Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Antony: Separation From the World

Background Check:
In the late 200s and early 300s, in many places of the Roman Empire, Christians were being arrested for their faith. But Anthony lived in Alexandria, Egypt, which was a great Christian city in that time. There was preaching of the gospel every day, the Lord’s supper every day and you could walk down the street and talk openly with other Christians about the faith. It was an open place where Christians had freedom to express themselves.

His Story:
Anthony saw Alexandria as a city of decadence and worldliness. Christians not only went to church, they also went to the theatre and the gymnasium where actors and atheletes performed nude in public. Many Christians were as involved in secular philosophy as they were in the truth of Christ. And there were many who were involved in sexual immorality and gossip.

Anthony decided that he could no longer live in such a corrupt atmosphere and be able to be pure before Christ. He knew of some people who lived apart from any worldly people. He learned from them how to pray and fast and so become spiritually strong. At first, he lived within the city, but in cemetaries, where no one else lived.

Finally, to be more separated, he left Alexandria and went out to live in the desert. He ate grasshoppers and small plants and wore rough clothing, like John the Baptist. He also found that in the wilderness there were demons ready to attack him. He spent much time in fasting and prayer overcoming the temptations and attacks of demons.

Even though he lived alone, he had visitors. They were rare to begin with, and Anthony was at first afraid that they would interrupt his time alone with God or tempt him to compromise his standards. However, he remembered Jesus’ command to be hospitable to his brothers, so Anthony welcomed them and gave them something to eat and a place to sleep. He found that the visitors didn’t disturb him, but most of them wanted to learn from him how to live a godly life.

Jesus was also deeply concerned with purity. He told people that it was better to cut off a hand or leg than to disobey God—now he didn’t mean this literally (otherwise every Christian would be missing a limb!), but he did mean that we have to separate ourselves from everything that makes us disobey God. This could mean our friends or certain places that causes us to sin. Jesus was as serious about purity as Anthony was.
But if Jesus was counseling Anthony, he probably would have encouraged him in another area as well: evangelism and fellowship. Anthony was serious about loving God, but loving his neighbor is just as important. We need to remain as pure as we can, but we shouldn’t separate ourselves from everyone we know. Some people still need to hear the gospel, and we need the encouragement of other Christians as well.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:43-48

The Final Word (of Men):
After spending years in the desert alone, his determination to live in purity became well known, especially in Alexandria, but in other cities as well. In order to accomplish this for themselves, others also decided to live in the desert. In the desert, they learned about the importance of prayer, discipline and hospitality. The group of followers of Anthony were later called “the Desert Fathers.” Anthony and the Desert Fathers became the inspiration of the monastic movement throughout Christianity.

Helpful Hint: Hating what God Hates
Sin is anything that is hateful to God. And to the faithful, whatever God hates, they hate. If there is any portion of their life that God is displeased with, they destroyed it. While sometimes they didn’t always understand what it was that God hated, they were faithful to do what He wanted. As we will see, Therese got rid of her pride and self-interest. Menno got rid of his laziness. Patrick got rid of his bitterness. And Ignatius got rid of his worldliness. They knew that sin was not consistent with a life faithful to God and they did all they could to repent.

Check It Out:
Anthony of Alexandria by Athenatius
The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers
Christian History: Antony of Egypt

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