Running

Christianity is defined by Christ, not by any human government

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Read: 2 John

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:8-9)

Reflect:

Today, just after I read 2 John, my husband told me that the ABC has just reported that China has blocked the sale of Bibles – from online stores at least – since Easter Friday, 30 March 2018. It is no longer possible for a Chinese person in China to purchase a Bible in the Chinese language online.

This is both censorship and religious persecution, the preventing of people from freely pursuing their choice of religion. I shouldn’t be surprised. Just yesterday I read in 1 John 5:19, that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one”.

What are the Chinese losing through this heinous act of their government? They are losing access to the revelation of God, the teachings of Christ.

How may Chinese Christians continue in Christ’s teaching if they cannot read it? Only God can make a way, through his Spirit.

The ABC reports that “the most common interpretation” of this pulling of Bibles from online stores is that “it would be replaced with a state-revised edition.” A Chinese government document recently released was quoted as saying the Chinese will ‘enhance’ “Chinese-style Christianity and theology.” From the ABC News article:

According to an official document released by China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, one of the biggest tasks in the coming years is to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology” by reinterpreting and retranslating the Bible.

The document, titled Principle for Promoting the Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years (2018-2022), was formally launched in Nanjing in eastern China on March 28. Some social media users said Bibles started coming down from the websites on March 30. (abc.net.au)

There is no such thing as Chinese Christianity, just as there is no such thing as Australian Christianity. Christianity is not defined by the nationality of its adherents, but by Christ, our King. Christianity is not white or black or brown, not eastern or western or even Middle Eastern. Whatever the Chinese government publishes and ‘enhances’, they are merely “running ahead” (to use John’s words), not keeping to the truth.

And it is the truth of Christ that sets us free. But perhaps that is exactly what the Chinese government fears. Perhaps the truth of Jesus Christ has the Chinese government on the run.

Crux:

Christianity is defined by Christ our King, not by any human government.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I am heavy hearted as I pray tonight. I fear for what this political decision means for Christians in China. Will the government try to force Chinese Christians to accept the very antichrists that John warned his readers to avoid (1:7)?

LORD, Give them strength. Make their faith powerful as your mighty power. Help them to keep access to your Scripture, your Word, the Bible, in their own language. May they know the truth about Jesus and not be confused by propaganda of a socialist Chinese-ified version that has no glimmer of your glory.

May people in China find your word freely available once again.

LORD, please make my country’s politicians speak up against this censorship and religious persecution. May our politicians be open in their condemnation of this act by the Chinese government.

And may more people in China and in every country read the Bible and meet Jesus Christ on its pages, starting today.

Amen.

Belong

I belong to the church because I know the truth about Christ

Read: 1 John 2:18-23

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (1 John 2:19-20)

Reflect:

The circumstance behind John’s letter-writing is evident in this section of his letter. There has been division in the church. Some people have left the church. John calls them “anti-Christs,” people who are against Christ, including among them “whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ” (v22). They are liars (v22).

In the worldwide church today, including all so-called Christian denominations, some people like this stick around rather than leave. You can talk Church History and Church governance until you’re blue in the face but I’ll never understand why Bishop Spong hasn’t been excommunicated long since. (He’s not in my denomination, thanks be to God.)

But some people do break off, and start splinter pseudo-churches. We know they are not true Christians because their teaching of Jesus is faulty and does not match with what the New Testament says; with what the apostles (like John) taught and still teach us through their written words today. They start churches like the LDS, whose founder decided to set up his own church rather than join one of several Bible-believing Christian churches in his local neighbourhood. Mormon does not equal Christian. How do I know this? Because their teachings on Jesus are not the same as those of the Scriptures.

Further Reflection:

I’ve been thinking about this passage for almost a week now. It keeps being quoted in podcasts I’m listening to, a similar topic was discussed in our Sunday sermon, and it is also popping into my mind at odd times.

At first, I was thinking about people who’ve left the church as schismatics. But 2:19 also applies to those many Christians describe as having “fallen away” from the church. 2:19 says that people who may have appeared to be Christians in the past reveal themselves as non-Christians (they’re not even “nominal Christians”) when they leave the church.

Jesus predicted that there would be people like this in his Parable of the Sower and the Soils, and in his Parable of the Weeds.

This truth explains what happened to me in my late teens and early 20s. I’d grown up attending church but, in hindsight, I realise I wasn’t really in the church because I didn’t understand or accept the grace-aspect of the gospel. So I left the church, my actions fitting my reality.

Thanks be to the Holy One, he did anoint me with his Spirit and enable me to know the truth of Jesus Christ, on Ash Wednesday 2001. Now I shall remain where I now belong.

Crux:

I belong to the Church because God’s Spirit enables me to know the truth about Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty, Holy One,

You alone are Sovereign over all things and over all people. You have put the Church under the sovereign headship of your Son, Jesus Christ. May you be glorified in Christ and in his Church.

LORD, protect your church from those people who do not really belong to us; those who grow up among us like weeds, not wheat. Make your body discerning so that we may be kept apart from those who would teach false doctrine; those who will one day go out from us. Keep us safe from their lies; keep our eyes true on Christ.

Yet LORD I also ask for you mercy and grace to be upon those wanderers who have left your church. May you call them to your Son, open their eyes to see him truly, remove the lies they have believed from their minds and make them true, faithful, knowledgeable Christians. Anoint them with your Holy Spirit, Holy One, so they may finally be justified by your grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus.

Amen.