Archive for the ‘The Christian Life’ Category

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

This November is another presidential election in the United States.  Once again the people of the United States have the opportunity to choose the next President and other elected officials.  In the midst of the heated campaign cycle, we who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus would do well to ask the question: “should Christians vote?”  Are there compelling reasons to abstain from voting?  Indeed there are.

 

Voting and political involvement promotes dissension in the brotherhood.  Political affiliations and opinions promote division among Christ’s body.  One man is convinced that the conservatives are right and is excited to vote Republican; the next is convinced that a liberal agenda will do the country better and will vote Democrat.  A third says that everyone should vote for a third party.  They then proceed to debate and argue, then go away holding anger in their hearts toward each other.  Such things happening in the world is bad enough; why would we ever want to bring this horrid, division-creating plague into the church?  There has been enough bitterness, dissension, and division among those who call themselves Christians already; why would we want to add yet another controversial subject into the church which has no relevance to the Christian’s mission?

 

A friend of mine told me about how his father, who was a minister in his denomination, ran as a Republican for Congress.  When his political views became known, he was nearly thrown out of the church which was predominantly Democrat.

 

Voting and political involvement detracts from the Gospel.  Jesus has given His church the mission of taking the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them, and teaching them to keep every commandment He gave (Matthew 28:19-20).  Add to this the commands of the Apostles, and the church has a full-time job.  Why would we want to add to this divinely-given mission any efforts to campaign for political issues or people?  May God forbid that any effort would ever be made to convince people to vote one way or another across a pulpit meant for the proclamation of the Gospel and obedience to God’s commands!

 

Not only does politics detract from the Gospel in time and effort, it also detracts from the Gospel in credibility.  What if the church expends time, energy, and effort into a political candidate who is successfully elected, then it is discovered that the candidate was not what the church thought he was?  What if he gets the country into a deeper mess than it already is in?  The church will find itself discredited in the eyes of the world, and when she tries to proclaim the Gospel, the world will turn a deaf ear.  “You told us about the wonders of the political candidate last year and we believed you; it did not turn out; why should we pay attention to your Gospel this year?”

 

I heard a missionary to Africa once tell the story of how in an election year, some politicians came into the area where he was working.  They met with the native ministers and asked them to help campaign for their candidate, for which they would be paid.  The native ministers met together and discussed the situation in the missionary’s absence.  Having never discussed politics with the missionary, they came to the conclusion on their own that doing so would detract from the Gospel, so they refrained from doing it.

 

God will put in power whom He will, regardless of what we do or do not do.  God sent a dream to Nebuchadnezzar the king, warning him of the punishment awaiting his pride.  In the dream, it was stated that Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment would be “to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of  men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17).  Daniel the prophet praised God because “he removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21).

 

God will set up as President (or Congressman, or governor, etc.) whomever He has chosen to allow to use that office.  His purposes will be accomplished.  If God has chosen to set up a certain person as President, all of earth can oppose it – but in vain.  God’s will shall be accomplished.  If God has chosen to set up a certain person as President, it will not matter if I vote in favor of that person or another – my vote will not make a difference.  God’s will shall be accomplished.

 

Voting and political involvement consumes valuable time which could be spent on the Kingdom of God.  Even if one never says a word to another person about politics, if he votes and keeps himself informed on the issues and candidates, he must pour a large amount of time into politics.  Imagine all the time spent reading, researching, pondering, forming resolutions, and acting on political subjects!  Now imagine how much could be accomplished for the Kingdom of God in that much time!  Time spent reading the Word of God and good books, researching and studying important topics, pondering God’s truth, making resolves, and then acting on them!  How much time which could be spent furthering the church’s God-given mission is wasted on the worthless politics of this hell-bound earth!

 

Voting and political involvement compromises nonresistance.  Jesus was clear about nonresistance: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).  “Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39).  We who profess to be Christians must obey Jesus’ commandments, including these ones.  How then is it an expression of nonresistance and love for our enemies when a man, professing to be a Christian, casts his vote for the Commander-in-Chief of the American military?  How is it an expression of nonresistance when he purposely votes (if he chooses to do so) for a man whose principles are to attack the enemies of America and to fight in war against those who attack our country?  War is the way the kingdoms of this world settle their disputes; let us, followers of the Prince of Peace, keep far away from partaking, even indirectly, in their diabolical method of “problem-solving”.

 

Voting and involvement with politics blurs the line between the church and the world.  Earthly government, politics, voting, lobbying – all are worldly methods to take care of worldly issues.  Christians involving themselves in such activities are at best compromising with the world on these issues (if not completely giving up to the world).  The Bible talks again and again about the necessity of keeping separation from the world:

 

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:15-17).

 

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

 

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Timothy 2:4).

 

Fellow-Christians, we have a divinely given mission – to spread the Gospel, baptize, and teach the commands of Jesus and His Apostles.  We have no time or resources to waste on the vanity of politics.  We must not compromise nonresistance or separation from the world; we must not mix the Two Kingdoms (the Kingdomof Godand the kingdoms of this world) by involvement in politics.  May we carefully avoid any political entanglement or any involvement with other things with which our enemy, the Devil, seeks to ensnare the church and turn it from its mission.

 

“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).

 Originally published in The Witness, September 2012.

From the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7

 

And seeing the multitudes, he [Jesus Christ] went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.  Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.  Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

 

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.  And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.  And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

 

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:  But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.  Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.  But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

 

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

 

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?  do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?  do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.  Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

 

 

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.  If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

 

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?  or, What shall we drink?  or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: ) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

 

Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.  Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

 

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

 

 

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.  Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

 

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 

 

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.  And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

 

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

 

 

 

(Account from Martyrs Mirror, pp. 741-742)

 

In the year 1569 a pious, faithful brother and follower of Jesus Christ, named Dirk Willems, was apprehended at Asperen, in Holland, and had to endure severe tyranny from the papists (Roman Catholics.) But as he had founded his faith not upon the drifting sand of human commandments, but upon the firm foundation stone, Christ Jesus, he, notwithstanding all evil winds of human doctrine, and heavy showers of tyrannical and severe persecution, remained immovable and steadfast unto the end; wherefore, when the chief Shepherd shall appear in the clouds of heaven and gather together His elect from all the ends of the earth, he shall also through grace hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” I Pet. 5:4; Matt. 24:31; 25:23.

