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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Forceful Men Lay Hold of Heaven
Date Posted: July 9, 2021

In speaking of Winston Churchill’s influence over his British countrymen, America and indeed the world during WWII, George Bernard Shaw noted, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” (People with strong personalities and equally strong convictions often seen as “unreasonable.”)

Could that statement be applied to Christianity; we who are called to be loving, kind, compassionate and, according to some, compliant? But then, I’m reminded of an enigmatic quote of Christ, “…the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Matthew 11:12 The KJ version rendering it, “…the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” And then I remember Christ’s bold questioning of his adversaries, his challenging teaching to those seeking his advice, his unswerving stand on the proper understanding of the Law which was at times diametrically opposed to the belief-system of many in the society he was addressing. (See Matthew 23:1-36 & Mark 11:15-18) His “unreasonableness” predictably antagonizing those he targeted and earning him their hatred.

I’m further reminded of Paul, once a vehement persecutor of the church who became it’s chief proponent within Judaism and ultimately around the world. It was he who created the “theology” of Christianity, suffering the loss of hearth and home as a result of his extensive travels, establishing strongholds of faith further and further away from Jerusalem; even as he steadfastly withstood opposition from pagans and Jews alike. Much of which centered on the pride and jealousy of some of his countrymen who held tenaciously to their traditions and teachings as he strove to expand the tenets of Christianity beyond being a sect of Judaism to a world religion embracing all men. (A man who in his frustration could exclaim of his “agitators”, “…I wish they would go the whole way (in the debate over circumcision) and emasculate (or castrate) themselves!” Galatians 5:12 But in calmer moments, his unceasing anguish over his countrymen’s plight – outside of Christ – could cause him to say, “…I wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,… the people of Israel.” Romans 9:3

And then there’s Peter, standing tall and unafraid before the crowds gathered for Pentecost in Jerusalem. After failing so miserably before those gathered around Christ at his trial – and having been redeemed by Him after His resurrection – he preached the first Christian sermon, challenging those who only weeks before had called for Christ’s death. In the process causing many to recognize their long-sought-after Messiah, to the tune of 3000 souls that very day. He didn’t stop there though, as he actually became the first disciple to take the gospel to Gentiles, defending his actions before those in the church who believed Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism first in the process of becoming a Christian by saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:40 And even though there was some inconsistency in this stand (See Galatians 2:11-16), this pillar of the early church explained himself so well at this “ministerial” conference in Jerusalem that, “When they heard (him), they had no further objections and praised God,…” Acts 11:1-18

And even James, another pillar of the Jerusalem church, who might appear to be at odds with Paul’s insistence of a non-works, faith only salvation; in fact refused to allow that self-evident doctrine to be used to excuse complacency on the part of believers after salvation. Instructing them to properly love God first and foremost, but to then abide by what he called the “royal law” of loving our neighbors in practical, meaningful ways. Challenging those who didn’t with, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do!” James 2:8-26

We could list many others, who, like Martin Luther questioned the status quo of the prevailing religion of his time and in his attempt to purify it launched a new sect of Christianity – Protestantism – which likewise spread around the world. We might even include many of our founding fathers, who – as Christians – stood firm in the face of almost insurmountable opposition in leading the citizens of the colonies to independence and freedom, setting an example that many around the world have tried to emulate and implement.

The key to these people’s success – and ours – not being found in mere obstinacy, but discovering for ourselves what is genuinely God’s will and then “…stand(ing) firm. Let(ing) nothing move you. Always giv(ing) yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,…” 1 Corinthians 15:58 With the strength that comes from being armored in God’s world, we are then capable of withstanding, even “When the day of evil comes, …and after you have done everything, to stand.”, some more! Ephesians 6:13

Therefore, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. (But) Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 Such is the standard of Christianity! Because, “How we treat those with whom we disagree is both a test and a demonstration of our character and faith. Being right is not the defining mark of the Christian life. We are defined – and ultimately judged – by how we practice love.”1 Even when we’re being “unreasonable.”

1Adam Hamilton, Unafraid – Living With Hope in Uncertain Times, Convergent Books

Check back next week for more on how to “forcefully lay hold of heaven” while modeling a lovging Savior.

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"Point of Reference" from Fred Price

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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