Monday, September 29, 2008

Distinctive #16-- Volunteerism

Each person must decide in their conscience what they will believe and should not be
persecuted for this. Each person should be able to choose what they believe without coercion or pressure. If someone wants to be baptized, let them choose it. If not, that is their choice.

How To Treat A Secular Government

What to recognize about governments
The government is appointed by God
Every government only gains its authority from God—even evil governments. Although governments may misuse or even abuse their authority, the authority itself comes from God. Thus, we need to respect the authority of the government, no matter who is using it. (John 20:11)

The government represents God
The government is meant to do some of God’s work on earth—specifically, to punish those who do evil and to reward those who do good. This does not mean that the government is God’s servant, necessarily. Satan also punishes the evil at God’s bidding, but he is not an obedient servant of God. But ideally, the government does God’s will. (Romans 13:1)

The government will be judged by God
Men do not have the right to judge governments. Even as a government’s authority and work has been given to it by God, so it is God who evaluates and determines the fate of governments. Often, God is patient and willing to wait for change. But some governments will be destroyed by God immediately: specifically those treat the needy badly and those who do much unnecessary violence. (Psalm 82)

There is only one truly godly government
The only government that has been appointed, approved and having passed testing by God is the kingdom of God, led by Jesus. No other government can call themselves approved by God. Nor can any other government call itself truly “Christian.” (John 18:36)

What not to do
Resist them when they do injustice against you
We do not resist authorities, but we are supposed to submit to them. We don’t need to complain against them, hate them or speak evil against them. Instead, if a government does us wrong, we pray about it and ask God for justice. (Matthew 5:39)

Judge them for not following the laws or principles of God’s kingdom.
Although the governments represent God, they do not understand the principles of God, except in the most general notions. And so it is not our job to judge them or condemn them for what they do not know. We can inform them of what God says, but it is God’s right to judge them and to punish them if they were inadequate. (I Corinthians 5:9-10)

Rebel against the authorities
We don’t need to do evil to the government. If the government is to be fought against, then we can pray for God to judge them, according to his will.
(Romans 13:2)

Obey them when they tell you to disobey the principles of Jesus.
We must take care to always place God and God’s will in our lives above the government’s will and desire. We submit to governments in all things except when they tell us to disregard the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. (Acts 4:19)

What to do
Give honor to whom honor is due
Government officials require that we speak politely to them, with the proper titles. Whatever honor is expected, we should give it. (Romans 13:7)

Pay taxes when you are required to
All governments require us to pay taxes to them. Even if you feel that the government isn’t representing you or doing what you think is right, you still have to pay the taxes that they demand of you. (Romans 13:7)

Pray for the leadership
We need to pray for government officials so that we will show respect for the officials, and also so God will direct the authorities to have wisdom to create a society of peace, so the church can do what God is directing them to do. (I Timothy 2:1-2)

Submit to authorities, even when you come to harm
We are to submit to authorities, even if they do evil, even if they irritate us, even if they harm us. This is how we show that we are fully submitted to God and will do good, even if others do us evil. (I Peter 2:13-24)

Obey all laws, unless they tell you to disobey God
Since the governments have the authority of God and act for God, we need to obey them. Even if you think the law is wrong or unjust, obey it. The only time we disobey, is if they tell us to disobey God. (Colossians 3:22)

Do good to those who do harm to you
When government officials do harm to us, we are to respond with blessings and prayers for their benefit. We do not curse them or abuse them, but instead do what we can to benefit them. (Romans 12:17-21)

Warn them away from God’s judgement by encouraging them to repent
If governmental officials do evil in God’s sight—especially if they are enacting unnecessary violence or harming the needy—they need to be warned that God will judge them unless they repent. (Ezekiel 33:9)

What you don’t have to do
Participate in the government
Many feel that it is one’s civic duty to vote in governmental elections, sign appropriate petitions or to participate in neighborhood meetings. However, since we, as Christians, belong to the kingdom of God, we should focus our attention on participating with God’s people, not a secular government. (James 4:4)

