Sunday, September 23, 2012

1st Clement 28 - Live like God is watching

Clement reminds us that God is all knowing and all seeing and we should live our lives in that reality.
Since then all things are seen and heard [by God], let us fear Him, and forsake those wicked works which proceed from evil desires; so that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. For whither can any of us flee from His mighty hand? Or what world will receive any of those who run away from Him? ... Whither, then, shall any one go, or where shall he escape from Him who comprehends all things? (1 Clement 28)
God knows all and sees all. Whenever we believe that our sin and lustful thoughts are hidden from His eyes and ears, we deceive ourselves. This reminds me of the vision given to Ezekiel regarding the house of Israel and their elders.

"Then He brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. He said to me, 'Son of man, now dig through the wall.' So I dug through the wall, and behold, an entrance. And He said to me, 'Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here.' So I entered and looked, and behold, every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel, were carved on the wall all around. Standing in front of them were seventy elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them, each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, "The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land."' And He said to me, 'Yet you will see still greater abominations which they are committing.'" (Ezekiel 8:7-13)
Hidden sins, hidden, thoughts, and hidden lives, God see them all. The only remedy is to bring the hidden things into the light. Hidden sin can never be healed. We must must come to the light, to the light of God's gracious love, to receive His forgiveness and healing
"When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah." (Psalm 32:3-5)
The Lord is watching, ever ready to forgive and heal, every ready to receive and comfort. Let us no longer live our lives in the shadow, thinking we are away from the peering eyes of God. Let us come to the light and find freedom and peace.

David Robison

Saturday, September 22, 2012

1st Clement 24 to 27 - Hope of a resurrection

Clement reminds us and encourages us to continue to hope for our resurrection from the dead
"Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead. (1 Clement 24)
As proof of the resurrection, Clement sites evidences from the world around us.
"Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on." (1 Clement 24)
He also speaks of the cycle of sowing and reaping. Reminding us that cycles of death and resurrection are everywhere, even in nature. As part of his evidence from nature he includes the curious belief regarding the Phoenix.
"Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed." (1 Clement 25)
What is most curious about this belief is not that most people today believe it to be false but that it was believed by all of the intellectual people of Clement's day and would continue to be believed for hundreds of years after his death. Sort of their own "Swallows of San Juan Capistrano".

Finally, Clement beings forth as evidence God's own promise of a resurrection.
"Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird He shows us the mightiness of His power to fulfil His promise?" (1 Clement 26)
If we can see resurrection all around us in God's creation, how much more should we be confident that God would resurrect His own children? If God is able to resurrect a morning or a harvest, how much more shall he resurrect those who have piously served Him? Of how much greater confidence should we have in our future resurrection then we should have in the resurrection of the next morn?

Given all this, how much the more should we be bound to Him in love.
"Having then this hope, let our souls be bound to Him who is faithful in His promises, and just in His judgments. He who has commanded us not to lie, shall much more Himself not lie; for nothing is impossible with God, except to lie. Let His faith therefore be stirred up again within us, and let us consider that all things are nigh unto Him. By the word of His might He established all things, and by His word He can overthrow them." (1 Clement 27)
God is all powerful. He can do anything He wants. God can do anything, except lie. "It is impossible for God to lie." (Hebrews 6:18) Sometimes the promises of God may seem slow in their coming, but to God, all things are nigh unto Him. The slowness of God's promises are not their denial, they are just a delay. All things promised by God will come to pass. With this knowledge we can dispatch double mindedness from our minds and return to a simple mind of trusting in God; of knowing that God will always do what He has said and promised. In this truth, let us remain faithful to Him and our life bound with His, no matter how long the promises of God take.

David Robison

Friday, September 21, 2012

1st Clement 23 - Aproaching God with a simple mind

Clement reminds us that those who draw forth the compassion of God are those who fear Him and approach Him with a simple mind.
"The all-merciful and beneficent Father has bowels [of compassion] towards those that fear Him, and kindly and lovingly bestows His favours upon those who come to Him with a simple mind." (1 Clement 23)
Having a simple mind is different than being a simpleton. The simpleton lacks wisdom and proceeds straight into folly. The simple mind, however, is pure and innocent, like the mind of a child. Jesus taught us,
"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4)
Sometimes we want to make faith and Christianity more complex than it is. When we do, we loose site of what Paul called the "simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3) When we draw near to God we must draw near, not with a haughty or proud mind, but with a pure and simple mind; with the mind of a child.

Clement continues to further define what he means by a simple mind by describing its opposites.
"Wherefore let us not be double-minded; neither let our soul be lifted up on account of His exceedingly great and glorious gifts." (1 Clement 23)
A double minded mind is a mind that is full our doubt. As Clement writes,
"Far from us be that which is written, 'Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened unto us.'" (1 Clement 23)
A double minded mind is a mind that is more focused on the natural world than on the promises of God. The double minded man can see only what is before Him. He does not perceive the Kingdom of God and he is oblivious to the spiritual realities all around him. When confronted with "facts" that do no support his "belief", he is quick to doubt and to question God.

Abraham was a man of a simple mind. God spoke and he believed Him. His trust was not is the worldly existence around him but in the character and power of God to fulfill His word. Even when it was clear to everyone around him, even his wife Sarah, that he was not going to have a son, he still believed.
"Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. " (Romans 4:19-21)
A simple mind is also a mind that is not lifted up nor full of malice. Jesus spoke of those who's mind was full of malice towards their fellow man.
"But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 24:48-51)
The heart that is lifted up with malice believes the grace of God to be weakness. He sees the goodness of God but deludes himself in regards to the severity of God. He no longer believes that God sees or cares what he does and there is no fear of God in his heart. This, combined with his malice, causes him to abuse and mistreat his fellow man, all the while believing that God will never punish him. However, someone once said that while the wheels of God's justice turn slowly, they grind exceedingly fine.

The simple mind is a mind that is humble and not lifted up. A mind that loves his fellow man and a mind that reverences and fears the Lord. A mind that has learned what is meant by, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10)

David Robison

Thursday, September 20, 2012

1st Clement 21 to 22 - Admonitions for godly living

Having encouraged us to a lifestyle of humility, peace, and continuance with God, Clement continues to admonish us towards a life of godly living.
"Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us; let us esteem those who have the rule over us; let us honour the aged among us; let us train up the young men in the fear of God; let us direct our wives to that which is good." (1 Clement 21)
Godly living begins with a godly attitude and perspective, such as reverence, esteem, and honor. Our behavior often flows from our attitudes and perspectives. For example, if we appreciate our wives we will tend to me more loving and caring towards them. However, if we are embittered towards them then our behavior will reflect that. Living a godly lifestyle to our wives involves more than just changing our behavior towards them but often requires us to change our attitudes and perspective as well. A godly lifestyle is not just what is seen on the outside but also encompasses the disposition of the mind, heart, and soul.

Clement also encourages this lifestyle is not only for ourselves but we aught to be teach it one to one another, especially to our wives and children. Speaking of our wives, he says,
"Let them exhibit the lovely habit of purity [in all their conduct]; let them show forth the sincere disposition of meekness; let them make manifest the command which they have of their tongue, by their manner of speaking; let them display their love, not by preferring one to another, but by showing equal affection to all that piously fear God." (1 Clement 21)
What I find most interesting about Clement's instruction to women is its equity and simplicity. There is nothing taught here that would not be taught to men. There is nothing restrictive or confining here just an exhortation to godliness. Sometimes we take the view that women in the early church were repressed and considered inferior or second-class. However, this is not supported by the early Christian writings. Many of the early Christian writers spoke of the equality of women both in marriage and in the church. The force of the scriptures in commanding us towards godliness is just as strong for the male believer as it is for the female believer. As an independent moral agent, the woman is just as responsible as the man in her walk with God and her behavior towards others. Clement commands that those things that would be taught to a man should also be taught to a woman.

Clement continues in regards to our children, saying,
"Let your children be partakers of true Christian training; let them learn of how great avail humility is with God—how much the spirit of pure affection can prevail with Him—how excellent and great His fear is, and how it saves all those who walk in it with a pure mind." (1 Clement 21)
It is important that we include our children in our walk with the Lord. We must strive to integrate them in our fellowship, worship, and community life. Unfortunately, in many churches, the different generations are separated into their own groups. We have youth groups, college age groups, young married groups, and mature adult groups. The problem is that when we separate the young from the more mature they loose the opportunity to learn from those who have walked with the Lord longer and who have greater wisdom due to age and experience. By integrating the many generations together, each one has the ability and opportunity to learn from and to teach each other.

It is also interesting to see what should be the focus of learning for our children. We must train our children in a lifestyle that is pleasing to God and one that disposes God favorable towards them and their needs. We often don't think of availing God in this matter but Peter concurs when he says, "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) Pride sets us at odds with God while humility and peace releases His "greater grace." (James 4:6) What is important in regards to our children is not that we teach them knowledge, although this is very useful indeed, but that we train them in godly living, since this has great strength with God.

Finally, Clement affirms that these admonitions are not his own but are in keeping with our Christian faith.
"Now the faith which is in Christ confirms all these [admonitions]. For He Himself by the Holy Ghost..." (1 Clement 22)
Paul, in speaking of the sins of some, concludes by saying, "and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel." (1 Tim 1:10-11) Godly living is not just a good idea, it is part and parcel with our faith and with the glorious gospel we have received. Knowledge of our faith is not enough, believing is not enough, we must live our faith for it to become effectual. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26)

David Robison

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

1st Clement 21 - Choosing to offend

We should always attempt to conciliate rather than offend. This was certainly the approach to life that Paul advocated.
"Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble." (1 Corinthians 8:13) "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
Paul was a man who would rather sacrifice his own rights in consideration of others lest he offend and harm them in their pursuit of God. However. there does come times when we must choose to offend others in the name of God.
"It is right, therefore, that we should not leave the post which His will has assigned us. Let us rather offend those men who are foolish, and inconsiderate, and lifted up, and who glory in the pride of their speech, than [offend] God." (1 Clement 21)
Those who desire to exalt themselves above the flock often try to draw us unto themselves in an attempt to obtain our loyalty and obedience. Weather it is the sponsors of division or a leader of a local church, when one attempts to place themselves above the body of believers, they often exert force to draw us away from our "assigned post" to follow after them. They attempt to woo us away from Christ and after themselves. This was certainly the case with Diotrephes.
"I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church." (3 John 9-10)
Diotrephes wanted to be first and demanded loyalty of his followers, even to the point of excommunicating those who fellowship with those outside of his oversight. Paul expresses the same sentiment in regards to the those Jews how sought to force the Christians to be circumcised. "They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them." (Galatians 4:17)

It is right that we should not leave our walk with the Lord nor our "post" He has assigned to us to seek after those who would draw us away unto themselves. It is better that, in these cases, we choose to offend men rather than offend God; to refuse to offer our obedience to sedition and isolation even if it means offending those who would lead us away. When men request that our loyalty and obedience to them take a higher place than our loyalty and obedience to God, let us choose to offend!

David Robison

Saturday, September 15, 2012

1st Clement 21 - God is always watching

Clement reminds us that, to choose God, is to choose obedience. He warns us to,
"Take heed, beloved, lest His many kindnesses lead to the condemnation of us all. [For thus it must be] unless we walk worthy of Him, and with one mind do those things which are good and well-pleasing in His sight." (1 Clement 21)
It is hard to imagine how the kindnesses of God could lead to the condemnation of us all. How could something so good as God's kindness bring about something so horrible as our commendation. Can God's kindness be a minister of evil? No! However, when we misuse God's kindness, we can lead ourselves down a path that ends up in condemnation. When we misunderstand God's kindness and presume it to be tacit approval of our unrighteous behavior then we set our lives heading down a path to destruction. Just because the Holy Spirit does not strike us dead like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), does not mean that He approves of everything we do. God's kindness will only serve to benefit us if we continue to walk in a way that is worth of such kindness.

This reminds me of the story where Moses sent out the spies to spy out the Promised Land. While they found the land worth of wanting and full of good things, they despaired because they found it to be, "a land that devours its inhabitants." (Numbers 13:32) At first, I thought this was an unworthy assessment of the Promised Land, but I've come to believe that it is true; the Kingdom of God is a land that devours its inhabitant, but only when they insist on walking contrary to the ways of the kingdom. If we walk in conformance of the Kingdom, always doing what is good and well-pleasing in God's site, then we will prosper. However, if we insist in walking in our own ways, in ways contrary to the Kingdom, the we will be devoured and bring condemnation upon ourselves. Life in the Kingdom must be lived according to the ways of the Kingdom.

Part of walking according to the ways of the Kingdom is to live in the revelation of the presence of God.
"Let us reflect how near He is, and that none of the thoughts or reasonings in which we engage are hid from Him." (1 Clement 21)
This revelation is more than an experience, it transcends experience into belief. Even when we cannot "feel" His presence, we believe that He is near; ever watching, seeing, hearing, and guarding. We must live our lives knowing that God is always watching and that He sees everything. If we delude ourselves that, while being kind to us God is blind to our behavior, then we open ourselves to temptation and to a lifestyle that is precipitous towards evil. However, if we are continually aware that God is ever with us, either by experience or by faith, then the fear of the Lord and our love for Him will serve to restrain us when temptation comes knocking. We will be careful what we do knowing that God is always watching.

David Robison

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

1st Clement 19 to 20 - Let us pursue peace

Along with humility, Clement encourages to pursue peace.
"Wherefore, having so many great and glorious examples set before us, let us turn again to the practice of that peace which from the beginning was the mark set before us; and let us look stedfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassingly great gifts and benefactions of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from wrath He is towards all His creation." (1 Clement 19)
The Latin literally says to, "return to the aim of peace delivered to us from the beginning." God is a God of peace and, from the beginning, His intention was that we too would be people of peace. From the beginning God's goal for our lives was not only to be people of peace but to actually practice peace towards one another. In this way we would be the image and likeness of God. Even David reminds us to, "Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." (Psalm 34:14)

God's disposition towards mankind is one of peace. When Jesus was born, the angles proclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:14) Clement also reminds us that God is long-suffering and completely free from wrath towards all His creation. God bestows His peace on us for our good, what Clement calls the benefactions of His peace, and He wants us to extend that same peace towards others for their benefit as well. Peace does not only benefit us, but it also benefits others on who we have peace.

But this peace is not just the absence of malice, its not just the long suffering of the soul, but it is also a peace that is free from competition. To illustrate this, Clement draws examples from nature of God's peace in His workmanship.
"The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no wise hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed... The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The winds in their several quarters fulfil, at the proper time, their service without hindrance... All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Clement 20)
Clement says that even the things of the natural world stays "within their prescribed limits," "give place to one another", and exists and give service "without hindrance." There is no competition among the natural creation. The moon does not compete with the sun for glory. Spring does not compete with summer for time. The seas do not compete with the dry ground over their boundaries. Each knows its appointed boundaries, times, and service for which it has been created by God and each is content with is allotment.

However, we tend to compete with one another. We want to be first, we want more than we have, we want to do things our way, and so on. This competition is the antithesis of peace and leads to all kinds of problems for ourselves and others. Instead of letting our practice of peace benefit others, we harangue them with our ambitions, fretting, and anxious ways. The peace of God becomes diminished among us as the agitation of the devil increases.
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." (James 3:16)
We must learn to be content with what God has appointed to us: with our calling, our provision, and the limits of our prescribed service. When we learn to live side-by-side with others, not competing with them, but complementing them, then we will see the peace of God increase and take hold in our midst.

David Robison

Monday, September 10, 2012

1st Clement 15 to 19 - Good company

Paul reminds us that, "Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33) I believe that the corollary is also true, "Good company promotes good morals." This is consistent with Clement's views.
"Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it. For [the Scripture] saith in a certain place, 'This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.' " (1 Clement 15)
After warning us of the grave danger we will face if we join ourselves with those who are divisive, envious, and full of strife, Clement encourages us to "cleave" to those who are of the opposite nature; those who cultivate peace with godliness. Not only should we be careful about those whom we follow, but we must also be careful with those whom we choose to associate with. If we associate with those whose character is contrary to that of Christ, then our own character is in danger. However, if we associate with those who express the same character as that of Christ, then we will be helped in our own conformance to Christ's nature.

Clement also warns us to distinguish between what a person says and what they really do. It is easy to train the tongue to say the right things but much harder to discipline the heart to perform those things. Many people say all the right words, but fail to actually cultivate peace from their heart. To make such a determination requires more than just hearing the person, it requires a relationship. We must be cautious of following people based solely on what we hear from them, we must endeavor a relationship with them that we might know if their words align with their heart. Any man can sound great in public and even look great on TV, but there is no way to judge their heart by merely hearing and seeing them, we must come to know them.

Clement continues by identifying some from history who truly exemplified those who "cultivate peace with godliness." He begins with our Lord,
"For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him... And again He saith, 'I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see Me have derided Me; they have spoken with their lips; they have wagged their head, [saying] He hoped in God, let Him deliver Him, let Him save Him, since He delighteth in Him.' Ye see, beloved, what is the example which has been given us; for if the Lord thus humbled Himself, what shall we do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace?" (1 Clement 16)
Clement continues with some of the ancients and prophets under the old covenant.
"Let us be imitators also of those who in goat-skins and sheep-skins went about proclaiming the coming of Christ; I mean Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel among the prophets, with those others to whom a like testimony is borne [in Scripture]. Abraham was specially honoured, and was called the friend of God; yet he, earnestly regarding the glory of God, humbly declared, 'I am but dust and ashes.' " (1 Clement 17)
And finally, he reminds us of David,
But what shall we say concerning David, to whom such testimony was borne, and of whom God said, 'I have found a man after Mine own heart, David the son of Jesse; and in everlasting mercy have I anointed him?' Yet this very man saith to God, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgression.' " (1 Clement 18)
All these Clement praises as those who were humble, cultivated peace, and were godly. There example is of great benefit to us as we seek to grow in the character and stature of Christ.
"Thus the humility and godly submission of so great and illustrious men have rendered not only us, but also all the generations before us, better; even as many as have received His oracles in fear and truth." (1 Clement 19)
We are better for their example; and we are benefited when we imitate their example. Let us learn to identify those who are truly humble and peaceable and let them be our leaders and associates.

David Robison

Saturday, September 08, 2012

1st Clement 14 - Whose side are you on?

When division occurs in a church, while it often may start out one sided, it usually does not remain so. Clement tells us,
"It is right and holy therefore, men and brethren, rather to obey God than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a detestable emulation." (1 Clement 14)
Often division in a church degrades to where there are two waring factions, each seeking loyal and devoted followers, and each group seeking dominance and control over the other group. In such situations, members often feel great pressure to chose sides; either the side of the establishment or the side of the innovators. Often people may not feel an affinity for either faction but find little middle ground left for them in the church. However, Clement reminds us that, in such cases, there are really three sides: Their side, the other side, and God's side.

There was a time when Joshuah was preparing for war with the Canaanites and he happens upon a man dressed for battle and he ask him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" (Joshuah 5:13) And his response was "No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord." (Joshuah 5:14) He as not on Joshuah's side nor the side of the Canaanites, he was on God's side. When faced with division it is critical that we strive not to yield to a party spirit but to remain loyal to the Lord; to remain on His side. If we must choose sides, let us choose God's side. However, for those who give in and choose one side over the other, Clement warns,
"For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and tumults, so as to draw us away from what is good." (1 Clement 14)
We must not yield to men in their attempts to amass supporters to their side. We must not allow ourselves to be made pawns in a battle between two waring factions. We must not allow the ambitious desires of some to lead us away from what is good. We must remain loyal and submitted to God and we must hold fast to what is good. In times of division, we must be like the warrior that Joshuah met; we must come in the name of the Lord. As those on God's side we must treat all men alike, regardless of whose side they are on, and we must treat them with the kindness and love of God.
"Let us be kind one to another after the pattern of the tender mercy and benignity of our Creator." (1 Clement 14)
In saying this, Clement is acknowledging the words of his teacher, Paul, when he too counseled us,
"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality." (Romans 12:9-13)
When division rises, let this be the character of our lives; let this be the side we choose.

David Robison

Sunday, September 02, 2012

1st Clement 13 - Of humble mind

Clement further exhorts us to be of a humble mind.
"Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written, ... being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching us meekness and long-suffering." (1 Clement 13)
It is interesting that, in the list of things we should put aside in order to obtain humility of mind, Clement includes foolishness and angry feelings. Foolishness, because these are the behaviors that we tend to when we walk in pride. Where there is pride, wisdom is lacking, and where wisdom is lacking, foolishness abounds. In our journey from pride to humility we must lay aside foolishness and embrace the wisdom that comes only through humility.

Clement also mentions angry feelings. When a proud man does not get his just respect, he gets angry at the slight he feels from others. However, a humble man know his true value comes from God. He looks to the esteem of god rather than looking for the approval of men. He understands that not all men will like him but that God will always loves him and will never leave him. His foundation is in God so he feels none of the anger the proud man feels when he is slighted or demeaned.

Beyond all this, Clement reminds us that our calling to humility is not just his idea, but is also consistent with the very words of our Lord. Our Lord Himself spoke and taught us to obtain a life style of meekness and long-suffering towards other people. These characteristics are not automatic in our lives but must be pursued and cultivated; we must seek to establish ourselves and our lives according to this pattern of behavior.
"By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words. For the holy word saith, 'whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembleth at My words?' " (1 Clement 13)
Much of the problems we face in our churches would vanish if we all gave ourselves whole heatedly to the establishing of ourselves in humility. Let this be the aim of our lives and of our churches.

David Robison