The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a Temple to the LORD, the God of Israel. So they approached Zerubbabel and the other leaders and said, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God just as you do. We have sacrificed to him ever since King Esarhaddon of Assyria brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel replied, “You may have no part in this work. We alone will build the Temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus of Persia commanded us.” Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans. This went on during the entire reign of King Cyrus of Persia and lasted until King Darius of Persia took the throne. [Ezra 4:1-5; NLT]
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” [Luke 4:5-7; NLT]
It is critical in these times of moral impotence in the church that we obtain and have the right enemies, but unfortunately, many Christians have cultivated lifestyles that have accommodated and condoned obvious sin, in misguided efforts to avoid making enemies. We just want to “get along” with everyone, but in doing so, we have lost our mandate to lead.
In Ezra 4, above, the example is given of a man appointed by God to accomplish a task, but his working environment came complete with enemies, and apparently formidable ones. Ezra was offered an easy way to avoid the threatened coming conflicts; all he had to do was include these enemies in the performance of his God given task. Ezra chose the difficult path, the lonely path, and in effect, opted for the rejection, scorn, contempt and the risk of physical opposition by remaining exclusionary in his commitment. I wonder, would we do the same today?
Jesus was faced with a similar choice when He was offered the rulership of the world and its kingdoms, minus any personal suffering; a shortcut to His “success” as Messiah. I wonder again, what would we have chosen? But perhaps, over time, we have chosen, for we seem to have opted for religious systems and traditions that obviate the necessity of God’s power to be displayed. For sure, if we had chosen as Ezra and Jesus chose, we would have persecution – as they had. Humans, like animals, naturally shy away from pain and persecution, but in doing so, we deny our super-natural God His right to rule, and ultimately, His right to redeem.
Now more than ever, it is critical that Christians not only have the right enemies, but for the right reasons, for failing to do so is called “compromise”. In order to dodge that conviction, we say we must make the gospel “relevant”. But by “relevant” we actually mean “acceptable”. The problem, as I see it, is that the “Full gospel” is always concurrently relevant and un-acceptable.
If we have the temerity to proclaim the full message of God, we will make enemies – I call them “acceptable losses”. Actually, these are enemies already, and by proclaiming the full counsel of God all we really do is become the catalyst for their exposure as such.
While it is true that God wishes all men to be saved, He does not wish it enough to compromise on His message of salvation. There is only one way, and His name is Jesus.
If we try in any measure to custom fit our ministries so as to make them acceptable to the majority of our peers, we run the risk of compromise. It is sneaky; it is subtle, and all too natural for us to do so in order to avoid being “contentious”, but in God’s eyes it is nothing more than compromise.
The heroes of our faith suffered persecution because choosing not to compromise, they voluntarily chose the inevitable persecution. They rejected the success of this world in order to gain success in the eternal world to come. Paul could have avoided the horrible persecutions he endured during the entirety of his ministry, if only he had been willing to “get along”. He might have striven to be ‘all things to all men’, but never did that indicate a willingness to compromise his message.
Right now, like never before, the church desperately needs to have the right enemies, and for the right reasons. Failing that, all we really have to offer the world is our traditions.
Some things never change.
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