Assumption Consumption

Assumption Consumption

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

Neal Pollard

The definition is stark and candid: “A thing that is accepted as true or certain to happen, without proof.” We live in an age where making assumptions is rampant and relentless. In current society, we make assumptions about one another based on political affiliation, skin color, and even masks. Charity and the benefit of the doubt are disappearing from too many circles, and that should have us all concerned. But, instead of panicking and giving up, Christians should see this as an opportunity to reach hearts for Jesus.

Immediately after writing about how powerful the command to love one another is (cf. Mat. 22:40; Rom. 13:8), Paul warns, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:15). The current, so-called “cancel culture,” public humiliation, online shaming, boycotting, etc., is presumptuous and worldly. While the nuances of what we are seeing these days may be unique to us, the mindset and behavior are ancient and basic. If you keep reading Paul’s words, you can identify the culprit. A failure to walk by the Spirit leads us to carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). 

How can we know which characterize us? It is palpably simple. Notice.

Check Your Deeds

Paul lists out 15 specific deeds of the flesh–plus an encompassing “things like these”–which keeps the practicers from inheriting the kingdom of God. Nestled among sexual immorality and drunkenness are “enmities” (hostility and hatred), “strife” (to express differences of opinion with antagonism or hostility), “outbursts of anger” (intense, passionate “boiling over” of displeasure; rage), “disputes” (a feeling of hostility or being against), “dissensions” (party strife within a community, TDNT 89; i.e., Republican, Democrat?), “factions” (division based upon different opinions or loyalties)(Gal. 5:20). If God chose to drop the apostle Paul into our country right now for a week, surely he would preach this text to us! He’s describing the current crises and even many Christians’ response to it and one another. These are very nearly half of the deeds of the flesh specifically mentioned. Read your newsfeed, look at the articles being forwarded, watch cable or online news, and the like. More personally, I need to ask if I am exhibiting these deeds of the flesh in my words and actions. 

The antithesis of such deeds and the fruit which counteracts and conquers them. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (22-23). Insert each of these qualities into your deeds and see if those fleshly deeds can survive. It has become routine and expected to see the incivility and hostility of the deeds of the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit will overcome them! But we must discipline ourselves to exhibit them, even in the face of those employing those worldly ways.

Crucify Your Flesh

Sounds painful doesn’t it? It doesn’t sound like something that comes easily or naturally. But, if Jesus owns you, these “passions and desires” must be put to death (24). Kill them! Harness the hostility and defeat those desires. We cannot give ourselves the old “that’s just the way I am” pass. We are not our own. We belong to Him. Nail it to the cross of self-denial!

Chart Your Course

Paul says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (25). “Walk” means “to be in line with a person or thing considered as standard for one’s conduct” (BDAG 946). It means living in conformity with a set standard. We don’t have to guess what that is, and understand that it will look very different from the world’s standard. We cannot stoop to their level or conform to their rule (Rom. 12:1-2). 

Consider Your Brethren

To end this discussion, Paul tells us how not to treat others–“boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (26), then how to treat others (6:1-2). We gently restore one another and bear one another’s burdens. We are protective and constructive. We care about souls, and that takes precedence over winning arguments and having our incisive one-liners quoted. We see souls like Jesus sees them!

It’s discouraging to see our society losing the ability to reason and discuss respectfully. It is destructive to see our brethren giving in to such devilish tactics. May we be aware that we are not serving and honoring our Master if our means to accomplish our ends cause us to use fleshly ways. Paul says it best: “But each one must examine his own work” (Gal. 6:4). God help me to do so humbly and honestly! 

Of One the Lord Has Made the Race

Of One the Lord Has Made the Race

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 John Moody McCaleb was a missionary in Japan for the better part of his life. He moved to the island nation during the Meiji era, in which Japan was sprinting to catch up to the technology and emulate the political philosophy of the West. The war-weary pacifist, David Lipscomb, strongly influenced McCaleb. (I would dare say that it did not take much to sway him since his father, a Union soldier, was shot and killed by a fellow Union soldier as he was crossing a stream since he did not hear the latter’s order to halt. 1)

 Hence, when Japan became an Imperial state in its early Showa era, McCaleb’s pacifistic ideology put him at odds with his adopted home. He was sent “home” to the United States in October of 1941, just a couple of months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Since his expulsion, McCaleb’s house, which survived the tumultuous world war, has become a museum. A contemporary caretaker of the museum noted that McCaleb never flew an American or Japanese flag in front of his residence, stating “my true nationality is the kingdom of heaven.” 2

 Perhaps, it should not surprise us that the first stanza of a hymn penned by McCaleb reads as follows: “Of one the Lord has made the race, Through one has come the fall; Where sin has gone must go His grace: The gospel is for all.” Yes, this pioneering American missionary of the Restoration Movement wrote one of the most beloved hymns highlighting the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20), The Gospel Is for All.

 I wished to share this to drive home one point. McCaleb failed to see cultural distinctions as “racial” in nature. McCaleb understood as Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17.26-27: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (NASB)” Indeed, we are of one race, the human race.

 When we look for the genesis of our divisions in God’s Word, we read Genesis 11 and the account of the Tower of Babel. Within that chapter, humanity, united, sought to use its solidarity to rebel against God. God couldn’t allow that for, because thus united, He observed, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6 NASB). And so, God divided us by giving us different languages.

 Someone might scoff that vocabulary is not an insurmountable barrier since we learn the tongues of others today. First, it is not as if there were primers to teach one another the new languages existing initially after the Tower of Babel. Second, thus motivated to disperse, they went on to develop cultures independent of one another centered on those communication divisions. They intermarried those of their lingual group who had developed customs different from other lingual groups. It was a positive feedback loop.

 Might I humbly suggest that this remains the source of our societal ills today when it comes to poorly labeled “race relations,” since we are only one race? We have different cultures and customs. Language is not an insurmountable obstacle because we know the syllabaries and alphabets of those speaking different languages from ourselves. With this knowledge, we take the Gospel to every creature.

 But if we want to know what causes a man to kneel on the neck of a subdued man because he has more melanin in his skin, it is not a “racial problem.” It is a sin problem. And even though we all like to think that those resembling ourselves are free of such biases, it is something against which we all must carefully guard our hearts, whether we possess little or much melanin.

 Each of us is created in the image of God and must seek to treat one another as we desire to be treated (Matthew 7.12). Please keep this in mind whenever you see the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” type of headlines the devil likes to employ to impede the progress of the Gospel in this world. He seeks to do so by convincing men that the essential things are the least important, but that the amount of melanin in one’s skin is of greater import.

REFERENCES

1 Walker, Wayne. “‘The Gospel Is For All.’” Hymnstudiesblog, WordPress.com, 6 Nov. 2008, hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/quotthe-gospel-is-for-allquot/.

2 Ikuma, Koji. “The Old Missionary Museum of Zoshigaya, a Story of One of the Famous Christian Missionaries in Japan.” Unfamiliar Japan Tours, Unfamiliar Japan Tours.com, 19 Aug. 2016, uj-tours.com/missionary-house/.

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Walk With Me Through The Crowd

Walk With Me Through The Crowd

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Walk with me through the crowd. At times, it will be frightening, heartbreaking, disgusting, even angering. Some are in masks. Some aren’t. You see far-left and far-right extremists, assaulting each other and maybe threatening you. Past the rioters, the protesters, the grief-stricken. You even see political activists posing as Christians spewing divisive rhetoric around–acting and reacting. There are racists of every color. Politicians. The lukewarm and apathetic. Some are jobless. Some homeless. Some wealthy and well-to-do. Many enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. They are from literally every walk of life. In many ways, this crowd is full of folks who are nothing alike or have little in common with others in it. But, in the way that counts most, they are so much alike.

You try to push through the enormous crowd full of the listless, the rudderless, the hopeless, the lonely, and the misunderstood. As you get back behind them, there’s the devil and his angels pouring over their playbook. He is the ruler of this world (John 12:31), unleashing the spiritual forces of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). There is a connection between this “prince of the power of the air” and “the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). He wants us all distracted from what he’s trying to hide behind him. He’s pushing the crowd further away from it. But look. You see bands of faithful, committed disciples at the foot of a rough hewn cross. You join them there and look up at your Savior. It was worth the effort to swim through the crowd and see through the devil at God’s answer. He is hanging there for that enormous crowd, to help them escape the clutches and curse of darkness.  He offers light, love, grace, goodness, hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and life. Contrast this with the carnage you have just sifted through.

Now, go back through that crowd and find someone else who needs Him, someone who realizes that for all the sin, evil, suffering, and problems they will not find the answers in that crowd. They certainly will not find it in the one who’s behind that crowd, inciting and inflaming it. Get them through the crowd to the cross (Mat. 7:13-14). Each one liberated from the crowd will be eternally grateful!

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