The second thing that causes the seed of the Word of God to be uprooted from our hearts and wither away is persecution. The Greek word for “persecution” means to chase and follow hard after with hostility. It is to pursue an enemy and was the word used for chasing criminals. There is an intensity of effort, urgency and diligence in the pursuit. Picture a manhunt vigorously pursuing a fugitive with bloodhounds who are tracking the scent as they furiously attempt to capture the criminal. It is to hunt like an animal and to run swiftly after something. The word was used in the Old Testament to describe Pharaoh and his army’s pursuit of the Israelites before their destruction in the Red Sea. This shows the intensity of the pursuit even to their own deaths.
Persecution also means to harass in a manner designed to injure, vex, grieve or afflict. It can be a program, process or agenda designed to oppress and destroy a belief, idea, or pattern of conduct from living in the human heart. As a legal term in the ancient Greek world, it meant to prosecute. A form of the word even meant “the prosecutor.”
The comparable Hebrew word to “persecute” in the Septuagint means to beat down, subdue and bring to extinction. Persecution is a persistent beating down of the heart by a relentless pursuit to subdue and control it. Persecution wants to make the Word of God extinct in the human heart.
Persecution in Scripture always arises when the Word of God is believed and begins to grow in the hearts of people. The kingdom of darkness is after the Word of God. The Devil stands as the ruthless pursuer to discredit the Word of God and uproot it from living in the heart. The Devil stands as the harsh prosecutor who is always presenting his false evidence against the Word of God so the human heart rings out a verdict of rejection. This slick prosecutor is the master of deception and weaves cunning lies against the truth. He persuades heart to be full of unbelief and disdain for God’s holy Word. This is the epicenter of all the Devil’s spiritual, mental and physical persecution. His mission: kill the Word of God in the heart. Never allow it to take root and flourish.
The Devil’s target is always the Word of God and his opening statement in the trial of our hearts is the same one he used in the Garden of Eden- “Did God really say?” This strategy has been so successful in eradicating God’s Word from the hearts of millions with the blistering heat of doubt and unbelief.
Jesus Christ: The Focal Point of all Persecution
Persecution arises out of the violent clashing between two spiritual kingdoms. The Word of God is the mighty weapon of one kingdom and the despised enemy of the other kingdom. The heart is at the center of this fierce battle. The intensity of this battle was raised to a new level the moment Jesus Christ, the Word of God in the flesh, was born. The Book of Revelation speaks of this.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time. So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:4b-5, 7, 9, 12b, 17, NASB)
Jesus Christ is the focal point of all persecution because He is God’s plan for redemption. He is the Savior, the Great Shepherd, the second Adam, the Alpha and the Omega, the light of the world, the bread of life, the way, the truth, the life, and the door to God’s kingdom. He is the great restorer, healer and deliverer who crushed the head of the serpent and his kingdom of darkness, exposing all of the Devil’s schemes and strategies. He restored everything that Adam and Eve had lost in the Garden of Eden and conquered sin and death. He opened up the prison door so any person can come to him for eternal salvation and be freed from the chains of Satan’s kingdom.
Jesus Christ came to dwell in our hearts as his permanent home, not as a visitor, but as its Lord. He is the great transformer of the human heart, and he desires to make our hearts into his image, so that the words, thoughts and deeds that flow out of them represent Him.
Jesus Christ declared in John 18:36 that “my kingdom is not of this world” and in John 14:30 “the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.” The prince of this world, Satan, desires to mold our hearts into the image of his kingdom. He wants to exclusively rule from the throne of our hearts. This is where the kingdoms violently clash and the battle rages for control of the heart. As a Christian, if we take our stand in Christ, and live rooted in Him, we become a rebel to Satan’s kingdom. We become the hunted and the persecuted as he makes war against all Christians who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the testimony and witness of Jesus Christ.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:18-20, 25, ESV)
You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. (Luke 21:17, ESV)
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23, NASB)
I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (John 17:14, NLT)
My persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:11-12, ESV)
The world system, orchestrated by the Wicked One, hates the heart where Christ lives. We have Christ in us, the hope of glory, and wherever we go and whatever we do, Christ is to be manifested and seen as alive in us. We are the living representatives of Christ upon the earth, His ambassadors in the midst of the kingdom of darkness. We are to shine as brilliant lights in every dark corner of this world. This brands us as a traitor to the world system, a citizen of another world, as we belong to God, not Satan.
Christianity brings intense hatred and persecution because it is the magnificent testimony of Christ’s complete victory and Satan’s humiliating defeat. It is a painful and miserable reminder to the Devil that his kingdom was soundly defeated at the cross and eternally routed in the triumph of Calvary. Words fail to describe the Devil’s depth of hatred for Christ and the Word of God.
Spurgeon said in his sermon Persecuted but Not Forsaken:
There are two things that are inconceivable in length and breadth. The first is the love of God to His people, which is altogether without limit. And the next is the hatred of the devil, which is and must be finite, for he is only a creature, but still, it is as great as it possibly can be. We have no idea with what determined vehemence Satan hates these who belong to Christ! He will do anything he can in the hope of destroying one of them. He goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.[i]
The Greek word for “hatred” in John and Luke means to pursue with hatred, to detest, to have extreme hostility towards, and to abhor. This great hatred is what fuels the persecution of Christ and the seed of the Word. The heart built by God can withstand all persecution and hatred by the enemy, and stand boldly in Jesus Christ, no matter how hot the heat becomes. Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, not a hair of our head will be scorched from the fiery furnace of persecution, and we will not even smell like smoke, when our hearts take an immovable stand for God and the integrity of His Word.
Eric Ludy in Wrestling Prayer: A Compassionate Communion with God says:
Jesus Christ-the rightful king of every human soul … has received his anointing. It is accomplished. He is the King. But this anointing was a “renegade anointing.” The horn of oil was poured upon His Head in the heart of Lucifer’s dominion-Earth … Our rightful king has not yet taken His throne upon the physical earth … there is a bounty upon all who would identify with Him … If there ever was a time to rise up and join our King, it is not when He has entered into the fullness of His glory and all knees are bowed unto that person. Rather, it’s now, in the season of persecution. This is when the true motives of the King’s followers are proven … To identify with Jesus is to prove a traitor to the governments of the world system. To stand with Jesus is to stand against Lucifer, sin and the flesh. You cannot stand with darkness and light simultaneously. To acknowledge Jesus as King is … to live as one of the hunted.[ii]
Branded for Jesus Christ or the World?
From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17, NASB)
Is our heart branded for Jesus Christ? The brand was the mark of ownership on the body of a soldier or servant. According to ancient oriental usage, slaves and soldiers bore the name of their master or commander. It was branded into their bodies so there was no doubt who they belonged to. The Apostle Paul also bore the physical scars of service to Jesus Christ left by many beatings, imprisonments, and hardships he endured as a good soldier and faithful slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Are we willing to be branded for Jesus Christ so that wherever we go, this world knows beyond any shadow of doubt that we belong to Christ. Or does our heart shrink back, refusing to bear the mark of the hated, despised and hunted in this world. How do we respond to the pressure that the world exerts on our heart to conform or be labeled as an outcast? Whose brand will our heart bear?
No Fear: Shaking the Gates of Hell
We must never allow persecution to cause us to fear the enemy. We can overcome the world by our faith in Christ as greater is the power and authority that is in us, than the power, authority and evil that is in the world. We always triumph in Christ. We are God ordained super conquerors in Christ. We are immovable, untouchable, invincible and fearless in Christ. Our heart cannot glorify God when it is full of fear of the enemy and ignorant of who we are in Christ. Victory not defeat is the battle cry of Christianity.
Later the seventy came back full of joy. “Lord,” they said, “even evil spirits obey us when we use your name!” “Yes,” returned Jesus, “I was watching and saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning! It is true that I have given you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the enemy’s power—there is nothing at all that can do you any harm. (Luke 10:17-19, PHILLIPS)
Our heart no longer has to be the playground of the enemy. God has given us mighty power in our new birth in Christ to trample the devil’s kingdom and overcome the enemy. Nothing can harm us when our lives are rooted in Christ, and we walk in the authority of the Word of God. Spiritually we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ and all things of this world and the kingdom of darkness are under our feet. By the grace and mercy of God, this is a position of immense power and authority in Christ.
We are to be on the offensive as a soldier of Jesus Christ, taking back territory for the kingdom of God and delivering souls from the power of Satan to God. We should be shaking the very gates of hell because of the triumphant Christ that lives and moves in our heart. The Devil wants to keep us bound in our old grave clothes with little knowledge of what was accomplished on the cross of Jesus Christ. For our heart to rise above the hatred of the world and the persecution of the enemy’s kingdom, we must know who we are in Christ.
A.W. Tozer in I Talk Back to the Devil: The Fighting Fervor of the Victorious Christian says:
The Devil makes it his business to keep Christians in bondage, bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in their own grave clothes … He knows that if we continue in this type of bondage, we will never be able to claim our spiritual heritage … Satan has been in this business of intimidating and silencing and oppressing the people of God for a long, long time … I am sure it is not glorifying to God that Christians should be so intimidated and silenced in our day … Satan is an old dragon that defies us to this hour. He is saying to Christians, “I defy you—what are you going to do about it?” … This has to be the secret of our praise and enthusiasm—Jesus Christ is our Overcomer! In our own strength we cannot overcome anyone or anything … It is for us to trust wholly in the Lord Jesus. This is the only way in which we can conquer fear and live in blessed victory … through Jesus Christ I am the victor! … Brethren, God never meant for us to be kicked around like a football … when the devil starts tampering with you, dare to resist him! I stand for believing God and defying the devil-and God loves that kind of courage among His people. If you are still wrapped in grave clothes and great fears lie upon you, it is time for you to dare to rise and in sweet faith in the risen Jesus Christ declare: “I will not take this any longer. I am a child of God-why should I go mourning all the day? Will God answer? “All right my child,” He will answer as the burden rolls away, “I have waited long to hear you say that. Jesus is Victor and in Him you overcome!”[iii]
Cast off forever the old grave clothes from our heart and pledge to God that we will never be intimated, frightened or silenced by the Devil or his kingdom ever again. We must defy the Devil daily by standing firmly in Jesus Christ, the Overcomer, and never allow our hearts to be uprooted from him because of the scorching heat of persecution. God has given us the victory in Christ and promises to deliver us from every single persecution that is ever thrust upon our heart by the roar of the enemy. Our cry in persecution should be like the wonderful song in Psalms 44 for when we depend on God, persecutions will bounce off the protective shield that God has built around our heart. No enemy can contend with God Almighty.
You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel. Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes. I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name. (Psalm 44:4-8, NLT)
Surprising Source of Most Persecution
To help protect our hearts from falling into this second soil, we must know the strategies of the enemy regarding persecution. The Devil is very subtle as persecution often arises from our close inner circle: our churches, fellow-Christians, family, friends, co-workers, teachers, professors, neighbors and community. Persecution will test where our true loyalties lie. Is our heart rooted deep enough in the Word and Christ to withstand the questioning, ridicule, mockery and disdain of many in our inner circle? We so often think persecution of our faith simply comes from the secular world and outsiders. However, it is eye-opening when we realize the source of most persecution, as the Bible gives us hundreds of examples so we are not fooled.
The great majority of persecution comes from religious people who are entrenched in religious systems and doctrines. If we stand up for truth in a number of churches, we are going to get persecuted. It may be surprising to learn that throughout history many of the ruthless persecutors of the Word of God and Christians came from within the church. Look at the persecution of the Inquisition where the church went after its own with reckless abandon and tortured, maimed and killed them in some of the worst ways ever imagined.
The devil loves religion because it has nothing to do with the true God and is an easy façade to hide his deceptions. Look at our Savior as the constant persecution to his ministry was from the Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests and scribes, who were the religious elite of his day. The religious establishment that was supposed to represent God, hated Jesus Christ, and viciously persecuted him culminating in his torture and death. The great religious men and their corrupt system crucified their Messiah.
God takes off the mask of man-made religion in the Bible and reveals its true heart as perverse and full of darkness. It breeds evil and will stop at nothing to protect its existence and doctrines even to the point of trying to eradicate the Word of God and all those who stand upon it. God places a huge neon sign in Scripture that says “BEWARE!” when it comes to the religious systems of people who do not know God or love Him. There is a tremendous persecution today from the zealous proponents of Islam around the globe from people whose hearts are sold out to a religious system borne of this world and the kingdom of darkness.
Persecution also comes from the inner circle of our family, friends and close associates whom the Devil craftily influences to shake our faith in God and His Word. Under the scorching heat of this inside persecution, many hearts begin to wilt and become uprooted from the Word of God and Christ. The devil often uses those we love and care about to shoot a fiery missile into our hearts.
I think of Job and his three friends who were miserable comforters in his time of distress. Also look at Jesus Christ as a vivid example, as he received persecution from his family, his followers and even one of his inner twelve disciples. When Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem near the time of his crucifixion, great multitudes of apparent followers and disciples cried out “Hosanna (save us please) to the son of David, blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord even the king of Israel! Hosanna in the highest!” This whole multitude rejoiced and praised God with a loud voice. Many of these people had been with Jesus when he called Lazarus out from the grave and had heard about this great miracle. The entire city of Jerusalem was moved and the multitude declared “This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee!”
Surely this multitude would never turn on Jesus and persecute him. Jesus should be able to count on their support in his greatest hour of need. Yet in just a matter of days, this same crowd of apparent followers and disciples, when Pilate said “Behold your King!” cried out, “Away with him, away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him!” They joined in the persecution and demanded Jesus be put to death. How quickly the hearts of his followers and friends viciously turned on Jesus. How fickle are the hearts of men and women when it comes to their commitment to God and Jesus Christ!
John 7:5 states that Jesus Christ’s own family did not believe in him and there came a dramatic moment in the gospels when his mother and family showed up at his door in attempt to halt Jesus’s ministry and forcibly take him home. They thought he had lost his mind.
And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21, ESV)
The Greek word for “seize” means to take hold of forcibly, to take into custody and arrest, to continually hold back, to hinder and restrain, to prevail and rule over, and to take into one’s possession. The Greek word for “out of his mind” means to be out of one’s senses, to be insane, to be deranged, and to be driven out of his mind. It was the word used when wine turned sour causing one to disfigure their face because of the taste. The word was also used when you felt someone was bewitched or demonized.
His very own family, which we know from the later verses in this chapter, included his mother and brothers, pursued Jesus to his house with the firm intent to forcibly take him into custody and restrain him from ministering again. They believed his actions flowed out of insanity, confusion and derangement. They may have even felt he was bewitched, possessed or demonized, like the scribes who at the same time accused him of being possessed by Beelzebub.
This is his own mother and brothers who fell into the trap of persecuting Jesus! Jesus had become like sour wine to them and they were determined to put an end to this insanity and become the guardian over Jesus. Could our heart withstand this type of persecution from our own family who wants to arrest us? Could we withstand them wanting to commit us to a mental institution because they think we are insane or even worse possessed and bewitching people? Jesus shared with his disciples that this is a common occurrence to those who stand for Christ and refused to budge off the Word of God.
Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. And everyone will hate you because you are my followers. But not a hair of your head will perish! By standing firm, you will win your souls. (Luke 21:16-19, NLT)
Our hearts must be so rooted in Jesus Christ that the hatred and mockery from the religious establishment, world and even our friends and family does not turn our hearts away from God to the path of least resistance. Jesus Christ is to be the bedrock and firm foundation of our heart so that we can withstand the beating storms and pressures of life. Jesus Christ must captivate every thought, be infused into every action, and be interwoven into every word that comes forth from our heart. When this happens, a great transformation of the heart takes place in the midst of this crooked generation. His heart becomes our heart, His love becomes our love, His fearlessness becomes our fearlessness, and His strength becomes our strength as we become the true and radiant reflection of our Lord in persecution.
Tribulation and persecution have a tremendous impact on the heart as they are either going to make the heart stronger or weaker in the Lord. They will either cause the heart to have abundant joy, deeper faith, more confidence and greater love for God or cause the heart to be resentful, bitter, discouraged, apathetic and hateful toward God. The Devil uses tribulation and persecution to uproot the Word of God from the Christian’s heart. The Devil uses tribulation and persecution to turn the Christian’s heart against God and betray Him. The Devil uses tribulation and persecution as powerful tools to eradicate the Word of God from the heart and place it in a condition of rebellion and disobedience towards God. The Devils uses tribulation and persecution to get the heart into a condition of spiritual barrenness where it is not producing fruit for the glory of God.
Our hearts must be diligently prepared and fortified in the Word of God and our faith must be strong, unmovable and unwavering in confident trust of our God and His Word. This will enable us to stand boldly on the truth when the storms of mental pressure and persecution roar against the heart like a fierce hurricane.
Have you ever seen a picture of a palm tree during a hurricane? It is so deeply rooted in the ground that the fierce winds and rain can bend and toss it, but it is not uprooted and destroyed? Our heart must be like the palm tree that does not become uprooted from the Scripture and our faith in Christ when the devil tries to squeeze, crush and intimidate us with tribulation and persecution.
Tribulation and persecution will test how deep our relationship is with God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Tribulation and persecution will test the lordship of Jesus Christ and bring to light who really is the lord of our hearts. Tribulation and persecution will put our faith on trial and determine its depth, purity and genuineness under its fire. Tribulation and persecution are the environmental testing grounds to analyze the soil sample of our heart, as they will show the condition, content and category of the soil.
As a wise farmer, we must diligently prepare the soil of our hearts so that it is fertile ground for the Word of God to develop a deep root system. The root system is to be nourished by the living waters of the Spirit of God allowing the life of the seed of the Word of God to grow strong in the heart. Then the tender crop can endure the blistering heat of persecution and tribulation. We will have great joy at harvest time as we reap the most beautiful spiritual fruit that the world has ever seen. We will never cease from yielding fruit as long as our root system is strong in Christ. Each persecution and tribulation thrown at us by our enemy only makes us stronger because we abide in Him.
The Dangerous Condition of Offense
Persecution and tribulation not only harden the heart against God and destroy a weak root system, but also can cause the heart to enter a dangerous and deadly condition. The Bible uses one word to describe this toxic condition and that is offense. Offense is a deadly disease of the heart that causes it to be ensnared by the enemy. We must guard against our heart from ever becoming offended or we are headed for enormous trouble spiritually. An offended heart always betrays our Lord in word, thought and deed. An offended heart stands in opposition to the Word of God. It is a fertile growing ground for evil as it produces the fruit of bitterness, unforgiveness, and resentment. An offended heart is spiritually barren for God and will never produce fruit for the Lord. It is where the love for God has gone ice cold. An offended heart is full of envy, strife, and hostility. It is disobedient and rebellious against God and His commandments.
If our heart is offended, we cannot love, trust and serve God Almighty. If our heart is offended, we cannot do the work of His kingdom with the compassion of Christ. The sin of offense has plagued Christianity throughout its history causing massive division in the Body of Christ. Christian brothers have despised, hated and killed other Christian brothers. Churches have split, and thousands of denominations have formed. Christians have been tortured and killed and have fallen into apostasy and forsaken Christ, all because their hearts became offended.
Time and time again Jesus taught his disciples not to allow the heart to enter a state of offense. He instructed his disciples about the persecution and tribulation that would be coming, fueled by the hatred of Satan, so they would not be offended. Jesus knew what offense could do the heart.
Offense caused the twelve disciples to forsake the Lord and scatter in fear when Jesus was seized and crucified. Offense caused Peter to repeatedly betray the Lord and deny Him. Offense caused John the Baptist to doubt that Jesus was the Christ, as he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was the Messiah, or should they look for another. Offense caused Judas to betray His Master for thirty pieces of silver. Offense caused King Saul to repeatedly attempt to assassinate David, God’s chosen King. Offense caused the Pharisees, Sadducees and other religious leaders to despise Jesus, plot his death, mercilessly beat him and finally put him to death by crucifixion.
How Will You Respond to Offense?
These are humbling lessons in Scripture especially if we think our heart could never become offended in our Lord and betray Him. God set these examples in the Bible as a solemn warning as many of God’s top men fell into the trap of offense. Jesus Christ warned that it was impossible that offenses not come (Luke 17:1). The critical question becomes how are we going to respond to offense? Offense often rides into the heart through a negative reaction to persecution and tribulation. Blessed is the person who is not offended in Christ and the persecution, tribulation and hatred his name brings (Matthew 11:6). We must be the watchmen on the lookout that the sin of offense never enters the door of our heart and make its home there.
The Greek word for “offended” is skandalon and it means to entice to sin, to distrust and desert, to cause to stumble, to cause to fall away and cease believing, to cause annoyance and displeasure, and the laying of a trap to capture. Skandalon referred to the trigger of a trap on which bait is placed. When an animal touches the trigger to eat the bait, the trap springs shut, and the animal is caught. The animal is enticed to its destruction. The trigger is what enables the trap to work and suddenly catch the prey in its deadly snare. The trigger allows the trap to be lightening quick and swiftly ensnare the poor animal before it even knows what happens.
Offense is that deadly to the health of the heart. It is the trigger that the Devil uses to suddenly capture and turn the heart away from God and keep it in a constant state of agitation, bitterness, envy, unforgiveness, and indignation. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing how suddenly and quickly offense can consume the heart and completely destroy any fruit for God.
When used in a moral context, skandalon indicates the enticement to conduct that will ruin a person. Offense always ruins the heart for God and corrupts its moral fiber. Offense is the breeding ground for sin as it is the gateway for sin to destroy the witness of the heart. Offense thrusts the heart into the danger zone where the toxicity of the kingdom of darkness begins to infiltrate its inner chambers and consume it. Offense is the trigger for the bait of Satan, and it opens the door of the heart for Satan to enter and captivate it. When Satan is allowed to enter our heart through offense, he immediately begins to uproot and discard any tender plant that has been growing from the seed of the Word of God. The heart is then held prisoner by Satan to do his will and to conform to his evil characteristics.
Offense causes the heart to stumble and fall away, wandering around in spiritual blindness. Offense always destroys relationships as more have been devastated by offense than almost any other attitude of the heart. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus is shattered when offense dominates our heart. Our relationships with our spouses, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our children, family and closest friends are ruined by offense. Offense is the great thief of relationships and the great destroyer of love. Offense always causes love to wax cold as selfishness, bitterness, and resentment raise their ugly heads. The desire for revenge, the desire to hurt, the desire to get even, and the desire to elevate oneself and put others down, all flow out of an offended heart.
Offense is one of the great stumbling blocks of the Christian walk and one of the great diseases of the human heart. Offense is a wall builder that tries to keep God out. Offense erects prison bars around the heart, and the longer the heart is in a state of offense the harder it becomes to win the heart back for God. Our heart cannot live out the new life we have in Christ when offense reigns in our hearts.
A brother offended is harder to be won over than a strong city, and their contentions separate them like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19, AMP)
Every shred of offense must be completely eliminated from our hearts so it does not take root and contaminate it. Not one vestige of offense can remain because it is like yeast in bread, as it will spread quickly and envelop the entire heart. We must not delay. We cannot hesitate. We must not procrastinate. Offense requires immediate, urgent action by the Christian believer. All offense must be uprooted and thrust from the heart before it destroys the seed of the Word of God from growing and producing fruit. The prison walls of offense must be torn down before it becomes a stronghold in the heart. Offense always seduces the heart into sin and it must be ruthlessly eradicated or its disease will spread like cancer throughout the heart. Jesus taught his disciples in no uncertain terms that if any offense existed in their lives, it must be radically and quickly eliminated. To allow offense to remain gives the devil a foothold in the human heart.
Jesus Christ: The Rock of Offense
Every person will one day come face to face with the rock of offense Jesus Christ. How will our heart respond? Jesus Christ will either bring bountiful joy and immeasurable love into our heart or he will cause our heart to be offended. These are the only two responses. Which path will your heart choose? How our hearts respond to the Rock of Offense is the most important decision we will ever face because this single choice will affect everything we do for the rest of our life and determine our eternal destiny.
When Jesus Christ stands at the door of your heart and knocks, asking us to turn from our selfish ways, take up our cross, forsake all and follow him, will you be offended? When Jesus Christ knocks on your heart and says, “I purchased you with my own blood on the cross, you are mine and I want your life” will your heart be offended? When Jesus Christ says, “Stand with me as the light in this dark world and you will become the number one enemy of the kingdom of darkness; you will be hated, despised, mocked and ridiculed by friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and public opinion,” will the rock of offense caused you to be offended and stumble? Will offense cause our hearts to turn away from the Lord Jesus for he is simply asking too much of me?
There is a passage to this effect in scripture, and it runs like this: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on him will by no means be put to shame’. It is you who believe in him that he is “precious,” but to those who disobey God, it is true that: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’ And he is, to them, ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.’ Yes, they stumble at the Word of God for in their hearts they are unwilling to obey it—which makes stumbling a foregone conclusion. But you are God’s “chosen generation,” his “royal priesthood,” his “holy nation,” his “peculiar people”—all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you. It is for you now to demonstrate the goodness of him who has called you out of darkness into his amazing light. In the past you were not “a people” at all: now you are the people of God. In the past you had no experience of his mercy, but now it is intimately yours. (1 Peter 2:6-10, PHILLIPS)
There is no place for offense in the Body of Christ. We are God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation of believers, and His beloved children, sanctified and made righteous, in Christ. God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Jesus Christ is not the Rock of Offense to the Body of Christ, but the head of it, and the captain of our salvation. Every member of the Body of Christ is filled to overflowing with the fullness of Christ. Offense only arises in the Body of Christ when our hearts are unwilling to obey the Word of God and rise up in rebellion against it. Offense causes us to stumble when we reject the Rock of Ages from being the Lord of our hearts.
