God has given me a love for history. When I was younger I must admit that like many kids I found the subject boring. Today, my library is filled with the words of many dead men. Dead in the flesh, yes, but alive in Christ, present with the Lord of Glory (cf. Phil 1.21-23).
During my undergraduate work I attended Nazarene Bible College (hereafter NBC). I answered the call to ministry as a standing member of the Church of the Nazarene. This is the church were I was primarily raised. I grew up a Wesleyan-Arminian. However, over time my convictions changed. (This history lesson in my life is a case study in how over time God changes the way we think and live in the world around us. Something very vital in our current day and age.)
Renewing My Mind
Paul tells his readers in Romans 12:2—
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (NASB).1
An appropriate question one ought to ask after reading such a verse is “How is my mind to be renewed?”
The answer is found a little earlier in the text:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”Rom 11:33
The curious asks: “Okay, so God is rich in both wisdom and knowledge…how does that help in the renewing of our minds?”
Go back a little further and you will find this statement by Paul:
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”Rom 10:17
Our faith in God, which is a gift of His wonderful grace, is delivered to us through His Word. Christ Jesus as Lord is the Lord of the Covenants or COVENANT.2 Now to sum up rather quickly, our minds are renewed at the moment we are transformed into an heir with Christ (He as Lord, we as servants). Our faith—the object that we look to and trust in—is developed (by God’s gracious activity) through the hearing of His Word. When Paul is praising God’s wisdom and knowledge, he is referring to in that context of the wonderful gospel (good-news) that God has grafted the nations into His Son like a wild olive shoot. An unnatural but wonderful thing.
The first step…
So the first step in our mind’s being renewed is seen in the saving work of God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. To have our object of faith changed to Christ, and this demonstrated in a confession of faith and a change of living, marks the journey of being non-conformed to the ways (thinking, speaking and acting) of this world (those whose object of faith is something else).
With me so far? Okay, good.
Knowing the Truth
Thinking along the same vein, I would like to turn your attention to a discussion on truth. Jesus says in John 14:6 (among other things), “I AM…the truth.” What does that mean, He is truth? Can you imagine one of your neighbors saying that to you one day as you are talking about current events. They give their opinion on this issue or that, and when challenged say to you, “I am…the truth.” Meaning that when they speak no falseness touches their lips.
Knowing Truth in John’s Gospel…
Recently, I heard a minister commenting on Jesus’ earlier claim in John 8:32 that “…the truth will make you free.” A lot of people reference this comment by the Lord, but I’m often taken aback at how few understand its meaning. Case in point, the pastor who was teaching a lesson on some Bible app said that this is in reference to Jesus. “He is the truth…if you know Him, then He’ll set you free.”
While I do not deny the assertion that Jesus is the truth—He is!—that is not what John 8:32 is saying. Contextually, Jesus was not merely making a reference to Himself in the form of “If you know Me, then you know truth and you will be saved.” Don’t get me wrong there is an element of truth, but is severely compartmentalized. “Progressive” Christians in some of the mainline denominations will tend to speak in a similar way when they say, “That our faith is not based on the Bible, but on Jesus. Knowing Him personally, the greatest revelation of God, is the only thing you need to be Christian.” Again, not entirely wrong. No doubt about it there are segments of truth here. But what is negated is the means to how one KNOWS Jesus.
If only we would learn to read the flow of thought in Scripture, then maybe so many well-meaning (I am making an assumption here that they are in fact well-meaning) would not commit such egregious errors and mislead others. Jesus says,
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”John 8:31-32
Speaking to those who professed belief in Him, Jesus’ response was that the test of faith would be whether or not they consistently lived (thought, spoke and acted) in accordance with His word. To “abide” is much more than merely acquiring mental knowledge. It is more than memorizing the text. Those things are noble pursuits to be sure, but they do not save you; they don’t free you. The test of whether or not one is a Christian is in how they allow the Bible (God’s Word/Christ’s Word) to shape and mold (conform/renew) their thinking (cf. 2Tim 3.16-17). As Jesus said to the same sort of individuals earlier in John’s Gospel:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”John 5:39-40
The second step…
So the second part of having one’s mind renewed is after faith has been received through the hearing of the Word, we continue walking in it. As we mature or as our minds are renewed we are able to “appraise” or “discern” all things (1Cor 2.15). How so? Because “…we have the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2.16).
It is due to this fact that as I continued to learn God’s Word I began reading those who have gone before. Over time (about a 2-3 year period) I transitioned from a Wesleyan-Arminian theological bent to one more in line with Reformed theology. Tota Scriptura (all of Scripture) and Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) became my watch, word and song.
Back at Nazarene Bible College
Though I was warned at NBC to not read the writings of Calvinism (nickname for Reformation Theology), I did so anyway. I would compare what they were saying with their Arminian counterparts with an open Bible in hand. I’m not sure if I ever entered the cage-stage like others speak of, but I do know that overtime those who were my brothers and sisters in Christ abandoned me for my convictions regarding biblical truth.
Original intentions confessed and realized…
Now I must admit that when I first began writing this post, this was not the direction I had planned on going in. What I originally wanted to do was share with you a quote from Richard Wurmbrand. It comes from his book Tortured for Christ. After reading through Foxes Book of Martyrs, I picked Wurmbrand’s book up and began to read it. Well, his writings along with Deidrich Bonhoeffer. Both men Christians that stood in a day an age when tyranny surrounded them.
After reading these works, I thought that my fellow students at NBC would benefit from hearing what they said. We were given an assignment in one of my classes that asked “Where we thought our nation was headed in light of the Christian message.” Referring to these works I said that if we were not careful and diligent we would soon be under the same sort of socialistic/communistic tyranny that these Christians experienced in the past in Europe. I was severely rebuked by the professor of that class publicly. They said that I was historically inaccurate and was making connections that need not be made. When I asked, “Could you give me specifics?” I was met with silence.
I’d rather be wrong…
Unfortunately, I was right in my assessment back in 2007 or 2008 (can’t remember the exact year). In closing, I would like to share with you the words of Richard Wurmbrand’s testimony in light of Stalin’s communistic regime. As you read it, compare these things with what we see going on in our sociopolitical climate and ask yourself, “Are we not falling a similar path?”
“Once the Communists came to power, they skillfully used the means of seduction toward the Church. The language of love and the language of seduction are the same…Jesus told us to discern between the language of seduction and the language of love, and to know the wolves clad in sheepskin from the real sheep. Unfortunately, when the Communists came to power, thousands of priests, pastors, and ministers did not know how to discern between the two voices.
“The Communists convened a congress of all Christian bodies in our Parliament building. There were four thousand priests, pastors, and ministers of all denominations—and these men of God chose Joseph Stalin as honorary president of this congress. At the same time he was president of the World Movement of the Godless and a mass murder of Christians. One after another, bishops and pastors arose and declared that communism and Christianity are fundamentally the same and could coexist. One minister after another said words of praise toward communism and assured the new government of the loyalty of the Church.
“My wife and I were present at this congress. Sabina told me, ‘Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face!’ I said to her, ‘If I do so, you lose your husband.’ She replied, ‘I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.
“Then I arose and spoke to this congress, praising not the murderer of Christians, but Jesus Christ, stating that our loyalty is due first to Him…Afterward I had to pay for this, but it was worthwhile.”3Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, 28-29.
Questions and Final musings…
I apologize to my readers for the length of this quote, but I wanted you to get the entire context. Now, if you will allow me, I will ask some pointed questions. What is the difference between Socialism and Communism, are they not sisters? Stalin murdered Christians for their beliefs. He killed them for thoughts, which he viewed as Hate-speech directed toward communist philosophy. Millions died under his watch. What is the difference between him and the party that cries for the blood of our unborn, and threatens Christians for daring to speak against the moral wrongs in our society? Just as Wurmbrand faced the propaganda of the communist machine, are we not seeing the same sort of propaganda machine in corporate Media and Big Tech? Finally, where and when will you take a stand?
Standing rather then kneeling before the pressure of our times requires a renewed mind. A mind instructed, corrected, rebuked and training in the thoughts of God. The sad thing, and it is sad, is that many professed believers’ apparently get their marching orders from the godless culture surrounding them, rather than learning to abide in God’s Word. Clinging to things that have a form of godliness, but in all actuality are not godly at all, is a recipe for persecution, slavery and death.
1Unless otherwise noted the New American Standard Bible, 95’ update (NASB) shall be the English translation of choice in this document.
2All biblical covenants point to the One Covenant that God has established with His people; those that bear His image. Each covenant prior to the one revealed in Matt 26.28 and further explained in the letter to the Hebrews (see chapters 8-10), is being built upon in Scripture. They are all the same covenant foundationally speaking, but they do not reveal the totality of what God’s Covenant accomplishes in history until the unveiling of Jesus Christ, the Son. In short, God does not compartmentalize history or His people in the fashion that Dispensational Theology teaches.
3Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, , 2017), 28-29.