Hatred & Wrath, Mt. 5:43-48

God hates sin, but loves the sinner, you and me, everyone! This is a fact which most of us struggle to understand and emulate. We humans find it very hard to hate sin, but love each other. But if you want to understand how to do it and do it really well, begin with this fact. We love our self, but hate some things we say or do, so why can’t we learn to love people, more than what they do or say? God does this all the time, even when he really resented making us in the first place back in Noah’s day, Genesis 6:5-8. God who is love, actually destroyed people, but loved people enough to give them a 100 year opportunity to repent and get on an Ark. Those 8 souls that were saved on the Ark was the only proof the world had, which testified to the love of God for humans who were hateful toward Him. They were all so hateful that wrath filled their life and the world was full of violence because of them, so God was justified in destroying them to start all over again with those that loved Him. 

Recognize hatred for what it is: 

  • Characteristic of the lost state of humanity; Titus 3:3-5
  • Evidence of immaturity; Matthew 5:43-48, the word “perfect” means complete maturity.
  • Harbored by fools; Proverbs 10:18.
  • Grows into cruelty; led to the murder of Abel,1st Jn.3:11-15, and Christ, Jn.15:18-25 and led Joseph’s brothers to abuse him to the point of endangering his life, Genesis 37:4-8.  An oriental proverb says “Water does not remain on the mountain nor vengeance in a great mind”
  • A work or act of the flesh, carnal activity; Galatians 5:19-21
  • Preventing us from entering Heaven; Galatians 5:19-21

Love is the cure for hate. As far as the apostle John is concerned, there is no middle ground between love and hate, we either hate someone or we love them, read 1st John 2:9-11, 3:14-15. According to Peter, brotherly love is a command, 1st Peter 4:8 and according to Paul it is the fulfillment of the old law which embodies the greatest commandment, Romans 13:8.

To overcome hate from staying in our heart, we are given 3 divine truths that will repudiate hate from our hearts;

  • Pray for the person who is the object of hate, Matthew 5:44, If we believe God can help us in this request, hate will recede and eventually leave us.
  • Find something good to do for the person who is resented, Matthew 5:44. A compliment or note of encouragement, or a Christmas greeting card, or inviting them to a birthday party, or offering to carry someone to deliver a package somewhere, or any small deed that can make a dent in the critical attitude we may harbor to start destroying hate. This action is the first step we take towards emulating God in Jesus on the cross, Ephesians 2:16.
  • Brotherly love involves us in trying to sincerely understand the person who is hated or resented, 1st John 3:10-15. The phrase “Try walking a mile in his moccasins” is said to come from a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap, 1838-95, originally titled “Judge Softly”. It exposes the hatred bred from ignorance towards Native Americans, and is a principle that is proven to help rid hatred in prejudiced hearts.

Laziness & Discontentment – Psalm 23:1-4

Christians should fully realize that we have a Shepherd that makes us lay down, as well as walk. Recognizing the balance between the two, helps us fight off laziness in our lifestyle. “Laziness” is an overused criticism—a character judgment­­, really––that does little to help us understand why someone doesn’t exert the effort to do what they want to do, or are expected to do. If we take a moment to examine what’s behind the procrastination and avoidance, we find a range of more complicated issues but this discussion focuses on two facts: Firstly the discontentment we have in our heart which leads to laziness. Secondly the direction God’s word points us to, when it addresses people He labels as lazy or slothful.

The apostle Paul revealed a powerful truth concerning contentment in Philippians 4:11. While incarcerated in prison for unjust charges, he recorded that contentment is a virtue we must “learn”. If we live with being discontent and do not learn to be content, we will end up being too lazy to do anything about putting God’s knowledge into action. God wants his children to learn that the poorest people in the world are those who have more than they need, but feel like it’s never enough. If I can be satisfied with my income, then that satisfaction can motivate me to work in using the income wisely and keeping my income practically useful. If I’m not satisfied with my income, that dissatisfaction can possibly lead to laziness that can cost me my income one day. Remember, 1st Tim. 6:6-8 where we are taught godliness with contentment is great gain! Here is a poem to help us count our blessings, making godly contentment motivate us to work:

I WISH ?

I wish I had a telescope to scan the starry skies;

But since I have no telescope, I’m glad I have two eyes.

I wish I had a kitchen run by digital commands.

But while that kitchen’s still a dream, 

I’m glad I have two hands.

I wish I had a brand new car to give my friends a treat;

But ‘til that new car comes along, I’m glad I have two feet.

Two eyes to look to God above

Two hands to lift in prayer

Two feet to take me anywhere

Well dang!  I’m a millionaire!”

