Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: worldliness

A Christian admonition from 600 years ago

[Barbe means beard. It came to be applied to the person wearing the beard, becoming a term of affection for an uncle and then became the term which Anabaptists in France and Italy used for their ministers. Pragela, a valley in the Alps west of Turin and near the French border was home to a large number of Waldensians.]

An Epistle of the Barbe Bartolemi Tertian to the Evangelical churches of Pragela, circa 1420 AD.

Jesus be with us.

To all our faithful and beloved brethren in Jesus Christ.  I greet you all.  Amen.

This Epistle is to alert your brotherhood, acquitting myself of that trust which is committed to me by God concerning you for the salvation of your souls, according to the light of truth given to us by the Most High.  May every one of you maintain, increase and cherish to your utmost and by no means weaken or diminish those good principles, forms and customs given by those who have gone before us, of which we are not worthy.

For it would be but a very small and poor advantage for us to have been renewed by the fatherly persuasions and the light given to us by God, if we should now give ourselves up to a worldly, diabolical and fleshly conversation, forsaking the principal good, which is God, and the salvation of our souls for a short temporal life.  For the Lord has said in the gospel, What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  And, It were better never to have known the way of righteousness, than having once known it, to walk contrary to it.

Yea, we shall be altogether inexcusable before the righteousness of God, and our condemnation more severe.  For more torment will be inflicted upon those who have had the greatest knowledge.  Wherefore I beseech you by the love of God not to diminish but to increase the love, fear and obedience which is due unto God, and to one another, and also to keep the good customs which you have seen and heard of God, by us and others.  And that you will purge out from among you all those faults and failings which disturb your peace, love and concord, and all that obstructs your liberty in the service of God, and your own salvation and the administration of truth, if you desire that God would prosper you in the temporal and spiritual goods.  For you can do nothing without Him.

If you desire to be heirs of His glory, do as He tells you, If you would enter into life, keep my commandments.  Moreover, let there be among you no vain sports, gluttony, whoredoms, balls or other debaucheries, nor questions, fraud, usury, envy or discord.  Neither support or uphold among you any persons of an evil life who could become a stumbling block or evil example to you.  Rather let love and faithfulness reign among you and all good examples, doing one to another as every one would that it should be done to him.  For otherwise it is not possible that any can be saved, or find grace and favour with God and man in this world, or glory in that which is to come.

And it is necessary that the leaders and those who govern among you see to maintaining these things.  For when the head is sick all the members suffer.  Wherefore, if you hope and desire to possess eternal life and to be held in esteem and favour and to prosper in the world in both spiritual and temporal things, cleanse yourselves from every disorderly way among you so that God may always be with you, Who never forsakes those who put their trust in Him.  But know for certain that God does not answer or dwell with sinners, nor with the soul who desire evil, nor with the man that is a slave to sin.  Wherefore let every one cleanse the way of his own heart and flee from dangers if he would not perish in them.  I shall not say more for the present, except that ye do all these things and the God of Peace be with you all.  Join with us in true, humble and devout prayer.  Greetings to all the faithful and beloved of Christ.  Amen

I am wholly yours, Bartholomeus Tertianus, ready to serve you in all things in our power, according to the will of God.

What is wrong with the world?

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”(1 John 2:15). The Bible has a lot to say about the world and the danger there is if Christians become worldly. Why? What is there about the world that is so dangerous for the Christian?

What I say here will not be a complete answer to those questions, just a few thoughts on the subject of worldliness. First of all, the danger in worldliness did not originate with things and it does not consist primarily of things. There is a spirit of the world that is always opposed to Christian faith, but which manifests itself in ever changing ways. We can avoid most all of the things that some people label as worldly, yet still be pretty much completely worldly minded.

The apostle John went on to write: ” For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” verses 16 & 17).

I believe it is fair to conclude from this that when we feel that we have a right to do all the things that we want to do, and have all the things that we want, that is the spirit of the world. On the other hand, the Bible teaches that a Christian should always consider the good of others.

We may wonder if God doesn’t want us to do or have the things that will make us happy. But a selfish person is never happy. There is always something more that is needed to make such a person happy.

This lack of happiness is just the beginning, it often leads to envy, jealousy and anger. Then comes the belief that other people are to blame for our lack of happiness. This can even be made to sound unselfish: the people who are running things are being unjust, trampling upon the needs of the weak. Something must be done to set things to right. Media, politicians and social activists all have long lists of things that are wrong in the world and have many proposals on how to set things right.

As a result the world is a seething, tempestuous sea of unfulfilled desires, bruised emotions, anger and even hatred. Ideas of right and wrong, of what makes for a good life, are constantly changing. Every time something is done to set things right, more people are hurt and new ideas come to the surface.

True peace, freedom and happiness can only be found when there is a solid, unchanging foundation. It may seem to be almost within our reach when we are immersed in the restless sea of the world, yet it always eludes us. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is that sure and changeless foundation.

Unstable as water

Water is essential to life on this planet. The Bibles applies the life-giving properties of water in a spiritual sense when it speaks of the river of life and of the water and blood that poured from Jesus’ side, .

