Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Beam in the Eye", and Preaching the Gospel to the World

Someone contributed a comment in my last post and brought up the point that the Church should not preach the gospel to the world until we first get the beam out of our eye, referring to Christ's teachings in Matthew 7:3-5.

Here is what Christ said, including the previous two verses about judging that set the context: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:1-5).

I replied that the point was good and worth considering, but that Christ did not intend this teaching to mean that the Church should not preach the gospel to the world until we completely overcome our own serious problems.

But I also thought the issue of getting the beams out of our eyes and the relationship of that principle with preaching the gospel would be an excellent topic for a post, so I want to discuss this issue in more detail here. I have long thought about the "beam in the eye" lesson and how it applies to the work of the Church, but as far as I recall, this is the first time I am discussing it at length in this blog.

For the record, the one who commented never meant that we should delay preaching the gospel for a long time, because repentance does not have to take a long time, but that deep and thorough repentance is required to be effective in preaching the gospel, and I agree.

The post this person commented in was about ministers leaving COGaic, and to some extent what I say here will be in that context. But the principles in that comment and in this post apply to any Church of God fellowship.

If the Church or the ministry has problems, such as problems in our relationships with each other or with the Father, we certainly should repent.

However, the kind of repentance needed to be qualified to warn someone of danger should not be something that takes weeks, months, and years. We should not be postponing the work of warning others because we are not yet perfect ourselves.

If you and I have beams in our eyes, if we need to repent, then let us repent, now, right now, today in fact, this very hour. Not tomorrow, not next week, today, before the sun sets. Then let's set our alarms for 5:00 am, get a good night's sleep, and early tomorrow morning, before we eat breakfast, we all can get busy doing what God has commanded us - to preach the gospel to all nations (Matthew 10:7-8, 24:14, 28:18-20, Acts 1:8) and to warn Israel and the world (Ezekiel 3:17-21, 33:1-11), to hold back those stumbling to the slaughter, to deliver those drawn towards death (Proverbs 24:1-12). Abraham rose early to do what God commanded him (Genesis 22:2-3), and God often said He rose up early to warn Israel or to send the prophets to warn Israel (2 Chronicles 36:15, Jeremiah 7:13-14, 26:4-6, 29:19, 32:33, 35:14-15), and we should follow that example. We can start with a website, small at first, and we can improve it over time as we go. We can start by teaching the world, in that website, that Christ will come to establish the Kingdom of God ruling over the earth, and we can warn the world about the coming tribulation. Then we can expand that in the future, but we can start with that and build on it.

How well do we represent the God of the Bible and His message to Israel, who said He rose up early to give them the message, if we put off doing it for days, weeks, months, or years?

On Pentecost, Peter preached repentance to the crowds, and that day 3,000 were baptized. It didn't take them weeks to repent. They did it that same day.

The kind of overcoming of personal bad habits and sins that may take a lifetime is not something that must be done first before we serve or teach others.

Picture this scenario.

Suppose you are struggling with a personal fault you need to overcome. Maybe you get angry too easily. Maybe you are finding it hard to forgive a brother. You are praying about it in your apartment by your bed late at night, maybe at 3:00 in the morning because you couldn't sleep (I know you might live in a house, but pretend you are living in a big, high-rise apartment building). But you still haven't gotten past feelings of bitterness towards your brother. You know you should forgive him from your heart, but it seems like you just can't. Every time you try to forgive, you remember what he did to you, and bitterness, resentment, and anger come flooding back into your mind. Or, it could be some other problem. Maybe you have a bad habit you are struggling with. Whatever the problem is, you have started to pray about it, but you know you have a long way to go before you have overcome it. As you are praying and meditating about this, the thought occurs to you, maybe I should go through a period of fasting to draw closer to God to get the spiritual strength I need to overcome this sin.

But all of a sudden, something happens that takes your mind off of your prayers and your meditation. You smell smoke. You cautiously open your door and peek out the doorway of your apartment, and there is smoke in the hallway, not suffocating yet, but it is increasing, fast. Someplace, you don't know where, a fire has started in your building, and you realize, because most people are asleep, you are probably the only one who knows it.

