When We’ve Been Wronged

Don’t Seek Vengeance; Do be Kind to Your Enemy

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17–21 ESV).

“Heap burning coals on their head.” It is debated what this means, but in context it must mean that kindness instead of vengeance exposes the other person’s hatred even more starkly. This may lead them to shame or remorse and even reconciliation.

Two quick examples. I have counseled brokenhearted women whose boyfriend broke up with them to be nothing but kind. If instead she turns into a crazy woman and chooses to slander him to anyone who will listen, sends him hate texts, and threatens to sue him, he lays in bed and thinks, I made the greatest decision of my life. If she is kind to him, kind to his mother, and thanks him for the time they had together, he lays in bed every night and thinks, I have made the worst decision of my life. Burning coals.

Normal Christianity is Radical

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:14–17 ESV).

Success and Sorrows

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Our natural selves more easily connect with people in sorrows than in successes. When people suffer a loss, a loved one or life-altering event of some kind, our hearts naturally relate to them. Funeral homes are found everywhere as gathering places to weep with those who weep. What is more Christian than entering into the pain of others and sharing that pain with them?

The Key to Spiritual Gifts: Use Them!

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:3–8 ESV)

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts is Blessing and Serving Others in the Church 

  • “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)
  • “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12)

1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that incredible spiritual giftedness without love means nothing. Even if I have oratory equal to the ability of angels or if I cast out demons or move mountains, if I don’t have agape love as a quality in my character, I gain nothing. Love is the quintessential Christian quality. So, don’t be too impressed by spiritual gifts you see in others; that gift was given to them by the Holy Spirit. Be impressed by love, joy, and peace and strive to make this part of your life as well.

Here is an incredible truth:

Every Christian has a Spiritual Gift or Several Spiritual Gifts

You may be thinking, I must have been at the end of the line and God ran out of gifts because I don’t think I have one. Not only do you have one, you likely have several. When you think about it, it’s incredibly exciting. God is actively empowering his people to fulfill his mission and giving us the enablements we need.

So Christian, hear this, you have at least one Spirit-granted, God-empowered gifting. God’s gifts are God’s call, which means he has a purpose for every one of us. This means every member of the church is critically important and the diversity of gifts tells us that no one person is too important. Pastor Steve, then what should I do?

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” (Romans 12:6, emphasis added)

The emphasis in Scripture is surprisingly not on how to discover your spiritual gift, but on the necessity of using your spiritual gift. Why would that be?

In days gone by, discovering your spiritual gift was a bigger deal in local churches. There were spiritual gift surveys and lots of emphasis on finding your spiritual gift. Yet, the Bible gives no guidelines on how to do so. It just urges us to use them.

I take from this that discovering your spiritual gift is a lot like many things in life—you figure it out as you go. Author Kevin DeYoung summarizes this with his book title, Just Do Something! As we do something, as we serve, as we try this and that, there will be some categories we are drawn to. Areas where our service seems effective. Other church members will notice and tell you, that was great! Wow, you’re really good at that!

Do something. Get the wagon moving and let God steer it. As God blesses, take that as the yellow brick road. It likely will bless you in doing it, but don’t take your personal enjoyment of it as a key indicator. I’ve had too many church members strangely enjoy things they are not good at. Spiritual gifts bless, equip, and sustain others.

One final word here because some of you may feel motivated but still unsure of a direction to serve. This might give you some indication of your gifting. Here we are in this extraordinary time of quarantine. What about the community life of our church are you missing the most? I can’t wait to get back to _____________. What you are missing might be your gifting.

What are you doing the most these days? Think in spiritual categories. Eating Cheetos is not a spiritual gift. What has emerged in you through all this? How are you serving others? For some it’s words and speech. You are calling people. Praying with people. Writing notes of encouragement. Blogging. You are serving with words. Others, you haven’t called and prayed with anyone, but you’ve organized meals down the whole block. You’ve mowed the old lady’s lawn next door and came home with a smile on your face. In times of crisis, our giftings can shine through.

As you serve, your gifts will become evident. If you wait to do anything until you know how God has gifted you, you will wait a long, long time.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Our Pandemic Easter

Worship

“And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him(Matthew 28:9 ESV).

I’ll bet they did because that’s what wonder does; it leads us to worship. Now we can’t physically see Jesus, and for some people today, this makes this all very suspect. Yet we can see him with eyes of faith—in a way, like I see Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill—I see them through the accounts of their lives. I’ve never met them, but that doesn’t mean that the Gettysburg Address or London Blitz didn’t happen.

We see through the eyewitness accounts. We see through their objective re-telling with the eyes of faith. Like Mary Magdalene and Peter and even the Centurion, we believe Jesus was who he claimed to be, the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

We would never worship a dead Savior. Anyone could make that claim. But a risen-from-the-dead Savior, I’ll bow at his feet.

How do we worship him? It begins with acknowledging that we are morally bankrupt. When I see myself as a sinner, I see my need for a Savior. That’s not a hard step for most people. If you’re like me, I don’t need someone to tell me I’m a sinner; I’m just tired of being one. Where do I turn for help?

The religions of the world all encourage you to do something to earn it. All of them but one. Christianity says, stop trying to earn it; you can’t. Jesus did what you could never do with his death on the cross. Receive his salvation by faith.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

What is there to receive by faith? The person and work of Jesus. His love for you. Trusting in who he was as the Son of God and what he did dying on the cross for our sins. To those who believe in His name. When we believe, God meets our moral and spiritual need by forgiving our sins and declaring us righteous before God forever.

If you have not received this salvation through Christ, what better day than pandemic Easter to put your faith and trust in Christ for salvation?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

The King We Need

The Purpose

“And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:10-11 ESV)

The whole city was stirred. The Greek word for stirred is the root of our word “seismic.” The city was shaking. Rocking and rolling. This didn’t happen quietly or just for Jesus’ followers. That Sunday exploded with emotion and fervor so much so that the city was seismic. Clearly, this was intentional and planned by Jesus. Why?

“But the ride on a colt, because it was planned, could only be an acted parable, a deliberate act of symbolic self-disclosure for those with eyes to see or, after the Resurrection, with memories by which to remember and integrate the events of the preceding weeks and years. Secrecy was being lifted.”[1] (D.A. Carson)

What do you think of when you see Air Force One? President of the United States. The ride tells you who it is. 500 years prior, a prophet gave a sign. Here is how you will know that the great King has arrived. He will come to you riding on a donkey. It was a sign. Just like the angels said, you’ll know it’s him if you find him lying in a manger. Nobody puts babies in a manger and great kings don’t ride donkeys.

Did the people get it? Not really. Yes, there was excitement, but listen to their answer when someone asks, who is this? “And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:11)

What’s the problem with that answer? Was his name Jesus? Yes. Was he from Nazareth? Yes. Was he a prophet? Yes. All true. What’s missing? What they missed that day is the same thing many people in hell someday will testify, I knew Jesus was great, but I didn’t realize he was that great!

Jesus a prophet? Yes, but no. He is so much more than a prophet. A great teacher? Yes, but so much more than a great teacher. A miracle worker? Yes, but so much more than a miracle worker. He is the King of all kings. He didn’t ride the donkey to announce he was a prophet; he rode the donkey to announce he was the king AND to show the nature of his kingdom as he comes to his people in humility. A servant. A messiah. A Savior.

For all their excitement, the crowds missed it. Why? They realized he was their prophet but not that he was their king. Just days later, very near to this same spot outside the city, many of these same people would see him crucified and die. The ultimate act of love and humility only hinted at by riding into Jerusalem on a baby donkey. The triumphal entry was Jesus’ final and very public statement to the whole nation right there in the capital on the biggest stage possible: I am the King.

Did he know those people singing and shouting still wouldn’t get it? Of course. Then why did he do it?

I believe Jesus did it for the millions who weren’t there that day. For the people who would investigate his life and claims to be Messiah and Savior. Looking back, even his disciples would connect the dots and realize that he was a descendant of David. Born in Bethlehem. Rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus puts into his story a hard-to-miss, prophetically fulfilling clue to his real identity.

Palm Sunday. Is it about the donkey? Is it about palm branches? Is it about the shouting and singing? The size of the crowds? No. It is about him. Jesus intentionally fulfills the prophecy to say unmistakably to Israel and to us, This is who I am. I am the King whose reign shall stretch from shore to shore forever.

What do you believe about Jesus? Who is he in your estimation? A great man? Great teacher? Even maybe a prophet of God? The crowd believed all that. They didn’t realize he was more than a Galilean. More than a Nazarene. More than a prophet. More than a miracle worker. He was and is and forever will be the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Is he your king?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] D.A. Carson, Matthew, Vol. 2 (Ch. 13-28), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 437.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

God, Our Shepherd

God sustains us

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 ESV)

You know, when you think about Psalm 23 and this pandemic that we’re in today, I wonder if perhaps these are the most comforting words that Psalm 23 has for us. David imagines the worst moments we can have and describes them vividly as the valley of the shadow of death. Now, there aren’t a lot of valleys in Indiana. The terrain here is very flat. But in Israel, to shepherd in Israel is to lead sheep up and down hills. I have personally walked some of this terrain, and you can’t go far without going through ravines, gorges, and valleys; those deep places where the sun doesn’t break through.

Does that sound like the life you’re living right now? You’re walking through a kind of valley where you don’t see any light of truth or light of hope? Is your life a valley today?

While I’m sure this applies to those dark moments at the end of life, the language is more applicable to those dark nights of the soul during life. Valleys like we’re in now. The valleys of life where everything seems dark, mysterious, uncertain, and fearful. This is such a vivid description of human emotional pain. Anybody in that valley today?

Need a little light? See that it says I walk through the valley. When we are hurting we can give in to despair and think the valley is a canyon; a pit. I’ll never get out. It’ll always be this way! I’ll always feel this way. I’ll always have this pain. I’ll never get over this experience! I’m stuck and I can’t get out.

Not if God is your shepherd.

If God is my shepherd, then I’m walking through this valley of darkness. We are walking, as a church, through this valley of this coronavirus. We are walking through this valley of not being able to gather together. We’re walking through this valley of fear in our community. We are walking through this valley of uncertainty. This is not a canyon. This is not the end of the road. This is a valley that God, our Shepherd, is walking through with us. Please don’t forget that.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Washing our Hearts of Worry

The Prayer that Kills Worry

“…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

Anxious for nothing. Prayer in everything. Never worry. Always pray. There are three words used for prayer here: prayers, petitions, and requests.

  • Prayers – general word for talking to God.
  • Petitions (supplication) – this word is more specific and means entreaty. This is a word of urgency and need. It’s the difference between conversation and a cry for help.
  • Requests – asking for things. When are we do this? In everything!

Paul also adds that these prayers are to be done in a spirit of thanksgiving. This is critical as thanksgiving acknowledges God’s right to do what he wants. When I am thankful to God, I am submissive to his will. When I am thankful in prayer, I am acknowledging his goodness.