August Sonshine, The Stranger

The Sonshine:  August 1, 2017, by Walter Olsen

The Stranger

Introduction

Being a stranger in a strange land is often not very comfortable. There can be many language and cultural differences. Moses experienced this. He had fled his own land to go to the land of Midian for safety. In due time, he was given a wife and then we read, “And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land” (Ex. 2:22).

In many ways, believers are strangers in a strange land. One may be a citizen of a certain country and still be a stranger in the land. It is a great privilege to be a citizen of the United States of America. We enjoy so many privileges many other countries know nothing of or can only appreciate from a distance. For many years, America has been a friend of Christians. Consider the many Bible preaching churches and the great missionary efforts that have been carried out all over the world. But things are changing, even in our own country. As times goes on, believers in America may well face escalating persecution. 

We know from the Bible that the world is heading to a Godless one world system of economy, government, and religion. Anything or anyone that gets in the way of that agenda will be persecuted and eventually destroyed as much as possible. Ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden, there has been a conflict between what is of God and what is of man. History is filled with the persecution of believers in all parts of the world.

However, regardless of the time, Christians are always strangers in the world they live in. What I mean by the world is the world system we live in. The world system, as headed up by Satan, the god of this world, is always hostile to the believer. When one is saved, he is brought out of the world system and placed into the kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul, in giving thanks to the Father, said of Him, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13). If one does not know the Lord as Savior, this distinction is not really so clear. An unsaved person cannot know the light of the kingdom of God.

Before salvation, all people were a part of this world system. There are no exceptions. In speaking to the Ephesians, Paul said, “And you hath He quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan], the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom we also had our conversation [lifestyle] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:1-3). The essence of salvation is to be brought out of the bondage and death of Satan’s kingdom and to be brought into the freedom and life of God’s kingdom.

Let’s consider now some of the ways in which the believer is a stranger to the world he lives in. 

He is a stranger to the world system regarding relationships. When people come to Christ for salvation and begin to live for Him, their lives change. Because the world cannot really identify with the change, they come to despise the believer. It is thus that Jesus said to His Father, “I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (Jn. 17:14). Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, true believers have been rejected and despised. 

Remember Cain and Abel? Abel was slain because he obeyed God and brought a righteous sacrifice in obedience to God. Paul, Peter, and John and many others were persecuted because they preached salvation by faith rather than by the works of the law. They were strangers to the world system of deception, darkness, and ungodliness. 

Even so today, multitudes of Christians are being persecuted and put to death for their faith in Jesus Christ. Have you noted the news stories about the rejection and persecution of Christians around the world?

We need to remember that much of the religious fervor of the day is not of God, but of the world system. Thus, any religion that is not of God is most often accepted by the world and not persecuted as are true believers in Jesus Christ.

The Bible informs us that in the end times there will be one gigantic religious system, but it will not be headed up by Christ, but by the ultimate false Christ, the antichrist. He will demand that all people worship him; if they fail to do so, they will be murdered! Anyone who does not receive the mark of the beast in his forehead or right hand will be killed. See Rev. 13:11-18 for further truth regarding this matter.

Let’s make this a bit more personal. Many people whose lives have been changed by Christ and who are seeking to live for Him are often rejected by friends and even family! If one does not participate in the worldly activities others do, he is often ridiculed and made fun of! If one no longer practices the dictates of a former religion or church, he is often almost totally rejected. We must understand that until one comes to Christ seeking the forgiveness of his sins, he remains in spiritual darkness, no matter how well informed on other matters of belief. 

He is a stranger to the world regarding what he believes. People who have been born again believe what the Bible teaches. They believe the Bible is the word of God and that its truth is communicated by the Holy Spirit. They believe what Jesus said, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth…” (Jn. 16:13). No believer knows or understands fully all the truths of the Bible, but what they do know, they believe. 

The believer holds precious the truths regarding creation, salvation, the church, the character of God, the Lord’s return in the rapture of the church, and the establishment of His promised coming kingdom just to name a few. There are multitudes more truths in God’s word held precious by the believing Christian.

The unbeliever, however, has no such conviction regarding the truth of the Bible. He may readily accept parts of it, but for him the Bible is not really authoritative. He may see it as interesting and even helpful in some ways, but until he is born again by faith in Jesus Christ, the Bible is not much different from any other book. He may see it as belonging to the college or seminary classroom, but with no real relevance to his own life. Thus, he has no interest in reading it for himself or for sitting under the preaching of the word of God. He sees no relevant use for the word of God. For the most part, he lives his life as if there were no God and no special revelation from God. However, some people seek to sooth their conscience with some form of religion, but religion is of man if it rejects the revelation of God in the Bible. 

He is a stranger to the world regarding his world view. People who know not the Lord readily adopt the views of the world system. They often think men can better their own lot by self effort or by the efforts and provisions of the government. Yes, self effort and the contributions of the government may be useful in some cases, but they are not an end in themselves. They are not the means of bettering the world about them. They fail to see the reality of sin and the consequences it brings to society.

The believer accepts the reality of personal sin and its inherent consequences, both for himself and the world about him. Consider the words of God to Cain who brought to God a sacrifice, not a sacrifice of revelation from God, but a sacrifice of his own choosing, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door…” (Gen. 4:7). When sin is not seen as contrary to God’s word and will, the result can only be that of anarchy and disillusionment. The anarchy we see all about us is primarily because men have rejected God’s revelation about what promotes order and peace. 

Of course, the world view of those who know not the Lord is that all we see in the natural world about us is the result of evolution. There is no place for an eternal, living God who has created all things. The believer, however, accepts God’s own word regarding the origin of all things, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). 

The world’s view of death is usually that death ends all. There is no more existence to be anticipated. If perchance they do have a view of life after death, it is of a life fabricated by man’s opinions and hopes. It has no basis of authority except perhaps in some founder’s hopeful dreams.

The believer thus stands apart from the views and promotions of the world system. The more he seeks to know God and live for Him, the greater the contrast will be.

He is a stranger to the world regarding his hopes and dreams. The world often says, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I suppose there is some truth and encouragement in that, but such thinking depends on self to make one’s own way. Imagining and determination are the order of the day. 

The believer, however, does not make his own way in life. He is really not a self-made man. Instead, the believer looks to God for His direction. The words of Solomon are so helpful here, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). 

The world promotes such things as material prosperity, prestige, power, and position. These things are not wrong in and of themselves but, for the Christian, these things are not the dominating issues or goals of life. 

The prime issues for the believer are such things as obedience to the word of God, being conformed to the image of Christ [Rom. 8:29], and living a life consistent with the word and will of God. The world cannot identify with these things and thus the believer is a stranger in the unbeliever’s world.

He is a stranger to much of the world’s culture. Culture refers to the general beliefs and practices of the world system one lives in. It involves such things as music, public conduct, entertainment, issues of morality, and a host of other things. The world system, because they know neither God nor His standards of good and evil, as a general rule, promotes things that satisfy what the Bible calls the flesh. The flesh is whatever makes one feel good physically and emotionally. Its motto is, “If it feels good, do it.” 

The morals of the world today are mostly in total contrast to the teaching of the Bible. The time has come when the world calls evil good and good evil! No amount of public approval can make things God calls immoral to be moral! Yet, many churches are falling in line with the world’s approval of evil. To do so is to turn one’s back on the revelation God has given in His word. It is to reject the authority and integrity of the Bible. Obviously the fear of man is more prevalent in many churches rather  than the fear of God!

Perhaps Paul’s reference to God is applicable here, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6). Paul goes on to say, “Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil…But glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good…” (Rom. 2:9-10).

The believer is a stranger to the culture of the world system because Jesus is a Stranger to it. Again, remember the words of Jesus, “They are not of the world even as I am not of the world” (Jn. 17:16). Because believers have become one with Jesus, they identify with what Jesus identifies with. This is not done in perfection, but it is the desire of their hearts. Also, it is not so much of an “ought to” response, but a response of life. Like identifies like! 

He is s stranger to the pleasures of the world. The Bible says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). Certainly one’s position to Christ has changed. He no longer stands under the wrath of God because he has been made a son of God by the new birth. The believer has passed from death unto life. The words of Jesus are so precious here, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (Jn. 5:24).

Now, because the believer has the life of God within him, he no longer has the same attraction to the pleasures of the world as he had before. He now begins to desire what God Himself desires. There is now an inner longing for righteousness and holiness. This does not mean that he cannot still be attracted by the pleasures of the world, but now there is a new bent in his life, a bent away from that which is of the world and to that which is of God. 

As one grows in his Christian life, he will have a greater desire for the things of God, indeed, for God Himself! He will come to know for himself the plea of David, “O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Psa. 63:1).

The mature believer will readily identify with the word of John, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (I Jn. 2:15-16).

Conclusion

Indeed, believers are strangers to the world they live in. Thus, they are often despised, rejected, even persecuted. Jesus said to the unbelievers of His day, “The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (Jn. 7:7). Can we do any less than take a stand with Jesus regarding our relationship to the world system we live in?

While believers are not to identify with the world system, they are to be light and salt to the world. They are to have the love the Lord Jesus has for the lost. May God help believers to evidence His light and life to a needy world!

We extend our special sympathy to our pastor’s wife, Debbie Tapp and family, on the passing of her mother, Thelma Hassman, on July 9th. The funeral was held at the Bible Baptist Church in Hudson on July15th.

We extend our special congratulations to Anna Dahl and Adam Courtney who were married in a beautiful ceremony at our church on July 22nd. Both attended Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown, WI.

Special ministry in July has included preaching at the Gospel Mission Baptist Church in Knapp on July 2nd and at the Grace Baptist Church in Chippewa Falls on July 9th and 16th.  

Our church building has a beautiful new steeple to replace the one that was destroyed by lightening some months ago. A special thanks to Bill, Bob, and Jim Wahlquist and Pastor Tapp for their diligent work in climbing up on the steep roof and doing the necessary work! I stayed on the ground and took a few pictures. 

It has been a blessing to welcome retired Pastor Le Roy Nelson, and his wife, Beth, to the fellowship of our church. Pastor Nelson grew up in our church.

I may be contacted in any of the following ways: Walter Olsen: 155 Willow Circle, Baldwin, WI  54002. 715-688-6220 olsenbw@baldwin-telecome.net