Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Should We Believe?

Does it matter why we obey God's commandments? Can we obey for wrong reasons, for selfish reasons, for vanity, pride, and conceit? For example, did the Pharisees pray and fast for wrong reasons, to be seen by men? Can one make generous donations to a good cause for wrong and selfish reasons? (Matthew 6:1-5, 16)

In the Old Testament, God said that Israel fasted "for strife" (Isaiah 58:4), and God did not accept their fast.

So, yes, we can do right things for wrong motives and reasons. God cares about our heart.

Likewise, can we believe the truth for the wrong reasons? Can we believe the truth because we trust and believe men, but not God?

One man, call him John, believes God. Another man, call him Jim, does not believe God, but he believes and trusts men, even John. So John learns the truth from God, because he believes and trusts God, and then, wanting to share the truth with others, teaches it to Jim.

Jim, because he has a close relationship with John (father, brother, close friend, etc.), trusts and believes John, so he also learns the truth. But his reason for believing the truth is different from John's reason for believing.

John's faith is in God, but Jim's faith is in John, not in God. He believes the truth only as long as John is a dominant influence in his life. Jim can reap certain benefits from the truth, because we reap what we sow. But his faith is not in God. Jim doesn't really have a relationship with God, though outwardly it seems he does.

Which one has eternal life?

It matters why we believe because it matters who we believe. It is not just a matter of what we believe.

Mr. Armstrong believed God. Others who believed God joined with Mr. Armstrong and did a work. But others who did NOT believe God, but believed Mr. Armstrong, also joined with him in the Worldwide Church of God.

So you had two categories, two groups within Worldwide, both believing the same doctrines, but one group believed God and one group believed man. The beliefs were the same, but the reason for belief was different.

From the outside it was hard to tell them apart. Both groups believed and behaved the same. But when the dominant influence of Mr. Armstrong was taken away, all those who believed the truth only because they believed Mr. Armstrong (not because they believed God and proved doctrine from the Bible) left the truth, right?

No, I think not.

Many did. Not all.

There are people in the scattered Church of God today, whether part of a fellowship or "stay at home", who believe the truth for the wrong reason. Their belief and trust are not in God and the Bible. Their belief and trust are in their traditions, in their families, in the Church, their pastors, and even in Mr. Armstrong and his writings, even now after his death.

God knows who are His.

God will not play second fiddle to anyone.

God commands that we love Him more than father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, and even our own selves (Luke 14:25-26, Deuteronomy 13:6-10).

If you never really proved the truth from the Bible, you better do it, and you better follows what Christ teaches you in the Bible wherever He leads you (Revelation 14:4-5).

If you are a minister, you need to teach the brethren under your care to prove what is true and to believe the Bible more than mother, father, husband, wife, or even you, their pastor.

Unless you want to compete with God for the loyalty and faith of the members.

Some pastors may be afraid that if they teach their members to believe the Bible more than their pastors, those members may reach independent conclusions, even wrong conclusions. Yes, that is possible.

But there is a difference between someone who believes and trusts the Bible but makes an honest mistake and someone who only believes the truth because of circumstances and really doesn't trust the Bible.

That difference is attitude towards God.

If someone, because he makes a sincere mistake, misunderstands something in the Bible, even after the minister explains it, that does not mean the member has a bad attitude, necessarily. God does not require that he believe his pastor or any man. "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Corinthians 1:24). What God requires is that he respect the office of minister and not create division.

If he has a right attitude, he will not promote or discuss his different view of scripture with other brethren but will recognize that God has given you, the pastor, greater authority to teach the congregation, and he will not interfere with your teaching.

As pastor, as a shepherd over part of Christ's flock, your primary job is to help the brethren in their relationship with God, not their relationship with you. You should earnestly desire that the brethren love God more than they love you, or their father, or mother, husband, wife, the other brethren in the congregation, or even their own selves.

You should strive to have the discernment, praying for wisdom about it if necessary, to see if a member is believing the Church and the ministry about doctrine more than God and the Bible, and if so, to strive to teach that member to put his faith in God's word, the Bible, more than the Church and the ministry.

