All of us in the Church of God have a responsibility to warn the English-speaking nations about the tribulation to come. But to be effective in giving that warning, we need God's help and blessing. And to be sure we have that help, we have to please God and show Him we are willing to do what we ask others to do.
In other words, we have to practice what we preach.
When we warn the nations about their sins and the punishment that is coming if they don't repent, what are we really asking the people to do?
We are asking people to change.
We are asking people to repent of their sins and change their actions and thoughts in order to obey the God of the Bible.
We are asking people to begin keeping the weekly Sabbath and annual holy days even if that separates them from their family, friends, and employers. We are asking them to stop keeping Christmas and Easter, to stop eating pork, and to start tithing even if they think they cannot afford to tithe. We are asking them to resist and overcome their wrong habits.
They will have to do these things to be spared the punishment of the tribulation. They won't escape otherwise.
Yet, how hard is it for most of those who hear our warning to do this?
Most people are not called to salvation in this age. Only a few are called, drawn to Christ, and given the opportunity to receive God's Holy Spirit (John 6:44).
So the majority of those who hear our message, or will hear it in the future, are not called. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, how hard will it be for them to change and stop sinning? How hard will it be for them to stop using images and idols in worship, to stop breaking the weekly Sabbath, to stop committing adultery, to stop stealing and lying, to stop getting drunk, to stop watching pornography, to stop gambling, etc.?
In short, how hard will it be for the majority of Americans, Britons, Canadians, and Australians who hear our warning message to respond to the message and stop doing the wrong things God is going to punish them for in the tribulation so they can escape and be spared?
You might say, impossible. Maybe so, yet the Ninevites set the example of repenting though God did not call them to salvation. A few among the millions in our time may make respond and make the effort to heed our message even though God has not called them to salvation in this age.
Jonah warned Nineveh that they would be punished. They believed God's warning, humbled themselves, and repented. They changed their behavior. The result? God spared them. More than 120,000 people turned from their sins and God spared them (Jonah 3:1-10, 4:11).
Were they called to salvation? There is no indication of that. Did they have the depth of repentance one must have to be ready for baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit? Probably not. Probably, they were only afraid of the punishment. They believed the warning and they wanted to escape.
Yet, even if their motive was only fear of punishment, they did have some kind of repentance, and God spared them. They made the changes they needed to make to escape the punishment.
Sometimes, even unconverted people can heed God's warnings.
Yet how difficult it must be for people in our modern nation to change and turn from their sins, even without being called and having the help of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, for the majority, that is exactly what we are asking them to do.
And some of us in the Church, who have been called and have the Holy Spirit, may think, "It is too hard for me to overcome my bad habits - I can't change."
When I write these posts, I try to post on topics that relate to the holy day season we are in. This is the fall holy day season, and it is appropriate to be thinking about end time events because the tribulation, the Day of the Lord, and the return of Christ all relate to the Day of Trumpets. So preparing ourselves to be able to deliver the Ezekiel warning message by overcoming our own sins is a fit topic for this season.
Yet this post can equally relate to the meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, because it is about overcoming and putting sin out of our lives.
We in the Church need to overcome our sins no matter how hard it seems, because it is just as hard if not harder for the people in the world to do the same, yet we are asking them to do that when we preach the warning. We are trying to show them a way of escape, but to take that way of escape, they have to do what is hard, seemingly impossible, and we must do the same and not say to ourselves, "I can't do it."
"Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11).
We have to practice what we preach. If we give the warning to stop sinning, we have to heed our own warning.
"You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' as it is written" (Romans 2:21-24).
If we do not do what we teach others to do, we become hypocrites, and God cannot bless us with the power to get the warning message to everyone before the tribulation begins and it is too late for the people to escape. And if that is the case, the fault for not warning is ours, not God's, and the blood of the people will be on our heads (Ezekiel 3:16-21).
God gives us the power to overcome (1 Corinthians 10:13). He doesn't promise enough help to make it easy. He promises enough help to make it possible.
Some baptized members in the Church may say, "But I've tried, over and over, and I can't do it. I've fasted and prayed for more help from God, and I still can't do it."
No doubt you've tried. But can you say you've tried as hard as you could, in every way, that you could not have tried harder?
Have you tried as hard as you could in every way, to draw close to God, to follow the examples of Christ? Have you immersed yourself in God's word? Have you separated yourself and protected your mind from the influence of this world's entertainment as much as possible? Have you forgiven others with all your heart? Have you followed the example of Christ in prayer, fasting, and seeking to do God's will and work (Luke 6:12, Matthew 17:21, John 4:34)? Have you gone all out to think the thoughts, speak the words, and do the deeds that please God twenty-four hours a day? Christ did.
Have you tried one hundred percent as hard as you could? Or have you only tried 99% as hard as you could? And if you only put out 99% effort, is it possible you would think you are trying as hard as you can? But you didn't, not really, and that missing 1% might be what God is waiting for.
If you think you've given 100% effort to overcome, how do you know? How do you know you could not have tried harder?
It may be that to qualify for God's help and power to get a strong warning out to our nations before the tribulation, we have to try as hard to overcome our sins as the people in the world would have to do to stop sinning and escape the tribulation. How hard is that?
There is some evidence that the effort people in our nations make to heed the warning can make the difference between those who survive into the millennium and those who don't.
"As I live,' says the Lord God, 'surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,' says the Lord God. 'I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 20:33-38).
Notice, God will purge the rebels among Israel before He brings Israel back to their land. There will be a difference between those who scorn God's truth and those who try to respond, even among those not in the Church. And our message may be part of the test God uses to see who is rebellious and who is not, who will be counted worthy to survive the tribulation and experience the joy of the millennium and who will not.
Not necessarily everyone who goes through the tribulation will suffer the worst of it. Some may suffer less than others. God can be merciful to those He sees are trying. Our message can make a difference.
But to receive from God the power to deliver that message to everyone in our English-speaking nations, we must first show God we are willing to really go all out to obey Him. Then He can magnify our power and our message so it reaches everyone while there is time for the people to respond, before the tribulation begins.
UPDATE: In testing the links below, I found that my hosting service provider is having technical problems and my website may be down. They are working to fix it, but in the meantime, if the links below to my online book, Preaching the Gospel, do not work, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request the book in pdf format and I will email it to you.
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ, Chapter 2
The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2
How to Obtain More of God's Help in Breaking Bad Habits, Chapter 7
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL?