by Mike Ratliff
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV)
The character and the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ is not well understood by the majority of people on planet Earth. In fact, many professing “Christians” have an image of Him in their understanding that is based upon fleshly reasoning. This “other” Jesus is not Biblical for the most part. They have given their Jesus a whole new set of values and traits that conflict sharply with the Jesus presented in the Gospels in His own words. In fact, many of their attributes of “their Jesus” come directly from how he is portrayed in pop culture.
One of the most damaging false images of Jesus that we have among us in the 21st Century is one that presents Him as a man of peace no matter the cost. When false doctrinal positions are brought into the light and so that the error can be dealt with Biblically, the supporters and quasi supporters of that false doctrinal position will often declare that those who are doing this are not Christlike because of their virulent attacks against what amounts to lies about God and His nature. They declare that Jesus would never do that.
The fact that they say or write something like that is a clear indication that they don’t know the real Jesus who is presented in scripture. Jesus was very blunt and vocal in His opposition against false religion and its leaders in His day. He presented God the Father and His nature to everyone who would listen and never compromised the message of the Gospel nor did He flinch from presenting the truth in stark black and white–right and wrong. Jesus did not give us gray areas open to interpretation. People are saved or lost. People are sheep or goats. People obey God or they don’t.
In this post we are going to look at a teaching by our Lord taken from Matthew 10. In this chapter Jesus prepares His twelve disciples to go out on their first missionary journey. He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every afflictions. (Matthew 10:1) Before sending them out Jesus instructed them about what to expect when they took the same uncompromising, black and white, right and wrong stance on God, His character, His ways, and the Gospel. The warnings Jesus gave them are not just for these men on this specific mission. They have been proven to describe the world’s reaction to Jesus and the Gospel from the beginning to our current time in the 21st Century.
Jesus instructions about what to expect when they proclaimed the truth can be broken down into five main points. First, not everyone will believe. Second, persecution will come to those who proclaim the Gospel. Third, even so, have no fear because they are in the Father’s hands. Fourth, the Gospel divides people into two groups, believers and unbelievers. In this there will never be peace. Fifth, Righteousness before God will result in eternal rewards.
Back in 2006 I was teaching in my Sunday morning Bible Study class in a former church about the high cost of standing for the truth. When I mentioned that persecution was coming, I was scoffed at by several of the people in the class. This puzzled me for quite a while. Then when this church went head-over-heels into the Purpose Driven deception, I was ostracized and looked at as a trouble maker and dissenter because I refused to stay there if they went down that path. I told the truth to the pastor and those leaders who were enabling him to pull it off, but I was simply ignored. I presented a very well researched 8 page paper that showed the Biblical fallacies of the Purpose Driven Church model. I gave it to the pastor and within a couple of hours lost nearly every friend I had in that church. My wife and I left that church the following Sunday and never went back.
I was contacted by some of former class members who told me that the Church body had completed the 40 Days of Purpose. One of my students saw the truth and left right after we did. The rest stayed and, I assume, are now Purpose Driven. About five years later I was at a shopping center and ran into the deacon who was the main driving force, the head enabler, behind the move to take that Church into the Purpose Driven deception. He and I were not antagonistic. He told me had heard about my blog and wanted the url. He pulled out his cellphone and I gave it to him. He promised to check it out. I never heard from him again.
Several years ago when the coming persecution of Christians was talked about it was always assumed that in the US that it would come from the government. It never occurred to me or anyone else that I know of at that time that it would come from within.
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)
God’s truth divides people. Of course it does not divide those who believe God and are genuinely saved by grace through faith. At least it shouldn’t cause persecution. There may be disagreements, but not all out war. On the other hand, there are many professing Christians and Christian leaders who are anything but. They are unregenerate and teach a false gospel that gives them power or privilege or license. It is not the genuine Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that brings God’s peace into hearts. The sword of division that Jesus has brought into the world divides the true from the false, the believer and unbeliever, the genuine Christian from the false Christian.
The genuine Gospel creates Christians who will never be satisfied with superficial religion. They are regenerate and are New Creations who partake of the Divine Nature of God. Because of this, they will always have a passion to live uncompromising lives based upon God’s nature and ways. When other people put pressure on them to conform to the ways that are different then the sword that divides comes into play. Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 10 makes it very clear that we must never compromise our stance on the truth even when the pressure to do so comes from loved ones or our church family.
Jesus’ teaching in this passage was that we should not be surprised when we are persecuted for Righteousness’ sake. This is the natural function of the sword that divides. Not only are we not to be surprised, but we are to not fear the evil that can come upon us. All in Christ are eternally in God’s hands and control. People may persecute us even unto death, but all that does is send us to be our Lord that much quicker. We may be tempted to compromise when the division that will happen if we don’t is between us and someone we care about very much, but we must always put our Saviour first.
All in Christ are at peace with God. All not in Christ are God’s enemies and are children of wrath. Our job is to tell the truth of this and give everyone who will listen the Gospel. We do no one any favors if we soft-sell this. We must tell the truth and let the chips fly. Several years ago I was on a friend’s blog commenting on a particular post that because he had asked me to read it. Several self-proclaimed atheists were commenting there as well. The discussion went on for a very long time. It got to the point where one particular atheist kept challenging our faith attempting to use man’s reason. After I while I just could not stand it anymore and simply told the man that the Gospel had been clearly given to him by many of us over the length of the discussion and unless He believed he would go to Hell when he died. He called me many unprintable names and had to be censored by my friend who owned the blog. Then he started attacking my blog using comments that were insulting and vicious. I turned him over to Akismet as a spammer.
This is normal folks. If the Gospel message being preached never causes this sort of reaction from some people then something is wrong with the message. Jesus told us what would happen to us if we preached His message to the world. The fact that, at least in the US, that since this is a rarity, it is a clear warning that what is being preached is something other than the genuine Gospel. Hence, that is why I left my former church because they were preparing to preach a corrupt gospel which is the heart the Purpose Driven Church model.
Never stop praying for the repentance of those who are preaching from the platform of spiritual darkness. Never stop praying for God to send a great awakening to the Church. Never stop praying for strength and wisdom and opportunity to tell the truth to people God brings into our sphere for a divine appointment with the Saviour. Never stop praying for superficial “Christianity” to be obliterated by the light of the truth being shown into it. Never think that you are self-sufficient and capable of tackling the darkness all around us without God right there with you. Never stop praying for me and this ministry to be used for God’s glory alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!