Unprofessional, Illegal Police Actions

Beggaring Belief
Given how London police actually police free speech laws, we are in a position to clarify what free speech rights mean to the Met.  The case involves a street preacher named Olu. 

Now, before rushing to conclude that the incident was the work of a rogue police officer (or two) we would remind readers that it would be highly unlikely that the Met officers would have acted as they did without calling their duty sergeant on the radio to ask for advice and direction.  Doubtless they would have endeavoured to portray the events as one extremist individual speaking offensively so as to wind people up to the extent that it constituted a breach of the peace. 

So there we have it: firstly, free speech to the London Met Police runs like this: if anyone is offended by the speech of another person, free speech rights have been breached and the speaker is to be arrested.  This, dear reader, is as close as you will get to a real life episode of Orwell’s 1984

Or, an equally iniquitous explanation of the Met police’s actions runs like this:
  if a public speaker riles up his audience to where they get mad and threaten violence, a breach of the peace has occurred and the public speaker must be arrested. 

The Met Police have changed their narrative on the arrest of a Christian street preacher last month after an investigation was launched into their conduct.  While police originally claimed they had walked the preacher some 200 meters away and then let him go, they now admit that they drove him away in a car, dropping him off several miles away.

“As the man indicated that he wished to continue his activities at Southgate tube station, officers felt it necessary to take the man some distance from the station in order to prevent a breach of the peace at that location,” police stated.  [Beitbart News]

Here is the rationale of the Met:

A viral video of the arrest viewed over 2.3 million times stirred up a public outcry and the advocacy group Christian Concern took up the man’s case.  In their report, the arresting officers said they had apprehended Mr IIesanmi “to prevent a breach of the peace” yet many believe the video footage of the event shows no hostile or aggressive conduct by Mr Ilesanmi.


In the verbal exchange recorded in the two-minute video, one of the officers tells the preacher, “we are going to require you to go away,” or “I will arrest you for breach of peace.”

You’re causing problems; you’re disturbing people’s days and you’re breaching their peace,” the officer said.  To this, Mr Ilesamni said, “I will not go away because I need to tell them the truth. Jesus is the only way, truth and life.”
“Nobody wants to listen to that,” the policeman replied.  [Emphasis, ours]

But it gets even worse.

According to Chief Superintendent Helen Millichap, two officers responded to a 999 call from a member of the public who claimed that Mr. IIesanmi had made “Islamophobic” remarks. The arresting officers said a second witness “supported the allegations made by the original caller.”


Ms MillichapIn said that the officers deemed it appropriate to remove Mr Ilesanmi from the area, saying that the preacher’s activities were “perceived as being a potential hate crime.”  During the arrest, one of the of officers can be heard telling the Nigerian “you should have thought of that before being racist” as he pleads with them not to take his Bible away. 

A potential hate crime!  Now it’s possible that there were people in the crowd who were committing a potential hate crime.  It is possible they made all sorts of personal attacks against the speaker, calling him nasty names and so forth.  But the Met, true to its apparent indoctrination into the world of 1984, accuse and arrest the one threatened, not those issuing the threats!

This is beyond bizarre.  It is fundamentally iniquitous.  A couple of clever manipulators have led Mr Plod up Alice’s garden path.   If so, the Met appears dumb and dumber.  Professional and law-abiding it ain’t. 

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Police Persecution

Ignorant or Duplicitous?

British Police Finally Admit Driving Street Preacher Out of London Neighborhood to Silence Him

By Will Maule
Faithwire

London’s metropolitan police have finally admitted to removing a street preacher from his location and transporting him over five miles away in order to stop him heralding the gospel.

As Faithwire previously reported, Oluwole Ilesanmi was preaching outside Southgate Underground Station in North London when he was approached by police and arrested for “breaching the peace.” After marching out of the area, law enforcement transferred him by car to a remote location over five miles away from where he was. Lost and with no money, it was only through the kindness of strangers that Olu managed to find his way back to Southgate.

“As Olu was driven away from the scene of his arrest, it was clear to him that the police wanted to take him as far away as possible so that he could not return and preach,” said British anti-persecution watchdog, Christian Concern, who have taken on Olu’s case.  The group noted that after the Met Police dropped Olu off “at the edge of their jurisdiction at Wrotham Park outside of the London transport zone,” he found himself penniless and unable to navigate back to a familiar area. “With no money on him, a member of the public pays for Olu’s bus ticket back to High Barnet,” added Christian Concern.

Upon finally returning to his original spot, Olu began to preach once again.
“Olu, now able to use his Oyster card, gets on another bus to take him back to Southgate tube station where he starts preaching again without any further interruption,” CC explained.

The police, scrambling to rescue the situation, issued an updated statement on Olu after initially stating that he had been walked 200m away from the scene by the responding officers. “As the man indicated that he wished to continue his activities at Southgate tube station, officers felt it necessary to take the man some distance from the station in order to prevent a breach of the peace at that location,” they said.

Street preacher Olu update: As Olu was driven away from the scene of his arrest, it was clear to him that the police wanted to take him as far away as possible so that he could not return and preach.

“All I wanted was for them to understand the Word of God,” Olu told Christian Concern after returning to the scene of his arrest.

Petition launched

Since Olu’s story went viral, Christian Concern has launched a petition urging the British government to do more in order to protect the rights of street preacher. “Christian street preachers should be free to share the gospel, even where it means challenging the beliefs of others,” the group noted.

 “The law rightly protects freedom of speech, even if it offends, shocks or disturbs others. But too often, police officers have shown themselves either to be ignorant of this freedom or unwilling to uphold it. This leads to a chilling effect, where people are increasingly unwilling to say what they believe, for fear of arrest.”

