“Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?…Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.’”
See Matthew 13:54-57
To the Jews who believed Christ was the Messiah, Jesus was an absolute rock star. Everywhere He went, hordes of people swarmed Him. One time, a lady with a lifelong issue of bleeding heard He was coming through town and went to see Him. Because of the enormous crowd, she couldn’t even get close enough to touch Him without forcing her way through (see Mark 5, she was healed by the way, just by touching His clothes!).
Everywhere Jesus went, He had to find a way to get the crowd to relax, back up a little, and give Him some space. Why was this? Was it because everyone knew who He was? No, not all of them did. For many of them, they crowded Jesus because of what He had been doing for people–performing miracles! They wanted their miracle too! Jesus obliged them more often than not, but like Grandma promising an ice cream after church, they had to listen to His messages along with getting the reward.
However, there was an area of the Middle East where the people did not like Jesus—even though they knew about the things He had been doing and the stuff He was teaching–they resented Him. Where was this place? His hometown.
The jealous, bitter, and self-centered people who knew Jesus as He grew up, they said, “Isn’t this Mary and Joseph’s son? How did He get so much power? Why are people paying so much attention to Him?” (See Matthew 13). The Bible says they “took offense” (Matthew 13:57), they took offense. Notice that Jesus didn’t offer offense to be taken. No, instead they snatched it up!
Really, this is the only way you can take offense from others. Even when someone is trying to hand it out to you to take, it’s still your choice. You don’t have to take it, you can let them keep it for themselves. This is why you’ve never heard someone say, “You really gave me some offense!” No, not ever. But you do hear, “I really take offense to that!” all the time. We take it. Why not start letting others hang on to their own offense? It’s not even yours.
Friend, it’s always our own personal choice to act oversensitive, sour, suspicious, contentious, or unforgiving. Again, we choose that. I chose that for years–and I was loaded up with truckloads of excuses and blame as to why. Nobody controls our attitudes, ever. This is the one thing in our lives that we always have a grip on and no person or circumstance can forcefully adjust. Some people have the best circumstances in the world, but yet their attitudes are atrocious. For others, they can have the worst circumstances you could possibly imagine, but their attitudes are delightful and pleasant. We choose.
So for the hometown folk with the poor attitudes toward Jesus, notice they think they know Him so much better than the people who just now got to know Him–but they don’t. They don’t know Jesus at all, and they never have. Instead, their hearts are black and cold concerning this new wave of goodness sweeping the area! “Oh, but I know Him!” they say. No sir, no ma’am, you do not.
Which brings me to today, you and me, modern-day Christians whom Christ’s Spirit personally indwells. There are many people from our past who do not like us as we currently are. Their life would be so much easier if we continued on acting recklessly and making choices which go against our spiritual perfection. For so long, they enjoyed using our mistakes as an excuse to make mistakes themselves. That, or they used our struggles to beat us over the head with how amazingly behaved they are. Let’s talk about that.
When you decide to fully live out your spiritual identity–a heaven-ready child of God who doesn’t even want to sin–there will be two groups of people against you. The devil’s plan is to make your situation even more sticky by influencing those from your hometown or area you are from. So be ready:
First up, let’s discuss the religious Christians, the people who are supposedly representing Jesus for the world to see and want through their lives. They claim to be Christians–however, they express no love for anyone unless they do exactly what they say. They are grace-confused and loooooooooooove when you are having problems because then they can tell you how to fix them. “Look, be like me. Here’s what you need to do. You are getting what you deserve because you are not living like I am.”
When you were living a life contradictory to your perfect spirit, the religious Christians judged the heck out of you–it was one of their favorite pastimes. Now that you’re being authentic, they’re still doing it. This is where they’re incorrectly finding identity and getting kicks–being uber-critical–which is influenced demonically, it’s sinful, and is coming from unrenewed parts of their thinking if they truly are children of God. Please understand this and don’t let them pull you down.
Before you decided to begin showing Jesus that you actually do love Him, you may or may not have felt condemned by these people (I sure did). But when you finally came to understand what Paul said, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” (Romans 8:1), you got hip to their game. You see right through them now because you know that you are not condemned–no matter what they say.
You’re no longer a little “church-people soldier,” getting in line for them to approve of you. You’re not worried if they pass you up after service without saying, “Hi, how are you?” because you’re no longer a slave to religious people’s bad attitudes. This is a really good thing!
Instead of being a minion you are now a leader! The hometown religious Christians see your good deeds, they see your life-change, and that still isn’t good enough for them–NOTHING IS. “Fix this.” “Stop that.” “You’re doing it wrong.” “The Lord told me to tell you,” blah, blah, blah. Oh, and if you don’t shape up?! Forget it! “You’re not really a Christian.” Garbage. Demonic garbage. Pay it no mind.
When we encounter such legalism the flesh wants us to say, “Let me tell you where you can stuff those lies,” but don’t do it. Let it go. At the end of the day, they think they know you but they don’t–so what. All they truly know is religion and barking at lost people, “You need to go to church or you’re going to hell!” Don’t take the bait, don’t retaliate. Move along.
The second group from your hometown area who won’t fully understand you is the non-Christians–the people you sinned with for so long. And I should say, this group isn’t always non-Christians. Sometimes they are actual believers who know God but ignore Him all day long. They muffle the Holy Spirit, take advantage of His grace, and shout things like, “Don’t judge me!” This was me for a very long period of my life.
What this group doesn’t understand is, yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but our dumb choices and ignoring of the Holy Spirit’s counseling will cause us–and those around us–tons of heartache and pain. Not only that, we will live a powerless life as a weak-minded Christian! Jesus has a better way! That way is living out who we really are in spirit. Paul explains this to the Philippians:
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, WORK OUT your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12, my emphasis added).
Work out, as in, “Get what is inside of you out of you!” Notice that Paul didn’t say, “work for your own salvation,” but instead, “work out”. Paul also said to do this with “fear and trembling,” as in, “Awe and respect for a great Creator!” This doesn’t mean we are to be petrified and shaky of our loving Dad. After all, perfect love casts out all fear, and God’s love for us is perfect in Christ! (See 1 John 4:18).
“Fear and trembling” means we are to realize we have God Almighty inside of us! And when we work Him out of us–like squeezing toothpaste out of a never-ending tube–we will be able to do things our minds can’t comprehend! (See Ephesians 3:20). The religious Christians have been taking Philippians 2:12 out of context for centuries in order to create fear in the minds of believers. Their goal is to manipulate us by trying to get us to believe God is constantly mad at us. That is not okay, and it’s a big fat lie.
Like the Christians in Philippi from 2,000 years ago, Paul wants us to realize we have everything we need on the inside of us right now! It’s simply our responsibility to let it out! It’s our responsibility to let Him out! The people from your past, they don’t care that you’re actually allowing this to happen! Instead, they see the life you now live, and say:
“Give it time, they’ll be right back to where they were.”
“Isn’t this the same person who used to curse people out on Facebook and then take drunken selfies?”
“Ha! I know them! All they used to do is brag on how hot their wife is, and show off their cars! Fake!”
“Who does this person think they are? They ain’t fooling me!”
“Isn’t that the same woman who cheated on her husband and almost left him? I remember her commenting on the same guy’s photos on social media after she cheated. What a phony, posting Bible verses and checking-in at church.”
THESE PEOPLE WILL TRY TO RIP OUT YOUR HEART AND DESTROY YOUR REPUTATION. So what. Let them try. You don’t even own your reputation any longer, it belongs to Jesus! Overlook it and have your mind made up to forgive them even before they hurt you. Be sure to pray that God blesses them. Don’t get frustrated, or worse, scramble around trying to defend yourself…let it go. Who cares. God is paying close attention to your reactions, so react like the real you. You are a loving person (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Galatians 5:22-23). So love those who hate you.
Yes, I know it feels like a punch in the stomach, but that pain will pass and God will strengthen you through your self-control. You are growing. Pain happens during growth. As you grow, by simply being yourself, you will have peace, comfort, confidence, and a sound mind–even when the world is crashing in all around you. God is remolding your image to match up with your spirit…let Him. Don’t fight it.
So today, my friends, know this: If Jesus got severely disrespected by people in His hometown, then we should feel honored when the same thing happens to us! The Bible says, “God withholds no good thing from those who walk upright!” (See Psalm 84:11). So keep doing what you know your spirit wants you to do! Pray for the religious Christians with genuine love and respect. They are just as lost as non-believers, in their mindsets, if they don’t understand the real grace of Christ. And for those other people whom you used to run amuck with? Show them what a new creation in Christ really looks like! You may be the only Bible they ever read, so make them want Jesus–not hate Him. Show them grace, truth, and love—equally. Show them your real self! They need you more than you’ll ever know!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, you are such a good Dad. Even when we are learning how to walk in our true spiritual identity, you keep us safe. Even when people attack us or gossip terribly about us, you keep us secure in Christ. Thank you. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who WANT this life in Christ, give it to them. Maybe they’ve mistakenly acted legalistic, maybe they’ve abused your grace, or maybe they WANT to believe this very moment–HELP THEM! Help them to listen as you speak to their hearts, not just right now, but all day long. Guide them in the right direction! I know you’ll do it, because you love us. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 1. Get your copy here!