Friday Morning Manna
December 20, 2019
Lord, I Want to be a Christian. But What Kind?
“Lord I want to be a Christian, in my heart.” So goes the opening lyrics of that simple yet moving spiritual, likely composed in 1750s Virginia by enslaved African Americans moved by the preaching of evangelist Samuel Davies, first published in 1907. (See Wikipedia). I first heard that song when I was in the grades back in old PUC and still can sing it today. These words are still repeated today, even without singing its melody our aloud, for, as it says, “in my heart.” But this time it is with growing skepticism expressed in this legitimate question: What kind of Christian? As some say, “Will the real Christian please stand up?” “Oh no, not you! Not you, too.” Then who?
All religions teach, including Satanist and spiritualists, that theirs is the true religion. But of course, else how would they gain adherents, credulous or otherwise? Then, we have Christianity. Every Christian church or denomination—whether classified as “mainstream,” “orthodox,” “conservative,” “liberal,” “new-modeled,” “sectarian” or even accused as a “cult,” rightly or wrongly, depending on who is calling whom and by what and whose standard such a conclusion is deduced—all claim to be true Christians. In the spirit of true religious liberty, as defined and protected by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, all are free and entitled to believe what they choose to believe and to teach and propagate such beliefs as free moral agents endowed with a will, the governing power in man’s nature, before and after the fall. Indeed, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Cor. 3: 17.
The driving issue, central to others, is that the depth of knowledge and the degree of spiritual intimate familiarity, individually and collectively-shared as a church community regarding who Jesus Christ really is, determines which angle or aspect of the multi-dimensional perceptions of Christianity as a religion and an ism means, correspondingly. This, doubtless, makes for a confusing admixture of Christianity. Bible prophecy describes the end-time Christian era as a cornucopia of doctrines and its different interpretations and practices as spiritual “Babylon,” its root word being “babel,” meaning, confusion, the antitype of ancient, literal Babylon. See Revelation 14: 8; 16: 19; 17: 5; 18: 2, 1o, 21. Consider the following profound insightful truths from the inspired writer (emphasis mine):
“The vague and fanciful interpretations of Scripture, and the many conflicting theories concerning religious faith, that are found in the Christian world, are the work of our great adversary, to confuse minds so that they shall not discern the truth. And the discord and division which exist among the churches of Christendom are in a great measure due to the prevailing custom of wresting [twist] the Scriptures — to support a favorite theory. Instead of carefully studying God’s word with humility of heart to obtain a knowledge of His will, many seek only to discover something odd or original. In order to sustain erroneous doctrines or unchristian practices, some will seize upon passages of Scriptures separated from the context, perhaps quoting half of a single verse as proving their point, when the remaining portion would show the meaning to be quite the opposite. . . . .Thus do many willfully pervert the Word of God.” Ellen G. White, Great Controversy, 1911 ed., pp. 520, 521.
“Innumerable are the erroneous doctrines and fanciful ideas that are obtaining among the churches of Christendom. . . . . The errors of popular theology have driven many a soul to skepticism, who might otherwise have been a believer in the Scriptures.” – Ibid, p. 525.
Just yesterday, I read a heart-breaking yet totally predictable development headlined: “Millenials Are Leaving Religion and Not Coming Back.” By Daniel Cox and Amelia Thomson-Deveaux of FiveThirtyEight (see on the web): I quote paragraphs 1 and 12 of this eye-opening article below (emphasis in itals. and bracketed comments mine):
Par #31: “Millenials have earned a reputation for reshaping industries and institutions—shaking up the workplace, transforming dating culture, and rethinking parenthood. They’ve also had a dramatic impact on American religious life [America is a focus of the prophecy of Revelation 13]. Four in ten millennials now say that they are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. In fact millennials (those between the ages 23 and 38) are now almost as likely to say they have no religion as they are to identify as Christian.
Par # 12: “Why does it matter if millenials’ rupture with religion turns out to be permanent? For one thing, religious involvement is associated with a wide variety of positive social outcomes like increased personal trust and civic engagement that are hard to reproduce in other ways. And this trend has obvi0us political implications. As we wrote a few months ago, whether people are religious is increasingly tied to—and even driven by—their political identities. For years the Christian conservative movement had warned about a tide of rising secularism, but research has suggested that the strong association between religion and the Republican Party may actually be fueling this divide. And if even more Democrats lose their faith, that will only exacerbate the acrimonious rift between secular liberals and religious conservatives.” (end quote).
As church craft and statecraft should never co-mingle, as the terrible lessons of secular and religious histories combined during the Dark Ages warn will be repeated in these last days, so should true Christians who have learned from prophecy and history, make conscious and properly informed efforts not to mix religion and politics, first in their hearts and minds, and then in the public domain. Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon and Medo-Persia were quintessential examples on how this is to be done successfully and Biblically—being a faithful citizen of your country while being a faithful follower of God, where love and loyalty first and foremost is to God and uncompromising obedience to His law.
After these many years of studying, observing, experiencing and learning from God’s Book and the countless open books of our lives, mine and others—I have come to the conclusion as to what and who the ideal Christian is—one that I can, and will strive to be by God’s enabling race in Christ, as imparted by the Holy Spirit, and the ministry of the angels that excel in strength whose work is “to keep us in all our ways.” (Ps. 91:11).
It is not limited to the dictionary, textbook or familiar definition of “one subscribing to a set of Christian beliefs, doctrines or creeds, such as the “Apostle’s Creed,” etc. Rather, its firm foundation is the fundamental, self-explanatory meaning of “Christlike” or “like Christ” or “an obedient follower of all of Christ teachings and His life example.” Jesus Christ said to His disciples: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John 14:15. He testified of Himself: “If your keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15: 10, NKJV.
To my personal understanding of the comprehensive three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 included in the Pioneer View the other fundamental unmovable pillars or landmarks of the advent faith, hereunder is the expanded and definitive definition and meaning of who and what the ideal end-time Christians are, in relation to the closing events of everlasting gospel at the grand terminus of prophecy occurring during these closing hours of mankind’s probation and the church’s history in the Christian era: —
The ten commandment-keeping Christians who, without fanfare, bear in their lives the combined ten “fruits” of, namely: “the peaceable righteousness” (Heb. 12: 11; James 3: 18; Phil. 1:11) and of the Spirit, namely: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and temperance.” (Gal. 5: 22, 23). Long after their death, these “who die in the Lord from henceforth,” have “their works follow them to the impartial judgment” (Rev. 14: 13) and are found to have been “a savor of life unto life, not death unto death.” (1 Cor. 2: 14-16; Eph. 5: 2). Without preaching from the pulpit, their life and deeds were convicting and convincing living sermons in themselves that resulted in shining light of truth into the darkness of ignorance, error and sin and even the salvation of many souls.
Their righteousness is of and by “faith that works by love” (Gal. 5:6), not of and by works of Pharisaical self-righteousness which depends on one’s efforts and self-love, independent of Christ and devoid of God’s grace, and therefore depends and thrives on the praise of men. It is hypocritical, a farce and a counterfeit of the genuine article.
The works of righteousness by faith in Christ’s merits and childlike trust in His empowering grace, naturally results in the harvest of the glorious fruits of righteousness and of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand righteousness by works naturally produces, either quickly or in due time, bitter fruits—fruits that are the exact opposite of the fruits of the Spirit, which are:
Their faithfulness and loyalty, patience, fortitude, love and zeal for the truth and in standing in its defense “where champions are few,” are time-tested and crises and emergency-proven. They adapt this principle expressed in the following: “The greatest want of the world is the want of men,—men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is true to duty as the needle is to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” Ed 57; SD 214.
As New Testament Christians, they practice “the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14: 12) as well as that of Abraham and the name and unnamed saints immortalized in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews chapter 11. – “The faith of Jesus.’ It is talked of, but not understood. What constitutes the faith of Jesus, that belongs, to the third angel’s message? Jesus becoming our sin-bearer that He might become our sin-pardoning Savior. He was treated as we deserve to be treated. He came to our world [in the incarnation] and took our sins that we might take His righteousness. Faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus.” 3 SM 172 (1888).
Their spiritual rebirth was genuine and was continuous and progressive like that experienced by Jacob “the supplanter” to Israel, the type of His people, Saul “the persecutor of God’s people” to Paul “the persecuted, and “apostle to the Gentiles,” who could honestly say towards the end of his life of apostleship, “I have fought the good fight of faith, I have finished the race (“my course,” KJV), I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim. 4: 7. And yet humbly and wisely said: added.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold on me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal [“mark,” KJV] for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3: 12-14.
Their love progressively becomes that of Him “who is the outshining of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person,” “who loved righteousness and hated iniquity.” Heb. 1:9. They are learning to hate sin with perfect hatred, and love their fellow sinners as whom Christ also died for. They have learned to fear to sin and offend the One the love when before they “feared death and were a life in bondage to this fear.” Heb. 2: 15.
They are responsible, dependable and trust-worthy. They do not take advantage of the inherent or natural weaknesses or the temporary vulnerabilities of their fellowmen.
Their afflictions, sufferings, trials, tribulations and even persecution are not the consequences of their unrighteousness deeds or any abuse they have done to their own temple bodies or caused to others, although thus accused by Satan and his agencies, but for meekly and bravely standing for truth and righteousness. They are jealous of God’s name, honor and glory. Like the patriarch from the land of Uz, “they esteem [treasure] the words of His mouth more than their necessary food.” Job 23; 1, 12.
They exude and leave behind them where ever they are, like Christ, are a “savor of life unto life, not death unto death.” 2 Cor. 2: 14-16; Eph. 5: 2. God in Christ is glorified and honored in their thoughts, words and deeds. They are refined and respectable in word and deed, speaking only sensible words in a tone of voice that are described as “fitly spoken” and therefore “are like apples gold in pictures of silver.” Prov. 25: 11.
They possess “the faith of the saints and the courage of the martyrs.” They “earnestly contend for the faith” of the light of pure truth “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and keep it burning brightly in the midst of the rapidly-spreading gross spiritual darkness of end-time apostasy that is covering the earth in these last days. (Isa. 60: 2).
The Old Testament had a few “returning remnant” who returned the 70-year captivity in Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem as prophesied in the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9, which is already history, prophecy fulfilled. Their antitype is the similarly few “overcoming remnant” of Revelation who “overcome the world, the flesh and the devil” “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” Rev. 12: 11. These are indeed the final chosen ones following the original Twelve whom Christ called, trained, commissioned, anointed and empowered through the Holy Spirit to be “the light and salt of the earth.” Matt. 5: 13-16, in these last days.
Jesus declared, “the Son of man”— rather than the Son of God, therefore, emphasizing the truth He was God incarnate, “the Word made flesh and dwelt among us” (Joh 1: 14)—“is the Lord of the Sabbath,” and that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Matt. 12: 8; Mark 2: 27, 28; Luke 6: 5, 6). Thus He it was who declared after creating the perfect world in six literal days and on the very next day, the seventh day, commanded man: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work but the seventh days is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.” These end-time Christians keep the very same very day for its Lord “is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Heb. 13 8.
They do not only publicly observe the seventh day of each week as the Sabbath of the Lord, but they strive to keep it holy. By doctrine and practice they understand what “holiness unto the Lord” (Exo. 28: 36; 39: 30) means by partaking of His holiness” (Heb. 12: 10). They strive not for the beauty that fades with age—the beauty of the face, skin, and body but the ageless “beauty of holiness” (1 Chron. 16: 29; Ps. 29: 2) that remains fresh, young and eternally beautiful for it is the beauty of character. God calls them “the apple of His eye;” His “bride without spot or wrinkle or any such thing;” His “jewels.” Deut. 32: 10; Ps. 17: 8; Zech. 2: 8; Eph. 5: 23, 27; Mal. 3: 17.
They are the ones, this side of the second coming and “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14: 14), who were baptized by water and are submitting to the “baptism of the Holy Spirit with fire” (Matt. 3: 11, 12), thus being purified through sanctification and will be “sealed with the name of the Father in their foreheads” (Rev. 3: 12; 14: 1; 22: 4), before they “die in the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 4: 13-18; Rev. 14: 13) or are translated to heaven without tasting death. (Gen. 1: 21-25; Heb. 11: 5; 2 Kings 2: 1-15; Rev. 7: 1-5; 14: 1-6). These two classes of end-time chosen Christians, the resurrected and translated saints were represented in the Mount of Transfiguration by Moses and Elijah. See Matt. 17: 1-9 and Desire of Ages, pp. 421, 422 for more details
Lord, help me to be one of these saints of this final church triumphant. This is my desire, prayer and renewed resolution for the New Year and for all who read this message!
(To be continued next week)