There are many different thoughts on celebrating Christmas, and I find it something that seems to bring conflict to many who follow Christ! While many believe that practicing what originally began as a pagan celebration is wrong, the fact is that Christians turned it into a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. Others find it wrong that we celebrate birth at all. The birthday was not something that was celebrated by early Jews.
We are not instructed in the Bible to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it is notable that the birth was noted in the Bible itself with the honoring of the baby by Angels declaring His birth, by Wise Men looking for Him and bringing gifts to celebrate His coming and recognizing the importance of His future Kingship. The gospels do not give us a date of His birth, and yet they do emphasize the importance of His birth. Without His birth, we have nothing. He had to come to earth as a human to fulfill the prophecy and give the sacrifice. It stands to reason that His birth is one of the most important days in history. And while we are also told to celebrate death over birth, without the birth, you can not have the death.
As for the fact that Christmas itself began as a pagan holiday, people ceased to associate the day with the worship of a pagan god and began to associate it with the birth of the Savior of the world. For ministry, is that not what we want? For people to disregard pagans and remember Christ’s coming?
One of the biggest problems with modern day followers of Christ is that all to often the celebration becomes more about themselves than it is about Christ. We don’t truly celebrate the birth of Jesus so much as we take the opportunity to party and feed our own desires, whether with food, friends, presents or other indulgences. Do we really spend enough time in reflection on the reason for His birth and thanksgiving for it?
While we may or may not agree on whether we should celebrate Christmas, I decided that I would include a few others thoughts on that very thing. God bless!
“Christmas now means that we mark, in Christian ways, the birth of Jesus Christ. I think the birth, death and resurrection of Christ are the most important events in human history. Not to mark them in some way, by way of special celebration, would be folly it seems to me.” From: Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? John Piper
Charles H. Spurgeon on Christmas from Founders Ministries Blog:
He had little patience with his Protestant brethren who made much of the day out of religious devotion. Yet, Spurgeon was far from a Scrooge. Nor did he think it some violation of Scripture to utilize the inevitable emphasis of the season to preach the incarnate Christ. So it is easy to find sermons on the birth of Christ that he preached around Christmas time.
In December of 1855 he preached on “The Incarnation and Birth of Christ” from Micah 5:2. His opening words were these:
THIS is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There are no probabilities whatever that our Savior Jesus Christ was born on that day and the observance of it is purely of Popish origin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistent Protestants can account it in the least sacred. However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt laboring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us, particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. We do not wish to be classed with those“Who with more care keep holiday
The wrong, than others the right way.”
By Paul Ravenhill
300 years after Jesus’ death the church set December 25th as the day of commemoration and celebration of His birth.
Was Jesus born December 25th?… Possibly not!
Does the exact date matter? I don’t think so! Some people have a problem with December 25th because it was the date of the heathen celebration of the mid-winter festival. As Studdert-Kennedy (to whom I am indebted for his notes which lay the basis for this writing) has pointed out, for the heathen it was based in a time of dread
(dread of the winter cold which had taken the life from the trees and plants and
touched the waters and the fields with frost,
dread of the darkness which had taken over a greater portion of every day,
dread of the scarcity the uncertainty, the unrelenting attack of winter) from this fear was born the custom of lighting fires and burning logs to “warm up the sun” lest he flicker out and die and never rise again….. Read the rest at Christmas
By Paul Ravenhill
From Billy Graham
“I don’t think we ought to stop celebrating Christmas, but I do agree that we’ve lost sight of its true meaning. All too often, I’m afraid, we have left Christ out of Christmas, and yet (as the popular saying goes) He truly is “the reason for the season.”
Instead of focusing on what Christmas has become, however, let’s focus instead on what it can become for us, no matter what others do. Christmas celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, which set in motion the greatest event in human history. What better time to stop and reflect on what God did for us by sending His only Son into the world?
Why is Christmas important? It’s important first of all because it reminds us of our greatest need: to be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to the God who created us. If we could solve this need by ourselves, Christ wouldn’t have had to leave heaven’s glory and come to earth. But He did — because God loves us, and He wants us to know Him and spend eternity with Him.
Christmas reminds us too of what God has done for us. We could never save ourselves — but Christ came to save us by His death and resurrection. Make Christ the center of your Christmas this year — and then you’ll begin to understand the greatness of God’s gift to us that first Christmas. As the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)”. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
From A.W. Pink:
To you the Word of the Lord is, “Be THOU AN EXAMPLE of believers in word, in deportment, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Is it not true that the most corrupt “churches” you know of, where almost every fundamental of the faith is denied, will have their “Christmas celebrations?” Will you imitate them? Are you consistent to protest against unscriptural methods of “raising money,” and then to sanction unscriptural “Christmas services?” Seek grace to firmly but lovingly set God’s truth on this subject before your people, and announce that you can have no part in following Pagan, Romish, and worldly customs.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” – (Colossians 3:15)
The peace of Christ is the sort of calm that comes in the midst of chaos, and will cover our heart and mind, reminding us that He is in control, and has a hold of our hand. It does not necessarily cause the chaos to cease around us, but His peace presents an internal ease, in spite of things.
Rule, according to my NIV footnotes, is the very same word that would be used for an umpire or referee. That being said, He is whom we are to allow to make the calls, as the internal desires and conflicts clash. When we permit our hearts to hear what Christ has to say, we can clearly distinguish between our own feelings, and that which is of Him. If we choose to trust and allow His peace to rule, we are better able to promote peace wherever we go.
Since we are members of one body, we are called to peace. Christ’s intention for the body of believers is for us to be united in purpose, and established in love. Peace shall reign, if we are completely dependent on Him. This is not His hope, but rather, it is His call for all who believe. We are to be at peace with one another, and offer peace to those around us.
And be thankful. Always.
guide our heart and mind;
may we extend peace,
and always be kind.
May we be united,
together to stand;
do as He has asked,
obey His commands.
Allow Him to rule,
as body, be one;
unite in purpose,
and honor the Son.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our peace. Thank You that as we allow You to rule and reign in our hearts, You lead us and show us how we are to unite as a body of believers, and be at peace. Thank You that You are our reason to give thanks and praise. Forgive us for not relying on You when chaos comes, or for holding onto any unforgiveness that would compromise peace in the body. Teach us how to trust You more, so that we may live and love in Your perfect peace. May many come to know You, as they feel received and offered peace by we who believe, throughout this sacred season. Be glorified in all that we say and do. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
“Hope is a confident expectation of a favorable outcome.” – (Pastor Jon MacIntosh) In Christ, whom is the Source of ALL hope, we find confidence in knowing that the ultimate outcome is good. We know Who wins in the end, and we have the blessed assurance that our eternity will be spent in His presence.
It is easy to blur the lines between wishing and hoping. A wish is really just a want, that is not backed by confident expectation in Christ. Our hopes, dreams and desires need to align with His, and hope in Him, ought to be “the lens through which we view our future”. (PJM) When we see where He is calling us to go, we move in confident expectation that He will meet us every step of the way, and provide all that is needed to accomplish what He has asked.
In the throes of life’s storms, though I often cannot see the security of the shore, I have hope in Christ, as I know that He is my anchor, steadfast and secure. He will not allow me to get lost, nor to drift beyond a place where He can safely bring me back to shore. My hope in Him is not deterred by wind and waves, as my heart is tethered to His.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – (Isaiah 40:31)
let us hope in the Lord.
He is mighty to save,
our strength in one accord.
Expect that He will use,
everything for our good;
even our great struggles,
make His grace understood.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our Hope. Thank You that in You, we need not fear, regardless of what surrounds us. Thank You that You are the anchor that keeps us secure through all of life’s storms, and that You are our peace when chaos seems to reign. Forgive us for allowing the weight of the world to hinder our hope, and help us to hold our every hope in You – not in what surrounds us. Thank You that our ultimate outcome will be far beyond favorable, as eternity with You, is more than our hearts can currently hold. Help us to live in love, looking through Your lens of hope, so that others too, may see that true hope is found in You. May many come to find hope in You during this blessed season of remembering. Be glorified in all that we say and do. Amen.
For more verses on HOPE(per sermon notes from yesterday):
Romans 8:24(hope saves
I John 3:3(hope purifies)
Hebrews 6:13(hope anchors us)
I Thessalonians 1:3(hope inspires)
Psalm 62:5(hope comes from God)
2 Thessalonians 2:16(hope is good)
Titus 2:13(hope is blessed)
Hebrews 7:19(hope is better)
I Peter 1:3(hope is living)
I Corinthians 13:13(hope is enduring)
Ephesians 1:8(we are called to hope)
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
1 Corinthians 15
King James Version (KJV)
15 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Some of you know something of that which has been called “the dark night of the soul.” Some of you have spiritual desire and deep longing for victory but it seems to you that your efforts to go on with God have only brought you more bumps and more testings and more discouragement. You are tempted to ask, “How long can this go on?”…
Yes, there is a dark night of the soul. There are few Christians willing to go into this dark night and that is why there are so few who enter into the light. It is impossible for them ever to know the morning because they will not endure the night. I Talk Back to the Devil, 80-81. A.W. Tozer
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” This makes known the principle which is to be exercised in our approaches unto God, for, “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). None but a genuine believer can obtain access unto God: all others are rigidly excluded. There must be the actual ex- ercise of faith in every spiritual work: “by faith Abel offered unto God” etc. (Heb. 11:4). The “full assurance of faith” does not here signify a firm knowledge of our sonship, but an implicit confidence in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and priesthood. Many Hebrews who had received in general the faith of the Gospel were wavering in their minds about the Person and office of Christ and the glorious things predicated of Him by the Apostle, and therefore he stresses the fact there must be a firm conviction of the reality and efficacy of the Atonement if we are to draw near unto God.
“Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Here is the twofold preparation prescribed unto us for the right performance of this duty. In these expressions there is an obvious allusion unto the necessary preparations for Divine worship made by Israel under Judaism. As there were various ways in which the Jews became ceremonially and legally defiled, so there were various means appointed for their purification (Heb. 9:13). Those institutions the Apostle now applies spiritually: “our hearts” and “our bodies” signify the inward and the outward man. “Bodies washed with pure water” has no reference to baptism, but is to be understood of our members being preserved from evil and used for God. Rightly did John Owen say at the close of his exposition of these verses, “Universal sanctification upon our whole persons and the mortification in an especial manner of outward sins are required of us in our drawing nigh unto God.”
“Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” has reference to an efficacious application of the blood of Christ unto sanctification or internal purification, so that the burden of guilt is removed. This is accomplished originally in the communication of regenerating grace at the new birth, and is repeated whenever the Spirit grants a fresh renewal and experience of the virtues of the Atonement. That a good conscience is an indispensable qualification for access to God is seen from, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14), where “serve” signifies communion and worship. When the conscience is unpurged, the weight of condemnation lies so heavily upon it that we are then at a loss in approaching the Holy One.
