Scott Bryant

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Are You Veiling Your Vengeance?

My family loves sitting down and watching a good movie. And I must admit that a good movie needs to have a lot of action to hold my attention. Often these adrenaline-packed media experiences often come full of the very perverse language and living that our Lord tells us a believer shouldn’t even have a hint of. Fortunately, technology has also given us services like “ClearPlay and “VidAngel” that allow us to filter out the bad and still get to enjoy some of the good. 

But one challenge that I have as a man and father of many children is noticing that there is still one thing that can’t be filtered out. One thing that happens to be in most every action film produced. It’s something that our Lord told us numerous times throughout Scripture to be very careful to avoid. Have any ideas on what I might be referring to?

When the hero of our favorite movie is wrongfully treated by his enemy, what do we hope and expect him to do next?  You guessed it. We get excited because we know he’s about to “take revenge”.

He’s going to storm the gates of the enemy and do whatever necessary to destroy the enemy and win the day. To make things right again. To be sure justice is served.

Now, there’s definitely a time when good needs to stand against evil, even if it involves physical conflict. Our country has a long history of brave men and women who stood up against evil when freedom was being threatened. But sadly the line has been greatly blurred between what is an appropriate time to engage in battle, and when are we simply engaging in one of the most natural forms of human expression. Taking revenge.

In our family we see it every day. Our children don’t have to think to take revenge, it just naturally happens. When a brother or sister gets in their way, takes their seat, eats their candy, pushes them, or even looks at them funny, it happens. That sinful desire to take revenge blurts out. And as they grow older, if they don’t learn how to control that desire, vengeance will become the victor of their life. And they will lose everyone and everything that stands in the way of this vicious vice.

Revenge might make a great movie. But it will destroy your heart and home if you think it works the same way in real life.

Romans 12:19 commands us,

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”

What’s refreshing about children when they are young, is that they don’t know how to hide their vengeance. They cry, scream, pinch, hit, kick, and so on. And a loving parent is able to help them learn that their choice to “take revenge” always brings a consequence. After they experience loving discipline, they can be freed from this vice to live again in unity with their God and their brother or sister.  

As they grow up, they will join us in learning how to veil their vengeance. To hide it from plain view. And while it might take the form of many vices in our life, there seems to be one that our Lord knew would be the most attractive. He spoke about it several times in His brief earthly ministry. And when His disciples asked him to teach them how they should pray, He gave them more than just “The Lord’s Prayer”. He told them that their prayer life would be greatly endangered if they didn’t confront this vice for vengeance head on. At the end of a prayer that even most unchurched people are familiar with, we read in Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

Familiar words that really sound good, especially when the entire church recites them together on Sunday morning. But in the next two verses he reveals one of the primary ways that the evil one will lead us into temptation.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

While the news headlines might be full each day of folks who took revenge to the final step of murder, most of us will spend our lives in trying to restrain our revenge to the privacy of our minds and hearts. As we fail to pass on to others the very thing we desperately needed ourselves. Forgiveness.

Jesus is not saying in these verses that our failure to forgive impacts our eternal destination. Scripture clearly assures us that the blood of Jesus paid the price for our sin, including unforgiveness.

What Jesus is teaching us here is that unforgiveness impacts our fellowship with the Father. He wants us to know that our natural passion to exact vengeance through unforgiveness must be taken seriously. Or it will hinder our ability to enjoy the very thing our heart desires. Unity of fellowship with our Heavenly Father. Unity that will be broken when sin enters in. Not because of God’s choice, but because of ours. When we choose to hold a grudge, we are choosing to enjoy that fleshly feeling and we instantly close off the life-giving forgiveness that our Father wants us to receive from Him.

One of the reasons that we often find it so hard to forgive our enemy who has sinned against us, is the feeling that if we don’t keep holding them hostage through our grudge, then they just might get away with it. And this just doesn’t seem fair. They must pay. So often one of the ways that we might be coaxed into extending them a form of forgiveness is to be sure they know when you do. We might send them an email, text, or even tell them, “I forgive you for hurting me when you…..” Sounds good right, but it’s not good. All we have done is succeeded in telling them how bad they were, and how good we were in “forgiving” them.  

On the contrary, forgiveness is perfectly modeled by our Lord on the cross when He looked at humanity who was rebelliously and self-righteously crucifying him, and said to His Father, not to his enemies in Luke 23:34:

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

In one statement we are given a powerful arsenal for how we should guard our heart and home from the vengeance of unforgiveness.

We see that true forgiveness means:

  • We are willing to pray for their forgiveness from God instead of being sure they know how much they need our forgiveness.
  • We are willing to pay the price of letting them “get away with it” because we know that God’s vengeance alone is virtuous, and not ours.
  • We are willing to offer them fellowship again without them ever needing to know how badly they didn’t deserve it
  • We actually care more about our enemy’s soul then we do about our feelings.

So today when you bow your head to pray, ask the Lord to take you deeper. Ask Him to reveal where you have let unforgiveness hinder your prayers. Then let His Grace and His Example lead you to a place that offers your enemy total forgiveness. For when we do, we will discover the life-giving blood of Jesus is able to once again circulate through our heart and home. Fellowship is once again restored. With our Lord, then miraculously with even our greatest enemy. All because we chose forgiveness over vengeance.

