Pastor Brandon 'b-side' Alvillar
DISCLAIMER: This article is NOT in direct response to any one particular person or post. In light of the recent violent events that have been happening in our nation’s schools, the general public responses, and my normal daily Bible studies, these are the things that have come to mind.
It’s a pretty well-established fact that, our world is a violent place. For all of the effort, hours, and resources that go into trying to make our communities safer places, it’s not happening.
Why can’t people produce peace?
People aren’t peaceful. Here’s proof. When we look at the public responses to the last school shootings in Nashville, has it been peaceful? Have people examined “self” to see how they might be a part of the problem; or have we found it easier to point to a single individual and call them “evil?” The reason that we can’t address these issues ourselves, is because the Bible teaches that we’re all evil. The Bible teaches that murder beings in the heart, but too few people know what that means, let alone, daily-examine themselves to make sure they’re not manifesting the murderous heart the Bible describes. The truth of the matter is, people can’t make violence go away, because we’re all too self-righteous in our approach.
As I deal with life on Earth like anyone else, and then do my job as a Bible teacher, I spend a lot of time trying to harmonize practical reality to the scriptures. Here is some Biblical insight I’ve learned about this dynamic. The scriptures address the principles of violence, murder, and evil much more broadly than we think, but with a VERY spiritual focus. Think about this verse for a second out of John 8:44…
"You are of [your] father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [resources], for he is a liar and the father of it.
Here, Jesus is speaking to a group of Israelites, that are actually described as “those who believed Him” just a few verses before, in Verse 31. Yet, Jesus said that they were children of the devil. Jesus, the Son of God, which means that He’s God-in-flesh, was making a VERY powerful accusation against certain people, that are loosely defined as “believers” just a few verses before. If there is a person who knows the truth of the human heart, it’s Jesus, because He’s God; and the truth that Jesus spoke, is that many people who follow Jesus, and believe some things about Him, are just like the devil. Woah! I’m thinking we want to pay close attention here…
When Jesus described the devil, He said that the devil was “a murderer from the beginning.” That’s an easy thing to gloss right over, without considering what Jesus actually described as “murder.” If the devil was a murderer from the beginning, we have to consider what the devil did in the beginning, that God considered to be murder. In the beginning, the devil deceived Eve. He tricked her into thinking that she could attain a quality of righteousness that is equal to, or surpassing of God’s own righteousness, by simply eating fruit from a tree. The devil caused Eve to entertain the idea that, she could develop her own brand of right/wrong, or good/evil, without consequences, and tap into a greater-form of blessing than God originally produced.
From God’s perspective, THIS is murder. Why? Consider the consequences of the devil’s deception. Both Adam and Eve died - twice. First, they died spiritually, just like God said they would. That is made clear in that, their relationship with God was NEVER the same. They were no longer in unified, peaceful fellowship with God. They were trying to hide from God. They were ashamed to be seen by God. They were trying to solve their own problems instead of seeking God. This is the evidence of spiritual death, or human depravity. Sounding familiar?
The Bible provides compelling proof that all human souls are corrupted as a result of the devil’s influence. In Romans 5:12-17, the scriptures explain that all people die, as proof that something is wrong with our souls, even before we’re born. If the essence of our “self” was incorrupt, we wouldn’t die; but since we all die, we can clearly see that something is wrong. According to Jesus, THAT’S what murder is, which is why He explained in Matthew 5:21-26, that murder begins in the heart.
Let’s deal with that portion of scripture for a second, to get a better scope of God’s perspective concerning murder. In Matthew 5:21-22 the Bible says…
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.
Here, Jesus dealt with three hidden issues that He equated to murder. Speaking as God-in-flesh, with all authority, here is what the Creator and Judge of all things, had to say. Jesus taught that anger without a cause is the same quality of unrighteousness that leads to the physical act of murder. Yes, being angry for the sake of being angry, without a cause that is just (according to God’s standards of justice), is murder in the eyes of God. Jesus referred to someone who says to his brother, “Raca!” This refers to making accusations against people. Later, Jesus will address the issue of “judging” in Chapter 7, as part of the same sermon. The judging that Jesus condemned, was the kind of judging where, in our hearts, we render final verdicts concerning people, assuming that the way we see things, is the way they are. Like the devil, we “accuse” people of terrible things, with the attitude that they should be punished accordingly. Jesus said that this attitude is parallel to murder also. Lastly, Jesus said that whoever calls someone a fool, is in danger of hellfire. This deals with a personal attack on someone’s character. According to Jesus, this is also representative of a murderous heart.
So, think about this for a second. Jesus said that, the quality of evil that provokes someone to actually commit murder in a physical sense, is the same attitude as someone who is angry for no reason, someone who makes unfounded accusations against others in judgments, or someone who attacks the character of others to defame them! We all have a problem here…
Let’s talk about the issue of violence. In the Book of Revelation, especially in Chapters 17-18, the scriptures talk about the judgments of the Father, governed by Jesus, administrated through angels. At the end of Chapter 18, the Bible says that God’s response in judgment is “in violence.” He is literally pounding the world into submission, and rightly so. The testimony of Revelation up to that point, shows that God has measured out His violence in judgment, compared to the violence He’s observed in the world. His response is a fitting one, based on the quality of violence that’s been in the world. However, in Revelation Chapters 17-18, the scriptures explain that the violence of the world, is directly influenced by a personified demonic entity/principality called, “The Great Harlot.” She is under direct control of the devil, and she engages with the people of the world, “with the cup of the wine of her wrath.”
