Friday, February 23, 2007

Returning to Old Paths

I have a love of home and familiar things and I love things that have a story to tell, or that were valued by someone long ago.
I have a tablecloth that belonged to my husband’s grandmother who got it from her mother, so that puts it back to about 1870. It is in perfect condition, as you can see from the photo.
I think we value things that are old because we live in such a fast paced world where things are so constantly changing we have no sense of stability any more… and we desire something that will last !! We look back and recognize that the price we have paid to live in an instant gratification society has been a high one.

But I think perhaps the fascination with things that are old has a deeper significance. God has put into our hearts trigger points that alert us when something is wrong.
When a society turns away from God, people sense an emptiness… they know that something vital is missing and tend often to fill that emptiness with anything BUT God.
God knows that the only answer is for His people to return to a God who does not change and to go back to walking in His ways.
The Lord speaks to this in Jeremiah 6:16 . He says, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (There is a sad epitaph that He adds when addressing His people living in Jeremiah’s time, “but they said, ‘We will not walk therein.’.”)

I love old books and years ago when I became dissatisfied with the shallow content of many of the books I found in the Christian bookstores, began to seek out and read books written by man and women who lived decades or hundreds of years ago. I was quickly hooked… but what unconsciously happened was that in immersing myself in old literature my standards changed and when I picked up current books I was shocked at the frivolousness of our modern mind set and how far we had strayed in our expression of Christianity both in life and word.

God knew that the tendency of man is always to regress so God warned us to check to see if we were still on the right path… or have we strayed from the ‘old paths’ because new ones held more alluring promises.

The label “Christian” has become almost a generic term, to the extreme of being the default if you aren’t anything else.
I once read a quote that really hit home, “When you take the name of Christian, God puts His reputation on the line.”
Isn’t that riveting? And what responsibility it calls us to -- to ‘live’ our profession , if we don’t , it is God’s reputation that suffers!!
As He says, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through YOU!”
(Rom. 2:24)
So how important is it that we are diligent to guard the name of Christ if we profess to be Christians?

I re-read a section of one of my books that was written almost 2,000 years ago, (no, it wasn’t my bible) The author was a man we know very little about other than the fact that he called himself Mathetes and he was an early Christian , who may have been a disciple of St. Paul or one of the apostle’s co-workers. He writes with the same spirit. The article I have was written in 130 AD.

I present part of it here- for you to read for yourself how Mathetes describes the Christians of his time - and ask yourself whether Christians today still have that same reputation, or have we digressed somewhat…..( and remember he was not speaking about a few individuals , he was speaking of Christians as a whole.)

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country , nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.
The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries , but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their faith as a land of strangers.
They marry, as do all others, they beget children, but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. they are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. they pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishounored, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
To sum up all in one word – what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible.
The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures, the world also hates the Christians, though in no wise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and loves also the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body, and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible bodies, looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better, in like manner , the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake !

Wouldn’t it be nice if Christians could be spoken of in the same way today ?? Would the world be a different place?
What is the point I am trying to make? To exhort you and me to recognize that how the people in our own little spheres of influence speak about Christ is determined by how we personally represent Him. To check our ‘road map’ to make sure we are still on the ‘old paths’, and to strive to make ( John 1:6) a reality in our daily walk.
“He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk, even as He walked.”
and not to forget that our strength to do so lies simply in ‘abiding in him’….
“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He shall appear , we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at his coming.”
I John 2:18


Lovella said...

thank you for the lesson. I love the old table cloth. I have found that with some of the vintage things that I have, they were so treasured that they were never used and now are in perfect condition for our generation. There must be a lesson in that.

Yokooso said...

I love this line of that 2000 year old story: "The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it"

I can feel that in my flesh daily!

Thanks for the "wake-up call" although I do like to believe I still do live as one on the "old paths".