I suppose most of you have already been informed about the resignation of 3 of the members of the United Church of God (UCG) Council of Elders (COE). That makes 4 for the month: Jim Franks, David Baker, Michael Blackwell and David Treybig. The UCG leadership is quick to point out that it did not request their resignations.
Well, this wasn’t that hard to see coming. I’ve been saying for a while now that something was likely to occur before the end of January, and this action only shows the divide between factions growing larger instead of coming together. There have been repeated calls for some type of conference in different configurations, but it seems quite unlikely now.
In fact, it isn’t clear that even if were such a conference now arranged that any good can come of it. These resignations undoubtedly reveals a breach that is beyond reconciliation.
Another thing that has become more apparent lately is that God seems to be loosening control of the activities of the adversary. Things on the news, what other members are experiencing and world events seem to be piling up in greater proportions. I don’t think strife within the Body of Christ and the seemingly increased frequency and severity of trials are a coincidence.
A Prayer for the Children
As division occurs, I look around and see adults who can stand on their own and judge rightly according to the exercising of God's Word in their hearts. But, what about the children? We teach them God's way is different, should be different. It should be about peace and peacemaking. It should embrace love and reconciliation. It should work hard to work it out.
The world grasps at them whispering in their ears that one way is not better than another. How does a fractious house divided against itself offer a place of refuge for the children? Will another generation of our children walk through a wasteland of schism caused by hardened hearts?
What can we offer our children? A prayer.
As a former 30-year veteran of WCG and AC graduate, when will the xCG's ever learn that they are not the only "true" Christians? God has smattered and shattered these break-off groups to smitherines to humble us. And yet people still say, "we're still the one true flock." I guess we'll wait until it gets down to the one true family?
Jesus said people will know His disciples by their love for one another and by their fruit. The fruit of WCG and it's numerous break-offs is appalling to say the least and clearly proves the organization was focused on a man. 300+ break-offs??? If we can't get along in this life and have love for one another, how for Christ's sake (and I say that with every bit of respect for our Savior, because it is for His honor and sake) can we not do it now?
If you're biting and devouring one another the focus is not on Jesus. Give up on religion and put your total trust in Jesus Christ; not in "the church," not an organization, not your obedience, not in the commandments, not in the law. None of that will save you! Only Jesus Christ. When Jesus is first, the obedience, church, law and commandments will all work itself out.
As Paul said to the Galatians, "If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another."
From an outsider looking in (with the perspective of being 30 years on the inside), this looks like pride issues. God help each of us.
It's very disappointing that this has occurred. Having been through 2 hurtful splits in the past, I think I know what is coming. We have a very peaceful local congregation, but I fear that is about to change. As the local membership becomes aware of what is going on they will begin to polarize and take sides. This will lead to broken friendships and the destruction of the congregation.
Very sad indeed that supposedly converted men cannot sit down, as Dr. Ward and others expressed desire to do, and hammer this out!
Things must have been just terrible in COE meetings for the minority 4 for them to resign in that fashion.
I still can't wrap my head around the idea that this is happening AGAIN!!
God has smattered and shattered these break-off groups to smitherines to humble us.
Or, perhaps, Satan and his demons are doing it to try to DESTROY us.
Give up on religion and put your total trust in Jesus Christ; not in "the church," not an organization, not your obedience, not in the commandments, not in the law. None of that will save you! Only Jesus Christ. When Jesus is first, the obedience, church, law and commandments will all work itself out.
Be careful there. Satan's false churches talk much about "focusing on Jesus," whatever that means. Unfortunately, it seems to mean focusing on their false idea of a false, long-haired Jesus who did away with the commandments of God. All their so-called, professed "looking to Jesus" never does cause them to actually OBEY Him. They do not really "look to Jesus" at all, but rather just look for ways to sin.
I have been around a while and have seen MUCH EVIL in the WCG and its various splinter groups. (I will spare you all the gory details, as I do not wish to write endless books.) Just note well what I observed: Virtually ALL THE EVIL I saw was a direct result of people, high and low, NOT OBEYING the laws of God. THINK about that!
They might try to deny it, but the people I have come across who did not want to obey the laws of God did not really love either God or other people. They would turn to "another Jesus" with long hair, would take God's name in vain, would trample on God's Sabbaths, would lie, slander, covet, steal, rape, commit adultery, etc.
As I John 5:3 says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
As HWA taught, the Ten Commandments show how to love God and other people.
Very sad indeed that supposedly converted men cannot sit down, as Dr. Ward and others expressed desire to do, and hammer this out!
I learned the long, hard way that many people in the WCG, and even in the splinter groups, were never converted in the first place. So, good luck with trying to sit down and reason successfully with Satan, because that is what you are up against in too many cases.
I do not believe that things will splinter all the way down to just the "one true family." However, if many people are wicked, then many people are wicked. They will one day find out that there is no safety in numbers. Remember, when all the people in the past were wicked except for Noah, they all got washed up except for Noah.
Did these men also resign from UCG or did they simply resign from the Council? I have not seen any clarification on this.
The official letter says, "No resignations from the Council … were solicited", so it appears to be resignation from the COE, not from the ministry. I've seen nothing that indicates they have turned in their credentials.
Anonymous #4 said, "Unfortunately, (focusing on Jesus) seems to mean focusing on their false idea of a false, long-haired Jesus who did away with the commandments of God. All their so-called, professed "looking to Jesus" never does cause them to actually OBEY Him. They do not really "look to Jesus" at all, but rather just look for ways to sin.
This comment is typical of the spin of xCG's. My wife and I came out of WCG in mid 90's. We've been in actively involved in two evangelical churches since and searched this very question out for ourselves. The 2 evangelical churches we've been involved in and numerous pastors, teachers and individuals of evangelical churches we're associated with do NOT believe and never have believed the law was "done away with."
What evangelicals don't believe is that you're saved by your obedience or works. It's interesting that you point out that all the problems in WCG and splinter groups are due to people not obeying the laws of God. Precisely! Evangelicals would agree. That's the problem. You can't keep the law or commandments. No one can, except Jesus. That's why we evangelicals focus on a relationship with Jesus. When that relationship is strong, then obedience follows. When that relationship is weak, then the result is sin and disobedience.
There are plenty of evangelicals and xCG members who are not looking to Jesus for their salvation, but looking at how "good" or how "bad" they are. The holy law of God should clearly mirror back the wrecks and wretches we are. That view should not result in trying to use the mirror to establish our righteousness, but instead run to a Savior to confess, repent, and draw strength from to obey.
Our evangelical church is full of sinners (myself included) who have made major blunders, sins and mistakes. What establishes me and keeps me is not my obedience for that is imperfect. Jesus establishes, keeps me and makes me perfect in His sight. He has promised He would never leave me or forsake me. He has said nothing can separate me from Him (not even any created thing). What God starts He finishes and completes until the day of Christ. God is faithful. Jesus is my strength, not the law. My trust is in Him not my obedience.
The focus on obedience just leads to more sin and problems. Focus on Christ and there's the victory, for He will cause us to obey, love, repent and change. Chip Ingram has a great Biblestudy on The Miracle of Life Change if you want to focus on Jesus for especially difficult areas of sin in life.
Another way of explaining the "Focus on Jesus" comment, you can't have moral actions in the keeping of God's law until the spiritual is taken care of first. Pointing to the failures of man's obedience is like the children of Israel standing on the edge of the Promised Land saying, "There's giants there. Failure everywhere." Joshua and Caleb focused on the power and perfection of God to see them through, not on Israel's failures and weaknesses. Think about it.
That's why we evangelicals focus on a relationship with Jesus. When that relationship is strong, then obedience follows. When that relationship is weak, then the result is sin and disobedience.
My experience with evangelicals has been that their "relationship" is ALWAYS weak, in spite of their endless talk about how they have a "relationship" with Jesus. And, as you yourself said, "the result is sin and disobedience."
I John 3:4 says that "sin is the transgression of the law." For example, trampling on God's Sabbath and observing Sunday instead really is sin and disobedience. Yet this is exactly what evangelicals do, and then claim that they are remembering the Sabbath by keeping "one day in seven, like it says."
I John 3:7-8 warns, "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning."
Righteousness is simply a matter of thinking, saying, and doing what is right. God, and not the evangelicals, determines what is right. The righteous do the right thing and remember God's Sabbath like God commanded them to. Those in the wrong try to forget it and observe Sunday instead. They are simply WRONG and, as the Bible says, "of the devil."
I John 2:4 says, "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." This is a perfect description of the evangelicals, who always talk about knowing Jesus, but never obey Him. Incredibly, they seem to think it would actually be wrong to obey Him, but just fine and good to disobey Him!!!
The only hope for the evangelicals is that (as HWA taught) they simply are not being called by God now in this age, and will get their first real chance at a later date. Right now, they are completely spiritually blind. If they were to be judged on their attitude and conduct today they would hit the lake of fire with a splash. Their only hope is that God will one day take away their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh as He foretold in Ezekiel 36:26. Verse 27 says, "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." The stubborn and evil spirits that posses evangelicals today will have to go.
I hope this plain language is not too strong for anyone. The fact is that most professing Christians are not true Christians at all, no matter how much they claim to be. If they were true Christians, they would follow and obey the true Christ of the Bible rather than the false, long-haired, Sunday-keeping "another Jesus" of pagan origin. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that the evangelicals are just deceived people who are doing their own things for their own reasons.
My experience with some evangelicals has been surprisingly humiliating. When I thought I was doing so good keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days, I witnessed and experienced evangelicals
calling, praying for and visiting our family and child when our child was at death's door because of Jesus.
with major life change – overcoming besetting sin because of Jesus,
troubled marriages on the brink of divorce recover because of Jesus,
step outside their physical comfort zones and give up material possessions to serve those in need because of Jesus
be raked across the coals unjustly and stand quietly accepting persecution because of Jesus
put to death simply for their belief in Jesus
extend mercy and grace when I didn't deserve it because of Jesus
watched my wife's life and relationship with Jesus change her life dramatically because of Jesus
And finally I watched Jesus cause life change in me – doing things I never thought I could do because He gave His life for me and He lives today.
He changed people's lives and changed me – extending love and grace to someone who was and is un-deserving.
I get the whole "focus on Jesus" thing – it's just that evangelicals typically fail to see what the goal of focusing on Jesus is. The goal is to effect a change – to transform ourselves from the weak, debase creatures that we are into loyal and obedient servants of God.
The difference between evangelicals and the churches of God in this regard is the expected outcome. Evangelicals do not expect to be made able to keep the law because they don't believe that the law can be kept. Isn't the man that God strengthens able to accomplish anything? I expect my acceptance of Christ to cause me to keep God's law, not by my own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, because that's what God promised that the New Covenant would be. I also expect this to be a process in which I fail repeatedly, but my continued trust in God to work in me the things that He has promised will not fail; therefore, I will continue to come to greater obedience. It's not by our obedience that we are saved – it's by our desire to obey and our faithful attempt to obey that we demonstrate our faith, which causes us to be saved by grace.
Please watch the rhetoric. This isn't a political campaign, you know.
Anonymous wrote: "My experience with some evangelicals has been surprisingly humiliating.
"Mine too. One pretty girl said that I was not a good Christian because I did not go to church on Sunday mornings. It was interesting to talk to her and learn that she believed that those who did not go along with her beliefs would be tormented forever in hell fire–not just burned up quickly. She thought it would be their own fault.
"I have … learned that talk is cheap.
"Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:21-23, 'Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in they name have cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'
"Very interesting. Exactly like the people Jesus mentioned, evangelicals always say, 'Lord, Lord,' and claim to have done many wonderful things. Now, if the evangelicals are doing any good whatsoever–and that is highly questionable–why can't they keep up that particular little part of what they are doing, while ALSO doing the will of God, instead of always doing only their own will? Why does it have to be absolutely essential for them to reject God's ways?"
Come on John, these examples are not rhetoric and the people I know who lived through the junk of sin above and were freed and changed in Christ would disagree that its all rhetoric.
We're all talking life change. Where do people like Steven Britt get that evangelicals are not talking life change? What? Are you kidding me? Take Chip Ingram's series on "The Miracle of Life Change as just one simple example. Look at the Truth Project as another example.
This kind of prejudicial and broad-brushed statement about evangelicals fail to see a change into obedient servants is certainly not what is preached at our evangelical Southern Baptist Church or Presbyterian (PCA) church, nor is it in the evangelical books I read. Rather it's all about dying to self, taking up your cross and following Jesus Christ, motivated to keep the law by the Spirit and in the spirit, not the letter (so say Paul and the evangelicals I read) because the letter kills. It is about motivation – the motive of the love of Christ.
I'm NOT trying to win people over to Protestantism! I would prefer they stay in xCG because that's where God has called them. But PLEASE don't bury your head in the sand and say ignorant, prejudicial, bigoted things about evangelicals.
How about reading these books,
"Radical" by David Platt
"If God Were Real" by John Avant
"A Call to Die (to self)" by David Nasser
(all available on-line and more) and come back and tell me evangelicals are not about transforming ourselves by the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit into obedient servants of Christ or that evangelicals are weak.
I will freely admit evangelicals are not about keeping the letter of the law to earn grace.
This kind of speech is so frustrating because people believe rhetoric and don't prove it. Get honest. Get real. Get sincere. Get Truth and check it out for yourself before saying things like this.
Steven Britt states, "It's not by our obedience that we are saved – it's by our desire to obey and our faithful attempt to obey that we demonstrate our faith, which causes us to be saved by grace."
So if I understand you correctly, it's not our obedience, but our motivation that saves us?
OK Steven, so I'm in a court of law for speeding over the posted limit. If I tell the judge, "I really meant to obey, I really do try," do you think my trying and good intentions now earn me grace from the judge? Do you see that neither my obedience, motivation, trying nor anything earns me grace?
I've failed and broken the perfect law! The Judge looks to Jesus and pours the wrath of the broken law not on me, but on Him. Because He pours that wrath on Him – an innocent lamb – I am free. It's radical. It's not right.
Now if I truly understand and appreciate what was just done – that atoning sacrifice – what kind of person should I now be? Truely grace is amazing – undeserved. Will I sit back and be quiet about what was just done for me? No, like in Acts and like Paul I will proclaim that salvation and grace to the ends of the earth. For the person who Jesus sets free, is free indeed.
Anonymous wrote: "Come on John, these examples are not rhetoric and the people I know who lived through the junk of sin above and were freed and changed in Christ would disagree that its all rhetoric."
Please go back and re-read what I wrote. Who did I quote? Did I quote everything?
Obviously, my editorial was directed at a specific comment that (most likely unintentionally) tread on the line of civil debate. My choices, since it was an anonymous comment, were to either edit the comment or not publish it at all.
I've been on record as saying that some, but not by any means all, evangelicals put us to shame in some areas. Since Jesus spoke often about how more "tolerable" it will be for some in the day of judgment, I have to believe that amongst that group will be a few who will stand above the others because of their attitudes and acts of charity towards others.
I don't doubt that many have had their lives changed. I don't doubt that many of them have come out of the grips of grievous bondage to sin.
The question, though, is life changing to what? That question cuts both ways, does it not?
I don’t think strife within the Body of Christ and the seemingly increased frequency and severity of trials are a coincidence.
This reminded me of another time of tumult in the world and the Church. In a 90-day period, two world leaders were removed from office in coups. Another was shot dead in the street on a Friday night. And a U.S. national catastrophe occurred like we'd never really seen before.
When did all this happen?
The first quarter of 1986. In the weeks after Herbert Armstrong died, Haiti and the Philippines changed leaders through coups. Sweden's P.M. Palme was murdered. And the space shuttle Challenger blew up.
Some of us thought all those events were connected then, and The End was very close. But almost 25 years later…. well, maybe it was an overraction then. And maybe it is right now.
Just a couple notes about life change:
1) A good study is the "Means of Grace" – a term used by some evangelicals to describe how to overcome, change, grow and obey. A good sermon in audio on the Web is July 4th, 2010 by JR Vassar entitled Grace Empowered Change at apostlesnyc.com (not trying to "convert" or "steal" anyone from the CG's – listen and post what the problems are).
2) Jesus established His righteousness not by the law and His obedience to it, but by His relationship with the Father. That's why the Pharisees had such a problem with Him – He blasphemed saying He was equal with the Father.
A great study is to look at the Apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Paul does the same thing. The first 3 chapters are focused on the relationship we have with God (many past tense verbs) and the last 3 chapters of Ephesians are focused on Paul saying, because God raised us (past tense) and made us (past tense) to sit in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph 2:6), then live like it (Eph 4, 5, & 6)! Our behavior results from a relationship change, not from behavior modification.
Listen, even Mr. Armstrong taught this. He said it was about character! JR Vassar in his sermon says, it's not behavior modification, but character transformation.
If you change the outside like set up software to avoid PORN sites (which is a good thing), that's only behavior modification. The real source of that problem is LUST! Get to the heart of the problem. Otherwise your evil heart will find a way around the outward (letter of the law) change.
On the other hand, if you change a heart, you change a life! Fences aren't even necessary when the heart is fixed. That's what Jesus went after – the heart, the relationship (which was damaged at the Fall in the Garden). Fix that relationship through Jesus Christ and your life WILL change. Pray a prayer, walk to the altar, walk the sawdust trail, obey better, re-commit to God, try, try, try, none of this du*g works.
What works is a heart change. When you change the root, you change the fruit (Vassar). Then obedience flows.
My own experience with evangelicals and others is that they really do say, "Lord, Lord," but do not obey either the true Jesus of the Bible or the true God of the Bible, who are both in complete agreement with each other. They are not divided against each other as some seem to suppose. As the WCG pointed out in the past, Jesus was not some smart-alecky young man who came to do away with His Father's laws. In fact, the WCG taught that the Jesus of the New Testament was actually the God of the Old Testament. So, Jesus was the one who gave the Ten Commandments. The Father in heaven has never been seen by any man.
Satan, the Adversary, is the one who opposes God's ways. Satan and his demons have been around for almost 6,000 years of human history and have seen literally billions of people. As a result, they are very good at using all sorts of psychological tricks on people to deceive them into thinking that good is harsh and evil and that evil is kind and good!
Over the years I have heard and read many stories of supposed "good deeds" and "miracles" and even "healings." And I–yes, even the great I–was suitably impressed. Who would not be? After all, if such stories were true, that would be significant. However, the more I looked into things and thought about them, the more the impression faded away and was replaced by disillusionment with these people. Most good deeds/miracles/healings are actually quite elusive in these churches, and it is just carelessly assumed that there must be some good in them somewhere. But, spreading their false doctrines around the world might just make their victims twice as much a child of heck as themselves and, technically, is not really a "good" deed. The only good that any church does is in as much as it does teach biblical truth and does do something properly according to God.
At their very best, some evangelicals and others are ignorant but sincere. If and when true biblical knowledge does comes to them, they are then faced with a difficult choice. They can either obey God or they can continue to do their own things for their own reasons. After the decision, they are no longer ignorant, but usually no longer sincere either. Over time you will find out that the more you bring up biblical truth, the less the evangelicals will like it. They really are not being called now in this age and, as HWA taught, they simply cannot come to the real Jesus of the Bible unless the Spirit of the Father in heaven draws them.
HWA said in his Autobiography that some sincere people who are doing the best they know how can have their prayers answered even though they are not strictly "commandment keepers." He added, though, that once the knowledge of the truth comes, they must obey. HWA gave the example of a man who had prayed for his wife Loma and she was healed. HWA said that if ever he met a man who had the gift of healing, that was him. Yet, when that man rejected some truth that HWA took to him, God left that man and no longer healed people through his prayers.
From Hole To Chasm, UCG Gulf Widens
How bad could this be? Some people think that the UCG is heading right back into the world. Comments here by evangelicals suggest that could very well happen.
Revelation 17:1-6 talks about a "woman sitting on a scarlet beast."
"This title was written on her forehead:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus."
What if those Protestant daughter churches and their Catholic mother church that they all got their teachings from all start to get "drunk on the blood of the saints" again? They would then appear for what they are–abominations of the earth, and not true churches. If they were true churches, they would teach the truth, rather than always hating it and opposing it.
The Bible does not say to go back into this system of demonic lies and evil, but rather,
"Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes" (Rev. 18:4-5, NIV).
Hmmm. No mention of all the good deeds they claim to have done, just something about a pile of sin.
Anonymous wrote: "Jesus established His righteousness not by the law and His obedience to it, but by His relationship with the Father."
This is a good lead-in for tomorrow's article.