Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
There was an old joke or riddle that went, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” How would a man respond? If he said “no,” it was tantamount to confessing to being a wife beater. If he said “yes,” it suggested that he was a former wife-beater. Either way, the conundrum had him struck. Have you ever had someone try to place you into such a bind?
It has been said that the only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing. If you are striving to serve Christ and fulfill your purpose as a Christian, there is at least some likelihood that you will be opposed and even accused in some way. Jesus discusses that very matter in Luke seven. He’s teaching His disciples and compares His generation to children who criticize no matter what a person does—some criticizing people for being too somber, others criticizing people for being too festive. Jesus uses that illustration to speak of how God’s enemies criticized John the Baptist and then Himself. The criticism revealed that if John had acted like Jesus and Jesus had acted like John, the critics would still have been dissatisfied.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus did not give us a manual for handling labeling, libelous critics? He does not say to write books or articles, preach sermons, get on TV or the radio, and the like, spending the precious resources of time, money, and influence countering the charges of those who are seemingly not content unless they can bully or intimidate their prey into conforming to the gospel according to them—the arbitrary standard for others they have created and uphold.
Here is Jesus’ summation: “Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” What does that mean? Look at the offspring of the teaching. What is the result of Jesus’ ministry? People are taught the truth, led to live the way God wants, and are pointed to the narrow way. Criticisms notwithstanding, that’s the fruit. Speaking of which, Jesus also uses that analogy in the sermon on the mount. He begins and ends the analogy with the idea that “you will know them by their fruits” (Mat. 7:16,20). But, this is a fair test for everyone.
What is the fruit of the hypercritical attacker? Not only ask if what they teach is technically true, but do they meet the tests of honesty, consistency, kindness, fairness, and love. Do they demonstrate the spirit of Christ, bear the fruit of the Spirit, demonstrate the Christian graces, fulfill the inspired definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13, act like the new man, and the like? So often, we do not stop to inspect the inspector. Whether we do or not, the Lord will inspect the work of us all at the end.
Each of us must focus on pleasing God and being absolutely sure that we are submitting to His authority and obeying His will. The standard of judgment at the last day will not be the man-made rules of even the potshot-takers, but instead the words of Christ (John 12:48). Let us be careful to grow in our knowledge of His will each day so we can discern between divine expectations and human regulations. At the end, what we should desire is heavenly vindication. The rest will ultimately take care of itself.
A seat in coach may look fine until you see the people in first class with their seats that lay flat, who get chef-catered meals, and the like. That cell phone is adequate, but then you see the newest, smartest one on the market. It can be the difference between the GM beater and that brand new Gallardo. Most people, given the choice and especially if changing is advantageous, would choose the new over the old. Spiritually, that is definitely the choice to make–old man to new man (Eph. 4:22-24). But have you made the upgrade? Here are five tests to take to determine this.
Your Talk (Eph 4:25). Lay aside falsehood and speak truth to your neighbor because you care about him or her. How is your speech–deceptive, half-true, distorted, manipulative? Or are you transparent and truthful?
Your Temper (Eph 4:26). This does not mean free of anger, but it does mean a self-control that keeps anger from becoming sinful and wrathful. How is your temper–short, hot? Or are you calm and patient?
Your Tempter (Eph 4:27). Everyone has the same tempter. He is prowling and waiting for a way into our lives. Are you giving him opportunity or preventing such?
Your Trustworthiness (Eph 4:28). The contrast here is between stealing and honest labor, not taking but finding a way to give to the one in need. Do you earn or destroy trust?
Your Tastefulness (Eph 4:29). Paul has already addressed speech, but this is not about honesty or dishonesty. This is about wholesome words and strengthening speech, that which is timely, uplifting, and gracious. Are we savory salt or “poison” (Js. 3:8)?
Whatever you get, buy, or are given in this world, make sure you get that upgrade! Throw out the old! Pursue the new!
This morning while running indoors with Rob Sinclair and Bob Turner, we happened to notice a news story about a woman who just completed 52 half marathons in 52 weeks. That alone is impressive, but then we learned that Aurora De Lucia had open heart surgery in 2010. She was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White, a rare congenital heart condition. She had an extra pathway to her heart, and several complications that extended halfway through 2011. With her repaired heart, she became determined to complete the incredible fitness goal and she reached her goal (via http://www.laketahoenews.net).
Most of us without the excuse of a serious heart problem will not ever be able to say we ran 52 half marathons in a year, but she did it under such adverse circumstances. What a difference a “new” heart made for Aurora. She proves the power of perseverance and wears the decoration of determination.
The Bible tells us that, spiritually, we can achieve even greater feats with a “new heart.” From the time the exilic prophet Ezekiel foretold a time when Judah would have a “new heart” (36:26), Bible writers spoke of the possibility of a renewed heart and mind. Paul spoke of it to Corinth as the renewed inner man (2 Cor. 4:16) and to Ephesus as being “renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph. 4:23). He tells Colosse that this renewal process is brought about by true knowledge (3:10).
A “new heart” is pure (Mat. 5:8; 2 Tim. 2:22), honest and good (Lk. 8:15), glad and sincere (Ac. 2:46; Eph. 6:5), resolute (Ac. 11:23), open (Ac. 16:14; 2 Cor. 6:11), circumcised (Rom. 2:29), obedient (Rom. 6:17), believing (Rom. 10:9-10), enlightened (Eph. 1:18), compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient (Col. 3:12), loving (1 Pet. 1:22), and assured (1 Jn. 3:19). The old heart is none of these things and described with words like lustful (Mat. 5:28), distant from Christ (Mat. 15:8), defiled (Mat. 15:18), hardened (Mat. 19:8; Eph. 4:18), Satan-filled (Ac. 5:3), uncircumcised (Ac. 7:51), not right (Ac. 8:21), darkened (Rom. 1:21), stubborn and unrepentant (Rom. 2:5), veiled (2 Cor. 3:15), unbelieving (Heb. 3:12), deceived (Js. 1:26), selfishly ambitious (Js. 3:14). and trained in greed (2 Pet. 2:14).
Thankfully, one can have his or her heart transformed from that wretched, latter condition with God’s help. His Word, with its convicting and instructing power, can work on the heart (Heb. 4:12) and renew it! With a “new heart,” we can impact lives and destinies–including our own. At the very end of all things, the Righteous Judge will note such as the greatest accomplishment of all time and eternity! Oh, think what we can do with a new heart!