Archive for the ‘The Christian Life’ Category
“An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed” (Proverbs 20:21).
“He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent…He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (Proverbs 28:19-20, 22).
“As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool” (Jeremiah 17:11).
By Dean Taylor
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Co. 5:10)
What’s the boldest example of evangelism that you have ever seen? For me, it was when I was fresh out of anesthesia school. I was working in a hospital that employed a lot of foreign medical students and residents. Because of all the students, the operating rooms there were usually bustling with all kinds of people—not just the surgeons and their residents, but the X-ray people had their trainees, the scrub techs had their trainees, the lab techs had theirs, etc … I guess you get the idea—the operating rooms were packed!
Well, it had been one of my first days on the job there in this teaching hospital. I was just about to administer the anesthesia to put my patient to sleep when he looked up at me and said, “Is this it? Am I going out now?”
I told him, “Yes, I am about to start the anesthesia.”
Then he said “Before you do, I want to talk to the main surgeon who will be doing my surgery. I have a question for him.”
I told the residents nearby, and they quickly ran up to the head of the bed and said that they could answer any questions that he had.
He asked, “Thank you, but are you the main surgeon?”
The resident told him he was not the main surgeon—that the main surgeon was in his office and would be coming out soon—but that it would actually be a while before he would get there.
But the man insisted, “I want to talk to him … I must ask him a question.”
After trying a few more times, the resident finally gave up and called for the chief surgeon. He was in his office, which was about 10 minutes away.
As we waited there, I guess we all just figured that this guy simply needed a little reassurance about his surgery. As I recall, I think it was a knee surgery of some kind. I think we all just assumed that he wanted to hear which leg they were planning to operate on—straight from the chief surgeon’s mouth. As time crept by, we each tried to ask him if we could help him with his question. But he was still insistent—he would speak to the head surgeon. It seemed like a long time; but finally, after about 10 long minutes, in rushed the chief surgeon to hear “the question.”
Now, allow me to describe some of the details of this scene. This patient was lying down on his back on an operating table, with nothing on but a surgical gown. Surrounding him are the surgical techs (who help with the surgery), residents (who also help), x-ray techs, a few drug salesmen, and standing at the head of the bed were me and a Hindu anesthesiologist from India. In my hand was the anesthetic agent needed to put him to sleep.
As the chief surgeon came around to the head of the bed, the man looked up, pointed his finger at him, and asked “Are you the main surgeon?”
“Yes, I am sir. How may I help you?”
“I have a question for you.”
“Yes sir, what is it?”
The whole room was dead silent as all waited in suspense to hear what “the question” would be.
And then, right there—flat on his back on the operating table—with his finger pointing up at the surgeon, he asked the question, “If you were to die tonight, and you had to appear before God, and He asked you why He should let you in—what would you say?”
The surgeon was speechless … I was speechless … the whole room was speechless! We all just sat there in complete silence! It was one of those attention-grabbing, potentially defining moments, when the silence seemed almost deafening. Then suddenly we were riveted out of the moment by a joke cracked by the Hindu anesthesiologist: “He would say that he took care of you, so then God would let him in!” Everyone had a good laugh and the surgery began.
Well, I’m still impressed with that scene today. However, while I believe that this is a good question to get someone thinking, I have to wonder if this line of thinking is completely biblical. Of course, the right answer to the question from a solid, born-again believer should be something like, “I trust in nothing but the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. I put my faith in Him, alone. He is all my righteousness and all my salvation.” Good answer, right? I certainly think so.
But … who said there was going to be an oral exam on Judgment Day? From what I read in Scripture, Judgment Day will be based on the reality of my life here on earth. On that day, it will be revealed whether I lived my life by grace through faith, or not. Quoting a creed or a theological doctrine will be irrelevant.
It is surprising how regularly this “theology test” scene gets brought up in our thoughts and sermons. I admit, the whole idea is very attractive: Learn the right answers with sincerity and be ready to give them to anyone who asks. So, theoretically, when we get to Judgment Day, instead of worrying about a bunch of do’s and don’ts (or rather did’s and didn’ts), we simply answer the big theological questions and then walk right on in.
The only problem with this idea is that the Scriptures never mention this scene anywhere. From every indication given to us, on Judgment Day the time for theological answers will be over. Any talking on our part seems to be merely rendering an account of what we did or what we said. The Bible simply describes Jesus judging us based on the reality of our life—not a theology test.
Judged by works?
Paul said in some pretty clear words that everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. To the Church of Corinth he wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Co. 5:10) Modern Christianity is very quick these days to explain away the whole idea of a Judgment Day—especially for the Christian. But to do so really twists the Scriptures. Jesus repeatedly taught through the Gospels the need for genuine conversions. The theme “You will know them by their fruits” resonates through almost every other chapter. Every picture Jesus gave of a judgment day was inextricably connected to what grace actually did in a believer’s life. A Christianity based solely on mental assent and verbal profession was firmly condemned: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Saved by works?
Does all this mean that we come to Christ through our works? Not at all. When Jesus was asked “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” We cannot save ourselves. The only way to come to Christ is to believe—by faith. However, when this truly happens, the Bible says that we actually change. A few verses down from his sobering statement about Judgment Day, Paul said: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” In other words, when someone—through grace—became a follower of Christ, they actually followed Christ; it’s that simple. As Paul said in the letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
James shared the same thoughts when he said “I will show you my faith by my works.” Put simply, James said that the grace-motivated works that Christ performs in and through us are the evidence of our faith. James was asking, “Is your faith real or not?” To James, reciting a creed or a list of theological truths was not evidence. As a matter of fact, James compared a faith that exists only in the mind to the faith that demons have! “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” Our faith—is it real or is it not? Our faith-motivated works are the evidence now—and they will be the evidence on Judgment Day as well.
Like so many other controversial subjects, I have found that when reading books just a few hundred years back, it is amazing to find that preachers on many sides of the theological spectrum are in agreement on this topic. Spurgeon, in his sermon The Great Assize, preached:
“Ask ye now, who is it, or who ARE THEY THAT WILL HAVE TO APPEAR BEFORE THE THRONE OF JUDGMENT? The answer is plain; it admits of no exemption: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” This is very decisive, if there were no other text. We must all appear; that is to say, every one of the human race. We must all appear. And that the godly will not be exempted from this appearance is very clear, for the apostle here is speaking to Christians. He says, ‘We walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident. We labor.’ and so on; and then he puts it, ‘We must all appear.’ So that, beyond all others, it is certain that all Christians must appear there. The text is quite conclusive upon that point. And if we had not that text, we have the passage in Matthew, which we have read, in which the sheep are summoned there as certainly as are the goats; and the passage in the Revelation, where all the dead are judged according to the things which are written in the books. They are all there.”
John Wesley, in his sermon also called The Great Assize, said:
“Had all men a deep sense of this [Judgment Day], how effectually would it secure the interests of society! For what more forcible motive can be conceived to the practice of genuine morality? To a steady pursuit of solid virtue? A uniform walking in justice, mercy, and truth? What could strengthen our hands in all that is good, and deter us from all evil, like a strong conviction of this, “The Judge stands at the door;” and we are shortly to stand before him?”
Saved by grace—evidenced by works
Speaking on the topic of judgment by works, I thought John Piper put it well when he said, in a sermon preached back in 1980:
“It is by grace we are saved through faith; not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. But the heart that is full of faith will overflow in attitudes and actions very different from those which flow from unbelief. Therefore, our deeds will testify truly to the genuineness or absence of faith, and it is not inconsistent for God to judge us according to our works. But we must understand that this judgment according to works does not mean we earn our salvation. Our deeds do not earn, they exhibit our salvation. Our deeds are not the merit of our righteousness, they are the mark of our new life in Christ. Our deeds are not sufficient to deserve God’s favor, but they do demonstrate our faith. Please keep that distinction clear in your mind regarding our attitudes and actions: they do not earn, they exhibit; they do not merit, they mark; they do not deserve, they demonstrate. And therefore, “God will render to every man according to his deeds,” including Christians.”
I like that statement: “they do not earn, they exhibit; they do not merit, they mark; they do not deserve, they demonstrate.” That statement makes you think … if salvation is by faith, and the evidence of that faith is works, then faith must be a lot more than mere theology! Faith must be visible, real, and powerful!
Send your sins ahead of you
In the last chapter of the Bible Jesus lets us know that on Judgment Day it will be too late to change. “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Re. 22:12)
Now is the time we can make an eternal difference. Paul told his young disciple Timothy that, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” Likewise, John wrote in his letter to the churches, “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins.” According to the apostles, on Judgment Day the “reality” of whether we confessed and repented of our sins and brought them to Christ will determine whether we will meet Christ as an Advocate or as a Judge. If we repent and bring our sins to Jesus now, He has promised that He will forgive them and even blot them out! If we refuse to open up our sins beforehand and “send them on ahead of us to judgment” as Paul put it, then we await a fearful judgment.
Sins of omission
After the Apostle John gave us this beautiful truth about how to deal with sins in our past, he also reminded us how genuine sin-washed souls will act: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” What a blessing: in Christ we are forgiven—free—and faithful!
So … if you were to die tonight and you were to appear before God, what would you say? The answer is that you would say nothing except to render an account of your life. The bottom line will be whether you were genuinely saved by grace through faith while here on earth—or—whether you were not. On that day you will bow to Jesus, either as your Advocate or Judge.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25) ~
________________________________________  Mt. 7:21  2 Co. 5:17  Ep. 2:8-10  Ja. 2:18  Ja. 2:19  August 31, 1980 (Morning) Bethlehem Baptist Church. (Emphasis mine) It should be noted that some of Piper’s other teachings take the punch out of what he says here.  I Ti. 5:24  I Jn. 2:1-2  Is. 43:25; He. 8:12  “Seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (He. 7:25, and see also 1 Jn. 2:1)  “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” (Jn. 5:22)
Judgment Day Theology Test
1. According to Jesus, how can we do the “works of God?” a. Try very hard b. Martyrdom c. Believe on the Sent One 2. According to Jesus, if a person really “believes,” he will: a. Buy a Christian T-shirt b. Learn the answers to important theological questions c. Bear fruit that is evidenced by good works 3. According to Jesus, Judgment Day will be based on: a. Words we tell the Judge b. Works c. Good intentions 4. According to a literal interpretation of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25, if a person spends his whole life making a profession of Christ, all the while considering himself a Christian, but had no concern to feed the poor, clothe the naked, receive a stranger, or visit a prisoner; on Judgment Day that person will: a. Lose a reward b. Have his crown taken away c. Be thankful that he didn’t try to earn his own salvation d. Go into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels 5. Things specifically mentioned by Jesus that we would be judged by on Judgment Day: a. Saying the “sinner’s prayer” b. Church membership c. Baptism d. Feeding the poor 6. According to Jesus, if a person professes Jesus with his mouth, even calling Him “Lord,” but his life isn’t really changed, on Judgment Day that person is: a. Lost b. Saved ________________________________________  (C) Jn. 6:28  (C) Mt. 7:15-27  (B) Re. 22:12. See also Ro. 14:10, 2 Co. 5:10 (To name a few). This includes how we talked on earth: Mt. 12:35-37  (D) Mt. 25:31-46  (D) Mt. 25:31-46  (A) Mt. 7:15-27
Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (January/February 2010), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.
By John Newton (author of the hymn Amazing Grace)
Dear Friend: Allow me to say that it excites both my wonder and concern that a Christian minister such as yourself should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire! When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, “Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14) “My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!” (John 18:36). God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is that they are the “quiet in the land.” (Psalm 35:20) Satan has many contrivances to amuse people and to divert their thoughts from their real danger! My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God’s wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism—the best way in which people in private life may serve their country. I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed—but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him and be subservient to His designs! If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death—it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts—then we ought to be not only quiet, but very thankful now! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the “offence of the cross!” Those are to be greatly pitied who boast of their ‘liberty’—and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God’s law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state—and seek deliverance from their horrific thraldom! May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient. If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind—I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights, and my treasures are all in heaven—and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world—where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth will be of no more importance to me than the events which took place among the antediluvians! In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity—many things which now assume an ‘air of importance’ will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child’s dream! How crucial, then, is it for me to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right—but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! “Let the dead bury their own dead—but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” (Luke 9:60) Happy is that servant whom his Master finds so doing when He returns! As you have forced me to respond—both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts. I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother, John Newton
By Dean Taylor
As news reports from Iran leak stories concerning their growing political unrest, pictures of protests, demonstrations, and riots reveal a sad condition. Among the complaints—one that has caught a lot of the American attention—is the discrimination of women. Notable figures from within Iran have begun to speak out openly about some of the problems. CNN recently reported, “Increasingly, women’s voices are gaining power as their numbers rise and their demands grow louder. Even the granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the architect of the Islamic Republic, voiced frustration at the way women are treated.” This kind of talk has certainly taken over in common conversation. It seems nowadays that everywhere you go people speak about what they see as injustice in the treatment of the Muslim women. That word—injustice—seems to be the common cry. What I have most often heard expressed is not so much a complaint about the Muslim veil or their conservative dress, but the complaints about the glaring inconsistencies people see between Muslim men and women. “The men,” they say, “look like everyone else, while the women are covered from head to toe.” I tend to chuckle a bit and shake my head in agreement with this glaring contradiction. But lately, as I look around Lancaster County, I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t rather ironic that I should be so amused at their inconsistency. I recently read though the Quran. In so doing I noticed that, similar to the New Testament, the Quran has more specific things to say about the dress of women than it does the dress of men. I assume that Muslim men, noticing the absence of a “law” concerning dress, interpret this as a license to dress however they want. This caused me to ponder … “In what way are we Christians different?” Admittedly, the New Testament is more specific about the dress of women than it is of men. But aren’t Christians supposed to be led by the spirit of the law more than the letter of the law? As the spiritual leaders of our homes, I feel we men ought to be able to discern this conspicuous inconsistency more readily than a people who are living by law. Coming from a culture that thought very little of modesty, my wife and I had to struggle our way through what the Bible had to say about the modesty of women. From the start, the mere thought of having my wife wear dresses really stretched me. And while my wife had always had long hair since we were married, coming to terms with what the Bible says about women having long hair was yet another stretch for me. And then, of course, the teaching we found in 1 Corinthians 11 on the covered head was the toughest biblical concept of all to accept. Because of my pride, I had a lot harder time accepting all of it than my wife did. She was the one who had to make all the changes, such as no longer styling her hair, not wearing her makeup and jewelry, and then disposing of almost every single piece of her wardrobe in exchange for more modest and feminine dresses. Looking back, I’m ashamed to admit I was more embarrassed being seen with someone who was dressed in biblical attire, than my wife who was actually making such profound changes. Eventually, when I finally surrendered to the words of Scripture, we both found great peace together. After I finally surrendered, I remember wishing that I could be the one who had to do the “hard part.” Coming from my background, making a change like putting on a head covering was as about as hard as going to the mall in a clown suit. One of our local sisters here, Christine Lamicela, described her experience by saying that when she first put on the covering, “The way people looked at me, it was like going out in public sporting a big green nose.” I wonder how many of our sisters can relate to her experience? As we continued to look deeper into the issue, I realized that, while the Bible might certainly have more specifics mentioned for my wife, those same biblical principles should be as applicable to me as they are to her. Moreover, as I consciously chose to embrace these biblical principles as the leader of my home, I was also hit with the profound sense of responsibility that my wife needed me to lead out in this area as much as any other.
Biblical principles summed up in three biblical words
In 1 Timothy 2:8-10, we find three words that can act as a tremendous guide to discipline the way we dress as men: adorn, shamefacedness, and sobriety. Paul writes: “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” While the clothing issues addressed in this passage are specifically directed toward women, as the spiritual leaders of our homes they certainly can be used as a guide for men as well. Men, let’s not miss an important parallel that the Apostle makes here: the women’s dress guidelines, such as shamefacedness and sobriety, are given in the context of being “in like manner” to the holy/worshipping behavior of the men. If we could just take those three words—adorn, shamefacedness and sobriety—and cause everything in our closet to pass through this filter, I wonder what effect that alone would have on our wardrobe? The word “adorn” is an interesting one. It comes from the Greek word kosmeo. This is where we get our word for the cosmos or universe. It means “to put in order, arrange, make ready.” Our God is a God of order, and it is significant that He employed this word to describe how he wants His saints to dress. The other two words are pretty self-explanatory: shamefacedness and sobriety. Ask yourself … do these three words describe your wardrobe? Do these three words guide your manner of speaking? What about your hairstyle?
Without question, one of the most forgotten New Testament teachings in the modern American church is the doctrine of separation. You know how it goes … when a discussion on separation comes up, most Christians today will promptly reach for their favorite misquotation of Paul’s ministry to the Greeks and Jews (i.e. Greeks to the Greeks, and Jews to the Jews). However, even a casual look at the passage reveals that Paul was not speaking about a proclamation of his newfound liberties, but of the renunciation of his own comforts. One honest look at this doctrine can be life changing. Paul addresses this issue numerous times to the Gentile converts of Corinthians. Let’s take a look at another such passage in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13. In this instance, Paul begins his teaching on separation with a rebuke: Ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. What Paul is saying here is that he has a heart full of things to say to them. But in saying these things, he wants them to know that he is not trying to restrict them or spoil their fun. However, he lets them know that their real restriction is actually coming from their passions, not from godly disciplines. To get through this mental block, he challenges them to open their mind to hear what he has to say. Then he spells it out for them more specifically (vss. 14-16): Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. If that is not powerful enough, he goes on to link this teaching of separation with a wonderful promise (vss. 17-18): Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Finally, he sums up his teaching with an accent on the promise and summarizes that our response to this promise should affect both the inside and the out (2 Co. 7:1): Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Wow!
The restrained strength of meekness
Perhaps the most appropriate word we could use to define the behavior of a Spirit-filled man of God would be the word “meek.” Numbers 12 tells us that “Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Unlike the modern rendering of the word meek, the ancient usage of the word, praos, is full of powerful meaning. Instead of painting a picture of being weak, mild, and cowed, it instead portrays a picture of power—power that is directed, self-controlled, and disciplined. Gerald Heard, speaking of the ancient Greek word praos says: They used it for wild animals which had been tamed, trained; for wild horses which had been made able to work with men. There is then in this definition nothing weak or spiritless, but rather the description of energy which, instead of exploding, is now channeled and directed. The tamed are not the tame … The trained are those whose powerful impulses have been put into understanding service. None of these definitions should be an exact rule or law to us; but if we would allow ourselves to be led by the spirit behind the words, they should at least serve as a guide. Perhaps we have more to go on than we originally thought when we ponder these forgotten spiritual concepts: Meekness, as being strength in control. Adorn as representing setting things in order. Shamefacedness and sobriety, as taking them at face value: i.e. shamefacedness and sobriety mean shamefacedness and sobriety. Considering the general concepts of being “in order, “separated” and “sober,” may I suggest a simple application that I have found useful: • If it is unzipped—zip it. • If it is hanging out—tuck it in. • If it is untied—tie it. • If it is unbuttoned—button it. • If it is sticking up—comb it down. • If it is hanging down—pull it up. • If it is flashy—subdue it. • If it is revealing something that it shouldn’t—cover it up. • If it looks like the world, smells like the world, and sounds like the world—separate from it. You probably get the idea. This not an exact science, but, at the very least, it is a pretty basic discipline that engages the concepts of orderliness, discipline, and separation (which, by the way, is the very definition of the word “holiness”). We know it is the heart of God that we be a special people, set apart and clearly distinguishable from the world around us—for we know God desires a holy people.
Since the time of the New Testament, the Spirit of God has inspired godly men to look at the principles in God’s word and apply them to every aspect of their lives—including the way they dressed. The church has never invented some kind of universal pattern, but godly men in every age have taken the way they dressed very seriously. As the world further twists God’s pattern, and continually tries new angles for us to copy, the church must be on guard—prepared and willing to stand apart. In the early church, Tertullian (A.D. 150-220) made an interesting remark that revealed that as things in the world were growing more and more immodest, the Christians were increasingly starting to stand out from the world around them. Apparently, the simple, modest design of the mantle was growing out of style; and more and more people were adapting the more immodest style of the toga. Because of this, Tertullian said that the mantle had, by default, “begun to be a Christian’s vesture.” Cyprian, writing in the later 200s, noted that when a person was truly born again, it would require a reexamination of all parts of their life—including their manner of dress. Speaking about his conversion, Cyprian said: I used to regard it as a difficult matter, and especially as difficult in respect of my character at that time, that a man should be capable of being born again … When does he learn thrift, who has been used to big banquets and sumptuous eating? And he who has been glittering in gold and purple, and has been noted for his expensive clothes, when does he reduce himself to mundane and simple clothing?
In an unusually candid sermon preached by John Wesley in 1789, insightfully entitled “Causes of Inefficacy of Christianity,” we get a rare glimpse into the heart of an older and experienced man of God. In a portion of this sermon, there is a cry that, quite frankly, gives me chills. Speaking almost as though he was a defeated minister, he humbly confesses that he fears that it was way too late to make any of the changes he felt were necessary in regard to dress. In his sermon, Wesley takes a look back, and—surprisingly—states that it would have been better to have had some kind of church guideline on the matter. I think it is very important that we listen to what he said: I am distressed. I know not what to do. I see what I might have done once. I might have said peremptorily and expressly, “Here I am: I and my Bible. I will not, I dare not vary from this book, either in great things or small. I have no power to dispense with one jot or tittle of what is contained therein. I am determined to be a Bible Christian, not almost, but altogether. Who will meet me on this ground? Join me on this, or not at all.” With regard to dress in particular, I might have been as firm (and I now see it would have been far better,) as either the people called Quakers, or the Moravian brethren; I might have said, “This is our manner of dress, which we know is both Scriptural and rational. If you join us, you are to dress as we do; but you need not join us unless you please.” But, alas! the time is now past; and what I can do now, I cannot tell. Later, in another sermon entitled “On Dress,” based on 1 Peter 3:3-4, Wesley cries out, almost pathetically: Let me see, before I die, a Methodist congregation, full as plain dressed as a Quaker congregation.
