Monday, February 26, 2007

Spiritual Barracudas

I spent an afternoon last week visiting Ray Comfort and Mark Spence at Way of the Master headquarters. The purpose of my visit was to introduce Evangelist John Wright (Liberia) to the Way of the Master family. Ten-Four Ministries supports John’s efforts to bring the gospel to the Liberian National Police Force.

While I was talking to Ray, the subject of barracudas came up. Ray shared the story of a day on the water when his wife was reeling in a fish. When she got her catch to the side of the boat, half of her fish was gone. It had been attacked and half-eaten by a notorious, predator of the sea—the barracuda.

The barracuda is a ferocious tropical and subtropical fish that can reach 6’-long and 1’-wide in size. They are known as ambush predators, with razor-sharp teeth. I have caught barracuda off the coast of California. They often put up a very good fight, and I’ve seen firsthand how barracudas will chase helpless fish being reeled in by fishermen, right up to the boat.

Ray and I talked about how some professing Christians can look a lot like barracudas, especially when it comes to the way the barracuda chases down unsuspecting, helpless, or injured prey. They are fast, but are not as manueverable as other predatory species. “Large barracudas, when gorged, may attempt to herd a shoal of prey fish in shallow water, where they guard over them until, they are ready for another meal.”

Talking to Ray about barracudas reminded me of a recent encounter I had with a barracuda of another kind—a kind far more dangerous to human beings—a zealous, professing Christian who, based on his own words, was likely a false convert. Sadly, like the barracuda of the sea, this spiritual barracuda attacked an unbeliever with false doctrine and another gospel.

A couple of weeks ago, I taught a Way of the Master One-Day Seminar at a local church. After half-a-day of instruction and discussion, we went to the local mall. Several mentors led groups of 2-3 students in an afternoon of evangelism—giving each student the opportunity to apply that which they had learned in the class. One student, Noralyn, shared the Law and the Gospel with a young lady who would make a profession of repentance and faith right there, at the mall.

I was blessed to lead Chris and Joanne during the evangelism portion of the class. We walked outside the mall, into a courtyard, with restaurants on both sides. In front of one of the restaurants, a young man sat behind a folding table. Next to him was an empty chair. As we got closer to the table, I could see that atop the table was a stack of gospel tracts and half-sheet flyers for a church located out of the area.

(Local malls have written policies specifying the time, place, and manner for free speech exercise. Individuals and/or groups submit an application and a refundable deposit. The mall then assigns the individual or group to a specific location in the mall. Participants are allowed to distribute literature and talk to anyone who walks up to the table. But participants are not allowed to leave the table and approach mall patrons.)

The look on the young man’s face (who we will call “Jim”) was one of utter boredem. When he made eye contact with us, seeing that we were walking toward him, the change in the look on his face and his body language seemed to be saying, “Please don’t come over here and talk to me.” Our conversation would vaildate these observations.

I introduced myself to Jim as I picked up the printed information on the table. “So, do you go to this church?” I asked.

“No.” Jim said. I’m just sitting here for my cousin. He went inside the mall. He should be back any minute.

“Oh, okay.” I said. “So what are your spiritual beliefs? What do you think is going to happen to you when you die?”

Jim wasn’t sure. He had a Catholic background. He admitted that he doesn’t go to church or read the Bible. He said he doesn’t give such things much thought. It was apparent that Jim had very little concern about his spiritual condition.

Jim considered himself to be a good person, saying that he believed his good outweighed his bad. With Jim’s permission, I took him through the “Good Person” test. He admitted to breaking God’s Law, but he thought God would simply forgive him. After taking Jim into an imaginary, civil courtroom, Jim agreed that a good judge would not let a convicted criminal go, simply because the criminal said he was sorry and promised to try not to commit the crime again.

Jim acknowledged that if God were to judge Him against the Ten Commandments (God’s Law), he would be guilty of breaking God’s Law. When I asked if he would go to heaven or hell, he answered, “Purgatory.”

Jim gave no resistence when I told him that purgatory does not exist and that it is not mentioned in the Bible. His claim that he would go to purgatory was not based on any deeply held belief. It was more of a stab in the dark, an attempt to throw something against the wall and hoping that it would stick. He was trying to avoid uttering the inevitable right answer. “Purgatory” is easier to say than “hell.”

I again asked Jim, “Would you go to heaven or hell?”

“Hell.” He answered.

“Does that concern you?” I asked.

“I guess.” He answered half-heartedly.

“Do you know what God did so you won’t have to spend eternity in hell?” I asked.

After thinking about it for a moment, Jim answered, “I’m not sure.”

“Would you like to know?” I asked.

“Okay.” He answered.

I shared the gospel with Jim. When I reached the point of talking to Jim about the cross, his cousin returned to the table. The look on his face could best be described this way. “Hey, buddy, this is my table!”

“Jim, you’ve broken God’s Law. And what you deserve for sinning against God is eternal punishment in hell.” I said.

“Wait a minute!” The cousin protested. “Jesus covered all of that!”

I looked at the cousin and said, “Be patient. I’ve been talking to Jim for a few minutes now. I’m getting to that.”

Turning back to Jim, I said, “Jesus took upon Himself the punishment you deserve for everytime you have lied, stolen, committed blasphemy or adultery, and for everytime you have broken God’s Law in any way. God the Father allowed God the Son to be crushed as a full and complete payment for your sins.

“What you must do Jim is you must be born again. You must turn from your sin. It’s called repentance. And you must put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation—to save you from your sins. If you do that, the promise is that when you die and stand before God, instead of receiving what you deserve for sinning against God—eternity in hell, you will receive what you don’t deserve—his grace and mercy and eternity with Him in heaven.”

The cousin again protested. “You don’t have to worry about him. He’s been sealed by the Holy Spirit.”

“What?” I asked. I admit the cousin’s assertion caught me by surprise, especially after what I heard come out of Jim’s own mouth.

“He’s saved.” The cousin said, putting his hands on Jim’s shoulders. “He’s been sealed by the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues.”

I looked at Jim. Jim was now looking down at the table, with an embarrassed look on his face. Although Jim never elaborated on his cousin’s claim that he spoke in tongues, the smirk on Jim’s face told me that he wished his cousin had not shared his experience with speaking in tongues.

“Speaking in tongues doesn’t save anyone.” I said to the cousin.

While some Christians believe that speaking in tongues is evidence of one’s salvation, speaking in tongues is not proof of one’s salvation. Speaking in tongues is no more proof of salvation than being baptized, participating in communion, or attending church is proof of salvation. Many people are baptized, take communion, and attend church regularly who are not saved.

“I said he’s saved. He’s been sealed by the Holy Spirit.” The cousin insisted.

“I’ve just spent the last ten minutes talking to Jim.” I said. He said he isn’t sure where he will go when he dies. He admitted to breaking God’s Law and his belief that he would probably go to hell when he dies. Does that sound like a Christian to you?”

“So how many times do you have to repent?” The cousin asked. “Once you’ve repented, that’s it. You don’t have to keep repenting.” (He would later tell other small groups in the class that once a person repents they are free to commit sins such as adultery.)

It was obvious to me that the cousin was a false convert. He did not understand the biblical plan of salvation. He was offended that I would talk about the Law to Jim. He looked at repentance as a license to sin, without the fear of facing God’s judgment. He assured Jim that he was saved, even though everything Jim told me indicated that he was a lost soul who was facing God’s wrath and judgment.

Sadly, Jim was feeding off his cousin’s assertions and was now trying to argue that he was right with God (see Prov. 20:6).

Instead of engaging in what would inevitably deteriorate into a circular argument with a man who was, at the very least, apostate (see Hebrews 10:26-31), I turned my attention back to Jim. I looked him in the eye and softly said, “Jim, listen to your conscience. Be honest with yourself. You know what you said to me about yourself; and you know where you would go if you were to die today. All I ask is that you think about what I shared with you.”

I shook Jim’s hand and thanked him for talking to me.

