Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Principle: Property–The Intangibles

Mention property, and nearly everyone will focus on material possessions. We naturally think in terms of money, land, homes, etc., as being the essence of property. Yet those are merely the external forms of property–the things we can see or touch. There are other properties that are more significant, and which form the basis for the external properties.

God has given us internal properties: a mind with which to think; emotions with which we can interact with the world and others; a will that determines our actions; a conscience that informs us of right and wrong; a spirit, which is the eternal part of us (although it will be joined to a resurrection body as well).

How we handle these properties–mind, emotions, will, conscience–will make all the difference as to where that eternal spirit will reside. Our thoughts need to be taken captive to the love of God; our emotions must be directed by our thoughts; our will must be submitted to God’s will; our conscience will let us know which path to follow, and when we have failed to follow the right one.

The conscience is delicate. The apostle Paul talks about a “seared conscience.” What does that mean?

Look at it this way. If you violate your conscience once (this can apply to any particular sin), you feel remorse for doing so. But if you resist that feeling, and never repent of the sin, the next time you do it, you won’t feel quite as bad as the first time. The more often you repeat the sin, the less your conscience is going to bother you. Finally, you can commit that sin without feeling any remorse or regret. It doesn’t make the sin any less sinful, but you no longer respond to the conscience God gave you.

Each of those internal properties are gifts from God. They need to be appreciated as gifts, and we must be good stewards of them. When we misuse them, we suffer what Paul calls a shipwrecked faith. When those who claim the name of Christ violate their consciences, we contribute to the spiritual devastation in the world.

This does not have to be the norm. We can obey God. We can be the examples He wants us to be. We can bring His principles to bear on the world. We can make a difference!

Principle: Property/Stewardship

Throughout this blog, I’ve pointed to a number of principles upon which Christians should base their thinking. If we would analyze everything through these principles, we would come to more Biblically based conclusions.

The principle of property is very important. If you look at property from a worldly perspective, you see it potentially in a number of ways. For instance, one can be quite selfish and focus entirely on accumulating “things.” This is one end of the spectrum. The other end is believing that elimination of property is the key to universal peace and harmony. Both are wrong.

The Christian, in thinking about property, should remember this one salient fact: all things really belong to God. We are merely the temporary receptors of what He has given us. So, more properly understood, the principle of property is a principle of stewardship. That word isn’t used much in the world anymore, but it needs to be. A steward is someone who has been given the responsibility to manage the affairs of another. This world, and all it contains, comes from the hand of God. We are allowed to use what He has made. But we will be held accountable for how we use His gifts.

All that we have is a gift. We didn’t “earn” anything, in the proper sense. If we realize that, we become grateful rather than complaining. I also used the plural–gifts–on purpose. We are not stewards of material possessions only. There are gifts that are intangible, that cannot be held in one’s hand.

What are they? More on that in the next post.

American Self-Government: Example #2

All of America’s early colonies had legislatures of their own. Most of them, from the start, had been allowed self-government in their charters. When the British government began to change the rules by taxing them without any representation in Parliament, the colonies reacted. Their first line of defense was the charters they had been given.

When the British government dismissed their arguments, they turned instead to the idea that God had given each person the right to direct his own life, and that self-government was an inalienable gift from God. They put that in a document that has inspired people all over the world (except perhaps in Muslim nations). It was the Declaration of Independence.

Presenting the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress

Presenting the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress

In this document, the Continental Congress stated that the right to liberty was an inalienable right provided by God. It was the official beginning of what is normally called the American Revolution.

I tell my classes that I think “American Revolution” is not really the best description of that event. I don’t think these early Americans were all that revolutionary. Instead, their primary purpose was to preserve what they thought was the essence of their British heritage. Based on that, I have a name that I prefer: The American War for Continued Self-Government.

Now, I know it isn’t very pithy, but it is a much more accurate description of what took place. The colonies had experienced self-government for most of their existence. Britain was threatening to overrule them and wipe out their ability to make their own laws. Their response was to defend their long-established right. Therefore, this was a war to continue what they had been doing for a century and a half. It truly was a war for continued self-government.

Do we care about this anymore? Are we willing to defend the right of the United States to make its own choices in the world without first asking permission of other nations? As a country, we must continue to assert our right to self-government.

American Self-Government: Example #1

They were called Separatists in their native England. They got this name because they couldn’t abide being part of a state church where the government controlled the worship and doctrine. So they set up their own churches based on their understanding of how God wanted His church to work, following what they perceived to be the model in the New Testament.

When they set up these churches, they had to start from scratch with church government. Consequently, they relied on covenants, where each member voluntarily joined together with others to agree on the rules by which they would be governed. No authority from above told them what to do; they simply did it.

They were persecuted and had to leave their homeland. Holland allowed them to worship as they pleased, but they longed for a country of their own. That’s when the decided to sail for the New World.

They were blown off course and were unable to land where the charter under which they sailed had authority. That led some of the hired men to talk of the “liberty” they would have once they got off the ship. The covenanted settlers knew they would have a problem on their hands with a group of people who were eager to be in a place without established government. That is why they wrote up their own covenant for civil government.

Drawing Up the Mayflower Compact

Drawing Up the Mayflower Compact

We now call those early settlers “The Pilgrims.” The document they wrote is the Mayflower Compact. It’s not a long document. It merely says that they will obey whatever government is set up. But that was enough. It was the beginning of true self-government in America, from people who already were used to governing themselves in their churches. We continue to look back on that model of self-government today (at least where anything about the Pilgrims may still be taught). A group of dedicated Christians showed the way.

How are we handling self-government in our day? Do we really believe in it anymore? When we look to Washington, DC, to provide for us and to take care of all our problems, what is left of the spirit of self-government?

I hope it’s not too late to revive this principle.

The Greatest of All Self-Government Quotes

 

Grotius: Father of the Law of Nations
Grotius: Father of the Law of Nations

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a Dutch Christian who became famous for his writings on how nations should relate to one another. There is a quote attributed to him that spells out how self-government works better than any other explanation I have ever read. Now, I haven’t been able to document when or where Grotius said this; that’s why I stated only that it is attributed to him. However, as I tell my students, if I ever find out for sure that he didn’t say it, I will continue to use it because it is such a wonderful quote, and then claim it for myself. Here’s that very insightful statement:

 He knows not how to rule a kingdom that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province that cannot order a city; nor he order a city that knows not how to regulate a village; nor he a village that cannot guide a family; nor can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself; neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.

 Read through that carefully again. How might this nation function if we took this to heart? If we never gave anyone civil authority until he or she has shown the ability to handle smaller responsibilities first? If we checked to find out if that person is first of all obedient to God? What a difference it could make.

Principle: Self-Government

In an age when we look to Washington, DC, for everything we need, we have forgotten one basic Biblical principle that was part of the foundation of this country. It is a principle simply called self-government.

It’s not hard to explain. God has created each of us with the ability to make decisions. That is part of His image that He placed within us. Government, by definition, is “control and direction.” Whenever anything is governed, that means it is controlled and directed. The issue comes down to who or what is doing the controlling and directing.

Self-government begins with the individual. We are to learn how to control and direct our own lives under God. This is not meant to be an old 1960s refrain–“do your own thing.” Rather, it is a growth in maturity as we come to understand more and more just what God wants us to do–and then we do it. We don’t do it because someone is standing over us making us do it; instead, we do it because we acknowledge that it is the right thing to do and we make that decision ourselves.

We used to teach this to our children. We sought to help them grow up and make wise decisions based on eternal standards of right and wrong. Nowadays, we tell them to make their own decisions but we disconnect that decisionmaking from God’s standards. That’s when it becomes a purely personal preference unrelated to what is right.

So each individual is govern himself. But there are other applications. Each family is to be self-governing, each church, each voluntary organization, each locality, each state, each nation.

One more application: you should never give a higher level of responsibilty to anyone who has not shown the proper self-government of a lesser responsibilty. The apostle Paul was following this principle when he cautioned his disciple Timothy on the procedure for choosing elders and deacons in the church. They had to be proven at a lower level before being elevated in rank or responsibility.

I’ll continue with this concept in my next post.

Principle: Made in God's Image

In early America, there was little debate about who man was. Nearly everyone agreed man was a being made in the image of God. What did that mean?

First, it meant that God had transferred many of His attributes to his creation: man was given intellect, emotions, and the power to choose good and evil. He also had a spirit. Just as God is a spirit, so man was more than a material being. He also would live forever, the destination predicated on his choice.

Second, it meant that man was God’s highest creation and that the life He breathed into him was the greatest gift that could possibly be given. It was a gift that was to be honored and protected. It meant that life was sacred. We know that’s how God viewed it when He declared that anyone who would take away the life of another would suffer the same penalty, thereby sanctioning capital punishment.

There is a difference between taking the life of a murderer (a task given to civil society) and taking the life of an innocent person. The ultimate innocent person is one who has never chosen right from wrong because he or she is still inside the womb.

The Ultimate Innocent Person

The Ultimate Innocent Person

When we later adopted the view that man simply evolved from lower life forms, we discarded the idea that man is a special creation of God. We reduced him to a mass of chemicals or a blob of tissue. That’s why it is so much easier now to discard unwanted human life, either in the womb or when a person is no longer considered “useful” to society.

A society that can allow this type of behavior is a society in rebellion against its Creator. It will pay a penalty. Our mission is to trumpet the message that man IS made in God’s own image, as we seek to reverse policies that destroy innocent life.