What does it mean to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"?
I was reading some journals this week. I get a lot of financial things, various things. It's interesting to look at what the world sees now. Everybody's wondering what's going on, and where do we go from here?
One of 'em says, you know, Japan's radioactive and the Middle East is hyperactive, the world is insolvent, and not to mention, morally bankrupt. Where do we go from here? Good question. More and more people, I think, are starting to analyze that regardless of their religious beliefs, or whether they are atheists; because they realize that things are going wrong in this world. But we do need something, the hope that was talked about in the sermonette.
Of course the hope that the world wants and needs rests on the hope that what you and I believe. In God's word, the knowledge of His plan for all mankind, what it means. This is truly the salvation for humanity, and yet humanity will disappear in the end, when we're all part of God's spirit world, and everything changes. This year is about change. This time and this season we're in now. We see things budding out, the trees starting to leave, although Cincinnati can't make up its mind yet.
Had a little bird on my window yesterday as I was working on my sermon, and it was a male bird. You could tell because he was quite cocky, and he was going to take on the bird in the window. And he spent about five minutes beating himself to death; finally figured out he couldn't win. It's amazing when you meet your own match in the mirror, and you finally knock some sense into yourself, and you realize it's not going to work that way, and so that bird finally gave up and went away. I don't know if he thought he lost or just had a draw. I'm not sure.
But more importantly, this season is about spiritual change in us. Spiritual change in you and spiritual change in me. It's about you asking God to change you; about me asking God to change me. I've never been able to change anyone else. Oh, temporarily, my children when they were small, and I was bigger than they were I could make them change. It didn't mean they changed from the heart, but they changed from the seat of the pants. (Laughter) And all of us can do that at times, but is that the way we want to change? Is that the way it works?
More and more, as I get older, and I am getting older even though, like everybody else, you like to feel young at heart, and pretty soon you don't recognize yourself in the mirror because you don't look like you used to, but inside you do.
Well, one of the scriptures that come to mind constantly nowadays for me is Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version× where God says, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Like I said, I've never been able to change anyone else, and so I have to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.
What does that mean? There have been times; it's hard to work on things yourself sometimes. It's much easier to hitch your wagon to someone else. It feels more comfortable. Why does it feel more comfortable to try to follow someone else or do something else? I think it's because deep down inside each of us really knows how carnal we really are. How we come to understand our humanity, our human nature. And then it's probably going to take a whole lot of spiritual bleach to get us white. How much bleach? A gallon? Two gallons? Three gallons? Who knows? Maybe a swimming pool full.
And when we think that way it's difficult, because it's very easy to look at a group and say, "Well, you know, Christ can come…" It was easy working for Mr. Armstrong at a time when we were putting out almost nine million Plain Truths a month, and three million Good News's, and two million youth magazines, and we'd… I remember when the announcement came through, we'd sent our fifty millionth booklet, and to look at those things. Boy, look at the work we've done. It was always, "The Work." We've done the work, and so you can come.
It's easy as a group because maybe someone else's righteousness will help get us through. And, indeed, that's true to a point because it's Christ's righteousness that does do it for us. But for us, if we look at ourselves, and say that Christ is gonna come when I'm ready—well, you've got a long wait ahead a ya'. And I'm sure each of you feels the same way. If He's gonna come when you're ready, well, you've got a long wait ahead. And, of course, physically we can't accomplish that ourselves, and so it would be a long wait. Each of us, I'm sure, feels that way. It's easy to point to something else, and that has been a mistake of many, many people over the years; pointing to things done, things built, or to other men or people.
But I have bad news for you if you want to follow others. Other people can't do it for you; other human beings can't. They can help you; they can encourage you; they can do things that can inspire you; but only you can make those changes that God expects you to make.
Ezekiel 14 makes that very clear. God told us that in the Old Testament as well as the New; made it very understandable. Ezekiel 14:14 Ezekiel 14:14Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, said the Lord GOD.
American King James Version×, it says, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job,"…these are three top-notch people, obviously. Noah built the ark. Daniel, who was in captivity, became one of the top men in Babylon. And Job, who even God said was, "When you consider my servant Job, how righteous he is."
Ezekiel 14:14 Ezekiel 14:14Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, said the Lord GOD.
American King James Version×- Even if those men were in it, they should (only) deliver but their own souls
by their righteousness," says the Lord God. And each of them came to see that their righteousness was filthy rags as well. In verse 20 he does it again.
Verse 20 - "even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live," says the Eternal God, "they shall neither deliver son nor daughter; but they shall deliver their own souls by their own righteousness." I pray for my children, just as I'm sure all of you do that have children. I pray for other people because I want God to intervene in their life to make changes for them, because I can't change them.
It's not like other religions, the truth of God; it's about you and your relationship between you and God. Other religions can have you pray other people in. I remember looking in Nepal, and Bhutan, and all over Southeast Asia, and up through Japan where they have all the little prayer wheels where you can spin, and send prayers up to other people, and various things, to try to help deliver them.
And then there's the religions that let you pay your way, or your relative's way into the kingdom, and that's how one of the largest churches on Earth got very rich, because you scare people into thinking they can buy their way out of purgatory. Of course you convince them there's a hell that doesn't exist. Not the one Mr. Antion's going to, but the other one. (Laughter) And then you realize that, yeah, we all go to the grave but that's not so scary but, you know, burning in hellfire is very scary. And all of us, maybe how many religious people want to avoid the pain. It's not so much what they desire the reward but they want to avoid the pain.
I'm always fascinated by God always saying, "Choose life." He doesn't say, "Choose to avoid death," it's "Choose life" because life is what He offers. This feast season is about you. It's about your spiritual purification, about your accepting Christ's sacrifice, about your repentance before God, your entering the "holy of holies," because the veil that Christ rent so you can appear through Him before God, and submit to God.
So, how do we work out our own salvation if Christ does it? It's not with a pencil and paper. I wish it was. I'm good with pencil, and paper, and math but it doesn't work. In fact, it actually can irritate people if that's the way you could do it. For those of us on the left brain versus the right brain, we see things logically, and if we can work it out on pencil and paper that tends to annoy the people that think emotionally, because they don't work that way.
And like I say, we can't do it hitching ourselves to a corporation. And I can't tell you the number of times I've been called in the last twenty years by people asking, "Where do I need to go to avoid the 'great tribulation?'" Which church do I need to sit in to be spared?
And I said, "You're asking the wrong question. There is no one else that can do that for you. It's your relationship with God and Jesus Christ, and that's it." Yes, there's obedience involved in that. And yes, there are different groups that have more truth than others; some that get a little farther off but it's still not about who you can go to. The only one you go to is to God and to Christ.
But again, we can't do it by ourselves. Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×, we go there and we read that; again what I just quoted to you, but we'll go a little farther this time. Where Paul writes to the Philippians,
Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×– So then (Therefore), my beloved, even as you have (always) obeyed, (obedience is necessary) not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
Verse 13 - for it is God who works in you both to will and to (do) work for His good pleasure. God is doing what He's doing. Yes, we have our part but God's doing it. He's setting up the stage. He lets us make choices, but he teaches us through those choices we make. He continues,
Verse 14 - Do all things without murmuring(s) and questioning (disputing). Ah, that's a tough one. Do you question how things work? I have. I've asked God, "Why?" so many times in my life I'm sure He's… I've tried not to murmur. I've tried to be more like Abraham, saying, "How about peradventure this and that, but I'm sure at times I haven't done it as well as I could, and at times it hurts, and I've questioned things. "God, it doesn't seem fair." Because all of us want God to be fair because God is fair, God's love. It doesn't always seem to work that way but God's making us into something He wants. Why?
Verse 15 - that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish (fault)…, and where do you do this? …in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen (shine) as lights in the world. I pray that each of us is a light to this world. I know you've probably had some of those comments that I've had. If you're a good neighbor you shine, they don't necessarily like your religion. I think that's probably because you make them feel unrighteous.
My Baptist neighbors in Texas, we moved there and, great friends of ours, and really good people, and very family oriented except they realized that we didn't go out and boat and ski on the Sabbath, because we kept the Sabbath, and went to church. I noticed after that that all of a sudden they started going to Sunday School, and things 'cause they wanted to be as good as we was, I guess, how it is. But it was interesting because the example you set makes people think about it. Are you a light? Do people want to be like you? Do they want to have you as neighbors as it should be? It's in a world though that we live in that's crooked and perverse that we have to do this. It's not easy.
Turn to James 2, if you would. I wish becoming blameless, as Paul wrote to the Philippians was easy in some ways. It is not. It is not easy at all. To be blameless we have to shed sin. Shedding sin is difficult. We have to shed all sin, all corruption. We can't negotiate what sin is. We can't compartmentalize. One of our presidents made that famous by asking, "What's the definition of the word is?"
We can't define sin by our own definition. It would be easy. That's what Satan wanted Eve to define it that way. Why you can know God; you can know good and evil." And if, indeed, you are God, by definition you are good. That's not how it works.
James 2:10 James 2:10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
American King James Version×- For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Now what sin is that? It's interesting because we might think that's really a big, bad sin, one of the ten. What is this in reference to? Well, go back to verse 1.
Verse 1 - My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. Respecting persons. God called the weak of the world. He brought each of us here.
Verse 2 - For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there comes (in also) a poor man in vile raiment;
Verse 3 - And you have respect to him that wears the gay clothing, and say to him, sit here in a good place; and you say to the poor, stand there, or sit here under my footstool:
Verse 4 - Are you not then partial in yourselves, and are becoming judges of evil thoughts? James probably thought of the widow with her two mites when he said that. How Christ said she gave more than all of them because it didn't seem that way to the disciples.
Verse 5 - Harken, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world rich in faith… You don't know where anybody stands; only God does that. But we're all …heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him? And each of us love God, and that's what we're learning; to love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Verse 6 - But have you despised (dishonored) the poor (man)? Do not (the) rich men oppress you and draw you before the judgment seat? It's interesting how many rich people want everything.
It's funny, when I got my piece of property in Texas, I got a little piece of land across the street, and the neighbor that's next to me is really, really rich. He found out I got the piece of land, and he didn't think --. Actually, it was mismarked on the maps and it seemed like it was smaller than it was, and after I got it he came and told me, "Well, if I had known that you were gonna get that I'd have gotten it." I'd have never have gotten it.
I said, "Well, unfortunately you didn't know." I felt like saying the story of the man who had the little sheep and the other man that had all the sheep, and you know – the Nathan story, but I didn't give him that one. (Laughter) He was a good Baptist and I didn't want to irritate him. (Laughter)
It's interesting, though that we respect people. That's what God's talking about there. We can't be respecters of persons. The rich people are more often oppressive than the poor. The poor will tend to give you more.
Verse 7 – Do (they) not blaspheme that worthy name by which you are called? We are all Christians. We're all called by Christ's names, rich or poor, wherever God's placed us.
Verse 8 – And if you (really) fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," and then you do well;
Verse 9 - but if you have respect of persons, you commit sin,… Now, when I memorized the Ten Commandments I didn't come up with, "Thou shall not respect persons or you commit sin." But it's built in there, in the law of love, loving your neighbor as yourself. God sets the rules. He sets the standards. We have to use His definitions to get rid of sin, and to become like Him and His son.
Do we treat all equally? God is about relationships, not things. So often we look at things; it's easy to point to things. People measure their success by things, by position. That's not what it's about. It's about relationships, most importantly, your relationship with God, and then your relationship with men. And through that relationship its how God fits you into His plan, and if you show respect of persons God doesn't like it. It is sin, as He said.
Do we abhor all sin? Or do we abhor just the big ones? In this world, it's kind of like, "no harm, no foul." If it doesn't really hurt anybody else it's not really a sin. But God wants a pure heart, and a pure mind. He doesn't want people who define it differently than He does because those little things grow into big things. But God says He helps us, and He does. We don't really think of God sometimes helping us. Some of the things that we go through; we wonder, "How does this help?"
It's interesting; my wife took our little dog, yesterday, to the groomers. It's interesting, it's not our dog. It's interesting, always reminds me of the line where he says, "Does your dog bite?" The dog bites, and he says, "Not my dog." But my wife took the dog, it's not our dog. His name is Edmond Dantes. It's my daughter's dog, actually, my son named him. I'm not sure how that works. He's named after the Count of Monte Cristo. But he's kind of tiny and small, and he's not rich, so it doesn't really fit. I was always upset with my son for naming him that because they ask for your passwords on the internet, and "What's the name of your dog?" And I don't know how to spell it. (Laughter) I always forget whether it's an S or a Z. But Dantes, he was this giant fluff ball up until a couple days ago, but my wife took him in, and shaved him down. Now we came home, it's a whole different dog. It's this tiny little thing; this little poodle that makes noises when I come home, and runs around in circles until I pet him, and then I try to calm him down.
It's interesting - I wish sin could be shaved off us the same way that all that fur was shaved off little Dantes. I don't think Dantes enjoyed it. I think he rather enjoyed the coat he had when he went outside. Now he goes outside and shivers. He had a sweater, but now the sweater doesn't fit him anymore, but I guess my wife could change the buttons on it. We'd have a winter button and a summer button.
But it's kind of like us. We wish God could change us so easily, but it doesn't happen so easily for us. He does it a little at a time. It's not just one massive shaving. Of course we come clean every Passover with one act in accepting Christ's sacrifice. But everything we do that God does to us a little bit at a time.
It's just, do you control your attitude when you're driving down the street and someone does something? When you get the smaller piece of pie instead of the bigger piece how do you react? Those little things that you go through, do you make excuses when things go wrong?
There've been some big excuses made over the years. You know, Aaron, the high priest, made the excuse that "I just threw the gold in the fire and out came the calf." My namesake; have I ever done that? Probably, in a different way but only men seem to excuse themselves this way, and women, probably; but probably not as good as we men are. We have more practice.
God always tests us by these trials that we go through. The trials are big, and some are small but He wants us to learn how to react. Sometimes the trial might simply be a sickness. Cause you to miss an event such as a game, or something you want to go to. Sometimes it's very difficult. You lose a loved one. You lose a job. You have a friend, who perhaps leaves the church, or the truth. A betrayal of others and you ask why? Why did that happen? And how do you react? He wants us to learn how to react appropriately, putting our cares on Him; to understand what we can learn, because we learn through various methods, and He makes us learn at ourselves, and wonder if we did it right.
With Mr. Armstrong, I got chewed out a few times, and he was always good at that. And he always forgot it after he was done. I never did. I lay there bleeding (laughter) inside. Then I'd always ask myself, "Did I do something to deserve this? Did I say it wrong, did I do it wrong? And I, unfortunately, had the position of where I had to tell him all the things that had gone wrong for the last decade, which were numerous, and things that he didn't know anything about or he would have changed. Things he didn't realize, and yet it kind of fell in my lap to be the man who gave him the bad news. And I'd always ask, "Could I have done it better? Could I have done it differently?
Indeed, it's easier to blame others because that's our first human reaction. The first human did it. "It was the woman." Of course, we guys know that's true. (Laughter) And the woman says, "The snake," (laughter) and she may be referring to us which is also true because we make mistakes, and maybe you're right. Maybe some of the things you did weren't your fault, and sometimes maybe there is a good excuse. But those excuses don't mean anything because they're there for us to learn, for us to understand. Because we learn about God through suffering through the difficulties.
I always use the physical to understand the physical. It's interesting, my son is a little boy, and all you who have children have gone through this. Always wanting to know why? Always want to know how? And always want to know, "Are we there yet?" And they think that you know everything because you're so big, and they're so little. And they have so much inexperience, and you have so much experience.
And then they become teenagers, and then they think they know how, and when, and they know we're not there yet. And, even if he doesn't know, "I'm a teenager. I can figure it out for myself," and we do that.
But life is fair, my son now has a little boy of his own, and he once again can be asked, "How, and when?" And now he's beginning to ask me, "How, and why," and once again we get smarter. Sometimes, through the things that God gives us. And life is that way, and it has been for six thousand years, from my parents to their parents to their parents, etcetera on up to Adam.
Have we reached the place where we've figured out that we have to ask God, "How, and when, and are we there yet?" If you're still alive you're not. There's more places to go.
Christ always did what His Father asked; always, every time. It's wonderful. I wish each of us could be that way. Not only did He ask, and do the appropriate thing. He did it at the right time, and the right place. Sometimes we do the right thing at the wrong place, or the wrong thing at the right place.
But Christ was perfect. One of the scriptures that I've always questioned, and has intrigued me is Hebrews 5:8 Hebrews 5:8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
American King James Version×because Christ was perfect. And there wasn't any question, being the begotten Son of God. But yet in Hebrews 5:8 Hebrews 5:8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
American King James Version× it says,
Hebrews 5:8 Hebrews 5:8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
American King James Version× – "though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. He learned obedience by the things He suffered.
Christ came from God but was obedience really an issue for Him? I don't think so. I think He was going to be obedient. What was it that He learned, and why? I've pondered on this scripture a number of times, and I can give you my take on it. It's maybe inadequate. I'm sure there's more to it. There's more to every scripture than any of us can truly determine.
But I wonder, in thinking about this, how many of us would have a difficult time being obedient if everything was perfect? If everything you asked for came; if everything was proper, and in its place; if everything was just neat and orderly, kind of like my office up there, which all of you can laugh, because you've seen it. It doesn't work that way.
It's hard to describe a perfect world because we don't know what a perfect world is because we haven't seen one. But Christ did come from a perfect world. He came from sitting beside God, on His throne. He came from a place where all the rules, the things that make life happy, where perfect love is.
It's hard for us to envision a perfect world. A lot of us thought we found it a long time ago. And how many people, when they come into the church, they expect a perfect church? I went to Imperial. That's supposed to be a perfect school. It wasn't. I went to Ambassador. It was a perfect place, a lot of us thought, but it wasn't. I worked for Mr. Armstrong, and that would seemingly be perfect; but it wasn't. None of those things were perfect.
Christ though, came from a perfect world, where everything was right. There wasn't anything like I had at Imperial where I was always… I learned to smile at Imperial. I learned to smile all the time, not just at the appropriate time. I smile at funerals because it got to be such a habit, because they kept saying, "Wipe that smile off, wipe that look off your face." It was always an attitude test. The only attitude I could have was smiling, so I learned to smile constantly. None of those things, you wouldn't be misjudged.
When God and Christ were there, the world Christ came from was perfect, and yet now He was thrust into a totally imperfect world. Is there anything in this world that is perfect? Physically things decay, they rot. Spiritually Satan has influenced the whole world.
Christ dealt with all manner of sin when He came into this world; all manner of corruption, all manner of temptation. The judges that were unjust, religious leaders that put burdens on men beyond what God intended. Men who judged Him for helping sinners, for healing the sick at the wrong time, for comforting the homeless, for being with publicans, prostitutes, and He was accused of being a glutton. Matthew 11:18, when they challenged Christ. He told them,
Matthew 11:18 Matthew 11:18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a devil.
American King James Version× - "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He has a devil (demon).'… Here's this crazy man out there in the wilderness.
Verse 19 - "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners…." Couldn't win in an unjust world. Why did He go through what he did? One reason, Christ was doing His part in God's overall plan of salvation for mankind. He knows us inside and out physically and spiritually. Continuing in Hebrews 5:9 Hebrews 5:9And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;
American King James Version×:
Hebrews 5:9 Hebrews 5:9And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;
American King James Version×- And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; if you obey Him, He is the author. And again, Hebrews 12:2
Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
American King James Version×- Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;… An author writes a book. Jesus Christ is making a story in you, and a story in me; a success story as done through suffering, obedience. It's difficult, Hebrews 12:2 Hebrews 12:2Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
American King James Version×, again continuing …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Christ has a place for us near that throne, and we also don't have to worry about anything that may seem foolish to the world. That might seem shameful. But it wasn't easy for Christ. Do we expect it to be easy for us?
As we enter the Passover, if we realize as best we can the incredible opportunity that we have through that sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Yet we have to do our part. It requires our acceptance of it. It's why we take the wine and the bread, the acceptance of, and our willingness to put sin out of our lives. Again, I can put sin out of my life; you can put it out of yours. We can't make others do it for we have to let Christ pay for our sins.
You know, most of us, guys especially, we don't like anyone else to pay our way. We want to pay our own way, but with this one we can't because "the wages of sin is death," and we all get paid for that. All men have sinned. All we can do is ask for forgiveness, and then live a life by our actions in what we do to show our willingness to do our part in God's plan for us to be able to be obedient to Him. Do we really strive to do our part? We really want to? We don't always decide what our part is. Some have run away from their part.
So we have the story of Jonah. Jonah didn't want to spare Assyria. He wanted Assyria to go down because they were supposed to conquer Israel. But his part was to go warn them. That was what God had in store for him.
Sometimes we get in the way. We don't see what our part is. But don't feel bad; Jonah did it, Peter also did it. What did Peter do when the foot washing ceremony came along? He thought He was respecting His Lord, His Master. And he said, "You're not gonna wash my feet. I am the low rung on the totem pole, not you." Because his whole mind was set with the things of this world where the leaders have everything done for them, and yet here was a leader who was doing everything for him, and he didn't recognize it.
But he figured it out quickly when Christ said, "Well, if you don't want that you're not part of me."
And then he went the other way. "Wash my hands. Wash my face, my head, let's get it all done."
And Christ said, "No, that's not what it's about." Peter was an "all or nothing" sort of guy, maybe some of you are like that as well.
Well, it's not wrong as long you recognize you're wrong, and you change. I always love these men of the Bible, and the women. These stories, I learned them from my childhood, and what made me love them so much is they're just like us. They went through the same thoughts, the same tests, the same difficulties in dealing with people.
Their society wasn't quite the same. They didn't have automobiles. They didn't have airplanes but the relationship side of things in dealing with humans is exactly the same whether you go back a thousand years or five thousand years. We have to strive to do our part, and those people, and those examples that we have help us.
God put all them in situations that seemed hopeless at times, and they had the trials. They teach me that life is not a helpful gospel. I would hate to have a Bible that only had everything turned out good because everybody was good, because then I would think I couldn't make it.
I would probably think that if I suffered that God doesn't like me. When in reality just the opposite is true more than likely unless you've committed a sin or did something foolish by yourself. But if indeed, you suffered for righteousness sake. There is suffering involved in that.
Mr. Armstrong, when things would go bad, he'd always say, "The mistakes, I made myself." Which is true, all of us, the mistakes we make ourselves, and then you may deserve the suffering. But suffering really may mean that you're closer to God than you think; that God has something He's teaching you that you don't understand.
I know I felt that way taking care of Michelle's father when he had his stroke. I felt that way at different times when I've had to do different jobs, and been asked to do things I didn't expect I would be asked, or didn't even think I could do.
But there are some things you need to learn to be able to fit where God wants you, like Job. Now if there was ever a person who seemed to be close to God it was Job, because like I said, God, when He came down and said, and I'd have love for Him to say that about me, "Have you ever considered my servant, Aaron? Yes, and he'd probably say, "Yes, and he did this, this, and this. And Job, ah, he didn't have anything" It would be nice if we were all that way. But even Job had a problem, and had to be taught that human righteousness is nothing. Godly righteousness is what it's about.
We face the same things that the men of old did. Turn to Ephesians 2 if you would. We face things like ancient Israel. We have the Philistines among us, scattered around. We don't go out like Israel and attack them. We can't find release that way. We face individual challenges living among them; among the world that has all sorts of problems, and what we do individually is probably not going to be recorded in scripture. Thank God for that. I would hate to have the embarrassments that that would bring if everything we did was put down in scripture.
I often wonder how the men of the Bible, when they come up and know that what they did was written down. But being spirit beings I'm sure they'll handle it well but for us humanly, we think, "Oh my, it doesn't work that way." God's doing something in your lives. Recorded or not, we don't always see it, what He does, and where we fit into His plan. I'm sure Job didn't know where God, where he fit in God's plan.
We speculate a lot. I remember in the old days there was a lot of speculation. Job, we thought would be over the building department because we thought he might have built the pyramids, and each of us think, "Where would I fit?" I know I'm not going to be a steward on the airplane because I won't need a plane at that time. I have no idea what my spot's gonna to be but I know God does because we are being fitly framed together.
Ephesians 2:18 Ephesians 2:18For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
American King James Version×- For through him as Christ we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. When He died that veil was rent, and we gained access through the spirit through Him.
Verse 19 – And now, therefore, you are no more ( longer) strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and (members) of the household of God, - We're citizens with those that have gone before us, and those who are yet to come after us that are part of the household of God.
Verse 20 – we're (having been) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. He is the cornerstone. His position is very clear where He fits in the plan of God. His position is very clear in every Holy Day, be it Passover, or Unleavened Bread, or Pentecost, or the Feast of the First Fruits, or Trumpets, the returning, giving judgment in the millennium, putting away Satan. Christ is very clearly at His role. Ours is not quite as clear. He talks about the apostles, each of the gates, where they're named, and things, but not that clear.
Verse 21 – in whom the whole building, fitly framed together, grows into a holy temple unto God (in the Lord), - It's God'stemple and He has put it together with His son, Jesus Christ. And that's what Passover's about: us preparing our part so that we can be part of that temple.
Verse 22 - in whom you also are being built together for a habitation (dwelling place) of God in the Spirit. Again, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we are built by God, and He knows where we fit. He continues this theme in Ephesians 4. Paul, talking to the Ephesians –
Ephesians 4:11 Ephesians 4:11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
American King James Version× - And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, - All of us have gifts, all of us have a place, all of us are doing something to fit, and learning how to fit often involves suffering, tribulation, and trials. It's not always easy. Why?
Verse 12 - for the perfecting (equipping) of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, When?
Verse 13 - till we all come to the unity of the faith… We're not there yet, obviously…and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; His spirit, working in you, as you yield to Him, as I yield, we try to come to that fullness which we won't truly do until we are spirit beings. Till that character is imbedded in us the way it is in Him.
Verse 14 – Therefore, being no more children, tossed to and fro, (and) carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; Not always knowing what they say or do. Self deception's easy; a lot of it goes around. I've seen so many of it in my fifty years.
I got a call this morning from someone asking a question. It's amazing! People are trying to create doctrinal issues out of things that aren't doctrinal issues. People who want to make other people look bad, unfortunately. People who want to draw people away. The phone call I got this morning was someone who's concerned about, "We're changing doctrine because someone who's an alcoholic – or can't take any [alcohol], or can't gluten for bread. We're defying God in letting them take wine that has no alcohol in it."
And the question they asked me, "Did Mr. Armstrong do anything like that?" And of course there were a lot of administrative things Mr. Armstrong did that he didn't write about – things that happened along those lines, things that are part of judgment, mercy, and faith; things that are administrative that Mr. Armstrong would always say, "I cannot change anything of God's law," never would, never did. But in places where it's obvious, like on Atonement nursing mothers can drink something to nourish their babies, and various things.
