What Is a REAL Christian?
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What Is a REAL Christian?

Chapter One
by Clayton D. Steep

   WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? What is true Christianity? It is time to clear away the uncertainty. Jesus clearly explained what a real Christian is like. He left no doubt. As we consider what he said, we need to ask ourselves why the qualities he described seem to be so hard to find even in Christian-professing nations.
   Take, for instance, one of Jesus' teachings in what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Luke 6. Surely nothing is more central to Christianity than this portion of the Scriptures. But how often do you see Jesus' statement in verse 27 put into practice? It says: "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you."
   Some of the most bloody battles in history have been waged by Christian nations. "No nations are more warlike than those which profess Christianity," observed Pierre Bayle, a 17th-century French philosopher of Christian Europe. He could have written the same thing of the 20th century!
   Professing Christians have risen up in war against each other. (And, of course, so have other religions.) They have blown each other to pieces on the battlefield, all the while praying to the same God for victory.
   The English poet Shelley commented: "The same means that have supported every other popular belief have supported Christianity. War, imprisonment, assassination and falsehood; deeds of unexampled and incomparable atrocity have made it what it is."
   How can this be? The one who is supposed to be the founder of the Christian religion the one whom professing Christians call "Lord" taught his followers, "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you" (Luke 6:27-28).
   This instruction of Jesus is hardly followed by Christian nations in times of war. But then how often is it followed by professing Christians in times of peace? Where is it put into practice in neighborhoods, in social circles, among the people you know on a day-to-day basis?
   Jesus also said: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (verse 31). That has been called the Golden Rule. It is thought of as a good slogan to hang on the wall, or to dangle from a charm bracelet, or to teach little children.
   But live by it? That is something else!
   Jesus, however, did not mean it as a suggestion. He didn't give it as a thought for the day. For Jesus it was a living law that he commanded his followers Christians to apply in their daily lives.

But Will It Work?

   "Be ye therefore merciful," continued Jesus, "as your Father [God] also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven" (verses 36-37).
   How often does merciful kindness govern what is taking place? Think of the competition and greed in business the cheating, the gouging. A primary emphasis in today's world is on getting the advantage over others, even if it is necessary to hurt them a little to do it. And today's western world is a Christian world or is it?
   The political sphere resounds with name calling, propaganda and condemnation.
   Gossip and backbiting are ever popular themes in private conversation. Movies, novels and television programs including children's shows dwell on the idea of getting even or seeking revenge.
   All of this in Christian lands!
   Where is forgiveness practiced as a way of life? Instances of genuine mercy from one human being toward another in the media are remarkable and memorable because they are so uncommon.
Clearly, only a person who does what Jesus said to do has the right to call him "Lord."
Jesus' teaching covered the great themes of life, and it reaches down even to simple lacks of consideration such as being responsible for a blaring radio, a loud motorcycle, a barking dog, litter, damage to public facilities, graffiti factors that make life unpleasant for others. Yet so commonplace are infringements of the principles Jesus gave, it makes one wonder: Where are the Christians?
   The Bible describes a society when its religion is a mere form, not having the power to change people's lives. It reads like the front page of many newspapers.
   "For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it" (II Tim. 3:2-5, RSV).
   It all sounds so familiar!
   As Jesus was speaking, he knew there were some listening to him, who would call him their "Lord," who would profess to belong to him, but who would not put his teachings into practice.
   These are the words of Jesus to them: "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). A "lord" is a ruler, a master, one who is to be obeyed. In plain words, Jesus said: "If you don't obey me, don't call me 'Lord'!"
   Too often people talk about "the Lord," or "the Lord Jesus," when they don't have the faintest idea what Jesus said his followers are to do. Jesus exclaimed: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
   That, in simple terms, is one facet of what makes a person a Christian. He or she does what Jesus said to do. He or she follows Christ. The ones who are allowed to become members of his spiritual family are "these which hear the word of God, and do it" (Luke 8:21).
   "Ye are my friends," Jesus stated, " if ye do whatsoever I command you" (John 15:14).
   Again, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
   Clearly, only a person who does what Jesus said to do who puts into practice the great principles he taught has the right to call him "Lord."

A Way of Life

   True Christianity involves faith and belief but it is not merely a set of beliefs. It is not casually joining a church or being born into the Christian religion. It is not something to be practiced one day a week or at odd intervals.
   It is a way of life. Early Christians referred to original Christianity as "the way of the Lord" (Acts 18:25) and "the way of God" (verse 26). "I am the way, the truth, and the life," Christ declared (John 14:6).
   True Christianity is the Christian way of life. No one can follow what Jesus taught without experiencing a marked change in life and life-style.
   Notice how this fact is illustrated in the following example: A rich young man once came to Jesus and asked: "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life" (Matt. 19:16).
   This man knew following Christ involved doing something. He asked: "What good thing shall I do?"
   Many today would have answered: "Why, there is nothing to do. Just accept Christ and it's all done for you."
   How different was Jesus' answer! "And he [Jesus] said unto him... if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (verse 17).
   There was no doubt that Jesus was talking about the Ten Commandments. When the young man asked, "Which ones?", Jesus named specifically the commandments having to do with showing love toward one's neighbor. To this, the rich man responded that he had been keeping those commandments since childhood (verse 20). The young man, of course, had been reared a Jew. But he wanted to become a follower of Christ.
   Jesus required in his followers true depth of conversion. He knew the young man had a problem keeping in their true intent those commandments regarding love toward, giving to, one's neighbor. So Jesus bluntly told him that his wealth was an obstacle to him, that he needed to get rid of it. Only after that could he become a follower of Jesus a Christian. Of course, just because one is wealthy does not prevent a person from being a Christian. Abraham was righteous before God and a very wealthy man. But human nature and one's attitude tend toward concentration on self and one's wealth instead of on others' needs.
   Sadly, the young man departed, unwilling to change his attitude toward life.
   Most people, it is true, do not have excess wealth as their major problem. The fact remains, though, that keeping the Ten Commandments is essential if you are to develop character and inherit God's free gift of eternal life. So said Jesus!

