(The following article is a letter written by an Amish man to his church. Editor)
“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14, 15)
We can read on and see how the children of Israel professed to choose with Joshua. Now, are we truly choosing to serve the Almighty God, or are we in some way serving some other god? The majority may profess to serve the Almighty, but the majority will not truly choose to serve Him, according to Scripture.
Many people are serving another god by disobeying the True One and, instead, obeying their particular church, bishop or other leaders; or even the leaders obeying the majority of their people instead of God, like Saul did when he obeyed his people rather than God. Please read 1 Samuel 15:19-24. Some church leaders quote this Scripture to get their members to obey them or the rest of their church, thereby setting themselves and their group in the place of God. Saul actually obeyed his church and disobeyed God; although some of God’s commands he obeyed, but not all.
How easy can we do the same thing as Saul did, without thinking about it; disobeying God in even just one point in order to be popular and well-thought of among our people, thereby falling into idolatry, having our church as our other god?
It seems to be very easy for us human beings to tend to have some kind of a visible god rather than the True One who is not visible to us. For example: It can become such a routine or habit for us to confess our failures and sins to a church group and somehow depend on the church or leaders to forgive our sins, thinking that we have to have a human bishop between us and God in order to have our sins forgiven. And finally, and very dangerous, we can even forget to ask our Heavenly Father for forgiveness, who is the only One who can forgive our sins through His Son.
We have one mediator between us and God; not our church leaders, but Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”(1 Timothy 2:5)We should confess our sins and make things right to whomever we have done wrong, but let us not forget to make things right with God and ask Him for forgiveness.
If we are truly baptized into Christ and keep our baptismal covenant with Him, we will serve and obey Him. But if we are baptized into a certain church group and have made a covenant or vow to obey them, what should we do if the church does not allow us to keep God’s commandments?
Jeremiah 44:23-30 makes it clear that we should break a vow if our vow causes us to do evil and disobey God. We will be punished for keeping a vow to sin. We should read Jeremiah 44 all the way and realize that those words are still for us today, that we could be worshiping other gods as well as they were, although maybe in a different way, breaking one of the other commandments.
The Sabbath is probably one of the most ignored of God’s commandments in our days. And by knowingly disobeying God in one point we are also breaking the first commandment. We have other gods before Him if we obey somebody else above Him. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)
There are many different ideas among people for not keeping the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) and now keeping the first day (Sunday) as a sabbath. One of the reasons for people not wanting to keep the seventh-day Sabbath (or other commandments) may be described in Hosea 4:6 in Martin Luther’s translation as: “My people are destroyed, because they do not want to learn.” Some say their forefathers were very godly people and we should just be satisfied and do what they did. Yes, a lot of our forefathers were very godly people and walked according to the light they had. Some kept commandments and laws that we have lost long ago and we hardly ever hear all that history today. But our forefathers were not perfect and we should not have them as another god; we may have light in areas where they did not have, so we should walk while we have the light, lest darkness come upon us. (John 12:35)
God’s Word should be our guide. There are examples in the Bible that we should not follow our forefathers and tradition in disobedience to God’s law. “You shall not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shall you testify in a lawsuit so as to pervert justice, in order to side with a multitude which deviates from justice. (Exodus 23:2 — Lamsa’s Translation)
“ And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the LORD God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.” (2 Chronicles 30:7, 8)
“Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book.” (2 Chronicles 34:21)
Hezekiah and Josiah in the Bible were good examples of not following the forefathers in sin. It can be read in 2 Kings 18:1-7 and chapters 22 and 23. “Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked.” (Amos 2:4)
“But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols: I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God. Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.” (Ezekiel 20:18-21)
Let us study again what verse 20 says: “And hallow my sabbaths” (the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord our God, Exodus 20:8-11, and He never asked anybody to keep any other day as the weekly Sabbath); “and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” What sign is it if we don’t keep God’s Sabbath and keep another day instead, and who is then our God?
Let us all deeply think about it and choose what Joshua did, and do the best we know. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Also, let us not put too much emphasis on one commandment and break others. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
The New Testament also teaches that we should obey God rather than men. “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)
Let us see what the Scripture says that we will do if we love God above everything else. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10) “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:2, 3) “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” (2 John 6)
Let us take heed that we do not ban or excommunicate somebody for keeping God’s commandments. For so doing we are going against God (not so much against those people), and putting ourselves in great danger. “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5:38, 39) “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.” (John 16:2, 3)
We need to realize also that “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4) Although we are not saved by keeping the law, the law shows us what sin is. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”(Romans 7:7) We are saved by grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”(Ephesians 2:8, 9)
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?… For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Romans 6:1, 2, 14, 15)
These verses show that we shall not continue in sin (sin is the transgression of the law) because we are under grace. And we shall not break the law, or sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace. Verses 14 and 15 are saying that we shall keep the law: for we are not under the law, but under grace (breaking the law is sin). If we sin (or break the law) we are under the law, and condemned; but if we repent (stop sinning) and ask God for forgiveness, He will cover our sins with Christ’s blood; then we are no longer under the law but under grace. Christ died for us, to save us from death (the curse of the law). “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
Will we now be thankful enough for the wonderful grace of Christ and love Him enough to keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus? Revelation 14:12. Or will we still cling to our old traditions and obey our church above God like Saul did? Let us choose the God which Joshua did. ?