cannot see his own. 
  2. Jesus is trying to make us see and understand that the person who cannot see his own faults and shortcomings will not judge others fairly. 

Jesus’ illustration is hyperbole.  We may see the speck (a splinter of wood or chaff) in the eye of another person, but we are examining their lives in such detail that we fail to see the log (a large beam of wood) in our own eye.  Jesus wants us to know that such behavior is outrageous! How convenient it is to notice the splinter in the other person’s eye but not be aware of the log protruding from our own eye! What hypocrisy!

How can it be easier to see a speck than to see a beam such as they use in building a house or barring the doors against the dangers of the night?  We have eagle eyes when it comes to the faults of others and miss not the slightest detail. Why do we do that? 

How do we manage to miss the glaring faults that honest people all around us can easily see?  Let’s consider why this happens.
  1. The reason is that we fail to examine ourselves and take a good look at ourselves in the mirror of Jesus Christ. 
  2. We are so focused on looking at the faults, flaws, failures, problems, and issues of others that we fail to see our own enormous failures and the glaring shortcomings in our own lives.  

How awful that must be!  It is self-righteousness and arrogance.  
  1. How easy it is to judge others but refuse to judge or examine ourselves by the same measurement or standard!  
  2. How terrible it is to pass judgment on someone else for doing the same thing we are doing, but when we are doing it, we justify ourselves!
  3. How easy it is for us to find an excuse for our actions, claiming that it is okay for us and not for others! 
  4. How easy it is to demand that others do what we are not willing to even attempt to do ourselves!
  5. How easy it is to judge others without any understanding or compassion whatsoever!
  6. How sad and awful it is when we look into the spiritual mirror and still cannot see ourselves for who we really are! 
  7. How sad it is to judge others but refuse to judge or fail to examine ourselves!
  8. Do you appreciate fault finders when they come to you and bring every single flaw and mistake you make? 
  9. Do you want to be nitpicked for every shortcoming in your life? Of course not!  
  10. Why not first measure yourself by the same judgment with which you measure others?
  11. Why be so quick to make wrong, false, unfair, and unrighteous judgments about others?
  12. Why be so hypocritical, seeing and pointing out the sins of others but failing to see our own?  
  13. Why not follow the Master’s words and example of compassion and humility when judging the sins of others?  

It is awful to condemn others while we justify ourselves when we do the same things or worse!   That is altogether different.  But James gave us a warning about failing to see ourselves for who we really are.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:22–24).

Why is it so difficult for many to look in the mirror and see themselves for who they really are and what they have done?   Let this sink deeply into our hearts! 

We must examine ourselves and pay attention to the enormous failures, flaws, and shortcomings in our own lives. The log in the eye dramatizes an attitude of the heart that is self-righteousness in full bloom! Why? Because we find it easier to condemn others while we justify ourselves for doing the same thing.  Have you ever done that?  Thus, we must not condemn others while practicing similar sins. So the question is:  How can we help another get the mote out of his eye when we have an enormous beam in our own eye?!  Think about it!

Let us, from a sincere heart, judge ourselves first so that we can judge others.  Remember, God is provoked and angered by hypocrites who earnestly condemn everyone’s sins but fail to see their own (Romans 2:1-3, 17-24).  This is the kind of judging that the Lord condemns in Matthew 7:1-5. Jesus calls us hypocrites when we judge others unfairly and hold others to a different standard than we apply to ourselves.

  • So what is the solution to this shameful behavior?   (Matthew 7:5)
"5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
  1. To first start looking at ourselves, carefully examining our actions before looking at others to judge them. 
  2. To first examine our own hearts to see our own sins and failings before we dare to judge and confront others with their failures and shortcomings.  

Thus we must first judge our own lives with the same standard that we use for judging others.  

By doing this, we can properly understand the first two verses of this chapter.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”  

In Romans 14:10, we read, 
"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God."  

We are reminded about judging our brother. Let us not forget that one day we all will stand before the Judge of all men, both great and small, 
"So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12)  

Our Almighty God will measure you and me with the same standard by which we have measured others.   We will give an account of everything to God.  He will judge us the way we have judged others.  On that final day, our Creator will pass final judgment. In Psalm 119:138, we read,
"You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness." 

It means that we must make judgments that are in perfect harmony with the Word of God, as stated in John 7:24.  Let us keep in mind what Jesus said about judging righteous judgment to maintain harmony and get along with one another. We must stop using godless judgment!  Let us not violate our Lord's command of Matthew 7:1-5; John 5:30 and John 7:24.  Let us not fail our Lord by not obeying and keeping His commands.
"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment."  James 2:13.  

In the end, this is the judgment that really matters.  Think about that! 
 
  • Gossip, Defamation, and Slander:  
“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord”  (Leviticus 19:16).
“A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends”  (Proverbs 16:28).
“As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!”  (Proverbs 25:23)

Although this little fox of gossip and slander can be small, it can inevitably destroy our soul.  The Bible speaks of gossip as evil speaking, tale-bearing, whispering, and slander. The word gossip is defined as "small talk or chatter about someone, often about things heard from others but not known to be facts." However, it is not small talk with God.  I believe that's why the Bible uses much stronger words than gossip.  Consider a few Scriptures that warn us about gossip and slander.
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”  (James 4:11)
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”  (1 Peter 2:1

Clearly, the effects of gossip and slandering are destructive.  Why?  Because it destroys love, friendships, and the trust that people have in others.  Let us then put into practice what the Word of God declares.
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).

Sadly, many equate frankness with truthfulness, priding themselves in being honest toward all men. However, honesty does not give one license to defame or slander a child of God by gossiping about him.  God's Word demands that we “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother”  (Matt. 18:15).

Another way of gossiping is to pass on information about someone that might be damaging to his reputation.  Let us be careful and reflect on the danger of this matter!  Likewise, let us be wise and cautious and not be so eager to disclose the faults and failings of others.  Let us apply the golden rule spoken by our Lord and Master in Luke 6:31
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  

Undoubtedly, the wounds of gossip, slander, and defamation are devastating.  These wounds leave behind painful consequences, which are sometimes beyond repair.
"The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body."  (Proverbs 18:8)
    • Gossip separates friends, especially close friends:
It is evil, and one must repent of it! It is a terrible thing to do to anyone, especially in the body of Christ.  
    • Gossip also sows strife and digs up evil:
"A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire." (Proverbs 16:27)
    • It destroys a man's soul, digging his own grave:
"A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul."  (Proverbs 18:7)

Unfortunately, the gossiper not only destroys his own soul but the souls of others.  It is one of the worst evils. It is as harmful as unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, hate, and drunkenness (Romans 1:29-30; Titus 2:3).

So the best way to resist a gossiper or slanderer is to let him know that your ears are not trash cans for gossip.  Being a good listener to gossip or slander will lure us into sharing our gossip with the gossiper.  Be wise and do not partake of this evil fruit of darkness but rather rebuke them (Eph. 5:11). Otherwise, you will be in danger of losing your soul eternally.  Think about it!

If there is no need to talk, zip your lips, and be silent!  Do no gossip or slander others!
  1. Are you one that likes to hear others criticize and condemn our brethren?  
  2. Do you make a habit of criticizing and making fun of other brethren so that you can feel more righteous and faithful?  
  3. Do you talk about others, even brethren, when they are not able to discuss Bible subjects or ideas well?  

We must remember that once someone's reputation is damaged, it cannot be repaired.  Try releasing feathers in the wind and see if you can gather them up!  Remember that love must be without hypocrisy of heart (Romans 12:9; 1 Peter 4:8).  Love does not speak evil, backbite, or defame in the absence of others.  
"The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts."  (Proverbs 26:22)
"To speak evil of no man, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all meekness toward all men."  (Titus 3:2)

The Bible defines this terrible illness of the heart and seed of discord as accusatory speech intended to harm a person's name and reputation. It is like committing a crime against someone’s character. Sadly, one major component in this sin is that the person is ignorant of the situation in both cases. These talebearers often avoid speaking directly to the one they are demeaning and intending to harm. 

Did you know we find this word in the New Testament 33 times?  Jesus said,
"You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  (John 8:44)  

Sadly, many Christians speak as the devil. Satan is called the accuser. 
"And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers[a] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God."  (Revelation 12:10)  

It is he who accused Job ( Job 1:9-11).  My question is:  Are you taking the role of the accuser of our brethren along with the devil?  He loves to come into our hearts and thoughts to accuse others unjustly. We have a choice. We may choose to reject those thoughts and accusations. Let us be careful and not fall into the snares of the devil. This is a grave sin, and we must repent, or we will die eternally. The danger is not just in speaking these accusations but also in receiving them into our hearts and minds. We are still bearing false witness in our hearts. Take heed and do not sin!

Let us be careful when judging, not to assume that we know the truth when we actually do not. Let us not take God's place. Satan has tried that since the beginning.  Lest we forget, by speaking these accusations against one another, we are speaking evil against our brethren.
"Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?"  (James 4:11-12)

Most people who love to spread gossip never realize that they are also engaging in slander with this evil behavior. Gossip and slander violate the Lord's Precepts and Truth.  If you want God to extend mercy to you, you must start granting that same mercy to others by not gossiping and slandering them.

Let us be on the alert and recognize Satan's evil ways. He is called the accuser of the brethren. Let us consider some of the signs of a spirit of accusation
  • Always being suspicious of others. 
  • Having bitterness in our hearts toward others. 
  • Being easily offended without a cause. 
  • Having envy and jealousy toward others.
  • Believing the worst about others. 
  • Exaggerating the offenses of others. 
  • Judging godlessly rather than righteously. 
  • Holding people accountable because of their past failures. 
  • Imposing our scruples as standards for others. 
  • Using others as scapegoats. 
  • Putting someone down that we might look better. 
  • Taking “skeletons” out of the closet.  
  • Not accepting someone’s confession of sin and sorrow.  

All this being said, 
  1. Let us be aware that gossip and slander are destructive (Prov. 18:8, 26:22).  
  2. Gossip and slander are compared to poison that, once one drinks it, he just cannot get it out of his system. 
  3. The damage is enormous!  
  4. It destroys people's relationships, separating them forever.  
  5. Let us be aware that one of Satan's tactics to destroy the church is gossip and slander. 

YES, Satan uses the mouth of those who claim to be Christians to tear down the church.  He uses this evil tactic to cause strife within the body and steal our peace and harmony.  My question is:  Are we doing Satan's work for him?  Let us carefully examine our hearts.
"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."   (I John 1:5-6)  

Let us look closely at our walk and see if we are walking in the Light or darkness. Walking in darkness is using our tongues to hurt, destroy and cause divisions among God's children. God hates this evil behavior (Prov. 6:16-19).  Gossip, slander, and other sins of the tongue (which I will mention later) come from our hearts and manifest themselves with our mouths. Let us take heed to God's admonitions.
"Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!"   (Psalm 141:3)  
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."  (Psalm 19:14)

May our speech to others and about others be in accord with the apostle’s words.
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."  (Ephesians 4:29-32)  

Are there any corrupt words coming out of our mouth whose intention is to tear another down, leaving them without any hope? Are the words coming out of our mouths edifying others?  Let us take to heart the words of the apostle Paul. 
"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people."  (Titus 3:1-2)

Let us search deep into the Word of God because it is full of wisdomGod's wisdom teaches us how to behave like children who are worthy of Him.   


  • Railing and Backbiting:  
"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?"  (James 4:11-12)

This is another illness of the heart or seed of discord closely associated with gossip and slander. In some translations of the Bible, railing is known as reviling, blaspheming, and speaking evil. These two words, railing and backbiting, mean to speak evil about another one. Unfortunately, this is always done behind the other person's back.  Many times their statements are exaggerated with a negative intention.
    • Biting and Excoriating:
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).

Do you know what’s not glory? The biting and excoriating.  Swallow your anger! It tastes bitter, but it is good medicine. Godly wisdom chooses to delay and postpone getting angry when someone offends us.

The godly use discretion from God's wisdom.  He defers and ignores any transgression committed against him.  He turns the other cheek, overlooks provocation, and chooses mercy over wrath. Discretion is the ability to know the right action for any occasion. Deferring is putting off, delaying, or postponing something. Godly discretion is the mark of a wise man, a gracious and gentle spirit. It is also the mark of Christian maturity, for only fools quickly strike back.  Those who have no discretion often are hostile, hurt others, get indignant, bite back, and plot revenge against those who offend them. They allow their feelings to rule their hearts. They do not know deferment, for they react first, then think about it later. This is the mark of a proud and unyielding spirit (Pr. 16:28; 28:25).  It is contrary to wisdom and grace.
    • Biting and Devouring one another:  
"But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another."   (Galatians 5:15)

The phrase "if you bite" often refers to snakes and vipers.  When Paul wrote this letter to the Galatians, some had fallen prey to the teaching of the Judaizers.  Those evil men appear to have succeeded in their goal.  According to Paul, they had threatened the welfare of the Lord's church by their false teaching, and some brethren needed to be straightened out.  Their error had to be reversed.  But notice, Paul insisted that this teaching process from error to truth be carried out in love without destroying one another (biting and devouring one another).  This process of correction had to be handled correctly in love Why?  Because if they mishandled it, they were running the risk of consuming one another, resulting in destruction. The destruction of their souls!  Paul was pleading with these Galatian brethren to make their corrections without causing any additional harm.  He reminded them that their love and concern for one another was the key to making this difficult task successful.

This, of course, does not imply that the church is not to engage in stern or severe action against error from within. Paul made it perfectly clear in 1 Corinthians 5, where he used hard words to correct sin within the church.  And though love is what must motivate and move us when dealing with sin, there comes a time when that love means doing what's in the best interest of others.  Sadly, such action is necessary for the welfare of the whole congregation.  Thus we must be cautious about how we do it since the souls of our brethren are at stake.  We must not handle it unwisely but responsibly.  Again, even though the action is essential, we must do our best for the welfare of the churchWe must not consume each other and be lost!  Take heed!

Do you know that we are made manifest to the world?  Are we aware that the world is watching and observing every step we take?  

Jesus pleaded with the Father asking, 
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."  (John 17:21)

He also commanded His disciples saying,
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  (John 13:34-35)
 
If we bite and devour one another, the world (those who have not obeyed the Gospel) will know that we are not Christ's disciples.  Because of our ungodly behavior, they will conclude that we are not the Lord's church.  Those who have been redeemed to walk in righteousness and holiness. We must stop biting and devouring one another and start serving each other!!  Love for others will not permit us to destroy others in the name of freedom.  

Sadly, some backbiters destroy entire congregations (Prov. 25:23; 2 Cor. 11:20; 2 Cor. 12:20).  Let us be careful and not destroy our brethren in the name of freedom.  Love will not permit us to do that.  Freedom is found in love, not in reckless irresponsibility.  If your freedom is irresponsible, it will destroy others.

