Wednesday, November 18, 2020

We Must Strive Hard to Overcome Sin

Last post, I asked the question, is it important to God that we practice what we preach to the public?  

It should be obvious to most of us who have read the Bible, but the answer is yes.  

It is God's pattern to teach by example as well as instruction.

God teaches us to love.  But He and Christ set the example when Christ paid the penalty for our sins with His suffering and death.  Paul said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).  See also 1 Corinthians 4:16, Philippians 3:17, and 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.  He instructed Timothy to be an example (1 Timothy 4:12).  Christ said to let our lights shine (Matthew 5:14-16).

Christ said that those who do not obey God will not be in the kingdom of God, though they may do wonderful works of healing, or casting out demons, or preaching to others.  "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.  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:21-23).

Notice also, "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 7:3-5).

Christ called the Pharisees hypocrites for laying burdens on others they were not willing to bear themselves.  "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.  Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.  For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matthew 23:1-4).

Does the Church of God have an open door for preaching the gospel?  Some of the Church does, no doubt for the sake of any Philadelphians within it.  But the door is not wide open.  It is open a little, like a door ajar, and we can squeeze through the opening to do a small work.  But it is not yet wide open for us to do the massive work of warning the nations that we have yet to do.  The door is not wide open for us today as it was for Mr. Armstrong.  We are not growing at 30% a year, and we are not reaching multiple millions with our literature.

I estimate that when you add up the adult populations of all the Israelite nations - the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, the state of Israel, and the Scandinavian countries, etc. - you come up with about 500 million people.  To warn that many people before the great tribulation while there is time for them to repent and escape the punishment, we need a door that is WIDE open, not open just a little.

But no individual or group in the whole Church of God has a door open that wide for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.


I suggest that with too many of us, we are not practicing what we preach, so God is not blessing us with a wide open door.

While we need to continue to preach the gospel and the warning to the world, we need to also work on ourselves to make sure we practice everything we are asking the public to do in our message.

I am going to suggest three areas where some of us fall short, both in the membership and the ministry.  Not all have these problems, but each of us should examine ourselves in these areas.

I will talk about one area in this post, and the other two areas in future posts.

Each of us needs to strive hard to overcome any personal sins we have.  Any of us who struggles with sin needs to go all out to overcome and quit sinning.  This is what we ask the public to do in our warning message.

To escape the great tribulation, the people in our nations need to repent and stop sinning, and they need to try hard to overcome sin.  We must do the same.

And we must not make the excuse to ourselves that it is too hard.

We must strive to overcome sin and our sinful human nature no matter how hard it is.  We must ask for and trust in God's help through His Holy Spirit at the same time as we go all out with our own efforts to resist temptation.  It is not a matter of God's power or our power.  We must use both.  Samson relied on God's power to help him overthrow the Philistine temple, but he also pushed with all his might (Judges 16:28-30).  It was God's power, probably more than 99%, plus Samson's power, probably less than 1%, that brought down the temple.  Samson's power was small, but if he had not made the effort, with all the strength he had, probably God would not have helped him.

How hard must we struggle against sin?

How hard would it be for millions of people in the world that we warn to repent and stop sinning?  Remember, most of them are not called.

How hard would it be for an uncalled person who hears our message to repent and escape the tribulation?

You might say, impossible.  Without God's calling, they cannot repent.


But remember Nineveh in the book of Jonah.

The Ninevites were not called to conversion in this life.  Yet, they repented and escaped the punishment.  How can we explain that?

The only way I can understand it is that they did not have the depth of repentance required for conversion, which requires God's calling, yet they were afraid of the punishment.  Their repentance was not deep and long lasting.  But they repented to some degree, and they changed their behavior at that time to escape the punishment.

And though their repentance was not deep enough for conversion, they heeded the message and repented to the degree they were able, and God honored their repentance by sparing them (Jonah 3:1-10).

The same thing could happen today.

Not with the majority, I am sure.  The great tribulation will come upon our nations.

But not everyone will necessarily scorn our message.  Some few may be afraid of the punishment and will try to repent and make changes in their lives.  And God may honor that kind of repentance, though not deep enough for conversion because God has not called them, by at least sparing them from the worst of the tribulation.  God can keep them alive and protect them from the worst of the suffering.  They may suffer, but not as much as those who make no effort to heed the warning.  They may be slaves, yet God may, in His mercy, let their captors show a little compassion.

God can make a difference between those who try to repent and make changes in their lives and those who laugh or rage against our warning message, even among those who are not called.

But how hard will it be for those people to repent and put their sins away without the help of God's Spirit even with them, much less in them?

It will be harder for them than for us.  

Yet that is what we are asking them to do with our warning message.

So we must also do what is hard.  We must overcome our sins no matter how great the difficulty and effort.  We struggle against sin at the same time we support and deliver God's warning message to the nations.

When we do what we ask others to do, God can begin to give us a wide open door to finish the work as He gave a wide open door to Mr. Armstrong.

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