Also spoken on Radio Rhema, Canberra, Australia. These short presentations deal with the fruit of allowing offenses to remain upon us. They are like the monkey we allow to sit on our shoulder, continually tugging at our hair. Why does the Lord allow offenses to come?
Part 1: Losing our fruit and the supernatural work of God.
Part 2: Losing our confidence and our testimony.
Part 3: Losing our communion.
Part 4: John the Baptist.
Part 5: Mary of Bethany.
Part 6: Why He allows offenses to come.
Part One: Losing our fruit and the supernatural work of God.
Have you ever been offended? I'm sure you have .... but have you ever realised just how damaging this can be to yourself and to others.
Jesus told us that offences will surely come. You cannot avoid them, but you can decide what you will do with them. Being offended is not the same as being wronged or sinned against. When you are offended by someone else's action or attitude, the offence is yours, not theirs!
Jesus was the cause of offence to many but He never sinned against them. I want to look at some Biblical examples of those who took offense and at what it cost them.
In Matthew 13 Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed. Some seed fell on stony ground where it had not much root. It sprang up and was quickly scorched by the sun. He said that this is like the man who receives the word of life gladly but, when persecution comes because of the Word, he is offended, and turns away from the faith.
How many have become Christian believers because they were promised a wonderful life but were never warned that Jesus calls us to the disciplined life of taking up our cross and following Him, if we would know the truths of His promise.
When it became tough, they fell away, being offended. The result was that the seed sown produced no fruit. The Holy Spirit wants to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace in our lives but, when we take offence, there can be no such fruit.
Later in the same chapter, we read that Jesus came to His own town of Nazareth and stood up in the synagogue to read on the Sabbath day. The people who heard Him had known Him as a young lad and familiarity had bred contempt. "Who does he think he is?" they said. "Isn't his father Joseph the carpenter and aren't his family our neighbours?" Matthew 13:57 records that they took offence at Him. The result was that He did not do many miracles there.
When we are offended, we will not only produce no fruit in our lives but we also hinder the supernatural work of God in our community!
Part Two: Losing our confidence and our testimony.
One day a woman came into the house where Jesus was resting. She was carrying an expensive vase of perfume which she broke open to pour the contents upon His head. She wished to bless Him with this anointing but the disciples, especially Judas, were offended when they saw what she had done.
"Why this waste?" they exclaimed. "Couldn't this perfume have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor?"
The apostle John tells us that Judas wasn't really concerned about the poor but was offended because he was a thief and wanted to take advantage of any money which might have come into the disciples' hands. (John 12:6)
This was the catalyst that finally made him go out to the chief priests, the enemies of Jesus, in order to betray his master. Maybe he wanted to force His hand to bring about the kingdom of heaven which He had promised. Maybe things were moving too slowly for Judas. Whatever he was thinking, his offence prodded him into action.
He had lost confidence in the Lord and his offence had magnified this to the point of betrayal!
Be sure, another fruit of being offended is a loss of confidence, leading to betrayal.
How often Christian leaders have been put out of office because someone took offence at something they said or did!
Later, in the same chapter of Matthew's gospel, chapter 26, we read that Jesus warns His disciples that many will be offended because of Him this very night, as He will be taken by the chief priests and scribes to be beaten and crucified. Peter vehemently protests that he will never be offended, even if everyone else is.
How he must have regretted those words just a few hours later. He had managed to enter the kitchen of Pilate's home where Jesus was being tried. There a young maid had recognised him as one of Jesus' followers. Maybe she wanted to know more about the Lord but Peter was offended as Jesus had prophesied, and he swore that there was no relationship between him and this criminal being tried!
He repeated this denial two more times before he heard the cock crow and realised how his offence had cost him his testimony.
Taking offence can cause us to lose our fruit, our confidence and our testimony. It also hinders us in experiencing the supernatural working of God in our lives and community. The result of being offended can be very bitter!
Part Three: Losing our communion.
This is a very long chapter with teaching quite difficult to understand. The disciples said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" Jesus is telling his followers that they must "eat His flesh and drink His blood" if they would be His people.
In retrospect we can understand this as a call to communion - identification with one another in the Body of Christ.
In the upper room, the night before He died, Jesus had made many wonderful promises to the disciples - and hence to us - peace the world could not give, a joy that would be "full", the Holy Spirit to dwell within, a home in Heaven.
He also asked of them three things: that they serve one another as He demonstrated by washing their feet; that they love one another as He commanded; that they obey His word.
He then instituted the "Lord's Supper" - a covenant meal. A covenant is an agreement between two parties - the terms of which are the promises and requirements expressed above.
Every time we take the bread in 'communion' we are declaring ourselves members of His body, His 'flesh'; every time we take the cup we are declaring our agreement to the covenant - to serve one another, love one another and to obey His word. This is what He was asking of His followers in John 6 - a call to communion.
Do you get offended when told that the King commands you to love the brethren, including those whose doctrine and styles of worship are so different to yours?
Those listening to Jesus found this difficult to accept. They were offended by Him (v.61) with the result that many of His disciples followed Him no more. They lost their communion with Him.
Part Four: John the Baptist.
We are looking at what can happen in our lives when we take offence. We have to take ownership for the offence we carry and not try to pass the blame onto others.
Offence is NOT sin. Taking offence upon ourselves is sin! Jesus often caused offence but no one would recognise His actions as sin. He offended the Pharisees; He offended the demons; He even offended His own family!
There are two examples I wish to show you when He seems to deliberately offend those He loved!
John the Baptist was a cousin to Jesus and was the one who first declared that Jesus was the "lamb of God, come to take away the sin of the world". He had baptised Jesus in the Jordan and had seen the dove descend upon Him and had heard the Father's voice from Heaven. Of all men, John knew that Jesus was the Messiah.
Later, as Jesus began His ministry, John's importance declined until he was taken by Herod and cast into prison. I can imagine his thoughts as he lay there.
"My cousin is the Messiah and he has come to overthrow Herod's little empire and to establish His own kingdom! He'll get me out of this prison soon for He has declared that He has come to set the prisoner free. Surely it wont be long! John sits back in his cell and waits .. and waits ... and waits.
Meanwhile, Jesus continues His ministry in the neighbouring villages, not even finding the time to visit His cousin in prison! Surely He would at least come to visit Him! Others did! He does not come - and John is offended!
John's disciples are sent to Jesus to ask a question. "Are you truly the Messiah or should we wait for another?" ie; "You do not meet our expectations!" (Matthew 11)
Jesus replies "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard. The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them, and blessed is the man who is not offended in me". In other words, "I am doing exactly what I was anointed to do!" (Luke 4:18,19)
Could it be that the Lord allowed offence to come to John to teach him something about himself. Though John had declared that He must increase and I must decrease, John had to learn that the agenda, the timetable ,must be the Lord's , not ours.
Part Five: Mary of Bethany
Jesus had some special friends who lived in the small village of Bethany.
He was just a few miles away when He heard that His friend Lazarus was dying and that the sisters, Mary and Martha were grieving for him. When He heard this, Jesus stayed several days longer in the place where He was! We read of no miracles, no teaching that He did during that time! And Lazarus died!
On the journey to Bethany, Jesus taught just one simple truth. He who walks in the light does not stumble (is not offended), but he who walks in darkness is offended for he does not see the light.
When Jesus finally came to Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days and his sisters were in deep sorrow. It was Martha who came out to greet the Lord.
That is noteworthy as she was the one we normally consider to be the drudge, the one who was kitchen bound, while her sister Mary would leave everything to sit at Jesus' feet, washing them with costly perfume and wiping them with her hair while absorbing everything He said. The Bible adds the interesting comment, "but Mary stayed at the house!"
Today, Mary would be prominent in Christian activity, President of the local Women's Adoration Group, while her sister would be in the background making coffee and serving cookies.
Martha says to Jesus, "Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died". Jesus assures her that He is the resurrection and the life. I do not hear any condemnation in the comment of Martha, just a sadness.
She then goes to Mary to ask her to come to Jesus. Why isn't Mary already there? Surely she knows He is coming! Everyone would be aware of that, but Mary still sat in the house. Why?
May I suggest that she was pouting! She was offended!
When she comes to Jesus, she falls before Him and says the same words as Martha, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died". This time Jesus wept!
Not because Lazarus was dead. He had known that for some time and also knew that, in a short while, all would be rejoicing at his resurrection. He did not weep because Mary, Martha and their friends were in sorrow. He had known they would be for that was natural at the death of a loved one.
He wept because Mary was offended! Jesus would die for our offences but He still grieves when we take offence.
Did He allow Mary to be offended because she had to learn that obedience and trust are more important than prominence and popularity in the Lord's service? Greatness in the Kingdom is counted to those who would be least, even as servants.
Part Six: Why He allows offenses to come.
"Offences will surely come" said Jesus. (Luke 17:1)
He has promised to deliver us from evil but has not promised to deliver us from the causes of offence. He allows them to come to challenge our attitudes.
I have given you six examples from the Scriptures of those who were offended and we have seen the terrible result upon them. They lost their fruit, their confidence, their testimony and the supernatural working of God in their midst. The price is too high!
Jesus allowed His special friends to face offence so that they might learn some home truths. John the Baptist might have to learn that Jesus does not always do what we expect of Him. He is Lord and His agenda takes priority over ours.
Mary, sister of Lazarus, might need to know that obedience and trust are far more important than prominence and public displays in the service of the Lord.
What is it you need to learn? Is it possible that the offences you are facing have been allowed by the Lord so that you also can learn something about yourself?
What then should you do when offended?
Firstly, own the offence. It is yours and you must bear responsibility for its fruit.
Second: ask yourself, "What should I learn from this? Why am I offended? Is it challenging my ego, my expectations, my selfishness? In reacting this way, am I in danger of losing my testimony, my peace, my joy?
Third: receive the grace of God that enables you to pro-act to the offence, not react. The writer to the Hebrews says, "Be careful not to come short of the grace of God, lest there spring up in you a root of bitterness which not only effects you but defiles many others."
Fourth: Cast the offence off your shoulders and bury it!
Fifth: Pray blessings upon the one who offended you.
Finally, be careful not to be the one who causes offence! Whereas the Lord can allow offences to come to us, He shows no pleasure in those who cause them!
May it be true of us that we neither cause nor take offence, so that Satan may never gain an advantage in spiritual warfare because of us - and we cause our beloved Saviour to weep!