“RESISTANCE”

There is a verse in the Bible found in Acts 26:14. Here, Jesus has appeared to the man then known as Saul (later, the Apostle Paul) who was vehemently persecuting Christians—and this is strange for Saul to be doing since he claimed to know the scriptures well! In this setting, the Lord appears to him personally in His post-resurrection and asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
I remember this verse for many reasons, one of which is its use of a word we do not use today—goads. What does it mean? It is a spiked or prickly stick used to drive cattle, what we would call today a cattle prod. Why do cattle need to be prodded? It is because many of these beasts are stubborn. So, was the Lord telling Saul he was stubborn? Yes. In what way? He was “kicking against the goads,” he was resisting the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, in general and for his own life specifically. In other words, the very scriptures Saul had studied, known so well, and supposedly dedicated his life to which all pointed to and talked about and prophesied about Jesus, he was resisting.
Salvation is not inevitable. It is not a foregone conclusion. Most people believe they are basically good people and that, barring any deviation from that (wrong) assumption, they will enter the kingdom of Heaven when they die. This thinking is, as I stated before, incorrect. All people know they are imperfect. But rather than embracing the truth that it is this same imperfect nature which ensnares them and will keep them out of Heaven, they kick against the goads. They resist their fallen condition, minimize its danger and influence over their lives, and either walk through life ignoring that heart knowledge or they adopt another incorrect ideology which says that they can do good deeds or works (at least enough to supposedly counter the bad) to warrant keeping them out of Hell for eternity.
Further, those scenarios assume that one cares or thinks about eternity at all; many talk and live as though they do not. We resist the free gift, the grace of God. But it is not as though the gift is solely a kind offer or a token of beneficence. Rather, it is absolutely necessary. It is a life-line. It is oxygen. It is a pardon from a death sentence. It is a highly-paid ransom. It is a totally canceled debt. It is a righteous, holy, divine life given for an unrighteous (guilty), unholy, sin-stained life. That God would do this for us is absolutely amazing, incomprehensible and mind-boggling! Instead of running to Him as quickly and as gratefully as we can while there is still time, we resist. We kick against the goads.
God already knows and prophesies the judgment in John 3:19, “And this is the judgment: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil.” Do not let this be your sentencing or your epitaph. Do not continue to kick against the goads” any longer. As John the Baptist began his public ministry (Matthew 3:2) and our Messiah began His public ministry (Matthew 4:17), they proclaimed the exact same words which were spoken then and repeated to you today, “REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND.”

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The spirit of Offense

The most negatively influential and destructive force in the world and within the Church today is a principality, a demon prince which is as divisive as the split rock at Horeb and the parted Red Sea. It is a spirit which is very effective and right at home in our flesh. It is called the “Spirit of Offense.”
It can be combatted and conquered both reactively and proactively. The Lord Jesus gives us these means and we MUST use them and be victorious in Him! Recently, we learned that the world sees forgiveness as something which is done to make ourselves feel better. This is not what the Messiah teaches us, nor is it how He lived. His Holy Word compels us to forgive out of a motive of godly, Christ-like, agape love. His motives, like at the Cross, are restorative and reconciliatory. They are not self-centered; they are other-centered (see Philippians 2:3-4).
The Spirit of Offense does not wear camouflage as a typical, satanic tactic in warfare. It is primal, emotional and totally carnal. It is fed off the fleshly, natural mind and heart. We CANNOT allow ourselves to be given over to it! We must use self-control. We must recognize it and be ready to stand firm in our resistance to it, while depending totally on God Almighty. (It is one horrible thing to observe the battle for lost souls occurring right outside the city walls, outside the camp, just beyond the gates. It is yet worse when the enemy breaches our defenses by penetrating those walls, and brings the fight inside the Church, and reaping havoc by pitting us against one another!) Fortunately, our Master has provided tools and weapons for such occurrences and His Word arms us for the conflict. Praise Jesus!
Our Savior is referred to as a “Rock of Offense” in 1 Peter 2:8 and in Romans 9:33. These reference our Lord concerning those who refuse to believe or trust in Him for salvation. However, the spirit by the name Offense bears this name because of its tactics and strategies. The Latin “scandulum” and the Greek “skándalon” mean the following (quite precisely):
a) A snare, a stumbling block, a cause of error
b) A “bait stick”
c) The trigger of a trap- the mechanism closing down on the unsuspecting victim
d) Putting a negative cause-and-effect relationship into motion
e) It stresses the means of stumbling such as entrapment or a person caught by their own devices (choices, decisions, reactions)
f) A native or indigenous rock rising up through the earth which trips up the traveler

 

The secular dictionaries define offense as “an annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one’s standards or principles.” However, today this perception has gone viral. It seems, today, that nothing at all can be said or expressed without someone reacting overly negative to it. This is what we observe in the world every day, especially in the news and social media. We still, as a society, need to exercise tact, care and civility but we cannot censor ourselves or others by creating an atmosphere of fear.
Within the Church, that spirit operates in a believer’s mind to the point where people are leaving the church to go to another because someone didn’t agree with what goes on- from the pastor’s sermon content, to the type of music being played during worship, to being asked to serve in a way that is out of one’s comfort zone, to the way the finances are being handled. The list goes on.
Christians are human and we are still being sanctified, meaning our flesh still has moments of undue and spontaneous influence over us at times. But our heavenly Father wants us to have self-control (2 Timothy 1:7), to consider ourselves dead to sin (Romans 6:11), to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13), to love one another (John 13:34-35), to be humble (1 Peter 5:6, Matthew 5:3) and to live in unity with each other (Ephesians 4:1-3, Psalm 133:1).
The Word of God tells us not to be stained by the world, that righteousness and wickedness have nothing in common, that we are a chosen race (as well as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession) and that the reasons we are commanded to love one another are so that:
a) He first loved us (1 John 4:19)
b) People will know we are His disciples/ followers (John 13:35) and
c) To bring glory to God! (Romans 15:7)

 

Proactively guarding ourselves from defeat before we are secretly or openly attacked, we can and should:
a) Put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18, especially)
b) Keep your mind on Heavenly things (Colossians 3:1)
c) Stay in the Spirit (Romans 8:6)

Reactively, after an attack has been launched- deceptively or overtly- we should:
a) Help and need each other (Ecclesiastes 4:10-12)
b) Be reconciled to each other (Matthew 5:23-24)
c) Pray for each other (James 5:16)
Our Lord Jesus revealed to us that “if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25). And Peter instructed us, “above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Satan’s motive is to steal, kill and destroy; his tool is the spirit of offense. Jesus’ motives are unity, peace and reconciliation; His tool is the love of the Father. And concerning obedience, “owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the Law” (Romans 13:8).
God bless you brothers and sisters, as you honor His commandment.