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About Your Friends

10/01/2014
Link: about.me/gideonsword
friendship-grey-children

 

About Your FRIENDS

 

Author/Preacher: J.R. Miller
Source: SermonIndex.net

Friendships begin very early. Little children form tender associations which mean much to their happiness, and which sometimes last through their life. We all need friendships. In solitary confinement, men have been known to make friends of insects and little animals, the only living creatures they could have for companions.

Nothing is more important to young people, than the choosing of their friends. Really, it is almost the settling of their whole future. The kind of friends one begins with is apt to stay with always. If you accept and choose as your friends in early youth those who are good, refined, and aspiring — you are setting your life in the direction of whatever things are true, just, honorable, pure, and lovely. Almost certainly, your whole future will be on the same wholesome lines.

But if you attach yourself in friendship to those who are unworthy, whose life is earthly and sinful, who are not true and noble — you, in effect, fix your place and your character in a drift which will be toward things that are not good, and that do not tend to honor and beauty of soul.

 

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There is a sense in which our friends are chosen for us before we are old enough to distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy: those who will help us upward — and those who will drag us downward. Happy is the child who is under the influence and guidance of wise and godly parents, who see to it that the first friendships formed are what they should be! The indifference of parents in this matter often has been responsible for the wrecking of their children’s lives. They paid no heed to the character of the playmates and companions of their earliest years; exercised no restraining influence, no discrimination, in choosing between the fit and the unfit, in those whom they admitted as their children’s first friends. While they slept, the enemy sowed tares.

But after the years of infancy and earliest youth, young people have a great deal to do with the choosing of their own friends. I am not speaking of love between young men and young women, of love which may ripen into marriage; I am speaking of friendship, which is a different matter altogether. Love presents a “problem” of its own; but we all need common friendships, and it is very important that they be formed wisely and carefully.

There is a tendency among young people to be altogether too indiscriminate in forming their friendships. All who come are admitted to a kind of general intimacy. Youth is hospitable to friendships, and is disposed to confide without question, and to make room for every new companionship that offers. There is need, however, for reserve at this point. No doubt the law of Christian love requires us to be courteous to all, even to strangers, to show the kindness to everyone we meet, even most casually. But we are not required to take every chance acquaintance, into the place of friendship. Here we must learn to exercise the greatest caution and reserve.

Character should be made a test. Young people should shut out of their life everything that would defile or tarnish, and whatever would make it harder for them to be true and worthy. Life’s battle is hard enough at best, and instead of admitting influences which would make the struggle for them more severe — they should always seek the contacts and inspirations which will make it easier for them to live nobly and worthy.

To take into the life a friendship which is not godly and pure, which will become a temptation toward a lower moral standard, toward a less beautiful and helpful life, toward frivolousness, indolence, irreverence, or selfishness — is, at the best, to make it harder to live beautifully. Young people should have the courage to shut out of their life, all friendships whose influence could work in them only moral deterioration, and hinder their growth into the best possible character.

 

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Among other qualities, sympathy is required in those who would make us good friends. There must be fellowship, and fellowship is impossible between unsympathetic spirits. This does not necessarily mean that there shall be agreement in all their opinions — differences of view ofttimes adds interest and zest to fellowship; but the natures must have a congeniality that will make it easy for them to blend. There are natures which never can blend — they are to each other like fire and dry tinder. Instead of calling out the best — each brings out the worst in the other.

In deciding upon who their friends shall be, young people should choose only those with whom they can live in cordial sympathy.

It is well also that between friends the relations, shall be such that neither shall be too greatly dependent on the other. One quality of all true friendship is the desire “not to be ministered unto — but to minister.” A friendship whose chief object is to receive, to be helped, to be served — is only selfish. On the other hand, one must be willing to receive as well as to give. All giving and helping, with no receiving or being helped — is not a practical basis of good friendship. It is better therefore that there is, as nearly as possible, an equality of condition, so that the help given may be mutual and reciprocal.

It is not necessary that your friends should be about your own age. Every young person ought to have friends older than himself. The older are better for counsel; and the young people are fortunate indeed who have one or two wise, true, and sympathetic friends of more years than their own, to whom they can go with the serious questions and problems which continually arise in every earnest mind. Young people often advise rashly and impetuously; an older friend, who has learned wisdom in the experiences of years, will give wiser and safer counsel.

We need to be ever seeking new friends, or at least holding our heart’s doors open to receive the new friends whom God may send to us. We need new friends to take the place of those we lose as we go on our way. Death is ever busy, and no friendship is strong enough to resist his cruel hand. Friends are lost, too, in other ways, sometimes by reason of changes in life’s conditions.

Then friendships seem sometimes to be outgrown. We deplore their dying out, when perhaps the truth is that these friendships were sent to us on a definite errand, to minister to us in a particular way and but for a time. Then, when their ministry is completed, they fall off. But we have not really lost them, nor should we ever forget them, or the part they have had in the making of our life. God sends us new friends for new needs, not to displace the old — but to carry on the good which the old began.

 

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One friend is not enough. Some young people are inclined to make one very intimate friendship, and to allow that to exclude all other companionships. Sometimes they are so exacting to demand that the one favored friend shall scarcely even treat any other person kindly. Such an exacting spirit is very narrow, showing utter selfishness and lack of confidence in the friend who is held in such bondage.

Young people will do well, also, to guard against too great and too unreserved intimacy, even with their best friends. There is sure to be an estrangement sooner or later, if the association is too close or free. For example, when two girls are seen always together, almost giving up every other friendship and companionship for each other, it is usually safe to predict a short-lived intimacy. By and by they grow tired of each other. It is better always, even in the closest friendship, to maintain a measure of reserve, never to give all, not to see too much of each other. A friendship which exercises wise self-restraint, which is not too emotional, too free and unreserved — will prove the surest and the most lasting, and in all ways the most wholesome.

It need not even be said that young people would better chose for their friends those who love and follow Christ. There is a wondrous secret of safety in Christian companionship. The fellowship which deepens into true Christian fellowship, is very sacred. The friendship which is hallowed by the love of Christ, is woven of a threefold cord which cannot be broken. God reveals his love to us, in the love of our true Christian friends. It is he who gives us our friends, and we must recognize the gift with reverence and love.

It is well for us to remember that friendship requires also something on our part. It cannot be all on one side. Love may be — but friendship must give as well as receive. It costs to be a friend. Then we must be worthy if we would take another life into the place of confidence and affection. Charles Lamb warned a young man who was disposed to confide in him — that he was not good enough to be his friend. We need to make sure that our heart is pure and that our hands are clean, before we accept the confidence and trust of a human heart. Then we must be loyal and faithful to our friend, once chosen, whatever the cost may be.

 

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Are You Asleep?

09/28/2014

Link: about.me/gideonsword

 

ARE YOU ASLEEP?

 

Author: J.C. Ryle
Source: SermonIndex.net

 

“Awake thou that sleepest.” – Ephesians 5:14

 

 

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I put before you now a simple question. Look through the pages of this paper and you will soon see why I ask it. “Are you asleep about your soul?”
There are many who have the name of Christians, but not the character which should go with the name. God is not King of their hearts. They mind earthly things.
Such persons are often quick and clever about the affairs of this life. They are, many of them, good men of business, good at their daily work, good masters, good servants, good neighbors, good subjects of the Queen: all this I fully allow. But it is the eternal part of them that I speak of; it is their never dying souls. And about that, if a man may judge by the little they do for it, they are careless, thoughtless, reckless, and unconcerned. They are asleep.
I do not say that God and salvation are subjects that never come across their minds: but this I say, – they have not the uppermost place there. Neither do I say that they are all alike in their lives; some of them doubtless go further in sin than others: but this I say, – they have all turned every one to his own way, and that way is not God’s. I know no rule by which to judge of a man’s estate but the Bible. Now when I look at the Bible I can come to only one conclusion about these people: they are asleep about their souls.

These people do not see the sinfulness of sin, and their own lost condition by nature. They appear to make light of breaking God’s commandments, and to care little whether they live according to His law or not. Yet God says that sin is the transgression of the law, – that His commandment is exceeding broad, – that every imagination of the natural heart is evil, – that sin is the thing He cannot bear, He hates it, – that the wages of sin is death, and the soul that sinneth shall die. Surely they are asleep.
Is this the state of your soul?
Remember my question.

ARE YOU ASLEEP?


These people do not see their need of a Saviour. They appear to think it an easy matter to get to heaven, and that God will of course be merciful to them at last, some way or other, though they do not exactly know how. Yet God says that He is just and holy, and never changes, – that Christ is the only way, and none can come unto the Father but by Him, – that without His blood there can be no forgiveness of sin, – that a man without Christ is a man without hope, – that those who would be saved must believe on Jesus and come to Him, and that he who believeth not shall he damned. Surely they are asleep!
Once more I say, is this the state of your soul?
Remember my question.

 

ARE YOU ASLEEP?


These people do not see the necessity of holiness. They appear to think it quite enough to go on as others do, and live like their neighbors. And as for praying and Bible-reading, making conscience of words and actions, studying truthfulness and gentleness, humility and charity, and keeping separate from the world, they are things they do not seem to value at all. Yet God says that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, – that there shall enter into heaven nothing that defileth, – that His people must be a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Surely they are asleep!
Once more I say, is this the state of your soul?
Remember my question.

 

ARE YOU ASLEEP?


Worst of all, these people do not appear to feel their danger. They walk on with their eyes shut, and seem not to know that the end of their path is hell. Some dreamers fancy that they are rich when they are poor, or full when they are hungry, or well when they are sick, and awake to find it all a mistake. And this is the way that many dream about their souls. They flatter themselves they will have peace, and there will be no peace; they fancy that they are all right, and in truth they will find that they are all wrong. Surely they are asleep!
Once more I say, is this the state of your soul?
Remember my question.

 

ARE YOU ASLEEP?

 

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If conscience pricks you, and tells you you are yet asleep, what can I say to arouse you? Your soul is in awful peril. Without a mighty change it will be lost. When shall that change once be?
You are dying, and not ready to depart, – you are going to be judged, and not prepared to meet God, – your sins are not forgiven, – your person is not justified, – your heart is not renewed. Heaven itself would be no happiness to you if you got there, for the Lord of heaven is not your friend: what pleases Him does not please you; what He dislikes gives you no pain. His word is not your counsellor; His day is not your delight; His law is not your guide. You care little for hearing of Him: you know nothing of speaking with Him. To be forever in His company would be a thing you could not endure; and the society of saints and angels would he a weariness, and not a joy. At the rate you live at, the Bible might never have been written, and Christ might never have died, the Apostles were foolish, the New Testament Christians madmen, and the salvation of the Gospel a needless thing. Oh, awake! and sleep no more.
[Related Article: Conviction of Sin and Repentance]

Think not to say you cannot believe your case is so bad, or the danger so great, or God so particular. I answer, – the devil has been putting this lying delusion into people’s hearts for nearly six thousand years. It has been his grand snare ever since the day he said to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” Do not be so weak as to be taken in by it. God never failed yet to punish sin, and He never will: He never failed to make His word good, and you will find this to your cost, one day, except you repent. Reader, awake: awake!
Think not to say you are a member of Christ’s Church, and therefore feel no doubt you are as good a Christian as others. I answer, – this will only make your case worse, if you have nothing else to plead. You may he written down and registered among God’s people: you may be reckoned in the number of saints; you may sit for years under the sound of the Gospel; you may use holy forms and even come to the Lord’s table at regular seasons; and still, with all this, unless sin be hateful, and Christ precious, and your heart a temple of the Holy Ghost, you will prove in the end no better than a lost soul. A holy calling will never save an unholy man. Reader, awake: awake!
Think not to say you have been baptized, and so feel confident you are born of God, and have His grace within you. I answer, – you have none of the marks which St. John has told me, in his first epistle, distinguish such a person. I do not see you confessing that Jesus is the Christ, overcoming the world, – not committing sin, – loving your brother, – doing righteousness, – keeping yourself from the wicked one. How then can I believe that you are born of God? If God were your Father, you would love Christ: if you were God’s son, you would be led by His Spirit. I want stronger evidences. Show me some repentance and faith; show me a life hid with Christ in God; show me a spiritual and sanctified conversation: these are the fruits I want to see, if I am to believe you have the root of the matter in you, and are a living branch of the true vine. But without these your baptism will only add to your condemnation. Reader, awake: awake!

I speak strongly, because I feel deeply. Time is too short, life is too uncertain, to allow of standing on ceremony. At the risk of offending, I use great plainness of speech. I cannot bear the thought of hearing you condemned in the great day of assize; of seeing your face in the crowd on God’s left hand, among those who are helpless, hopeless, and beyond the reach of mercy. I cannot bear such thoughts, – they grieve me to the heart. Before the day of grace is past, and the day of vengeance begins, I call upon you to open your eyes and repent. Oh, consider your ways and be wise. Awake: awake! Why will ye die?

 

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This day, as the ambassador of Christ, I pray you to be reconciled to God. The Lord Jesus who came into the world to save sinners, – Jesus the appointed Mediator between God and man, – Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us, – Jesus sends you a message of peace: He says, “Come unto Me.”
“Come is a precious word indeed, and ought to draw you. You have sinned against heaven: heaven has not sinned against you. Yet see how the first step towards peace is on heaven’s side. It is the Lord’s message: “Come unto Me.”
“Come” is a word of merciful invitation. Does not the Lord Jesus seem to say, “Sinner, I am waiting for you: I am not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. I would have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Judgment is my strange work, – l delight in mercy. I offer the water of life to every one who will take it. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. For long time I have spread out my hands to you. I wait to be gracious. There is yet room in my Father’s house. My long-suffering waits for more of the children of men to come to the mercy-seat before the last trumpet is blown, – for more wanderers to return before the door is closed for ever. Oh, sinner, come to Me!”
“Come” is a word of promise and encouragement. Does not the Lord Jesus seem to say, “Sinner, I have gifts ready for you: I have something of everlasting importance to bestow upon your soul. I have received gifts for men, even for the rebellious. I have a free pardon for the most ungodly, – a full fountain for the most unclean, – a white garment for the most defiled, – a new heart for the most hardened, – healing for the broken-hearted, – rest for the heavy-laden, joy for those that mourn. Oh, sinner, it is not for nothing that I invite you! All things are ready. Come: come unto Me.”
Hear the voice of the Son of God. See that you refuse not Him that speaketh. Come away from sin, which can never give you real pleasure, and will be bitter at the last; come out from a world which will never satisfy you: come unto Christ! Come, with all your sins, however many and however great, – however far you may have gone from God, and however provoking your conduct may have been. Come as you are: unfit, unmeet, unprepared as you may think yourself, – you will gain no fitness by delay. Come at once: come to the Lord Jesus Christ!

How indeed shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation? Where will you appear if you make light of the blood of Christ, and do despite to the Spirit of grace? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, but never so fearful as when men fall from under the Gospel. The saddest road to hell is that which runs under the pulpit, past the Bible, and through the midst of warnings and invitations. Oh, beware, lest like Israel at Kadesh, you mourn over your mistake when it is too late; or, like Judas Iscariot, find out your sin when there is no space for repentance.

 

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Arise, and call upon the Lord. Be not like Esau: sell not eternal blessings for the things of today. Surely the time past may suffice you to have been careless and prayerless, Godless and Christless, worldly and earthly-minded. Surely the time to come may be given to your soul.
Pray, I beseech you, that you may be enabled to put off the old ways and the old habits, and that you may become a new man. I yield to none in wishes for your happiness, and my best wish is that you may be made a new creature in Christ Jesus. This is a better thing than riches, or health, or honour, or learning. A man may get to heaven without these, but he cannot get there without conversion. Verily if you die without having been born again you had far better never have been born at all. No man really lives till he lives unto God.

I leave my question with you. The Lord grant that it may prove a word in season to your soul. My heart’s desire and prayer to God is that you may be saved. Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Arise, O sleeper and call upon God. There is yet hope. Forsake not thy mercies. Do not lose thine own soul.
[Related Article: Richmond, VA and the Greater Richmond Area]

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Conviction of Sin and Repentance

09/27/2014
Link: about.me/gideonsword

Conviction to Godly Righteousness

Conviction of Sin and Repentance

 

Pastor: John W. Ritenbaugh
Source: TrueGospel.org – given 09.29.2001

 

 

Sunday morning, during our most recent visit to St. Louis, Evelyn turned on the television set to get some news. While searching for the Headline News station, she came across a preacher giving a sermon on an aspect of conviction. Overall, for the while that we watched and listened to it, (it was a pretty good sermon), as far as we could tell he was not telling any lies. But at the same time, the sermon had a serious lack in it. Something very important to practical application was being left out.

The sermon was full of generalities about the elements of conviction, even taking illustrations from the book of Daniel. However, at the same time, the message contained no details regarding what one should be convicted about, where or in what situation people were to be persuaded that they were right. It was just that they were to be convicted about the Christian God, Jesus Christ, and the Christian religion.

He never said once, during the time we were listening to his illustration, that the listener should be convicted about keeping even one of the Ten Commandments. He never once mentioned a single attitude that is either right or wrong. He never mentioned how certain we should be that Christ is our Savior. He never spent any time at all on slips of the tongue that cause hurt, poor judgments others have made, being offended for no good reason, or causing offense to anyone.

 

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There was absolutely no mention of how convicted we ought to be that human nature is absolutely wretched and incurably so! He made no mention of how convicted we should be of our needs during our pilgrimage to fighting human nature and overcoming it. In addition, there was no mention of how convicted we should be about resisting the evil of this world.
[Related Article: Praying for Richmond, VA and the Greater Richmond Area]

There is a cliché that says that the devil is in the details. This cliché means that meaningful and, indeed, sometimes very serious parts of some situations are often hidden from the cursory view. This principle is often true in regards to faith and Christian living.

In the course of our life, we have learned that the details of a contract are in the fine print and they are often in a vocabulary style that even makes the lawyer squint and proceed slowly. In the same manner, the heart, a person’s mind, the seat of one’s conduct and motivation, is hidden from view and always in the fine print of one’s conduct. Outsiders cannot read it, and so often, even the person himself is deceived by his own heart. This is because the human heart is so frequently responding to its invisible master—Satan and his horde of principalities and powers, those influences that dominate the world.
[Related Article: Concerning the Sedgefield Community in Ashland, VA]

I want you to turn with me to Matthew 7, with Jesus speaking in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount. And He says to those people who were standing before Him:

Matthew 7:9-11 “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

Jesus’ supposition here is general, but it is also clear. It is that human nature, though generally evil, is capable of doing good things from time to time. This proclivity plays a role in deceiving us into minimizing the fact that it is, at its very core, dedicated, consecrated, and devoted to evil.

Did you notice Jesus said, “You, being evil?” The only qualification He gave is that it can do good things. But He is saying very clearly, at the bottom line, at the foundation of, human nature is evil.

Let us go back to Psalm 51, to David’s psalm of repentance, because he said a couple of things here that are interesting in this regard. When he saw his sin, he also saw his nature.

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

David asked God to create a clean heart in him.

Psalm 51:2, 7 “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin . . . .Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Note the four terms that he used to indicate the condition he was in. Purge, wash, create, and renew. It is obvious from David’s appeal that he thought the heart he already had needed to be replaced. This is an omission from a man greatly loved by God—that he did not have a perfectly clean heart even following conversion. David was a converted man, but a clean heart must be created.

In addition to that there is a somewhat misleading translation at the tail-end of verse 10 where it says, “right spirit.” It is better understood as steadfast spirit. The human heart vacillates between good and evil, confusing the person. It is only natural we are going to accept this as being the way God intended it. He did not intend this at all. David understood after his sin what he needed besides a clean heart was one that was also stable and was not vacillating between both good and evil. He wanted it to be good all the time.

In Jeremiah 17:9, Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and incurably wicked.” One of the things it means is the heart is capable of deceiving us into thinking we are essentially good, but occasionally do bad things. The fruit of this in practical application is that it loves to think well of itself, but in reality it is always looking out for its own best interests and other’s interests are not given the same serious consideration.

The second startling thing is that it cannot be changed, it can only be replaced—replaced with a better nature. So Jesus was correct, from David’s point of view as well. Jesus did not say we are essentially good, but occasionally do some bad things. Rather just the opposite. Part of His purpose is to show that the essential nature of the human nature, its basic motivation, is evil but we occasionally do good things. Sometimes that is hard for us to admit and it is very humbling to realize this, but we are coming along at the end of the day, as you might say, and it has been this way for a long, long time.

Genesis 6:5 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

With that thought in mind, let’s go to chapter 8, verse 21.

Genesis 8:21 “And the LORD smelled a sweet savor; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite anymore every thing living, as I have done.”

I want you to notice three things from these two verses. First, Genesis 6:5 was before the Flood and Genesis 8:21 is after the Flood. There is nothing in the second verse to indicate that a change in man’s heart, to something less evil than it was before the Flood, occurred during the Flood. It was still the same heart. So in other words, the heart of all eight on board the ark still had the same potential to commit evil when they left the ark as they did when they got in the ark. Genesis 9 gives you the impression that bad things began to occur shortly after they got off the ark when Noah got drunk and a sexual perversion took place.

The second thing I want us to notice is in Genesis 8:21 where it says, “For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” That is kind of interesting because it gives me the impression that it does not start out evil, but becomes evil. It grows evil because it is influenced in that direction and, for the lack of a better word; it absorbs evil and then acts according to it.

 

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All of us are familiar with another cliché that goes like this: “Like taking candy from a baby.” This cliché indicates something that is very easily accomplished—something that someone may have expected that they were going to have a battle doing, but it turned out to be very easy. Why is a baby able to easily give up something very pleasurable, but a child just a few years older is already reluctant to share desirable things with others? It is because in the somewhat older child, the competitive, self-centered spirit of this world is being absorbed and already being acted upon. “This is mine,” as they draw the thing to themselves. It is because the world’s values and what the self holds as valuable and desirable is becoming stronger and self-serving motivations are coming to the fore to dominate the attitude and the child’s conduct.

Willing cooperation with a real young baby gives up the candy—very willing to cooperate, very willing to sacrifice what it has. But it is fading into the background now. However, it also indicates that the potential to be influenced the good way is also possessed by the newborn. It is not condemned to absorb the world at its worst.

Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

This verse gives hope that using the proper childrearing methods will work to protect a child from the worst of the world’s influence. It also shows that following God’s instructions regarding childrearing can even alter a child’s heart after it has begun absorbing the ways of this world. Hear that parents! A child does not have to turn out the way the overwhelming majority of children do turn out, and that is a childrearing problem.

I can remember hearing Herbert Armstrong say at least twice in my hearing, (he was saying it to the ministry), “You parents are the best defense your child has from Satan the Devil. You stand between your child and the ways of this world.” It is our responsibility to stand there and protect them from it. Proper child-rearing is one of those ways. The other way is our own example and attitudes in the way we deal with them within the family and the way husbands and wives deal with each other. Very often where the child gets his worst dose of worldliness is right in the family—the family that should be protecting him.

Even though that child has already begun to go much of the way of the world in attitude and conduct, this verse shows that God says that child can be turned around a great deal. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction [standing for right child-rearing methods] shall drive it far from him.”

Let us go back to Genesis 8 again, because the third thing I want us to notice is the word ‘imagination’ that appears in Genesis 6:5 and 8:21. It is the same word that is translated ‘formed’ in Genesis 2:7 where it says, “The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground.”

With that understood, what it is saying there in Genesis 6:5 and 8:21, is that what man intends to do is formed, manufactured, generated in the heart. Understand it is not saying it has to be done. But, it is in the heart that the formation of attitude and actions begin, and this agrees exactly with what Jesus says, when He said, “Out of the heart proceeds . . .,” then He gave a list of about eight or ten evil kinds of conduct. It is in the heart where motivation begins. Human nature reveals itself in the details of our motivation for very much of what we do.

Altruism is a very nice word. It has a very nice meaning and it has nice effects in a person, but it is all too rare in a human and in human behavior because at the very depths of human nature lies evil. It is very difficult for altruism to be expressed. The evil is demonstrated in self-centeredness. Self-centeredness, including leaving even God out of the picture, thus dominates human conduct and attitudes. Satan’s spirit turns us in on ourselves. It is that simple. It causes us to think, (we do not actually think this all the time), that the world revolves around us.

I John 2:15-16 “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.”

All that is going on in the world, all of the horrible things that are going on, is the product of human nature. All that is in the world—that is what the verse said. Even the good along with the bad, except for what God does and that which is actually motivated and done by His Spirit in us. I think that you will agree that in spite all of these horrible things, there are also some attractive and pleasurable things going on in it as well.

However, the world, like human nature in the overall sense, is evil. The record is clearly written in the history of mankind. It is evil because it works to destroy relationships and actually produces slavery of many sorts thus inhibiting mankind from reaching its full potential. This is what self-centeredness does. It actually puts people into slavery of many sorts. Sometimes it is literal, as Israel was in Egypt. Sometimes it is a psychological bondage that a person is in. Their mind is enslaved to thinking about themselves all the time and people become mentally ill because the self-centeredness is so pronounced. How many people are involved in marriages in which they are slaves to a controlling partner? It happens often, frequently.

We are going to go back to Galatians with the understanding that this world, in the overall sense, is evil. And Paul agrees with John when he writes here at the very beginning, speaking of Christ:

Galatians 1:4 “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.”

However, despite all these things, it is attractive to human nature because our collective human nature produced it and feels comfortable as an accepted part of it, at least participating in some of it. This is where the real danger for us lies because there is a great deal more detail within this world than meets the eye—bad things.

At various times to this point in the sermon, I have inferred three levels of human conduct. One, there is what one sees and does on the outside. This is conduct which is readily in view.

Two, moving within, there is the person’s heart. This is hidden from view. What a person’s thoughts are can be so well hidden that even the person himself does not even understand that his own motivations are essentially evil and self-centered as God sees them.

In Ephesians 2 is the very familiar third level that I want us to get into our minds at this time.

Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversations [or our conduct] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature [the essential part of our attitudes and conduct] the children of wrath [subject to death], even as others.”

So we find, in other places, that the heart is automatically tuned into Satan’s wavelength. Thus his influence is always a possibility at anytime after birth. I think it is good to understand that unlike God, Satan—though very powerful, far more powerful than any human being—is not omniscient. His direct influence is only where he is located.

However, he also has a horde of demons generating the same basic evil influence wherever they happen to be located. They have had such a long time to influence mankind into their distinctive, destructive attitudes and thinking patterns that their influence is thus everywhere that one goes.

It is in Satan. It is in his demons. It is in our fellow human beings – mankind – everywhere. So it cannot be totally and completely avoided. Everywhere we go, under every situation there is the possibility of being subjected to influence that is coming from the world, or may come directly from Satan, or may come directly from another demon, or may come from a human who is perpetuating the same type of attitude and obedience as the demon would if they were there in their place.

It is a pretty scary proposition for anybody who really, truly wants to overcome and knows that they need an awful lot of help to deflect the influence of this foul spirit. The combination of demons and deceived humanity sharing essentially the same foul spiritual influence, works to predispose all born to grow into forms of some kind of evil.

There, brethren, are the details of the motivation of man’s conduct. Satan, the demons, the world, including all of the people who are around us—and two of them are hidden from view. We can see human behavior and human attitudes to some degree, but we cannot see the demons. We cannot see Satan.

Without God’s revelation, we would not know what we know. We would not know that what I have just said is true and we would be virtually helpless before the onslaught. Because mankind is automatically attuned to Satan’s spirit—his manner of thinking—he is a very receptive conductor of Satan’s self-centered, destructive characteristics. It kind of makes it a scary world.

I am going to give you some specific details of what Satan and his spirit will show in attitude and conduct, what it will motivate. His spirit will motivate one to show passionate and quick anger rather than a meek and quiet temperament. One will show cynicism, scoffing, doubt and skepticism rather than belief. He will show melancholy and a sense of victimization rather than joy.

His spirit will motivate one to show an impatient, disdainful, and even contentious self-righteous intolerance of other’s weaknesses, ignorance, culture, or beliefs rather than a compassionate understanding and thankfulness that oneself is not so burdened.

Because the heart is almost bursting with rivalry, antagonism, conflict, and competition, to best others in some way will be a constant companion rather than cooperation and collaboration. A person will have a tendency to be suspicious, doubtful, cramped, and narrow in thinking, bigoted rather than open and sensitive like a child.

There will be a tendency to be proud, cavalier, haughty, even pompous and dismissive of others rather than modest, unpresuming, and unassuming. A person will be driven to live with fear and anxiety-ridden timidity and foreboding rather than a calm and open friendliness.

Some strongly under the influence of Satan will abuse others in an effort to control situations in order to protect themselves from some perceived loss. There will be a tendency to be easily irritated and provoked, cross, cranky, touchy, and quarrelsome rather than accepting, amiable, gracious, and content with one’s lot.

Human nature is given to instability, imbalance, inconsistency, unreliability, and extremism rather than firmly balanced, constant, durable, steadfast, and sound in thinking. Some will exhibit slyness and craftiness rather than dealing with open honesty, honor, integrity, and grace.

 

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Some will hide talents, abilities, and accomplishments because their self-centeredness will not permit them to sacrifice any of their time for other’s well being. There will be a tendency for mankind to be hard, cold, stubborn, perverse, hard-hearted, and bull headed rather than kind, compassionate, responsive, sympathetic, merciful, tender, sensitive, and warm.

There will be a tendency to judge others critically and harshly while easily forgiving or neglectfully overlooking one’s own weaknesses. Those who are being influenced by Satan and his demons are those who always have a put down or a cutting remark to make and it is always “in jest” that it is done, not realizing that what they are doing is elevating themselves in an effort to burst somebody else’s balloon.

We could go on and on with these contrasts, but I wanted to make the point that it is in the details that human nature is evil.

You might wonder where I got this list of characteristics. I got them right out of the Bible with the aid of a thesaurus. All I did was open the Bible to I Corinthians 13, which is the love chapter; Matthew 5-7, which is the Sermon on the Mount; and Galatians 5, which contains the list of the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh and did a bit of thinking while thumbing through a thesaurus. All I had to do was compare God’s characteristics with the works of the flesh, or by looking at the characteristics of love, find their opposites, and put this together. Anybody with a thesaurus can do it.

Are there any of these characteristics that I mentioned that you are convicted must be removed from your character? Are there any of these that you are actively, resolutely already working on? To be convicted means that one is fully persuaded, that one has a strong fixed belief that this or that characteristic or habit must go or be strengthened, depending upon whether it is evil or good.

Does anybody here, because of your conviction, know – and know that you know – that you must follow through to do a certain thing? A certain thing that might glorify God in the doing of it and make God pleased with what you are doing?

Let us go back to Daniel 3. This is the episode between Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Nebuchadnezzar is speaking when he says:

Daniel 3:15-16 “Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter.”

They meant that, “We don’t have to think this through because we already know what we’re going to do.” They showed that there are alternatives.

Daniel 3:17-18 “If it be so, [that is, if it is God's will] our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king [that is, if it is His will to do so]. But if not [if He lets us die], be it known unto you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.”

Their course was unequivocally set. They knew already exactly what they were going to do. Whether they died, they died. If they lived, hallelujah! But regardless, they were not going to kneel down.

Conviction involves belief in God and the rightness of His way so there is assurance, determination to carry through, and devotion, which is the ardent dedication to what is right to God.

We are going to go back to Jesus’ teaching, in John the 16th chapter.

John 16:7-8 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is expedient [or advantageous] for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

In most modern translations, the word reprove is translated convict. “When it is come it will reprove, that is convict, the world of sin.” That word came to the English language out of the Latin. In Latin it means ’cause to see.’ “And when it is come, it will cause us to see sin, righteousness and judgment.” What we need to understand here is that this is not a demonstration of an intellectual belief or truth, but rather this word has in it the sense of ‘to bring under guilt.’ In other words, the word carries with it a psychological impact. It has an emotional wall with it as well. It is not merely, “Oh, yeah, I see that. Well isn’t that nice. I think I’ll make that a part of my makeup.”

No, it is something that in terms of sin says, “Oh no!” It hits the person right in the gut! “I AM A SINNER. I CAUSED JESUS CHRIST TO DIE WITH MY SINS – not everybody else’s – mine!” It carries with it a psychological impact. This has a much greater effect on a person than merely knowing something.

I do not know how many people in this world can tell you sin is the transgression of the law. I am glad they know at least that much. But has it affected them? Has it made a change in their life?

So in this context, that word has the sense of bringing one to a full understanding, with the emphasis on the word full – not just merely that it is “truth,” or something that I believe. It has the sense of bringing one to a full understanding along with deep feelings of self-reproach, regret, sorrow, and self-condemnation of having done wrong. In some cases it is not having done something wrong but rather the certainty, based on God’s Word, of the rightness of God and His truth and His way.

I do not know whether you recognize this, but this was the heart and the core of Jesus’ ministry. What He was saying was that He was going to go back to the Father in heaven and then by His Spirit, He was going to effect those that God called in the same way that Jesus did whenever He was right in front of them, explaining things, teaching them, convicting them in person of what they needed to do and be.

Now turn with me to Mark 1:14. When I say that this was the heart and the core and the center of Jesus’ teaching, He was carrying on a tradition that began with all of the prophets and came right up to Him, who was THE Prophet.

Mark 1:14-15 “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.”

This is how Jesus began His ministry – preaching the repentance of sin. He did not miss a beat from John the Baptist who preached the same thing. Malachi preached it. Zechariah preached it and Zephaniah preached it. All the way back to Moses, and maybe Abel himself, they all preached repentance – turning from sin – hoping of course, that God would bring conviction to people and actually cause and motivate them to make the right choices and to change. Jesus never stopped preaching repentance.

Matthew 5:17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill [or fill to the full].”

If you do away with law, you do away with sin. It is stupid for these people to say that Jesus did away with the law. If you do away with law, you do away with sin, and there is nothing to repent of! Jesus was saying, “Don’t think that I’m coming here to do away with the standard of human conduct.”

Matthew 5:18-19 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Without ever saying the word repentance, that is what He is preaching – repentance – because He said this is the standard we have to live up to. Of course then, Jesus went on through His whole ministry to expound and expand upon the Ten Commandments more fully.

 

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Now until God, by means of His Spirit – which Psalm 104:30 says He sends forth – we have only a vague concept of sin and the blinding influence it has on humanity. Apart from conviction by God’s Spirit, we will never fully see sin’s personal inwardness, nor its universality, nor its awfulness.

I am here to tell you that virtually every failure to grow and to overcome is based upon a poor conviction of sin. I am here to tell you that every heresy has its roots in this same thing. If you feel that the Bible exaggerates its assessment of how sinful man is, you are going to feel different about Jesus Christ and His works, and in our relationship with God, we are going to be casual and unappreciative.

I believe that one of the major roots of America’s problem in light of the World Trade Center bombings lies right here, and it is the reason there will be no repentance. America has some sense of crime and its effect, but virtually no sense of sin and its relationship to God, to themselves individually and the bombing. They cannot make the connection.

We have to be able to see that when I stop sinning the bombing stops! Until Americans get to that place where they apply it individually, nothing is going to change! We can only get worse and of course, the penalty, and the pain, and the damage, and the disaster will also be worse.

These truths need to be revealed. They have been revealed to us and that is why I said that what has happened in New York City and Washington is a wake up call for us – those to whom the truth has been revealed. We can repent! We can change our minds. Until it is revealed, we may care that there is much suffering going on in the world and perhaps even in one’s life, but we do not trace that suffering to sin and especially we do not trace it to sins we personally are committing.

The world has a wrong conception of the gospel. It is mostly thought of in terms of love and grace. That is right as far as it goes, because love and grace are part of the gospel even as love and grace have been part of God’s dealings with mankind and His purpose from the very beginning because God changes not. But, so also is the reality of sin and punishment. God must punish for sin or God would not be God. Without punishment for sin righteousness loses its meaning! Please understand that, because God must also be just if having Him as God is going to have any meaning at all to us.

What is wrong with the love and grace emphasis is they are limiting, standing by themselves, because nothing changes in the world or in the person until the person is finally, deeply convicted of sin as being the cause of all these massive problems – whether in the world, in the church, or in the self. I might add here, his own sins.

Nothing changes until we do. That has to be our approach – that it is my change that is going to make or affect the difference. We cannot wait for somebody else to do it. We have to do it. Unless a person is truly convicted of the seriousness of his sinfulness, his perspective of Jesus Christ is skewed, because his lack [of conviction of sin] will make one think differently of Him, less of Him, than what He truly is.

Christianity is not merely a better morality, a higher revelation of God, or a system of beautiful ethics. Jesus Christ is not merely a better teacher, a wiser man, an example, and a prophet. He is THE sacrifice for the sins of the world and our – my – personal Redeemer, Savior, and High Priest by whose life we are saved. His redemption and life as our High Priest is our only hope.

You are not going to make it no matter how righteous you are, because no matter how righteous you are, you are going to sin again, and again, and again. It is a reality that we have to face up to and it is only His death that can pay for those sins that we have not even yet committed. He is our only hope. If we think little of sin, it means we are going to think little of our only hope as well.

So give yourself a break. Do you want to be in the Kingdom of God? Begin asking God for an appreciation of sin and what it is doing. If sin means little or nothing to us, our understanding of our obligation to Him is seriously lacking. Do you understand that because He died He owns us and we are obligated to do whatever He says? Everything that He says! He wants no equivocation at all.

Of course He is merciful, but I am setting the standard way up here so we have something to shoot at. We are obliged to him for every breath of air that we breathe. We show our obligation to Him in our attitude toward sin. But if we think little of sin, our appreciation of Him and our devotion to Him is going to suffer greatly, and the tendency toward pride and self-righteousness is going to be increased.

Now the second thing the Spirit of God is going to convict us of is righteousness. This is referring back to John 16:7-8. First, convict of sin. Second, convict of righteousness. There are two things here in this term and we are going to turn first to Philippians 3, where Paul makes mention of righteousness.

Philippians 3:7-9 “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

Paul is not saying here that we need not be concerned about striving to keep the commandments of God, because that would fly in the face of the very things our Savior taught— – “If you would enter into life keep the commandments” – and things that the apostle Paul said. He said, “Does this do away with the law? God forbid. Does faith do away with the law? God forbid.” Jesus said if we love Him we will keep His commandments. That is the response He is looking for, because it is evidence of our love for Him.

Righteousness comes in two parts. The first aspect of righteousness is a judicial one God makes upon the repentance of the sinner who comes under the blood of Jesus Christ. By divine edict, God wipes out, wipes the slate clean, and then accounts, imputes, the righteousness of Christ to the person, where in actual, physical reality it should not be, but spiritually, because of God’s grace, He counts us as though we were Christ.

Romans 4:5-7 “But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness [that same righteousness he was talking about in Philippians 3]. Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”

We sing this very frequently, usually around Passover time. It is number 32 in the hymnal. We sing that song.

Romans 4:8-10 “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Comes this blessedness [that is being accounted sinless] then upon the circumcision [that is Jews or Israelites] only, or upon the uncircumcision [Gentile] also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?”

In order to prove this you have to go back to the events in Genesis 12, 13, 14, 15, and so forth, where this was actually acted out. Abraham believed God; he had faith in God before he was circumcised. Paul is saying then circumcision is nothing in this case. What matters is not the circumcision. What matters is the FAITH, the faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.

Romans 4:11-12 “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.”

This righteousness of which he is speaking is an imputed righteousness that results from a complete clearing of a person’s accumulated debt incurred because of law breaking – sinning. It is a righteousness that exists in fact, not because one has kept the righteousness of the law, but because of the combination of God’s grace and the forgiven one’s faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior.

This accounts the person righteous and justifies him so that he is then able to draw near to God and go on to perfection. During the course of going on to perfection through the mediation of Jesus Christ and his striving to maintain righteousness by keeping the law, the righteousness becomes real, in fact, through the experience of obedience. That is the second stage of righteousness.

In order to do this, one must be convicted of God’s way of living; one must be convicted of the vision of where he is going with his life and why he is doing this. This is why we are commanded to believe the gospel. It – the gospel – provides the outlet for one’s release from the guilt of sins from the past. The gospel tells us where to go with our righteousness. We have to be convicted that the Kingdom of God lies before us and that we are going to be in the image of God. That is why we are obligated to Jesus Christ. That is why we are required to do these things. That is why we must sacrifice.

So, we are seeing two sides of a triangle here. In order to be a complete person, one has to be convicted of sin and one has to be convicted of righteousness – the righteousness of God’s way and where it is leading.

Now a triangle has three sides and so, there in John 16:7-8, a third side was mentioned. We are to be convicted regarding judgment. Sin, righteousness, and judgment – all three of them have to have not only a mental understanding and agreement with them, there has to be impact in us where the agreement has a psychological motivation to it.

Those convicted will also carry with them then a clearer understanding and belief of judgment, and judgment too has two aspects to it. We have sin, righteousness, and judgment.

I Peter 4:17 “For the time is come that the judgment must begin at the house of God [meaning the church]: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

We are under judgment. The Bible says, “All must stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Not everybody stands before the judgment seat of Christ in the same way that we do. We are being judged in a way different from the rest of the world. God is really scrutinizing us.

What we are looking at here is judgment in an active sense—the sense of evaluation. We are being judged as we live our lives. He is actively scrutinizing us and evaluating us, and sometimes this makes us feel, “Oh man, I don’t want to have God looking at me.” Oh yes you do! You want to have God look. This is good. This is in no way evil at all. It is a good thing. It is a very good thing that He pays so much attention to us.

God has separated us away from this world for this very purpose. It is God’s intention to create a maturity in us and to save us. It is His intention to use each day to separate us further and further from our sins and from this world.

At the same time we know this is going on, there is also always the element of judgment in terms of retribution – a sentence being handed down, a judgment, as we must call it. A retribution that takes place beyond the grave for all of those who reject the creation, that is the spiritual creation, of God in them. They will face a final judgment in the Lake of Fire. It is our hope to face our final judgment in the resurrection of the firstfruits at the coming of Jesus Christ and to be found worthy to be in the Kingdom of God.

So conviction has three sides to it and every one of them must be in place for there to be overcoming to any extent. Conviction – where does it come from? We have already seen it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Conviction is the fruit of a close relationship with God in prayer, study, meditation, and application to the very best of our ability.

It is the result of striving to relate the things we read, things that we hear in sermons about God, about His character, His creation, and His way, and comparing them with ourselves and this world and its ways. It is the fruit of being open-minded and humbled before His Word, meditating on ways to find that we have done wrong or, meditating on how to do the right always along with a sense of loving evaluation taking place.

Too often our thinking and study time is in short supply because we are so busy doing whatever. God will not be put off as a secondary responsibility. If we take it casually, we will not come to know Him as He really is and we will never become truly convicted.

 

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God is the most fabulous Personality in all the universe. He loves us with a burning desire that we be like Him and thus enabling us to spend eternity with Him. To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to be convicted to please Him. We cannot love Him unless we spend quality time with Him.

So brethren, the Feast of Tabernacles lies before us. It is as good a place as exists at any time, at any place in all of the year to renew your relationship with God. Spend time with Him during this Feast of Tabernacles and make this a starting point for spending time with Him, quality time, getting to know Him better and better everyday of your life. So let us do it!

Repent

09/27/2014

Link: about.me/gideonsword

 

Repent

 

Author: Ron Graham
Source: Rapture Ready

“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib…: Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. From the sole of the foot even unto the head [there is] no soundness in it; [but] wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment,” (Isaiah 1:2 – 4, 6)

The Lord has spoken even to us living in the United States of America and He expects us to pay attention to His warnings. But do we? Not so you’d notice. What a privilege to have been born in America and brought up in a nation of freedom and liberty. Now as America stands at the precipice of time all we can see is corruption, deceit, hatred, putrefying sores, unsoundness of mind. We are in a state of total rebellion against out Creator.

[Related Article: The Sedgefield Community]

“And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;” (Isaiah 1:15, 16)

God is pleading with His people to turn away from all evil. Here in America and around the world His people’s hands are soiled. Even so He’s beseeching us to return to Him and become clean once again.

 

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What a wonderful place to live, this country of ours, and yet we have become the corruptor of nations. We are so greedy that other nations have become just like us, mirroring our greed. There does seem to be an approaching end to our silver and gold which have certainly been our idols for years now.

“Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither [is there any] end of their treasures;… Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:” (Isaiah 2:7, 8)

Billions spent to bailout greedy banking institutions bears witness to the systematic elimination of our silver and gold.

 

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“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day,”
(Isaiah 2:11)

There’s a day coming, not too far into the future, which will bring men to their knees. Our God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – will, very soon I’m afraid, put a stop to the pervasive evil that has permeated the earth. How can man stand against God? What man has ever prevailed against God?

 

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Rebellion in our very young children at times is cute and at other times quite annoying and brings about the possibility of some sort of punishment. Rebellion against God is never cute, and there’s no question God will bring His punishment to bear.

Related Article: Hell Bound!]

Isaiah was a prophet enlisted by God Himself to herald God’s displeasure and remedies to the nation of Israel. We here in America can certainly take stock in the fact that if God’s displeasure with Israel brought devastating consequences to His chosen people, we Americans can rest assured God’s wrath will come down on this rebellious gentile nation as well.

[Related Article: Judgment, not Warning]

The financial situation in our land is only a part of the overall problem confronting each individual in America today. Once again God is desperately attempting to get our attention. His word (the Holy Bible) gives all indication that He is serious when He chastises His people. Our Banks are failing in droves and huge conglomerates are taking unheard of massive financial hits, the stock market reflecting a sense of insecurity in our nation today is only a fraction of what we can expect if we continue in our rebellion to our God.

[Related Article: A November Message for Richmond, VA]

We must look at the whole picture before our eyes. We are all aware of the crises confronting us as Americans, and we can all understand why this has happened if we just give it a little thought. As a nation, we are steeped in immorality, deception, greed, hatred, and in false religions that don’t glorify the one true God, the God who created Heaven and Earth, the God who gave us His Word to live by.

Rebellion is spreading. When did this rebellion start? It started in The Garden of Eden with two young adults who were given everything, even the title deed to the earth. What else could they have wanted? They already owned it all. It’s the same today, there are incredibly wealthy people who are unsatisfied with what God has blessed them with, and they want more. When they achieve more they still aren’t content and strive for even more.

 

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According to history, people won’t be satisfied even after they obtain it all. Solomon who was the wealthiest man who ever lived penned the following statement. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all [is] vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
After it was all said and done Solomon wrote this admonition, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man,” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

 

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Satisfaction is only guaranteed when God’s people seek Him. “[Seek him] that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD [is] his name:” (Amos 5:8).
As God’s people we should seek Him in our daily lives. No matter what else happens in life, we must resolve to seek God’s presence and his will, and this resolve should never be compromised.

 

standardpoorsdowngrade

 

There is a sense of urgency among commentators today, we can read scores of articles on the subject of financial ruin and end times scenarios, and no one can find the United States of America in the end time prophecies. Just take a look around at all the confusion in this country; certainly we must come to the conclusion that we aren’t mentioned because we are no longer a viable entity. There really is no simple answer to where the US will be during the end times and the 70th week of Daniel. After so many years at the top of the heap will America become subordinated to a lesser position, perhaps a position of say a third world nation? It didn’t seem possible a few years ago but it sure makes for interesting conversation now.

 

repentance3

 

“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.” But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; And this house, …which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house? And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers… therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them,” (2 Chronicles 7:14, 19, 21, 22)

Jesus Christ is our God, and Christians who are called by His name must humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways.

Personally, my thoughts are that since God established this nation a moral nation with Christian values, He has every right to disestablish it. I believe we are currently living through God’s disestablishment of America. If we would turn from our evil ways He would heal our land. How can we, the body of Christ, convince over three hundred million people that they need to turn from their wicked ways?

 

whitehouselord

 

I’ve heard figures of approximately one third to one half of the US are Christian. If that be the case, and if we each took on the responsibility of speaking to two or three non-believers, we should have this problem fixed in short order. On the other hand, when we confront those who say they are Christian but then follow up with the statement “ But I’m not a practicing Christian”, then I see the figure of one third to one half of all Americans proclaiming to be Christian, dramatically reduced. By the way, what is someone who says “I’m not a practicing Christian”? If we are truly born again, are we not practicing Christians?

I know full well as do many who will be reading this commentary, that this nation isn’t going to get down on their knees and begin to ask God for forgiveness any time soon. Interestingly it won’t take the whole nation. If we His people, that means those of us who are truly born again, born from above, will repent and turn from our wicked ways He will heal our land. God isn’t calling on the whole of the U.S., he’s singling out His people, those who bear His Name. This is a corporate prayer He’s asking for. All believers should examine themselves and willingly seek God’s face and repent of the rebellion that has taken over this land.

[Related Article: America's Spiritual Crisis]

The current Wall Street crisis is a call to arms. God is calling on all believers to put on His armor as in Ephesians 6, and to intercede and pray for this nation, to get down on their knees and repent before Him. If we will do this as a body, the body of Christ, He will be faithful to forgive us and to heal our land. If we stubbornly refuse to do this simple task, well then, God knows what the future will hold for America and its stiff necked people.

[Related Article: Societal Decay and Moral Discipline]

The Unabomber Mentality and the EPA

09/25/2014
Link: about.me/gideonsword

 

The Unabombers at the EPA

 

Author: Fay Voshell
Source: American Thinker – 09.25.2014

 

 

Students of recent history will remember Ted Kaczynski as the man who is responsible for three murders and sixteen bombings over a period of eighteen years. These actions were fully excusable from Kaczynski’s point of view. As he dispassionately puts it, “In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people.”

Kaczynski, popularly known as the Unabomber, is now 72 years old, two years past the biblically allotted time granted to the majority of mankind, and only three years to go until his time should probably be up, according to bioethicist Ezekiel Emmanuel, who agrees with the Unabomber that “[...]extending life is misguided and potentially destructive.” Kaczynski is experiencing the fulfillment of his own prophecy: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in ‘advanced’ countries.”

 

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Regardless of the tragedy of his longevity, Kaczynski has definitely made his mark as a crazed anarchical Luddite for whom a Thoreau-type retreat to an unheated 10-by-12 foot cabin without electricity did not result in the urge to transcend the limitations and imperfections of industrialized society. Unlike Thoreau, who (erroneously) viewed human nature as intrinsically good and who believed humanity could transcend and reform the ills of society, Kaczynski’s time cogitating in his cabin resulted in a philosophy characterized by marked antipathy to what he termed the technological-industrial complex, a construct he saw as completely antithetical to human freedom. His philosophy reached its full flowering in what is known as the Unabomber Manifesto.

Kaczynski came to the conclusion that the entire societal complex had to be blown up in order that humanity could return to the wild and begin again, free at last to control the environment. Reform was not possible. Anarchical revolution was the answer. Total destruction of technology and the bases of industrialized society were necessary. As he put it in his Manifesto, “To make a lasting change in the direction of development of any important aspect of a society, reform is insufficient and revolution is required… [W]hile the industrial system is sick, we must destroy it.”

Now in federal lockup in Florence, Colorado, along with radical comrades such as terrorists Abu Hamza and Richard “Shoe Bomber” Reid, Kaczynski cannot put his radical notions into effect. But his philosophical heritage lives on, not only at Harvard, where to be radical is not just chic but almost demanded, but also within our government’s administration and its agencies. Kaczynski’s recommendations for achieving what is currently termed “fundamental transformation” of American society are apparently de rigueur.

As he wrote:

“[...] the two main tasks for the present are to promote social stress and instability in industrial society and to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial system. When the system becomes sufficiently stressed and unstable, a revolution against technology may be possible.”

Few can argue that this administration has not excelled at promoting “social stress and instability in industrial society.”

But not enough realize that the ultimate aim of “fundamental transformation,” at least among radicals, is to destroy the old societal form and to set up a new form, holding out the positive ideal of a return to independence characterized by survival in Wild Nature. Some of the soldiers who are to comprise the new vanguard are to be radical environmentalists — folks Kaczynski admired. Like him, their ultimate goal is to return nature to its original state, which state is actualized by destroying the bases of industrialization, including the energy sources that drive the whole wretched technological-industrial complex.
- Environmentalism Is the New Racism

For example, the industry which most represents the loathed technological-industrial complex is the coal industry, which has had a target on its back for a very long time, but which has been particularly targeted by President Obama himself, who has recently mandated a 30-percent cut in carbon emissions at fossil fuel-burning power plants by 2030, a move that coal companies cannot possibly meet without loss of jobs and a wrenching adjustment of the entire economy.

Never mind how much the industry has tried to clean up its act. Coal itself is carbon, and carbon-based fuels are inherently evil, as they contribute to global warming and are part and parcel of the coming apocalypse. Never mind that solar energy is evaporating insects, roasting birds and baking desert tortoises in their shells en papillote; or that centuries-old barrel cacti are biting the dust. Never mind that windmills are hacking rare birds to pieces while despoiling pricelessly beautiful landscapes. Never mind the fact that solar and wind energy sources are in no position to supply the enormous amounts of energy needed to sustain the economy.

Coal must go.

Why? Because “We have a moral obligation to act,’ said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. The president echoed McCarthy’s moral objections, arguing that carbon-dioxide emissions are a national health crises: “We don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children. As president and as a parent, I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”

Coal is evil and thus considered beyond fixing. So despite the wrench to what Democratic West Virginia’s Representative Nick Rahall predicts as disastrous new rules that would wreak havoc on West Virginia’s already fragile economy, the industrial complex must be undermined when it does not meet the rigorous anti-industrial morality characterized by Kaczynski’s Manifesto. Coal is seen inherently evil as it has been behind technology that produced the“dark, satanic mills” characterizing industrialization. It is a chief obstacle to creating an Edenic return to “Wild Nature.”

Evidently, there are a number of back to nature environmental groups who are wholeheartedly behind the push to eliminate coal.

In a recent report aired by Stuart Varney and Tracy Byrnes of Fox News, it was revealed through the exposure of incriminating emails that the Environmental Protection Agency is colluding with green groups such as the Sierra Club in order to bankrupt the U.S. coal industry as well as to jettison the Keystone Pipeline.

While it is true that our administration favors “clean” energy projects and that some green lobbyists are as interested in making money as the next capitalist, it should be remembered that the underlying anti-industrial and anti-technological philosophy currently gripping the extremist radical environmentalist movement is the one outlined by the Unabomber’s Manifesto.

His disastrous recipe for fundamentally transforming the industrial-technological complex by leveling it back to the Stone Age evidently holds great appeal for extremists who believe our planet has been so completely despoiled by humanity it is, in the immortal words of our own president, “beyond fixing.”
- The Environmental Apocalypse

 

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It’s all so unnecessary — more an exhibition of rage and desire for power than interest in the welfare of humanity and its institutions. It is also ironic, a stubborn nostalgia for a return to primitivism comes at a time of absolutely unparalleled, virtually miraculous, advances in technology.

The radical changes being promoted by Kaczynski-type radicals, including those in our current administration, do not have to be promoted, much less be forced on us. When free market principles are allowed to reign in advanced technological and industrialized societies, gradual obsolescence of inventions as well as forms of energy happen naturally — technological and industrial evolution rather than revolution.

Finally, it is a fantastical notion that somehow, if only the present order is destroyed utterly, humanity will create an Eden from the ashes. Given the unchanging state of human nature, it is clear that any new order will closely resemble the old, with an admixture of good and evil infiltrating all of any given society. The good is always in need of preservation while the evil is in need of being extinguished.

Theologians during the Protestant Reformation employed the phrase “Semper Reformanda,” often translated as “Reformed but always reforming.” The phrase is applicable not only to orthodoxy of Church doctrine and practice, but to the world of politics and governance as well.

Rather than looking to annihilate the existing technological-industrial order which has brought so much good into the world, Americans should exercise eternal and unflagging vigilance in order to preserve what is good while working hard to reform what has gone wrong.
- Night Falls On Civilization

THE RATIONING SOCIETY

09/24/2014
Link: about.me/gideonsword


The Rationing Society

 

Author: Daniel Greenfield
Source: the Sultan Knish blog – 09.21.2014

 

 

There are two types of societies, production societies and rationing societies. The production society is concerned with taking more territory, exploiting that territory to the best of its ability and then discovering new techniques for producing even more. The rationing society is concerned with consolidating control over all existing resources and rationing them out to the people.

The production society values innovation because it is the only means of sustaining its forward momentum. If the production society ceases to be innovative, it will collapse and default to a rationing society. The rationing society however is threatened by innovation because innovation threatens its control over production.

Socialist or capitalist monopolies lead to rationing societies where production is restrained and innovation is discouraged. The difference between the two is that a capitalist monopoly can be overcome. A socialist monopoly however is insurmountable because it carries with it the full weight of the authorities and the ideology that is inculcated into every man, woman and child in the country.

 

Ventura_bombers_production_line

 

We have become a rationing society. Our industries and our people are literally starving in the midst of plenty. Farmers are kept from farming, factories are kept from producing and businessmen are kept from creating new companies and jobs. This is done in the name of a variety of moral arguments, ranging from caring for the less fortunate to saving the planet. But rhetoric is only the lubricant of power. The real goal of power is always power. Consolidating production allows for total control through the moral argument of rationing, whether through resource redistribution or cap and trade.

The politicians of a rationing society may blather on endlessly about increasing production, but it’s so much noise, whether it’s a Soviet Five Year Plan or an Obama State of the Union Address. When they talk about innovation and production, what they mean is the planned production and innovation that they have decided should happen on their schedule. And that never works.

You can ration production, but that’s just another word for poverty. You can’t ration innovation, which is why the aggressive attempts to put low mileage cars on the road have failed. As the Soviet Union discovered, you can have rationing or innovation, but you can’t have both at the same time. The total control exerted by a monolithic entity, whether governmental or commercial, does not mix well with innovation.

The rationing society is a poverty generator because not only does it discourage growth, its rationing mechanisms impoverish existing production with massive overhead. The process of rationing existing production requires a bureaucracy for planning, collecting and distributing that production that begins at a ratio of the production and then increases without regard to the limitations of that production.

Paradoxically the rationing infrastructure increases in direct proportion to the falloff of production as lower production requires even greater rationing. This is what we are seeing now in the United States, in a weak economy, there is greater justification for the expansion of rationing mechanisms. And the worse the economy becomes, the bigger government will become to “compensate” for the problems of the economy.

In a production society, the role of government is to expand the territories of exploitation and to protect those territories. In a rationing society, the role of government is to control the available quantities of production with a view to distributing them fairly. Naturally, the rationers, as always, get the best rations. In a production society, government is a means of protecting everyone’s ability to produce. In a rationing society, government prevents the bigger from grabbing the rations of the smaller and protects everyone from grabbing all the rations at once and starving to death.

The sort of society we have is fit for passengers adrift at sea on a lifeboat parceling out their last crackers. It is an emergency society for the lost and the starving. And perversely we are starving amidst plenty.

 

Norman_Rockwell_Thanksgiving

 

The rationing society discourages people from farming and encourages them to peer in each other’s mouths to see who is eating more than his fair share. In the rationing society everyone is certain that they are not getting their fair share and eager to sign on to initiatives to get their group’s fair share. In a rationing society everyone is an informer because everyone’s livelihood depends on informing on others.

In a production society, people compete for production. In a rationing society, people compete for entitlements. Everyone is always bitter and suspicious in a rationing society, and when they aren’t, they’re resigned and phlegmatic. They either accept that life is unfair or they rave against it. They are either jealous or give up on material things entirely making their society into a comprehensive failure.

I met a man once who told me that his greatest dream was to be feasting at a full table while outside hungry people pass by and look longingly through the window. This is the type of mindset that a rationing society produces. Its denizens instinctively absorb the idea that resources are finite and their competitiveness takes place at a zero sum level that is incomprehensible in any open society.

In a rationing society, people are certain that if another has something, then he came by it unfairly. And every group has an exaggerated sense of the material prosperity of other groups. This is not a bug, it is a feature. The rationing society deliberately cultivates a sense of unfairness to make it clear that individual efforts are meaningless and the only thing that matters is one’s connections to the rationers and the degree of mutual support from the group for the rationers and the rationers for the group.

Individual initiative is discouraged by a web of bureaucracy to make it difficult for individuals to act outside the plan. In a monopolistic system, rules and permits make it difficult for the individual to move forward. The permit regime also promotes corruption which makes honest enterprise almost impossible. Through these means the system restrains the micro, which is ordinarily too small to be properly controlled, while focusing on the macro.

The rationing of present day America, which has the resources, the wealth and the techniques to produce, is being managed in political terms. The politicians still talk in terms of innovation and production, even while enacting policies meant to discourage both. The dominant political class has been dedicated to one form of rationing or another throughout the 20th Century. The only difference between them is the degree of radicalism and their understanding that the rationing is a transition, rather than a safety net or an emergency measure.

When you listen to the larger message of the left, it is one of finity. We have a finite amount of planetary resources and domestic wealth. This finity represents a global and national crisis that has to be tackled with rationing mechanisms. We are all on a lifeboat and some of us are gobbling up more than their fair share of rations. Unless the rationers step forward, seize everyone’s rations and pass out limited rations, then we are all doomed.

The essential 21st Century conflict is between the rationers and the producers. This is not a class conflict, that is the fallacy that the left has fallen into for over a century. It is a conflict between a system of bureaucratic collectivism and a society of individuals. It is not a conflict between the rich and the poor, the majority of the rationers are either rich or close enough to it. Their charges may be poor, but the representatives of their victim groups invariably become rich. The rationer camp is funded by some of the wealthiest men and companies in America who agree with its premise that we need to ration everything from children to jobs to food to carbon emissions.

This is a fundamental philosophical conflict between those who believe in a free society and those who believe in a managed society. It is not simply a conflict between capitalism and socialism, many of the capitalists are on the side of the rationers because they agree with them or profit from the rationing. It is a conflict that predates the American Revolution, a conflict that became inevitable with the rise of the supercity and the closing of the frontier.

 

puppets-on-a-string

 

This is a struggle between those who believe that people should be managed and those who believe that people should manage themselves. Our institutions now depend on a class of managers who fill the ranks of the institutions of the public and private sector, who produce little, but whose goal is to make production completely predictable. And we are, in short, being managed to death.

Scientific management, rather than predicting human variables, has done its best to make everything predictable, and a perfectly predictable thing is static. It has no ability to move forward. The drive to make the behavior of people predictable has led to the institutionalism of every aspect of life. And that has led to rationing programs that depend on predictability, and when that predictability fails,respond with greater efforts at control.

A production society defines achievement in terms of production. A rationing society defines it in terms of control. In a rationing society, it is possible to starve amidst plenty because the rationers would rather see people starve, than lose control over them.

Sunni vs. Shiite: Examining Their Rivalry

09/21/2014

Link: about.me/gideonsword

 

Why Sunnis Fear Shiites

 

Authors: Hillel Fradkin & Lewis Libby
Source: Commentary Magazine – 12.01.13

The recent Arab revolts in the Middle East and the concomitant “Islamic Awakening” have not merely shaken up the order of an already violent and unstable region. They have reanimated the bloodiest and longest-running dispute in Muslim politics: which branch of Islam, Sunni or Shia, is to rule the Muslim polity. This rivalry dates back some 1,300 years to the death of Muhammad, and while it has occasionally been set aside for reasons of expedience, it has never been resolved. The continuing conflagrations following the mislabeled Arab Spring, increasingly shaped by this ancient Sunni-Shia tension, are set to rage on indefinitely. Affairs in the Middle East are accelerating back to the old normal: a state of hot holy war.

 

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The seemingly internal conflict in Syria has become the war’s central front. Sunni and Shia alike have been drawn into the conflict as the Syrian tragedy has unfolded. Inspired by the revolts in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, in March 2011 Syrians – a predominantly Sunni population – mounted initially peaceful protests against the rule of the Shia-offshoot Alawite regime headed by Bashar al-Assad. Secure in his support from the extremist Iranian regime, Assad responded with great brutality. His opponents responded in kind, fueled by money and arms from their Sunni patrons in the Gulf Arab states and by Sunni Islamists from both the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. They fear what they have taken to calling, with alarm, the “Shia crescent.” The term connotes a swath of Iranian Shiite influence across the Arab world and, via Syria, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Syria functions as Iran’s direct operational link to its terrorist arm Hezbollah and to the Shiite plurality in Lebanon. It borders Iraq, whose Shiite majority may be radicalized, and Turkey, whose Sunni leadership can be monitored and checked.
- Two Great Fissures in the Global Jihad

As the Syrian revolt proceeded, sectarian elements came to the fore. The momentum frequently shifted back and forth between the Iranian-backed Assad and the Sunni rebels. But this past spring, when Assad’s fortunes waned, Iran doubled down. It arranged for Shiite Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite “volunteers” to join the fray directly and massively, tipping the battle for Syria into Shiite hands. Iran is now winning what one Iranian officer has described as “an epic battle for Shiite Islam.”

As this has gone on, the willful retraction of American influence in the region has fanned both Iranian ambitions and Sunni fears. The Middle East is well versed in the posturings and weaknesses of foreign sovereigns. In Shiite and Sunni eyes alike, President Barack Obama’s proposed deals relating to Syrian chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear program translate into large gains for radical Shiism.

It is tempting, naturally, for Americans to stay out of a fight between two holy armies who oppose the United States and its allies. To put it very mildly, neither radical Shiite nor radical Sunni groups share our values or serve our interests. Still, as a practical matter, this does not mean that one of our enemies is not a more potent threat than the other. Of all the distasteful regimes in the region, only Iran’s has defined itself from its foundation as our mortal enemy and acted accordingly ever since. Moreover, Iran’s capacity to pursue hostile action toward America is currently growing. Thus, Iran presents the more serious threat to our well-being. If it emerges the victor in the fight for the future of political Islam and regional dominance, American interests will probably be endangered to an extent not seen since the Cold War. This is especially true if an Iranian victory is coupled with the regime’s attainment of a nuclear weapon. Not only will America’s ally Israel be under constant threat of annihilation, but American influence in the Middle East will be made hostage to credible Iranian policy blackmail. And yet, given the current status of the Sunni – Shia conflict, this is where we’re headed. “Iran grows more powerful day by day,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently gloated. It’s hard to disagree.

There are several reasons for thinking that radical Shiism, as manifested in the Iranian regime, might continue to dominate and ultimately win this holy war. First, the Shiite camp enjoys the advantage of the more-or-less unitary leadership of Iran. Perhaps in time internal Iranian opposition could challenge the regime in Tehran, but for now the ayatollahs seem to have stifled any such efforts. Outside Iran, some Shiite clerics in Iraq reject the Khomeinist doctrine of the “Rule of the Jurisprudent,” but this “quietist” school of Shiism is not interested in governing its Persian neighbors and, in any case, is frequently undermined by other clerics working in Iraq on Iran’s behalf. So the concentrated center of Shiite power remains in Iran and is, moreover, strengthened by the support of outside non-Muslim powers – principally Russia and China.

By contrast, the Sunni camp is profoundly divided, and therefore weak. This weakness is manifest in the split among the Sunni Islamist forces fighting Assad in Syria. The result is increasingly frequent military fights between sides, to say nothing of the ongoing fights with more secular Sunni militias.
- Syria’s Christians Risk Eradication

Beyond Syria, things are scarcely more cohesive for Sunnis. The Sunni nations of Arabia and the Gulf lack the size and reach of Iran. They have provided money and arms to the Sunni rebels fighting Assad, but as they themselves support different Islamist groups inside Syria, they’ve also contributed to the infighting. What’s more, the broader conflicts among these countries have derailed joint efforts.

The unsettled condition of Sunni-majority Egypt, the world’s largest Arab country, has had a demoralizing and divisive effect as well. While ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi had suggested that Egypt might provide greater support for the Syrian opposition, that proposal proved so unpopular it might very well have been a contributing factor in his removal by the Egyptian military. The new regime has made clear that it wants no part of the Syrian civil war.

 

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Perhaps the most surprising of the Sunnis’ weak links is Turkey. The country shares a long border with Syria and is therefore on the frontline of the struggle. In recent years, its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had put forward claims to not only Sunni leadership but regional leadership as well. After Turkey declared its enmity for Assad, it was reasonable to expect it to take a significant, even decisive, role in the struggle. After all, Turkey is equal in size to Iran and in possession of a large modern army. And under Erdogan’s rule, underwritten by three successive electoral victories, Turkey had enjoyed unprecedented economic prosperity and political stability. As a result of this and Erdogan’s Islamist roots and leanings, Turkey appeared to enjoy great prestige within Arab countries, especially those where Islamist forces were coming to the fore. The Brotherhood movements held Turkey in high regard.

Yet over the two years since Erdogan declared that Assad must step down, he’s done little to make that happen. Additionally, he’s begun to face his own domestic legitimacy crisis; there have now been several large protests against Erdogan’s mode of rule. Among the many objections fueling the protests was Erdogan’s Syria policy, which was deemed by some to be too aggressive and risky for Turkey. Meanwhile, Erdogan’s weakness has been further exposed by his failure to garner any regional leader’s support in his continuing campaign against the ouster of Egypt’s Morsi. Erdogan went out on a limb, and no one followed. Within the constellation of Sunni countries – Arab and non-Arab – no one has a claim on leadership, least of all Turkey, the most powerful among them.
- Religion Living Dangerously

Yet another contribution to Sunni disarray is the lack of a credible, external non-Muslim patron – namely, the United States. In the past, America had de facto supported Sunni interests, but Obama is not following that path. After making pronouncements about the necessary departure of Assad, he gave very little material support to the opposition. And then, after more such pronouncements, he conveyed the expectation that Assad will survive with diminished control over Syrian territory. Last came Obama’s big Syrian debacle: The administration announced plans for a small attack aimed only at Syria’s chemical-weapons capabilities – before embracing a Russian proposal that would allow Assad to avoid even that.

The American retreat from a Syria strike follows on the heels of Obama’s abandoning a U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would have weighed on Iranian calculations. In all this, Washington has ensured a powerful impression of weakness. If America is so reluctant to act in the face of Assad’s clear provocation, so ready to abandon its positions, both Sunnis and Shiites are likely to conclude that the United States does not have the stomach for the contests to come with Iran, including the matter of the supposedly ambiguous Iranian nuclear program. Tellingly, a top adviser to Erdogan (whom Obama had assiduously courted) recently described the American president as a “half leader.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, Erdogan’s aide proclaimed, is a “whole leader.” And this was before Putin’s diplomacy rescued Obama from action in Syria.

 

shiasunni_percentages

 

Though there are few prospects for true Sunni success in Syria (or the larger sectarian war), there are possible scenarios in which Sunnis can regain some ground lost to Shiites. But even these eventualities offer limited hope of doing serious damage to Iran. For example, the civil war might allow the Syrian rebels to carve out a mini-state in what was once greater Syria. Such an area would probably be governed by the Jihadist groups most hostile to the Shiites. One of those groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, would undoubtedly try to combine Sunni areas of Iraq with a Sunni-controlled Syrian area. This mini-state would be a frontline base for continuing the fight against Shiites. But Iran has demonstrated a fierce devotion to its aims, and its willingness to expend treasure and blood will not lapse even if its ally has lost partial control of his dominion.

In any event, Iranian nuclear weapons are likely to push Sunni powers toward greater and greater accommodation to Iran’s will (to be, so to speak, “Finlandized”). Consider just one important Sunni country, and American ally, Saudi Arabia. In recent years, Iran has tried to raise the price of oil by getting the Saudis to limit its production. So far, the Saudis have shot down these requests, but they may not feel free to do so if Iran possesses a nuclear bomb (and especially if Russia – which has its own interest in high prices – joins Iran in applying pressure). Even if Saudi Arabia were to obtain its own nuclear deterrent, Iran’s more ideologically radical foreign policy would render any Saudi attempt at brinkmanship a very bad option.

Current Sunni – Shiite polemics often invoke an earlier period of large scale Sunni – Shiite warfare: the rivalry between the Sunni Ottoman Caliphate and the Shiite Safavid Persian empire, which ran its course in the 16th and 17th centuries. In that struggle the powerful resources of the Ottoman state kept Safavid power in check relatively easily. As a result Sunnis may be heartened by its recollection.

But there was another time when the Muslim world was in a predicament perhaps still more similar to the one it faces today. In the 10th and 11th centuries, the radical Shiite regime known as the Fatimids, based in Egypt and acting in sometime alliance with a Shiite dynasty ruling in Baghdad, dominated the Middle East and the Sunnis. The Shia were able to attain power in large part because the Sunnis were divided. Ultimately the Sunnis did reemerge as the dominant force, but that required a new Sunni element from outside the region – the Seljuk Turks.

There is no such Sunni equivalent to the Seljuk Turks today, but non-Islamic external powers could still play a countervailing role. Thus far, the Obama administration has declined to do so, arguing implicitly that developments in Syria have made decisive American action a risky prospect. This is no doubt true, even if present costs and risks are the result of previous American inaction.

 

sunnishia

 

Are we then obliged to see Iran emerge victorious and proceed onward in its regional designs? There is another option. The most obvious possibility is to shift our focus to areas where Iran is more vulnerable to American might: its nuclear program and its disaffected heartland. But here, too, there is little reason for hope. The record of American pronouncements against an Iranian bomb is becoming murkier as it gets longer. The same can be said of American calls for Iranian democracy. As matters now stand, the United States is still pursuing a negotiated settlement with Tehran on the nuclear issue – a process that has, in truth, been pursued for 10 years with nothing to show for it. Iran’s new president, Rouhani, has taken to speaking in the soft and vague diplomatic terms that hopeful Westerners describe as moderate. Obama-administration diplomats seem to be fully on board with this reading of matters. But as a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has noted of Rouhani: “The language is and should be different; but the goal remains the same.” Indeed, Rouhani’s pre-presidential career is an anthology of the kind of anti-American apocalyptic oratory that no hopeful American diplomat should mistake for moderation.

The most effective option for stopping Iran’s march to regional dominance would be the judicious application of military force. Nobody but President Obama can know for sure if the United States will exercise that option, but the recent record of American retrenchment and accommodation makes it ever more doubtful.

But if the United States determines that striking Iran is, like striking Syria, not worth the risk, there is one last possibility: Israel. The Jewish state, which faces an existential threat from Iran, may take military action to halt the mullahs’ nuclear program. The Israelis are an improbable stand-in for the Seljuk Turks, yet as Mark Twain famously said, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” It is a rhyme, moreover, that seems plausible enough to a number of Sunni Gulf-Arab leaders who have privately confided their support for an Israeli strike on Iran. If such a strike were to occur and be successful, it might initiate a positive change in the trajectory of the Sunni-Shiite war by reversing the fortunes of today’s Fatimids.

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