There is also a dangerous side to water, such as Jacob’s description of Reuben, his oldest son: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.” (Genesis 49:4)

The Bible uses this turbulent, ever-changing nature of water as an illustration of the character of the world that does not know God. Such as this passage from Isaiah: “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21). James says: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8) In Ephesians 4:4, the apostle Paul writes: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

The book of Revelation speaks figuratively of a seductive woman who deceives the inhabitants of the earth, and makes war with the saints. Revelation 17:1 depicts her as being seated upon many waters, then verse 15 says: “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. ”

Chapter 13 begins by telling us of a beast that arises from these waters. The beast blasphemes God and yet is worshipped by all the people of the earth, except those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Dry land in Scripture is a symbol of stability, a solid place where a foundation can be laid for the people who believe in God — a place where we can be rooted and grounded in the faith and worship the one who never changes. Yet chapter 13 also tells of a beast arising from the dry land. This depicts a deformed, corrupt Christianity rising among the people of God that imitates many of the teachings and practices of the first beast which came out of the waters of heathendom.

The world’s standards of right and wrong are always changing. Today we are told that certain abominable things are right and good and if we don’t agree, then we are enemies of the truth. Tomorrow the values will change, but the people of God will still be the enemies of the world.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”  (1 Peter 4:12-18)

What is “the world”?

In 1 John 2:15-17, the apostle delivers a clear warning to Christians about loving the world and the things of the world: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

This makes it very tempting for well-meaning believers to compile a list of things that are “worldly” and to exercise great care to avoid such things. Much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. And just like the Pharisees we can scrupulously avoid things and still be motivated by lust and pride. We may be able to hide that from ourselves, but not from others.

The many repetitions of “world” in the above passage all translate the Greek word “kosmos”, which refers to the physical world and the physical things in it. There are many other passages in the New Testament that speak of the “world” where the Greek word is “aion.” This word has a wide range of meaning, but when it is translated “world” it refers not to physical things, but to spirits and attitudes that prevail at a certain era and place. French Bibles usually use a word that means “age” or “this present age”.

This brings us much closer to the root of what we call worldliness. There is no inherent evil in a physical object, but many of the ideas that seem to be in the air we breathe convey attitudes that are directly contrary to the way of Christ.

Romans 12:2 is an example of such Scripture passages and the inference to our way of thinking is often missed.  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” “This world” is translated “the present age” in French Bibles. Even in English, the meaning should be clear if we would stop and consider the whole verse. We are not to pattern our way of thinking after the prevailing ideas of the age we live in, but allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds to know what is truly meaningful and important.

There are many other verses where aion is translated world in English and age or present age in French. Here are a few: Matthew 13:22  – “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world  and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” 1 Corinthians 2:6 – “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought.” 2 Corinthians 4:4 – “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Galatians 1:4 – “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.”

I think zeitgeist might be better understood than world in these passages.” Zeitgeist: a pattern of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time.” It comes from German words meaning spirit of the times. This is the “world” that is most dangerous and deceptive for one who wants to follow Christ.

What are the signs that someone is a Christian?

A brother asked that question Sunday evening — a couple of verses of Scripture came immediately to mind, and more have come since that tine. I will put those thoughts down on the computer screen. I believe they give a good picture of what should characterize a true Christian, and while I acknowledge that it is not given to us to know the heart of another person yet the Bible says “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

The first sign is love, love to God and love to our fellow men. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) He also told us to love our neighbour as ourselves and when He was asked “Who is my neighbour?”, He told a story that had as its hero a man that the questioner would have felt duty-bound to despise. In other words, if we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ there should not be anyone whom we cannot love. And this love is the best outward evidence of our love to God.

Next would be the fruit of the Spirit. If we claim to be a child of God and to have received the Holy Spirit, then the way we live and the way we react to the people and situations we encounter should demonstrate not only love, but also joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness and all the other qualities mentioned. The Scriptures (Galatians 5:22-23 & Ephesians 5:9) do not speak of fruits, as though we could pick some and not the others, but of a singular fruit which has all these characteristics.

Another sign is that a Christian will not be in love with the world and the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), nor will his way of thinking be patterned after the thinking and spirit of the times in which he lives (Romans 12:2).  There should be clear evidence of submission to the will of the Lord: “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Thus if we meet someone who appears to be on fire for the Lord and filled with joy, yet also exhibits a passionate love for the things of the world and a craving for the approval of the world, there are some legitimate questions which need to be asked.

Likewise, if we encounter someone who is very scrupulous in his avoidance of anything which could be considered worldly, yet is openly critical of all who do not live as he does, we need to enquire if there is a genuine, active, connection to God.

Would to God that all those who name the name of Christ could be truly filled with the joy of the Lord, love for everyone they meet, have no attachment to earthly things, and never be troubled by the thought that this makes them better than other people.

How to catch a monkey

If you want to capture a monkey you first need to get a wooden box and fill it about half full with stones. Then cut a hole in the lid just large enough for a monkey to get his hand through, throw some peanuts on top of the stones and securely fasten the lid to the box. The only other thing you need is a rope strong enough that the monkey cannot break it. Now you take the rope, hide behind a tree and wait for a monkey to come along.

When the monkey appears he will be tempted by the smell of the peanuts, he will go closer and closer to the box, look around for any sign of danger, then thrust his hand into the box and grab the peanuts. When he tries to pull his hand back out he cannot because now it is a fist full of peanuts. He will try and try to get his hand out, but he will not let go of those peanuts.

That’s all it takes to trap a monkey. Now all you have to do is walk up behind him, put the rope around his waist and tie it. Then you can break the lid to set his hand free and let him eat the peanuts.

Or so the story goes. I do not have any first hand experience with this method, never having been in a land where monkeys roam and not having any desire to catch a monkey if I had been.

However, I’m afraid that too often I have been that monkey. Satan laid a trap for me, I grabbed what was offered and then I was trapped. Why is it so hard to let go of those things that we know have led us into a trap? Is there anything in this world that is that important?

%d bloggers like this: