by Mike Ratliff
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV)
If an enemy attacks we will respond one of three ways. We may choose to fight or we may choose to not react or we may choose to respond in love. My natural response is to fight, however, when I am in false humility mode where I am trying to please God in my flesh (wrong choice), I will respond by doing nothing or even ignoring the one(s) who are attacking. Since that is usually how I respond, that should tell you what a struggle it is for me in this battle with my pride.
Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them. That means that the third option is the one we must choose. How can we? Is this natural? No, it isn’t. Only the Spirit-filled or Spirit-led believer can do this consistently.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)
We are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. That is not to submit only to those we love. We are to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39) There is a predominate teaching in the Church these days that says God doesn’t want believers to suffer or be persecuted or belittled or mocked or taken advantage of. I challenge anyone who holds that teaching to justify it after reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is or example.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)
We are called to be active in our faith, not passive, in our walk before the face of God. Genuine humility is active and its expression through us via the moving of the Holy Spirit within us is to respond to all circumstances as Jesus would. When we are Spirit-filled like this we will see others as more important than ourselves. Since our faith is active, we will also look after the interests of others, not just our own. Notice, our unity with the brethren is based within this active faith.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)
Jesus’ sheep are called to have the mind of Christ. That means that we must also take on the form of a servant. Who are we to serve? We do this when we submit to others. We also do this when we turn the other cheek and love our enemies and pray for them.
Servants must put their master first, not themselves. Joel Osteen preaches a message that is totally self-focused. His whole message is focused on blessings flowing from God to the people. Any good works are done for the blessing. Any giving is done so more can be received. However, Jesus example for us is to put God first, serve Him and possess our treasure in Heaven rather than here on Earth.
On the other hand, don’t we look at our suffering as what good thing God is going to work in us through it? That is still self-focus. Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. God told him that His grace was sufficient to deal with it. God is glorified when we are Spirit-filled because that is the only time we are genuinely humble. We cannot make ourselves humble by trying to be so via will power. That, again, is false humility. Genuine humility is a fruit of being Spirit-filled, which God commands us to be.
What are the means of being Spirit-filled? We must confess our sins then surrender our will, intellect, body, time, talent, possessions, and desires to God. Selfishness must die along with self-will. We can do this only by taking the Word of Christ (scripture) and letting it indwell and infuse every part of our being. This is to be filled with His Word. As we do this we will live in consciousness of the personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, as if we were standing next to Him. Then we must let His mind dominate our lives. This is having the mind of Christ. When we have the mind of Christ we walk through each day by walking thought-by-thought, decision-by-decision, act-by-act under the Spirit’s control. This means as we prepare to make a choice or decision we also listen to the speaking of God’s Word in our hearts in comparison to what we are preparing to do. If we are to maintain a walk that is Spirit-led then we must surrender each of these decisions to the Spirit instead of insisting on our own way.
If we choose to surrender, we will remain Spirit-led and will grow in grace and humility. On the other hand, if we choose self-will then we become like a sailboat that has tacked so that the wind is no longer filling the sails. We must confess our sins and repent at that point, fully surrendering ourselves to God. If we do this then God is gracious and, in His timing, will allow us to turn our sails once again into the wind of the Holy Spirit who will move us in the direction God desires for us to go.