Now to sum up. It is one thing to know theoretically the legal way and right of approach unto God, but it is quite another to enjoy conscious access to Him. For that, the aid of the Spirit is imperative, but He will not perform His gracious operations within us if He be grieved. If we have spent the night in ransacking the newspapers, in worldly conversation, or in backbiting the servants and saints of God, think you that the Holy Spirit will draw out your heart unto the Father when you perform your evening devotions? Not so, unless you penitently confess those sins, and sincerely determine there shall be no repetition of them. “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). What has been before us was strikingly foreshadowed of old in connection with the approach of Israel’s priests unto God: first the blood was applied to their persons, then the oil (emblem of the Spirit), and then they washed at the laver.
The matter of our approach into the presence of God is one of vital importance, yet it is one (like so many others these days) upon which much confusion and misconception exists. We will not now attempt to canvass the principal errors pertaining thereto, for there would be little profit for either writer or reader in prosecuting such a task. Rather do we wish to call attention unto the various aspects of the subject, for it is failure to perceive these and hold their due balance which has resulted in the fostering of false impressions in quarters which some regard as being the most orthodox sections of Christendom. If one essential aspect of this subject be ignored, or if another one be emphasized to the virtual exclusion of everything else, then the most misleading and dangerous ideas must result therefrom.
Let us begin by asking the question, Is it possible for a depraved and defiled creature to obtain access unto the thrice Holy One? If there is one thing taught more plainly in the Scriptures than another it is that sin separates the sinner and God. This fearful fact is impressively set forth in Genesis 3:24: that flaming sword was the symbol of a sin-hating God, barring approach unto the emblem of His presence. When Jehovah appeared on Sinai, amid the most solemn manifestations of His awful presence, even the favoured Hebrews were commanded under pain of death to keep their distance from Him. An Israelite who became ceremonially unclean was rigidly excluded from the Camp. Even when the tabernacle and the temple were erected, the common people were not allowed to enter the holy places. In how many different ways did God make it evident that sin obstructed any access to Himself!
But not only does God debar the sinner from access, the sinner himself has no desire to approach unto Him—rather does he wish to flee as far as possible from His presence. A sense of sin and the guilt of it upon the conscience drives the sinner from the Lord. This fact was also solemnly exemplified at the dawn of human history—just as long as our first parents remained in dutiful subjection to their Maker, walking in obedience to His commandments, they enjoyed blissful communion with Him; but as soon as they became self-willed and rebellious, all was radically altered. After they had eaten of the forbidden fruit and they heard the voice of the Lord God in the Garden, they fled in terror, seeking to hide from Him. And thus it has been ever since.
Is there, then, no access to God for the fallen creature? If there were not we should not be engaged in writing this article. Access to God is possible—possible for the chief of sinners—but only via the appointed Mediator. As the Lord Jesus so emphatically declared, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). It is through the Lord Jesus Christ, and by Him alone—not through priest or pope, Mary or the angels, good works or tears—that we may obtain access to God. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access” (Rom. 5:1, 2). In pointing this out we are covering ground which is thoroughly familiar to all our readers, truth which is still proclaimed in many places. Yet it is by no means the whole of the truth on this subject, though it is all that is presented thereon in certain quarters. It is those neglected aspects which we now desire to particularly stress.
Once again we would point out that unless we differentiate between things that differ there is bound to be confusion and error. So here. We must distinguish between the way of access which Christ has opened for sinners into the presence of God, the qualifications which are required from those entering that way, and the exercise of those qualifications so that the way is actually used. But the moment we mention “qualification” and the necessity for “exercising” the same, some will demur, insisting that we are thereby sounding a legalistic note and destroying the simplicity of the Gospel. Then let us ask- such objectors, Are hypocrites entitled to use that way of access which Christ has opened? Do “Christians” who exercise no faith, but simply offer cold and mechanical prayers, enter into God’s presence? If the objector answers No—as honesty compels him to do—then he has granted our contention, whether or not he agrees with us in detail.
How many professing Christians do really obtain personal access to and enjoy conscious communion with the Holy One? What percentage of real Christians are actually accustomed to do so? Alas, what multitudes have been deceived by Satan into supposing that all they have to do is get down on their knees, plead the name of Christ, and automatically they obtain audience with the Most High. Not so. It still holds good that, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:1, 2). The principles of the Divine government know no alteration, and allowed and unconfessed sins act as an impassable barrier between the soul and God as truly today as they did under the Old Testament economy. No change of dispensation modifies the requirements of God’s holiness or reduces the enormity of sin.
Three things are absolutely necessary if any is to have access to God. First, he must have the legal right or title to do so. Second, he must possess the necessary moral fitness. Third, he must be spiritually and experimentally empowered. Our legal right to approach unto God is found alone in the merits of Christ: His sacrificial work and the present exercise of His Priesthood give me title to draw near unto the Throne of Grace. But does that cover the whole matter? Is nothing more than a legal title required? Ah, the real saint knows otherwise from painful experience. How often has he entered his closet, sought audience with the Divine Majesty, pleaded the blood of Christ, yet without any conscious access. So far from any conscious approach to Him, God seems far off, and all is darkness and deadness in the soul. Like the Spouse in the Canticles, he seeks his Beloved, but finds Him not.
“Behold I go forward, but He is not there: and backward, but I cannot perceive Him. On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him” (Job 23:8, 9). Has that painful experience of Job’s never been duplicated in your own? Was his case altogether exceptional? Far from it, as the recorded lamentations of others of God’s children clearly show. “Why standest Thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest Thou Thyself in times of trouble?” (Psa. 10:1). Yes, even the sweet Psalmist of Israel knew what it was to feel God’s distance from him and to be denied conscious access to Him. “How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD, forever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” (Psa. 13:1). Again and again this was his agonizing experience. And there are seasons in the history of all believers when such language is just as suitable to express their experience as Psalm 46 or Psalm 150 is suited to their cases on other occasions.
“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). The words we have placed in italics present another vital aspect of our subject, showing as they do the Christian’s dependence upon the agency of the Holy Spirit. Herein each person of the blessed Trinity is accorded His own distinctive place in the economy of re- demption: access is unto the Father, it is through Christ, but it is by the Spirit. The sinful believer can no more approach unto the Father without the gracious operations of the Spirit than he could without the mediation of the Lord Jesus. One has procured for us the legal right; the Other supplies the experimental enablement. The exercise of faith, as we shall yet see, is another essential prerequisite for drawing near to God, but the actings of faith lie not within our own unaided power—He who first imparted this heavenly gift must quicken and energize it if it is to function properly.
“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” What place is given to this part of the Truth in most sections of Christendom today? None at all. And even where the third Person of the Godhead is duly owned and honoured, how feebly do the saints apprehend their imperative need of the Spirit’s daily working within them. His operations are essential if our leaden hearts are to be raised above the things of time and sense, if our affections are to flow forth unto their rightful Object, if faith is to be duly acted upon Him, if a sense of His presence is to be communicated unto the soul. But will the Spirit perform these gracious operations if we are indifferent as to whether or not our conduct grieves Him? If a Christian has spent his evening at the card-table or the theatre, and before retiring to rest bows his knees, will the Holy Spirit, at that time, draw out the heart of such an one and grant him conscious access to the Father?
What has just been raised brings us to still another aspect of our subject—there must be a moral fitness if the suppliant is to obtain access to God. Alas, that so little is heard about this in the ministry of the day. Yet the reason for this omission is not far to seek: where the dominant object is the pleasing of the hearer, little will be said in condemnation of a carnal walk, and still less of the serious consequences thereof. But though the pulpit has become so unfaithful, God abides faithful, and He will not wink at evil doing. No, not in His own children, nor will He allow the sacred name of Christ to be used as a passport into His presence by the workers of iniquity. Is it not written, “With the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure; and with the obstinate Thou wilt show Thyself obstinate” (Psa. 18:26); that means what it says, and says what it means.
Loose walking severs communion with God, and then will He act distantly toward us. An earthly parent (who is prudent) will not conduct himself with the same familiarity and cordiality toward a disobedient child as he will unto a dutiful one. Our folly must be repented of and humbly acknowledged before fellowship can be restored with God. Yea, even if our fault be only against a fellow-creature it must be righted before God will accept our worship: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23, 24)—how many are unable to obtain conscious access to God through failure at this very point! “Turn ye unto Me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you” (Zech. 1:3): if we would have God turn unto us in mercy we must turn unto Him in obedience.
“Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace” (Rom. 5:1, 2). This brings before us still another aspect of our subject: the necessity for the exercise of faith in order to approach God. The same truth is presented again in, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him” (Eph. 3:12). Faith is the appointed means of access, for it is the hand which receives every blessing from God. Faith in God’s willingness to grant us an audience, faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice to provide us with the title of approach: faith in the Divine promises that if we contritely confess our sins He will cleanse us therefrom. At first a small degree of faith enables the Christian to approach unto God, but as he advances in the knowledge of his own heart and of God’s hatred of sin, stronger faith needs to be exercised if we are to draw near the heavenly Throne with confidence. Yet we must be very careful not to mistake blatant presumption for holy assurance.
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the veil (that is to say, His flesh); and having a High Priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22). This is what may be termed the classic passage on our present theme, gathering up as it does into one comprehensive statement the essential features thereof. But what a solemn example it affords of the lack of proportion which now so generally prevails: we are probably safe in saying that for every once verse 22 is quoted, verse 19 is cited 20 times. It is this disproportion which has distorted the Truth and led to the error mentioned by us in the earlier paragraphs. Let us now carefully examine these verses.
The passage opens by announcing that Christians have “liberty” (margin) or a “freedom with confidence” to approach unto God, this language presenting a designed contrast from the case of national Israel under the old economy. This liberty to draw near unto the heavenly Mercy-seat is “by the blood of Jesus.” The foundation of all confidence in our access to God and the title to approach unto Him lies in the infinitely meritorious sacrifice which Christ offered unto God on our behalf, and this we must ever plead before Him. Our encouragement so to do lies in the office which our Saviour now exercises on behalf of His people, namely, “High Priest over the house of God.” This is most blessedly brought before us in, “for we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin: let us therefore come boldly (freely) unto the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15, 16).
In what next follows in our passage we are shown the way or manner in which we are to make use of the unspeakable privilege described in verses 19-21. In other words, we are required to meet the terms of verse 22 if we are to enjoy conscious access unto the thrice holy God. First, let us draw near with “a true heart.” This is the principal qualification. A “true heart” is one that beats true unto God. It denotes sincerity in contrast from hypocrisy. It is not the reverent posture of the body or the language of the lips with which God is chiefly concerned, but rather with the heart—the seat of our affections. They who worship Him, “must worship Him in spirit and in truth,” or their performance is utterly futile. The mere outward performance of religious duties, no matter how scrupulously undertaken, is not sufficient—it is with the sincerity of our hearts God has chief regard to in all our approaches unto Him. God will bear with infirmities, but not with hypocrisy.
“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” – (Matthew 21:22)
Prayer is the power of God in action; it is not some sort of magical wish upon a star phenomenon. However, in order for prayer to be effective, our heart must be aligned with our Heavenly Father’s. Our requests must be in synch with the principles of God’s kingdom. The more in tune we are with God and His will, the more likely we are to make good and pleasing requests. God does not answer prayers that would hurt people, nor does He do things to go against His own nature or will.
What about the times that prayers seem to go unanswered, or do not turn out as we had hoped? I anticipate this very loaded question may be meandering through your mind, as most of us have heartfelt prayers that we have earnestly prayed, that seemed to go unanswered. How do we reconcile the disappointment, when we trusted and believed that He would answer? What I have learned, and am still learning, is that believing and trusting Him and His character first, must be my priority. His answers do not always come in the package I anticipate. Though I ask for one thing, He may have other plans for my life or the life of another. God, being the Divine Creator of ALL, knows best, and I have to trust that His ways and His plans are far better than my own, even if it means temporary heartache here. I know that He is good. I know that He loves me with an everlasting love. I know that He has plans to prosper me and not to harm me, and that He has a hope and a future for me. At times, that has to be enough.
trust God and believe;
for it is through Christ,
we now may receive.
All hope comes from Him,
our soon Coming King;
Lover of our souls,
our praises we bring.
May we come to know,
Your faithfulness, God;
as we pray to You,
and on Thy path, trod.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are faithful to hear our prayers. Thank You that You answer that which we ask, as we earnestly seek You and Your will. Thank You that though answers do not always appear in the form that we might hope for, You are forever faithful, and always have our best in mind. Thank You that those who do not receive their healing on earth, are whole and in perfect health in Your presence now. Thank You that Your love for each of Your created, is far greater than our own, and You know what is best, even when we want other than what has been done. Forgive us for our frustrations and doubts, and help us to place our heart in Your hands, trusting You with all things, knowing that You hear us, and love us. May we live each day as love and light to all those around us, and may many come to know the saving grace that is only found in You. Thank You that You are so very good. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
I wish it were possible to anoint the head of every Christian preacher so that he would never sin again while the world stands. Perhaps some would consider that a happy way to deal with the subject. But, in fact, if any person can be removed from the possibility of sin, he or she can only be some kind of a robot run by pulleys, wheels and push-buttons. A person morally incapable of doing evil would be, by the same token, morally incapable of doing good. A free human will is necessary to the concept of morality. I repeat: If our wills are not free to do evil, neither are they free to do good….A.W. Tozer
At the heart of salvation is the notion of loving God with all our heart, mind and soul, and as Jesus said, to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is impossible to pass this test and break any of the commandments. We can visualize the latter concept as a package of virtue, consisting mostly of love, acceptance & forgiveness. I cannot imagine being like Christ, while lacking one of these traits.
I would like to introduce you to my grandson, Dylan. He is also one of my best friends. He calls me Papa. He is a model of acceptance for me, because he never rejects me, is always happy to see me, and lets me know this with a greeting and a big hug. He is impressive. He embodies the meaning of the Apostle Peter, where he says,
“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.” 1 Peter 4:11 [MSG].
[Picture above: Love doesn’t begrudge one an extra glass of milk at Denny’s!]
Love is essential to relationships, in order for them to endure. People tend to shun relationships that have no payback. Acceptance is also important to all of us. We fold to peer pressure because we are looking for acceptance, but Dylan is pure in his love and acceptance. He doesn’t put any conditions on it; like the love and acceptance we get from Jesus – unconditional! It’s too bad that some others are not as loving and accepting of Dylan. They are missing out on a terrific relationship.
As you can tell from his picture, Dylan has Down ’s syndrome; thus he has not been blessed with a totally ideal life. He has faced challenges from birth. Despite this, he has great compassion for others.
Some time ago, I had some minor surgery on my leg. Dylan saw the bandage near my knee and demanded to see beneath it. ”Poor Papa,” he exclaimed, asking if it hurt. He insisted on monitoring the progress of the “scar” every time we were together, until you could hardly notice it any more. This is a level of caring that you do not see in others that often.
I Corinthians, chapter 13 describes love in certain ways, some of which are particularly characteristic of Dylan.
- Cares more for others than for self.
- Trusts God always,
- Never looks back, but keeps going to the end.
Dylan has learned to operate in this world in a way that illustrates clearly to all who know him, that the nature of Christ is transcendent to all of us, if we dare to embrace it. Love and acceptance needs to be cherished and celebrated, because it is rather rare. I am very fortunate to receive these gifts from Dylan.
It costs nothing to experience the love and acceptance of Jesus. He did it all! But I would like to be a disciple of Jesus. Stopping at (free) salvation and an eternity in Heaven is OK for some, but I want to be like Jesus. Part of the cost of discipleship is to give the gift of love and acceptance to others, like Dylan, thus emulating Jesus, who gave so freely to us!
Pray for me, I have a long way to go. It’s hard to love and accept some people, but I am trying to let The Holy Spirit work through me to accomplish things in my heart that I could never do!
Forgiveness also seems inherent to some of us.
It has been several weeks since I wrote about the remarkable capacity for love and acceptance demonstrated by my grandson (and best friend) Dylan. A lot has happened since. Unbeknownst to me at the time I first wrote the article, there was a controversy at Dylan’s school concerning a teacher that he used to have. He had been in her class about 2 1/2 years, but not currently. [Dylan attends a public school and takes special needs classes.]
This teacher and Dylan were in the same school district for over ten years, as Dylan took pre-K classes there. That is where Dylan met her. It came to the parents’ attention that all was not right in her current classroom. Reportedly, loud voices could be heard whenever approaching the classroom. A student with Down’s syndrome was found wandering alone out in the school parking lot. Someone inside the classroom stated that the teacher was upset with an autism student, because he would not join the group at a table; She reportedly went to him and yanked him out of the chair, where he fell to the floor. Accordingly, she kicked him several times.