True Conversion

   Maybe you think you have been keeping the Ten Commandments fairly well like the rich young man. Have you really? Try something. Read them off one by one (they are found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5), learn how to apply them (as explained by Jesus Matt. 5:21-32) and see if there is not room for improvement in your life. In this materialistic, industrial age, you may be especially surprised at what the fourth and tenth commandments have to say. (Read our free booklet The Ten Commandments, which explains the commandments in detail.)
   Being a real Christian involves developing the mind and attitude of Christ, thinking the way he did every moment of every day.
   Every activity, every social situation, every endeavor, every goal and plan Christ has revealed principles that bear on every facet of life. We are even to let our innermost thoughts be ruled by the Lord Jesus, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," as the apostle Paul expressed it (II Cor. 10:5).
   To some that sounds extreme. But it's in the Christian Bible. The apostle Paul was only repeating what the Bible says time and again: To do God's will is to follow his way of life totally. There is a price to pay, however, and for some that price may be too high. That price is surrender of the SELF.
   "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts... ," God says through the prophet Isaiah, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:7-9).
   A real Christian is one who seeks God's way of life, his thoughts, his will. What Isaiah was describing is genuine repentance the kind of repentance necessary to begin the Christian way of life. (We will further explain this kind of repentance in chapter three). When multitudes asked the apostle Peter how to become Christians, Peter responded that they must repent profoundly change (Acts 2:38).
   But these inspired instructions are seldom followed today. Why? Why in the mass evangelistic campaigns of the Christian world are people encouraged to make a spur-of-the-moment "decision for Christ" and to come forward in an "altar call," and to be pronounced "saved" or "born again"? That is not how Peter said to receive the Holy Spirit, which is God's free gift that leads to eternal life. No wonder such "conversions" often last only a matter of days or weeks!

Why Do So Few Know?

   Here is where many people stumble. They begin to think they know what real Christianity is all about. Then they look around them at the people they know. Or they think of individuals they have known in the past-friends, relatives, perhaps. And they use them as standards of comparison. They say to themselves: "Uncle Henry and Aunt Ruth and my friend John did not obey Jesus' explicit instructions. But they weren't 'bad' people either. They lived the way they thought was right. I'll take my chances along with them and with the millions and millions of other professing Christians who are just average good people. Surely God won't deny eternal life or salvation to them! God is merciful."
   God is merciful. That's true. But then what did Jesus mean when he said keeping the commandments and other lesser requirements are necessary for the development of character if we are to inherit God's free gift of eternal life? He meant exactly what he said. Uncle Henry and Aunt Ruth and friend John and all the millions who have professed Christianity without ever understanding what it really is to become a Christian a follower of Jesus Christ will eventually have their opportunity to understand. They too will learn that in order to have the mind of Christ in us, to think the way Jesus thought, it is necessary to keep the commandments. And that involves deep heart-felt repentance, belief in Christ's message of the kingdom of God, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. One must come to a realization of what one really is like and what one should be.
None can follow what Jesus taught without experiencing a marked change in life and life-style.
   If learning this doesn't happen during this life, then it will happen in a future period of judgment when God's government rules the earth. At that time all the dead who have not had an opportunity for salvation will be resurrected and given the opportunity to choose the way of life based on obedience to God's laws the only way to true happiness. That period of time is described in Ezekiel 16:55 and 60-63, Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 10:12-14 and Revelation 20:11-12. This period of judgment occurs after the 1,000 years (Rev. 20:2-4). "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished... " (verse 5). This judgment will provide for a life-time of new experience like the judgment in this life-time that is occurring on true Christians today (I Pet. 4:17).
   Every human who ever lived will have an opportunity to receive salvation the opportunity to inherit eternal life in the kingdom or family of God as God's free gift. For most people that time will come after they have lived their entire lives, died and are brought back to life in a future resurrection. God is just not trying to save the entire world now. That's why the Scripture says that in general, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this [in a future resurrection!] the judgment [not a sentencing, but for the vast majority of human beings a period of testing and judging their first and only genuine opportunity for salvation]" (Heb. 9:27).
   Jesus told his disciples: "Enter ye in at the strait [restricted] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many [the millions, the hundreds and thousands of millions] there be which go in thereat: because strait [restricted] and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW [talking about now, this present age] there be which find it" (Matt. 7:13-14). You probably have not understood this before. So why not read our free booklet Is God Trying to Save the World Now?
   Don't make the mistake of judging what the Bible describes as true Christianity by the beliefs of people you have known who may not even have understood what real Christianity is.
   To be a real Christian one must become willing to do what Jesus said to do. He showed the way to truly abundant living. His words are recorded in the Scriptures. But they will only profit someone who reads them there and then decides to yield himself or herself to God and follow them. "If ye know these things," Jesus exclaimed, "happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17).

Chapter Two
by Roderick C. Meredith

   THINK ABOUT IT. Is it merely left to each individual to decide for himself or herself what the term Christian means?
   Could it be that God the ultimate authority decides? Yet he does not whisper in our ears about who is and who is not a Christian. Or about anything else. How, then, does the God of creation communicate to us his understanding?
   God's mind is found revealed in the inspired book we call the Holy Bible. Jesus himself said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). Jesus also stated, "The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
   The apostle Paul wrote: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16).
   Are we willing to be taught and guided by the very inspired words of God? Are we willing to let the Bible tell us in plain language what is "Christian" and what is not?

What the BIBLE Says About "Christianity"

   How many Christians really study the Bible to find out what God's will is? It may be shocking to realize, but religious surveys have repeatedly found that most people who are aware of the Bible are not even able to name the four gospels let alone have any idea what is in them! As we saw in the first chapter, to be his real followers genuine Christians we must learn to do what Jesus taught (Luke 6:46). The key is not merely believing on Jesus Christ, but believing him and doing what he says. Jesus magnified the Ten Commandments and gave them even greater force. He said that we are not only not to kill, but are to avoid the kind of anger which is, in fact, the spirit of murder (Matt. 5:21-22).
   Christians are not only to remain faithful to their mates and never commit adultery, but, Jesus said: "I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28).
   Later in this same passage, Jesus said: "LOVE your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (verse 44).
   The unvarnished words of Jesus of Nazareth are POWERFUL. How difficult it is to make these inspired words of Christ "acceptable" to mainstream Christianity today!
   For what would happen if they were obeyed literally as the inspired teachings of the Son of God? If everyone truly loved his enemies, there would be no more wars and no more murders none!
   Under Jesus' teachings, there would be no more adultery none! Think about the impact that would have on the divorce rate. For regarding marriage, Jesus said: "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:6).


   John was the apostle whom Jesus loved most. He wrote about the deepest meanings of Christianity and about how we are able to have fellowship with God and with Christ.
   He revealed how one can know who is and who is not a real Christian: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:3-4).
   To "know" God and Christ and they are "one," in full harmony as Jesus said you need to experience the kind of character they possess. And God's very character is expressed in his law the Ten Commandments. Those who say they are Christians and yet do not keep God's commandments do not know by experience the character of God!
   What is the character of God like? Notice! "For God is love" (I John 4:8).
   Again, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3).
   So a true Christian will "walk with God," will live by God's law of love the Ten Commandments. And, by exercising this kind of godly character, he will come to understand and "know" God. The true Christian will have God living in him.

The HOLY SPIRIT Gives Power

   At this point, some may be wondering how they can become "perfect." They have heard ministers say: "The law is spiritual, and you can't keep it."
Unless Christ dwells in you through the Holy Spirit, you cannot be a truly converted Christian!
   Both points are absolutely right! The law of God is spiritual. And man, by himself, cut off from God, cannot keep that spiritual law perfectly.
   The answer?
   First, God does not demand instant perfection. Rather, through his inspired Word, he tells us, "but GROW in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18).
   The true Christian life is one of learning, overcoming and growing toward the God like character that is our ideal. It is not based on the false premise that we don't even have to try to keep God's law and follow the example Jesus set for us. For Jesus said, "I have kept my Father's commandments" (John 15:10). And Paul wrote: "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1).
   But how can we keep the spiritual principles of the Ten Commandments when we ourselves are weak, physical and inherently sinful human beings?
   Notice the apostle Paul's description of the problem: "The carnal [natural] mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7-8). Paul is clearly saying that what causes the normal, fleshly (carnal) human being a "problem" with God is that he is antagonistic to God's law and will not submit to it!
   We all are certainly "in the flesh," in the sense that we are human, aren't we? But is that what Paul means? Continue reading: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (verse 9). In other words, unless Christ dwells in you through the Holy Spirit, you are not his; you are not a truly converted Christian!
   Again: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (verse 14).
   This is the ultimate key to true Christianity! If you have been deeply humbled and converted by your Creator, have surrendered even though not yet perfectly to allow God and Christ to live in you through the power of the Holy Spirit, then and only then are you truly a Christian!
   Of course, you will still have human nature, the world around you and the invisible influence of Satan the devil to overcome. You will grow in grace and in knowledge. You will be studying the Bible for instruction with an open mind and heart. You will be praying for understanding of what you read and for the spiritual strength to live God's way.
   Then, through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, you will be growing in the knowledge and in the very character of Jesus Christ. God will be making you his child by putting his very nature in you through the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:4). Step by step, you will reflect in your daily life the character and the obedience to God the Father that Jesus demonstrated in his human flesh. You will become more and more Christ-like. You will then truly become "a Christian" one in whom Christ lives through the presence of the Holy Spirit!
   This is the Bible definition of a Christian.

Christ Must Be "in" the True Christian

   As you truly study and research the Bible to understand it, and as you pray to God daily on your knees for guidance and strength, you can come to know what the life of a real Christian is like. God will become more and more real to you. You will see that his laws are living laws just like the law of gravity. They work automatically no matter whether you, or this or that theologian, believes in them or not.
   With this in mind, it will become progressively easier for you not to have self before the true God, not to bow down to physical representations of the spiritual family of God, not to take God's name in vain. And, as God becomes increasingly the very center of your life as a true Christian, you will want to keep holy his Sabbath the very day Jesus made holy.
   Through all of this Bible study, prayer and dedication of your life to live as Jesus did, you will come to know God in a way very few people in our modern age ever experience. For Christ will be living in you. That's what true Christianity is all about!
   The apostle Paul stated: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of [not merely "in" as in some translations] the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
   How will Christ "live" his life in you through the Holy Spirit?
   Will he refuse to keep in and through you his Father's law the Ten Commandments which he faithfully kept and even magnified during his human life on earth? Will he keep in and through you different days holy than the ones his Father commanded and that he kept during his physical lifetime?
   For your Bible says very plainly, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). The true Christ of the Bible is the Word the Spokesman of the Hebrew Scriptures (John 1:1-3). He was the God of Israel the Rock that protected and guided ancient Israel throughout their history (I Cor. 10:4). He is the one who gave and spoke the Ten Commandments! And with respect to eternal spiritual principles he said, "For I am the Lord, I change not... " (Mal. 3:6).
   So the key is to realize that the true Christ of your Bible will live exactly the same life in you that he lived on earth some 1,900 years ago! Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Jesus came to reveal the Father (Luke 10:22). God and Christ preexisted together from eternity. They are one in mind and purpose and in character. Through the Holy Spirit, they both come to live in, strengthen and guide the true Christian! As Jesus said: "If a man love me, he will keep my words [the "words" of the Bible!]: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23).
   How did this kind of preaching and teaching come to be so misunderstood by traditional Christianity in our present society?

Apostasy Prophesied!

   How did there come to be so many who have been deceived into thinking they were Christians, yet who have not had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, enabling them to live by every word of God?
   The apostle Paul warned first century Christians: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [the day of Christ's return to earth to restore the government of God] shall not come, except there come a falling away first... " (II Thess. 2:3).
   Throughout the New Testament we are warned of men who would come unawares into the fellowship of the church, even in the time of Jesus' apostles in the first century A.D., preaching "another Jesus" (II Cor. 11:4) not the Jesus of the Bible! And it is clearly indicated that those false teachers and their spiritual descendants would lead astray the vast majority of those who call themselves and think themselves Christians.
   In other words, false teachers have taken over the name of Jesus Christ and of Christianity. They are willing to have you believe in their concept of Jesus, but they deny the message he preached, the law of God that he magnified, and the way of life he set us an example in living!
   The true Christians are described in the Bible as comparatively few in number the little flock (Luke 12:32), the "woman" who, as the Scriptures prophesied, fled from the politico-religious system that dominated the Western world during the Middle Ages (Rev. 12:6).
   But, since the days of the apostles, there have always been true Christians who believed in living by the inspired words of the Bible, and who grasped the key of understanding that Jesus is to live his very life in them by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scattered and persecuted, often labeled in the footnotes of church history books as heretics, these people have constituted the true Church of God.
   Aiming toward perfection, they walk in the way of life of the Ten Commandments. They keep holy the days God made holy the same days Jesus and the apostles kept. They study and understand prophecy and the awesome purpose that is being worked out here below among men and nations. They know what is just ahead on the world scene and are preparing for and announcing specific prophesied events to come as Jesus foretold them!
   The real Christ of true Christianity is destined soon to return to this earth as King of kings. God's angels will shout, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). Christ will be King over all the earth. And real Christians, having lived and died over the centuries, will rise in the first resurrection and become kings under him. Those who assumed they were Christians, but were deceived, will not be there to rule with Christ. They will yet have to become converted!
   Before Jesus gets here, what could be more vital for you than to make sure what his message really is and to get your life in line with it?

Chapter Three
by Leslie L. McCullough

   WHAT DOES religion have to do with the way one lives? Based on the way most people are living, they would have to answer: "Little or nothing!"
   No wonder Jesus Christ quoted the prophet Isaiah in speaking of the religious leaders and people of his day: "... This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Mark 7:6).
   In our day millions of people attend church services and may even talk of all "uniting in the brotherhood of Christianity." But how many live the way Jesus Christ commanded? Many are willing to honor him with their lips, but how many want to do the things he taught?
   Religion is often superficial. What is lacking is deeply sincere repentance. This is what distinguishes real Christianity from traditional Christianity.
   What is repentance anyway? Where does it come from? What does it mean?
   A dictionary definition of repentance is: "To feel self-reproach, compunction, or contrition for past conduct, to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better."
   The Bible definition includes all of that and much more!
   Godly repentance means to stop sinning (sin is the transgression of God's law I John 3:4), to turn and go the other way to change your way of life! It's not always easy to say, "I'm sorry." But it's even harder to mean it. Godly repentance has to come from the heart and involves a fundamental change of attitude and mind.
   Speaking of a sinful people, God says: "And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds:... they rebel against me... They return, but not to the most High... " (Hos. 7:14, 16).
   People have made an outward show of returning to God or repenting, but they haven't done it with their hearts! What the world calls repentance is too often outward, superficial, worldly repentance with no real sincerity or deep feeling.

Repent of What?

   What is it we need to repent of or feel sorrow for in becoming a real Christian? Some Christians might answer one thing or another, and others from different societies or religions might answer altogether differently. But again, what does God say constitutes sin? What would God have a person repent of?
   "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4).
   Sin is breaking God's law.
   Any time you break or disobey any one of the holy, righteous commandments of God, you have sinned and you need to repent of that sin. No one is excluded. No man, woman or child (other than Jesus Christ) has ever lived who hasn't disobeyed and broken God's law (Rom. 3:10, 23). Therefore, everyone must face the need to repent deeply, and sometimes bitterly. To become a genuine Christian we each must ask the Father in heaven that Christ's shed blood cover our sins, that the sacrifice of his life be accepted in our stead so the penalty for our sins can be removed from us. Then we need to begin to obey God. We need to establish a new and different approach to life. We now begin to keep his commandments all his commandments with zeal.

How Repentance Starts

   Of course, we can't just drum up the deep feeling of abhorrence for our sins by ourselves. It has to come from God, for "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).
   It is God who helps us to see our own wretchedness and shortcomings. He opens our minds and starts us on the way toward repentance.
   The Bible names dozens of individuals who are going to be in the kingdom of God. David, Daniel and other servants of God found how to reach the Creator of the universe. Their example will help us to see how we might attain the same goal. They all had one very essential thing in common. As soon as they realized God was displeased with them or their nation's ways, they set out to correct the situation.
   How does God call individuals to repentance? Through chastening. Often he allows financial problems, family problems, sickness, or other serious situations to develop so that we realize our need of him.
   These trials are proof of the Father's love for each one whom he calls to repentance. Notice Hebrews 12:6-7. "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"
   Instead of fighting these problems in our own strength, we need to learn the lesson God is teaching us. We need to begin to seek him. He doesn't need us. We do need him! Every real Christian must learn that lesson.
   Daniel was inspired to record his own reactions in such a case as this for our instruction. "And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes" (Dan. 9:3).
   Nehemiah's example is also recorded for us. When he found that his nation which had returned to Palestine was in affliction and reproach, here's what he did. "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven" (Neh. 1:4). He immediately set out to draw close to God. He didn't do it in a half-hearted, matter-of-fact way. He did it earnestly, sincerely and with all his heart. He set himself to find God and his will by prayer and fasting.
   Daniel and Nehemiah earnestly desired to find God's will. They were willing to do whatever was required to draw close to him and receive his forgiveness. They were willing to do without food and water if necessary to demonstrate to God their sincere desire to know his way. If David, Daniel or Nehemiah had lived in our day, they would be real Christians!
   Today, earnest supplication of God shows him that you mean business. He doesn't want a temporary, fleeting repentance that is brought about by an emotional appeal or the pressures of those around us. Salvation is a personal matter between you and God. But it has to be on his terms.
   In the days of ancient Israel, God told King Solomon exactly what steps to follow if he found God's displeasure on his nation. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). If we apply these principles in our lives, he will answer just as he told Solomon he would.
   Read this description of repentance for yourself in II Chronicles 7:12-14. "And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night and said unto him... If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
No one excluded. No man, woman or child has ever lived who hasn't broken God's law.
   If you read the examples of the biblical servants of God, you will notice that they freely acknowledged their own sins and shortcomings. It takes a deeply sincere person to say, "Search me, 0 God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24).
   If we are earnestly seeking God and his way, this is the attitude we will be reflecting. We will freely admit our own sins and shortcomings and be earnestly importuning God to show us the right way. Jeremiah said, "0 Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. 0 Lord, correct me, but with judgment, not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing" (Jer. 10:23-24).
   Once we begin to learn that lesson, and look to God to show us how to live and how to change our lives, we are on our way to real life-long repentance.
   The steps are simple. Yet it is not easy to completely give of oneself, to admit one's own faults and sincerely ask for God's forgiveness.

Turn from Our Own Ways

   Many people of this day and age profess to be repentant profess Christianity and yet continue to live in all the wretchedness of their sinful ways. One of the most important of all the steps in coming to true repentance is to distinguish the difference between merely being sorry for having to suffer the consequences and stopping the habit of sinning! Millions who claim membership in a church loudly proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ. They "testify" for Christ, but the fruit of genuine repentance is not there.
   All too often repentance is worldly repentance (See II Cor. 7:10). What we really need to come to see and understand is the kind of repentance God wants us to experience. "Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful... " (Joel 2:12-13).
   God doesn't want the worldly kind of repentance. He doesn't just want your name on the membership rolls of some church. What God wants and what you should come to deeply desire is to sincerely acknowledge your sins, ask for forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and change. God wants you to say, "I'm sorry" and mean it! He wants you to stop bringing sorrow and heartache upon yourself by breaking his laws and to start living his way of life that leads to happiness. That is real repentance! That is how to experience being a real Christian.

Chapter Four
by Herbert W. Armstrong

   You MAY have heard comments like the following: "He is so SPIRITUAL." Or, "Those people are not very spiritual."
   But what is true spirituality do you know?
   We need, just now, to be warned against being deceived into a false standard of spirituality. We need to examine the true scriptural standard.

