Monday, April 13, 2015

"IF" Is At Once The Biggest Little Word In Any Language

The little word "if", a conjunction of condition, incorporates limitless possibilities and immeasurable imagination. "To" points in one direction and means one thing. "Is", a verb, makes a single, flat statement of fact. "At" identifies a single point of placement. "I" means one thing "A" is always followed by a single thing such as a flock or a bird. "It" speaks of one thing. But "if" opens an infinity of time, space, question, condition, possibility, imagination or negative point of debate.

The Apostle Paul was a highly educated man, whose teacher was Gamaliel, a celebrated teacher and Doctor of the Law, in Jerusalem. Paul was well trained in the Old Testament Scriptures, including the Law given by God to Moses. He had been taught the rudiments of debate and used that skill in his reasoning with the Sadducee converts in the Corinth Church. Sadducee doctrine had taught them that resurrection from the dead is impossible, which, of course, it is, but "with God all things are possible" (Matt.19:26).  So they still did not believe in a resurrection, though they professed faith in Christ. In First Corinthians Paul was dealing with a long list of errors in that church. One of which was this problem with these former Sadducees. In his argument, he used the "If" negative approach to the question. His use of "if", a conjunction of condition, does not reflect any doubt in his own mind but did in theirs. In other words, "If what you believe is true, here are the consequences". So here is his case for the fact of a resurrection: "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." 1 Cor.15:12-20. 

Many of you know that my favorite poem is Rudyard Kipling's "IF".

.................. If by Rudyard Kipling ..................

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise.

If you can dream and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken;
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them; "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And -- which is more -- you'll be a man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling was not just a good poet, he was a fine Christian. I first read his poem, "IF", when I was a young preacher in Seminary. This was the most impressive thing that really spoke to my sense of what a man should be, except for my father's example and Scripture. "If" is the biggest, little word in any language. Everything henges on this one syllable word. The "Law of First Mention" says that the first mention of a word in the Bible has special significance in defining what the word means in all the rest of its uses following the first. Our word "If" is first used in Genesis 4:7...."If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted ? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door...." The last mention, in the Bible, of "if" is in Rev.22:19, and is God's final warning. "If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take his part out of the book of life...." Jesus, Himself, put forgiveness of sin, redemption and eternal life in the simplest, shortest possible form, when He said, "I am the door: by me, .if any man enter in, he shall be saved...." John 10:9. In all three of these verses, "IF" is the pivot point of ETERNITY. "If you do well (believe),"Heaven". "If you do not well...."Hell". Every good and bad thing has a big if between them. Every right and wrong has that big if to deal with. That one little two letter word standing there in the crossroads of the most important decisions of life and you must make the choice..."which way shall I go?" "Shall I follow Jesus or not?" Life and death issues are decided here..."IF". Eternity itself is decided here...."IF". "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Rom.10:9