Update 117


All Men Everywhere

On Saturday, November 15, 2003, Dave Harris will be presenting the sermon, “All Men Everywhere.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”

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by Dave Harris

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, addresses maturity within the context of explaining faith, hope and love. This is the way he describes it: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Consider that if one is mature, then that person has ideally reached full development and is spoken of as being an adult. There is an assumption that such a person is likewise emotionally mature.

Unfortunately, merely growing into adulthood does not guarantee that one has indeed put away “childish things.” Likewise, just starting on the path of Christianity does not automatically mean that we will reach the kind of spiritual maturity that God requires. Ephesians 4:13 presents this goal for us: “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

We have been given the Holy Spirit to help us achieve this kind of development in our own lives, but we must still grow. In fact, we must overcome much if we are to come to “the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Hebrews 5:14 cautions: “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age (mature), that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Jesus Christ did not live in the flesh to become an old man. It appears that he died as a young man around thirty-three years of age. Yet, in His short lifetime He achieved complete maturity. He did this by His total obedience to God’s will (Hebrews 5:8-9; 2:10). He never compromised with sin. He recognized the evil, but He always chose the good.

Many among the modern nations, which embrace the idea of Christianity, also follow the very dangerous concept that all that is required of them is to “accept Christ.” If they truly did accept Christ, then they would also do all that Christ, both by example and by command, instructs. They would not simply become infatuated with the ideals of Christianity, but they would indeed begin and then continue to grow in the same kind of Christian maturity that holds the promise of eternal life.

Paul gave testimony to this end when he spoke of his own approach: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended (laid hold of it); but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). Then, adding this thought in verse 15: “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind…”

Maturity takes some seasoning. If we place spiritual maturity as our goal, then we must do all that is required to reach that goal. The examples from the Word of God that have been left for us also reveal that there is struggle and great effort along with great reward in the process of becoming mature Christians.

The path to maturity is summed up for us in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Not much room for “childish things” in this process!

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Reinstitution of the U.S. Draft?

As the Seattle-Post reported on November 8, “talk of a [military] draft has heated up in recent days,” and the “option of a possible military draft is gaining traction.”

The article continued: “The Defense Department fueled the debate this week when it placed a notice on its Web site asking for ‘men and women in the community who might be willing to serve as members of a local draft board.’ The notice, which appeared on an official Web page for the Selective Service System titled ‘Defend America,’ explained: ‘If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines. Positions are available in many communities across the Nation.’ The Pentagon wouldn’t comment on the notice, and by yesterday it had been pulled from the Web site without explanation.”

Whether or not a draft is instituted, each member of the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates should know the Biblical reasons compelling him or her to refuse participating in Military Service and War. In the Q&A of this Update, we have set forth these Scriptural reasons in detail. We encourage all eligible Church members to study the material and use it as a basis for a personal declaration, signed and dated in the presence of witnesses, setting forth his or her personal convictions in this matter.

Germany vs. USA

All seemed to have been forgotten, after a recent visit between President Bush and Chancellor Schroeder, with a handshake and a joint appearance before running cameras. But the “truce” did not last long. As Der Spiegel Online reported on November 3, German Defense Minister Peter Struck gave another speech critical of the Bush Administration, labeling the American military policy as “problematic” for NATO. He said: “The question can be asked whether it was legal according to International Law, what the United States did in Iraq.” He also stated that “a coalition of the willing” is harmful to NATO, and that “NATO is not the complying agent of Washington’s decisions.”

A New European World Order?

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer stated on November 1, 2003, according to “Die Tageszeitung,” that “we must create a New World Order, which is not defined by those who have the power.”

Homosexuality in England

An unbelievable development is occurring in England. As Christianity Today reported earlier this week, the local police was investigating Peter Forster, the Church of England’s Bishop of Chester, for his statement that “some people who are primarily homosexual can reorientate themselves.” This comment was investigated “as a breach of public order,” and possibly as a “hate crime.” The police chief was quoted as saying that such a comment “is totally unacceptable.” Later in the week, Christianity Today reported that the investigation was dropped, as “there are no laws prohibiting ‘incited hatred’ against the gay community.”

One must still ask the question: If Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, would be alive and say today what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, would he also have faced an initial investigation and would he also have been initially charged with having committed a hate crime? Would he, too, be viewed as having “‘incited hatred’ against the gay community”? After all, that is what he wrote, under the inspiration of God Almighty: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such WERE some of you. But you WERE WASHED, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Russia – Stalin Remains Popular

As AP reported on November 7, a monument to Josef Stalin has been restored in a small Siberian city. The article continued: “Opinion polls show that Stalin remains popular among many Russians, who ignore the purges that killed an estimated 10 million Russians and a government-induced famine that killed some 10 million more. They credit him with leading the Soviet Union to victory in World War II and turning a backward agrarian nation into a nuclear superpower.”

