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Monday, August 10, 2015

The Time of Their Visitation

In August 1914 after 24 days on the open sea, a German schooner crew with a cargo of oilcake aboard sailed casually into a Scottish harbor — and found themselves under arrest the moment they docked.

Their surprise was understandable. It was long before the invention of the cellular phone or even the wireless, so the crew had no way of knowing that they had picked an exceptionally poor time to visit the UK. Britain had declared war on their homeland as they crossed the North Atlantic. They were at war and didn’t know it.

Many of our neighbours and coworkers today are — no pun intended — in the same boat.

So were the Jews in the first century. Convinced that their devotion to the Law of Moses justified them in the eyes of God, they were oblivious to the fact that they too were at war with God, a condition to which the Lord Jesus constantly tried to alert them. They insisted “Abraham is our father” but the response of the Lord was “You are of your father the devil”.

They too were at war and didn’t know it. Jesus did, and Luke records that he agonized over it:
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!”
He spoke these words about the city of Jerusalem, and he wept as he said them.

Like Jerusalem, few of those today who remain unreconciled to God even grasp the fact that they are in a war, and it is a war they cannot win. Still, war it is. James makes that clear:
“... friendship with the world is enmity with God ... Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
The world — the priorities, philosophies and passions of those around us — is Satan’s kingdom and is therefore either overtly or covertly opposed to everything godly. John tells us Christians should not love the world, but it is not necessary to passionately embrace the spirit of the age, worship demons or explicitly reject Christ to be God’s enemy. James says friendship with the world puts you at war with God. The word James uses for “friendship” is sometimes used to indicate strong affection but much of the time simply signifies that the parties have something in common or have been able to reach an accommodation.

And hey, the world is always willing to accommodate and delighted to welcome another ally, knowing or otherwise.

Paul says much the same thing in Romans. You don’t have to stand up and make a public declaration to be an enemy of God. You don’t need to dress your child in an I Love Satan onesie (yes, such a thing does exist). It’s enough to live “according to the flesh”, to simply do what comes naturally to mankind:
“... those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh ... to set the mind on the flesh is death ... the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
We are in a war. There are only two sides, there is no neutral territory, and unlike many of the wars we’ve observed in our lifetimes, this one will have a conclusive winner. One day an angel will blow his trumpet, and the declaration will be made in heaven that:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
The citizens of Jerusalem did not know the time of their visitation. Our job is to make sure our friends and neighbours know the time of theirs.

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