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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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An Increase In Sin?

Christopher Love

 

 

From the desk of Christopher Love:

Many men, after a long conversion, see more of the workings of sin in their hearts than ever they did before or at their first conversion. Now, such men have not an increase of sin, but an increase of illumination and light. (Love, The Mortified Christian, 47)

Martin Luther King, Jr: Just Vs. Unjust Law

While serving time in the Birmingham city jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter to some of his fellow clergymen who had found fault with his activities in Alabama. I think this letter is a remarkable piece of literature which is carefully reasoned and extremely well written. I hope you will read the few excerpts below and eventually read the entire letter:

Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. on the16th of April, 1963:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. . . .

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience. (“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”)

The Narrow Gate

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

As Christians, we generally do not like to hear Christ or Christianity described as “narrow”. Christians, just like most people, don’t like to be thought of as narrow-minded. We think of Christ and Christianity in terms of love, tolerance, grace, and generosity. We think of the narrow-minded person as being ignorant and bigoted. Human beings do not possess perfect knowledge, but here we must part company with most people because Christ has perfect knowledge. He perfectly understands God and the ways of the kingdom of heaven. Narrowness, in this sense, should be considered a virtuous expression of Christ’s knowledge and love. Christianity is narrow in moral and spiritual issues, because only absolute truth is found in Christ and men can only be saved by trusting in His name.

The teachings of Christ may be seen as narrow. He commands men to avoid self-love, the worship of idols, and sin; while demanding complete allegiance to His cause. Jesus is Lord and He must be Lord of all. If Christ were less narrow in the matter of sin, grace and justice would not exist. Christ declared that “he that is not with Me is against Me.” Men are forced to choose sides when Jesus or talk of Jesus is present. His narrow determination which took the road of redeeming sacrifice with a steadfast will, courageously enduring the humiliation and pain of the cross, now demands the throne of your heart. Self-will or God’s will is the eternal choice.

There is great danger in believing that the external things of the kingdom of God are all that we need to understand. We delude ourselves with our shallow judgments which often contradict the teachings of Christ. Many of us have even banished the idea of sin from our thinking.

The imagination of popular culture conceives God’s love to be His kindly indulgence of imperfect humanity. We have expanded a distorted idea of God’s grace. Do not think, as many do, that love and mercy are God’s only characteristics. Remember: “he that is not with Me is against Me.” Every day of our lives is a judgment-day, which reveals the hidden heart of a man, and his deeds, while recording his thoughts and attitude toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Consider also that our personal relationship with Christ does not end with us. We have a share in forming the lives of others. What impressions of Christ do others form by the way we live? The true Christian is transformed every day, more and more, into the likeness of Christ. The path may be narrow and hard, but its destination is the kingdom of God. Like the path above, the truth of God is narrow because there is only one way to Him. It is narrow also because it represents absolute truth. Is God to be broadminded about truth? Certainly not, because God created truth. Therefore, He is deeply concerned with protecting this truth and His followers should be also.

I pray that the narrow gate will remind us of our responsibility to protect the truth of God by denying false doctrine an entrance into the church. I hope it always reminds us of our duty to accept and portray the exclusiveness of the Word of God and Jesus Christ. It is narrow, but we must proclaim Christ as the only means to eternal salvation because it is absolutely true.

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