A Valuable Lesson

One might ask…what good can come out of being around negative, critical and condemning people? In fact there have been times I asked myself that question. But after being in that position for a time or even a season of my life…I’ve walked away saying “Thank You Lord for that valuable lesson”.

There is nothing like being around people who are continually negative to make you see the positive. Nothing like hearing constant complaining to make you want to praise God and offer thanksgiving. Nothing like regularly having a negative picture painted…to instead make you see the bright side of things.

It’s the lazy man or woman who is continually negative. That takes no effort whatsoever. It’s just going with the flow. If you are not moving and swimming against the current of circumstances and negativity…then you might as well be dead in the water…because the consequences will be the same…or worse.

It’s bad enough when I experience negativity with unbelievers. But it pales in comparison to when I encounter a negative, critical, condemning spirit in a Christian…it is particularly unlovely. Mix it together with a little gossip…and that Christian is now an instrument in the hands of Satan. An instrument who will bring dishonor to Christ Jesus. Not only does the world see them as someone whose life is no different than their own…but now they can accurately toss out the word hypocrite. Guess what…they are right!

It causes division in the body of Christ. As a Christian…it’s being downright lazy. It’s easy and takes zero effort for me to have a negative, critical, condemning spirit. That spirit is usually exercised when I’m looking at others and not myself. When I spend time looking at others and criticizing them…I don’t have to look at myself. If instead I actually take the time to look at myself and examine myself in light of the Word of God…I might start seeing that there are things that I need to jettison…or bring under control in obedience to the mighty hand of Christ. The question is…will I do so?

To do so can be painful. It means that there will be some days ahead filled with repentance. It means I may have to examine some painful memories, hurts, disappointments. I’ll have to ask myself…why am I like that? Why am I always critical…negative…condemning? Or why do I think its okay to gossip about so and so…and stand in judgment of them?

It’s a whole lot easier to be negative, critical and condemning than it is to examine myself and see some ugly stuff buried deep. But when I see the damaging effects on the body of Christ, of the bad reputation it brings to Christians and of the chilling effect it brings to an unbelieving world that has already rejected Christ…do I have any choice other than to fall on my knees before Christ Jesus? Confess my grievous sins, repent, grieve over the damage I’ve done, receive forgiveness and most importantly…go and sin no more.

Lord help us please…help me please! When I’m walking in that critical, negative, condemning, gossipy spirit…I’m blinded to the truth in the Word of God. If I’m doing that…how can I say I’m walking in love. Can I accurately state that walking in such a manner comports with the wisdom and godly counsel of the word of God…such as the book of James? Is my tongue bridled? Isn’t my mouth…just a reflection of my heart? If I’m negative and critical all the time…bottom line…isn’t that being critical of God too?

Isn’t a negative, critical, condemning spirit…essentially walking in pride and arrogance? In Proverb 16…God clearly tells me that there are six things that He hates:

16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,

19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

It’s not a mystery what’s detestable to God…He reveals it quite clearly . He also reveals His will on how we should act. The question is…will I choose to listen and obey?

God further warns me in is His word…that gossip separates friends. If gossip does that to friends…what praytell does it do to the body of Christ?

28 A perverse man stirs up dissension,
and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28

God provides a better way and a better answer. He tells us that we are to Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”– 1 Peter 5:6

What might that humbling look like? After confession and repentance…how about bringing that person before the throne of God in prayer…instead of gossiping or sharing a negative report…praying for them? But that requires choosing to yield myself to God. It requires choosing restraint, thought and making an effort…instead of going with the flow of pride and arrogance and choosing to undercut and undermine someone…someone for whom Christ died.

Recently visiting Pastor Kent Kraning invited us to instead of asking the question “What would Jesus do?”…to ask “What did Jesus do?”

When I put my thinking cap on…or better yet…open my Bible…I don’t see stories about Jesus going around being critical and negative…or always complaining. Does that mean he never got angry? Does that mean he was a Harvey Milktoast when it came to confronting people? Not by a long shot. Jesus was very direct with people…and usually reserved His sharpest criticism for the religious folks. Calling them white washed tombstones and overturning the money changers table in the temple.

Can you imagine Jesus gossiping about people? “Hey John…did you see what Peter did? Talk about opening mouth inserting foot. Wait till you hear what he did!”

No…instead our Lord’s confrontation was very direct, deliberate and personal. It was directed to those who needed it. But it was done one on one…not behind their back. And Jesus stood up for the defenseless…for those whom the religious looked down upon. When the Pharisees criticized the woman who worshiped Jesus by pouring the jar of expensive perfumed nard over His feet…Jesus declared her sins were forgiven…and that her actions would be talked about wherever the Word of God was preached. Praise God!

When I think about those Christians whom I find lovely in spirit…not one of them has a negative, critical, condemning spirit. Instead they walk in love…and are open and embrace people around them. With a hug or in lifting someone in prayer before our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

Who you’ll likely see reaching out to the negative and critical people is one of those who are lovely in spirit. Those who radiate the Spirit of Christ within them. Because they know who needs love more than the unlovely? Who more than they needs prayers? Who more than they need friends? The lovely in spirit try to walk as Christ did…Christ who said a friend sticks closer than a brother.

So when I see that negative person…that critical person…the one who is ready to offer a word of condemnation…ought I not to reach out to them in friendship? Keep them prayer…knowing full well of the power of God’s word to transform lives. Even lives that seem stuck in the muck and mire of the ugliness of life.

Negative, critical, condemning and gossip…those traits just don’t sound like the fruit of the spirit that the Bible mentions. Instead those sound more like the fruit of my sinful, fallen, fleshly, rebellious spirit. The sins that Christ died for on the cross. Because He bore my sins…I don’t have to bear them any longer. So why would I choose to walk in that manner any longer. If I’m a Christian…I’ve been freed. Freed to walk in the Spirit of Christ. Free to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit…from He Who transforms my life from within.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

Thank You Jesus that I am no longer bound by those sins which once entangled me. Thank You Jesus…that I am freed…that my sins were nailed to the cross. Whether I am young or old…I am a new creation in Christ. Because You died and rose again…I’m free to leave those sins at the foot of the cross. I am freed to put off the old…and put on the new man in Christ. Amen…so be it!

“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:20-32

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