3 Life Changing Truths Based On God’s Impartiality


Ac10.34-35I remember growing up hearing from the KJV that, “God is no respecter of men.” I have to admit it sent a rather confusing message. I was supposed to respect people, but God did not? Well since then, I have learned a little bit more about God, His relationship with humanity, and I also started using a different translation of the Bible.

Now I read, “God shows no partiality.” Essentially, it means God doesn’t show favoritism. In fact, “no partiality” is the preferred reading in such translations as the NKJV, ESV, and the NAS.

Why does God show no partiality? Well, Job’s friend Elihu revealed the source of God’s impartiality when he said, God “shows no partiality to princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of His hands” (Job 34:19; cf. Proverbs 22:2). This is key to understanding God’s impartial nature, especially when we come to the New Testament.

On three occasions the New Testament cites God’s lack of favoritism as the foundation of several important truths:

Because God is Impartial,

Salvation is Open to All:

Acts 10 is a great moment of change in the salvation history. Up until that time, the gospel had only been preached to Jews and the quasi-Jewish Samaritans. But finally, following divine intervention (10:1-23), Peter takes the gospel to the Gentiles. When he arrived, Peter opened with these words, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable” (10:34-35). No longer was salvation and fellowship with God exclusive of the Jewish nation. In the new age of Christ, every nationality is welcomed into the kingdom of God.

Paul touches on this theme in Romans 2:6-11 where he said, “[God] will render to each one according to his works” whether they be evil or good (vv. 6-8) regardless of one’s ethnicity (vv. 9-10). The “Gospel,” Paul said, “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek… [for] ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17). This passage also confirms that when it comes to salvation, God shows no partiality based on ethnicity or nationality.

What’s the take away for us? That we should take the gospel to everyone regardless of who they are or where they are. Salvation and the gracious reward of eternal life are not based on who we are, but the life we live in faith. This is the foundation of the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and we need to be about our job of taking the gospel to the masses, keeping in mind that, “if [we] show partiality, [we] are committing sin” (James 2:9).

Because God is Impartial,

All Teachers of Truth are to be Accepted:

A few years after the events of Acts 10, a crisis had hit the church, teachers known as Judaizers had infiltrated a number of churches and were teaching that in order for Gentiles to be saved they must keep the Law of Moses (ref. Acts 15:1, 5; Galatians 1:6-10; 2:15-21). One area these teachers were especially troublesome was the region called Galatia. Within a short time after Paul’s departure from the region, the Judaizers had shown up leading a good number of people astray (cf. Galatians 1:6). To bolster their authority, the false teachers claimed they had the backing from the influential apostles and teachers in Jerusalem: Peter, James, and John and Paul did not. The Judaizers had likely made a habit of exalting these three leaders at the expense of Paul.

Paul sarcastically makes a play off of the Judaizers’ name-dropping of these three men calling them “those who seem to be influential” (Galatians 2:2, 6, 9). As Paul makes his appeal that the he was accepted by these very men and the other apostles, and therefore the Galatians should accept him and his gospel, Paul appeals to the impartial nature of God (v. 6). No doubt, the Twelve apostles did have the unique privileges, i.e. of being with Christ from the beginning of His ministry (cf. Acts 1:21-22). However, their unique privileges did not make their apostleship any more legitimate or authoritative than Paul’s, since Christ commissioned them all (ref. Romans 2:11). Furthermore, Paul never saw himself as apostolically inferior (ref. 2 Corinthians 12:11-12) because God shows no partiality between His servants.

What’s the application for us today? Because God is impartial, then we should receive all teachers of truth. We should not elevate one above another, or develop camps around this one and around that one. This was exactly what the church at Corinth had done and Paul condemned their actions (ref. 2 Corinthians 3:1-9). They were showing partiality. However, God is impartial when it comes to the use of His servants, therefore, we should be impartial in our receiving and listening to His various servants.

Because God is Impartial,

He Will Punish All Evildoers:

Slavery was a fact of first century life. From the instructions given throughout the epistles, it is evident that early congregations were composed of both slaves and masters (ref. Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:11, 22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; 1 Peter 2:18-25). In this world, masters had nearly unlimited power over their slaves, even to the point of life and death. However, Paul artfully used God’s impartiality to teach a new and different way for believing masters to treat their slaves, while urging slaves to serve their masters in honorable ways.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul instructed believing masters to treat their slaves with mutual honor and respect and “stop your threatening” (Ephesians 6:9a). That is, stop using your authority and power to intimidate and threaten your slaves. Remember, Paul warned, “He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him” (Ephesians 6:9b). The Master should remember that he too is a slave of the Heavenly master. Therefore, he should treat his slaves with the same amount of grace and mercy he has received from his Master. If he does not, he should remember that with God, “there is no partiality.” The master’s earthly status will not help him in the Day of Judgment when he stands before his Master to give account of his stewardship.

In contrast, Paul used God’s impartial nature in his letter to the Colossians to spur believing slaves to obey their masters no matter what. “Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing The Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality” (Colossians 3:22-25). Paul urged believing slaves to work for their earthly masters in a way consistent with being slaves of, “the master Christ.” This teaching applied to every slave, regardless of station or the spiritual state of their masters. If the slave failed to heed these instructions he could be sure his heavenly Master would punish him accordingly, since “there is no partiality” with Him.

What should we see in these two examples? Because God is impartial, eternal punishment will be dealt out to all who sin, regardless of their social status in this life. Just as salvation is open to all, so is eternal punishment. Our deeds in this life, not our station, or lot in life determines whether or not we will be saved or punished in eternity. This is what Peter taught in 1 Peter 1:17 where he said, “If you call on His as father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” Therefore, God’s impartiality in judgment should serve as a motivator in our lives to obey the commands of our Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17).

As we have seen, because God is the creator of all humanity He is impartial. Therefore, this fact should motivate us to share the gospel with everyone. It should deter us from forming camps around different preachers of the gospel. Finally, it should cause us to obey God so as to not incur His judgments. Let us be people who live lives in light of God’s impartiality, doing what He has said, being the people He wants us to be.

It would be my pleasure to help you on your spiritual journey. You can always contact me via email me at clay@claygentry.com. Until next time, keep Sharing The Good News.

The Calling of the Twelve Apostles


Question: How did Jesus go about calling the men who would later become the apostles?

Answer: Thanks for the question; I’ll do my best to answer it for you. The call of the apostles can be seen in three distinct phases.

First Contact and Part-Time Discipleship:

the 12 apostlesThe first contact between Jesus and any of the apostles is recorded in John 1:35-51. It’s here that Andrew, John, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel meet Jesus for the first time. These encounters occurred in the wilderness where John the Baptist was preaching at the start of Jesus’ ministry. The text reveals that these men were first disciples of John who had heeded his preaching in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah (cf. John 1:15-34; Mark 1:4-5). When John identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (v. 35), Andrew and an unnamed disciple (presumably the apostle John) left John the Baptist and followed Jesus (v. 36). Later that day, Andrew brought his brother Simon to meet Jesus and it is at this time that Jesus began to call him Peter (vv. 40-42). On the next day, as Jesus was leaving the area, He called Philip and Nathanael to follow Him (vv. 43-51). It is generally understood like John, Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanael were disciples of John the Baptist as well. While these five men “followed Jesus” (vv. 37, 43) they were not full-time disciples, that is, they had not left their day-jobs to follow Him around. They were part-timers we might say, coming and going as Jesus was in or around Galilee. That is why we will later find them fishing and mending their nets while Jesus is off preaching.

A Call to Full-Time Discipleship:

Phase two of the apostles’ calling was a call to full-time discipleship. This is where the dramatic scenes of Matthew 4:18-22; 9:9-17; Mark 1:16-20; 2:14-22; and Luke 5:1-11; 27-32 come into focus. These disciples had already encountered Jesus through the work of John the Baptist. They had accepted Him as the Christ and they had spent some time with Him (cf. John 2:2). However, their time with Him was brief and they went back to their lives of fishing, tax collecting, etc. It is within the context of this second call of Peter, Andrew, James and John that Jesus performs the miracle of the large catch of fish (Luke 5:4-7), extends the call to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17; cf. Luke 5:10) and we read venerable phrase, “immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (Luke 5:11; cf. Matthew 4:20, 22; Mark 1:18, 20). In a less dramatic way, Matthew (Levi) was called to full-time discipleship, but the result was the same, “and leaving everything, he rose and followed Him” (Luke 5:28; cf. Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:12). Judging from Peter’s words in Mark 10:28, “See, we have left everything and followed you” it appears that all twelve apostles were called in similar fashion as those who’s calling were recorded in the gospels (perhaps even the seventy-two where called in the same manner; cf. Luke 10:1). During this short phase, these men would live, travel, aid and learn from Jesus like so many others. But their greatest call still lay ahead.

The Call to Apostleship:

The last phase of the disciples’ calling was to designate them as apostles or the sent ones (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). Jesus’ teaching and work was met with great resistance by the Pharisees and scribes (cf. Luke 5:17-6:11; Mark 2:1-3:6). As it reached a climax, Mark graphically records, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). It was with this back drop, that Jesus selected the apostles. Because of the importance of the role this office would play in the church (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14), Jesus spent all night in prayer before He selected the twelve (Luke 6:12). From the ranks of His disciples (there must have been hundreds), our Lord “chose twelve, whom He named apostles” (Luke 6:13). Using Luke’s account we find their names were: “Simon, whom He called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (Luke 6:14-16; cf. Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19). For roughly a year and half, these twelve men would live and learn from Jesus. He would teach and train them to be the bearers of His gospel message. Through triumph and failure, these men will come through the crucible (sans Judas), ready to spread the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20).

Did that answer your question? I hope it did and thank you again for the question. If I can answer any other questions for I would be happy to do so or, if I can be of any help to you in your spiritual race, feel free to email me at clay@claygentry.com. May God bless you and remember, share the good news of Jesus with someone today.

An Alternate Reading of Hebrews 11


faithIf those of old had not receive their commendation based on their faith, then Hebrews 11 would read very differently. Rather than being the Hall-of-Fame of Faith it would be the Hall-of-Shame of the Faithless or instead of the Heroes of Faith they would be the Zeros of Faith. Consider the following examples:

—- 

By recklessness Noah got drunk and his nakedness was exposed to his son Ham (Genesis 9:20-27).

By fear Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah, calling her his sister instead of his wife (Genesis 12:10-20).

By fear he did it again (Genesis 20:1-18).

By anxiousness Sarah offered her servant Hagar to Abraham so that he might have an heir (Genesis 16:1-16).

By favoritism Isaac loved his son Esau more that his son Jacob and this caused all kinds of problems with his family (Genesis 25:28).

By deceit Jacob stole his brothers blessing by tricking his blind father Isaac (Genesis 27:1-46).

By rage Moses murdered an Egyptian taskmaster, hiding the body in the sand and fleeing to the wilderness (Exodus 2:11-22).

By anger Moses struck the rock to bring forth water instead of speaking to the rock as the Lord had commanded (Numbers 20:10-13).

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of the sins of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David, and the prophets – who through faithlessness erected an idol for Israel to worship (Judges 8:22-27), who refused to fight for the Lord (Judges 4:8-9), who made a rash vow (Judges 11:29-40), who was a womanizer (Judges 16:1-22) who took another man’s wife and then murdered the man (2 Samuel 11:1-27), and who out of fear ran from his responsibilities (1 Kings 19:1-18).

Some played the whore with idols and burned their children in sacrifice, even making the streets of Jerusalem flow with the blood of the innocent (2 Kings 21:1-18; 2 Chronicles 33:1-20).

All of these were condemned because of their sins.

—-

But PRAISE GOD, the story of the salvation is so very different. Rather than being condemned for their sins, those who put their trust in God were commended for their faith (Hebrews 11:2). “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Real Heroes of the Faith are men and women who fall and fail and are flawed, but in the end receive God’s approval, because through it all, they stayed true to Him by faith. That, my friends, should give us hope. This same commendation from God can be yours and mine in the very same way, by faith (Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 5:4; Revelation 2:10). “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, thinking nothing of the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

May God bless you friend. If I can help you in your spiritual journey, please email me at clay@claygentry.com. And as always, share the good news of Jesus with someone today.

You may also like: By Faith You Can Receive Your Commendation. It’s similar to this article but with a different ending.

Is Your Faith Your Own?


Is Your Faith Your Own

Full-length Sermon Audio: Is Your Faith Your Own – MP3

Let me start by asking you a question: Is your faith your own? By that I mean, is the body of beliefs, the faith, that you hold dear is it based on your understanding of God and His word or is it based on someone else’s understanding of God and His word? There’s a big difference between the two. Let me illustrate this by looking at Joash, the 10th king to sit on the throne of David. He reigned for 40 years in Jerusalem and life was marked by several important characteristics:

  • A Child Of Providence – He was providentially saved from the murderous rampage of his grandmother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:10-11a). He was the only male descendant of the line of David left alive, thus ensuring the continuation of the Davidic bloodline by which the Christ would come.
  • Raised By Godly “Parents” – He was reared by his uncle the Jehoiada, the High Priest, and his wife Jehoshabeath within the “house of God” (2 Chronicles 22:11b-12). Here he would have been taught to love God and His law. It had been a long time since a king of Judah loved God and His laws.
  • A Restorationist – Sometime after Joash took the throne at the tender age of seven, he began to restore the temple and reform the priesthood (2 Chronicles 24:4-14). Years of neglect had taken their toll on God’s house and the priesthood has become negligent in their duties.
  • Spiritually Hollow – In the process of time Joash’s adoptive father and spiritual mentor “grew old… and died” (2 Chronicles 24:15). It is then that something very interesting happens, Joash “abandoned the house of the Lord… and served idols” (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:17-18). In fact the usual summary statement of the kings reflects this, “And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2).

What do we see in Joash? We see a man who was spiritually hollow, faithful in doing what the Lord desired so long as Jehoiada lived. Yet, sadly, Joash’s faith was not his own. Therefore, as soon as Jehoiada died, the under-girding of Joash’s faith was stripped away and his faith collapsed. This inspired story begs the question, Is Your Faith Your Own? If this could be true of Joash, then it could be true of us as well.

Many Professed Christians Their Faith Is Not Their Own. Rather, it is based on: 

Accepted Church Beliefs: This person faith is solely based what the church they attend teaches. If their church believes something to be right and true, then so do they. If their church believes something to be wrong and false, then so do they. All these people are doing is matching their faith to their church’s doctrines. Consequently, this kind of person would be at home just about anywhere. Now, the church is the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). That is the church upholds God’s revealed truth through His word. Nevertheless, the standard of truth is not the beliefs and practices of a congregation, rather, it is the God breathed words of scripture (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). For example, your belief in baptism as a work of faith should not be founded on the fact your congregation believes it to be so, instead it should be because God’s word teaches that it is so (cf. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-11; 1 Peter 3:18-22; et. al.). If your faith is based on your church’s beliefs, then your faith is not your own. 

Family Traditions: In this scenario, a person basis their faith on his or her families’ religious traditions. If great-grandpa Jones was a member of the church of Christ, then it reasons that all good Jones’ will forever be members of the church of Christ. Whole families lean on the faith of one person but when that person is gone the faith of the family is gone as well. Now don’t get me wrong, as parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, we have a responsibility to teach God’s word to our young (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Ephesians 6:4). But, note what Paul said about Timothy’s faith in 2 Timothy 1:5, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” Lois and Eunice were tasked with the duty of teaching young Timothy the faith, but they also had the responsibility to push Timothy to move from the family faith to making his faith his own. If your faith is based on family traditions, then your faith is not your own. 

Personal Loyalty: In this case a person’s faith is practiced out of personal loyalty. Perhaps they are loyal to the one who converted them or to a beloved role model.  We see this demonstrated in the relationship some have with preachers.  Their faith is based on whatever the preacher says or thinks.  Much like our first example, if their preacher says it is right or wrong then this person believes it is right or wrong. I believe if Paul could speak to directly to this kind of person he would ask, “Is Christ divided? Was [your preacher] crucified for you?” The church at Corinth was divided along personal loyalties (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17) and sadly we see far too many Christians dividing themselves along the lines of what their favorite preachers think on a particular subject. Yet, Paul said he went to great pains to ensure that his listener’s faith did “not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5). Our faith must rest in God, not men. If your faith is based on personal loyalties, then your faith is not your own. 

If your faith is not your own, then the blessings that accompany faith are not yours as well: 

God’s Comfort is not yours. Perhaps no other passage has provided comfort to troubled heart like the 23rd Psalm. Yet, have you ever noticed that the promises of comfort this passage provides are predicated on the fact that you can truthfully say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Not my churches, not my families, not my preachers but mine. If the Lord is not your shepherd then you shall want (v. 1) and your soul will not be restored (v. 3). You will walk through the valley of the shadow of death and you fear because the Lord is not with you (v. 4). If your faith is not your own you cup will be empty (v. 5), and you will never dwell in the house of the Lord (v. 6). Making your faith your own is serious business. 

Justification, Peace and Grace are not yours either. Paul says in Romans 5:1-2, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” If your faith is not your own, then you have not been declared righteous before God. Therefore, you are His enemy and you do enjoy the grace needed for salvation. I cannot stress this enough, you must make your faith your own.

If your faith is not your own, then neither is the Assurance of Salvation. Listen to what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:5-11 (NKJV), “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Did you notice our key words, “Your faith…”? If your faith is not your own, then you will be barren and unfruitful, shortsighted and blind. Your call and election will not be sure, and you will surely stumble. Have I made the case that your faith must be your own? Then let’s learn how to do that. 

