We might start with the question: did not John say, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son”? Is there contradiction with what James said, “Friendship of the world is enmity with God”? No, there is no contradiction!

Be Ye Separate

We should love people as God does, in that we should do nothing to harm them but to desire their salvation. What the Scriptures require of God’s people is that they stand apart from the world’s institutions, its organisations, its emphasis on pleasures, sport and films, and on its obsessive eating and drinking. These things are not beneficial in our quest for godliness.

The end result of all these things is that they dull our spiritual perceptions and cause us to escape the realities of life. It is with good reason the wise man said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Ecc 7:2).

The things of the world also can be a thief of one of the most important things we have in our probation, our time. Once time has been spent it cannot be recovered. The best that we can do is to take stock of the past and resolve to “redeem the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5: 16).

Paul probably has the most to say on this subject in the New Testament, because as the apostle to the Gentiles he saw the need for the clear cutting of ties with the old idolatries and our past ways. Unfortunately we live in a world where the boundaries have become indistinct to many, because of the diminishing of the historical Christian connection of our societies with laws on behaviour. The morals of the Western world now place emphasis on ‘human rights’, even above God’s laws.

The principle was clearly seen even as early as Moses and Joshua when the Israelites entered Canaan. They particularly concentrated on marriage with the alien: “they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes…” (Josh 23:13).

Remember this, that our Christianised world is not free from idolatry. Idols are everywhere especially in our hearts, for idols can be anything that takes God’s place in our lives.

People are naturally reluctant to let go of old pleasurable things, with many of the associations of our past life. Paul has some interesting comments on this in Ephesians 5:1–18. The passage is in the context of the filth, immorality, suggestive talk, carousing, etc of which Paul says: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolator, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (verse 5).

He adds, “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light… And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:6–8, 11). He also advises that some of the deeds of the world should not even be mentioned. Our lives are under scrutiny by people more so than our doctrines. So if our worldly actions and associations are in conflict with our preaching, who will be attracted to the truths we preach? Our lives are to be a declaration of our gospel. Other scriptures to read 2 Cor 2:14; 6:14–17; 7:1; Titus 2:12,13; James 1:27 etc.

Materialism

This is often over-simplified as merely being the possession of many goods. In fact, materialism can assume many forms. It can affect the poor as well as the rich. Materialism really is an attitude of mind towards material possessions and the importance we place on those things.

The basic cause of materialism is in reality ‘selfishness’. Selfishness is the root cause of many of our failures.

In Paul’s classic writing of “the last times” in which he instructs a young man, Timothy, of the evils that would prevail and that would undermine the Faith, he heads the list with, “men shall be lovers of their own selves”.

Next on the list is “covetous”. By using this word Paul identifies the major factor of materialism—the love of money, sometimes called ‘the god of the world’. In 1 Timothy 6:9,10 Paul says “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all [kinds of] evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” The word Paul uses translated “covetous” is the Greek word philarguros, literally ‘lover of silver’.

Everybody is subject to this desire to some degree, some greater than others. Money is essential to life; the human mind can use that rationale to justify accumulation of wealth to an inordinate level. Quite often for disciples the desire for more takes on a religious guise. For example, “If I can get more, then I will be able to use it in God’s work!” Or, “I can then ease off my time at work and give more time to God’s Word or to mission work”. The trouble is that the elusive ‘total’ seems always to be that bit further ahead. We want to upgrade certain essentials first—our car needs to be better, our homes are too small, or for our necessary recreation after working so long and hard we need an overseas holiday, or the children’s education. The list is endless.

The wise man observes, “When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, save in the beholding of them with their eyes?” (Eccl 5:11).

The danger is that materialism can become an idol in our heart which we may not even admit to ourselves. The problem is that we do have to earn money to provide for our families, to give to those in need, to assist in ecclesial expenses etc, but we must be careful not to give too much weight to their acquisition or possession.

A mark of our materialism can be gauged by the topics of discussion after the memorial meetings. How often is it about our new house, or carpets, or the last holiday, when we could be edifying one another with the thoughts that came from the exhortation?

Worldliness is a handmaiden with materialism. The inevitable end is to forsake God, if not outwardly, at least in our hearts. Sadly, Paul in his few remaining days had to say, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved [agape] this present world [age]”.

The answer to this is to realise that this world and its materialism is to pass away at the coming of the Lord, when there will “be a crown of righteousness… unto all them that love his appearing”.

Our Lord summed the matter up thus: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon … But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:24,33).

Pleasures

Yet again we are faced with a paradox because pleasure can be legitimate. The Psalmist declares, “At Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore”. Once again we call on the beloved apostle Paul in his last writing to put it in perspective. 2 Timothy 3:4 says people can be “… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”.

Actually, he uses the word philedonos: the word phileo, love, joined to the word from which we derive the English word ‘hedonist’. Webster’s says, “Hedonism: The doctrine that pleasure is the sole good in life and that moral duty is fulfilled in the gratification of pleasure-seeking instincts and dispositions”. Whilst it is not likely that any disciple would go that far, Paul puts it in an ecclesial context that declares that pleasures may be indulged in in such a way that they compete with the love of God. It may only be a part-time competition, but God rightly demands us entirely (James 4:5).

God does not expect us to be unhappy—the word “joy” occurs too often to think that. So we are to look for pleasures which will refresh and uplift. The best place to look for those is in the company of like-minded people, pleasures that will enhance our spirit and not pollute.

Pleasure can take many forms, and whilst some may be harmless in themselves, they can be a consumer of precious time—time that we all need to prepare ourselves for our Lord’s coming.

Many of this world’s pleasures and entertainments are mind-polluting. The pollution can be images of violence, immorality, the sanctioning of adultery and fornication as merely functions of the human body. These things can only defile and plant impressions on our brain cells that remain and come into our consciousness unbidden, often at the most inappropriate and solemn times. Historians tell us that in ancient Rome, when the populace were ready to rebel, the authorities solved the problem by giving them “bread and circuses”. Thus is the mind diverted from important things.

Television

A lot of what could be said about this has been covered in some of our previous topics. When television was first introduced to Australia very few Christadelphian homes had one installed. That position is sadly very different today; so it is encumbent upon us to highlight again the pitfalls and dangers to our spiritual development when television is present in our homes.

When the entertainment world prepares their programmes for public consumption, they do not have in mind the interests of those striving for the kingdom of God. The world loves the things of the flesh, so the works of the flesh dominate the daily fare which is provided through the TV and video channels. The apostle Paul provides us a list of the works of the flesh and they are an almost precise description of modern television programmes: “adultery, fornication, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing” (Gal 5:19–21 rsv).

Some may argue that television in itself is merely an object and therefore it is neither good nor evil. There is no doubt, either, that there are those who use their set strictly for current news events and educational programmes. Yet for the vast majority of us it is true that such a powerful medium, by far the most popular and alluring, represents a very strong personal temptation and a threat to the godly atmosphere that we all wish to cultivate in our homes.

The downsides of television ownership may be summarised in three propositions.

1 Precious time is lost; many folk, especially children, find TV watching addictive.

2 The content of programmes and advertisements is essentially contrary to the mind of our Master. Many hours of watching means viewing many thousands of scenes of crime, violence, murders, adultery, fornication etc, all in the context of our own lounge rooms, which must leave an impression with our children that all three evils are quite normal if not outright legitimate.

3 There is a need in this matter to set an helpful example. Even if we find no personal pull, even if our drive in the work of the Truth would not allow the waste of time or the inroads of mental pollution, we all know that for many others, including our children and grandchildren, that would not be true. So our example is of critical importance.

“Make no provision for the flesh” surely fits the question of TV ownership.

Family Life

Some thoughts gleaned from The Family, the Divine Perspective, M Ashton and H Tennant.

“Except the Lord build (banah) the house (beth), they labour in vain that build it.” The Hebrew for “build” is banah, and the word for “son” is ben. The word for “house” is beth, and the word for “daughter” is bath.

The family is thus Yahweh’s design. In Psalm 68:6 we read, “God setteth the solitary in families”. The word for “solitary” is translated “my darling” in Psalm 22:20. An interesting fact emerges, that God’s only begotten Son is placed in the families of God’s children. These families are the basic building blocks of the larger family, that is, the ecclesia. See Ephesians 3:14,15: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named”.

Both parents have godly roles which, if we neglect, it results in the failure of God’s design of producing children in His image.

This brings us to the rôle of the father. He is the provider and protector and the mother is the dispenser of the essentials of life and growth, education, welfare and nourishment. In communal life and other variations of God’s design, these things cannot exist, for it needs one faithful father and one faithful mother to produce the Godly seed.

“Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking a godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth” (Mal 2:14 niv). Mother and father are bound together in an all-of-life bond. If they both honour this obligation, they will have God’s blessing and the lesson of fidelity will be powerfully set before their children. The father must take a leading rôle. He stands before the family and leads in daily prayer, reading and instruction in the right ways. Look at Abraham’s faithful example in Genesis 18:19: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment”.

It is the ideal that the mother be there at all times to fulfil her noble responsibility, and therefore God has put within her those maternal instincts that are so necessary for the carrying out of her duties in love. She has the total care of the young ones while the father is out earning the bread of the household. Mothers can guide in godly ways, care for all their needs and as a grand by-product a wonderful bond is developed. God says, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee”.

Children should not be ‘latch-key kids’; they should not be left to their own devices, for then they will be at times forced on their own resources to make decisions in situations that will only be guided by their natural instincts, which after all would normally satisfy nature’s appetites. It is true we live in a changing world. Everything seems to have changed. But remember, parents, that God “changeth not”. Changes in work practices make greater demands on a father’s time; so it becomes more urgent that a man organise his time so that he and his wife can have special time together to keep their marriages vibrant.

Both parents should also provide good times together with their children in healthy recreational activities.

Here are some good rules for wise parents. They are Yahweh’s heritage, so

1 trust God for their provision and safety

2 regard them as given in trust by God

3 train them in the fear of God

4 pray for them daily.

If you are faithful in your duties, you may be blessed to see them render themselves in God’s service, as Hannah and Elkanah did.