Bill Muehlenberg

Chesterton on the Free Family

In everything worth having, even in every pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so that the pleasure may revive and endure. The joy of battle comes after the first fear of death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the bore of learning him; the glow of the sea-bather comes after the icy shock of the sea bath; and the success of the marriage comes after the failure of the honeymoon. All human vows, laws, and contracts are so many ways of surviving with success this breaking point, this instant of potential surrender. In everything on this earth that is worth doing, there is a stage when no one would do it, except for necessity or honor. It is then that the Institution upholds a man and helps him on to the firmer ground ahead.

I will speak on a favourite old author and some favourite old books on a favourite old topic in a moment, but if I may, let me digress for just a bit. A persistent cough along with some musty smells in my house have led me to look into the possible causes.
I am told that one potential cause of this is the presence of old books. Now I am not sure what constitutes an “old” book: Are they those that are 50 years old? Or 500 years old? While I do have a lot of books, I suspect most of them are less than 60 or 70 years old. But if mould on books IS the main culprit, that is a big worry indeed.
But let me get back to the subject at hand! One of the older books I do have is by G. K. Chesterton. It is What’s Wrong With the World? and it came out in 1910. My copy of it is dated 1910, so I take it this might be a first edition. It is this volume that I wish to speak to here.
(I do also have a 1909 copy of his Orthodoxy, which first appeared in 1908. So those are some of my older volumes, and I am hoping they are NOT the cause of the mouldy, musty odours in my home. And for what it is worth, I see that I purchased the former volume in San Francisco in 1993, while I bought the latter in Melbourne in 1990.)
Chesterton is of course one of the world’s most quotable authors. There is plenty in this 370-page book that I can quote from, but let me simply share one whole chapter – Chapter 7 (pp. 62-68). It is titled “The Free Family.” Chesterton often spoke about marriage and family, and I have quoted from him on these topics in previous articles.
But this short chapter is another gem from the great author, so I simply offer it here in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
VII. The Free Family
As I have said, I propose to take only one central instance; I will take the institution called the private house or home; the shell and organ of the family. We will consider cosmic and political tendencies simply as they strike that ancient and unique roof. Very few words will suffice for all I have to say about the family itself. I leave alone the speculations about its animal origin and the details of its social reconstruction; I am concerned only with its palpable omnipresence. It is a necessity for mankind; it is (if you like to put it so) a trap for mankind. Only by the hypocritical ignoring of a huge fact can anyone contrive to talk of “free love”; as if love were an episode like lighting a cigarette, or whistling a tune. Suppose whenever a man lit a cigarette, a towering genie arose from the rings of smoke and followed him everywhere as a huge slave. Suppose whenever a man whistled a tune he “drew an angel down” and had to walk about forever with a seraph on a string. These catastrophic images are but faint parallels to the earthquake consequences that Nature has attached to sex; and it is perfectly plain at the beginning that a man cannot be a free lover; he is either a traitor or a tied man. The second element that creates the family is that its consequences, though colossal, are gradual; the cigarette produces a baby giant, the song only an infant seraph. Thence arises the necessity for some prolonged system of co-operation; and thence arises the family in its full educational sense.
It may be said that this institution of the home is the one anarchist institution. That is to say, it is older than law, and stands outside the State. By its nature it is refreshed or corrupted by indefinable forces of custom or kinship.
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A Great Cloud of Witnesses

All that we say and do and think is being noticed. That should help us to keep on the straight and narrow, and help us run the race with diligence and perseverance. It is too easy to be swayed by what we see and hear in this world, but we must be more conscious of what can be seen and heard in the next. 

The Christian is never alone. He is part of the Body of Christ. And what he does is always noticed, certainly by the Triune God. But one interesting passage of Scripture suggests that we are being watched by others as well. Consider what we find in Hebrews 12:1-2:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Now when you find a ‘therefore’ in Scripture, you need to learn what it is there for. And the chapter preceding this one is of course the great hall of fame chapter where so many past men and women of faith are listed and praised. After reminding us of all these amazing believers, the writer of this book urges us to run the Christian race with endurance.
The idea is that we should take strong motivation from knowing about all those who have gone before and finished the race well. And there is a two-tiered witnessing taking place here. We witness what they have done (as we read Scripture or church history or Christian biography, etc), but they may also be witnessing us.
Perhaps the saints who have preceded us into eternity are sitting around and cheering us on. “Go Bill – you can do it! Keep going!” Knowing there are so many great champions of the faith who might be supporting us in this way should give us a renewed passion to keep on keeping on.
It is the same for everyone in this life. If you have practiced and worked hard at something – perhaps as a pianist or a golfer – there is real encouragement in knowing that there is a crowd of onlookers, wishing you well and cheering you on. And if you know that a great pianist or golfer is in the crowd while you do your thing, you will try even harder to impress that champion.
One expository commentator and pastor wrote in his remarks about these verses how in his first year of preaching, he was told that two famous and well-known English evangelical preachers were sitting in the church. That made him nervous, but it also made him want to do the very best he could. R. Kent Hughes said this about that Sunday morning:
Now, I always prepare as thoroughly as possible and have always tried to do my best regardless of the situation, but I do remember consciously crossing and dotting my homiletical “t’s” and “i’s” that morning – though it is to be feared that my sermon was eminently forgettable! But my point is, the presence of notable witnesses is motivating, whatever one’s activity may happen to be.
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Worldviews and the Building of Cathedrals – and Civilisations

When a people have hope and a brighter view of the future (including the next life), that can result in all sorts of long-term projects being engaged in – even ongoing work on civilisations as well. Certainly the Christian church of two millennia ago helped to give birth to Western civilisation.

In good measure your view of life will determine what you do – or don’t do. If you have a very bleak and gloomy worldview or philosophy, you may not be too keen to invest time and energy into much of anything, be it building a new home or working on some other long-term project.
On the other hand, if you have a more optimistic and hopeful view of things, including the future, you might be more inclined to engage in such activities. Yes, these are generalities, but this can be true of both believers and nonbelievers. Your perspective on life can well determine what you do with it.
Consider for a moment the non-Christian. We know that for the most part religious people – including Christians – tend to have more children than non-religious folks. Larger families are not the sole domain of the religious, but generally this is true – as research affirms. Atheists for example tend to have far fewer children:
If a secular person thinks this life is all there is, and they are consumed with fear and worry about all manner of things – be it covid or climate change or overpopulation or whatever the latest scare is – they will be less keen on bringing about the next generation. ‘We are all doomed – we are all gonna die.’ If so, why bother having kids?
There is a real connection in other words between faith and demographics. Over a decade ago an important book appeared by the economist and political commentator David Goldman. Called How Civilizations Die (Regnery, 2011), it looks at how cultures – just like people – can die from a loss of hope and a loss of a sense of meaning and purpose. At the time I wrote this about it:
Says Goldman, “A good deal of the world seems to have lost the taste for life . . . Today’s cultures are dying of apathy, not by the swords of their enemies.” The degree of religious faith and human hope determine how nations fare. The more secular a nation is, the more likely its fertility rates will be plummeting.
A purely secular analysis will simply not do here: “Our strategic thinking suffers from a failure to take into account the existential problems of other nations. We think in the narrow categories of geopolitics, but we need to study theopolitics – the powerful impact of religious beliefs and aspirations on world events.”

I write all this because of a meme I recently found online. It shows a picture of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in Germany and says this:
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Sharing Your Faith – Whose Model Should We Use?

There is more than one way to evangelise, and if you can develop good relationships with non-believers, that is great. But the point is, if Jesus, the disciples, and the church for so many centuries concentrated on actually proclaiming truth to anyone and everyone, then we should not be dismissive of it – even in a rather different culture today. Sure, use the internet or social media or all sorts of new technologies to share the gospel message. And engage in “friendship evangelism” and the like. But do not think that just being nice and “being there” will ultimately cut it. Please make sure that you eventually SAY something!

If you know your New Testament, you will know that Jesus and the disciples had particular ways in which they shared the gospel. These were not the only ways in which folks can share their faith, but if it was good enough for them, then presumably we can learn something from them – especially if many modern forms of evangelism seem to counter what they had done.
It is not just that much of what Christians do today in this regard seems to conflict with what Jesus said and did – along with the disciples – but often we are hearing from some folks that evangelism and proselytisation is wrong altogether.
I kid you not. Plenty of those claiming to be Christians have said that we should not proselytise others. Consider these words that I penned nearly a decade ago. They involve the then Australian head of the once strongly evangelical para-church group World Vision. He actually came out and said this back then:
“We don’t engage in proselytism, and we work cooperatively with people of all faiths and those without a faith. In fact World Vision has more Muslim employees than any other NGO in the world, including Muslim NGOs. We strive to serve people everywhere without regard to their race, religion or politics.”
Wow. The group’s founder Bob Pierce would be rolling in his grave at that. Then we had the case of Pope Francis saying in 2019, “You must not proselytise. It is not Christian to proselytise”. Yes, he then had to go on to explain and defend his remarks. Whether or not he was ‘taken out of context,’ there are many believers today who do seem to look down on evangelism.
Certainly, the idea of waltzing into a town and engaging in open air preaching seems to be a big no-no for many of these trendy and progressive Christians. Such actions are considered to be ‘intolerant’ and ‘unloving’ and we must just slowly build relationships with folks first. You know, let’s just go to lots of cafés over a long period of time and sip on our lattes, and maybe one year we might be in a place to share your faith.
Now, is the building of relationships with non-believers generally a good thing? Yes it is. If and when we have that luxury of doing this, then by all means go for it. But two responses come to mind. This does not always work as planned. I know of Christians who kept putting off sharing their faith in order to “build a relationship” – only to then be told the person had died, and they never did get to hear the gospel! This happens far too often.
Secondly, it implies that everything Jesus and the disciples did were wrong, or not at all paradigmatic for us to follow. Hate to say it, but as far as I know, Jesus and the disciples did NOT normally spend many weeks or months getting to know folks and trying to get onside with others. They quite often simply went up to complete strangers and told them the gospel!
That was their normal way of doing evangelism. Sure, as a fledgling and persecuted new community of believers, they may have been rather limited in this regard. As I say, today, if relationship building is possible, then go for it.
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When God Is the Last Option

At best we can conclude that God indeed HEARS all prayers of all people just as he knows all things, but he only ANSWERS prayers according to his own will, and that is mainly the prayers of those who seek to do his will.

So what happens when you live your entire life as if God does not exist, but then you get into a real jam? You do not believe in God, you want nothing to do with God, and you actually dislike the very idea of God existing and interfering with your selfish lifestyle. But then crunch time comes.
Folks like this can very quickly change their tune and start praying fast and furiously. As the old saying goes, there are no atheists in foxholes. When all hell breaks out, when some massive crisis comes along, then all of a sudden plenty of Joe and Josephine Pagans will burst out into prayer – as if there actually is a God who is there.
So what are we to make of such prayers? Does God in fact hear them? Does he answer them? Let me seek to flesh out some thoughts on this. These questions arise from a few brief things I happened to see on the television the other night. Both involved those who seemed to clearly be non-Christians who were speaking about God and prayer.
One was all rather trivial, while the other was quite serious. As to the former, some gal on a food cooking contest program said something about praying to God that the food comes out OK. But just moments prior she had uttered a string of swear words because of problems she had in her cooking. I immediately thought, ‘Hmm, and what God is this that she is praying to?’
These superficial and usually meaningless prayers are of course heard all the time: ‘God, please let the judges like my food.’ ‘God, help me get that parking spot.’ (Christians often pray that one too!) ‘God, help me get that dress that is on sale.’ Sam and Samantha Secular can pray prayers like this all the time. They may not even believe in God, but they are happy to now and then throw up prayers nonetheless to get something they want or crave.
Contrary to the beliefs of many people – pagans and Christians alike – God is not a divine Santa Claus whose only purpose for existing is to give us goodies and nice things whenever and wherever we seek them. He does not exist to serve us. We exist to serve, love and obey him.
But the second TV example was indeed much more important. A show about missing persons featured a 4-year-old girl who went missing in remote Tasmania. When I heard what the panicked mother said, I actually wrote it down: “I never prayed in my life, but I am now.” Hmm…
Thankfully the girl was found on the third day. And then the mum spoke of what ‘a blessing it was that she was found.’ Hmm again. To speak about “blessings” means there must be someone who gives out such blessings. Nature does not bless us in this sense – but a personal God can and does.
Now, does God care about children in strife, and does he care about grieving and panicking parents?
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Discernment and Judging

