Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: the world

The world is a mess

• The world is a mess.
• Most of the mess was caused by people who thought they were mending it.
• We are no wiser than they were.
• We are not good people.
• We can’t mend the world because it is made up of people just like us.
• We need to be mended.
• If we could be mended the world would be a better place.
• Only God can do that.
• We don’t want to hear about God.
• That is what is wrong with the world.

© Bob Goodnough

The Cost of Discipleship

This is the title of a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s not hard to understand that attempting to be faithful to Christ in Nazi Germany would come at a cost, but it has been more difficult for us to grasp that to be a true disciple of Christ will always entail a cost, even in times of peace, prosperity and favourable public opinion.

We are forgetful people. It appears that we have forgotten that the friendship of the world is enmity with God. Or perhaps we never really understood how that could be true. The world was just a big, soft, cuddly bear, and would never do us any harm. Are we beginning to see the danger today? Is it too late to sound an alarm?

When we speak of the cost of discipleship, it should not be thought to mean that we can earn or pay for salvation. It simply means that if we try to carry the baggage of the world as we embark on our pilgrimage to heaven, we will never reach our intended destination. There will be dangerous, narrow passages along the way where we just will not be able to squeeze through with that baggage. There are alternate routes where that baggage will not be a hindrance. Christian beware! Those routes do not lead to the celestial city.

That baggage includes things like pride of accomplishment, feelings of superiority, bitterness, resentment, lust, the desire for material gain, a failure to admit and take full responsibility when we have done wrong, refusing to accept admonition and anything that might diminish our love for others.

It is entirely possible to convince ourselves that we love God and the feeling is mutual, but others just don’t understand us. Perhaps they don’t fully understand us; or perhaps they understand us better than we do ourselves. More important, we have missed the teaching that our relationship with God can largely be discerned by our relationship with our fellow believers. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).

The cost of discipleship will vary from person to person, according to what part of the world is most dear to us. God may grant material abundance to someone, but let such a person beware of boasting or thinking himself better than those who have less. God may use someone to do great things in His kingdom, but let such a person beware of thinking he is too important to consider the reproof of his brethren.

Others may study to become humble, learning the right appearance, words and mannerisms to appear the most inoffensive. Such a person may be unwilling to do the little things the Spirit prompts them to do for fear that someone might misunderstand and criticize. This may be the worst mistake of all. A person who is active in serving the Lord will be criticized, sometimes with cause, sometimes unjustly. The one who is truly spiritual will recognize his faults, make the needed corrections and carry on serving the Lord.
Perhaps fear is the most cumbersome piece of baggage that some carry. Such a person may believe himself to be humble, but could fear get such a hold if there was no pride for it to fasten itself to?

God is sounding the alarm today for all who will hear to cast off the baggage that hinders us from truly being His disciples. If the cost seems too great, perhaps we do not grasp how great the reward will be for those who are faithful, nor how great the loss for those who are not.

The suicide of civilizations

I have been pondering the thoughts that Jacques Ellul expressed in Presence au monde moderne. I don’t know if this book has ever been translated into English, as most of his other books have. This book was first published in 1948, shortly after World War II. The following excerpts are my translation.

“Thus we see that ethics are inseparable from the preaching of the Word for it is the conduct of the Christian that truly ruins the work of Satan and tends to the edification of the body of Christ in the world. But . . .  ethics is not a recipe for being righteous, it is not a synthesis of Christian faith and the values of the world, nor a means given to the Christian that allows him to live without the Holy Spirit. It is the opposite of all that.”

“I believe there is a great and serious confusion. It is not by acting as other s do and participating in the technical works of the world that a Christian can effectively participate in the preservation of the world, but in filling his specific role . . .  This does not mean that the technical work does not need to be done or that it is useless, but everyone is doing it . . .  For the world must be preserved by the ways of God and not by the works of man.  . . .  it must be preserved in the order desired by God and not by the plan that men make of this order.”

“The will of the Lord that is presented both as judgement and forgiveness, law and grace, commandment and promise, is revealed to us in the Scriptures, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. It must be explained in the present time, but it does not change.”

“The will of the world is always a will leading to death, leading to suicide . . .  The world is not capable of preserving itself, nor capable of finding the remedies for its spiritual condition (which controls all the rest) . . .  If we do not want to be totally abstract, we are then obliged to know the depth and the spiritual reality of the fatal tendency of our world, and this is where we must direct our efforts (and not toward the false problems that the world poses, or with a clumsy application of an order of God that has become abstract). If we are to act thus, we must understand that the work of preaching must accompany the work of material recovery.”

I do not necessarily agree with everything that Jacques Ellul writes, but I believe that here he is putting his finger on the real condition of the world. All the efforts made by the world to do good, to right wrongs, to teach moral values, all of these things when done by the world tend toward death. Spiritual death first of all, which leads to the death of civilization.

This has been the case in all the great empires of the past. Rome was not overwhelmed by the uncivilized Germanic tribes until she was so thoroughly decayed that there was no real power to resist. We will not fix the decline of our present day Western democracies by political action, but by submitting ourselves to the will of God so that He can bring about a spiritual revival.

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