Defeating Our Human Nature (Part 9. Variance - Let's Play "Devil's Advocate")
About above picture: When the apostle Paul noted this sin of variance he used the Greek word eris (er'-is) which means "a quarrel, a wrangling-contention, calculated debating, the sowing of strife." He chose this particular word because he was also issuing a challenge to all those who would believe in the Greek goddess of discord, named Eris. (pictured above, who was also known as Discordia to the Romans)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (9 of 18 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture quotes are mine *
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God?" (Micah 6:8)
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh...
...For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be of led the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness,lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath,strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:16-26)
***********We First Started With A Series On The Fruit Of The Spirit***********
A Short Review Of The Series So Far...
When the subject of aberrant behavior comes up in discussions, one of the basic arguments to excuse bad or sinful acts is to say that such things are in our DNA, in our basic human nature. The term "human nature" is used to say that we (in part) cannot help the things we do because it is anatomically or chemically in our very makeup to behave in certain ways. The argument asserts that we are part of the animal kingdom and, as such, are in many ways similar to animals who react with instinct. The proponents of this theory use the premise that evolution has changed some behaviors, but that with the right set of circumstances, some behaviors can resurface to manifest themselves in thinking, rational people. For example, defense attorneys may argue that a primal sense of survival or of conquest may contribute to a crime such as rape or murder. These also maintain that if a certain behavior is not hurting anyone, or is not obviously affecting anyone to their detriment, that behavior is natural for them and can be practiced. This is because, they say, there are no absolutes, no right or wrong, and that the idea of sin is only a fabrication of the mind. So if there are thoughts that society as a whole deem as harmful in a person's mind, those thoughts will be called fantasies if they are not acted upon. Indeed, some married couples act out such "fantasies" and think nothing of it. Many people continually have thoughts that cross the line of propriety. It is not uncommon that couples role play and include such things as sex with strangers, or the inflicting of pain, or even rape in their sex life. Psychologists have no problem with that as long as they are "only fantasies" that do "not hurt anyone."
We have delved into these things with this series. As far as the Bible is concerned these theories themselves are signs that we humans have sunk deeply into our sins and are mired in them. We cling to them and cherish them until God works in our lives to eliminate such self-destruction.
We have already completed a nine-part series based on the Galatians passage above showing the positive effect of God on an obedient heart. These positive qualities that the Holy Spirit perfects in His children are known as the Fruit of the Spirit. After this study was completed we began an examination of what happens when people do not listen to God, listening instead to their own fleshly inclinations.
We humans tend to hoard moments of guilty pleasure into the private places of our own mind. As these places of pleasure in the mind continue to grow, it is necessary for the mind to organize and invent ways and behaviors to protect these treasured, secretive acts of sin. All our "pet" sins are treated this way if left to our own flesh to dissipate them. These thought structures and their manifested outward habits are known as works of the flesh.
The apostle Paul broke the idea of rebellion into 16 different specialty sins that that sinners practice to the level of expert status. These are built up in the private places of the mind to protect their favorite sins and preserve them in the sinner's life. These thoughts and behaviors we speak of, the Scriptures call "strongholds" because they are placed there like a fort to preserve those sins in that person's life.
The first stronghold that Paul mentioned in the Galatians passage above is adultery. We learned that adultery is much more than an indiscretion against one's spouse but is an affront to God, who is our spiritual Husband on a grand scale. Next was the almost universal sin of fornication. We learned the subtleties of this sin and just how easily it slips past a person's guard when that person is not focused continually on Christ. We also learned of the great damage even a little indulgence in this vile sin will do to a life and one's family circle. Next, we examined the spiritual condition uncleanness. The lesson included how we, as sinners, enjoy the sinfulness of this world, relishing its spiritual filthiness. The lesson taught the need to regularly go to Jesus to have Him spiritually "wash [our] feet," cleansing us from the filth of this world. Lasciviousness (depraved mindset) was next on the list and in defining lasciviousness, it was disclosed how lightly we see promiscuity, sexual sin and deviant behavior, even making heroes of those practicing it. Next, we discussed idolatry and its prevalence in the world today. We looked at ancient religions and then spoke of the practice in our culture of creating an idol out our own selves, out of our own minds, bodies, and wills. Sixth in our list of works of the flesh was dealing with the subject of witchcraft and on the misconception that witchcraft is harmless in its religious form. We also included a Biblical definition that includes drugs and other practices that God's word includes in that group of sins. Next was the work of the flesh known as hatred with its Biblical definition. We saw how hatred is fostered in this world by vilifying God and the things of God. We also considered the origin and source of the world's hatred.
This installment of our series deals with a sin that most people would argue isn't a sin at all, but merely a "downside" of one's personality. They would argue that most mature people turn this part of their mental/emotional makeup into a skill set that is essential to their success. We shall look into the sin of variance.
Welcome Back To Our Series On Defeating Our Human Nature...
Some of the best stories ever told are the classic good verses evil stories. The good protagonist faces what looks like sure destruction as the antagonist works behind the scenes to oppose everything the hero of the story stands for or needs to accomplish. Early on in a well-spun yarn, the evil opposer of good sows seeds of discord among the townspeople. He sets plans in motion that he counts on to gradually increase his evil influence and power. As the story unfolds, you get to know the plans of the evil force with which the good must constantly battle. Yet there seems to be some force of evil behind the scenes even greater that motivates and causes so much damage. Suddenly, you see the instrument of evil that the hero must battle has not been the source of the evil at all, but merely Evil's minion. For example in Star Wars the evil one that Luke Skywalker had to battle was Darth Vader, but Vader was only a minion of the Emperor and the Dark-side of the force.
In a great story the evil is really evil, and in contrast, the good is very good. The Bible is the greatest story ever told. It contains the Greatest Good (the Lord God Creator) and it contains one who opposes that good who is the father of evil (Satan the Devil). This greatest story shines its light on the minions which the Good must fight and exposes the evil one that sits back and motivates all the mayhem.
The minions, are of course, Satan's demons and sinners who willingly listen to their devil-motivated flesh. Since our fall from grace in the garden of Eden man has borne the burden of sin. Jesus died and gave us a way to cleanse our standing before God but we still are left with a body that loves to sin. Sin feels good for a season and that is our burden. We must deny the season that the flesh would make into a lifetime-long experience that would surely end in our death.
"Jesus said to them [the Pharasees], 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceed forth and come from God; nor have I come from Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.'" (John 8:42-44) .
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart [the mental seat of motivation], I test the mind, even to give to every man according to his ways." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
"When He [Jesus] had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, 'Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.' Then His disciples came and said to Him, 'Do you know that the Pharasees were offended when they heard this saying?' [The Pharasees were a sect of Judaism that believed that the traditions of their religion should supersede the words that Jesus was teaching. They were angry because they were not understanding that Jesus was referring to the sin in the heart manifested in a person's speech. Speaking in this sense angered the Pharasees, who had enforced the ceremonially unclean things of the law. Plus the Pharasees had added so much more to the Word of God so that what they were teaching was an abomination to Christ. Eating "unclean" foods would not declare a person spiritually unclean, but the heart which was full of sin, would.] But He answered and said, 'Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.' Then Peter answered and said to Him, 'Explain this parable to us.' So Jesus said, 'Are you still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things that proceed out of the mouth [speaking of words and evidences of sinful thoughts that will be present in speech] come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.'" (Matthew 15:10-20)
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12; Proverbs 16:25)
The man-made religion of the Greeks and Romans contained many gods and goddesses. Each had their role to help create harmony in the universe. Using flawed men as the models for their gods, they realized how often two people or even one person will stand out in a crowd and begin to hold sway over others. Once one person has all the power, tyranny begins. They were not going to have that happen in their belief system. There would be no One God to control everything. The pantheon of gods that the Greeks and the Romans had were thought to bring a balance to the universe. Each god had his or her place and each was necessary for the power of the gods to be stabilized.
As the mythic goes, Eris was the only god not to be invited to the wedding of the sea goddess Thetis and Peleus, a Greek human king who dallied with the gods. The goddess Eris decided to go to the event despite the lack of an invitation. When she got to the door, the guard would not allow her to enter so she threw an apple made of gold in the midst of all the goddesses. The apple was inscribed with the saying, "To the fairest" (most beautiful). Being prideful, of course the goddesses would argue and each would consider themselves the fairest. The resulting struggle between the gods was the origin of the Trojan war.
Each Greek child was taught that this element of discord is an absolute necessity for the smooth working of all things.The lesson of this story for impressionable young minds was that without Eris (variance, discord) present in the universe, one god would surely become too powerful. One had to conclude that if the gods must have discord among them than surely humans must acknowledge Eris in all of life. If one did not use discord as a tool to reach harmony, that person was mocking the natural order of things and the goddess herself. To have a balance, there had to be good and bad in everything or suspicion would arise that something was amiss. In their mind there was no such thing as a God that is all-good, a God whose word could control everything flawlessly. They maintained that there is no stand which is pure, but all laws, mandates, and opinion have some truth and some lie contained within.
The idea of discord being an essential element to life is still in many people's minds. Many will constantly insert discord into discussions so there will be opposing sides to an argument, thinking that is what makes for the best outcome, when what was needed all along was God's opinion and the Bible's viewpoint instead of just a phony harmony evolving out of contention. We will discuss more about this in a moment.
Paul was purposely laying down the gauntlet to any who would think that variance or discord was a necessary evil in life. He could have used the word dichazo (dee-khad'-zo) used in Matthew 10:35 which means "to pull apart, cut asunder, alienate" literally: "to divide and conquer." This type of discord God also sees as sin, but eris was the best word to use in this instance. It served to hit a sensitive spot in the popular belief system of the day.
"Think not that I [Jesus] am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance [dichazo] against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be those of his own household." [Jesus' presence in the lives of people would cause the sin to rise up within the household and have a dividing effect on them. Satan would use dichazo as a tool to divide and conquer the family for himself, extinguishing any growth or work for God.] (Matthew 10:34-36)
Using variance as a tool to divide and conquer has been in the devil's arsenal since the beginning. It is one of many weapons he uses in an attempt to destroy the things of God. It is helpful to look at the Hebrew equivalent of a Greek word to give a perspective to its understanding. A student of the Bible must always remember that our Christian roots were laid in Israel. Each concept we consider in the Greek has a corresponding word in the ancient Hebrew that will shine a bright light on all New Testament ideas and concepts. In Proverbs 6 the word for variance is the the Hebrew word madown (maw-dohn') and Proverbs 28:5 uses the word meribah (mer-ee-bah') as the Greek equivalent of variance. Madown means "quarreling, brawling, contention, discord." Meribah means "quarreling, murmuring, opposing, chiding" (i.e. people chiding with Moses at the "waters of Meribah" in the Numbers account).
"And the people contended with Moses and spoke [most of the time using Dathan and Abiram or Jannes and Jambres as spokesmen for them] saying, 'If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.' So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them. Then the LORD spoke to Moses saying, 'Take the rod; you and your brother gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and to their animals.' [on a previous occasion, God had told them to strike the rock and it would bring forth water. The apostle Paul had relayed to us in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the rock was Jesus. The striking of the rock previously was a picture of the crucifixion that would be done once for all time.] So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock [Jesus]; and said to them, 'Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?' Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod [in this symbolic act Moses, making a show to reprimand the people, struck the rock. The act disturbed the symbolic gesture made previously, he in effect was symbolically crucifying the Lord Jesus a second time. Christ's sacrifice was to be once for all time]; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe Me, to hallow me in the eyes of the children of Israel, [Here God lets us know also that the notion of speaking to a rock was hard for Moses and Aaron to believe. I have to think that it was for their unbelief that God was chastening them. Moses, I believe, knew on some level why he was to only speak to the rock. His anger and his frustration worked to expose his unbelief. Be it known, sin will always find you out.] therefore you [Moses or Aaron] shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.' This was the water of Meribah because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them." [Moses and Aaron's punishment served to reinforce the holiness of God. God will always be hallowed in the end, because He is God.] (Numbers 20:3-13)
"Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do also these resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith." (2 Timothy 3:8)
"They angered Him also at the waters of strife [meribah], so that it went ill with Moses on account of them; because they rebelled against His Spirit [the Rock was Christ], so that he [Moses] spoke rashly with his lips." [Moses spoke as if the Rock was of no importance "do I have to bring forth water from this rock." and did not acknowledge the Rock as the source of the water.] (Psalm 106:32-33; see also John 4:13-14: "Jesus answered and said to her, 'Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.")
