In this issue I want to continue with this series on Christ in the early Anabaptists. The more I study and read about the early Anabaptists the more I am confirmed in my heart what those brothers and sisters were doing. There is no question about it. It wasn’t any new idealism. It wasn’t some new way to live. It was Christ living out his life in a bunch of brothers and sisters who yielded their lives to Him!
I want to speak on this subject: foundation stones of the Anabaptist faith. I now want to go deeper into the subject of the Anabaptist faith. My heart and mind has been greatly moved by the picture God has been painting for us. It is such a glorious picture, such a beautiful people, such a pure, simple humility in their hearts and in their lives. It just thrills my soul to look upon them, to look back, to go back almost 500 years and see the beauty of the Lord upon these Anabaptist people! Truly these people were “Zion the perfection of beauty.” Truly God did shine out from them 500 years ago!
I am thinking about evangelism and I am going to say a bit about that along with some other things. I have such a burden in my heart that somehow, by God’s grace, we in these last days can restore primitive Christianity! I know it is the heart of God. I know God is going to do it. It’s not a question of whether it’s going to happen; it’s a question of who’s going to do it. I believe that with all of my heart. We who live in the last of the last days have the most blessed opportunity of those of many, many years gone by. We may have that opportunity. I wonder if we will have the courage to take that opportunity and restore primitive Christianity to the church again.
What do we do with all these facts? Some of us men were discussing these things a bit and it’s like, “Okay Lord, you are right, you are right, but what shall we do?” We must be doers of the word and not hearers only.
May God deliver us from the plague of American Christianity! We run closer to that then we realize. The plague of American Christianity says, “I have heard a good and sound sermon, therefore I am spiritual.” We have deceived ourselves into thinking that I have heard a good sermon and therefore I am spiritual. I have heard a good sermon and I said amen to it, and therefore I am spiritual. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches I have heard a good sermon and I have responded obediently to it and therefore I am spiritual. There is a big gap between the two of those. Multitudes and multitudes of people sit Sunday after Sunday and hear good sermons and do nothing about it. May God deliver us from the plague of American Christianity! Brothers and sisters, we live in America too. These things that we have been hearing demand a response, and the response is repentance. A turningfrom and a turning to is what God is calling us to. Brothers and sisters, do you realize that this is not just another meeting. It’s more than that. God is speaking more deeply then that, at least to some of our hearts. My prayer continually is, “Lord, we have failed, and we have failed terribly! Forgive us Lord.” My prayer also is, “Oh Lord, would you give us another chance? Would you please give us another chance?” May God grant us a chance like this to be faithful in the days ahead. This is not just another meeting. No, it is not!
I want to focus on some of the basic foundational beliefs of the early Anabaptists. I would like to point out a few verses in Ephesians 2. Since we are going to talk about foundations, I thought it would be fitting for us to read a couple of verses in the New Testament about foundations so we get a good and a clear idea what kind of foundations we are talking about. Paul, in Ephesians 2:19-21, said these words, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,[Hallelujah] but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [Think about it, brothers and sisters.] fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; [We have come to mount Zion] and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom [in Christ] all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” Isn’t that a beautiful picture? “Groweth unto a holy temple,” a holy dwelling place for the Lord. That’s where God is going. That’s what God wants. He wants a dwelling place in his people!
I want us to notice here that Paul says this is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” Jesus Christ himself. Note those words. It’s not the doctrine of Jesus Christ here; it’s “Jesus Christ himself!” It’s not the name Jesus Christ. It’s the person of Jesus Christ, who is the chief corner stone of this building that we are building. This glorious, beautiful habitation of God through the Spirit, “Jesus Christ himself,” the person of Jesus Christ, is the chief corner stone. I wonder how many of us can grasp the reality of that and get a hold of what that means. We Americans are theologically correct. We have a lot of our theology right, but is Jesus Christ himself the chief corner stone in our own personal theology and reality?
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, “For we are laborers together with God.” Wow! Look at that! That’s what Paul said. “Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, [Paul giving his own testimony] as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. [Why Paul?] For other foundation can no man lay then that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” He is not talking about the doctrine of Jesus Christ, he is not talking just about the name of Jesus Christ. He’s talking about the person of Jesus Christ! That is the foundation upon which we are to build our lives and the foundation upon which we are to build the lives of those around us. Jesus Christ is the foundation.