Even more was to come to light, as it turns out that there was a poorly documented history of incidents with this teacher. It is suspected that the pattern went back to the time Dylan attended her class. Dylan has not said anything about any incident. One wonders what he possibly went through. This is a hard thing for parents/grandparents to forgive. I believe it is a test for us to see if we can walk the walk we have been talking! Can we separate the “sin” from the “sinner?” I am proud of my daughter-in-law, who went to the public meetings, concentrated on change, not punitive measures and helped point others that way also. This was hard for her, because the authorities moved this teacher around and did not fix the problem while it recurred, over and over.
At one of several meetings held to remedy the matter, when it was time for Dylan’s mother to speak, focusing on the heart of the issue, she took 1 1/2 of her three minutes at the podium in total silence. She explained, “That is all my child could do while witnessing events such as this.”
It is part of the prophet Isaiah’s message to help the helpless (loose translation). What should the role of the Parent/Grandparent/Concerned Citizen be in a situation such as this? Good Question…it will not be totally answered on this blog. But I would like to point out what I do know, so that we can at least head in the same general direction in unity. The Lord’s Prayer has us ask God to forgive us, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Ouch! I want to be forgiven, because I am certainly in need of that, but when someone else (deliberately?) wrongs me, I want justice. No world can be equitable, where certain people are always judged with mercy, and others always face the sword of justice. I’ve chosen to err on the side of mercy and let God balance it out. I trust Him more than the courts, anyway.
Then there is the account of Christ on the cross as recorded in Luke 23:34 (NKJV) Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” I do not know the mind of Dylan’s teacher, but I suspect she did not know the impact of her continued disrespect for her students. And as much as it goes against the grain, I have to fall on the side of Jesus’ guideline; from the cross where he was dying He encourages us to forgive the offenders. How powerful is that?
While I do not have all the answers, I know that the path of forgiveness is the answer for me. I am earnestly following that path, because there are some obstacles in the path of true forgiveness. I will face them honestly and adjust my attitude to meet God’s expectations. As for Dylan, just like his love and acceptance, he is a whole-hearted forgiver. And although he has not mentioned anything about abuse, if it happened or even if he witnessed abuse of others, Dylan is passed it. He is much more advanced in the fine art of forgiveness than many of us.
Finally, I am not saying that all of this should go unpunished. But if God takes care of it, any judgment will be appropriate and those of us who refrain from judging will not be destroyed in the process.
My prayer for you today, is that those of you who are seeking forgiveness will find it and that every one of us will be as liberal with our forgiveness as Jesus is with us!
P.S. The Brentwood Unified School District subsequently announced that the teacher in question has had her credentials revoked. The superintendent was placed on administrative leave and three other employees were fired. I take no special joy in this except to note that the battle was The Lord’s all along. He took care of it, so I didn’t have to worry about it. And that, my friends, is known as grace! Amen!
To say this has been a challenging school year thus far, would be a heinous understatement. Between the loss of a dear friend, new standards, a new grading system, a new evaluation system, and an added subject with standards that are different than when I taught the subject before, I find myself feeling a bit bogged down. I love my students, and enjoy my time with them each day, yet during the time prior to school’s start, and my afternoon spent planning after the day has ended, worry and stress seem to work their way in.
Though I commit each and every day to God, and ask Him to lead and guide me, the lingering stress has still stuck around. Perhaps it is my personal pressure to perform, or the pursuit to please those who keep me employed; but either way, the weight of the worry is not what God has called me to carry. After two separate conversations with two wise women yesterday, I was reminded of what matters most in what I am doing. I am called to teach and love kids, and to help them see their value. Whether I jump through the “appropriate” hoops on any given day does not matter nearly as much, as if each student leaves my classroom feeling better about themselves than they did when they walked in. My priority needs to be to seek Him and His righteousness, and trust Him to add what is needed unto me. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – (Matthew 6:33-34) I do not interpret this to mean that I am not meant to do my very best to plan and align my lessons to the standards, but I am not meant to stress out about it all. Slowing down, breathing, praying, seeking the wisdom of colleagues to collaborate – these are ways to fend off the worry and to trust in His provision of people, time, and space. He has not called me to anything that He is not also willing to equip me to carry out.
in all that we do;
trust He is faithful,
for He’ll see us through.
Allow no worry,
to take place of trust;
all shall be added,
in His righteousness.
He is our Father,
full of love and grace;
who longs to hold us,
in His safe embrace.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You hear our every heart cry, and that no prayer is trivial to You. Thank You that when we seek You, and seek to serve You as You are calling, You answer and equip us to all that is asked. Forgive us for allowing the worries of this world to worm their way into our hearts and minds, and help us to give them back to You, trusting You to hold our hands and hearts as we travel life’s journey with You. Thank You too, for providing people to speak truth in love, and be Your heart and voice made tangible. Help us to seek You with all that we are, and may we in turn, love as You love. Let all whom we encounter, see You in us, and may many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified, our good and faithful Father. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
THE TWELVE APOSTLES:
1. Andrew – crucified
2. Bartholomew – beaten then crucified
3. James, son of Alphaeus – stoned to death
4. James, son of Zebedee – beheaded
5. John – exiled for his faith; died of old age
6. Judas (not Iscariot) – stoned to death
7. Matthew – speared to death
8. Peter – crucifed upside down
9. Philip – crucified
10. Simon – crucified
11. Thomas – speared to death
12. Matthias – stoned to death
(source: Fox’s Book of Martyrs)
Chart courtesy of Every Student.com
Do you want to follow Jesus Christ? How much? What are you willing to give up? Your life? Will you stand in civil disobedience when you are told to obey the laws of whichever government in power over you?
