The other day I had a dear friend over for coffee and chit chat. As we were nearing the end of our time, we came to the topic of the opinion of others and its effect on us. Interestingly, the next day the very same topic arose in discussion with another friend entirely. So I have found myself pondering (and discussing) this concept quite a bit lately
In life with others, hurtful words are sometimes spoken to us/about us—sometimes even unintentionally, sometimes even just presumed. What we want in those times (and in all times) is to be found ready and prepared—fortified—so that those words (or perceived opinions) do not have the effect on us the enemy plans for them to have. The amazing news is that there truly is another way. So, let’s dive into the details….
OUR STRUGGLE IS NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD
The very first thing you and I need to recall as we do life with others is found in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 12:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
You guys, we are not in battle against people. When we find ourself hearing or sensing uncomfortable, frustrating, or hurtful words/thoughts from/in another person, we must keep in mind that a spiritual war is taking place, not a physical one. The truth is, whichever master we’re currently drawing thoughts and direction from is battling whichever master another person is drawing thoughts and direction from from. (Read that again slowly so it sets in). The Bible tells us that at all times we’re living from one of two masters.
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
The rest of Romans 6 lays this fact out in detail.
To say it another way, we can think of humanity as living from God or living from the flesh which is sold under the authority of Satan (Rom. 7:14). We’re either living, by faith, from the King of kings and Lord of lords (Jesus)—think of being in His heavenly armored chariot of light—OR we’re living (by default) from the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2)—think of being in his earthly, weak chariot of darkness. Humans are not fighting humans. Spiritual kingdoms are fighting spiritual kingdoms. We must keep this in mind so as not to fall prey to shortsightedness, judgement of others, disunity, disharmony, discord, and hatred toward other people. Rather than blaming and hating the person, recognize who they are deriving thoughts and direction from instead.
WHO WE ARE IN THE FLESH
Second, as fiery darts (Eph. 6:16) are aimed and shot at us, we must not only recognize that the one shooting the darts is working from her/his flesh—from the body sold under [the authority of] sin (Rom. 7:14)—we must also recognize that we too are living in vessels of dirt (Gen. 2:7, 3:19) sold under the authority of sin. Whether we’re living from them is another story all together, but this doesn’t change the fact that we’re all living in them. This means we’re all susceptible and capable of living from them at any given moment as long as we dwell on planet earth. In fact, Paul said this very thing—he himself had not yet arrived at only always living from Jesus as his Lord (Phil. 3:13). This means that no human is better than any other human. It does not matter the height or depth of a man’s sin—every single body of dirt (Gen. 2:7) and blood is a slave of the same evil slave-master. A slave is a slave is a slave. One body ruled by Satan is not better or worse than another body ruled by Satan. Whatever my flesh produces is no better than what your flesh produces. This said, in order to stir up discord, Satan, the father of lies, certainly lies to us (in the inward man) and convinces us that some devil-slaves are better than other devil-slaves. No. The truth is, we’re all miserable, wretched, poor, blind, and naked slaves in need of an abolitionist—THE abolitionist of souls. So never forget that the vessel you are permanently dwelling in on planet earth is sold under the authority of the same slave master the other vessel speaking or thinking hurtful words toward you is. Do not be caught up in the deceit of self-righteousness. We are all equally bound in our flesh. And, regardless of this, we are all deeply loved by God.
CHRIST’S IDENTITY IS MY IDENTITY
The ONLY thing you and I can do to truly fortify ourselves against the fiery darts of the evil one (Eph. 6:16), and remain standing (not fallen), unaffected (not affected), and filled (not emptied) with divine love toward the one taking aim (Satan), is to recognize, understand, and consciously reckon on Christ as our Life (Rom. 6:11). Anyone who has believed in Jesus as their Rescuer/Deliverer/Savior from their in-born state of slavery (inherited from our forefather Adam) has received the gift of eternal Life within them via the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:23). This means that as we all started out in Adam (the original human) as his literal descendants, anyone who is “in Christ” has been transferred to Christ (the original God-man) as His literal descendants instead. As we were in our forefather Adam, inheriting sin (lies) from him, we who believe have been transferred to our new forefather Christ Jesus, having now inherited the glory (thoughts) of God from Him. As stated last week, “Life” is the thoughts of God in Jesus’ own mind communicated to the inner human spirit by the Holy Spirit of God Himself. This means that all who believe are in Christ (who is our new Forefather) and have Him in us. It’s a wild and wonderful new existence—source of Life—we have. And this new source of Life is the only true defense any person has for any situation. Being united with God, trusting He is in us and that we’re in Him (our second Adam), causes us to know just who we are. This is essential. We must not forget our identity—source of Life—ever. So when anyone suggests or seems to think any idea about who we are that does not align with the truth of who we are in Jesus, it falls to the ground at our feet, never penetrating us. Therefore, never actually hurting us. Never feeling the hurt of the arrow results in never feeling bitterness nor anger toward the one shooting. We remain at peace within and without toward another (even if they don’t feel peace toward us).
Yet the truth is, while you and I might be heirs of the glory of God in Christ, we only live from His glory when we walk by faith, believing our old man is dead, believing we’re now in Him, receiving His life (glory) from moment to moment. Though transferred to the family of God through Jesus Christ, we still are fully capable of living from the bodies of slavery in which we were born. Interestingly, whoever we identify with at any given moment—whosever life we reckon on (Adam’s by default or Christ’s by faith)—is who we end up seeking approval from. If we walk by faith, counting on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, all we do will be driven by the desire to please God. On the contrary, if we live by default from the human condition of slavery in Adam, all we do will be driven by the desire to please and impress fellow enslaved man… whose approval will never feel complete or full. Living from our new identity in Christ is our hope of living outside the need to receive honor from men.
But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Cor. 10:17-18)
DISCERNING TRUTH AND LIE
As long as we are living human opinion will be a thing. Human opinion will either drive us to a place of paralysis in our Christian life—where we are unable to live from the life of Christ and bear His fruit, or it’ll drive us deeper into our Savior as we seek His refuge and truth. By far, the latter is the better life. And so it is to Him we must go with all human opinion. We must take what we hear or perceive another to be thinking toward us, and hold that opinion in open hands toward our Savior. Held out to Him, He’ll always be kind to us. He’ll either show us its utter inaccuracy, or He’ll reveal, in the tender way He does, the kernal of truth hidden in it, to dislodge any lasting deception in our own hearts. As we do this holding out human opinion to Jesus, we allow Him to teach us to the discipline of discernment. At all times, we must seek to discern between lie and truth—whether in our own thinking, or in the thoughts or words of others. Yet we don’t do this by standing as judge over another. We do this by brining all thoughts captive to Christ. Before a single opinion of man enters our soul, wounding us, we must catch it and hold it to Jesus—the one who perfectly discerns between truth and lie. The truth is, we live in a battlefield. But the battle we’re in is not fought with swords or weapons of this physical world. The battle we’re in is fought with the spiritual weapons of truth and lie. As the battles of this physical world have potentially grave consequences, even more so do the battles of the spiritual world have potentially grave consequences. We want to be found standing firm in faith, being impervious to the lies that assail us, conquering (through Jesus and the truth He gives through His Spirit in us) every weapon of deceit forged against us. Between lie and truth, truth always wins. Between sin and glory, glory always wins.
For though we walk in the flesh [the human body], we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [of the flesh] but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… (2 Cor. 10:3-4; parenthesis mine)
NOT TAKING THE LIES PERSONALLY (BEING FORTIFIED)
The ability to discern truth from lie in another’s words does a magnificent thing for us: we no longer are compelled to take human opinion personally. When we understand who we are, trusting our Savior in everything, we are actually holding up a shield of faith. Taking insults or hurtful words personally involves receiving them into us, letting them poison our hearts. This always manifests in negative emotions—whether insecurity, bitterness, fear, anger, rage, sorrow, jealousy, or grief. The moment we begin to feel these things based on another’s assessment of us, we must pause, focus on Who we are in, and let the lies in the words spoken fall quickly to the ground. This is indeed what it looks like when such words make contact with the shield of faith protecting us, rather than with our unprotected heart. When the fiery darts (lies) of the enemy penetrate us, they burn up truth within us, and cause destruction. When instead they hit the shield of faith held strongly before us, they are quickly extinguished and fall ineffective to the ground.
LEARNING FROM HALF-TRUTHS
This does not mean that every insult aimed at us has no element of truth in it. We must just understand that even if it does illuminate truth about what we’ve done or said from our own bondage, those things we’ve done or said are not who we are. We must not be so easily offended by the truth that at times our actions are wrought in the enslaved flesh. Instead, we must humble ourselves, recognize any element of truth in the words spoken to us, and seek to bring our error under submission to the One who can overcome it and live victorious over it in us. What our enemy devises to harm us, God can surely squeeze good—increased freedom—from it.
LOVING FROM JESUS’ UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
One of the wonders of the Christ life is the experience of receiving the supernatural love of Christ for others. As we believe that we’re in Him and He in us, He floods us with His own love for another. This is not human affection, but high, heavenly, divine love. He loves all people completely and perfectly. He came for all people because He loves every single one of us. As we stand firm in faith, abiding in Christ, and shift from the place of taking offense and defending ourselves to the place of Jesus’ protection and love (being in Him), something miraculous happens within us. We start seeing how much Jesus loves the one being used to wound. Desire to protect and strike back dissolves, and love overwhelms the heart. Let it be known: this is only possible by divine transaction. This is only possible by God. We are too limited in knowledge and too earthly in nature. God alone, through Jesus, can do it in us. And oh, it is a wonder of wonders. It’s such a sweet place to exist and live from.
NOT BEING LIGHT WEIGHTS
Dear precious friends, we are so fragile, aren’t we? We surely do need protection. But the protection we build ourselves turns us inward and self-ward. It causes bitterness and division. Even hatred. But the protection we could rather receive from our place in Jesus turns us upward and outward. Friends, we must no longer be tossed to and fro by every human opinion, believing we rise or fall based on whatever people perceive of us. But we must grow up in faith, standing firm in who we are in the all-powerful, all-loving Christ: impervious to insult, aware of and unoffended by the fact of our flesh, and deeply rooted and grounded in God’s love for us and in us. Determine today to seek this Life, this Way, this Truth. The life of being easily wounded, self-protecting, self-debasing, and self-loathing as a result of the opinion of mankind is all the result of we ourselves living under an evil-slave master set on destroying us. We’re living lying flat on our backs, letting our enemy pin us to the dirt. This life is no more noble than the life of the insulter seeking to wound us. Both are lives wrought from the flesh and not from the Spirit of the living, powerful Christ!
In Contrast, the life of unmovable faith, deep awareness and belief in our true union with the living Christ (John 15:4-5), and as a result His Life filling us and overflowing from us (John 7:38) is the only true Life to live. The only true freedom from this evil nemesis of ours—no matter the darts that fly our way. It is also the only life that fulfills. The only life that is strong. The only life that is powerful. The only life that is safe. The only life that is is able to love relentlessly, unconditionally, lavishly, and unrequited. This is the life not pinned to the dust, overcome by an evil master, but carried by heaven, overwhelming conquering evil through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37).
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6:10-11)
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)