Immigration and the Bible

 

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Immigration and the Bible

James R. Aist

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1)

For what it’s worth, I’m going to talk about immigration. In particular, I’m going to discuss immigration, both legal and illegal, from Mexico into the United States of America. This is a contemporary issue that has legal, cultural and religious implications. So it is important, insofar as possible, that we develop our understanding, and base our stand, on God’s word, the Holy Bible. So, to get us started, here are three of the most relevant passages in the Old Testament: “You must neither wrong a foreigner nor oppress him, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21); “When a foreigner sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The foreigner who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34); and “It shall come to pass that you shall divide it by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who sojourn among you, who shall bear sons among you. And they shall be to you as born in the country among the sons of Israel. They shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel, (Ezekiel 47:22).

Now, these are, of course, instructions given by God to the Israelites concerning the treatment of foreigners (aliens). Apparently, there were no “immigration laws” regulating immigration itself, and there was no such thing as an “illegal alien.” Within that context, God is saying that aliens residing among the Jews – and their offspring – are to be treated the same as natural-born citizens. Our immigration laws, while regulating the flow of immigrants into the country, are compatible with these scriptures; once naturalized according to law, immigrants are to be treated the same as natural-born citizens.

The problems arise, of course, when aliens enter the country illegally and take up residence here without going through the legal, naturalization process. Currently, we have about eight million illegal aliens in America who are otherwise hard-working, law-abiding people, and our border with Mexico is woefully ineffective in regulating the influx of additional illegal aliens. So, there are really two problems: 1) how to effectively close the border and stop further illegal immigration; and 2) what to do about the very large present population of illegal immigrants (i.e, export them back to their country of origin, or, instead, develop – insofar as possible – an equitable path to naturalization and citizenship).

I’m all for closing our borders to minimize illegal immigration as much as possible. If that requires an actual, physical wall, then so be it. And, I’m all for jailing or deporting all illegal immigrants who have committed other crimes (e.g., felonies) on U.S. soil. But, when it comes to the otherwise law-abiding, illegal immigrants, I believe we can and should find a way to citizenship for them, for the sake of compassion, mercy, grace and family unity. I’m not talking about a free pass here; I am talking about a new approach to naturalization. We need to make the path to citizenship easier, quicker and cheaper for all aliens seeking to live in America legally. I am suggesting that the legal process be improved to benefit all new immigrants, and that the illegal aliens then be given a chance to pay their dues too, just as all others have. So, after the border is secure and the criminals are dealt with appropriately, let’s give the present illegal aliens a window of time to sign up for and complete the new and improved legal process, with the same legal rights and benefits already afforded to our present legal immigrants. Then, let’s deport those who choose not to participate, and try to stay here illegally; consequences of their decision will then be entirely on them, not us. This would be a one-time opportunity; after that, both present and new illegal aliens should be dealt with by either jailing (if criminals) or deportation, with no provision for future, legal re-entry for any of them.

How does this approach relate to God’s will as revealed in the Bible? Romans 13:1 says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God.” This tells me that God can extend His mercy and grace to us through the actions of our governing authorities, because they are appointed by God, who is full of compassion, grace and mercy (Psalm 86:15), to govern over us. Therefore, it is possible, and necessary, for a human government to grant mercy and/or grace in some circumstances, in order for it to honor the God who gave it authority over us in the first place. Human “governors” are responsible to God for how they represent God, the very One who chose them to govern. Refusing to ever extend compassion, grace and mercy to our illegal aliens would be, therefore, a dereliction of duty. God gave them the power and the authority to govern; therefore, it is, in fact, within the power and the authority of human government to extend compassion, mercy and grace to our present illegal aliens on behalf of God. Moreover, we are made in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:26), and Jesus himself commanded us to “Be therefore merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Are we then to withhold compassion, mercy and grace from our present illegal aliens? Heaven forbid!

But, you may object, wouldn’t this approach be unfair to the millions of naturalized citizens who immigrated and took up residence in America legally? Here’s my reply to that objection. First, the rights and privileges of the earlier, legal immigrants would not be compromised or diminished in any way. Second, the illegal aliens would be naturalized in essentially the same way as were the earlier, legal immigrants. And third, but perhaps most importantly, God does not always deal with us fairly; and we would not want Him to. All of us deserved to be condemned to hell, because we all have sinned and fall short of the righteousness that God requires (Romans 3:23). No, we want God to deal with us, not with fairness, but with mercy and grace, so that we can be saved. In the same way, then, I believe that God wants us to treat our illegal aliens with compassion, mercy and grace, even if that seems unfair to some of us. It would seem to be the Godly thing to do.

(To read more of my BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

What Is “Freedom in Christ”?

What Is “Freedom in Christ”?