Concerning his apprehension, it is stated by trustworthy persons, that when he fled he was hotly pursued by a thief-catcher, and as there had been some frost, said Dirk Willems ran before over the ice, getting across with considerable peril. The thief-catcher following him broke through, when Dirk Willems, perceiving that the former was in danger of his life, quickly returned and aided him in getting out, and thus saved his life. The thief-catcher wanted to let him go, but the burgomaster, very sternly called to him to consider his oath, and thus he was again seized by the thief-catcher, and, at said place, after severe imprisonment and great trials proceeding from the deceitful papists, put to death at a lingering fire by these bloodthirsty, ravening wolves, enduring it with great steadfastness, and confirming the genuine faith of the truth with his death and blood, as an instructive example to all pious Christians of this time, and to the everlasting disgrace of the tyrannous papists.

NOTE: In this connection, it is related as true from the trustworthy memoirs of those who were present at the death of this pious witness of Jesus Christ, that the place where this offering occurred was without Asperen, on the side of Leerdam, and that, a strong east wind blowing that day, the kindled fire was much driven away from the upper part of his body, as he stood at the stake; in consequence of which this good man suffered a lingering death, insomuch that in the town of Leerdam, towards which the wind was blowing, he was heard to exclaim over seventy times, “O my Lord; my God,” etc., for which cause the judge or bailiff, who was present on horseback, filled with sorrow and regret at the man’s sufferings, wheeled about his horse, turning his back toward the place of execution, and said to the executioner, “Dispatch the man with a quick death.” But how or in what manner the executioner then dealt with this pious witness of Jesus, I have not been able to learn, except only, that his life was consumed by the fire, and that he passed through the conflict with great steadfastness, having commended his soul into the hands of God.

As we have come into possession of the sentence which these rulers of darkness passed upon this friend of God, we have deemed it well, to add it here for the benefit of the readers, in order that reading the same, they may be able to perceive the truth of this matter.

COPY: Whereas, Dirk Willems, born at Asperen, at present a prisoner, has, without torture and iron bonds (or otherwise) before the bailiff and us judges, confessed, that at the age of fifteen, eighteen or twenty years, he was rebaptized in Rotterdam, at the house of one Pieter Willems, and that he, further, in Asperen, at his house, at divers hours, harbored and admitted secret conventicles and prohibited doctrines, and that he also has permitted several persons to be rebaptized in his aforesaid house; all of which is contrary to our holy Christian faith, and to the decrees of his royal majesty, and ought not to be tolerated, but severely punished, for an example to others; therefore, we the aforesaid judges, having, with mature deliberation of council, examined and considered all that was to be considered in this matter, have condemned and do condemn by these presents in the name; and in the behalf, of his royal majesty, as Count of Holland, the aforesaid Dirk Willems, prisoner, persisting obstinately in his opinion, that he shall be executed with fire, until death ensues; and declare all his property confiscated, for the benefit of his royal majesty. So done this 16th of May, in presence of the judges: Cornelis Goverts, Jan van Stege Jans, Adriaen Gerritts, Adriaen Jans, Lucas Rutgers, Jan Jans, and Jan Roefelofs, A. D., 1569.

Extracted from the records of the town of Asperen, and after collation this copy was found to agree [with the original], the 15th of October 1606. Acknowledged by me, the town clerk of Asperen.

By Daniel Beachy

 

The church at Ephesus had many good works, they had much knowledge, but they had left the first love. How do we leave our first love? It seems we too easily get the idea we’ve lost our first love and don’t know how to find it. The way it really happens is we choose what will be our first love. It’s not lost; but left. Not forgotten, but forsaken.

 

It’s like a man walking alone carrying a burden for one he loves with all his heart. As he journeys towards his destination, he sees another bundle containing gold, silver, and other valuables. “Well (he may say), I can’t carry both bundles very far, but this looks like a good thing, this will allow me to live more comfortably. I will try it once.” And so he goes on for a while until he finds out that these two packages can’t be carried together; one will have to go.

 

“Why, I’ve hardly picked up this new bundle and I’m getting tired already.” After some deliberation he takes the first bundle off his back, finds a good place to put it by the side of the road, and proceeds down the road with the second. “I’ll come back and get that later,” he decides, “once I’ve found a secure place to store these other things.” Thus he leaves his first love, for the second one.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2011), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By John M. Brenneman

Editor’s Note: The following piece was written in 1863, in the height of the Civil War, by a bishop in the (Old) Mennonite Church who lived in Elida, Ohio. It was part of Brenneman’s first booklet, Christianity and War and was part of the appendix, titled “An Address to the Mennonite Brethren”. This brief writing is as relevant today as it was in the Civil War. Bold emphasis has been added. Christianity and War is one of the best defenses of nonresistance I have ever read. It is available from Sermon on the Mount Publishing.—Ed.

Dear Brethren:

  Whereas we have now met with perilous times—times of sorrow and distress, while the whole world, as it seems, is lying in wickedness and in rebellion against God and His laws, it is surely high time for us to “awake out of sleep,” and be on our guard: for we are surrounded with snares and temptations on every side, wherewith Satan is aiming to ensnare us. Let us, therefore, “watch and pray, that we fall not into temptation.”

  And, whereas thousands are now engaged in fighting for a worldly kingdom, which is but transitory and vain, ought we not then also, who profess to seek a heavenly country, to “fight the good fight of faith,” and be more vigorously engaged in fortifying ourselves against the assaults of our spiritual enemies, lest they break in upon us unawares, and rob us of our rights and privileges. Let us be as Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil: for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Eph. 6:10-18. Thus we can see, my dear brethren, that a soldier of Jesus Christ must be well armed from head to foot, in order to be able to withstand the attacks of the enemy. Oh, let us not delay to seek fresh recruits, and to have them all well armed, for we may yet have hard battles to fight. Do not be discouraged, for our Captain is strong and well experienced; only follow in His footsteps—do as He bids you—keep close to His banner, and by His all-powerful aid, we shall finally be more than conquerors; yea, triumphant over sin and Satan, death and hell.

  Although we wrestle not against flesh and blood, and war not after the flesh, as the weapons of our warfare “are not carnal;” yet it becomes us, nevertheless, to be true, loyal, and faithful citizens to our worldly government in all points that do not militate against the laws of our blessed Redeemer; and as our government has thus far allowed us freedom, and liberty of conscience, to worship God agreeably to the promptings of our most holy faith, we ought, therefore, to regard and respect our government, and earnestly and sincerely pray for its continuance; yea, we ought to support such a government in all things it may demand of us, if it be not against the pure doctrine of Christ. But should our government ask of us anything that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus, then we must obey God rather than man. But we ought to be truly thankful to God and our government, that such provisions have thus far been made for the “defenseless Christians”, that instead of taking up arms to slay their enemies, they have always been permitted to pay an equivalent in money; and in reason we could ask no more. Oh, let us, then, all be true loyal and faithful subjects: and whereas we cannot, for conscience sake, help uphold the government with carnal weapons, let us, at least, give to it this advantage—the assurance that it never need fear a rebellion from us; and let none be in anywise injurious to the government of our land; but pay willingly and without murmuring all its demands and just dues, without defrauding (if we even could) in the least; knowing that, even if we could escape the punishment of men, we could not escape the punishment of God. What a self-contradiction it would be, if, after professing a non-resistant Christianity, we should be found guilty of resisting the government by rebellion and disloyalty! I would say to my ministering brethren, Expel from the church every brother that dares rebel or in any way act injuriously to the government. And, my brethren, let us not forget to pray for the government and for all those in authority, that under them, by the grace of God, “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty” (I Tim. 2:2): yea, let us pray for the restoration of peace and union in our distressed and troubled country, remembering that the “effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Jas. 5:16. Let us cast all our cares upon God, knowing that he careth for us, and you, my dear brethren, who are placed as watchmen over the flock, “blow the trumpet, give the alarm, be instant in season and out of season,” as those who must give an account of the precious souls placed under their care; for these are alarming times.

  And, oh, my dear brethren, could I only persuade you all to lay aside and banish from your minds that hurtful and baneful [political] party spirit. Behold, what havoc it has made in our states! and now it has also entered into the churches and is separating them. Is it not enough for us to be Christians? Or must we also be called, or call ourselves, after a worldly name—a Democrat or a Republican? Surely, we ought also to guard against this evil. If we are Christians it is enough to qualify us for every duty. Oh, let no party names tear asunder the bond of love and brotherhood! We ought, by no means, to allow ourselves to be called by party names; and, oh, how shameful for Christian professors to dispute and quarrel about political matters! For those who profess to be followers of Christ, walking in His steps, and who are to be of one mind, one heart, and one soul—for one of them to say, “I am a Democrat,” and another, “I am a Republican,” and then to commence to dispute and quarrel with each other! I say, it is a shame for a Christian professor to do this; and I believe that a true Christian will not be guilty of such follies. And as political matters are now carried on to extremes—to excess—beyond the bounds of reason and religion, I would say, Stand aloof! Keep at a proper distance and within the bounds of Christianity! Dear brethren, suffer yourselves to be persuaded and convinced of the inconsistency of non-resistant professors taking part in worldly elections, and in the choosing of worldly rulers. Is it not overstepping the bounds of a non-resistant Christianity, when we help choose men into office in which it becomes their duty to use deadly weapons? Is it not, then, plain that whosoever does this, acts in opposition to the non-resistant principles and their profession? Therefore, be separate and touch not the unclean thing—run not with others “to the same excess of riot” (I Pet. 4:4), and let our moderation in this respect “be known unto all men.” Phil. 4:5.

  Let us, by our walk and conversation, declare plainly, that we seek a heavenly country; and let us not be entangled with the trifles and follies of this present evil world, as to neglect the “one thing needful.” Surely, a man may be useful in upholding and supporting the government, without going beyond the bounds of reason and sense. Let us seek more those things which are above, “having our conversation (or walk) in heaven,” and letting our “light shine before men, that they may see our good works.” Let us be good and kind to all who stand in need, especially at this time. Let us not forget the widows and the orphans, but open to them our hearts and hands, and not only say to them, “Be ye warmed and filled,” but give them what is “needful for the body.” Jas. 2:16. Oh, let us live as Christians: in love, peace, and union. Let us build up each other in our “most holy faith,” and let us “follow after the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another.” Phil. 4:19. “Finally, brethren, be perfect, be of good comfort; be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” II Cor. 13:11.

  “I will go in the strength of the Lord.” Psa. 71:16.

  “Trust in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” Isa. 26:4.

Aug 15

Radiesthesia

By Mike Atnip

You may not be familiar with the word “radiesthesia,” but you probably know what it is. “Water witching,” “dowsing,” and “divining” are all various forms of radiesthesia.

Radiesthesia is a compound word with both Latin and Greek origins. The first part, “radi” comes from the Latin “radiare” which means to “go out from a center,” like the spokes of a wheel or the rays from the sun. A radio in a car is called a radio because it picks up electromagnetic signals that radiate from a central transmitter somewhere. The second part of the word radiesthesia has Greek roots, from aesthesis, which means “to sense or perceive.” Thus we end up with radiesthesia, which means “the ability to perceive or sense a radiation.”

This is where a divining rod comes into play. The dowser, with the aid of his rod, claims to pick up signals that are emitting—radiating—from the water (or whatever he is trying to find) and is thus able to discern or sense where the water is. He is using radiesthesia. Some people might even call it a sixth sense.

But that is only the beginning. According to those who promote radiesthesia (sometimes referred to as radionics, as well), each unique object on the earth radiates—sends out—its own unique signal. And so all a person has to be able to do is to “tune” into that unique signal to find that particular object. Gold, diamonds, water, or even an animal or person can be located by its particular signal.

But it goes deeper yet … Some claim that since each person on earth radiates out a unique “aura” or “radiation,” they can manipulate that person’s health by tuning into that aura. By sending “return” signals on that person’s unique “channel,” they claim ability to heal that person, even from the other side of the earth! One well known maker of these “black boxes”[1] was Albert Abrams (1863–1924), who was sometimes called “the dean of 20th-century charlatans.” Although modern “black boxes” may not be direct descendents of Abrams’ devices, the underlying principle of making a connection to a person by some sort of radiation signal is the same.

Before proceeding, we need to clarify that the “radiation” that dowsers find by their rods or by their pendulums is not the well known electromagnetic radiation[2] that a car radio picks up. Nor are they X-rays or gamma rays, which are in fact only very short frequencies of electromagnetic waves. Nor is it a radiation of light, like the sun gives off. Nor is it the ionizing radiation such as is used in nuclear reactors and bombs. In fact, the “auras” of radiesthesia have never been able to be found by any modern scientific instruments.

Fable, or fact?

So just what are these “radiations” that dowsers can pick up? It’s a good question. There are several possibilities:

1. Dowsers can pick up signals that, so far, modern science has not been able to discover. Many practitioners of radiesthesia make this claim.

2. Dowsing is bogus science, and no such thing as “auras” exists. Those who claim the ability to dowse are a bunch of phonies, junk scientists, and scam artists. Or, perhaps, innocent people who have been deceived into a lie.

3. Radiesthesia operates in the spirit world, into which natural science is incapable of measuring or seeing.

Now, let’s put the three options just mentioned into biblical terms:

1. Radiesthesia, in all its forms, is a God-created phenomenon that modern science has simply not discovered yet. As such it is harmless and, in fact, useful.

2. Radiesthesia is an “old wives’ fable.”

3. Radiesthesia is witchcraft or divination. The ability to dowse for water or oil, or determine health issues with a pendulum, is not listed as a gift of the Spirit, so it must be a gift from the evil spiritual forces.

