Fear of the Lord

That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians… And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Exodus 14:30-31

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him…

No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

Psalm 33:8, 16-18

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

I believe the Lord is inviting the church back to the fear of the Lord. We must know how loved and cherished we are by our Father in heaven. We must know that we are a son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must understand our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. And knowing all of this will inevitably lead to the fear of the Lord, an encounter with His holiness.

What is the fear of the Lord?

1. It is absolute surrender. It’s saying “Yes” to God before we even fully understand His command.

2. It is freedom from the fear of man. It’s no longer being bound by people pleasing. It’s seeking God’s approval above all others.

3. It is humility. It’s owning the fact that He is God and we are not. It’s living out the reality that we are not equal with God. (Philippians 2:5-8) He gets to call the shots. We are following Jesus not the other way around.

4. It is waiting on the Lord. It’s knowing that going forward without Him is pointless.

5. It is going boldly when we are sent by the Lord. It’s taking risks and stepping out in faith.

6. It is making hosting God’s Presence the primary concern, making sure He feels welcome before anyone else feels welcome.

There are a few reasons I feel like the Lord wants to return the fear of the Lord to the church. I’ve heard more than one major church leader talk about feeling this pull toward the fear of the Lord. I’ve also had talks with prophetic friends who feel the same way.

But the main reason I think Jesus wants to reintroduce the fear of the Lord to the church is because of an encounter I had at the end of 2019. I experienced just a taste of God’s raw holiness and was undone by the fear of the Lord. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I’ll never forget it. I believe the Lord was giving me a taste of what is to come. I wrote about that experience here.

In the future, I believe entire worship services will be taken over by the fear of the Lord. People will bow in repentance and kneel weeping before the Lord as they encounter His awesome holiness. Lukewarm Christianity will be broken in half. Syncretistic agreement with our current culture will be washed away in the hearts of believers. Being obedient will take precedence over being liked. The fear of the Lord will shake us and cause a full surrender.

Holy-Light-Love

In ministry I often stress to people God’s love for them. Many Christians may know about God’s love cognitively but have never experienced the tangible love of the Father pouring down on them. It’s life-changing! It is so easy to forget not only that God loves us but that “God is love“(1 John 4:8).

Yet, God is not just love. Progressive Christians often stress “God is love” in a way that defines love as “permissiveness,” especially when it comes to sexual sin. For some reason, the progressive wing of the Church wants to hold a hard line on sin when it comes to economics and social justice yet advocates a kind of free-for-all when it comes to human sexuality. I heard one progressive writer say it like this, that when it comes to the LGBTQ issues, they are going to err on the side of love because God is love. Bu what is he really saying? He’s saying, when it comes to LGBTQ issues, he wants to err on the side of permissiveness because that is how he defines love. And God is love. This kind of thinking has led to all kinds of deception.

God is love, but He’s not “permissive” love (if we can even call that love), and He’s not only love. Before we read the phrase “God is love” in 1 John 4:8, we read “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” in 1 John 1:5. And before we even get to 1 John 1, we read in 1 Peter 1:15-16 that God is holy. Not only is God holy but, because of His holiness, we are called to holiness. Here’s what it says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

God’s love is never in conflict with God’s light and holiness, just as the Father is never in conflict with the Son and the Spirit. We worship a trinitarian God. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We understand that when people start to stress that God is Father but not Son or Spirit, they wander into heresy. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. The Holy Spirit is God the Spirit. While it is a mystery as to how they are “three-in-one,” the tension of this truth must be held. This same thing is true for God being Love, Light, and Holy.

While the Father, Son, and Spirit each express all three of these realities (love, light, holiness), it does seem like each person of the Godhead has adopted one as their specialty. The Father is all about love. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  

Jesus, the Son, is all about Light. The Gospel of John speaks of Jesus as Light a few different times. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it“(John 1:4-5). “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world“(John 1:9).

