It is interesting to observe people’s interests. I have watched people sit quietly during a Sunday afternoon discussion, and then suddenly come to life when the subject changed. Later, when the subject changed again, they dropped out of the discussion again. We can tell a lot about people by noting the things they are interested in. Especially there is something wrong with a Christian who can sit passively listening to a conversation about what God has done for us.
Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. “All for sin could not atone.” The world goes on in the same old way, and we are still sinners “even in the best life” as Luther said. Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin. That was the heresy of the enthusiasts, the Anabaptists and their kind. Let the Christian beware of rebelling against the free and boundless grace of God and desecrating it. Let him not attempt to erect a new religion of the letter by endeavoring to live a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ …. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of his grace!
According to our text, there is no road to faith or discipleship, no other road—only obedience to the call of Jesus.When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows; that is grace and commandment in one. ‘I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy commandments’ (Ps. 119:45).Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship.
It is quite unbiblical to hold the first proposition without the second. We think we understand when we hear that obedience is possible only where there is faith. Does not obedience follow faith as good fruit grows on a good tree? First, faith, then obedience. If by that we mean that it is faith which justifies, and not the act of obedience, all well and good, for that is the essential and unexceptionable presupposition of all that follows. If however, we make a chronological distinction between faith and obedience, and make obedience subsequent to faith, we are divorcing the one from the other—and then we get the practical question, when must obedience begin? Obedience remains separated from faith. From the point of view of justification it is necessary thus to separate them, but we must never lose sight of their essential unity. For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.
There is only one way of understanding Jesus: He meant it as He said it. All subterfuges based on “reason and conscience, responsibility and piety” stand in the way of complete obedience. The usual type of rationalization of the commands of Christ are dealt with mercilessly. This refers to the reasoning whereby we reinterpret Jesus to mean that we need not leave all, but simply possess the wealth of the world as though we did not possess it. The command to follow is reduced to developing a spirit of inward detachment.
The right way to requite evil, according to Jesus, is not to resist it.This saying of Christ removes the Church from the sphere of politics and law. The Church is not to be a national community like the old Israel, but a community of believers without political or national ties. The old Israel had been both—the chosen people of God and a national community, and it was therefore his will that they should meet force with force. But with the Church it is different: it has abandoned political and national status, and therefore it must patiently endure aggression. Otherwise evil will be heaped upon evil. Only thus can fellowship be established and maintained.At this point it becomes evident that when a Christian meets with injustice, he no longer clings to his rights and defends them at all costs. He is absolutely free from possessions and bound to Christ alone. Again, his witness to this exclusive adherence to Jesus creates the only workable basis for fellowship, and leaves the aggressor with him to deal with.
The Reformers offered a decisively new interpretation of this passage, and contributed a new idea of paramount importance. They distinguished between personal sufferings and those incurred by Christians in the performance of duty as bearers of an office ordained by God, maintaining that the precept of nonviolence applies to the first, but not to the second. In the second case we are not only freed from obligation to eschew violence, but if we want to act in a genuine spirit of love we must do the very opposite, and meet force with force in order to check the assault of evil. It was along these lines that the Reformers justified war and other legal sanctions against evil. But this distinction between person and office is wholly alien to the teaching of Jesus. He says nothing about that. He addresses his disciples as men who have left all to follow him, and the precept of nonviolence applies equally to private life and official duty. He is the Lord of all life, and demands undivided allegiance. Furthermore, when it comes to practice, this distinction raises indissoluble difficulties. Am I ever acting only as a private person or only in an official capacity?
To resist the power is to resist the ordinance of God, who has so ordered life that the world exercises dominion by force, and Christ and Christians conquer by service. Failure to realize this distinction will bring a heavy judgment on the Christian (verse 2): it will mean a lapse into the standards of the world.
A view of Flossenburg Concentration Camp, where Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung for his involvement in a scheme to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Why did he take part in something he earlier condemned?
[Bonhoeffer] became student pastor at the Technical College in Berlin, and at the same time was requested to take over a confirmation class of fifty rowdy boys who lived in one of the roughest areas of Berlin. As the elderly pastor and young Dietrich ascended the stairs of the multi-storied building where the boys were, the children dropped rubbish on the two men below. At the top of the stairs, the pastor tried to gain attention by shouting an introduction of Bonhoeffer. Some of the children only heard the word “Bon” and began to chant it, until the bewildered, frustrated old pastor left.At first Dietrich stood in silence against the wall while the boys chanted. Then he began to speak softly to those near him. Out of curiosity the others began to be quiet. When the noise had subsided, he told them a story about Harlem and promised more next time if they behaved. Not only did he win their attention for class instruction, but he moved into their neighborhood for two months to live among them. This most “hopeless” class was carried to its completion, and many of the boys remained long-time friends.
Here’s another article someone sent me. It was published in Spanish and translated into English…
On May 29, 1913, Igor Stravinsky, a Russian musician, presented “The Rite of Spring” in the Théatre des Champs-Elysées of Paris, France. The reaction was such that the orchestra couldn’t finish the piece in peace. There were catcalls, people booed, some fought in the isles… and they threw tomatoes at the musicians. These people, accustomed to music by musicians like Bach and Handel, were appalled with the terrible dissonance and irregular rhythms of the piece. Today, that music is a normal piece in the classical concerts. And what is even more interesting is that it is tame when compared to some of the “worship music” in many “Christian” congregations today.
In 1963, the Rolling Stones rock group appeared on a television show in England. The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of letters were sent to the TV station. The average letter said something like this: “It is disgraceful that long-haired louts such as these should be allowed to appear on television. Their appearance was absolutely disgusting.” (Tony Sanchez, Up and Down With the Rolling Stones, p.17). And this wasn’t even a Christian audience! But, what about now? Even “Christian” singers have long hair. And it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. People don’t write letters nor do they throw tomatoes, and even the “Christian” leaders are quiet, like “dumb dogs” (See Isaiah 56.10).
Lowel Hart was right when he said: “Satan, who has been trying to get a toe-hold in the front door of the evangelical church, has found a wide open back door through which he has been blindly but enthusiastically welcomed by the medium of music” (Satan’s Music Exposed, page 12).
Any Christian who today tries to evangelize youth (as well as adults) finds out soon that people are not interested in knowing about repentance nor about following Christ. It is interesting to note how soon a group on the street can disperse, each remembering they have something urgent to do, if you start talking to them about repentance and the holy life that Christ requires.
To get people like that to go to some “Christian” event, many congregations are changing the format and content so that people will want to go. Such churches insist that they are building bridges.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
But the worst thing about those bridges is to note which way the traffic goes. Almost a hundred percent of those who cross the bridge travel towards the world, going further and further from God. Is there something wrong with that concept of building bridges by compromising truth?
The Bible says: “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” (Romans 12.2). Those who immerse themselves in the world to help the world end up going the same direction the world is going. Jesus asks the searching question: “Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6.39).
But that is exactly what so many “Christians” are trying to do today with music! They try to save the world using the music of the world. How do they think they will help anyone in the world if they build a musical bridge that corrupts them as well as others? It is impossible!
“With a little dancing…”
“…that is how you praise the Lord.”
Wait a minute! How do you praise God? This popular Spanish song says one thing while Jesus said something totally different. Listen to what Jesus says: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4.23–24). Who will you believe? The popular chorus or Jesus?
If we analyze the popular form of worship, we will see that it is much more like the external worship of the Old Testament, than like the spiritual worship that Jesus said God wanted. Jesus never taught us to worship with dancing like King David did. Rather, Jesus said that the true worshipers would worship “in spirit and in truth”. They would worship in spirit, because now the human spirit has direct access with God, through Jesus. They would worship in truth, because now it is not a worship based on external types and shadows. Rather, it is based on Jesus Christ Himself.
The music that God approves stimulates worship in spirit. Such music communicates with our spirit, which influences our emotions and moves us to direct our body in God’s paths.
On the other hand, the music that the devil approves of first of all touches the body, making it move. After that it touches the emotions. But it does not lead to a worship of God in spirit. That is why many go to “worship” but go back home and continue living like they used to. And their drive is to live another special moment; be in another “worship experience”; feel that emotion; get high again on the drug of “praise”. They can barely wait for that next service when they again will be able to get another dose.
God tells us clearly that “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6.8). We cannot worship according to the flesh and expect to reap spiritual results. Rather, we will reap corruption. On the other hand, if we worship in spirit, we will reap spiritual results because the Holy Spirit directs our whole being —spirit, soul and body— in the paths of life.
We could compare this to riding a horse. Where do you put the bridle when you ride a horse? On the horse’s head, right? Why? Because if you manage to control his head, the rest of the body will follow. But what would happen if we would put the bridle on the horse’s tail? We could move the tail up and down, this way and that, and the horse would continue going exactly where he would want to go!
Those who worship according to the flesh, using music that communicates primarily with the body, cannot receive the proper spiritual direction that they need to arrive at Godly worship. In its place, they continue bouncing from one wave of emotion to the next. They live as slaves to the desires of the body, that will take them to destruction.
By special invitation, my family and I visited a special church service a few years ago in another congregation. The huge building was packed out. We managed to get a seat close to the door. The “worship” started. All the way from the pastor out front to the street bums at the door, all moved to the rhythm of the music. All “worshiped the Lord”. They all did the same thing. When the singing ended, a friend of mine came back to greet me.
“We’re having quite a happy church service, right?” he asked me.
“Maybe” I answered, feeling a tad uncomfortable.
We talked a bit more, then he went forward again to where some young ladies were, and he started to flirt with them!
Thinking about this, I wonder about two things:
· Is it possible to worship God in such a way that the unconverted street bums could participate and yet feel okay without feeling guilty before God? (Those, after moving to the rhythm of the music, clapping like everyone else, would turn around and light their cigarettes.)
· Is it possible to truly worship God and the next instant be flirting with some young ladies?
Brethren and sisters, it is high time we open our eyes and see the issues like they really are. He who worships God ends up living a different life. He cannot peacefully live in sin. If your worship doesn’t separate you from sin and the world, it is quite obvious that you are not worshiping God.
It is interesting to note what someone asked in a progressive evangelical church that uses contemporary praise music: “I just started attending church a few months back and really felt drawn to the presence of God, especially through the times of praise and worship. Yet, each time when I try to meet God in the same way during my personal quiet time and ‘feel’ the tangible presence that I always sense during church services, I always fail. Is this because there’s something that I’m not doing right? Am I not worshipping in the correct way?” (Harvest Times magazine, July–December 2002)
What this person describes is not a new phenomenon. It is very common. Have you ever noticed that as a general rule nobody “receives the Spirit” in a church service until they have been emotionally aroused by strong music? Or maybe you have noticed that it is usually a certain kind of music that accompanies the “receiving of the Spirit”. There are no healings, no tongues, nor miracles… unless they are accompanied by strong worldly music.
God calls us to worship. He calls us to worship in spirit and in truth. To move the horse’s tail with more energy, volume or rhythm, is not the kind of worship that God accepts.
The words are Christian
In his famous song “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?”, Larry Norman recommends using the worldly music, because after all, “why should the Devil have all the good music”? But the Devil never has had good music. He has never had music with which to worship God.
It should be alarming to see that the same rhythms and music that are used to exalt sensuality and drugs are the ones used in churches to (supposedly) “glorify God”. The other day I happened to see a “Christian” group singing. The tight clothes, the dancing and the movements were extremely sensual. The gestures and movements of the musicians screamed only one thing: SENSUALITY… AND MORE SENSUALITY. But the words were very Christian!
Please, brethren and sisters, let’s not be confused. The result of such music has never been a holy life, nor a closer walk with God. Rather, today we see more and more congregations contaminated with this kind of music. And they permit more and more sin among them. Those sins have become so commonplace that they supposedly are no longer important. There is no reaction anymore. Nobody bothers to throw tomatoes. They just shake the poor horse’s tail with more energy, more technology, and more volume!
And the Devil laughs.
Dear friends, “be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6.14–18).
Will you listen to Jesus?
—Timothy D. Miller
- Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:18 that “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Here He is obviously speaking of the universal gathering of the saints of all ages, the eternal City of God. God does not narrow down the City of God to any particular congregation or group of congregations. Rather, He opens His arms wide and embraces all genuine believers from all ages. General statements about the church, especially those dealing with the philosophy of the church or the beauty of the church fall into this category. (Cf. Eph. 3:21; 5:23 – 27; Col. 1:18; etc.) Many of the references to the church in the book of Ephesians should be understood from this perspective (an important fact to help us understand the book).
- In Acts 8:3 the Bible states that Saul “made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” Here we see the second use of the word, meaning the unassembled assembly – the saints living in a given area, which might be as small as a city or as large as the entire world. It does not speak on any particular local congregation or fellowship of congregations. Factual or historical statements such as those telling us that people became part of the church in general (cf. Acts 2:47; 5:11, 8:1; 1 Cor. 10:32; 12:28; etc.) belong to this definition. Many of the references to the church in the book of Acts should be understood this way.
- Finally, in Mat 18:17, when Jesus said “tell it unto the church” he was referring to a local body of believers. Most of the references to the church in the book of 1 Corinthians fall into this category. When the NT gives direct instructions as to organization or order, or directly addresses a church, it normally refers to the local body of believers. (Cf. Rom. 16:5, 27; 1 Cor. 6:4; 11:18; 14:4, 19; 14:35).
For more Anabaptist / Mennonite resources
go to: www.anabaptistfaith.com