James R. Aist

“If you remain in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

Freedom has been defined as the right of enjoying all of the privileges of membership or citizenship, the right or the power to engage in certain actions without control or interference. The Bible says we (Christians) have freedom in Christ, and that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). We have this freedom if we remain in (believe, adhere to and obey) His word. But what, exactly, is this freedom that we have in Christ? Even apart from Christ, mankind has a natural freedom to make decisions and choices and to think and say most anything he wants. Our freedom in Christ must be a different kind or expression of freedom.

So then, in Christ, what exactly are we free from? Here is a short list I have put together for you to ponder:

1. We are free from the “law of sin and death.” This law is stated succinctly in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” So, if you die in your sins, your payment will be (spiritual) death. But, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Therefore, we no longer have to fear death (1 Corinthians 15:55)!

2. We are free from bondage to sin. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Who among us has not experienced the grip that sin can have on a person? If not “nipped in the bud”, sin can become more powerful than our will to resist it. Thankfully, Paul has pointed us to the solution to the power of sin, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). How glorious it is to walk in the freedom from sin!

3. We are free from the burden of the Law. The Old Testament Law served to convict mankind of sin, but did nothing to save him from the consequences of it, because “…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Law is a burden too heavy for anyone to stand up under, but Jesus has made a way out of this dilemma for us, as Paul explains, “When we were in the flesh, the passions of sin, through the law, worked in our members to bear fruit leading to death. But now we are delivered from the law, having died to things in which we were bound…” (Romans 7:5-6a). The burden has been lifted!

4. We are free from our past. Because we have all sinned (Romans 3:23), most of us have built up a backlog of unforgiven sins by the time God saves us. In the “conversion” process, we confess our sins to God and repent of them. And, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). At that moment, all of our past sins are forgiven and we are set free, forever, from the guilt and shame of our past life. This is what we refer to as “justification”, and our relationship with God is, at that point in time, “Just as if we had never sinned.” We are freed from our sinful past because Jesus paid the price for our sins by His substitutionary death on the cross. There is no other way for us to be freed from our past; Jesus made the way for us!

5. We are free from the veil of separation. Until Jesus was nailed to the cross, there was a veil in the Temple separating the people from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-33). But while Jesus was still on the cross, that veil was torn in two at the middle (Luke 23:45), giving us free access to God, so that now we are instructed to “…come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). No more layer of priests standing between us and God’s throne of mercy and grace!

6. We are free from self-serving motives. I was blessed beyond words when this revelation was given to me. All religions, except Christianity, teach that our good works earn us a place in heaven with God when we die. This false doctrine of “salvation by works” makes it virtually impossible to do a good work that is not, at least in part or at some level, motivated by the perceived need to earn your way to heaven. Thus, apart from the uniquely Christian doctrine of salvation by grace alone, good works are done with a self-serving motive, not with a pure love for either God or for the one being blessed. But, Jesus already did the work – all of it – that is required for a born-again Christian to qualify for heaven (click HERE), and there is no good work we can do that will improve on that. Jesus declared from the cross “It is finished” (John 19:30), and so, it is finished! Since we are already guaranteed a spot in heaven (1 John 5:13), we are now free to do good works for pure, unselfish motives, e.g., it will please God, it is the right thing to do, someone needs help, etc. And that, my friends, is what “love your neighbor” is really about! Paul put it this way, “But now we are delivered from the law, having died to things in which we were bound, so that we may serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter of the law” (Romans 7:6). Jesus “paid it all”, that we may be free to truly “love one another” with pure motives!

My friends, I believe that these are six of the most important freedoms in Christ that we have as born-again believers. Perhaps you will want to add to the list. In any case, I trust that you have been blessed, as I have, by thinking on these things with me for a few moments.

(To read more of my BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)

Am I Good Enough for Heaven?

One Good DeedAm I Good Enough for Heaven?

 James R. Aist

“I will not work my soul to save, for that my Lord alone has done; but I will work like any slave, because I’m loved by God’s dear Son!”

— William Henry Griffith Thomas

Introduction

I suppose that if we could live a sinless life, then no one would need a savior; we could, in effect, save ourselves. But the sad truth is, we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). So, is it even possible to somehow qualify for heaven, and if so, how can we do that? There is a popular belief in today’s world that, in order to qualify for heaven when you die, you must live a sufficiently “good” life here on earth. To be clear, let me state this commonly held belief in a different way: we will spend our eternity in heaven only if our “good deeds” sufficiently outweigh our “bad deeds.” According to this way of thinking, heaven is a reward, or payment, that we earn for ourselves by doing good works. All major world religions, with one exception, teach this doctrine of “salvation by works” in one form or another. The exception is Christianity. But, unfortunately, many people even in Christian churches believe in salvation by works. Because what we believe about “salvation” will determine where we will spend our eternity – whether in heaven with God or in hell with the devil and his angels — let’s take a good look at why “salvation by works” is a false doctrine and how it is that you can, nevertheless, become “good enough for heaven.”