In the account of Moses who was chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, there were those whose goal was to undermine all that Moses said and did. They sowed seeds of discord in the ear of a willing rebellious mob of people who on several occasions had picked up stones to kill the messengers of God. You can see all the elements of discord (eris) in this story of the Exodus. The goddess Eris, in Egyptian mythic corresponds to the god Seth who initiates chaos, inserts the necessary evil and essentially did the job Eris was believed to do in the later civilizations. In the story of the exodus, you see the spokesmen for the discord were Dathan and Abiram. (Num.16:27) They used the sin of madown / maribah to cause rumor of incompetence in Moses, to say that Israel was better off as slaves in Egypt; to say that death and evil will befall them if they were to listen to Moses. It was Dathan and Abiram who were the minions of Satan, who influenced them to counter God's will at every turn. Of course, Satan's aim is always to work the destruction of God's will and people. Dathan and Abiram were willing pawns of the evil one just like Darth Vader was to the Dark Force in the fictional Star Wars saga.
Following the concept in its definition from the Hebrew and on into the Greek languages, the word variance means "to stand as an obstruction to the things of God by being quarrelsome, by being an irritant, by endless debating and sowing of discontentment and discord." Essentially it means "taking a stand in the background against God as the devil's advocate."
In this sin, a person must deny the absolute truth of God so that he can maintain his self-delusion of fairness. He is convinced the discord he sows will work to cause the changes he thinks is best, and until the goal is reached, he wishes to see those he opposes in pain and disarray. In their mind, they may even think they are working for the common good by sowing discord but they are really taking a stand against the notion that God knows best. Their aim is to work toward the goal of God losing influence. They are, for the most part, the unknowing but willing pawns of God's enemy the devil when they question the things of God and influence other people to doubt the infallible word. In an effort to undermine His power, they work in the background to undermine the Bible and those who would stand for its principles. They can be counted on to raise dissension at every turn and to come up with a counter-argument for what is the truth of God's word and principles.
The quick turn of a phrase or a well-placed sentence or two to the right person easily influenced, will serve to make doubt loom and fear grow. This serves to weaken a victim of variance until he is frozen, afraid to move God's way. The placing of a false logic or a false premise can stir up feelings of opposition that is not based at all on truth but merely on the falsehood of humanistic reasoning. Satan invented the concept of variance in the Garden of Eden when he whispered in Eve's ear, "Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the Garden?" (Gen. 3:1) This is the first instance of variance in the Bible, although the Bible does mention that Satan did some of the same stuff to draw away a third of the angels (stars) into evil at the time of early creation. (Rev. 12:4)
"A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth [devises words to say to manipulate people for evil]; he winks with his eyes [in a false sense of joking he lays traps], he shuffles his feet [he does not walk with righteous purpose but calculates how to move in life in order to slow others movement toward God], he points with his fingers [use of false accusation and confrontiveness], perversity is in his heart [the secret motive behind everything is to destroy the works of God], he devises evil continually, he sows discord. [madown] (Proverbs 6:12-15)
"He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife [meribah], but he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered." (Proverbs 28:25)
In case you doubt the prevalence of variance in the world all you have to do is look around. Our legal system is based on who has the best argument. It is termed "adversarial argumentation." Criminals can be released to commit crimes again and again because the defending attorney had the best argument, used the cleverest words. Truth doesn't matter, neither does innocence or guilt, only humanistic plausible argument. They use no principle of God's word just argumentative manipulation. If the devil himself were tried in our courts, he could be exonerated (and probably would be).
Even in Christian circles I hear time and time again someone desperate to be correct in a verbal disagreement say, "Let me play devil's advocate here for a moment." As soon at that premise for further conversation is set, whatever comes next would not be based on "thus sayeth the Lord" but on an opposing argument meant to bring an end to the discussion without God's word. To explore what the devil would do is irrelevant because it is a foregone conclusion that even to think that way is to go against what God says in His immutable word.
The repackaging of variance has affected the entertainment industry and in almost every plot or story we see the use of variance to move the plot along. Variance is prized in many jobs where cleverness is the rule of the day. For example, many sales people, advertisers, consumer relations people use variance, and it is most prevalent is in the law profession where judges, defenders and prosecutors are not successful without using this sin as a skill-set. Every day sales of books on how to manipulate others, how to influence outcomes to your advantage, are sold. Repackaged under the "self-help" category, these books have brought millions, if not billions of dollars to publishers and authors over the course of the last century. There are workshops and how-to videos, there are seminars and college courses teaching debate and oral skills in order to manipulate to one's advantage.
