People of The Living God

Psalms 23

 

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August 2010



 

SHIELD OF FAITH

Curtis Dickinson

        From the Holocaust at Waco to Washington’s exaltation of homosexuals, the evidence is overwhelming that our society is disintegrating right before our eyes.

        The school system, once thought to be the fountain and fortress of truth and freedom, has become our greatest liability, now used to erase God from young minds and replace Him with sex and propaganda for a Babylonian society of amoral citizens whose god is the state.

        Government has joined the media in its hostility to the Christian faith and seeks to annul God’s laws and replace good with evil.  Since 1985 the FBI has been used to target Christian separatists.  In the cases of Gordon Kahl, the Weaver Family, and the Davidian group, all the killings were without due process of law, and the government destroyed evidence by burning or cremation.

        In his May Survival Report, former congressman Ron Paul wrote that even if the Koresh group were religious nuts, “that is not supposed to be against the law in a free country.  We hear bleats about homophobia, but it is actually religiophobia that afflicts America.  The government is starting with the fringe, but it won’t stop there.  All Christians have much to fear.”

Armed With Faith

Evil people see Christians as the greatest threat to their sensual and selfish desires.  But rather than living in fear, we are to live in faith.  Paul explained that our warfare is not physical but spiritual (Eph. 6:12); therefore, our weapons are not guns and grenades, but such things as truth, righteousness, the gospel, salvation, the word of God and faith (Eph. 6:14–17).

        Throughout history it has been people of faith who have stood against the enemies of God, remaining faithful even to death in fulfilling His purpose.

        By faith I do not refer to a set of doctrines.  Of course, doctrine (teaching) is part of one’s faith, but not its object.  Doctrine is not an end in itself, but should lead us to a knowledge of God and faith in Him.

        There are people who can recite their church “creed” and all its main doctrines, but who still haven’t faith to trust God in the difficult times of their lives.  They see faith as belief in certain things such as baptism, communion, tithing, and church attendance.  As important as these are, they are the results of faith, a “faith that works through love” (Gal. 5:6).  Faith itself is far greater than all these things combined.

        God cannot be reduced to a creed, whether from Nicea, Trent, Westminster or any other religious council.  God cannot be completely defined, nor does He require us to understand everything He has done or is doing or will do in the future.  We do not need to know the future and what God’s next move will be in order to serve and glorify Him in daily activities.

His Purpose

        From the beginning, God purposed to have man in His own image (Gen. 1:26) and instructed Adam and Eve so that they might live in fulfillment of that purpose.  They failed to trust His purpose and tried to establish a purpose of their own, which brought their downfall (Gen. 3:4–6).  It is only the Creator’s purpose that ultimately can prevail.  Faith is to believe that He is working toward that purpose, in spite of all the developments to the contrary (Phil. 2:13; Rom. 8:28).

        In doing this, He must cause a change in those who are to be part of the final product.  Jesus, John and the apostles all preached, “Repent!” which is to say, “Change, turn around.”  The Creator is not merely giving help and encouragement to make life easier for man to go on following his own way of error, which leads to destruction.  Popular slogans, such as “Let go and let God,” “Prayer changes things” and “Smile, God loves you,” lead many people to adopt a shallow and fatal concept of their relationship to God.  They set their own goals, thinking that if they can only enlist God’s help, they can certainly accomplish their purpose.  But instead, if they are sincere about asking God’s help, they may find greater obstacles.  When God is asked to take part, He may want the subject to go in a completely different direction.  True faith is to believe that God’s purpose is far better than any other we could devise and turns one toward that purpose.

More Precious Than Gold

        When we see the foundations of our culture being shaken and the superstructure of morals and values crumbling, we may ask, ‘Why does God allow this?  Why doesn’t He do something?”  We don’t like to be disturbed out of comfort and ease and want God to restore the good times.  But the work of God is to transform us into His image, not to relieve us of all responsibility and difficulty.  It is in the crisis that He breaks our hardened habits and changes our stubborn character.

        During the evil days of the decline and collapse of the Roman Empire, Peter wrote,” ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”  Whatever the fiery trial may be, faith sees in it the hand of God, clearing away the dross of greed, pride and selfish desire, that a new creature may be formed to reflect His purity as seen in Jesus (I John 3:2,3).

        In the parable of the wheat and tares, the faithful servants wanted to pull up the tares (darnel, which closely resembles wheat), but the owner said, “Let them both grow together, lest while you gather up the weeds, you also uproot the wheat.  Let them both grow together until the harvest” (Matt. 13:29).

        This is where faith is put to the test, to live in a manner that is despised by the world, a life that is designed to please God rather than that which is “politically correct.”  The greater one grows in that faith, the more he will be subjected to the enmity of the world.

        The world’s hostility to Christians is intensified when by faith we accept Christ’s statement that a harvest is coming, in which the ungodly are to be taken like the tares and destroyed by fire (Matt. 13:30,42; II Peter 3:7–10).  But by the same faith we look for vindication for all who have put their trust in God through His Son Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:7; Rom. 2:7–10).

Not Alone

        A few years ago Christians were shocked in disbelief when Francis Schaeffer said that we were living in a “post–Christian” world.  For so long we had taken for granted that this is a Christian nation; we assumed that Christian values would always be recognized and would prevail.  But Schaeffer was right.  The commandments of God are held as tenets of archaic superstition, and the idea of judgment is a joke.  It is social suicide to stand against the “political correct” standard of the world, and Christians are obviously despised by the ruling powers of the arts, education and government.

        Confronted with such hostility one might feel as did Elijah, when he cried out, “I, even I only am left” (I Kings 19:10).  But God understood Elijah’s despair and revealed that he was not alone even though isolated from the other seven thousand faithful ones.  God demonstrated His own concern for Elijah by providing food and water and a time for him to rest before continuing his mission.

        Faith is the confidence that God is still with us in the worst of times.  When Paul wrote the Corinthian letters, the Christians in Corinth were surrounded by pagans with the same corrupt morals so popular today.  Yet he wrote that God “always leads us in triumph in Christ” (II Cor. 2:14).  Always?  Even when the diagnosis is cancer?  Even when I’ve just been laid off from work?  Even when I’ve been falsely charged by a corrupt court system?

        Yes, Always.  He is leading us to triumph, just as in the case of Stephen when he was being stoned to death by the Jews; just as He was leading Paul when he was being chased out of town, and later delivered to prison in Rome.  In all of these things, God is leading to the ultimate goal, that we might be conformed to His image (II Cor. 3:18).  He never becomes so involved in the weighty matters of nations in turmoil that He has to abandon His purpose for even one of His children (Rom. 8:29).  “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for me.”

        In the world there is tribulation and suffering (John 16:33; Rom. 8:18–23).  But faith says that the goal is worth it.  “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)  He will supply all things we need to reach the goal.

        “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).

        “Stand therefore…taking up the shield of faith” (Eph. 6:14–16).

 

THE DYNAMICS OF RELIGION

Harry R. Miller

        From the standpoint of the creature, worship is the vital element in any form of religion.  Any religion that does not move men to worship is a dead, stark naked affair: a mere sham, a mockery.  Ritualism, pageantry, ceremonies, rites, liturgy — these can become the deadest of religious forms.  If these THINGS (which, after all, are but the mere trappings of religion) inspire no spirit of worship in the hearts of the believers, then such religion is vain, and it becomes an empty travesty – a mockery.  If such religion is practiced in the name of the God of heaven, it can actually be a form of blasphemy.

        Worship is the human dynamic in any form of religion; it is the highest function of the soul.  Nothing else secures the attention, the devotion, the complete prostration of the soul as does true worship.  The degree of the intensity of worship is determined by the extent of the dedication and heart–surrender of the worshipper.

        In worship the soul contemplates that which is idolized.  Its peculiar response is to love and adore.  So fervent can these expressions of devotion become that the worshipper may often gaze in semi–breathless adoration. David was familiar with such worship, for in numbers of his Psalms he says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”

        There are specific acts of worship; but the faithful worshipper lives a life of devotion which at times actually becomes a “living sacrifice.”

        The second element in the dynamics of religion is INSPIRATION.  This is an element that is completely above and apart from human control.  The prophets of old were INSPIRED.  Both the good and the evil were inspired.  The witch of Endor was actually an inspired spiritualistic medium.  The “certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination” (Acts 16:16) was inspired.

        So, also, was Herod inspired when he gave his great oration (Acts 12:21).  Herod was an ego worshipper; he loved himself and was so proud of himself that God struck the miserable wretch down with a loathsome fatal disease.

        The perverts spoken of in Romans 1:20–29 are “creature” worshippers who have changed “the truth of God into a lie.”  Such people are inspired.  They are dominated by an uncontrollable drive that makes them behave like beasts.

        Those who “turn the truth of God into a lie” are found under many different forms of satanic INSPIRATION.  The dyed–in–the–wool communist is actually a fanatically religious man.  Although he would vehemently deny all religion, he is a worshipper and does not recognize the fact.  Such a character bows down at the shrine of hate and arises filled with murderous inspirations.  The mass–murderer Stalin sought to destroy God.  He destroyed countless millions of God–fearing people; he broke up homes by changing marriage customs and filial ties; he fought righteousness and truth on every hand.  This man, too, was a worshipper.  His shrine was self; his altar, hate; and his god, terror.  Was he not inspired?

        And that Austrian paper–hanger with the Charlie Chaplin mustache: who would say he was not inspired?

        What is it that supplies the DRIVES for the many pseudo–scientists who are forever trying to make God out a liar?  Those anthropologists who search out a few bones to prove(?) the existence of pre–historic man are INSPIRED men; yet they may not be aware of it.  The “world famous” psychologist, Dr. H.D. Tawney, experimenting in what he called “hypnotic age regression” was also an INSPIRED scientist.  He, too, was trying to prove the Bible to be nothing but a lot of fiction and fables.  The “Bridey Murphy experiment” was merely another satanic–INSPIRED attempt to make God a liar.  Most of those would–be scientists were worshippers of the ego, and had fallen victim to the old trick of the familiar spirits who gave them inspiration.

        All idolaters of yesterday and of today are INSPIRED as they WORSHIP.  Demons are great movers of the physical senses, and inspiration of this sort is close at hand to any individual who ignores the laws of the spirit.  Religious fanatics of Voodooism, or of Pentecostalism, are inspired in their emotional religious devotions.  Demons bring on the jerks, the shakes, the fantastic distortions of the body, and the muttering and spirit–gibberish.  Such people are usually unstable souls, and their lives are not a credit to any Christian society.  The fruit of the tree is the greatest proof of its nature.

        A genuine Christian also knows INSPIRATION, but his inspiration is from the Spirit of the Lord and not from demons.  Real lovers of Christ are not showing off their love in public places.  In the secret closet, behind a shut door, they have their sweet communion with their Lord.  In ecstasy of soul they may see a vision of Christ, and may even speak in the unknown tongue.

        A public demonstration of love between husband and wife should never be a deeply intimate sort.  If it is, then it is disgusting to all rational observers.  Common sense tells us that strong affection should never be displayed in public places; yet many religious people run to and fro, seeking a public service where they can show off their devotion to God.  Are they actually seeking to WORSHIP God, or are they looking for the EMOTIONAL REWARDS of seeking God in a public place?

        Genuine worship is the highest act of the soul, the most sacred expression of which mankind is capable; it is nothing to be treated lightly or exercised in the midst of a lot of howling idiots.  When the soul is turned toward God there is a far deeper expression than that of human love.  The soul adores and worships the Creator.  This is a most sacred act, and is certainly nothing for the eyes of the public to behold.

        In private devotion there is no place for hypocrisy.  No one is there to be “impressed;” therefore, sincerity and truth are more easily found in the secret chamber of prayer.  Here, too, before the eyes of God alone, the heart is laid bare, and a clearness of purpose governs one’s supplications.  When the heart is bared in privacy before God there is no danger of demon inspiration or possession, for the complete act is carried out in truth and righteousness.  The great men of God, spoken of in the Scriptures, SAW the Lord in sweet communion WHEN THEY WERE ALONE.

        Those who chase around from one REVIVAL meeting to another seeking spiritual thrills are essentially shallow souls who have no true idea of what it is to drink of the fountain of Living Water.

        None of the true prophets of ancient days spent their nights in religious shindigs, neither did they gallivant about seeking the bright lights of another BIG campaign!  These men of God sought quietness of spirit and depth of character that they might have what is needed to contemplate the Almighty.

        BEWARE lest all that you are seeking in religion is EMOTION.  Demons will satisfy such a craving and give you plenty of excitement that they might bring you into the bondage of corruption.  A true child of God loves the Lord for what He is, and ever prepares his heart and life that he might please the Lord.  Such a person will “see God,” for this is promised to “the pure in heart.”  And when any man SEES GOD, he is completely satisfied; nothing else in heaven or in earth is so complete as this heavenly revelation.

HEAVEN

Randall Walton

        We recently received a letter from a reader who wanted to know about the future abode of God’s people.  Since there seem to be a number of theories on the subject, he did not know which theory to believe, and he asked us for our view on this interesting topic.

        There are two main fundamental beliefs about the eternal abode of God’s people, which stated briefly are these: 1) God will renovate this planet and establish His people here upon the earth forevermore (Jehovah’s Witnesses say a select 144,000 will live in heaven and the rest will live on the earth).  2) God will take His people to heaven to live with Him forevermore (The Mormons believe that each male “saint” will be given his own planet to inhabit, populate and preserve).

        Of the two main views, People of the Living God embrace the second one, i.e., that God will translate all of His people to heaven where they will abide for eternity.

The Promise Of Eternal Life

        The Scriptures are replete with God’s commitment to His creation to provide Eternal Life to a certain class of people:

        John 3:16: “that whosoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

        Titus 1:2: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”

        John 5:24: “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.”

        John 6:40: “everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.”

        John 6:54: “whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life.”

        John 6:58: “he that eateth this bread shall live forever.”

        There are many more which attest to this same theme: eternal life is incompatible with this present state of existence.  Paul states that “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

        This “change” which all saints will undergo is a complete alteration in substance, for Paul said that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50).  He also declared that Jesus will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21).

        The glorified body of Jesus is of an entirely different nature than these earthly flesh and blood carcasses.  After His resurrection and before He “ascended up on high,” He showed Himself to be insensible to earthly, natural things: not that He was totally unaware of material objects, but He was not limited to nor by these objects.  For example, His disciples were gathered behind closed doors when He abruptly appeared among them (John 20:26).  Doors and walls presented no barrier for Him.  Yet He prepared a dinner of fish and bread for them after having told them where their catch of fish awaited their nets (John 21:6–12).

        This supernormal body which Paul calls His “glorious body,” or the body of His glory, is really acclimated to that heavenly or spiritual realm which is the state/place to which He ascended when His disciples saw Him leave.  This is not to say He could not exist or survive in this environment, but it is to say that there is nothing in this cosmos or order of things which appeals to, nor can satisfy the nature of that glorious existence.

        Paul makes a fair comparison of these two distinct states of being in II Cor. 4:18: “we look not at the things which are seen, (the earthly, material, visible world), but at the things which are not seen(the heavenly, spiritual, invisible): for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal”!

        The eternal realities then belong to the realm of the unseen: since we are to inherit eternal life and receive a glorified body such as Jesus possessed, it is most reasonable that we should be translated to that state/place which is appropriate with the state of immortality and incorruptibility, and that place is heaven.  “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (I Cor. 15:42–49).

        Also, this poor old planet will not be habitable much longer: “Heaven and earth shall PASS AWAY, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).  The word heaven here refers not to the heavenly abode of the living God, but to the atmosphere and the visible system of the sun, moon, stars and planets which are associated with it.  “Thou Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same” (Heb. 1:10–12).

        “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (II Pet. 3:7).

        “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; IN THE WHICH the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).

        “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was no place found for them” (Rev. 20:11).

        “for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished” (Isa. 51:6).

        Since the saints will receive immortality (eternal life) and this old globe will go up in flames, there is only one place for them to go and that is up, up where their maker is.

“So Shall We Ever Be With The Lord”

        The above words are in I Thess. 4:17 where Paul is describing the events which surround Jesus’ second advent, which, of course, occurs at the last day.  He states that both the saints who are alive and those who are resurrected will together meet the Lord in the clouds, in the air and will remain with Him forever.

        There are many other instances which affirm this wonderful truth: that they will be with the Lord forevermore:

        “I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2,3).  And where is this place where He is preparing “a place” for His own?  “In my Father’s house.”  His house is certainly not here on this earth!

        “Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet.  Heaven is my throne, and earth is my FOOTSTOOL: what house will ye build me?” (Acts 7:48,49)  “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21).  And, where is the Father’s throne?  “Heaven is my throne”!

        Again and again, Jesus referred to His “Father which is in heaven.”  There are many other verses which state that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father.  Also, Paul says in Ephesians 6:9 “that your Master also is in heaven.”  And we are to be with Him there forever (Not for a mere 3½ or seven years).

Our Citizenship Is In Heaven

        In Philippians 3:20 Paul tells us that “our citizenship (Greek) is in heaven; from whence also we look for our Saviour.”

        Since we are citizens of that heavenly kingdom why should it seem odd that we would go there to live?  Our names are recorded there on the roll book of glory (Luke 10:20; Heb. 12:23; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 21:27), and we should anticipate that glorious day when God’s eternal plan is finished.  (Note: the saints do not go to heaven when they die physically.  Immortality is reserved for the day of resurrection from the dead.)

        Every person who walks with God is a pilgrim and stranger on this earth and, like Abraham of old, is “looking for a heavenly country and a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:8–16).

Our Rewards And Treasures Are In Heaven

        “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20,21).

        What kind of treasure can we lay up in heaven?  Certainly not material, physical, earthly possessions!  He is speaking of spiritual values or qualities, those qualities of divine character which are everlasting and which we can claim when we have times of trial, turmoil, trouble and tribulation.  The prerogatives of the divine nature are priceless, but are real if our hearts are devoted to those things rather than the mundane, earthly things.  Most Christians have their priorities mixed up.  Their first interests are concerned with making a living, providing a way of life for a family, being entertained, etc.  If they have any time left after all of those other things are taken care of, then they will serve(?) the Lord.  Heavenly treasures are not a part of their thinking.

        “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect (mature, complete), go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 12:21).

        “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:5).

        “And took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb. 10:34).

        “To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet. 1:4).

        The weight of evidence lies on the side of our being inheritors of eternal life with God in heaven, a blessed inheritance which we will be honored to receive when Jesus comes back to judge the world in righteousness and to receive His people unto Himself.

        “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, And time shall be no more,

        And the morning breaks eternal, bright and fair,

        When the saints of God shall gather, over on the other shore,

        And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”*

This is the hope which is laid up for us in heaven.  I am planning to be there; are you?

* From When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder  by James M. Black

THE FURNACE

Harold Scullin

        A furnace is an instrument that produces extreme heat that will melt iron, brass, copper, gold, silver.  The fire is the refining element.  This extreme heat is used to refine, to purify, to burn out the impurities in the metal.  The dictionary defines REFINED as to be free from all moral imperfections; to be delivered from that which is weak and vulgar; to reach a state of purity, holiness; to be perfect.

        The Scripture asks the question, “who may abide the day of his coming and who shall stand when he appeareth, for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap” (Malachi 3:2).

        This refining process is excruciatingly painful.  The majority of the people that acknowledge the Lord Jesus as their Saviour will not submit to this refining process.  The Scripture states that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).

        I Peter 3:20 helps us to understand the meaning of FEW.  “Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water.”

        The Scriptures state that the Lord had informed Israel that He had “chosen them in a furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10).  AFFLICTION has to do with pain, suffering, discomfort, to be tormented physically, mentally and spiritually.  Israel so walked in the flesh, they complained constantly; they were not thankful to the Lord for delivering them from Egypt, leading them and providing for them.  II Chronicles 36:15,16 states, “The Lord sent his messengers unto them, they mocked the messengers, despised His words, misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”

        They did not want the furnace of affliction.  They lost the call of God.

        Consider the life of Abraham.  He was a devoted individual to the Lord.  He so loved the Lord that he put Him first in every situation that required a choice.  The word of the Lord came to Abraham, “Take thy son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him for an offering” (Gen. 22:1–14).  He rose early in the morning, took two young men with him and Isaac, his son, and gathered some wood for the offering.  He then went to the place which God had told him.  He did not question the voice of God; it was the same voice that he had heard on other occasions.  He crucified his flesh, his emotions, his feelings, his fleshly desires; he was determined to obey the command of the Lord.  He loved his son, but he loved the Lord supreme.  On the way up the mountain, Isaac spoke to his father “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?”  At no place or time did Abraham express how he felt or what his thoughts were.  His reply to Isaac was, “The Lord will provide Himself with a lamb.”  No doubt he was praying desperately for grace and strength to fulfill his mission.

        “The furnace of affliction.”  Abraham’s faithfulness to the will of God has ministered to multitudes of saints.  The three Hebrew children refused to bow down or to serve the Babylonian gods.  The fact that they were cast into the fiery furnace speaks very strongly of their devotion and surrender to the Word of God.  He was first and supreme in their lives: they would not consider compromise (Dan. 3:8–28).

        Daniel, another faithful servant of the Lord, was tried by the furnace of affliction.  Daniel stood alone in his trial against the Babylonian king and his demands to not petition any god for thirty days.  Daniel understood the penalty if he refused to obey the command of the king.  He stood immoveable; he would not compromise.

        He testified from the lion’s den to King Darius, “My God hath sent his angels and shut the mouths of the lions; they have not hurt me.  Forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me, and also before thee, O King, have I done no harm” (Dan. 6:16–22).

        What a Testimony!  How many professing Christians would stand faithful today in such a trial?

        In Psalm 12:6, David writes of a Furnace of Earth; “The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in the furnace of earth, purified seven times.”  As the Word of God finds an entrance into our hearts, into our carnal nature, into our minds, a conflict arises.  This carnal nature does not want to be purified “seven times.”  Our flesh resists yielding to the commands of Jesus.  The Word of the Lord is being tried, purified seven times.  A choice has to be made!  To do nothing about this situation or condition will result in a guilty verdict.

        Consider the following Scriptures in the light of your responsibility to make a choice.  ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely for my sake” (Mat. 5:11).  “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you” (Matt. 5:44).  “And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:14).

        We read in the Scripture that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).  This Scripture verse tells us that Christians in 2010 must meet issues as the early saints we have written about.  It is costly to serve and walk with Jesus.  “Whosoever, he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).  “All that he hath!

        “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37).  “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:38).

        Jesus has no favorites.  The cost is the same for all in all periods of time.

        “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).  “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24).  “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).

        Let the Word of God crucify your flesh.  When in doubt regarding truth, seek the Lord for His mind, remain humble and contrite before the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let the Holy Spirit witness to you as to what is truth.  He will not witness to error.  The crucifixion of the flesh is a very important part of the refining process.  “But the Lord hath taken and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are now” (Deut. 4:20).  “An iron furnace out of Egypt.”  Egypt is a type of the world.  Iron is hard, unfeeling, unbending, cold, not pliable, which describes the spirit of the world.  We praise and thank the Lord Jesus that He has delivered us from such a condition.  “He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we hid as it were our faces from him, He is despised and we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  He was wounded for our transgression, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:3–5).

        Jesus can only minister with material that is soft, yielded, pliable, and surrendered.

EXPOSITION NEEDS APPLICATION

A.W. Tozer

        Charles G. Finney believed that Bible teaching without moral application could be worse than no teaching at all and could result in positive injury to the hearers.  I used to feel that this might be an extreme position, but after years of observation I have come around to it, or to a view almost identical with it.

        There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake.  Truth divorced from life is not truth in its Biblical sense, but something else and something less.  Theology is a set of facts concerning God, man and the world.  These facts may be and often are set forth as values in themselves; and therein lies the snare both for the teacher and for the hearer.

        The Bible is, among other things, a book of revealed truth.  That is, certain facts are revealed that could not be discovered by the most brilliant mind.  These facts are of such a nature as to be past finding out.  They were hidden behind a veil, and until certain men who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost took away that veil, no mortal man could know them.  This lifting of the veil of unknowing from undiscoverable things we call divine inspiration.

        The Bible, however, is more than a volume of hitherto unknown facts about God, man and the universe.  It is a book of exhortation based upon those facts.

        By far the greater portion of the Bible is devoted to an urgent effort to persuade people to alter their ways and bring their lives into harmony with the will of God as set forth by divine inspiration.

        God in the beginning created the heaven and the earth.  The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot.  No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that He gave His only begotten Son to die for their redemption.  In hell there are millions who know that.  Theological truth is wholly useless until it is obeyed.  The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.

        What is generally overlooked is that truth as set forth in the Christian Scriptures is a moral thing; it is not addressed to the intellect only but to the will also.  It addresses the total man, and its obligations cannot be discharged by grasping it mentally.  Truth engages the citadel of the human heart and is not satisfied until it has conquered everything there.  The will must come forth and surrender its sword.  It must stand at attention to receive orders, and those orders it must joyfully obey.  Short of this, any knowledge of Christian truth is inadequate and unavailing.

        Bible exposition without moral application raises no opposition.  It is only when the hearer is made to understand that truth is in conflict with his heart that resistance sets in.  As long as people can hear orthodox truth divorced from life they will attend and support churches and institutions willingly enough.  The truth is a lovely song, become sweet by long and tender association; and since it asks nothing but a few dollars, and offers good music, pleasant friendships and a comfortable sense of well–being, it meets with no resistance from the faithful.  Much that passes for New Testament Christianity is little more than objective truth sweetened with song and made palatable by religious entertainment.

        Probably no other portion of the Scriptures can compare with the Pauline Epistles when it comes to making artificial saints.  Peter warned that the unlearned and the unstable would wrest Paul’s writings to their own destruction, and we have only to visit the average Bible conference and listen to a few lectures on Romans to know what he meant.

        The ominous thing is that the Pauline doctrines may be taught with complete faithfulness to the letter of the text without making the hearers one whit the better.  The teacher may and often does so teach the truth as to elicit only one response: “So what?”

        One reason for the divorce between truth and life may be lack of the Spirit’s illumination.  Another surely is the teacher’s unwillingness to get himself into trouble.  Any man with fair pulpit gifts can get on with the average congregation if he just “feeds” them and lets them alone.  Give them plenty of objective truth and never hint that they are wrong and should be set right, and they will be content.

        On the other hand, the man who preaches truth and applies it to the lives of his hearers will feel the nails and the thorns.  He will lead a tough life, but a glorious one.  May God raise up many such prophets.  The Church needs them badly.

                                                        (The Alliance Weekly)

ONENESS

Randall Walton

        The word “oneness” has many synonyms, such as individuality, singleness, and unity, all of which indicate ONE in number.  However, there is such a thing as compound oneness where any number of objects or persons can be considered an integral part of the whole.  A classic example of this is found in our use of the word body.

        It is proper to speak of a group or a company of people as a “body,” which body is made up of many “bodies.”  Yet all these bodies form but one composite body.  Thus, it is possible to have 5,000 people (or more) who comprise the oneness of a single body.

        Brother Paul offered the premise that there is but ONE BODY (Eph. 4:4), and it is evident that his reference is to the body of Christ, or the church, which is made up of possibly millions of people worldwide.  From causal observation it seems as if there are several hundred bodies rather than one because of the multiplicity of religious organizations, most all of which claim to be the sole representative of the Living God.

        It is not the purpose of this article to determine which religious bodies are a part of THE Body of Jesus Christ; it is the responsibility of each respective organization to evaluate itself in this regard.

        However, it is appropriate that we soberly consider the fact that there is little or no ONENESS among all these many groups which claim to be THE Body, or at least a part or segment of that “one body.”  Why?

Doctrine Is Not The Basis For “Oneness”

        It is a well known fact that there is more strength and power in a unified body or company than in one which is fragmented or is torn by strife and division: “every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25b).  Wise men have recognized this infallible truth and have taken steps to create a semblance of unity or oneness.  Sad to say, their efforts have been directed in the wrong channel.

        Supposing that doctrinal belief would be the rallying cry to produce unity, men have vainly written their creeds and statements of faith in an effort to polarize a coterie of followers all pledged to uphold and defend their respective creed.  History proves how fruitless this procedure has been.  Not only is there a glaring absence of unity, there has been an ever–increasing number of splinter groups which have separated themselves from the parent group, and which have in turn suffered the fracturing process as disagreement over insignificant doctrinal opinions has crept in.

        Consider briefly some of the doctrinal issues which have pitted family members against each other and have helped produce new denominations:

       1.  The Godhead.

        There are three main doctrinal views of the makeup of the Godhead, as follows:

        a.  Jesus Only: Jesus is both the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the spirit of Jesus.

        b.  Duality: Jesus and the Father are separate entities, and the Holy Spirit is the Father’s divine expression, but not a personal being.

        c.  Trinity: The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three distinct Beings.  Some assert that Jesus and the Father are co–equal, while others state that the Father is superior to Jesus.

