This post addresses a particular problem in the Church of God in some fellowships, but there are points in this post that are good for all brethren for self-examination in preparation for Passover.
"But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:28).
Satan may have many lies to tell the Church of God, but there is one big one I have noticed that has taken root among many Church of God leaders, ministers, and members since the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
It has taken root and grown in more than one fellowship. It is a deadly dangerous lie, a lie that if believed, practiced, and not repented of, can send those who believe and practice that lie into the lake of fire. It is lie promoted by several ministers, whether or not those ministers believe the lie themselves.
Only God knows the hearts of the men who promote this lie. They themselves may be deceived by Satan into believing the lie, and thus are themselves victims of Satan's deception. They may be very sincere in thinking they are doing good, not knowing that what they teach is a lie and is doing harm to the membership. Or, they may know what they teach is a lie but promote it for the sake of a paycheck. Only God knows their motivation.
But the fruits of their teaching - the harmful results - are clearly visible.
The lie does harm in several ways. It divides the Church of God, for it separates those who believe and practice the lie from those who obey the truth. It has the potential to deceive members into accepting a false sense of closeness with God, while in reality they are falling farther away from God. These members, if they do not repent before the tribulation, may have their last chance to repent in the tribulation and admit that the closeness they felt with God while practicing this lie was an illusion, a deception. They may face the choice to repent at that time or lose their salvation in the lake of fire.
Can a person feel close to God, believe that he is close to God, believe he has made progress in being reconciled with God, yet be totally wrong and in effect not be close to God at all? Yes. Just look at the traditional churches of this world and their members. Many members of false religions and churches feel close to God. Yet in reality, the God they feel close to is the god of their imagination. They do not know the true God.
This may be hard for some who have grown up in the Church of God to understand. Never having been in families of the world that are deeply religious, they have no concept of the deep and sincere devotion of those who are deceived into a false concept of God by their wrong traditions.
Likewise, people in the Church of God can be deceived into thinking they are close to God when they are not. They may even be deceived into thinking they are moving closer to God, making real spiritual progress, when in truth they are moving farther from God and becoming more and more lost in deception, a deception that can lead them into the lake of fire if not repented of.
They think they are close to God even while they disobey God. "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
How can one be protected from Satan's lies or escape from his deceptions once in them?
There is one thing that separates the Church of God and its doctrines from the false religions of this world. That is the Bible. The Church of God bases its beliefs, doctrines, and practices on the word of God, the Bible. Many or most members have proved what they believe in the Bible, and most who have not proved them have learned them from traditions passed down to us from Mr. Armstrong, and he proved them from the Bible.
We should all follow the example of Mr. Armstrong and prove our beliefs in the Bible. We do this, not by accepting the interpretation of the Bible by men, but by letting the Bible interpret the Bible, getting all the scriptures on a subject and letting clear scriptures interpret difficult ones.
That is basic.
That is what Mr. Armstrong did, and that is what separates us from the false religions of the world.
Only the Bible is God speaking directly. Only the Bible is infallibly true. Men, even righteous men, can be wrong and make mistakes when they try to teach on God's behalf apart from the word of God (see Nathan's mistake in 1 Chronicles 17:2, and see 1 Chronicles 17:1-4 to get the context). Mr. Armstrong made mistakes.
But God does not make mistakes. His word, the Bible, is true and can be trusted.
"Thus says the Lord: 'Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the Lord. 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word' " (Isaiah 66:1-2).
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him" (Proverbs 30:5).
"But He answered and said, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" ' " (Matthew 4:4).
The Bible also says that scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).
As we see the world around us go deeper and deeper into deception, what is our anchor? It is not knowing who and what we are, as one minister stated. It is the Bible. God's word must be our anchor. Thinking we know who and what we are is inward, focusing on the self, relying on the self, as if we somehow can know the truth apart from God's word. Also, knowing who we are does not directly protect us from false doctrines and false ideas in the Church. But the Bible will protect us if we make the sacrifice of our time to diligently look up all the scriptures on any important subject and let the Bible interpret the Bible.
Letting the Bible be our guide is an antidote for Satan's deceptions.
Therefore, those who promote Satan's big lie often neglect teaching real respect for the Bible. They may pay lip service to the Bible, they will almost certainly cherry pick and quote scriptures to support their position, but they do not teach by example and admonition the principle of getting all the scriptures on a subject and letting the Bible interpret the Bible.
But if they try to diminish the importance of the Bible, they often seek a substitute for the Bible. In some cases, that substitute may be a misrepresentation of the role and teaching of the Holy Spirit.
They talk about truth, but they seldom, if at all, say that our source of truth is the Bible. They may talk about the truth as if we know the truth only as it comes to us from the Father through the Holy Spirit or through Christ, but they leave God's word, the Bible, out of the equation. Mr. Armstrong did not do that.
Such false teachers may try to persuade their members that the ideas they have about doctrine and practice, ideas planted by the same false teachers in their sermons, are from the Holy Spirit. Yet, those very ideas are in contradiction to the Bible when you get all the scriptures on that subject and let the Bible interpret the Bible.
Who do you want to believe? God speaking to us directly thru the Bible? Or, do you prefer to believe the voice in your head that helps you feel spiritual and think you are drawing closer to and being reconciled with God? Do you want to believe the voice of men who put ideas and doctrines into your mind but not diligently, carefully, and thoroughly proving them from the Bible?
Do you want to attribute these thoughts and ideas and spiritual feelings to God's Holy Spirit but without proving them in the Bible?
How do you know these things are from the Holy Spirit?
Don't you know that hundreds of thousands, probably millions of members of this world's traditional churches have the same sense in their minds that they are being led into a close relationship with God by the Holy Spirit? Yet they believe and practice things directly contrary to the Bible.
We have no excuse. We have the Bible. Proving doctrine in the Bible is hard work. But God wants us to fear Him and respect His word enough to do it.
Being raised in the Church of God and its doctrinal traditions is, by itself, no protection against Satan's deceptions if we don't follow the example of Herbert W. Armstrong, from which we get our traditions, and do the hard work of proving what we believe from the Bible.
If we truly believe and love God, we will diligently seek answers to every important question and issue in the Bible and seek to live by every word of God.
And if we reject the Bible and instead heed the voice of men, even those ministers in the Church of God who teach but not by the Bible, what protection do we have against Satan's deceptions? "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; So what wisdom do they have?" (Jeremiah 8:9).
There is no indication that God will protect anyone from Satan's deceptions if he trusts in men more than in God and God's word, the Bible. "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord....Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord" (Jeremiah 17:5-7).
We cannot trust our own thoughts, feelings, and opinions apart from the Bible, for we still have human nature, and that human nature is deceptive. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
What is Satan's big lie I have been speaking of?
God has given the Church of God a perfect test. We are being tested directly on God's law of love. We either love or we don't love - that is a test.
The whole law of God, the whole way of life God teaches us, is love.
" '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 22:36-40).
What of the man who says (or thinks) that he loves God but does not love his neighbor? He is kidding himself, for if he does not love his neighbor, he does not love God either. "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also" (1 John 4:20-21).
Love is such an important part of God's nature and the nature we must have to be in God's kingdom that John says, in two places, "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16).
So God has given us a perfect test. If we love our neighbors, we will sacrifice for their good. If not, God will know.
And Satan attacks us and seeks to deceive us on that very point.
And if we fail that test, if we do not love our neighbors, all the spiritual feeling and emotion and sense of being close to God, aided and inspired by ministers who promote Satan's big lie, will be less than worthless. It will do us no good at all. For God will reject us from being in God's kingdom if we do not repent.
Do you think someone can end up in the lake of fire after feeling close to God, after thinking they were serving God? If you think that is not possible, I suggest you read Matthew 25:41-46, Matthew 7:21-27, Luke 6:46, and John 16:2. These are good passages to review for Passover in any case, to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28).
We are not being tested on our feelings, emotions, and opinions on how to serve God and do His work to determine if we will be saved. We are not being tested on feeling close to God and thinking we are being reconciled with the Father. We are being tested on putting love into action.
It is action that counts, that tests our love, if it is real or not. We have long been taught in the Church of God that love is not just a feeling. James points this out in his example of serving a brother who is in need of food or clothing. "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" (James 2:15-16).
James gives the example of someone in need of food and clothing, but the principle applies to every need. Love is not just a feeling of compassion for the needs of others. It is a motivation that leads to action to actually help others with the sacrifice of our time, service, money, possessions, and anything else we have that can help. Feeling sorry for others, but doing nothing to help even when we have opportunity, is not love.
Obviously we have to balance needs against needs. We have to prioritize and make judgment calls. We have limited opportunities and resources, and we may have to let some needs be unfulfilled for the sake of filling more important needs. We do not let our children starve to help hurricane victims, for example.
But the people of this world have a great need that is worth the sacrifice of our time and money.
Mr. Armstrong said in his book, The Incredible Human Potential, chapter one, that in Satan's mind it is necessary that he go all out to suppress the true gospel message from going out into the world. Satan hates the gospel message, and tries his utmost to suppress it from going to the world and to Israel.
Satan has always hated the gospel. But today we live in a unique time. For the first time since the beginning of man the first generation in the millennium is mostly already alive. Many or most of those who will survive the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord and live into the millennium, to become the first generation in the millennium, are alive today.
And the Church has an open door, if we are willing to go through it, to teach that first generation in the millennium and prepare them for repentance.
We thus have an effect, by our action or inaction now, on the millennium itself.
Those nations we know of as Israel, including the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, have a need to be warned about the tribulation to come if they do not repent of their sins.
How great is that need?
About as great as any need can be.
The people need to be warned, whether they believe the warning or not, whether they are called or not. Why?
We know that when Christ returns to set up His kingdom over the earth and Satan is bound, these people, our neighbors alive today who live into the millennium, will be called.
Can you grasp the importance of that? The people we see on the street, the hundreds of millions of the descendents of Jacob alive today, are all future prospective members of the Church of God if they survive the tribulation and Day of the Lord.
And they will remember if they hear a warning message and the true gospel from us, or not!
But what good does it do for them to hear our message if they do not heed it at this time?
It does a lot of good, in fact, it does tremendous harm if we do not give them our message, harm that can cost both us, and them, salvation itself.
Some, who could have been saved, are likely to be lost in the lake of fire if we do not deliver God's message.
God's reputation for love and fairness is at stake. The people need to learn to trust the true God of the Bible. They need to know that God was fair and merciful to give them a warning before punishing them. In fact, that warning is vitally necessary for the millions of members of tradition churches who do not even know they are doing wrong.
During the tribulation, these people will need to repent and trust God. But how hard that will be if they know God let them go into the tribulation, a severe punishment for doing the things that traditional churches think is right, without giving them a warning first to give them a chance to repent and escape the punishment.
All through the Bible God demonstrates His fairness in giving warnings before punishments. He did not just tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of good and evil - He also warned them of the consequences if they did (Genesis 2:16-17). He warned Cain before he killed Abel that sin lied at the door but he should rule over it (Genesis 4:6-7).
God's pattern of warning continues through the Bible. God did not let the people of Nineveh go into punishment without a warning, but made Jonah give the warning, and the Ninevites repented and did not have to be punished - see the whole book of Jonah to see God's mercy towards Nineveh in giving the warning.
God's warnings show His mercy, compassion, justice, and fairness, and therefore glorify His name.
In telling Ezekiel to give a warning, God says, "And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, 'Thus says the Lord God,' whether they hear, or whether they refuse" (Ezekiel 3:11).
Notice - "Whether they hear, or whether they refuse" - the delivery of the message does not depend on whether the people heed the warning or not - God's warning message is to be delivered anyway.
Why? When those who refuse to heed the warning are punished, they will remember that God was fair, just, and merciful to give a warning, and that glorifies God's name.
Christ teaches us to pray that God's name be glorified - "Hallowed be Your name" (Matthew 6:9) - but glorifying God's name involves more than just praying - it involves action to deliver the message that God wants delivered, which message itself glorifies God's name and reputation for fairness, justice, and mercy.
Put yourself in the position of a person who is punished in the tribulation. The purpose of the tribulation is to bring the people to repentance. Yet, how much harder will that be if they never hear a warning first. How much harder will it be for them to trust God and accept responsibility for their own sins, an important step towards repentance, if they think God purposely let them go into punishment without letting them first know that the wrong religious practices they are keeping - pagan holidays, breaking the Sabbath and holy days, etc. - are wrong.
What is better - that they say to themselves, "God is not fair to punish me, I never knew these things were wrong - no one warned me - God never gave me a chance to repent", or that they say to themselves, "God was fair to warn me - I heard God's warning and I ignored it - this is my fault - I should have listened"? Which scenario glorifies and hallows God's name and reputation?
God's warnings continue in the Bible right through the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:18-19).
From Genesis to Revelation God shows His fairness by warning. In reference to the prophets who gave warnings, God uses the saying, "rising up early and sending them" to show His commitment to the warning message. "And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place" (2 Chronicles 36:15). Notice, God's motive for warning was compassion. Also see Jeremiah 7:13, 26:5, 29:19, 32:33, 35:15 for that expression, "rising up early".
God also emphasizes that when the punishment comes, the people will remember the warning. "As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse - for they are a rebellious house - yet they will know that a prophet has been among them" (Ezekiel 2:5). See also Ezekiel 33:33. It was important to God that ancient Israel know that he sent them prophets to warn them, whether they heed the warning or not.
