Don’t Take The BaitSeries: Pause. James Dewhurst May 17, 2020
DON’T TAKE THE BAIT
One of the many statements that I have heard repeated over and over throughout the past couple of months is that “We are all in this together!” What a nice and heart-warming statement in a time like this! While this is undoubtedly a well-meaning statement, meant to create a sense of community support around our shared challenges, I’m not sure what it means. If this statement is simply meant to portray that we are all going through the same thing at the same time, then I would say it is accurate. But, if it is meant to portray that we are all going through the same thing at the same time, and we are unified in our approach and perspective, I would say it is very inaccurate. While we may be looking at the same things, every one of us is also drawing different conclusions.
This past week, a mental health professional in our church pointed out a statement that I found to be insightful and much closer to accurate. The statement read, “We are all in the same storm together, but we are not all in the same boat.” The truth is, based upon our past experiences and current resources, though we are all enduring this together we are all seeing it through our lens. Since each of us has different health, relational, and financial dynamics, we can all be looking at the same situation, and yet be drawing completely different conclusions. The concern is, historically, different conclusions have not typically brought people together, they usually just tear everyone apart!
Thomas Jefferson – “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause from withdrawing from a friend.”
Another person said – “I don’t mind differences of opinion. I do mind hate.”
An ancient proverb states – “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
John Gray – “When men and women can respect and accept their differences, then love has a chance to blossom.”
As businesses and churches begin opening up in our world, people are going to have completely different responses. Some are going to celebrate it and forge ahead. Some are going to proceed cautiously with moments of concern. Others, based upon their situations, may continue to stay home and wait things out to see how they unfold. Just like there is no “One size fits all” cure for this, there will be no “One size fits all” response. There needs to be a grace and freedom for people to respond their way!
Maturity allows for a diversity of opinion. Immaturity demands a uniformity of opinion!
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (ESV)
-The first thing Paul points out in this passage is that Christians are not to be prisoners to anyone or anything but him. (The greatest prison we face is our own opinions!)
-Paul then instructs Christians to live worthy of their calling, which is to be humble, gentle, and patient; bearing with one another in love, as we fight to remain unified!
+Paul specifically points out that we must project humility, to have unity!
There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, but imposing ours on others is a problem!
Question: Are we large enough to disagree with others and love them at the same?
Paul lays out two pinnacle biblical values Christians must possess:
> Unity Within!
> Love Without!
If we cannot remain unified internally and loving externally, we forfeit our entire witness!
Jesus said in John 13:35 (NIV) “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)
We need to be the reason people love Jesus, not the reason they hate Christians!
Unfortunately, this pandemic has quickly become politically charged, and the tension is so thick, you can cut it with a knife. Politicians and media personalities have begun attacking people’s responses to this virus directly to their political parties. If someone wants the nation to open up, regardless of their personal needs, they are self-centered, want everyone to die, and care for one political party. On the other hand, anyone who wants our country to stay closed a little longer certainly wishes bankruptcy, depression, and poverty on all human life, and surely supports the opposing political party. Allowing a political or media personality to define our motives for us, and reduce us to one of their political pawns, is both insulting, dangerous, and divisive!!!
There is low hanging political fruit right now, and if you go low, there is plenty of it for you to pick. Don’t take the bait!
The cause of every Christian is not a political party, it is the salvation of souls!
>When’s the last time someone got saved after one of our social media arguments?
>When’s the last time people became better friends after a social media argument?
Paul adds to the call upon Christians in a time like this:
1 Timothy 2:1-3
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, (ESV)
-At the time Paul wrote these instructions, empower Nero, who persecuted Christians, was in power, and believers were living in a very painful and challenging season.
-But listen to what the Bible tells Christians to do in unfair and painful times: Pray for those in authority over you, and live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness!
-You won’t find one Scripture in the Bible that encourages Christians to argue with one another in front of the entire world!
-You won’t find one Scripture in the Bible that encourages Christians to attack the world over their own differing opinions!
29 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. (ESV)
This is not a time for Christians to assign blame or create political divisions. It is a time to pray our leaders, promote peace, and offer grace and space to those around us!
The devil is using 3 specific things right now as bait during this challenging time:
(1) The devil is using Division!
When Christians divide, we do the devils work for him!
22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (ESV)
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. (ESV)
+This final prayer from Jesus at the Last Supper was a prayer for protection over Christians from Satan himself. Jesus’ greatest concern was a loss of unity!
-What’s interesting is that the Greek word for devil used several places in the N.T. is diabolos (Diabolical) and means: one who divides, one who cuts or tears.
-The devil works to divide people from God, and then divide people from people!
A great truth about division with others is that it doesn’t start with them. It starts with us!
Paul said of himself in Romans 7:19 “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
The devil uses our pride, fear, resentments, anger, and arrogance to drive division!
The Bible challenges us in: 1 John 3:18 (NIV) “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
(2) The devil is using Diversion!
If the devil can’t divide us, then he will try to divert us!
To be Diverted (distracted) means: to be turned away from our primary goal or task!
The goal of diversion is to get us focused on lesser things, to avoid focusing on greater things. (If we’re busy fighting one another, we won’t be busy on reaching the lost!)
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (ESV)
(3) The devil is using Deception!
If the devil can’t divide or divert, he’ll try to deceive!
Deception comes in many forms, but one of the most powerful forms is wordsmithing and disinformation. We are living in a season where there are very little facts and an abundance of information. Filtering through what is true and what is false seems almost impossible, as messages and information are withheld, changed, and often shaped daily.
1 Peter 5:8-9
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (ESV)
As David was preparing to take over as king, the Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles 12:32, there as a group of men, the sons of Issachar, 200 in fact, that were not only educated, but used their spiritual discernment to understand the times! They read the moment!
We can’t put our heads in the sand, but we also can’t allow ourselves to become divided!
Use your discernment, investigate the facts, but love others in the process!