Where Are You From?
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During the events leading up to our Lord's crucifixion, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked an important question. "And [Pilate] went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, 'Where are You from?'" (John 19:9 John 19:9And went again into the judgment hall, and said to Jesus, From where are you? But Jesus gave him no answer.
American King James Version×). As Christians, do we know where we come from? Do we know our spiritual heritage? Do we know our spiritual roots? Does it even matter?
Some time ago I received an e-mail containing an essay regarding Marine Corps boot camp during the Vietnam War that caused me to reflect on my own experiences and how they relate to our Christian training.
I entered Marine Corps boot camp in 1967 as the war was ramping up. Marine casualties were climbing to hundreds per week as the war escalated, and replacements were needed so badly in the field that the normal 12-week boot camp was shortened to eight weeks. Deprived of one third of their training time, our drill instructors hurried over—or dropped completely—those classes without direct relevance to the war in Vietnam.
However, four areas of training remained intact: 1) physical conditioning to prepare for combat; 2) close order drill, the ultimate discipline builder; 3) rifle marksmanship training, the heart of combat effectiveness for the Marine; and 4) classes on the history, customs and traditions of the Marine Corps.
How many think of history classes as an essential part of Marine Corps training? Knowing the history of those who had gone before us was so vital to the making of a Marine that, not only were there formal history classes, but our drill instructors taught us over and over again during every waking minute while we marched, as we were running, even when we (on rare occasions) took a few minutes' break.
Without knowing it, they were actually following God's teaching principle for parents found in Deuteronomy 11:19 Deuteronomy 11:19And you shall teach them your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
American King James Version×, "You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."
Why was the history of the Marine Corps and those who went before us so important to those of us who were still struggling in boot camp to earn the title of U.S. Marine? Without that foundation—that esprit de corps—instilled in each of us, we would not have the discipline and mental toughness to meet and overcome challenges to accomplish our mission—even in the face of death.
Make no mistake about it; the spiritual warfare we as Christians are engaged in today is even more dangerous than the jungles of Vietnam, the beaches of Iwo Jima or the deserts of Iraq. The enemy we fight as Christians is even more elusive, more cunning and more destructive—plus the stakes are even higher. Unfortunately, many of us personally know casualties in this spiritual war.
This is a real enemy we fight, and we must be prepared for the combat. Part of that preparation is learning and constantly reviewing where we come from and where we are going. Is this important to God?
It certainly was to Jesus Christ, as shown in John 8:14 John 8:14Jesus answered and said to them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know from where I came, and where I go; but you cannot tell from where I come, and where I go.
American King James Version×, "My witness is true, for I know from where I come from and where I am going." Christ had no doubt in His mind of His spiritual roots and no doubt of His mission or of the success of the mission.
We must be firmly rooted directly to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. That heritage has been handed down to us by such spiritual heavyweights as Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Esther, David, Elijah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Peter, John and Paul, just to name a few. This list does not even begin to scratch the surface of those men and women of God who, in spite of their faults and human frailties, overcame enormous obstacles to please God and grow into His children.
God in His Word is quick to show both their strengths and their weaknesses, the ups and the downs of their struggles to overcome themselves, this world and the ruler of this world that they might have the testimony of Enoch found in Hebrews 11:5 Hebrews 11:5By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
American King James Version×, that they pleased God. This is a testimony we should all be striving for. But how well do we know our spiritual ancestors, and how can we get to know them better?
The Word as Our Weapon
As a Marine, I had to be very familiar with the weapons used by the Marine Corps. As Christians, we, too, must become very familiar with the weapon God gives us, found in Ephesians 6:17 Ephesians 6:17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
American King James Version×, "The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
We must study and use the Word of God, which is, as the writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version×, "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
The United Church of God has many resources available to help us in our study. Our Bible Study Course is an excellent start, and the ucg.org Web site contains many more resources.
For example, doing a word search for the "Profiles of Faith" series (originally printed in The Good News magazine) will locate the reprints and also take us to the ABC course for the book of Acts.
As a self-test, how much do we know about one of our lesser-known spiritual ancestors named Dorcas, also called Tabitha? There's a great article reprint there along with the ABC course on Acts to help us get to know her better.
The apostle John knew his spiritual heritage, as seen in 1 John 5:19 1 John 5:19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.
American King James Version×: "We know that we are of God..." We have a spiritual heritage that not even the U.S. Marine Corps can match. Our spiritual roots go from eternity past to eternity future.
As the home page of ucg.org states, "We trace our origins to the Church that Jesus founded in the early first century. We follow the same teachings, doctrines and practices..."
May we all deepen our understanding of where we, as Christians, come from so that we can accomplish the mission our Father has given us. UN