MAKING GOD AN ADVERSARY

MAKING GOD AN ADVERSARY

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The word frequently translated “opposed” and “resist” is a compound word that means to “arrange against” (Zodhiates, np).  It was a military term describing “to set an army in array against, to arrange in battle order” (ibid.). Louw-Nida tell us it means, “to oppose someone, involving not only a psychological attitude but also a corresponding behavior” (491). This word is found in some form five times in the New Testament. Three of the occurrences refer to a person resisting another person, when the Jews in the synagogue of Corinth “resisted” Paul’s teaching about Christ (Acts 18:6), when people resist governing authorities (Rom. 13:2), and when the poor man did not resist his rich oppressor (Jas. 5:6). The other two occurrences both quote the same Old Testament passage, Proverbs 3:34, which speaks of God opposing and resisting a man. What man? Peter and James quote the proverb, writing, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). 

Perhaps you have made someone powerful your enemy–the principal at school, the boss at work, or someone else who had the power to make your life unpleasant. If you have, you know how difficult it is to thrive and succeed under such circumstances. But the Bible says it is possible to make God opposed and resistant to you. That’s unparalleled unpleasantness! Thankfully, God tells us what triggers such a response in the omnipotent God.

These two inspired writers could have written that murder, adultery, lust, lying, stealing, greed, or hatred draws His active opposition, but both single out “pride.” It goes with insolence and boastfulness in Romans 1:30, arrogance in 2 Timothy 3:2, and blasphemy and folly in Mark 7:22. Each of those passages reveals a dangerous state of mind that comes from turning away from God. 

Arrogance keeps us from admitting wrong, makes us have an inflated sense of self and a lowered view of others, leads to a feeling of self-importance, and is at the heart a self-centered point of view. All of that will damage earthly relationships, friendships, marriages, with fellow church members, and those we deal with on the job and at school. But, even beyond those negative repercussions, sinful pride makes God an enemy! Think about that. When we allow pride to take root in our lives, God arranges Himself against us. Imaging God in battle order against me conjures an image of the most uneven fight possible. Pride may cause misery and damage in my relationship with others, but more than even that it effects my relationship with Him!

The antidote is the same in both Peter’s and James’ writing–“humility.” Not pretentious, but modest and obedient to His will. It’s being lowly in heart, able to see and admit wrong and guilt, having a fair and realistic view of self that acknowledges when we are wrong. Is it easy? No! Is it fun? Not at all. But, when we actively work at being humble and eradicating pride, God will fight for us and not against us. I get to decide which way I want it! 

It is our custom for the elders to give the parents of our newborns a Bible. No wonder God uses children to illustrate humility! Here is just the latest couple of presentations, with several more to come in ’21!

Blessings

Blessings

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

How does Jesus feel about us? He created us, became human, and let us kill Him so He could make a new deal with us (Heb. 9.15-17). Most disregard Him, many are outright hostile. How could He love us at all? Because we know how most view God, it’s easy to lump ourselves into the same group as the hostiles. 

Ephesians gives some awesome insight into how Jesus feels about his people. 

1.3 – He gave us spiritual blessings through His sacrifice. 
1.4 – He had us in mind before He even started creating things. 
1.5 – He intended to make us part of His family. 
1.6 – He gave us grace. 
1.7 – He died to give us freedom. 
1.7 – He gives us forgiveness. 
1.9 – He told us what He wants. 
1.11 – He is going to give us an inheritance.
1.11-14 – He knows His own, and He’s looking to get us back home. 

 He didn’t just do nice things for us, though. Here’s how He feels about it: 

1.5 – Love motivated Him. 
1.5 – He wanted to do it. 
1.7 – He’s generous with His grace. 
1.8 – He’s generous with His grace. 
1.9 – He wanted to do it. 

We don’t deserve Him, but He loves us to death. We let Him down, but He gives us grace. He’d have every right to be exasperated with His imperfect family, but He’s not. People get on our nerves and societies fall apart, but we have the best family on the planet. Remember whose you are when you’re discouraged. No one wants you more than He does! 

 

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
1 Peter 3.8ff is a passage with tons of application. What I’d like to do is simply break it down and apply as we go.
 
3.8 –   Is addressed to every Christian, as opposed to the gender-specific commands of the previous section. Christians are told to have a unified mindset, understanding of the needs of others, affection for each other, compassion for each other, and a sober view of self.
 
3.9 – In the context of being ridiculed or outright persecuted for faith, we’re commanded not to stoop to a hostile person’s level. Instead, we are only to say good things to and about them. The word for “bless” here would be like us giving a glowing review of someone, even when they’re hostile to us. Why? Because God promised us a glowing review, even though our lifestyle was hostile to Him before we were faithful.
 
3.10-12 – If we want to have good days, we have to control our tongues, reject evil, and actively do beneficial things for others. If we do, God looks at us with approval. If not, He is against us.
 
3.13 – If we pursue doing good things with energy, no one can say anything against us. Who can assault the character of someone passionate about bringing good into others’ lives?
 
3.14But even if they do is a contrast not as plainly seen in English. This verse starts with a powerful contrastive (αλλα) that points to how we should act in the face of totally unwarranted hostility. Even if our pursuit of good gets us in trouble, we can still be happy! Even in this life we cannot lose. We cannot let fear dictate our behavior, and we cannot let anyone’s intimidation cause us to react with hostility.
 
3.15 – Instead, we should make the most special place in our heart God’s place. We don’t serve fear, we serve God. If someone shows hostility to us when we’re doing good, we have to be ready to give a rational explanation for our hope with an attitude that proves our supernatural allegiance. Our fear of God must be greater than our fear of man.
 
We do this because our goal is to bring others to God! It’s hard, but we can only do it when we remove self from the equation. People tend to attack what they do not understand. By using reason and by restraining our emotional response, we can help save their souls. We were all hostile to God at one point, but we now have mercy. Being controlled and rational while under “attack” is not a normal human response. Our response can mean the difference in someone’s eternal destination!
A Hostile Witness

A Hostile Witness

Neal Pollard

There is an overlooked work that should be avoided, but may be more commonly practiced than is thought.  Yet, as the Holy Spirit through Paul included it in a larger category of works, it must be something with which even many Christians struggle.  It is mentioned in the list of fleshly works found in Galatians 5:19-21 and is simply called “enmities” (20).

The word is found nine times in the New Testament, from the Greek “ἔχθρα”, and its general meaning is, “Enmity, hostility, hatred, both as an inner disposition and objective opposition (Rom. 8:7); plural, of hostile feelings and acts animosities, hostilities, discord, feuds (Gal. 5:20)” (Friberg & Miller, 183).

Hostile feelings, unchecked and not repaired, lead ultimately to ungodly behavior toward others that can even cause division.  Another adds, “[“enmities” is] a general term referring to hostility or unneighborly acts of any kind or form” (Arichea & Nida, 138). How do “enmities” arise and is this something which you and I may fall prey to?

Enmities arise by holding a grudge.  In fact, it can be very difficult to know when you cross the line from the one to the other.  When you harbor feelings of resentment toward someone from an offense, real or imagined, it will eventually grow into hostile feelings and possibly hostile acts.  The old law warns against bearing a grudge and even makes it antonymous (i.e., opposite) with love (Lev. 19:18).  The Lord tells us what to do when we have a problem with a brother or sister (Mat. 18:15ff).  If we do not follow this, to whom are we listening?

Enmities arise through prejudice.  Prejudice occurs on much more than the basis of the color of one’s skin.  Prejudice is nothing more than a preformed opinion, one formed without all the facts but instead through “insufficient knowledge, irrational feelings, or inaccurate stereotypes” (Encarta Dictionary).  How often, based on how we think, feel, or believe another to be, do we work ourselves up against another and allow enmity to rule our hearts?

Enmities arise when the mind is set on the flesh (Rom. 8:7).  Paul is contrasting the Old Law with the gospel of Christ in this context, but he reveals a compelling principle.  When we fail to live spiritual lives, but instead make our decisions driven by our passions and fleshly inclinations, we open ourselves up to works like enmity.  Incidentally, this same bent will lead one further and further down the road of those ensuing works in Galatians 5.  Notice that this hostility is pointed toward God and His law (cf. Jas. 4:4), but it will impact our demeanor and attitude in all relationships.  This hostility plays out “in the flesh” (Rom. 8:8), the very activities and attitudes upon which Paul focuses in Galatians 5:19-21.

Are you and I immune from “enmities”?  We can strengthen ourselves against such especially through the “antidote” of love in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  Love actively seeks and strives for others’ good.  If we sincerely give our hearts to loving others, our brethren or the lost, we will have a harder time harboring hostility and hatred for them.  Maybe if we will take the time to know others better and try to get insight into their circumstances, struggles, and challenges, it will temper our feelings toward them.  It will certain demonstrate that we are led by the Spirit and not by the flesh!