Charles G. Finney (1792-1875), the revivalist and president of Oberlin College, boldly wrote: “Christians are bound to be singular. They are called to be a peculiar people, that is, a singular people, essentially different from the rest of mankind. To maintain that we are not to be singular is the same as to maintain that we are to be conformed to the world. “Be not singular,” that is, be like the world. In other words, “Be ye conformed to the world.” This is the direct opposite to the command in the text. But the question now regards fashion, in dress, equipage, and so on. And here I will confess that I was formerly myself in error. I believed, and I taught, that the best way for Christians to pursue was to dress so as not to be noticed, to follow the fashions and changes so as not to appear singular, and that nobody would be led to think of their being different from others in these particulars. But I have seen my error, and now wonder greatly at my former blindness. It is your duty to dress so plain as to show to the world that you place no sort of reliance in the things of fashion, and set no value at all on them, but despise and neglect them altogether. But unless you are singular, unless you separate yourselves from the fashions of the world, you show that you do value them. There is no way in which you can bear a proper testimony by your lives against the fashions of the world, but by dressing plain.”
From the start of the Anabaptist movement, this doctrine has been of continual concern. Interestingly, the Roman Catholic theologian Franz Agricola, writing way back in 1582, wrote a book affectionately entitled “Against the Terrible Errors of the Anabaptists.” He said: “Among the existing heretical sects there is none which in appearance leads a more modest or pious life than the Anabaptist. As concerns their outward public life they are irreproachable. No lying, deception, swearing, strife, harsh language, no intemperate eating and drinking, no outward personal display, is found among them, but humility, patience, uprightness, neatness, honesty, temperance, straightforwardness in such measure that one would suppose that they had the Holy Spirit of God.” Finally, I leave you with a defining quote from Menno Simons, where he is speaking of the hypocrisy of the Catholics and Evangelicals who claim a biblical faith, yet ignore these elementary biblical principles concerning dress: “They say that they believe, and yet there are no limits nor bounds to their accursed wantonness, foolish pomp, show of silks, velvet, costly clothes, gold rings, chains, silver belts, pins, buttons, curiously adorned shirts, handkerchiefs, collars, veils, aprons, velvet shoes, slippers and such like foolish finery; never regarding that the enlightened apostles, Peter and Paul, have in plain and express words forbidden this to all Christian women.” After making his point about dress—mainly in reference to women—Menno concludes with a punch for the men: “If this is forbidden to women, how much more then should men abstain from it, who are the leaders and heads of their women. Notwithstanding all this, they still want to be called the Christian Church.” Oh, brethren, let’s remember that friendship with the world is still enmity with God! If our dress, hairstyle, music, and conversation is like the world, how long can we continue in this direction and still flatter ourselves with the great, New Age deception of “At least my heart is right!” The biblical principles we have received as followers of Christ clearly state that we are called by God to draw a distinct line between the church and the world. Your line may not be the same as my line, but there should be a line. At the very least, we should consider what kind of testimony it is when we have our wives dressed modestly, with dresses and head coverings, and we go around sporting jeans, the latest “moussed” hair fashions, and T-shirts which thoughtlessly propagate trite worldly slogans. Brethren, let us remember to take our place of leadership even in the small things, like the way we dress. Our wives need our support, and the world needs an example. ~
 Common misinterpretation of 1 Co. 9:19-23  Numbers 12:3  The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 12  The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V, pp. 275  Sermons, Volume 2, Sermon 116, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., Cincinnati and New York, p. 439. Can be read at: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/116/  Sermon 88, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., Cincinnati and New York. Available to read at: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/88/ Or an audio version: http://www.elcristianismoprimitivo.com/english/john-wesley-on-dress.mp3  Finney, Charles, In Regards to Fashion: http://www.elcristianismoprimitivo.com/finneyondress.htm
Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant July/August 2010, 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.
By Adoniram Judson
Dear Sisters in Christ, Excuse my publicly addressing you. The necessity of the case is my only apology. Whether you will consider it a sufficient apology for the sentiments of this letter, unfashionable, I confess, and perhaps unpalatable, I know not. We are sometimes obliged to encounter the hazard of offending those whom of all others we desire to please. Let me throw myself at once on your mercy, dear sisters, allied by national consanguinity, professors of the same holy religion, fellow pilgrims to the same happy world. Pleading these endearing ties, let me beg you to regard me as a brother, and to listen with candor and forbearance to my honest tale. In raising up a church of Christ in this heathen land (Burma), and in laboring to elevate the minds of the female converts to the standard of the Gospel, we have always found one chief obstacle in that principle of vanity, that love of dress and display (I beg you will bear with me), which has, in every age and in all countries, been a ruling passion of the fair sex, as the love of riches, power, and fame has characterized the other. That obstacle lately became more formidable, through the admission of two or three fashionable females into the church, and the arrival of several missionary sisters, dressed and adorned in that manner which is too prevalent in our beloved native land. On my meeting the church, after a year’s absence, I beheld an appalling profusion of ornaments, and saw that the demon of vanity was laying waste the female department. At that time I had not maturely considered the subject, and did not feel sure what ground I ought to take. I apprehended, also, that I should be unsupported, and perhaps opposed by some of my coadjutors. I confined my efforts, therefore, to private exhortation, and with but little effect. Some of the ladies, out of regard to their pastor, took off their necklaces and ear-ornaments before they entered the chapel, tied them up in a corner of their handkerchiefs, and on returning, as soon as they were out of sight of the Mission-house, stopped in the middle of the street to array themselves anew. On the Mission Field In the mean time, I was called to visit the Karens, a wild people, several days’ journey to the north of Maulmain, Burma. Little did I expect there to encounter the same enemy, in those “wilds, horrid and dark with overshadowing trees.” But I found that he had been there before me, and reigned with a peculiar sway from time immemorial. On one Karen woman I counted between twelve and fifteen necklaces, of all colors, sizes, and materials. Three was the average. Brass belts above the ankles, neat braids of black hair tied below the knees, rings of all sorts on the fingers, bracelets on the wrists and arms, long instruments of some metal, perforating the lower part of the ear, by an immense aperture, and reaching nearly to the shoulders; fancifully constructed bags, enclosing the hair, and suspended from the back part of the head—not to speak of the ornamental parts of their clothing—these constituted the fashions and the ton of the Karenesses. The dress of the female converts was not essentially different from that of their countrywomen. I saw that I was brought into a situation that precluded all retreat—that I must fight or die. For a few nights, I spent some sleepless hours, distressed by this and other subjects, which will always press upon the heart of a missionary in a new place. I considered the spirit of the religion of Jesus Christ. I opened to 1 Tim. 2: 9, and read those words of the inspired apostle; “I will also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” I asked myself, can I baptize a Karen woman in her present attire? No. Can I administer the Lord’s Supper to one of the baptized in that attire? No. Can I refrain from enforcing the prohibition of the apostle? Not without betraying the trust which I have received. I considered that the question concerned not the Karens only, but the whole Christian world; that its decision would involve a train of unknown consequences; that a single step would lead me into a long and perilous way. Again I considered Maulmein and the other stations; I considered the state of the public mind at home. But “what is that to thee? follow thou me,” was the continual response, and weighed more than all. I renewedly offered myself to Christ, and prayed for strength to go forward in the path of duty, come life or death, come praise or reproach, supported or deserted, successful or defeated in the ultimate issue. Soon after coming to this conclusion, a Karen woman offered herself for baptism. After the usual examination, I inquired whether she could give up her ornaments for Christ. It was an unexpected blow! I explained the spirit of the gospel. I appealed to her own consciousness of vanity. I read her the apostle’s prohibition. She looked again and again at her handsome necklace, (she wore but one,) and then, with an air of modest decision that would adorn, beyond all outward ornaments, any of my sisters whom I have the honour of addressing, she took it off, saying, “I love Christ more than this.” The news began to spread. The Christian women made but little hesitation. A few others opposed, but the work went on. At length