When was the last time you gave a sermon about how members should handle doctrinal disagreements? Can you even give such a sermon? What would you say?

What principles could Mr. Armstrong have taught the Church in 1985 that would have prepared them for the changes Mr. Tkach would make?

Some ministers might say that Mr. Armstrong should have told the Church to believe Mr. Tkach if he made small adjustments to doctrine, but not big changes. But that cannot be right. The principles of God's word teach us to be faithful in small things as well as great things. "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10).

We must be careful to live by every word of God.

Are we to direct our faith towards the ministry in small matters, then switch gears and have faith in God if a big change comes along?

Small decisions are the training ground for big decisions. If we trust God's word, the Bible, more than the teaching of men in small doctrines, we will also trust God and the Bible in big doctrines.

Brethren need to believe the Bible, but respect the ministry, and not interfere with the minister's teaching by criticizing that teaching with other brethren and creating division. If the minister makes a mistake in doctrine, a member who realizes it should keep quiet about it in most cases, or address it with the minister alone, or report it to headquarters if necessary, but not gossip about it with the members.

And if the error is so great that the minister is teaching a different gospel than that which the Bible teaches, then that is probably the cue for the member to leave that group. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11). "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 10-11).

By the way, I did not notice this until I proofread this post, but did not Paul set a good example when he warned the members not to even believe him, Paul, if he preached a false gospel? Notice how, in Galatians 1:8 he says, "if WE...preach any other gospel...". He didn't even exclude himself from the curse. In saying "we", he was, in effect, teaching the members NOT to believe him, Paul, or any man more than God.


MTCOGSM said...

Hello Author.
some good points to ponder, but this question caught my attention;“What principles could Mr. Armstrong have taught the Church in 1985 that would have prepared them for the changes Mr. Tkach would make?”

I would humbly suggest to you and your readers that you try to get all the letters that HWA sent out—just during 1985—reflect on what he talked about and instructions he was giving the COG at that time—Why he thought Christ had not returned and warnings of becoming “lukewarm” etc—needing to draw closer to God and strive to be more spiritually connected with hearts in the work and totally committed—and you will have the answer to that question.

God did give the COG what it needed to be on guard for this era of time, THROUGH HWA—but very few were listening and most of the top ministry apparently was not. His book “the mystery of the ages” was finished and sent to the printers, then handed out at the Feast in that year—yet the majority stood by and let the Tkach’s malign it, cut back on printing, then take it out of print and finally get rid of it altogether! WHY?? Yes it has a few mistakes that needed correcting—but mainly because it exposed them and what they wanted to do was wrong. It also exposes to the UCG that it is wrong and any other organization that wants to go down a similar path, or off into dictatorial power grabbing. Even RCM in GCG then LCG wanted to distant themselves from HWA for years—now RCM is reversing himself on that too, it seems.
How soon we forget what God has already made clear.
Editor said...

Your point is good, and Mr. Armstrong did teach the membership to draw close to God, and to the degree we did that, we would have been protected. The majority in the Church of God had become lukewarm, and we did not draw close to God and seek Him with all our hearts.

Nevertheless, Mr. Armstrong's last teaching to us was, if I die, God will provide a new pastor general, and you better follow him if you want to make it into the kingdom of God (my paraphrasing, not an exact quote).

Mr. Armstrong was wrong. This was a serious error he made, to tell us this, because some people did exactly that, and ended up falling away from the truth by following Mr. Armstrong's statement. Probably most or all would have done that anyway no matter what Mr. Armstrong said. That does not take away from the seriousness of his mistake.

Mr. Armstrong should have said, if I die, God will provide a new pastor general, and you should respect his office and obey him as he obeys God, but you better believe the Bible first, not man, and if he teaches you something contrary to the Bible, don't believe him. If he changes the doctrines I have taught you, check up in the Bible and believe the Bible, believe God, to know if his changes are right or wrong.