Using our discernment

It is solidly established that, as of the date of this writing, the “auras” or “radiations” that dowsers and black boxes claim to use have not been able to be found by any scientific equipment currently available. That does not mean that these “auras” do not exist; it simply means that if they do, science cannot find them with the equipment currently available. We all know that modern scientists do not have all the answers.

But let’s look at the matter from a slightly different aspect of science. In physics, there are laws. For example, the law of gravitation. Every human being obeys the law of gravitation, meaning (in simple terms) we all are pulled toward the earth. It works for every last human being … no one is exempt or can willfully renounce gravity and suddenly float off to the sky if he wishes.[3]

Another example is electricity. The law of electricity can be simplified to say that if you touch a charged wire with your bare finger while standing barefoot on the ground, you will receive a shock. Again, there are no exceptions. Computers, for example, work for everyone, and they work the same for everyone, since they are built around the laws of physics.

In simple words, the laws of physics hold true for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, computers work the same for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, height, weight, eye color, or religion.

But radiesthesia does not work for everyone.

I remember well someone who once was telling me about his new apparatus. This was a collar for his dog so that he could track it down when it got lost. But it wasn’t a GPS system. In a little box on the collar was a grasshopper or cricket!

The system worked this way: with another piece of the same grasshopper placed in or by the handheld tracker (which had an antenna very similar to a commercially-made dowsing rod), the tracker would pick up the unique signal that the grasshopper in the collar radiated, and the antenna on the tracking device would swing whenever the user’s shoulders were aligned with the dog collar. If a piece of gold was placed near the handle, the tracker would find gold. If copper, then it would find copper. And if a hair off of someone was placed there, you could track that person clear around the globe.

Red flags went off in my mind when I heard these things. The tracker, it seemed to me, was nothing but a souped-up version of an old-fashioned dowsing rod. Supposedly, there was some pretty sophisticated electronic equipment in the handle of the tracker. My doubts were deepened when the person told me, “Even the maker of this equipment acknowledges that it does not work for everybody.”

The laws of physics work consistently for everyone. Whatever does not work consistently for everyone is not based on natural law, but either uses supernatural power, or is a fable.

If it isn’t based on physics …

Many in the modern scientific world deny the supernatural because their worldview is based solely on the physical. If something does not work by the presently known laws of physics, it is automatically written off as fable. And, there are plenty of fables out there. There are plenty of times that dowsing has not worked—it doesn’t work for everybody. I, as a young boy, tried to find a sewer line by dowsing with copper wires. I knew where the line was and walked several times over the line to see if it worked.[4] But my copper wires never crossed. I also watched a backhoe operator dowse for a water line he was trying to uncover. It worked for him as long as the line ran straight, but when the line made a turn, his rod failed him.

There are plenty of examples and university tests to show that dowsing is not based on any known laws of physics. It is not in the particular type of rod used. Some use willow rods. Some use other types of wood. Some use copper rods. Some use a pendulum on a string. This is proof that the “auras” that are being “found” have no connection to the type of rod itself.

Some people even dowse for minerals from a map. This shows that the actual gold or substance sought is not emitting a signal that is picked up. Could a gold nugget emitting a signal in California be found on a map in New York?

Why does it matter?

If radiesthesia works, therefore, it works within the spiritual realm. And that makes it a spiritual matter. Something is going on the spiritual realm, the realm that natural science cannot enter. And if something is going on in the spiritual realm, we as Christians had certainly better snap to attention!

If radiesthesia is simply a fable, we are told to reject it. All lying is to be forsaken, and if a black box trying to heal someone on the opposite side of the world is simply a huckster’s scheme, it would better be called a huckster’s lie, and denounced as a lie and abandoned. It is not an innocent game to be amused with; it is a lie, an untruth. Dare we as Christians promote lies?

Actually, many forms of “alternative medicine” may fall into this category. The particular form of “alternative medicine” may have begun as simply bad science. They may well have been invented by innocent, well-meaning people who really thought they were on to something scientific. But they are still a lie if they claim to be “scientific” and yet do not operate on the laws of physics. Homeopathy, muscle testing, iridology, and many herbal remedies are at best fables; at worst divination.

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor. Ep 4:25

And if something works by a spirit? Well, it is either God’s Spirit or the demons of darkness that make it work. God has spelled out some of His supernatural gifts[5] in His word. While we cannot say that God would never, ever, give someone the gift of finding gold by means of a willow stick, it certainly is not mentioned as a gift of the Spirit. In other words, if someone claims a supernatural gift that is not mentioned in the Bible, we need to be extremely cautious about that gift.

The illustration at the beginning of this article shows various types of dowsing rod configurations. This shows that radiesthesia is not based on the physical properties of the rod. The photo below shows other possible divining rods.

Back to radiesthesia …

Radiesthesia has never been proven to operate on the laws of physics. That in itself is not sufficient proof that it is witchcraft. Modern science does not know everything—who knows what scientists have yet to discover? However, radiesthesia does not work for everyone, especially for those who have renounced it in the name of Jesus. Radiesthesia does not work by one certain medium (i.e. certain type of dowsing rod or pendulum, or certain type of black box). These are evidences that radiesthesia is either fable or witchcraft.

Does dowsing work sometimes? While I myself have not seen it work consistently enough to say that “it is real,” there are testimonies from honest men who have seen it work.[6] Radiesthesia does not need to work 100% consistently to be proof of being a spiritual power; false prophets never prophesy 100% accurately either.[7] But that does not mean they are not under the influence of an evil spirit who does the prophesying for them. And whatever spirit is not of God is of the devil.

Conclusion

Many people are or have been innocently involved in radiesthesia. They may not have asked a spirit to help them find water or gold, but they dabble in trying to see if the willow branch has any science in it. This can be compared to the person who smokes some marijuana, just trying it out. It is still sin, even though the person may have been “just experimenting.” To those who have experimented with radiesthesia, you need to repent even though you may have never had any success. You also need to repent if you have asked someone to use radiesthesia for you, such as to find water before drilling a well, or to be healed by a “black box.”

If you have used a divining rod or a black box with any success, you have entered the spiritual realm—the supernatural. In this case, the spiritual power needs to be renounced in the name of Jesus and repented of. If you feel you have received the “gift of radiesthesia” as a gift from God, ask yourself these questions: Why do unbelievers also have that gift? Does God pour out the gifts of the Spirit on unbelievers also?

Dabbling in the powers of the evil spiritual realm brings a cloud of darkness and confusion over the user—body, soul, and spirit. Many people have testified to confusion, depression, and physical illnesses that were the result of dabbling in divination. Once they repented, they found themselves with more discernment (spirit), less depression (soul), and better health (body). By messing with dowsing rods, pendulums, and black boxes, you are essentially opening yourself up to the dark spiritual powers. Shut that door as fast as you can!

Thankfully, Jesus has conquered all the powers of darkness by His resurrection, and He invites us all to join Him in His conquest. By repentance and faith in Christ, we too can be “more than conquerors!”

[1] A black box is sort of a generic term for any device that has input and output, but the contents of the box itself—and how it works—are unknown.

[2] Electromagnetic radiation are pulses of “magnetic waves” that travel through the air. The human body is not capable of picking up these signals, at least by the five senses. In other words, the human body cannot consciously feel a magnetic pulse.

[3] Except by a miracle. Miracles are supernatural events that defy physics.

[4] Even though my experiment was in innocence, I have since repented of even trying to dowse.

[5] The gifts of the Spirit do not work by natural means, and they thus defy the laws of physics. They are supernatural, which means “above the natural.” Satan also has power that is above natural law.

[6] An example is a friend who told me that a dowser once showed him his power. He told his dowsing rod to point to the yellow bulldozer, and the rod bent toward the yellow bulldozer with enough force to twist the bark on the rod. The man telling me this was an honest man as far as I know him.

[7] Only the Holy Spirit is 100% accurate.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2012), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

A bit of honest soul-searching is often good for us. Young people sometimes have the idea that they can be lukewarm in their devotion to Jesus Christ and get serious and holy when they are older. This is a tragic mistake.

On page 182 of Martyrs Mirror, we find a record of forty young people whose dedication to the Lord Jesus puts many of us to shame:

When the East as well as the West was exceedingly disturbed on account of the violence of the persecution, there manifested themselves in the East, namely at Antioch, forty pious youths, as valiant champions of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as they openly and boldly confessed the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as their Savior.

Notice that these forty “openly and boldly confessed” Jesus Christ. Boldness is a characteristic lacking in many people today. We need to break out of our “comfort zones” and do what Jesus Christ wants us to do. We need to take seriously His final command before leaving this earth: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Mt. 28:19-20 This command is given to all followers of Jesus, not just missionaries, elders, or evangelists, and we young people need to obey it as well as older ones! These forty young people from Antioch seem to have been doing just that.

We continue reading in Martyrs Mirror:

Thereupon, the Governor of that place, after they had been apprehended, strenuously exerted himself to move them from the faith; but when all his efforts proved unsuccessful, he had them stripped naked, in the coldest part of the winter, and cast into a very cold pool. But as they were still alive the next day, he caused them to be burned to powder.

This kind of dedication to the Lord Jesus is what He wants from us; it is what Martyrs Mirror is all about. These forty young people were so dedicated to the Lord Jesus that they were willing to forsake all—all—for Him. Think about it for a minute … imagine who these young people may have been. There were young men, probably looking forward to having a business and supporting a family. There were young women, looking forward to the day when they would be mothers and keep a home. There may have been some who were courting and others who were engaged. All were probably hoping for a long life of service to the Lord Jesus, whom they loved so intensely. Yet none of this moved them when they were called upon to suffer for the Lord Jesus, and nothing could move them from Him.

Knowing how the Romans and other persecutors operated, the Governor probably tried to make these Christians recant first with fair promises, then dire threats. How many of us could stay faithful to Jesus if faced with this? Many young people seem to have a hard time resisting the fair promises of the world, even without any threats. They seem to be allured by the “pleasures of sin for a season.” He. 11:25 We need to be like Moses, who “esteem[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” He. 11:26 We need to stand strong for the Lord against the enticing allurements of the world.

Looking at the other tactic the Governor probably used—threats—we need to ask ourselves how well we have fared when facing petty threats, perhaps not even ones which have been verbalized to us. Have we been afraid of the thought of our friends sneering at us, accusing us of being somehow “holier than thou,” or some other such petty fear? How have we fared under peer pressure? These forty youths would have been threatened with a lot worse experiences than being laughed at. The torture methods of the Romans were disgustingly horrible, yet Christians stood steadfast under them.

Finally, having stood steadfast under the threats, these young people stood strong under actual trial. They were faithful to Christ under the most difficult and humiliating experiences. They left us a noble example.

 The big tests might come once in a lifetime. The little tests will come many times a day. Let us use little, everyday tests to prepare us for the bigger experiences which the Lord Jesus may have in store for us later.

Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!

 

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (September/October 2011), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

By Abner Showalter

 

I would like to tell you about a way that I have found to be a witness for the Lord. You see, I have heard many sermons about the need to witness and share my faith with the lost around me. So as I heard these types of things being preached, I found myself desiring to be obedient and tell others about the gospel. The only problem was that, in spite of all my desires and good intentions, I did very little of it. I many times intended to do better, but it seemed that it went no further than intention. One of the problems was that I never just took the time to do it. Life can be so busy with all the things that I am doing that, before I know it, another week is gone and I have done nothing to further the kingdom.

It was over a year ago that I began to be aware of the opportunity that lay at my fingertips. I work a public job and encounter many people each day. Normally, I would make excuses for myself, like, “I don’t have enough time to really interact with this person.” Especially if it was a busy time; you get the person’s items loaded on the truck, and away he goes and the next guy backs in.

I have found by experience that the flesh is extremely gifted in excuse manufacturing. As I became aware of the wonderful mission field that I am in every day, I also knew that I had quite a few Prepare to Die CDs lying around.

One day I decided to try it. Why not? Why should I continue to miss this perfect opportunity that presented itself to me daily? No! I would not continue this way. You should have been there that morning! I was going to do it.

Then the first customer came. I loaded his roofing metal and accessories, then I was going to talk to him a little and then give him a CD. We talked for a while, but I just couldn’t manage to get enough courage to give it to him. So after a brief conversation, he got in his truck and was gone, leaving me standing there with the CD still in my pocket.

I felt defeated. Why couldn’t I do it? This cannot be right, I thought to myself. I don’t know what all transpired in my heart by the time I had loaded the next customer, but I had resolved not to be a coward this time. And thank God, He enabled me. I gave out that first CD that morning and realized it’s really not that bad.

That started a routine for me. I began to consistently give out these gospel CDs. I can say that the Lord has helped me very much. Sometimes people come in and I find myself full of compassion and so desirous to give them a CD. Then sometimes with other people (usually more high-class) I find myself almost scared to give them a CD. But God has given strength, and I thank God for making me a witness for Him in this way. There are many other areas the Lord would have me to grow in; especially the area of being willing to verbally “reprove the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I think the Prepare to Die CD is a wonderful medium, especially if you give it to a person that you ordinarily would not be able to spend much time with. I do want to quickly say, let’s not neglect to use our own mouth in the process.

I want to encourage you too. You can be a witness. I am sure that some time or another you encounter people. For Christ’s sake, use those opportunities to share the gospel.

This encouragement is especially for you, if you do work in the public and encounter many people every day. You have the opportunity of a lifetime! Use it! Heaven alone will reveal the impact. The reason this opportunity thrills me so much is this: you have a legitimate reason to interact with the person. If you do any conventional witnessing, you know the frustration of trying to get into a conversation with someone who has places to go, things to do, and people to see. It’s almost like you have to interrupt them. (That’s not all bad!) But my point here is that you already have the person’s attention. They are expecting you to talk to them. You have, dropped into your lap, the very thing that you have to work so hard for when you “go witnessing.” I trust you see my point.

So please, by God’s grace let us not squander the opportunities that present themselves each day. Instead, may we take advantage of this wide open window of our work place, where people expect us to speak to and interact with them.

Knowing the terror of the Lord, let us persuade men!

Abner Showalter is from Windsor, Kentucky, where he attended Blessed Hope Fellowship and worked loading metal and doing office work for Dutchman’s Metal. He has now left both congregation and job to spend two years in Ghana, Africa, in the service of his King. The picture in the background is of Abner handing a gospel CD to a potential brother in Christ, at his former worksite.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2010), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

Based on a sermon preached by Denny Kenaston, June 1991

“Antigroupism” is a broad word. One can place a multitude of names in place of “groupism,” but the goal of this article is to reveal the dangers that are lurking around anyone who has an antigroup attitude towards some church group in their past, or perhaps a church group around them. We are dealing with the attitude in this article, in a general way. You, the reader, need to make the application wherever the specific fits. We could say, for example, that we are concerned about the danger of anti-Amishism. Or, we could say, we are concerned about the danger of anti-Baptistism or anti-Pentecostalism.

Antigroupism stems from many different things, and many are the reasons that you may say, “Phew, Mennonites …” Or, “Ugh, Baptists …” There may be many different reasons why you have developed an attitude against some group—whatever name they might have. I warn you, there is some real danger behind that attitude!

It could be that you had a traumatic experience with a certain group in your past church life. One occasion that comes to my mind is a young man that went through a church split. Now church splits are not good—certainly an unfortunate experience. But usually when there is a church split, somebody gets hurt; usually young people who are confused and don’t understand what is right and who they are supposed to follow. So they get hurt.

Anyway, this one particular case I am thinking of was a young man that got hurt in a church split. It happened to be a Mennonite church that split. So his attitude was, “Mennonites, puh … I don’t ever want to see another one. I never want to hear of one. And I am never going to go to a Mennonite church again as long as I live.”

He had a traumatic experience in his life, which caused him to develop an attitude that is detrimental to his spiritual life. He is half shipwrecked already because of this attitude.

You may have been hurt in a past church experience, in a situation where someone dealt with you in a wrong way. Perhaps they were too hard on you, and sort of kicked you around spiritually—possibly you were even driven or excommunicated from that church. Because of that, you have developed an “antigroup attitude” within you.

Sometimes people grow up in a church setting that says, “This is the way we do things around here. We have the right way, and if you want to go to heaven, you do as we say and get baptized into the church, and everything will be alright.” Then someone wakes up to see that error exists in the church, and that salvation is by following Jesus, not the man-made rules. Often the immediate reaction is to develop an attitude about “that church” that taught them wrong things all their life.

Or maybe you were in a group that took an extreme position about some truth in the Bible. Because of that extreme position—after all, taking things to extreme is false doctrine—you developed an antigroup attitude.

Consider a pendulum. When a pendulum is pulled to one side and released, it swings to the opposite side an equal distance. How often we overreact to error, just like a pendulum! When we see something that is wrong, our natural tendency is to swing to the other side. In our zeal to get as far away from error as we can, we often end up in another error on the other extreme.

But praise God for the balancing of the Word and of other brothers and sisters, and of those gentle promptings of the Spirit of God! I think most of us could testify of where our attitudes swung too far one way on some issue, and God had to bring them back to the middle.

In my own testimony, I went through one of those traumatic church experiences, and in reaction I wrote off everything from my past church experience. All of it! I said in my mind, “They hurt me. They have ruined me. They have taken care of future opportunities to minister. They must be totally wrong.” At that point, I quit witnessing and wrote off all my past church experience.

That is called antigroupism.

Of course, we all have different groups that we have reacted against, but the principle is still the same. Now God was very gracious to me in my experience. He was patient with me until the pendulum came back—truth was looked at properly and balance was restored. God worked out all of the antigroupism that was in my heart towards those people, and I thank God for that. People are sometimes shocked when I tell them that I now relate well with those who treated me wrong. It is all because that antigroup attitude got worked out of my heart.

There are several dangers in anti-group attitudes. Let’s look at them closely:

If you hold those “anti” feelings in your heart, you will not be able to help the group you oppose.

It is God’s will that we reach out to those within our circle of influence. Each one of you has a circle of influence from your past into churches that I do not, and God wants to use that influence. But if you harbor “anti”—which signifies “opposed to, against”— attitudes, you will NEVER be able to minister to those people. We want to stand against the attitude that says, “I am against those people that I came from.”

What is very interesting to me is that often the very people that we hold attitudes against are the ones we want to reach out to the most; yet we cannot do it because of our attitude. When we reach out to them, they sense the attitude, and refuse to receive what we have to say. In reaction, they then will sometimes begin to “throw things back.” And I realize that this reaction of theirs will sometimes come even if we approach them in a pure way, but too often we carry an antigroup attitude towards the group we have left. So we then justify ourselves, and quote Paul’s words, “I go to the Gentiles …” It is pretty hard to have a burden for people if you are disgusted with them for what they did to you in the past. It is hard to pray for them.

Paul had several reasons to have an anti-Jewish attitude. After all, he had been deceived by them in his childhood, being told that they had the right way, the only way. Paul believed this, so much so that he would imprison Christians to death for turning away from Judaism. Yes, he was deceived by his upbringing; he had plenty of “reason” to react against it. After he found faith in Jesus Christ, the Jews chased after him, wherever he went, causing him trouble. His name was well-known among the Jews, but in a negative way. They stoned him; they argued with him in all the public places; they had him thrown into prison; but not only that, he was even called by God to the Gentiles, so that he could have easily said, “Jews … huh … I am done with ’em! I’ve had enough of them! Somebody else minister to them: I am called to the Gentiles.” But listen to Paul’s heart in Romans 9:1-3:

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Accursed from Christ for the sake of my people … what an amazing attitude! There was no pendulum in his life. He kept the spirit and attitude of Christ through the whole thing; he still loved them. Even though they criticized him and persecuted him, he would not allow that antigroup attitude to rise up in his heart. In chapter 10 of the same letter, we can read some more of Paul’s heart to the Jews:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

We can hear the burdened heart of Paul as he ponders his people. We cannot sense any reactionary spirit in these verses, but rather a pure, sweet desire that the Jews would come to the light and understanding that he himself had come to. Even though Paul did say those words, “I go to the Gentiles,” we need to hear his heart in the spirit in which he spoke them. It is not wrong to say those words and mean them, but may we have the same attitude that Paul had.

When the time came for Paul to return to Jerusalem, he could joyfully submit to the Jewish customs and do things that he knew were not necessary for his salvation. Had he had an anti-Jewish attitude when James came to him and said, “Paul, I want you to shave your head and go on a fast so that while you are here in Jerusalem there won’t be any trouble,” what do you suppose his response would have been? He may have spouted out something really “holy,” like, “I am free from the Law; I don’t have to do those things!” There were a lot of Scriptures he could have quoted to James. But yet his love for those people, his people, caused him to act without any “anti” reaction.

So we see that the first and foremost danger of an anti-group attitude is that we cannot help the ones we oppose; they will not receive what we have to say if they sense that attitude in us.

An antigroup attitude will cause you to do things that will offend those very people.

You will not consider them when making choices in your life. Paul was not that way. His testimony was, “To the Jew I am going to be like a Jew, and to the Greek a Greek.” Paul did not have an uncaring, inconsiderate attitude when it came time to make choices. No, he did not compromise (he did not mean that he would take part in their ungodly ways to win them), but he did consider and think, “Is this going to cause hurt among those people? Is this choice going to further the Gospel among the Jews?”

If you have, for example, an anti-Amish attitude, you will not think like Paul did. In fact, even if someone would try to suggest the idea of submitting to “those people’s” ideas, you will immediately come up with one of those “righteous” answers. There are times, yes, to have those “righteous” answers, but I challenge you to consider what your attitude is, and ask yourself at decision time: “Will this hurt my opportunity to speak to those people? Is this worth doing?” After all, it may be more than just “that group” you are dealing with; “that group” may include those who are your brother or sister in the Lord.

Hear the words of the apostle Paul: “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” Consider how an “anti” attitude will blind you to this principle. You will make choices—buy things, go places, wear clothes, and do things—that will offend those you are trying to win.

An antigroup attitude will hurt the next generation.

Perhaps you may have already heard words coming from the mouth of your children … words that made your conscience twinge. The next generation is at our mercy. They are making evaluations based on our attitudes. It has been said—and is very true—that what we do wrong in moderation, our children will do in excess. Ponder that!

Maybe for you it is a simple, “Ugh, Mennonites …” But for your children, that little sigh will cause them to write off the whole Anabaptist movement and cause them to become wholly Evangelical. If we have a reactionary spirit towards a certain group of people or a certain set of principles, our children will react even stronger than we have.

Have you ever heard the words from some of “those people,” such as, “Watch where you are going, you will lose your children”? These are words given from observation—wise words! Well, the answer is not necessarily to return to the old group, because, yes, there were valid reasons for leaving it. But let’s develop a Christ-like attitude toward it, not a reactionary one.

An antigroup attitude will cause you to throw away truth—pitch it!

We have all seen people who have reacted and thrown away beautiful truths, because “such-and-such a group hurt me and taught me wrong. I am getting away from them!” It causes people to go from a church with strong authority—perhaps too strong—to completely abandon the idea of authority in the church. It causes people to go from a church where there was strong brotherhood accountability, to no church at all. These folks don’t even believe that there is a church, and they stay at home.

Of course, the coming generation hurts tremendously for this. The hills are filled with these “individualists,” people who cannot find anyone anywhere to fellowship with—no one they can agree with. What causes this? Many times it was a bad experience in the past with a group that perhaps abused church authority. I recognize that there are cases of people who are in an area where there is no good congregation—I am referring to people who are not even seriously looking for a church anymore.

People also react from churches that focus primarily on the outward, and they leap into the error that says the outward doesn’t matter, only the heart. In the process, many powerful Bible truths get thrown out the door. The Scriptures say, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”

What happens is, because of our “anti” attitude, we develop a blind spot. For example, take the subject of clothes. You may hear someone saying, “Clothes! I am so sick of hearing about clothes! I am sick of “plain suits” and cape dresses!” So the whole “clothes” thing gets pitched out … and blindness comes over that person. And we stand back amazed at what those people end up doing. This all stemmed from that “anti” attitude—reactionism.

An antigroup attitude fosters pride and deception.

Here’s how it happens … remember that pendulum. We say, “They are wrong, and I am right. And I have got to prove that I am right, and they are wrong.” This whole attitude is not good for us. An attitude that says, “We are right, we have the answers, we have found it … and they are wrong!” will foster pride in us.

I remember a preacher once saying, “We don’t need revival; we already have revival!” Now, I had been in a number of their church services, and I knew they didn’t have revival among them. It seems that man honestly thought they had revival. However, spiritual pride had arisen in his heart and had so darkened his mind, convincing him that they were right, even when they were wrong. May God help us! May He keep us from overreacting in pride in some of these areas.

There was once a church that took some firm stands against apostasy, biblical stands, and they were right to do that. God blessed them for it. But spiritual pride came in. And now, that same church is so convinced that they are right, they say, “It has got to be done exactly like we do it, or it is not right.” Slowly but surely, an attitude begins to develop in the congregation, “We are IT. This is THE place, the place where everyone needs to be.” We need to be on guard so we do not begin to think we are better than others. God help us!

This is how an “anti” attitude develops into spiritual pride.

There exists a danger of building a fellowship around “anti” attitudes.

Have you ever had “fellowship” like that? “Fellowship” centered around “them” and what “they” said and what “they” did, and what’s happening “over there”? Ever spent a Sunday afternoon like that? Well, I have, and it is NOT very edifying. What a terrible foundation to build a church upon! Sadly, this happens all the time. The bottom line is, fellowship based on others’ faults will not build the church. If you find it really easy to open up about “those people” and start shooting from the hip at “them,” I encourage you to just cleanse your heart of all that. Such talk will cause you shipwreck. Let’s talk about Jesus!

Examine yourself and ask, “Do I have an antigroup attitude?” If you cannot discern your own heart, then just ask a couple of honest people that know you well. They can tell you!

If you have found that you indeed are infected, here is how to come clean.

You need to acknowledge it. This is the first step. You need to forgive those who did you wrong, if you haven’t. The antigroup attitude is there because you got hurt or misused. You need to open your heart up and retain any and every thing that was good in the group you came from. Some are so reactionary that they will not even consider a truth if “that” group also believed it. You need to purpose to overcome those attitudes, because they will want to haunt you for a long time if you have harbored them.

We need to remember the Lord Jesus, who came unto His own, but His own did not receive Him. How did He respond to those who did not receive Him? He laid Himself on the cross and died for them! This is the attitude that God would have us foster towards our background.

Antigroupism has been a real hindrance to the furtherance of the kingdom of God, and a real hindrance to the perfection of the saints. Overreaction has shipwrecked many a soul, and blinded many others. May we be on our guard!

This article is based upon a sermon preached by Denny Kenaston on June 2, 1991. It is not a literal transcription, but contains the essence of that message. You may receive a free cassette or CD of this message by writing to Ephrata Ministries, 400 W. Main St., Ephrata, PA, 17522. Or you may send an email to sermons@ephrataministries.org. Ask for message #834 (The Dangers of Antigroup Attitudes). Or, it may be downloaded for free in MP3 format at http://www.ephrataministries.org/msg_detail.a5w?vlast_index=834.

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (March/April 2010), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

 

The Church and the World walked far apart On the changing shore of time; The World was singing a silly song, And the Church a hymn sublime.

 

“Come, give your hand,” said the smiling World, “And together we shall go!” But the good Church hid her snowy hand And solemnly answered, “No!!

 

I will not give you my hand at all, And I will not walk with you. Your way is the way of eternal death, And your words are all untrue.”

 

“No, walk with me a little ways,” Said the World with a kindly air. “ The road I walk is a pleasant road, And the sun shines always there.

 

Your path is thorny and rough and rude, But mine is broad and plain; My way is paved with flowers and dews, And yours with tears and pain.

 

The sky to me is always blue, No lack, no toil I know; The sky above you is always dark; Your lot is a lot of woe.

 

My way, you can see, is a soft, easy one, And my gate is high and wide; There is room enough for you and me; So let’s travel side by side.”

 

Half shyly the Church approached the World And gave him her hand of snow; And the false World grasped it, and walked along And whispered in accents low,

 

“Your dress is too simple to please my taste; I have pinks and oranges to wear, Sensuous hues for your graceful form And sprays to fluff your hair.”

 

Then added he, with a shake of his head, Shielding his eyes in the glare, “ It makes much sense in this fierce sunshine Your comely calves to bare.”

 

The Church looked down at her plain, modest clothes And then at the dazzling World, And blushed as she saw his handsome lip, With a smile contemptuous curled.

 

“I will change my dress for a prettier one,” Said the Church with a smile of grace; So her simple garments were stashed away, And the World gave, in their place,

 

Beautiful satins and flowery sheens, With roses and lace and swirls; While over her forehead her bright hair fell In two bouncy, enticing curls.

 

“Your house is too plain” said the proud old World, “Let us build you one like mine, With kitchen for feasting and rec room for play And cabinets never so fine.”

 

So he built her a costly and beautiful house; Awesome it was to behold! Her sons and her daughters met frequently there, Shining in purple and gold.

 

There were cushioned seats for the lazy and rich, To sit in their glutton and pride; But the poor who were clad in humble array, Were scorned ‘til they went outside.

 

Powerpoints and films in the halls were shown, And the World and his children were there. Laughter and music and Ping-Pong were heard In the place that was meant for prayer.

 

The angel in mercy rebuked the Church, And whispered, “I know thy sin.” Then the Church looked sad, and anxiously longed To gather the children in.

 

But some were away at the midnight bowl, And others online did play, And some were hangin’ at Pizza Hut: So the angel went away.

 

Then said the World in soothing tones, “Your children mean no harm— Merely indulging in innocent sports,” So she leaned on his proffered arm,

 

And texted, and chatted, and uploaded photos, And walked along with the World, While countless millions of precious souls Over the fearful brink were hurled.

 

“Your preachers are too old-fashioned and plain,” Said the smart World with a sneer. “ They frighten my children with dreadful tales Which I do not like to hear.

 

They talk of judgments and fire and pain, And the doom of darkest night. They warn of a place that should not be Mentioned to ears polite!

 

I will send you some of a better stamp, More brilliant, educated, fast; Who will show how men their flesh may please And go to heaven at last.

 

The Father is merciful, great and good; Loving and tender and kind. Do you think He’d take one child to heaven And leave another behind?”

 

So she called for pleasing and smart divines, Deemed gifted and great and learned; And the plain-spoken men who had preached the cross Were out of her pulpits turned.

 

Then Mammon came in and supported the Church And sat in a well-padded pew; And preaching and chorals and floral display Soon proclaimed a gospel new.

 

“You give too much to the poor,” said the World, “Far more than you ought to do; Though the poor need shelter, food, and clothes, Why thus need it deprive you?

 

And afar to the heathen in foreign lands Your thoughts need seldom roam. The Father of mercies will care for them: Let charity start at home.

 

Go take your money and buy nice shoes And cars and pickups fine; And phones and iPods and cameras, The latest and costliest kind.

 

My children, they dote on all such things, And if you their love would win, You must do as they do, and walk in the way— The up-to-date way they’re in.”

 

The Church her purse snaps tightly shut And shamefully lowered her head. She whimpered, “I’ve given too much away. I will do, sir, as you have said.”

 

So the poor were pushed out of her mind; She heard not the orphan’s cry; And she silently covered her MasterCard As the widows went weeping by.

 

Thus they of the Church and they of the World Journeyed closely, hand and heart. And none but the Master, who knows all things, Understood they had once walked apart.

 

Then the Church sat down at ease and said, “I am rich and in goods increased. I have need of nothing, and naught to do, But to play, to sing, and to eat.”

 

The sly World heard her and laughed in his sleeve, And mockingly said aside, “ The Church has fallen, the beautiful Church; Her shame is her boast and pride.”

 

Thus her witnessing power, alas, was lost, And perilous times came in; The times of the end, so often foretold, Of form and pleasure and sin.

 

Then the angel drew near the mercy seat And whispered in sighs her name, And the saints their anthems of rapture hushed And covered their heads with shame.

 

A voice came down from the hush of heaven, From Him who sat on the throne; “ I know your works and what you have said— But alas! You have not known,

 

That you are poor and naked and blind, With pride and ruin ensnared; The expectant bride of a heavenly Groom Is the harlot of the World!

 

You have ceased to watch for that blessed hope, Have fallen from zeal and grace; So now, alas! I must cast you out And blot your name from its place.”

  Author unknown; this version taken from The Heartbeat of the Remnant (January/February 2010), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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