the evil which I most dreaded came on me. Some of the Karen men had been to Maulmein, and seen what I wished they had not. And one day, when we were discussing the subject of ornaments, one of the Christians came forward in my face, and declared, that at Maulmein he had actually seen one of the great female teachers wearing a string of gold beads around her neck! Lay down this paper, dear sisters, and sympathize a little with your fallen missionary. Was it not a hard case? Was it not cruel for that sister thus to smite down to the dust her poor brother, who, without that blow, was hardly able to keep his ground? But she knew it not. She was not aware of the mischief she was doing. However, though cast down, I was not destroyed; though sorely bruised and wounded, I endeavored to maintain the warfare as well as I could; after some conflict the enemy fled the field, and, when I left those parts, the female converts were, generally speaking, arrayed in modest apparel. On arriving at Maulmein, Burma and partially recovering from a fever, which I had contracted in the Karen woods, the first thing I did was to crawl out to the house of the patroness of the gold beads. To her I related my adventures—to her commiseration, I commended my grief. With what ease and truth, too, could that sister reply, “Notwithstanding these beads, I dress more plain than most ministers’ wives, and professors of religion, in our native land. These beads are the only ornament I wear; they were given me when quite a child, by a dear mother, whom I never expect to see again” (another hard case). She enjoined it on me never to part with them as long as I lived, but to wear them as a memorial of her. Oh, ye Christian mothers, what a lesson you have before you! Can you, dare you, give injunctions to your daughters, directly contrary to apostolic commands? But, to the honor of my sister, be it recorded, that when she understood the merits of the case, and the mischief done by such an example, off went the gold beads; and she gave decisive proof that she loved Christ more than father or mother. Her example, united with the efforts of the rest of us at this station, is beginning to exercise a redeeming influence in the female department of the church. But, notwithstanding these favorable signs, nothing, really nothing, is yet done!—And why? This mission and all others must necessarily be sustained by continual supplies of missionaries, male and female, from the mother-country. Your sisters and daughters will continually come out, to take the place of those who are removed by death, and to occupy numberless stations, still unoccupied. And, when they arrive, they will be dressed in their usual way, as Christian women at home are dressed. And the female converts will run around them, and gaze upon them with the most prying curiosity, regarding them as the freshest representations of the Christian religion, from that land where it flourishes in all its purity and glory. And when they see the gold and jewels pendent from their ears, the beads and chains encircling their necks—the finger rings set with diamonds and rubies—the rich variety of ornamental hair dress—“the mantles and the wimples and the crisping pins,” (see the rest in Isaiah, 3rd chap.) Then they will cast a bitter, reproachful, triumphant glance at their old teachers, and spring with fresh avidity to repurchase and resume their long-neglected elegancies. The cheering news will fly up to the Dahgyne, the Laing-bwai, and the Salwen. The Karenesses will reload their necks, and ears, and arms, and ankles. And when, after another year’s absence, I return, and take my seat before the Burmese or the Karen church, I shall behold the demon of vanity enthroned in the centre of the assembly, more firmly than ever, grinning defiance to the prohibitions of apostles, and the exhortations of us who would fain be their humble followers. And thus you, my dear sisters, while sitting quietly by your firesides, or repairing devoutly to your places of worship, do, by your example, spread the poison of vanity through all the rivers, and mountains, and wilds of this far distant land; and, while you are sincerely and fervently praying for the upbuilding of the Redeemer’s kingdom, are inadvertently building up that of the devil. If, on the other hand, you divest yourselves of all meretricious ornaments, your sisters and daughters who come hither will be divested of course; the further supplies of vanity and pride will be cut off; and, the churches at home being kept pure, the churches here will be pure also. Dear sisters, having finished my tale, and therein exhibited the necessity under which I lay of addressing you, I beg leave to submit a few topics to your candid and prayerful consideration. 1. Motives Let me appeal to conscience, and inquire, what is the real motive for wearing ornamental and costly apparel? Is it not the desire of setting off one’s person to the best advantage, and of exciting the love and admiration of others? Is not such dress calculated to gratify self-love, to cherish the sentiments of vanity and pride? And is it not the nature of those sentiments to acquire strength from indulgence? Do such motives and sentiments comport with the meek, humble, self-denying religion of Jesus Christ? I would here respectfully suggest, that these questions will not be answered so faithfully in the midst of company as when quite alone kneeling before God. 2. Scripture Consider the words of the apostle quoted above from 1 Tim. 2: 9; “I will also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” I do not quote a similar command recorded in 1 Peter 3: 3, because the verbal construction is not quite so definite, though the import of the two passages is the same. But cannot the force of these passages be evaded? Yes, and nearly every command in Scripture can be evaded, and every doctrinal assertion perverted, plausibly and handsomely, if we set about it in good earnest. But preserving the posture above alluded to, with the inspired volume spread open at the passage in question, ask your hearts, in simplicity and godly sincerity, whether the meaning is not just as plain as the sun at noon-day. Shall we then bow to the authority of an inspired apostle, or shall we not? From that authority, shall we appeal to the prevailing usages and fashions of the age? If so, please to recall the missionaries you have sent to the heathen—for the heathen can vindicate all their superstitions on the same ground. 3. Pride In the posture you have assumed, look up and behold the eye of your benignant Saviour ever gazing upon you, with the tenderest love—upon you, his daughters, his spouse, wishing, above all things, that you would yield your hearts entirely to him, and become holy as he is holy, rejoicing when he sees one and another accepting his pressing invitation, and entering the more perfect way; for, on that account, he will be able to draw such precious souls into a nearer union with himself, and place them at last in the higher spheres, where they will receive and reflect more copious communications of light from the great Fountain of light, the uncreated Sun. 4. Future Happiness Anticipate the happy moment, “hastening on all the wings of time”, when your joyful spirits will be welcomed into the assembly of the spirits of the just made perfect. You appear before the throne of Jehovah; the approving smile of Jesus fixes your everlasting happy destiny; and you are plunging into “the sea of life and love unknown; without a bottom or a shore.” Stop a moment—look back on yonder dark and miserable world that you have left; fix your eye on the meager, vain, contemptible articles of ornamental dress, which you once hesitated to give up for Christ, the King of glory; and on that glance decide the question instantly and forever. Decision Surely, you can hold out no longer. You cannot rise from your knees in your present attire. Thanks be to God, I see you taking off your necklaces and earrings, tearing away your ribbons, and ruffles, and superfluities of headdress, and I hear you exclaim, “What shall we do next?—An important question, deserving serious consideration. The ornaments you are removing, though useless, and worse than useless, in their present state, can be so disposed of as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, relieve the sick, enlighten the dark minded, disseminate the Holy Scriptures, spread the glorious gospel throughout the world. Little do the inhabitants of a free Christian country know of the want and distress endured by the greater part of the inhabitants of the earth. Still less idea can they form of the awful darkness which rests upon the great mass of mankind in regard to spiritual things. During the years that you have been wearing these useless ornaments, how many poor creatures have been pining in want! How many have languished and groaned on beds of abject wretchedness! How many children have been bred up in the blackest ignorance, hardened in all manner of iniquity! How many immortal souls have gone down to hell, with a lie in their right hand, having never heard of the true God and the only Savior! Some of these miseries might have been mitigated; some poor wretch have felt his pain relieved; some widow’s heart been made to sing for joy; some helpless orphan have been taught in the Sabbath school, and trained up for a happy life here and hereafter. The Holy Bible and valuable tracts might have been far more extensively circulated in heathen lands had you not been afraid of being thought unfashionable, and not “like other folks”; had you not preferred adorning your persons, and cherishing the sweet seductive feelings of vanity and pride. O Christian sisters, believers in God, in Christ, in an eternal heaven, and an eternal hell, can you hesitate, and ask what you shall do? Bedew those ornaments with the tears of contrition; consecrate them to the cause of charity; hang them on the cross of your dying Lord. Delay not an instant. Hasten with all your might, if not to make reparation for the past, at least to prevent a continuance of the evil in future. Two Principles And for your guidance allow me to suggest two fundamental principles: the one based on 1 Tim. 2: 9, “all ornaments and costly dress to be disused”: the other on the law of general benevolence—the avails of such articles, and the savings resulting from the plain dress system, to be devoted to purposes of charity. Some general rules in regard to dress, and some general objects of charity, may be easily ascertained and settled. Minor points must, of course, be left to the conscience of each individual. Yet free discussion will throw light on many points at first obscure. Be not deterred by the suggestion, that in such discussions you are conversant about small things. Great things depend on small; and, in that case, things which appear small to short-sighted man are great in the sight of God. Many there are who praise the principle of self-denial in general, and condemn it in all its particular applications, as too minute, scrupulous, and severe. Satan is well aware, that if he can secure the minute units, the sum total will be his own. Think not anything small, which may have a bearing upon the kingdom of Christ, and upon the destinies of eternity. How easy to conceive, from many known events, that the single fact of a lady’s divesting herself of a necklace for Christ’s sake may involve consequences which shall be felt in the remotest parts of the earth, and in all future generations to the end of time—yea, stretch away into a boundless eternity, and be a subject of praise millions of ages after this world and all its ornaments are burned up. False Humility Beware of another suggestion made by weak and erring souls, who will tell you that there is more danger of being proud of plain dress and other modes of self-denial, than of fashionable attire and self-indulgence. Be not ensnared by this last, most finished, most insidious device of the great enemy. Rather believe that he who enables you to make a sacrifice is able to keep you from being proud of it. Believe that he will kindly permit such occasions of mortification and shame as will preserve you from the evil threatened. The severest part of self-denial consists in encountering the disapprobation, the envy, the hatred, of one’s dearest friends. All who enter the strait and narrow path, in good earnest, soon find themselves in a climate extremely uncongenial to the growth of pride. The gay and fashionable will, in many cases, be the last to engage in this holy undertaking. But let none be discouraged on that account. Christ has seldom honored the leaders of worldly fashion, by appointing them leaders in his cause. Wait not, therefore, for the fashionable to set an example; wait not for one another; listen not to the news from the next town; but let every individual go forward, regardless of reproach, fearless of consequences. The eye of Christ is upon you. The Final Day Death is hastening to strip you of your ornaments, and to turn your fair forms into corruption and dust. Many of those for whom this letter is designed will be hid in the grave before it can ever reach their eyes. We shall all soon appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be tried for our conduct, and to receive the things done in the body. When placed before that awful bar, in the presence of that Being, whose “eyes are as a flame of fire,” and whose irrevocable fiat will fix you forever in heaven or in hell, and mete out the measure of your everlasting pleasures and pains, what course will you wish you had taken? Will you then wish, that in defiance of his authority you had adorned your mortal bodies with gold, and precious stones, and costly attire, cherishing self-love, vanity, and pride? Or, will you wish that you had chosen a life of self-denial, renounced the world, taken up the cross daily and followed him? And as you will then wish you had done, do now. Dear Sisters, your affectionate brother in Christ, A. JUDSON Maulmein October, 1831
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
I ask that you forgive me for my bold title. I know there is a natural temptation for some to laugh over such a bold title, and for others to take offense. But it is neither with levity nor with a desire to offend that I write this article. With a great burden for those who are partaking in the sin of telling their children lies about Santa Claus, I write this as a bold warning, yet in a spirit of love.
Santa Claus is a lie. No parent can deny this fact. It does not need demonstration, elaboration, or discussion. It is a plain fact. Santa Claus does not exist. He is a lie.
What does the Bible say about liars?
“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19). (Notice that lying is put in the same category with murder!)
“He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit. The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellers of peace is joy” (Proverbs 12:17, 19-20).
“Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22).
“A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies” (Proverbs 14:25).
“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).
“Excellent speech becometh not a fool: much less do lying lips a prince” (Proverbs 17:7). (Has not Christ made us “kings and priests unto God and his Father” [Revelation 1:6]? If lying lips are not becoming to a prince, how much less a king and priest?)
“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape” (Proverbs 19:5).
“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish” (Proverbs 19:9).
“The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar” (Proverbs 19:22). (Would you like to be dirt-poor? According to Solomon, it would be better for you to be dirt-poor than to tell your children lies about Santa! Why? Because “he that speaketh lies shall perish” [Proverbs 19:9]!)
“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).
“A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Proverbs 26:28).
“They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy” (Jonah 2:8).
“Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17b).
“[Charity]…rejoiceth in the truth” (I Corinthians 13:6b).
“Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates” (II Corinthians 13:7).
“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:23-25).
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; ) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Timothy 4:3-4).
“I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (IJohn 2:21).
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
“And there shall in no wise enter into it [the heavenly Jerusalem] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27).
“For without [the city] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Revelation 22:15).
Please do not think I am yelling. I want to make very clear the word of God in this matter. Telling your children about some jolly man who slides down the chimney and leaves presents for them may seem like innocent fun to you, but what does God think about it? The Bible says “no lie is of the truth” (IJohn 2:21)!
What should the people of God tell their children about Santa Claus? Tell them the truth: Jesus Christ is real – Santa Claus is not!
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (II Peter 1:16).
Originally published in The Witness December 2010.
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
There is something wrong with that word “nonresistance.” Perhaps it is more a problem with the English language, which simply has no single word to adequately express the doctrine of nonresistance.
The early Anabaptists used the German term Wehrlosigkeit, meaning “defenselessness.” This term, although it does a good job of capturing the spirit of Jesus’ words to be “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16), does not capture very much of the doctrine of nonresistance.
The problem with the words “nonresistance” and “defenselessness” is that they capture only one side of the doctrine. “I refuse to defend myself and to resist evil, because Jesus said not to.” This is only one side of the doctrine. Jesus said to “love your enemies.” From this we conclude that we cannot shoot and kill our enemies, for “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour” (Romans 13:10). We need to take better notice of the rest of what Jesus said, however:
“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” (from Matthew 5:44).
Notice the positive side of nonresistance. Nonresistance does not only have a negative side, i.e., what I will not do, but also a positive side – what I will do. Read again the underlined words – love, bless, do good, pray for. This is the positive side. Not only will I love my enemy enough to not kill him, I will love him enough to do something positive to him, do good to him, and pray a blessing for him from the Lord Jesus. When someone does something to me which offends me, I will not just ignore him, I will tell him, “May the Lord Jesus bless you.” If my enemy who did something to me is needy, I will tell him, “Come over to my house for a good meal.” If my nation is warring against another nation, not only will I not go to participate in the war, if possible and as the Lord leads, I will participate in relief efforts for the suffering people – my “enemies” – of the other nation.
Unfortunately, discussions of nonresistance sometimes become so full of defending the negative, “what I won’t do” side of the doctrine – which, please understand me, does need to be done – that the beautiful positive side gets very little attention. In closing here, let us look at a few examples of people who practiced both sides of nonresistance.
The Apostle James. Acts 12:2 records that Herod “killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Martyrs Mirror gives more details on his martyrdom. Not only did he not resist being led out to death, but he forgave his persecutors. The executioner, seeing James’s trial, was so touched that on the way to the place of execution, he repented of his sins, became a Christian, and asked James’s forgiveness. James forgave the man and gave him a Christian kiss. Another man then executed both of them.
Dirk Willems. When being pursued by hostile authorities wanting to burn him at the stake, Dirk not only did not hurt them, but turned back at the risk of his life to pull his pursuer from a frozen river he had fallen into. He was then arrested and burned for his Biblical faith in the Lord Jesus.