Four Things Usually Accepted As Sure Evidence

   There are four things generally regarded as sure evidence of a spiritual mind:
   1) Speech, noise, emotion, demonstration.
   2) Knowledge of Scripture.
   3) "Faith."
   4) Rigid standard of righteousness. Let us take a brief look at each of these and then see how the Bible defines spirituality.
   1) The most commonly accepted evidence of spirituality is the way people talk about or demonstrate religious sentiment.
   Some people have deliberately cultivated spiritual-sounding language. Or, perhaps, they have unconsciously acquired the habit of using "spiritual" sounding expressions. People say, "My, isn't Brother so-and-so spiritual?"
   Many think a church service does not amount to anything unless there is more or less noise, mass enthusiasm and a great deal of emotion worked up and visibly expressed.
   They never enjoy a sermon, no matter how edifying, unless the preacher is full of certain emotional enthusiasm, fluent in the accepted spiritual phraseology and able to generate in his audience the usual emotional reactions and outbursts expected in this type of meeting. If such manifestations are present, these individuals enjoy themselves immensely, whether they learn anything really worthwhile or not.
   This is not to discount or to criticize the natural emotional expression resulting spontaneously from a genuine spiritual experience, or true spiritual expressions springing naturally from an honest heart. Far from it.
   Some people are naturally emotional. Some are not. We shall see from the Scriptures that emotion and spiritual phrases are not, of themselves, the essence of spirituality. They may be the natural result, the honest and spontaneous expression of it; or, if deliberately generated and "worked up," put on for show and effect, they may be only its counterfeit. And the sad part is that those who deal in counterfeits always insist they have the genuine.
   "By their fruits... ," Jesus said, we shall KNOW (Matt. 7:20).
   It is important that we get a right balance.
   2) The second class is well indoctrinated. Usually these people do not believe in much, if any, noise or any spiritual manifestations. They have a great deal of head knowledge, but most of this class have a great deal of misunderstanding, and often they have odd personal theories resulting from misapplied scriptures.
   They love to try to trap and corner others with the Scriptures, and especially do they delight in it if they are able to corner some minister. Arguing Scripture is for them a great interest in life.
   These misguided people believe their arguments, contentions and beliefs will win their eternal salvation, without real repentance, or living a surrendered, righteous life in Christ Jesus, showing the fruits of the Spirit in their lives.
   3) And then there is the "faith" group. These say they are saved "by FAITH, and faith ALONE." They are not so much concerned about the Holy Spirit, and seldom mention such things as repentance, utter surrender or any need of submission and obedience to God's will and law.
   Their religion never works any profound changes in their lives. Since "Jesus died for our sins," we do not have to obey, they contend. "Just BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," is their sole condition to salvation. The invitation of the ministers of this group is, "Give the preacher your hand, and the Lord your heart."
   And when, later, you ask such "converts" what they did what really happened when they "gave the Lord their heart," they usually just look blank. They do not know. It really did not MEAN anything. It was merely a FORM. The churches of this class should be called social clubs they are not salvation-oriented institutions.
   4) Finally, there are those whose spirituality consists of a rigid standard of righteousness.
The spiritual mind is the surrendered, yielded mind. It is the mind that has given up wanting its own way.
In fact, they usually are so strict about following God's commandments that they fall into the error of keeping the strict LETTER of the law in their own strength. They are scrupulously honest, severely punctual, critically exact.
   But, as Paul said of the strictest sect of his day, they are "going about to establish their OWN righteousness," and have not "submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). And they are usually harsh, stern, critical, intolerant of those who do not live up to their particular ideas of righteousness.
   Some, in great sincerity, retreat totally or partially from society into monastic orders to attain a higher degree of spirituality.

The True Scriptural Standard

   Now, let us turn to God's Word, and humbly seek God's standard of spirituality.
   Of the true spiritual mind, God says to us, through Paul, "Let this mind be in you, which also was in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5).
   But HOW can you have the mind that was in Christ Jesus in YOU? Jesus says: "Behold, I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock: if any man hear my voice and OPEN the door, I will come in to him" (Rev. 3:20).
   And Jesus meant exactly what he said! He will come in, through his Spirit, and LIVE his life of true righteousness in you, if only you will surrender all of SELF and let him IN.
   "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell IN you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, HE is NONE of HIS." Unless his Spirit abides within you, producing true righteousness, you are not a real Christian! "And if Christ be IN you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:9-10).
   When God first begets us as his children, he takes us who have been proud, worldly, sensual, disobedient. His aim is to make us like himself. This transformation (not reformation) is a tremendous undertaking. It requires a miracle.
   God stands pledged, upon real, thorough repentance and faith in Christ (Acts 2:38), to start the performance of this tremendous miracle by putting his Holy Spirit literally WITHIN you! But God will work the complete change in your life ONLY if you are willing to SUBMIT to the process!
   The FIRST condition is real, deep, thorough repentance. You will have to be willing to accept correction and repeated chastisements at his loving hands, for "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6).
   The spiritual mind is the surrendered, yielded mind. It is the mind that has given up wanting its own way. It is the mind that has been CONQUERED in its rebellion against God.
   It is the mind that, henceforth, is willing to obey God no matter what the cost, and that continually studies God's Word, not to argue and strive and corner others, but to learn more of God's will, and to WALK in it!
   It is a mind FILLED to overflowing with real LOVE for God and all fellowmen even one's enemies and that has sympathy, patience and kindness for others in their ideas and beliefs, their faults and mistakes, that speaks softly, gently, kindly, that seeks only to help and to serve. It is the mind that has DIED to SELF.

True Spirituality

   The real spiritual mind can say with the apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH IN ME" (Gal. 2:20). When you can say that, then you have the mind that was in Christ Jesus.
   The real spiritual mind is a SOUND mind (II Tim. 1:7)!
   To those being carried away with a false and pseudo spirituality, where genuine manifestations of the Spirit were being counterfeited by DEMONSTRATIONS of SELF in a fanatical emotionalism, Paul, correcting them, said, "Brethren, be not CHILDREN in understanding" (I Cor. 14:20).
   True, Paul said to these same Corinthians, "I would rather that ye all spake with tongues [the miraculous ability to speak in foreign languages], BUT," he added, "rather that ye prophesied [preached]; for greater is he that prophesieth [preaches] than he that speaketh with tongues" (verse 5).
   True, Paul said to those overly emotional Corinthians, "I speak with tongues more than ye all: YET," he continued, "in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I by my voice may teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" (verses 18-19).
   And also he said, "God is not the author of confusion," and, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (verses 33, 40). Let us get a proper balance, and put these spiritual gifts in the position of their relative scriptural importance.
   We have a free booklet that makes this whole question abundantly clear. It is titled The Tongues Question.
   "By their FRUITS," not by their tongues, their language, their emotion, their ability to argue, their empty profession of faith, their self-righteousness, said Jesus, shall we KNOW their true spirituality.
   And the true FRUIT of God's Spirit is "love" first of all, then "joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Gal. 5:22-23). These things, expressed in living character, determine true spirituality.
   These things are the expression of "the LOVE of God," which has been "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 5:5), and thus the Holy Spirit in us is simply God's LAW in action in our lives, for LOVE is the fulfilling of the law.
   And that, and that alone, is true Christian spirituality.

The Four Substitutes

   REAL spiritual-mindedness is the mind of LOVE, for God is LOVE.
   So let us review our four SUBSTITUTES for spirituality in the light of God's Word:
   1) "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not LOVE, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal" (I Cor. 13:1, New King James Version). Did you ever hear one speak with the tongues of ANGELS? Spiritual TALK, "tongues" or "manifestations" are only a lot of wind, or a noise like beating old tin pans, if you have not LOVE.
   2) "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and... ALL KNOWLEDGE," and
   3) "Though I have ALL FAITH, so that I could remove mountains, but have not LOVE, I am NOTHING" (verse 2).
   4) "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not LOVE, it profits me NOTHING" (verse 3).
   What is it to have LOVE? The next four verses of this chapter tell. Here is TRUE spiritual-mindedness: "LOVE is very patient, very kind." Are You? "LOVE knows no jealousy; love makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful; love is never glad when others go wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient" (verses 4-7, Moffatt Translation).
   Read those four verses again, substituting your own name wherever "LOVE" appears. Try it as a test on yourself. It will tell you how truly SPIRITUAL you are, whether you are a real Christian. Let us seek more genuine SPIRITUAL-MINDEDNESS!

Chapter Five
by Herbert W. Armstrong

   HAVE YOU tried to induce others to read The Plain Truth or tune in to the World Tomorrow program? Perhaps your wife your husband one of your family a close relative, or friend?
   Have YOU tried to get others converted "saved," as many express it? Have you started to "preach"?
   If you have, you have probably stirred controversy, antagonism lost a friend, or even a wife or husband.
   But if you haven't started DON'T!

The Plain Truth

   Many of our readers yes, tens of thousands of you, out of our several million readers of The Plain Truth have been led to accept God's truth. You have learned to love your Creator's truth which he reveals and which we make plain. The truth becomes the most precious thing in your life. You become excited about it. You are filled with enthusiastic zeal over it.
   Before, like all unconverted people, you were self-centered, selfish. But now, your mind is God-centered. Now, instead of exclusive self-concern you have an enthusiastic outgoing concern for others. Especially for those in your own family your relatives, your closest friends. You want to share this wonderful truth. You want them to inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. You want to save them from perishing.
   Your motives are well-intended. Your zeal is splendid but you may be like one woman who had more zeal than wisdom. This woman tried by her TALK to "save" her husband and her teenage son. But instead of arguing them into salvation, she turned them to hostility and resentment against God! This woman tried to save her neighbors almost her whole town. She only turned them all against her.
   But, some will ask, didn't Jesus tell us we are the light of the world and that we must let our light shine?
   Oh yes! But did you notice HOW he said we must let our light shine? Listen: "ye are the light of the world... Let your light so shine before men, that they may SEE your GOOD WORKS... " (Matt. 5:14, 16). Notice that carefully! He did not say "that they may HEAR your good ARGUMENTS." He said "that they may see your good works!"
   But now wait a minute!
   Should you ever tell anyone about our television program, or let anyone see The Plain Truth? Yes, by all means but be careful HOW you do it. To just mention the program to a friend, and suggest that he or she might find it interesting is fine. But, don't go too far! Don't urge, argue, or try to teach religion.
   For those of you who can receive our television program, did you ever notice that it is not at all like other religious programs? It never starts out with religious hymns, and a voice in a sentimental syrupy tone saying, "Dear friends, I trust that this program will bring a blessing to your hearts isn't it wonderful to know the Lord?" Do you know what happens when such religious programs start on a TV station? Well, most people who are tuned in change channels quickly. Either they tune to a different program, or they turn the television set off. Only the "religious audience" an infinitesimally small part of the whole viewing audience remains. And they probably tune in specially because they are regular viewers of that particular program.
   But do you know why millions of people buy and read popular magazines? These magazines are filled with articles about people about their everyday problems about world conditions human interest subjects. Many are interested in those things. But only a very small few by comparison are interested in a sentimental, emotional, religious telecast that sounds just like a church service.
   On the World Tomorrow program we want all people to hear the Good News. So we talk about the things all people want to hear!
God made every human a free moral agent... Every individual must make his or her own decision.
We talk about the very questions, problems, conditions, and subjects that cause multiple millions to buy and read these other magazines, and the news magazines.
   But we make these interest gripping subjects far more interesting by injecting spark and meaning into them by use of biblical material that astonishes in a nonreligious sounding manner giving the surprising, eye-opening, practical and authoritative answers to the many increasingly disturbing questions, problems, and happenings of our day. In this way, we open people's eyes to the real answers to the otherwise UNanswerable problems that plague governments, science, and people generally.
   People are astonished to learn that such answers are in the Bible. They are being told by educators that "there are no answers. There are no solutions." Then they hear the answers on our program answers that make sense. It surprises people to learn that the Bible is up-to-date, dealing with today's conditions, news, problems. Then there's a lot in how it is done. It is done in the professional manner of a network news analyst, or a network documentary. So, if you want to lead people to watch or listen to the World Tomorrow program, talk to them about it in these terms.
   You might do many of your friends a great service by letting them see your copy of The Plain Truth. Don't urge them to read it. Don't argue about it or try to talk them into reading it. If it doesn't grab their interest, forget it! If it does, tell them they may have a year's subscription, already paid no cost to them and show them the mailing address or phone number, so they may request it.

A Nearly Universal Mistake

   A nearly universal mistake is committed by the newly converted. Especially is this true where a husband or wife yields to God's truth without the other doing so. Dozens and scores of marriages have ended in divorce because the newly converted mate tried to talk the unconverted one into accepting his or her religion. In very few, if any, instances has the unconverted mate been talked into accepting it.
   Of all things evil and harmful you as a newly converted Christian could do, the very worst would be to try to talk your husband or wife into your religion. Whatever else you do, NEVER commit this tragic error. If you love your husband or wife, don't do it! If you love your Savior who died for you, and now lives for you, DON'T DO IT!
   Remember these scriptures: "No man can come to me," said Jesus, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44, 65). Again Jesus speaks this time to Christian women through the apostle Peter's letter: "Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct... " (I Pet. 3:1-2, New King James Version).
   God made every human a free moral agent. Thank God! no one has power to force on you any unwanted religion. Every individual must make his or her own decision. A religious difference between husband and wife is a serious handicap.
   But if such difference already exists, do not make matters worse by talking religion to your mate. Do all your talking to God in prayer. Let your mate see your happy, pleasant, cheerful, joyful, loving way of life not hear your arguments or nagging! Allow your mate complete religious latitude and freedom whether to be converted, religious, irreligious, or atheistic!
   Never try to talk anyone into accepting Bible truth or being converted. Never try to force God's precious truth on anyone. That's not God's way! Do you know how the apostle Paul won individuals to Christ? Not the way some attempt to do it today. He said, "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (I Cor. 9:22). When he talked to an unconverted Jew, do you suppose he spoke as a Christian, thinking he is "witnessing for Christ"?
Let your mate see your good works, in a manner that he or she will naturally approve.
   Do you suppose Paul said to the unconverted Jew: "Have you received Christ as your personal Savior? Oh, won't you just kneel with me right here, dear brother, and give your heart to the Lord right now?"
   Or, do you suppose he said: "Look here, my Jewish sinner friend, you're on the way to hell. Your religion is all wrong. Every day you reject Christ as your Savior you are crucifying him afresh. You are worse than a thief or a murderer. I'm going to keep after you, and pester you with my arguments, and drum them into your stubborn ears, and beat them into that stiff, rebellious mind of yours until I force you to become a Christian."
   No, that is not the way Paul spoke to unconverted Jews. Paul said: "Unto the Jews I became as a Jew" (I Cor. 9:20, 22). Paul spoke to others from their point of view! He talked to a Jew just like another Jew from the Jewish viewpoint showing sympathy and understanding of the Jew's way of looking at Christianity. They were hostile to the idea of Jesus being the promised Messiah. Paul did not arouse hostility he put it down. He got on the inside, so to speak, just as one of them, so that they were sympathetic toward him, not hostile. He became as a Jew, "that I might gain the Jews." Even so he gained only a small minority, yet it was a large number.
   Perhaps you have had your eyes opened to the fact that sin is the transgression of God's law. Many professing Christians have been taught, and consequently sincerely believe, that "the law is done away." Paul was inspired to write that the carnal mind is hostile to God and to God's law, "it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7).
   If you say to your unconverted mate who is hostile to God's law, "You're just a rebellious sinner. You've got to repent, and obey God's commandments if you are going to be saved" you have not only aroused hostility, you have yourself been hostile, and you probably have broken up your marriage.
   How did Paul talk to such people? Listen: "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews... To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (I Cor. 9:20-22).
   One of the main principles of successful advertising is that to get results you must first learn the attitude of your reading audience toward whatever product or service you are advertising. You must not antagonize those whom you expect to persuade. You must approach them from their point of view not from yours, especially if your viewpoint is contrary to theirs. To win them to your point of view, you must approach them from their viewpoint. Otherwise you only arouse hostility.
   If you believe God's truth, and your husband or wife does not, never talk religion to him or her. If your mate normally thinks and speaks only of material and worldly things, then you must speak of material things to your spouse. If our radio or television program has, probably because of your own aggressiveness in trying to get your mate to listen, become a sore spot, go off to some private room to hear or watch it. Keep the volume turned down. Make every effort NOT to antagonize your husband or wife.
   And again, when you talk about it, talk to God in prayer. Let your mate see your good works, in a manner that he or she will naturally approve. Avoid every hostility. Be pleasant. Keep cheerful. Be happy. Radiate joy. Give love and warm affection. Do everything to cause your husband or wife to like you. That is the Christian way!

Chapter Six
by Roderick C. Meredith

   THE PROBLEM of "worldliness" revolves around material things and their uses. A real Christian understands God's overall attitude toward the physical things and circumstances surrounding us.
   Notice these inspired words of the apostle John: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health" (III John 2).
   Yes, it is God's will to bless us in material goods as we learn to use them properly.
   Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Solomon wrote: "The substance [material wealth] of a diligent man is precious" (Prov. 12:27), and he exhorted: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Eccl. 9:10).
   If we work hard, if we use our God-given minds, if we are diligent, it is God's will that we be blessed and prosper materially, and that we live a happy, full, abundant life.
   The danger in material wealth is that most people come to set their hearts on it. They get so involved in making a living, in making an impression on their business and social acquaintances, and participating in general in this world's ways and customs, that they find it almost impossible to accept and obey God's truth when they encounter it.
   Material prosperity as such is certainly not "worldliness"! In fact, the lack of sufficient material goods usually indicates a society that suffers from a lack of diligence and wisdom. God's concern is that we learn to evaluate material things properly, and to use them wisely for our own good and the good of others.

Are Physical Pleasures Evil?

   Since just having wealth or physical goods is not a sin, what about the physical pleasures people indulge in? Are they necessarily evil?
   One of the principal texts often used to condemn the pleasures of the "world" is I John 2:15-16. Let's examine it carefully. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
   You will notice that it is the LUST of the flesh, eyes and life that God condemns. Lust is illicit, illegal desire. Lust is desiring or using something contrary to God's will and to his revealed laws.
   Sex, for example, is not evil it is the wrong use of sex, outside of marriage, in a way God never intended that is sin. The motion picture is not "sin" it is the wrong use of this invention that becomes sin. There was a time in the United States when dancing, liquor, a deck of cards were commonly preached against! These things are not "sinful" or "worldly." It is only the wrong use of these things which violates God's will.
   Remember that it is the lust of the flesh and eyes that constitutes "worldliness." The lawful pleasurable use of your five senses as such is not "worldly."

"Sinful" Pleasures?

   How can we prove what is worldly or sinful?
   Only by the Word of God and the inspired example of Jesus Christ and other servants of God. And much of this proof will be up to you and to your honesty before God.
   Let's be honest and look at the plain, clear principles involved, and the examples of Christ and his servants and prophets. Let's look for truth not an excuse to get around it!
   First of all, is drinking a sin?
   The principle is this: Jesus Christ set us an example that we should follow in his steps (I Pet. 2:21). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
The danger in having material wealth is that most people come to set their hearts on it.
Jesus has not changed! He would still be living the same kind of life if he were to come in the flesh today as he did live 1,900 years ago.
   Now notice his example in John 2:1-11. Here is the account of how Jesus turned water into wine. If you will look up the meaning of the word "firkin" (verse 6), you will see that this amounted to many gallons of wine!
   The account is very clear. It simply shows that according to Jewish custom they were having real wine at the wedding feast, and ran out. Jesus helped them, for it was a time of rejoicing, and there were probably several hundred people there.
   So he turned the water into wine and it was real, fermented wine. They would never have said to the bridegroom: "Thou hast kept the good wine until now" if Jesus had provided only grape juice which they would have regarded as an inferior beverage for this occasion.
   Also, the original Greek word used here is oinos, and it always means the fermented juice of the grape nothing else.
   Overindulgence in drink, however, is NOT to be tampered with! Alcoholism is a curse today!
   God gave wine and alcoholic beverages to learn to use properly and to develop CHARACTER by the proper exercise of wisdom and self-control. This proper use of alcohol and moderation in drinking is a great responsibility to God. But it is only the wrong use that becomes sin. (Write for a free copy of our informative publication Conquering Alcohol Abuse.)
   The same principle of the right or wrong use of a thing applies to nearly every action which some consider as "worldly." The real question in each case is whether this particular thing is being used in a way that breaks the intent of God's law.
   If so, then it is sin or "worldliness."

Dancing and Card Playing?

   The Bible is full of examples of dancing. Certainly, we do not know in detail how the people danced and what particular steps they employed. But dancing as such is good, not evil.
   Wrong uses of dancing such as in a lustful, lewd or suggestive manner, or in a wrong environment are obviously wrong. So such wrong uses, usually in association with some form of unrefined music, do characterize certain dancing situations today!
   But, if Christians young or old wish to relax or rejoice by dancing with others of godly faith and character in a righteous manner, and in a clean, wholesome atmosphere and surroundings, that is absolutely not sinful or "worldly."
   God says: "There is a time to dance" (Eccl. 3:4). Let's see to it that this time is used properly!
   The principle regarding such matters as card playing or theatergoing, that still troubles some fundamentalist minds in America and elsewhere, ought to be clear by now. The Bible makes no direct statement about either but the principle is obvious in the light of God's laws and the biblical examples.
   A deck of cards is not a sin and neither is playing with those cards merely for amusement. One might waste too much time in such amusements, and Christians are to use their time wisely {Eph. 5:15-16).
   The wrong use of a deck of cards or any object for the purpose of gambling does become sin. God commands: "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work" (Ex. 20:9). As God is the supreme Builder and Creator so are we to learn to build, to construct, to produce. Gambling makes one a leech on society and violates this entire principle and thwarts the very purpose of human existence! Also, the very basis of gambling is the idea of getting something for nothing of desiring material gain at the expense of someone else. This directly breaks another of the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not covet" (Ex. 20:17). And the craving to smoke violates the other sense of this commandment: lust "... for I had not known lust," said Paul, "except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Rom. 7:7).

Movies, Video and the Theater

   The matter of watching videos, films or plays revolves around the reason one does so, and the type of play, video or movie in question.
   To frequently watch any kind of plays or films for the sole purpose of entertaining "self' and of escaping from the responsibilities of life is "worldly." Let's not deceive ourselves about this. Many people are dedicated escapists!
   You cannot vicariously kill, steal, seduce, gamble, and get drunk through the eyes of a movie hero and not have those thoughts affect your character!
The Ten Commandments, as spiritually magnified by Jesus Christ, reveal a way of life.
What a frightful problem television and video recorders have become in some homes!
   But on the other hand, the right use of motion pictures, stage plays, or television is certainly worthwhile. There are a number of plays and movies that have a historical or other type of educational basis, and are not unbalanced in regard to violence and lust. But they are in the minority, and you will have to be alert to find them. A clean, wholesome love story or comedy is one that will not influence you to break God's law.
   The right kind of play or movie is hard to find. But God will condemn no one who correctly uses these means as a proper educational or recreational experience. It is only their wrong use which becomes sin. The same principles apply to the subject of music.

But Do Avoid What Really IS "Worldliness"!

   God does want us to have a happy and abundant life.
   The Ten Commandments as spiritually magnified by Jesus Christ reveal a way of life. They teach us how to love, worship and serve our God and how to love and serve our fellow humans. Any activity, atmosphere or "system" which tends to break or cause you to break the spirit of the Ten Commandments is, however, real "worldliness." If you want to be a man or woman of God, develop God's character, be finally born into his family to help rule this world under Jesus Christ, you must avoid this kind of actual worldliness!
Jesus set us an example that we should follow in his steps. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
   "Love not the world," we are instructed in I John 2:15. The apostle James asked those to whom he wrote if they did not know "that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4). What does this mean we are not to "love the world"? Does this mean we are to hate the people in it?
   Certainly not.
   For James wrote that we should keep the royal law: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' (Jas. 2:8).
   To understand the meaning of these and similar passages we need to know the definitions for the Greek word translated "world" in the New Testament. One of these the one used in I John 2:15 and James 4:4 is cosmos, which means the society or system of things men have set up on this earth.
   These passages simply mean that true Christians are not to love the system or society that men have set up here on earth a system based on competition, greed, selfishness and vanity.
   And yet it is so easy to get wrapped up and want to be part of this vanity-filled, competitive and, humanly speaking, "exciting" system! This is perhaps of greatest danger to young people.
   It just seems natural and "right" to consume one's time with the clubs, lodges, activities and social life of the people and society around us. To think, talk and dress, style one's hair and act like others do.
   This world's music videos bombard minds with countless examples of wrong emphasis on sex and various implications involving the MISUSE of God's gift of sex; plus endless examples of violence, bloodshed and rebellion against authority.

Prepare for Tomorrow's World

   The true Christian simply cannot be part and parcel of this kind of God-defying world. Nor can he participate in the world of cut-throat competition, shady deals, dirty jokes and misused sex; or in the cocktail lounge or "jet set" world of lust and vanity. And the permissive world of the "swingers," the "wife swappers," the drug users all this is "worldliness" and must be avoided.
   The person who would avoid what the Bible really does describe as "worldly," the person who would surrender to God and yet at the same time live a happy and balanced life this person must have definable values, definable goals and a way of life to achieve these. He or she is a person who carefully studies, meditates on and lives by every word of God (Matt. 4:4). He or she is one who, following Christ's example, rises in the morning and prays to God for help, wisdom, love and guidance. He or she is one who is carefully and diligently studying and following the inspired example of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible.
   Such a person will be filled with joy, building real balance and character with the goal of living forever with God in tomorrow's unending world.

Publication Date: 1985
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