Jesus prohibits a critical spirit, but does not forbid all use of the critical faculty. To follow Jesus, we must therefore discover why he says, “Judge not,” in Matthew 7, but says, “Judge with right judgment,” in John 7. Notice first that Jesus tells His disciples to make judgments in the very chapter that says “Judge not.” Later in Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them (vv. 15-16). That is, disciples must discern – must judge – who is a false prophet and who is a true one. 

I just read again what is most likely the most misused and abused passage in all of Scripture. And I also just read two obvious correctives to such lousy interpretations and understandings that immediately follow from it. I refer of course to Matthew 7. Verses 1-5 – especially v. 1 – are the ones routinely massacred, even by so many Christians. They are certainly quite well known:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
How many times have you heard it said – even by rather clueless Christians – that we must never judge? Yet if you press these folks and say that folks ARE to make distinctions between what is true and false, right and wrong, they will reply, ‘Oh, but that is different.’
Um, no it is not different. You cannot judge without being discerning and making distinctions. Whenever you discern and test and evaluate you are of necessity making a judgment. They go together – it is a package deal. Christians and non-Christians alike thus judge every single day – whether they are making a choice between a cappuccino and a flat white, or between one person and another for a marriage partner.
Judgment and discernment go together. And the very next verse in Matthew 7 makes this clear. Jesus goes on to say this in v. 6: “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Deciding who is a dog or a pig, and deciding what is holy, are all matters of judgment and discernment. – can’t be avoided.
But it does not stop there. Just a few verses later we get even more commands by Jesus to judge and discern. Verses 15-20 say this:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
No one reading all of Matthew 7 can ever come away with the nonsensical notion that the Christian is not to judge. Quite the opposite: while the Christian is not to engage in HYPOCRITICAL judging (which is exactly the point of verses 1-5), the believer IS to constantly judge, discern, assess, test, and weigh things up. This is commanded throughout Scripture.
All sensible (and discriminating) expositors of Scripture of course understand this. They will not fall for the ‘do not judge’ silliness. Let me draw upon a few of them here. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his Studies on the Sermon on the Mount says this:
If our Lord had finished His teaching with those first five verses, it would undoubtedly have led to a false position. Men and women would be so careful to avoid the terrible danger of judging in that wrong sense that they would exercise no discrimination, no judgment whatsoever. There would be no such thing as discipline in the Church, and the whole of the Christian life would be chaotic.
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On Two-Speed Scripture Reading

Here are a few clear goals that all Christians should certainly strive for: Read the Bible every day, whether it is just one chapter or three or ten. It IS our daily bread you know. Make sure that you do eventually read all of the Bible. Too many believers may only know some of the New Testament, or some of the Psalms. They really should read and know about all of Scripture. As I say, I aim to do this once each year. Try to make use of various reading speeds and study options. Try to read an entire book, but also try to spend some key time on particular passages or portions of Scripture.

Yes, another odd title. But then again some of you are thinking that Bill is a rather odd fellow. But wait, there is a purpose in what I am writing here. And some folks might find that what I have to say in this piece to be sensible, even helpful. It has to do with how we read the Bible.
Hopefully if you are a Christian you are reading Scripture every day. As I say so often, if you read a little over three chapters a day, you can get through the entire Bible in a year. With 1189 chapters, the math is pretty easy enough to perform: it comes out to 3.26 chapters a day to be precise.
I say all this because of something I saw on the social media. A friend was talking about the rich truths he was gleaning from an Old Testament prophetic book. He had said this: ‘Going very slow, sometimes just a verse a day. With lots of prayer.’
I was tempted to answer him with a bit of humour and another quick bit of math: there are 31,173 verses (or thereabouts) in the Bible, so if you stick to one verse a day, it will only take you 85 and a half years to get through the whole Bible!
Of course he would not limit himself to just one verse a day every day, and the point he was making is perfectly valid: we need to study Scripture in depth. Sometimes just one passage of the Bible can really occupy our attention, and lead to many hours of deep study, meditation, and prayer. That is a practice we should all develop.
But what about the entirety of Scripture? Let’s say you do so much intense study of Scripture, that you get through only a few books of the Bible in a year. What happens to all the rest of it? It is possible to go so slow that you end up missing the forest for the trees?
That is where my title comes in. Perhaps we need to have a two-track Bible-reading plan, and/or two speeds at which we read Scripture. One option is to do the three-plus chapters a day to make sure you have gotten through the entire book at least once a year, while also doing some slower, in depth study of parts of Scripture.
You might decide for example that you want to spend six months on the book of Deuteronomy, or a few months on the Epistle to the Ephesians. That is fine.
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Keep Going – We Serve a God of Surprises

Our labours are not in vain in the Lord. What God sees us doing in secret will one day be rewarded openly. The trials and struggles we now go through – seemingly alone and unnoticed – are fully known by our heavenly father. Perhaps you are in a world of pain, and it seems like no one else knows anything about it. Well, hang in there: God knows all about it.

OK, so I am easily triggered – triggered in getting inspiration for an article that is. It does not take much for me to get an idea for a new piece. It might be something I just read, or saw on tele, or heard about somewhere. And often a number of things will coalesce at the same time, and lead me to write a new article.
This happened again yesterday. I was thinking about how often I am dealing with the grief of losing my wife, and praying that God would give me grace to keep on keeping on. At the same time I was working on a new article which related to this. And I also came upon something while flicking channels on the TV that further brought things into alignment. These various bits and pieces all came together, and so I posted this on the social media last night:
Writing a piece on Augustine and his Confessions, I am struck again by his honesty – ‘warts and all’ – as he discussed his journey. That spurred me on to reject the modern Christian tendency to only run with ‘positive’ and ‘uplifting’ stories, but to be real with where we are at. In that regard, and to be honest, over the past 3 months, I often tell the Lord I am ready to go home. I was going to post that, but then I came upon a TV show in which a guy mentioned his dad passing away some years ago by suicide. That reminded me to offset any self-pity and selfishness I might have with awareness of my responsibilities to others. Of course I have 3 sons and a dog and cat that need my attention. And oddly enough even some folks I have never met have some interaction with me (at least online), and I am perhaps indirectly responsible for them and their welfare. So I need to keep going and ignore somewhat the despair and grief that can easily overwhelm me.
Let me unpack all this a bit further. As to Augustine, I had just penned a piece on Aquinas, and am now soon to finish this piece on Augustine. They are part of my ‘Notable Christians’ series. Now that I am getting older, I am thinking I need to get cracking and finish off some of these articles. They are a small part of the legacy I want to leave behind.
I make no claim to being any sort of authority on folks like Aquinas or Augustine, but I do feel I can at least try to introduce some of these great believers of the past to other Christians who may know little or nothing about them. My brief introductions, coupled with recommended reading lists, might help people along the way in this regard.
As to his famous Confessions, Rowan Williams says this about them:

That is why it is so difficult to read the Confessions as an autobiography in either the ancient or the modern sense. Earlier classical and Christian writers had produced narratives of part or all of their lives: Augustine’s distinctiveness is the refusal to present a narrative that in any sense claims clarity or finality. . . . Those who have found the unity of the whole work elusive have missed the fact that he is not recording an edifying and coherent life but performing two different tasks.

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Judgment Day—Good News, Bad News

God will vindicate his people and fight for them. God will fight against his enemies and he will prevail. So everyone faces this coming day of judgment, but depending on who you are and where you stand with your Creator will fully determine how you stand before him as Judge.