CO’s of WWI. During World War I, the conscientious objectors from Mennonite, Amish, Brethren, etc. backgrounds suffered immensely for their convictions. Stories of hangings, beatings, imprisonments, etc. by members of theU.S. military are legion. Many of them continued steadfast under trial, not giving in to becoming soldiers and treating their persecutors with nonresistant love. They did not stop at this, however – after the war, many young people from these churches went toEurope to participate in relief work.
Joseph. Joseph was a beautiful example of nonresistance who lived, as people say, centuries before his time. Not only did Joseph refrain from harming his brothers, when he had opportunity, he heaped blessing and good upon them – giving their money back, giving them gifts and a place to live inEgypt, etc. He did test them, to be sure, but his overall record was one of love and good toward them.
The Lord Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate example of all sides of nonresistance. He not only refrained from harming or wishing evil on his persecutors, but from the cross He prayed for them – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
May the Holy Spirit help us to believe and practice both sides of nonresistance, that we may be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
By Andrew V. Ste. Marie
“The Kingdom of God means Heaven,” most people would answer the question in the title. This answer is partially correct – the Kingdom of God includes Heaven. However, that is not all it is.
Have you ever heard the Gospel? “Yes,” most people would think. “Of course!” How about another question: have you ever heard the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Gospel which John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, and Paul preached?
If not, I encourage you to thoughtfully read this article, then go to your Bible and search out the truth about the Kingdom of God and the Gospel.
The Kingdom Foretold
The Kingdom of God did not simply spring onto the scene in the New Testament. Through the prophets, God foretold what would happen when His Kingdom was given to men.
In Isaiah 9:6-7, we read:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
This prophecy foretells the birth of Jesus. It reveals that He would be a governor and ruler. It also reveals how the throne of David was a forerunner or foreshadowing of the Kingdom of God ruled by Jesus Christ.
Another prophecy about the Kingdom was given by the prophet Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of an image with a golden head, silver chest and arms, brass belly and thighs, iron legs, and mixed iron and clay feet. The image was then destroyed by a great stone. Daniel told the king that he was the head of gold, and that his kingdom would be followed by other, progressively inferior, empires. Finally,
“in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter” (Daniel 2:44-45a).
In this prophecy, we notice, among other things, the following about the Kingdom of God:
1. It will be set up “in the days of these kings” – not at the end of the world. 2. It shall never be destroyed. 3. There is a basic enmity between the worldly kingdoms and empires and the Kingdom of God.
In Daniel 7, we have another prophecy related to the Kingdom of God. In the vision, Daniel sees several beasts representing different earthly kingdoms. Then,
“I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire…I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:9, 13-14).
This prophecy shows that the Kingdom of God will be ruled by Jesus Christ. Notice that it is the same indestructible, everlasting kingdom mentioned in Daniel 2. Notice the extent of Jesus’ Kingdom: all people, nations, and languages would serve Him – not just worship Him, but serve Him.
The Kingdom Announced
About the year 5 B.C., the little town of Bethlehem had been stirred by the birth of a young boy in a stable – the son of a virgin, announced by angels, visited by shepherds. About 30 years later, a relative of the boy born at Bethlehem suddenly appeared, preaching in the wilderness and drawing huge crowds. What was his message?
“Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! This fact motivated the people to repentance and receiving the baptism of John. Their repentance was not simply a sorrow for their sins – it was a turning from the old life. John preached a Gospel of repentance to prepare for the coming Kingdom. He told the Pharisees,
“Bring forth therefore fruits meet [suitable] for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:8-9).
John revealed the nature of the repentance necessary for readiness for the Kingdom of Heaven – fruits suitable for repentance must be brought forth. (In case you have been told that this emphasis on repentance was absent from the Gospel which Paul preached, see Acts 26:20.) Furthermore, mere genetic relationship to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would not be sufficient grounds for an easy entrance into the Kingdom. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and the requirements for entrance would be the same for Jew and Gentile.
The Kingdom Defined
Jesus began His public ministry after being baptized by John the Baptist. The King of the new Kingdom had finally arrived! What kind of a Kingdom was it? What would His message be? What did Jesus first preach?
“Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17b).
It puzzled me for years why Jesus did not give a long, detailed, exhaustive theological explanation of salvation by grace, the relationship of faith and works to salvation, the atonement…Jesus discusses none of that. He simply announces the Kingdom and commands repentance, just as John had!
What else did Jesus preach? Well, soon after His first recorded “sermon” in Matthew 4, He gave the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. If you read through the whole Sermon (which I would highly encourage all my readers to do), you will notice that the entire sermon is about the Kingdom of God! In fact, the first sentence of the sermon is “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Amazing!
At this point I want to point out that the different terms “kingdom of heaven,” “kingdom of God,” and “kingdom of Christ” used in the New Testament are interchangeable terms. Matthew is the only Gospel writer to use the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” whereas the other Gospel writers use “kingdom of God” – sometimes in parallel passages. For instance, in Matthew 13:31-32 (parable of the mustard seed), the “kingdom of heaven” is the phrase used, whereas in the parallel passages in Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19, the “kingdom of God” is used. They are clearly interchangeable. The “kingdom of Christ,” used for example in Ephesians 5:5, is also the same because Christ is the ruler of the Kingdom as shown in Daniel 7.
To return to our examination of the Sermon on the Mount, we notice that Jesus defines the “class distinctions” (if we can use that phrase) in the Kingdom.
“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” (Matthew 5:19).
In this verse, Jesus tells His followers how Kingdom citizens evaluate the “greatness” or “least-ness” of other people. Whereas the world looks at wealth, authority, military prowess, beauty, strength, or some other criterion, Jesus gives the criterion whereby He wanted His followers to think of people: the great are those who obey Jesus’ commandments and teach others to obey them. The “least” are those who disobey and teach other men to disobey.
Most of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is composed of laws for Kingdom life. Near the conclusion, Jesus said,
“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” (Matthew 7:21).
Would anyone think of becoming an American citizen just by waving a flag and saying “God bless America”? Of course not. It takes a bigger commitment than that. The prospective citizen needs to promise to obey the laws of America and submit to the military draft. In the same way, Jesus does not accept as citizens anyone who says “I love Jesus” and goes on in his old ways of sin. That is not the way the Kingdom of God works! It takes a much bigger commitment than a simple “I love Jesus.” One must do the will of God the Father.
In Matthew 13 (and paralleled in Mark and Luke), we have the Kingdom Parables of Jesus. These parables reveal the nature of the Kingdom of God. Most of them have the same basic message: the Kingdom would start small, grow over all the earth, and some false disciples would be present in it until the Judgment Day where they would be cast into Hell.
Do you remember what Jesus said not long before His transfiguration?
“Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1).
Because most churches view the kingdom of God as a future reality only, they have traditionally explained these words of Jesus as referring to His transfiguration. Perhaps this has an element of truth to it because in Matthew 16, Mark 9, and Luke 9, these words are put immediately before the account of the transfiguration. However, what about the transfiguration could truthfully be called the “kingdom of God” coming “with power”? A kingdom is not the glorification of one man – it is an entire system, complete with rulers, citizens, laws, and structure. Perhaps this verse needs to be reconsidered. In John 3:3, 5, Jesus gave the entrance requirements for the Kingdom of God:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Verily verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
The New Birth is a radical change of the heart, accomplished only by the Spirit of God, imparting to a person a new mind, new desires, and a new heart, and is marked by a passing away of the old ways and desires. The man now despises and hates sin and with the Holy Spirit’s help fights it until it is vanquished in him. It is accompanied by baptism and followed by a new life of victory over sin and following Christ in His Kingdom.
In Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus points out another condition of entering the Kingdom of God:
“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
This sounds quite different from Martin Luther’s “gospel” of faith alone…
Not only did Jesus Himself preach the Kingdom, He also instructed others to do so.
“Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Mark 9:60).
The Kingdom was what Jesus wanted to be preached!
Jesus also explicitly said that the Kingdom of God was a present reality in His day.
“But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11:20).
There is no hint here that the Kingdom was simply an offer to Israel for an earthly kingdom or something strictly in the future.
The Pharisees apparently did not miss Jesus’ emphasis on the Kingdom of God. On one occasion, they asked Him a question about the Kingdom which gave Jesus the opportunity to give us one of the clearest statements on the nature of the Kingdom in the New Testament.
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
These verses ought to forever lay to rest the idea that the Kingdom which Jesus preached was simply an offer to the Jews of a restored Jewish kingdom on Earth, which when they rejected, God ushered in a “Church Age” as a backup plan until such time as the Jews would be ready for Jesus to rule them as a nation. No – the Kingdom which Jesus preached was much different. It was a kingdom unlike any other kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not limited to any earthly territory, although it has citizens throughout the globe. It is a kingdom which is “within you,” within the hearts of its subjects.
Just a couple chapters after this had occurred, Jesus told another parable “because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11b). Jesus was not offering any immediate physical kingdom to the Jews. The kingdom of God was much different than what they had imagined, and the earthly ruling of Jesus was going to occur much later.
Jesus also told us what the nature of authority would be in His Kingdom.
“And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:24-30).
In Jesus’ Kingdom, all would be in direct submission to Jesus Christ. There would not be people exercising hierarchical, religious authority over others. This does not mean there would be no human authority in the church, but rather that those who have authority would use it as servants. In John 18:36-37, we learn more about the Kingdom:
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
Jesus reveals that His Kingdom is not an earthly one. It was not His intent to set up an earthly Jewish Kingdom, but an other-worldly kingdom come down from Heaven. This Kingdom does not operate the way the world’s kingdoms operate – for instance, regarding the sword. Jesus points out that if His Kingdom were like the kingdoms of the world, His servants would have fought for Him, just the same way any earthly kingdom works. Caesar’s servants fought for Caesar; Alexander the Great’s servants fought for him; Nebuchadnezzar’s servants fought for him, etc. But Jesus’ servants do not take up the earthly sword to fight for Him. This is a kingdom different from any other kingdom which has ever existed. Jesus’ servants do fight, but not with a physical sword. They fight spiritual wickedness with a spiritual sword.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).
The Kingdom Preached
Did Jesus’ Apostles continue to preach the Kingdom of God after His ascension to Heaven? The answer is yes.
Philip preached the Kingdom of God.
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).
Paul also preached the Kingdom of God. This should end the myth that Jesus and Peter preached the Gospel of the Kingdom while Paul preached a different Gospel, the Gospel of Grace.
“And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).
“And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more” (Acts 20:25).
“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening…Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:23, 31).
Paul clearly preached the Kingdom of God in the places he went. The Gospel did not change between Peter and Paul.
But is the Kingdom of God found in Paul’s epistles? Yes it is!
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
“For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (I Corinthians 4:20).
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13).
Notice how Paul continues to teach the Kingdom of God as a present reality. The Kingdom is
1. Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost 2. In power 3. We have already been translated into it.
If you have any lingering doubts that the Kingdom of God is a present reality, read Revelation 1:9:
“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9).
Notice that John says he and the other believers were “in the kingdom” just as much as they were “in tribulation” and in “patience of Jesus Christ”.
The Kingdom Laws
There is no such thing as a kingdom without laws, and the Kingdom of God is no exception. Jesus and His Apostles gave the laws for the Kingdom of God, which are contained in the New Testament. Kingdom Christians take seriously these laws which Jesus and the Apostles gave. Search the New Testament and find the laws of the Kingdom, such as:
• “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” (Matthew 5:32). • “Swear not at all” (Matthew 5:34) • “Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39) • “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) • “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Matthew 6:19) • “ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14) • “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers” (Romans 13:1) • “Salute one another with an holy kiss” (Romans 16:16) • “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (I Corinthians 14:34)
The Kingdom in Practice
The Kingdom of God is perhaps a radical new way for you to look at the Scriptures. I know that until it was pointed out to me, I had hardly noticed the many passages in the New Testament which speak of the Kingdom of God as a present reality. This reality does have an enormous impact on how we live. In this section, I want to outline only one such area – that of politics.
I am an intensely political person. I am heavily involved in politics. I have and continue to campaign heavily and actually hold a political office.
I do not have a party or a candidate; I have a Kingdom and a King: the Kingdom of God, ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ. My office in this Kingdom is that of ambassador to this present world. As such, I am not a citizen of this present world system (even though by my first birth I inherited a citizen status in the United States) but am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I am only a tolerated stranger and alien here. This is not my home – I will leave someday and go to my real home. As such, I have no business meddling in the politics of this world: not of the United States nor of any other country.
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners [from God’s people], but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13).
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 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 2:3-4).
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11).
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Imagine for a moment an American citizen working temporarily in Germany. As an American citizen, he would have to pay American taxes and obey American laws regarding coming and going from the country, etc. As a guest in Germany, he would have to obey the German rules and pay the German taxes, drive the speed limits, do what they said in regard to working in their country, etc. But because he is not a German citizen, he would have no right nor reason to vote or get involved in any German politics whatsoever. He is only a guest, an alien, a “stranger and pilgrim” in Germany. However, he would have the right, as an American citizen, to vote in American elections even though he is not present in that country.
The Kingdom of God works the same way as our parable. Because the citizens of God’s Kingdom are not citizens of this present world system, they have no right or reason to vote, get involved in politics, or to run for political office. As guests in this world, we hope to be treated respectfully as human beings and be allowed to carry out our work for the Kingdom in peace. We have the responsibility to obey the secular state, including paying taxes and acknowledging their power to wield the sword (Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-17). We also have the responsibility of praying for them and petitioning God that we may have peaceable conditions to be able to carry out His work.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:1-4).
Notice the bolded portion: can you honestly thank God for the President? If you are in God’s Kingdom and detached from the kingdoms of this world, it should not be too hard to do so.
Although the citizens of God’s Kingdom keep from getting involved in the politics of this world, just as in our parable of the American in Germany, we have the right and duty to be as involved as possible in God’s Kingdom. Every Kingdom citizen alive is an ambassador for God’s Kingdom and should be recruiting new citizens. This is our duty – not fixing up the political entities of this world. As John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace” once said, getting involved in this world’s politics is like painting the captain’s cabin while the ship is sinking.
The Kingdom in Peace
Throughout this article, the present aspect of the Kingdom of God has been emphasized. This is not meant to detract from the fact that there are some aspects of the Kingdom which will only be realized in the future world. In the next life, the Kingdom of God will be completely realized, the battle will be won – all other kingdoms will be utterly vanquished. The Kingdom of God will be triumphant and the saints will reign with Christ. The Kingdom will be in peace.
I would encourage each and every reader of this article not to accept anything here just because I said it, but to search the Scriptures for yourself. Find out if what I have said is true. Study the Kingdom of God, especially in the New Testament, and see how many references to it show it as a present reality. Study, consider, and pray about the relationship of the Kingdom of God to the present kingdoms of this world, and how you should relate to the kingdoms of this world.
If you are not a citizen of the Kingdom of God but would like to be, I would encourage you to join. Jesus clearly gave the entrance requirements for the Kingdom in John 3:5: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Experience the New Birth, allow the Spirit of God to recreate you into a completely new man “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Begin living in God’s Kingdom in fellowship with your fellow citizens, and be sure to write to me and let me know of your decision!
The LORD sitteth upon the flood;
the LORD sitteth
King for ever.