Is Your Life Powered by Holy Hope?

In the early 2000’s, when much about the wider world was causing Americans intense anxiety, the one thing that got inarguably much better, was our personal technology.

In October 2001, with the World Trade Center still smoldering and the Internet financial bubble burst, Apple introduced the iPod. In January of 2010, in the depths of the Great Recession, the very month when unemployment breached 10 percent for the first time in a generation, Apple introduced the iPad.  Politically, militarily, economically, the decade was defined by disappointment after disappointment. But technologically, it was defined by a series of elegantly produced events in which the late Steve Jobs, commanding more attention and publicity each time, walked on stage with a miracle in his pocket.

The genius of Steve Jobs was to persuade us, at least for a little while, that cold comfort was enough. The world—at least that virtual part of the world in our laptop bags and our pockets, the devices that display our unique lives to others and reflect them to ourselves—would get better.

Years later, while Steve Jobs has passed away, many of us now carry the iPhone in our pocket. While these little devices offer us convenient ways to stay “connected” to everyone and everything, we are sadly more disconnected from hope than ever before. What we have gained in efficiency, we have lost in effectiveness.  Sadly, many of us have bought into a “religion of hope” in a hopeless world. A hope that our ordinary and mortal life could be elegant and meaningful with the next technological purchase, even if it would soon be dated, dusty, and discarded like that old iPhone.

We now live in a time in history that has become extremely dependent upon technology instead of theology to bring hope to our heart.

While technology can be purchased, hope cannot. Our hearts hunger for real hope. What the Bible reveals is “Holy Hope”.

Today I’d like to encourage you to remember where your true Hope is found by offering you an acrostic for the word “HOPE”.

H oly Spirit unleashes

True hope doesn’t come with the next version of your iPhone, but from the great “ I Am”! He has chosen to give us continual access to His hope through His Holy Spirit.

  • The Holy Spirit is a gift provided to every believer in Jesus!
    • Acts 2:38-39- “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
  • The Holy Spirit lives IN every believer and changes how we use our body!
    • I Corinthians 6:19-20- “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
  • The Holy Spirit can bring hope to our heart IF we let Him!
    • I Thessalonians 5:19 - ‘Do not quench the Spirit’
    • Ephesians 4:30 - ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit…’

O bedience enables

  • God pours his Hope into our Heart as we trust and obey Him!
    • Romans 15:13- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • You don’t feel your way into hope. You obey His way into Hope! 
  • Holy Hope comes from holy action.

P erseverance deepens

  • Hope is unshakable confidence. The only way to find hope in the unshakable is to experience the shaking! Persevering through the pains of life, brings a hope that is found in Christs alone!
    • Romans 5:4-5- “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
  • We desire convenience. God desires character.

E nthusiasm demonstrates

  • What we get excited about, reveals who or what is giving hope to our heart.
  • Holy hope is not dependent on how much money we have…or don’t have.
    • I Timothy 6:17- “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
  • Holy hope should evidence itself in our life with increasingly greater joy.
    • I Peter 1:8-9-Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In closing, I’d like to go back to an interview that Steve Jobs did with Businessweek in 2004. There Steve said:

"You'd be surprised how hard people work around here.  They work nights and weekends, sometimes not seeing their families for a while. Sometimes people work through Christmas to make sure the tooling is just right at some factory in some corner of the world so our product comes out the best it can be."

The article later reads:

“Some engineers who worked tirelessly on the original Mac emerged from the project estranged from their spouses and children. Steve Job’s relentless work ethic may have been shaped by some of his dysfunctional family affairs as well. He was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs, who promised his birth mother, whom Jobs later tracked down with the help of a private investigator, that they would send him to a university. He dropped out of Reed College after one semester, and he reportedly never was willing to talk to his birth father.  Jobs had a daughter, Lisa, out of wedlock with Chrisann Brennan. He denied paternity for many years, swearing in a court document that he was sterile. Later, he had three more kids with Laurene Powell.”

In his authorized 2011 biography, Steve would later say:

"I've done a lot of things I'm not proud of, such as getting my girlfriend pregnant when I was 23 and the way I handled that…"

The reason I would take a few minutes to look at the life of Steve Jobs, is because his legacy massively impacted and represents how today’s generation continues to desperately look for hope. While his products offer the appearance of hope, his own life demonstrated that he had not found true Hope himself. Sadly, his relentless pursuit toward results and riches no matter the cost to his relationships continues to be repeated in the lives of countless men and women today.

Our world needs new role models to emerge. Followers of Jesus that most likely will never reach the popularity status of Steve Jobs. But are willing to faithfully walk in the powerful steps of Jesus. Steps that showed us that our Lord desires us to focus our life on “Making Disciples” instead of simply “Making dollars”!

Today let’s begin to show our world where true Hope is found. They are watching whether we look to technology or theology. To our money, or to our Maker.  Will we spend more time looking to our iPhone or to THE I AM?

May the God of hope fill your day with His Holy Hope. A Hope that our:

H oly Spirit unleashes

O bedience enables

P erseverance deepens

E nthusiasm demonstrates