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Agape I
Agape II
Agape III
Agape IV
Agape Notes I-III
     
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Agape III

 

“Love Is Not Provoked”

 

Now for our next two points in defining what agape really is in 1st Corinthians 13, verse 5.  Conversion is not just changing to set of ideas or set of beliefs.  That’s only part of it.  At it’s core, conversion is a change of nature.  According to what Peter said in 2nd Peter “we have become partakers of the divine nature.”  When you are baptized and have hands laid on you, you receive the divine nature.  But we must now conform to that divine nature.  We must be converted into that divine nature.  So let’s go to 1st Corinthians 13 and look at the next quality of agape on the list.  Every trial you have is an opportunity to learn one of these qualities.  Every problem we have, everything we face is an opportunity to learn one of these qualities, or a multiple number of these qualities. 

 

1st Corinthians 13:4, “Agape suffers long.  It is kind, does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own,”---and now,  is not provoked.”  So if you’re looking for a title for this particular sermon, you could title it ANGER MANAGEMENT J.

 

Anger Management

 

What does that mean?  We must learn to control our emotions in the context of agape which now states “agape is not provoked.”  We begin to understand that agape has to deal with anger.  What makes us angry?  Why do we become angry?  What do we do when we are angry?  What must I become in order to be converted, so that I can learn to control my anger?  What do you do when someone “pushes your buttons”?  All anger is not wrong.  It says in Ephesians 4:26, the apostle Paul says, “Be angry and sin not.”  In other words, it is possible to be angry and not be sinning.  But anger can lead us to sin.  Anger can motivate us to break all kinds of qualities of agape.  So the question is:  “How can I be angry and sin not?”  God is motivated by something different than anger.  His anger is expressed in a certain way.  He is not motivated by his anger, he is motivated by what’s good for the other person.  Agape always does what is best for the other person.  Anger is a motivation for us as humans, it drives us to do things.  Agape is not provoked, anger does not drive us if we have agape, it can’t be motivating us to do the wrong thing.  You’re not provoked, you’re not driven by anger to do what is wrong when you’re functioning under agape.  Psalm 7:11, “God is a just judge and God is angry with the wicked.”  It is very difficult for us as humans to separate between being angry and being motivated by anger.  Much of the anger that we experience does not produce what God wants produced.  Proverbs 29:22, “An angry man stirs up strife,”  We’ve all known angry people.  This person the proverb is describing is angry all the time.  Every place he or she goes, they’re in an argument.  Every place they go they’re in strife.  They never have peace.   “and a furious man abounds in transgressions.” is the last part of that verse.  Anger will motivate us to sin if we’re not careful.  James 1:19-20, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.  For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  Human anger does not produce the righteousness of God.  It’s not wrong to show anger from time to time.  It’s what we do with it that’s the real issue---so that we’re not provoked---we’re not motivated by it. 

 

Example of Moses

 

Moses is an example of an angry man.  Moses murdered a man, remember?  He got angry with one of the Egyptian guards, killed the guy out of anger.  Moses came down from the mountain with the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.  He saw the people committing idolatry.  Should he have been angry, yet bet.  Was God angry?  Yes.  Should Moses have taken action?  Yes.  Should he have broken the tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments written on them by the hand of God?  No.  God later said to him, ‘OK, go tap the rock (implied, gently), and I’ll bring forth water for the people.’  The people were griping and complaining, and griping and complaining, on and on and on.  Finally, Moses just lost his temper and said “OK you rebels, here’s your water!” And he proceeded to smash his rod against the rock.  God told Moses ‘Hey, wait a minute, you were supposed to say ‘God will bring water out of the rock.’  And secondly, you didn’t have to call them a bunch of rebels.  All you had to do is walk up and say ‘Trust God’ and gently tap the rock, and I was going to bring water out.’  God said, ‘You lost your temper one last time, you’re not going into the Promised Land.’  Why did he do that to Moses?  He did it because Moses had to learn agape.  One of the problems Moses had was he got easily provoked. 

 

Five Sources of Anger

 

1. This first point has a part “a” “b” and “c”.  What are some of our sources of anger?  a. any threat to our life.  b. any threat to well-being, and  c. any threat to our self-image.  Interestingly enough, we will have the same level of anger when our own self-image is threatened.  We will react with the same level of anger as if someone were attacking our very lives. 

 

2.  A second source of anger is biological disposition.  Some people are wired to experience anger more quickly than others.  An example of this would be red-heads (now don’t all you red-heads get angry at me all at once).  My sister is a red-head, my adoptive daughter is a red-head, they’re wonderful girls, but they’re just very quick to get angry.  That’s biological disposition.  Other people have different issues with anger, it just sits in their mind and won’t go away.  They’re wired that way. 

 

3.  Point number three:  Sometimes anger comes from environmental influences---violent movies, video games, music, rough neighborhood you grew up in, our environment can drive us or our children to be angry.

 

4. A fourth reason that we become angry at times is repeated negative experiences.  This is something to really consider when raising children.  This is why the apostle Paul says, “Fathers, don’t provoke your children to anger.”  We can treat a child so negatively for such a long period of time that they simply become angry.  That anger sits inside of them and they become angry all the time.  And then, as an adult, they have all kinds of anger problems.  Repeated negative experiences will do that.  Remember how Moses was angry all the time?  Think about his childhood, his upbringing.  For his first three years, he was with his mother, and when he was old enough to know he was a Hebrew, Pharaoh’s daughter [probably Queen Hatshepsut] takes him and immerses him in the harem school for Egyptian royalty.  For the rest of his upbringing he was living with Egyptian royalty, constantly aware he was a Hebrew, and having to listen to all the downgrading talk about “those nasty Hebrew slaves.”  Talk about sowing anger into a child.

 

5.  Satan will feed us with anger.  This is the fifth source of anger.  And it’s seen in Ephesians 2.  This is where uncontrolled anger takes us, even if it isn’t the original source.  When we get to this level of anger, we cannot experience agape.   We can’t live agape when we get to this level.  Ephesians 2:1-3, “And he made you alive, who were dead in trespasses, which once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.  Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and”---WHAT?---“we were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”   Satan is constantly provoked, by God, he’s driven by anger.  Our anger is not sin---it’s what we do with it that counts.  And that is why this has to do with agape, because Satan will feed our anger.  He loves it when we stay in an angry state.  When we’re angry all the time, it is absolutely impossible to respond to God’s Holy Spirit. 

 

three ways that handling anger won’t work

 

There are three ways of handling anger that will not work.  If we’re not going to be provoked, we have to understand that these won’t work.

 

1.  One is:  uncontrolled ventilation.  Uncontrolled ventilation of anger is destructive.  People kill other people in those moments of totally ventilated anger.  This is called “unpremeditated murder”, murder-2 or 2nd degree murder.”

 

2.  Number two: simply repressing anger, and bottling it up, and pretending that you don’t have it won’t work either.  Jonah, chapter 4 is an example of this.  First, he was very angry with his assignment from God to go warn the Assyrians that God was going to destroy them.  Why?  Because Jonah didn’t want to see the arch-enemy of Israel coming to repentance.  So he was angry with them before, because they were the bad guys.  Now he’s angry with the Assyrians because they repented at his message.  Anger will drive us to not let someone repent.  Jonah chapter 4, verse 3, “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life  from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.  And the LORD said, ‘Is it right for you to be that angry?’”  Repression and bottling up anger leads to a lack of forgiveness and it actually leads to depression.  A lot of depression is anger that has never been worked through.

 

3.  Point number three:  A third way of handling anger that won’t work is actually to deny you’re angry.  “I’m not angry!”  “What’s wrong honey?”  “Nothing!”  “Uh-huh.”  But denial is a serious issue. 

 

What is Righteous Anger?

 

What is righteous anger?  How do we have righteous anger?  How do we have anger that is acceptable---that isn’t self-destructive?  It all has to do with how we face life.  This is what conversion is at the deepest level. 

 

1.  Point number one:  Righteous anger is short-lived.  Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  Do not let it eat away at you, is what it’s saying here.  Let it go.  It’s got to be short-lived.  You can’t hate politicians and live a happy life.  You have to say to yourself “I have no control over what the President of the United States does, I only have control over my relationship with God and what I do every day with the people around me.”  You have to learn to give your anger to God.  Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.  People that have good marriages often do because they take this verse very literally and will not go to bed angry at each other, even if it means staying up half the night.  So our first principle here is understanding that righteous anger is short-lived. 

 

2.  The second point:  A person experiencing righteous anger never allows himself to cross that line to where they are manipulated by Satan.  There is a point where anger loses control.  You cross a line, and you find you’ve lost control.  And you will say things, you will think things, and you will do things that you would normally never do.  That is because we’re giving ourselves over to Satan’s attitude.  Not possessed or something like that, but his attitude.  One of the core components of who Satan is, is that he is provoked all the time, he’s constantly angry at God, and hates God, and is provoked.  His anger is constant and intense.  Verse 26, “Be angry and sin not.  And do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  And the very next part of the thought is in verse 27, “Nor give place to the devil.”  That can be translated opportunity.”  Don’t give opportunity to Satan, because if you lose it, he’ll be right there.

 

So 1) righteous anger is short-lived, and 2) we don’t let it cross that boundary where Satan controls us.

 

3.  Number three:  Righteous anger is experienced when there is a moral principle involved.  Part of the problem with us, though, is we’ll get angry, even when there is a moral principle involved, and then we’ll let our self-righteousness drive us instead of righteousness.  You have to be very firm that it is a moral principle of God.  And that is a hard line to walk sometimes, because sometimes it’s our own pride that is hurt, and we think then that we’re being driven by a moral principle (when instead it’s a pride issue).  Remember Jeremiah 17:9?  “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.  Who can know it?”  So we deceive ourselves a lot of times in these things. 

 

4.  Number four:  A person who has a righteous anger gets angry at situations---AND---they’re not angry all the time.  When the situation is taken care of, we let go of the anger.  Also, the older we get, the more we realize, a lot of situations just never get taken care of.  So you just let them go.  Be angry at the situation, but not at the person.  It’s hard for us humans to separate the two, where God has no problem doing so.

 

A couple proverbs that are related to this, Proverbs 11:23, “The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.”  Wrathful people go into a situation expecting to be angry.  And guess what?  They’re angry, right?  The expectation is wrath, so angry people expect wrath.  They expect anger.  They go into every situation prepared for the anger and wrath to take place.  (Sort of like in the old wild west movies, in the bar-room scenes, where one guy bumps into another and accidentally spills his drink, and a shoot-out results.)    Proverbs 19:19, “ A man of great wrath will suffer punishment.  For if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”  Their very anger creates the mess over and over and over again.  So number four is, the person who has righteous anger gets angry at situations, not people.  If you’re angry all the time, then you have an anger-agape problem.  If you’re angry all the time, it doesn’t take much to provoke you, does it?  This next one is a good one.

 

5.  Point number five: Righteous anger is used to energize positive actions.  Or you could put it this way.  Agape will take our anger and find a way to do something good with it.  And this is a super example of Jesus Christ and how he handled being very angry once.  Let’s see what Jesus did when he got really angry with a bunch of Pharisees.  Mark 3:1-4, “Jesus entered the synagogue again.  And a man was there with a withered hand.  So they watched him closely, whether he would heal him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Step forward.’  And he said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’  But they kept silent.”  Verse 5, “And when he looked around at them with anger”---Jesus is angry, God in the flesh is angry---“being grieved by the hardness of their hearts,”---I mean, Mark really stresses this, he was grieved by the hardness of their hearts, that’s how angry he was.  So he said to the Pharisees ‘Stretch out your hands’, and they all became withered hands.  Is that what Jesus did?  That’s not what it says.  Because that’s what I would have done.  I know that’s what I would have done.  ‘OK people, here you go, I’ve withered all your hands, you bunch of hardened Pharisees!’  That’s not what he did.  “He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’  And the man stretched out his hand and was restored as whole as the other.”        

His agape motivated him, even though he was very angry with these Pharisees, to do good to this person.  He could have withered all their hands.  That wasn’t a problem. Jesus Christ didn’t, he healed the man that had the withered hand.  That’s agape, folks.  Agape will take our anger and find a way to do something good with it.  We often use our anger to find a way to do something destructive with it.  You have to understand that we have to give ourselves time to decompress from situations before taking actions.  Proverbs 15:18.  And this reminds me of the German army three-day rule for filing a complaint or grievance.  And that way you’re able to look at the situation, cool, calm, and collected three days later and see if it’s really a grievance.  Proverbs 15:18, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he that is slow to anger delays contention.”  [King James, “appeaseth strife”]  In other words, he is able at times to ratchet down---bring down the conflict.  And if you can’t bring down the external conflict, bring down the internal conflict.  Do not be provoked.  Don’t let others dictate your actions. 

 

6.  The sixth point:  Righteous anger never generates hatred.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Don’t call your brother worthless.”  Matthew chapter 5, “don’t call him Raca.  Going to your brother because you’re angry is fine.  It’s how you do it.  Getting so angry with a brother in church to say he or she isn’t a Christian, or to even imply that would sort of fit this.  In context with church and brethren, we have to be very careful of this.  Matthew 5:21-22 shows what danger we might get ourselves into with God when we cross such lines.  So I’d take this one really seriously, folks.  I’ve heard of one Sabbatarian denomination that actually told its members that the leader of another Sabbatarian denomination was demon-possessed.  Can you see how a lack of agape has been allowing, and even causing so much divisiveness between us all? 

 

7.   And the seventh point:  Righteous anger does not produce depression.  When you find yourself becoming depressed over your anger, realize you have passed into a human experience.  When we find ourselves depressed over anger, we’ve crossed a threshold.  We have to step back and say, ‘Get rid of the anger.  Let’s get rid of it for awhile.’  There’s enough to be angry about tomorrow.  We’re into the hardest stuff we’ll ever do in this sermon series.  The only one who had this agape stuff down in his lifetime was Jesus Christ.  Next important question…

 

how to respond with righteous anger

 

We’re going to go through five points here.

 

1.  First of all, recognize that most of the anger we experience is destructive to our emotional and spiritual health and it’s destructive to other people.  Even if the anger was righteous when it began, what it ends up being is so destructive so many times.  Proverbs 27:3, “A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but a fools wrath is heavier than both of them.”  We can’t carry that stuff around.  If you carry the wrath, you’re letting them do something to you, like carrying a stone, you’re letting them do something to you.  Now if you can use the anger to bring about a positive action, that is good, and that is what Jesus did in Mark chapter 3. 

 

2.  Number two:  Discuss your anger with God and ask him to help through his Holy Spirit.  Ask for God’s forgiveness and get back on track.  Go ask for help from his Holy Spirit.  Ask for agape, ask God to help you not to be so easily provoked.  Sometimes it’s turning it over to him, and letting him do what he wants to do. 

 

3.  Number three:  When first feeling anger, force yourself to take that step back.  Take a time-out, counting to ten.  When this pastor who originally gave this sermon says he writes an email in anger, he lets it sit for 24-hours.  What he finds is that 90 percent of the time it never gets sent.  The other 10 percent, it gets modified.  Ben Franklin would write angry letters to other people who angered him.  He would place them in a drawer, and never mailed them.  I remember writing an accurate but angry letter to my ex.  I never mailed it.  I recently found it and threw it away.  The anger that had driven me to write it was gone.  Think about that German army three-day rule for filing a grievance.  They were forced to wait three days before they could file a grievance, from the time that they asked for the grievance paperwork.

 

4.  Number four:  Meditate on what makes you angry and how to handle it better to get positive results.  Is that person “pushing my buttons?” ask yourself.  There are people that push your buttons.  They know how to do it.  They’ve figured you out.  Right?  Next time, say ‘Nah.’  In my own personal life we had a shop-foreman whose first name was Gilbert, and he knew how to push my buttons, and he’d do it to give everyone else a laugh.  Finally I figured out what he was doing, and stopped paying him any attention when he was doing it, and he stopped doing it eventually. 

 

5.  Fifth point, last point:  We have to learn to forgive.  We have to learn to give up our emotional need for that person to receive payback, and turn things over to the justice of God, and hope people repent and receive his mercy.  When you do that, the anger goes away.

 

 

“Agape Keeps No Records of Wrong” or “Thinks No Evil”

 

This is the next phrase of verse 5 of 1st Corinthians 13, “Agape keeps no records of wrong.”  Dale Carnegie once said, “If I knew what you think I would know who you are”, i.e. our thoughts make us what we are.  Emerson said, “‘A man is what he thinks about all day long.’  How could it possibly be anything else?”  You and I are a composite of what we think about all day long.  That’s what determines our behaviors and attitudes.  In the end, our thoughts determine our emotions. 

 

Agape Thinks No Evil

 

“Agape thinks no evil”, verse 5.  The King James says, “thinks no evil.”  This phrase is translated in a number of different ways in English Bibles, “thinks no evil” in the King James, Moffat translates it “love is never glad when others go wrong.”  Probably the most accurate translation when you look up the Greek is in the NIV “love keeps no records of wrong.”  What does this mean, to think no evil or keep no records of wrong? 

 

Jesus brought sin to the thought level

 

And this is really looking at Matthew 5 through the lens of agape.  The source of sin is in our mind.  To understand and apply agape we’re going to have to learn to “think no evil.”  It’s the evil in our minds that is the germ of what we do.  Jesus brought sin to the thought level.  What is in our mind translates into action (good or bad).  The roots of murder are in the mind---hatred.  The roots of adultery are in the mind---lusting after a woman who is not your wife.  Coveting in the original 10 Commandments has always been at the thought level of sin.  Matthew 5:21, “You have heard that it was said of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders shall be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you 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.’”  Raca just means worthless.  Murder is a product of something that happens in the mind.  1st Corinthians 13 requires that we learn how to think with no evil.  It doesn’t say avoid evil in terms of seeing it.  We see evil all the time.  It is what we think about which counts.  What do we think about every day?  Verses 23, 24 and 25 basically says, ‘If you have a problem with somebody, go fix it as quickly as you can.’---another principle of agape which we saw before, forgive quickly.  Verse 27, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Sin starts here.  It is not a product of the body, it all starts in the head.  So “think no evil.

 

Are We To Be Remodeled or Torn Down and Totally Rebuilt in God’s Image?

 

We think that God has called us to be remodeled.  It’s not true.  You and I have been called to be totally torn down to the foundation, and rebuilt from the foundation up.  God wants to bring in the wrecking-ball, tear the whole thing down, and rebuild us into what we’re supposed to be.  And it all starts in our mind.  To truly live 1st Corinthians 13:4-8, we don’t need a spiritual remodeling job---we need to be torn down and totally rebuilt.  At our baptism and the laying on of hands (when many of us received the Holy Spirit), we became new believers.  And we as new believers think that all we need is a remodeling job.  As young believers God starts us out by teaching us about the actions of obedience.  We do that with little children.  Most of the 10 Commandments, given to the “children of Israel,” are action-based commandments.  Jesus Christ in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, brought those same 10 Commandments to the thought-level of obedience.  Initially we learn to put out idols, the physical observance of the Sabbath, not working on Saturday for 24-hours, going to services on that day---we’re changing our actions.  We’re learning to carry out the actions of obedience to the law of God.  Then we go on to the thought-level of obedience as seen in Matthew 5:17-48, on to perfection as verse 48 says.  We don’t need a patched up heart and mind.  God says in Jeremiah 31:31-33, ‘I will give you a new heart and mind.’  This is essentially thought-level and involves being given a new heart and mind.  When we first come into the knowledge of the truth of God, we’re just like little children.  You train children through behavior (action-based).  As they get older, you begin to teach them how to think.

 

God, the Master Jeweler

 

God is trying to make us into jewels, gems like diamonds.  You have to cut a diamond out of ugly coal which it is embedded in.  What we as humans want to do is hang onto that lump of coal instead of having God cut it off and extract us from it.  Malachi chapter 3, verses 16-17 says God will make us into his jewels.  So this is Scriptural.  But we tend to say, ‘I like this diamond-coal combination just fine, leave me along.’  Be careful, God will only do what we submit to (in this process), we are equal participants in the process.  Most don’t understand why they aren’t growing in ‘grace and knowledge of the Lord.’  It is because they have failed to realize they have essentially told God to stop meddling, just because it hurts.  God, being the Gentleman his is, respects our wishes.  So be careful what you ask for in regard to this.  Genesis 6:5, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was only evil continually.”  The whole imaginations of mankind are evil when society reaches a level of universal evil like this.  Jesus told us that at the end-times, society would reach this level of universal evil, as it had been “in the days of Noah.”  Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  We don’t realize what a massive reconstruction job this is, and we get used to the idea of a partly rebuilt house, instead of the mansion God is constructing us into, we don’t realize the enormity of it.  Paul said he was striving to bring every thought of his “into the captivity of Christ” in 2nd Corinthians 10:3-6.  Agape is the ability to bring every thought into what God wants us to think. 