The Holy Spirit, God the Spirit, is our source of holiness. His name even starts with “holy.” The apostle Paul clearly contrasts the difference between living by the flesh and living by the Spirit. The Spirit is the One that fosters in us a holy life as we keep in step with the Spirit.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:16-19, 22-23

God’s love is never divorced from His light and holiness. The most loving thing God can do is to invite us out of the darkness and into His Light. The most loving thing God can do is call us to be like Him, be holy as He is holy. God is Love, yes. And, God is Light. And God is Holy. All three of these must be held together or our understanding of God (and love) gets warped.

Approaching the Throne

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

When we come before the Father in our one-on-one time with Him, most of us understand that the weight of sin, shame, and guilt drop off of us. We are washed clean from sin, set free from shame, and no longer carry the guilt we came in with. But those aren’t the only things that we shed in His presence.

A couple years ago, I had this internal vision (a movie that plays in your mind’s eye) while praying. I walked up glass steps and found myself on an elevated platform. It was a long, thin aisle that led to the throne of the Lord. It was crystal clear. There were throngs of angels to my right and left “standing” on a lower level. Imagine a stage at a rock concert that has a runway jutting out into the audience. Now imagine the lead singer out on the runway surrounded by the crowd below him but still elevated on the platform. That’s what it looked like.

As I walked toward the throne on this clear, elevated runway, I could tell that I had “gear” on. Imagine a belt full of weapons and other items that you might see a 17th century Musketeer wear. I had a sword at my side and a scroll tucked in the back part of my belt. I also had two glowing spheres, one blue and one green. And there was a cloak-type-thing on my shoulders.

As I walked to a certain point, I wasn’t allowed to go any farther. An angel informed me that if I wanted to keep approaching the Lord I’d have to take off all the gear. I understood instantly that this gear represented gifts of the Holy Spirit, spiritual weapons, and things I had been given to fight the good fight of faith. It was also the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14-18). Yet, in order to get closer to the Father, I had to shed it. I couldn’t come into His presence with all the gifts and spiritual armor I had been given over the years. I had to come with nothing–just a white robe and nothing else. I had to come simply as a son.

Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We often think of our sin as filthy rags. But the closer we approach the throne of grace, even our “righteous acts” are like filthy rags. We must unload all of our burdens, including all the good things. When we come before God, we not only unload our sin but also our responsibilities that come from family, work, and church. We unload our gifts and our talents too! We come with nothing to offer but ourselves.

We are striped down until all the things that we identify ourselves with are gone. We are left only with our two core identities. We approach God as a creation of the Creator–a human being–and a re-creation of the Redeemer–a child of the Father.

Are you ashamed of something in your spiritual life? The good news is that you don’t have to carry it with you into God’s presence. He invites you to lay it down.

Are you proud of something in your spiritual life? I’m so glad, but God invites you to lay that down as well. If you want to draw nearer to the throne of God, you must shed all the good things too. The closer you get to God, the less you can take with you.

Holy Fear

“Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? 

1 Samuel 6:20

This was the response of some of the people of Israel after encountering the awesome presence of God.

The Philistines had captured the ark of the Lord, and it had been in Philistine territory for seven months. In that time the presence of the Lord, which stayed in proximity of the ark, had toppled pagan gods and created quite a stir among the Philistine people. Disease had broken out in judgment against the Philistines who were attempting to subdue the God of Israel. It wasn’t working.

So the Philistines sent the ark back to Israel, and it ends up in the area of Beth Shemesh. The people of Beth Shemesh were so excited about this that they offered sacrifices to the Lord and had a huge celebration. Yet, even then, some Israelites were too flippant with the presence of the Lord. Some of them dropped dead “because they looked into the ark of the Lord“(1 Samuel 6:19).

Before we start picturing the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, let’s look again at what the people of Beth Shemesh said. What caused the fear of the Lord to fall on the people was not God’s omnipotence or judgment. What caused an absolute fear to fall on the people was God’s holiness.

Throughout scripture we learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; it’s a fountain of life and a blessing to all who fear God. The fear of the Lord in this context is not about being afraid of God but instead about honoring God with our lives. It’s about being in awe of God with a holy reverence. This kind of “fear of the Lord” is something we can mature and grow in as we mature in Christ.

