People of The Living God

Psalms 149

 

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November 2011



 

TIMELY ADMONITION

Randall Walton

        Among many of the pertinent sayings of Jesus found in the four gospels is the alarmist word, “Watch!”  He cautioned His followers to be alert, awake, aware of contemporary events and trends in the political and religious arenas as well as in society itself.  He declared that there would be some catastrophic happenings which would be indicators of the nearness of the end, and He strongly advised His listeners to watch for those signal events.

        One does not need an extraordinary intelligence quotient to perceive that circumstances in the affairs of mankind have radically revolutionized in the past couple of decades.  Topics and subjects which were once considered risqué or off–color at the least, are now matters of public conversation and debate.

        There is no area of our existence which has not undergone drastic change.  While some advances in technology have afforded us a higher standard of living (high tech conveniences, labor saving devices, etc.), the standard of life has plummeted to an astonishingly low level, and it remains in an attitude of a steady downhill decline.

A Society in Shambles

        Much of today’s malaise in society can be dated to the emergence of television.  The pre–TV world was quite innocent when compared to the present situation.  Marriage back then was considered a life time commitment of two persons of the opposite sex.  Divorce was not only frowned upon as immoral and ungodly; it was rather difficult to achieve.  (Reno, Nevada, gained a great deal of notoriety with its reputation of cheap and quick divorces.)

        Many young people were chaperoned when they dated, and those who weren’t were expected to remain virtuous and chaste.  There were occasional cases when couples “broke the rules” and a pregnancy occurred, but the rules also dictated that such couples marry and grant legitimacy to their offspring.  Abortion was not considered an alternative to carrying the child, neither did women demand the right to terminate a pregnancy.  The subject was not even brought up!

        So–called mercy killing, euthanasia, is also a product of the TV generation.  Parents used to expect to spend their last days on earth with a loving child, even if it meant moving into their home and sharing their resources.  Children felt an obligation to assume the care of their parents as an integral function of “family.”

        Homosexuality was thought of as a gross, unmentionable abomination, a scourge which God had demonstrated His hatred of with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  There were actually laws which made Sodomy a felony.  No one in the thirties or forties could have imagined that homosexuals would ever take part as such in public parades, or would participate in lobbies to gain favorable legislation for their lifestyle.  And a homosexual Senator?  Unimaginable!

        If pornography existed at all, it was only obtainable via black markets or behind–the–counter deals.  And yesterday’s innocency was not riddled with a problem of drug abuse, nor of child abuse, nor was it an epidemic of STD (sexually transmitted disease).

        All of the above mentioned are symptoms of a super–sick society, a people driven to moral suicide, overcome with sumptuous, vain, purposeless living, a generation which has become so self sufficient that it no longer needs God (except in rare emergencies, and on special holidays, such as Santa Claus Day and Bunny Rabbit Day).

        As a nation, we have rejected the Lord of Hosts and have embraced, rather, the gods of wealth and loose living; we bow down at the shrine of sports, and glorify the celebrities of the movie and TV screen.  Entertainment is our liturgy while the lurid lust of the daily soap opera has become the altar of sacrifice for millions of housewives.  The Bible is considered anachronistic – a relic of a naïve and backward people; it is a mere symbol which is dutifully, if not embarrassingly, carried to church on Sunday morning to give a semblance of religious piety to an otherwise worldly and corrupt populace.

Decadence in Government

        The erosion of moral values in society is paralleled by a decline in political rectitude and fiscal responsibility.  We have gone from the strongest creditor nation to the world’s largest debtor nation, and that in a matter of a few short years.  We have managed to help build up the economies of the two World War II aggressor nations so that they are today able to effectively capture a substantial portion of the world’s markets and buy into American industry.  Someone said, “We won the war, but lost the peace.”

        We have watched our Congressmen arrogantly raise their own wages.  We have watched the lips of the Presidents as they spelled out “no new taxes” and then, as coherently, state that taxes must be raised in order to help cover the extravagances of policies of waste, wantonness, and war.

        This is not meant to attack, nor defend, the political practices of those who hold public office, but rather to point out the extant condition which threatens the stability and welfare of our and others’ nations.  What happens here in the U.S. does have a ripple effect throughout the entire world.

        All this is said to demonstrate the seriousness of the hour in which we find ourselves.  There is no doubt that the world is on the brink of a time of trouble such as is unknown to mankind: dearth, famine, depression, uncontrolled disease epidemics, war, devastation, spiraling prices, increased taxes, shortages of vital commodities, escalating crime and immorality, bankruptcies, foreclosures, suicide, manslaughter, infanticide, genocide, cannibalism, weather abnormalities, etc!

        Jesus vividly described this day in His Mt. Olive discourse, as well as other of His sayings.  He judiciously warned mankind that violence and corruption which preceded the Great Flood of Noah’s day would dominate the scene prior to His second coming, and indeed would precipitate the intervention of heaven to prevent the total decimation of mankind.

The Criminals Among Us

        In the major cities of the U.S. the rate of murder exceeds one per day.  The value of a human life is esteemed so low as to shock the sensibilities of a rational person.  Brutality is at an all time high.  It is common for a robbing victim to be beaten, stabbed, and left for dead.  People are packed into the trunk of a car, hauled for miles, then dumped in a ditch and pumped full of bullets.  And there are those advocates of the grotesque who advise rape victims to relax and enjoy their forced degradation and humiliation.

        We taxpayers are also required to finance legalized murder that is known by the kinder and gentler term, abortion.  (To abort is no longer the same as miscarry.)  And we also must support the growing legions of prisoners who are choking the penal institutions of the nation by the sheer force of their numbers.  Several cities and states are releasing suspects early or on light bond because they have no more room.  The citizens are being required to build more, bigger, and more expensive facilities to restrain the massive waves of criminality.

        If the above trend continues, we will soon have as many, or more, criminals on the streets as there are innocent people.  And it certainly appears likely that the trend will continue on unabated.

        Add to this the specter of international terrorism that is a constant threat to people everywhere.  Centuries–old hatred continues festering among and between people the world over.  We probably hear of only a minority of cases of sabotage, looting, clandestine abductions and blackmail; and so long as mankind continues rejecting the only Way, the Truth, and the Life, these bitter happenings will continue to happen and increase.

How To Cope?

        Only God has the answer to the problems that beset mankind.  Again and again Jesus admonished us to “be ready,” to “prepare,” to take appropriate measures to give ourselves some assurance during these trying times.  In Matthew 24, He instructed the people to “flee into the mountains,” a move which required some forethought, planning, and preparation.

        Noah’s experience may be considered a precedent for the people of God for this hour (Matt. 24:37–39).  He literally built a literal boat and, as Peter stated, was “saved by water.”  Jesus warned us to “watch and pray that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass” (Luke 21:36).

        From other Scriptures we know that the escape will not be by means of a secret catching away, commonly called “the rapture.”  The only means mentioned anywhere is “a place in the wilderness” to which the woman (church) will flee for safety (Rev. 12:6,14), a place which must be prepared, or made ready for her.

Hear His Voice

        We are convinced that God will lead many of His servants to establish “places” where God’s people will be cared for during these approaching dark days.  We urge you to seek the Lord diligently that you may know what He wants you to do.  Preparation must be made well in advance of the strike of judgment of God upon the earth.

        Learn to walk humbly and softly before the Lord that you may hear His gentle voice.  Consider the examples in the Scriptures where God spoke to people in both the Old and the New Testaments.

        Noah, Gen. 6:13; Abraham, Gen. 12:1,7; Jacob, Gen. 28:13; Moses, Ex. 3:4–6; Joshua, Josh. 1:1; Samuel, I Sam. 3:4–8; Isaiah, Isa. 6:8; Cornelius, Acts 10:3,4; Peter, Acts 10:10–16; Paul, Acts 9:4–6.

        These are but a few examples where heaven intervened in the lives and affairs of mankind and gave specific instructions.  Since we have these immutable records of God communicating with man in the past, it is not unreasonable to expect Him to speak to His people in these days, also, and to give specific and detailed instructions concerning His divine will.

Obedience Better Than Sacrifice

        Learning to obey the voice of the Lord requires a great deal of self–discipline and training.  It begins by practicing the words of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures.  It is unlikely that anyone will follow orders given by divine revelation who has not first given serious heed to the commands of Jesus which are embodied in the Sermon on the Mount and His other words.  This is one reason we strongly urge God’s people to study and obey the words of Jesus.  Learning obedience is not easy; neither is it a natural thing to do.

        It requires deliberate action, dedication and perseverance.  It also takes the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and a willing heart to cooperate with the prodding of the Holy Spirit.  The person who has made a habit of pleasing God by obeying His written words is a likely candidate to hear the voice of the Lord as He speaks in these darkening last days.

        When the curtain of night has fallen and the cup of iniquity runs over, it will be too late to make the preparation that should have been made earlier.  The time to get ready is NOW!  We are NOT advising anyone to run to the mountains, nor to become survivalists, nor to hide away in a cave somewhere.  We are urging people to PRAY, SEEK GOD, forsake the trivial pursuits of this life, that perhaps the Lord, Himself, will speak to you and show you what to do.  When calamity has fallen it will be forever too late to seek the Lord for deliverance.  Do it now!

POSTSCRIPT:

        As if to underscore our earlier remarks, a feature article in Insight magazine tells about a new militancy among the homosexual and lesbian people which is reminiscent of the inhabitants of Sodom in the days of Lot and Abraham (Gen. 19:4–9).

        The same violence, hatred, and organized force which were evidenced in Sodom is a part of this new wave of terror which is gaining momentum in so many of the large cities.  “I hate straights,” is their cry while they condemn all the institutions of straight culture such as marriage, weddings, anniversaries, etc., the emblems of heterosexuality.

        Jesus warned of this condition in Luke 17:28–30 where He said that the scenario of Lot’s day would be reenacted before He returned to earth.  And it is going on NOW; however, it will undoubtedly grow worse as time goes by.

        Last December, 7,000 of these homosexuals stormed a Catholic Cathedral in New York to protest the Catholic Church’s rejection of their lifestyle and to draw attention to the federal government’s foot–dragging on underwriting programs to fight AIDS.

        Violence is one of the earmarks which accompanies the fiendish practice of Sodomy.  The spirit of sensuality which drives men and women to participate in such ungodliness is beastly and receives its impetus and inspiration right out of hell.  Some of these perverts claim to be Christian, but homosexuality and Christianity do not mix.  This is one of the causes of the hatred and violence toward those who speak out against such filth.

        As their numbers increase, we can expect their militancy to increase, also.  It may soon become unsafe for “straights” to walk the streets of most of our large cities.  The only recourse for them will be to flee for their lives even as Lot fled for his.  It is time to be aware of the growing darkness.  As Jesus said, “Watch!”

 

 

“THIS GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM”

Lorraine Scullin

        H.G. Wells, in his Outline of History had this to say:

        “Remarkable is the enormous prominence given by Jesus to the teaching of what He called the Kingdom of Heaven, and its comparative insignificance in the procedure and teaching of many of the Christian churches.

        “This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven which was the MAIN TEACHING OF JESUS and which plays so small a part in the Christian creeds is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought.”

        Here are two extremely surprising statements concerning the ministry and message of Jesus Christ, which have been written by one who made little claim to authority in religious matters.

        It is a fact that those having unbiased minds and no preconceived religious ideas are often able to SEE plainly what Jesus Christ actually taught men.  It is apparent to such people that He actually came to give men THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and the keys of that kingdom with which they might possess its full power and authority.

        Yet one of the most astounding erroneous religious teachings of our time is that this kingdom of heaven was a material affair of political character, having its place of central authority in Jerusalem; and that this kingdom was presented to men by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, but because men refused it, He withdrew the offer and would not again set up His kingdom until He returns to earth at the end of time.  We are asked to believe that the Kingdom of God has now been postponed!  We are led to infer from such a theory that in some way a miscalculation was made so that the Kingdom of God had to be deferred until Christ’s second coming at the last day. (Such is the teaching in the footnotes in the popular Scofield Bible!)

        Truth is not made by man; it is the creation of God.  It is discovered only by those who seek for it diligently.

        There is great value in the knowledge of the truth of God.  Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

        Truth is the one thing which can liberate man from the bondage of this world – therefore man should love truth intensely, and the pursuit of it should be his highest aim.  But, strange to say, many people have no love or desire for truth and light.  Even many who profess to seek it run from the truth when they see it.  The paradox is that they fear truth while professing to love it.

        “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil,” Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:19).  Truth is rejected by the multitudes because it will conflict with the worldly man’s deeds and greeds.

        Few men love truth more than they do material gain, and fewer still will permit their love of it to curtail their social or political positions.  Secretly, many will assent to truth, but in practice they will dismiss it, and openly they will disavow it.

        A faithful and true witness will seek truth, and when he finds it he will fearlessly declare it; but he who refuses truth will become a slave to his own delusions, and shall finally lose his soul.

 

 

THE GREAT HOAX

Randall Walton

        Once again, the gullible American public had been asked to believe a cruel lie concerning the coming of Jesus.  He was expected by thousands of people to appear on either the 11th, 12th, or 13th day of September, 1988, in spite of both Jesus’ and Paul’s warnings not to look for Him until AFTER certain inevitable major earth–shaking events take place.  Those events have not occurred as yet; therefore, it is an utter waste of time to hold “rapture parties” and other assemblies to watch the skies for His sudden Advent.  It’s as if people believe the words of the Lord can be altered or juggled around to suit the fancy of whomever.

        Why can people not believe the plain words of Jesus and the apostles in regard to the Second Coming?  Why will people accept the misguided advice of so–called prophets who expound their “prophecies” in direct contradiction to the words of the Master, Himself?  Did Jesus not mean what He said about His returning immediately after the tribulation?

        (There are those who claim that “the great tribulation” took place in 70 A.D.  To our knowledge, Jesus did not return in the first century – nor has He yet – and it borders on the absurd to call a period of nearly 2,000 years an immediate follow–up!)

        The rapture fable is probably the most vicious and ludicrous assault on the sensibilities of people of any planned scheme to have ever been unleashed upon a people in history.  It has probably done more to damage the faith of people in the Word of God than any other single heresy in religious practice.

        Its only claim to authenticity is its origin from the lips of a woman in Scotland in 1830 who is said to have received a revelation “from the Spirit” to the effect that Jesus could return at any moment and catch away His bride.  And this in the light of Paul’s admonition that we should not believe that the coming of the Lord is imminent even though “by spirit” it is declared to be so (II Thess. 2:1–3).  Paul followed this statement with a list of events which must take place before Jesus’ return.

        Beware when people set dates regarding the coming of Jesus – they don’t know what they’re talking about!  And when they set a date for the “rapture of the church,” they doubly don’t know what they are talking about.  We are not saying they are not serious and sincere; we are saying they are sincerely mistaken, for the Word of God gives no inkling of when His appearing will take place, except to state that it will be after certain other things have occurred.

        There have been many occasions when some convincing preacher has predicted the “rapture” or the Second Coming of Jesus.  One of the most well–known of these took place in 1844 when a certain William Miller, along with a Mr. & Mrs. James White, predicted the Second Coming on a certain day that autumn.  Hundreds of people sold their homes and other possessions, and then set up a vigil to watch for the Lord’s return.  Mr. Miller had spent a great deal of time in “unraveling” the Book of Daniel (mainly the seventy weeks), and his studies and surmisings led him to believe that 1844 was the year for the great day of the Lord.

        After the predicted day had come and gone, Mr. Miller confessed that he made a great error.  But it was too late to rectify the damage and harm which had been inflicted upon the unsuspecting people who believed this sincere man and his report.  Much of the heartbreak could have been avoided if the people had only studied and believed the Word of the Lord.

        The same standard applies today.  Every individual has an obligation before the Lord to know truth.  It is not enough to merely listen to a preacher expound his views.  It is not proper to base one’s foundation upon the creed or the by–laws of a religious institution.  The importance of knowing the truth is still being made manifest by the present situation – people holding “rapture rallies,” divesting themselves of property, etc., in anticipation of the Lord’s return “in a few days.”  These things would never happen if the truth were made known and believed.

        We, therefore, encourage every person to “study the Word,” search the Scriptures, know what Jesus and the apostles taught concerning end–time events and prepare for the times ahead.

        That hoax will not be the last one.  Since it has passed and has been forgotten, some other “prophet” or Scriptural expert will compute another day which he will designate as the great day of the Lord.  Thousands of people will be convinced that he is right, that he really knows what he’s talking about, and that IT is finally going to happen.

        “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.  For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:26,27).

 

 

CHARITY

Harry R. Miller

        “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, 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 charity, I am nothing” (I Cor. 13:1,2).

        Whatever “charity” is, it certainly is the most essential thing to a Christian life.  Yet, strange as it may seem, there are few Christians who have a definite idea as to just what constitutes “charity.”

        Charity has been described as benevolence, charitable generosity, humane kindness, etc., but such an interpretation of this word does not agree with the rest of the chapter, for verse three says: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

        Many people have learned that there is a law of God which functions for a generous giver.  “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.”  Rich men have often given millions because of the satisfaction they receive in return for their generosity.  They have received their reward.  This was not “charity.”

        Notice in this chapter that “charity” is more than a mere expression of human kindness and generosity, for “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth.”

        Whatever “charity” is, it has the nature of God.  It also has personality.  If this were describing the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what more could one add to the description?

        Consider this verse from Colossians 3:14: “Above all these things put on charity.”  In verse ten we are told to “Put on the new man.”  And again in Romans 13:14: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The “new man,” “charity,” and the Lord Jesus Christ are one and the same.

        “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me” (Matt. 7:22).  These were but “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.”  They lacked the one great thing – CHRIST.  They knew A–B–O–U–T Him, but they were not known of Him.  They must have professed Christianity, for they prophesied in His name, but He had not dwelt within them.

        “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9).  A true Christian is not merely a temple FOR the Holy Ghost; he is a temple OF the Holy Ghost.

        Whenever a man “believes on the Lord Jesus Christ” he then is “given power to BECOME” the son of God (John 1:12).

        In Colossians we are told to PUT ON Charity.  The words PUT ON are a combination of two different Greek terms: enduo.  “En” indicates a position of rest.  “Duo” means to sink down into, and it is indicated that it takes “dunamis” or power to accomplish this.  In order to PUT ON charity, the new man, or Christ, we must SINK DOWN, as one would sink into a great top coat.  We become “clothed upon,” as our identity is lost in Christ.

        Paul said “not I but Christ.”  The big “I” in Paul grew smaller as he “sank down,” and the Lord Jesus became larger in his life.

 

 

SERVANTS

Curtis Dickinson

        “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 20:25,26).

        When Jesus said, “I will build my church,” it is doubtful that He had in mind the kind of institution which we know today as the church, with its various officers, committees, professionals, regularly scheduled business meetings, etc.  This kind of corporate organization has been copied from the world and put in place as a substitute for the real function of Christians as servants of Christ.

        The early church was a functioning body in which all were to serve according to each one’s ability.  There were no “officers.”  The word translated deacon is a word meaning servant and indicates that some were given special jobs to perform.  The elders were men older in the faith.  The “office,” to which some were appointed, in the Greek was praxis, meaning function, not a place of superior power.  The Greek word for authority, exousia, is never used in the New Testament in connection with elders.  The elders were to lead by example and service, not by exercising authority over the rest of the people.  They were pastors and shepherds, protecting and feeding the sheep, not driving them nor coercing them by authoritative power.

        There were no professionals in the early church.  Even the apostles held no titles but were called simply Peter, John, Paul, etc.  Every Christian was a minister, which is another word for servant.  There was no distinction of clergy and laity; all were on the same level in Christ.  Their purpose was simple: to live Godly lives and make the gospel known to others.  This they did so well that it was said that they “turned the world upside down” and the sound of the gospel went out to the whole world (Acts 17:6; Rom. 10:8).

        The modern church, including the centrally controlled denominations as well as those who think of themselves as “independent,” has become a bureaucratic system, run by professionals and organized after the order of the secular state or business corporation.  The servant role is the exception rather than the rule.  Congregations employ preachers to represent the church to the community and to minister to the sick, the needy, and to make the gospel known.

        There are several reasons for employing a professional to do the serving.  One is our mistaken idea of the weekly worship service.  Instead of meeting to edify one another, it has become a program to be performed.  We want to see the program done well, to go smoothly, no hitches, everything up to snuff.  Not every Christian can do that; in fact not very many can.  Once, when asked to give the communion meditation, an elder said to me, “You can do this better than I, or any of us.  You are trained for it.  I would rather you do it.”  Just how many other activities are refused by sincere Christians because they think the professional can do them better?  Is worship of God more pleasing to Him when directed in a more sophisticated manner?  Have we made the simple communion a ritual that requires professional training for participation?

        Another factor contributing to professionalism is laziness.  Even to sing a song of praise requires at least some exercise and practice.  Why shouldn’t every Christian be willing to make the effort to learn the songs?  But, instead, such praise is assigned to the choir.  In some churches I have attended if one enters fully into singing he will stand out like a sore thumb, because the choir does the singing with only a few others mouthing the words with as little volume as possible.  Instead of worshippers we become spectators, and the bigger the crowd the less the personal participation.

        We are an entertainment oriented society.  We are accustomed to expecting the spectacular in sports, in politics and in church.  The worship hour is often a time for a performance by talented musicians and becomes a production far removed from anything we read in Scripture about the assembly of the saints.  I am a great lover of music and see music as a means of praising God and inspiring fellow saints, but also I am aware of the temptation it affords to present a performance in order to gain personal recognition and praise.

        In its pressing desire to grow, the church competes for attendance and seeks a powerful pulpiteer with charisma that will bring in the crowds.  He becomes their star, and the strength and witness of the church depends upon him.  It is then perceived by believers that their chief duty is to be faithful pew–fillers and contributors to maintain the plan and support the star, so he can perform before bigger and bigger audiences.  The more popular the star “minister” the more he is seen as master rather than servant.  In many places he clothes himself in a special uniform or robe to further distinguish himself apart from the rest.  The people fall into the habit of inviting others to come hear their star, rather than telling others the message of Christ.  It is understandable how the preacher may succumb to the temptation to build his own personal dynasty.  As the flock grows, more staff is hired, and the preacher becomes the Senior Minister.  (How does “senior servant” strike you?)  Even though he may have the desire to be no more than a humble servant, if he is to succeed in the modern church system, he must accept a professional title and position as chief.

        In the words of Ray Downing in Viewpoint, “Minister as a title means servant.  It’s appropriate for EVERY member of every Christian congregation.  We need no CHIEF servant, however, and properly admire and serve with older sisters and brothers who may do the work of an evangelist or a pastor or teacher.  NO title should be acceptable to set aside a professional clergy in the Lord’s church.”

        Another reason for abandoning personal service and leaving it for the professionals is our fear of controversy.  The early Christians were not afraid of confrontation.  They went straight to the synagogue to tell the people that their religious system was no longer valid!  They “went everywhere preaching the gospel” in the face of bitter opposition.

        We don’t like to run the risk of controversy.  Even Jesus fell into disfavor with many of His disciples when He got into a heated controversy with the Pharisees (John 6:26–66).  Rather than run the risk of controversy, we hire someone else to confront the world with the challenge of God’s truth.  Of course, we don’t want him to be too controversial.  We want our star to be popular with everyone and never be criticized by the press or people of other persuasions, but if that happens, at least he has taken the pressure off the rest of us.

        When one comes to Christ he must come, not only to be saved from sin and death, but to become a disciple, a follower of Christ, Who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant,” humbling Himself in obedience even to the point of death (Phil. 2:7,8).  The serving we are called to do is not the “busy work” of keeping the bureaucracy of the organization going but the personal and daily work of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, assisting the sick, the imprisoned, the widow and the orphan, and holding forth the Word of Life to everyone.

        Great congregations with millions of members and multi–million dollar edifices permeate the land.  Yet we are watching the moral values, family values, economic integrity and judicial principles erode day by day.  It is obvious that something is seriously wrong with “the church.”  Absent is the dynamic life, the exhilarating freedom, the spontaneous witness and the unselfish service that marked the Christian community of the first century.  Many faithful believers sit in the pew each Sunday through a religious performance but go away with no more enthusiasm, clarity of purpose and spiritual wisdom than when they came.

        In spite of this, the risen Christ is alive and active.  His light is beginning to penetrate the darkness created by man’s hallowed traditions and to break down the walls of sectarianism.  People are beginning to think for themselves and to unite in the spirit of Christ and His truth.

        It is time for the “church leadership” to examine themselves to see if they are servants or lords.  It is time for “church members” (not a Biblical term) to examine ourselves to see if we are serving Christ or the bureaucracy.

        John pictures the New Creation as our perfect eternal home and mentions only one activity: “and his servants shall serve him” (Rev. 22:3).  There is no better way to please the Father than to imitate the Son, Who said He came “not to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28).

 

 

THANKSGIVING 2011

Randall Walton

        It’s possible that many folks do not know that the first national Thanksgiving Day in this country was proclaimed in 1863 at the height of the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln, a most unlikely moment in history from the standpoint of circumstances worthy of rejoicing about.  Both the North and the South had suffered inestimable destruction and death from the ravages of combat as well as from the diseases which ran rampant and uncontrolled through the ranks of both sides.

        The country was not only divided into Union and Rebel forces, but disharmony pierced through the center of the northern states like a giant cleaver about to sever a jugular.  As the combatants tore away at each other’s throats in a frenzy for survival, the mood of the entire country was at a stalemated impasse so terrible and grave that there seemed to be no solution.  It was then, after a slight victory, that Lincoln declared a national holiday to praise and thank Almighty God for His abundant blessings, seemingly a most inopportune time to give thanks to the great sovereign Being.

        Any expression of gratitude at a time such as that undoubtedly came from the heart.  It surely was not a day off to gorge oneself.  It was for reflection of the mercies of the Lord, for counting, if possible, one’s blessings and giving credit where credit was due, that is, to Him whose beneficences had continued unabated while mankind occupied himself in mutual extermination.

        This poor nation has forgotten that there exists a Sovereign who has the power and authority to bless and/or curse; its citizenry has come to represent the most opulent hedonism since the heyday of the Roman Empire.  Thanksgiving Day has become Great–eating day, highlighted by the spectacle of gladiators in leather helmets and spiked shoes vying for victory on a field of green before thousands of delirious spectators.  This is Thanksgiving in the U.S.A., circa 2011.

        If God is recognized at all, it is very perfunctory at the most; superficiality has become a way of life for most Americans.  With all the portents of war, depression, calamitous earthquakes, and famine, this nation needs to be on its knees in repentance, seeking God for forgiveness for its hostility toward Him, and His word, and pledging itself to a life of holiness, humility, and whole–hearted submission.  A national day of prayer and fasting would be far more appropriate than a day of gluttony and goofing around.

        We cannot help wondering how much longer this nation will get by in its state of haughtiness against God and His standards of righteousness.  It is as if we are daring the angels of justice to flick the chip of arrogance from our shoulder!

        We highly recommend that God’s people join hands in a concert of prayer this Thanksgiving Day, and be especially grateful that there is food on the table, that there is a semblance of peace among many nations, that we still enjoy liberty and freedom to worship our Creator, and are permitted to own Bibles and assemble ourselves together to praise and adore the King.  These blessings may not be ours for long.  Even now there are forces at work to undermine and destroy our right of free assembly, worship, and publishing.  Thank God for these wonderful privileges which He has provided for us.

 

 

IS CHRIST IN YOUR CHRISTMAS?

Randall Walton

                The answer to this question lies not in whether you observe the day in sincerity and reverence, but in whether Jesus Christ has placed His stamp of approval upon the festive celebration that is held in His honor.

        We wonder how many Christians question the validity of such a festival, or ever give any thought as to the origin of the holiday itself and the festivities that accompany it.

        Of first importance is the consideration of its relation to the Holy Scriptures, for they alone give authenticity to any religious practice, whatever it may be.

It may be a shock to many people to learn that nowhere in the Bible are Christians commanded, admonished, or advised to observe the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Incidentally, the observance of Jesus’ resurrection is not based upon Biblical tenets.  Christians are commanded to commemorate the death of Jesus, but not His birth nor resurrection).

Scripture does not tell us when Jesus was born.  The one certain factor concerning the time of His birth is that it was not in December!  Three pertinent points uphold this statement: 1) Joseph and Mary were enroute to their own village to pay their taxes at the time of His birth, and they were traveling on foot or by animal back.  December was much too cold for that mode of travel.  2) Shepherds did not camp out in the winter time with their sheep, as the harsh Palestinian weather was too severe for both man and beast.  3) Jesus was thirty–three and one–half years old when He was crucified.  His death was in the spring of the year, probably March or April; six months from this time would place His birth in early autumn, September or October.  We cannot be certain of which month it may have been nor can we know the day of the month.  However, we can be positive that His birth date was not December 25!!

It is commonly contended that even though no one knows the exact date of our Saviour’s birth, we ought to respect it by setting aside one day each year for celebration.  However, it seems reasonable to assume that if God intended for us to make a holy day in honor of Christ’s nativity, He would have given us at least token evidence in that regard, and some valid means of ascertaining when it was to be observed.  But not only is the Scripture silent on the subject, early church history does not allude to it at all.

Further, since the occasion is predominantly a COMMERCIAL holiday celebrated and feted by non–Christians and blasphemers as well as professors of Christianity, the wisdom of such a time of revelry and mirth is very questionable.  True Christians will do well to follow those commands and ordinances which are established in the Good Book without attempting to Christianize a practice which is completely foreign to the way of the Lord.

Corroboration From Collier’s Encyclopedia

“CHRISTMAS, the annual feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated on December 25.  The word is derived from the Old English Cristes maesse (Christ’s Mass) and was first used in the eleventh century…Although its ultimate origin is disputed, the word Yule comes into modern English from Anglo–Saxon geol (a feast, particularly the feast of the winter solstice).

“It is impossible to determine the exact date of the birth of Christ, either from the evidence of the Gospels, or from any sound tradition.  During the first three centuries of the Christian Era there was considerable opposition in the Church to the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays, although there is some indication that a purely religious commemoration of the birth of Christ was included in the feast of the Epiphany.  Clement of Alexandria mentions the existence of the feast in Egypt in about the year A.D. 200, and we have some evidence that it was observed on various dates in scattered areas.  After the triumph of Constantine, the Church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast, possibly about A.D. 320 or 353.  By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches, where it was celebrated on January 6.  The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun–god, and that the Saturnalia also came at this time.  The indications are that the Church in this way grasped the opportunity to turn the people away from a purely pagan observance of the winter solstice to a day of adoration of Christ the Lord.  Both St. Cyprian and St. John Chrysostom allude to this thought in their writings.

“In northern Europe too, the Teutonic tribes celebrated the winter solstice and had developed many customs and traditions that became a part of the feast of Christmas when they were converted to Christianity.”

Now the solstice is that time in the year when the sun is farthest from the celestial equator.  In the northern hemisphere the summer solstice occurs about June 21 when we have the longest day of the year, and the winter solstice comes around December 22 when we have the shortest day of the year.  Thus the pagan celebration was in honor of the sun–god who began lengthening the days and shedding more light upon his loyal worshipers.

This pagan practice has its roots in antiquity.  Many centuries before Jesus came, heathen tribes were worshiping the sun and paying homage to the flaming orb.  God reprimanded ancient Israel again and again for adopting the customs of the heathen who not only attributed deity to the sun, but to most things in nature, both animate and inanimate.  Many of the traditions involved in the Christmas season have their origins in the religious ceremonies of a people who did not believe in the Living God.

The Decorated Tree

 “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.  For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.  They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not” (Jer. 10:2–4).

How many Christians give any thought to the significance of the tree as they place it in a conspicuous position and deck it with all the tinsel and other trimmings?  Do not the Scriptures say something about Jesus dying on a tree? (Acts 5:30; 1 Pet. 2:24).  Could it be that this is Satan’s way of aiming ridicule at the death of Jesus, to mock, belittle and scorn the “Old Rugged Cross”?

The Jolly Old Saint

The element of mockery is one of the chief characteristics in the role of that fellow they call Santa Claus.  To him are attributed many of the same qualities that Jesus demonstrated here on earth.  Consider the following Scriptures by way of comparison.

“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therin.  And he took them up in his arms, and put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:13–16).  The similarities are startling, aren’t they?  The ambition of many children in this day is to have Santa take them in his arms, hold them on his lap, and “bless” them with toys!

“But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:24,25).  Santa also claims to know all about the behaviour of the children.  He knows whether they’ve been good or bad; at least that’s what they sing about him.

“Behold, I come as a thief” (Rev. 16:15).  St. Nick makes the same claim, doesn’t he?

“When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Eph. 4:8).  Of course, Santa descends when he gives gifts.

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels” (Matt. 13:41).  Santa too, has his subordinates who do work for him.  It seems they are called elves.

“who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1).  Yes, Santa Claus has his headquarters in a far away place also…the North Pole!!

“and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went” (John 6:21).  Santa travels through space too, howbeit with reindeer and sled.

“And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe” (Matt. 27:28).  And what color is Santa’s suit?  “And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!” (verse 29).  And what does St. Nick wear on his head?  A dunce cap!  Yet he carries a wand, or sceptre, which is the badge of royalty.  And then he laughs, a raucous, mocking laugh – HO, HO, HO!  What is so funny that the fat man laughs and laughs?  “they bowed the knee before him, and MOCKED him.”  The whole idea of Jesus as a King is a big joke!

The hideous caricature is all there, a cheap, debased imitation of the King of Glory, and it is all portrayed as having something to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.  It’s no wonder that there is so little faith in the supernatural today, or that people find it difficult to believe in the authenticity of the Bible.

When such nonsense as elves, reindeer, fat men squeezing down chimneys with huge bags of toys, etc., is made an integral part of a religion, then the whole religious system appears to be a masquerade.  This is what has happened to the so–called Christian movement today!

Those who love God and His Word should turn their backs upon the diabolical annual feast commonly called Christmas.  Christ is not in it!

 

 

THE QUESTION OF LAW VERSUS GRACE

Harry Miller

        When the Scriptures refer to “The law of God,” they may mean all of God’s commandments in general; however, when the Word speaks of the Ten Commandments it is definitely referring to the law written “by the finger of God.”  The laws that are not obligatory to Christians are all of those ordinances and commands related to sacrifice (as given to Cain and Abel), to circumcision (as given to Abraham), and those related to the Levitical priesthood (as given to Moses).  All of these ordinances were figurative, pointing forward to the coming of Christ.  The performance of these obligations by the people of God acted as God’s Bible in a day when there was very little of the written word.  All of these “carnal ordinances” were figurative in nature, having been designed by the Creator to denote His promises of “better things to come.”  The prophetic nature of any “carnal ordinance” indicates that the life of the ordinance ends when its prophetic message is fulfilled.

        There were many prophecies which were fulfilled at the coming of Christ thus terminating the necessity for their continued observance, since their prophetic significance no longer belonged to some epochal future.  For example, Isaiah fifty–three has been fulfilled.  No one short of an anti–christ would accept this chapter as a prophetic message now in force.  So, also, with the mute testimony of ordinances which ended with Him of whom they spoke.  However, not all ordinances, or “shadows,” ended with the coming of Christ.  Those that applied strictly to His first appearance, and to His sacrifice, were complete and final; but certain “shadows” still speak of certain things to come: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink (the sacrament of holy communion), or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come.”  e.g., still future (Col. 2:16,17)

        Since Christians are the witnesses of Christ, does it seem unreasonable that they should find it a pleasure to keep His commandments relative to the testimony of the shadows that are still speaking of things to come?

        Upon two tables of stone God personally wrote the Ten Commandments.  These ten commands were not to be misconstrued with those that Moses wrote for Israel.  The laws which God wrote upon stone are the sum and substance of the law contained in the charter of the kingdom of heaven.  These ten laws were not created by arbitrary dictation; they are based upon principles compatible with the just government of free moral agents.  The Sovereign not only has the divine right to demand the complete love of His creatures; He is obligated to demand such devotion.  The very nature of moral law obligates the Sovereign to require that moral beings support His government.

        Law is the foundation of any government, and the strength of a government is determined by the faithfulness of its sovereign to enforce the respect of its law.  The kingdom of heaven is a perfect government, and the “law of the Lord is perfect.”  God cannot, and never will, “water down,” minimize, or make void any law in order to accommodate His creatures.  Principle can never be sacrificed for expedience.  The law must remain absolute or even His very kingdom would eventually disintegrate.  The lowering of any standard of God would be a connivance with sin, and such a thing with Him is unthinkable.

        The crucifixion of the Son of God should settle forever any man’s doubt concerning the Father’s attitude with regard to the breaking of His law.  Not an angel in heaven, nor an imp in hell, has the least doubt concerning God’s faithfulness to the precept of the charter that supports His throne.  They know He means what He says.

        Men, poor, warped creatures, often get the idea that God’s commands are merely suggestions, or recommendations!  This condition actually accounts for the many sorrows of man’s earth life.

        There are also certain schools of religious philosophy which teach that all law was “done away” with in Christ; and, consequently, we are now under a new dispensation which they call “grace.”  The main idea of this school of thought is that grace and law are antagonistic to one another and can never be reconciled.  Those who hold this idea state that if a man is “under the law,” he is not “under grace.”  As a matter of fact, they contend, such an individual is “fallen from grace.”  Their conclusion, then, is that in order to remain in grace they must avoid all recognition of observance of the law.

        Let us examine this statement about being “under the law.”  Who is “under the law”?  Is it the man who obeys and honors the law?  Or is it the man who disgraces the law by neglect or willful disobedience?

        The apostle Paul asked, “Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?” (Rom. 6:15)  Now if there is no law there can be no sin, for “sin is the transgression of the law.”  Paul answered his own question by saying: “God forbid.  Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness…but ye have obeyed from the heart…being then made free from sin…for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:15–23).

        The state of not being under the law is conditional: the condition is obedience to the law.  Christians are not afraid of the FBI because they are not under the law of the FBI.  The laws of the FBI are for the lawless: those who despise and willfully break the precepts of the federal government.  Every law–abiding citizen enjoys the liberties set by the bounds of his government.  No man could say that such a man is “under the law.”  To the obedient citizen, the laws of his nation are a blessing and a protection to his freedom.

        “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners” (I Tim. 1:9).

        Christians have been made “free from sin” by the grace of God working within their hearts.  Instead of a stubborn, rebellious heart, the unconverted man is given a “new heart and a new spirit” which delight to obey every command of God.  As a matter of fact, God’s laws are now “written in the hearts” of the saints.  “Do we then make void the law of God through faith?  God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31).  Here the apostle is only confirming the word of Jesus concerning the law: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (keep).  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17,18).

        Jesus stated that there was a certain condition which was demanded of saints if they were to abide in His love: “if ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10).  Man’s passport through the gates of pearl must contain a record of his obedience to the commandments.  Only those individuals who qualify have a right – a legal authority – to the glories of that world (Rev. 22:14).  During the great tribulation only those will be known as saints “who keep the commandments of God” (Rev. 14:12).  The “remnant” who have the testimony of Jesus are said to be they “which keep the commandments of God” (Rev. 12:17).

        John the Beloved stated: “He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him” (I John 3:24).  And again, he said: “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” (I John 2:3,4).

        The apostle Peter declared that “the washed sow” that “returned to her wallowing” in the mire, and the “dog that returned to his vomit,” were typical of those who “turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Peter 2:21,22).

        In the light of these Scriptures it is a most necessary thing that all Christians obey the commandments of the One whom they call their Lord; for it certainly is most stupid to call Him Lord, Lord, and then not do the things which He says!  It also follows that those who love Him will have no difficulty in obeying His commandments.

 

 

UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE

Randall Walton

        The Bible is unquestionably the most talked about, well–loved, most hated, least understood book in the world!  There are many reasons for its being highly misunderstood, chief among them the style in which it has been written.  God purposely wrote it, or had it written, to make some of it incomprehensible so that not everyone can understand it! (See Matt. 13:10–14)

        Since He intended that it become public domain, He was obligated to tell “all,” yet He fully desired that not everyone who would read it would understand it!  Some portions of it are classified Top Secret, and He alone has the key which can unlock the mysteries of His Word.

        In military parlance, this classified material would be “coded,” that is, written in such a way that only those who had access to the code would be able to understand the message or communiqué.  When man has made the mistake of trying to “understand” the messages of the Lord without having the code to unscramble those messages, he has fallen into a snare and a delusion, and darkness has obliterated his pathway.

        It is most essential that anyone who approaches the Word of God do so with the knowledge that some of the “communiqués” are unclassified and written in plain speech, or plain language that is discernable to everyone who reads it.  You need not break a code in order to understand what the “commander” is saying.

        However, it should be recognized that some of the information is classified; that is, it is in code and cannot be taken at face value.  The true meaning can only be understood by those who have or who know the code.  Thus, the message may say, “The mountain is on fire,” but the meaning of the message could be one of a hundred different things, depending on what is meant by “mountain” and by “fire.”  It could mean that the troops have arrived, or that the troops are in full retreat, or it may not even be about troops at all.

        But wouldn’t it be foolish for someone who heard the message to assume that somewhere there was a literal mountain going up in flames?  Talk about confusion!  And if a person were to act upon his assumption, his action would result in total disaster.

        One of the reasons there is so much confusion in the religious ranks is that men have tried to take literally, or at face value, those portions of Scripture which are encoded.  In some cases, they have recognized that coded language is used, and they have attempted to decode the message without having the proper key.  One man’s interpretation is as good as (or as bad as) another’s, but only the Lord has the Master Key.

        That Key, however, is available to all who wish to use it, and simply put, here it is: “The plain words of Jesus Christ and the apostles.”  By this standard, any interpretation of any coded message in the Scriptures which is contrary to the plain statements of Jesus Christ and the apostles is to be rejected, disregarded and avoided.  Don’t throw out the message, just discard the interpretation!

Confusion Unlimited

        Great portions of the Bible are written with the use of God’s file of symbols, signs, and allegories, so that only God knows the true meaning of His secrets.  Most of the Old Testament prophets wrote in sign language (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, and Zechariah).

        The parables of Jesus are coded; those which He decoded Himself are plainly understood, the others are not.  The great book of Revelation is profoundly symbolic and can only be understood in part, and that part only in the light of the plain words of Jesus and the apostles.

        I have heard at least ten different interpretations of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3–13, each of them claiming to be right.  My only response to these claims is BALONEY.  There is no evidence that any one of these claims is correct.  Furthermore, there are not sufficient parallel plain statements to sustain a valid interpretation of that group of verses.  The only safe position to take is one of not knowing.  Not only is it safe, it is honest.

        It is very evident that God did not want mankind to know everything about everything.  For example, John heard the voice of “seven thunders.”  He started to write their message, but a voice from heaven warned him not to write it down (Rev. 10:3,4).  Daniel, also, was told to “seal the book,” so that its message would not be disclosed (Dan. 12:4,9).

        The Lord in His sovereignty and His divine wisdom of all creatures and circumstance, and for the unfolding of His eternal plan, is not obligated to reveal every detail of that plan to the creatures.  In fact, to do so could jeopardize the successful outcome of His plan, for the very knowledge of all things would influence and/or coerce mankind to make decisions on the basis of force in order to circumvent the revealed results.  God wants man to choose to serve Him out of love not on the basis of fear or force.

        Furthermore, knowledge revealed to humanity is also accessible to all spirit beings, and such knowledge could be used to alter the balance between a person’s right of free choice and the inspiration/influence of outside entities.

        For example, we are in the world, but not of the world (systems and ways of man), but the world does exert a tug or a pull on people’s heartstrings (even Christian’s!).  Now, there is a divine balance of the degree to which this pull can be exerted against people, and this is based in part upon the fact that not all knowledge is revealed.  God’s sovereign Hand still rests upon the controls of jurisprudence, justice, principalities and powers, and at least a part of His control is centered in His dominance of all wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  He fully comprehends the past, the present, and the future, and watches over the future.  Nothing takes place without His knowledge, nor is the universe running pell mell to an unknown point of extinction.  He knows it all!

        It is reasonable, then, to believe that many of the hidden secrets of the Bible will be revealed only as they are played out upon the stage of the divine drama which is about to be displayed before mankind, angels and devils.  To reveal these things ahead of time would not only spoil the suspense (as in man’s activities) but would have a profound effect upon the players themselves, and would destroy the premise of free moral agency.

        But the beauty of the plan of God is that He has not hidden everything from our view.  Anything which is needful for us to walk with God and live victoriously has been revealed to us.  There is such an abundance of powerful truths disclosed to us in the plain words of Jesus Christ and the apostles, that we need waste no precious time trying to solve the mysteries of the kingdom.  Not that there is any harm in reading all the Scripture, but the greatest effort should be put into studying and taking hold of the plain, easily understood portions of the Holy Book.

        Paul said we are to “rightly divide the word of truth.”  We do this by separating the plain words from the signs, symbols, types, shadows, allegories, and metaphors, those coded messages which must be interpreted in order to be understood; then the message of those plain statements are to be applied to our own personal lives.

 

 

CHRIST: THE IDEAL MAN

Haven Bradford Gow

        According to Roman Catholic scholar George Dyer, two words characterize the entire life and ministry of Christ: Kindness and gentleness.  Dyer explains: “Zacheus comes down from the tree and experiences salvation; little children come to him; he raises the daughter of Jairus, and teaches us about the lilies of the field.  Finally, there are the great parables of mercy and about the prodigal son; the lost coin and the lost sheep.”

        Dyer adds: “This same kindness and compassion (of Christ) is particularly directed toward women: Anna, who appears in the infancy narratives; the repentant woman who anointed his feet; Martha and Mary … all were recipients of the kindness of Jesus and all responded by faith.”

        The behavior of Christ is in sharp contrast to society’s popular misconceptions regarding masculinity; all too many in our society identify masculinity with physical strength, aggressiveness, moral and intellectual arrogance, rudeness, tough talk, macho posturing, violent behavior and sexual conquests.

        In the example of Christ, though, we find someone who in word and deed delicately balanced the virtues that make a man a man.  In his new work On Becoming a Real Man (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers), Protestant scholar Edwin Cole explains: “Jesus Christ was the most virile of men.  Rather than the soft, spineless, wimpish, docile man so often painted – either in word or picture – by misguided writers and artists, he was a man’s man.  He could act with great gentleness and genuine compassion toward a widow, the sick, or needy; but when confronted by bigotry and hypocrisy his white-hot anger could blaze with righteous indignation.”

        To be sure, Christ was a man of great gentleness, kindness, grace and chivalry, but at the same time, his sense of justice, decency and right and wrong caused him to be fearless in rebuking or standing up to those who deserved reprimand regardless of their power, status or stature.  Indeed, while Christ could be and was kind and gentle with the poor, sick, and helpless, he was firm, tough-minded and courageous in the way he dealt with two-faced, evil-eyed religious hypocrites, corrupt government officials and money-changers in the Temple.  This Christ who was able to endure excruciating mental and physical torment and pain for the sake of those he loved was the same Christ who was kind, gentle and loving with the children who flocked to his side.