There is no middle ground when it comes to the Rock of Offense. Partial obedience to the Word of God is one of the greatest sins of the church, as is vividly illustrated by the tragic fall of King Saul and the loss of his entire kingdom. The Rock of Offense demands all of our hearts, not just a part of them. The Rock of Offense requires more of your time than just an hour on Sunday. The Rock of Offense demands to be the center of every single activity and life choice we make. The Rock of Offense does not want a lukewarm, half-hearted, and tepid devotion to Him. He demands a 100 percent commitment of wholehearted love and dedication. Nothing less is acceptable. He wants living sacrifices, consecrated and fully given to Him with nothing held back. We cannot draw lines with the Lord Jesus Christ. Does this offend you? Is this too much for our hearts? How will your heart respond to the Rock of Offense?
How do we keep our hearts from being offended and ultimately betraying our Lord? How do we keep offense from establishing even one root in our heart? How do we make sure our heart is pure and completely free of offense? A wonderful verse in Psalms gives us the great remedy against offense.
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalm 119:165, KJV)
The Hebrew word for “love” is ahab, which means to desire, long for or breathe after anything. It means to delight in with great love. It is the love and deep longing of relationship. To breathe after something is to have an intense desire to pursue it with the whole heart. It is the same word used in Deuteronomy when the children of Israel are exhorted to love (ahab) the Lord God with all their heart, soul and might, and is used in the Song of Solomon to describe the intense longing, desire and love between a bride and bridegroom.
It brings a picture to my mind of longing for something so deeply that you pant for it. It is the deep and earnest feelings of the heart that produce a passionate desire for someone or something. This intense longing for God and His Word is illustrated in other Scriptures.
My soul is consumed with longing for thy laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20, NIV)
I opened wide my mouth, and panted; for I longed for thy commandments. (Psalm 119:131, ASV)
How I delight in your commands! How I love them! (Psalm 119:47, NLT)
Oh what love I have for your law! I give thought to I all day long! (Psalm 119:97, BBE)
I run the way of thy commandments, for you have given me freedom of heart. (Psalm 119:32, NJB)
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1, NAU)
We must have an intense yearning and deep love for the Word of God, greatly desiring that it lives in our hearts, if we are ever going to stop offense from taking up residency. We must seek after God’s commands with every breath. We should pant to feed upon every precious truth contained in Scriptures. We should adore the Scripture and let our hearts bask in the beauty, majesty and power of the Bible.
The Bible is supernaturally charged with the life and power of God Almighty and it will absolutely change, alter and transform every heart where it resides. We love Scripture for when we devote time to read and study it, we encounter the magnificent God of the heavens and earth in intimate detail.
Eric Ludy in the Bravehearted Gospel says, “Most Christians ‘respect’ the Bible, but very few treat it as precious, drink in its every word as if it were the dew from heaven, and cherish its every thought as though it were, in fact, divine.”[iv] When we crave God’s Word like we crave physical food. When we delight and mediate upon it, hide it in the depths of our inner being, and treasure and obey it with relentless passion, then our hearts have great peace. In the state of peace, nothing can offend our heart or cause it to stumble. Nothing! Not one thing can shake our hearts and agitate them when we love God’s Word with great desire. Offense cannot penetrate the shield of peace built by the great love of Scriptures in our hearts.
The reason why there is so much offense in the church and the world today is their hearts have no peace. They have no peace because they have no respect or love for God’s Word. They have no awe of the authority and power of Scripture and the Bible becomes just another book relegated to the dust-covered bookshelf.
Jesus Christ: The Prince of Peace
Every jot and title in the Bible testifies as to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Without Jesus no person on earth can ever have true peace. If Jesus Christ lives in our hearts, and we seek his instruction daily through the Word, then we will never be offended in Him. The Rock of Offense will bring great peace to the heart of any person who turns to Him and accepts his mighty work on the cross.
In Hebrew, the word for peace, shalom, means wholeness, completeness and soundness. It is a harmony and unity of heart and soul because of a restored relationship with God, our Father. It is an inward and outward tranquility, a quiet assurance, and a complete well-being where nothing is lacking or broken. Peace is the symphony and harmony of life, in which you enjoy all that is good because of your right relationship with God. It’s the freedom from being disturbed, agitated, stressed and troubled. It is the absence of discord, strife, and anxiety. It is to be at ease and calmly unaffected by circumstance. Peace is the highest measure of contentment, joyfulness, happiness, and satisfaction in life.
There is absolute security, safety, and victory at the center of peace. It is the absence of inward conflict, condemnation, and torment, and rather a state of rest, calmness, and quiet confidence. Offense cannot live and make one stumble in this type of environment. The heart cannot fall into the trap of the enemy and become disturbed and offended by tribulation or persecution when peace reigns in the heart.
True peace is complete oneness and unity with God where there is a wonderful mutual sharing of the enjoyment of that bond. God is the source of all peace, and we have peace because of our relationship with Him. His peace is our peace. His wholeness is our wholeness. His soundness is our soundness. His completeness is our completeness. No man or woman can ever have peace without a vibrant, living fellowship with our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t buy peace, we can’t medicate peace, and we cannot manufacture peace. We cannot produce true peace from some mental gymnastic exercise, self-help book or seminar. It is impossible to have peace apart from God, and it will never be manifested in our hearts without a great love for the Word of God and a passion to live it. Peace cannot live in a heart full of unbelief.
Peace and offense cannot co-exist together as either the heart is going to be offended or be at peace. We must never allow our hearts to become indifferent, uncaring and unloving concerning the Word of God for then we open the door to the sin of offense.
The Devil is constantly trying to get our heart to doubt the integrity, accuracy and truth of the Word of God with his sly questioning, “Did God really say?” Satan’s whispering is relentless as he tries to remove the Bible’s worth in the human heart by diminishing its value and credibility. He twist its words and throws contempt at its message. He wants to get the heart in a state of offense and to do so he must uproot any vestige of the Word of God from the heart. An offended heart is insulted by the Word of God in writing—the Bible. An offended heart is also insulted by the Word of God in the flesh—the Lord Jesus Christ. An offended heart refuses to conform to the pattern of Scripture and refuses to allow Jesus Christ to exercise his lordship over the heart.
It is easy pickings for Satan to fill us with offense and all its bitter fruit if our heart does not delight after Scripture as the greatest treasure on earth. The Bible reveals the very heart of God and how can we not gaze upon it with great love and adoration for it is the honorable and worthy message of our King.
Jesus illustrates the second soil of the heart and its tragic consequences in Mathew 7.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)
If we hear the Word of God as it is sown in our hearts and obey it by putting into practice, our hearts will be built upon the awesome Rock, Jesus Christ. When the storms of tribulation and persecution fiercely beat upon our heart, and the winds howl ferociously against us and the waters arise all around us, we will not crash and burn because the foundation of our heart is built on Christ and the living Word of God.
However, if we hear the Word sown in our hearts, but we do not love and obey it, but rather are offended and refuse to put it into practice, we are the foolish person who builds our heart on sinking sand. When the fierce storms of tribulation and persecution relentlessly beat on our hearts and the waters dangerously arise all around us, our lives will come crashing down in a great and dramatic fashion. The heart will be shattered into a hundred pieces and blown out to sea for it had no root and foundation in the Word of God.
Is our heart built on the Rock or on the sinking sand? Is Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace or the Rock of Offense to our heart? Is the Word of God the Word of peace or the Word that offends? The condition of the soil of our heart will be determined by these crucial questions. The true test will come when the storms of tribulation and persecution arise from the dark sky and violently beat against our heart. Then we will find out what our heart is made of. Then we will find out whether our heart is built upon the Rock or built upon sinking sand. We will find out the true condition of the soil of our heart.
[i] Charles Spurgeon, Persecuted by Not Forsaken, delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on March 8, 1883.
[ii] Eric Ludy, Leslie Ludy, Wrestling Prayer: A Passionate Communion with God (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), 99-101.
[iii] A.W. Tozer, I Talk Back to the Devil: The Fighting Fervor of the Victorious Christian (Camp Hill: WingSpread Publishers, 1972), Kindle Edition, 185.
[iv] Eric Ludy, The Bravehearted Gospel (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 167.
Excerpt from Tim Rowe’s The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life, available on Amazon, Kindle, IBook and Barnes and Noble