Yet, there is another kind of “fear of the Lord” that can happen when we encounter the raw presence of God. Throughout scripture those who encounter the presence of God (or an angel who is saturated in the presence of God) usually end up dropping to the ground in fear. This happens not because God is terrifying but because He is completely holy.

I have tried to live with the first kind of fear of the Lord (respect, honor, reverence) for most of my life. Yet, I encountered the second kind of fear of the Lord for the first time a few months ago. I had an encounter with God where the power of God was running through my body like 220 volts of electricity. This went on for many minutes, to the point where all the muscles in my body involuntarily contracted (picture someone getting tased and you’re getting close to what the experience was like). It was beautiful and painful!

After the power of God subsided, and I was able to get off the ground, I began to walk around to try to recover from what just happened. While I was walking, suddenly and without warning, the overwhelming sense of how close the raw presence of God came to me hit me like a ton of bricks. This was not something I was aware of naturally. It was something the Holy Spirit suddenly revealed to me in that moment.

As soon as it dawned on me how close I was to the raw presence of God, the holy fear of the Lord hit me. I’ve never felt anything like it. All I could do was sit down and weep. The holy fear that hit me was tangible. I couldn’t pray anything intelligible. The only thing coming out of my mouth was, “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” That’s all I could pray for about 10 minutes. I was enveloped in a holy fear.

The holiness of God is absolutely terrifying. And I’m sure I only tasted a sliver of it. If you think standing before this holy God during judgment is going to be all love and rainbows, think again. Yes, God is love. His love is overwhelming and unconditional. God is also holy. And His holiness will drop us to our knees in absolute fear. For all the universalists out there who think God is like Santa Claus, think again. Those who face the holiness of God naked–not clothed in the righteousness of Christ–will not find the proximity of the Lord something to be desired. Even those of us clothed in Christ will be overwhelmed.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to surrender your life to Jesus. You’re not promised tomorrow! You don’t know when you will be standing before this holy God, but you will want to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ (rather than your own) when you do.

Finish Strong

Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Judges 15:20

When people think of the biblical character Samson they usually focus on his strength and the fact that he was seduced by Delilah. Growing up in church, I heard over and over again the story of the end of Samson’s life–how Delilah deceived him into revealing the source of his strength and how that led to his demise.

But did you know that he led Israel for 20 years? Did you know that Samson’s story in the book of Judges stretches from chapter 13 through chapter 16. Samson’s life got four chapters of the Bible but usually only the last one is taught.

Did you know that the angel of the Lord showed up to Samson’s mom in the same way that He did to Gideon? Did you know that Samson’s mom had to commit to a Nazarite vow while she was pregnant with Samson even before Samson committed to it in his own life?

Did you know that Samson was married to a Philistine girl long before Delilah entered the picture? Yet, the girl’s father ended up giving her away to another man while Samson was gone on one of his exploits. To do this in that day (even in our own) was a total betrayal of trust.

Think about how many times Samson must have fought for and rescued the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines in twenty years. Two decades of being an instrument of the Lord to save and deliver the people of God is no small thing. Yet, so many of us only remember the last few months of his life.

I believe this is a good warning for those of us following Jesus with our life and especially for those in full-time ministry. Finishing well is such an important thing in God’s Kingdom. People won’t remember the twenty years of faithful ministry. They’ll only remember the big mistake that brought you down. We’ve seen this truth play out with more than one famous minister that we respected.

The apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians about how the Israelites rebelled against God in the desert and then gives them a warning:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:11-13

Paul reminds us:

1) If you feel strong against temptation, don’t get arrogant but stay humble. God’s grace is what empowers you to walk in holiness.

2) The enemy doesn’t have new tricks; his temptations with you will be the same that he’s used against others.

3) God is faithful. If you are following Jesus, He’ll help you navigate temptation.

4) The Holy Spirit will show you a way out and a way through. You’re never alone when facing temptation.