Agree with any particular politics or politician
Some Christians feel that a certain politics is the only real Christian choice, or that a certain politician is the “godly candidate.” However, we do not need to support any policy, politics or candidate. Rather, we need to focus on policies and decisions within the church and among those who represent Jesus. (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Call the nation we live in “our country”
The nation of all those who follow Jesus is not the one they were born in or the one they live in—it is the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God has no king but God and no lord but Jesus and no realm on the earth. The non-godly government we live in the midst of is not “our” country. It is the country we live in . Our nation is only the kingdom of God. (II Corinthians 6:14-18)

Protest injustices
The ungodly governments of this world will do unjust and evil things sometimes. We do not need to protest them, although we might warn them what God will do in response. Some might choose to protest, and receive what persecution comes with gladness. But it is not necessary. However, when some in the church who represent God does open evil, then we need to respond. (I Corinthians 5:9-11)

Honor government leaders, but focus on God’s will among God’s people.

Distinctiv #15-- Politcal Nonconformity

Followers of Jesus must be faithful to the teaching of Jesus, even if this brings them into conflict with the political authorities placed over them by God - Acts 5:29. The church is a prophetic voice to the powers that be of the new way of Jesus. It also calls governments to account for their actions of injustice that go against God’s will for governments. This was especially the case when governments persecuted the Anabaptists.

9-11-- An Application of Two Kingdom Theology

The following was written on 9-11-01, just two hours after the attack on the twin towers.

"I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." I Timothy 2:1-4

1. Pray for the victims.
Let us pray for those who have been devastated by this tragedy. Pray for the widows, orphans and husbands of those who have recently died. Pray for those in the hospital, that the Lord might heal them. Pray for those who are questioning why God would allow such a thing to happen, that the Lord might give them strength.

2. Recognize that it is not evil for the government to have some kind of retaliation.
It is normal for the U.S. government to want to retaliate when there has been such a horrible injustice done. They are operating under the principles given to Noah. “Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.”—Genesis 9:6. Even so, governments today act under the same principles and so they are rightly to be feared by those who do evil. “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”—Romans 13:4.

3. Hate no race or religion.
There is no cause for anyone to hate a people, race, religion or country because of what happened. This was the act of a small group of murderers, not of a whole people or religion.
If it was Iraq, for example, it was not the people of Iraq, who are innocently trying to live their own lives of desperation.

If it was a group of fundamentalist Muslims that perpetrated the act, it does not represent Islam as a whole. The far majority of Muslims are people trying to overcome sin in their lives by worshipping God—they do not hate Americans, nor would they support a horrible action such as this.

It is possible that it was a group of fundamentalist “Christians” who is declaring war against the world financial market and the U.S. military. If it is so, do we reject Christianity? Do we declare all Christians to be hate-mongers, and reject those who adhere to it? Of course not. Even so, there is no cause for anyone to hate another people, another religion because of what a few insane people did.

4. Followers of Jesus do not take part in retaliation.
Although the U.S. government will retaliate in some way against the group that did this, that does not mean that Christians need to support or take part in retaliation. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44. Paul said, “Do not return evil for evil, but good.” This is the basic teaching of Scripture. That when people do evil against us, we are to return good to them. Even so, we should not pursue or participate in any way the retaliation that will certainly come. Let us reject the hatred that may come over us, asking for God’s strength to love those who have done such evil. Let us also reject the hatred that comes from others, looking for our support. May the Lord give us grace to gently rebuke those who, in their grief, are looking for scapegoats.

5. Pray for your enemies.
In response to those who have perpetrated this evil, let us follow what Scripture says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Pray for these evil people, that the Lord would cause them to repent and so that they may be saved. Pray that the Lord would work his grace among these people, and draw them to himself. Pray that they may see the faces of the dead and dying; the faces of the orphans, widows and husbands left behind and “weep and mourn and grieve” because of their sin.

6. Love those who hate you.
Also, let us encourage others to love these who are hated so. Let us ask the question, “What is the best thing for these who have performed such evil?” First of all, the best thing would be for them to repent and believe in Jesus, who taught the way of peace and reconciliation through sacrifice, not war, hatred and death. Secondly, it is best for these to be brought to trial and put in prison, both for their own safety and so that they do not commit any more crimes like this. God desires that everyone be saved, even people who commit terribly evil acts (II Peter 3:9).

7. Pray for peace for all.
Also, as believers, we are to pray for those in the government, in order that we might live peaceful and quiet lives. Not only for us, but also for the innocent who surround the ones who committed such a deed. For every murderer, there is a wife or a mother or a friend who had nothing to do with the evil deed. But if the government goes in without regard to the innocent, then this tragedy will be increased. Pray for those who are involved in responding to this tragedy, that they might hurt no one, but be able to pursue the justice of this world with wisdom and love for all, pursuing peace.

A Summary of Two Kingdom Theology

Passages: Matthew 23:2-3; Mark 12:13-17; Romans 12:14-13:8; Matthew 5:38-48; Daniel 2:21,44; I Peter 2:4-25; II Cor 6:14-18; Revelation 18:2-5; Matthew 5:3-12; I Corinthians 7:17-23; Ephesians 2:19-22

1. For the follower of Christ, God alone is King and Jesus alone is Lord of Lords. The followers of Jesus together belong to the kingdom of God, not to any kingdom of this world. The kingdom of God is made up of those who are righteous in God through Christ.

2. God is the establisher of authority over the earth. He has given authority to mankind to rule all the creatures of the earth. God establishes and desposes kings and authorities on the earth to rule mankind. These kings and authorities are often evil, dedicating themselves to idolatry, but they continue to have God’s authority.

3. While the follower of Jesus is submitted primarily to Christ, while they are living in a country, they act as ambassadors from the kingdom of God to that nation, and thus are accountable to that nation.

4. The follower of Christ is to submit to the authorities on earth they are specifically under, as long as the authority does not command the follower of Christ to reject the word of Christ.

5. The follower of Christ is not to act as those who are outside the kingdom of God, but to be separate from the kingdom of this world in action—being obedient to the Spirit and not to the flesh—and in attitude—following the principles of love as taught by Christ, not the principles of the flesh or the world.

6. On the final day, God will destroy all of the current governments and place the oppressed and righteous of his people in charge of all the peoples on earth.
7. The follower of Christ should not put themselves under the submission of the world in any way they are able to avoid it, especially in areas in which compromise one’s obedience to Christ.

8. To battle oppression by those in authority, Scripture has four methods:
a. Cry out to the Lord for deliverance;
b. Speak to those doing the evil, warning them of God’s judgment if they continue;
c. Suffer for doing good under those who are evil;
d. Create communities of Christ’s righteousness.

1. Non-violent resistance
To resist authority, even if they are oppressing you, is opposed to Scripture. Even though the resistance might cause the authorities to yield their oppression, salvation comes from God, not from earthly authorities, governments or civil rights.

2. Patriotism
For the follower of Jesus, fealty is to be given to God alone through Christ. While they submit to the governing authorities in which they live, they do so as visitors, not subjects.

3. Partnerships with unbelievers
Any kind of partnership with an unbeliever should be rejected. This includes marriages, business partnerships, financial partnerships, or any partnership in which authority is split between unbelievers and a follower of Christ. Grants may be accepted from unbelievers, as long as they do not have strings which compromise one’s obedience to Christ.

4. Service in the police or military or politics
Service in the police or the military easily compromises Jesus’ commands by calling upon their forces to do evil to others for the sake of defense, security or vengeance. If one who has come to the Lord finds oneself in such a position, then continue to do so until the position forces one to compromise obedience to Jesus. At that point, the follower of Jesus must obey Jesus, no matter what the consequences. A follower of Jesus should not, however, join the police, military or run for office for to do so would too easily compromise one’s obedience to Jesus. Don’t make things difficult for yourself.

Distinctive #14-- Two Kingdoms

The church is a separate social entity from the rest of society which is “the world.” These two kingdoms have different standards. You are either among the people of God or you are a part of the world. There is no neutral ground. The dividing line between these two kingdoms is believer’s baptism. This is a rejection of the Christendom conception of a church that is fused together with the state into one social entity, living by one standard. True disciples who live by the teaching of Jesus will not fit in with the world system around them.

Faith And Works-- A Bible Study

Sin leads us to hell
Matthew 5:20—Murder leads us to hell.
Matthew 5:21-22—Hatred of any kind, including insulting a brother, leads us to hell
Matthew 5:27-29—Evil lust of any kind, including adultery and lustful looking leads us to hell
Matthew 18:7-9—Causing a “little one” to stumble leads one to hell
Matthew 23:33—The Pharisees are condemned to hell because of their actions
Mark 9:42-48—Cast away anything that causes you to sin, or else you will go to hell.
Matthew 3:10—Whoever does not do good works will be punished eternally.
Matthew 7:19—Whoever does not do good works go to hell.
Matthew 13:40-42—The judgment day condemns those who are lawless and stumbling blocks
Matthew 25:41-46—The goats are punished eternally for not helping those who represent Jesus.
James 1:14-15—Temptation leads to sin, and sin leads to death
James 5:1-5—The rich will be punished eternally because of their evil actions.
Jude 1:7—Sodom and G., by their evil actions were punished by eternal fire

Those who persist in sin will not enter the kingdom of God

I Corinthians 6:9-10—Those who are characterized by evil acts will not enter into the kingdom.
Galatians 5:19-21—Those who act in accordance with the desires of the flesh will not enter the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:5-6—Sinners will not partake of the inheritance of Christ but will have the wrath of God.
Hebrews 10:26-31—The believer who persists in sin will be judged on the final day with fire
Revelation 21:8—those who abide in sin and cowardice will be punished in the lake of fire

Our eternal destiny is based on our actions, whether good or bad
Matthew 5:20—Unless your righteousness exceeds the Pharisees’ you will not enter God’s kingdom
Romans 6:16—One is a slave, either to sin, which leads to death, or to God which leads to obedience
Matthew 12:36-37—One is justified or condemned by every careless word they utter
Romans 2:6, 9-11—God will give to each person according to their deeds; distress to those who sin and peace to those who do righteousness
John 5:28-29—On the last day, the Son will raise the evil to punishment and the good to life
Revelation 20:12-13—All will be judged on the last day according to the deeds which are written in the book of life, whether evil or good.
Matthew 16:27—At Jesus’ return, God will repay everyone according to their deeds
II Corinthians 5:10—Everyone will be repaid according to their deeds, whether good or evil.
II Corinthians 11:15—Satan’s servants will end according to their deeds
Titus 1:15-16—Those who do evil deny God
Revelation 2:23—Jesus will give each one within the church according to the deeds done
Revelation 14:13—The dead in the Lord are blessed because their deeds follow after them.

Repentance from sin gives forgiveness and a right standing before God; But those who do not repent will be punished and condemned
Ezekiel 18:30-32—God judges everyone according to what they do. Therefore repent and turn away from your sin and God will forgive, for he takes no pleasure in the death of anyone.
Jonah 3: 1-10—Nineveh was not destroyed because they repented
Matthew 3:4-8—The people came to John, confessed their sins and were baptized by him.
Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3—John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:15—Jesus’ basic message was to repent and to believe in the gospel
Luke 5:32—Jesus came to call sinners to repentance
Luke 10:13—Woe to cities of Israel because they did not repent
Luke 11:32—Nineveh will condemn the generation of Jesus on the judgment day because Jesus’ generation did not repent
Luke 13:1-5—Unless you repent, great punishment will come upon you
Luke 15:1-10—The Lord rejoices at the repentance of sinners
Luke 24:47—Repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations.
Acts 2:38—Repent and be baptized
Acts 3:19—Repent so your sins will be wiped away.
Acts 5:31—Jesus grants repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins
Acts 8:22—Repent that your intention might be forgiven you
Acts 11:18—God granted to the gentiles the repentance that leads to life
Acts 20:21—Paul taught repentance and faith in Jesus
Acts 26:20—Paul taught repentance, turning to God and doing acts in accordance with repentance
II Timothy 2:25—God might grant repentance to them leading to the knowledge of the truth
II Peter 3:9—God does not desire anyone to be punished but that all would come to repentance
Revelation 2:5—Repent or else Jesus will come and take the lampstand out of its place
I Corinthians 6:11—Some of you were evildoers, but now you are justified and sanctified

