God has given to us an invaluable gift; the gift of speech or communication.
The Most High God Himself speaks to us, His people. We hear the voice of Jehovah in the cheerful song of the birds at break of day, in the wild dashing of the waves upon the seashore, in the rumblings of the thunder. Jehovah our God also speaks to us through His infallible Word. Take that from us and even the testimony of the Spirit within us is silenced!
And God has also given to us ability, along with the desire to respond to Him in prayer, worship, and adoration. We can tell Him all our troubles and our woes, all our needs and cares, even our joys and hopes, our longing and expectation, as we worship before Him in the beauty of His holiness.
We can even speak to one another. The strongest bond of communication is the bond of faith in Christ. How readily we sense the intimate, spiritual oneness with those who speak the same language of faith and hope that is ours in Christ Jesus. In that bond of faith we make our vows to God and, to one another; before God and before one another.
Young people profess their faith in the presence of God and of His Church. Bridegroom and bride exchange vows before God, promising love and fidelity until death them doth part. Parents present their children for baptism, vowing to bring up those children in the truth of the Scriptures to the utmost of their power. Wonderfully solemn, richly blessed is the word of promise given. It binds us to our word, and creates a mutual confidence and trust in one another.
The rule of the kingdom that binds our hearts as one is actually very simple. Jesus spells it out for us as only He can do it: “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and let your ‘no’ be ‘no’.” And remember that anything less or more than that is of the devil. (Matthew 5:37). James in his epistle repeats this simple kingdom rule and adds the warning: “Lest ye fall into condemnation.” (James 5:12). If you were to ask James what he means with that, he would tell you: Your hope of eternal life depends on your “yes” and your “no.” It is as serious as that.
And yet how readily we violate that simple kingdom rule of “yes” and “no.”
Bear with me while I point out a few examples.
So often we say “yes” when we should say “no,” and “no” when we should say “yes.”
That was the first sin of all mankind committed already in paradise. “God has told our first parents to say “yes” to the tree of life and “no” to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At first that created no problem. Happily they went together to the tree of life to eat, as it were, out of God’s hand in intimate communion of dependence upon Him. As they walked past the forbidden tree they shook their heads in an emphatic “no,” because they loved their Sovereign Friend. And then Satan came to make things so very complicated. He presented the proposition that they could say “yes” to both trees. Why not? What harm could it do to try? The fruit did look very appetizing. And surely they had a right to some independence. They would not die. And so they said “yes” to the forbidden tree, and by doing that they said “no” to the tree of life. For they had said “no” to God by saying “yes” to Satan; “no” to life and “yes” to death.
We know the story so well, and yet we repeat that same fatal rebellion every day. Often we deliberately say “yes” when our conscience warns us that we must say “no.” We whisper “yes,” maybe to Satan, maybe to the world, maybe to a friend, and to our old nature. But in doing so we say “no” to God every time.
And then there is that “yes-no” that crops up so often in our lives.
That was the sin of Israel in the days of the prophet Elijah. The people were not quite ready to give up Jehovah, the God of their fathers. Tradition still had a rather strong grip on them, and “one just never knows.” There might be a time when Baal would fail them. And Baal never did give an answer to the inevitable question: “After death, what?” Jehovah became somewhat like an insurance policy, convenient to hold in reserve while they were living, and a security when they died. But Baal was so attractive. Could all the nations be wrong about their gods, and only this small Israel right about Jehovah? Baal was the popular god of the day. You were a “square” not to put your trust in him. And the Baal worship was so appealing, because you could satisfy all the pleasures of the flesh even while dancing around him. And so the people halted between Jehovah and Baal, never quite giving up Jehovah, but actually surrendering themselves with soul and body to the bondage of sin and death in the service of Baal.
We know all these things. Yet somehow we never learn.
We have been taught that the Bible is infallible. If we would give up the Bible, what would we have left? Nothing. That is obvious enough. Yet this is a scientific age. It is drummed into our ears that these scientists are not ignorant either. Surely Moses did not know about the hidden fossils, the distance of the stars, and the like. He likely thought the earth was flat. But the moment we try to harmonize the revelation of God through His Holy Spirit as we have it in His infallible Word with the wisdom of the world, we have already lost the struggle. If it is a question of unbelieving science or God, it becomes once more a matter of God or Baal. And you know what happens.
And then there is the problem of our Christian walk in the world. Of course, we go to church on Sunday. We pray and read the Bible in our homes. We send our children to a Christian school. But at the job the situation is so different. There religion seems so irrelevant. So we dress up in our religion on Sunday morning, for the day, and we carefully hang it up again in the clothes closet on Sunday night.
“Yes-no” Christians, always leaning strongly in the direction of Baal.
And then there is the evil of the “yes-but” or the “yes-if.”
Readily we profess: “All that I am I owe to Thee, Lord.” And again, “Whom have I, Lord, in heaven but Thee?” But it must cost us no sacrifice. We are not ready to join Daniel in the lion’s den for our convictions. We are not made of the mettle of Daniel’s three friends who allowed themselves to be cast into the fiery furnace to meet Jesus there. We do not feel like giving up our good times, forsaking our friends, much less taking a cut in salary or losing a job for our convictions. We talk glibly about cross-bearing, but that is actually not for us.
And in the meantime we profess to say “yes” when we are actually saying “no.” We join the company of the “no” Christians who are rich and enriched, and have need of nothing; and know not that we are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:17).
Yet the rule of the kingdom is so very simple. And it gives peace with God, joy of salvation, blessed fellowship with one another, confiding in one another, trusting one another in the Lord.
It can never be stressed too often, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and let your ‘no’ be ‘no’; anything short of that or beyond that is of the evil one and leads to condemnation.
The vows we make become an essential part of our every day living in the world.