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Brand New Enemies

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/19/2019

This Spring we’ve explored how when we trust Jesus, and abide in Him, we become New Creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 talks about how the old passes away, and the new comes. God gives us a Brand New Self … Heart and Mind, … Family—His Church. In coming weeks were going to explore how God gives us a New Purpose and New Body. Today I want to talk about how when we abide in Jesus, we get brand New Enemies!

There are two ways you can understand this idea that when we abide in Jesus, we get “Brand New Enemies.” First, we live with this mistaken notion that or world is totally “okay” with Jesus. People are certainly okay with their own, personal version of Jesus. For many, Jesus is a kind of blank screen unto which they project all their hopes, dreams, aspirations… their thoughts, opinions, and ideals. People are okay with the rather anemic portraits of Jesus found in pop culture. But people don’t find the actual, Biblical, Jesus quite so endearing. One of the most shocking things you can do is introduce people to the REAL Jesus! Jesus is quite out of step with about everything that’s mainstream. If you bow to Jesus as Lord, it’s going to have a ripple effect.

2 Timothy 2:12 says, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” In Matthew 10:21-22 Jesus says, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” In Matthew 10:16-18 Jesus says, “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, because they will hand you over to local courts and flog you in their synagogues. 18 You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me, to bear witness to them and to the Gentiles.” Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus pronounces a blessing with a warning, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This last week I was reading a publication by Open Doors. Open Doors serves persecuted Christians worldwide. They’ve been documenting the rising violence Christians are experiencing. In most parts of the world Christians are the “low-power class.” In Communist countries. Hindu. Islamic. Even in secularized countries (where Christianity is still the dominant religion). There are so many places where Christians have no rights, no privileges, no political standing, so little power.

It all comes down to power, control, fear, intimidation, suppression. Believers are dragged before hostile courts, denied fair representation, falsely imprisoned, discriminated against (jobs, education, opportunity), threatened, silenced, separated from families, put into reeducation camps, left hungry/ naked/ thirsty, beaten, killed, homes/churches burned to ground. Some of the same patterns of persecution we’ve seen around the world are beginning to emerge right in our backyard.

We can’t be naïve about the ramifications of following Jesus—but neither should we be afraid. God is in control. God is sovereign. God has a purpose and plan. In the end, God’s people prevail. Whatever price we pay now, We will richly rewarded. Until the last day, here we will remain, as God’s witnesses. Sadly, yes, we get New Enemies.

But there is a second sense in which, when we abide in Jesus, we get “Brand New Enemies.” I think its best illustrated by the life of a man named Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a religious zealot. By his own self-description, he was a leading Jew. Circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, A Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, a prominent teacher of the law, blameless in his observance of Moses’ Law, a self-appointed protector of Judaism (Jewish faith).

Saul was HORRIFIED by the rise of the Christian sect. Here people were proclaiming Jesus rose from the dead. Large numbers of Jews, including priests, were following Jesus. When Saul confronted a believer named Stephen, the Jews were enraged in their hearts. As Stephen testified, they gnashed their teeth, they screamed at the top of their lungs, they covered their ears. Finally, they bull rushed him, threw him to the ground, and began to stone him. As the sand absorbed Stephen’s blood, Saul was standing there giving his approval. Acts 8:3 says, “Saul was ravaging the Church. We would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.” Again, Saul’s self-description. 1 Timothy 1:13, “I… was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…” Acts 26:9-11, in his own words, “I myself was convinced that it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests. When they were put to death, I was in agreement against them. In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to make them blaspheme. Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.” Saul would have been featured in Open Doors report.

Not many can relate to the idea of feeling terrorized. When I was in grade school, there was a dirt trail that snaked alongside horse creek. Me, my friends, had a blast peddling our bikes down that trail. One day an older kid named Kevin showed up on the trail with a moped. Kevin was an interesting cat! Kevin was skinny, ragged, upkept. He smoked weed and always carried a pistol. Back in that day, he was known as a “stoner” but none of us would dare call him that! He thought nothing of sticking that pistol in someone’s face and threatening them. My friends started taking turns riding his moped up and down the trail. Finally, I got a turn—and wouldn’t you know—I crashed his moped into a tree. It was totaled! The moment I realized what I’d done, I ran home as fast as I could. I wasn’t going to hang around and Kevin would shoot me. I’m sure I set a sprint record—I ran home faster than my friends could peddle their bikes.

For the next 4-5 years of my life, Kevin stalked me everywhere. He knew where I lived. He knew my path to school. He knew my paper route. He knew all my friends. He had this blue/white Chevy truck with a loud muffler. Whenever I’d hear his truck circling the block, I’d try to hide, but it was useless. He’d grab me and demand money. I would get so upset. One time my dad found me after an encounter with Kevin and demanded I tell him what was going on. Dad worked with Kevin’s mom at the factory. So after I explained everything, Dad drove me straight to Kevin’s house and he confronted Kevin’s mother! Oh my… that just enraged him more. He’d taunt me, “You going to go crying to your daddy… give me my money punk.” The only silver lining was that my fear of Kevin kept me home and out of trouble.

DESTROY OR REDEEM?

A few years ago, I started to recognize something about Scripture—especially the New Testament. When it comes to our enemies, God has this desire to make them brand new… brand new as in “2 Corinthians 5:17 brand new creations in Christ Jesus.” God wants their “old” terrorizing ways to pass, and the “new” come. What must it have been like for the early church to hear of Saul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus?

In Acts 26:12-25 Paul tells his story to King Agrippa: “I was traveling to Damascus under these circumstances with authority and a commission from the chief priests. … while on the road at midday, I saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, shining around me and those traveling with me. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

15 “I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”

In Acts 9:26 were told how, “When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple.” It wasn’t until Barnabas vouched for Paul that the Apostles received him! How many people would have preferred God DESTROY Saul, yet God had in mind to REDEEM Saul. What do you imagine is harder? Enduring persecution from our enemies… or seeing their conversion? This was the same crisis faced by Old Testament prophet Jonah. The conversion of Ninevah!

DO GOOD OR EVIL?

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus asked us to seek first his Kingdom and His Righteousness. This means in prayer, exchanging a desire for vengeance and destruction, with a desire for redemption. Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

With such a changed attitude God is also seeking changed actions and tactics. When you read the Bible, we’re called into a posture of love for enemy, suffering in the flesh, and submission to God. But keep something in mind—the overwhelming majority of Christians through the ages have been in low-power status. As Americans, if we get wronged, we have virtually unlimited means at our disposal. We have social media, political power, influence/clout, money, courts, laws, basic justice, people willing to advocate for us, a vote, a voice. We have the right to bear arms, to protect our homes.

In stark contrast, the weak, the vulnerable, the outcasts, the powerless have little other recourse but taking a posture of love for enemy, suffering in the flesh, and submitting to God. Romans 12:9-21, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, [d] says the Lord. 20 But ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. 21 Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”

The question before us what do we most want? Destroy or Redeem? Do we have the courage to ask God to exchange desire to destroy with a desire to redeem? Do Good or Do Evil? Do we have courage to love our enemy, suffer in the flesh, and submitting to God… making room for him to work?

This past week Oliva was telling me about her trip to Rwanda. You have no doubt heard about the Rwandan genocide. In a country considered 98% Christian, the Hutus and the Tutsi tribes turned against each other. The Hutus used ordinary tools of agriculture, like this machete, to massacre Tutsis. If you break into my office, I have a Louisville slugger and this machete at my disposal.

After the violence subsided, Ministries of hope and reconciliation began pairing Hutu murderers with Tutsi survivors. Can you imagine? As a gesture of hope/ reconciliation they took what was an instrument of violence and turned it into an instrument of blessing. They used their machetes to build houses for the surviving Tutsi tribe members.

Cross: Communion. In Rome, the cross was an instrument of terror. Only God has the power to take something so horrific and turn into a symbol of grace, peace, hope, redemption. What was used to DESTROY God used to REDEEM! But the Cross became so much more. The cross became a pattern of living, that we’d following Christs footsteps. The cross is a call for us to DO GOOD NOT EVIL. To love our enemy, to embrace suffering, to remain in submission to God, inviting him to make our enemies brand new creations in Christ Jesus.

Scripture Verses

Acts 26:9-28; Matthew 5:43-48, Romans 12:9-21

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