This can have a direct bearing on the salvation of those who go through the tribulation. When the time comes when God requires their repentance, if their repentance is more difficult because they think God was unfair to give a warning, more of the people may fail to repent and then lose out on salvation. When God gives the Church a warning message to deliver, if that message is not delivered as God intended, some may go into the lake of fire who might otherwise have been saved.
Would you want to have it on your conscience that someone, perhaps many people, lost their salvation and went into the lake of fire partially because you refused to do your part to deliver God's warning message?
What a responsibility that places on the Church of God!
And no wonder Satan wants to go all out to block the true gospel message and the warning from going out to the world and to Israel, as Mr. Armstrong said.
God has given the Church of God the responsibility for preparing the first generation of Israel in the millennium for the tribulation to come by warning them of what they are doing wrong now while they have time to repent. "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).
This is God's message, not ours. We are only the delivery man or mailman delivering God's message. It is God doing the correcting, not us. But if people are lost because we refuse or fail to deliver God's warning, then we bear the responsibility. God will deal with us as we deal with others, and if we fail to show compassion to the people of Israel to deliver God's warning, then God may not show compassion to us. If we refuse to do our part to help save people from the lake of fire, God may allow us to be lost in the lake of fire.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).
We must be overcomers, as Christ says to all seven of the churches of Revelation (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21). See also Revelation 21:7-8.
How does one overcome? This is an appropriate question for Passover time. Many struggle with sin and want to know how to overcome.
There is one passage that directly states as a prophecy how Christians will overcome, using the word "overcame". "And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death" (Revelation 12:11).
This helps illustrate the two-fold nature of our salvation. Part of it is God's mercy to forgive us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven. We must rely on that forgiveness, having faith in Christ and His sacrifice. But part is what we do. We must make the effort to live according to every word of God (Matthew 4:4).
Revelation 12:11 shows that the Christians at that time overcome Satan by relying on the forgiveness of God through the sacrifice of Christ, the subject of Passover, which is coming up shortly and for which we should be examining ourselves. But it also shows that they overcome him, "by the word of their testimony". This seems to be in the immediate context of martyrdom, because it says, "and they did not love their lives to the death". But a wider context also applies. We can sacrifice our lives, as a living sacrifice, giving of our time and money and resources, to give the word of our testimony now, as God commands, to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
What do you think? If we have the opportunity to give the word of our testimony to the world now, though it requires sacrifice of our time, money, and comfort, but refuse to do so, would we then have the courage to give the word of our testimony later and be martyred for it? If we don't do it now, why think we would be faithful later?
What is Satan's big lie?
His lie is this: This is not the time for the Church of God to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel (from Satan's point of view, it is never the time). Instead, the Church of God should inwardly focus on itself, drawing closer to God (but without obeying what God says in the Bible), being reconciled with the Father (without doing His will according to His word the Bible), being prepared as the bride of Christ (but without obeying Christ), and being led by the Holy Spirit (but without checking in the Bible to see if it is really the Holy Spirit that is leading us).
This lie, if followed, will not only block the gospel and warning God wants delivered to Israel before the tribulation, for their good, but it can spiritually destroy the Church of God members who follow this lie. Whether they realize it or not, Church of God members who swallow this lie are rejecting God's law of love, the law that says you shall love your neighbor as yourself, the very foundational principle of God's holy law and way of life. They focus inwardly, on themselves, to save themselves, but neglect their responsibility to believe and obey the Bible and to do God's commandments and will in preaching the gospel to the world. They think God's Spirit is leading them in this, but how can it be, for the Holy Spirit will never contradict the Bible.
God gives the Church the commission to preach the gospel and the warning. There are many scriptural passages that make this clear, as I have made plain in my book, Preaching the Gospel - see chapters 3, 4, and 5 - and as I have shown in many posts in this blog related to this subject - see links at the end of this post.
Moreover, a diligent searching of scriptures shows that the need to "make oneself right with God", or "reconcile with the Father", or "get the beam out of our eye before correcting others" is NOT a valid reason for neglecting or postponing delivery of God's message and God's correction to the world.
Bible examples show that God uses imperfect and sometimes unrighteous servants to deliver His message. God used Jonah to deliver a warning, even though Jonah showed by his behavior and attitude that he was carnal and lacked love for the people of Nineveh. God used even Judas to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons, even though Judas was not right with God. Saying, "We have to get our own act together before we preach to others", is no excuse. In fact, it is a ridiculous argument, though those who swallow it can't seem to see that.
One minister said that having a great media program to preach the gospel will do no good if we are not reflecting the mind of God. Apparently, this minister disregards the Bible teaching on this through the example of Jonah. Jonah did NOT reflect the mind of God, even after he delivered God's message to Nineveh. He wanted the Ninevites to be destroyed and was disappointed that they repented and God spared them. That certainly does not reflect the mind of God. Yet, was his warning of no avail? On the contrary, his warning message produced probably the greatest example of mass repentance in the history of mankind - about 120,000 repented.
You can't reconcile with God by disobeying Him or saying to God, "We will obey you later".
And if a Church of God fellowship obeys God by preaching the gospel to the world, who does the preaching? Is it not the same ministers that preach to the Church membership on the Sabbath?
Are those ministers clean in God's sight? Have they reconciled with the Father? If so, they have no excuse for not preaching to the public. But if they are not clean with God, if they think they need to reconcile more with the Father and draw closer to God before they can preach to the public, WHAT RIGHT DO THEY HAVE TO PREACH TO THE MEMBERSHIP ON THE SABBATH?
A pastor who says he will not preach to the public because he needs to first reconcile to the Father, yet gives sermons to his membership on the Sabbath - is he a hypocrite or not?
If you are unqualified to preach to the public, you are unqualified to preach to the membership.
And how long does it take to repent and be reconciled with the Father? Three years? Nowhere does the Bible picture repentance as requiring years. Repentance can take place quickly. On Pentecost, about 3,000 were baptized that same day (Acts 2:40-41).
If a minister feels he cannot preach to the public because of his personal sins or neglect of seeking a close relationship with God and reconciling with the Father, let him repent now, today, in one day, and start preaching the gospel to the world. And if he cannot do that, let him stop giving sermons to the membership until he does. Because, if his personal sins or lukewarm relationship with God disqualifies him from preaching to the world as he may claim, then it also disqualifies him from preaching to any Church of God congregation.
Do you want to be taught by a minister who says that his personal sins or his lukewarm attitude towards God disqualifies him from preaching the gospel to the world? If that is the case, how can you trust his teaching to the Church of God?
Yet, there is this difference between preaching to the world and preaching to the Church of God. If the minister preaches to the Church, that brings in tithe and offering income (for a minister will not receive tithes if he does not serve his congregation). Thus, preaching to the Church brings money that the minister can take as salary. But if he preaches to the world, that act of preaching the gospel removes money from being available for the minister's salary, because it take money to preach the gospel.
Church of God fellowships that effectively preach the gospel generally spend about a third to a half of their income on preaching the gospel.
Satan backs up his big lie with arguments.
One is that we preach the gospel to the world by our example, and that is sufficient.
This is so ridiculous, I am astounded anybody falls for it.
Our example simply does not reach out to hundreds of millions of people to, "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).
In fact, our personal example seldom reaches out to even very many of our small circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances to really convict them of their sins and inform them of the punishment to come if they do not repent.
How many people do you personally know? Maybe a hundred? How many have learned from your example that if they don't stop keeping Christmas and Easter and don't start keeping the weekly Sabbath and Holy Days, they will be punished in the great tribulation? Twenty people? Ten? Five? Even one? Compare that with about 500 million Israelites who need to hear that message.
Even if you set a perfect example at all times, that by itself will not get the gospel message out.
Look at the example of Jesus Christ. Did He set a good example in the first 30 years of his life? Of course! Did that example get the gospel message out? Even those who saw his example for thirty years, his family members and the people of his town and neighborhood, did not believe Him when He actually began to preach the gospel (John 7:5, Matthew 13:54-58, Mark 6:2-6, Luke 4:16-29). Even to the degree those few people were witnessed to by the example of Jesus, it was necessary that Christ speak to the crowds, and He set an example for us by doing so.
But the people who swallow Satan's lie do not take the time and effort to look up passages like the above. They do not much care what the Bible says. They are satisfied to think that the Holy Spirit is leading them, so why look to the Bible for answers?
Are we doing God's work by reconciling with the Father alone? Is that sufficient?
Reconciling with the Father, drawing closer to God, and overcoming our human nature and Satan, are all certainly part of the work we are to do as Christians. But not only is it not sufficient to only do these things while neglecting the preaching of the gospel to help others, it is impossible. We cannot draw closer to God while we disobey Him. And even if we could, that is not enough. We have to preach the gospel too.
And if we practice God's fundamental command to love our neighbors as ourselves, this is not hard to understand. But if this does not make sense to someone, I think that is a strong warning sign to that person that he is not loving his neighbors as himself, and that is a subject of self-examination for that person in preparation for Passover.
A person who loves his neighbor will want to share the truth with him.
Does reconciling with the Father, seeking God in every way, drawing closer to God, and overcoming our sins and our human nature enhance our power to preach the gospel? Yes, absolutely. God will give more power to those who obey Him in all the points of His law.
But we do both at the same time. We MUST do both at the same time. If we need to improve our relationship with God, then our gospel-preaching at first may not be very powerful. Still, it will have some effect. Judas preached the gospel and Jonah gave a warning that was very effective. Then as we draw closer to God over time, God can bless us with more power to do what we are already doing - preaching the gospel.
It is ironic that one or more groups that refuse to preach the gospel may also claim to be seeking the unity of the whole Church of God, implying they want to be a focus point for other groups to come together. It is ironic because their very policy of not preaching the gospel to the world divides the Church of God. It divides that group and those who are deceived by the ministers in that group from those who are zealously trying to preach the gospel with all their might and are walking through the open doors God is giving them.
Moreover, the deception can spread to many COG members outside the group who listen to that group. There may be many stay-at-home members or members of many fellowships who may listen to these messages that promote Satan's lie, and they may be deceived by them if they are weak. They can be discouraged from supporting the gospel, thinking, "this is not the time".
So it is not just the members of a fellowship that does not preach the gospel who are deceived. Any weak member in the whole Church of God can be deceived if he listens to the message on the Internet.
And it is the members of such a group who support the pastor who does the preaching. Do they not also have a responsibility in spreading Satan's lie?
There is more.
There is an additional connection between de-emphasizing the Bible and refusing to preach the gospel. I already said that those who refuse to preach the gospel must also not follow the Bible, for the Bible commands the preaching of the gospel.
But the very act of not following the Bible as a guide to truth disqualifies such a group from preaching the gospel very effectively.
The only way we can effectively warn and preach the gospel to the millions of members of traditional churches, who have doctrines diametrically opposite to the Bible, is to say to them, as Mr. Armstrong did, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible".
But we can't say that to them if we don't follow the Bible ourselves. We would be hypocrites.
If we only rely on our own sense that we think or feel that God's Spirit is leading us into truth, Catholics and Protestants cannot accept that, for what proof can we give them that we are led by the Holy Spirit?
The Bible-gospel connection comes full circle. Those who refuse to preach the gospel must reject the Bible. And then their rejection of the Bible disqualifies them from preaching the gospel effectively.
Moreover, those who refuse to share the truth God has given us with the outside world violate an importance principle from God. "Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:7). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God has not given us His truth, called us to His salvation as the firstfruits, opened our minds to understand His truth, just so we can hold on to it for ourselves. He intended from the beginning that we would share it with others, for two reasons. One, Israel and the world need the warning and the true gospel, especially Israel, so they can be prepared for the tribulation, to be ready for repentance and conversion, so they can be a model nation in the millennium for the rest of the world to follow. But also, by freely giving to others as God has given to us, we are learning God's give way of life by practicing it.
But if we selfishly hold on to the truth only for ourselves, not willing to share it with others as God has shared it with us, the principle of reaping what we sow can come into play, and God can remove His protection from our minds and let Satan deceive us - we can lose the truth we have. That is a great danger.
The Church has a great work to do, and that work glorifies the Father in two ways. It is a two-fold work of overcoming ourselves, Satan, and society and of preaching the gospel and the warning message to the world.
One, we need to develop God's character and nature of love, which is practicing the give way of life. One way we practice the give way of life, probably the most important way, is sharing the precious truth God has given us with others, preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to all the nations of Israel as God has commanded.
Two, the very work of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public glorifies God's name and reputation, for it shows His fairness and compassion and goodness for the people of the world in that He gives them fair warning before punishing them for their sins.
Preaching the gospel to the world glorifies the Father. Refusing to preach the gospel as He commands dishonors Him.
And trying to preach the gospel only by our example quite obviously is not reaching the millions who need to hear the truth. Jesus Christ did not preach the gospel only by His example and Paul did not preach the gospel only by his example. They went out and preached to the crowds, and we must do the same with whatever opportunities, including the opportunities of technology, God gives us.
Rather, to rely only on our example is an excuse for inaction. It is an excuse for refusing to make the sacrifices needed now to preach the gospel to the masses.
In fact, we are setting a horrible example for the world if we hold the truth only for ourselves and do not preach the gospel to the world. Apart from the Bible, we cannot properly even evaluate our own example. We might think we are setting a good example, just like millions of Catholics and Protestants might think they are setting a good example by observing Sunday, Christmas, and Easter. But we can only evaluate our example by the Bible - there is no other way. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
And those who want to rely on an "inner voice" apart from the Bible, assuming without proof that this inner voice is the Holy Spirit, should consider this, that if they disobey the clear instructions of God in the Bible, they can diminish the influence of the Holy Spirit in their minds and even lose the Holy Spirit.
"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:4-6).
God has given us, through the Bible, His truth about His law, about true doctrine, and prophesied events to come. That is a precious gift God has given us, and He gave it to the Church by working with Mr. Armstrong who was diligent to believe and practice what he found and was able to prove in the Bible. And what Mr. Armstrong found in the Bible and put into practice included a zeal for preaching the gospel to the world. That zeal for preaching the gospel bore fruit in those who heard Mr. Armstrong and followed his admonition and example by proving also for themselves in the Bible that the things Mr. Armstrong taught from the Bible are true. And they did this before they were baptized. And those same people sacrificed to support the preaching of the gospel with their tithes and offerings. That is how you and I know the truth today.
God has given us His truth because He wants us to do a work, not only of overcoming, but of preaching the gospel to the world.
And this is certainly a test, and we do not have an unlimited amount of time. Those who are not supporting the preaching of the gospel but instead are supporting a fellowship that teaches by its bad example against preaching the gospel may be losing the measure of the Holy Spirit God has given them little by little and substituting a false, deceptive feeling of spirituality. For some, it may be too late already.
Let's do what God tells us in the Bible. Let's preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to a world that needs it. Let us do this from a motive of love, loving our neighbors as God commanded. Let us freely give to others the truth that God has given to us. Let us sacrifice to do so as Christ sacrificed Himself for us and as the Father sacrificed His Son for us.
Some try to make it a choice between overcoming ourselves while we draw closer to God and preaching the gospel to the world effectively with mass media. It is not an either/or choice. We must do both.
Some have speculated that God will provide some other way for the gospel to reach the masses without mass media. Perhaps. But as of today, mass media is the only way to reach the masses, and we have to work with what we have today. Not every organization can afford a massive campaign, but every organization can start where they are with Internet advertising, devoting one-third to one-half of their income to preach the gospel, or else contribute to a COG organization that already has an effective mass media program. Mr. Armstrong started small, but God blessed the work in his day, and it grew. The same can be true today.
Don't be confused by the argument, "We cannot afford a massive media program". There is a difference between a mass media program and a massive media program. You don't have to start large to be effective, but you do have to use media that reaches the masses: Internet, radio, television, or magazine advertising, for example. Television can be expensive to start, but the Internet isn't. Any fellowship can start Internet pay-per-click advertising with a few hundred dollars. If the writing is effective and if God blesses the work, money spend on such a program can be just as effective dollar-per-dollar in bringing in prospective members and giving the public a warning as the money that large organizations spend.
And if backed with faith and obedience, such a program can grow as God blesses it, no matter how small it starts. "For who has despised the day of small things?" (Zechariah 4:10). " 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?....The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the Lord of hosts. 'And in this place I will give peace,' says the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:3-9).
"Another parable He put forth to them, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" (Matthew 13:31-32).
Remember the widow's mite. "And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, 'Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had' " (Luke 21:1-4).
Though her offering was small, in God's eyes it was great because she sacrificed. It was not easy for her.
And that is another key. Our efforts to support the preaching of the gospel, besides accompanied by faith and obedience, should involve sacrifice. An organization that only spends 5% of its income on preaching the gospel is not doing much. An organization that spends 40% of its income on preaching the gospel is doing a lot. That may require ministers to receive smaller salaries, and in that sense is a sacrifice for the ministers.
Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, volume 1, to see how small he started doing the work with the radio broadcast and Plain Truth magazine. But that work grew because Mr. Armstrong was obedient to the God of the Bible and because he had faith and trusted God to prosper the work.
For a small fellowship to say, we cannot afford to preach the gospel through mass media, is nonsense. You can start small, in faith, as Mr. Armstrong did.
It is actually easier today than it was in Mr. Armstrong's time. Any fellowship can do it if it is willing to pay the price.
And any individual can give half or 40% of his tithes and offerings to an larger fellowship, such as Living Church of God, that is already preaching the gospel and warning effectively through mass media.
I encourage every reader of this blog to go all out, from whatever position or situation you are in at this moment, to support the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, no matter how small a scale you have to start with. And if you are already doing that, consider sacrificing more.
If you need to repent of your lack of faith, love, and zeal for the gospel, then this is the season to do it. Examination of one's self in preparation for Passover should include self-examination on the subject of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world, for this is an important aspect and test of obedience to the commandment, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
For if you do not sacrifice to share the truth of God with the world, how can you claim to love your neighbors? And if you do not love your neighbor, how can you claim to love God?
Many of the points I have made in this post are made in greater detail with scriptural proofs in other posts in this blog related to this subject. Here is a list of links to those posts. If you feel I have not given enough scriptural evidence on anything in this post, I encourage you to go through this list for more detail. Although some of these posts address situations in a particular fellowship, it is the general principle I address in this post and it is proof of the general principle, regardless of fellowship, that these posts can provide.
Each of the below listed posts may also contain lists of related posts. Look for subjects you want more Bible proof on.
"New Church Coming out of COGaic and 'Mutual Submission' ", dated January 5, 2014, link:
" 'Beam in the Eye', and Preaching the Gospel to the World", dated January 14, 2014, link:
"Decision Time for Ex-COGaic Ministers and Brethren - Where Will they Stand?", dated January 17, 2014, link:
"Will the Nine "Mutually Submit" to Some among the Fifty?", dated January 22, 2014, link:
"Fasting to Know God's Will and Isaiah 58:6-8", dated February 6, 2014, link:
"The Importance of the Identity of Israel Doctrine", dated February 8, 2014, link:
"Has God Made the Church an "Ezekiel Watchman" for Israel?", dated February 13, 2014, link:
"Update on Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC)", dated February 19, 2014, link:
"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:
"What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:
"Update on Church of God, a Family Community Open House", dated March 3, 2014, link:
"Brian Orchard's Bible Study on Repentance", dated March 16, 2014, link:
"LCG Announcement of Hiring former-COGFC Ministers - Wrap-up with COGFC", dated March 18, 2014, link:
"Do Our Choices Really Affect the Preaching of the Gospel?", dated May 16, 2014, link:
"Pentecost: Stirring Up the Holy Spirit / How the Holy Spirit Leads the Church and Us Individually in Doctrine, Policy, and Decisions", dated June 5, 2014, link:
"Pentecost Is a Memorial of Preaching the Gospel", dated June 12, 2014, link:
"Avoiding a Spirit of Hostile Competition / Church of God, a Family Community at Six Months", dated June 26, 2014, link:
"Suggestion for COGFC Members Contributing Articles for a Website to Preach the Gospel", dated July 25, 2014, link:
"Philadelphia's Open Door - Does It Apply to Individual Members?", dated September 17, 2014, link:
"Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC) at One Year", dated January 1, 2015, link:
"How Do You Know God Leads Your Understanding of the Bible?", dated January 4, 2015, link:
"COGFC Direction", dated January 13, 2015, link:
"Is Matthew 24:14 a Command to Preach the Gospel to the World as a Witness?", dated March 26, 2015, link:
"Did Worldwide Go "All Out" to Preach the Gospel?", dated March 28, 2015, link:
"Showing Mercy", dated April 9, 2015, link:
"What Is Wrong with Preaching the Gospel Only by Example?", dated May 3, 2015, link:
"Motivations to Obey God", dated May 15, 2015, link:
"The Meaning of Pentecost", dated May 19, 2015, link:
"Paradigm Shift from Herbert W. Armstrong to the Father's Call - a Case Study in Progress", dated June 21, 2015, link:
"Why Does God Communicate to Us through the Bible Today, More than through Miracle-working Apostles and Prophets as He Did in the First Century and Before?", dated August 14, 2015, link:
"Oral Tradition in Israel and the Church of God", dated November 12, 2015, link:
"Did God Put You Where You Are in the Church, and Should You Stay There?", dated February 18, 2016, link:
"How Can We Recognize the Difference between God's Inspiration and Satan's Temptations and Deceptions in Our Minds?", dated March 17, 2016, link:
"God Did Not Call Us to Be Passive in Our Obedience", dated May 15, 2016, link:
"Pentecost Teaches Us Many Things", dated June 10, 2016, link:
"Ben Carson Delivers the Ezekiel Warning", dated July 20, 2016, link:
"Will God Use Those Who Do Not Reflect His Mind to Preach the Gospel and the Ezekiel Warning to the World?", dated August 5, 2016, link:
"Evaluating Our Example", dated August 17, 2016, link:
"A Technique for Deception", dated August 23, 2016, link:
"The Gospel and How to Preach It", dated September 9, 2016, 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?