Four simple ways to make your faith your own: 

Get Into God’s Word: I can remember being in Bible class all the way back in the little church in Waverly, TN where we attended as children, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV). What lesson was Sarah Parchman trying to teach me from this verse? Well, quite simply, faith comes for getting into God’s word. Do you want to make your faith your own then get into God’s word. Read the stories of old, tales of faith, courage, and obedience. Read the exhilarating accounts of our Lord, His miracles, His teachings, His interactions and His dying and resurrection. Read the letters, delve into the deep thoughts of Paul’s mind, learn applications from Peter and James and be amazed at the stories of your faithful brothers and sisters in Christ as they fought the spiritual battles of the early church. You’ll never make your faith your own without first getting into God’s word for yourself. 

Pray For More Faith: Who doesn’t recall the agonizing plea of the helpless father who cried out to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). You remember the story, a desperate father had brought his demon possessed son the Jesus to be healed (vv. 17-18a). But Jesus was not there, so the disciples decided they would take care of this little problem, however they were not able (v. 18b). The boy is brought to Jesus (v. 20), Jesus questions the father about the boys situation (vv. 21-22a) and pleads “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (v. 22b). “If you can!” Jesus replied, “All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23). It is at this point the father admitted the imperfection of his faith, mixed as it was with doubt, the desperate father pleaded with Jesus to help him to have the greater faith the Lord demanded. Jesus answered that man’s plea for more faith and healed his son (vv. 25-27). When was the last time you prayed for more faith? If you are anything like me, you’re good at praying for all sorts of things and yet, terribly neglectful to pray for this one thing, more faith. Our Father is a good God; He will answer your prayer for more faith. Start by admitting to Him you have an imperfect faith. Ask Him to give you your own faith as you get into His word and as you endure trials. 

Be Purified By Trials: Nobody likes trials of life. Yet, Peter said, “Rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). There are many aspects to why the Christian rejoices during trials, many more than we can cover in this lesson (cf. Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:23; Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; James 1:2-4). The focus of Peter’s admonish to rejoice in trials is because trials purify your faith. Just as fire purifies gold by burning off all the impurities, so trials purify your faith by burning off those things that are weighing you down (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2). When you face trials with a view that this is good for you faith (so often we simple want them to go away), because it will purify you faith, then you can begin to make your faith your own. 

Share Your Faith: The last way for how to make your faith your own, is share your faith. The blind man of John 9 is the perfect illustration of this point. His faith was strengthened by virtue of sharing and defending His beliefs in the Lord miracle. Notice the progression with me: When first questioned by his “neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar” (v. 8) as to how he regained his sight he responded “the man called Jesus” (v. 11) healed him. Next as he is examined by the Pharisees he said Jesus was “a prophet” (v. 17). As the blind man’s defense continued he argued Jesus is “from God” (v. 33). This was too much for the Pharisees, so they threw him out of the synagogue and it is then that he comes face-to-face with Jesus and declares to Him, “Lord, I believe.” (v. 38). The more this man shared his faith, the more his faith became his own. The more you share your faith, the more you defend the gospel, the more you faith will become your own. A friend recently told me that he has asked a Mormon missionary what their conversion rate was. The Mormon man said, “less than 1 in 10,000 door knocks.” My friend was stunned and followed up with, “Well then why are you doing it then?” To which the man replied, “It makes us Mormons for life.” We can learn something from that. I want you to share your faith for two reasons, to make disciples of others, and to make your faith your own. 

Well we’ve been asking a very important question, “Is Your Faith Your Own?” We started with the example of a man who had everything spiritually going his way, yet his faith was hollow and it lead to his downfall. We explored various incorrect foundations on which people establish their faith such as church, family and men. From there we explained that if you build your faith on any one of those foundations then you do not enjoy the blessings that accompany faith. And then finally, we established how to make your faith your own. So is your faith your own? It needs to be. Friends, my heart’s desire is to help you on this spiritual journey to heaven. If there is anything I can do to assist you in make your faith your own, then email me at clay@claygentry.com. It will be my pleasure to aid you in this journey.

Lessons From the Four Views of David


four veiws of DavidPerhaps the best know story from the life of David is the account of him slaying the giant Goliath found in 1 Samuel 17. There are many valuable lessons to be found in this great passage. However, I would like to focus on how David was viewed by the other characters in this passage and make some application to ourselves.

To set the scene, the battle lines have been drawn between Israel and their archenemy Philistia (17:3). Rather than have the two armies fight it out and sustain heavy losses, the Philistines propose a match between the two best fighters from each army with the loser’s army becoming the slaves of the winner (17:8b-10). Fighting for the Philistines was the giant Goliath (17:4-8a), while on the Israel’s side was… well, no one. Fear had gripped the men of Israel and they fled and the sight of this man (17:11, 24). Even the reward of riches and the king’s daughter were not enough to encourage any of the Israelites to fight Goliath (17:24-27). However, one day young David, the future king of Israel, happened to be bringing supplies to his brothers (17:17-23). Upon hearing the Philistine taunt the armies of God, David resolved to fight for the honor of the Lord. Let’s explore four views of David from 1 Samuel 17:1-18:5 as he fights and prevails over the Philistine. These four views of David and his response to them will form the basis of our application at the end of this lesson.

The Critical View:

Eliab, David’s brother, was critical of David’s motives for being present at the battle and for talking to the other seasoned soldiers about fighting Goliath.

“Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.’” (17:28-29)

Rather than allowing this unfair criticism distract him, David stayed on course (17:30).

The You Can’t View:

The next view of David came from Saul, the king of Israel. When no one else was willing to fight for the Lord, David volunteered but Saul was quick to say David couldn’t possibly be victorious:

“When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, ‘Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight the Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.’” (17:31-33)

Nevertheless, David didn’t allow Saul to stop him from fighting for the Lord (17:34-40).

The Contemptuous View:

Within a short amount of time, David found himself facing Goliath mano a mano. Goliath was rather unimpressed with David and the text records,

“And the Philistine moved forward and came near David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philisitine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beast of the field.’” (17:41-44)

Yet, David didn’t allow Goliath’s view of him cause him to back doubt his God (17:45-47), nor back down from the challenge. So, when Goliath drew near to David, David ran quickly and struck and killed the Philistine “with a sling and a stone” (17:48-54).

The Courageous View:

Following David resounding defeat of Goliath, the people hailed him as a courageous hero and leader.

“And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’” (18:5-7)

Nonetheless, David didn’t let this fame and glory change him (18:18). He remained the same humble person who went out to meet Goliath “in the name of the Lord” (17:45)

Let’s make some applications for today:

Some people are going to be Critical of your service to the Lord, but don’t let this distract you from doing God’s work. Such was the case when Mary anointed Jesus feet with an expensive ointment (Mark 14:3-9). She was criticized by the apostles for the costly service, but she didn’t let that stop her from serving her Lord, and neither should you.

Other people are going to say You Can’t walk with the Lord faithfully. Don’t allow them to stop you from doing what you can do. Remember, “[You] can do all things through Christ you strengths [you]” (Philippians 4:13).

Still others are going to hold you in Contempt because you follow the Lord’s teachings, but don’t let them get you down. Find strength in the words of our Lord, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

But on the flipside, some people are going to say you’re Courageous in your work for the Lord. But, don’t let their accolades change you, stay humble and remember the words of our Lord, “When you have done all that you are commanded, say, ‘[I am an] unworthy slaves; [I] have only done what was [my] duty” (Luke 17:10).

Just like David, people are going to say a lot of things about you; some good, some bad. The key is to rise above their words by remembering who you are: a child of the Most High God. If I can help you in any way with your spiritual walk please email me at clay@claygentry.com. God bless.

Martha: In Fresh Perspective


MarthaWhen I survey the women of the New Testament, I find some remarkable women of faith, Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38) is the first to come to mind. But, there are others, such as Joanna, Susanna and Mary Magalene (Luke 8:1-3). Later on, I read about Priscilla who, along with her husband, risked her life for Paul (Romans 16:1-3). Then there is Lois and Eunice, a faithful mother and grandmother who instilled their faith in young Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). Several are mentioned in Romans 16:1-16 and there are many more women I could site as well. However, there is one woman, who until recently, would not have made it into the top tier of my list (if she made it at all) and that is Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. It is not because the scriptures do not present her as a faithful woman. Rather, it is because of my ignorance and misconceptions of this marvelous woman of faith. I would like share with you my fresh perspective on Martha. I want us to view her through the lens of faithfulness. Now, was she perfect? No. But who is? Contrary to my past view, Martha was a woman of deep faith, who loved her Lord and was loved by Him, and who is worthy of emulation. For our lesson, we will take an in-depth look the three passages where Martha appears Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44; and John 12:1-8. Then, at the end I’ll share two important lessons I learned from this fresh perspective on Martha.

Martha’s Much Serving (Luke 10:38-42):

(38) As Jesus and the disciples, “went on their way, Jesus entered a village” named Bethany. There “a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.”

(39) Like any good hostess, Martha quickly got busy serving her honored guest and His companions. Instead of helping her sister Martha, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.” Perhaps she has started to wash His feet but never got up and continued to listen to Him teach.

(40) Mind you, Martha would have been listening to Jesus teach but she was “distracted by much serving.” Note that she was not distracted with serving, but with “much serving.” It was not the basics of hospitality (cf. Luke 7:44-47) that distracted or troubled her (v. 41), it was her going above and beyond what was necessary, it was “much serving” that took her attention away from her Lord and caused her to snap at her sister. In her agitation, she “went up to [Jesus] and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?’” Martha was a good, thoughtful and faithful woman. She desired to show her special guest the best hospitality she could possible provide. She would have been at Jesus’ feet as well, if, in her mind there was not so “much” to do. I think this is at the heart of her frustration, she essentially asked Jesus, “Don’t You care that I can’t listen to You teach because Mary want help me get the work done around here. I have not had a chance to sit down all day. Tell her to help me so I can sit down and listen as well.” I have never gotten into trouble by simply supply the basics of life, it is when I go above and beyond, when I desire the much that I get myself into trouble.

(41-42) Martha was obviously frustrated, yet Jesus did not respond as if she was hostile. By doubling her name, “Martha, Martha,” Jesus expressed a loving concern to her outburst. This was not a “get behind me Satan” moment (cf. Matthew 16:23). Rather, it was our Lord tenderly correcting Martha by bringing her focus to where it needed to be. Martha was “anxious and troubled about many things” that she thought were necessary at that time not only for herself to be doing but Mary as well (cf. Luke 8:7, 14; 12:22-34). However, in Jesus’ eyes, “only one thing was necessary” and “Mary ha[d] chosen” it and it would “not be taken away from her.” That is, Jesus would not take from Mary her time with her Savior. It should be noted that Jesus didn’t correct Martha until she becomes critical of Mary. For me, that begs the question, why did Jesus do it then? I would submit that it wasn’t Martha’s service or caring about the needs of her guest that was wrong (remember she is a faithful, thoughtful, and caring woman); it was her attitude that was wrong and Jesus corrected her when it all come to a head. The words of 1 Peter 4:9 ring loud and clear in this scene, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”  That is what Martha was doing wrong in this passage, and her Lord and Savior brought her back to where she needed to be. I’ll have more to say about this passage in the latter part of this article.

Martha’s Amazing Faith (John 11:1-44):

(1-5) John begins this remarkable passage by informing us that, “A certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha” (v. 1). He goes on to clarify that this is the same Mary “who anointed The Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair” (v. 2; Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:3). The two sisters sent word to Jesus saying “he whom you love is ill” (v. 3). Instead of immediately rushing to Bethany, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days (v. 6) because, as He said, the “illness [would] not lead to death.” Rather, “it [was] for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v. 4). As if to reassure his readers that Jesus’ delay was not out of a lack of concern, John adds, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v. 5). It is interesting that Mary is not mentioned by name here and from John 11:2 it is possible that John’s original recipients did not know Mary by name. If that is correct, then it does appear they knew Martha since she is mentioned by name.

(6-19) In the intervening verses, John records a discussion between Jesus and His disciples about going back to Judea, specifically in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Finally, after four days (v. 17) our Lord decided to go back to Bethany. Since Bethany was so close to Jerusalem, a suburb really, many Jews had come to console Martha and Mary (vv. 18-19).

(20-27) As Jesus approached Bethany, Martha heard that He was coming and eager to be with her Savior, “she went to met Him” while “Mary remained seated in the house” (v. 20). The conversation that transpired between Martha and Jesus demonstrates the depth of her faith. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). This was not a rebuke of Jesus, but a testimony of Martha’s unwavering trust in Jesus’ healing power (compare v. 32). With ironclad trust, she confidently added, “But even now I now that whatever you ask from God, God will give You” (v. 22). She believed in Jesus’ special relationship with God, which becomes even more evident in v. 27. At this point, I envision Jesus reaching out and putting a hand on Martha’s shoulder and saying, “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23). Misunderstanding the Lord’s timetable, Martha faithfully replies, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). Martha’s belief in the final resurrection was in keeping with the beliefs of the Pharisees (Acts 23:8) and the majority of first-century Jews, as well as the teachings of Jesus (John 5:21, 25-29; 6:39-44, 54). Nevertheless, Jesus wanted Martha to move from an abstract belief in the resurrection to a belief based on Him as the resurrection and life. For Jesus time was no barrier, for He can give life at any time. Therefore, He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (vv. 25-26). Martha replied with what is commonly called the good confession, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world” (v. 27). Martha’s acknowledgment of the Messiahship of Jesus is representative of the very reason John wrote his gospel (John 1:49; 4:42; 6:69; 9:35-38; 20:28-31). Moreover, Martha’s confession that Jesus was the Christ put her in a special group of believers as far as the gospels are concerned.

(28-31) After her conversation with Jesus, Martha departed “and called her sister Mary, saying, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you’” (v. 28). Upon hearing this, Mary “arose quickly and went to Him” (v. 29). Because of the quickness with which she departed the house, and the direction she went, many of the Jews thought she was “going to the tomb to weep” (v. 31). Therefore, like any good comforters “they followed her” (v. 30).

(32-37) Mary’s first response was to “fall at [Jesus’] feet” (v. 32) (Mary is always pictured at Jesus’ feet Luke 10:39; John 12:3). Following suit with her sister Martha, Mary states, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 32; see note on v. 21). She must have said this through heavy tears, fore “when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled” (v. 33) and requested to be taken to the tomb (v. 34). It is at this point John recorded those immortal words, “Jesus wept” (v. 35; cf. Luke 19:41). His heart broke for Martha, Mary and the Jews who were mourning the death of their friend and loved one Lazarus. “See how He loved him!” (v. 36) someone exclaimed. However, others retorted “‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?’” (v. 37; cf. John 9:1-41). In contrast to the unwavering faith of Martha, these Jews doubted the sincerity and power of Jesus.

(38-44) As Jesus approached the tomb, He was “deeply moved again” (v. 38) by the emotion of the moment and the mourners who stood nearby. To setup the scene that follows, John briefly describes that Lazarus was buried in “a cave and a stone lay against it” (v. 38). Standing in front of the tomb, Jesus commanded that the stone be “taken away” (v. 39). However, being the practical woman she was, Martha spoke up, reminding the Lord “by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (v. 39). Martha’s protest seemed reasonable. Although the Jews used aromatic spices in their burial practices to mask the smell (cf. John 20:30-31), spices could only do so much, and after four days, the odor would have been strong. Nevertheless, Jesus wanted the stone removed as a sign of her faith questioning, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (v. 40). The Lord called Martha’s attention back to what He had said to her just moments ago. She believed that Jesus was powerful enough to have healed her brother and to have any request fulfilled by God, now she must believe He is powerful enough to raise Lazarus from the dead. At this point her “faith was completed by [her] works” (cf. James 2:22) and she gave the command for the stone to be removed (v. 41). Upon Martha’s demonstration of faith, Jesus offered a prayer of thanksgiving to the Father (v. 42). John records that “when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out’” (v. 43). Lazarus “came out” with “his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (v. 44).

The power and the importance of Martha’s faith as recorded in this passage cannot be understated. She made the good confession of Jesus’ Messiahship. By faith, she ordered the stone covering Lazarus’ grave removed. By faith, she received her brother back from the dead. Did she waffle at first? Perhaps. But her removing of the stone demonstrated her deep faith in Jesus. Moreover, it was Martha’s faith that made possible the resurrection of her brother (compare other miracles where the faith of another precipitated the miracle Mark 9:21-27; Luke 5:17-26; 7:1-10; 8:40-42, 49-56). Martha was a woman with a deep and strong faith. Did it waver some? Sure, but whose faith doesn’t? Nevertheless, we must concede it was her faith that was the foundation of this great miracle. Please make sure you see that.

Martha’s Servant Heart (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-12; Mark 14:3-9):

(John’s account will serve as our base text.)

(1-2) In connection with our previous vignette, John brings us back to Bethany to the house of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3) where a feast was being held in Jesus’ honor, a mere six days before His death (v. 1-2a; John 13:1; 19:14). The two sisters, Martha and Mary, appear again exactly as they did in Luke’s depiction of them (Luke 10:38-42). Martha is serving her guest (cf. Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 5:10), Mary is at the feet of Jesus (v. 2b) and their brother Lazarus is reclining at the table with His Lord (v. 2). I do not believe that the words used by John are by accident. John mentions Martha and her serving for a reason. I believe he wants show this great woman possessed a servant’s heart. She chose to serve when her and her family was the guest of honor. That is a powerful example and worthy of emulation. While the subject of this article fades into the pages of the Bible, I’ll still explain the rest of this passage.

(3) In an act of love and devotion, Mary “took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”  (see Matthew 26:6-12; Mark 14:3-9 for additional details.)

(4-6) At the sight of this extravagant act of adoration, Judas (v. 4) and the other disciples (Matthew 26:8) “indignantly” (Mark 14:4) asked, “why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and give to the poor?” (v. 5). The value of the ointment Mary used was roughly equal to the yearly wage of a laborer (cf. Matthew 20:2). John adds that Judas did not say this “because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief” and “used to help himself to what was put into [the moneybag]” (v. 6).

(7-8) Jesus comes to Mary’s defense saying, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial” (v. 7; cf. Matthew 26:10-12). Matthew adds, “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her” (26:13). Jesus did not think that Mary’s gift was wasteful, but a loving act of adoration. He ends by reminding the disciples, “the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me” (v. 8; Deuteronomy 15:11). The point being, Jesus will not be among them very much longer. Therefore, they should not complain about such an extravagant gift, especially one that alludes to His impending death. While Mary is the central focus in John 12:1-8 (this is the only passage where she is the focus), we do see Martha doing what she did best, serving others.

Martha was a great woman of great faith that was coupled with a servant’s heart. Sadly, for a long time, I have simply made my conclusions about Martha, and by extension Mary, based on Luke 10:38-42 and frankly, this passage alone. In my mind Martha was bad, Mary was good. As I’ve learned there’s more to Martha than what is presented in Luke 10:38-42. As I explored the scriptures, I discovered her great faith in the power of Jesus in John 11 and I did caught a glimpse of her as she zipped by in John 12:1-8 serving the needs of others. I discovered, as I hope you’ve seen as well, that Martha was a great woman of faith, who loved others with her servant’s heart, worthy of being near the top of anyone’s list of faithful women.

Lessons Learned From How I Have Treated Martha:

Now I would like share with you two major lessons I learned from how I have treated Martha in the past. Lessons that I hope, will impact you in your daily life as well. I truly believe that our approach to Martha is indicative of how we treat others.

Don’t judge others based on one moment in their life.

The first valuable lesson I’ve learned from my study on Martha is don’t judge another based on one moment in their life. I’ve done that with Martha. I identified her solely as the woman who got rebuked by Jesus in Luke 10:38-42. What was I doing? I was judging her based on that one instant in her life. What struck me is I don’t do that with other like Peter (Mark 14:66-72; Galatians 2:11-13); or Barnabas (Galatians 2:13) or John Mark (Acts 13:13; 15:36-41). It just seems to me that in many of the sermons I have preached or have heard, or in the bible studies and books I have read, Martha is presented as the poster-girl for all that is bad in Christians, especially women. Case in point, when I preached this lesson for my congregation, one of the older sisters came up to me and said she’s heard a lot of preaching on Martha through the years but this was the first positive sermon she has ever heard about this great woman of faith. Friends, that’s just sad. Furthermore, this sister said she hadn’t ever even noticed Martha’s role in the raising of Lazarus.

It’s not right of me, or you, or anyone else to judge a person based on one moment in their life. And you know what? If we will do that with Martha, faithful Martha, then there is a good chance that I, or you, will do it to Nancy two pews away; or Joe at work; or Sally in the neighborhood. Well judge them as unfaithful, or less than worthy of our consideration because of one bad scene in their life. Let’s not forget the golden rule, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). I don’t want anyone judging me based on one moment in my life and believer me there’s plenty of them to pick from. I want them to look at the totality of all that I have done before they make a judgment call about who I am. And I think you would want the same done for you. So, then we need to treat others that way, including Martha. Remember, nobody is at their best all the time, nor are we always at our worst all the time. Don’t judge a person based on one moment in their life, step back and take in the whole panorama of who they are as a person before you make a judgment call about what kind of person they are.

We don’t have to have the same personalities to be faithful.

The second lesson I learned from my study of Martha is that we don’t have to have the same personalities in order to be faithful. Unfortunately, when these two sisters are studied together, a false dichotomy is drawn between them based on personalities. I’m told (as well as so many of my sisters) that it is so hard to have a Mary heart in a Martha world. By that expression alone Mary is exalted as the ideal and Martha is relegated to something that must be shunned.

For example, Martha is presented as the uptight, anal Type A personality, while Mary is commonly presented as the laid-back, free-spirited Type B personality. However, I don’t read Jesus saying to Martha, “Why can’t you be more like your sister Mary?” Our Lord knew personality wise, Martha could never be Mary, and Mary would never be Martha, and that is okay. My sisters in Christ need to hear that message as well. Contrary to the popular way these two sister have been presented you do not have to be like Mary, you can be a faithful Martha, loving, serving and trusting your Lord. Lest we forget the words of our beloved brother Paul,

“By the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who gives, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:3-8)

I see Martha and Mary in this list of God-given talents. Martha serves, Mary gives, and both were to do so “according to the grace given” to them by God. Therefore, there is no need for us to have the same personalities in order to be faithful. For too long, I didn’t see that. I presented Mary as the ideal woman of faith, and denigrated Martha as a less than desirable woman of the scriptures. I did this because I had never considered the whole story of Martha and had simply focused on Luke 10:38-42. Thankfully I’ve seen the light on this great woman of faith and now know we don’t all have to have the same personality to be faithful.

I hope that my journey to discovering the true Martha has helped you in your understanding of this great woman of faith. Let’s keep searching the scriptures to uncover God’s truth for ourselves. If I can help you in your spiritual journey please email me at clay@claygentry.com. Until next time, keep sharing the good news.

8 Keys to Fighting Fair


A36W5JI want to talk to you today about fightin’. I don’t mean fist-fighting but verbal fighting, arguing. This is not a lesson designed to tell you to stop arguing per se. No, I want to share with you some wisdom from the Proverbs on how to fight fair. The truth of the matter is we fuss and fight with one another. We fight with our spouses. We argue and disagree our family and friends. We spat with neighbors and co-workers, and it’s no secret, we fuss and fight and argue with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Since we engage in verbal disagreement with others, let’s learn the keys to fighting fair. 

#1 – Don’t go looking for a fight.

The first rule for How to Fight Fair is that you don’t go looking for a fight. As Christians we don’t want to be the kind of person who is quarrelsome, argumentative or just plain disagreeable. God describes these kind of people as “warped and sinful” (Titus 3:10-11), as well as “foolish”:

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” Proverbs 18:6-7 (also: 3:30; 14:17; 17:27; 29:22)

I’ve noticed that the times I’ve gone looking for a fight, you know those times when you’re mad and you just want to unload on someone, well it’s those times that I don’t fight fair. That’s when I’m angry and I sin (ref. Ephesians 4:26; James 1:19). Let’s not do that, so key number #1, Don’t go looking for a fight.

#2 – If one comes to you, try to diffuse it.

However, there are times when a fight comes to you. So key #2, as best you can, try to diffuse a fight by employing this strategy:

“A soft answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 (also: 15:4, 18; 17:14; 20:3)

So, when your spouse comes home angry and wants to take it out on you, or your co-worker wants to use you as a verbal punching bag, do your best to diffuse the situation with a soft word. Remember, God wants you, “if possible, so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). However, that’s not always the case, so let’s turn our attention on the keys to fighting fair during a fight:

#3 – Listen before you speak.

First, listen before you speak. Do you like it when someone is not listening to what you’re saying because they are formulating a rebuttal. I can’t stand it when people do that to me either. Well you know what? I’m sure others do not like when you or I do the same thing to them. Listen to what God has to say about the matter:

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13 (also: 10:19; 12:18; 13:10; 25:11)

Simply treat others the way you want to be treated (ref. Matthew 7:12). Do you want to be heard? Then give them the same courtesy. “Be quick to hear, [and] slow to speak” (James 1:19a). By doing this, you will demonstrate to the other person that you care about them and their concerns (ref. Philippians 2:3-11) and you will be well on your way to quickly resolving the issue at hand.

#4 – Keep it clean.

Before a fight, boxers are told (at least in the Rocky movies) to, “Keep it clean.” This also applies to verbal arguments and fights as well, so keep it clean. Sarcasm, name-calling, personal insults, belittling, making exaggerated statements, and verbal sucker-punches have no place in our discourse with others. The wise man said,

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12 (also: 12:25; 18:19, 21; 27:3)

Often times, those who lace their arguments with vile, hurtful insults do so out of desperation. They do this because they feel threatened, or they think they are losing the fight. Their argument can’t stand on its own merits so they resort to verbal sucker-punches in an attempt to crush the spirit of the one on the receiving end, thus making reconciliation even harder. Many a marriage and friendship have been irreparably severed because someone verbally hit below the belt. So, fight fair by dropping the personal insults. Keep it clean.

#5 – Stick to the subject at hand.

Next, and this is a cousin to our last point, stick to the subject at hand. For instance, if you’re fighting with your spouse over finances, that’s no time to resurrect something that happened a year ago and throw it back into your spouse’s face. Stick to the subject at hand. If it’s the bills, then talk about the bills, not a broken promise from a year ago to fix a leaky faucet. Wisdom says,

“An ungodly man digs up evil: and in his lips there is a burning fire.” Proverbs 16:27 NKJV (also: 10:12; 17:9; 29:11; 29:20)

Now this doesn’t mean that there might be related issues that need to be discussed. However, digging up the past, by “keeping a record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV) readily at your finger tips is a tactic of those who do not want to face the present. When you’re arguing with someone, fight fair by sticking to the subject at hand and resolve the issue that is under discussion before you bring up any others.

#6 – Know when to stop.

There’s nothing worse than someone who wants to keep an argument going on forever. You’ve heard the old adage, don’t go to bed angry. Well that is good advise, not just for married couples for all of your relationships. Arguing is not bad in and of itself, however, fighting longer than is needed is unfair and destructive. Heed Solomon’s advise and know when to stop because,

 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” Proverbs 10:19 (also: 15:2; 17:27-28; 26:20)

Knowing when to stop is perhaps the most important key to learning the art of fighting fair. The apostle Paul described those who keep on fighting as “warped and sinful” (Titus 3:11). You don’t want to be this kind of person, so stop when the other person has had enough, or when you’ve had enough. By stopping you can quickly squelch overheated emotions and begin to find common ground for reconciliation.

#7 – Seek a resolution.

Arguing can be a healthy part of any relationship. It simply is a means of resolving conflict. However, at the end of every fight, you must seek a resolution. The one who doesn’t want to resolve a fight doesn’t fight fair. So, whatever the fight was about resolve it. Remember,

“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” Proverbs 17:1 (also: 15:16-17; 21:9, 19)

The good life is found in a lack of confrontation, not an abundance of material possessions. If you enter into an argument with the goal of resolving the issue, then you will fight fair. Don’t forget, unresolved issues are ticking time bombs that will explode later on and will damage the tranquility of any home and threaten the bond of any relationship.

#8 – Keep it private.

The world doesn’t need to know that you and your spouse, or co-worker, or family member had a fight. There’s no need to blab about it on Facebook, or call and complain to your momma, or get your best friend on your side, or rundown your opponent to your bud at work. After the fight is over, keep it private. Solomon offers sound advise when he said:

“Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.” Proverbs 25:9-10 (also: 12:15; 16:28; 26:17)

I’m certainly not saying you can’t share with your spouse, or a councilor. Nor am I saying underage child shouldn’t tell his/her parent about an argument. Rather, I’m challenging you to check your motives in telling others about the fight you had with someone. If you’re seeking wise council, then by all means share the fight with someone. ? However, more times than not, seeking wise council is a front for gossip, which is soundly condemned by God (ref. Romans 1:29b-32; 1 Timothy 5:12-13). So examine your motives, and fight fair by not revealing the secrets of an argument. Keep it private.

Fighting and arguing is just a fact of life. It’s my hope that this short lesson will help you to fight fair in the future.