THE LIFE-STYLE OF A BELIEVER
A Prolegomenon on Christian Ethics
*** Important: Please read Part One before continuing.
One of the greatest activating principles of human life is the motivation to serve. The principle of service is more powerful than that of financial rewards. A believer's ethics include both love (agape, the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation) and service. I Corinthians, chapter 13 speaks in detail about the love of God. Before you continue, you should read this chapter. You must remember, as the chapter says, that you are nothing and you accomplish nothing unless you do everything with the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. You will see great things in this chapter such as the fact that the love of God never fails. This love of God is referred to in the Greek as agape. The world, of course has a counterfeit for this type of love which is referred to as the love of the world, and in the Greek it is referred to as fileo. It is my sincere intent that you begin to look up the Scriptures on your own and not just depend on me to place them before you during these teachings. This will get you on your own with God and you will be able to make the Word of God your own.
Man has free will, and is therefore spiritually and morally responsible for his conduct. Man's free will places in his hands the responsibility to direct his own life. To the extent that a man willfully determines to make God's Will his will, he will find himself to be a doulos, a bonded slave of the Lord Jesus Christ according to the inherent and inerrant accuracy of God's Word. Being a "slave" is living a life of service and commitment, one that produces the greatest attainable freedom. Such a paradox! A bonded slave, referred to as a doulos, usually has a negative connotation for most people. But in the Bible, this type of slave has all of his needs met. He gives his whole life to his master and his master always takes care of him and gives him the best life that he can ever have. This is how we are to be concerning Jesus Christ. We are to follow him and to serve him as he is the head of the body of Christ and we are members in particular.
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular [individually]. -- I Corinthians 12: 27
A true man will have superb confidence in his own inspiration, desire, and ability. Men who hear the "call of God" most clearly are most likely to easily justify the sacrifice they make in following it. The man who hears the call clearly enough, yet decides not to sacrifice himself as a result of his own ease and comfort, is rightfully condemned.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. – Romans 8: 6
We have our own free will as to whatever way of life that we choose. Believe it or not, I often wished that I did not have free will so that I would always do the Will of God. Of course this is not available because God does not want us to be like a robot and programmed to love and listen to Him. He only knows that we truly love Him because we do what He says because we want to do it and not because we are forced or programed to do so.
The duty of service includes the responsibility of sacrifice because that service which costs us nothing is valueless. Self-sacrifice, the giving of oneself completely, is the passion of great men - most vividly exemplified in Jesus Christ. Self-sacrifice must be a part of the ministry of a sold out believer. In the principle of the ethics of sacrifice is this truth: that mankind can have nothing for which someone is not prepared to pay the price. Sacrifice demands that someone have great commitment. There is also the principle that each man has his appropriate status and duties. The truth that all born-again believers are of equal value in the eyes of God does not indicate that every man must necessarily do the same work or receive the same education or be paid the same wages. But it does indicate that all good work in every profession or sphere is honorable. The best and most powerful simple Scripture that addresses this issue is one that you heard many times in the book of Matthew. I honestly feel it deserves to be quoted at this point.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. -- Matthew 6: 33
As I have heard it said many times, if you seek anything else first, everything will eventually be subtracted from you. At first, when you turn your back on God, it appears like nothing is going wrong. The adversary will back off and make it appear that everything is fine until he gets you to a point where you really need the true power of the true God and then he will drop you on your back and he will destroy you and your life and everything regarding your life. This is the trickiness of the god of this world. I’ve seen this happen to many believers. They face some tribulation in their life and they give up – they quit. Things seem to be going okay for a while and then all of a sudden everything falls apart. I knew a believer who slighted me once and actually kept me from going to fellowship by going to a so-called leader with a bunch of lies concerning myself. He eventually lost his business, he was an ordained reverend and gave it up, and he lost his wife. This can happen to you unless you seek first the kingdom of God. You must understand that if you are not worshiping the true God, you are worshiping the god of this world. I hope I have made this point clear enough so that you never forget it. It is not a bummer keeping God first. The opposite is true and I hope you never have to learn this lesson. Most believers go through it at least once in their walk and stand with God. I too am no exception, but I always returned because I knew there was nothing else in this life to live for.
The return of Christ, as set forth in the Scriptures of Truth, gives man a motive, a reason for action, making every believer's life worthwhile, which brings forth the life of a doulos, the highest type of heroism.
THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
It is axiomatic that a Christian order of society implies Christian men and women. To alter any situation in our society there must be a sufficient number of people who want it altered, who care enough about a given issue to make the sacrifices necessary to bring about change. The first step in all social change is a strong public opinion, the education of the public mind.
Whenever a society chooses to use men, we must not be surprised to have moral problems to which there are no solutions. There is no right course available then, but merely a choice of the lesser evils. And this is the situation that many of us believers are confronted with. It is part of natural tribulation and we should not be surprised when we have to confront these situations.
There are moral problems to which there are no apparent solutions in this world because of man. There sometimes appears to be no really right course of action under utterly unnatural conditions. If the highest good is possible for man now, then our highest duty is obviously to act so as to make the highest good possible for future generations. That is to teach and apply the rightly divided Word of God. The enemy is out there teaching his false doctrine and convincing many that it is truth when it is a lie.
And no marvel: for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. – II Corinthians 11: 14
Society must be based on the sanctity of private property and of the individual. There should be some form of strong and stable government, making the practice of morality possible. The state recognizes the right to hold property. The individual has a moral as well as a legal right to property and to the exercise of all the rights attached to it. But it must also bring the maximum good for the community as a whole. Ethically, property is a trust.
For its efficient working, a republic needs a majority in the nation of good and strong citizens. Our present-day moral codes are frequently irrational in the highest sense of ethics. The greatest hindrance to advancement towards any reform is that we have not enough good men and women to speak up and stand to effect change. Many of us are ‘Yes’ people and conform to worldly ways due to fear.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear [moral cowardice]; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. – II Timothy 1: 7
If a thing is harmful to public morals, it should be prohibited no matter what others consider to be its artistic value. On the other hand, to forcibly suppress the expression of unpopular views produces the impression that no adequate argument can be found with which to refute them. Truth has nothing to fear.
The real unit of society is the family, not the individual. Marriage is a partnership in which each partner gives himself or herself wholly to the other. Marriage is manifestly unequal if a man demands the whole of a woman's being - body, soul, and spirit - in return for no more than a share of himself. Likewise with the woman.
Let the husband render [give in full] unto the wife due benevolence [good feeling]: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. – I Corinthians 7: 3, 4
Verse 4 talks about a subject in the Bible referred to as Christian family and sex. Verse 4 means that neither the man nor wife can totally satisfied themselves, sexually. We know that so many divorces today are a result of this subject when either the man or woman becomes selfish and does not care for the needs of their spouse. This section is written to the Christian believer and not to the unbeliever. Believe it or not, neither the husband nor the wife has the authority to say ‘no’ when it comes to the subject of sexual relations. That’s all I’m going to say on this subject, however, it definitely relates to the lifestyle of a believer.
Divorce usually starts at the cradle. In a society where there is no strong Christian public opinion, a just solution to the problem of divorce seems unattainable. Somewhere in the Bible, it says that where there is no Word of God, the people wander aimlessly. See if you can look up that verse on your own. There is nothing like "injustice for the innocent party" for there is no innocent party. Probably there is no Christian solution to the problem of divorce because a Christian solution involves Christian men and women in a Christian society, acting in a Christian way. But the great majority of men and women are scarcely more than nominal Christians and our society is, in many respects, non-Christian. The ideal state of things would obviously be for the standard of the Word to be the standard of the state. But the standards of morality set forth in God's Word and the standards acceptable to the state are diverging more and more widely.
Whereby [By which] are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. – II Peter 1: 4
This word ‘corruption’ is most interesting in this verse because it refers to a world that is getting worse and worse and worse. As God says in the beginning of the verse, we have a way through God’s precious promises to escape this corruption by the renewing of our mind to the Word of God. I often think about this verse as I watch what happens in the world today. Since I have been around quite a while, I am not fooled by the adversary’s devices and how he has corrupted this world almost beyond belief. As I said many times, his time is short and he knows it. He is making every attempt he can to corrupt the world and people and to take as many people with him as he can when he burns in the lake of brimstone and fire. If you can remember way back, things were much simpler and today there are nothing but complications to make your life miserable. This is what it means by getting worse and worse and worse. But you can escape this, as I already said, by renewing your mind to your source of power, and that is the rightly divided Word of God applied in your everyday life.
To deter such a corrupted life-style must be a primary goal in your life. The man of low mentality who knows nothing about the Word of God, and the clever criminal usually, are made worse by our current systems.
To suggest that a sexual pervert is more to be pitied than blamed, and that, by nature, he has a right to live his own life by his own natural instincts, is in itself a perversion. Perhaps it would be wise to treat him as insane, as we would treat a homicidal maniac or kleptomaniac.
Speech enables us to communicate ideas. Art enables us to communicate emotion. Music, perhaps the purest of all the arts, enables us to convey the highest and purest emotion. Art is judged by the success or lack of success with which the desired emotion is conveyed. Ethics, however, must determine whether the emotion evoked or conveyed is one which should be.
Art is for the sake of enriching and elevating human life, stimulating emotion and honor. Art is never for art's sake but for man's sake. That which enriches life in one way only at the cost of impoverishing it in another must be condemned.
An ideal inspires imagination, organizes human urges and instincts, and stimulates the will, thus determining the direction of our character and activities.
It is right in society for every job to offer a full, interesting, and useful life for the believer, and the opportunity for the free development of the individual. The worker must take an interest, a pride in his work and exercise his greatest ability to develop his total life. Christianity touches every sphere of man's activities. To be immeasurably happier and healthier, a man must have freedom in getting and spending, giving and serving.
And whatsoever ye do, do it [work] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; -- Colossians 3: 23
Every job that we work at should be regarded as an honorable privilege. There is no respect of persons when it comes to God Almighty. We should follow suit. We don’t treat the man with the fancy job better than the man that takes out the trash. This is something that is very difficult for people to renew their minds to. However if you don’t, you’re going to confront tribulation in many areas of your life. We are no better than anybody else and God loves us all equally and we need to get that in our heads permanently.
Gambling is trying to get something for nothing. It is the distinctive vice of a degenerating age and nation, as are alcohol and drugs. Gambling is a transaction between two parties whereby the transfer of something of value is made dependent on chance in such a way that the whole gain of one party equals the whole loss of the other. There is no increase of wealth. All that one party gains is gained at the expense of the other. A gamble is an attempt to gain something without rendering any return. Gambling is a sin against God, self, neighbor, and society and increases appallingly the amount of waste, misery, and crime. The state should never be involved and we know that it is to a great extent. As far as I know, there is a lottery that is state run in every single state of the union. I watch people buying lottery tickets and I just shake my head because they think they’re going to win. Maybe a few people do but the odds are much better that you get struck with lightning. People don’t seem to realize this or they are just plain stupid.
I was involved in God’s Word and I still gambled at one time. Only a few times I did this, but once it stuck in my mind. I had $90 in my pocket and it was there for a purpose. I went on a blackjack table and lost it in 15 minutes. I had to borrow that money from my sister to get my motorcycle out of the shop where it was being tuned up. By the way, they did a horrible job and I had to take the motorcycle almost 300 miles to get it tuned up properly. This is what I tried to say to believers about things going wrong in their life. Not only did I lose the $90 in the wink of an eye, this large motorcycle shop knew almost nothing about tuning up a classic Triumph motorcycle. On my way home, the motorcycle was breaking up and I knew they didn’t know their ___ from a hole in the ground. Sorry. Can you imagine how agitated I was to leave this motorcycle with these idiots who couldn’t do a simple tune-up? I not only lost the $90 on the blackjack table – I lost the $90 I gave to these so-called mechanics. So I lost $180 and I had to drive 300 miles and pay for another tune-up, and I had to take the time to do all of this. Plus there was the aggravation I had to go through. I tell you if you want to break the Word of God and go and buy lottery tickets or go to Atlantic City or go to some casino and they are popping up everywhere, you better be prepared to suffer. Anyway, I never gambled again.
The argument that a raffle is merely helping a good cause, nobody really caring whether he wins or not, is erroneous logic. All gambling makes its appeal to the base passion of greed and when this passion is fed, it strikes against the very root of the corresponding virtue, the virtue of giving.
There are three things that justify a man taking money from another person:
1. The law of exchange: that one person gives another money in exchange for merchandise.
2. The law of service: that one person gives another service in exchange for money.
3. The law of love: that one person out of love freely gives money to another who has freely and willingly given to him.
The basic essence of ethical business is competition for the best service. Working people must give their best service. Sloth is a very dangerous vice and, if habitually yielded to, brings about the fatal destruction of the character of a person. (See Proverbs 12: 24; 13: 4; 15: 19; 18: 9.) Let’s go to the book of Proverbs and study these Scriptures:
The hand of the diligent shall bear the rule: but the slothful [deceitful] shall be under tribute. – Proverbs 12: 24
Slothful or laziness costs companies millions every year and eventually destroys the person – so everyone loses. Let’s go to the New English Bible for a different translation.
Diligence brings a man to power, but laziness to forced labour. – Proverbs 12: 24 NEB
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat. -- Proverbs 13: 4
The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain. – Proverbs 15: 19
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster. – Proverbs 18: 9
The state takes no cognizance of private sin until it becomes a public crime. When the state takes cognizance of anything morally wrong, it should always be to check and punish; never to regulate, much less encourage it, still less to derive any revenues from it. The argument that man will sin, and that it is the duty of the state for its own sake and for the sake of the innocent third parties, and even for the offender's own sake, to take precautions so that as little evil may result as possible, is an erroneous concept of logic and is unethical. It is never the duty of the state to make the way of transgressors safe and easy. The action of every state, when it acts, must be to restrain and to punish, never to organize or license vice, or crime, and still less to derive a revenue from it on what they refer to as the grounds of expediency. Make punishment follow closely after the crime. Extended judgment in justice is usually fraught with error.
The solution to ethical questions regarding economic problems, mineral wealth, and such (which many times is handled by the state or large corporations) is often nothing more than ''legalized robbery" dealing with the masses rather than the individual.
By a solution in ethics I mean a true adjustment to the various interests which could then be made the subject of legislation. A satisfactory solution can only be looked for in a Christian society in which Christian men behave in a Christian manner.
In all industry for production, two things are needed: namely, labor (workers) and capital (stored money). Thus, logically, those who labor and those who supply the capital should both share in the fruits of production.
As civilizations bring along new comforts, new conveniences, new ways, they also bring with them ways in which man can annoy his neighbor. Airports are only one illustration of many. Leaf blowers are another example – now accepted in mostly all areas. Why? Because people are too damn lazy to use a rake! The enemy knows that lack of physical exercise will eventually and prematurely destroy a person’s health. This also becomes an ethical consideration. I walk every other day and swim a mile every other day. I never get sick and rarely have any physical opportunities. By the way, I use a rake.
The rights of citizenship necessarily involve duties of citizenship, and so move into the field of ethics. Therefore, politics must also be considered in any study of ethics. A man may be adequately fed, clothed, and amused, yet remain no better than an animal.
Morally, under God, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, even at the cost of many failures is preferable to any "perfect" government by any kind of arbitrary tyrant. Men should rather desire to make a complete wreck of their own affairs than to have their lives controlled by the most well-meaning, benevolent dictator. No material wealth, no national power or prosperity can compensate for the surrender of one's own right to choose. Of all governmental systems, a republic best sustains and preserves this right for man. However, if a great proportion of the people of a republic display a greed for enjoyment with disregard for the rights and happiness of others, and a lack of self-discipline and sense of duty, a republic becomes unworkable. This sounds like my neighborhood. I finally realized to stop trying to fellowship with darkness and my peace returned unto me.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. -- Ephesians 5: 11
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? -- II Corinthians 6: 14
Christian ethics is the science of conduct which is consciously and purposefully directed action for a desired result according to the principles of God's Word. This prolegomenon is intended to bring to light a coherent system of Biblical guidelines applicable to all men who are believers and who will follow the accuracy of the Word. This is the science of Biblical ethics. The art of ethics discusses the "how" of the application of God's moral laws, rules, or guidelines to specific classes, and how they must be modified at times by special conditions and circumstances. There is no sphere of human activity where ethics is not involved. Thus we need to carefully consider ethics and its application in every sphere of our life: in relation to God, to one's self, to society, and to government.
[End of Part Two]