As America prepares in anticipation of yet another annual Thanksgiving celebration, I could not help but consider some of the parallels between the birth, growth, struggles and direction of this country, as compared to the birth, growth, struggles and potential direction, of a born again New Testament Christian.
In 1620, the pilgrims, seeking a new life free from the tyranny of oppressive persecution, by their faith in the power and providence of God, determinedly “set sail” into largely uncharted territory across a vast ocean in order to gain separation from their oppressor and his servants once and for all. This body of water was as essential to their separation from their oppression, as the waters of Noah’s day separated him and his family from the sin of their world, and as the waters of the Red Sea eventually separated God’s Old Testament people from their Egyptian slave masters and oppressors as well (Exodus 14).
Similarly, when a lost sinner today finally tires of the Satan over him, he, too, must set out for a new world, separating himself, once again, through water, from Satan’s tyranny and the power of sin (1 Peter 3:18-21; Romans 6:1-23; Hebrews 2:14-15). This is accomplished as he is, by faith in the power of God (Col. 2:12), born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5), being obediently immersed in the waters of Christian baptism (Gal. 3:26-27) for the forgiveness (or washing away – Acts 22:16) of his sins, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Upon emerging from the watery first leg of their journey to freedom, both the pilgrims of 1620 and the Israelites of Exodus 14, took their first few steps on dry, solid ground, to begin a new life in a new land. But it would not be easy. There would be desperate hardships, deadly battles, and a whole new way of life to become accustomed to, and integrated into. Temptation to turn back to even such monstrous and oppressive masters as they had distanced themselves from via the watery wall of separation standing between them, was at times, almost too much too bear.
New Testament Christians taking their first few steps of fully forgiven freedom on the other side of their biblical, baptismal burial in water, also encounter all sorts of devastating life and death struggles as well. Many face their own potentially deadly, daily battles in the form of the terrible temptations, addictions, and/or immoral practices from their former way of life, which they must fight desperately to defeat, put to flight, and to fully and finally overcome (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 4:17-5:13). Others face contempt, rejection, and exclusion from their former friends and families due to their decision to become New Testament Christians (Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 6:22-23; 1 Peter 4:3-16).
As the pilgrims’ progress began to become obvious, and new life on a new level began to become prosperous, an old world nemesis who refused to recognize the loss of his dominion without a further fight, marshaled his forces in an all out assault on those seeking to live a new and better life in their new world. And the fight for freedom in the form of the revolutionary war was on. Even after a horribly costly and hard fought victory by those residents of the “new world,” their former master still refused to accept their independence from him, and once again, it was war in 1812. Repeatedly their former master refused to accept their new found freedom and forced them to fight – hard – to maintain it.
Life as a Christian is very often like that; a series of hard fought and foe-forced battles against Satan and former sins that used to reign but now no longer do (Romans 6:1-18) – but still repeatedly seek to try to re-assert their once-held and vice-like death grip on those living a new life of blood-bought freedom (Galatians 5; 2 Peter 2:20-22).
Fast forward to today. With many battles fought and won since that initial day in 1620 when the first steps of their still-wet ancestors’ feet landed on this side of the water, America has been blessed by God with more abundance than anyone could have ever imagined. By God’s power and providence, America has grown rich, fat, powerful and prosperous. And just like the much-blessed nation of Old Testament Israel before them, they have pridefully, purposefully, passionately and pointedly rejected the great God who gave it all to them (Deut. 31:20-21; Neh. 9:16-35). And in what has to be one of the saddest and most tragic ironies of our time, is that next week, this once-God-fearing and God-honoring nation, which now seeks to defiantly eliminate, eradicate, and extricate themselves completely from almighty God’s authority on every level imaginable, will largely gather to give that same God they refuse to acknowledge by their obedience, thanks for the blessings they enjoy from His abundance…? (The utter epitome of irony, height of hypocrisy, and tragedy of thoughtless tradition, is it not?)
But before we judge our nation too harshly, perhaps we should acknowledge that the same thing can – and does –all too often just as easily happen within the Lord’s church. How consistently does it happen, that some of those who were set free from sin and death in the waters of Christian baptism several decades ago, and who have fought and won to maintain that God-given freedom and victory through many a trial and temptation, may have since grown proud and prideful to the point of rejecting and rebelling against God’s authority on almost anything they don’t particularly want to do (such as evangelizing, repenting, or serving with the saints); but yet they still gather around the Lord’s table, in the Lord’s house, each Lord’s Day, out of tradition, to give thanks to the Lord whom they, in all reality, pretty much virtually reject any true allegiance or obedience to otherwise, except for paying Him lip-service (Matthew 15:7-9)? And once again, the example of God’s abundantly-blessed but unwilling to be truly grateful in return Old Testament people who did very much the same type of thing, can be seen throughout the Old Testament, in places like Isaiah, chapter one; Malachi, chapter one, and etc..
May God help us to ensure that none of us ever follow that example; and may He help any of those of us who might have started sliding in that direction, to fully recognize our condition, and truly repent of our rebellion. Let none of us ever allow ourselves to sit back and thoughtlessly partake of the Lord’s Supper – this spiritual feast of “thanks giving” – simply out of some sense of time-tested, mind-numbed, assembly asserted tradition.
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29). “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” (1 Corinthians 10:21-22).
~From Paul Dingley