What Is the Most Important Thing for the Church of God to Repent Of?
The next festival and holy day season in God's Church will be Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, in about six and a half weeks. That is a time when we focus on self-examination and repentance.
This is a time when the whole Church of God and most of its members should focus on our need for repentance and putting sin out of our lives. This is the time of the Laodicean era, a time when Laodiceanism and all that includes is the predominant characteristic of the Church of God as a whole (Revelation 3:14-22).
And God commands us to repent (Revelation 3:19). Even Philadelphians should seek a deeper repentance, for none of us are perfect yet.
Christ has harsh words for the Church of God in our time. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - " (Revelation 3:16-17).
Why is God's judgment against us so harsh? When God brings our ways upon us, when He judges us, what will be His biggest accusation against us? One of course is that we are lukewarm, not on fire for His way of life. But how is that lukewarmness manifest? Christ says we are wretched and blind and don't know it. What are we blind about? Why are we wretched? What are we lukewarm about?
Since Christ addresses this particular message to us, most of the Church of God today, more here than in the other messages, we should take these questions seriously.
What is our biggest sin? Is it laxness with the Sabbath? Is it watching too much TV? Is it abuse of alcohol? Is it neglect of prayer and Bible study and fasting?
Lukewarmness about God's way of life can certainly manifest itself in all those things.
But there is one major sin, and I emphasis that word "sin", because it is sin, that most of Church of God is guilty of, and I think that sin is greater than most other sins in the Church combined.
Sin is the transgression of the law. And the most important matter of the law is love. The two great commandments of the law are love towards God and love towards neighbor. "Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, ' "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets' " (Matthew 22:35-40).
The greatest sin in the Church of God, and one of the most prevalent, is the one of the most obvious, blatant, and serious violations of the law of love towards God and man we could possibly commit. I do not exclude myself, for I have been guilty and need a greater repentance in this particular matter, for though I write about it for others, I myself need greater zeal and love towards God and love towards man.
It is a sin we are guilty of more than any other era of the Church of God, because it has a unique application to our time today.
In a few years, hundreds of millions of people will go through a horrible period of death and agony, and we are too complacent about it. We are too content about it. We figure, if we pray and study and fast and do a pretty good job of obeying the ten commandments, if we support our Church ministry and leadership and respect authority, we will be in a place of safety, so "we" will be ok. So, never mind the physical and mental anguish of the American and British people who will suffer - our own countrymen, our neighbors, literally.
And never mind if everyone isn't warned before it happens. We have the warning, we know the truth, and we can protect ourselves by obeying God.
Are we loving our neighbors outside the Church as much as we love ourselves when we think that way? Are we loving God with all our being? Or are we loving ourselves more than our neighbors, more than God?
In the model prayer which Christ gave to His disciples to teach them how to pray, the first thing Christ mentioned was should pray for is that God's name be hallowed (Luke 11:1-2). God's name represents His reputation. We are to zealously desire that God's reputation for righteousness and fairness be protected and magnified. That won't happen if the warning does not go out to all the tribes of Israel who will go through the tribulation before it occurs, for it will not protect God's reputation for fairness if we, His servants, do not get the warning out while there is time for the people to repent and escape.
If we let them go into punishment without being warned that what they are doing, keeping Sunday, keeping Christmas and Easter, following their mainstream church traditions, is wrong in God's sight, it will seem to them that God was unfair, for they do not know that these things are wrong. They think they are pleasing God in what they are doing. And when they find out they were sinning and are being punished, won't they think God was unfair not to send someone to warn them?
We are certainly not showing love for our neighbors to let them get into a situation in which their repentance and possibly the salvation of some of them is endangered because the lack of warning and God's seeming unfairness becomes a stumbling block for them. We are not showing them love when we let them succumb to their enemy's deceptions, Satan's deceptions, when Satan accuses God of being unfair. Satan is our enemy as well as theirs, and we should protect them as much as we can.
We are not showing love when we see our neighbor mowing his lawn, say "hi" to him, and know that he and his family will suffer and be killed in a few years, and we are ok with that and with the idea that he and others like him may never hear the truth till it is too late for him to repent and escape the punishment.
When we face God in judgment, we have no excuse for what we are doing. We know the tribulation is coming. We know most of Israel has not heard a warning. We know we have the technical means and the legal freedom to warn them. And we know we are not going all out. That makes us guilty collectively and individually.
Are we going all out? No, most of us are not. Maybe none of us are really going all out. We all need to do more. I need to do more - I am coming to realize that.
God has put us in an interesting situation at the end of this age. It is like a "perfect storm" for the Church. He has put us in a situation where we can understand the need, if we just open our eyes and look. But he has also put us in a situation where the only way we know of, the way that works right now, to get that warning message out is to use money to finance mass communication through the Internet, printing and publishing, radio and TV broadcasting, and public speaking campaigns and Bible lectures. So we can give the warning to the degree we sacrifice financially.
But we don't like to sacrifice financially. It hurts. It does not make us happy to give up some of the things we love. We like our junk food, our desserts, our expensive preprocessed packaged foods. We like restaurants. We like our big, new cars, our comfortable houses, our nice furniture, our electronic gadgets, our nice clothes. We like our vacations. We like going out. We like having nice clothes. We like our movies and our TV programs, on DVDs (rented or purchases), on the Internet, or in theaters.
Considering the things we spend money on that we do not have to spend money on, considering what that money could accomplish in giving the warning to the public, do you think we are going all out? WE ARE NOT!
How can we justify that?
Some try by saying, this is not the time to preach the gospel. But God's knows that is just an excuse. Some say Mr. Armstrong finished that work and we don't have to do it. That is nonsense.
Some of us pray for the gospel and the warning to go out, then we give in to temptation and sin, knowing that our sins may hinder our prayers for the gospel. I have been guilty of that.
The biggest sin of the whole Church of God is lack of zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. It is really the most direct manifestation of self-centeredness and lack of love for others that there can be. It is blindness, and it is lukewarmness. And for that reason, if we do not repent, God will put us through the same tribulation we failed to warn the world about.
Our selfishness in this matter is wrong. We are hypocrites in our hearts. We claim to follow God's way of life, and sometimes we feel superior to others in the world, yet we may be more guilty of violating God's law of love than they are. No wonder Christ vomits us out of His mouth. No wonder He withholds spiritual healing. No wonder he does not give us a ministry that will work together to bring us together.
Satan's Number One Battleground
I think the issue of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel is Satan's number one battleground. He hates that message and wants by any means to prevent it from going out to the world.
The idea that we need to wait with preaching the gospel until the Church is spiritually healed and strengthened, is, in my opinion, one of Satan's most effective and powerful lies for waging war against God's Church. I am sure Satan loves that particular lie and promotes it in the Church of God at every opportunity. When I hear that lie being preached, I sense I am hearing the voice of God's enemy. I view ministers who strongly preach this kind of thinking as enemies of the gospel or tools in the hand of our number one enemy, Satan. Most of these ministers may not really be enemies. The enemy is the devil who deceives them into promoting his lies. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
So the enemy is Satan, not ministers who themselves can be deceived. But to the extent they are mistakenly deceived into that wrong way of thinking, they becomes weapons in the hand of the real enemy, Satan. Jesus called Peter, "Satan", when He recognized Satan's wrong way of thinking in the words that came out of Peter's mouth. Peter himself was not the enemy. But at that moment he was a tool in Satan's hands for tempting Jesus into not going through with His sacrifice (Matthew 16:21-23).
The gospel issue may be Satan's number one battleground in the Church of God, more than compromise with the commandments, more than government and voting, more than anything. Satan is furious with the truth of the gospel and does NOT want the American and British people to hear a warning before the tribulation begins. He wants the tribulation to fall on Americans and Britons WITHOUT them hearing a warning message first, because he has prepared his accusations against God for them to hear, thoughts of resentment and unfairness he and his demons are ready to pump into their minds: "It's not your fault." "You never had a chance." "God never warned you." "God is to blame for your suffering." "If God gave you a warning, of course you would have listened and obeyed, but God never gave you a chance to obey."
Satan will use any means, any minister, any group he can deceive into thinking, "this is not the time to preach the gospel", and Satan will use those ministers and groups to try to persuade others in the Church. To the extent he succeeds, he has a double bonus, for not only does he make God look unfair and make the repentance of Israel in the tribulation more difficult, but he brings guilt upon the Church for not warning, so the blood of those people will be on our heads.
There is a war going on over the gospel issue. It is a war between Satan and God's people. And what is going on in COGFC is just one battle in that war, and the brethren in COGaic and recently coming out of COGaic are the battleground. It is a battle for hearts and minds and also tithe money. I think Satan wants to tempt, deceive, and influence any person he can, minister or member, to whatever degree he is able to do, to divert tithe money to ANY purpose - feeding the flock, healing the Church, helping the poor, sending money to hurricane victims - ANYTHING, except preaching the gospel and warning the people of the United States and British nations about the tribulation to come if our nations do not repent.
Not that feeding the flock and helping the poor are bad. They are good, in balance, and in fact they are necessary, but when they become everything, and nothing is left to warn our nations, then it becomes bad, and that is what Satan wants.
Reconciliation between brethren sounds good, and it is good, providing we are not reconciling to Satan in the process. If you think that is harsh, consider that Jesus called Peter "Satan" when Peter tried to persuade Jesus not to be a sacrifice. It was not that Peter was really Satan. But Jesus knew, Peter was a mouthpiece for Satan's way of thinking at that moment. It was a wrong idea, a wrong way of thinking, one of Satan's weapons of attack, that was in Peter's mind at that moment, and Satan was able to use Peter as a tool to tempt Christ to not go through with that sacrifice. In a figurative sense, at that moment, Peter was an enemy of Christ, like Satan himself.
The seriousness of the controversy over the gospel might be more clear to the brethren if the debate was about the Sabbath. That is why I use it as an illustration. If some ministers were saying, let's not keep the Sabbath until the Church is healed, let's meet on Sundays and count the Sabbath as a workday until the Church is healed - would brethren put up with them? Not for one second. Yet in all honesty, I would not be surprised if Satan would be more pleased with a group that collected the members' tithes and did not preach the gospel and the warning than he would be pleased if they all kept Sunday but preached the gospel and the warning.
This is a war, like it or not. It is a war between Satan and his demons on one side and the Church on the other, and the war is over the gospel issue - Satan blocking the gospel with every means at his disposal, and Christ leading some in the Church to zealously try to get the gospel and the warning message out while there is time.
What is at stake? For God, His reputation for fairness and love is at stake - his name, in other words. For the Church, the stake is blood guilt if we do not warn the people. For the United States and other nations who will go through the tribulation, the stake is their repentance during the tribulation - will it be easier to repent because they remember the warning, or will it be harder for them because they think God is unfair? What will be their attitude at the beginning of the millennium if Satan convinces them during the tribulation that God was unfair because He didn't give them a warning? And since the survivors will be the first generation of Israel in the millennium, and Israel is to be the model nation to set an example for the world to follow, maybe the whole success of the millennium is at stake.
Some members of the Church of God are "on fire" for the gospel. But with some, that fire is not hot enough because they permit others who do not share that burning desire to get the message out to hold them back. Some brethren want to preach the gospel, but others say, "Yes, we will do it together with you, if you will just wait so we can do it together," and the brethren say, "Ok, I guess I can wait." Yet there is no Bible justification for waiting. Those who see the need compromise with those who don't. Why? For the sake of a false unity? Or because the fire in their belly isn't hot enough yet? It isn't hot enough because they allow others to cool it, to hold them back.
Disunity in the Church of God Is Not Our Biggest Problem
There is a common feeling and thought among members everywhere in the Church of God that we should all strive for unity in the Church of God. Brethren experience the effects of disunity personally when families and friends are divided, when young singles see limited opportunities to find mates because we are all scattered in competing groups, and in other ways. They also feel frustrated and disgusted with the way some leaders of groups attack each other and fight among themselves, as well they should. And because of this, they tend to feel that the number one problem in the Church of God is disunity. "Why can't we all get along?" "Why can't these ministers get along?" "If only we could all be together, everything would be great." And how can anyone argue in favor of disunity? Does not the Bible teach that division is bad? And so, many brethren seem to think that disunity is our number one problem.
I don't share that view. I understand it, but I don't share it. I do agree that ministers and leaders should not be harshly attacking each other. But disunity is not our number one problem, and unity will not get God's work done or heal the Church.
It is natural for Church of God members to think of division and scattering in the Church of God as problem numero uno because it affects them personally. But who among us has tasted the tribulation? Have you ever eaten your own children? Do you know of any members of the Church of God who, because of unemployment and hunger, have eaten one of their children?
Yet, this kind of suffering is waiting to come to about 500 million of our neighbors in the world in less time than you or I have been alive. I estimate we have about 10-15 years left. How short a time that is to finish the job God has given us! Where were you and what were you doing that many years ago? The year 2000 doesn't seem that long past to me, and from now till the tribulation is not that long into the future. Those 500 million people, about ten thousand times more people than everyone in all the Churches of God put together, need a WARNING. But the disunity that exists in the Church of God seems more real to most members than the tribulation.
I don't think the number one problem in the Church is disunity. I think the number one problem in the Church of God is lack of love and lack of zeal to get the warning message out.
There were 32,000 men who wanted to join Gideon to fight against Israel's enemies, but God narrowed it down to 300, and He did a more powerful work with those 300 than the 32,000 could have done on their own (Judges 7:1-8). God separated the 300 from the rest of the 32,000.
GOD DOES NOT WANT UNITY in the Church of God right now. He wants separation. He is testing us and he wants us to choose loyalty to Him and loyalty to His work more than loyalty to friends, relatives, ministers, and organizations. He wants us to really love our neighbors as ourselves, and He wants to test our love for our neighbors by our willingness to sacrifice for them. Because, before the tribulation, there will be at least two Church of God groups. There may be hundreds, but no matter how much we "come together", there will be at least two, and these two can never come together: Laodicea and Philadelphia. They cannot come together because they have different destinies. And if they come together today, they must separate tomorrow.
I think lack of zeal for preaching the gospel and the warning, the sin of simply accepting the idea that millions of our countrymen will suffer and be slaughtered without first hearing a warning, is the number one sin the Church of God as a whole needs to repent of. Everything else is small in comparison. Maybe I am wrong, but that is how I see it. I have read dozens of books on the Holocaust, and the tribulation will be worse.
How will most Church members wake up to the need? Maybe if every member read about 40 books about the Holocaust, as I have done, look at the pictures of near human skeletons who came out of the Nazi concentration camps, and then every time they go out and see their neighbors - the waitress at the restaurant, the people they work with at the office, the cashier at the supermarket who rings up their groceries - picture those people as living skeletons a few years from now, then they will see the need. Where is our compassion? How can we be so cold?
But if we don't see the need now, we will understand when we go through the tribulation ourselves. Then we will understand.
What a high price we will pay for our blindness and lukewarmness now.
Here are some posts related to this one:
"What Good Does It Do to Preach the Gospel If We Do Not Live It?", dated February 22, 2014, link:
"Heart-to-heart to Mr. Brian Orchard and Ministers of COGFC", dated February 24, 2014, link:
"Philadelphia Must Come Out of Laodicea", dated February 25, 2014, link:
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL? - A LESSON FROM THE HOLOCAUST
CHAPTER 5 - SHOULD THE CHURCH FEED THE FLOCK ONLY?