Offense and Belief

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” How precious to the tempted soul is this positive promise. If those in trouble and temptation keep their eyes fixed on Jesus and draw nigh to God, talking of His goodness and mercy, Jesus draws nigh to them, and the annoyances that they thought almost unbearable vanish. . . .
Troublous times are before us, but this is not to worry us. To be worried is to be unbelieving, but Christ invites you saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” {CTr 164}

I have been learning a great deal about the importance of staying away from offense over the past few months. Ever since I was introduced to this vital topic in The Bait of Satan by John Bevere I have been noticing how much it is intertwined in so many other things. As I read this quote this morning it occurred to me that worry is also very likely connected with hanging on to offense.

This quote states that to worry is to be in unbelief. I am spending a great deal of time and focus in the Gospel of John seeking to really know for myself and to experience the transforming power of true belief since that is one of the books most filled with this topic. I have been learning a lot from my personal study and believe that I am moving into a deeper level of personal belief as a result after spending years trying to figure out what it is that I am supposed to believe.

As I read this quote this morning it came to my mind that when I worry about the future and allow scenarios of fear to linger in my imagination, that not only am I refusing to believe in God's plans for me and His ability to protect me or be intimately with me and sustain me in troubles, I am also subconsciously assuming that I will feel offended in those coming times of difficulties. Of course my mind does not factor in that idea openly for I would then see the deceptive nature of these scenarios, and the schemes of the devil would lose much of their power over me. But it is true that one of the greatest factors that enhances the ability of trials to create great pain and stress in my life is my unwillingness to forgive those who are assaulting me during those trials.

As I look at the example of Jesus when He was under extreme trials and tempted to retaliate against those who were openly abusing Him, shaming Him, treating Him unjustly and mocking Him, one of the most power things that stands out is His continuous insistence on forgiving His enemies in real time all the while they were committing atrocities against Him. It has been coming clearer to me over the past few years and even in a discussion I had yesterday, that the real purpose of Jesus' coming to this earth to suffer and die at the hands of sinners and demons was to demonstrate the righteousness of God in how He would respond if we were given a chance to test Him to the limits of our ability to assault Him.

Satan thought that given enough pressure and force and intimidation that even the Son of God would finally succumb to the temptation to feel resentful, bitter, offended and would desire retaliation, at least for a moment. It was Satan's studied purpose to get Jesus at some point in His life here on earth as a human to indulge in what Satan believed was the unavoidable fact that every human will look out for himself more than for others when pushed past their capacities of endurance. Satan had based his entire proposal for a new universal government on the assertion that God's character had a fatal flaw hidden in it and that Satan could expose it given enough opportunity.

So God allowed Satan full access to carry out his theories and placed His own Son in a human form so as to be available to be tempted just as every person is tempted. But unlike what most people think is involved in temptation, Jesus' real temptations were along the line of looking out for Himself before others, to indulge in self-preservation which is the very foundation of what is now known as the Theory of Evolution. In essence, Satan had asserted that given enough chance he could prove that love was not enough when it came right down to the wire; that when the stakes were high enough that even God would resort to using the tactics of His enemy and would resort to using force in order to save Himself from pain or annihilation.

This showdown was the greatest moment in all of history and in all of the universe. This was not just a battle between some political and religious people feeling upset because Jesus was threatening their turf; this went far beyond that to eternal issues at stake and affected the beliefs and opinions of every intelligent being that had ever been created all throughout the entire universe. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:19-20)

The core issue during Jesus' abuse and torture before He died on the cross was Satan's attempt to get Him to act differently than what God claimed was His true character. If Satan or men could get Jesus for one moment to feel offended, to succumb to shame and humiliation and feel a desire to get even or retaliate, then the whole controversy would suddenly be shifted in Satan's favor, and God's claims that love is enough would be discredited. For the kind of righteousness that Satan was seeking to discredit, the very righteousness that Jesus came to reveal to the whole universe that is the very essence of the Father, is that God never holds a grudge, that He never for a moment fails to forgive in His own heart and never harbors offense no matter how badly He is treated or how much His government or control may appear to be threatened.

Satan has claimed that love is not enough, that there are times when one has to resort to force, to the use of fear and intimidation in order to achieve compliance to the government in control. Satan's kingdom is all about control and he insists that fear and force are necessary tools that must be used when all else fails. This philosophy has infected most of Christianity, and in the minds of most Christians today it is believed that God operates with these very principles. But the example of Jesus going to the cross is the greatest argument against such heresies.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24 NRSV)

I now see the close link between these verses and the quote at the beginning. The annoyances that we feel when we are under assault are due to our lack of forgiveness which in turn is because we are not letting go of offense. I also see that the best way to let go of offenses is to turn away my attention from myself and my own interests and choose to focus entirely on God's goodness and mercy and the real truth about His character just as Jesus did when He was under similar but far more intense circumstances. Jesus committed no sin because He never allowed any of Satan's lies about God to infect His thinking, thus the statement that there was no deceit found in His mouth. Instead, He entrusted Himself to His Father that He believed was truly just in spite of all the surrounding evidence that seemed to be to the contrary.

When I am tempted to want revenge and retaliation; when I desire to return abuse when I am abused, then it is a clear warning that I am likely holding on to some offense that I am unwilling to relinquish. If that is true, the results will always be a reaction of sin. For sin is simply doing things my way instead of trusting God to do what is best for me no matter how bad things appear to be going for me. The main temptation for Jesus was to feel offended, even for one moment. If Satan could get Jesus to not let go of even one offense that was being committed against Him even for a brief moment, then his claims about God's government and faulty character would have been justified and he would have claimed victory in his war against God.

What I am seeing now more clearly is that the example of Jesus for me is precisely in this area of offense and forgiveness. And of course it helps to know where the real battle is being fought instead of spending time and effort in areas where the real issues are not really centered. Instead of focusing on my behavior and trying to make myself look like a good Christian while attempting to hide my feelings of offense deep inside, I need to learn from the master Forgiver who never for a moment allowed the rage or bait of Satan to obscure the truth about God and His perfect love from His view. Jesus cherished every moment possible with His Father filling His mind and heart with the presence of His Father and ever being led by His Spirit just as we can do. And I am seeing that this is the only real path to victory.

I cannot overcome sin by trying to overcome sin or stop doing bad things. That is trying to work with only the symptoms while ignoring the root causes. If I am to follow the example of Jesus successfully I have to learn to rest in Him, to live in His peace, to trust in His character and the truth about God in every situation and most of all to never allow any offense to stay in my heart even for a moment.

Can I do that myself? Absolutely not!
Can it be done? Absolutely – if I am willing to submit to God fully and let go of all offenses instantly just as Jesus did. If I resist the devil and his urgings to hang onto offenses and submit all my concerns and fears and even my rights to myself completely to God, like Jesus I can be preserved even through the most severe trials as long as I continue in that choice to hide in His perfect love and will for me. My desires for self-preservation will have to be crucified and I will have to die to selfishness and maybe even die physically. But with the living presence of Christ living within me I will find His resurrection life springing up from inside of me like that fountain of living water that was promised to the woman at the well.


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