We are quickly coming to a point where here in America, although we are supposed to have freedom to practice our faith, we are being restricted on how and where we can do so. The current administration argues that if you are a business, even though you have always used Christian principles for your business, that you should not be exempt from laws that violate your belief. This includes providing abortion services, along with honoring marriages between same sexes, to just name a few. Whether this will stand we don’t yet know. There are currently arguments before several judges with some of the cases either at the Supreme Court or on there way.
Then there is the school system. Our children are taught at church and at home that certain things are unacceptable in the eyes of God, yet when they are as school, these things are often promoted. Our children are taught that both their parents and their churches are wrong, bigoted, racist and evil. Schools are becoming less a place to teach our children what they need for the future and more a place for those who have differing values to indoctrinate our children. They are also being taught that the government comes before God.
Even as individuals we are not safe, we are being forced to pay for abortion in the insurance that we have, even though this practice is abhorrent to us. Recently Pastors that speak out in public or hand out tracts have been arrested. Even praying in public has been a cause for arrest and harassment.
Our men and women in the military have lost the ability to even talk about their faith to their fellow men and women. They are told to shut up and be quiet or they will face a court martial. We have in the last six years seen Veterans families told that they cannot say Jesus name in prayers at funerals, in hospitals, or anywhere on federal land.
We are told that instead of the Constitution saying we have freedom of religion, that instead it is a document that protects all others from having to either hear, or even know that we are a people of faith and follow Jesus. At the very same time we are told that Muslim’s should not be insulted, their prayers’s need to be respected and special places allowed within schools, and that laws that apply to everyone else, such as head covering when you are photographed at the DMV.
You read the history of the apostles and how they were treated, we know that they were tortured and killed because they followed Jesus, but how often do you consider what they were doing when this happened and who did it? It wasn’t always at the hands of the Jews. Often it was because they angered the government of the time. Consider the Apostle Andrew:
Concerning the cause and manner of his death, the following is contained in Apophthegm. Christian. Baudart., page 3: AtPatras, a city in Achaia, he converted besides many others, Maximillia, the wife of Aegaeas, the governor, to the Christian faith. This so enraged the governor against Andrew, that he threatened him with death of the cross. But the apostle said to the governor, “Had I feared the death of the cross, I should not have preached the majesty and gloriousness of the cross of Christ.”
The enemies of the truth having apprehended and sentenced to death the apostle Andrew, he went joyfully to the place where he was to be crucified, and, having come near the cross, he said,”O beloved cross! I have greatly longed for thee. I rejoice to see thee erected here. I come to thee with a peaceful conscience and with cheerfulness, desiring that I, who am a disciple of Him who hung on the cross, may also be crucified.” The apostle said further,”The nearer I come to the cross, the nearer I come to God; and the farther I am from the cross, the farther I remain from God.”
The holy apostle hung three days on the cross; he was riot silent, however; but as long as he could move his tongue, he instructed the people that stood by the cross, in the way of the truth, saying, among other things, “I thank my Lord Jesus Christ, that He, having used me for a time as an ambassador, now permits me to have this body, that I, through a good confession, may obtain everlasting grace and mercy. Remain steadfast in the word and doctrine which you have received, instructing one another, that you may dwell with God in eternity, and receive the fruit of His promises.”
The Christians and other pious people besought the governor to give Andrew unto them, and take him down from the cross., (For it appears that he was not nailed to the cross, like Christ, but tied to it). When the apostle learned of this, he cried to God, Saying,”O Lord Jesus Christ! suffer not that Thy servant, who hangs here on the tree for Thy name’s sake, be released, to dwell again among men; but receive me. O my Lord, my God! whom I have known, whom I have loved, to whom I cling, whom I desire to see, and in whom I am what I am.” Having spoken these words, the holy apostle committed his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father. M. W. Baudart. in Apophthegm Christian. lib. 1, super Andream, ex August. de Vera et Falsa Poenitentia., cap 8, Bernhard. in Sermon. de Andrea. Lanfrancus contra Berengar. Niceph., lib. 2, cap. 39, and lib. 15, cap. 39. Remigius in Psal. 21 and 40. Johan. Strac. in Festo Andreae, p. 23, haec et alia. Also, Konst-tooneel van veertig, by N. D. C., Concerning the Life of Andrew. MARTYRS MIRROR
But it wasn’t just the Apostle’s who faced the wrath of the rulers or Synagogues. It was almost any Christian that came to the attention of the leaders of that time. Paul himself was one of those who participated in imprisoning and killing followers of Christ. Consider the case of
FELICITAS WITH HER SEVEN SONS, JANUARIUS, FELIX, PHILIPPUS, SYLVANUS, ALEXANDER, VITALIS, AND MARTIALIS, PUT TO DEATH FOR THE FAITH, AT ROME, A. D. 164
Felicitas was a Christian widow at Rome, and had seven sons, whose names were Januarius, Fe-
lix, Philippus, Sylvanus, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis. These lived together with their mother in one house, as an entire Christian church. Of the mother it is stated, that by her Christian communion, (conversation) which she had with the Roman women, she converted many to Christ. The sons, on their part, also acquitted themselves well by winning many men to Christ.
Now, when the heathen priests complained of this to Antonius, the Emperor-who had resumed the persecution which had begun with Trajan, but had subsided-saying, that there were not only men, but also women, who blasphemed the gods, despised their images, trampled under foot the Emperor’s worship of the gods, yea, turned away many from the old religion of the Romans; that this was principally done by a certain widow, named Felicitas, and her seven sons, and that, therefore, in order to prevent this, they must be compelled to give up Christ, and sacrifice to the gods, or, in case they should refuse to do so, be put to death, the Emperor, prompted or instigated hereby, gave . to Publius, the provost, or chief magistrate of Rome, full authority over them.
