Dr. Patterson’s Counsel to Pray for My Enemies

Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5:44). We all know this verse but actually doing this or even knowing someone who regularly prays for their enemies is quite another matter.

Several years ago I was experiencing one of the most difficult times of my ministry. Some people were causing great harm to the church I pastored. As the pastor, my hurt was deep. Most pastors know the pain that comes from watching people we love turn and begin to attack us and do things that harm or even destroy the flock. It can cause anger, bitterness, depression, and even cynicism in the heart of the most dedicated of shepherds.

As I was leaving a meeting during this time, Dr. Patterson approached me. I was not aware he knew of my painful situation. His words helped me immensely. Not by psychologizing my plight or a pep talk of clichés, but rather he spoke directly from the Scripture. How he advised me to handle this situation were some of the most difficult words I could have heard.

He told me to pray for my enemies. He encouraged me to get down on my knees and pray for them before our heavenly Father. He said God might work in their lives and bless them. He told me this was his practice. He said there is a level of intimacy with our Lord Jesus one experiences while on his knees praying for his enemies, persecutors, and those who want to destroy him, an intimacy that cannot be experienced without following Jesus and praying for the very ones who seek our destruction.

Though I well knew the Scripture Dr. Patterson was referencing, his admonition helped me see it more practically and personally. For I knew, as leader of the resurgence, Dr. Patterson had many enemies. I knew he personally felt the human emotions that come with even contemplating such an act, and how one must die to self to seriously enter into such communion with our Lord. Knowing he had done this many times helped me have the faith and humility I needed to pray for people who hated me, for those who hurt my family and the church I love.

I am so grateful for his counsel and example of praying for those who seek to destroy us. I have experienced this intimacy with Christ on many occasions, and I have counseled others to handle their detractors in the same manner. I desire to be faithful in praying for loved ones and those with whom I have fellowship, but none so much as those who seek to harm me. Even as I write this article, God has brought some to mind who have done me harm; thankfully, by only his grace, I prayed for them.

Jesus commanded us to pray for them, and he practiced what he taught when he prayed for the lost (John 17:21) and his enemies at the cross. “‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” (Luke 23:34).

May our Lord give you the strength to do the right thing in the right spirit. May he lead you to your knees to pray for the very ones who seek to hurt you, fire you, or malign your character. May you know Jesus in this dying-to-self-act. May this experience be repeated in your life and leave you forever changed as it has changed me.

The Practical Reasons for the Banishment of Church Discipline Answered

I have practiced church discipline for over thirty years, and here are some of the practical reasons often posed to me against the practice of church discipline.

It was abused in the past

When the subject of church discipline surfaces, someone will inevitably point to the abuses of the past as reason enough to squelch the whole conversation and move on to something more palatable. It is an undeniable fact that there have been abuses in the past. George Davis writes, “A perusal of old church minutes would tend to justify the claim that in the past church discipline was often wrongly motivated and sometimes concerned with petty matters.”[1] A classic example of abuse is when Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) forced Henry IV to stand as a penitent in the snow outside the castle at Canossa begging the Pope to cancel his excommunication.[2] Continue reading →

Praying For God to be Exalted in My Life

“Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Your glory be above all the earth” (Psalm 57:5).

As Christians, we desire to see God glorified in our lives. We desire that others will want to follow God because of what they see in us. We want to be used of God. We do not want to live this life and come into his presence with only selfishness and pride.

Sometimes, we struggle with where to begin; by this I mean practically. The most practical thing we can do is to pray to that end. But, we often do not know what or how to pray.

Years ago, I read A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God. At the end of each chapter he suggests a prayer to be prayed. The one at the end of chapter 8 had a profound impact upon my life. I prayed this prayer reverently and thoughtfully. I must admit, I found it to be a challenge that could only be sincerely met by trusting God. I pray God might use this in your life as well, as you pray and ponder each aspect of this prayer for your own life

“O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life. I am determined that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted above my comforts. Though it means the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses, I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee.

Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me sink that Thou mayest rise above. Ride forth upon me as Thou didst ride into Jerusalem mounted upon the humble little beast, a colt, the foal of an ass, and let me hear the children cry to Thee, ‘Hosanna in the highest.’”[1]


[1] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1982) 99-100.

Beware of a Remote Love for Christ

A lack of, or a diminishing,  passion for God’s Word is symptomatic of a remote love for God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Yet, some Christians seem content to not only fail to keep Christ’s commandments but even to spend little time to know them.

If every architect knew as much about buildings as some Christians know about Christianity, no building could withstand a spring shower. If every lawman knew as much about law as some Christians know about Christianity, even the anarchist would long for a badge. If every sea captain knew as much about sailing the high seas as some Christians know about Christianity, every ship would be a floating mass grave. If every composer knew as much about music as some Christians know about Christianity, music would be so cacophonic it would be deemed cruel and unusual punishment. If every medical practitioner knew as much about medicine as some Christians know about Christianity, every disease would be treated with a prescription from a Mr. Potato Head game. If every educator knew as much about their subject as some Christians know about Christianity, kindergarten would be the terminal degree, and goo goo gaga would be our lingua franca.

May we say with the psalmist, “May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O Lord, Your salvation according to Your word; So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word. And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, For I wait for Your ordinances. So I will keep Your law continually, Forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts. I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings And shall not be ashamed. I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes” (Psalm 119:41–48).