An alcoholic who would go off on a binge. What would God say? Is He gonna be happy because, well, you took the wine at Passover and then you went out and destroyed your life because you couldn't take it? I suppose we could get even more pharisaical, and say, "Well, where in the Bible does it say red wine instead of white wine?" It doesn't say what kind of wine, it just says wine. But yet there are people that want to make issues of things that indeed are not issues, not doctrinal.
We want to do things right, perfect before God, and certainly anyone who doesn't have a problem takes the wine as it is. And there's very few that way. And it wasn't ever brought out and written up because it was a rare thing, like a lot of things are, but people will try to draw people away based on those things, unfortunately.
Verse 15 - but, speaking the truth in love,…do we do things in love? … that we may grow up in all things in Him which is the head- even Christ— Do we understand what Christ did? How many times did the disciples say, "Don't let the children come. Don't do this." Christ had to show them what love was, what His Father did, and how He did it.
Verse 16 - from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by what every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Each of us are judged individually, but are part of a collective group. God's children, part of His church, His temple, His spiritual temple.
Verse 17 – (This) I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk,… Don't walk like you were when you were a gentile, a spiritual gentile. All of us, before baptism were gentiles, spiritually. … in the vanity of their minds, - Do we see that today? The world is full of vanity in their own minds.
Verse 18 - Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Indeed this world is ignorant. This world is blind. This world is alienated from God because they don't understand Him. And where do they go from there?
Verse 19 - Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Look at the world, how unclean it is. The immorality, the greed, all the shows, everyone trying to win regardless of how; regardless of the rules. But we haven't learned that.
Verse 20 - But you have not so learned Christ; - Christ is our role model; a life of discipline, willing to suffer if need be. Our example.
Verse 21 - if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
Verse 22 - that you put off, concerning your former conduct,… All of us have to put off the things which we thought before, which is corrupt …the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, - It's not a one-time event. It's a way of life that we have to change. It's a lifetime of carving out human nature, replacing it with God's nature, replacing it with His Holy Spirit. Passover is a great renewal; to be clean as it says:
Verse 23 - being renewed in the spirit of your mind, - We get that pure cleanliness at the Passover time when we admit, "Christ, you did it. We can't without you." So, what do you want to do?
Verse 25 – (Therefore) put away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. Lying tears down everyone. It hurts everyone. It doesn't stop; it spreads, and goes on.
Verse 26 - Be angry, and sin not:… Yeah, you can be angry. You can be angry at sin but not the sinner. You can get upset at that. …let not the sun go down on your wrath: That's a hard one, but sin permeates us, and it makes you bitter. The Bible talks about the root of bitterness, so we have to put away these things. Why? Because you give place to the devil, verse 27.
Satan is the accuser. He wants to attack you. He wants you to give him a place, and oftentimes with the things we say and do, we give him a place. He goes around accusing. You've seen it. So have I. We have to stop it. If you accuse, you have to stop it. If you listen to those accusing, you have to stop because you're giving a place for Satan.
Verse 28 - Let him who stole steal no longer…, Yeah, you can change, all of us. Some of us get so despondent at who they are they commit suicide but that's not what it's about. When you look at what it's about you look at Peter who denied Christ, and became one of the strongest apostles for him. You look at the disciple Judas, who saw he made a mistake, and he went out and hanged himself. Because it's about change, it's not about feeling sorry for yourself…. but rather let him labor, working with his hands the things which is good, that he may have (something) to give to him who has needs.
Spiritual gleaning, the old fathers gleaned. Remember how, in the Old Testament, they had to leave the corners of the field, and things for people who were down on their luck, who were hurting. Do we leave things for people that have needs? Do we leave gleaning in our spiritual lives? We're not farmers today so we tend to get away from those things but we have means, we have income, we have things that we need to help others. We need to spiritually apply that. Do you give part of what God gives to you to help others?
Verse 29 - Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth,… Oh, that's a tough one for everybody, …but that which is good to the use of edifying,… Let everything that we say edify …that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Do you ask yourself when you open your mouth, "Do my words edify, or do they tear down?"
Verse 30 - And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, … How many times have the angels around you hear you, and see you, and return because you're grieving the Spirit of God; for it is God's Spirit that seals us for our redemption.
Verse 31 - Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: Anything that's wrong, anything evil you have to get rid of. Difficult task, but it's one we do right now as we examine ourselves. Let's take each one of these things and ask yourself, "Am I bitter?"
I've gotten angry before. I've gone through those stages. I've been able to not become bitter. But I have that anger, and I've heard a lot of evil things in my day, but I've learned that those things, as long as I'm not saying them or doing them, I'm okay. If I can help others, sometimes I let other people unload on me because I can take it, and usually after you unload you feel pretty good. And then you go home and you worry about whether the person you told is going to say things and get you in trouble. That's the way it seems to work, and so are you a good ear for someone, realizing that maybe they just have a simple need? But look at those things, do you do them? And are you, as verse 32 says,
Verse 32 – And are you kind one to another,… Do you reek of kindness? Do people think of you, "Wow, what a kind person." …tenderhearted,… Are you like, childlike in that? Are you a nice person known for your kindness? Or are you like when I was in high school - are you the "put down king" of the class, where you can take anybody and put them down in their place?
Do you forgive one another, or do you hold a grudge? Well, maybe God will hold a grudge against you if you don't. As you go through and you learn forgiveness, you learn forgiveness helps you. Forgiving someone else, whatever you do, doesn't do anything for them. It helps you. It helps you be clear before God. Are you hard on forgiving? Do you demand something of someone else before you forgive them, conditions? It doesn't mean you're foolish. It doesn't mean you open yourself up to people who might attack you. But you have to get it off your chest and realize, no.
When I was with Mr. Armstrong, when I would ask myself, "Have I done something wrong?" Occasionally the answer was, "No, I didn't."
And with that I would say, "Okay, It's his problem. God help him to see it." If it was my problem I'd ask God to help me change. It's a series of life events that show your humanness; that shows the things that you have to do daily.
Success and failure teach us, both the highs and the lows. All of us remember the highs in our life, and we all remember the lows. I'm sure the man who hit the homerun yesterday will never forget that. Catching the winning touchdown, scoring the winning goal, those things are a wonderful success.
Everybody wants to slay Goliath. Most of us don't ever get a chance to slay Goliath. There are no Goliaths around anymore, of a sort. Maybe your job is only to pick up the stones to put in the bag for David. Maybe your job is to be a cook for the army, Maybe your job it to help clean the weapons. Maybe your job is to pray for others. Perhaps it's only a small part in a bigger picture. But God says that we're fitly framed together. I can tell you, two boards won't stay together unless they got a nail in it. The little nail holds it together. Perhaps you only have a small part. Perhaps you're only a small piece that holds up a bigger part, and helps someone else.
You know, I teach my class in finance. I have them do some problems because my job in finance with my class is to make them see, not what it is today but what it's going to be tomorrow, to learn the future value of things, which is a good spiritual principle.
I always give them the question that I've done for years when I've taught the class. Always ask, "How many of you went to MacDonald's once a week or so", and almost everybody seems to have gone to some fast food place which is so common nowadays. And I'd ask them how much they spend, and usually it's twenty-five dollars or so for the family, the group, or whoever; maybe a little more, maybe a little less.
And I ask them, "How many of you would like to give that up once a month and invest it in the market, and how much would it be worth? What if your parents had decided to do that when you were born? At eighteen they gave you that sum for college. They put it in their calculator, and put in the future value, eighteen years. They put in the twenty-five dollars for the payment, and the average interest rate, about eleven or twelve per cent for the last eighteen years in the market, give or take a little bit. And it's interesting, because that twenty-five dollars that doesn't seem like so much once or twice a month becomes $18,000 or more by the time you're eighteen. And everybody says, "Oh yeah, I wish my parents had given me that."
And I go on to say, and how much would it be if you went on to retirement at age sixty-five, and so on? So they change the number to forty-five years, and they have somewhere between three and five million dollars. And they say, "Wow, that sounds pretty good." All because of twenty-five dollars once a month.
Our spiritual life is the same way. The spiritual things we put into the bank that magnify and grow over and over, and it seems like we're not going anywhere, and again, that twenty-five dollars doesn't seem like much the first month, the second month, and as it starts growing, and hard to picture. In your mind you have to picture the three million dollars at the end of your life. And all of a sudden it makes it a little easier to put it in. You have to see the little thing you do right in your life as that deposit that grows into your place where God has put you, to fit you in.
The small parts variously always add up, and perhaps you are given a big part sometime. There are people who have been given big parts, a big part their whole life. Like Moses, and like Joshua, or maybe you're like Caleb, one of my favorite characters in the Bible because he had a job to do, he did it, and he reported back truthfully, and he got to go to the Promised Land. He got to dump all the problems on Joshua. (Laughter) Somebody on Earth is from Caleb because God promised him a descendant forever; so one of us, somewhere out there is his, if not many, I'm sure.
But what if you have a big place; what does it mean? Turn to II Corinthians 10:17. How should you see it if you do have a part? I've seen a lot of men tested by power; getting it, and losing it. How do you see the position you're given?
II Corinthians 10:17 - But he that glories, let him glory in the Lord.
Verse 18 - For not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. God gives you those parts for His purpose to make you fit where He wants you to fit. You can't toot your own horn. If you do, you'll blow your reward, as they say. Some people just show up to be seen. It's not what it's about. Show up to learn, to help, to serve, to be fitly framed in the part that God wants you to be. To be like Christ, who made God's way perfect because it's not about you. It's about your growing into being Him. It's about God. It's about making obedience to Him look good. That's what ancient Israel was supposed to do.
Turn to Deuteronomy 4:5 Deuteronomy 4:5Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it.
American King James Version×. You know, the most effective teacher is experience; it's also sometimes the worst teacher. But God wants you to do the things you do to look good so that His way of life and what He teaches. You're supposed to be an example of what He wants.
Deuteronomy 4:5 Deuteronomy 4:5Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it.
American King James Version×- Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you go to possess it. What land are we going to possess? The kingdom, a lot more than milk and honey, and that would be tame to what we're offered. It's called the City of God; New Jerusalem is where we're going to be. And how? By keeping the statutes and the judgments regardless of any suffering, and it goes on,
Verse 6 - …and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." If you do them, if you do the laws like it says in verse 6 - Keep therefore and do them… Those are what are our foundation. …(for) this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." People can see some of the good things in your life and they wonder, "Well, how did you get that?
I've told the story of the queen, when she asked me, "How can I raise my son?" It's amazing when people see things in others all because they know something about God, because that's where true wisdom is. But they ask questions like that.
Verse 8 - And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? We as a church reflect God. As individuals we are to reflect Jesus Christ, and be like He is.