 

Cleanse me of Secret and Presumptuous Sins

 

Psalm 19:12-14, “Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse me from secret faults.  Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.  Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgressions.”  David is saying, ‘Cleanse me from secret faults’---all our secret faults have to do with the mind.  ‘Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me…’  The thing about presumptuous sin is, you believe you’re right (about something that really is sin).  That’s the whole idea about being presumptuous---‘I believe I’m right, so I can do what I’m doing.’  Presumptuous sins often times are not obvious to us, because we believe we’re right.  Verse 14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.”  David is basically saying, ‘I want you to know what my thoughts are.  Do you ever wish that God didn’t know what your thoughts were sometimes?  David says ‘I want to get to the place where every thought I have, you say, ‘Now that’s a good thought.’   Thinking no evil doesn’t mean we ignore evil.  But if I choose to think about all the evil in the world, and just meditate on it all the time, I’ll probably become either very angry or very distraught, or I’ll just give up and go become the evil in the world.  This is what agape is all about.  It’s knowing when to give up what is going on in the world, or in your life, the evil you see at work.  Let it go and think about something else.  The evil in the world isn’t going to go away until Christ comes back. 

 

Importance of Meditation---Tools For Combating Evil Thinking

 

Philippians chapter 4.  What is it that we must choose to think about?  Philippians 4:4-8, gives us the answer, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I say, ‘Rejoice!’  So the context here is being happy.  “Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.  Be anxious for nothing.  In everything, with prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  So the peace of God can guard our hearts and minds.  But so many times we’re maintaining a thought process that produces anxiety within our minds.  Paul says, “be anxious for nothing.”  Verse 8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy, MEDITATE on these things.”  Take these things and think about these things.  Let the evil go.  There are times to think about the evil, but it shouldn’t be the main course of our mind all the time.  These things have to become the main course of our mind, these things that Paul just talked about.  The key operative words here are of good report. 

 

How Do We Do This?

 

How do we do this?  In the private moments of your mind, try to fill (Paul says) your mind with these things.  When it is your time to peaceably think, instead of taking in all the evil and bad---instead of letting your mind be drawn towards sin, instead of thinking about what others have done to you---stop and think on these things.  Remember, it has to be “of good report.  Think about it, if your thoughts were suddenly to be broadcast out loud, reported to everybody, would I want everybody to know what I’m thinking?  God wants us to hate evil, but the daily thoughts have to be something else.  Psalm 77 shows our greatest trials are internal, what we wrestle with in our minds.  This is a psalm of Asaph, and he’s seeing a lot of evil in his life and all around him.  He shows this in verses 1-10, and he was getting really depressed over these things.  Psalm 77:1-10, “I cried to God with my voice---to God with my voice; and he gave ear to me.  In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted.   I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.  Selah.  You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.   I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.  I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.  Will the Lord cast off forever?  And will he be favorable no more?  Has his mercy ceased forever?  Has his promise failed forevermore?  Has God forgotten to be gracious?  Has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?  And I said, ‘This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”  Asaph is pretty upset by all that he sees going on around him.  He’s seeing all the negative, and it’s really getting him down.  But in verses 11-20 it almost looks as if Asaph has been able to read the apostle Paul’s advice to the Philippians in Philippians 4:4-8, doesn’t it?  He focuses on the good, those things of good report, whatsoever is good. Asaph said he was able to move forward because he went back to God, focused on God’s things.  When we get down like this, how long does it take to recover?  As long as it takes.  Our problem is we want to keep thinking the wrong way, and yet we desire Godly outcome within our minds, and that won’t happen.  In verses 11-20 we see a change in Asaph’s attitude.  Verses 11-20, “I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember your wonders of old.  I will also meditate on all your word, and talk of your deeds.  Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great as God as our God?  You are the God who does wonders; you have declared your strength among the peoples.  You have with your arm redeemed your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.  Selah.  The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw you, they were afraid; the depths also trembled.  The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; your arrows also flashed about, the voice of your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.  Your way was in the sea, your path in the great waters, and your footsteps were not known.  You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”  Wow, what a change in Asaph’s perspective on life.  When Asaph meditated on all the things of God, his attitude changed radically.  Let these things of Philippians 4:4-8 come into your mind so it is what you become, so that you become agape.  Christ isn’t coming back tomorrow, so the evil is going to keep going.  Don’t be overwhelmed with the evil you see around you.  How do we not become overwhelmed with the evil?  Philippians 4:4-8 and Psalm 77:11-20 gave us some clues. How do we not be overwhelmed with the evil around us?  Here are three things that you need to think about, center your thoughts on.  And this gets us into the art of Godly meditation.