Here's where things get tricky. When you follow the influence of the Great Harlot throughout scripture, her “violence” isn’t always physical, but ALWAYS produces spiritual conflict. The chief mechanism of her “violence,” is idolatry and false religion. Yes, some of the very things that people say are peaceful, are seen as murderous-violence in the eyes of God. This truth begins getting addressed all the way back in Genesis Chapter 10!
Why is this important? It shows God’s perspective about violence. Again, it’s not just a matter of physical response. He looks at the heart; and according to the Bible, violence is ANYTHING that positions someone in opposition of God, especially through the conduits of false religion and self-righteousness, even if the general public calls them peaceful or good. And wouldn’t you know it - those are the exact things that Jesus was addressing in Matthew Chapter 5, and in John Chapter 8.
So, what does this all mean?
According to the full counsel of scripture, the devil was a “murderer” from the beginning. He was the first “mass murderer,” and only had to deal with one person to become that, because we all have it in us. That’s why Jesus said His own people were “children of the devil.” We all start life that way, and unless we’re born again by the Holy Spirit, through repentant-faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we stay that way!
Yet, the classification of the devil’s crime, didn’t have immediate physical responses. Murder in the eyes of God, is ANYTHING that separates people from Him, because He is the only source of life. To separate someone from God, is to sever them from the only true life-source; especially eternal life. The devil didn’t use a gun. He didn’t use a bomb. He used a question to plant doubt, encourage confusion, and incite division. According to scripture, THOSE are murder weapons. When we look at how the devil used the Great Harlot throughout human history, the devil has been stealing, killing, and destroying people by lying to them about the truth concerning God. He’s been deceiving people into worshiping “self.” He’s been tricking people into thinking we’re all okay as is, and can live without God, without consequence. The devil has murdered more people using this kind of deception, than people ever have using guns or bombs. That’s what the Bible teaches. THAT’S violence!
Now, when we couple that reality to what Jesus taught in Matthew Chapter 5, and John Chapter 8, things get really convicting.
When is the last time you woke up angry at the world for no reason, forgetting and dismissing the goodness and mercy of God to give you life, and die for your sin?
When is the last time you decided in your mind, that so-and-so was a certain type of person, that deserved a certain type of harsh treatment?
When is the last time you said something about someone, that had an adverse effect on their character in the mind of someone else?
According to Jesus, we’re all murderers, because we’ve all done that. In reality, we’re all mass murderers, because we keep doing it, even as Christians.
This is why John Chapter 8 was able to say that, the people that Jesus called children of the devil, also “believe in Him” to a certain degree. The demons believe in Jesus and know who He is, and they’re terrified of Him. That doesn’t mean they’ll be saved, redeemed, and blessed in the kingdom of God. Likewise, there are a lot of people who know full-well who Jesus is, and still rebel against Him by being governed by the natural human desire to tear people apart. The fact that Jesus accused His own people, that had been following Him, learning from Him, and benefiting from Him, doesn’t bode very well to the self-righteous attitudes of God’s own people.
Here's where it gets worse. Since murder from a Biblically-spiritual standpoint, consists of the work that separates people from God, we’re even more guilty. It’s easy for us to hate people with assault rifles. But do we also hate the products, entertainment, and events that keep us from the LORD? Statistically speaking, most of us won’t be shot at by a mass murderer. Yet, we hate them so much. Do we also hate sports programs that strip us from church and fellowship? Do we hate the parties and shows that keep us up all night so that we’re absent or disengaged from church the next day? Do we hate the jobs that affect our attitudes at home, keeping the joy and peace of salvation elusive from our family members? Do we hate the apps on our phones that occupy our time more than a Bible app? Do we hate the abundance of false teaching in the churches that are comfortable and clean? A bullet might be able to sever someone from this life. Some of these other things are good enough to keep people from having a true and fruitful relationship with the LORD, and Jesus said that many people will be condemned as a result!
Do you see what I’m getting at?
Our personal standards can be way off from the scriptures when it comes to these sorts of things. I’m not saying that mass shooters should get a pass. BUT, it’s easy to cast blame against an evil so obvious. It’s NOT so easy to look within ourselves and see that, the same evil that can shoot a gun into a crowd of strangers, is also in our own hearts, working in a different way, potentially doing worse damage. Seeing that the scriptures show how the “murderer from the beginning” uses deception as his choice weapon, we first need to examine ourselves, to make sure we’re not being deceived about who we really are – yes, even as the church.
The ugly truth is that, from God’s eternal and spiritual perspective, there are A LOT more mass murderers out there, than the ones we see on the news. According to the prophecies that Jesus gave us about the last days – these very days we’re living in now – there would be an increase in deception, especially the church, which means that this undercover murder is going to get insane! Spiritually speaking, there are mass murderers keeping people from the truth of the LORD, all over. They’re in our schools, in our workplaces, in our homes, in our churches, and yes, some of these people are leading churches! Are we equally as offended by that? Are we equally angry and stirred up by that? Are we willing to open our mouths concerning that?
To wrap this up, here’s the thought that the LORD hit me with. If I were just as offended, disgusted, and angered by the issues of my own heart, and how my own attitude and words affect people’s souls, as I was concerning active shooters, I’d probably sin less. If I were as passionate about, and aggressive toward the plank in my own eye, as I am concerning the splinters in communities, I’d probably be more pleasing to the One who saved me from sin, death, and hell. I feel like that’s a helpful thing for a lot of us to think about. Maybe if we were as passionate about correcting our own sin as scripture describes and convicts, our humility and repentance would have the rippling effect we’re hoping for, bringing peace to some degree.
Something to think about…
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