You move quickly. First you call 911 and report the fire. Then you put on your shoes and your coat, grab your money, keys, and identification, and go out the door to get out of the building before you are trapped by the smoke.

But should you warn the other people? Should you knock on doors to warn people to get out? The smoke in the hallway is not too bad yet, but it will be in a few minutes. At first you think, yes, I am supposed to love my neighbor as myself. I better pound on some doors and yell, "the building is on fire, get out while you can." But then you say to yourself, no, I need to repent first before I warn people of danger. I haven't totally overcome my sin yet, and I need to go through a period of fasting and prayer for a few weeks before I warn people about anything. Otherwise, I am guilty of trying to take the speck out of my brother's eye while I have a beam in my own. So won't warn anyone. I will save my own skin and get out of the building while I can. If these other people die they die. In about 3 minutes the smoke will be so thick they probably won't be able to get out, but that can't be helped. I won't warn them, because I am not perfect.

That really makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Don't love your neighbor because you are not perfect yet. Don't do what God commands you because you have to "repent" first, and that takes a long time. So you are going to let those people die and then draw closer to God, not by obeying Him now, but by fasting and prayer for a long time so you can make yourself perfect.

You are thinking about saving your own skin. But you are not thinking about the suffering the families and relatives of your neighbors will feel when they have lost their loved ones permanently to the smoke and fire. And you think you can get close to God that way.

That does NOT make sense.

And neither does it make sense to disobey God's commands to deliver the Ezekiel warning and preach the gospel to the world because we are not yet perfect and because we still have sins to get out of our lives. If we think that way, we are forgetting that not preaching the gospel is itself disobedience, and therefore a sin to be repented of. This world is like a building of fire, and we need to give a warning because we love the people and we want to give them a chance to escape the coming disaster.

Did Christ send out the twelve apostles to preach the gospel during His three-and-a-half year ministry because they were perfect, because they had no sin? James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on a city because of their resentment over being slighted (Luke 9:51-55). They argued over who would be the greatest (Luke 22:24). They ran away when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:55-56). Peter denied even knowing Christ (Matthew 26:69-75). Jesus said they were of "little faith" (Matthew 8:26). They weren't just "not perfect". They were not even converted. Yet Christ sent them out to preach the gospel (Matthew 10:5-10, Mark 6:7-12, Luke 9:1-2). He even sent Judas to preach the gospel, and Judas was an enemy, a "devil" as Christ said when He told the apostles, "one of you is a devil" (John 6:70-71). Did Christ say, "I can't send these men out to remove specks in other people's eyes because they have beams in their own eyes."? No, He used them in spite of their personal faults and weak spiritual condition at that time. He even used Judas.

Some of the men leaving COGaic want to wait to repair personal relationships between themselves before they help the world. But the twelve apostles had relationship problems, otherwise they would not be arguing about who was the greatest, and they did not have God's Holy Spirit, yet Christ sent them out to preach BEFORE they were converted, even while they still had serious problems.

Likewise, as Christ used his apostles in spite of their carnal faults, even Judas, to preach the gospel, so He still uses us in the Church of God, in spite of our faults, to preach the gospel today. What He said to Judas, He says to us: preach the gospel (Luke 9:1-2).

Consider Jonah. Jonah did not want to obey God by giving a warning to Nineveh, but God made him do it. Did Jonah have spiritual problems, even relationship problems with God and man? Duh. I would say. He ran away from God to avoid the job, was even willing to die by drowning rather than do what God said (Jonah 1:10-12). He apparently hated the Ninevites so much he wanted to die because God did not kill them, even after they repented at his preaching (Jonah 3:1-10, 4:1-3). Jonah wanted to die because God was merciful to Nineveh. Did he have a relationship problem? Did he have a beam in his eye that prevented him from having spiritual perception, from seeing the Ninevites clearly as God saw them, as people who needed mercy (Jonah 4:10-11)?

Of course he did. He had a beam in his eye. Did that excuse him from warning? Did God require he get rid of that beam before he delivered the message? No, God had him give the warning message first, even while he still had that beam in his eye. It is not till the last verse in the book of Jonah that God begins to help Jonah see his problem, and this was after God made him give the warning. Do think God would have let him off the hook, excused him from warning Nineveh, if he said to God, "Look, I can't warn Nineveh, I have a beam in my eye. Until I learn to love people more and fear You more, I am not qualified to give the warning. Please send someone else." How would that fly with God?

God put these examples in the Bible, Jonah, Judas, the apostles, for our learning. We are supposed to live by every word of God. We should look to the lessons of the Bible to know how Christ's teaching about the "beam in your eye" applies to preaching the gospel to the world. We should let the Bible interpret the Bible.

We repent when recognize our faults and set to work on them. That repentance might take place in one day, as it did for the 3,000 that were baptized on the day of Pentecost, but the work of overcoming, of continuous repenting, resolving to sin no more, then stumbling at some temptation, repenting again and asking God's forgiveness, getting up and trying again - that struggle against the self, that process and that work of overcoming may take a lifetime, and as soon as we overcome one thing, we discover something else in our character that needs changing, and we have to start working on that. If we wait till we have no more faults to overcome before we preach the gospel, we will never do what God commands us to do.

Yet, not going all out to preach the gospel is itself disobedience and a sin against God that we should repent of, and it can be just as serious as any other sin we sin.

Look at what Paul said about himself: "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:14-24).

Notice he said this in the present tense. He wasn't just talking about himself before he was converted or before he was an apostle. But he was already preaching the gospel even while he was battling against his own sins. In fact he said, "woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Do the ministers leaving COGaic say to themselves, "Woe to us if we do not preach the gospel"? If they do, they will have a sense of urgency about it equal to their urgency to have a sermon ready by the end of each week so they can give it on the Sabbath.

When you repent towards God, you can't pick and choose what sins to repent of. If ministers and members leaving COGaic have relationship sins to repent of, fine, repent of those sins, but also repent of the sin of not preaching the gospel as Christ commanded. Do both at the same time. Reconcile and preach the gospel at the same time.

But apparently some of these men want to repent of one sin, their relationship problems, BEFORE they repent and work on their other sin, not preaching the gospel. Why? Perhaps some of them have an inward focus. They want to help themselves, their own group, their own fellowship, because relationship problems affect them personally and directly. But they do not have the outgoing concern that God and Christ have for the world and that Herbert W. Armstrong had. They do not love their neighbors in the world as themselves. They love themselves more and their neighbors less. That is not God's way.

I do NOT say this about all the ministers who have left COGaic. But some of them, maybe. And if some of them are against preaching the gospel right now, they may be influencing and holding back those who are in favor of the gospel. Those who may want to start preaching the gospel now may be compromising for the sake of unity with other ministers who are against it.

Consider the two-fold commission. The Church, the leadership, and the ministry are to feed the flock and preach the gospel to the world.

That two-fold commission, obviously, has two parts. Typically, which part are leaders and pastors in all the Church of God fellowships put together most inclined to favor? What is a typical pastor likely to be more concerned about?

Feeding the flock. Why? Because they work among the flock. They get their support from the flock. It is the tithes and offerings from the flock that pay their salaries, that put food on their tables, clothes on their backs, and a roof over their head. They feed the flock by giving sermons on the Sabbath, and it is unlikely they will get paid if they don't give sermons. So in giving sermons, they are fulfilling one part of the commission, but they are also feeding themselves. And if they don't feed the flock well, problems will develop in their congregations, and those problems can make the lives of the pastors less than joyous, to put it mildly.

So if the ministers do not feed the flock, if they don't give sermons, members will attend someplace else, and wherever they attend, that is where their tithes usually go.

So every pastor must know: "If I don't give sermons, the members will go elsewhere and I won't get paid. No sermons, no services. No services, no members. No members, no tithes. No tithes, no food on my table, and eventually I will lose my house. So I better give sermons. I better feed the flock. Besides, I know how to give sermons, but I have no experience preaching the gospel to the world - that would be leaving my comfort zone. So I will stick to what I know and feel comfortable with and what puts food on my table. If I feed the flock, the flock will feed me."

So you don't have to convince ministers to feed the flock. There is a self-enforcing mechanism about it that works with even carnal men - no sermons, no eat. Maybe that can be summarized as "speak and eat".

I am not talking about just one group. This applies to ANY Church of God fellowship. Only God can read the heart and mind of each minister in every group to know who is doing it for a paycheck only and who is motivated by love. If a minister is motivated by love, that will be more important to him than his paycheck. But if a minister does not love, self-interest will motivate him to feed the flock. Either way, the job will get done, and God knows the heart of the minister. Of course, the minister who loves God and his flock will do a better job of feeding the flock. But even a carnally minded minister may feed the flock for a paycheck. And with some ministers, the motives may be mixed, half motivated by love and half motivated by the paycheck.

But that extra motivation that works even when ministers are not motivated to obey Christ, that self-enforcing mechanism based partly on self-interest that works even when love fails, isn't there for the second part of the two-fold commission - preaching the gospel to the world - especially with men who have never done that before and would know that they may have a long learning curve to do it well. If they feed the flock but don't preach the gospel, what happens to them? Usually, nothing. They still get paid.

Look at Mr. Hulme. He has accomplished very little in preaching the gospel to the world over the last 15 years. He preaches the gospel to the world on a tiny and not very effective scale, with Vision and maybe other means, but the apparent effort and results are small. But has that hurt him financially? I don't think so. Why not? Because he feeds the flock. The flock then rewards him by sending their tithes to him.

And yet, preaching the gospel to the world is just as important as feeding the flock. The same God who commanded feeding the flock also commanded preaching the gospel. If you respect one command, you should respect both commands, because you should respect the God that gave you both commands. But if you do not respect both commands...

If I said, "Every pastor who gives sermons but is not in favor of someone in his fellowship preaching the gospel to the world with the same urgency with which the pastor makes sure he has a sermon ready every week for the Sabbath, is only giving sermons to fill his own belly", would I be wrong? Christ knows. When He returns, I can ask Him.

Consider the two parts of the two-fold commission in light of the principle of not taking the speck from your brother's eye till you remove the beam from your own. If that means you cannot teach others spiritually as long as you have serious problems to overcome, and if that means you cannot yet preach the gospel, then you also cannot feed the flock. Why? Both feeding the flock and preaching the gospel to the world involve correcting faults, taking the speck out of the other persons' eyes. If a minister has a beam in his own eye that prevents him from removing the specks in the eyes of the people of the world by preaching the gospel to them, then that same beam in his eye equally prevents him from removing the specks from his congregation by feeding the flock and giving sermons.

So if a minister says, "I have a beam in my eye, and I cannot see clearly to preach the gospel to the world and remove the speck in the world's eye", then he better also say, "I have a beam in my eye, and I cannot see clearly to give sermons to remove the specks in the congregation." But, of course, if he says the second thing, he won't get paid. But if he says, "I have removed the beam from my eye, and now I see clearly to remove the specks from the eyes in my congregation by giving sermons", then he should also say, "I have removed the beam from my eye, and now I can see clearly to remove the specks from the world's eyes by preaching the gospel to them."

What is needed, to avoid hypocrisy (which is the point of Christ's teaching about the beam in the eye), is that we be striving to do what we say others should do. Repent of your faults when you find them, start to work on them, and then you can teach others that they also should go to work on overcoming those faults.

If I am 100 pounds overweight and think that is fine and am not trying to lose weight, I would be a hypocrite to tell someone 50 pounds overweight, "you need to lose weight". But if I acknowledge my sin and go to work on losing weight, if I am trying hard to lose weight and making some progress, I don't have to wait till I am skinny before I say to another overweight person, "I am trying to lose weight and maybe you should too. I have learned some things, and I have a long way to go yet, but I have found a good diet that is working for me and has helped me lose 30 pounds so far, and I will be glad to share it with you if you want - maybe it will work for you too." That would not be hypocrisy.

We are not hypocrites to go to the world and urge them to do the same things we have already done. If I urge the world to keep God's seventh day Sabbath by not working on the Sabbath and by not watching sporting events on the Sabbath, but then I get a part time job on Saturday working in a supermarket and watch basketball games on Friday night, that would make me a hypocrite.

Are we doing that? Are we, in the Church, telling the world, stop working on Saturday, but we have part-time jobs on Saturdays? Are we telling the world, don't keep Christmas, but we all put up Christmas trees in our houses for Christmas? Are we telling the world, God is not a trinity, but we all think God is a trinity? Are we telling the world, Christ will return, but we don't believe Christ will return? Do we warn about the tribulation, but we don't think the tribulation will really happen? Do we tell the world, observe the holy days and Feast of Tabernacles, but we go to our regular jobs on the holy days and we never go to the Feast of Tabernacles?

I don't think that is a problem. Generally, we believe and try to practice everything we preach to the world.

Actually, there is one problem some Church of God ministers or leaders in various fellowships may have in that regard. Some may tell the world, "don't believe me, believe the Bible", then tell their members, in effect, "don't believe your Bible, believe me". But that is a whole other subject, and I have covered that elsewhere. Anyway, I do not think the ministers coming out of COGaic have that problem. I think they teach the members to believe the Bible, as they should.

But if the "beam in the eye" teaching means you cannot preach to the world because you do not believe and strive to practice the truth, then you also cannot give sermons to your congregation for the same reason.

If you share knowledge of God's way of life with the brethren, but not the world, your focus is inward. You want the Church, in effect, to have secret knowledge, for us only, not to be shared with others, so we alone as a small, tight-knit group can benefit from it, not anyone else. "We are the 'in crowd', better than other people," you say, "privileged, in a class by ourselves, with others excluded. We will protect and help our own members, but you outsiders, stay away - you are not part of us and we don't want you."

But we reap what we sow. If we hold on to knowledge, keep it secret from the world, keep it just for ourselves, God will see our attitude and bring the fruits of it upon our heads. What are those fruits? What is the result, what is reaped, of that attitude we sow?

What would be the effect, the harvest reaped, if Mr. Armstrong had that attitude? If Mr. Armstrong said, "I appreciate what I know, but I will not share it with the world", the result of that is that we would not have the knowledge we have today. We know what we know because Mr. Armstrong preached the gospel to the world. But if we do not follow his example, God can take the knowledge from us. If God does not give us spiritual help to keep the knowledge we have, we will lose it. And He may do that if we do not share it with others as those before us have shared it with us.

We need to share what we know with the world. We have to tell them what we have learned. That is not hypocrisy. We know the tribulation is coming. We have no right to keep quiet about it, to work on ourselves only, without giving the world the same knowledge so others have the same chance to work on themselves also. We want to escape and be protected during the tribulation, and we strive to put sin out of our lives. We need to give people in the world that same opportunity, the knowledge of the truth, which God and Mr. Armstrong have given us.

If the ministers coming out of COGaic think that their new group should not preach the gospel to the world yet because they must first do more reconciling with the Father and with each other, they should apply that principle to feeding the flock too. If they want to be consistent, they should refrain from teaching the membership to reconcile with the Father and each other UNTIL THEY, THE MINISTERS, HAVE ACTUALLY DONE IT. If the ministers must first reconcile with each other and God, and if that means they must finish that reconciliation before preaching to the world, then they must also do it BEFORE they teach the brethren to do it, right?

So there is a speck in the eye of the world, a speck in the eye of the members, and a beam in the eye of the ministry. The ministry says, "We can't take the speck out of the world because we have a beam in our eye. But we are not going to wait before taking the speck out of our members' eye." But that's inconsistent. If the beam in your eye prevents you from correcting the world, it should also prevent you from correcting the Church.

So if you ministers have relationship problems that prevent you from preaching the gospel, fine, be reconciled with each other and God, but don't give sermons until you do. Before you talk about reconciliation with the brethren, do it yourselves first. Let Brian Orchard reconcile with Steve Andrews and let Steve Andrews reconcile with Peter Nathan and let all the ministers reconcile with God.

What? You ministers say you have already done that? You have forgiven each other and have wonderful unity and harmony with each other and with God? You have removed the beam from your eye? Great! Now you can preach the gospel to the world. After all, Christ didn't say, don't remove the speck from your brother's eye or only remove the beam from your own eye. He said to remove the beam from your own eye, but he did stop there. You have to DO something after you remove your own beam. You are COMMANDED to remove the speck from the other person's eye.

Or, do you say you haven't done that yet? Steve Andrews hasn't reconciled with Brian Orchard yet? You ministers haven't reconciled with the Father yet? You still have a beam in your eye? Then stop giving sermons to the brethren until you do. How can you see clearly to teach the brethren if you have a beam in your eye? First achieve reconciliation with your fellow ministers and with God, then you will see clearly to give sermons on the subject of reconciliation so the members can do it.

Or maybe you say, we ministers still have a beam in our eye reconciling with God, but we have to give sermons to the brethren, so we can speak on other subjects: the kingdom of God, God's plan for salvation, the ten commandments, prophecy, etc. Then, when we ministers ourselves have finished reconciling with God, the beam in our eye on that subject will be gone and we can teach that subject to the congregations: reconciliation.

Ok, but apply that also to preaching the gospel to the world. Because you ministers coming out of COGaic still have a beam in your eye on the subject of reconciliation, hold off preaching about that one subject and just preach to the world on other subjects like the kingdom of God, God's plan for salvation, the ten commandments, prophecy, etc. Then, when you ministers finish reconciling with God, hopefully in a few weeks, the beam in your eye will be gone and you can include the subject of reconciliation when you preach to the world.

To say, we ministers won't teach the world with a website because we have a beam in our eye, but we will still teach the brethren by giving sermons on the Sabbath, is inconsistent. If the "beam in my eye" is the reason you won't preach the gospel, that same reason would also stop you from giving sermons on the Sabbath. But if that is not the reason you don't preach the gospel, what is your real reason?

One more scripture. If you do a Bible search on "reconciliation" and the shorter form, "conciliation", you might find this verse from Solomon, to whom God gave wisdom: "If the spirit of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post; For conciliation pacifies great offenses" (Ecclesiastes 10:4). This is talking about how to reconcile with someone in authority over you who becomes angry with you. If your boss is angry with you because you have committed "great offenses", as this verse says, how do you reconcile with him? Consider God as our ruler, and He is angry with us because we have committed great offenses, how do we reconcile with God? Solomon says, "Do not leave your post". In other words, don't quit or run away from the job the ruler gave you to do (as Jonah tried to do). So if we are really serious about reconciling with God, we better stay at our post and do the job God gave us to do. He gave us the same job he gave Jonah, He gave Ezekiel, He gave the other prophets, He gave the apostles, and He gave Mr. Armstrong: Preach the gospel and warn the people. We need to stay at our post and keep doing the job God gave us to do. And if we ran from our post, our responsibilities, we need to return to the job God gave us if we are serious about returning to God.

That isn't the only work God gave us to do, but it is part of it, and we need to do it.

We did that job when Mr. Armstrong was alive. We preached the Ezekiel warning and the gospel to the world. We need to return to that if we want to return to God.

Here are posts related to this post:

"New Website of Ministers Leaving COGaic", dated January 4, 2014, link:

"New Church Coming out of COGaic and 'Mutual Submission' ", dated January 5, 2014, link:

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel: 

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