We are led by God to do the pure works of the Law— the moral commands
Matthew 5:17-19—Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law and Prophets, but to fulfill them
Matthew 7:12—This is the L&P—to do to others as you would have them do to you
Matthew 22:36-40—The L&P depend on loving God and loving your neighbor
Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42—The weightier commandments of the L&P are justice and mercy—do those as well as the minor ones
Luke 10:26-28—Love God and love your neighbor and you will live
Acts 24:14—Paul believes everything in accordance with the L&P
Romans 2:13-16—Anyone who does the law is justified, even those who do not know the law
Romans 8:4—The requirement of the law is fulfilled by those who walk in the Spirit
Romans 13:8-10—The law is fulfilled by obeying, “love your neighbor as yourself”
I Corinthians 9:9-10—God uses the law to speak to his people today
Galatians 5:14, 22-23—The whole law is fulfilled by “Love your neighbor”; The fruit of the Spirit is love, etc. against which there is no law
Galatians 6:2—Bear each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ
James 1:25—The one who lives by the law of liberty will be blessed in what he does
James 2:8-13—the law of liberty, the royal law is “love your neighbor as yourself”, the rest of it is just applications of it
James 4:11—Whoever speaks against a brother speaks against the law and judges it and such a one is not a doer of the law.

Faith is action based on the promises of God
Luke 18:7-8—Faith is persistant prayer for God’s justice
John 8:30-32- Those who believe Jesus follow him; those who follow him obey him.
Romans 6:5-6—Through faith, we are dead to sin.
Galatians 2:20—Having the faith of Jesus is living the life of Jesus.
Hebrews 11:8, 17, 34-35—Faith acts in obedience to God, based on his promises.
Hebrews 11:3-12:3—Faith is following the example of the saints of God and Jesus.
James 2:5-8—The promise of God is that the poor of faith receive the kingdom, and so the action of faith is to love the needy.
Revelation 14:12—Faith is obedience to God and to the Son.

The teaching of Jesus and the day of judgement
Matthew 25:31-46—The sheep are offered their reward—entrance into the kingdom—because of their obedience to Jesus’ words—the helping of those who represent Jesus. The goats are punished on judgement day because of their disobedience to Christ’s teaching in the same area.
Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46-49—The one who hears and obeys Jesus’ teaching stands firm on judgment day; the one who does not is destroyed on judgement day.
II John 9-11—The one who does not adhere to the teaching that Jesus taught is to be treated as separated from the people of God and they do evil deeds.
I Timothy 6:3-5 – The one who does not adhere to the teaching that Jesus taught does evil deeds
Revelation 2:26—Whoever keeps Jesus’ deeds to the end is he who overcomes and will gain reward.

Predestination and Good Deeds
Matthew 25:31-46—Those who do what is righteous were predestined to live in the kingdom with the Father.
Ephesians 2:10—The good works of those who are in Jesus were predestined by God.
II Thessalonians 2:13—The believer was predestined by God to be holy by the Spirit.

Distinctive #13-- A Visible Church

The church is not invisible - made up of those with faith in their hearts alone. One’s inner experience of God (if real) will show up in an outward conformity to the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. Thus the true people of God will be marked by baptism and a godly life. The spiritualists thought that inner spirituality was enough. Anabaptists insisted that the inner and the outer are connected. Real disciples are known by their fruits - Matthew 7:16.

Distinctive #12-- Children Are Innocent

On the basis of texts like Matthew 19:14 children should be seen as innocent. There is no need for a sacrament such as infant baptism that can wash away the effects of original sin for them. They are not punished for sin until they come to the age of accountability. Therefore they should wait and be baptized as believers.

Distinctive #11-- Believer's Baptism

According to the New Testament baptism is only for believers. It is the pledge of a believer to live a new life as a part of God’s community. It is about discipleship. Since the water is only water, it does an infant no good. The scriptural pattern is always that faith precedes water baptism. Baptism is like a monastic vow. All who choose it commit to walk according to Jesus’ teaching. It is the beginning of a life of discipleship, set apart from the world.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Distinctive #10- The Lord's Supper

This is a memorial of the death of Jesus and is only for baptized believers who are committed to obedience to Jesus. The idea of the supper as a memorial was learned from Zwingli and/or the Dutch Sacramentists. The bread and wine are only bread and wine. They do not change in essence as in Catholicism. They point to the death of Jesus.

Distinctive #9- Non-Sacramental Ordinances

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are simply outward signs of God’s grace working in you by the Spirit. A sacrament is “a visible sign of an invisible grace.” In Catholic thought the visible sign conveys the invisible grace by the mere performance of the act. There are seven Catholic sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Ordination, Confirmation, Penance, Marriage, and Extreme unction. It is through these acts that God’s grace (salvation) is given to people. For Anabaptists, the two outward signs do not convey the grace. They are a means by which a person testifies to the presence of grace already within them.

Complete Mennonite Confession of Faith

The whole text of the Mennonite Confession of Faith (1995) is found at this site, where the index is given for each chapter:

Mennonite Confession of Faith Summary 1995

Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective
1. We believe that God exists and is pleased with all who draw near by faith. We worship the one holy and loving God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit eternally. God has created all things visible and invisible, has brought salvation and new life to humanity through Jesus Christ, and continues to sustain the church and all things until the end of the age.

2. We believe in Jesus Christ , the Word of God become flesh. He is the Savior of the world, who has delivered us from the dominion of sin and reconciled us to God by his death on a cross. He was declared to be Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. He is the head of the church, the exalted Lord, the Lamb who was slain, coming again to reign with God in glory.

3. We believe in the Holy Spirit , the eternal Spirit of God, who dwelled in Jesus Christ, who empowers the church, who is the source of our life in Christ, and who is poured out on those who believe as the guarantee of redemption.

4. We believe that all Scripture is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit for instruction in salvation and training in righteousness. We accept the Scriptures as the Word of God and as the fully reliable and trustworthy standard for Christian faith and life. Led by the Holy Spirit in the church, we interpret Scripture in harmony with Jesus Christ.

5. We believe that God has created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and that God preserves and renews what has been made. All creation has its source outside itself and belongs to the Creator. The world has been created good because God is good and provides all that is needed for life.

6. We believe that God has created human beings in the divine image. God formed them from the dust of the earth and gave them a special dignity among all the works of creation. Human beings have been made for relationship with God, to live in peace with each other, and to take care of the rest of creation.

7. We confess that, beginning with Adam and Eve, humanity has disobeyed God, given way to the tempter, and chosen to sin . All have fallen short of the Creator's intent, marred the image of God in which they were created, disrupted order in the world, and limited their love for others. Because of sin, humanity has been given over to the enslaving powers of evil and death.

8. We believe that, through Jesus Christ, God offers salvation from sin and a new way of life. We receive God's salvation when we repent and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. In Christ, we are reconciled with God and brought into the reconciling community. We place our faith in God that, by the same power that raised Christ from the dead, we may be saved from sin to follow Christ and to know the fullness of salvation.

9. We believe that the church is the assembly of those who have accepted God's offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the new community of disciples sent into the world to proclaim the reign of God and to provide a foretaste of the church's glorious hope. It is the new society established and sustained by the Holy Spirit.

10. We believe that the mission of the church is to proclaim and to be a sign of the kingdom of God. Christ has commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things he has commanded.

11. We believe that the baptism of believers with water is a sign of their cleansing from sin. Baptism is also a pledge before the church of their covenant with God to walk in the way of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers are baptized into Christ and his body by the Spirit, water, and blood.

12. We believe that the Lord's Supper is a sign by which the church thankfully remembers the new covenant which Jesus established by his death. In this communion meal, the church renews its covenant with God and with each other and participates in the life and death of Jesus Christ, until he comes.

13. We believe that in washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus calls us to serve one another in love as he did. Thus we acknowledge our frequent need of cleansing, renew our willingness to let go of pride and worldly power, and offer our lives in humble service and sacrificial love.

14. We practice discipline in the church as a sign of God's offer of transforming grace. Discipline is intended to liberate erring brothers and sisters from sin, and to restore them to a right relationship with God and to fellowship in the church. The practice of discipline gives integrity to the church's witness in the world.

15. We believe that ministry is a continuation of the work of Christ, who gives gifts through the Holy Spirit to all believers and empowers them for service in the church and in the world. We also believe that God calls particular persons in the church to specific leadership ministries and offices. All who minister are accountable to God and to the community of faith.

16. We believe that the church of Jesus Christ is one body with many members, ordered in such a way that, through the one Spirit, believers may be built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

17. We believe that Jesus Christ calls us to discipleship , to take up our cross and follow him. Through the gift of God's saving grace, we are empowered to be disciples of Jesus, filled with his Spirit, following his teachings and his path through suffering to new life. As we are faithful to his way, we become conformed to Christ and separated from the evil in the world.

18. We believe that to be a disciple of Jesus is to know life in the Spirit . As the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ takes shape in us, we grow in the image of Christ and in our relationship with God. The Holy Spirit is active in individual and in communal worship, leading us deeper into the experience of God.

19. We believe that God intends human life to begin in families and to be blessed through families. Even more, God desires all people to become part of the church, God's family. As single and married members of the church family give and receive nurture and healing, families can grow toward the wholeness that God intends. We are called to chastity and to loving faithfulness in marriage.

20. We commit ourselves to tell the truth , to give a simple yes or no, and to avoid the swearing of oaths.

21. We believe that everything belongs to God, who calls the church to live in faithful stewardship of all that God has entrusted to us, and to participate now in the rest and justice which God has promised.

22. We believe that peace is the will of God. God created the world in peace, and God's peace is most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is our peace and the peace of the whole world. Led by the Holy Spirit, we follow Christ in the way of peace, doing justice, bringing reconciliation, and practicing nonresistance, even in the face of violence and warfare.

23. We believe that the church is God's holy nation, called to give full allegiance to Christ its head and to witness to every nation, government, and society about God's saving love.

24. We place our hope in the reign of God and its fulfillment in the day when Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. He will gather his church, which is already living under the reign of God. We await God's final victory, the end of this present age of struggle, the resurrection of the dead, and a new heaven and a new earth. There the people of God will reign with Christ in justice, righteousness, and peace for ever and ever.

Herald Press, 1995

Distinctive #8- Spirit Regeneration

The one who believes is born of the Spirit. Believers are new creations in Christ and are thus able to do God’s will. We are not simply forgiven sinners, who continue in sin. We are forgiven and transformed by the Spirit so that we can obey God. For Luther God’s grace is best emphasized when we see God as accepting us despite our continued sin. This keeps us from thinking we can earn our salvation. For Anabaptists God’s grace is best emphasized when we see God’s grace powerfully transforming us. All the good we do is a testimony to God’s powerful work in us.

Distinctive #7- Human Choice

Although all people are sinners, God makes it possible for all to choose to have faith and be saved. Luther’s concept of predestination is wrong. People do have a choice. God does not predetermine everything. Also Luther’s idea of total depravity is overstated. We are sinful, but by God’s grace we can choose to turn to God.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Distinctive #6- Saved By Grace Through Faith

Salvation is a gift of God’s grace, based on what Jesus has done, that must be received by faith. Salvation is not based on deeds we do, religious or otherwise. Anabaptists learned this from Luther. But they emphasized that this grace, if it is real will produce acts of righteousness. Only the one who does the will of the Father in heaven will ultimately be saved - Matthew 7:21.

Constantine, The Apostle of Compromise

Posted on the MySpace Mennonite Group under the topic "How Much Can We Really Blame On Constantine?"

There are a couple things that are unique to Constantine himself, as opposed to other emperors before him:

First of all, he made an open attempt to find points of common interest between Christians and pagans, especially sun worshippers.

Constantine's family religion was sun worship, and so he promoted sun worship in the empire. Christianity was a popular new religion and he used them to gain political leverage, especially against the other two Roman rulers who were competing against Constatine to be emperor.

So Constantine did encourage the church to worship on Sunday because Sunday was the day the sun worshippers worshipped. While some early Christians worshipped on the first day of the week, it was probably on the evening of what we would call Saturday, but the Jewish folks would call the first day.

Also, the Chi Rho, the symbol of Constantine's vision, looked suspiciously-- almost exactly-- like his family crest, which was the symbol of the rising sun between two hills.

So Constantine catered to the church, trying to make them feel as a part of the Roman people, not as outsiders.

The second unique thing Constatine did is to invite the church into the political process. He passed a law which required bishops to act as a court of appeals if a Christian didn't like a decision coming down from a Roman judge. While I think that Constantine's motivation was good-- to prevent further persecution or misunderstanding-- but many bishops at the time was opposed to this law. But there was nothing they could do about it.

He also put himself as arbitrator over the council of Nissea. Nissea was chosen because it was right next to Constantinople. Now Constantine didn't make a ruling, but he did act as mediator.

These three items, I think, give adequate reason to name Constantinism after Constantine. First of all, he actively knocked down the wall of separation between the church and the world. Secondly, he got the church involved in the poltical life of the current state instead of focusing only on the kingdom of God. Thirdly, he encouraged the state to get involved in church business.

If you have any questions about it, read what Eusibius says about Constantine. He gives the emperor greater praise than he does any saint of the church, and the emperor didn't get baptized until he was one foot in the grave and then in his crypt, he put himself amidst the twelve apostles!

Constantine was a great political mind. But he was terrible for the church.

I recently found out that near the end of his life, Constantine killed his wife and one of his sons. Not exactly the act of a "Christian" emperor-- or perhaps he was the model for almost all Christian poltical leaders after him?

Disttinctive #5- Restorationism

The goal is not so much reform as it is a restoration of the apostolic/New Testament church. It is not enough to take the medieval church and tinker with it (Luther, Zwingli). One must get back past the fall of the church with Constantine and restore the practices of the New Testament church. This is all that is important.

Distinctive #4- Biblicism

The end of all Bible study is to do what it says. We literally do whatever Jesus and the apostles teach, whatever the consequences.

The Really Brief Mennonite History

When Martin Luther first began his reformation of the Roman Catholic church in 1519, there were many who agreed with his focus on faith and Scripture, and they called themselves “evangelicals”. There was a small group in Zurich, Switzerland that felt that the evangelicals were not focusing enough on what the Bible really said, especially concerning that baptism is for those who have faith, not for infants. They were called Anabaptists (which means “re-baptizers”) because they baptized those who were supposedly baptized as infants. Because the Anabaptists held to these positions in opposition to both the Catholic and Evangelical (or “protestant”) governments, which legalized religious beliefs, the Anabaptists were declared criminals and arrested, tortured and killed by all governments in Europe for the next 100 years. Even evangelical leaders such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli encouraged political leaders to arrest and kill Anabaptists.

Fleeing persecution and seeking to spread the gospel around the world caused Anabaptists to spread all over Europe, from the Netherlands to Russia. Later, the Anabaptists moved to America, seeking to hold their beliefs without persecution. As they came to the United States, the immigration officials saw that most Anabaptists carried a writing of Menno Simons, a popular Anabaptist writer of the mid 1500s, and so they labeled them “Mennonists” or, later, “Mennonites”.

Today there are more than a million people who are a part of Anabaptist or Mennonite communities. There are many Anabaptist groups, including the Mennonite Church, the Brethren in Christ, the Amish and the Hutterites. More than half of all the Mennonites in the world are found in Africa, India, Indonesia and Brazil. Mennonites have established many cooperative ministries including international aid organizations, health services, mutual insurance programs, service to the needy in North America, and conscientious objector programs.

Distinctive #3- The Bible Is Accessible

The literal meaning of Scripture is available to the common person - Matthew 11:25. Although learning is not bad, there is no need for elitist popes or scholars to dictate to all what the Scriptures teach. On the other hand, all interpreters must rely upon the Spirit and desire to obey the Scriptures to truly understand them. Only these are truly qualified to interpret Scripture.

Distinctive #2-- The Precedence of the New Testament

The Bible is not flat. The teaching of Jesus and the apostles takes precedence over the Law and Prophets. We come to understand the Old Testament through Jesus and the apostles. The Old Testament has the character of promise. The New testament is all about fulfillment. Now that the promises are being fulfilled this should be the primary focus - especially the gospels and the Sermon on the Mount.

Anabaptist Distinctive #1- Scripture Alone

Scripture is the supreme authority over the church. Catholic popes, councils or traditions are not the authority. Theologians like Luther or Zwingli are not the authority. City or national governments are not the authority.