Monday, April 12, 2010

"Don't worry about the government", Glen said, "it's religion that will get you every time!"

...knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that deliverest me unto thee hath the greater sin. John 19:11

A group of men from high school age to late middle age, asked if they could meet with Glen. They did not announce for what purpose, but said they had heard that he knew the Bible and was not in the hire of any church. They felt that if anyone would tell them the straight truth he would. I agreed with the latter statement and said I would ask. I could promise nothing. If Glen was willing, they asked that he meet with them at the home of one of the elder men, located outside of town at the edge of farm country.

To my surprise, Glen readily agreed to meet with this group, not even knowing who they were. “I have an idea” he said. “I know the place and have heard of such a group of ‘concerned citizens’ as they call themselves. They may be misguided, and are almost certainly ignorant, but I believe they are good-hearted men”.
I did not understand how Glen could know about their intentions, much less how “good-hearted” they were, and told him so.

“Oh, it could be because this is not the first such group I have met with” he told me. “They come from a certain point of view that is not too surprising, considering how they have been lied to all their lives. They just need some information but mainly they need to learn how to think for themselves. That is an art that has almost disappeared from the land. I can’t miss this opportunity to at least talk to them. My conscience would never let me rest if I didn’t at least try.”.

So it was that a week later we arrived in my car at a country home, situated on about 25 acres, a brick home built into a hill. Its basement was nicely finished and had sliding glass doors that gave a view of a river valley and the sun setting behind a row of distant trees. Men were already seated on couches and folding chairs. They were conversing when we entered and apparently knew one another. After brief introductions all around, the man who had first requested to meet with Glen, made a brief introduction:

“We are proud to have this gentlemen come to talk with us tonight. My wife has taken Bible classes from him and says he knows the Word and is a straight talker. I know as a fact that he does not front for any particular religious organization, or as far as I know any political party. Please give an ear to our friend.”

Glen moved to the front of the room from where he had been standing by the fireplace. He had been looking at a large painting by Frederick Remington. I knew he liked art with a western theme. He began to speak. “I am complimented by this introduction, gentlemen, and will try to live up to it, especially the Bible part. Our country was founded by Bible people and we need to stay in that framework. It will save us a lot of grief if we do...”

As he was speaking, a young blond man in the front row held up his hand. Glen turned to him and he began to speak. “People always say that our founders were Christians, but what do you say to those who claim that Jefferson made a New Testament with the miracles all taken out because he did not believe in miracles. They say Jefferson was a deist and only believed in God as a disinterested force in the universe. They also say Ben Franklin was no Christian either, that he and other founders were Masons and members of the Hellfire Club. What do you say about that?"

Glen spoke very quietly and calmly,”I don’t want to disillusion any of you tonight, but frankly I don’t care what the Founding Fathers believed about religion. If they were off the track, gentlemen, that is their problem, not mine. When I say "founders" I do not mean guys in powdered wigs who owned estates. Don’t get me wrong, I do admire them and they are important. I don’t believe the world has seen the like of the founders since they died or ever will again. They were geniuses in government and in other fields as well.

John Kennedy invited a roomful of Nobel Prize laureates to dinner at the White House. He told them “There is more intellectual brain power sitting here tonight, than at any time since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” I thank God for these men and the government they helped to create. But I do not look to them for my religion. They never tried to start one anyway. To them religion was a private matter and with that I hope we all agree.

When I speak of our founders’ religion I mean the common people who settled this country long before the framers of the Declaration of Independence or Constitution were even thought of.

How many here tonight are familiar with The Mayflower Compact?”

Two hands went up.”Good” said Glen.”It’s a start. Well look it up and read how these early colonists dedicated their enterprise “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith”. This was written and signed before they left their ship. The year was 1620! Quite a bit earlier than 1776 wouldn’t you agree?

I am not speaking for one group and against another. It’s just that the men who started this early colony were Christians and said so. If you were to read their creeds or confessions of faith I don’t think you would disagree with them in any serious way. They did their job and the Founding Fathers did theirs. They each had their part. But Christianity was well established in this land of ours before the Framers of the government were even born.”

I had a feeling this is not what the group was expecting to hear or wanted to hear. They most likely wanted to hear a defense of the religion of the Framers, and here was Glen saying that this was not important. Glen was aware of the impact of his words as he continued; “Men, I have a feeling you asked me to come here tonight to talk about something else than religion, or the religion of our government’s founders. I imagine your concern is a little more up to date. Am I right?”

A man of about 35 years of age, rather thin and with an earnest face spoke up. “You are right. A number of us are concerned about the direction of our government. We feel it has become a tyrannical monster that threatens not only our religious freedoms, but our lives as well. We think religious rights are fading away and being usurped by government. We are afraid the government is our enemy just as it always has been since the Romans killed Jesus and persecuted the early Christians. For a time our country was religious, but now the government is starting to gain the upper hand.”

Their were nods of agreement around the room. This man had apparently expressed the fears of many who were in attendance. Another man, older than the first two speakers, began, “After all, the Revolutionary War was fought against government oppression. Maybe it’s about time we do it again.”

Glen seemed to be in a jam. The last thing he wanted was a political discussion.

He began to frame his argument, “I won’t take sides on a political issue, either way. The only thing I know about is the Bible perspective on government, Old and New Testament. If I can be of any use to you it is from that direction. So let me begin by saying that government is not the enemy of religion.”

There was an instant reaction from the gathered men. Some asked who invited this guy anyway? Was he a government plant? If he was it would not be the first time. Almost every patriotic group had been infiltrated as had many churches. It was obvious to me that Glen had a hard row to hoe to reach these men.

“Well, as you can tell, I am not here to please you by telling you I agree with you on this issue. All I ask is that you consider the scriptures I am about to read with you. Just listen to the Word and I will rest upon what it says.” Many of the men slid down in their seats with looks of defiance, their legs outstretched and arms folded over their chests.

I learned later that Glen had faced such reactions of disbelief and even defiance, inside and outside the church. He told me that he relied on the Word of God to convince people, and not clever arguments. “Gentlemen, I present my case. My primary text will be from the Book of Romans, chapter 13. This chapter is, for many, a hard pill to swallow, but I believe it cannot be refuted. Whatever arguments we have concerning our attitude towards government must be in accordance with this chapter. It has been the experience of every student of the Bible, that for every major doctrine in the Word, there is at least one chapter devoted to it, sometimes much more. For “faith” it is Romans 8. For “government” it is chapter 13. Now government and our duty towards it runs throughout the Bible. But this chapter is the best single authority in the Word. Now there is no way I can present a comprehensive statement on this subject in one night so that is not my intention. My presence here tonight is not about content, but about perspective, how we look at this subject. Here is my first premise from Romans 13:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Rom.13.1

At this point some of the men muttered in defiance. Many, I am sure had heard it before. But they were not in agreement. You can prove anything from a single quotation was what they were thinking.

“Since our time is limited, I will site two familiar cases from the New Testament. It is hard for me to just pick two. There are many such cases where the Bible says that government is instituted by God for the good of man and is not the enemy of God’s people, many, many cases.”

“Are you saying Christians have no enemies, we’re just paranoid!” the speaker was a nervous looking young man. He wore glasses and had an agitated expression as he glared at Glen.

“Quite the opposite, sir” said Glen with a friendly smile. I remembered Gary once saying “Look out for Glen when he agrees with you!”. The questioner looked at Glen with a puzzled expression.

“I think we Christians are not fearful enough! I think we are asleep at our posts. But I am saying our fear and distrust is misdirected! I will say it again, Government is not the enemy of Christians!”. Glen had set them up, as he often did. He told me once how he loved such questions.

"Government is not the enemy of Christians, religion is!"

“Now to my examples, and remember, there are many, many more in the pages of the Sacred Scriptures. I will begin with the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. We all know that Jesus was crucified by the Roman authorities, no question about that. But let me ask you, Why?

Did Jesus ever speak against the Romans? Did he not pay his taxes and instruct others to do so? And what was the attitude of Jesus towards individual Roman soldiers?

Someone had brought a table for Glen to rest his Bible on. He opened it to Matt.8:5. “Remember when the Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant? Jesus said he would come to his house, but the soldier said he was not worthy for Jesus to come into his house, “but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed”.

When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed,
"Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel." Matt 8:10

Jesus praised the Roman’s soldier’s faith above that of any in Israel. Who brought a charge against Jesus that caused him to be crucified?

No Roman did. It was those of his own people, the Jews. When I say this, it is not to pit Romans against Jews. It is to contrast the Roman government against the religious leaders of the Jews. It is government versus religion I have in mind here. Let us look, very briefly, at the contrasting treatment of Jesus by Pilate and the chief priests of the Jews. There is no time for a thorough discussion tonight. But let us look at John chapter 19,

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. v.4

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. V.6

“ See who wants Jesus crucified? See who says, twice, “I find no fault in him?”
Government sees no fault, they want to free Jesus. The religious leaders say “Crucify him!” Glen was adamant, he was driving his point home. “Do you think this is some kind of exception? You will find this pattern again and again in the Bible and right down to our time. When the righteous are persecuted, don’t blame government, look for false religion. It never fails! What is that old saying of crime dramas, Cher che la femme? Find the woman. I say, when people of the faith are persecuted cher che la religion!”

I can’t remember in all the times I have seen Glen teach, that he made more points or made them more forcefully, than he did this evening.

“Let’s see how Peter treats the crucifixion of Jesus. I want to be sure you don’t think what I am saying is not just my bias. And please remember, this is not an anti-Jewish rant. It is, if it is a rant, against false religion Jewish or Gentile. We have plenty of both in our midst. Let’s look at what Peter says in one of his great sermons, in the Book of Acts. In chapter 13 Peter addresses his fellow Jews:
In verse 12 he calls them Ye men of Israel...

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. Acts 3:13

Glen spoke so forcefully,”Let me emphasize that Jesus had to die for my sins and yours, for the sins of the Gentiles as well as the sins of the Jews. This is not laying blame on a race, but showing the instrumentality through which the betrayal of Jesus took place. Pilate defended Jesus, the chief priests demanded that he die. Now do you think if false religion betrayed Jesus, they are going to be any easier on you?

Let us look at a parallel situation with the Apostle Paul. Again, in the Book of Acts, religious people plot the death of one of God’s elect. We really need to read the entire passage of Acts 23:12 through 35. In this story a group of Jewish zealots plot to kill Paul. They vow neither to eat or drink until they killed Paul, v. 12.
They revealed their plan to the chief priest and elders ,v.14, who agreed to help them carry out their plot. Paul’s nephew hears of the plot and is brought in to tell the Roman soldiers guarding Paul. Look at the response of the Romans:

And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night.
And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. Acts 23:23

“Men, who threatened the life of Paul? And who protected him?"

It was fascinating to watch the reaction to these words of Glen. Listeners changed their posture, squirmed, you could say. Some looked appreciatively at Gen, some seemed unconvinced.

Glen summed up the purpose of his words, “As much as I appreciate this chance to talk with you, I want to say again, my words tonight are not about content, a bunch of scriptures, important as they are. It is about how we look at the scriptures. If your minds are made up that government is out to get you, I beg you, take off your blindfolds. Your blindfolds are made of strips of cloth from religious robes! Paul tells you that God has instituted government for our protection. But False religion tells you government is evil.”

I saw a heavy set older man smirking at Glen, obviously contemptuous of his whole concept and presentation. He held an open New Testament in his hand. He was prepared to bring Glen down with a master stroke.

“I am sure that you, being a Bible teacher and all, are familiar with the twelfth chapter of Revelations?”

Glen and I have noticed that people who said “Revelations” often did not know much about the book. Glen said nothing, letting the smirking man have his say.

“This chapter shows who persecutes true believers and I think you will have to agree it is the final form of the Roman government you seem to think so much of. It says,

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as he was born. Rev. 12:3,4

The smirker waited in vain for Glen to yield to what he considered his fatal blow.
Instead, Glen went into his Columbo mode. With one hand on his forehead he answered. “You know, I am so glad you read that passage from the book of Revelation”, he emphasized the proper form. "I had completely forgotten about it! But now that you have reminded me, you being a student of the Bible and all, I am sure you are familiar with the 17th chapter of Revelation. I’ll begin in verse 3;

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. Rev.17:3-5

Let me make this point one last time. Is the final Satanic government evil? Yes, it is. But upon its back sits the woman of false religion! Until this passage is fulfilled, look out for her. “Cher che False Religion! Put the blame where it belongs.

If some evil, religious S.O.B. sends you an exploding package, don’t blame the United States Post Office for delivering it.”

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