The Good, the bad and the ugly

How do you view the world? Have you ever taken a moment of self-reflection, stepping outside of yourself, to better understand a certain belief or perception? I would venture to say that most of us see the world in similar ways, or at various points in life we could place ourselves within the title of this message – as either good, bad, or ugly.  Do you see yourself as good – others as bad – and the world as ugly? What makes a person good? What makes someone else bad?

We all need to be careful in how we perceive ourselves and others – pride has a way of creeping in and we have to guard our hearts and minds – otherwise we can easily fall into a trap set by the enemy.  Believers are not immune to pride and other failures in character and morality.  Satan, our true adversary, experienced his great fall due to pride and the love of self over the love of God.

Anger, bitterness, and hatred are everywhere these days, surrounding our culture and permeating every aspect of our lives.  Journalism, as it was intended to be, is dead – replaced with agenda driven opinions that masquerade as fact-based news.  The world is being overcome by the dark evil spirit of lies and vengeance – the hallmarks of the father of lies – that has no place for debate,  you either agree with the mainstream narrative or become the target of the oppressive voice that controls media, entertainment, and the news.  Justice is not balanced, up is down, right is wrong, do not question the worldly agenda or you will pay a heavy toll.

“Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who substitute darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who substitute bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.”      Isaiah 5:20

We see it in the world but don’t be fooled, it has also found its way into the church.  The pulpit in many modern day sanctuaries is no longer a platform of truth that challenges the faithful to adhere to the high calling of our Lord.  It has become an arbiter of feelings, a pacifier of emotional reactions, to soothe and comfort a congregation that has lost its way.  This “feel good” theology has no place in truth and the watering down, and in many cases, ignoring of the entirety of the Word of God, is leading more people down that broad path towards destruction.

Why should it matter if a church or congregation wants people to feel better about themselves? I’ll tell you why it matters – when truth is replaced with feelings and emotions – you will lose your way and be left to find your own way out of darkness.  Truth is light – our world is darkness.  Without truth, you become blind in a darkened world.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence…in a descending spiral of destruction…The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. (1963)  Dr. Martin Luther King

Prosperity faith, feel good doctrines, self empowerment – none of these are aligned with the message of Jesus Christ.  Pantheism always points inward to create a belief that all power and spiritualism is attained within your own being – that you can rise to the level of a god.

“Every setback means you’re one step closer to seeing the dream come to pass. Indeed, it is as important to learn how to receive a blessing as it is to be willing to give one. Don’t just accept whatever comes your way in life. You were born to win; you were born for greatness; you were created to be a champion in life.”  Joel Osteen

Think about those words from the previous paragraph.  It is certainly uplifting, I mean, who doesn’t want to think they were born for greatness, or to be told that with every setback it means you’re one step closer to seeing the dream come to pass.  Wow, really? Is that how it works? What is that based upon and how does that apply to everyone? It’s like reading a daily horoscope – undefined gibberish that applies to everyone that reads them without individual merits.  These words in the spiritual context of which they were written are dangerous and full of deceit.  Sure, they sell plenty of books and people temporarily feel better about their situation in life – but at the end of the day they carry no weight in reality.  What’s worse is they don’t truly prepare you as a believer in Christ for the coming persecution we will face.  If you think this is about feeling better about yourself or your situation in life – you’re on the wrong path.

Jesus didn’t tell his followers they were “champions in life and every setback means you’re one step closer to success.”  Listen to what Jesus teaches us:

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”  Matthew 5: 10-12

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad when we are persecuted? That doesn’t seem to mesh with what I just read earlier.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  Matthew 16: 24-26

Let these words sink in – read the last paragraph again – and consider the message that comes from the highest authority – Jesus Christ.  If we are to believe in our hearts that Jesus gave his life for all, and that God raised Him from the dead, we are called to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.  You can’t reconcile one message that says it’s all about you – how you feel and how you can be successful – with the message from Jesus about putting ourselves second, denying ourselves, so that we can follow Him.

I want to make sure you understand these words – you have to choose – you can’t have it both ways. You can choose to make it all about yourself, your success, your own personal happiness – and like the author of those earlier words – you just might become wealthy along the way.  But remember those words from Christ – “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” – do you see the distinction here? I hope you do.

It’s not to say we can’t be happy, but the happiness we seek is found in Christ and in serving as He called us to do.  When you learn what it means to deny yourself, you open your heart to a love and peace that surpasses all understanding.  You realize what it means to embrace love above all else and to share that with a grieving world that is spiraling into darkness.

We have to spend time in the Word of God so that we are prepared for the challenges of this world and so that we can remain on the path of God’s perfect will for our lives.  If we are not ready to share a true testimony of Christ – then who will do it for us? People in this world are hurting, lost, many are giving up on ever finding hope and peace. That is why we are called to action and our purpose is to be that light in a dark world.

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good,traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.”  2 Timothy 3: 1 – 5

Stand at the ready, put love above hate, focus not on yourself – focus on Jesus and your own troubles will be kept in their proper perspective.  Our trials are temporary – our destination is eternal.  Live in the hope that comes with the resurrection – we are redeemed with God.  Don’t get trapped by perceptions, as being good or better than others – the bad and the ugliness of this world.  On our best day, we are nothing more than filthy rags – but once redeemed through the blood of our savior, Jesus, we are spotless to our creator.

 

John Stephen Frey, Director and Senior Editor, Life Beyond Horizons Ministry