Book: Keeping God's Covenant

Chapter 6 - Keeping God's Covenant and and the Antithetical Life

Scripture: II Corinthians 6:14-7 : 1, James 4:1-4 , and

Deuteronomy 33:26-29

    Take special note of the fact that in all of these biblical passages the antithesis stands on the foreground; and in every in-stance, the antithesis is connected to the doctrine of the covenant.

    Earlier this week one of the attendees at the conference, who had apparently read the program and who had seen the topic of this speech, called my attention to the fact that the word “antithetical” was most peculiar. She said to me, “Does not the last part of that word come from the word for God? And doesn’t the first part of that word mean ‘against’? Therefore, doesn’t the term ‘antithetical’ mean that the life of the Christian is a life against God? Why do you choose a subject like that?” That remark brought back memories of a long, long time ago—I think it was probably in the late forties or early fifties—when, at a young people’s convention, Rev. Herman Hoeksema delivered the keynote speech on what was the theme of the convention that year: The Antithesis.  He said, “We must not interpret antithesis in the convention's theme in the literal sense of that word, because it means ‘against God.’ ‘Antithesis’ is a wrong term,” he said. That lived vividly in my mind, because a wrong term to describe such an important part of the Christian’s calling is something of a disaster.

    I shall have to take exception, however, to those criticisms of the term. It is my judgment that antithesis comes from a Greek word that means “to set or place over against,” and that the end of the word does not come from the root word for God, but from a verb meaning “to set” or “to place.”

    The idea, therefore, of the antithesis, as the term itself implies, is that the Christian life, as the Christian walks it as a member of God’s covenant, is set against the life of the world in the midst of which he is to live.

    The subject is so vast that I am going to have to skim over some things very quickly.

    It must be clearly understood, at the very outset, that God creates the antithesis. He created the antithesis at the very beginning of history after the fall. When God met Adam and Eve in paradise and said to Satan, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” ( Gen. 3:15 ) —that was the announcement of the antithesis. Enmity was created between the devil and his brood and the seed of the woman by God. God does not place that enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent simply by filling the hearts of the seed of the serpent and the hearts of the seed of the woman with hatred for each other; but God creates that enmity by performing the work of salvation in the hearts of His people. That work of salvation in the hearts and lives of the people of God is God’s marvelous way of creating enmity, because it makes God’s people representatives of God’s kingdom and covenant in a world hostile to God.

    Second, the antithesis is rooted in and cannot be understood apart from the decree of sovereign predestination. It has its roots in election and reprobation. The seed of the woman is Christ, and in Him all the elect. The seed of the serpent constitute the reprobate. Behind the antithesis is God’s sovereign decree, which He executes in history.

    In the third place, that antithesis is fundamentally and essentially realized in the cross. You may picture the cross, from this point of view, as planted by God in the centre of the stream of history. As that cross is planted in the centre of the stream of history, the whole of the human race flows over Calvary and is divided by the cross into two groups: the elect and the reprobate, who are at enmity with each other, which enmity is created by and expressed fundamentally in the perfect work of our Savior on Calvary.  Our Lord Himself announced prior to His death that, in addition to dying for His people, with the cross had come also the judgment of the world: the prince of the world is cast out ( John 12:31 ).  

    Finally, that antithesis is executed by the exalted Lord. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough! Into the Lord’s hands, into the hands of the ascended Christ, is given the control of the universe— or, if I may put it a different way, is given the full execution of the whole counsel of God. God entrusts to His Son the authority and power to execute God’s counsel. He rules over all.  He does not only rule sovereignly over the elect; He rules sovereignly over all. Nothing takes place, not only on this earth but also in hell and in heaven, apart from the sovereign rule of Christ. That rule is a rule of grace, irresistible grace, as He sets up His throne in the hearts of His people. And that rule is one of sovereign power in His rule over the reprobate as He causes them to serve the purpose of the salvation of His church. Why is it that God laughs in the heavens as the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing? He has set His Son on the holy hill of Zion! The wicked can do nothing but serve God’s purpose ( Ps. 2 ).

    That twofold rule of Christ is the sovereign reason why there is an antithesis in the midst of the world. Bear in mind, therefore, that these great truths of the Scriptures stand at the basis and foundation of the antithesis. 

