And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (II Pet. 1:2). Read this verse again carefully because I don’t know of any two things more sought-after in this world right now than grace and peace. Grace (put simply, unmerited favor) and peace (lack of hostile feelings toward another or toward you) are things that soothe the soul of man. We clamor for this in a world where many are hostile and uncaring. Look around, and in the US, rioting seems to occur daily right now. Police departments are threatened with being “unfunded” (This has already happened in some cities. Think about the consequences of no police protection in an area.) and many atrocities are committed by people claiming to be “oppressed.” Our social media is often filled with those who seem more ready to “bite and devour” (Gal. 5:15) than to love and understand. Yes, there are those still willing to talk and work out differences, but this rarely happens in a “tweet” or a Facebook message. This is something that happens one-on-one when we can face one another and talk and understand our differences.
Why the lack of grace and peace? I thought we were “enlightened” and above petty differences! Have we not grown beyond the petty bickering and the turmoil of the past? Without God, the answer is no (Jer. 10:23). Man continues to sin (Rom. 3:23), and he remains in his downward spiral so long as he refuses to acknowledge God and His truth (Jn. 17:17).
In contrast, grace and peace are “multiplied” (not merely “added”) “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (II Pet. 1:2). What a concept! When we strive to know God and strive to learn what Christ taught us while on this earth, this is when grace and peace are multiplied to us! How much time are YOU spending in God’s word? Availing yourself of the knowledge found in Scriptures will multiply grace and peace for you. Rejecting it will not bring grace and peace of any kind.
Haven’t we spent enough years NOT reading God’s word? Why not take some time (30 days perhaps?) and read God’s word daily. Then be amazed at how you are benefited by the knowledge of God and Jesus when you apply it to your life.
Recent protests against the unjust and deadly treatment of George Floyd ignited a smoldering ember in America. I do not know what was in the heart of the police officer who sat upon George Floyd’s neck except by seeing his actions that led to Floyd’s death. Neither do I know what was in the hearts of the other officers who were on scene. Their involvement in this tragic event should be judged based on the evidence. Impartial justice, not reactionary outrage, must prevail for any society to exist peacefully (Deut. 1:16-17).
A lot of judging by appearance has happened. Because Floyd was black and the officer was white, there were immediate charges of racism. That is a heart judgment rendered by appearance, aided by previous offenses of white officers on black citizens. Is this really the type of judging we want others to apply to our lives? Jesus said, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:2). Let that sink in for a moment.
Racism is a sin problem, a heart problem that judges others by their appearance instead of righteously (Jno. 7:24; Jas. 2:1). The color of a person’s skin is irrelevant to one’s heart, one’s character. God created all of us in His image – and that isn’t the color of our skin or any other feature of the flesh (Gen. 1:26-27; 1 Sam. 16:7).
We do not deny the existence of racism. How can we? It has been and continues to be an ageless scourge upon the face of the earth. The truth is, racism exists among wives and husbands, politicians and academics, police officers and soldiers, believers and atheists – among every race on this earth. Lest we forget, the Jew-Gentile tension displayed the trauma of race relations long before today’s race problems (Acts 10:28; 11:2-3). The Jewish-Samaritan segregation and mutual disdain had its roots in race distinctions (2 Kgs. 17:24; Jno. 4:9; Lk. 9:51-56). Such divisions thrive where there is no fear of God (2 Kgs. 17:25). The gospel of Christ continues to be the answer to this sin (Jno. 4:10, 14; Acts 10:34-35; Eph. 2:11-18).
We reject the view that past expressions and actions of racism and its oppressive treatment of others automatically defines an entire generation or nation today. Some believe it does. Social justice movements are being endorsed and funded as alternatives to what they see as America’s systemic racism. They say the system is corrupt. It must be torn down and replaced. Yet, if hearts are not changed, people will eventually abuse and be abused under a new system – whatever that system is. Without changed hearts, the strong will invariably exploit the weak (Jas. 4:1-10). Any nation, regardless of the systems that govern it, will be brought down by God when it oppresses its people (Amos 5:10-27). Nations change when the hearts of their citizens change (Jonah 3:4-10). Solomon’s wisdom continues to ring true, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
Children do not inherit the sin guilt of their fathers (Ezek. 18:4, 20). Therefore, we should not try to make this generation guilty of its forefathers’ sins. Each generation is accountable for itself. History cannot be canceled by a penknife, an eraser, or a sledgehammer (Jer. 36:20-24, 32). We should not try to do so. Instead, history informs us so we can acknowledge past failures (and successes), then take responsibility for ourselves and make needed improvements (Deut. 31:9-13; Neh. 8-9; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6-13).
I cannot repent of my forefathers’ sins, and neither can you. We should stop trying to do that, and repent of our own sin, whether it is the prejudice of racism or some other transgression (Acts 17:30; 1 Jno. 1:9; Jas. 5:16). Let’s all work on loving God and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40; 7:12). That is the heart of the matter.
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Psalm 119:33–36)
Living by faith is not a blind leap in the dark. Faith is the rationale response of the heart that longs for God, His ways, and His blessings. Note this as the psalmist implores God to teach him the path of divine statues, and he will keep them (v. 33). He pleads for an understanding of God’s law so that he may keep it with a heart that is enlarged and completely devoted to God (v. 34; Psa. 119:32). He yearns for the discipline that comes with divine instruction so that he will walk on the path of obedience (v. 35). He obeys the commands of God with delight because his heart is full of the love of God, not greed for plunder (v. 36).
Like the psalmist, let us pray for
understanding to keep God’s word with our whole heart (Col. 1:9-11). Obeying
the gospel from the heart freed us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:17-18). Now,
let us keep on learning and living the commands of God with our whole hearts
“to the end” (v. 33). Problems of sin arise when we no longer want God to
teach us. The heart hardens against the way of His statutes. The path of His
commands is no longer delightful. If this is where your heart and life are,
then repent (change your heart) and return to the delight of obeying God
with your whole heart.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
The Masks We Wear
The governor of Washington declared a state of emergency on June 26, 2020, and mandated citizens wear face masks due to Covid-19. All kinds of different masks are now on display. Wearing a face mask got me to thinking about the types of masks we may be wearing over our hearts. Here are just a few.
1. The hypocrisy mask. This mask is worn when we say and do not do (Matt. 23:3). It is worn by those who pretend to be what they are not (Matt. 23:14). It is not worn by those who stumble, sin and correct it (1 Jno. 1:9-2:1). This mask is worn proudly to exalt oneself before and above others (Matt. 23:12, 5). It cannot protect oneself or others from sin. We are commanded to take off this mask (1 Pet. 2:1).
2. The self-righteous mask. This is the “holier-than-thou” mask worn by those who trust in themselves that they are righteous and despise others (Lk. 18:9). They have not grasped God’s merciful forgiveness of their sins. So naturally, they have a hard time conceiving why others have such trouble with sin in their lives. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Therefore, we must not be proud but humble when resisting sin, knowing God’s grace saves us through faith (Jas. 4:6-10; Eph. 2:8-9). By removing this mask, we can help others in sin (Gal. 6:1-2).
3. The discouragement mask. This mask covers a heart consumed with present trials and troubles. People have let us down. We have let ourselves down. We are hurt; we get anxious and doubtful and distrust others. Those wearing this mask repeat the refrain, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen!” Elijah wore this mask once – in a cave – when he thought he was all alone. But, he wasn’t (1 Kgs. 19:8-18). This sympathy-seeking “woe is me” mask hides a heart that has lost focus on the Lord, who never forsakes us (Heb. 13:5-6). Eyes raised heavenward replace this mask with the blessed assurance of glory (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize a person behind a mask. The Lord knows us behind our masks (Heb. 4:13). Let’s be sure to know ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 07/03/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA