This article addresses one of the barriers to revival in us and in our communities. It also addresses one of the forces that quenches revival.
When I was a young believer, I heard a noted preacher talk honestly to his congregation. “You are overly sensitive and hurt by so many things because you are focused on yourself” was the essence of his message. “Grow up!” might have been my exhortation.
But I would have been speaking to myself; I was constantly imagining every conversation, every word, every glance was about me and most probably negative. I was so very concerned for my self-image, my self-protection. I was utterly self-focused.
Living was an exquisite torture, with offense lurking around every corner, tree, and person.
I was regularly offended and, if for some reason, I avoided offense in the moment, I was capable of working myself into it upon rigorous review and cogitation.
I’m thinking about this as I hear many noted voices in the Christian world warning about a demonic Spirit of Offense. As we travel through a social and political landscape riddled with insult and offense, I note the decrease of civility — good old manners and treating people politely — and the increase in craven disregard for others.
Manners won’t rescue me now; I need to die to myself.
Because I want more for myself. I don’t want to fall when the ground shakes. I don’t want to be offended by others’ rudeness or crudeness. I want to be free of thinking about myself all the time. I don’t want to stew in bitter offense.
Most intercessors have faced the cross many times in their lives and I am no exception. The Lord asked me to give up alcohol, lying, cheating, among a laundry list of other sins. These behavioral changes were relatively easy, as it turned out, compared to the wrestling I faced when the Lord asked me to give up my choices in other areas.
Like how I was to spend my time. Oh boy. And what about who I was supposed to befriend? Oh no, Lord, not that person. So boring, so needy (like I wasn’t?!!)
Or how about the ministry He wanted for me. Particularly counseling. Nooooooo….not the sad and the depressed! How can I help when they are getting me all sad and depressed, too?
And oh, Lord. No, don’t make me go to that wee little church where there is literally one guy my age and he’s not available! How will I meet my husband there?
Yes, the cross of His choices entailed a very, very difficult death to self.
But it was nothing compared to giving up the need to be validated and vindicated. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve really passed fully through that death. Because I still get a little jab of “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” when I am proved right after others have said I was dead wrong. A little “I-told-you-so.” Proving I’m not yet out of danger on the offense front.
About the easily offended, a friend would say something like, “Dead men aren’t prideful.”
In other words, those who no longer care about their self-image, their comfort, their egos don’t get wounded when someone insults, or demeans, or even murders them with their words.
One of the very sad stories in the Bible is that of Michal, King David’s first wife and the younger daughter of King Saul. She started her Biblical narrative in love with David and given to him in marriage. She helps David escape when her father is determined to murder the younger man, and the couple undergo a separation of many years, so many that Michal marries another man.
During the struggle that would culminate in David’s consolidation of power, Michal is returned to him. And in 2 Samuel 6, we see Michal deeply offended by David’s abandoned worship before the ark of the covenant.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart….And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death (2 Samuel 6: 16, 20-23; ESV).
Whether she was barren or David refrained from approaching her again, taking offense at her husband’s behavior cost Michal fruitfulness. Her story is tragic, but I take a lesson from it. I pray I not cling to myself and my idea of myself to the detriment of bearing spiritual fruit.
I pray I not take offense at anything — especially at the things I don’t understand about God — and forfeit the blessing.
We are so blessed to live in these times when our Testaments include great wisdom on dying to self! As Jesus taught in Luke 9:23-24, And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Being full of oneself is a sin, as is nurturing offense, but each can be demonic, as well. In fact, the demon self is such a stronghold for many, that the Lord told my spiritual warfare team it was a dominion. Both self and the spirit of offense lurk in hopes of grabbing onto sins related to them; the demons want to lodge in the sins, take up residence, and eventually separate us from the Lord and His people.
Our best defense is the Blood of Jesus.
As believers, we are also aided by the Holy Spirit, whose gentle whisper convicts us of self-focus, pride, and taking offense. Him is ever ready to guide us out of sin and into repentance.
In repentance, then, I am able to ask the Lord to pour His Son’s blood over the sin. I will often also take the ground the sin had taken — even if momentarily — back from Satan and oust any demons, especially the dominion of self and the spirit of offense. I ask the Lord to fill the vacancies made by these demonic forces with His Holy Spirit. I pray He change me so I don’t sin in this way again. If I am having — as I have had — a particular battle over taking offense, I will sit with the Lord for a longer period to hear what other sins or issues need to be addressed. Often, I have failed to forgive a certain person or aspect of the situation or to release the debt (Matthew 18:21-25).
If we want revival, we need to be especially diligent to avoid sin, self, Satan, and offense.
Lord, we pray we do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves. Let each of us look not only to his or her own interests, but also to the interests of others. We pray for this mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Let us also take up our cross daily and follow Christ Jesus (adapted from Philippians 2:3-8 and Luke 9:23, ESV).
Is this your prayer? Please share this article with a friend.
New York City–based Joyce Swingle is an intercessor and a contributing writer for IFA. With her husband, Rich, also a contributing writer for IFA, Joyce shares the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through theater, speaking, writing, and film. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Joyce worked for about 20 major magazines and now works in pastoral ministry and Christian counseling. Photo Credit: Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash.