Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Principle: Christian Character (Part III)

The Bible is replete with examples of godly character. I’m particularly drawn to those examples that show a person maintaining godly character while serving in public office. For instance, when the prophet Samuel steps down as judge over Israel, he challenges the people by stating,

“Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes. If I have done any of these, I will make it right.”

How many politicians today would dare raise such issues? How many would have clean consciences? In Samuel’s case, the people responded,

“You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also His anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said. (I Sam. 12:3-5)

What a testimony!

The prophet Daniel, serving in the godless kingdom of Babylon, continued to be faithful to God and to carry out his governmental duties honestly. His promotion led to jealousy on the part of other government officials.

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. (Dan. 6:3-4)

The misdeeds of our elected officials sometimes cause us to become cynical about government. But there are those who carry out their responsibilities with the kind of character that reflects Christ. We need to support such people. Pray for them. Vote for them. Our government is only a reflection of who we are.

Principle: Christian Character (Part II)

The central Christian character trait that must be present in our lives is love. Of course it needs to be defined. Love is not a feeling. I prefer the definition given by Charles Finney:

It has been shown that the sum and spirit of the whole law is properly expressed in one word—love. It has also been shown that this love is benevolence or good willing; that it consists in choosing the highest good of God and of universal being, for its own intrinsic value, in a spirit of entire consecration to this as the ultimate end of existence.

I italicized one portion on purpose. The essence of love, according to Finney, and, I believe, according to the Scriptures, is a choice to do the right thing. We may have feelings when operating in love, but those feelings are not love. The choice to do what God calls us to do, even when we don’t feel like it, is what love is all about.

Love then manifests itself in many other traits—righteousness, mercy, humility, faithfulness—the list of character qualities is quite long. Yet they all are grounded in love.

If we love, and if we are committed to continuing in that love [the character trait of faithfulness], the result is holiness. Some people have trouble with that word. They think it means you must dress a certain way, not go to the movies, or many other external prohibitions. I believe, however, that holiness is merely acting in love and doing it consistently. Doesn’t that take all the dread out of the word?

The world isn’t too concerned about doing the right thing.

Yes, but righteousness, based on love, would prevail.

Principle: Christian Character (Part I)

We are all free moral agents made in the image of God. In order for His creation to operate the way He intended, we must reflect His character. If we don’t, everything falls apart [which is evident just by observing the world].

Noah Webster’s dictionary definition of character, distinct from the human aspect, was simply “a mark made by cutting, engraving, stamping, or pressing.” Like a typewriter—you remember those? Put in the paper, press the key, the arm jumps up and cuts, engraves, stamps, or presses on the paper, making a “mark.”

It works the same way with people. Our character is made by the various cuttings we must endure, the engravings that sometimes hurt, the stamping and pressing that oftentimes leaves us wondering how we are going to survive. Yet those very circumstances of life make us into what we are. They form our character.

Character is created within; it reveals itself externally. We cannot simply grit our teeth and determine we will have godly character; it must spring from a heart that is changed. The Apostle Paul alluded to this when he wrote to the Corinthian believers:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (II Cor. 3:2-3)

The real change takes place in the heart. What is in the heart will be manifested. Some may not like this explanation:

Truth can disturb us—but that’s the nature of truth. Only when we face up to the truth and acknowledge it for what it is can we be set free.

Principle: A Biblical Form of Government (Part III)

Representation, separation of powers, and a federal system: these are the components of a Biblical form of government. They also comprise the elements of what America set up in the Constitution. What we have been handed by the Founders is consistent with the Biblical pattern for how government should operate.

But that’s merely the external structure. What makes this structure work properly is the internal: believing in the value of the individual made in God’s image; taking the responsibility of self-government; understanding the principle of stewardship, that all property is a gift from God, and that we are to make decisions as His stewards; maintaining unity of purpose; and, of course, reflecting God’s character in our lives.

If all these principles are present in a society, we might compare its stability to a hard boiled egg. If you apply pressure to it, it will crack, but it doesn’t fall apart completely. There is substance inside that maintains the basic structure. The same is true of a Biblical form of government. The pressures of life may cause cracks in the system, but if basic principles continue to infuse the form, it will not collapse.

The opposite is also true.

An egg with all the insides drained out will never withstand pressure. It will crumble. A form of government that is empty within—no principles sustaining it—will also crumble when pressure is applied. Are we at the point where our external framework of government no longer works because the internal Biblical principles are no longer the foundation for our society?

Time will tell.

Principle: A Biblical Form of Government (Part II)

As Samuel the prophet was stepping down from his role as judge in Israel, the people demanded a change in the government’s structure. They didn’t trust Samuel’s sons to judge righteously, so they asked instead for a king. We’re told of this episode in I Samuel 8:4-22, and it is quite a remarkable account of how to destroy a God-given governmental system.

The elders of Israel came to Samuel and said, “Now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” That’s a clue right there that they were not listening to God or honoring His ways. Whenever we want to do something simply because it’s what everyone else does, we are on the wrong foundation already.

Their demand displeased Samuel, but when he prayed, the Lord told him to do as they wanted. Why? It was obvious they didn’t want to be obedient and remain in God’s governmental structure. He wouldn’t force them to do so. Yet he told Samuel to warn them of the consequences.

The list of consequences that Samuel gives is rather long, but to summarize: if you get a king, he will take everything of value away from you—your property, your money, even your family. After going through this litany of evil results, Samuel then warns:

When that day comes [when you have become the king’s slaves], you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.

You would think that particular consequence would be enough to make them rethink their foolish request, but instead they answered:

No, we want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.

When it came right down to it, they didn’t really believe Samuel’s warnings. Notice the other rationale besides the desire to be like all the other nations: they want this king to fight their battles for them.

We have the same blindness today. We somehow believe that the government will take care of us and provide everything we need. And America seems to be drifting into the same type of system that now dominates Europe. We are becoming like all the other nations.

We don’t really believe all the warnings.

Principle: A Biblical Form of Government (Part I)

I believe God is interested in how we govern. Since He is the Creator of all things, perhaps we ought to pay attention to what He has said about it.

We must start with a defintion. What do we mean by a “form” of government? A form is a manner or system, a stated method or practice, or an appropriate arrangement of parts. What then is a Biblical form? Substitute those words for “form” and we have:

  • A Biblical manner of system of government
  • A Biblical method or practice of government
  • A Biblical arrangement of the distinct parts of the government

Then we can look at the history of the Jewish people in the Old Testament for clues to how God wanted them to be governed. We get our best clues from the account of Moses leading the children of Israel through the desert.

Moses by Michelangelo

Moses by Michelangelo

When Moses tried to rule by himself, he almost wore himself out. His father-in-law, Jethro, advised him to find others to help. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses later explained his procedure for finding these men, when he comments that he had previously told the people:

Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.

He then appointed them to be over “thousands, and of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens, and officers” for the tribes.

Finally, he instructed them to judge righteously within each tribe, but if any case was too hard for the tribal leaders, they could bring it to him.

What was actually set up here was something quite similar to a federal republic. There was representation: the people of the tribes chose their own local leaders. There were different levels of government: most of the governing was accomplished at the tribal level; only those cases too difficult for them were to be taken to the higher level, which at the time was Moses himself.

When they entered into the Promised Land, the people maintained this form of government for quite some time. God apparently sanctioned it. It was a form of government that allowed maximum self-government, and minimized power at the very top. That was reserved for special cases only. Therefore, I conclude that this system is not too different from the original intent of the American Constitution.

What happened to this form of government? Why did it change over time? What were the consequences of this change? More in the next post.

Principle: Unity & Union (Part II)

Building on the concept that unions must be voluntary and that there must be internal unity before an external union can be successful, we can look at examples in certain nations. Remember the old Soviet Union? The official name was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—one of the most dishonest names imaginable.

First, it wasn’t a true republic—that would have required representation and the protection of inalienable rights, ideas foreign to its government. Neither was it a true union as understood by this principle. Look at the map below:

Notice all the appendages to the Soviet Union—places such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. None of them were eager to join this “union.” They were forced into it; voluntary consent was not an option.

This union held together for about 70 years, but when the central government could no longer keep it in line militarily, most of those appendages broke away and became independent nations. The reason? There never was any real unity.

The United States, on the other hand, provides a different image at its founding. Unique for its time [and pretty much ever since], the United States came together voluntarily, based on common agreement on basic principles. We had a consensus on the essentials: a Christian framework for understanding the nature of man; the need for a representative government that divided powers to protect from tyranny; the belief in inalienable rights granted to man by God.

It has been a model much imitated, but rarely with the same Biblical foundation. The Founders, despite their disagreements on specifics, were united on the general principles. They could hold a convention, write a Constitution, debate it in all the states, and voluntarily set up a new government. They accomplished all this because of their common worldview.

What would happen if we tried to hold a constitutional convention today? What consensus do we have now? How have we changed as a people? Would there be any hope for agreement? I submit that we are polarized as a society, one segment retaining the original Biblical framework, another rejecting it totally, and the mass of citizens in the middle, not really knowing what they believe.

We can wring our hands over this situation or . . . we can see it as an opportunity to speak Biblical truth into our society. I choose the latter.