Offense

(Mostly from "The Bait of Satan", by John Bevere)


Luke 17:1-5, "Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith."

The immediate response of the apostles, after Jesus told them to forgive their brother, was, "Lord, increase our faith!" The miracles had not inspired a cry for greater faith, but the simple command to forgive those who have wronged you. In this, we can be assured that when we answer the simple command by Christ Jesus to forgive those who have wronged us, we will receive the blessings of an increase of faith.

Often those who are offended without extending forgiveness do not understand the trap they become ensnared in. They are oblivious to their condition because they are so focused on the "personal" wrong that was done to them. They deny forgiveness. The most effective way for the enemy to bind us is to cause us to focus on ourselves. Only those who care about us can hurt us. We expect more from them. Weíve given more of ourselves to them. The higher the expectations, the greater the fall.

For the unforgiving man, pride draws him away from the truth. It distorts his vision. We never change when we think everything is fine. It hardens the heart and dims the eyes of understanding. It keeps one from the change of heart and repentance which will set us free. Pride causes the feeling that he's been victimized. The unforgiving attitude becomes, "I was mistreated and misjudged; therefore I am justified in my behavior." Because he believes he is innocent and falsely accused, he holds back forgiveness.

If we do not deal with an offense, it will produce more fruit of sin, such as bitterness, anger, and resentment, which are signs of unbelief. These additions harden us just as alloys harden gold (Heb.3:13). This reduces or removes tenderness, creating a loss of true love. We are thereby hindered in our ability to hear Godís voice. Our accuracy to see is darkened. It becomes a perfect setting for being drawn away from Him through our own deception.

Our Father refines His children with afflictions, trials, and tribulations, the heat of which separates impurities from them, such as unforgiveness, strife, bitterness, anger, envy, and so forth from the character of God in our lives (Isaiah 48:10, 1 Peter 1:6-7). Sin easily hides where there is no heat of trials and afflictions. In times of material prosperity and success, even a wicked man will seem kind and generous. But under the heat of trials, however, the impurities surface. One may ask where all your anger is coming from. It is no different than when gold is liquefied in fire and the impurities show up. The impurities in gold can't be seen until itís put in the fire, but that doesnít mean they were not there. When the fire of trials hit us, these impurities surface.

To paraphrase our Lord, "In my greatest hour of need, my closest friends deserted me: Judas betrayed me, Peter denied me, and the rest fled for their lives. Only John followed from afar. I had cared for them for over three years, feeding them and teaching them. Yet as I died for the sins of the world, I forgave. I released all of them, from my friends who had deserted me to the Roman guard who had crucified me. They didnít ask for forgiveness, yet I freely gave it. I had faith in the Fatherís love. I knew that, because I had sown love, I would reap love from many sons and daughters of the Kingdom. Because of my sacrifice of love, they would love me." (Read Matthew 5:44-47).

An offended brother or sister is harder to win than a fortified city (Proverbs 18:19). The strong cities had walls around them for protection. The unforgiving construct walls when they are hurt to safeguard their hearts and prevent any future wounds. They become selective, denying entry to all those they fear will hurt them. They filter out anyone they think owes them something. They withhold access until these people have paid their debts in full. They open their lives only to those they believe are on their side. Yet often these people who are "on our side" are offended as well. So, instead of helping, the unforgiving stack additional stones on their existing walls. Without their knowing when it happens, these "walls of protection" become a prison. At that point, the unforgiving are not only cautious about who comes in, but in terror they cannot venture outside their prideful fortress.

Love does not seek its own, but hurt people become more and more self-seeking and self-contained. In this climate, the love of God waxes cold.

An example of this can be found in our Father's creation, when we look at the two seas in the old holy land. The Sea of Galilee freely receives and gives out water. It has an abundance of life, nurturing many different kinds of fish and plant life. The water of the sea of Galilee is carried by way of the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. But the Dead Sea only takes water in and does not give it out. There are no living plants or fish in it. The living waters from the Sea of Galilee become dead when mixed with the hoarded waters of the Dead Sea. In this, we can see that life cannot be sustained if coveted (self-contained): it must be given and received freely.

When the natural man filter everything through past hurts, rejections, and experiences, he finds it impossible to believe God. The human being cannot believe God means what He says. the natural man doubts His goodness and faithfulness since he judges Him by the standards set by man. But God is not a man (John 4:24). He cannot lie (Num.23:19). His ways are not ours, and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9, 1 Corinthians 6:7, Matthew 5:44, Philippians 2:3). When Jesus was wronged, he did not wrong in return, but committed his soul to the Father, who would judge righteously. We are admonished to always follow His steps (1 Pet.2:21-23). Whatever wrong may come our way, we are already healed by Him.

How many leaders have cut off men under them because of suspicion? Why are those leaders suspicious? Because they are not serving God. They are serving theor own vision. Like Saul, they are insecure in their calling, and that breeds jealousy and pride, They recognize qualities in people that they know are godly, and they are willing to use those people as long as it benefits them. Saul enjoyed the success of David until he saw it as a threat to him. He then demoted David and watched for a reason to destroy him.

Offended people react to a situation and do things that only appear right in their own eyes, even though they are not inspired by God.


We are not called to react but to act

We can learn from examples in our Father's creation concerning His order of things. For instance, plants and trees. When a fruit tree is put in the ground, it has to face rainstorms, hot sun, and wind. If a young tree could talk, it would react in this situation much like the faithless natural man reacts. It would say, "Please get me out of here! Put me in a place where there is no sweltering heat or windy storms!"

If the gardener listened to the tree, he would actually harm it. Trees endure the hot sun and rainstorms by sending their roots down deeper. The adversary they face is actually the source of great stability. The harshness of the elements surrounding them causes them to seek another source of life. This is our Father's desire, that through fiery trials, all souls seek Him.

Most Floridians and Californians know that the colder the winter is for trees, the sweeter the oranges. If the offended did not run so fast from the Father's trials, their root systems would have a chance to become stronger and deeper, and their fruit would be more plentier and sweeter in the eyes of God and more palatable to His people. They would be mature trees that the Lord delights in, rather than ones uprooted for their lack of fruit (Luke 13:6-9). We should not resist the very thing God sends to mature us.

Read Psalm 1:1-3 and 119:165. A true believer who chooses to delight in the Word of God in the midst of adversity will avoid being offended. That true believer will be like a tree whose roots search deep to where the Spirit provides strength and nourishment. This will mature him to the point where adversity will now be the catalyst for fruit. Then he is able to gain further insight into the Lord'sí parable of the sower (Mark 4:16-17).

A believer who is truly resting in the Lord, and has therefore ceased from the works of darkness, is a completed child of God. He is mature. He chooses the ways of the Father, not his own ways. Just as Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered (Hebrews 5:8), we learn obedience by difficult trials and tribulations we face. When we obey the Word of God, we will grow and mature in times of conflict and suffering. Our knowledge of scripture is not the key. Obedience through faith is.

Now we understand one reason why we have people in "the Church" who have been "Christians" for twenty years, who can quote verses and chapters of the Bible, have heard a thousand sermons, and read many books, but still wear spiritual diapers. When confronted with difficult situations, rather than responding by the Spirit of God, they seek to protect themselves in their own way. When this occurs, they are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of Truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Why? Because they never apply it.

Truth must be allowed to have its way in our lives if we are going to grow and mature in the Lord. It is not enough to give mental assent to it without obeying it through true faith. Even though we continue to learn, we can never mature through disobedience. There is an old proverb which states, "Once a dog has been scalded with boiling water he will even fear cold water." How many today are afraid of the cold water that will bring refreshing because they have been burned once and cannot forgive?

Jesus desires to heal our wounds, but we too often do not let Him heal because it is not the easiest road to take. It is the path of humility and self-denial that leads to healing and spiritual maturity. It is the decision to make another's well being more important than our own, even when the other has brought you great sorrow. Pride cannot travel this path, but only those who desire peace at the risk of rejection. It is a trial which leads to humiliation and abasement. It is the road that leads to life.

For a pastor or teacher to hold on to (covet) everyone who comes through "his" doors he will eventually have to compromise the truth. But, if he preaches uncompromising truth, people will be offended, and they will be uprooted and leave. Do not grieve over them, but rather continue to feed and nurture those who seek and love the truth.

Some leaders avoid confrontation, afraid of losing "their" people, especially the big givers and influential people in their church or community. Others are afraid of hurting the feelings of someone who has been with them a long time. As a result, this breed of pastors and teachers lose the God-ordained authority to protect and feed the sheep entrusted to them. A wise man once said, "Stay in your authority, or someone else will take it from you and use it against you."

Scripture does not record that our Master reacted to any of the men who deserted Him. His only delight was to do the will of the Father. In doing so, the greatest number of people would receive His blessings.

Our Lord would not be controlled by others. He spoke the truth even if it meant confrontation and offense. If you desire the approval of men, Godís anointing cannot fall upon you. You must purpose in your heart to speak the Word in truth and honor His will even at the risk of offending others.


The Rock of Offense

Jesus offended those of his own hometown (Matthew 13:55-57). He had come to his own hometown to minister. But he was unable to bring them the liberty and healing he had brought to so many others, because of the hardness of their hearts. These men and women were saying, "Who does he think he is teaching us with authority? We know who he is. He grew up here. We are his elders. He is but a carpenterís son. He has had no formal training."

And Jesus did not compromise the truth in order to keep them from being offended. The people there were so angry that they tried to kill him by pushing him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-30). Even when his life was in danger he continued to speak the truth.

Jesus offended his own family members (Mark 3:21,31-35). Even those of his own house were offended by him. They were not pleased with the pressure that was being put on them by what he was doing. They found it hard to believe he was behaving the way he was. His own family thought that he was out of his mind (beside himself). Notice that scripture says His family went out to take him into custody (lay hold of). Mark identifies those relatives as Jesusí own mother and brothers who later found him preaching in someoneís house. Even Johnís Gospel says his brotherís did not believe him (John 7:5).

Many have not realized that Jesus was rejected by those who were closest to him. But it was not the acceptance of his household he was concerned with. He would not be controlled by their desires. He would fulfill the Fatherís plan whether they approved or not. His own mother and brothers may have thought he had "lost his mind," but because of his uncompromising obedience to the Father, they all ended up saved and in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. James, his half brother, became the leading apostle of the Lord's assembly at Jerusalem.

If we compromise what the Father tells us in order to please our family members, we will lose the fresh oil in our lives, and we will hinder them from being set free.

Our Lord offended his own disciples (John 6:60-61,66). Things were already tough enough as it was. The religious leaders were plotting His death. His own hometown rejected him. His own family thought he was out of his mind. To add more pressure, many of his own disciples left because they were offended. But Jesus still did not compromise. He just told those who were left that they were also free to go if they wanted to. The only thing that mattered to Him was fulfilling the Fatherís Will. If he had been left standing alone that day, it would not have changed his heart. He knew that He was to obey his Father.

Jesus offended some of his closest friends (John 11:1-3). Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They were very close to Him. He spent time with them. He knew by revelation that Lazarusís sickness would lead to death. It was a very serious matter. But Jesus stayed where he was for two additional days (John 11:6). When he finally came to Bethany, Lazarus was already dead. Martha and Mary each said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21,32). In other words, "Why didnít you come immediately? You could have saved him!"

Both sisters were offended. They sent a messenger to tell him, and he delayed for two days. Their Lord did not respond as they expected. He didnít drop everything; instead he followed the leading of the Holy Spirit. As always, this was best for everyone. However, at the time, it looked as if He was a Lord that did not care.

In the same manner, ministers are often tempted to allow their listeners to control them. They think they have to do everything the people ask of them. At times they are afraid that if they do not fulfill "their peopleís" expectations they will hurt their feelings and lose their support. They are trapped by the fear of offending others. They are controlled by their own people, not God. As a result, little of eternal value can be accomplished iwithn the congregation through that breed of minister.

Jesus offended John the Baptist (Luke 7:18-20). Why does John ask Jesus if he is the coming One, the Messiah? John was the one who prepared his way and announced his arrival: "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Luke 1:29). He was the one who said, "This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:33). He even said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Luke 3:30). John was the only one who really knew who Jesus was at that time (it had not yet been revealed to Simon Peter).

So why is he asking, "Is Jesus the Messiah, or do we look for another?" Put yourself in his place. You have been the man on the cutting edge of what God is doing. Multitudes upon multitudes of people have received ministry from you. You have the most talked about ministry in the nation. You have lived a life of self-denial. You have not even married in order to maximize the full potential of your call. You have lived in the desert eating locusts and wild honey and fasted often. You have fought the Pharisees and been accused of demon possession. Your whole life is spent preparing the way for this coming Messiah.

Now youíre in prison. You have been locked up for quite some time. Very few people are coming to visit you because the attention of the people you prepared are now turned to Jesus of Nazareth. Even your own disciples have joined this man. Only a few are left to serve you. When they come to see you, they bring stories of how this man and his disciples live a very different life from yours. They eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners. You say to yourself, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove on him, but is this the behaviour of a Messiah?"

The temptation to become offended grows greater the longer youíre in prison. "This man for whom I have spent my life preparing the way has not even come and visited me in jail! How can this be? If he is the Messiah, why doesnít he get me out of this prison? Iíve done no wrong." So you send two of your faithful disciples to question Jesus. "Are you the coming One, or do we look for another?"

The response of Jesus is prophetic (Luke 7:21-23). He quotes Isaiah, a book very familiar to John. The passages in Isaiah 29:18; 35:4-6; 6:1 apply to all that Johnís disciples had observed while they waited to question Jesus. They bore witness of him as Messiah. But he does not end it there. He adds, "And blessed is he who is not offended because of me." He was saying, "John, I know you donít understand all that is happening with you and many of my ways, but do not be offended with me because I do not operate as you expected." He was urging John not to judge by his own understanding of Godís ways in the past and in his own life and ministry. John didnít know the whole picture or plan of God, just as we do not know the complete picture today.


Offense without apology

Even if you are trained-up in the ways of the Lord, as John was, you will still be presented with the task of not being offended with Jesus. If you truly love and believe on Him, you will fight to stay free from offense, realizing that His ways are always higher than yours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Also, if you are going to obey the Spirit of God, people will be offended by you. Some will not understand you as you move with the Spirit (John 3:8). Donít allow their unpleasant response to deter you from what you know in your heart is true. Donít quench the Spirit to please the fleshly desires of men (1 Peter 4:1-2).

When you truly live, move, and have your being in Christ Jesus, you will not fulfill the fleshly desires of men. As a result, you will suffer in the flesh. Jesus suffered his greatest opposition from the religious leaders. Religious people believe God operates only within the confines of their parameters. Many of them believe they are the only ones who have an "in" with God. If Jesus offended religious people as he was led by the Spirit two thousand years ago, those who follow Him today will surely offend them.

If anyone challenges the truth of His Glad Tidings, offense without apology cannot be avoided. We must determine in our hearts that we will obey the Spirit of God and His Word no matter what the cost. Then we will not have to make the choice under pressure, because it will already have been made.

Some may say, "God never did anything for me! I tried Christianity, but my life only became more miserable. I prayed and asked God to do this, and he did not do it!" They never laid down their lives for their proposed Lord, but instead, tried to align themselves with Him for their own personal benefit. They served Him for what He could give them. They were easily offended. Our Lordís description of them is in Mark 4:16-17. Notice that He said they were quickly offended because they had no foundation. In what are we to be rooted? We find the answer in Ephesians 3:16-18. We are to be rooted and grounded in love. Our love for God is our foundation. But we must always remember that "...love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10), and He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Love is not a feeling, it is sacrifice.

In Hebrews 11:35-39, we find the record of those who never saw the fulfillment of their promises from God and still never wavered. They had decided God was all they needed, no matter what the cost. They believed Him even when they died without seeing the promises fulfilled. They could not be offended! This is undying faith.

We are rooted and grounded when we bear this sacrificial love and trust in God. No storm, no matter how intense, can ever move us. This does not come by strong will or personality. It is a gift of grace to all who place their confidence in God, throwing away the confidence of self. But to give yourself in total abandonment to Him, you must truly know the One who holds your life in His loving arms.


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