Paul knew how important it was to finish the race strong. We aren’t given permission to peter out at the end of our ministry or at the end of our life. God’s expectation is that we will run the race of life hard all the way through the finish line. We are never to let up and never get complacent.

To the leaders in the church of Ephesus Paul articulates the vision he has for his own life and a vision we should capture for our own:

 I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…

Acts 20:24

How can you make sure you finish strong?

Open Doors

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them.

…So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai…

…Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? 

…The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies

Joshua 7:1, 4, 6-7, 10-12

This is a truth that still applies today but so few understand. Sin in our lives is an open door for the enemy to attack us. If we choose to live in sin, we choose to be a piñata for Satan as he steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10).

One person in Israel’s army kept treasures for themselves. Then Israel went up against an enemy that should have been no match for them, and yet they lost. The Lord was not with them. The sin had separated the people from God.

In response to their defeat, they cried out to the Lord as if to say, “Why did this happen to us? How could you let this happen to us God?” Sound familiar?

God immediately corrects their assumption. The people were grieving and mourning as if they were victims. God tells Joshua, “Stand up!” They were not victims. They invited this defeat because of their own sin. God did not do this to them. Their enemy did this to them because they hadn’t yet dealt with the sin in their camp. While they were on their face grieving as victims they should have been on their face repenting of their own sin.

This applies to our lives in so many ways. We often think that if there is sin in one part of our lives, it will only affect that part of our life. Wrong. Sin in one part of our life gives the enemy access to other parts of our life, and He may bring destruction in other parts of our life that have little to do with our sin (just as the men in Israel’s army who died had little to do with Achan’s sin).

We also tend to blame God when bad things happen instead of recognizing that it was the enemy at work. God did not defeat Israel’s army, their enemy did. And the distance created between Israel and God was not something God created. It was the sin of Israel that separated the people from God’s presence.

So often we grieve as victims when we should be on our face in repentance. Self-pity has become a national past-time in America, but self-pity is demonic. It turns the focus and the blame on others and on God instead of allowing the light of conviction to shine on our own hearts.

Once we repent of our sin, the door to the enemy is shut. But so long as we pridefully refuse to admit our sin, that door is wide open. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to shine the spotlight of conviction on our hearts. And when sin is exposed, we need to be ruthless about eliminating it from our life. We need to ask for forgiveness, from God and others, and we need to eradicate that sin in all its forms.

Jesus is the one who recommended a ruthless approach to sin in our life. He said:

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

The apostle Paul said, “do not give the devil a foothold“(Ephesians 4:27).

To be sure, not every hardship we face in life is a result of sin. But we’ll never know the open doors to the enemy in our own life unless we allow the Holy Spirit to show us. Too many Christians walk around looking like Swiss cheese in the spirit rather than a fortress. Too many followers of Jesus are play toys of the enemy because their chronic unrepented sin leaves them open to all manner of attack.

Pray this simple prayer below from Psalm 139 and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you might be unnecessarily vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. And if He shows you something, repent, ask for forgiveness and eradicated it from your life.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Following the Presence

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before…”

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

Joshua 3:3-5

The people of God were directed to follow the ark into the Promised Land. The only way to enter into the promises that God has over our life is to follow His Presence. The ark represented the Presence of God. We follow His lead by watching to see where His Presence is and moving in that direction. We have to do this because we’ve never been where God is taking us. We’ve “never been this way before.”

If God seems to be moving in one area of our life, we go with it. We follow it. We pursue it. While they had the ark, we have the Holy Spirit. We have to grow in our ability to sense the movement of the Spirit. When He moves, we move. When He stops and stays, we stop and stay. This is what Paul was trying to describe when he told the Galatians, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit“(Galatians 5:25).

Consecrating our lives to the Lord is a big part of seeing God move in powerful ways. If we want to see God do amazing things among us, we must live lives of surrender, obedience, and holiness. The fire of God is a purifying fire.

I was talking to my oldest son the other day about the difference between following the law and following the Spirit. He asked me if there was a movie rating beyond “R.” I explained that there was NC-17 and pornography, both of which show things that no one should be watching.

