SURROUNDED WITH A CLOUD OF WITNESSES
IN A VERY REAL SENSE Christians are living in a world within a world. Much that is in the Christian’s world, the secular, unbelieving world has no clue. They are blinded and live only in their own little world. They cannot understand spiritual things that are the life and blood of the Christian, because these things are only “spiritually discerned.” But rather, as they are confronted with true Christians, the more these Christians are like their Master, the more “the world” hates them, as it hates the Master, even the Lord Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh.
In this day, much is debated on the subject: Is America a Christian nation? Perhaps a better question would be, “WAS America ever a Christian nation?” Was it founded as such? I would say it was. By and large our founding fathers were Christians.
History tells us:
The document known as the Mayflower Compact was drafted aboard ship and signed by 41 of the adult males. It stated:
We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one an- other, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.
The very purpose of our early forefathers was to escape secular and religious tyranny and seek religious freedom. Even our early institutions of learning has as their mission to teach the young the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. To me, that sounds like America was founded as “A Christian Nation” but with liberty and justice for all—with liberty for each one to worship freely according to the dictates of his conscience.
That does not mean at all that everyone in this new nation were Christian, but the founding fathers and the early governmental leaders had the Bible as their Standard, and our laws were based on the Bible, and the Providence of the living God was recognized and in all dealings in the establishment of this nation was done first with appeal, plea and petition to the merciful Almighty God—the Christian’s God.
In our early history, sometime the ONLY book in a home would be the Bible. And maybe Webster’s Dictionary. Later, for the school children, they had the old McGuffey’s Readers, which were loaded with Bible quotes and illustrations. Many homes were even blessed to have John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which had sales second only to the Bible itself. So by and large the populace and the nation’s children were surrounded with the influence of the Bible—a virtual holy “cloud of witnesses” in itself. You could not turn anywhere without observing this influence.
We are living in a different nation today. Everyone seem to be “texting” on their cell phones and I dare say that most of the messages have nothing to say about God or the Bible, or God’s commands about godly and holy living. Even video games are violent.
Go into the bookstores and supermarkets. Oh, you will see some few “Christian” books, or “quasi Christian” books, but mostly you will see displayed secular and immoral titles appealing to the flesh.
Go into the nation’s toy stores for an experience in depression! Even many of the toys are occult-oriented and encouraging violence.
Go to the video stores and no one from the outside would ever guess they are in a “Christian nation”!
Satan has really done a number on America!
Then consider nearly 60 MILLION babies murdered while in the womb since 1973. And now we learn of ‘Planned Parenthood” even engaging in the sale of aborted baby-parts for profit. Compare this to Hitler’s Germany with 6 million Jews killed, including men, women and children. Compare his 6 million to our 60 million BABIES MURDERED!
Then look at the growing acceptance of what God calls an abomination—homosexuality—and now the White House and the Supreme Court putting their stamp of approval on “gay marriage.” To be a bit crass and secular, “You have come a long way, baby” or “The old gray mare ain’t what she used to be.” But America has come a long way DOWN, away from God.
Having said all that, I am still thankful for many good and faithful people who are fighting against what is wrong, trying to holdfast what remains, and working to awake America to it’s peril.
Now look a bit into the Christian’s world: ‘Wherefore seeing we also are compassed [surrounded] with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in our minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
The Bible exhorts Christians to “redeem the time,” for the days are evil.” And we are to work and labor in this world, in the Lord’s vineyard, in His kingdom, “while it is day,” for the night is coming when no man can work.
Now the writer of the book of Hebrews, when he speaks of being compassed or surrounded with a cloud of witnesses, is speaking of saints who have gone on to glory. And even between the time the Bible was written and published, to the present time, we have a huge “cloud of witnesses” that have also passed on, but who left us with messages written down for our guidance, instruction, and edification of our souls and our living day by day. To be worthy of our time, such messages must be in harmony with the very Word of God—God’s love-letter to His children.
Not only should we spend much time perusing these valuable epistles of the past, but also we should avail ourselves of contemporary, living gifts to the body of Christ, and not do as some people of the past have done, that is, they killed the prophets, but claimed to honor and revere them after they were DEAD!
Go to the Internet, or go to religious bookstores and libraries, and you will find it quite mind-boggling at the “great cloud of witness” that surround you, just waiting for you to avail yourselves of them! And consider how you are robbing yourselves if you fail to do so!
Rather than going to your cell phone perpetually, or to some video game that is such a waste of precious time and is “vanity and vexation of spirit,” go to some in this “cloud of witnesses” and learn from them. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31)
Just this morning I was reading a sermon by one of these in the “cloud of witnesses.” It was by John Hill who lived from about 1711 to 1746. The title of his sermon is, “Evangelical Repentance.” He speaks on Jeremiah 31:19—”Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I bear the reproach of my youth.” And he says,
These words refer to the children of Israel as a nation, the subject-matter of this chapter; being first spoken for their comfort, in their exile-state; but they must not be confined to them, or to the Jewish dispensation. Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope, Rom. 15:4. The Old Testament is as much the word of God as the New, and no part of the inspired writings is of private interpretation, since the whole is left upon record, “that it may be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16)
So far therefore as our circumstances, cases, and conditions, are like to theirs, which are spoken of, under that dispensation, so far may we justly apply the word to ourselves, which was delivered by God to them. Applying this general rule to the words before us, they present us with a very just and beautiful account, of the difference which there is in man, in his converted state, to what he was before the grace of God had reached his heart. The language of every sincere penitent is the same wherein Ephraim is represented as bemoaning himself, in the verse before my text: “Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn Thou me, and I shall be turned; for Thou art the Lord my God.” These words are very moving and emphatical, and plainly do they show us, how ineffectual is all the moral situation in the world, to bring a soul to Christ, without the powerful operations of the blessed Spirit. We slight His promises, disregard His threatening, and remain stupid and secure even under His afflicting hand, ’till the dayspring from on high visits us, Luke I ‘.78. “Thou hast chastised me (saith Ephraim) and I was chastised; but I continued, notwithstanding this, an undaunted heifer, and behaved under it as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, till I was enabled by the blessed Spirit to cry out with my whole heart, Turn Thou me, and I shall be turned, for Thou art the Lord my God: I desire none other but Thyself.” Then follow the words of our text:
“Surely after that I was turned, I repented, ” etc.
Even Christian men cannot fathom the wealth available to us, even by a few in this “cloud of witnesses.” Let us “redeem the time,” giving diligence to this holy task.
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