I published this shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 (now commonly called 9/11). Part of our comfort lies in clarity.
Where Do People Go Wrong?
Reading the wrong book,
Following the wrong leader,
Using the wrong methods,
Dying for the wrong cause.
Warren E. Berkley
I am not an expert in terrorism. I am not a student of the Islamic religion, nor can I offer any insight into the divisions and sects of that religion (mainstream, extreme, etc.). I have no standing as a pundit or news analyst. I am a Christian, therefore a student of the Word of God, and I write this article based on that identity.
While our reaction to the events of Sept. 11th cannot allow any prejudice, personal battle of vengeance or discrimination toward anyone, we must reflect soberly on the steps that lead people to mass murder in the name of their cause. It seems to me, at least four steps should be noted: Reading the wrong book, following the wrong leader, using the wrong methods and dying for the wrong cause.
Reading the wrong book. The Qur’an is a self-contradictory document and many passages defy any clear interpretation. According to George Will (Jewish World Review, Aug. 17, 2001), the official TV station of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority aired this statement: “All weapons must be aimed at the Jews … whom the Koran (Qur’an) describes as monkeys and pigs … blessings to he who shots a bullet into the head of a Jew.” Whatever arguments might be made about Islamic division, interpretation, etc., there is no doubt that some who read this book are devoted to hatred and human destruction. In this same column, Will reports on a June bombing that did not have children as “collateral victims,” but targets. “Abdallah al-Shami, a senior official of Islamic Jihad, celebrated ‘this successful operation’ against ‘pigs and monkeys’.”
One step toward terror is reading the wrong book. We must resist the temptation to stigmatize everybody who espouses loyalty to Islam as a “terrorist,” but we cannot voice any compromise about the book. It is not the Word of God, does not lead people to Christ and actually advocates violence. The Word of God is the right book to read. It is “able to save your souls,” (Jas. 1:21).
Following the wrong leader. There is one perfect, ultimate Leader! He is not located in a cave or tent, surrounded by an assembly of criminals. He is enthroned at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33; Phil. 2:9-11). No other leader was active in creation (Jno. 1:1-3), was the subject of prophecy (Jno. 5:46), nor was born to a virgin (Matt. 1:18-25). No leader expect Jesus has a perfect record of behavior (Heb. 4:15). No man but Jesus died for us, and by the atoning merit of His death is qualified as our Savior (Jno. 1:29). He was raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:1-4), and “God highly exalted Him, and gave Him that name that is above every name,” (Phil. 2:9). He is deity, thus to be honored “even as” the Father should be honored. When you recognize who He is and what He did, then respond with a whole heart – with faith that prompts obedience, you are following the right leader; “the author and finisher of our faith,” (Heb. 12:2).
Using the wrong methods. In 1998, Osama bin Laden said it is a religious duty “to kill the Americans and their allies, civilian and military, in any country in which it is possible to do it” (U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 1, 2001, p.76). This is not simple evangelism (teaching to gain converts). This is not just an attitude and manner of rude intimidation. This is war – aggressive, angry and antagonistic – without qualms of conscience; and in fact, the warriors see themselves as doing the bidding of their god and preparing themselves for eternal peace.
May we, in our pursuit of truth and righteousness, never allow our methods to degenerate beneath the cause we advance! Let us plead with people “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,” bold in presenting His message yet governed by His methods and the attitude He illustrated. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…,” (2 Cor. 10:1-6). Remember: “…the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God,” (Jas. 1:20).
So far we have a deadly combination: Reading the wrong book, following the wrong leader and using the wrong methods. These are steps in the wrong direction. Add to this . . .
Dying for the wrong cause. Based on the evidence that is now public information, about twenty men were willing to die for their cause; an act of slaughter against over 6,000 innocent people. There are causes worth dying for. In defense of freedom and life, men volunteered in great number to suffer and die in World War II. In his bestseller, “Band of Brothers,” Stephen Ambrose relates the stories of young parachutists who served in Easy Company. One soldier wrote to his mother: “If necessary, I shall die fighting, but don’t worry about this because no war can be won without young men dying. Those things which are precious are saved only by sacrifice,” (p.#55, Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose, 2001). These brave men were willing to die for the cause of defending life and freedom. In the Roman epistle, Paul wrote about men dying for others. His comments were introductory to the highest example of dying for others: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love forward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8,9). So among men there are great examples of self-sacrifice, and in the gospel of Christ there is the supreme example of one dying for the right cause. But dying for a cause is not commendable, unless the cause is right! Sacrifice, personal devotion, zeal and endurance are commendable qualities, unless pressed into service for the wrong cause! Make sure your cause can be authenticated; make sure it is right, then in the work you do to advance your cause – use methods in keeping with the values of that cause!
This is the time to re-examine where your real security is. “I cried out to God with my voice – to God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing….,” (Psalms 77:1-2a).
Acknowledgment of Resources:
U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 1, 2001.
Jewish World Review, Aug. 17, 2001
Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose, 2001
I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
It is noteworthy, in these final verses of Paul’s letter to Philippi, that the apostle was not a tedious accountant about his reception of generosity.
Some people are. We had that couple over for dinner, but they have never paid us back!
Or, I loaned him $100 when he was in need, but now he can’t loan me $50!
This is that tedious accounting mentality that keeps records about deeds both done and received, with expectation that everything must perfectly balance.
Contrary to this accounting mentality, the Lord said, “…do good and lend, expecting nothing in return,” (Lk. 6:25).
It is apparent, Paul was not burdened by the accounting mentality, and that he embraced the spirit of what Jesus taught.
“I have received full payment, and more.” Paul favored the people of Philippi by delivering the gospel of Christ to them (see Acts 16). Those who became Christians gave generously to Paul, in support of his evangelistic work (see verse 15). In this fellowship, Paul didn’t put a price on anything and he didn’t harbor an expectation of some perceived (carnal) perfect balance. Rather, he was satisfied and grateful. “I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”
In Paul’s heart, this was all good. Why? Because their fellowship was “pleasing to God.” Instead of expecting a perfect balance in their exchange with each other, if it was pleasing to God, Paul was happy.
Paul hoped and prayed for them that God would “supply every need” they had. This supplication was based on the riches in glory God provides in Jesus Christ. And this leads to Paul praise, “to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul’s good will continued: “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.” Brethren with Paul joined him in this: “The brothers who are with me greet you.” Other were included: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
Paul didn’t know how to press upon people the accounting mentality. Paul knew how to write a great “thank you” note!
Paul knew how to preach and write the truth of God. But his heart was not dry and academic or robotic. His deep, sincere emotional nature shines through in these final words to his Christian friends in Philippi. May we learn to nourish this spirit.
“Seeing” Is Believing!
Charles Darwin, in The Origin of Species, admitted he struggled with this evidence. He said: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest sense,” (1859, p. 170).
In this specific context, it can be said: Seeing Is Believing! Can the reality of human vision be attributed to a random process or natural selection even with mutations?
I delivered five sermons on evidences a few years ago. The series was geared toward young people and parents. Several mentioned how powerful just this single piece of evidence is. From the source indicated below, I read this:
The Human Eye
The human eye is enormously complicated – a perfect and interrelated system of about 40 individual subsystems, including the retina, pupil, iris, cornea, lens and optic nerve.
For instance, the retina has approximately 137 million special cells that respond to light and send messages to the brain. About 130 million of these cells look like rods and handle the black and white vision.
The other seven million are cone shaped and allow us to see in color. The retina cells receive light impressions, which are translated to electric pulses and sent to the brain via the optic nerve.
A special section of the brain called the visual cortex interprets the pulses to color, contrast, depth, etc., which allows us to see “pictures” of our world. Incredibly, the eye, optic nerve and visual cortex are totally separate and distinct subsystems. Yet, together, they capture, deliver and interpret up to 1.5 million pulse messages a milli-second! It would take dozens of … supercomputers programmed perfectly and operating together flawlessly to even get close to performing this task.
Logically, it would be impossible for random processes, operating through gradual mechanisms of natural selection and genetic mutation, to create 40 separate subsystems when they provide no advantage to the whole until the very last state of development and interrelation.
How did the lens, retina, optic nerve, and all the other parts in vertebrates that play a role in seeing suddenly come about? Because natural selection cannot choose separately between the visual nerve and the retina.
The emergence of the lens has no meaning in the absence of a retina. The simultaneous development of all the structures for sight is unavoidable. Since parts that develop separately cannot be used, they will both be meaningless, and also perhaps disappear with time. At the same time, their development all together requires the coming together of unimaginably small probabilities.
Think of how powerful this evidence is … that we carry in our heads!
Truth Connection: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both,” (Prov. 20:12)
From the Expository Files Archives
Philippians Podcasts #17
(Warren E. Berkley)
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.
Recipients of kindness should express their gratitude. If you don’t want to be perceived in the image of a beggar or mooch – when someone is generous to you, express your sincere gratitude. Make certain they know how much you appreciate the gift.
The local church in Philippi had been long-term supporters of Paul, to the full extent of their ability. He couldn’t say enough about their kindness.
The support of the church at Philippi to Paul, had been singular!
“No church” entered into partnership with him except Philippi. Clearly, this was not a case where churches funneled money through the church at Philippi (common today: the sponsoring church arrangement). Paul was overjoyed to receive from the generosity and selfless dedication of the Christians in Philippi.
Even when Paul was in Thessalonica (and not having a pleasant experience), the Christians in Philippi came to his aid, “once and again.”
And, for the sake of clarity, Paul stresses: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”
Paul’s interest in and his commendation of their generosity was not simply that he wanted support. No. It was his interests in the blessings they received from their giving. Generosity helps the giver as much or more than the recipient.
Application: Churches today with the ability should carefully consider faithful men who preach the gospel and their needs. Faithful men who receive such support ought to be thankful to God, there are people making sacrifices for their need.