Saturday, June 21, 2014

Enraged and Gnashing Their Teeth

“Wild Beasts”
“I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus.”  -1 Corinthians 15:32
 There are wild beasts that cannot be tamed or domesticated. They don’t recognize kindness, soft words, or loving speech. If you speak softly to a crocodile or tell him how much you love him, he will still eat you. If you are nice to a rattlesnake, he will still bite you. If you bring honey to a grizzly bear for her cubs, she will kill you.
Animals can be brutal and savage. They have no capacity for compassion and will kill with no regret or guilt.
The apostle Paul said that in the last days people will be brutal and times will be fierce.  “Fierce” describes the people as violent and hostile. “Brutal” describes them as cruel, savage, unreasonable, and acting on a physical and emotional level with no compassion or care for others.    
The term Paul used to describe the times is the same term the Gospels use to describe the man out of whom Jesus cast a legion of demons. He was fierce and savage, could not be tamed or controlled. He broke chains and cast them asunder, and lived wild among the tombs (Mat 8:29; Mark 5:4). This is descriptive of Satan’s goal for man. Man in this state becomes a willing tool in the fight against God and God’s people. The Apostle Paul was resisted and assaulted by those whose anger and hostility caused them to behave like wild beasts. They became instruments in the hands of the “messenger of Satan sent to buffet.”

When the World is enraged against Christians
“The world will hate you.”  John 15: 18-21
 There are growing forces in our nation that seek to remove God and biblical Christianity from our culture.  These forces, given the opportunity, will eventually persecute Christians with the same intensity we have witnessed in other nations. The Bible and Judeo-Christian values in the founding principles of our nation produced a society in which Christians have been relatively comfortable and unthreatened. However, as our culture lays aside biblical values and removes God from its institutions, government, and education, it will begin more and more to despise Christians and hate them because of their commitment to Jesus Christ as the only way to God, and because of their stand on moral issues as taught in the Bible. During the Roman persecutions Christians were called “haters of mankind” because of their disapproval of and refusal to participate in cultural immoralities that were prevalent at the time. There are forces in our culture now moving in that direction.  Just as the devil has historically created an irrational and unreasonable hatred toward the Jews, he will also stir up and fuel the same unreasonable and intense hatred toward those who follow Jesus. 
We will find ourselves in a social context where those who hate us will not be placated nor appeased. We will not be able to cause them to like us, no matter how much we love them or try to make our message palatable.
 The following verses show us how determined and intense can be their hostility toward God, His Word, and His people.

Exceedingly Enraged.  Acts 26:9-11
Before he met Christ, Paul was “exceedingly enraged” against Christians and “persecuted” them. “Exceedingly” means “beyond what is required or necessary,” and implies extreme and zealous behavior. “Persecute” is from the Greek root word “to chase” and  implies an aggressive pursuit. It was not a simple “I don’t like them, and if I happen to stumble upon any of them, I’ll punish them.” No, it was not casual. It was an aggressive and impassioned hatred accompanied by a legally authorized pursuit in order to imprison and/or kill. The devil seeks to instill this type of attitude and behavior in those who do not know God. We are seeing signs of it in American culture today.

Gnashing With Their Teeth.  Acts 7: 54, 57
The Psalmist said that the wicked gathered, attacked him, and gnashed at him with their teeth. Luke tells us the mob that stoned Stephen cried out with loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him gnashing their teeth. Gnashing is what happens when people are in torment, or controlled by anger and hate, or in an attack mode. The term is attributed to beasts that snarl and gnash the teeth as they attack their prey. In humans gnashing of the teeth also implies a frustration that is intermingled with the hate. It is frustrating and foolish to fight God or his people. Jesus said it is like kicking a pitch fork, and I will add “with bare feet.”

David said that that his persecutors were like lions, men whose passions were set on fire in their attempts to destroy him.
“My soul is among the lions; I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.  -Psalm 57:4.

The Psalmist prophesied that those who crucified our Lord would be like wild animals in their desire to destroy Jesus.
Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They gape at me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. ..for dogs have surrounded me… But You, O Lord, do not be far from me; Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen!” -Psalm 22: 12-13,16,19-21.

The book of Revelation describes the devil as a dragon enraged and making war against those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“And the dragon was enraged…and went to make war with…the rest of her offspring…who have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  -Revelation 12: 17

Why are the nations angry?
The Gospel of the kingdom proclaims God’s rule as well as His love. The nations are angry at God because they are deceived, and because they do not want His rule. Rebellion hates authority. Although God is love, He is also absolute power and authority. In Psalm 2 the nations are angry because they reject His rule and want to be free to do their own will. In Revelation 11:17-18 they are ang
ry because He has taken His great power and imposed His reign, which in this case also means judgment on rebellion and wickedness.  
Man going his own way in rebellion will resent the message of the kingdom of God. He will even reject the idea of God’s love. So how do we communicate the kingdom of God to a culture in which there are so many who are hostile to it. As Christians we must have faith that our communication when done in wisdom and love will reach those who are really looking for God. And we must also be prepared for those who will hate us and reject the message no matter how it is packaged. But still, there are those searching and waiting for the good news. May we boldly and wisely proclaim the risen Lord Jesus to a world that so desperately needs a savior, whether they realize it or not. May we remember the words of Jesus: “A servant is not greater than his master, if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you, if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.”


Anonymous said...

Insightful Billy and sobering as well. Despite the changes in our culture, our commission does not change and that enrages our opposition all the more. Meanwhile in many circles the frog is already boiling. We cannot be Christlike, individually or corporately, without being filled with grace and truth. Both of those wings are necessary or the plane will crash. With those two wings we can take flight but we can also can count on the triple-A. Our hope rides on the Gospel, the Message of the Cross, strongly proclaimed and the Holy Spirit mighty at work in the lives of those who hear it--raising the dead to life--transforming Sauls into Pauls. In a hundred nations right now our brothers and sisters are facing real persecution, much of it severe. I think you're absolutely right--our share may be coming...

Thank you for your faithfulness Billy...

Your brother in Christ,

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile - hoping it will eat him last” - Winston Churchill

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” - Jim Elliot (Speared to death in Ecuador, January 8, 1956)

"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." - 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB) (Paul from the Mamertine Prison before his beheading...)

Billy Long said...

A very good word, Steve.