        Added to all this confusion is the belief by some that Jesus is God while others contend He is merely the Son of God.

       2.  The State of the Dead

        a.  Those who die remain in an unconscious condition until the day of resurrection.

        b.  Those who die are separated from their bodies: their souls remain in a conscious state, the wicked ones going to hades, the saved ones going to heaven.  (Some say the saved go to Paradise rather than heaven.)

       3.  Water Baptism.

        a.  By sprinkling or pouring

        b.  By immersion

        c.  In running water (a creek or river)

        d.  Any water – a lake or a baptistery in a building or a swimming pool

        These are but a few of the dozens of differing tenets of faith, all of which have been extremely instrumental in fragmenting the Body of Christ and contributing to the pitiful lack of harmony and unity which we witness today.

        But Jesus Christ and His shed blood should be the catalyst to bind the people of God into that one body.  No doctrine has ever saved anyone, nor can a doctrine in and of itself save anyone.  Only Jesus, the Saviour, can save a poor lost sinner.  Why, then, should we make doctrinal belief the basis of fellowship with others?

The True Basis of “Oneness”

        Since doctrinal belief alone cannot condemn nor save, it is most evident that this is the wrong standard by which to evaluate others.  This is not to say that there are not some dangerous doctrines afloat in the religious world, but most candid and thinking people can discern between the good and the bad.

        But as followers of Jesus Chris, we need to sharpen our focus upon Him and His finished work of redemption for us on the Cross.  Anyone who denies that the Blood of Jesus is efficacious for man’s sins should be considered an enemy of our Lord.  Also, anyone who proclaims that he or she is God, or who espouses the idea of using deadly weapons to overcome their foes should be looked upon as heretical and fallen from grace.

        But our unity with others should not be based upon whether our views of things are exactly alike, or whether we concur upon every point which is taught.  As individual pilgrims on a long arduous journey, we are at different levels of learning, progression and development and our comprehension of the Scriptures is not all the same.  However, it is wrong to allow these opinionated views to separate and divide us.

        “Is Christ divided?” (I Cor. 1:13) Paul asked.  Of course not, we reply.  But His professed followers certainly are.  This fact is not only a disgrace to the kingdom of God, it is a bad testimony to the world.  We should be able to call ourselves Christians without having to explain which kind of Christian we are and why.

        This, then, should be the nucleus of our commonwealth or brotherhood:

        1.  We believe in the Blood of Jesus as our right to salvation (forgiveness and cleansing of sin).

        2.  We believe in the Bible as the Holy Word of God.

        3.  We adhere to the high principles of morality, love, and clean living.

        Above and beyond these points there is little, if any thing, which brethren should allow to separate and divide them.  True, there are specific doctrines and teachings which all of us hold inviolate; we would feel we were compromising if we gave up certain tenets of beliefs, but if the people of God are ever going to be “of one accord (Acts 2:1), they must realize that agreement on doctrinal issues do not produce oneness, or unity.

Jesus Prayed For Oneness

        In Jesus’ prayer to the Father, which is recorded in John 17, He implored His Father that His followers would become ONE.

        Verse 11: “that they may be one, as we are.”

        Verse 21: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:”

        Verse 22: “that they may be one, even as we are one.”

        Verse 23: “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one;”

        The evidence is clear: Jesus desired that there would be perfect oneness among His followers, Himself, and the Father.  It is plain that He was referring to a spiritual oneness, not one of doctrinal preference.  The unity He spoke of was the very essence of love: “for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24) “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

        There can never be any unity among the people of God until and unless there is love.  The love between Jesus and the Father was so intense that it were as if they were one person.  It was the love that Jesus had for His Father that impelled Him to do nothing except His Father’s will, exclusively and totally.  It was this same unfathomable love for His creation that sent Jesus to give His impeccable life as a ransom for unworthy mankind.  It is no wonder Jesus could say, “as we are one.”  Not one person, being, or entity, but one in perfect unity, harmony, love and devotion.

        We cannot know God well until we can know His glorious character and nature.  Only as we become lost in His munificent love can we start to realize how superficial and insignificant dogma and doctrine are, comparatively speaking.  This divine love is the adhesive which bonds God’s people to Him and to each other.

        And without it, all religious activity is vain and empty: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels – and have not love – I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, – and have not love – I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned – and have not love – it profiteth me nothing” (I Cor. 13:1–13)!

        The scarcity of love among professing Christians is no secret.  There is outright hatred, animosity, rivalry, and competition between and among believers, which things ought not to be.  A great reformation is needed in the ranks of true Christian believers, a reformation so great and powerful that lives will be changed and the genuine love of the Father will flow like a mighty river through the hearts and inner beings of the people of God.

That They All May Be One

        The Father will surely see to it that His blessed Son’s prayer will be fulfilled.  For nearly 2,000 years the church has led a selfish, self–centered existence, but it is obvious that a change is on the way.

        It may be necessary that the Father will resort to harsh disciplinary measures in order to persuade His “body” to set aside their grievances toward each other and practice loving one another.  If this is what it takes to get the job done, we say “let it come,” even though we prefer to see it come about because the people so desire it.

        It is a fact that in times of persecution and hard trials people tend to lay aside their personal differences and stand together in a semblance of unity.  Are we so calloused and ingrained in our doctrinal positions that adversity is necessary to shake us from our pallid smugness before we can accept others as a part of the Body of Jesus Christ, even though they don’t agree with our own set of beliefs?  God forbid!

        This is not a call for people to reject their doctrinal positions.  We are not suggesting that everyone neutralize themselves doctrinally in order to fellowship with others.  Not so!  This is a call to put first things first, and to put a stop to the divisions, separateness, and exclusionary practices which presently dominate the religious landscape, and contribute to the powerlessness of a weakened and emaciated church.

        It is time for all of us to examine ourselves to determine whether we cling to a particular group of people because we agree with them doctrinally, or whether it is because we are drawn to them with impassioned love.  If doctrinal agreement is the only “tie that binds,” the cord isn’t very strong: a good brisk wind will blow it away.  But if divine love has been the driving impetus within your soul, you cannot be moved!  In the time of trouble, you will remain “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

        To this end we must dedicate ourselves, our efforts, our time, our resources.  As people of God we are commanded to love each other, and that includes all who are members of the family or household of God.  The need is urgent, the hour is late, the cause is God’s: “forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2,3).

        “By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

PAGANISM IN THE CHURCH

Randall Walton

        It is an astonishing fact that many paganistic traditions and practices have been introduced into what we call Christianity, or the Christian religion.  Without questioning the validity of their religious rites, millions of people periodically prostrate themselves before their pagan altars to go through what they consider to be an honor to the Living God.  Little do they realize that they fail to Christianize their heathen holidays by attaching Christian symbols and slogans to them.

        It surely makes sense that every religious rite or practice should have its roots in the Bible.  If it is not Scriptural or has no Biblical precedence, its credibility is brought into question.  Why should followers of Jesus Christ adhere to any ceremonial ritual which cannot be found in the Holy Scriptures?  And the observance of Jesus’ birthday by the early church is profoundly absent from the Bible record.

        Many people protest that His birth was so outstandingly important that we are obligated to its observance irrespective of what the Bible says.  But we object to this on the basis of our not knowing WHEN He was born.  We cannot correctly set aside a day for His birth because we do not know that day.  It seems logical that if God intended for His people to observe the date of Jesus’ birth, He would have given some precise evidence about the occurrence of that day.  But that evidence is sorely lacking.  All we know for sure is that it did not take place in December!

Pagans’ Saturnalia

        Anyone who will take the time to consult an encyclopedia can find out for himself the origin of the many pagan festivals which were held in honor of their many gods and goddesses.  One of the chief deities of the ancient pagans was the sun god who was responsible for the seasons, for furnishing light and heat and who was looked upon as the ruler of the universe.  From the day of the summer solstice (about June 21) to the day of the winter solstice (December 21) daylight hours were becoming shorter.  Every passing day meant their god was visible for a shorter period of time.

        But when December 21 arrived, each day was lengthened by a few minutes and the great god would be visible with more light and more heat to bless his worshippers.  This was cause for a mighty celebration, a rip–roaring, pull–all–the–stops, drunken orgy, and was held on the 25th of that cold and dreary December.  Of course, the pagans had a weekly celebration of the sun and it was held on their holy day which was named SUNDAY, the first day of the week.  Why Christians chose SUNday for a day of worship, is one of the greatest mysteries of all time! (more paganism)

        According to secular and religious history, Christ–mass was established and the date set by the great pontiff of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, a right it claims is hers by apostolic authority.  Roman Catholics have some legitimacy for observing Christ–mass, but do Protestants?  None whatsoever!

Pagan Rituals

        Nearly every activity connected with the observance of Xmas has been stolen from the pagans, from the decorated evergreen trees to mistletoe, gift–giving, yule logs, etc.  The center of attraction at this time is not Jesus Christ but trees and presents to others.  When any person’s birthday is observed, that person receives gifts in honor of the occasion, but for Jesus’ counterfeit birthday, He receives nothing!  He is barely, if at all, mentioned, except in sentimental songs, some of which give as much glory to Rudolph, the reindeer, and Saint Claus, as to Him.

        And we have the nerve to call this un–Christian celebration the birthday of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Substitutes

        It is strange that the majority of professing Christians blindly accept traditional practices as bona fide religious observances.  It is a fact that most of these traditions were adopted from the pagans by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and were passed on through the “reformers” to the present day.  Mankind is impressed by pageantry, heraldry, and gaudy celebrations.  The more of this kind of activity, the better he likes it – it becomes entertainment with a religious flavor and fervor which helps to numb his spiritual sensibility.

        Jesus declared to His eleven disciples at His Ascension that they were to go everywhere, to every nation, and teach everyone, in every nation, that they were to OBSERVE everything which He had commanded them to do!!  There are millions today who believe that He commissioned those men to go only to the Jews, thereby relegating the words of Jesus to a bygone era.  Paul, they tell us, had the message for us Gentiles.  This is, of course, one of the biggest lies to have been foisted off on an unsuspecting and gullible populace at any time.

        When Jesus sent these men with the message which He gave them, He meant exactly what He said: “teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19) (nations = ethnos (Greek), meaning races; “to every creature” (Mark 16:15); “among all nations” (races) (Luke 24:47); “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

        Modern men of the cloth have substituted the commands of Jesus with pomp, pageantry, and paganism, activities which appeal to and appease carnal men (and women).  The stark reality of the commands of Jesus cause rebellious souls to hide themselves with the fig leaves of dispensationism and religiosity.  O, what fun it is to watch the kid’s portrayal of the Christ child in the manger while the cardboard angels and animals look on in bewilderment at the questionable activities.

        The Sermon on the Mount has been replaced with a “do–nothing” faith which embraces egg–laying rodents and SUN–rising services in the style of our pagan ancestors who didn’t know any better.  Glory and honor are laid at the feet of the fat man with the white beard, but Jesus must wait for a future mystical utopia before He is granted glory and honor from His professed worshippers.

        The age of substitutes is upon us: self–esteem instead of self–denial; pride rather than humility; worldliness in place of godliness; levity instead of solemnity; clamor in place of awesomeness; religion rather than righteousness; license in place of restraint.

        Impressionable children see through much of the sham, hypocrisy, and ludicrousness of the X–mas activities, a point which has probably had a great deal of influence on the shallowness of the Christian faith.  Christians are not as sincere and zealous in their devotion toward God as the Islamic people are toward Allah.  It is difficult to find Christians who diligently study the Word, or pray, or fast, or walk in obedience to the words of Jesus.  But, to be sure, they will all show up at Christmas time and Easter, and a few other times along the way to make sure they are not looked upon as heathen.  But to find the true worshipper, one must “go unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13).

        Some folks find it difficult to abstain from pagan practices when their families and friends are involved in them.  It is better to please God than people, because we must all give an account unto HIM for our actions and activities in this life.  However, one should be patient with others and refrain from condemnatory attitudes and statements.  The light of truth can be so bright as to become blinding to many souls.  We strongly recommend that people seek God and ask Him for guidance and direction in these things, lest their testimony become an offense rather than a help.  May God Bless You!

WE MUST SAFEGUARD RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Haven Bradford Gow

        According to Rabbi David Novak, author of In Defense of Religious Liberty (ISI Books, Wilmington, DE), religious freedom is under attack throughout the world today.

        As legal scholar David Gibbs, Jr. points out in One Nation Under God (Christian Law Assn., Seminole, Fla.), religious liberty likewise is coming under attack in the United states today: “A group of public school students in Illinois were told they would be expelled if they talked about Jesus in school…School officials in West Virginia placed a public school student in detention because she brought her Bible to school.  A student in Kentucky was told she could not place a Ten Commandments poster on her public school locker.  A Christian student in North Carolina was told he could not read his Bible, a book about the Constitution and Christian values, or even a Christian magazine at his public school.”

        In Kent, Washington, the high school student body council denied Christian students the right to form a Bible study group.  When the Christian students appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the appeal court judges upheld the decision of the student body council; the U.S. Supreme Court declined an appeal to rule on this matter.

        Recently in North Carolina, a federal judge ruled that county board commissioners no longer may open their meetings with prayer.  In his ruling pertaining to the Forsyth County board of commissioners, U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty, Jr. said: “The Supreme Court has also emphasized that such legislative prayers must not advance a particular faith or belief, because to do so would have the effect of affiliating the Government with that particular faith…in violation of the Establishment Clause.”  The ACLU of North Carolina had filed the suit on behalf of residents who said they were offended that the meetings began with Christian prayers.

        As the eminent conservative scholar/author Dr. Russell Kirk points out in The Conservative Constitution (Regnery), such Church–State decisions result from a misinterpretation of the First Amendment clauses pertaining to religion.  Dr. Kirk’s sentiments are buttressed by First Amendment scholar/attorney Matthew Staver in his book Eternal Vigilance (Broadman & Holman), who says “We have moved in many ways from the First Amendment’s intent to create religious prosperity and freedom to the allegation that the First Amendment is designed to mandate ‘that the government remain secular.’  History…supports the proposition that the First Amendment was meant to create religious prosperity – prohibiting government from intruding into religious matters but allowing religion to flourish in the public square.”

        An observation by Justice Joseph Story, who served on this nation’s High Court from 1811 to 1845, provides insight into the thinking of the founding Fathers regarding the First Amendment’s clauses concerning religion: “Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the amendment to it, the general, if not universal, sentiment in America was that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State, so far as encouragement was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.”

Many opponents of school prayer and the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance base their opposition on the argument that the Constitution demands we erect an impenetrable wall of separation between Church and State; but numerous facts contradict this notion:

*Public prayer and the acknowledgment of a Supreme Being long have been an important part of American life.  The Declaration of Independence affirms that “all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

*The President–elect takes the oath of office with his hand on the Bible; the standard form for oaths for sworn testimony contains the phrase, “so help me, God.”

*Each new session of the U.S. Supreme Court commences with the declaration, “God save the United States and this honorable court.”

        Indeed, even the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, well–known for his liberal judicial philosophy, observed in the 1952 case of Zorach vs. Clauson that “The First Amendment…does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State…Otherwise, the state and religion would be aliens to each other – hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly.”  He added, “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”

        The Founding Fathers intended the First Amendment, not to insulate society and the state from the influence of religion, but, rather, to preserve and protect religion and religious freedom; they understood that a society’s public morality depends upon a religious foundation, and that the wholesome influence of religion on private and public morality is essential to the survival of a free and civilized society; consequently, they wanted government to champion and defend religion and religious freedom.

WHAT IS A SECTARIAN?

 

        According to First Corinthians, chapter twelve: “God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which …And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, Then gifts of healings, helps,” etc.  Here we have Divine government, Divine order: yes, Divine Organization.

        Common sense tells us that any cooperative work must be organized  The camp of Isreal in the wilderness of Sinai was perfectly organized.  The service to Jehovah God in the Temple of Solomon was a superb work of Organization.  The “one hundred and twenty” who spoke with tongues on the day of Pentecost were a complete organization consisting respectively of officers and those who were not officers.  Got “Set” the church in order, and no church is “in order” without those who Rule

        Those things, then, are not sectarian: A membership, a denominational name, an organization.  These often contribute to sectarianism; but they, in themselves, are not sectism.

        When a church, or denomination, or group, uses certain doctrines, ordinances, or customs, as reasons for division between themselves and other saints, it is Sectarianism.  And such people are guilty of the crime spoken of in Galatians 5:20.  When a believer separates himself from other believers and refuses to fellowship with them because they do no approve his doctrinal beliefs or customs he is a Sectarian, and is guilty of a crime against the church of Christ.

        Difference of doctrinal opinion has been used as a cleaver to split the Christian Church.  It is no sin for people to have a difference of doctrinal opinion.  The Crime is when that opinion is used to separate believers.  Sectism is the act of using difference of doctrinal opinion as a weapon against Brethren.  No other sin has so separated, alienated, and even made enemies of believers.  Friendships have been severed, homes have been broken, and families scattered, because someone used difference of doctrinal opinion as a weapon against them.  Difference of doctrinal opinion has caused brother to betray brother to death, and children to rise against parents.

        An Open Bible and an open Pulpit would appear like a nightmare to the Sectarian, but to a non–sectarian it is a standard of Christian ministry.

          Sectarianism, much like Communism, has formulated rules and laws and has forced these human precepts upon men.  This is one cause of ecclesiastical bondage and tyranny.  Fellow Christians, let us cry for an open pulpit where doctrinal views can be discussed publicly and sanely when necessary.