If you go to Acts 19 it is very clear to see that Jesus Christ himself was the chief corner stone of that beautiful church in Ephesus. He was alive and well in that place and a beautiful thing began to happen.
These verses lead me to my first point as we are looking at foundation stones in the Anabaptist faith. Maybe you think we should skip the first one, but we are not going to. The first one is Jesus Christ himself. This is the foundation stone of the Anabaptist faith: JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF. I don’t know that I could testify that Jesus Christ is the foundation stone of the Anabaptist faith today. I don’t know that I could say that. But I know, after I have been studying for these three months, that Jesus Christ himself was the chief corner stone of the early Anabaptist faith, no question about it!
Most of the books that I have read (and I read many), hardly mention this point. Because you know we have to make sure we get the doctrine of “nonresistance” in there. We have to make sure we get the doctrine of “nonconformity” in there. We have to make sure we get the doctrine of the “separation of church and state” in there, and we left out the doctrine of “HIMSELF”!! How can we expect to have the others if we do not have Him? So there is more focus on those doctrines, but I am here to tell you that this first point, Jesus Christ himself, is first and foremost, and all the others flow out of Him.
To the early Anabaptist, salvation was Jesus Christ himself. Go back and read in their writings and you will see it is that way. Salvation was not a mental assent to a doctrine. Salvation did not just believe in something Jesus did 2000 years ago. Salvation was Jesus himself! It has not changed. Jesus Christ is salvation and there is no salvation outside of Him! NONE! But we live in a day and an age when it is very easy to tack His name here and there. It is very easy to put a doctrine up there and ask people if they believe in it. But it was not that way for the early Anabaptist. To the early Anabaptist, salvation was Jesus Christ himself, and oh, what a transformation He made in their lives!
The Reformer’s emphasis was more on believing in what Christ did. But for the Anabaptist, it was repentance toward God (“I have sinned against a holy God”) and a believing into Jesus Christ. If you want a good Bible study, just study those phrases in the Scriptures where it talks about Jesus, when He said, “Whosoever believeth in Me.” He is not talking about a mental assent. That word means to believe into and lose my entire life in Him. How many of us have believed into Him?
That’s what it meant to the early Anabaptists. It was a turning from my sin and shame, a turning to Jesus Christ, and beginning a whole new life. It was not just a whole new way of life; it was a whole new life. What does that mean, a whole new life? Brothers and sisters, it means more than imitation, although it does mean that. It’s more then just doing what Christ did. With the early Anabaptists, it was an impartation of His very life into their hearts. They believed in becoming partakers of the divine nature through repentance and faith into Jesus Christ. That was the secret of the early Anabaptist!
One of the greatest gifts that God gave to man was and is the 160-page inspired biography of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we have it, don’t we? Hallelujah! There are 160 inspired pages of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ… God incarnate… God in the flesh. He was the express image of the Father and was walking around in human flesh. We have His life recorded in 160 pages of this book called the Bible. What a gift God has given to us. Thank you, Lord Jesus!
The early Anabaptists treasured this biography and they held it above the epistles. It was not that they didn’t believe the epistles were inspired, but they took the epistles and interpreted them in light of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It could be that there was a bit of a reaction because of the Reformer’s “overemphasis” on Pauline doctrine, but you can’t go wrong following the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is God in the flesh; He is the express image of the Father. Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father!” Think about it, brothers and sisters. The eternal God, the eternal self-existent One, the Creator of the universe has unveiled Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ, who walked in human flesh and has given us a biography of it so that we can read it! Oh God, change the way we read the biography of the Lord Jesus Christ. May God help us. The early Anabaptists treasured this biography.
I mentioned that the Reformers overemphasized Pauline doctrine, but as I was thinking about it this afternoon, if they would have looked a little bit deeper into the apostle Paul’s LIFE, they would have found Christ living His life through Paul, because Paul was one of the most beautiful examples of the life of Christ we have ever seen in history. That man walked with Jesus and it is beautiful to behold.