Think About IT: God’s Will Is Not Always So Easy

Whether one has chosen the Lord’s will is not determined by whether things get better.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus surrendered to the cross that lay before Him, bearing our judgment, and that was of course the eternal plan of salvation; therefore, He made the right choice. He was in the perfect will of the Father.

However, immediately after the decision to follow the Father’s plan no matter the loss, things went from bad to worse, and then worse even still. He was betrayed by a friend, tried by hypocrites, innocent but declared guilty, denied by a disciple, rejected for a criminal, mocked, flogged, crucified, and ultimately enveloped in the wrath of God and abandoned by the Father unto death.

The Lord’s will is known by the Scripture rather than by what happens after our choice.

“And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will’” Mark 14:36.

Think about IT: Loving Those People

Showing the gentle kindness and concern of Christ toward those who love us is good, but such disposition toward our enemies is indeed supernatural.

If we are truly showing Christ’s love, it can never be limited to those who love us or those whom we believe will reciprocate.

Christ commanded us, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44). This kind of love and praying requires us to die to self for the flesh wars against such acts (Gal 5:19-21). When we pray for our enemies, it permits us to experience some of what our Lord felt when his enemies crucified him, and his response was to pray, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”(Luke 23:34).

There is simply a dimension of knowing Christ that is unknowable without loving those who seek to harm us. Resentment, bitterness, revenge emanate from our flesh, but loving the ones who may be deserving of our wrath emanates from Christ living through us.

God’s great love in salvation is for those who will accept it and become his children as well as those who will reject his incalculable sacrifice and immeasurable love. It extends even to those who seek to undermine the gospel. may we experience his fullness by walking among enemies of the gospel as he himself did.   

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16.

Think About IT: Receiving Compliments that Honor Christ

Compliments are more pleasing to the ear and honoring to Christ when they come not from the complimented.

Matthew was a tax collector prior to following Christ, an occupation which was one of the most loathed by the Jews. They saw them as traitors.

If God had not used Matthew to pen the gospel that bears his name, he would have remained basically a faceless apostle. When the other gospels mention him, he is simply referred to as Matthew.

When Matthew refers to himself in the gospel he penned, he refers to himself as “Matthew the tax collector.”

Matthew’s designation of himself reminds us that it is for others to cast us in the best light, and it is for we who have been redeemed to remember who we are without Christ.

“Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus” Matthew 10:3.

Bibliography for Studying Scripture

­­SELECTED STUDY BIBLIOGRAPHY  5/31/16 

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Victor Books, 1984

The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Victor Books, 1985

 Unger’s New Bible Dictionary, Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, 2006

Logos Library System, several upgradeable levels are available. Find out more at www.logos.com

An Exhaustive Analytical Concordance (Strong’s or NAS)

Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity, Dr. Tim Dowley, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, Baker Book House, 1984

Evangelical Ethics, John Jefferson Davis, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 2003 or Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options, Norman L. Geisler, Jan 1, 2010

Kingdom of the Cults, Walter Martin and Ravi Zacharias, Bethany House Publishers; Rev Updated edition (October 1, 2003) or latest update

Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry Clarence Thiessen, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983, or Eerdmans Revised edition November 9, 2006

Nave’s Topical Bible, Orville J. Nave, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002

Pronouncing Bible Names, W. Murray Severance, Holman Bible Publishers, 1983

Things to Come, J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1982

Dispensationalism, Charles C. Ryrie, 2007

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, W. E. Vine and F.F. Bruce, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1996

Think About IT: The Proper Exercise of Authority

Authority without submission is the stuff of which tyranny is made.

Before a person can exercise godly authority as a leader in the home, church, or culture, he must learn how to be under authority (Titus 2:1–14). Godly servant leadership is developed in the context of learning how to be under authority. This includes learning how to support the leader even when we might disagree about the how or why of the leader’s decisions.

Supporting the authority of the person over us only when we agree with his or her decision is easy and requires little humility. The development of humble leadership is nurtured when the future leader follows with respect and diligence in those times when he would do it differently if he was in authority.

Even following the leadership of someone who is rude, condescending, and arrogant can result in the essential tutelage for becoming a servant leader. It provides the follower with a poignant picture of how ugly leadership without humility and servanthood really is. This experience can serve to make a follower into a true godly servant leader because he knows firsthand the unnecessary hurt inflicted upon others and how such undermines respect for the leader who so leads.

I have had such an experience. It was over thirty years ago, and it is still my most powerful experiential reminder to seek to lead others in humility and respect. As unpalatable as the experience was, I would not take anything for what I learned from being under such objectionable leadership. It taught me that godly leadership is really a priceless quality of exercising authority.

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”” (Matthew 20:28).

 

 

Think About IT: Humility In Knowledge

Christians should know that however much more we believe we know than others, we really know so little in comparison to what some know, what we shall learn, or what can be known. We should always seek to know more and know what we know better. But being aware of the vastness of what we do not know is equally important, and even more so for the sake of humility.

Awareness of proportional knowledge bears the fruit of humility, whereas awareness of only what we know so well bears the fruit of pride. The latter is an ugly portrayal of Christ with its concomitant boasting and judgmental insensitivity, but the former nurtures a life of learning and teaching with respect and kindness.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches’” Jeremiah 9:23.