 

 

The Art of Godly Meditation

 

1.  Point one:  You can do this in your prayer-time (Psalm 119 was one of David’s meditative prayers).  Meditate on God and his love, his plan of salvation for mankind, his truth and what that has meant in your life.  This is what Asaph did in Psalm 77, verses 11-20.

 

And if you think your schedule is so busy that you don’t have time for prayer, Bible study and meditation, then chuck something out of your schedule.  Because if you have no time for Bible study---God talking to you, and prayer---you talking to God, and meditation, then find something in your schedule to get rid of.  If we don’t have those things, everything else we do becomes worthless.

 

2.  Point two:  Meditate on God’s creation.  Asaph did that as seen in verses 16-19 of Psalm 77.  He meditated on the oceans, the weather patterns in the sky, rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, lightning and thunder.  David meditated on the heavens and God’s host of stars in the universe.  We can do far more with a small telescope than David ever dreamt of, and see far more on our computers looking at Hubble photographs of the heavens.  Why not take up amateur astronomy?  Asaph was looking at basic Earth Science, one of my favorite courses in high school.

 

3.  Point three:  Find time to think.  Have meditative Bible studies, and not just Bible studies to learn facts.  A lot of people have a lot of knowledge about the Bible, but have no more agape than a pagan.  Psalm 63:6, “When I remember you on my bed, I meditate on you in the night watches, because you have been my help.  Therefore, in the shadows of your wings, I will rejoice.”  David made a habit of Godly meditation.  The Psalms are full of them.  He meditated about when God was in his life, helping him. 

 

Jumping to Conclusions About Others Being Evil

 

Another aspect about “thinking no evil” is that we tend to jump to conclusions about others being evil, imputing evil motives to others.  We shouldn’t automatically jump to certain conclusions about other people.  Agape looks and says “is this really evilly motivated?  What’s happening here?”  We have to find out, and we have to wait until we’re sure in order to avoid jumping to conclusions.  You may be judging another’s works as having evil or wrong intent when in fact they’re of good and holy intent, righteous before God.  Have you ever been on the receiving end of having your works misjudged and spoken evil of?  It’s not enjoyable, let me tell you.  Many of us create an imaginary reality in our minds.  There’s enough real evil to go around without making up more of it.  Here’s a Bible example of people thinking evil of others when there was no evil intent in their work.  It’s found in Joshua 22, and we’ll start with verses 1-6.  Joshua 22:1-6, “Joshua called the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and he said to them, ‘You have kept all that Moses, the servant of the LORD, commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you.  You have not left your brethren many days, up to this day, and have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.  Now the LORD your God has given rest to your brethren, as he had promised them.  Now, therefore, return and go to your tents, and to the land of your possession, which Moses, the servant of the LORD your God, gave you on the other side of the Jordan.  But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses, the servant of the LORD commanded you---to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his commandments, to keep his commandments, to hold fast to him, and to serve him with all your heart, and with all your soul.  And Joshua blessed them and they headed back.”  Things are good so far, everything is fine, these two and a half tribes have just been discharged from the army of Israel and are headed back to their inheritance across the eastern side of the Jordan.  Now we’ll pick up in verses 10-12, “And when they came to the region of Jordan, which is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan---a great, impressive altar.  Now the children of Israel heard someone say, ‘Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar on the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan---on the children of Israel’s side.’  And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh to go to war against them.”  So here, these two and a half tribes built this massive altar on Israel’s side of the Jordan.  Notice it says, “Now the children of Israel heard someone say…  “Psst, hey, you know what I heard, those two tribes are building this massive altar, and are going to start having pagan sacrifices, it’s just got to be true, why else would they do this?”  The Law of God did forbid the building of massive altars, and prescribed that only at the Tabernacle could sacrifices be carried out.  So they’ve just finished killing off the Canaanites in the land, and now they’re about to start a civil war.  Verses 13-19, “Then the children of Israel sent Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest to the children of Reuben, to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, and with him ten rulers, one ruler each from the chief house of every tribe of Israel; and each one was the head of the house of his father among the divisions of Israel.  Then they came to the children of Reuben, to the children of Gad, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, to the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them saying, ‘Thus says the whole congregation of the LORD:  ‘What treachery is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that you have built for yourselves an altar, that you might rebel this day against the LORD?  Is the iniquity of Peor not enough for us, from which we are not cleansed till this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD?  And it shall be, if you rebel today against the LORD, that tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.  Nevertheless, if the land of your possession is unclean, then cross over to the land of the possession of the LORD, where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take possession among us; but do not rebel against the LORD our God.”   What an accusation, calling them rebels, twice!  And they don’t really have all the facts, as we’ll see.  What a rant, going on and on, telling these people how wrong they are.  Their answer to this baseless and misguided accusation is found in verses 22-24, “The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knows, and let Israel itself know---if it is in rebellion, or if in treachery against the LORD, do not save us this day.  If we have built ourselves an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer on it burnt offerings or grain offerings on it, let the LORD himself require an account.  But in fact we have done it for fear, for a reason, saying, ‘In time to come your descendants may speak to our descendants, saying, ‘What have you to do with the LORD God of Israel?’”  It wasn’t even an altar, they had built this giant edifice out of fear.  What was their fear?  They give the reason.  They said “In time to come your descendants my say to our descendants, ‘What have you got to do with the LORD God of Israel, you’re not even Israelites!’”  These two and a half tribes received their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan.  They were afraid this natural barrier might be used later on as an excuse by the rest of Israel to say they weren’t even Israelites.  So they built this edifice as a reminder to the rest of Israel about just who they were, Israelites too.  What happens when we always think evil, we can actually see evil when it’s not there.  They even said, ‘Let God judge our motives, since you guys don’t seem to have a clue.’

