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In the article which follows, the Jesus Christians take a favorite Quaker passage of scripture (about 'walking in the light') and combine it with some of the favorite evangelical 'salvation' scriptures, to present what is a favorite Jesus Christian teaching... about sincerity. Several articles follow which also emphasise the need to be honest in preference to any theological demands. Such inclusivism is common to Quakers and Jesus Christians.

There are three traits which are used to describe the army of 144,000 faithful believers mentioned in The Revelation. They are referred to as 'virgins' (Revelation 14:4), as "servants" of God (Revelation 7:3), and as being "without guile". (Revelation 14:5)

We have, recently, been teaching about the first trait (the ability to forsake emotional ties in order to follow God); and in the past we have taught extensively about the second trait, which is the need to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus, and to "follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (Revelation 14:4), so we will not say more about these two traits at this time. We will concentrate on the third.

This absence of "guile" which characterises the 144,000 is essential if we are ever to be a part of this great army. If we have forsaken our loved ones for God, and if we are going through the motions of living by faith in obedience to Jesus, but if we are doing so with "guile" then it may all come to nothing in the end.

Guile is an attempt to cover up (or hide from) the truth. The dictionary says that a "guileless" person is an innocent or honest person. There is a paradox here, however, for it does not take very long before a person who is genuinely trying to be honest begins to recognise signs of dishonesty in himself or herself. The honest truth, we discover, is that no one is perfectly honest. How disappointing!

The Bible says that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) So in the strict, literal sense, there is no such thing as one perfectly "innocent" person, much less 144,000 of them. About the best that any one of us can do is just to acknowledge the truth in that statement. We need to drop our defences and to start being honest about our DIShonesty.

What a frustrating Catch-22! We must be honest to qualify for the 144,000, and yet the most honest people would have to disqualify themselves, because they know that they are not perfectly honest all the time!

But there is hope. The Bible says that the 144,000 "were redeemed from the world". (Revelation 14:3) This word ˆredeemedˆ means something happened to them as a result of an outside force. They were "redeemed" or "bought back" from a lost or fallen state. In other words, despite our dishonesty, there is still hope for us; we may yet be "redeemed". But to get that redemption, there must be some token gesture of honesty on our part. We must be honest about our dishonesty, guileless about our guilt; we must "confess our sins" in order to be "cleansed from all unrighteousness". (1 John 1:9)

The Bible says, "If we say that we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8) We may not be able to claim perfect innocence by our own merits, but we can appropriate the innocence of Jesus if we can drop the religious cover-ups with regard to our own righteousness. We are talking about more than a ritual confession here. We are talking about a lifelong commitment to being honest every day of our lives, including being honest about our dishonesty. Definitely not the kind of behaviour one finds amongst those who claim the loudest to be "saved", or "redeemed", is it?

Most people underrate sincerity. They assume it's a rather shallow trait that all of us possess to a greater or lesser degree. The truth is that it's an extremely rare trait, at the same time that it is extremely necessary if we are ever to be part of God's Virgin Army. We must be eager to know the truth about ourselves, even (and especially) if it shows us to be wrong. We must be prepared to change in response to that truth. To do this, we must be habitually open to correction. We must always have a healthy doubt about our own innocence. All of this can be painful. We can grow weary of constant correction. But we must not give up. For when we stop growing, we start dying. (See also Honest Doubt.)

There are people who have found in the teachings of Jesus an answer to every argument. They are able to use those teachings to show where every church on earth has fallen away from Christ. But these same people seek to grab the theory and then get as far away from us as they can. Why is that? It's often because they do not want to be accountable to anyone else for their own shortcomings. They want to cover their own sinfulness. They want to put off being accountable for weaknesses that they are not willing to confront. They want to be able to impress everyone else with their own superior knowledge or discipline, but they do not want to be around others who may have more knowledge and experience than what they have, for fear that the truth will come out about their own guilt in some area.

"Guile" leads all of these people to hide their "guilt" and run away from our light (and very often from the light of others as well). (See also Loose Cannons.)

Because they turn from the light, they turn from fellowship. But a guileless person walks in all the light that they can find, and they constantly seek more light. As a result they are drawn together by this common trait. The Bible says (1 John 1:7) "If we walk in the light as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin."

If we are walking in all the light we can find, we will be able to recognise other members of the Virgin Army, not by their organisational affiliations, not by the fact that they are unmarried, not by the fact that they do not work for money, and not by their claims to being born again, spirit-filled, etc. We will be able to recognise them by their total lack of guile.

And such people can be found in the strangest of places.

While it may be necessary at times to hide the truth from other people, between us and God there must be no cover-ups, no false illusions about our own righteousness if we want to be part of God's Virgin Army. If we lose this humble brokenness before God, we lose everything. (See also Self-Righteousness.)

A measure of this humble spirit will also rub off in our relationships with other sincere believers. It will be our lack of guile which will draw us to one another, and it will be our lack of guile that will challenge us all. There is a saying, "The sincere alone recognise sincerity." Those who are daily seeking more of God's light will be drawn to others who are doing the same.

Let us each pray for more sincerity and for greater fellowship with others who are doing the same.

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