Again, those who profess to be followers of Christ must continually examine their hearts and speech to see what is coming out of their mouths. This is serious! Why not ask yourselves if the statement we are making about the other person is something we would want to say if that person were present?  Why be a backbiter and speak evil of one another if we would not have the courage to speak these bad things in front of them?  Why speak evil behind someone's back?  It is evil!  God will judge us in the end.  

Notice that the Bible calls evil speaking “unrighteousness.”
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."  (I Corinthians 6:9-10) 

Do you think it is acceptable to our Father in heaven if you are neither homosexual nor a thief, nor a drunkard, and yet you dare to speak evil of others?  Maybe in your eyes, you are not guilty of those sins, and you are better than they are, but remember that in the eyes of our heavenly Father, you are not. He calls you an evildoer, unrighteousSo, you are as unrighteous as they are, according to this Scripture, with your evil and blasphemous mouth and will not inherit the kingdom of God if you do not repent of this practice!

Let us imitate our Lord and Savior as the perfect example.
"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly."  (I Peter 2:21-23)  
Instead of Jesus speaking evil of those who unmercifully crucified Him, He prayed for them.
"And Jesus said,  Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And they cast lots to divide his garments."'  (Luke 23:34) 

So my question is: 
  1. What are you doing when others come against you either in word or deed?  
  2. Is your immediate reaction to speak evil to others about what they did or are doing to you? 
  3. Are you praying for them like Jesus our Lord did?   
Let us take heed and not lose our salvation! 

Imagine what a blessing it would be if all of us were to pray for one another rather than putting each other down and speaking evil about them to others!  It would probably be like this:
"Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing."  (I Peter 3:8-9) 

Do you know that when we bless others with our godly behavior, we, in return, are being blessed? This is called the law of reaping, Galatians 6:7
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." 

Again, my question is:  
  1. What seeds are you sowing out of your mouth in the kingdom of Christ? 
  2. Are you sowing seeds of blessings or cursings? 
  3. What are you harvesting?  
Let us take to heart what James had to say to us.
"But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so."  (James 3:8-10

As the body of Christ, we must be a blessing to others when using our mouths. We must not curse or speak evil about others to harm them. YES, even when they seem to deserve it! If what comes out of our mouths are not blessings, let us keep a seal on it and instead pray for others.  God demands that of us!

Another question I have:  

How about grumbling and murmuring about others?  Is this not also sowing seeds of discord among us?  

James also wrote:
"Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door."  (James 5:9)  

Are you aware that you are condemning yourself when you complain about others? 

This comes back to the law of sowing and reapingGalatians 6:7.

Let us not forget that when we grumble about others, we are sitting in the judgment seat, behaving as the Judge rather than letting the true Judge, judge others.  Why not turn the other cheek and let the Word of God, His Law, correct them with righteous judgment?  
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you."  (Matthew 7:1-2)  

Thanks be to God we have a God who does not grumble or complain and is longsuffering about our shortcomings! He is longsuffering because He wants us to repent and correct our crooked ways.  Indeed, our God is merciful and patient with His children.
"Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door."   
  1. Are we condemning ourselves when we grumble or speak evil about others? 
  2. Why not pray for them? 
  3. Why not help them be built up and rooted in the faith, helping them overcome their weaknesses and shortcomings? 

Let us be wise and use righteous judgment!

 

  • Lack of Forgiveness:  
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions."   (Mark 11:25
"Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you."   (Col. 3:13)  

The sin of unforgiveness will eventually cost us our souls and send us to hell. Not only will it destroy our souls for eternity, but it will also destroy all relationships within the body of Christ, leaving us bitter and condemned.  My question is:
  1.  What is not forgiveness?  
  2. Is it ignoring all those who have wronged us? 
  3. Is it more than a refusal to strike someone, blow for blow, or tooth for tooth? 
  4. Is it ignoring or indulging in sin?  

In Luke 17:3, Jesus said rebuke, not ignore. 
"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him."  

  • Is it putting the one who offends us on probation?
Forgiveness is doing exactly what God does when He forgives us.   He removes all wrongdoings from His record.
"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."  (Acts 3:19)   

He forgets, erasing it out of His memory.
"For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:12) 

And He treats us, His children, the same way as He treated us before we have sinned.  He receives us back wholly and sincerely.

  • How do we know we have forgiven someone who has wronged us?
  1. Simply by not rejoicing when he, the offender, has any kind of misfortune. 
  2. By not avoiding his presence. 
  3. By not intimidating him and speaking harshly to him. 
  4. By not constantly remembering the wrong committed. 
  5. By praying for him before the Father on his behalf. 
  6. By doing good and not evil to him, the offender.  

This being said, let us take to heart the importance of forgiving one another. Why?
  • Because God demands it to enter the kingdom of heaven, Mark 11:25; Col. 3:13; Rev. 22:14; John 14:15.
  • Because Our Lord and Savior has left us an example, Luke 23:34; I Pet. 2:21-22; Phil. 2:5.
  • Because of the example demonstrated by the disciples, the early church, Acts 7:60.
  • Because love demands it, I Cor. 13:4; I Peter 4:8.
  • Because we have been forgiven much, Eph. 4:32; Matt. 18:23-35.
  • Because we need to forgive to be forgiven by the Father, Matt. 6:12,14,15; Mk. 11:25.
  • Because it is the only way to be able to walk with God, Amos 3:3.
  • Because it is the only way to have complete fellowship with Him, I John 1:7.
  • Because we will be judged, and we never know when Christ will come to do it, Mk. 13:32.   We must not delay it.
  • Because in the last day, we do not want to be found wicked because of an unforgiving heart: a heart filled with ill will, resentment, bitterness, and most importantly, unforgiveness.  

  • How can we learn to sow seeds of forgiveness?
  1. By remembering that hatred, ill will, bitterness and unforgiveness do more harm to the hater than anyone else.
  2. By being grateful, considering how greatly we have been forgiven without deserving it.
  3. By asking God's help through prayer.
  4. By praying for our offender.
  5. By speaking words of grace and kindness about our offender toward others.
  6. By developing an understanding and loving heart.
  7. By extending the same grace and compassion that has been granted to us, Matt. 5:7; Jas. 2:13; Matt. 18:33.  

  • How often must I forgive?  
"Then Peter came and said to Him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'  Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22)  
 
  • Who must take the initiative in forgiving?   

The offender, Matt. 5:23-24?  The offended one, Matt. 18:15-17?  Both need to take the initiative, meet halfway and reconcile. This is doing God's will. There is no other WAY.

  • How can we make it possible to forgive?  
  1. By not being thin-skinned. 
  2. By not being offended easily, I Cor. 13:5. 
  3. By dying to self and living by the Spirit, imitating Christ in us.
"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.'"  (Luke 17:3-4)
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions."  (Marks 11:25) 

Let us not slip up and lose our souls eternally with a heart that is filled with hate, ill will, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness.

  • Lack of Love:    
 "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions."  (Proverbs 10:12)

Hatred seeks opportunities to provoke us one against another. It delights in beating upon others.  On the contrary, love appeases. It removes offenses and injuries. Love gives the benefit of the doubt. It pours water on the fire rather than gasoline. Love causes one to smile at the triumphs of his rival. It does not keep track of grievances.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others."  (Phil. 2:3-4)  

The keyword here is "humility." It is key to getting along with others.  When one values others, putting their needs above ours, all relationships will prosper: our friends, family, church, and business.  We've also been warned by Christ not to "bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another"  (Gal. 5:15).  To put others first and above our own interests and needs, we must learn to develop the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5ff).  Jesus did not promote Himself but rather "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men... Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name"  (Phil. 2:7-9).  A life of service will keep our self-worth in the right place and in a proper perspective.  Getting along with others does not mean to compromise the purity of the Truth, but it does require humble service (Rom. 12:3, 18).

  • Brotherly love is crucial to peace and unity:  
It is the foundation from which other things grow.  It will manifest itself in longsuffering, kindness, sympathy, compassion, respect, courtesy, gentleness, forgiveness, hospitality, and such.  Jesus said,
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).  

When we stop brotherly love (Heb. 13:1), we are allowing the world to criticize and put down the Lord's church.  We allow sinners to blaspheme the Lord's church, and we will be held accountable for that.

Sadly, there are many Diotrephes in the church whose primary desire is to have preeminence among all (3 John 9) and hinder brotherly love.  Anyone who gets in their way becomes his enemy.  They even defend themselves as having brotherly love, but we know it is not genuine love (1 Peter 1:22).  Often this so-called love for the brethren is nothing more than love for power.  It shows a lack of brotherly love.  The church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:11-12) is described as lacking brotherly love and unity.  Their lack of unity and brotherly love led to several serious divisions within the church. No wonder chapter 13 talks about love!  

This letter was written with the explicit purpose of healing the many wounds and fractures that arose from such destructive factions, divisions.   Some of these brethren were impatient, jealous, braggadocious, arrogant, slanderers, etcThey lacked brotherly love.  They exalted themselves to a higher level than others.  Their factions left no room for brotherly love, peace, and unity.  Does this not sound like a familiar problem in the Lord's churches today?  Often, when there is controversy, it comes with great swelling words. But they are empty words!

  • Busybodies:  
"For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies."  (2 Thessalonians 3:11)

Those who are always busy "sowing the seed of the kingdom" will never have time to "sow seeds of discord."  They do not have time to meddle in the affairs of others. Trouble-makers are haters of all men. Those who are busy and being productive in the kingdom of the Lord have no time to manipulate and control others with their wicked ways. We must not busy ourselves with what does not concern us! 
"But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters."  (I Peter 4:15)

God is very clear that we must mind our own business for the sake of His kingdom.
"And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you."  (I Thessalonians 4:11)   

He also wants us to mind His business and not be lazy. He demands that we be productive in His business and not idle.
"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord."  (Romans 12:11

If we diligently labor for His cause, we will not attempt to run the lives of others. God has a lot for us to accomplish for His kingdom's sake.


  • Anger:   
"A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife."  (Proverbs 15:18)


Anger is a terrible disease of the heart and one of the seeds of discord that can cause us to be contentious. Anger ignites the fire that stirs up strife. On the other hand, he who is slow to anger (meek) will be a great peacemaker. He will prevent strife and quarrels. He unites and reconciles those who are striving against each other.   We who are children of God must not let our passions control us and lead us in the pathway of anger. The kind of man who cannot control his temperament or anger is always under the influence of his wrath. He is constantly destroying whatever he finds in his way. He is a stumbling block to others. 

 "An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression."  (Proverbs 29:22)  

Anger snares men in cursing, swearing, and profaning God's name. Uncontrolled anger leads to uncontrolled words and fits of rage that lead to divisions that sadly last a lot longer than the wrath itself. Anger can only produce the seeds of discord and fury. 
"For the churning of milk produces butter, and pressing the nose brings forth blood; so the churning of anger produces strife."  (Proverbs 30:3)

We must learn to differentiate between righteous anger and sinful anger.  

  • Righteous Anger:
    1. Righteous anger focuses on God alone and His kingdom, His business, not on ourselves and our own kingdom, our rights, and concerns. 
    2. Righteous anger focuses on defending God against those who offend God, His name, and His rule. Our primary concern must be that of not offending God. 
    3. Righteous anger is self-controlled. That means it will keep its head above sin, not cursing, screaming, raging, or going out of control. Nor does it cause one to be depressed in self-pity or despair. Nor does it ignore people, snub them or withdraw from them. 

We can find three occasions of righteous anger in Jesus in Mk. 3:1-6; 10:13-16; Jn. 2:13-17.  In the Old Testament, we can also find three cases of righteous anger first in Saul against the Ammonites, I Sam. 11:1-6; then in Jonathan against Saul, I Samuel 20:24-35
"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense."  (Proverbs 19:11)  

Remember, this is how our Father treats us with all of our shortcomings. He is patient, and I know He has been very patient with you and me!  
    • He wants us to treat others with the same kindness and love. He wants us to extend the same grace freely that He has extended to us. 
    • He is slow to anger, waiting patiently for us to grow, be rooted up in His Word, maturing to the stature of His Son, to precious vessels of righteousness for His glory. 
    • He is patiently helping us walk our Christian walk, but often we must turn the other cheek.
    • Thus, we must follow the Golden Rule if we are indeed His children.
"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."  (Matt. 7:12) 

"Above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins." (I Peter 4:8)

As we love others, we are going to overlook their sins against us. What that means is that we are not going to get offended, grumble or complain. Instead, we are going to love and pray for them. This is how love covers a multitude of sins. Now, do not get me wrong.  When I say, "overlook their sins," I do not mean indulge the sin. When we see a brother or sister in willful sin, why not use the protocol our Lord Jesus used?   
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."   (Matthew 18:15-17)  

But when a member of the body of Christ is sinning willfully against God and His church, we must bring it to his/her attention and follow the steps given above by our Lord.  
 "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."  (Galatians 6:1) 

We must exercise and maintain self-control over anger in our lives. We must not let our anger have control over us, for we must get rid of it as soon as possible; otherwise, we will sin against our God! Self-control will keep us from becoming angry and acting sinfully.    
"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." (Eph. 4:26)
"Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense."  (Prov. 19:11)

We must learn to listen first before we jump to conclusions.  Sadly, many say things in a moment of anger that they will surely regret later. They should have walked away and said nothing.  Our uncontrolled tongues render us useless and make us lose our positive influence over those around us.  The tongue is definitely one of those things that we must exercise self-control over.  We must also exercise self-control over our emotions (anger, resentment, self-pity, and bitterness).  We must not allow these feelings to simmer over a long period of time.  Anger and rage often are the product of feeling that we have been mistreated or have suffered unjustly.  So we turn around and harm (hurt) others since we have been hurt.  Self-pity and bitterness come from the same feeling, for we think people are not paying the attention we deserve.  Not only do we harm others with our emotions, but we destroy ourselves, warping our sense of what is right and fair.

  • Envy: 
"A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot."  (Proverbs 14:30)

This terrible disease of the heart is also a seed of discord that can come as a consequence of two things: 
  1. Lack of contentment.
  2. Lack of love.  

When we envy, we are not content with what God provides and has done for us.  So we are dissatisfied all the time.  Due to our lack of contentment, we envy or covet what others have. Envy is a powerful and destructive sin! Envy among brethren leads us to refuse to submit to those in leadership, such as elders. Why?  Because if you demand that all things be done your way, you will have a hard time submitting to those who indeed have that responsibility. 

There are many negative facets to envy. 
  1. Envy is not just desiring what the other person has.  
  2. It is not just being resentful toward those who have blessings that you don't.  
  3. Envy does not want the other person to be blessed. 
  4. Envy is the root cause of many other sins, such as adultery, stealing, slander, hatred, and murder. Pride is the cause of this seed of discord or disease of the heart.

We see this terrible sin of envy all over the Bible with appalling consequences. 
  • Aaron and Miriam:
They envied Moses because of the position God had given him. 
"And they said, ;Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?' And the LORD heard it."'  (Numbers 12:2)

  • Korah, Dathan, Abiram:
And some of their friends envied the high priestly status that the  LORD had given Aaron.  
"When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD."  (Psalm 106:16

  • Saul toward David: 
David's many accomplishments in battle, his victory over Goliath, and all of Israel's approval toward him awoke this sin of envy in the heart of Saul. Saul’s envy produced the seeds of many other evils. Remember, he tried to kill David many times. Envy was the cause of his anger, jealousy, paranoia, and murderous intent toward David.  Because of his envy, Saul ruined the rest of his life. His envy toward David disturbed him so much that he became obsessed with attempting to kill David. Envy causes striking and powerful actions. It is the first step in the damaging sins of slander, gossip, fighting, and murder.

  • The Jews:
Because of this terrible sin, the Jews delivered Jesus into the hands of evil men, Mt. 27:18. Following the same pattern of envy, a later group of Jews expelled Paul and Barnabas from Antioch of Pisidia, Acts 13:45, 50.  

  • The Corinthians:
Because of envy, the Corinthian brethren divided.  
"But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not being merely human?'"  (I Cor. 3:1-4)  

  • Some even preached Christ out of envy to add affliction to Paul's chains:
"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel."  (Phil. 1:15-16)

Sadly, we are often guilty of this seed of discord.  And it must not be so!  We must examine our hearts and purge out envy. Those who call themselves children of God must not behave this way. 
 "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  (Titus 3:3-7)

Envy is a fruit of the flesh, Galatians 5:19-21. It is demonic, James 3:14-15.  My question is, Why do people envy?  We can suggest several more things:   
  1. ImmaturityGen. 37:3-4
  2. EgoDaniel 6:4  
  3. InsecurityI Samuel 18:7-9
  4. GreedEcclesiastes 4:4
  5. FrustrationPsalm 73:3  

Envy is an issue of the heart. Jesus said, 
"It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."   (Matthew 15:11

Also, in Proverbs, we find the same sentiment Jesus expressed.
"Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life."  (Proverbs 4:23)

The heart is the starting point of this seed of discord. Sadly, envy will determine which paths we will take on our life’s journey. The remedy for this seed of discord is to always guard our hearts against such works of the flesh with all vigilance.

  • Pride or Desire for Preeminence:  
"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 2:3-5)
    • The root cause of discord is lack of humility: 
Lack of humility renders us selfish and vain rather than meek and lowly in heart. It is pride that provokes us to impress others rather than humbly thinking of others as better than ourselves. We must learn not to make our own interests the only focus in life, but rather regard the interests of others, their feelings, and wishes. We must hold others in high esteem if we are Christians indeed. To overcome this big sin, we must have the mind of Christ. That means that we must behave like Christ in our love, thoughts, desires, and motives. This is the heart of Christ in us: the image of Christ in us and we in Him as He abides in us through His Word, having fellowship with one another.
"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom."  (Proverbs 11:2)

Few things break our hearts more quickly than pride. Someone you love will walk into a disastrous situation because their pride has been inflamed, and there is nothing that you can do about it. Jesus came to a proud world bent on self-destruction. Even the righteous disciples were easily provoked individually by their pride. Jesus, the meek and lowly, showed them a better way. 

Anger and pride are a pair of sins that go hand in hand.  The source of pride is ego.  It is one of those works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).  It is deceitful and dangerous.  Pride deceives many by leading them to rationalize their behavior and justify themselves.  A big problem with pride is that it reduces us to nothing, causing us to lose our love for God and others.  Pride sows to the flesh and not to the Spirit (Gal. 6:7-8).  It will eventually destroy us if it goes unchecked.

The word "pride" is found six times in the book of Proverbs.  Likewise, the word “proud” is found seven times in the same book.  For instance, we find the word “haughty” three times in the same book.  The word “arrogance” is found once.  The word “conceit” is found five times.  Several passages speak of pride without mentioning the above terms.

Pride is an overestimation, elevation of self.  It overestimates one's worth.  It is a conceited sense of one's superiority.  A proud man is truly a legend in his own mind!
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him”  (Proverbs 26:12).  

Now stop for a moment and reflect on this Scripture.  What is man?  He is the work of God.  
“Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture”  (Psalm 100:3).  

 God created us from the dust of the earth (Gen. 3:19; Eccl. 12:7).  

  1. We are not as smart as we think we are (Matt. 10:30).  
  2. We are not as strong as we think we are (Job 38:34-35).  
  3. Ultimately, it is appointed for every man to die, and after that comes judgment (Eccl. 12:7; Heb. 9:27).
"And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, 'Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?' And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, 'Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.' 45 Then David said to the Philistine, 'You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand.'"  (1 Samuel 17:42-47)

Here we see Goliath as a champion on the battlefield.  His pride was as huge as his physical appearance.  He could have destroyed David on any other battlefield, but this one was not ordinary. You see, God gave the victory to the humble one who trusted in Him rather than himself. Goliath's problem was his fatal pride (Proverbs 16:18).
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom”  (Prov. 11:2).

“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished”  (Prov. 16:5).
“One's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor”  (Prov. 29:23).
    • Pride causes us to lose our compassion toward others: 
We no longer care.  Pride causes one to take from others, even those who are experiencing adversity or calamity.  We have no right to take from others or rejoice because of their adversities, even when we have been mistreated!  It is evil!  Pride also causes one to show no regard for the well-being of others.  We rid ourselves of pride when we honor and are thankful to God for all things in all circumstances.   It is our best weapon against pride.

    • Pride is the greatest enemy of repentance:  
Indeed, pride is the major stumbling block to repentance.  Why?  Because he who is proud finds it difficult to admit when he is wrong or needs to repent from sin.  Repentance is vital to Christians and non-Christians (1 John 1:8, Prov. 16:18).

Many Christians have fallen from Grace because they have allowed their pride to interfere with their repentance (Gal. 5:4).  So often, when we try to persuade one living in sin to repent (change his sinful ways), he resents us.  He says, “Who do you think you are, telling me how to live my life?”  “I have nothing to repent of.”  “I know what I'm doing. I am in control.”  “I make my own decisions.”  

Sadly, this person's pride has blinded him to repentance.  One good example of this is the alcoholic. He often denies that he is an alcoholic.  He may even feel insulted that one would dare to point out his sin and need to repent.

The Pharisees were very proud.  They often confronted Jesus with arrogance and would not receive His teachings.  When Jesus found them in the Temple selling animals and changing money, He drove them out, overturning the tables (Matt. 21:13).  This apparently enraged them (the scribes and chief priests), and they sought to kill Him.  Pride was their number one problem.  They were too proud to admit that they were wrong in using the Temple in such a shameful way.  Their pride blinded them to accept that they had sinned against God and that the Temple was desecrated.  So what did they do? They felt rage instead of feeling shame.  Sadly, many die in that state.  Their inflated ego prevents them from acknowledging their sins, faults, and shortcomings (James 5:16).  

Pride also steps in the way of the “one another” part of admonition.  Why is it so hard to humbly admit that you have sinned or done wrong and need to repent and ask forgiveness of God and the one you have wronged?!  We must be at peace with God and all men, but that demands that you be humble and not proud.  God abhors the proud. Who wants to be around a proud and arrogant person?  Do you?  I don't!!  Your salvation depends on it!

In James 4:10, we have been admonished to humble ourselves before God that He may exalt us. James is speaking concerning pride.  Pride is the root of many of our failings and weaknesses.  Pride is the cause of failing to live a godly life.
“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who can save and destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”  (James 4:11-12)  

James says that when we speak evil or judge another (not with righteous judgment), we are speaking evil against the law and judging the law.  To speak evil against one another is to speak evil against God's Law!  Why?  Because with our negative attitude of heart, we choose to ignore God's commands or laws, like the law to love our neighbor.  James calls this “the royal law.”  When one loves his neighbor as himself, he is doing well (James 2:8).  It is impossible to love someone and, at the same time, slander him.  In doing this, we are breaking the royal law, the Law of GodWe are in the place of God and sitting in the judgment seat of God's Law!  When we break God's Law, we are refusing to be under the laws of God.  Bear in mind that there is only One Lawgiver and JudgeAnd it is not you or me! He is God!  He is the only One who can dictate law and stand in judgment of the law.  Take heed!
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”  (James 4:12)  

Often we have the nerve to judge God's Law and question His commands (laws) rather than to humbly submit to them.  
    1. So, who are you to judge your neighbor?  
    2. Who do you think you are?  
    3. What makes you better or greater than others?  
    4. Who gives you the right to judge or criticize someone else?  
It is easier to criticize others than to be a doer of the Law.  It is easier to throw stones at others who are doing the Lord's work.  Often we delude ourselves thinking we are the doers, and the others are just the hearers.  
    1. Do you suppose you are a doer of God's Law when you speak evil of another?!  Right?  
    2. Do you think that when you slander someone, you are keeping God's Law?  
You are not a doer!  You are not the Judge!  You are usurping the Lawgiver and Judge.  You are not keeping quiet and obeying God's laws or commands.  You are proud and foolish when you speak evil of others, forgetting your place before the Judge of all.  Take heed and stop being proud!

    • Pride delights in boasting:
An excellent example of boasting is the Pharisee, who stood at the Temple and prayed, saying, 
“God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get”  (Matt. 18:11-12).  

He was so blindly proud that he could only see the tax collector's wrongs and failings but not his own.  Notice what Jesus said of the Pharisees,
“But they do all their deeds to be noticed (seen) by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men”  (Matt. 23:5-7).  

You see, pride destroys humility!

A person who is full of pride thinks highly of himself and boasts of his achievements.  He wants to be noticed and is self-absorbed in his pride.  He ignores what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.  2 'So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full'"  (Matt. 6:1-2).  

The key phrase here is "to be noticed by them (men)."  Pride delights in being in the spotlight and being the star of the show!  We cannot be of any use to the Lord until we willfully surrender our pride and prideful ways.

    • Pride causes us to look down on others:
In the Old Testament, Moses asked Pharaoh, the great ruler of Egypt, to let the children of Israel go to hold a religious feast to God in the wilderness.  Pharaoh's response was,
“Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”  

Here we see a man full of pride.  Pharaoh looked down on Moses and even God Himself.  He would not humble or submit to God because of his pride.  Each time Moses appeared before him, he showed contempt, insolence, and arrogance.  Not even the plagues that God brought on the Egyptians changed his arrogant heartHe was a proud and arrogant man who preferred to suffer rather than submit to God's command.

    • Pride destroys relationships with others:
“By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom”  (Prov. 13:10).
“He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat”  (Prov. 28:25).

As followers of Christ, we strive for unity, peace, and happiness in our relationships.  Unfortunately, pride destroys all these things Why?  Because pride prevents an honest discussion of the issues of disagreement between two persons.  
    1. Pride attacks the character of others rather than focusing on their problems and differences.  
    2. Pride's primary goal is to divide people and reduce them to hostility.  
    3. Pride will not allow anyone to say the words:  “I am wrong, or I was wrong.”  “I am sorry. Please forgive me for what I have done.”  “I forgive you.”  

  • Pride destroys one's relationship (fellowship) with God:
“A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin”  (Prov. 21:4).

“These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:  17 A proud look... “  (Prov. 6:16-17)

Pride is an abomination to God.  Why?  Because its motives and actions are lawless, and lawlessness is a sin against the Word of God (1 John 3:4).  God demands humility and that we walk humbly with Him.  To be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, one must be humble.  For God to exalt us, we must be humble before Him.  God demands that His children clothe themselves with humility toward Him and one another because"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Mic. 6:8; Matt. 18:4; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5-6).  He demands that we not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, “but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom. 12:3).  

The Word of God also exhorts us to have the mind of Christ.
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”  (Phil. 2:5-8).  

Pride is of Satan, and we must be careful not to fall under condemnation (1 Tim. 3:6).

God hates pride.  He is disgusted when He sees pride in men.  A proud man thinks he knows better than the all-wise God of heaven (1 Cor. 1:20).  A proud man believes he is self-sufficient and does not need God (Luke 12:16-21).  Pride is the soil in which all other sins grow and flourish.  God will punish the proud, and His wrath will go against them.  He will not allow anything unclean (sin) to enter the gates of heaven (Rev. 21:27).  

So if you are struggling with pride or arrogance, beware that there is more hope for a fool than for you!  Start diligently humbling yourself under the mighty hands of God, that He may exalt you.  Remember that “It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud”  (Prov. 16:19).   
    1. So, where do you stand before God?  
    2. Are you living in pride or arrogance, thinking that there will be no Judgment Day?  
    3. Are you too proud to admit your faults or sins?  
    4. Are you too proud to humbly ask forgiveness?   
    5. Are you too proud to say “I am sorry” when you are wrong?  
    6. Are you too proud to speak to and associate with certain brethren?  
    7. Are you too proud to associate with those who are below you?  
    8. Are you too proud to forgive those who sin against you?  
    9. Are you too proud to teach the Gospel to the lost, the homosexual, the alcoholic, the prostitute, in a few words, those who practice lawlessness? 
    10. Is pride taking control over your life? 

Be honest and answer those questions and repent accordingly!


III.   HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE THOSE WHO SOW SEEDS OF DISCORD? 
  •  Those Who Divide Brethren:
    • God has not been silent on this matter:  

God has repeatedly warned His children about sowing discord, strife, quarrels, hatred and contention among brethren (Prov. 16:28; 6:12, 14; 6:16,19; 10:12; 26:26; 20:3; 13:10; 17:14, 19; 26:21; 28:25).  Our godless culture loves to manufacture and provoke endless controversy, argument, and divisive issues.  Men take pleasure in starting strife and stirring the pot.  Even when we teach the Gospel in all gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24) and love (Eph. 4:15), it is still received with overwhelming disagreement and vituperation.  

Sadly, there is division instead of love and unity among brethren.  Instead of fighting and devouring one another with divisive quarrels, why not work out our differences to further the Gospel and save the souls of so many who may be traveling the path of eternal tragedy?!  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the Law:  justice, mercy, righteousness, and faithfulness.  They focused on minor and trivial matters (Matt. 23:23).  We must be the salt of the earth and help build up God's kingdom of righteousness through evangelism, edification, and benevolence for the saints.  We must pray to God for wisdom to be builders and not brawlers (John 6:27, “labor for the food that endures to eternal life”).

    • Division in the Lord's church is a terrible crime:  

Those guilty of sowing discord, conflict, controversy, and division will be abhorred and rejected by God (Prov. 6:16-19).  God has always wanted His children to get along and be united (Psalm 133:1; John 17:21; 1 Cor. 1:10).  God is not the author of confusion and division (1 Cor. 14:33).  Division results when men cease to walk in the Light and choose to walk in darkness (1 John 1:7).  Disrespect for all divine authority causes division among men (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 5:24).  Envy, jealousy, greed, and carnality cause division (Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:3; 1 Cor. 3:3-4).  Many souls are lost when there is division.  

Since many refuse to walk in the Light, they cannot have communion with Christ.  His blood cannot cleanse them from their sins (1 John 1:7).  All division is of the flesh and results in death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (1 Cor. 3:3; Rom. 8:6).  Indeed, the church is crippled when there is division and strife.  Those who belittle all divine authority cause division because they lack love for God, His Word, and His church.  

Division, strife, and conflict have always been around.  The church which the Lord purchased with His own blood has not been immune to this.  Just look around and notice the religious confusion today.  Although Jesus established only one church (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23), man has created many today and all this because of division, strife, and disagreement.  This religious confusion has brought such change since the earliest times when the church of Christ was built. It continues until today when we have hundreds of churches that started as the product of selfishness.  How?  Through men and women wanting to do and have things their own way without respecting the authority and Lordship of Christ.  So, when they didn't get things done their way, they chose to leave their original group to start a new one.  Does that sound familiar?  We still have this problem today!  

Everyone seems to be drifting like sheep, every time someone disagrees with them or every time that they don't like the way things are done in the church.  Often these have conflicts with others over personal matters.  Instead of solving them the way Jesus demands, they leave and start a new group.  We forget that since the beginning of the church, there has always been only one church whose followers were merely Christians, striving to do the will of their Father.  Jesus prayed for unity among all Christians (John 17:20-21).

The apostle Paul also prayed and preached that there be no divisions but that all Christians should be of the same mind and judgment in Christ (1 Cor. 1:10).  Unfortunately, nothing has changed, and there are still divisions among the followers of Christ.  And why?  Because men refuse to firmly follow Jesus and His apostles' teachings.  Little by little, men begin thwarting God's plan for the church and start bringing in new ideas and changes that God did not authorize.  That's exactly where all religious error begins.  Man rejects what God has authorized in the New Testament, choosing to please himself in whatever form of religion, doing whatever he wants to do in worship.  As a result, conflicts arise, division results, and thus many of today's denominations were born and continue to emerge.   

Man's selfishness and desires to please himself have been the cause of today's religious confusion and the formation of many churches instead of one true church.  And though we all have the same Bible and Gospel that can be understood clearly, there is a lot of chaos and confusion.  There can never be any unity unless all men are willing to abandon their own selfish desires and wrong and sinful practices and start doing God’s will.  

The Lord's church has suffered tremendously because of the many conflicts and selfish desires of stubborn men (in many cases, one or two men).  This ought not to be!  We must learn to submit to one another with love in matters of indifference.  We must learn to get along and work out our differences in the spirit of love!  God demands that we walk in the Light as He is in the Light to have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7).  That we agree with one another and have the same mind and judgment (1 Cor. 1:10).  Finally, that we speak the same thing as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11).  You can rest assured this will avoid all strife and unnecessary conflict! I don't see any other way for unity!!

Therefore, we must lay aside all prejudices, stop behaving like children (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13). We must strive to show tolerance, humility, and patience for one another in love.  We must be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace  (Eph. 4:1-6).


  • Conflicts Are Costly:

We have already seen the devastating consequences of conflict and disagreements among Christians and the refusal to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord.  Somehow, many followers of Christ believe that since we're all Christians, follow the Word of God and obey the command to love one another, there will be no conflicts among us.  It is pure idealism and is not realistic!  We have already read the letter to the Philippians in chapter 4 that the church was made up of people from various backgroundsLydia was a businesswoman from Asia with a Jewish background.  We also read of two women in that church that had conflicts and differences.  As one reads what Paul is writing in this letter, he will immediately notice that Christians must learn to get along with one another.  We must get along, not only to be at peace with each other but for the sake of the GospelChristians must learn to resolve and work out all differences and conflicts among themselves.  Refusing to resolve conflicts among us will be costly to the welfare of the church.  Conflict will indeed harm the Lord's work in each individual church.

In the letter to the Philippians, it is interesting that Paul does not point out who is right and wrong.  He merely pleads with them to agree with each other in the Lord.  It is quite evident that they were to work out their conflicts for the sake of the Lord.  When Christians fight and quarrel with each other, many terrible things happen as a consequence.  Consider them.

    1. The Lord's reputation is harmed.
    2. The Lord's work (the work of each church to further the Gospel) is hampered.
    3. The body of Christ is hindered and thus is handicapped.
    4. All peace (personal) is disturbed.
    5. Conflict takes away love and moves us further from the heart of God.


  • Patiently Teaching Them:   
"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."  (2 Timothy 2:24-26) 

Christians are commanded to be peacemakers.  A servant of Christ is not contentious. Christ is not contentious. We must be kind and gentle even when correcting those who are our opponents. We must not get angry or irritated with them. We must not humiliate them publicly either but correct them patiently, instructing them in the Truth. Our goal is to reach them and show them the Truth patiently and calmly. 
    • If they are irritated or angry, we must not be. 
    • If they oppose the Truth, we are still obligated to show it to them calmly. 
    • If they are slow to see it, we are not to become weary or impatient. 
    • Even if they do not embrace it, we must not become angry with them and denounce them. We may feel sorry for them because they don't have eyes to see the Truth, but we must not insult or humiliate them or use harsh words with them. This counsel is not just acceptable but also wise. It will render us more effective.

How will we convince those who oppose the Truth of their error if we have the wrong attitude and enter into harsh and ugly contentions?  They will not yield to the Truth easily if we make it more difficult with our harsh attitude.  Meekness and gentleness are two vital keys to convincing them that they are wrong.  After all we have done to teach and correct them, we can never be sure they will see their error or wrongdoing.  Much depends upon their seeking heart and their willingness to repent and accept the Truth.

We must refuse to let the little things become the major ones.
"For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil."  (Romans 14:15-16)  

We must focus on the weightier matters of God's will rather than be distracted by trivial worries and concerns.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."  (Matthew 23:23)  

Let us meditate on this!  Let us focus on those things that really matter: those that give us salvation. 
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."'  (Matthew 5:43-45)

We must love even when not loved in return.  We must love even the troublemakers.  Sadly, the church must take some drastic measures with those who persist in causing division among brethren.  Those who cause division must be stopped!  We must mark them and stop associating with them, for they're a stumbling block to the church.   
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them."  (Romans 16:17

IV.   LET US BE BUILDERS:

Our main goal must be that of striving to be people builders in our relationships with others.  What does that mean?

Let us meditate on Paul's words.
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."  (Ephesians 4:29-32)

Do you know that when we talk about others, we are harming them with our words? So why say harmful things?  Be discrete and say what is necessary and needed for edification.  
  • Let us speak words that will help them become stronger Christians. 
  • Let us not grow bitter and angry. 
  • Let us not shout angrily. 
  • Let us not say things that hurt another that we will soon regret and have to repent of. 
  • Why not be kind and loving to each other? 
  • Why not forgive each other as God forgave us through His Son?  
  • Let us encourage others with our words.  
  • Let us inspire others with well-seasoned words. 

You might be surprised how your words of encouragement toward someone else might change their lives for good!

Remember always that you could be the only person to provide an encouraging word that someone needs to hear.  Let us purpose in our hearts to always give an encouraging word. Let us labor intensely to build one another up within the body of Christ.

So often, brethren are like coals of fire. It is in clinging together that we are going to keep the flame burning. If we separate from one another, the flame of our zeal dies. We should not!  We must not!  We cannot allow the precious church that our Lord purchased with His own blood to suffer division!


CONCLUSION:

My heart is broken over beloved brethren stumbling into oblivion because of conflicts over personal matters and matters of judgment. Such matters ought not to destroy our love one for another, nor should they quench the zeal of our faith. Churches are broken up and splintered. Sometimes they do not survive. I began this study in the hopes of finding some divine help. The Lord is, of course, infinitely wiser than we are. He knows us so well. If we would just be true and faithful to Him and His counsel, we would find joy in "the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace." 

In James 3:13-18, we learn that earthly wisdom is self-seeking and lacking in meekness.  On the other hand, heavenly wisdom shows kindness toward others and good works.  In chapter 4, we see the consequences when one is led by earthly wisdom.  This chapter starts by saying, 
"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?"  

In this Scripture, James is talking about strife and quarreling and the origin or source of verbal conflicts and arguments among us.  Notice how he answers this question with another question.  
"Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?"  (4:1 

You see, bickering and quarreling originate in our own physical desire for pleasure, that is, getting and having things our own way!  The truth is that selfishness is the cause of all conflicts.  Although the word "selfishness" is not in this verse, the concept definitely is.  When someone desires to have something, they will try to get it at any cost, and thus conflict is unavoidable.  There will be conflict unless everyone surrenders to that person's desires.  Indeed, this is a powerful truth!

In Acts 6:7, we notice that the church grew in number.  She multiplied because the saints were working together in harmony to resolve conflicts among themselves.  The Gospel would have never spread the way it did were it not for the continuing effort of the apostles and the brethren to look out to their community to save souls.  These brethren were more concerned about spreading the Gospel and being the light to a world of darkness than winning quarrels.  Can you grasp the intensity of that?  You should!  So why not act more like Christ and be the light of this world when problems, conflicts, and arguments arise in the church?  

Remember, we have been given the Gospel to impact this world of darkness and bring it to repentance that they may be saved from the wrath of God.  We must be mindful of how we treat one another when problems or conflicts ariseWe must be like Christ at all times and strive to look for solutions and be willing to surrender our rights for the sake of harmony or unity.  Remember, we can remain sound in the doctrine of Christ without pushing our liberties on others.  May the Lord help us all to live like Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Let this sink deeply into your hearts!

The spirit of unity in a church is only manifest when all members work, share, and serve together in the Gospel.  All members must desire to share in the work of the church.  Likewise, all members must want to serve one another.  Attitudes and proper conduct are vital for the church to practice unity and peace.  Many churches have been destroyed through division and strife among members because they refused to work for unity.  Sadly, some brethren cannot even worship together any longer.  It is tragic!  

Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-21).  When the church began in Jerusalem, the disciples were praised for having unity (Acts 5:12).  Peace and unity can only be accomplished when all Christians are the salt of the earth (Mark 9:50).  That is, each member is committed to the Truth, work and serve one another with patience, forbearance, and love for one another.  Love promotes peace and unity because it compels us to treat one another the way God demands.  Can there be unity when all members must have their own way and pursue their own selfish interests?  There is nothing more tragic for a local church than for its members to be selfish and self-centered.  It will destroy all unity in the church.

The Lord has admonished us, saying, 
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others."  (Phil. 2:3-4)  

The keyword here is "humility." It is key to getting along with others.  When one values others, putting their needs above ours, all relationships will prosper:  our friends, family, church, and business.  We've also been warned by Christ not to "bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another"  (Gal. 5:15).  To put others first and put them above our own interests and needs, we must learn to develop the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5ff).  Jesus did not promote Himself but rather "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men... Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name."  (Phil. 2:7-9).  A life of service will keep our self-worth in the right place and in proper perspective.  Getting along with others does not mean to compromise the purity of the Truth, but it does require humble servitude (Rom. 12:3, 18).


Brotherly love is crucial to peace and unity.  It is the foundation from which other things grow.  It will manifest itself in longsuffering, kindness, sympathy, compassion, respect, courtesy, gentleness, forgiveness, hospitality, and such.  Jesus said, 
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  (John 13:35

When we stop brotherly love (Heb. 13:1), we are allowing the world to criticize and put down the Lord's church.  We allow sinners to blaspheme the Lord's church, and we will be held accountable for that.

Sadly, there are many Diotrephes in the church whose primary desire is to have the preeminence (3 John 9), which hinders brotherly love Anyone who gets in their way becomes their enemy.  They even defend themselves as having brotherly love, but we know it is not genuine love (1 Peter 1:22).  Often this so-called love for the brethren is nothing more than love for power.  It shows a lack of brotherly love.  

Every time there are quarrels among brethren, many souls are affected, and God is not well pleased.  It is so sad that brethren have carried hard feelings for many years without finding a solution!  Things get in the way, leaving their injuries to fester to the extreme.  My brethren, these things ought not to be so!!  

We have been encouraged by the Master of love to love one another and keep all things from getting nasty.  Remember, that discord reflects upon the Lord and His church, the church that He purchased with His own blood.  Wouldn't it be tragic if the Lord returned and found us with such disunity among ourselves?!  The church cannot prosper and grow when there is division, strife, quarrels, and discord.

Therefore, let us bring all of the inadequate and handicapped lives together with the lives of others, and let us not fail to pray that the church pull together. 
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel."  (Philippians 1:27

Let us not fall into the snares of Satan that destroy the church, sowing seeds of discord among us. This is one of Satan's number one tactics for tearing down the church. And let us use all of the weapons that God has given us to build His church.  Let us take to heart these precious words.
"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away."   (I Cor. 13:4-8)
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  (Phil. 4:8)
"O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?  He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend."  (Psalm 15:1-3)


Jesus said, 
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

 Let us be peacemakers and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  

May we never be among those who sow discord, but rather may we be of one accord!  

May our Lord help us resolve our differences and conflicts kindly without quarreling so that we may please Him.  May we love each other amid our differences.  May we edify one another rather than destroy each other.  May we walk worthy of our Lord and His Gospel with all humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and brotherly love.  May we bear with one another in love and maintain the unity of the Spirit as we have been called. May we grant the same grace that has been given to each one of us, according to the measure of Christ's gift. Finally, may the Lord help us to walk together as the family of Christ so that we might reach Heaven as our home.

Please give this in-depth study a wider use by sharing it with your friends and loved ones who might benefit from it. May the Lord continue to bless you in Him.  


I want leave you with the sentiments of our sacred song, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds," to meditate on.  Our beautiful song talks about the love and fellowship we have with one another in the Father and in His Son Jesus Christ.  Our Father in Heaven wants His children to be knit together by the tie which binds just as threads are knit together.  One of the greatest blessings we Christians have here on earth is our fellowship and association with one another to encourage and prepare us for heaven.  Our song pictures beautifully the blessings of such a relationship which must be  based on brotherly love as it says, "Blest Be The Tie That Binds."
"That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ." (Col. 2:2)  

Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.

From sorrow, toil, and pain, And sin, we shall be free;
And perfect love and friendship reign Through all eternity.



Luci