Andrea Williams, founder and chief executive of Christian Concern, told Faithwire that she hoped that the petition would help “protect the freedom of street preachers” by ensuring that police officers only use their powers of arrest when this is absolutely necessary.

“Street preaching in the UK has a long, storied history. Open air preaching is the only way to guarantee that all the public is given the opportunity to respond to the love of Jesus Christ,” Williams told Faithwire.

 “But despite laws that theoretically support the freedom to preach in public, in practice, police officers are quick to silence preachers after any suggestion (often false) of Islamophobia or homophobia. This is not only unjust but kills free speech through self-censorship. We want to see police officers protect the freedom of street preachers by only using their powers when truly necessary.”

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secret behind success

close up of a sign against white background

Photo by Tayeb MEZAHDIA on Pexels.com

Psalm 18:32-34

Psalm 18:32 God– he decks me out with strength and makes my road perfect.

Psalm 18:33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me securely on the heights.

Psalm 18:34 He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

secret behind success

Strength, stability, mobility and strategic intelligence: these are characteristics of a powerful military unit. These are David ‘s secret— only he does not keep it secret. All these attributes are his because of his relationship with God.

David’s victories come from the Lord. This victory psalm celebrates the secret behind his success.

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NZ’s Anti-Christian Prejudices

New Zealand fails to offer sanctuary to any Christian refugees from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq


22 January 2019
Government figures released to Barnabas Fund show that no Christians from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq were granted the right to resettle in New Zealand last year.
In the 12 months up to 31 October 2018, the country gave sanctuary to 1,019 refugees. Of these 277 were from Syria, 105 from Afghanistan and seven from Iraq ­– and all were Muslims.
Figures for previous years, obtained by Barnabas Fund under the Official Information Act, are equally bleak. In 2016, only six Christians were among the 377 Syrians granted sanctuary, and in the five weeks up to 10 February 2017 no Christians were among the 45 Syrians, all Muslims, who were allowed to settle. Christians made up 10% of the population of Syria before the war.
A spokesman for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government said refugees were considered for resettlement in New Zealand on the basis of “their protection needs and not religious affiliation”.
The UK government is also facing “embarrassment” over the tiny minority of Christian Syrians offered sanctuary in Britain.
Figures obtained by Barnabas Fund under a Freedom of Information request show that out of 4,850 Syrian refugees accepted for resettlement by the Home Office in 2017, only eleven were Christian, representing just 0.2% of all Syrian refugees accepted by the UK.
An article in UK’s Sunday Times on 20 January said that the finding “appears to discriminate in favour of Muslims” and “risks embarrassing the government” at a time when the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered a government review into the UK’s response to the global persecution of Christians.

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with my God

man in red crew neck sweatshirt photography

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Psalm 18:29-31

Psalm 18:29 With you I can attack a barricade, and with my God I can leap over a wall.

Psalm 18:30 God– his road is perfect; the word of Yahveh is pure. He is a shield to all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 18:31 For who is God besides Yahveh? And who is a rock? Only our God.

with my God

This psalm is a song celebrating victory. Notice the “I cans” in verse 29. Now, notice that each of these declarations of personal strength is preceded by a “with” phrase.  The hero of the psalm is Yahveh. He is the rock, the shield, the battering ram, the ladder.

The purpose of the psalm is not to brag about overcoming obstacles, but to draw attention to the power who made victory possible.

Lord, may all our victories be opportunities to proclaim who you are.

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Assembly, Body & Bride: The Transformed

The author of Hebrews identifies the church as a people caught up in what God is doing. At first, the prophets spoke of Jesus in the Old Testament, then Jesus fulfilled what they predicted, then the apostles and other early believers attested to that truth. Finally, God has continued the testimony through the church, verifying our words “by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”[1]

Just how does the Holy Spirit verify the gospel we preach? There are at least three ways: 1) he transforms us into the image of Christ, 2) he brings about new growth in the church by helping us reach people with the gospel and 3) he breaks through the normal issues of life and manifests supernatural interference, i.e., miracles.

New people

When the religious traditionalists of Jesus’ day complained that his disciples did things differently than they did, Jesus responded to their complaint. He implied that we should expect his church to be different. Believers in Christ were “new wine” and could not be contained in the “old wineskins.”[2] If anyone dared to put new wine in a wineskin that had been previously expanded, it would expand again, and he would have a mess to clean up. That is why those who make wine start afresh with a new skin. And that is what God has done.

It is true that there is continuity between ancient Judaism and Christianity. Most of our biblical content is the same. Most of the spiritual principles taught in the New Testament have their origin in the Old Testament. But, the questions asked in the Old Testament that had no answer are answered in the New Testament. In many cases, the Old Testament testified to a “what” but did not prescribe “how.” The New Testament fills in its blanks.

One of those all-important “whats” is the concept of the new covenant. Jeremiah predicted this:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”[3]

The old covenant was the result of God’s grace rescuing his people from Egypt, and leading them to a new life governed by his laws in the Promised Land. There was a time when that was the new covenant. It promised the newness of freedom rather than the oldness of slavery. Yet, following it proved to be problematic. It can be stated in this way: If Gods people will follow his laws, he will keep them free and give them new hearts. We all know what happened. The people of Israel as a whole never got to the “new hearts” part.

The new covenant would reverse the process. It would be the work of the Holy Spirit, who would first write God’s laws on the hearts of the forgiven, enabling them to know him. Then, he would bring them to their new land. Instead of being attested to by the sacrifice of a lamb, this new covenant would begin with the death of Christ on a cross.[4] Once initiated, the new covenant was meant to replace the old one, making its provisions obsolete.[5] There was nothing wrong with the old covenant except that it only offered a temporary inheritance. It was designed to point us all to the new covenant, which promises an “eternal inheritance.”[6]

It is in that sense that the church today can be called the new Israel. God’s new covenant with Israel is not intended to add to one nation but to multiply through all nations. The blessing of faith that Abraham manifested is now possible for all of those who believe in Christ, no matter who they descended from. Rights to that new covenant were purchased for all through the blood of Christ.

Just as people served under the old covenant, we also serve under the new covenant. The difference is “that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”[7] We begin with grace and we end with glory. If we attempt to get to the glory by means of keeping the law, we will fail. But if we dare to walk by the same Holy Spirit who has regenerated us, we can become like Christ. We can give others a taste of that new wine.

New growth

There was a missions aspect of the old covenant. People were supposed to be drawn to God by seeing his blessings and glory manifested in loyal Israel. God wanted Abraham’s faith to result in blessings for all the nations surrounding Israel.[8] The surrounding nations were blessed occasionally, but the process was often overshadowed by the opposite effect: people ridiculing God because of the sufferings and disloyalty of Israel.

Missions was built into the DNA of the new covenant. Jesus commanded his church to make disciples of all nations,[9] to proclaim the gospel to all nations,[10] to offer repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.[11] If the old covenant could be described as “come to us,” the new covenant is best described as “go to them.” In the Great Commission text, the word “go” does not have the same weight as the imperative “make disciples.” However, the fact that Jesus was sending his disciples somewhere (in actuality, Jerusalem) was significant. It set the stage for a church that would always be going with the gospel.[12]

That role of expanding ourselves through reaching new lands and cultures with the gospel is also described by Jesus in his “vine and branches” message. He told his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit …”[13] Jesus did not simply command us to stay where we are and bear fruit. He appointed us to “go” and “bear fruit.” The word translated “go” in that text is not the same word used in Matthew 28. It is the word used for sending someone off in a particular direction for a particular purpose. The mission of reaching new lands, peoples, and cultures with the gospel is built into our new identity as branches of Christ’s vine.

The church is made of people who have found the greatest thing that could ever be found. It is therefore no surprise when we selflessly abandon all that we have for that treasure. As Jesus put it, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”[14] Here again, the words “he goes” are a form of that same mission we were appointed to by Jesus. However, the motivation for our mission is made clear in this text: “in his joy.” The church expands and permeates not because we are bound by some solemn obligation. We have good news to share with the nations. We go in our joy.

The cultural mandate is also part of our great commission mandate. Jesus told the rich young ruler to “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”[15] Some people will never be able to come to Jesus because they will always refuse to go away from their possessions. The rich young ruler went away sad and unchanged because what he had was more important to him than what he could gain in Christ. There are some people who are like this with their homes and families. They will not come to Christ because Christ would require that they give up life in their comfort zone.

For believers in Christ, what we have now is his to give away through us. We embrace the cultural mandate to bless the nations with food, clothing and other things they need. We do not see this as something separate from spreading the gospel. It is a way of our divesting ourselves of that which is superfluous in our lives so that we can share him. It is also something that brings us joy. We can either give as Christ compels us, and gain joy in doing so, or we will “go away sad” as this young man did.

The mission to go does not always mean to cross geographical boundaries. Sometimes we want to go away and the Lord calls us to go home. The delivered Gerasene wanted to hop in the boat and go away with Jesus and the other disciples. Jesus would not allow him to do so. Instead he said, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”[16] Sometimes abiding in the Vine means abiding in your own hometown. It is still a mission when it is responding to the “go” from the Master. It is still a mission when its end result is more people in the kingdom.

New normal

The new people that is the church of Jesus Christ is a people that is born of the Spirit,[17] has the firstfruits of the Spirit,[18] is set free by the law of the Spirit[19] and is setting their mind on the things of the Spirit.[20] Outwardly, they still look like they did when they were merely of the flesh, but inwardly, they have undergone a transformation. Normal is no longer what it was. There is a new normal, because everything believers think and do is now judged by a new standard: the image of Christ within. People without the experience of regeneration cannot understand this new disposition. The things of the Holy Spirit are foolishness to them.[21]

That original disposition toward exalting and caring for the body of flesh has now been, not removed, but challenged. Believers still want to be preserved from death and hunger and the like, but they also have a strong desire to care for and promote the welfare of Christ’s body, which they are now a part of. Just one look into the eyes of Jesus makes the born again person want to be like him, to introduce others to him and to experience his power. The Holy Spirit inside believers wants our sanctification, our involvement in evangelism, and our experience and demonstration of his miracles.

The Holy Spirit is an amazing person. Although fully equal to the Father and Son in deity, he seeks to manifest himself through mortal and imperfect human beings. He is both the key to unity in the church and the reason for our glorious diversity. He embraces our differences, and instead of causing us to suppress them, he utilizes those differences to mature us and to reach the most with the gospel. Any time the church seeks too zealously to manufacture an artificial unity, we tend to squelch the Holy Spirit’s work. He is too big to fit within our carefully constructed labels.

The Holy Spirit works within each believer individually and wants to manifest his power through each believer “for the common good.”[22] He makes each believer a gift to the group as a whole, by ministering his spiritual gifts and manifesting his spiritual fruit. He is the author of supernatural miracles, transformed character and church growth. Church traditions tend to push cooperation with him in one area or the other, but he seeks all three at the same time. To put it negatively, a believer has not yielded to the Holy Spirit unless he or she is willing to let him manifest his power in his or her life through miracles, renewed holiness and outreach.

The Spirit and the Word

The Word of God is the Spirit’s weapon – the sword of the Spirit.[23] Those who hear and believe the Word are sealed with the Holy Spirit.[24] He uses the written and spoken Word to accomplish his purposes in and with the church. He uses the Scriptures to catch us, change us, turn us into evangelists and give us faith to receive his miracles. Theoretically, one might say that the Word alone is powerless to do anything. For example, demons laugh when unbelievers attempt, apart from the Holy Spirit, to use texts from the Bible as some sort of animistic charm to ward off evil. In the church’s hands, however, the Word is backed by the power of the Holy Spirit. In that case, it is anything but powerless.

Prayer and the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is also the key person in the prayer ministry of the church. Paul encouraged believers to pray at all times, but added the explanatory phrase “in the Spirit.”[25] The prayers of unbelievers are always heard by God, but the church’s prayers are actually sponsored by God. When we pray in the Spirit, we are praying words that are not just intended to reach the throne, but words that actually originate there. Prayer by believers is cooperation with God and affirmation of what he is doing and wants to do.

Refusing to pray leads to powerless people, limited growth and hardened hearts in the church. A church can have all the right theology of the Holy Spirit in their creeds, but if they do not pray, those words are empty. The act of prayer substantiates what a person or group believes about the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit is so eager to touch this world with manifestations of himself that he often uses praying people who have seriously defective theologies. This happens to the shame of many more “orthodox” churches, because they do not pray as they ought.

Worship and the Holy Spirit

One of the ways that the Holy Spirit speaks to believers, and through them, is the act of corporate worship. He is the means by which we manifest authentic worship: it is by the Spirit.[26] The apostle Paul taught that the true circumcision – that which really matters – is that which is done by the Holy Spirit, and it results in praise from God.[27] The text is a bit ambiguous about whether that praise is being received by the true Jew or given by him. It could be interpreted either way, because God honors authenticity, and authentic people give authentic worship.

One of the Old Testament predictions about life under the new covenant is that believers would be characterized by gladness and joy instead of sadness and sorrow.[28] When we worship, we celebrate the reality of this age of grace and our new status as part of that reality. Worship flows from who we are, who Christ is and what our future is because of what Christ did. The Holy Spirit within us serves as our guarantee of this future inheritance.[29] No matter what might distract us in the present, he helps us remember what we were made for: glorifying, enjoying and worshiping God throughout eternity. While we are worshiping, we are more in touch with who we truly are and will be than at any other time.

Recognizing the Holy Spirit

Jesus is the only person of the Holy Trinity who can be seen in bodily form because he is the only one who has taken on flesh. If one wants to look for the Holy Spirit, one has to look for the evidence. If you want to see the wind, you look for open sails and fast moving sailboats. If you want to see the Holy Spirit, you look for growing, maturing, gift-manifesting churches. The transformed church is his calling-card.

By Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)

References

[1] Hebrews 2:4.

[2] Matthew 9:17.

[3] Jeremiah 31:31-34.

[4] Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25.

[5] Hebrews 8:8-13.

[6] Hebrews 9:15.

[7] Romans 7:6.

[8] Genesis 18:18; 22:18; 26:4.

[9] Matthew 28:19.

[10] Mark 13:10.

[11] Luke 24:47.

[12] When Jesus gave his Great Commission, it was to the eleven in Galilee, just before they were to return to Jerusalem. It would make sense to take the participle of πορεύομαι (go) as adverbial of time, which would result in Jesus telling them that after they go (to Jerusalem) they were to make disciples. Translators usually take the participle as having a practically equal status with the imperative (μαθητεύσατε from μαθητεύω) in that text. Each case when Matthew uses the aorist participle of πορεύομαι with an accompanying verb, the stress is on the action of that accompanying verb. See Matthew 2:8; 9:13; 11:4; 21:6; 27:66. The command in Matthew 28:19 is to make disciples. Going places is incidental, but necessary to obeying that command.

[13] John 15:16.

[14] Matthew 13:44.

[15] Matthew 19:21.

[16] Mark 5:19.

[17] John 3:5-8.

[18] Romans 8:23.

[19] Romans 8:2.

[20] Romans 8:5.

[21] 1 Corinthians 2:14.

[22] 1 Corinthians 12:7.

[23] Ephesians 6:17.

[24] Ephesians 1:13.

[25] Ephesians 6:18.

[26] Philippians 3:3.

[27] Romans 2:29.

[28] Isaiah 61:3.

[29] 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14.

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Assembly, Body & Bride: The Saved

The apostle Paul taught that believers are “the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”[1] We leave the scent of Christ wherever we go, and with whomever we come into contact. Those who have never met Christ can do so by meeting us. Those who find a friend in Christ find a friend in us. Those who reject Christ will probably despise or choose to ignore us.

Believers have a symbiotic link to the person of Christ. Every metaphor which describes his person and role has a corresponding implication for the identity and role of his disciples. The best way to get a grasp on the biblical view of the church is to know clearly who Christ is and what he did, and then extrapolate our place and work based on his.

He is the Savior; we are the saved

The New Testament proclaims that Jesus is a Savior,[2] Israel’s Savior,[3] the church’s Savior[4] and the world’s Savior.[5] Believers are delivered from the penalty of their sins as a result of what Christ did for them on the cross, so it is appropriate for us to identify ourselves as the people who were saved.[6] We are also in the process of being delivered from the present power and consequences of our past sinful life, so it is appropriate to refer to ourselves as being saved.[7] We also expect and anticipate a culmination of Christ’s saving work in our lives – a glorification at his return. This means that it is also still appropriate to say that we will be saved.[8] Jesus has saved us, is saving us and will save us.

This relationship the church has with Jesus as her Savior helps answer one of the sticky questions that have emerged about us: “Can a believer sin all he wants to and still be saved?” If salvation is seen as some kind of spiritual/mechanical event in a person’s life, we would expect the answer to that question to be “No.” We would expect that once a person had been zapped by the salvation wand, he would no longer be under the influence of the flesh, but would be totally under the Spirit’s power. He would find himself no longer wanting to sin and no longer capable of sinning even if he had the desire to do so.

The reality is that Christians struggle with sins, sinning and the desire to commit sins all their lives. This is not to deny that a miracle takes place inside us when we come to Jesus. It merely concedes that the initial miracle of regeneration is just the beginning of a process that will not be complete until our Savior returns. Our salvation is secure – not because it has made us sinless, but because our Savior is.

The connection between the church and its Savior is seen clearly in Paul’s use of “a number of Greek prepositions to stress the close identification between Christ and his followers that bonds them together in union as a distinct community.”[9] The saved have been immersed into the person of Christ, and are now growing up into him.[10] Their lives are no longer destined to be what they were because their spiritual DNA has changed to reflect his. Their destiny is now the destiny of their Savior. The saved are said to be “in Christ.”[11] Their identities are somehow fused with his. They have experienced all of the crucial events of Christ’s life, along with him, having been crucified, buried and spiritually raised with him.[12]

These realities certainly affect how believers act, but they also affect how others act around and react to them. The saved are expected to influence the world as the Savior did. He is the light of the world, and now, so are his disciples.[13] The saved are not saviors themselves, but they are infected with and carriers of the salvation virus. Anyone coming in contact with believers in the church is exposed to potential salvation.

He is the King; we are his subjects

The Bible describes both the present reality of salvation and the destiny of ultimate salvation using the metaphor of a king and his kingdom.[14] One of the most important implications of this metaphor is that of authority and submission. A king is only as powerful as his subjects let him be. If a king has to deal with constant rebellion and ignorance of his commands, he cannot reign effectively. Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels relating to the kingdom of God constantly encouraged his followers to stay true to him, to commit themselves to obeying his words. Jesus’ sharpest criticisms were to those who only pretended to follow God’s Word, but were secretly only interested in building their own kingdoms.

The king/kingdom metaphor also reminds the church who the boss is. A king is sovereign over his domain. He is king regardless of whether his domain has accepted that fact or not. The subjects of the king do not make the rules, and they do not have veto power when the king commands them to do something. His commands are their business.

King Solomon reigned for decades and was constantly building in Jerusalem and in other cities as well. It was impossible to be a subject of Solomon’s reign and not be involved in some way in Solomon’s work. The majestic temple and the royal palace could be seen from anywhere in the city and were constant reminders of what it meant to be in the kingdom of Solomon. In the same way, it is impossible to be in Jesus’ kingdom without being constantly reminded of the gospel and the church’s role in spreading it.

Jesus is building a kingdom. We will either be involved in his work, or not. The extent to which we are involved in his work determines our identity as his subjects. Obedience is the more important way to profess that we are part of Christ’s kingdom.

He is the Head; we are his body

Many of the implications of the metaphor of Christ as the head and the church as his body will be examined more closely in another chapter. What is important to see at this point is the symbiotic relationship which is communicated by this and the previous metaphors as well. The Savior came to save. The saved exist for the Savior. The kingdom needs a king. We have not only been delivered from the penalty of our past sins, but also into the kingdom of our Savior. The head and body exist as a unit. Our many bodies are now being assimilated into his one body.

Before coming to Christ, we were fairly comfortable with our own bodies and found ways of utilizing them to meet our needs, bring us pleasure and accommodate our interests. Now, things are different. Now the many have to become one. Now the many wills have to become subservient to the one will.

He is the Bridegroom; we are the espoused bride

The Bible uses the bridegroom/bride metaphor in a number of places.[15] It speaks of preparation for and anticipation of the event of a wedding, and for the joy that both parties have in each other. The church is seen in the book of Revelation crying out, “Come, Lord Jesus!”[16] This is partly a cry for relief from all the suffering and battle she has endured. But it is also the cry of a fiancée who has endured too long without her beloved. To say that the church is a bride is to admit the longing in our hearts to see our Savior again – for the first time.

Once accepting the proposal, the bride begins preparing herself for the day when she will no longer be single. She has to orient her life around the anticipated new reality. She begins to scribble her new name on table napkins. Although she has had a lifetime of seeing the world from her perspective, she now has to ask what her future husband thinks. Though she has limited her associations according to her own standards for friendships and companionships, she now has to adjust to her future husband’s associates and friends.

The church of Jesus Christ exists in this life as a preparation for the next. Our life now matters precisely because eternity matters. Jesus is returning to this earth to claim us for his own. That makes it very important for us to use this time before his return wisely. We find that in every place we look there are preparations to be made. As we get older, those preparations become more significant – more urgent. We begin to realize how little we have accomplished and how little time we have left.

To be an Advent Christian is to embrace the preparation process because of the joy anticipated when our Savior comes for us. We cannot help but evaluate all the possibilities that are around us on the basis of the reality that awaits us. We will puzzle the watching world as we turn down this promotion (because it will take us away from our family) or accept this volunteer position (because it will help us spread the gospel to a group we could not reach otherwise). We realize that the experiences we have, and the choices we make, are significant because we are being groomed for the Groom.

Before we were saved, we tended to spend our lives looking out for number one. Now, we do the same thing – except that number one is now our Savior. He deserves to be first place because he rescued us from dead last place. He has also given us a taste of the divine presence when he sent his Holy Spirit to reside within us. That taste can make us hungry for more.

Sanctification changes us. At first, we hope for Christ to come because we expect him to fix all of our problems. As the maturation process continues, we begin to see that although his coming will solve our problems, it is not about us. His coming will reboot the world to its original agenda – his agenda. The more we stay stuck on ourselves, the less we enjoy the idea of being interrupted by his glory. The more we concentrate on being like him, the more we anticipate our glorification at his return. Most of our lives are spent in a kind of spiritual adolescence. We are changing, but we do not always like it, and we do not always show it.

As we all go through this process, the best thing we can do for each other is to encourage each other to give in to the transformation. We need to be careful not to expect too much of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Growth is a slow process, and it is not easy to adjust to the changes. We know how often we fail ourselves, so it should make us that more forgiving to those around us.

The commands of the King are of utmost importance, and they should not be trivialized. It is not a coincidence that our Savior, while giving us his Great Commission to “make disciples,” used an explanatory participle phrase: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” It is impossible to be a disciple without both learning and obeying Christ’s commands. Our King expects us to be about his business, doing what he commanded.

The Lord’s commands are messy. They will not allow us to stay comfortable in our social circles, our schools, our political parties or our jobs. They demand too much. They cry out for justice for those whom we would rather neglect. They cry out for work when we would rather rest. They cry out for us to stay connected to this suffering world when we would rather zone out and be entertained by fantasy. It is just this messiness that reminds us that Christ’s kingdom is not yet fully realized. We cannot seem to get it right. That does not stop us from trying, but knowing that the King is not here yet does help console us when we blow it.

The body analogy can also be helpful. Knowing that our Savior is separated from us physically, it is hard for us. Remembering that he is the Head of the whole body, the church, reminds us that there is still a connection. We are his body, not his corpse.[17] He is just as alive today as he was when his feet walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In fact, his feet are still walking the shores of that sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. His hands still heal, because he uses our hands. His presence still does miracles, and he allows some of us to experience them. Whatever he is doing, he wants to use us to do it.

The saved, not the system

Jesus empowers people through the indwelling Holy Spirit to minister to the world in his name. He has not ordained a particular system of government or ministry along with the church. Too often, believers, thinking that they are backing the “biblical” system, become defensive and divisive over issues relating to the various systems, and the unity of the Holy Spirit becomes an illusory thing. All systems are humanly contrived and humanly run. Some may be more practical in some situations than others, but none have any kind of divine stamp of approval.

The vast number of Advent Christian churches and conferences follow a congregational form of government. Most are led by pastors in cooperation with a church board, or perhaps a board of elders. This works for most of our churches because most of them were planted in countries with democratic governments, and our churches are more familiar with this kind of check-and-balance leadership. Some of our mission fields adapted this structure wholesale, and in some it has worked well. In others, not so much. The structure of the organization is not the important thing. It is the spirit of the people that matters. Structures should reflect the people who are doing the ministry. The people should not be slaves to the structures. Most of our ecclesiastical structures are antiquated – including those that are called “congregational.”

How we organize ourselves should be reevaluated every few years. Making changes in our structure might free the people in our churches to be who they are called to be. It might enable more of the saved to introduce their communities to the Savior. Churches and conferences should not be afraid of making those changes.

Of course, change simply for change’s sake might be just as counterproductive. Some churches are constantly fighting battles having to do with their own self-identity. The ministry of the gospel loses out, because the controversies distract. Often that happens because both sides tend to think that there can only be one “biblical” solution. But when it comes to structure, the Bible describes many multi-level ministries going on and thriving at the same time: apostles, prophets, elders, evangelists, teachers, etc. Our systems tend to simplify those structures, but the Bible does not. It just throws them out there and says, “This is the way it was.”

Old Testament history was like that too. Most of the time, it was not clear who had jurisdiction over a matter: the king, the prophets, the priests, the elders … It was usually clear when the Holy Spirit was acting, but it could not be easily mapped out according to the human political and social structures. The people who usually got into the most trouble were those who assumed that they understood how God wanted to work, as well as what he wanted to do. The Old Testament is filled with irony because the Holy Spirit refused to act according to human expectations.

It is this same gloriously unpredictable Holy Spirit who resides within each believer in the church of Jesus Christ. He ministers through anyone he chooses within the body, regardless of their status in the community or their experience in ministry. He surprises us constantly, and intends to do so. There is no hierarchy in his sight. He looks on a saved soul and says “I choose to use her in this ministry” without stopping to ask our permission or to check her credentials.

Most of us who have been in ministry for decades are really frustrated by this. We see people who are new in the Lord getting involved in ministry regularly, and it is unsettling to us. We are afraid. We find it hard to trust people who did not come up through the school of ecclesiastical hard knocks that we did. We are tempted to assume that their zeal will not last, and sometimes it does not. Yet, the reality is, the ministry of Jesus Christ is now being orchestrated by the omnipresent Holy Spirit. He does not need our structures as much as we think he does.

The aroma

Being the aroma of Christ is simply a matter of being authentically Christian. Anyone who dares to have a personal relationship with Christ, follow his commands in Scripture and live what he believes is going to have that accompanying influence. It does not mean that we always know the right thing to say or do to fix every problem. It means we have decided to stop allowing the worldliness of our old self to block the scent of our new self. We invest ourselves in that authenticity, and the investment pays off. People see the Savior when they look our way.

By Rev. Jefferson Vann

(Rev. Jefferson Vann is a graduate of Berkshire Christian College, Columbia International University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He and his wife Penny have been involved in Advent Christian ministry since 1984, serving as missionaries in the Philippines and New Zealand. Jeff is the author of “An Advent Christian Systematic Theology” and “Another Bible Commentary” and is a contributing editor to “Henceforth …”)

References

[1] 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.

[2] Luke 2:11; Philippians 3:20.

[3] Acts 5:31; 13:23.

[4] Ephesians 5:23; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:6; 2 Peter 1:1, 11; 2:20; 3:2, 18.

[5] John 4:42; 1 John 4:14.

[6] Romans 8:24; 10:10.

[7] 1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:2; 2 Corinthians 2:15.

[8] 1 Corinthians 3:15.

[9] Kevin Giles, What on Earth Is the Church? (Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2005), 101.

[10] Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:15.

[11] Romans 6:11; 8:1f; 9:1; 12:5; 15:17; 16:3, 7, 9f; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 3:1; 4:10, 15, 17; 15:18f, 22, 31; 16:24; 2 Corinthians 1:21; 2:14, 17; 5:17, 19; 12:2; Galatians 1:22; 3:26, 28; 5:6; Ephesians 2:6f, 10, 13; 3:6, 11, 21; Philippians 1:1, 26; 2:1, 5; 4:21; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 4:16; 5:18; 1 Timothy 1:14; Philemon 1:23; Hebrews 3:14; 1 Peter 3:16; 5:10, 14.

[12] Romans 6:8; 8:17; 15:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:5; Philippians 1:23; Colossians 2:20; 3:1, 3.

[13] Matthew 5:14; John 8:12; 9:5.

[14] Matthew 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43; Mark 1:15; 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14f, 23f; 12:34; 14:25; 15:43; Luke 4:43; 6:20; 7:28; 8:1, 10; 9:2, 11, 27, 60, 62; 10:9, 11; 11:20; 13:18, 20, 28f; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20f; 18:16f, 24f, 29; 19:11; 21:31; 22:16, 18; 23:51; John 3:3, 5; Acts 1:3; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23, 31; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20; 6:9f; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Colossians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5.

[15] Isaiah 61:10; 62:5; Jeremiah 7:34; 16:9; 25:10; 33:11; Joel 2:16; John 3:29; Revelation 18:23.

[16] Revelation 22:20.

[17] David A. Dean, Resurrection Hope (Charlotte, N.C.: Advent Christian General Conference, 1992), 46. “The church is the body – but not the corpse – of Christ. Through it he continues to minister to the world’s needs. Because he lives, the church survives all attacks and advances its crusade for truth.”

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Long Term Effects

Not the Same

We have been reading through A. W. Reed’s volume, Auckland: The City of the Seas.  [Wellington: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1955.] It’s an entertaining read.  But one piece caught our eye as being indicative of a much wider canvas.

The account is innocuous enough.  It consists of Miss Eliza Jones describing a visit to a school in “south” Auckland in 1857.  Reed describes the landscape:

The volcanic mounds were pitted with natural caves, formed by the hot lava rolling over marshy ground countless years before.  The gases which were generated formed gigantic bubbles which became frozen into the rock when congealed.  Early explorers and, at a later date, settlers and visitors found borken bones thickly carpeted over the floor of the caves. . . [Ibid., p. 199]

Miss Jones takes up the account as follows:

We proceeded straight to the school, through a paddock dotted with sheep.  The appearance of this picturesque , peaceful spot, and the happy looking, neatly clad Maori boys whom we met, gave no suggestion of being in the ‘Cannibal Islands’.  Still less did the school room, where we were warmly welcomed by the master, Mr Reid. 

We saw a number of intelligent looking boys and girls, as neat and orderly as any to be found in an English school, and their quickness would put many an English child to shame, especially in arithmetic, for which they showed extraordinary aptitude; questions in mental arithmetic were scarcely put before they were answered, and difficult sums in fractions and proportion were correctly worked out in a wonderfully short time.  Their reading of English quite impressed us, especially their successful rendering of the letter ‘S’, which Maoris find so difficult to pronounce.  They wound up by singing several hymns in a manner that touched my feelings very much, for it was impossible to rid one’s mind of the thought that they were children of parents who were once cannibals and now, by God’s grace, one with us in faith and practice.  [Ibid., p. 201f.]

There are numerous accounts of the mental acuity of the tangata whenua of the land.  Descriptions such as those above provided enormous hope for the future of Maori in New Zealand.  But such hopes were soon dashed.

The splendid work of the school was brought to a close by the Maori War.  At the time, the years of labour seem to have been wasted.  The students were forced to return to their own people and few, if any, ever returned.  The buildings fell into disrepair and, although the missionary teachers returns to their station after the law, it was a long time before the Maori could be induced to attend the school. [Ibid., p. 202.]

The devastation caused by the Maori wars went far deeper and were more extensive than the wounds of battle. 

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Forked Tongue

Desperately Seeking Fame And Acceptance

It’s a tragedy that a pastor of more than 7,000 Christians would join the ranks of those blurring the moral lines about killing preborn babies.

By James Silberman
The Federalist

Last Monday, around 1:20 p.m. EST, hundreds of babies were being surgically dismembered, decapitated, poisoned, and otherwise violently killed inside abortion clinics around the country. Simultaneously, Hillsong Church NYC mega-pastor Carl Lentz had a platform from which to speak in their defense while a guest on “The View.” He refused to do so. In fact, he took the opportunity to suggest that their deaths can in some cases be justified and that the people killing them should continue living according to their own convictions.

When host Joy Behar asked directly whether abortion is sinful, he responded, “That’s the kind of conversation we would have finding out your story, where you’re from, what you believe. I mean, God’s the judge,” at which point the audience broke into raucous applause. “People have to live to their own convictions,” Lentz continued. “That’s such a broad question, to me, I’m going higher. I want to sit with somebody and say, ‘What do you believe?’”

This position might be received as a moderate stance on the issue or a lack of stance altogether. But in this case, to be on the fence is to be on the side of child sacrifice. “Live to your own convictions” is practically the slogan of the abortion lobby. Lentz might as well have said “My body, my choice,” or “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”

Creating Ambiguity Where Scripture Offers None

“So it’s not an open and shut case to you?” Behar asked. “Some people would say it is,” Lentz responded. “To me, I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, and find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

This is a fantastic answer to the question of whether Calvinism or Arminianism is the more accurate interpretation of scripture. In reference to the biblical acceptability of child sacrifice, not so much. Scripture is unanimous and unambiguous in its condemnation of intentionally killing an image-bearer of God. There is no intellectually serious case to be made otherwise.

The abortion industry, with help from complicit institutions such as the mainstream media, academia, medical establishment, and others, is waging a propaganda campaign aimed at dehumanizing their victims. It’s a kingdom tragedy that a pastor of more than 7,000 Christians would join the ranks of those blurring the moral lines regarding the killing of preborn babies.

Lentz Has No Scriptural Case

Scripturally, Lentz has no justification despite the many abortion-supporting “Christians” who claim the Bible doesn’t specifically condemn abortion. The Psalmist writes, “You formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb. … My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; your eyes have seen my unformed substance” (Ps. 139:13-16). Prior to being fully formed, we have a substance that distinguishes us as image-bearers of God.

This substance is not merely a theological precept. It is physically qualifiable, taking the form of the human genetic code. This substance is the only possible foundation for human equality. If the abortion lobby had their way, self-awareness, viability, or another arbitrary trait would define humanity. If that’s the case, then human value exists on a sliding scale, in which the highly aware have more value than the oblivious, those who are self-reliant have more than those who depend on family, friends, or government, and so on. Denying personhood to any organism who is scientifically human shatters the concept of human equality.

Furthermore, biblical authors unanimously refer to the preborn as people. Job describes miscarried babies as “infants who never saw the light” (Job 3:16). Pregnant mothers are referred to throughout the New Testament as being “with child” (Matthew 1:18, Luke 2:5). Of Rebekah and Abraham’s twin sons, Moses records “the children struggled together within her” (Genesis 25:22). Luke refers to Elizabeth’s baby with the exact same word, υἱὸν (Greek for “son”), both before and after his birth (Luke 1:36, 57). They’re not ambiguous “blobs of cells” or “scrambled eggs” but sons, daughters, children, infants.

As for a specific condemnation of abortion itself, Jeremiah records God’s anguish with those who think they can play him for a fool and find loopholes in the sixth commandment (against murder). “Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind” (Jeremiah 19:4-5). God didn’t bother to outlaw the killing of babies specifically because it is perfectly apparent that murder as a category includes murder of the very young.

Providing Cover for Child Dehumanizers

Lentz’s actions are especially harmful given the abortion lobby’s recent effort to infiltrate religious narratives. In April, a collection of 60 religious organizations co-sponsored a letter urging congress to keep Planned Parenthood funded by tax dollars. “As organizations of faith, we stand with Planned Parenthood. As members of Congress committed to supporting the wellbeing of your constituents, we urge you to do the same.”

In June, Planned Parenthood released a video in which leaders of religious institutions stated their support for Planned Parenthood. In typical Hollywood fashion, it entailed speakers taking turns finishing each other’s asinine ideas. “Everything about what Planned Parenthood does speaks to Jewish, religious, ethical values. For me, that’s ministry.”

Faith communities play a crucial role in the abortion battle because faith is the only significant bulwark remaining against the third-wave feminism that has overrun nearly every major secular institution. University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne gleefully asserted in an article in July that killing newborns will soon be societally embraced and is repelled only by stubborn religious beliefs about human worth. If Christian leaders follow Lentz’s lead, Coyne’s grisly vision will certainly come to fruition, a repeated historical pattern.

Based on the counsel of scripture, our response to the industrial-scale massacre of God’s image-bearers should be one of radical intercession. Defending those being led to slaughter must feature prominently in our endeavors regardless of profession, but especially for those who’ve been called to leadership within the church. For many Christians and pastors, this means repentance, and for some, it will include recants. I pray God gives Lentz the grace to do so.

James Silberman is media relations coordinator at Created Equal, an anti-abortion organization that exposes the truth about abortion in the streets and campuses of the United States. He writes weekly for the Family Policy Institute of Washington and tweets daily at @James_Silberman.

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He illuminates my darkness

lighted candle

Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

Psalm 18:25-28

Psalm 18:25 With the faithful you prove yourself faithful, with the blameless you prove yourself blameless,

Psalm 18:26 with the pure you prove yourself pure; but with the crooked you prove yourself shrewd.

Psalm 18:27 For you rescue an oppressed people, but you humble those with haughty eyes.

Psalm 18:28 Yahveh, you light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness.

He illuminates my darkness

It is easy to get the wrong idea from a psalm like this. David is speaking from victory over a time of intense oppression and darkness. He is not guaranteeing that believers will never experience times like that. He is saying that times like that are when our faith and our relationship with God are the most valuable.

Because David invested himself in God in the time of light, God was there for him in the time of darkness.

Lord, give us the wisdom to invest ourselves in you and not in ourselves.

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