I Want to Be Judged by My Works; It’s Only Fair, Isn’t It?

Oh, really? Are you sure about that? Do you realize that God, who is himself perfect, requires you to be righteous (i.e., morally perfect) in order to qualify for heaven (Matthew 7:21)? Therefore, if God were to judge you by your works, then you would be found unqualified, because He would be judging you by both your good and your bad deeds, not just your good deeds; your bad deeds would disqualify you from heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). That would be fair alright, but you would not spend your eternity in heaven! This is what we often refer to as “the sin problem.” Maybe “fair” is not what you want after all. But if not “fair”, what then?

God Has Made a Way

Jesus doesn’t love us because we are good enough; He makes us good enough because He loves us.”

Being painfully aware of how our sinfulness disqualifies us for heaven, and determined to save us anyway because of His great love for us, God came up with a brilliant and clever way to qualify us for heaven, even though we cannot qualify ourselves by virtue of our works. He sent a Redeemer (His name is Jesus) to pay the penalty for our sins, which is death (Romans 6:23). This Redeemer was himself without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and, therefore, possessed, by virtue of his sinless nature, the righteousness (moral perfection) of God. And He made it easy for us to qualify for heaven along with Him. All we have to do is believe in Jesus; no works of any kind are required (John 6:29)! Our righteousness, then, is not self-righteousness, but it is the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is attributed to us when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus doesn’t love us because we are good enough; He makes us good enough because He loves us. Now, from a purely human perspective, this plan may not seem to be fair, but it is merciful (i.e., we do not receive the condemnation that is our due because of our sins), it is gracious (we receive favor that we do not deserve) and it is effective (we have God’s word on it). And that is exactly what we do need to solve our “sin problem”!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

We refer to this amazing plan of salvation as the Gospel (i.e., good news) of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God that brings salvation to all who will believe in Him (Romans 1:16; John 3:16), confess their sins and repent of them (I John 1:9; Matthew 4:17), and accept Him as their Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31), trusting in His finished work on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) to qualify them for heaven. This is God’s one and only plan to reconcile mankind to Himself — there is no other path to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) – and He is the only one who can establish the ground rules, because “Salvation belongs to our God…” (Revelation 7:10). You can find an excellent article that explains this Gospel in a different way by clicking HERE.

What Are You Waiting for?

God wants to save you (Matthew 18:14)! If you have not yet allowed God to save you, then right now would be a good time to do so. All you have to do is…

Repent (turn away from your sins): “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9);

Believe and Trust in Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16);

Accept His Forgiveness: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1); and

Receive the Peace of Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1).

What Just Happened?

If you went through these steps with genuine sincerity and conviction, then you have just been born-again and have become a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Congratulations! I recommend that you read through the following articles to help clarify some of the remaining questions that you may have. Just click on the links provided below:

Repentance: Confess, Turn, Persevere (click HERE)

What Does “Born Again” Mean? (click HERE)

What Now?

Becoming born-again is just the first step in your life in Christ. It is important that you begin now to actively live out your new life in at least the following ways:

1) Tell someone, perhaps a close friend or relative, that you have become a Christian, and share with them how it happened (Mark 5:19);

2) Get a Bible of your own and begin to read and study it daily. I prefer the New International Version. Begin with the Gospel of John, and then go to Hebrews and then to the Gospel of Matthew. Remember this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17);

3) Begin to pray to God daily. Now that you are a born-again Christian, you have every right to “… approach God’s throne of grace with confidence…” (Hebrews 4:16). Thank Him for how He is blessing you, praise Him for His awesome nature and tell Him your concerns and needs. Take your time; you just may begin to find that He is speaking into your mind and spirit as you pause and pay attention; and

4) Find and begin to attend a conservative, bible-believing Protestant (not Roman Catholic) church weekly (Hebrews 10:25). Here are some general guidelines for finding a good Protestant church:

  • Get your hands on a written statement of what the church believes. This may be called a “Statement of Faith”, “What We Believe”, “Our Doctrines” or the like;
  • In that statement of faith, look for declarations that a) the Bible alone is the inerrant, inspired word of God, b) that salvation is by grace through faith alone, not by works (referred to as “merit” in the official Roman Catholic Catechism), and c) that the finished work of Jesus Christ is the all-sufficient payment of the penalty for our sins;
  • Find out if the church is pro-life and considers the practice of homosexuality to be sin, as the Bible says it is. If these tests are not met, find another church, because that church does not really believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God;
  • I recommend that you avoid liberal Christian denominations that no longer adhere fully to essential, historical biblical truth and practice, such as the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Church, the Anglican Church, Seventh Day Adventist and the Episcopal Church; and
  • By all means avoid cults that may appear to be Christian, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and Universalist Unitarian churches.

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)