God’s word warns us about the dangers of being “slothful or lazy”. The Hebrew writer says we should be content with what we have, Hebrews. 13:5, but that doesn’t mean we are so content we don’t work to use what we have to it’s fullest potential. Jesus considered laziness to be very closely akin to wickedness, see Matthew 25:26. Because when we are not busy working, we are usually neglecting service we could be giving to the Lord, Romans 12:11. Perhaps the worst thing about a lazy lifestyle is that we end up missing out on fulfilled promises in life, promises from God and promises that other people make for us if we meet their expectations, Hebrews 6:12. Work can be a great blessing, if we learn and believe in what Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 says, read it!

Cowardice – Allowing fore-thoughts to become fear-thoughts, Luke 12:4-10

When we were babies, every single one of us possessed two fears: The fear of falling and the fear of loud sudden noises. Did you overcome them? Or do you still have them? In one sense, no, in another sense, yes. None of us would jump off the south rim of the Grand Canyon without a safety net, nor would we enjoy someone pranking us with an unexpected scream unless you paid entrance into a halloween haunted house! This two-fold sense of caution & courage explains to all of us the difference between honorable fear, which is better described as caution, and dishonorable fear, which is better described as cowardice. If I had a phobia of spiders, it would be cowardly to run off and move to the north pole just because spiders can’t live there. But if my fear of spiders was honorable, I’d invest in pesticides, practicing caution to stand my ground. Christians should never run away from a spiritual enemy, but we should use caution and wipe the dust off our feet, moving forward. Standing fast is a command and it takes courage to wipe off our feet in the face of our enemy. Do not let your heart receive what your brain anticipates as fear. We can’t get rid of fear, but we can handle it wisely with the help of our Lord. Every human being is built with a sense of fear which can help us live a long productive life, if we treat our fears with God’s sovereignty in mind & soul.

Biblically there are only two types of fear: 

Commanded (Lk. 12:5 & Ac. 9:31) not to be confused with blind enthusiasm.

Forbidden (Lk. 12:32 & Mt. 8:26) not to be confused with caution.

Being brave for Jesus is not for brand new Christians. Courage for a Christian comes with time, maturity & wisdom. The church as a whole in today’s society is probably hurt more by immaturity than we are with complacency. Some preachers may complain about apathy in the church, but that complaint is empty, in view of the lack of spiritual exercise by new Christians. If that is the case for you, then the heart disease of cowardice can set in like a plague and stop you from growing into bravery.
Most people fear failure. In Matthew 25:25 we can see the “one talent man” did nothing because of his fear. Is it right for Christians to be fearful of failure? The Lord Jesus promised Christians inevitable and assured victory over sin and death. The apostle Paul proclaimed to beloved Christians in Corinth that we should be abounding in the work of the Lord, KNOWING our labor is not in vain. 1st Cor. 15:58. Jesus said, “Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” (Jn. 6:27) Even when Jesus worked as a carpenter it was not in vain. Every effort you put into being a Christian is worth it, because a Christian is in Christ, giving us eternal food! That’s a victory in itself! If a brand new Christian can start being a Christian by being brave in our fight against temptation, then we will grow with Christ’s eternal food in the Word, to be brave in our work for the Lord to spread the gospel. Do you believe this?

Overcoming Discouragement, Hebrews 12:12-14

The Lord Jesus knows first hand how discouragement feels and how to overcome it. His frustration with both critics and disciples is an example for us to learn and draw strength from, see Matthew 17:17, Mark 9:19, Luke 9:41 & John 14:9, he also met exhaustion and needed strengthened, Matthew 4:11. The following discussion is not about biological, hormonal imbalances or human chemistry causing depression, but we are here considering what every human faces; frustrating discouragement from circumstances out of our control. Even Jesus, who was in control, found himself hurt, betrayed, lonely, sorrowful and at times exasperated with discouraging reactions from people he tried so hard to serve, yet He never gave up in trying to love them. When we are met with negativity, criticism or outright opposition, we can suffer discouragement. That feeling is often intense and can cause our hearts to despair. Therein is a spiritual disease akin to the sin of idolatry. We can easily start loving self-comfort instead of God’s comfort. 

SEVERAL WAYS THE GOD OF COMFORT CAN HELP US OVERCOME DISCOURAGEMENT:

A. Go do something for someone else: Matthew 10:39. If you dig someone else out of their troubles, you’ll have a hole to bury your own in.

B. Remember and memorize the things in life that are as bright as the promises of God. Trust God and take time to rejoice in his promises, 2nd Peter 3:9, Philippians 4:8.

C. Look for ways in which your burdens actually might  become bridges, Philippians 1:12 & 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18. My wife’s three miscarriages actually became the way by which she comforted, counselled and encouraged many other women who were lost in grief.

D. Remember Jesus said to “separate yourselves and rest awhile”, Mark 6:31. The devil desires to use people that are tired and defiles them, but Jesus gives rest to people who are tired and inspires them.

E. Don’t be wary of talking to yourself, Matthew 9:20-22, and then talk to God in prayer. We must always take the causes of our discouragement to the Lord, Philippians 4:6-7.

F. Accept the fact that God knows you are valuable and needed in His Kingdom work, while going through discouragement, we must refuse to wallow in self-pity. In God’s eyes a Christian is too valuable for self-pity, Matthew 10:31, 1st Corinthians 12:13-27.

G. Never forget that a Christian is never alone, 1st Peter 3:12-14, Hebrews 13:5-6, Matthew 28:18-20 & 2nd Timothy 4:17, His loving presence is with us.

H. God has promised that no temptation has overtaken a Christian that is not common to humanity, He is faithful and he will not let us be tempted beyond our ability, but with the temptation God will also provide a way of escape that we may be able to endure, 1st Corinthians 10:13. Therefore we have many reasons to rejoice in God’s comfort and refuse to “self-comfort” when we are burdened with discouragement or frustration.

Selfishness – The Absence of Gratitude, Matthew 11:25-27

Jesus thanked God because of his Lordship, v25a

Jesus thanked God because of his wisdom, v25b

Jesus thanked God because of his grace, v26

Jesus thanked God because of his trust, v27

If there is a reason to maintain and improve your capacity to remember things, it is gratitude. Forgetting God’s benefits results in selfishness. The Psalmist declares that we should “forget not all his benefits” (103:2) It is from factual experience that we feel thankfulness by remembering who it is that is gracious to us, their grace motivates us to say and show grace to them and others. Grace is very contagious. Sharing thankfulness expels selfishness!

Consider how detestable ingratitude really is, as Paul describes ungodly people in Romans 1:21-22, “…they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened…”. One of the many sins listed as characteristic of this vicious pagan world, was ingratitude. Paul says people will be “unthankful” in 2Tim. 3:1-5 along with more obvious sins. God reckons ingratitude so detestable as to catalog it with the most tragic of transgressions. Shakespeare wrote, “blow, blow thou winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man’s ingratitude”. So even though the Apostle Paul was in prison chains, he could still write, “giving thanks for all things” (Eph. 5:20)

The cure for ingratitude is to count our blessings and the greatest blessing is Jesus. Thanks saying is not necessarily thanks giving, but thanks living is. In response to the Psalmist’s question, “what will I give to the Lord for all his benefits toward me? (Psa. 116:12) Let us be determined that we will give to God our love, our time, our talents, our money, yes even our lives. Afterall it was He who gave us his Son’s life on a cross. If we find it hard to count our blessings, let us start with the spiritual ones. The forgiveness of all our sins, the presence of his Spirit, a name in the Book of Life, a residence in heaven, a peace that passes understanding, a crown of life, a loyal friend in Jesus and His love that never fails. If we do this, it will surprise you what the Lord has done and make you even more grateful than what you were before you started counting your blessings. Now start on your physical blessings and remember that people who are not humbly grateful are bound to become grumbly hateful. Read & memorize Philippians 2:14-15. If you choose to leave your heart empty of gratitude, the void in your heart will just be selfishness. Read Matthew 6:22-23.

Lust, The Absence of Devotion, Matthew 5:28-30

Dwight Eisenhower once said, “War is a terrible thing. But if you’re going to get into it, you’ve got to get into it all the way.” That principle is true in the war against physical enemies and also emotional enemies; lust. We won’t win by being halfway into it. But if we get into the battle all the way—God’s way, using His strategy—we can win!

Origen of Alexandria lived in the late second century and was famous for his literature in Christian theology. His devotion to Christ was so intense, he had himself castrated to defeat his battle with lust and enable himself to teach women the gospel. His zeal is admirable, but it is not what Christ wanted him to do with his instructions in Mt. 5:28-29. Afterall it is not the human eye that causes a person to commit lust, the real reason we lust is because we have not prepared our mind to be committed to true holiness and we have not prepared our heart to be committed to true love. Without this preparation, we are met with temptation and fall deep into the pit of lust. The first lesson we must learn, if we are to get prepared, is that lust is a complete fake, a poor substitution for true love. Lust creates a buzz that is a short-lived tune in the face of an orchestral masterpiece with movements that make love eternal. Jesus used the picture of gouging out our eye, to enforce the necessity of each person making a physical effort in defeating lust in our life. As Paul taught Timothy in 2Tm. 2:22. “Flee” youthful lusts. He didn’t say walk away, avoid or ignore, he said RUN AWAY from them! Kenny Rogers sang a popular song with the wise words, “you got to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em”. There are some battles we can win, and some we will always lose. Most men and some women find the battle against lust is always something we must run from, if we try to face it and fight with our own wit and strength, it will overcome us. Most human beings are designed with this appetite for sexual satisfaction that is insatiable. It may seem unfair that God made us this way, but God is calling us to holiness not impurity, He wants us to desire the real thing, not a fake substitute.

Job relates commitment or devotion to a part of his body that other prophets seem to ignore. I love the way the N.E.T. translates Job 31:1, “…how then could I entertain thoughts against a virgin?” The idea of entertaining thoughts is impossible for Job, who has made a covenant with his eyes. A covenant is a much stronger word than promise. His eyes and her body should be kept sacred in Job’s heart. A covenant is a deal Job has made with God. Here are the obvious details. If Job refrains from thinking lustfully with what his eyes see in a girl, then God will keep his heart pure, and the girl will never need to suffer being mentally undressed and looked upon as a cheap product instead of the sacred soul she truly is. Have you ever known how young girls are emotionally distressed when they learn that some men only look upon them as a mere morsel instead of a future woman of God, helping him bring life into the world? Youthful lusts are always abounding around us and sometimes from within us, but from whatever direction youthful lusts hit us, we must be prepared with God’s divine love, powerful promises and personal presence in His Spirit. Walk in His Spirit, Galatians 5:16. Ancient Solomon wrote in Proverbs 7:6-8 that a young man without sense will walk down streets and around corners where wild women live and end up devoured by lust, which wouldn’t happen if he avoided that address in the first place. Even King David was humiliated by his own lust, when he spent too much time in the spring when Kings should be busy with military strategy, instead of relaxing one evening from his rooftop, 2nd Samuel 11:1-3. The beautiful Bathsheba was too strong for his senses and he fell prey to his own desires, Bathsheba was innocently bathing and David was guilty of letting his guard down. He lacked a sense of devotion both to his wife Michal and his duties as a King during springtime. He failed in making a covenant with his eyes.

Greed – Loving Things instead of People.

Luke 12:15 is likely one of the hardest sayings of Jesus for Christians to practice from day to day. Not just because most people don’t know what coveting means, but because we don’t want to guard against it, when we learn what it is. Jesus enforces the 10th commandment but we rarely even pay attention to it. In this article, I’m not referring to single parents or to married spouses who must work because of financial adversity from just one income by their partner. But the grief that often comes through the neglect of children can’t be consoled by a bank balance. The love of money has caused many parents to hand their priceless children over to paid workers to care for them, not because they have to work, but because they choose to. They work either because they find their identity in a career rather than parenting, or because they want more things that money can buy and they won’t discipline themselves to live within the means of one sufficient wage. In this 21st century our society is a greedy capitalistic machine, destroying our nation from the inside out. See Ecclesiastes 5:10. For Christians that love money and allow greed to be a life-style, we get broken relationships, disappointments, and sorrows as self-inflicted wounds. They are the consequences of dethroning the Lord and enthroning money. That’s why the apostle Paul advised, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17-19).

God permits us to have material blessings for enjoyment, but He isn’t concerned about our possessions. It’s our attitude He cares about. Are we arrogant because we think we are better than someone who is poorer? Do we put our hope in wealth that can be lost, or on God who is eternal? Do we enjoy our possessions as gifts from a loving heavenly Father? Do we enjoy our home, our china, our window treatments, our furniture, our interior decorating, our patio, our yard, our clothes, and our car? Or do we look at them with an ungrateful heart, especially if we’ve just come from visiting someone with a much nicer home, wardrobe, or car? When we have Christ’s perspective, God will bless us with a joyous heart to share with people who are in need because this pleases Him and helps us enjoy liberal giving with the purpose of passing on the Good News. If there is more gratitude in our heart for what we possess, than there is envy, then we will have the motivation to share when given the opportunity. This is not just an attitude towards money but with every physical gift we have. Please see 2nd Corinthians 9:7, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not …”

The condition of our heart is at the center of this disease in loving things instead of people. God’s Word begs us to run as fast as we can from the goal of acquiring material possessions. Recognize it, confess it as sin, and remember this Scripture, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:11-12).

Instead of defining our worth by our bank accounts, God wants us to be rich in good deeds, to be generous with our money, and to share with those who need it. “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Prov. 19:17). Perhaps the best Scripture to memorize in order to combat this human frailty is Hebrews 13:5. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Contentment is based on our expectations and the best expectation is the promise of an eternal inheritance, instead of material things or money which is so temporary in this life