 

Agape Keeps No Records of Wrong

 

The other way that this phrase is translated is “[agape] keeps no records of wrongs.”  Now you can’t have relationship without repentance.  But you must forgive, even if the other person doesn’t repent.  Ouch, that’s gotta hurt for some folks.  It doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with them, it means you have to forgive them.  “Agape keeps no records of wrongs”  (this, I believe is the way the NIV translates it, and it’s pretty accurate to the Greek.)  So that means, when a person repents, we literally wipe it off the books.  What agape allows is that the past sins don’t interfere with relationships in the present time.  It keeps no record of wrong.  Agape is willing to have relationship when sins are repented of.   But if you’re dealing with an abusive person, who is doing something to you over and over again, you stop it for their good.  Right?  It is for their good that you stop it.  But I’ve heard some people actually remark, ‘I’ve saved all your emails as evidence.’  And if the other person has been changing, all this “evidence” keeps you in a position of misjudging that person, in the light of their past and not how they are today.  You haven’t allowed (in your own mind) for their spiritual growth.  Agape tells us to dump those emails, dump those records of wrong, and not hang onto them.

 

Four Applications of the Phrase “Thinks No Evil”

 

1.  Replace thoughts of sin, worry and negativism with the truth of God.

 

2. Never be glad when others go wrong.  Refuse to be just absorbed on the shortcomings and problems of others.

 

3.  Refuse to impute evil motives (when you don’t know all the facts).  And most of us don’t “know all the facts.”

 

4.  Agape keeps no records of wrongs.  We’re willing to forgive, because God has forgiven us.

 

What a Converted Person Looks Like

 

We’re beginning to see what a converted person looks like.  A converted person is willing to suffer long, for a long time enduring other’s faults and sins and quirks, for the good of that person.  A converted person does acts of kindness to everyone he meets.  That person does not envy, actually rejoices in the blessings of others.  A converted person doesn’t parade himself or allow himself to be driven by pride.  A converted person is humble, easy to entreat, willing to forgive.  A converted person is concerned with not offending others and being rude, and tries to be tactful.  He doesn’t always have to have his own way, but has the spirit of cooperation.  A converted person controls his temper and is motivated by righteous anger to do righteousness, that is, doing something good in response to the evil that has been done to him.  Agape thinks no evil, keeps not records of other’s wrongs toward you.  We’re beginning to see what a converted person actually looks like.  If you look in the mirror, do you see these things?

 

Remember, living by agape means you’re going to get hurt, because agape doesn’t allow us to put a shell around us.

 

[This whole four-part series on Agape was condensed down from notes taken from Gary Petty’s 8-hour sermon series on Agape.  Full credit goes to him.  If you’d like the full version, contact him at: http://san-antonio.ucg.org]

 

Listen to the Audio version by clicking here Agape III Pt 1 Agape III Pt 2

 

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