Greater Riches Than Egypt’s Treasures

The border control agent was just performing his assigned duties by asking the travelers why they were entering Canada.  When he received a response, he asked in a mildly incredulous tone: “A Bible conference over Easter weekend?” He may have been able to think of many other more interesting or gratifying pursuits to fill up a holiday weekend than to spend it at a Bible conference.

Moses may have gotten more than just some incredulous questions or quizzical looks from his Egyptian “family” when at “forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel” (Acts 7:22-23). He had been “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”, and no doubt there was a bright future in store for him, for the “treasures of Egypt” were his by right, as the heir apparent of Pharaoh’s daughter. However, there was a catch, as we would say, to his claim on those treasures. Moses knew in his soul, given a conscience taught by the flickering light of the promise of God passed along to him by his godly parents, that he could not accept that heritage and enjoy what Egypt had to offer without sinning against the God who had promised Israel the land of Canaan, not Egypt. The pleasures of this sin would have lasted but for a season, for even given Moses’ 120-year life, he had been a great loser to have gained the whole world, while losing his soul (Matthew 16:26).

Egypt is for the Christian a picture or type of the world, and its treasures are without doubt a picture of all that the world has to offer.  Much of what this world offers may seem pleasant or at least not too objectionable to the natural mind, but if these things are sought without reference to God, and with respect only to man’s natural desires, the treasures of Egypt will always take on the character of the pleasures of sin. It cannot be otherwise, for “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”, and we know that “the whole world lies in the wicked one” (I John 2:16; 5:19 JND translation).  The “treasures of Egypt”, which must morph into the “pleasures of sin”¹, are being pursued by a large majority of men and women, old and young, in the developed world today.

But Moses forsook Egypt, and persevered in a course of faith, “as seeing Him who is invisible”.¹ His visitation of his brethren, his forsaking of Egypt and all it offered, and his choosing to suffer affliction and to bear the reproach of the Christ (the promised Messiah), all stemmed from his discovery of much greater riches, as he looked forward in time and to the resurrection of the just for his reward.  We Christian believers have much more to enjoy of Christ now, as well as having “exceeding great and precious promises”² for the future – more than Moses ever foresaw or enjoyed while in the body.  May we live in light of our position in Christ, enjoying the greatest riches God has ever made known to His creatures. The “unsearchable riches of Christ” are found in “the mystery of God, in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”³.

Perhaps we could sum up these thoughts by quoting the 20th-century martyr, Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

 

¹  Hebrews 11:23-27      ²  II Peter 1:4     ³  Ephesians 3:8; Colossians 2:2-3 (JND)

 

To Fall From Our Steadfastness

There is something that has been impressed upon me in recent years while observing the walk and the ways of Christians, and I include myself here. It is this, that there is a tendency in our hearts to decline from a more devoted and conscientious state to a state that is less characterized by these godly traits.

No doubt this decline was foretold by the Scriptures in passages such as Revelation 3 (the degraded state of Laodicea), and in the spirit of the Lord’s words when He told His disciples that false prophets would arise in a coming day to deceive many, and that iniquity would abound because the love of many would grow cold.¹  But although this decline ought not be a surprise to us, we are at the same time encouraged in the Word of God to guard against it, and to not fall from our steadfastness.²

A local radio talk show host (perhaps a believer, for he is favorable to Christianity) recently discovered that a moral  deviance he had condemned in the past was being accepted and lived out by his child, up until very recently unbeknownst to him. He now regrets his earlier stance on the issue, and is promoting tolerance, if not yet outright acceptance.  The question that arises is whether he had held his former position on the matter by faith and then gave it up, or whether he had spoken out in the past on the basis of what he merely preferred because of what was acceptable within his socially conservative circle.

The appearance of changing preferences due to shifting societal and ecclesiastical norms is troubling to witness when those norms are moral in nature. Now, if there was a legalistic motive for one’s former preferences, then a movement toward living the Christian life with the Lord Jesus as the object for faith, by the Spirit and in obedience to the Scriptures, is a praiseworthy cause for a change in one’s ways.  However, the matter of setting aside values or doctrines that a believer once truly held by faith is a very sad thing. How many parents have given up truth they once enjoyed by faith, in common with other spiritual Christians, primarily because devotion to their children (who became involved in activities or accepted liberal views their parents once shunned) gradually superseded devotion to Christ and faithfulness to the truth? Cases like this are no doubt included in Peter’s warnings to believers in a corrupt world, when he tells them to “beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness”.²  Loss of salvation or eternal life is of course not suggested here, but rather, the potential for losing a reward or a crown of righteousness.³

It is encouraging to see parents who maintain their exercises of faith and godliness in spite of the heartache or disappointment their children may cause them when there has been failure in transmitting those godly exercises from one generation to the next. And it is a happy thing to have observed many saints over the years still holding the moral and spiritual ground they held decades ago, still walking “worthily of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing by the true knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10 JND translation).

Jude wrote his epistle near the end of the apostolic era, and like Peter, he grieved over the decline and corruption in the Christian profession that threatened to have a deleterious effect on true believers. I will close by repeating Jude’s bright and positive encouragement to his beloved brethren, which I desire for myself and for my brethren as well: “But ye, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the [enjoyment of] the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Build, pray, keep, and look!

 

¹  Matthew 24:11-12 (although Jesus is speaking particularly of a period after the Church is gone, during the “beginning of sorrows”)    ²    II Peter 3:17     ³  Revelation 3:11; Colossians 2:18; I Corinthians 3:12-15

Woman – Glory of the Man

Addressing the subject of gender roles and gender identity from a Biblical perspective is fraught with peril in modern Western society, because Scripture truth on it has perhaps never been more unpopular.  For many decades, there has been a drive toward gender “equality” in the workplace, in government, at home, and in the church, and it seems that few Christians even question the values and principles of this “equal rights” movement. More recently, the line of demarcation between the sexes in our society has been blurred even further, to the extent that genderless clothing, women in military combat roles, and the transgender agenda are being pressed upon society for its toleration and eventual acceptance.

A godly Christian might well ask the question: “Why this movement toward a gender-neutral culture, and why now?”  I would submit that what began perhaps somewhat innocently with women’s suffrage over 150 ago gained steam from there and has developed to a point where nearly all restraint has been cast off, and society is not the better for it. Meanwhile, Western Christianity has suffered from accepting these societal innovations. No doubt there has been a concerted effort by the powers of darkness in these last days to weaken the church’s testimony to the world and to the whole angelic realm, by bringing innovation and the resulting confusion into the historical relationship between man and woman instituted in the beginning by God.¹  The Biblical practice of ladies covering their heads (while men properly uncover) in worship has almost disappeared in the West, and women taking on church leadership and public ministry roles is commonplace. Could a spiritual person truly characterize these recent changes as “growing by the true knowledge of God”² in His assembly?

But let us now turn to the positive and edifying teaching of the Word of God in this matter. We find principles in the New Testament that give us to understand the simple truth, should our minds and wills be open to it. This wonderful subject cannot satisfactorily be reduced to a short column like this one, so I would like to focus on one aspect of it for now.

The Apostle Paul makes an amazing statement when he writes that “the woman is the glory of the man” (I Corinthians 11:7).  What does it mean for something to be the “glory of” a person?  Generally, the glory of a being or entity is the thing that brings out the excellence or the worth of its subject, displaying it before a particular audience. A “glory” is made apparent to that audience by means of either physical or spiritual perception, and is something the subject of that glory may rightly take pleasure in, subject to godly order. So, for example, when it is said that a woman’s long hair is a glory to her, it is not difficult for us to grasp that her long hair manifests what is naturally excellent and praiseworthy as to her womanhood. Accordingly, she should not be ashamed of that glory nor hide it, except when it is appropriate that she cover her head and her hair because of a greater glory that ought not be eclipsed or usurped; that is, the glory of God on display in the man during collective prayer and ministry.³

What respectable man does not take pleasure in appearing publicly with the woman he loves?  For she is his glory, being the one who completes him. Would there be glory for the man, or would his excellence be on display, had he not her to fulfill him?  The notion of a man glorying in his own appearance or hair is unnatural, for it is his “better half” that he ought to glory in.  It is clear from the Scriptures we have noticed that the woman was made of and for the man (while the man now comes by the woman), and that the chain of typical glories was only complete when God brought the woman to the man as bone of his bone. Only then, after His work on the sixth day of creating Man male and female, did God pronounce His creative work “very good”, and not before then (Genesis 1:26-31).

The glorious mystery of Christ and the church,¹ as well as God’s display of His own manifold excellence before the universe,³ is compromised in the minds of those (including Christians) who bring their own thoughts to bear on the matter of gender roles and distinctions.  Let it suffice for us to maintain that God is always wiser than men, and that He has revealed to us His mind on the work of His own hands, the man and the woman. It will be our glory and joy to submit in simplicity to God’s infinite wisdom. How blessed are we who have the privilege of participating in a scheme that brings such glory to Him!

 

¹ Read these scriptures together: Genesis 2:18-24; Ephesians 3:8-11; 5:22-32; and I Corinthians 11:3-10.    ²  Colossians 1:10 JND trans.     ³  I Corinthians 11:7-15

Why Political Candidates Shouldn’t Worry Christians

I hesitate to write on the dreary subject of politics, but since some of my Christian friends feel very strongly about current political maneuverings in the United States, I believe it might be an appropriate time for it.

I suppose there are a few reasons why many Christians are troubled by the decision they feel they must make, particularly this year.  One reason may be that they are concerned about the future of America, including possible compromises of freedom or economic losses. Another cause for concern may be the moral character, or lack thereof, that they perceive in multiple political candidates, one of whom they believe they must support or vote for in order to fulfill their civic duty, or perhaps to remain socially relevant. Some may be asking themselves a version of this question: “Am I compromising the high moral ground I seek to stand on, if I vote for someone who obviously has traded moral scruples for political power?”

I do not wish to detract from the concerns of thoughtful believers about the personal morality of leaders or as to societal decline, but I contend that it is not a shirking of some moral duty or disobedience to U.S. law if a Christian seeks to remain neutral by refraining from participating in the political process, if a higher spiritual claim takes precedence in his or her conscience. I have written a little more on this subject at this link.

My purpose here is to offer comfort to the hearts of believers whose worry and consternation is detracting from or eclipsing their peace and joy. To that end, I offer a few verses of Scripture with brief comments.

The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will (Daniel 4:25).  This passage by itself should serve to calm the minds of all who entrust themselves to God who claims for Himself universal sovereignty over kings and rulers.  But the Word of God gives us much more than this for the encouragement of our souls.

Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? (I Peter 3:13) Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil (Romans 13:3).  The Apostles Peter and Paul both write these words of encouragement to follow the good and do good works, even though they faced difficult times and persecution in the early church.  Now we know that these verses of Scripture are not absolute statements, for there have been positively evil rulers whom Satan has aroused against believers in spite of all they seek to do right, and for the blessing of others.  But American Christians ought to be very thankful to be living under the rule of law, where the election (God’s choice) of one man or woman over another to be the president will probably not in short order bring disaster upon us.

Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (I Peter 4:19)  If real religious persecution should begin in America because it has chosen godless leaders who manage to overturn the rule of law, we have the greatest comfort of all put before us in this and other similar portions of Scripture. The loving and righteous Creator who gave us our being and made us a new creation in Christ will in the final analysis preserve our souls for Himself, no matter if the worst should come, and no matter whether our faith fails under extreme duress, for He will complete what He has created in us until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6).

If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked (Proverbs 29:12).  What should really give believers pause is the moral connection the Scriptures make between the ruler and the ruled. Given the steep moral slide in American society, it is no wonder that those leaders who become most popular are often deeply flawed morally, while promoting themselves by preying on the lusts and fears of a populace, and the “people love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:31). While these thoughts may not be very cheerful in themselves, a Christian ought to take courage in the truth that, not only is the Lord ruling over all, but that He is returning for His own very soon.

“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you . . . Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence . . . Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord . . . Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:1-8 ESV).