As we walked away from the table, Chris spent another moment or two talking to the cousin. I heard the cousin use a derogatory expletive to describe a mall security officer who would not allow him to walk away from his assigned table to talk to people.

Not only are barracudas dangerous predators, but they are also the cause of many cases of food poisoning. “Ciguatera is a foodborne illness poisoning in humans caused by eating marine species whose flesh is contaminated with a toxin known as ciguatoxin, which is present in many micro-organisms . . . living in tropical waters . . . Predator species near the top of the food chain in tropical waters, such as barracuda, moray eel, parrotfish, grouper and amberjack, are most likely to cause ciguatera poisoning”

Like the bacterial-laden flesh of a barracuda, the professing Christian at the table was filling Jim’s head with lies and false hope, further poisoning his heart and his mind. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7).

If you spend anytime sharing the gospel with strangers, you are going to run into spiritual barracudas. And if you step on the box to open-air preach, you will find that some of the vilest, angriest hecklers are spiritual barracudas—professed Christians who deny the biblical gospel message or who create a false god in their mind—a god who will not judge sin or condemn unrepentant sinners. So what should you do if you run into a spiritual barracuda?

First, don’t panic. The truth of God’s Word you are bringing to the conversation doesn’t change or lose its power when you are confronted by someone who has twisted Scripture for their own illicit purposes. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Second, don’t fall into the trap of mirroring the barracuda’s emotions. Spiritual barracudas are often sincere (although sincerely wrong) and they can become quite emotional. The reason for their negative emotional outburst is simple enough. You have exposed their false beliefs with the light of truth. Their first response is to engage their “fight or flight” mechanism to protect their false beliefs. Since their conscience is now testifying against them, and they have no biblical truth supporting their unbiblical positions, they will often resort to ad hominem attacks against your character. They will accuse you of being judgmental and legalistic. “And you will be hated by all because of My name” (Luke 21:17).

What they are hoping (at least on some level) is that you will treat them the same way. If they can make you angry and cause you to stoop to the same offensive behavior with which they are attacking you, then they can add unloving and uncaring to their list of accusations against you. Ultimately, their hope is that you will simply give up and go away. So, be loving, considerate, respectful, and maintain a calm demeanor. “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:17-18).

Third, if you have a spiritual barracuda interrupting your conversation, don’t feel that you must respond to all of their objections. Stay on point—Law to the proud and grace to the humble.

Use the Law lawfully, as it was intended. Use the Law as a mirror, allowing the sinner to see themselves in light of God’s holy standard. Do not use the Law as a hammer, for no other purpose than to win an argument and/or to demean the person with whom you are speaking. Allow the Law to do its work. “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners” (1 Tim. 1:8-9a).

Fourth, don’t forget about Jim. Don’t forget about the person with whom you were speaking before the spiritual barracuda attacked. Your fight is not with the spiritual barracuda. Your fight is for the person you originally engaged in conversation. And remember, the fight is spiritual. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Remember that everything you are saying to the spiritual barracuda is being heard by the person with whom you were originally speaking, as well as anyone else nearby who may be eavesdropping on the conversation. Even while the spiritual barracuda is trying his or her best to distract you and take you off message; or, as was the case in the conversation I’ve described, even while the spiritual barracuda is trying to steal the fish you are trying to reel in with the Law and the Gospel, you have got to keep fishing.

Again, before walking away from the table, I pleaded with Jim to carefully consider what I shared with him, because his eternal destination was hanging in the balance. I told Jim that I was talking to him because I cared about him and I didn’t want him to go to hell.

Spiritual Barracudas can be ferocious predators, looking to devour unwitting unbelievers with their false doctrine and false beliefs. But remember: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). So, don’t panic. Don’t mirror the spiritual barracuda’s negative emotions. Don’t argue. Don’t forget about the fish you are trying to catch. Remember the battle is spiritual. Use the Law lawfully and trust the Word of God to do its work. Stand firm in your faith and remember that it is Christ who makes you a fisher of men (see Mark 1:16-18).

Spiritual CPR

I recently preached a new sermon at my home church. The sermon, Spiritual CPR, is a study of Mark 1:16-18. I begin the message by recounting a time when I performed CPR upon a dying young man. In this message I discuss a command to obey, a promise to believe, and a response to give as each relates to reaching a lost and dying world, with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Click here to listen to this message. My hope and prayer is that it will not only be an encouragement to you, but that it will also motivate and, if necessary, convict you to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why Many Mission Trips Are Not Missionary

A church youth group spends Spring Break in Tijuana, Mexico fixing the roof of a small church. A Christian school teacher leaves her classroom in the United States to teach ESL classes in China. A retired Christian couple travels to Africa to help poor farmers plant crops and improve their irrigation systems. A Christian doctor devotes several weeks a year providing free medical care to the indiginous people of the Amazon jungle. A Christian hospital chaplain volunteers his time providing care and words of comfort to patients and family members.

In today’s church, each of the before-mentioned people are considered missionaries. While this may be true, the likelihood is just as great that none of the before mentioned people are missionaries. They are considered missionaries by their churches or sending agencies. Their salaries come from a church’s missionary budget. They likely consider themselves missionaries. However, the most critical component to missionary work is sadly, often missing.

This article will discuss why many mission trips are anything but missionary, and why many people who call themselves missionaries do not fit the biblical definition of a missionary.

So many times I have heard Christians say that they do not have the gift of evangelism, therefore they are not obligated to share their faith. And some of the Christians who try to make such an argument often turn to Ephesians 4:11-12 to support their position. “And He gave some as apostles and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

What they fail to realize is that Ephesians 4:11-12 has less to do with spiritual gifts and more to do with specific offices in the body of Christ. When Paul writes about evangelists, he is talking about the office of an evangelist, not a specific spiritual gift of evangelism that is available only to certain Christians. Interestingly though, many Christians who do not feel they have been called to be evangelists engage in short-term and long-term missions. What they fail to realize is that a person cannot serve as a missionary, in the true sense of the word, without serving as an evangelist.

The Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines the word “evangelist” this way: “A ‘publisher of glad tidings;’ a missionary preacher of the gospel (Eph. 4:11). This title is applied to Philip (Acts 21:8), who appears to have gone from city to city preaching the word (8:4, 40). Judging from the case of Philip, evangelists had neither the authority of an apostle, nor the gift of prophecy, nor the responsibility of pastoral supervision over a portion of the flock. They were itinerant preachers, having it as their special function to carry the gospel to places where it was previously unknown. The writers of the four Gospels are known as the Evangelists.”[i]

The office of evangelist, as it is used in Scripture, is akin to our present-day understanding of the function of a missionary. That being said, one is only serving as a missionary if they are proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ—the one and only gospel that has the power to save lives.

If a person claims to be serving as a missionary, but they are not actively engaged in the proclamation of the gospel to lost and dying people, they are not missionaries. They might be ministering to people’s physical needs, they might be serving as a teacher in a secular school in a different culture, they might be shining the light of godly living in an otherwise dark world and befriending lost people, but if their primary focus is not the proclamation of the gospel they are not missionaries.

Can missionaries use some of the before-mentioned activities as bridges to the presentation of the gospel? Certainly. However, traveling to Mexico (for example) and spending a weekend building a house, or putting a roof on a church, or distributing good food and clean water, and then enjoying fellowship and worship with Mexican Christians; while these are certainly wonderful things to do, and while these activities are biblical and God-honoring, these activities are not missionary work.

The kind of activity I just described is dedicated work to the Lord. It’s service. The mandate to help and to serve others, particularly our brethren within the body of Christ, is very clear. We’re told so in Romans 12.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality
(Romans 12:4-13).

Likewise, we are told by the Lord Himself that we are to provide care and comfort to all people, saved or unsaved, whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself. Jesus alluded to this when He talked about the coming judgment of the world. We find it in Matthew 25.

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”

Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.”

Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
(Matthew 25:31-40).

What Paul writes about in Romans 12, and what Jesus talks about in Matthew 25, is service. It is god-honoring service, so long as the work is done to glorify God and not to simply please man or draw the attention of man. But it is not missions.

Many Christians engage in acts of Christian service, but they never open their mouths to proclaim the gospel to those they are trying to serve. They consider the driving of a nail with a hammer, or the planting of a crop to be evangelism when it is not. And having made a genuine effort to serve others in such a significant way, they feel as though they have fulfilled their evangelism requirement until the next opportunity to serve presents itself.

What many Christian workers fail to realize is that when they leave—while the people may be warm and dry, and while the people may have full stomachs—if the lost people die in their sins, having not repented of their sin and received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will face the righteous and just wrath of God as He judges their sin in righteousness and sentences them to eternity in hell. When the Christian worker fails to share the gospel with the people to whom they have provided food and shelter, when the Christian worker leaves, they leave the lost person every bit as lost as they were before the Christian worker arrived on the scene.

Before the Christian worker arrived, the lost person or people group might have thought very little of their spiritual condition. If all the Christian worker does is meet the lost person or people group’s physical needs, then that lost person or people group is left with even less reason to consider their spiritual condition, because they are now more physically comfortable as a result of the provision of the Christian worker.

I am not suggesting that such Christian service is not commendable and necessary. It most certainly is commendable and necessary. More importantly, it is biblical, which makes the need for such activity all the more urgent. Nor am I suggesting that Christian service is not compatible with evangelism. Of course it is. But without the presentation of the gospel in either written or spoken form, it is not evangelism; and it is, therefore, not missionary work.

It is important that Christians have a biblical understanding of the relationship between the office of evangelist and the work of a missionary. It is likewise important that Christians understand that while some are called to fill the spiritual office of evangelist, every Christian is called to be activiely engaged in evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15). Furthermore, it is important that Christians distinguish Christian service from evangelism and missions—evangelism and missions, again, being synonymous terms.

So the next time you are asked to go to a foreign country (or the other side of the tracks in your own town) in order to serve lost people, go! Go into all the world. However, please make sure you are taking the gospel with you. Make sure you are going with the full intent of speaking the truth in love; warning lost sinners that God’s wrath abides on them (John 3:36) and unless they repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15), trusting Jesus Christ alone for their salvation (Rom. 10:9-10)—having been born again (John 3:3), they will face God’s righteous judgment (Heb. 9:27) and spend eternity in hell (Dan. 12:2; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8). Without the gospel your efforts in Christian service, while commendable, will not be missionary work.

[i] Easton, M.G.: Easton's Bible Dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897

"I Am A Murderer" -- Confession of a Police Officer

Any officer who says he or she hasn't hated, loathed, been angry with, maligned with words, or cursed a criminal is, in my estimation, a liar. Strong words, I know. I can make such a strong assertion because I am guilty of doing all of these things. In fact, I have a confession to make. I am guilty of murder.

"Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good for nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell" (Matt. 5:21-22).

Although police officers are not guilty of murder if they take a life to protect their own lives or the lives of others, they are guilty of murder according to God's standard of moral perfection every time they curse another person, harbor anger or bitterness in their heart toward other people, or feel hatred toward other people. As is the case when we break any of God's commands, the just penalty for violating of the Sixth Commandment against murder is death (Romans 6:23).

With the above in mind, where is the line between righteous indignation and sinful anger?

Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity."

In Ephesians 4:26, Paul quotes Psalm 4:4. "Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still." The word "tremble" is to be understood as trembling with anger or fear.

Here are two examples of righteous anger exhibited by the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

"And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables" (John 2:15).

"And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored" (Mark 3:5).

Pastor John MacArthur wrote: "[Righteous] anger hates injustice, immorality, ungodliness, and every other sin" (MacArthur Study Bible; note on Ephesians 4:26). Police officers with integrity and character should feel the same way as the Lord Jesus Christ about injustice, immorality, and ungodliness. However, the moment an officer’s integrity and character falters, allowing those feelings of righteous indignation to deteriorate into feelings of bitterness, jealousy, revengeful anger, prejudice; it is at that point that righteous indignation becomes unrighteousness and sin.

I was involved in a shooting on February 6, 1993. A chronic user of methamphetamine tried to run over me and another deputy with a stolen car. While the suspect was trying to kill me, my eldest daughter was on the operating table, at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

When the dust settled, the suspect was sitting behind the wheel of the car, very much alive, and laughing. While I was sending rounds down-range, trying to stop the suspect, I was rightly angry with the man because of his willful disobedience of my lawful commands, and his obvious desire to harm my fellow deputy and me.

However, when I saw the man laughing behind the wheel, those feelings of righteous indignation quickly turned to sinful rage. My involvement in the shooting meant I would miss my daughter's surgery. I knew I would spend the next several hours at the station talking to investigators and other department officials. Not only did this criminal try to kill me, but he was also keeping me from my little girl. And he was laughing. I hated him, and I wanted to kill him--not because He violated the law, but because he was laughing and he was keeping me from my daughter’s bedside. He was keeping me from providing comfort to my wife who was sitting, all alone, in the surgical waiting room. I was so enraged; I climbed onto the hood of the stolen car. I held the barrel of my gun a couple of inches from the windshield, directly in front of the suspect's face. I was going to execute him. I wanted to kill him.

During the incident, my use of deadly force was justified by policy, by civil law, and by Scripture (Romans 13:1-5). However, when I climbed on the hood of the car, I was no longer enforcing the law. I was intent on inflicting punishment--not as a rule of law, but to satisfy my need for revenge and to appease my feelings of hatred toward the suspect. My indignation was no longer righteous. I was now sinning against God. I was a murderer-at-heart.

In God's eyes, according to His standard of moral perfection, the anger and bitterness I harbored in my heart toward the suspect was no different than the physical harm the suspect tried to commit against my person. I was a murderer-at-heart, just like the criminal who tried to kill me.

A clear indicator that our anger or indignation is unrighteous is if we lay our head on the pillow seething over a real or perceived offense (in word or deed) committed against us. We drift off to sleep thinking about the negative, hurtful thing we would say if we could go back to that offensive moment in time. We fall asleep plotting our revenge, planning how we will make the person who offended us pay for their crime (real or perceived) against us. We fall asleep finding solace, even joy, knowing in our heart that we have no intention of forgiving the offending party.

God’s Word not only identifies the sin issue (murder), but it also provides the remedy. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

Police officers become angry and sin, just like everyone else. The law enforcement family draws from the same fallible human race as every other profession and sub-culture. Police officers are exposed to the very worst man can do to his fellow man, on a daily basis. It is difficult not to develop a hardness of heart and general resentment toward the criminal element and an often-indifferent populace. Be that as it may, while there may be reasons for violating the Law of God, there is never an excuse. No one will stand before God on the Day of Judgment and be able to use a “guilty with an explanation” as an affirmative defense. God, being perfectly good, will judge in righteousness. And those whom He judges will spend eternity in hell as the just punishment for their sins against God.

Do you get angry and sin? Do you justify your sinful anger? Have you not repented of your sin? “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5a)! Do you claim to be Christian, yet we willfully ignore the Jesus Christ’s very clear warning? “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matt. 6:14-15).

Are you like me? Have you committed murder in your heart, through your anger, bitterness, and hatred toward others? If this were your only sin against God, the Lord will still judge you as if you had broken all of His Law. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10).

Your only hope is Jesus Christ. There is only one way to avoid the wrath to come. “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And iIf anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the [payment] for our sins” (1 John 2:-1-2a). Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, died on the cross to pay the full penalty for your sins. Not only did Jesus Christ take the punishment death sentence that was due to you, He rose again, defeating death. And He is alive today!

You know in your heart that you are guilty before God. Your conscience testifies against you. Confess your sins to the Judge of the Universe, then repent (turn away from your sins) and throw yourself upon the mercy of the only One who can save your life. Believe with your heart that Jesus is the Son of God. Submit to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior— so that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Only then will God grant you a pardon and give you the gift of eternal life.