What do you think of when you hear the word “judgment”? It will normally depend on who you are and the actual context. If for example you did some heroic or brave or sacrificial feat for another person, you might at one point have a day of reckoning. There might be a public award ceremony where your valiant efforts are recognised and rewarded.
Or you might have been caught out doing something wrong, and you know a day of reckoning is coming, and you do NOT look forward to that. Payday is coming, and you know you do not want to be there. We all likely have experienced both scenarios.
Let me offer one example of the latter, going way back when I was quite wrong. I had gone to a nearby small shop, and for some reason, decided I would snatch some candy or something. The gal there caught me. She took my name and phone number (I was not smart enough to come up with fake ones), and I was in great fear as I walked home.
When I got home, the phone did ring. But my mom was having a shower, so it never did get answered. So I missed out on my mini-judgement day way back then. Needless to say, I was greatly relieved. Judgment was avoided – at least on that occasion.
But there is of course a full and final judgment day coming, one that we ALL will be involved in. None of us will miss out on it. And of course there will be only two options available to all of mankind. Either you are right with God through Christ, and he has taken the judgment we deserved, or you are not right with God, and your judgment awaits.
We make that choice now. If we do not say no to sin and self now, and cast ourselves upon the mercy of Christ and his substitutionary atonement for our sins, then the day of judgment is coming, and NO one will want to be there. But if we have availed ourselves of the forgiveness of sins through faith and repentance, then we can indeed look forward to that day. So it all depends on which camp you happen to be in.
I want to tease this out just a bit further by discussing a few passages I have once again come upon in my daily Bible reading. I am once more back in the Old Testament prophets, and three similar and familiar passages can be discussed here. All three have to do with eschatological judgment.
As mentioned, for those who are his, it will be a day of real good news. For those who are not his, it will be a day of real bad news. The three texts contain a very familiar phrase, but two of the passages use it in quite a different manner than the third one.
We have all heard about beating ‘swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks’. Both Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 have this. And the larger context of the two is nearly identical (Is. 2:1-5 and Mic. 4:1-5). Both of course refer to the coming day of the Lord when weapons of warfare will no longer be needed.
However, consider an interesting reversal of all this as found in Joel 3:9-10:
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Adversaries, Antagonism and Opposition – the Normal Christian Life

The United States in the 50s and 60s might have seemed to be more or less Christian, but it was anything but. And one radical Christian who knew all about this much earlier on than most other Christians was Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). He knew everything was not right in America and the West, and he sought to give a warning when most believers were asleep at the wheel. In one of the first books that he wrote, The God Who Is There (IVP, 1968), he was sounding the alarm on such matters. Many believers back then would have been left scratching their heads upon reading those words. ‘Antagonism? Being a warrior? What is he going on about?’ They had no idea that underneath the veneer of religion and acceptability, the US and the West were quickly becoming rotting corpses that were in desperate need of renewal and rebirth.

When we are repeatedly told about something, or warned about something, especially from those in the know and with authority, then we had better stand up and take notice. When the Bible tells us that we can expect stiff resistance and enmity as we seek to represent Christ to a lost and needy world, we need to take those warnings seriously.
Jesus of course spoke of this often. In John 16:33 for example we find these words of his: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Or as he said in John 15:19–20: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they keep my word, they will also keep yours.”
Peter too spoke about this. In 1 Peter 4:12–14 we read: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Obviously Paul also warned about this. As we find in 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Or as he mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”
Pastor Jack Hibbs said this about that last passage: “Naive is the Christian who discounts their adversaries while they are working to further His kingdom. We should expect adversaries and the trouble they cause whenever a door for ministry opens. According to this passage, those laboring for the gospel are not exempt from assaults of the ungodly.”
Indeed, given these and so many other passages telling us the same thing, it should never come as a surprise to believers if they find themselves hated, opposed, rejected and ostracised as they seek to do the work of the Kingdom. Yet incredibly, some believers today – at least in the West – still do not get it.
The truth is, they have lived so comfortably in the world, and have done so little to impact it for Christ and the Kingdom, that they are quite mystified by this talk about opposition and hatred and adversaries. They have no enemies because they have never said or done anything to produce some enemies.
The world loves its own, and when believers live just like those in the world, then there will be no enmity, division or conflict. Everyone will just happily get along. But as soon as you start to live a radical and sold-out life for Christ, you will quickly discover opponents and resistance. It goes with the territory of being a believer.
But the trouble is, when we do not have lots of hardcore persecution of and defiance to the faith, we can be lulled into a false sense of security.
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