CHILDREN OF GOD should fear their Maker; not with a dreadful fear, but with an awesome and reverent fear. Such a fear can come about only through a love and respect for His Word, both the written Word and the Word made flesh (Christ). Surely the Christian will fear the Word more than would an infidel; yet many seem not to. Consider this little story that I ran across recently: An infidel said, “There is one thing that mars all the pleasure of my life.” “Indeed!” replied a friend. “And what is that?”
“I am afraid the Bible is true.” He answered. “If I could know for certain that death is only an eternal sleep, I should be happy: my joy would be complete. But here is the thorn that stings me; this is the sword that pierces my soul—if the Bible is true, I am lost forever!”
WE MAY CRITICIZE THE INFIDEL, saying that he should have availed himself of the salvation the Bible teaches rather than despair and be lost. Let us hope that eventually he did. But if not, is he more lost than those who know the Bible is true, yet hope that it doesn’t mean all that it says?
A certain student of the Scripture was asked what a particular verse means—a verse that seems to “get under the skin” of many today who appear to be living in opposition to it. He said, “Well, I don’t know what it means—but it doesn’t mean that”—indicating that it doesn’t mean what it plainly says. The inquirer replied, “Maybe, if you don’t know what it means, there is a good chance that it does mean what it says.”
THE INFIDEL DIDN’T BELIEVE THE BIBLE, but underneath his unbelief he feared lest it be true. Then, here is a Christian who knows the Bible is the Word of God, yet is not afraid to declare that a plain statement therein does not mean what it says. Really now—can we believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God while at the same time we do not believe it means what it says?
“It’s all a matter of interpretation,” some say. Then, if the Book is so plain that “the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isa. 35:8), it is a mighty poor interpretation which takes a simple statement of fact and passes it off by saying, “I don’t know what it means, but it doesn’t mean what it says.”
WHEN I WAS BUT A BOY, I learned an old proverb—“When in doubt, don’t!” Maybe I interpreted it wrong, but I always took it to mean that if I was in doubt about a thing being right, I should not do that thing. I suppose it could be interpreted to mean, “If you are in doubt that a thing is right, don’t let it bother you—go ahead and do it.”
Self-denial is something of an outmoded virtue in today’s society. Few people respect a “don’t.” Not many want to be advised. “You’d better not do that.” The majority of people resent being restrained; even by the Word of God or the Holy Ghost. Even in the Church, there are those who apparently resent the Assembly’s voice if it advises them not to do certain things. Even “positive thinking” is given a negative interpretation if it is the least bit restraining.
“Self-denial” seems acceptable pertaining to offerings; but actually, it is not the giving that is meant by self-denial,” but rather the “doing without” or the “depriving oneself of” something as a result of the giving. Some know what this is; many probably have not had to learn this lesson as yet. So, in many cases, “self-denial” is totally misinterpreted.
BELIEVING AND EMBRACING THE WORD might be considered self denial to the sinner. But from the moment he believes and accepts it, obedience and compliance should be counted a privilege. Discipleship itself is offered on the basis of self-denial. “And he [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23, 24). Again He said “If any man come after me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt. 10:37-39).
WE BELIEVE THE BIBLE IS TRUE—but do we fear God more than did the infidel? Some say, “There’s no Assembly ruling on this-and-that, so I can do as I please about it.” Another (or maybe the same person) is paying no attention whatsoever to what the Assembly has already said about many other things.
The pity is that the Assembly has had to say anything about some things, since it only confirms what is already in the Bible we believe. This always reminds me of the “Moses ruling” on divorcement. For the hardness of the people’s hearts, Moses “suffered” them to put away their wives. But Jesus made it clear that “from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). We understand, don’t we, that the entrance of the gospel was to take away the “stony heart” and to give us a “heart of flesh”—or a heart that could be touched and influenced by the Word of truth? We know, don’t we, that “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psa. 119:89)? We believe, don’t we, that “whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Eccl. 3:14)?
IF A THING WAS NOT SO IN THE BEGINNING, who but the hard-hearted will “put to it” or “take from it”? And with what consequences? Certainly the Bible, rightly divided by the proper authority, should not be considered unjustly restraining. Is it not better to restrain ourselves unnecessarily and be safe than to say, “It doesn’t mean that,” and run an unnecessary risk? Instead of saying, “I’m going to do this until the Church says it is wrong,” why not say, “I won’t presume that this is right until the Church says it is right”?
Why live by the infidel’s philosophy: “If the Bible means what it says, I will be lost forever,” when we can stay on safe ground: “Lest the Bible really means what it says, I mean to deny myself and live forever”?By: R.O. Covey, White Wing Messenger December 8th, 1973 image credit: HERE