The Reign Of Heaven And The Modern Mind
We publish this week the first in a series of four articles by Brother Bryan Vinson, Sr. on "The Reign of Heaven." We urge a careful reading of the entire series. In the third article of the series Brother Vinson advances some thoughts on "the local congregations and the place and function of elders in a congregation" with which we do not fully agree, and about which we will probably offer some comments when that article is published. But aside from that, the series is a most earnest and powerful exposition of the nature of "The Reign of Heaven," and should be carefully read and pondered by every thoughtful Christian.
In the confused and bewildering complexity of modern life, amid street demonstrations, "situation ethics," open and errant immorality in both public and private lives, when the very church of God itself is torn by internal strife and dissension, Christian parents are looking eagerly and desperately for help in bringing up their children to be happy and fulfilled in their personal lives, and faithful to the Lord in all things. The task is a formidable one. It will never be accomplished until the parents themselves have made a resolution as to their own lives; no amount of teaching and instruction can completely overcome parental example. In his widely circulated book, "Success In Marriage" Dr. David R. Mace says: "The views we hold about the handling of our children are rooted in our fundamental attitudes of life as a whole. We identify ourselves with our children and desire for them the things we secretly aspire after. We may read books about child training and be intellectually impressed. But we will not apply what we read, in any consistent and sustained way, unless the basic principles behind the methods concerned are ones which we accept for ourselves and apply to all our relationships." (page 74.)
This is certainly true. How can parents instill principles of morality and integrity in children when they themselves have never made any real commitment of their own lives to such principles? How can they hope to teach children to submit intelligently to "the reign of heaven" when they themselves are in actual, though covert, rebellion against such submission? Be it said to their credit that many parents are aware of this anomalous situation; but they simply do not know how to cope with it. They realize that their own lives are filled with fears, hates, suspicions, littleness's, and failures; and pray that their children may grow up to be better men and women, stronger in faith and more devoted to the Lord, than were their parents.
Many take a pessimistic attitude. They say that fear, anger, greed are simply a part of human nature, and "human nature cannot be changed." But the whole concept of Christianity is the very opposite of this. Indeed, Christ came into a sin-cursed world for the very purpose of changing men and women. Even a casual acquaintance with his apostles will demonstrate the enormous power of the gospel to re-make and re-fashion the lives of men. Paul declared, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. (Rom. 1:16. ) Whether we are looking at Matthew, a man despised by his own people as a traitor and extortioner, or at Peter, the profane and impetuous fisherman who was weak and vacillating, or at Thomas whose mind was clouded and over-shadowed by torturing doubt and unbelief, we see thrilling and incontrovertible evidence of the power (the Greek word is dynamos - dynamite!) of the gospel to change men. It is truly God's power to save -- to save from fear, futility, and failure in this present life and from the fearful and eternal consequences of sin in the life to come.'
It will be helpful if all of us can realize that there are fundamental LAWS of the spiritual realm just as much a part of the universe as are the laws of physics and chemistry. One of those laws is stated as "The wages of sin is death;" and closely tied to it, "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." The laws of the spiritual realm (insofar as we can know and apply them) are all set forth in the Bible, God's word. Correct and proper observance of the laws here revealed will bring one into a beautiful and transforming "experience" (we use the word advisedly) with Christ. As one walks with Christ and lives in him, those elements of "human nature" which are destructive and malignant will gradually begin to fade and weaken. Anger and greed and hatred and sensuality will give place to gentleness and purity, issuing in a truly happy and fulfilled life of sacrificial service to others. As John says, "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him: for we shall see him even as he is." (I Jno. 3:2.) That last clause is the one that gives the significance of the passage, "FOR WE SHALL SEE HIM EVEN AS HE IS.
If modern man is to be happy on this earth (not even to mention the life to come) he will find his greatest chances for such happiness are in submitting to the reign of heaven." If parents are seriously concerned as to the happiness and welfare of their children, then from their very earliest years they will give these children unlimited opportunity to become acquainted with Jesus Christ to "see him even as he is." As the words of Christ sink into the heart of the child, as the life and example of Christ become deeply imbedded in his conscious life (or even in his sub-conscious) the laws of the spiritual life become so firmly fixed that nothing will ever efface them. This tender child may grow into a mature man or woman who will know suffering and tragedy during the earthly years (Christianity does not exempt one from wars and famines and earthquakes), but who, in spite of all such, will have a rich and happy life! For this life will be lived in harmony with the reign of heaven -not contrary to it.
Because we have tremendous faith in the very words of the Scripture to influence lives for Christ, we urge once again that every family give careful consideration to our "Planned Program of Absorption Learning" (which we advertise in the Gospel Guardian from time to time) as an effective method of installing God's law into growing and receptive hearts.
-F. Y. T.