Let’s turn to John 14 as we reflect a little more on this first point, foundation stones in the Anabaptist faith. John 14 gives us a beautiful description of what we are talking about. Jesus made a promise to His disciples, and it seems right that He would give them some encouragement at this time. It’s only a few days now before He goes to the cross and their whole world is going to be shattered. But He tells them, “I will not leave you comfortless.” I am not going to leave you alone. I have been with you for these three and a half years. You have counted on Me. You have had questions and I have had answers. You have looked for direction and I have given you examples. I have been with you these three and a half years and I want you to know that “I will not leave you comfortless!” Jesus said these words to His disciples in John 14:21, “He that has my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” You see it is a matter of obedience, brothers and sisters! “And he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him; if a man love me, he will keep my words… If a man love me, he will keep my words and my Father will love him, and WE will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.” What Jesus is saying is, I am not telling you something out of my own mind, but this is what the Father is telling me to tell you.
This was the experience of the early Anabaptists. Their heart was so set to obey the Lord Jesus and follow His example. With that kind of a willing heart Jesus met them time and time and time again and they walked with Him. Jesus said these words, “Follow me.” Yes, He said, “Follow my teachings,” but what did He mean when He said, “Follow me.”? It means to treasure My words. It means to emulate My example. It means to yield your life unto Me, and it means to hear My voice daily! All of that is wrapped up in those two little words that Jesus said several times. “Follow me. FOLLOW ME!” It means to treasure His words. It means to emulate His example. It means to yield to His life within me, and it means to hear His voice.
The Reformers thought those Anabaptists were crazy because they believed they could live like Jesus. Not only did they believe they could, they lived like Jesus! Not only did they live like Jesus, they believed it was imperative that they live like Jesus! And the Reformers thought that they were crazy. But they believed it, and so do I. Christ living in me, in reality, is my only hope of glory. Christ living in you, in reality, is your only hope of glory. Do you believe that? Or, would you fit much better in a Protestant church someplace where they tell you, “Just believe on what Jesus did 2000 years ago and everything will be alright?” NO, “Christ in you” is “the hope of glory.” Brothers and sisters, don’t doubt that! That’s what the early Anabaptists believed and it still stands today. He is our only hope. Even today it is so easy for the natural man to rest in doctrines that are believed, to rest in sermons that I hear, to even rest in principles that I live because I have been taught them. But that’s not enough! It must be Christ living His life in me. That is Christianity.
Far too often the doctrines and the practices are all we get, but it’s not right. We ministers make the mistake of not holding the people to this standard: Christ living in me is the hope of glory. We make the mistake of emphasizing “the things” and holding “the things” on the people and that’s not going to reach! Think about the difference between a total dedication, that unreserved surrender, compared to doing a few things that Christians ought to do. There is no comparison at all. It is easy to get up and go to church on Sunday morning. It is easy to get up and read your Bible. It is an easy thing to say amen when you hear a good sermon. It is even an easy thing to go knock on some doors and pass out some tracts. But it’s not an easy thing to surrender your heart and your life to God on a continual basis, giving up everything so that you might hear His voice and know Him personally! Oh, may God help us ministers to hold the people to this standard! I have no problem with having other standards; we need to have them in our churches. But let us subjugate them to this standard (Christ in you) which will get you to the other ones a lot quicker.
Those early Anabaptists had surrendered themselves to God and to the reality of the Europe that they lived in, in those days. In a sense we could say that the circumstances that they lived in forced them to abide in Christ. They wereforced to abide in Christ.
Let’s move on to number two. The second foundation stone that I would like to look at is the stone of DISCIPLESHIP and this one flows out of the other. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to walk with Him. I want to hear His voice, therefore I need help. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I want to walk in His ways, and therefore I need help, and thus discipleship. I need a brotherhood! Not a brotherhood to boss me around. No, not at all, but to help me walk with Christ! I need a brotherhood that will bring accountability into my life, to help me walk with Christ. I need a brotherhood that will help me when my heart cries out and says, “I am not going to sin. I am not going to sin.” These things I write unto you little children that ye sin not. That ye sin not! Discipleship. I need a brotherhood to help me overcome sin in my life. We must find ways to assemble ourselves together because I want to follow Christ with all my heart and I need brothers and sisters to help me do that. I need someone to look me in the eyes of my heart and say, “Brother, how is your prayer life? Did you read your Bible today? How are you?” “I’m fine.” “No, I mean really, how are you?” What loving words. This is the basis of discipleship. I want to walk with Christ and I need help. We must find ways to assemble ourselves together; we must break bread together and share in a common meal. The heart of a true disciple who wants to walk with Jesus Christ says, “I will never make it without my brethren. I will never make it. I need them!”
Brothers and sisters, solid church life grows up out of these desires and it changes the brotherhood drastically. No longer is the brotherhood just a circle of men who sit together and try to decide what to do for the next month. But all of a sudden my brothers are men who come alongside me with accountability and ask me how I am really doing. This is the way it was with the early Anabaptists. They believed in discipleship on that level. They needed accountability and they treasured it! They knew they would not make it if they didn’t have it.
I thought about the early Methodist meetings. They were very much along these lines, but there was one difference between the early Methodists and the early Anabaptists. It was a significant one that we need to grab a hold of. The early Anabaptists were in the midst of much persecution, and in desperation they yielded themselves to one another. “Help me walk with God!” But the early Methodists were not in the midst of persecution. They had a little trouble here and there. A couple of times they picked John Wesley up and threw him over a fence. Once they turned a bull loose in his meeting while he was preaching. A few things like that happened here or there, but basically the climate was pretty favorable. When he stood up to preach, 20,000 people gathered to listen. That’s very different from the early Anabaptists. But in the midst of those favorable conditions, there were the hearts of a few young Methodists who desired to walk with Christ in the same way that we have been talking about, and their hearts said, “Let’s be accountable!”
John Wesley designed the early Methodist Society where a group of maybe ten got together once a week and asked each other hard questions… questions like, “Have you been walking with God this week?” and if not, “What happened and what happened where?” “Did you witness to anyone this week?” and if not, “Why not?” This is the way it was with the early Methodists. They chose to do these things in good times and that was one powerful group of people! They shook England in their day, in that favorable climate that they found themselves in. Why? Because they set themselves in the good times to walk with Christ and to see His true life being manifested in their lives! I don’t know about you, but I think we should learn from them just like we learn from the early Anabaptists, because bless God, if someone is going to live like that; let’s learn from them. Zion is bigger than just the Anabaptists.
Those early Anabaptists were baptized into this kind of discipleship; those were the kind of vows they made when they were baptized. “Yes, I am willing to submit myself to the discipleship of the brothers who love me.” They were baptized into this kind of discipleship and it was beautiful! They prospered because of it and so will we.
Let’s move on. Foundation stone number three is EVANGELISM, and I wrote this next to that word: to love in a God-like love. Evangelism is to love in a God-like love. That’s evangelism. You may have heard about evangelism before but we don’t want to miss a big foundation stone like this because this stone is our life. It’s our life!
Listen to the words of Menno Simons. That dear man had such a beautiful heart. He said, “In the second place we desire with ardent hearts, even at the cost of life and blood, that the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ and His apostles, which is the true doctrine and will remain so until Jesus Christ comes again upon the clouds, may be taught and preached throughout all the world.” It’s what the Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples. It’s the last word to them while He was on the earth. It’s the last thing that He said to them. Listen to his (Menno Simons’) heart. “This is my only joy and heart’s desire: to extend the Kingdom of God, to reveal the truth, to reprove sin, to teach righteousness, to feed hungry souls with the word of the Lord, to lead the straying sheep into the right path and gain many souls to the Lord through His Spirit, His power and His grace. Therefore we preach as much as is possible both by day and by night, in houses and in fields, in forests and in wastes, hither and yon, at home or abroad, in prisons and in dungeons, in water and in fire, on the scaffolding and on the wheel, before lords and princes, through mouth and with pen, with possession and with blood, with life and with death. We have done this these many years and we are not ashamed of the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ!” That’s how Menno Simons felt about evangelism. It seems to me that it was the one thing that he did. What do you think?
I would like to go deeper on the subject of evangelism, if we can, and dig in a little bit on the doctrine of evangelism. Did you know that evangelism was a doctrine? It’s a doctrine just like nonresistance is a doctrine. It’s a doctrine just like separation of church and state is a doctrine. Evangelism is a doctrine! And you cannot separate the true life of Jesus Christ with evangelism. They go together.
These dear brothers and sisters were baptized into evangelism; it was a part of their vows. They were asked as they were standing or kneeling in the baptismal waters, wherever it was, in a cave somewhere… They were asked, “Are you willing to go and proclaim the good news to all the people who haven’t heard?” “Yes, I am willing!” Then they baptized them and they got off their knees and went and did it. They went and did it! They were baptized into evangelism. They believed that that is the reason why we’re here, and that is the reason why we are here. There is no other reason why we are here, except to win a lost and dying world. There are many things that fall underneath that but all roads point back to that. They were baptized into evangelism.
This is why they got into so much trouble, because they were baptized into evangelism. Those first twelve men, their baptism would not have been that big of a deal. The problem was, they went preaching and baptizing everywhere after they were baptized, and that was what got them in trouble! Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel and baptize the people.” And that’s why they got into trouble. Isn’t it amazing what baptism does? Baptism makes a lot of trouble, doesn’t it? There are some mysterious things about baptism that we are going to find out someday, but it just seems like baptism gets a lot of people in trouble, doesn’t it? That was the problem with the twelve men. If they would have just baptized each other in the house of Felix Manz and went their own way… If this would have been a secret baptism… If they would have stopped right there and said, “Okay, now our consciences are clear and we have been rightly baptized, now let’s go,” they could have avoided a lot of trouble. But there was one more thing: they were baptized unto evangelism and that meant a whole lot of trouble for them.
If you study church history, every attempt to return to primitive Christianity has evangelism at its roots. You will always find it. Every reviving of God’s Spirit among God’s people produces evangelism; it’s just a natural outflow. It seems to me that when the body gets vitally connected to the Head, which is Jesus Christ, evangelism happens. Hello! Are you there? Can you hear me? Selah. Stop and think about that one. It seems to me that when the body gets vitally connected to the Head, evangelism is the outflow!
Have you been baptized into evangelism? Maybe the price is too high. Maybe the cost is too much. Maybe the pain is more than what you’re willing to bear! This did not discourage our Anabaptist forefathers. They didn’t hold back because of the pain! They didn’t hold back because of their wife! They didn’t hold back because of their relatives! They didn’t hold back because of the things they would suffer, or because they would lose their money! They didn’t hold back because of those things! Have you been baptized into evangelism?
In my reading and studying I came upon a term that arrested my attention. There was a large group of people that they called “Halfway Anabaptists.” They talked about them, the Anabaptists and the Halfway Anabaptists. Do you know who the Halfway Anabaptists were? They were people who stayed in the Reformed Church. They knew those Anabaptists were right. At times they had good talks with them. They would give them a little food from time to time and help if they could without getting in trouble. But they would not get baptized and so they called them Halfway Anabaptists. Maybe you are a Halfway Anabaptist. They became secret followers because the cost was too high.
I wonder what kind of a shaking would take place in this county if all the Halfway Anabaptists stood up. I wonder what would happen. I wonder how many of them there are. I know there are lots of new ones, but what about the old ones? You know, when the preacher sat them down and said, “Yes we understand. We are glad that you got born again. We also believe in being born again, but let’s not make a big deal about it. Just settle down and be a help to us. We need your kind in the congregation. Please don’t leave.” So they settled down and they shut up! I wonder how many of those there are. I wonder what would happen if all the Halfway Anabaptists stood up and said, “Enough! I am going to follow the Lord at any cost!” I know what would happen, and so do you. Hallelujah, what a blessing it would be! But who is going to start? Where is that courageous man? Where is that courageous woman that would walk in the spirit of early Anabaptism and take their stand for the Lord? Where is he? Brethren, we are getting down into the deep roots of early Anabaptism now. This is deeper than separation of church and state.
This was the key to the 75-year Anabaptist revival that just kept on going and going. In some places it lasted longer then that. This was the key. This is it! Do we realize what we are hearing? I wonder what would happen if all of us Anabaptists started witnessing to all the tourists that come to Lancaster County. This county would lose millions and millions of dollars if we would do that.
I will never forget, I think it was the second day that I was in Lancaster County. We were living in the basement of someone’s house and our little family, which consisted of my wife and our three children, went for a little walk. Nice Lancaster County, we didn’t know what we were in for. Back then we were ignorant, we just wanted to go for a little walk. So we started walking down Groffdale Avenue and all of a sudden this tour bus pulled up and stopped, and all the people moved over to one side with their cameras and started taking pictures of us. I just looked at them and I thought, “What is this?!” See, I didn’t know then what I know now. That’s really not funny, is it? I have groaned over the tourism these many years. We’re descendents of these powerful people and here we sit baking pies and making good food. I travel a lot and so I know what they say about us. I have heard it many times on an airplane. “Where do you live?” “I live in Lancaster County.” “Oh my, I bet that’s wonderful. I have never eaten food like that in my life.” What a testimony. I wonder what would happen if we witnessed to all the tourist that came to this county, and I mean witness to them in the power of the Holy Ghost. Not just a smiling evangelism, but an earnest anointing upon our hearts and our words as we speak to the depth of their heart and look into their eyes and say, “If you die today, do you know you’d go to heaven?” A couple years of that and tourism would be gone, I guarantee you. They would be gone or converted, one or the other. The lack of evangelism is a key issue among the Anabaptist people today. We have compromised. We have become the “quiet in the land” and we’re satisfied to be that.
In my studies I read about the migration of the Anabaptist people to Russia in 1760, and I trembled when I read it. I trembled. I don’t judge them. They had been chased for many, many years and suffered much persecution. I can’t even tell you what they did in that sense, but yet, we must learn from history lest we repeat it. In their despair, in trying to find a place to live, they made a deal with the government of Russia. The government of Russia said, “Come. We hear that you are all good farmers and industrious, honest people, and God-fearing. Come. We want you to help settle our land. We will give each of you 162 acres of land, with ten years of tax-free living. We will help you build your house when you come. Come into our land. And by the way, there is one other thing in the contract. You will not convert the people of the land. Can you agree to that?” “Okay,” they said, “We will agree.” “No evangelism! I will give you this farm, but you have to keep your mouth shut.” They said, “Okay, we will.” That was one of the darkest, most devastating promises ever made. I’m not sure we’re free of it yet! That promise has been duplicated over and over again, sometimes openly, sometimes silently, sometimes implied in the head shakes of agreement. I wonder if you could pull back the veil and look into all those places where leaders sat down with government leaders and talked about this land and that land. I wonder how many times that very compromise has been made. There’s got to be a reason why the plain people have not evangelized this land where we live for over 250 years. There’s got to be a reason! Here we are, you have the farm and you have the house and are still the “quiet in the land.” Anabaptist people are known all over the world as honest, hardworking people who keep to themselves and bring prosperity wherever they go. Did you know that? Even in the United States they talk about that. “Oh, there are Anabaptist people moving into our area. Property values are going to go up. Things are going to get better. They are coming.” Dear God, help us. Is that what we want to be known for?
This is not what the early Anabaptists were known for. They were the off scouring of the earth because they wouldn’t shut their mouth. We are the quiet in the land because we don’t open our mouth, or we open it very little. We must repent. WE MUST REPENT! We and our fathers have sinned a great sin.
I was thinking this afternoon that it’s a great sin to pick up a gun and shoot somebody. That’s a great, great sin. God forbid that any of us would ever do that. But is it any worse than damming the souls of men by neglect? Is it any worse than letting the neighbors go to hell around us while we plant our corn? Is there any difference in the Bible? There are sins of commission and there are sins of omission. Yes, it is wrong to pick up a gun and shoot somebody, but it’s just as wrong to damn their souls by neglect! You may not believe that, but you should ponder it for awhile, and let it sink down deep into your heart. If we refuse to open our mouth and tell others what glorious things we have deposited within our hearts, we are guilty, and our fathers are guilty. We need to come to grips with it, brothers and sisters. Let us win the world, let us take the hard places.
I thought about the Muslims. God may be giving us the opportunity to be Anabaptists again who are not afraid to die because we open our mouth to the Muslims. We can win those Muslim people like this American Christianity can never even try. We have a chance to win the Muslim people. We have the opportunity! But there is one thing missing: we have to get over our fear of death. We are not like our forefathers; they were not afraid to die. We are so afraid to die that we run to every witch doctor and pow-wow doctor to try and keep ourselves this way and that way, but the early Anabaptists were not that way! Who is going to win the Muslim people? The people who are not afraid to die, that’s whose going to win them! The early Anabaptists’ eye was single, and when their eye stopped being single, darkness began to settle in over them. It is still there today.
Let’s move on to the next foundation stone. I think we have two more. There are many more but these are enough for us. All of these flow one from another. There is the foundation stone of the TWO KINGDOMS. The early Anabaptists believed in two kingdoms. The Anabaptists clearly saw that there are two kingdoms. They could see it so clearly because the two kingdoms were in conflict. The reason why the kingdoms were in conflict was because of evangelism! You don’t see the kingdoms in conflict until you start opening up your mouth. But as soon as you do, Satan and his kingdom will start rearing up his ugly head and start spitting at you. The Anabaptists were willing to open up their mouth and speak about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and immediately they saw two kingdoms in conflict. It was not hard for them to develop a theology of two kingdoms. They didn’t sit down in a classroom and look up a few verses and say, “That’s right. This is this kingdom and this is that one.” They didn’t go through exercises like that. That other kingdom reared itself up in their face like a spitting cobra ready to bite. There was no need for any meditation about which kingdom was which. It is a little hard to discern in America. It’s a pretty favorable climate here.
They believed that the Kingdom of God was made up of true, separated, dedicated, Christians, those who had surrendered everything to God. They believed in the kingdom of this world where Satan’s influence was seen and felt on every side. They saw that the reformers, with their union of church and state, were on the other side of the kingdom. They saw that very clearly. It may not have been so clear in that first debate, when they were still all together around the table opening up their Bibles. But as soon as those twelve brethren got off their knees, after they were baptized, and dedicated themselves to God and to whatever God would have them do… When they got up out of that house and started preaching the gospel and baptizing believers, they found out where the other kingdom was. The line got drawn real fast.
This became very clear as they went against the status quo and began baptizing converts. All hell broke loose in that other kingdom and thousands of Anabaptists died in the midst of it. Christ clearly defined these two kingdoms, but it’s important to note how fast the lines are drawn when we get busy about God’s business.
Political involvement is in that other kingdom, amen? And I don’t believe in political involvement. I think it’s a waste of God’s time. But brothers and sisters, it’s not enough for us to say, “I don’t believe in political involvement,” if I’m not going to get busy in God’s Kingdom. We believe in two kingdoms around here. You stay out of the one because we are busy in the other. I’m afraid we have lost sight of kingdom building. So here we sit, in our nice houses, and with our farms, building our own little kingdoms here upon this earth. While we say, “We don’t believe in political involvement. We will pray for you.” We don’t believe in political involvement, but all the while we are spending all of our time and energy and finances on our own little kingdoms. How did that happen? And God is saying, “Build My Kingdom!”
We don’t believe in going to war. That’s part of the other kingdom, amen. Rightly so. We don’t go to war, but what about the real war? Do we get involved in that one? Or do we sit here in our nice houses with our big businesses and all the “time freedom” that we have like the rest of the world never knows? Do we sit here with all of that and say, “I don’t believe in going to war. I’m going to stay home and build my little kingdom.” That’s not right, brethren! Someone should find fault with that. Some government official should find fault with that, amen. I don’t believe in going to this war, but bless God, I see another fight going on over here and I am ready to get in it! Engage the enemy! I am ready to give my life for this one over here. Should we refuse to give our life in the physical war and not be willing to give our life in the spiritual war? Something doesn’t make sense, brothers and sisters. The Anabaptists believed in two kingdoms and the lines were clearly drawn.
This separation of kingdoms was more than politics and the military. That other kingdom also brought with it a whole world system, a whole satanic system of pride and pomp, lust and greed, a world of vanity and entertainment.These militant Anabaptists separated themselves from this present evil world in all of those ways also. They did that willingly! I thought about it as I was pondering that point. It wasn’t hard for them to separate from the worldly world. That world was breaking their bones, pulling out their fingernails, mocking them while they burned. It wasn’t hard for them to say, “I want nothing to do with that world and all of its pleasures and all of its entertainment.” Amen? But it doesn’t quite look the same for us, does it? For them the world was a battleground where people die, but for us the world is more like a playground where you can go and play!
Resort America – what a nice place to live. It’s just great! We play in the world, and we don’t mind playing alongside the world as the world plays in the world. That gets pretty close to home doesn’t it? That gets pretty close to home. We play in the world. We don’t mind playing right alongside the world. That’s not the way it was in early Anabaptism, brothers and sisters. What are we doing? “Oh, it’s vacation time. “Let’s go ride the go-carts with the rest of the world!” Dear Lord, where are we going? What are we doing? The world is a play ground, not a battle field. If it were a battle field, you couldn’t go out there and do that, I guarantee it. You couldn’t do it. But it’s a playground. It’s okay. We don’t do it every week; we just do it when we go on vacation! These militant Anabaptists separated themselves from this present evil world, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” They wanted no part of any of it!
The last foundation stone, and we have mentioned this one already, but it’s such a part of their foundation that we must look at it again: they believed in a SUFFERING BROTHERHOOD. These points flow one out of the other, don’t they? When we see those two worlds, and we take our stand in this kingdom instead of the world’s kingdom, and we are not afraid to open our mouth and preach the gospel to a world that’s on their way to hell, suffering is going to come our way! Suffering will come! Suffering was a normal part of the disciple’s life to the early Anabaptists. It was normal. They expected it. It’s going to happen. “I’ll probably go to jail. I’m going to starve in there. I won’t get any food; it will just be bread and water.” And on and on we could go. Poverty, cruel mocking, loss of home, being destitute of food, cold and homeless, wandering in the forest, sitting in a prison cell where it’s cold, wet, and rat infested, facing torture, accusation, humiliation and death – This was normal for the early Anabaptists!
It’s amazing to me, for it’s only the power and the grace of God that could do this, but those men stood in this strait and narrow way. They preached the gospel to the multitudes of people, from one village to the next, and those people knew what was going to happen to those Anabaptists for doing what they were doing. Still they came and said, “I want to be baptized also!” Isn’t that amazing? That was the power of God, brothers and sisters. That makes healing a man that cannot see look like a piece of cake. To convince a worldly man to walk away from all of this world and into the world of suffering, that is a miracle of God’s grace. But the conviction of the Holy Ghost was strong upon the people in those days. Why? Because the men and women who opened their mouth for Jesus Christ were surrendered in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine. That surrender brought anointing like we hardly ever know. The Word pierced like a sword into the hearts of the people who heard it, and they came forward to be baptized one after another after another.
In that setting they didn’t need to have an instruction class to see who was sincere and who wasn’t. They didn’t need to have an instruction class. They didn’t need to ask each other, “What do you think about him?” “Well, I’m not sure. Let’s give him a couple more weeks and see how things go.” No, they didn’t have to have an instruction class (and I am not against having an instruction class, by the way). If you were willing to be baptized in light of that kind of life, suffering was going to come your way. You were a disciple of Jesus Christ. They took you to the water without any other questions asked! Oh Lord, I long for those days. I hope you know that they are coming. Those days are coming again, and I hope we will be ready when they come.
In all that they suffered, they did not fight back. In all this they loved their enemies. In all this they blessed those who persecuted them. This is suffering love… suffering love! Why? For the sake of the souls… they suffered for the sake of the souls! And oh, the testimonies are beautiful to read and to hear what happened so many times. When that man, who held that big axe in his hand and the Anabaptist laid himself down on the ground and looked up into the eyes of the man that’s going to cut his head off. With a smile of joy on his face, he looked into his heart and said, “I love you. I pray for you. God bless you, dear friend.” And he brought that ax down on his neck and cut his head off. But something happened inside of that man’s heart. He couldn’t get away from that look of love that came out of the heart of that Anabaptist who died for his faith! Love conquered all over Europe. Suffering love conquered all over Europe! For love they could not help but tell the people about Christ. And they, for love of the same soul, they would not, could not, fight back.