Publius, willing to spare Felicitas, as being a highly respectable woman, first secretly summoned her and her sons into his own house, where he entreated them with fair words and promises, but afterwards threatened to punish them with severe tortures, unless they would forsake the Christian religion, and readopt the old Roman worship of the gods. Felicitas, remembering the words of Christ,”Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven,” did not seek to evade the issue by using dissimulating or indirect words, but answered briefly thus, “I am neither moved by thy flatteries and entreaties, nor am I intimidated by thy threats; for I experience in my heart the working of the Holy Ghost, which gives me a living power, and prepares me for the conflict of suffering, to endure all that thou mayest lay upon me, for the confession of my faith.”
When Publius could not move the mother from her steadfast purpose, he said to her, “Very well; if it seems pleasant to thee , to die, die alone, but have pity and a mother’s compassion for thy sons, and command them, to ransom their own lives at least, by sacrificing to the gods.”
Thereupon Felicitas said to the judge, “Thy compassion is pure wickedness, and thy admonition is nothing but cruelty, for, if my sons should sacrifice to the gods, they would not ransom ‘their lives, but sell them to the hellish fiend, whose slaves, yea, whose serfs in soul and body, they would become, and be reserved by him, in chains of darkness, for everlasting fire.”
Then, turning away from the judge, to her sons, she said, “Remain steadfast in the faith, and in the confession of Christ; for Christ and His saints are waiting for you. Behold, heaven is open before you; therefore fight valiantly for your souls, and show, that you are faithful in the love of Christ, wherewith He loves you, and you Him.”
This filled the judge with rage against her, and he commanded them to smite her on the cheek, while he at the same time upbraided her vehemently, saying, “How darest thou thus impudently exhort thy sons in my presence, and make them obstinate to disobey the commands of the Emperor; whereas it would be far more proper for thee to incite them to obedience toward him?”
Felicitas, notwithstanding that death had been threatened her, answered with more than manly courage, saying, “If thou, O judge, didst know our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the power of His Godhead and majesty, thou wouldst undoubtedly desist from persecuting the Christians, and wouldst not seek to draw us away from the Christian religion by blaspheming His holy name; for whoever curses (or blasphemes) Christ and His faithful ones, curses (or blasphemes) God Himself, who, by faith, dwells in their hearts.”
Thereupon, though they struck her in the face with their fists, in order to silence her, she did not cease to admonish her sons to remain steadfast, and to fear neither tortures nor rack, nor even death itself, but to die willingly for the name of Christ.
Therefore, Publius the judge took each of her sons separately, and talked first to one and then to the other, hoping by this last resort to draw away from the faith, by promises as well as by threats, some of them at least, if not all. But as he could not prevail upon them, he sent a message to the Emperor, stating that they all remained obstinate, and that he could in no wise induce them to sacrifice to the gods. Thereupon the Emperor sentenced the mother together with her seven sons, that they should be delivered into the hands of different executioners, and be tortured and put to death in various ways; yet, that the mother was first to see all her sons die, before she herself should be put to death.
In accordance with this sentence, they first scourged Januarius, the first-born, to death, in the presence of his mother. The scourges were made of cords or ropes, to the ends of which balls of lead were attached. Those who had to undergo this mode of torture were scourged with them on their necks, backs, sides, and other tender parts of their bodies, either to torture them, or in order to martyr them to death as was the case in this instance. Felix and Philippus, the two brothers next (in age), were beaten to death with rods. Sylvanus, also called Syllanus, was cast down from a height. Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis were beheaded. Last of all, the mother was beheaded or put to death with the sword. This took place under Emperor Antonius Pius. A. Mell. 1st book of the Hist., fol. 33, col. 4 and fol. 34, col. 1-3, ex Prudent. in hincentio. Also, Acto. Adon. Mart., 23 Novemb. Greg. P. in Natali. S. Felic. Homil. 3, in Eu. Bet. Chrysol. Serm. 134. Arta apud Mombrit. MARTYRS MIRROR
Could we stand the same type of persecution? Many in the Middle East are doing so now. We have heard and read of people even in the last few weeks being crucified or dismembered. And yet there are those in this country who think that we should just go along with the government because the Bible tells us to obey them. They ignore the part of the Bible that tells us in all things God comes first.
Many of the ways in which we have to make decisions everyday are not even known by many people. Take a recent case where nurses were required to take part in abortions even though it is against their faith to murder. Or Pharmacists who are forced to give drugs that cause abortions. Or Doctors who are forced to provide abortions. The same with hospitals, especially under the new laws, if they don’t they are forced to close their doors in many instances because the government will not pay for patient care at them and they cannot get by without it.
Or consider teachers who are not allowed to wear a cross and are made to participate in practices at school that promote homosexuality. They are often fired if they pray with their students. Instead of protecting our ability to practice our faith. We are being pushed further and further into secrecy.
And yet if those early Christians had listened to the rulers of the day, they would not have lost their lives. For those who say that we should not practice “civil disobedience”, I must ask, what was the beginning of Christianity if it was not “civil disobedience?” The definition of civil disobedience is “the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest.”
While these early Christians did not go to battle to change peoples and we should never do that, they did stand when those in power tried to force them to kneel to whomever was in control. They didn’t cease converting people to Christianity. They didn’t sacrifice to the false gods of the time.
Even before Jesus we have examples throughout the Bible of men and women of faith who disobeyed the rulers of their times. Daniel didn’t bow down. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, did not either. We have only to look to these to see examples of civil disobedience.