Variance is embraced the world over as an essential to the success of anyone who wishes to be a winner. Even the term "devil's advocate" is thought to help validate suggestions made to any problem. It is thought that being the devil's advocate is the art of exposing the "underside" of a problem, to give a fresh insight into a situation. We as Christians need to avoid using this method but instead cling to "thus sayeth the Lord." Since when does the devil's viewpoint matter so much to Christians? When did the word of God having the final say in any situation give way to debate and humanistic oral cleverness?
If a person identifies himself as the devil's advocate, shouldn't that person at least know with whom he is aligning himself? I think so. So here is a brief word study on Satan the Devil.
We know that Satan is the original adversary of God. We know that at the time that Satan was created, he was good (Gen. 1:31) until "sin was found in him." (Ezek. 28:15) He is the "original serpent." He is " the one called devil and Satan." (Rev. 12:9)
We know that Satan will find his eternal reward in the "lake of fire." (Rev. 19:20) We know that until that day he walks about like a lion "seeking whom he may devour." (1 Pe. 5:8) We know that the devil's name was given him by the Lord, (presumably changing the name he was given at creation), Traditionally, a name is given to highlight that person's character and to help describe him. What does the name Satan The Devil tell us about him?
The Hebrew word satan is pronounced saw-tawn' and it means "an adversary, to withstand." It is derived from another Hebrew word, satan (שָׂטַן) pronounced saw-tan' which means "to attack, to accuse."
Interestingly, the word devil is not in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. However the word "devils" does occur. That is the Hebrew word sa`iyr (saw-eer') which means "little rain." This is in reference to the tempest of sin and torrential flood of horror that Satan rains down on humanity and the devils (demons) that are under him are just "a little rain." The word is a form of the Hebrew word sa`iyr (שָׂעִיר) which means "a rough, hairy goat, a satyr." In this reference to the demons, the characteristic trait of Satan is illustrated is that of one who "opposes, an adversary, obstinate (like a goat)." This trait is also present in his henchmen, the demons.
As the study transitions to the Greek Scriptures (New Testament), both "Satan" and "the Devil" are used to refer to the "father of lies." (John 8:44)The word Satan is the Greek word satanus Σατανᾶς (sat-an-as') which means "one who opposes in purpose and action, adversary." The word devil is the word diabolos (dee-ab'-ol-os) that means "liar, slanderer, false accuser." It comes from the Greek words diaballo (dee-ab-al'-lo) which means "to throw over or across, to betray, to slander, to lie, to accuse, to defame" and the word ballo (bal'-lo) which is a verb that intensifies the "playing dirty" and cheating aspect of the devil's actions. This word carries with it a loathing and distaste and the connotation of waste (dung). The title Satan The Devil is a name with which no one should want any connections. To have this title curses you as the worst of the worst, something spoiled and rotting, a good-for-nothing waste product. In short, it is the worst name ever conceived for the worst being that ever lived, or will live.
With this in mind, would anyone want to be the devil's advocate? Yet in our depraved, sinful, fleshly bodies every one of us, on a regular basis, does just that! We listen to the loud voice of our flesh motivated by the devil instead of listening to the small, still voice of the ever-present Holy Spirit. We agree when evil is in our presence instead of resisting and running from it. We participate in conversations where we contribute to the devil's ends rather than standing for right. We gossip about our brothers and sisters, undermining their character. We throw doubts into new Christians who are newly-burning inside about a Lord who would love them and die for them, and tell we them to be realistic, to quiet down, to cool off, else they will offend someone.
Types of Variance.
1. Variance between individuals. This is the most prevalent and also the most insidious. Incredible pain and misery can be inflicted by the tongue. There are people who hate the things of God so much that they endeavor to keep other people from God and destined for hell as are they. People will be willingly (or ignorantly) used by the forces of evil to stand in the way of an unsaved individual receiving Jesus. They will use false reasoning or fear tactics, they will let them know that to ask God to save them will, in their eyes, be a betrayal. Another tactic between individuals is to inappropriately teach their children to distrust God. People often do this by showing their children how to blame God for every problem and to be selfish when things are going smoothly.
Gossip is another way individuals create variance and act as the advocate of the evil one's purpose. It was once said that gossip is like taking a feather pillow to the roof on a windy day and cutting it so the wind will spread the feathers. The gossip is the cut but the results of that cut will never be undone because they will blow in the wind forever.
"Woe to you Scribes and Pharasees, hypocrites! [and very adept in using the sin of variance] For you travel the land and sea to win one proselyte [convert] and when he is won, you make him twice as much the son of hell as yourself." (Matt. 23:15)
"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners [makes an effort to prevent a person from coming to God for salvation], nor sits in the seat of the scornful." (Psalm 1:1)
2. Variance by an individual toward a Christian assembly or the body of Christ as a whole. It is no secret that the momentum of the world is not moving toward the God or the things of God but is moving away from Him. The apostle Paul was no stranger to gossip and betrayal while he was working hard to build up the early church. A man by the name of Alexander, a copper-smith, spread lies, gossip and generally did all he could to the end of destroying Paul and the new church body. He wrote in Acts 20 that after his death the church was to be on the lookout for hungry wolves out to destroy them for their belief. These wolves would wear sheep's clothing and look like Christians to all appearances but inwardly they would be hungry for a lamb chop. Sometimes they would try to destroy by the divide and conquer method we mentioned earlier, creeping into individual homes and destroying them from within.
"Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works." (2 Timothy 4:14)
"For I know this that after my departure [death] savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. [he knew that there were enemies of the church just waiting to pounce as soon as he wasn't there to protect them] Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31)
"For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women [men that would look for vulnerable widows needing a man's income to survive and then lie to get into the household and destroy any work of God there] loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts [These men knew the needs of these poor women and that they were weak. They would fulfill their physical needs and deceive them into changing their lives to one that did not follow the Lord]." (2 Timothy 3:6)
We need to be on the alert for variance in all its many shapes and forms.
How do we as Christians avoid this sin of variance? Now that we know what we are doing when we quietly speak to others to instigate discord, what steps should someone do to break this stronghold in our walk with Christ?
1. First, I would say that the Great Commandment of Christ should always be at the forefront of our mind. We are to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If you truly love God and are His child, you will do all in your power to gather people to Him, employing God's word and principles. You will not use evil to bring about good because you love Jesus and wish to walk in His footsteps. You will hold up His Son and His word because you love Him.
If you truly love your "neighbor as [you would] yourself" you will watch out for your neighbor's welfare, not sow pain into the lives of others for a sinfully planned "greater good." You know how to guard your own reputation, to guard your own sense of well-being. You would not gossip about yourself so that people would turn on you and expose all of which you are ashamed. That is how you love yourself. You put your best face forward. You do that which heals and not hurts. You would never do anything to weaken yourself. What you do for yourself, you must do for your brother and your neighbor. You must not create ill will for him. You must try to gently reason with him into a closer walk with God. You must hold him up in prayer. The more you work to love and encourage your neighbor and brother the less you will be tempted to undermine him and violate this mandate from Jesus.
"Teacher, what is the great [greatest] commandment of the law? Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:36-39)
"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)
2. Be aware that words spoken in a whisper are most often those of variance. When you feel the need to look both ways and then quietly speak about another, let this be a warning to you that Satan and the flesh will make an attempt to rise up to change the nature of the words spoken. A word to your brother to pray for someone is encouraging and healthy. Discretion is also a mandate for confidence sake. Satan hates it and this is the time that many fall into sin. The temptation from the flesh and the devil will be immense to add something to the conversation about why another sinned or about a judgment you have about another's walk. Love must motivate discretion, promote trust. Trust is such a fragile thing. Once damaged it is never regained in the majority of cases, and when trust is reestablished it is not as it was before the betrayal, even if the betrayal was a slip of the lip or words hastily spoken. If you are the one receiving the whispered speech, be aware that this is the most dangerous time for a "new-to-the-faith" brother or a spiritually weak brother. Many times the person doing this is young in the faith and a stern, well-worded rebuke to help him see what really is occurring will be a lesson that will stay with him his entire life. One good rule to avoid gossip is just to say, "Before you tell me this, did you speak to [him] about it?" If he says no then tell him to go to him alone and help the brother see the error of his way. If he says yes, then you could say, "Since this is about our brother and you have already spoken to him, we should have him here so that we may speak right to him. I'm sure it was a misunderstanding, and he will help clear it up." This is from the Scripture that admonishes that if a man sin, settle it with between you and he alone. If that does not work then bring another with you. If the intention was pure the word of God was upheld. If the intention is gossip or variance, the person most generally will slink away, hopefully having learned a valuable lesson.
"Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established [proved, verified]." (Matthew 18:15-16)
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a trespass, you who are spiritual [mature in the faith] restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." (Galatians 6:1)
It very well may be that you know you are a gossip. You know that you have the potential to hurt others, but you have no strength within to stop yourself. You may get a rush from the conflict that arises in others as you step out of the picture. A guilty pleasure gushes through you as you are the one to tell the juicy tidbit. I remember doing such a thing in my early teens to someone and I was called on it a day later. I will never forget the embarrassment as the thing was made known. I never forgot that I made an innocent person cry with something I told someone that I knew probably wasn't true. I remember how it felt to tell someone. It felt like I was handing a live bomb over to someone to hold. If I didn't hand it over, it felt like it was going to explode within me. Instead I waited for it to explode in someone else's hand. When the matter came to light and I was confronted with the results of my bit of gossip. I remember the hurt and the embarrassment that person went through on account of me. I never forgot it. Now I am on a constant vigil because I remember the rush I got from it. I understood now how very addictive it could be if anyone allowed themselves to enjoy it and it becomes a habit. It is like a drug.
It could be this is you and you are trying to defeat this in yourself without success.
If you keep failing in this area maybe you are not listening to the small, still voice of Jesus as He calls you to allow Him to rule and guide your life. Don't be deceived. The only true freedom is releasing your life to God. It frees you in ways you cannot imagine. As the Bible says, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed."
How is it that the Son of God frees a person? How is it that to allow God to run your life makes you freer than you are when you yourself run your life?
First, let me say that God loves you and He proved that when He came to earth to arrange a way for sinful humans to come to heaven and be with Him forever. He loved you because He took that punishment Himself to pay for your sin. He allowed Himself to be shred to pieces, nailed to a tree, drained of blood, and to die of a broken (ruptured) heart. I love my wife but I don't think it would be an easy thing for me to say, "Yes honey, I will allow myself to be crucified for you." And even if I did, it would only be for her, not for my enemies too. Christ loved us enough that even when we were the enemies of God, He died for us.
"They gape at Me [Jesus] with their mouths like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax, it has melted [His heart ruptured, His heart literally broke for the sin of the people] within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. [God had sent His Son here to die] For dogs have surrounded me; dogs is a common term for Gentiles that hated everything about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] the congregation of the wicked has enclosed me. They pierced My hands and My feet; [He was nailed to a cross with large iron nails, one in each wrist and one through His instep to make sure to hit the nerve bundle in the metacarpals of His feet] I can count all my bones they look and stare at Me. [He was beaten with the "cat-o-nine-tails" whip and the resulting skin and muscle removal left his bones exposed in areas so He could look down and see some of each one] They divide My garments among them and for My clothing they cast lots. [As He hung there dying for the very ones that were killing Him, they gambled for His coat made in one piece that Mary His mom had made Him] (Psalm 22:13-18)
"For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
"But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
Next, let me say that God is the Creator of the universe and is not subject to any law, even that of time. He knows the beginning from the end. He knows what tomorrow holds. He knows the pitfalls that are before you. He knows how you will struggle and what you need to feel fulfilled. Who better to guide each step you take than Someone who truly loves you, and who knows what is better for you than even you do?
Do you believe that Jesus came out from God to die for your sin?
Do you believe that Jesus was buried in the tomb and after three day rose again? If you believe this you can come before Him like a broken vessel and allow Him to remake you and then fill you up with Himself, with His Spirit.
The Bible says, "All who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." The Bible says that when you call on Him you will become "a new creature in Christ," that "all things become new." The long list of sins you have committed will be wiped clean.
If you truly believe in your heart the gospel, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, you can call out to Him (pray). It may be you never have prayed even once to God from your heart. Don't be scared like the devil wishes for you to be. Call out to God from your heart to save you. Pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I call on You now from a heart of truth. I know I am a sinner and if I die I must pay for my sin myself in a place that You don't want me to go. I believe you died and were buried and rose again for me and I ask You to please forgive me of my sin and save me. Lord, thank You for dying and hurting for me. I will follow You all the rest of my life. I pray this in Your Holy Name, Jesus. Amen.
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