Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Technique for Deception

How can a pastor deceive his congregation on some major point or principle?

Only God can read minds and fully know a pastor's motives. The pastor may be intentionally trying to deceive his congregation, or the pastor may be sincere and himself a victim of Satan's deceptions. The pastor may actually believe a change in doctrine is needed and may be trying to persuade his congregation as well as he can, thinking he is only persuading them to believe the truth. Nevertheless, he can deceive them if he himself is deceived. On the other hand, the pastor may be deliberately lying, and members need to be on guard against deception in any case.

Here is a technique. I am not advocating this technique, but we should be aware of this technique so we do not become a victim of it if someone tries to use it against us. I have observed this technique being used.

Not everything a liar says is a lie. In fact, the most effective liars tell the truth most of the time. That is how they build credibility. They will tell you the truth about 99 things, to make you trust them, then slip in the one lie that they wanted to tell you all the time. Their lie has a better chance of being believed if it is surrounded by 99 truths.

Then, oftentimes the lie can be taught in a hidden way by ignoring the truth on that point, denying it by implication but not by directly contradicting it. By omitting the teaching of a doctrine in a context in which it is expected, you diminish it in the minds of the listeners.

If you fail to teach a doctrine of the Church of God, any doctrine, eventually it will diminish and perhaps disappear. If there is no regular reinforcement, it will not be permanent.

Over time, you can destroy a doctrine by silence.

Finally, all this can be aided by teaching a culture of change, teaching members to question the past, to kind of wipe the slate clean and start fresh. This can be disguised with a cloak of humility, emphasizing the limitations of our human thinking in the past, our collective mistakes and shortcomings, our need for repentance and change, the need for God to teach us His truth, and our need to be open to what God has to teach us.

Some of the things I say may sound familiar to those who were in Worldwide Church of God after the death of Mr. Armstrong.

I will use an example. Suppose a speaker wants to reverse the doctrine of believing the Bible. Instead of believing the Bible, he wants his congregation to believe Church of God traditions plus whatever the minister tells them. He does not want his members to be checking up on things in the Bible to see if they are really true.

Now, that would be a major change in the Church of God. Our beliefs and our culture are based on believing what the Bible says. That is a way of thinking passed on to us from Mr. Armstrong.

So to teach Church of God members that the Bible is not important would be a major doctrinal shift.

Here is how members could be deceived about this, not all members, but weak ones.

One, make people question everything or a lot of what they have thought or now think. In other words, empty their minds to a degree so they are like a clean slate you can write on. Some COG people will tend to accept that in their desire to be humble if it is done carefully and in the right terms. Emphasize our human limitations, our past mistakes, and our need for God to guide us. Talk about our mistakes in the past in language that calls everything into question. You can emphasize our scattered condition, for example, and state that this shows there is something wrong in our current and past approach - we need to let God show us something new and different - language like that.

Carefully avoid talking about past Church of God successes, particularly Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's success in preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to millions and in building the Philadelphia era of God's Church. Do not talk about his right practices and approach that led to that success and made him a useful tool in Christ's hand - his willingness to prove all things in the Bible, his zeal for preaching the gospel to the world, and his approach to government in the Church of God. Find a way to paint Mr. Armstrong's accomplishments (actually what God accomplished through him) in a negative light.

By doing this, you can build a frame of mind in your listeners that is willing to cast aside right principles they have learned in the past. That will make the next steps easier.

Next, fill the void you have created in the minds of your listeners by teaching from the Bible very selectively and de-emphasizing the principle of believing the Bible. It may seem contradictory to teach from the Bible and yet de-emphasize the importance of the Bible, but it can be done. You can quote the Bible to emphasize believing God's Holy Spirit in your minds, believing the ministry, believing the oral traditions of the Church. What you don't want to do is a lot of Bible reading - most of what you say will be your own words, but you can selectively back it up with quotes from the Bible, especially if you then twist those quotes out of context.

But when you quote the Bible, what you don't want to do is quote those parts of the Bible that emphasize the Bible. Don't quote the Bible saying that scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). Don't quote the Bible saying that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteous so we can be complete (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Don't quote anything that says that the word of God is sure and true or sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Don't quote God saying, to this man will I look, to him who trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:2). Don't quote Jesus Christ saying that we are to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4).

Above all, do not quote passages about the members of the Church actually looking to the Bible to find answers. So, do not quote anything that says we should prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21) or follow the positive example of those who searched the scriptures daily to find out if the things Paul taught were true (Acts 17:11-12).

Or, if you do very occasionally quote one of these things, use a tone of voice that is very casual and designed to impart the meaning, "yeah, yeah, we have heard this before, let me read past this quickly", not at all giving it the importance it deserves.

But do teach a lot of the things you are not trying to change, and do use a lot of Church of God terminology that will establish credibility. Sound as much like a minister in the Church of God as you can, speaking to the congregation in language and terms they are familiar with. This establishes credibility. Talk about our human nature, our need for repentance, our need to bear good fruit. Talk about God's greatness and our need for Him.

This will help the members to think you are spiritual and are really trying to help them get closer to God.

Finally, reverse their belief you are trying to change by omitting it. So with the example of trying to change their beliefs about the Bible, just keep omitting saying anything about the need to really believe and obey the Bible. You can tell the members to spend time in "Bible study" - that is expected - but don't talk about really regarding the Bible as final authority for all questions about doctrine and Christian living. Talk about the Holy Spirit, talk about the ministry, talk about letting God guide you (without saying how), talk about drawing closer to God in prayer and fasting. Talk about letting God work with you. Talk about God's law. Say, "God's law is truth" (rather than, "God's word" is truth). But carefully avoid saying, look to the Bible for answers to tough questions, believe what the Bible says, obey what God in the Bible says. Carefully avoid telling the members to let the Bible interpret the Bible, to let clear scriptures interpret difficult ones, and to get all the scriptures about a particular subject to know the truth of that subject.

In other words, don't teach the principles of Bible study to your members. You can mention "Bible study", even pretend to encourage it from time to time, but avoid affirming the authority of the Bible in a practical way.

Why will this work? Over time, if you neglect something, you will weaken it.

If a pastor teaches the context of letting God build his character and way of thinking in us so that we have the mind of God, but omits the importance of letting God's very word, the Bible, be the final authority in all questions of practice and doctrine, he will be teaching by implication that we need to be guided some other way than by the Bible itself.

And he can do this all without leaving himself vulnerable to accusations that he is teaching against the Bible.

You don't have to tell people not to believe the Bible. Just leaving out the principle that we are to believe the Bible will have the same effect when you do this in the context of knowing what is true.

In other words, if you teach how to know what is true, but leave out saying that we know what is true by believing the Bible, by implication you are teaching members to know what is true SOME OTHER WAY, NOT BY THE BIBLE.

These things can be taught by repetition to change members from believing the Bible to the opposite - believing what the minister is teaching them when he slips in some doctrine that is contrary to the Bible, such as not preaching the gospel, into his messages.

A pastor can then eliminate anything he doesn't like in the Bible by neglecting it and over-emphasizing other things.

For example, he can neglect the Bible's teaching that we should preach the gospel and the warning message, and then over-emphasize setting an example as a way of "preaching the gospel" and calling that "doing God's work".

And if weak members have allowed themselves, over a period of months or years, to be brainwashed into thinking they do not have to prove these things in the Bible, they may swallow that.

But the strong members, those who have been reading, believing, obeying, and proving things in the Bible for years, will likely not swallow that.

And God may allow this as a test to separate those who are faithful to Him from those who are not.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Evaluating Our Example

Some have said that the way we preach the gospel to the world is by our example. I have pointed out in other posts that our example is not by itself sufficient to preach the true gospel and deliver the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation to come to 500 million people who need it.

