Reject Your Own Opinions

Two young ministerial interns, Russ and Toby, came to live with the John and Karen Wright family.  Karen counted it a privilege to have them share her home.  She had high expectations of their mission to learn and serve the congregation and was proud that she would be a good example for them.

The young men had two very different personalities.  Russ rode a motorcycle and looked a bit like a rock star.  He was zealous for the things of God and diligent in his responsibilities.  Toby, on the other hand, seemed shallow in his relationship with the Lord and more interested in the baseball box scores than doing ministry.

John and Karen took off a weekend to visit a nearby city and left the young men on their own.  When they came home, Russ was at church and Toby was sitting in the midst of the living room watching television and working the box scores.  The fact that he hadn’t bathed was obvious.  The house was a mess.

“Why aren’t you at church?’ Karen inquired barely concealing that she was seething with anger.  This was not what she had signed up for.  She was not interested in housing a slothful young man who was shirking his responsibilities.  ‘I couldn’t get a ride,” he responded.  “Well, you have one now.  Get cleaned up, and I will take you to church.”

The air was tense in the car as they sped over the road the seven miles to the church campus.  When they got there, she dropped Toby off at the door and went looking for the Pastor.  When she found him, he was teaching a class.  She walked to the door and when he looked her way, she beckoned him to come out of class.  “Pastor, Toby is not what I thought I would get when I agreed to take in these interns.    He was at home in a horrible mess when we came back from our weekend.  He is here at the church now.  I want him out of my home and I want him out now!” she said with emphasis.  “Would tomorrow be soon enough?” Pastor sighed.  Toby moved out the next day and she made excuses to Russ as to why he was gone.

Pastor called her and John in to confront Toby in his office.  It was less than satisfying to all the concerned parties.  After Toby left, Pastor looked at Karen and said, “You are an opinionated woman!”  Karen felt justified as she thought her opinions were right!

Today’s Lesson:

Karen had an opportunity to cover Toby and be redemptive in his life but instead she rejected him.  She justified herself and her opinions.  The Bible teaches us that love covers a multitude of sin and also, that we will know Christians by their love.  Where was the love in Karen?  She was judge, jury and executioner.

Toby finished his internship but his experience wasn’t good.  He returned to Bible College and thought that all Christians were like Karen.  The story leaves us wondering if he ever found the true love of God in others.

Since that time, Karen has learned a great deal and had an encounter with the Most High God.  He dealt with her and gently helped her see that her opinions were not His.  He helped her to reject her own opinions.  Father God showed her that passion is a good thing if it lines up with His will for us, but when it is based on our opinions, it is dangerous and destructive.  God healed her heart and she forgave Toby through the Holy Spirit who lives in her.

As Christians, we are passionate about many things.  We are opinionated about the political process.  We have ideas about how the church should be managed and what the color the carpet in the sanctuary should be.  We have ideas about what the right doctrine is and end up dividing from friends and congregations over basic issues like baptisms and tongues.

The point of today’s lesson is that we need to reject our own opinions and find out what God wants in each situation.  When we speak what we consider to be the truth based on opinion, we abuse the young believer and actually hinder his relationship with the Lord.  The Bible says that it is better to have a millstone (a huge rock) hung around your neck and be tossed into the sea that to hurt one of His little ones.

The next time you find yourself in an impassioned conversation filled with judgment, condemnation and opinion, stop, quiet yourself, and invite the Lord to cleanse and purify your opinion so that it lines up with His.  It may be necessary to excuse yourself and get alone with the Lord.

We see in Scripture that we can speak like the very angels of heaven but without love, we are profited nothing.  The next time you see another who is walking in error and you want to rush in and deal with it, remember to reject your opinion and choose love over condemnation.  The amazing thing will be that your heart will change and the wonderful peace of God will reign in the place of opinion.

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Minister of Death

The Pastor stood up in the pulpit.  He was a strikingly good looking man his hair graying a bit and a wonderful resonating voice.  He looked out over his congregation still reeling from the last counseling session is his office the day before.  How could anyone be so involved in so many sinful things?  He just didn’t understand.  Images had penetrated his mind that he just couldn’t shake.  He took a deep breath and began.

After an hour of coming against sin and admonishing everyone, by reminding them that every sin led to death, he begged them to give up anything in their lives that would cause them to come to judgment.  His own heart ached at the things he sometimes thought about.  He told them that “lust led to more lust, anger to more anger, dishonesty to more dishonesty, envy and strife to confusion and every evil work.”  He diagnosed their condition, but gave them no remedy.

He was quite worked up and the people sat in shock!  Their pastor had never before been so forceful.  Everyone sat in the pew, condemned and without hope.

This well intentioned pastor was a “minister of death.”

Today’s lesson:  When we try to be good enough, there is always someone to point out that our efforts are futile.  It is a misery that shows us exactly why God gave us the Law.   It is a bit like the diet started on Monday morning.  After you eat something that is not in the plan you just think, “Well, I blew it, I may as well finish that cake I made for the family.”

The purpose of the rules of the Law was to teach us that we can’t do it on our own.  All of our attempts, at keeping the whole Law,  end in frustration and disappointment.    Lifting up sin never leads us to freedom.  The Bible tells us that when we lift up Jesus, He will draw all of us to Him.

The pastor drew no one to the Lord that day.  He showed them their utter hopelessness without the Lord of Love.  His own sin loomed bigger and bigger as he spoke the words of judgment and condemnation over his listeners.

Jesus offers us grace which produces life.  Our job – our work is to believe on Jesus that God sent.  (John 6:29)  Our work is believing.  His work is doing in us what needs to be done.  Believing and trusting in Him sets us free.

So, do you want to be a minister of life or a minister of death?  Telling people all that they have done wrong never changes them.  We are told in Scripture that “the goodness of God leads people to repentance.”  Rom 2:4.  Repentance is a Bible word that means change.  It is turning away and turning around.  We look to Jesus instead of our sin.  We look to the Father instead of our own personal strength and ability.  We trust it all to Him.

As we turn to Him, His life – the ‘zoe’ life of God – grows bigger in us and we become freer and freer.

Why does the church minister death?  The Apostle Paul said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”  (Galatians 1:6, 7)  This precious pastor never meant to lead people to a different gospel and a different Christ, but ‘there are some who want to trouble us and pervert the gospel.’  There is a demonic realm that interferes with us and we must be ever vigilant.  He wants to steal our freedom and put us back under condemnation.

There is only one Gospel.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Grace and  Love.  It is not about our sin.  It is about how He purchased us out of sin with His own blood and lavished His grace upon us.  Now we share with Him all of theblessings that Father God has provided for us.

‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing therefore, choose life that both you and your descendants may live!’  Duet 30:19  It is a generational promise!