Christianity 201

November 15, 2019

Choosing: ‘The Gods of This Land,’ or The Lord?

Six months ago we introduced you to an author who was new to us, Mark Stephenson who co-pastors Horizon Church of Towson, Maryland and writes at Fire and Light. In more recent articles, he’s following the story of Gideon, but in this one, just a few days prior, Joshua’s story is about to wrap up.

All Faithfulness

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:14-15

Joshua was nearing the end of his life and so he challenged the people of God one last time. He wanted them to know that God was giving them land they previously didn’t own, cities that they did not build, and farms that they did not cultivate. All of this was God’s inheritance for them, but He expected them to be a covenant people. God expected them to be faithful to Him and worship Him only.

Joshua warned them against worshiping the gods of their ancestors. He then warns them about worshiping the gods of the land they now possess. The gods of their ancestors were originally the Sumerian gods worshiped in Mesopotamia and then the Egyptian gods worshiped in slavery. The local religion was a little different as it included the gods of the Canaanites (Amorites, Perizzites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, etc). Joshua was warning them that all of it was a trap and that they should worship Yahweh alone.

In America, the god of our ancestors is a civil religion, a nominal Christianity that amounts to a powerless moral deism. It is more about being a good boy or girl and being a true American than it is about a relationship with Jesus.

In America, the local gods of “this land” and this culture are gods of humanism, doubt, fear, sexual immorality, comfort, pride, and self-absorption. Freedom is defined as lack of boundaries, standards, and norms. Worshiping this sort of pantheon creates a perpetual identity crisis and a life of permissive morality.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to complete devotion to our Lord. We must reject the gods of this culture and the gods of our ancestors in favor of complete surrender to Jesus. Our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are being imprisoned, beaten, and killed for their faith. Meanwhile the American church sits around echoing the words of enemy in the Garden of Eden, “Did God really say that was wrong?”

We, as the Church, have to return to a complete abandonment to Christ. We must declare with our words, our life, and our faith the words of Joshua, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”

August 8, 2017

Living as a “Mugwump”

by Russell Young*

God strongly condemns living as a “mugwump.” A “mugwump” is someone who lives with his mug on one side of the fence and his rump on the other. He or she is partially committed to living for Christ but has not divorced himself or herself from the world. A mugwump wants the pleasures or benefits they perceive as coming from the world as well as those promised by Christ…hope of an eternal life with Christ. Many are taught that a person can live as a mugwump. However, the Lord has prophesied, “[B]ecause you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16 NIV) James has described these people as being double-minded. “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jas 4:7 NIV) He has also proclaimed the inability of the double-minded to gain wisdom. (Jas 1:8)

Believers must be careful not to be deceived. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8) The Holy Spirit and the natural spirit are opposed to each other so that the confessor must make a conscious decision to accept one and to repel the other. When he or she cannot accomplish this, that person might be considered to be a mugwump. The pleasures of the world, entertained by the natural spirit, will bring destruction; obeying the Holy Spirit will being eternal life. The Lord also admonished, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Mt 6:24 NIV) This passage is a caution against “mugwumpery.”

Belief without cost is often the connotation of freedom that has allowed for fence-sitting. Evangelistic efforts often proclaim the glory awaiting the one who would profess a commitment to Christ. Promise of eternal security, surety of a place in God’s eternal community, allows for diminished commitment. Understanding that all believers–defined as those who have made a profession of faith–will share in Christ’s glory and rule with him, allows for a relaxed and uncommitted lifestyle. The mugwump does not seek righteousness since regardless of his or her choices Christ is promised as his righteousness.

Life is “good” for the mugwump. He or she lives a life of promise while basking in the pleasures of the world. The promises are false, however. John has recorded, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:15 NIV) James depicts friendship with the world as adultery. “You adulterous people don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (Jas 4:4 NIV) Living as a mugwump is the same as being married to a wife while claiming the right to flirt, or worse, with others on the side. God is a jealous God and will not delight in the person who is not prepared to love him with all his or her heart, soul, mind, body, and strength. A believer is a person who is fully committed to the purposes and objectives of his or her Lord; He or she does not walk the path of personal interest or convenience.

Those who live as mugwumps will live to regret their positioning one day as they find themselves separated (2 Thess 1:9) from the one that they had pledged as their lord but had not committed to live under his rule.


*Starting today, Russell Young’s column here moves to every other Tuesday, or the first and third Tuesday in months having five. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.