But there is something else about our example and our preaching of the gospel by our example that needs to be emphasized.

How do we know what kind of example we should set? How can we evaluate our example? How do we know when we are setting a good example?

Are you setting a good example? If you say, yes, how do you know? How do you know that the example you set is a good one?

You cannot go by the traditions of this world. Yet, we must have a standard by which to measure our example, to know if it is good or bad, to know what kind of example we should strive to set.

That standard is the standard of God's word, the Bible. We must let God through His word teach us how to set a right example. We must let the Bible show us what a right example looks like.

In other words, we must let God tell us what our example should be, and God talks to us through His word, the Bible.

The word of God will help us see ourselves as we really are and will help us to see how we need to change in order to set a right example.

"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).

Without the Bible as a standard to use to measure and evaluate our example, we can easily fool ourselves (or be fooled by others) into striving for a wrong example, not even knowing that the example we are striving to set is wrong.

This is most common with members of the churches of this world, who think they are setting a good example for their children by keeping Christmas and Easter, for example. But mistaking a bad example for a good one can happen also in the Church of God.

Some ministers in the Church of God teach their members that they should primarily, or only, preach the gospel to the world by their good example, not by supporting a work designed to bring the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to millions of people who need it. But there is a built-in fallacy in this, one that can be discerned if one uses the Bible to evaluate his example but can be missed if one only uses his human reasoning or the reasoning of his pastor to evaluate his example.

The problem with preaching the gospel by example only is that you can't do it. It is impossible by definition. If you are not supporting a work of trying to reach millions with the gospel and the warning, you are NOT setting a good example.

A right example for a Christian to set, by biblical standards, must include preaching the gospel and the warning to the greatest number of people possible, and in our time that means Internet, radio, TV, magazines, booklets, and/or public lectures. That is the means and methods available to us today.

Why is that a necessary part of setting a good example?

It is an essential part of loving our neighbors as ourselves, which is one of the two great commandments. It is a part of loving God with all our being, because it is an essential part of doing what God says (Matthew 22:35-40). It is a part of showing mercy, which is one of the three weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). Delivering God's warning to our nations is also part of obedience to the sixth of the ten commandments (Exodus 20:13), for God makes it clear in Ezekiel 3:17-21 and Ezekiel 33:1-9 that if we fail to deliver God's warning message to our nations, their blood will be on our heads and we will be counted as murderers in God's sight.

Now, if we are not loving our neighbors as ourselves, are not practicing mercy, and are counted by God as murderers, are we setting a good example for our children, for other members of the Church of God, and for everyone who knows us?

How ironic. A man who believes in only preaching the gospel by example will try to set a good example, but will fail because he doesn't know what that example will look like. He doesn't know because he doesn't let the Bible define that example, but rather lets his human reasoning or the human reasoning of his pastor define that example.

In order to set a good example, he needs to support the direct preaching of the gospel and the warning message to the public by all means possible. If he fails to obey God in this, he cannot honestly claim to be loving God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. But he won't do this until, in his mind, he sets a good example. Yet he can't really set a good example apart from preaching the gospel.

So he won't preach the gospel until he sets a good example, but he can't set a good example until he starts preaching the gospel. He will get nowhere. He neither preaches the gospel nor sets a good example.

I suppose some member hooked by this deception will only wake up in the great tribulation when he is suffering along with others in the world who go through the tribulation. And when they find out that this member knew what was coming but did nothing to warn the nation, those people will say, "Why didn't you try to warn us?" He will answer, "I wanted to set a good example, first". They will say, "What good example? You knew the truth and kept silent? What kind of example is that?".

Those supporting fellowships that do not preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning of the tribulation to come can never set a right example, as defined by the Bible, as long as they support that position, as long as they fail to warn the nation.

If you are a member of such a fellowship, sending all your tithes to that fellowship, consider that the blood of the people is hanging over your head.

If you won't support the gospel and the warning through mass media, try this. Go to your neighbors individually. Talk to all your co-workers in the office or factory, on the job, maybe during a break or lunch period, and explain that God will punish them and the whole nation if they do not repent and start keeping the Sabbath and holy days and obey what God says in the Bible. Talk to all your relatives who are not in the Church. Go from house to house on your block, ring the doorbells, and tell your neighbors that there is a punishment coming if they do not repent. Then do it for every house in a two mile radius. Do this for about 2 hours a day, every day.

Does that sound like fun?

This probably would not be the best way to preach the gospel, and I am not recommending it for those who support the preaching of the gospel with their tithes and offerings. But do you think those same neighbors will notice your wonderful example, and ask, "Can you tell me about prophecy and the Bible? I have seen your outstanding example, and I am sure you know about God and the Bible, so teach me."

That is not going to happen, except rarely, and you know it.

Let's use a concrete example. Pick two neighbors. Stand outside the front door to your house or apartment. You have a neighbor to your right and to your left, two of your closest neighbors. How will your warn them about the coming tribulation and their need to repent to escape the suffering?

Do you think you can do it by your example? How?

Imagine you are setting a perfect example. What will you do? How will those two neighbors notice? And how will that example translate into warning them? Be realistic. Chances are, they might notice you are a nice person. You are not noisy, you don't borrow things and not return them, you don't take their parking spaces, etc. Maybe you are hospitable and invite them to dinner (then they do the same for you, so they are even). But you know as well as I do they are unlikely to ask you about your religion and beliefs except maybe in a casual way. How will you get to the point of telling them that if they do not repent they will probably go through the great tribulation and suffer and die in it?

You know as well as I do, it probably will not get to that point.

Yet, by supporting a fellowship that is preaching the gospel and the warning on TV and in print, you can get that very message to dozens and perhaps hundreds of people every year with your own tithes and offerings. Add everyone in the Church doing this, and it can be hundreds of thousands of people reached with the message each year. And those who do not have money or income to tithe on can support such a fellowship with their attendance and their prayers.

You won't escape blood guilt for not getting the warning message out by just being a "nice guy" to the people around you.

Setting a good example is a fine concept, and we should set a good example, but we have no way of knowing what that good example looks like except by the Bible. And the Bible shows that a right example must include direct preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public by the most effective means possible, that is, mass media. If you have the opportunity to support the gospel and the warning but are not doing it, you are not setting a good example because you are not loving your neighbors as yourself and because God will count you as a murderer.

Am I being too vague here? Am I too subtle? Am I sugar-coating this?

Here are links to posts in this blog related to this subject:

"What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:

"What Is Wrong with Preaching the Gospel Only by Example?", dated May 3, 2015, 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:

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



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Training the Conscience

God has given human beings a thing called a conscience. This conscience helps to remind us of what is right and wrong. It causes us to feel guilty when we do what we believe is wrong. It can help us see the need for doing what is right as well as our need for repentance and forgiveness when we do what is wrong.

But the conscience does not determine what is right or wrong. It only arouses certain feelings of guilt when we do, or plan to do, something we feel is wrong. It is dependent on our sense of right and wrong. But our sense of what is right and wrong is not, by nature, necessarily accurate. Usually, with most people, our sense of right and wrong comes from the way we have been raised by our parents growing up plus certain choices about the values we will live by, choices we have made in our lives.

But the things our parents have taught us, our traditions, can be wrong, and likewise the choices we make from human reason about what is right and wrong can be in error.

Many people outside the Church of God think that sin is doing something against your conscience. There is a saying, "Let your conscience be your guide".

But we in the Church of God are committed to accepting God's definitions of right and wrong in the Bible. That is one of the things that makes us different from the world. We believe the Bible.

I remember Mr. Armstrong explaining that when Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-13), they were taking to themselves the production of the knowledge of good and evil, that is, deciding for themselves what is right and wrong rather than letting God determine for them what is right and wrong.

But it is God who decides what is right and what is wrong, what is righteousness and what is sin, and God defines these things for us through His law. The Bible, God's word, teaches us that law of God.

It is the violation of God's spiritual law, the law that defines God's nature, the law that is the basis for the two great commandments (Matthew 22:35-40), the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:5-22), and the three weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23), that is sin. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, KJV).

And it is the Bible that accurately defines God's law, not the reasoning of men.

We in the Church of God understand this, and it is what makes us different from the churches of this world.

Our consciences, to accurately reflect God's law, must be trained by the Bible. The Holy Spirit helps us in this process by helping us understand the Bible accurately as we let the Bible interpret the Bible and as we strive to believe and obey what God says in the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:6-16), and the Holy Spirit reminds us of what the Bible says (John 14:26).

This training process is something that new people coming into the Church of God will be aware of. For as they begin to let the word of God, the Bible, teach them they learn that some things they thought were wrong are not wrong and some things they thought were not wrong are wrong.

Some have thought that all alcohol consumption is sin, but when they come into the Church of God, they learn that moderate use of alcohol is not wrong. How do they learn this? By the Bible. They look at the examples of how wine is used in the Bible and they see that drinking wine in moderation is not, of itself, sinful. Moreover, they find that there is no commandment against drinking wine in moderation. So they retrain their consciences to no longer think of moderate use of alcohol as sin. Before they come into the Church of God their conscience would bother them if they had a glass of wine, but once they have trained their conscience to be in harmony with the Bible they can drink wine without a guilty conscience.

Likewise, before they came into the Church they did not know that God requires that Christians observe the seventh day Sabbath. They would work on Saturday without feeling guilty. But after coming into the Church, they let the Bible teach them that they should keep God's Sabbath and they retrain their conscience. Now, their conscience warns them against working on the Sabbath, and if they break the Sabbath their conscience will make them feel guilty, which tells them that they need to repent and seek God's forgiveness.

In determining right from wrong, we need to let the Bible, God's word, train our conscience, and we do that by spending the time to study the Bible and by believing what God says.

Then our conscience can be the help to us that God intended by warning us away from sin.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Will God Use Those Who Do Not Reflect His Mind to Preach the Gospel and the Ezekiel Warning to the World?

About a week ago I heard a sermon on the Internet in which the speaker said that God will not use people who do not in their personal lives reflect the mind of God to do a work towards the world of preaching the gospel.

This is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Bible.

It is certainly true that God can use us more effectively the more we reflect God's way of life and character in our personal lives. The more we are like God in character, the more we are a reflection of Him, the greater God can use us and the more effective we will be in preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

But to say that God will absolutely NOT use someone who has character problems and does not reflect God very well to do the work of preaching the gospel and warning the world is false.


God teaches us lessons in the Bible by example. "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15). "My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience" (James 5:10).

God clearly teaches us in the Bible that we should obey all of God's law in our lives, including the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We should reflect God's righteous way of life in all our conduct, being a living sacrifice which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1-2). And God also clearly teaches us in the Bible that we should preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

Does one preclude the other? Is there justification for not doing one because we have not yet perfectly done the other?

In fact, living God's way of life includes showing love towards our neighbors by warning them.

Yet some ministers who accept the tithes of the people but spend none of it on preaching the gospel say, we cannot preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel until we FIRST learn to reflect the mind of God more perfectly in our personal behavior.

There are many contradictions and inconsistencies in this position. I have covered these before in depth, but I will mention a few. Ministers who feel they cannot preach to the world because they do not reflect the mind of God apparently feel they can preach sermons to their tithe-paying members on the Sabbath. But if they do not reflect the mind of God, and if this disqualifies the ministers from preaching to the public, does that not also disqualify them from preaching to their members on the Sabbath? If a minister is disqualified from teaching even the basics to the public because he is so far from God, is he not even more disqualified from teaching Church of God members on the Sabbath how to live God's way of life more perfectly? Yet he does one and not the other. Why? Is it because he knows that if he does not preach to the members on the Sabbath he will not get paid? And is it because he knows that if he preaches the gospel to the world, that will cost money, leaving less for ministers' salaries?

Another inconsistency is leaving out the whole commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves and thinking we can reflect God's mind without it. If we love our neighbors, we will warn them. How can we reflect God's way of life without doing that?

It is as if those who advocate postponing the preaching of the gospel think we can pick and choose what commandments of God to obey, accepting one commandment, postponing another, and somehow reflect God's mind and be a good example by obeying only some of God's commandments while disobeying others.

Sometimes such people will say, "If God shows us someday that we should preach the gospel, we will do it", ignoring the fact that God has already shown them in the Bible that we should preach the gospel, but they don't believe Him. I suppose they are waiting for a thundering voice from heaven that says, "I meant what I said in the Bible about preaching the gospel".

That is like saying, "If God shows us someday we should keep the Sabbath, we will keep the Sabbath".

But besides the inconsistencies involved in this position, the Bible teaches by example that our obligation to preach the gospel is not limited by our need to get closer to God and better reflect His mind in our lives. We must obey God's commands to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning regardless of our spiritual state and our need to draw closer to Him.

How does God teach this? By several examples in the Bible, examples that show that God does use people who do not reflect His mind very well to preach the gospel and the warning.

One example is Jonah. You can get the whole story in the book of Jonah - it is a short book - but most of you will remember the essential points.

God sent Jonah to warn Nineveh. Jonah did not want to warn Nineveh, so he ran away. God disciplined him, and Jonah finally obeyed. But the end of the book shows that Jonah's attitude still did not reflect the mind of God. Jonah did not reflect God's mind either before or after he warned Nineveh. He was actually unhappy when Nineveh repented because he wanted to see Nineveh destroyed. He was a very unmerciful man. Yet God used him to warn Nineveh, and the warning bore fruit. Nineveh repented and was spared.

Now, if God was able to warn Nineveh through carnal and unmerciful Jonah, cannot He use the Church of God to warn the nations if we are only willing to give that warning? Are we so much worse than Jonah?

Then you have the examples of the apostles whom Jesus sent out to preach the gospel (Matthew 10:1-8). They were not converted at that time. They were carnal. They were competitive with each other, wanting to be greater than each other in the kingdom of God (Mark 9:33-34, Luke 9:46). James and John wanted to call down fire to burn up a village (Luke 9:54-56), and Jesus told them they did not know what manner of spirit they were of, implying that they were being led by Satan not Christ at that moment. Yet Jesus used them to preach the gospel. Now, if Christ could use unconverted men to preach the gospel, cannot He also use us to preach that same gospel to the world?

Finally, look at the example of Judas. He was among the twelve, and Christ sent him out to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons with the rest of the disciples, but he was not "clean" (John 13:10-11). He was a thief who stole funds from the money box (John 12:4-6). He betrayed Jesus, and Jesus said that he would have been better off if he had never been born (Mark 14:18-22). Yet Christ used him to preach the gospel, and his preaching and work must have born the same fruit as the other apostles because they didn't recognize him as the betrayer he would become (John 13:21-26). If Judas was not able to cast out demons, heal the sick, and preach the gospel with same power as the other apostles, they would have noticed.

Does God sometimes use those who do not reflect His mind very well to preach the gospel to the world and warnings about punishment to come? The Bible, through these examples, says yes. And ministers who say, God will NOT use those who do not reflect His mind to preach the gospel, are not following the God of the Bible. They use this as an excuse for not allocating some of the tithe money their members entrust them with to preach the gospel to the world, to reflect God's love for the world.

And those who sit before them, week after week, to hear them preach sermons about how to have the mind of God should be aware that they are allowing themselves to be taught by someone who is not following God's word.