Ongoing Paranoia in Germany?

As we reported in our last Update (Update #116, World News Headlines, “Unbalanced Fear of Anti-Semitism?”), Christian Democrat (CDU) Martin Hohmann has been accused of anti-Semitic remarks, following a speech of October 3, 2003. A high-ranking army general, Reinhard Guenzel, was dismissed from the army for congratulating Hohmann on his speech. Many German politicians and the majority of the German press condemned Hohmann and Guenzel for uttering or supporting “anti-Semitic” remarks.

However, the affair is far from over.

In an interview with Frontal 21, Hohmann reconfirmed on November 1 that he did NOT describe the Jews as a “people of perpetrators.” He explained: “I have said, verbatim, Neither the Jews, nor the Germans, are a people of perpetrators. This means, neither the Jews nor the Germans are a people of perpetrators. It is inconceivable to me how one can construe this comment as anti-Semitic.” According to the Financial Times, dated November 11, Guenzel is considering a complaint against German Defense Minister Peter Struck (Social Democrat, SPD) for libel and slander. Struck had described Guenzel as a “confused general” for supporting anti-Semitic ideas. Guenzel said that he always promoted cooperation with the Israelis, “because they are fantastic human beings and soldiers. To suggest that I am anti-Semitic or a right-wing radical is ridiculous – it’s the joke of the century.” He also mentioned that he is a good friend of Gadi Schamni, a general of the Israeli army.

Much of the German press has attempted to downplay any possible connection with or sympathy for Hohmann’s speech. The tabloid “Bild” even published selected excerpts from a highly controversial editorial in the “New York Post,” stating that that editorial proved how much Hohmann damaged the German reputation in foreign countries. However, when actually reading the entire editorial in the New York Post, dated November 6, 2003, one can readily see that Hohmann’s speech was just a minor contributing factor to the author’s opinion. The author of the editorial stated (which was not published by Bild, to our knowledge): “Of course, there are good Germans. Plenty of them. But they live in Philadelphia, not Frankfurt. They or their ancestors all left Germany by 1938… The German resistance? Almost as big a lie as the denial of the Holocaust. Count von Stauffenberg and his fellow aristocrats, whose inept attempt to kill Hitler with a bomb in 1944 is forever cited as an example of German courage, never lifted a finger against the Nazi regime until the Red Army closed in on their hereditary lands in East Prussia. They weren’t fighting for high ideals. They were defending their real estate.”

To get a more balanced viewpoint on the life and the motives of Count von Stauffenberg, we might suggest reading some historical accounts, such as, “Stauffenberg – Symbol of German Unity,” by Wolfgang Venohr (edited 1986).

The reaction to this editorial by some readers of the New York Post was quite remarkable (Bild, however, did not publish any of those comments, either, to our knowledge). One comment read, “I am a Holocaust survivor. Let me remind you that Germany has supported Israel morally and financially. This new generation has performed enough of a mea culpa. Spain had the inquisition and Russia the pogroms. When will all this hatred end?… Enough already.”

Another reader commented: “… one can certainly agree that anti-Semitism is a major problem in Germany and in other European countries. However, one can’t agree with his premise that all Germans living in Germany are evil anti-Semites.”

A third reader said, “Regardless of what I think about Germans, this kind of hate-mongering is what tears people apart… [Such] prejudice and nasty generalizations… have no place anywhere in America… In the interest of all of us who do not wish to be judged based on being Jewish, African-American or anything else, do not spread such prejudice and hatred.”

The German political scene and much of the German press have been very anxious in trying to eliminate whatever they perceive to be a sign of anti-Semitism. Hohmann’s speech came to light at the same time when most European citizens (almost 60%) stated in a poll that they consider Israel as the greatest enemy to world peace. In Germany, 65 percent felt that Israel was a danger for peace. This result was quite a shock to European politicians, so they began to belittle their own poll, by stating that the questions were too difficult or too misleading, so that the people questioned did not really understand them (Spiegel Online, November 3, 2003).

At the same time, published articles in the German press and official statements of German politicians do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the German people. The “Community of Conservative Christians” released a statement, pointing out that Hohmann had related facts that had been recently presented by Russian Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. They were also claiming that some of those criticizing Hohmann were trying to prevent reconciliation between Germans and Jews, as Hohmann was trying to show both sides that they had made mistakes, and that they must forgive each other. They also stated, “Today is Reformation Day. With it, we celebrate the courage of Martin Luther to stop an unchristian, overbearing papacy. The arch-Catholic Martin Hohmann… has expressed, in a historical setting, his love toward God, all people of good will, and his father land.”

The debate surrounding Hohmann within the German public continues. Hohmann had come under attack before, when he spoke out against legalization of homosexual relationships. In a n-tv poll, readers were asked whether Hohmann should separate from his party, the CDU. 69% voted that he should not (n-tv.de, November 11, 2003).

According to a poll by Der Stern, published on November 12, 2003, 41 % of CDU members supported Hohmann’s expulsion from the party, while 41 % felt that he should remain a party member. 18% were undecided.

As Der Spiegel Online reported on November 11, the “big majority” of participants of the CDU’s Internet-forum has been siding with Hohmann. Some participants characterized the situation as a “witch hunt,” while charging Paul Spiegel, the leader of the German Jews, with uttering “anti-German” statements.

To be clear, anti-Semitism in all its different forms, shapes and colors is wrong. A true Christian could never be an anti-Semite. After all, Jesus was a Jew (see our Update #115, Q&A, “Genealogy of Christ”), and Christ said that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Paul added that the “oracles of God” were committed to the Jews (Romans 3:2). He also said that “the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises” were given to “the Israelites” (Romans 9:4), that is, to those who later became the “house of Israel” and the “house of Judah,” the Jews. True Christians uphold God’s law, including the keeping of the weekly Sabbath, the annual Holy Days, or the dietary laws.

At the same time, a true Christian will not participate in suppressing part of the truth, or in the dissemination of information that is mislabeled, falsely characterized, misleading or untrue. This is why we must be careful to listen to whatever we hear. We must analyze and evaluate information with “godly understanding,” based on the Bible and its prophecies.

The current situation in Germany will not go away easily. To be sure, how it is being handled by the press and politicians will not help, in the long run, to extinguish anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe.

Religious Persecution in Germany?

The concept of home schooling may be a well-established institution in the United States. This is not the case in Germany. As Der Spiegel Online reported on November 5, 2003, Christian parents were fined for not sending their children to school, due to their religious convictions. Although the German Constitution guarantees its citizens the free exercise of their religion and parenting, it also regulates the duty for children to go to school. A court of appeals decided that the children’s duty to go to school is more important than the two constitutional rights of the parents. The Christian parents objected to the teaching of their children in public school, as they would be taught an unacceptable form of “sexual education,” the wrong concept of the evolution theory, and witchcraft and meditation therapies, derived from Buddhism. The parents also complained that schools teach the children to become disobedient to their parents.

The court did not agree that there was any impermissible indoctrination of school children. It stated that one could not object to the teaching of the evolution theory or sex education, “as it only reflects what children experience on a daily basis, although [in regard to sexual education] it sometimes comes close to what may be unacceptable.”

Does it really surprise anyone when we hear of young German teens (as young as 12 years old!) engaging in premarital sex, or of young people growing up without a solid foundation of a belief in God, when such court-approved “values” are communicated to them in schools on a daily basis?

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What are the Biblical reasons compelling a Christian to refuse to participate in Military Service and War?

There are different Biblical principles involved. We believe that the following will best express our religious convictions against participating in Military Service and War:

A true Christian is a stranger, alien and exile (1 Peter 2:11; Hebrews 11:13) while here on earth; an ambassador for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20); and a representative of God’s kingdom. As such, and in being a light to the world by proper conduct (Matthew 5:14-16), a true Christian does not take part in this world’s governmental or political affairs, as presently, it is not God who rules this world, but Satan the devil (Revelation 2:13; Luke 4:5-6). Christians are challenged to come out of the governmental and political systems of this world (Revelation 18:4).

Romans 12:17-21 tells us that we have to overcome evil with good; that we are not to avenge ourselves; and that we even give food and drink to our enemies, if we find them in need. Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27-28 command us to love our enemies. This tells us that we cannot fight or kill our enemies. We are told, in Romans 14:19 and in 1 Peter 3:11, to pursue the things which lead to peace. We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9; James 3:18).

John the Baptist told Roman soldiers to “do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14, Authorized Version). He was showing man how to live in peace (Luke 1:79). Jesus Christ came to preach peace (Acts 10:36), as man does not know the way to peace (Luke 19:41-42; Romans 3:17), living, instead, the way that brings about bloodshed and war (Romans 3:10-18). Christ will return to make an end to war (Psalm 46:9). He will scatter all those who delight in war (Psalm 68:28-30). After His return, all will learn how to live in peace, and there will be no more wars (Isaiah 2:2-4). Weapons of war will be destroyed (Hosea 2:18). At that time, there will be no end to the increase of peace (Isaiah 9:7). Today, as ambassadors of Christ, we are to proclaim peace and reject any kind of war (Isaiah 52:7).

We read in James 4:1-4 that wars originate with man’s sinful and carnal desires, which must be overcome. We must live today the way of peace, which all mankind will learn to live after Christ’s return. Christ told Peter to put his sword away (Matthew 26:52). We are warned that all those who use the sword would perish by it (Revelation 13:10; compare 2 Samuel 2:26). Christ told His disciples that they were not following God’s directive when they wanted to destroy their enemies (Luke 9:54-56). Christ told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, and that therefore, His servants would not fight (John 18:36). Paul confirmed that Christ’s followers are not to fight (2 Corinthians 10:3-4; Ephesians 6:12). We find that Satan is the one deceiving man to fight in war (Revelation 20:7-10).

It is true that in Old Testament times, ancient Israel fought in war. This, however, was sin. God never intended that Israel should fight. Israel chose to fight, lacking faith that God could help them in times of need (Exodus 17:7; Psalm 78:41). Since man is a free moral agent, God does not force man, not to sin. God had made it clear, however, that Israel was not to fight. He had told Israel in Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” God had intended to bring Israel into the Promised Land by driving out the enemies, using hornets in several cases (Exodus 23:27-28; Deuteronomy 7:17-22; Joshua 24:12). When Israel relied on God, God fought for them, and they did not have to fight (2 Chronicles 20:1-30; 2 Chronicles 32:1-23).

David also fought in war, but this, too, was sinful. God punished David with wars because of his murder of Uriah and his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:9-10). God did not allow David to build a temple, because he had shed blood in war (1 Chronicles 22:6-10; 1 Chronicles 28:2-3; 1 Kings 5:2-5). God punished David again at the end of his life, when he numbered his army, intending to go to war (2 Samuel 24:1-17; 1 Chronicles 21:1-30).

It is true that God, at times, ordered Israel to fight certain wars. This did not make war right. Israel had chosen to fight in war, as Israel later chose to have a king. God gave them their king (1 Samuel 8:22; 9:17), stating at the same time that their request for a king was sinful (1 Samuel 8:7, 19; 10:19; 12:13, 19-20). God allowed divorce in Old Testament times, because of the hardness of people’s hearts, but it was not God’s intent that people should divorce (Matthew 19:3-9). Since God’s purpose must stand, and since God had promised Abraham unconditionally to bring his descendants into the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18-21; 22:15-18), God determined the outcome of those wars that Israel wanted to fight.

Rather than killing our enemies, we are to do them good, if it is within our power to do so. Elisha acted in that way, as recorded in 2 Kings 6:14-23, and lasting peace was the result. When we are confronted with aggression, we need to pray to God to give us strength not to violate His law, by killing the aggressors. God will not allow that we are overtaken by a temptation that is too difficult for us to handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). If there is an opportunity, we can hide or escape from our enemies, as Christ did (John 10:39). Christ never fought in war, nor did He ever commit violence to any man. Neither did the early apostles and disciples after their conversion. Neither must we today.

God promises us protection from our enemies when we do what He commands (Exodus 34:22-24). If God were to choose not to protect us in any given situation, for whatever reason, we must still not violate His law by killing another human being. Rather, we must act as Daniel’s three friends did, when Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:14-18).

Since God has ordered us, not to kill (Exodus 20:13), we must not violate His law by taking the life of another human being. We could therefore not kill in war, nor enter the military to carry arms or serve as combatants. We would be able to fulfill any duties as a civil servant, if so required.

The Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates have consistently taught their members why it is wrong to participate in Military Service, for instance in Updates #67, 81, and 84. For similar reasons, Church members refuse to participate in jury duty and in governmental elections, as explained in Updates #66 and 76, all of which can be found on our Website at www.eternalgod.org

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

Our new booklet on “born again” has entered the second and third review cycles.

A member letter was sent out this week. You can find a version of the letter at:http://www.eternalgod.org/lit/letters/brethren-20031106.pdf.

A new Standing Watch program, titled, “Anti-Semitism,” was recorded and has been posted on the Web.

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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