He asked me if mommy and I watch rated R movies. I told him that sometimes we do but that, generally, we don’t. I told him that just because we are old enough to watch them doesn’t mean that we should watch them. We are allowed (the law) to watch but that doesn’t mean it would be spiritually or emotionally healthy to do so (the Spirit).

I went on to explain that sometimes following the Spirit means breaking the law (as Jesus did when He broke sabbath law to heal on the sabbath). And sometimes following the Spirit means not doing things that the law allows us to do (like watching movies that feed our mind harmful things).

I explained to my oldest son that sometimes mommy and I have started watching a show on Netflix only to realize that it was too violent or had too much graphic sexual content. So we stopped watching it. It’s not that we weren’t “allowed” to watch it but that it wasn’t feeding our mind and soul things that were helpful, holy, and healthy. Then I paraphrased Paul’s words to the Philippians:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8

Following the Spirit is about both consecration and direction. We follow the Spirit as He directs us into places in life we’ve never been before. We also follow the Spirit as He consecrates us and makes us holy. Both ways of following the Spirit are exercises in the submission of our will to His. The Christian life is more than a life of following religious principles. It is a life of following a Person.

With You Always

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:20

These are Jesus’s final words in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells His disciples (and us) that He is with us…always. He is ever-present. He knows us and likes to be with us. He likes to be near to us. His very Spirit dwells within us. He is closer to us than our own skin.

This truth should impact us in a few different ways. It should:

  1. Prompt holiness: There is no such thing as a secret sin. We walk exposed daily before the throne of grace, every heavenly being, and Jesus Himself. There is no hiding. Whatever sin we engage in is fully revealed and exposed.
  2. Destroy shame: It’s important that we not only know that our sin is daily exposed but that Jesus sees it all and still wants to be near to us. Our sin is not bigger than His grace and love. We don’t have to feel shame. We can receive daily the grace and forgiveness we need.
  3. Uproot loneliness: As a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is always with you. This means that the Father and the Son are also always with you according to John 14:10, 20, & 26. You are never alone. You also have at least one angel by your side at all times (Matthew 18:10). In other words, loneliness is a lie.
  4. Foster intimacy: Knowing that Jesus will always be with us should lead us to engage with Him daily. We need to spend time with this One who never leaves us. If He’s always present, we need to pay attention to Him, talk with Him, listen to Him and develop intimacy and friendship with Him.
  5. Repel lies: Jesus called Himself “the Truth”(John 14:6). He called the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of Truth”(John 14:17). With such wisdom and knowledge of truth in such close proximity, we should never have to waste our time believing lies. We need only to check in with the Truth and see if what is being whispered in our mind is really true or just a deception of the enemy.

If you are a follower of Jesus, He is with you…always.

How does the knowledge of this reality impact your daily life?

Unclean Heart

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Matthew 15:17-20

The Pharisees had the wrong understanding of what made a person “unclean.” They were hung up on traditions made by men that tried to keep people ritually clean through external purity. One of those traditions was to wash hands before eating so that the “uncleanness” from any Gentile item, dead or unclean animal that was touched in the marketplace would be washed away and not contaminate the food that was about to be eaten.

But Jesus clarifies to His own disciples that “cleanness” isn’t about what goes into one’s stomach, but what comes out of one’s heart. And one of the easiest ways to determine what is in our own hearts is to listen to what we say and how we say it.

It’s easy enough to flex our religious muscles and makes sure we sound holy around certain people. But when we are pressed in life, what comes out of our mouth then?

When we squeeze an orange, we expect orange juice to come out. When we press an olive, we expect olive oil to come out. What a peculiar sight it would be to squeeze a lemon and have motor oil come out. How strange it would be to press a cluster of grapes and have corrosive bleach leak out.

Yet, what Jesus is saying is that this is how we discover the broken places in our own hearts. This is exactly what happens to us. Evil thoughts come from the heart. Murderous rage comes from the heart. The roaming eye of adultery comes from the heart. The need to find acceptance and love by giving away our body to many different people through sexual immorality comes from the heart. The compulsion to take what is not ours comes from the heart. The tendency to lie, deceive, gossip, and slander comes from the heart. Harsh and critical words come from the heart.

When a Christian is pressed or squeezed by life circumstances, we should expect the fruit of the Spirit to come leaking out: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we get pressed by life and something else comes out of our heart, we need to see it like a warning light on the dashboard of our life. Something is broken in the deep places of our soul. Something in our heart needs healing.

So, what comes out of your mouth when life squeezes you? Pay attention to anything unclean that comes up. Use it as a diagnostic tool to understand that this is a place in your heart that needs healing. Our damaging and destructive words, our foul language, our bitter gossip and biting criticism are all products of a heart that needs healed by the love of God.

Attack from Both Sides

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:18-19

Do not be surprised if our culture, which is so heavily influenced by the kingdom of darkness, attacks people trying to follow Jesus from both sides. This has always been the strategy of the enemy. This is the strategy we see the enemy employ against Jesus and John the Baptist.

The culture of Jesus’s day found a way to be offended by both John the Baptist, living in the strictest holiness, and Jesus, living in the freedom of grace. John’s holiness was seen as demonic and Jesus’s freedom was seen as sinful.

Our culture is currently following the same strategy of the enemy. Recently it was reported that some politicians were trying to follow the “Billy Graham rule.” This rule is basically a commitment by a man not to be alone with a woman who is not his wife, especially in private settings, as it could lead to accusations of impropriety or actual impropriety. There has been a lot of exposure of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the highest levels of society recently, so this Billy Graham rule seems like a healthy safeguard.

Yet, in response to this desire to honor women and honor their wives, these men were attacked for being sexist. So we have a situation where if a politician is seen being alone with another women who is not his wife, he’s easily attacked with claims of impropriety. Yet, if he tries to safeguard against those accusations, he gets attacked as sexist. If they live in the freedom of grace, they’ll be attacked as morally corrupt. If they hold to a high standard of holiness, they’re called sexists. The “attack from both sides” strategy has been around since Jesus and continues to be alive and well today.

I remember encountering an adolescent version of this in high school. I told my friends that I didn’t want to “hook up” with a particularly attractive girl that was interested in me. As a high school boy, turning down sex with a beautiful girl a year older than you was a radical stand. Yet, because I was striving to live a life of holiness, my classmates who couldn’t understand my stance began to accuse me of being gay.

My response to accusations of being gay was that I didn’t believe homosexuality was God’s design for human sexuality. I told them that I had nothing against a person who is gay, but I disagreed with a lifestyle where one chooses to engage in same-sex sexual activity. This also didn’t fit their paradigm of understanding. They didn’t know what to do with me. So then I started to receive accusations of being homophobic.

Can you see the “attack from both sides” strategy? One minute I am being accused of being gay and the next I’m being accused of being homophobic. This often happens when you try to live a biblical standard of holiness. A life of following Jesus doesn’t make sense to the world. It doesn’t fit all of their neat little judgmental categories. They don’t know which condemning box to put you in. But they did this with Jesus and John the Baptist, so we shouldn’t be surprised if it happens to us.

I fought for and advocated for women in the strongest way possible as I helped to create and launch a nonprofit that addresses human trafficking in the Baltimore area. I stood side-by-side with women who were some of the most progressive, feminist activists I’ve ever met. And as a staunch Pro-Life advocate, I continue to fight for women and their well-being but in a way that is foreign to most of my colleagues in the human trafficking world. I don’t fit into a nice neat category. This is true of most Christians, which is why the strategy of the enemy is often to attack from both sides.

The desire to stop being attacked from both sides often draws Christians into error and compromise. It’s a powerful temptation to want to be liked and thought of as compassionate and insightful by at least one side of the cultural battle. So some Christians begin to compromise truth in order to win favor with one side or the other. But that is not where Jesus stands.

Have you experienced the “attack from both sides” strategy of the enemy in your own life? If so, you’re in good company.