    The story of how that antithesis is worked out is one of the most exciting, one of the most thrilling, one of the most dramatic, stories that can ever be told. It is, in fact, the only story in all of history that is worth telling. When history is finally rewritten in the great Judgment Day, and God writes history as it should have been written on this earth but never was, and when God points out how in all of history He accomplished His eternal purpose, then that history book will be the only history book worth reading. It will fill the souls of those who read it with glory and with doxologies of praise to God who works wondrously.

    That story began in paradise, the first. That story began there when Adam was created in the image of God, as God’s covenant friend-servant, who was given lordship over God’s earthly creation.  In giving Adam lordship over that earthly creation, God gave to Adam the responsibility for keeping the garden. That is, He gave Adam responsibility for working in God’s creation as God’s representative in the world—to use God’s world to the praiseand glory of God’s name.

    It was while these things were happening here on earth that dramatic events were taking place in heaven. There Satan conspired against God to attempt in a desperate coup d’état to seize God’s throne. He failed, even though he had a multitude of angels who sided with him and agreed with his purposes. The result was that he was expelled from heaven, although his final expulsion did not take place until the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:9 ). Because of his failure in heaven, he decided instead to make this present earthly creation his possession, to steal it from God, to set himself on the throne of this earthly creation, and to make this earthly creation so completely his possession that the whole creation would serve his purposes, which purposes were nefarious, hellish, opposition to God, born of hatred of God and of God’s glory and name.

    But Satan had no access as such to this earthly creation except through Adam. So he conspired to tempt Adam, through Eve his wife, to gain Adam as his ally, because Adam was the head of the creation. If Adam would agree to cooperate with Satan against God, Adam would be Satan’s representative in the world and would be so manipulated by Satan that through Adam Satan could accomplish his purpose here below. He succeeded. Sad to say, he succeeded.

    Because Adam was the head of the creation, the fall of Adam meant that the curse that came upon Adam came also upon God’s creation. That was a necessary consequence. It could not happen any other way. Adam was responsible for the creation. Now, remaining responsible for the creation, Adam became the representative in the creation of Satan and of Satan’s purposes.

    I want to remind you, although it will be a very brief reminder, that the fall was not, from the viewpoint of God, a mistake. God did not sit in heaven and watch the dramatic events that were taking place at the foot of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil hoping against hope that Adam could stand in the face of the severity of the temptation.  And when Adam fell, God did not wring His hands in despair and weep over the destruction of His original purpose in creating heaven and earth so that, consulting once again with Himself, He decided that, due to Adam’s apostasy, He would be forced to adopt another plan in order to attain the glory of His name.

    Such a conception of the fall of Adam can never do justice to the glory, sovereignty and eternal purpose of God. We must proceed from the principle that God is God who does all His good pleasure and accomplishes His purpose unfailingly ( Eph. 1:11 ).  His purpose, in His eternal counsel, was to glorify His own name, not through the first Adam but through the second Adam—Christ, of whom the first Adam, according to Paul, was only a type (Rom. 5:12-14). In order to accomplish that purpose, God, without staining His own infinite holiness in any respect, without in any way becoming the author of Adam’s sin, nevertheless sovereignly controlled events in such a way that even the fall served the realization of His eternal purpose. That is what God announced to Adam in the words of the gospel. He immediately brought the gospel, the gospel of Christ, to those poor saints. Rev. Hoeksema, in school and in his preaching, used to put this in an unforgettable way: “When Adam fell into sin, he fell into the arms of Christ.” God brought the gospel: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.”

    The result of it was that God, in the realization of His purpose in Christ, planted the cross on Calvary, by means of which power the enmity could be created. In the old dispensation the work of God looked ahead in anticipation to the coming of Christ and the work that He would perform. The saints in the old dispensation understood that— and they lived in the hope of the coming of Christ. Satan understood it no less.  Revelation 12 tells us that Satan immediately saw the threat to his plan when God announced the gospel to Adam and Eve. The whole old dispensation, therefore, has this thread running through it: Satan’s desperate attempt to prevent the seed of the woman from being born. He stood with open mouth, as the dragon, before the woman in an effort to devour her Son ( Rev. 12:1-4 ).

    It was only by a wonder of grace throughout the entire old dispensation that the seed of the woman was preserved. Think of godless Athaliah who, by the way, was born out of an unholy union, a repudiation of the antithesis, between Judah and Israel, due, sadly, to Jehoshaphat’s foolishness, though he was a child of God. Athaliah killed all the seed-royal (except Joash). Think of Haman and his plot to kill all the Jews. Think of the repeated apostasy in Israel and in Judah that finally led the nation into captivity. It is all the terrible story of Satan’s attempt to destroy the seed of the woman. Psalm 137 is a psalm of pathos: By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept; and when our conquerors required of us a song, we hung our harps on the willows—how could we sing the songs of Zion in a strange land? Did not all of the songs of Zion talk of Christ? How can we sing of Christ in Babylon? It is impossible that Christ be born here in Babylon. But we shall hang our harps on the willows that we may use them again. We will remember Zion, because God’s gospel shines as an inextinguishable light in the darkest hours of history. And the power of the gospel frustrates every attempt of Satan to accomplish his purpose. We shall return to Zion.

    God takes to Himself, according to His own eternal decree of election, a covenant people, a people whom He took out of Satan’s clutches, rescuing them from Satan’s power and establishing them in the midst of this world as His covenant people. Because they are His covenant people, He makes them His friends and becomes a friend to them—such a friend that He tells them in the sweetest possible terms, “I have so taken you into My fellowshipthat I will make known to you, My people, all the purposes of My will that I purpose to do until the end of the world, when all of My purpose is realized.”

    Psalm 25 speaks of God’s covenant in terms of a friendship between God and His people that is so close that God tells them His secrets: “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” (v. 14). He lets us in on His secrets. He whispers, as it were, in our ear so that nobody else can hear: “I will tell you of all I purpose because I do all things for you. I will do this for all My elect—I will do this in all the history of the world.”

    But He tells His covenant people His secrets in order that they may represent His cause and the cause of His covenant in the world. That work of God puts the purpose of Satan and the purpose of God, in the lives of the people of God, at loggerheads.  Satan’s purpose is to banish God from His world, come what may.  He will use as his allies and tools the whole of the wicked world. He will use the creation and its powers.      But there is this small, almost insignificant, frequently frightened group of saints to whom God entrusts the secret of all of history and the secrets of the universe embracing heaven itself. He says to them, “Now, in this world, you represent My cause.  And you do that by saying as loudly as you can, for all to hear, and by your entire life: ‘This world is God’s!’ It is not Satan’s. It does not belong to you. God claims it as His own.  He will not let go of that which He created. It is His. And He will accomplish His purpose in it, too, when Christ comes again to redeem all things, to glorify them, and to give them to His elect as their everlasting inheritance.” That testimony of the elect is the antithesis.

    There are especially two figures that Scripture uses to define the antithesis; there are more, but there are two figures to which I want briefly to call to your attention.

    The one figure is the figure of a battle. The covenant people of God are summoned to a battle. They are drafted into the armies of God. They do not volunteer for Jesus, as that wretched Arminian hymn has it. They are drafted by an act of irresistible grace.  And yet, they are not drafted against their will, nor do they fight against their will. God, in His gracious work of making them soldiers in the armies of Christ, who represent the cause of God and Christ by warfare, makes them joyful, willing soldiers. It is a wonderful thing, people of God, to fight in the battle of faith. It is a wonderful thing because soldiers of the cross are fighting for the only thing worthwhile. To fight for anything else is to fight for a useless cause, doomed to defeat. But to fight for the cause of God is to fight for the glory of His name and the realization of His eternal purpose. It is glorious beyond compare because the Christian soldier fights in the consciousness that the victory is always his. He is united by faith to Christ, his exalted Lord, who is sovereign over all. Christ is not only the captain of his salvation, but Christ is in the camp of the enemy directing operations, controlling the movements of bodies of troops, always for the sake of His soldiers. Our captain is in full control of all the power of the enemy’s armies. How can we help but win!

    Now just a few words about that battle. I fear, sometimes, that the people of God forget that life here in this present world is indeed a battle. They like to think of it in terms of its being a playground—we are in the world to enjoy ourselves; we are in the world to get everything out of life we possibly can; we immerse ourselves in the pleasures of this creation to the full. It is a playground, we think. No, it is not that. It is a battlefield. It is always a battlefield. And God’s covenant people ought not to forget that, because if they lose sight of that they will fail to represent the cause of God.

    In the second place, that battle is fierce. That battle is fiercer than any battle that has ever been fought in the history of the world. What does God care about World War II in comparison with the battle of the ages? What does God care about Iraq except insofar as it is a small item in His counsel and plan? The battle of the ages—that is the fiercest battle that has ever been waged or will ever be waged to the very end. And the ferocity of the battle is experienced most at its worst on the battleground of our own flesh, for our flesh is an eager ally of Satan.

    In the third place, from every single human point of view, the battle is hopeless. The church is a Gideon’s band. Isaiah, in chapter 1 of his prophecy, looks at the church in the time of Judah (not all that long before the captivity), and in a plaintive voice describes the church as a hut in a garden of cucumbers, a besieged city, a very small remnant. From every earthly point of view, all the odds are against the church. They have no strength; they have no numbers; they have no power. They have nothing at all going for them. They are their own worst enemy. There is no reason why anyone observing the battle should ever say, “They have a chance at victory.” And sometimes the people of God, feeling the sting of their smallness, begin themselves to be discouraged and frightened—especially when the enemy is discovered in their camp, when he leaves their churches in ruins and makes those who are supposed to be ministers of the gospel become ministers of the propaganda of the enemy.

    When the mighty hand of the world reaches out to snatch their children from their arms and dash them to pieces against the stones of false doctrine or persecution, the people of God sigh with a great sigh, “We are afraid. The enemy is victorious. He will win.”

    But if you are of those who belong to God’s covenant and who represent God’s covenant in the world, you will fight on. And you will fight in the assurance that the victory is yours. What a glorious promise God gives us. The victory does not come through marching on from battle to battle in the cause of the gospel and ultimately so overcoming the world that the battlefield of this world is strewn with the wreckage of this present time and theReformed faith triumphs here in the midst of the world in a golden age when the kingdom of Christ is of the earth. That is no triumph; that is no victory. But the child of God looks for the victory in the full realization of the purpose of God in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. His seeming defeat is in fact the victory, just as it was at the cross when the seeming defeat of Christ was the victory over all the powers of darkness.

    In the fourth place, if you read that powerful metaphor of Paul in Ephesians 6:10-17, where he describes the Christian warrior and urges upon the people of God, “Stand fast,” you will notice, if you read carefully, that the various parts of the amour, both defensive and offensive without exception, in one way or another, refer to the Word of God. We do not fight the battle with bullets. We do not fight the battle, as Francis Schaeffer suggests in hisChristian Manifesto, by fleeing to the mountains, organizing guerilla bands and waging war against the civil government in an attempt to overthrow it and establish Christianity as the rule of the land. We do not fight that way. To fight that way is to lose and to go down to crushing defeat. We fight with the Word of God.  That is our weapon. That is the only weapon we have. But that is a sufficient weapon because God is pleased through the foolishnessof preaching to gather, defend, and preserve His church and each member in it. Just the Word. Use that as your armor!     

    Paul means to say that the Christian warrior in the midst of the battlefield, with the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the breastplate of righteousness, his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and the shield of faith, will stand. He cannot be overcome. He may at last be weary of the battle to the marrow of his bones.  His sword may be broken and his helmet knocked askew; blood may be streaming down from his head and from the wounds in his body; but when the battle is over, and he is ready to exchange his amour for a robe of righteousness and a palm leaf of victory, you will find him in the middle of the battlefield standing for the cause of God and of His truth.

    To be a part of God’s covenant is to fight. You are summoned to battle. You are summoned to battle against all that militates against God’s truth, and against an evil that is contrary to God’s holiness. That is the antithesis.

    The second figure that Scripture uses in order to define the antithesis (and this is the figure on which I want to concentrate for the rest of this chapter) is the name Scripture gives the people of God who live the antithetical life in the world: the name pilgrims and strangers. Peter addresses his first epistle to pilgrims and strangers.

    The entire first epistle of Peter is instruction on how the child of God must live the life of a pilgrim and a stranger. I would like to suggest that, in your devotions in the next week, you read the first epistle of Peter. Read it through the first time from beginning to end, never mind the chapter distinctions (which are later additions), never mind the verse separations (which are later accretions), just read it. And read it thinking in your mind this: “I am a stranger here as my fathers were. God gives me this hand-book by which I must live as a stranger in the world. I will read it in order to learn from my God what it means to be a pilgrim and a stranger.” Then, when you have read it from beginning to end, read it again in short sections, meditate on it and learn what it means to live the life of the antithesis.

    There was this figure of pilgrims in the old dispensation. It is in Hebrews 11:13-16. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were called out of Ur of the Chaldees and told to sojourn in the land of Canaan, when the land was owned by others; when they did not own so much as a foot of ground; were truly strangers in a strange land. This passage tells us in beautiful words, in words that God intends that we take into our hearts, as He sums up the life of thepatriarchs: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” For they that say such things, the author of Hebrews 11 goes on to say (as the patriarchs said in confessing that they were pilgrims and strangers in the earth), if they had had any desire to return to the land of their birth (Ur of Chaldees)they would have found opportunity to return. To be a stranger was not pleasant. To be on guard against all the enemies that surrounded them was living a life of constant danger.

    And besides this, the land of promise was a desert. God had said, “I’ll give you this for a promise.” Abraham must have looked around him and almost said, “Who in the world wants this land?”  Twice he had to go from the country because of famine. Isaac had to go because of famine. Jacob had to go because of famine. A land ravaged by famine. A desert place. God said, “This is the land I’m going to give you.” But by an amazing wonder of grace—and you can explain it only as a marvelous miracle between the time that the patriarchs died and God brought Israel into the land of Canaan—it became a land flowing with milk and honey.  Mind you, one cluster of grapes was so heavy that two men had to carry it from that land.

    But Canaan was not the land they sought. They sought a better country, that is, an heavenly country. They were content to dwell there in that strange land as pilgrims and strangers because they understood that this was not really their home. God promised them and their seed this land as picture of a better country.  So they sought a better country, that is, an heavenly country: “wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb. 11:16).

    That last line—perhaps it has nothing to do with my speech, but I must underscore that for a minute. Just think! Can you think of anything more blessed than that God would ever say about you and me, “I’m not ashamed to be called your God. I want all the world to know that I am your God”? We, who are so wicked, we, who are so often ashamed of God, we, who in the struggles of our lives to conform to the ways of God’s covenant fail so often,have this assurance: God is not ashamed to be called our God.  What a blessing! What a wonder! The God of heaven and earth, the Creator of all, is not ashamed of us but delights in calling us His sons.

    Be that as it may, there was the Old Testament picture. Peter picks it up and says, “Now this is what you are in the New Testament.”  If you read this epistle of Peter, you will discover that Peter does not say, “The life of a pilgrim and a stranger is to pull out of the world and get out of it as far as you can to hole up in some dark, dank, dismal monastery cell where you can lie on a stone bench, and where you can beat yourselves with whips in order to attain the holy life.” Peter says that pilgrims and strangers live right here in the world. They have to, because their calling is to say, for everyone to hear, “This world belongs to God. Whatever you wicked may say and whatever you wicked may do, this world belongs to God!” We insist on that. And if the world mockingly says, “Who? What in the world are you talking about? We’ve got the whole world for ourselves and we are going to squeeze you out until you can’t find a place for the sole of your foot,” the child of God says, as he is pushed out of that last square foot of ground, “But this world belongs to God. God has let us in on His secret. It is His purpose to give it to us. And His purpose will be accomplished in the coming of the day of Jesus Christ.”

    So Peter says that to walk as a pilgrim and as a stranger in this earth means that God commands us to walk holily, for “I the Lord thy God am a holy God.” Peter says, “You are a citizen of a country here in the world. Submit to those that are in authority over you. Be the best citizen in the whole land because you submit, for God’s sake, to the authority of your rulers.” Peter says that though you are a pilgrim and a stranger you are not (ordinarily) to be celibate. You must marry and have a family. But be sure that in your family you live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven and as members of God’s covenant. And he gives instruction in chapter 3 on how that is accomplished.

    Peter says, “You must have a job; you must work for your living.  Don’t be slothful and don’t be lazy. Maybe you even work for an unbeliever. That does not make any difference. But when you work, give honor to your employer and do so for God’s sake.  And if he despitefully uses you and gyps you out of your wages, don’t join a labor union and say to yourself, ‘I’m going to join with others and I’m going to get that rascal’”  Oh, no! The Christian does not say that. He bears evil for Christ’s sake, even when his employer is cruel to him.

    Ultimately, as he lives his life as a pilgrim and a stranger in the world, he will have to suffer. So Peter spends a great deal of time in his epistle describing and defining what the believer must do in times of suffering. A pilgrim’s way is a difficult way to walk and involves persecution, for so is the will of God for him. Read it. He is on a journey towards his eternal destination, the house of his Father. He is on a journey to what John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress calls the celestial city. He does not fit in the world. He is an anomaly. He is such a strange person, and in the eyes of the world acts so peculiarly, that the world thinks there is something wrong with him.

    Peter says, “So different are you that not only do you attract the world’s attention by your peculiar conduct, but they will ask you the reason, ‘Why do you live the way that you do?’” (I Pet. 3:15).

 I remember that my mother was in the hospital a great deal before she died. In those days, hospitals had big wards—maybe 10 people in a ward. And, of course, those women who were in the ward with my mother all talked about their parties on Friday night; how they spent their weekends in all kinds of pleasure seeking, the latest shows they went to, and so on and so on.  Finally, when my mother was quiet, they said to her, “Don’t you ever do those things?” “No,” said my mother, “I never do. I’ve never been drunk. I’ve never been to a show in all my life. I’ve never been inside a cinema.” “Oh,” said the ladies, “don’t you ever have any fun?” “Yes,” said my mother, “I have the happiest life of you all! I have much more fun than any of you have. Is it fun to wake up on Saturday morning with a head that feels like a stick of dynamite has exploded inside of it? Is that fun? We have our fun on the Lord’s Day in church where we hear the word of God.” They could not understand it. “Why do you do that?” they said. Well, we are strangers in the world. We are on a journey. We are pressing on the way to our eternal destination. That is why.  God has let us in on the great secret of the universe. We believe Him and we believe His Word. And when all this wicked world is destroyed, there will be a new heavens and a new earth that God will give to His covenant people in Jesus Christ.

    A pilgrim and a stranger in the earth is, therefore, one who claims this creation for God by using it, insofar as he is able to do that, for the glory of God’s name. That means that he recognizes the fact that the creation as now constituted is not worth all that much. It is under the curse. It is not worth being delayed in your journey. It is not worth accumulating to yourself its possessions.  A pilgrim and a stranger sits loose to the things of this presenttime. He is not interested in a beautiful home, not in the first place. If God gives him that, that is something else, although God does not do that very frequently to His people. They are the offscouring of the world. But he is not interested in that. He is not interested in accumulating to himself wealth. What is the use? If he fills his backpack and his suitcases with bottles of wine and whiskey or gold and silver bars, it is almost impossible to walk on his pilgrim’s journey with such a load. And if he builds to himself, in the spiritual sense of the word, a gloriously beautiful and expensive mansion, he forgets he is on a journey. It is much better that he carry a tent that he can pack up in the morning and put on his back to carry it in the next mile of his earthly pilgrimage.  Even while he sits loose to the things of this present time, he says, “But this is God’s world. But I am relatively uninterested in it now as far as accumulating the things in it is concerned. It doesn’t bother me that I have little of it, because someday God is going to give to me and to all His people the whole creation glorified in Christ as my everlasting inheritance. That will be glory, for then I will be with Christ.”

    Moreover, when he has these earthly things he is interested in them for an altogether different reason than the wicked are interested in them. He is interested in them for one reason only, that is, that by means of them and by using them he may seek the cause of God. That is the important thing in his life. That is what counts. Just as soon as he takes some of God’s possessions from this creation and uses them for himself, he says, “This is mine to use as I please.” God says, “No, Christian pilgrim, they’re Mine.  And I give them to you as a steward only so that you may use them in My service.”

    There is one thing the Christian pilgrim is very intent on and that is fleeing all the world’s lusts and sins, fearing them with a great dread. He does not turn the television set on to watch the moral rot of the movies. He does not buy magazines filled with wicked pictures. In fact, if you would visit his house, be it but a temporary dwelling place, you might find a sign above the door of his house that says, “In this house Christ is King.” And if you were invited inside, it would not take you five minutes to discover that parents and children alike bow in service to King Jesus.  You can tell that by the songs that are being played on the CD player or the radio. You can tell that by the books that fill their shelves. You can tell that by the language that the family use in the house, which is language that reflects the fear of God that pervades their life. You will say, “Christ rules here by His grace. And in this home Christ is king. You will not find here the lusts and pleasures of the world.” A pilgrim’s home is an island of holiness in a wicked world.

    We are on a journey. The journey is difficult. There is a cross to carry. The journey is filled with suffering. The world hates us, standing along our pilgrim’s pathway, throwing its clods of mud at us and, finally, brutally attacking us on the pathway of life to frighten us from what is a narrow, difficult, steep pathway at best.   But in suffering there is victory, and in dying there is heaven. We are always victorious, ever pressing on towards the goal and knowing that faith is the victory that overcomes the world.

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