Boldness and Meekness

We are in the middle of a sermon series on prophecy at church. This past weekend, our pastor spoke about the spirit of antichrist that already exists in our world. He spoke about apostacy in the church and the current movement toward diminishing the role of Christ and the Cross in order to accept all faiths and find common ground (tolerance). He read a quote from, I believe, a contemporary religious leader. This person basically stated that the person of Jesus is divisive and if He could be eliminated, all religions could co-exist in harmony and be unified. (I am paraphrasing from memory.)

I have many times tried to point out to others close to me the danger of embracing every viewpoint that is put out by a Christian or "spiritual" author without first determining whether or not the message departs from Scripture. I have suggested these questions: Does the theme or message line up with the Gospel? Or does it promote a different gospel? Does an author's message point us to the Cross? Does it mention the problem of our sin? OR does it point us toward self-reliance, self-esteem, and our own better life and personal fulfillment? This is important because messages are sent to us often in subtle, not overt, ways. And our adversary has an agenda.

The first step toward eliminating the work of Christ on the Cross is to downplay it and make something else the focal point. Often, the new focal point is ourselves. When we elevate man, we lower God and His Son. Jesus did not come just to live a good life and be an example to us of how to live similarly. He also did not come to bring personal fulfillment and happiness. There are many benefits that come to us through faith. But Jesus came into the world to die on the Cross in our place because of our sin. Our sin separates us from God. And through His sacrifice alone we have acceptance with the Father. We do not stand before God on our own merit and we never will. Our only hope is Jesus.

John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

These are the words of Jesus. So if you consider yourself a Christian, yet find yourself embracing something other than His message, you are being deceived. You can't be in Christ and reject or dismiss His claims. And you can't harmonize your faith with superstition and other religions that deny Christ as the Son of God. He can't be simply a good man, a good example or a prophet. Because if He isn't who He said He was, He's a liar. He made some very bold claims. No one has ever been so bold and yet so meek.

We would not normally think of a bold person as a meek person. At first glance, they would seem opposite characteristics. But they are not. Bear with me. I have several thoughts swirling in my head and they do connect (at least in my own head). I'm going to try to bring them together in this post. Hopefully I can make it coherent.

To continue with my story, I came home from church Saturday night and opened my email. Freshly moved by my pastor's sermon, I opened a forwarded message (well-intended by the sender) with the words of the Dalai Lama for 2008 and instructions to send it quietly on its way to others of all faiths. This email, as do so many others, blatantly promoted superstition. I make it a practice never to forward any email that promises good things will happen if I do what it says and/or suggests something bad may happen if I don't. Surprisingly, this message of superstition often accompanies even Christian-themed emails (which may suggest a blessing rather than luck). Superstition prompts the recipient to send it on. But it is the equivalent of a chain letter.

Normally, I just ignore these kinds of emails and quietly do not forward them. But Saturday night, freshly inspired by a moving sermon, I felt compelled to send the response of my heart to just the people on the email who knew me. I explained why I do not forward these kinds of emails and that they promote superstition. I also gently reminded the readers of the words of Jesus and cautioned them, in love, that Christianity cannot be combined with other religions and faiths that reject the claims of Jesus. The words and life instructions may sound good and harmless. But the underlying message undermines faith in Christ. And I don't want to be gently desensitized to that.

I don't want to drift along with the flow of culture. I don't want to embrace feel good messages that do not acknowledge my Savior as the source of life. The time is coming when we will have to stand up for our faith possibly in threatening circumstances. Maybe I need to practice doing this with people I love before I can ever be ready to stand up against those who may one day truly persecute me for my faith in Christ. These were the thoughts and convictions I was wrestling with as I contemplated my response to the words of the Dalai Lama.

I also knew that those who read my response, even though they love me, would probably think I was being a bit radical. I did not want to offend, but I didn't care at all if they thought I was a religious fanatic. In all reality, I'm sure they already do think that. My convictions are strong. And I saw this as an opportunity to share the Gospel and hopefully provoke deeper spiritual thought. So many people hit forward without even thinking about the message being sent. I often ask myself whether my response or lack of response (when one is called for) is loving others or loving myself. If I don't tell someone I love the truth they need to hear (especially about Jesus), do I really love them? Or am I loving (protecting) myself from not being loved (or approved of)?

I had to take this opportunity to say to a few people close to me that the Dalai Lama is not the answer. Karma is not the answer. Jesus is the only answer. Faith in Him alone, not superstition or luck or Karma, is the key to life, truth and eternity. Do not be deceived or lulled into the false notion that there are many paths to God. Again, Christianity cannot be combined with other faiths. Our faith is either in Christ alone or not in Christ at all.

Concluding my thoughts, I said two things about myself. I would rather be thought of as a Jesus nut than in wise agreement with the Dalai Lama. And then I quoted Flannery O'Connor's words: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd."

I don't want to be odd for the sake of being weird. But I don't mind at all being thought of as odd in my overt devotion to Jesus Christ. My pastor often says some people have a fear of going too far (in their faith), but he doesn't. He says he wants to find the edge and take a running leap. Me too.

Nevertheless, after I'd sent my response, I started to doubt myself. Was I too bold? Should I have just ignored it? Would someone feel hurt toward me? I am prone to boldness first and self-doubt second. But my heart longs to do God's will in all things. I don't want to be bold OR meek, as if they are mutually exclusive. I want to be both at the same time. As I continued to doubt whether or not God had led me to say these things, I waited for a response. The next day I got a response from one person saying, "You're right. Thanks for caring about me enough to give me a kick in the butt." I was so thankful. And I thought about my previous post. My role is to do what God asks of me and trust Him for the outcome. I believe with all my heart that God places us in the lives of others for His purposes. I take that role seriously. But in the end, only God will bring forth the fruit. I can only plant seeds and walk what I talk.

Yesterday I was reading about meekness in "Lord, Only You Can Change Me" by Kay Arthur. Jesus was bold and meek at the same time when He told Pilate that he had no power except what had been given him from above. Kay Arthur describes it this way:

Meekness implies submission to God. Not a passive submission that shrugs its shoulders and says, "Oh well, I can't do anything about it anyway," but an active submission, a choosing to accept God's ways without murmuring or disputing. Meekness is neither weakness nor complacency.

John MacArthur has described meekness as "anger under control." But what kind of anger? Because meekness is never self-centered, the anger is not about that which happens to me but rather a righteous anger at what is wrongly done to others.

Further in the chapter (Meekness: Is it Weakness or Strength?) Arthur writes about Joseph and his brothers.

To put it in a single phrase, meekness is humble submission to the will of the Father.

Do you remember how Joseph loved and accepted his brothers -- the very brothers who had plotted his death, then sold him into slavery? Meekness caused Joseph to look beyond the cruel actions of his brothers to the sovereignty of God. And he was ready to accept all of God's dealings with him without bitterness. Do you remember what he said to his brothers when they were trembling with justifiable fear? Joseph was in a place of supreme power. Their lives were literally in his hands! Yet what did he tell them?

Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. (Genesis 50:19-20).

Now that's power under control! Those are the words of a powerful man and yet a man who was meek before the Lord.

Meekness is walking under the control of the Holy Spirit, "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20)...Meekness is not weakness but incredible power under the control and guidance of God Himself.

Where does meekness come from? It's actually part of our inheritance as children of God. As we shall see later, it is a fruit of God's indwelling Holy Spirit. It is birthed in poverty of spirit when we see that in ourselves -- we are nothing, we have nothing, and we can do nothing to please God.

This is one of those times when I have felt for several days like God is connecting thoughts in my mind. I don't know if I have successfully connected the thoughts in this post. But, to me personally, I believe God is emphasizing the connection between meekness and boldness in witnessing to others about the sovereignty of God. We have to first be yielded to God's purposes before we can boldly proclaim His love to others with any effectiveness. And we must have a meek and gentle spirit to accompany our bold stand for the faith. If we truly love others, we will be angry at injustice and wrong. But our love will conquer our anger and our anger will not result in sin. It will result in God bringing fruit from the seeds He allows us to plant in the lives of others.


justme said…
"I have many times tried to point out to others close to me the danger of embracing every viewpoint that is put out by a Christian or "spiritual" author without first determining whether or not the message departs from Scripture."

I so agree with you here, Shari! No matter who says it or how respected they are, we always need to do just that...just like the Bereans did in Acts:

"Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).

Thanks for a great post, Shari!