Mr. Dennis Luker gave a sermon August 5 entitled "God's Sovereignty in the Church and Our Personal Lives". Here is a link to the UCG post that announced the sermon:
Here is a link to the page where you can download the sermon:
I have listened to the sermon. Mr. Luker emphasizes God's power and control of events. He says his intent is to encourage the brethren and strengthen their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as we go through trials including the trials that are occurring in the Church.
At one point early in the sermon, he states that God is always in control of all things that occur in the world, the Church, and our lives.
But as I listened to the sermon, I was listening for a statement to the effect that, while God has power to help us in our trials, He does not exercise control over the choices we make between right and wrong, good and evil. I never heard that statement made. Nor did he speak about the fact that we reap what we sow, or that we will be judged for what we say and do.
So I would like to mention that truth here.
God does have all power. But he doesn't control what we choose to do and say. He gives that control to us. He gives us free moral agency. He teaches us the right way to go, but requires that we individually choose the right way to go (Deuteronomy 30:15-19). And He judges us for our choices (Romans 14:10-12, 1 Peter 4:17-18, Matthew 25:14-46, 2 Corinthians 5:10). God uses His power to bring the consequences of our choices, good or bad, upon us. What we sow, that we reap (Galatians 6:7-9). Sometimes God puts us through trials to teach us the harmful consequences of what we have done.
God can help us make right choices, He can encourage us, but He doesn't force us, and He does not make our choices for us and does take our free will from us. Often we make choices He is not happy with. He is not in control of all things in that sense.
God allows us to make wrong choices, unwise choices, choices He does NOT want us to make, but He allows us to make them, then He brings on us the fruits of those choices (Jeremiah 17:10, 2:19, Hebrews 12:5-11, Revelation 3:19).
God is not the author of the division that exists in UCG, but He allows it. He may even withhold the help UCG might need to avoid division or to repair division, if He sees that a correction is needed in views about governance. If our views are wrong about something as important as governance, if we are mentally twisting scriptures and not being honest with ourselves and with God about what the Bible teaches about governance in the Church of God, we may pray for healing and unity, but God may not give us that healing and unity till we learn our lessons. The foundation has to be right before the rest of the building can be repaired. God can allow Satan to stir up a spirit of bitterness in the United Church of God until it comes apart at the seams, if that is what is needed to teach the lesson. That is how God deals with the world. God is allowing the world to get a bellyful of Satan's ways, as an object lesson, and God can deal the same way with the Church of God to the extent we bring the world's ways into the Church.
Jesus Christ has all authority and power. But that is not an endorsement of the actions of the present Council of Elders, the chairman of the Council, or the president of UCG. Neither is it an endorsement of the actions and words of Mr. Leon Walker and ministers in the Latin American region. God will not take away the free moral agency of these men to choose between right and wrong or between wise or unwise decisions.
Simple logic must show that God cannot be happy with the decisions of the present leadership of UCG and simultaneously be happy with the decisions of Leon Walker. God does not enjoy conflict, and He does not pit one side against the other for the entertainment of watching a boxing match between the two sides. One side or the other must be wrong, or both sides are wrong. Either way, both sides are not right.
If one says, "God has all power and controls everything, therefore everything that happens is according to His will, and God is behind the decisions of the Council of Elders, and if you disagree with the Council, you disagree with God", then by the same logic you can say, "God has all power and controls everything, therefore everything that happens is according to His will, and God is behind the decisions of Leon Walker, and if you disagree with him, you disagree with God." Both of those cannot be true.
Mr. Luker has not said in the sermon that the fact that God has all power means that he endorses the decisions of the Council, but some might read that implication into the sermon (whether Mr. Luker intends that or not), and I am pointing out that the fact that God is sovereign does not mean that He is pleased with the decisions of the Council.
Mr. Luker goes through the messages to the seven churches in Revelation. He acknowledges the doctrine of the eras of the Church. When he goes through the individual messages to the seven churches, he puts emphasis on how God works with each of us individually, working with us by correcting us for our faults and encouraging us and commending us where appropriate. I agree that each of us individually should examine ourselves in light of all seven messages, and Mr. Armstrong I believe taught the same. But we should also not forget that these messages were originally delivered to specific congregations, and some of the problems are problems of a whole congregation or fellowship. The words of correction and rebuke Jesus gives in these messages can apply to us individually but they can also apply to an entire organization or fellowship or era.
All power and authority have been given to Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). But Christ does not control the words and actions of Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker and Mr. Walker to the degree that they cannot make mistakes or wrong decisions. Christ does not use His power to FORCE any of us to do the right thing. This is made clear by Christ's statement about His servants. "And the Lord said, 'Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, "My master is delaying his coming," and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers' " (Luke 12:42-46).
More to come...
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5
The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5
Focusing on the Bible, Chapter 5
How Could Trained and Experienced Ministers Be Deceived?, Chapter 5
Will the Whole Church of God Re-unite?, Chapter 5
How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7