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Expectant Prayers 

Jennifer Jo Weiss

Enemies and Toxic Relationships (Part 4)

Yesterday we talked about the enemy of our souls and how he is the source and root of contention in our lives.  We battle against his effects in the world daily.  Now let’s bring this topic down a little closer to our personal lives.

 ENEMIES IN THE WORLD:

There are people who hate you because you are a Christian.  In our country alone, there is a lot of anger and hostility toward the conservative Christian view.  Certain topics such as abortion, gay rights, and politics add fuel to the fire.   Let’s face it – SIN divides… and you should not feel guilty for that.    There should be a clear division between the people of God and the people of the world.  The Scriptures tell us over and over to come out from among the world and be separate.  It tells us to be holy as He is holy.  But rather than the body of Christ (the church as a whole) holding the plumb line for unbelievers, we dismiss, justify, and tolerate the plumb line being moved.  What’s almost inconceivable is the fact that what is holy, just, and righteous is being so persecuted that some are falling away from the faith because their Biblical stance is viewed by others who do not know Him as intolerant and unacceptable.  It does not take long for individuals or churches to lower their standards as well to keep up with what the world finds acceptable or tolerable. 

Jesus is a rock; solid and immovable – not a bendy straw; hollow and flexible.

 People who watch you in everyday life may not like you because you are a Christian or simply because… they just don’t.    Now, we somewhat expect the enemy to be “without” (as in the world), but what happens when the enemy is within?    Should we be saying, “I have seen the enemy and it is US!”

ENEMIES WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST:

Are there enemies within the church?  You betcha.  Not everyone that says, “Lord, Lord” shall enter into the kingdom.  This deception is great; widespread and severely damaging.   It’s a stumbling block, causing some to abandon the faith.

THE ENEMY WORKS IN INDIVIDUALS:

I remember when we first started in ministry and I encountered an undesirable situation at church.  I was a young pastor’s wife with duties of my own to perform at the church.  Apparently leadership roles make you an instant target.  There were a few particular ladies that were kind to me in person, but would gossip about me when I wasn’t around.  One (I was told) would roll her eyes every time I went past her or left the room.  Part of it was simply the fact that I was ministering and in a position of leadership and authority.  The other part was probably being young and an irritant to certain individual’s insecurities.  Pastors and ministers encounter this frequently and you need to have tough skin!  I couldn’t understand why anyone would do that – after all, I hadn’t done anything to cause their dislike that I was aware of.   Other similar situations occurred at other churches we were in – either to us or others that we observed.  Motivations and intentions are questioned; hostility arises, and the enemy has a field day!  Sometimes the rifts are our fault, but many times they are not.  All of us must be careful and examine ourselves daily so that we too will not slip and fall and be a source of contention.  We must daily yield to the Spirit and subdue our thoughts, emotions, and flesh.  1 Corinthians 11:31-33 says, “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.”

Wounds from those who are not in the body of Christ are more understandable and easier to take than those from within the ranks of the church itself.  Why? Because we almost expect it from people who don’t know Him.    It’s often said about churches that they are places that wound and kill their own sheep!   Even at times when correction is needed in the body of Christ, we must act by prompting of the Spirit and approach situations with love, not hostility.   In the same vein, we should not shirk from being righteously indignant.

Sure, there are those within the body that will fail to yield to correction and out of their own hurt, knowingly or unknowingly wound others.  That’s when the Shepherd (pastor) needs to step in and take care of the situation!    Sometimes the devil will plant certain people within the church.  Don’t think so?  Think again!

This type of enemy is so damaging to many churches and sadly, most pastors are unaware – or if they are made aware – still fail to protect the sheep.  Wrong attitudes, tolerance of sin or other improper behavior, failure to truly make Christ the head, and even spiritual conditions like apathy can spread like a cancer through the individual church body. 

But let’s get even more personal.  What happens when someone close (friend or family member) claims to be a Christian, yet is detrimental to your own spiritual life?  Can this happen?   Sure it can. 

Again, we can clearly see that friendship with the world is enmity toward God, but with those who claim to be Christians?   Sometimes unrepented or tolerated sin or failure to recognize what sin really is grips those who claim to be in the body of Christ.  Straying from the perimeters of the Bible, they only want to hear what their itching ears want to hear.   Godliness is filling hearts and lives without and within the church today.  Let’s read 2 Timothy 3:1-4 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”  This is happening within the walls of the church across the world - especially loving pleasure in their services (whatever appeases the flesh) and caring more about themselves than becoming a servant of God.

1 Corinthians 5:12 tells us to judge within the body…” I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

Did you catch that?  HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM!  These are tough times for Christians who have rightly divide the Word of truth.  Sometimes relationships have to be severed or severely limited in order to remain in right standing with God.  We get so caught up in the message of loving everyone and keeping peace that we fail to give God’s judgment  or righteousness, holiness, and sanctification their due.   I guess the question becomes – what is more important to you?  Is preserving earthly relationships more important than your relationship with God?  Ask Abraham!  He was willing to part with his only son, Isaac, in order to remain obedient to the Lord.  Who do you love more? 

Let’s read in Matthew 10:34-39

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn" 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,
   a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Did you catch that – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household?  If we love our family more than God – we are not worthy of Him?  A lot could be said there, but allow the Spirit to speak to you.

Tomorrow I will touch briefly on how the enemy works through churches (not the body of Christ, but individual fellowships or movements), whether or not restoration of relationships is a guarantee, and what we should do when the enemy attacks!

 

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