Operating within the confines of His Father’s love, Jesus determined to lovingly confront the religious leaders of His day! He often used strong language yet had to be making an effort to reach them or else it simply just would not qualify as love. Jesus said in Matthew 5:43,44 (KJV) “You have heard that it was said ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy, But I say unto you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Quite simply, Jesus persistently sought to prove to the religious people of His day, that they did not know God!
I have done a lot of research on various revivals. It seems like each revival is marked by something unique. During the Charles Finney Revivals of the 1800s, a large percentage of the converts by Finney’s own confession were people who felt that they were already saved. Charles Finney, who was trained as a lawyer, would take the Word of God and read it as a covenant in his sermons. He showed plainly that each party had a responsibility and that as man fulfilled his part God then would do His.
As he did so the Holy Spirit would fall on people and they would come under great conviction and repentance. Conversion experiences were nothing like those of modern-day church services. People would sometimes even weep all night over the revelation of their sinfulness in the eyes of a Holy God. A simple study on the subject would lead anyone to ask questions about today’s conversions. Today we encourage people to say a brief prayer and sign a decision card. There could never be any inward transformation in anyone’s heart with such a shallow time of prayer. Is it any wonder that little change is ever witnessed in many of the lives of today’s Christians?
If Jesus were to address a group of today’s religious leaders and were to confront them with this heart searching question what do you think the reply would be? If He were to say to them, “Hey guys and gals let’s put your Christian love to a test. How are you doing in the category of loving your enemy?” When we read His injunction to love our enemies do we assume that Jesus was just creating some sort of a metaphor, or that perhaps He was setting up a unique parable? Or did Jesus know that if any believer truly sought God enough, with due diligence, that they would be filled to the max with the Spirit of God, and that then with that power, love their enemies?
Over and over and in a variety of different ways Jesus confronted religious leaders. Those of us that are called to be a leader in God’s church are called to a higher standard in every way. Our Lord was under a fully righteous calling when he addressed the Scribes and Pharisees. Matthew chapter twenty-three contains a long account of Jesus scolding some of these leaders, calling them such things as vipers, and snakes.” In the days our Savior walked the Earth, the same lacking of not being full of the Holy Spirit existed in the religious crowd and Jesus knew it. God the Father knew it, and the Father incorporated into the ministry of His Son a plan to try to reach them.
The truth of the matter is that many of people who confess to be born again Christians are not. If the love for our enemies, is the test of our salvation, then how many of us, pass the test? Preachers of old would often preach messages where they confronted the congregants asking them to consider “Are you truly born again?” That message is sadly lacking in many of our churches today! If you are a pastor and God has led you to read this article, then I challenge you to set a date on the calendar and preach on that topic soon; don’t delay. If you need a good scriptural text then use Matthew 5:43,44. There is no better text to connect our need for prayer, and the fullness the Holy Spirit, than that one! I like to declare in my preaching that prayer and the power of God are not an option for a believer but a necessity!
Preaching one Sunday morning in Ogdensburg NY, I felt led to ask them this question: “What is the worst sin a believer in the New Testament church could commit?” A young man sitting next to his mother looked over at her and raised up his hand with hers. He asked permission to speak, and I encouraged him to stand and address the church. He said that just that morning, during their devotions, he felt that the Lord had asked the two of them, that very question. The answer that the Lord gave them was found in James 4:17 (KJV) “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not to him it is sin!” I then produced my notes for that morning’s sermon. It was the same scripture!
I then went on then to ask them a question. “How many of you believe that if we were to all gather at the church for an hour of prayer every night this week, God would soon answer that prayer, and we would see a difference?” Almost everyone there that night put his or her hands up. So I asked them next how many believed that if we added fasting to that prayer time, for as many as could, that we could see God even do more things according to His Word and precious promises? Again almost every hand shot up. So then I asked them. “Ok we know to do good, why are we not doing it?” You see the souls of men and their salvation are not God’s responsibility, they are ours! Just how evil is it to know we have this opportunity available to us, but we are not receiving it?”