As we go into the Passover are you becoming more like God? Are you fitting into the building where He wants you to fit? Not where you want to fit but where He wants you to fit. Are you willing to be what God wants you to be?
It's interesting, in our neighborhood they're building some homes, and as they go up you can see various stages. Some of them are just digging out the holes for the foundation, some of them have got the foundation poured, some of them have the framing up. It's interesting to look at that, and watch them put it together. Something that's framed through the blueprints.
How they dig that hole, and deliver the wood to the place, and they do the various things in order. It's interesting, the wood comes; it's cut to fit pretty much. They don't deliver big logs; although some gave its all to put up that big house. But they deliver two by fours, and two by sixes, four by fours, and four by sixes, and four by twelves from beams to support the weight.
And as I look at the house I think of us being pieces of wood that God is putting up, and I wonder, "Where do I fit? Am I a two by four? Am I going to hold up some sheetrock? Am I gonna be a four by twelve, hold up the support beam for the roof, or the second story?" Everything has its place in that structure.
And beside each of those building sites is a big trash bin where the excess pieces of wood go. Do we have a spiritual trash bin? You know, it's probably going to hold the roof up somewhere. But they prefab them, they deliver them because not everything anymore is built on site.
God's spiritual home also is not built in the same time and in the same place. It's been built over six thousand years. And even longer, considering the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. And that's why God gave us those witnesses, to help us understand.
In Hebrews 12:1 Hebrews 12:1Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
American King James Version×, we read in Hebrews 11 all the different names of the people, and 12:1 tells us why He names those people:
Hebrews 12:1 Hebrews 12:1Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
American King James Version× - Wherefore seeing we (also) are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that's (is set) before us, We have to run. We run, and who do we look to?
Verse 2 - Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;… He is finishing it. … who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,… which we read before … and is (set down) at the right hand of (the throne of) God. And He knows where you fit in that building. God has made a place, and you have a place if you qualify.
If you don't want to be the size and the shape that God wants. If you want to be a two by ten instead of the two by four then God can't use you. If you want to be some ornament on the outside instead of a piece on the inside where He wants you, He can't use you.
It's interesting, I go back once in a while and read in Exodus 26:7-8 Exodus 26:7-8  And you shall make curtains of goats' hair to be a covering on the tabernacle: eleven curtains shall you make.
 The length of one curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: and the eleven curtains shall be all of one measure.
American King James Version× where it talks about the tabernacle that was built, and how well God laid it out for them. You know, it's gonna be this tall and this wide, and there's twelve pieces to the curtain. They've got this many hooks on it, and then you put in the weave, how you weave it, and how you decorate it, and then it comes to the garments for the high priest, and it says how heavy they're to be. What they're to be made out of. Everything very well laid out in His plan.
And then what goes in the temple, and how you put the veil across. The ark goes in there. Aaron's rod that budded. Some pieces of the Manna to show what you lived on in the wilderness. The Book of the Law. The tablets. Very well laid out. Very carefully laid out. But I ask, "If it's this detailed for the physical layout, how much more has God laid out His spiritual temple to be built?"
How much has He prepared where you and I fit into that temple, and you have to fit where He wants you to fit, not where you want to fit. Sadly, we tend to compare ourselves, instead of appreciating what God has for us; we tend to look at, "Well, where do they fit?" Where does someone else? We want to compare, but Peter did that as well, with John, when Christ was there. When Christ was telling him what was going to happen to Him, and his first thought was not about me, it was about someone else.
John 21:20 John 21:20Then Peter, turning about, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrays you?
American King James Version× – (Then) Peter, turning about, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved (following);… which is John. John always refers to himself that way, …which also leaned on his breast at supper, and asked, Lord, who is going to betray you?
Verse 21 - Peter seeing him said to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? How about John? Is he gonna suffer too? Is he gonna die like that?
Verse 22 - Jesus said to him, if I will that he waits till I come, what is that to you? You follow me. You fit where you fit. Don't worry about where he fits. He fits too, just as you, but it doesn't matter. And of course, rumors started from that as well.
Verse 23 - Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that this disciple should not die: yet Jesus didn't say to him, you shall not die; but, rather if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? Because he was teaching me obedience, not so perfect a world. He taught me the scriptures which were perfect. The people who applied them were not always perfect just as you and I are not always perfect.
If everything were fair now, and perfect I would not be who I am, and you would not be who you are. You would think differently and you wouldn't have learned as much as you have learned. You wouldn't know how to comfort the lonely. You wouldn't know how to necessarily empathize with those who are treated unjustly; to console those who have lost jobs; those who have lost loved ones.
Because we can't change anyone. Anyone that's married knows that. All of us try to change our mate. My wife, I'm always working on her. She's always working on me, and on occasion I listen to her, and she's usually right. But it's fun. I know at night my wife has this habit of what I call, "lock and roll." She always likes to wrap herself like a sleeping bag so, when she wants to roll over, she locks onto the covers and turns over and rolls. That works really well for her. She's nice and tucked in. Doesn't work very well for me though. I'm on the other side of the bed and all of a sudden I get this cold blast of native air. (Laughter) And so I'm always trying to tell her, "You need to just slide under the covers like I do," because I don't want to disturb anyone when I roll around. But she hasn't figured that out, so finally I decided that I'm gonna change my approach because it works pretty well. If I'm cold I can scoot over right next to her, and then I get other privileges. (Laughter)
Well, we can't change people, we can only do the things in our life that we can change, and we can say, "God made us different." We all have that spot that God prepared, and you don't really know what that spot is, and that's why He gives you different assignments. He gives you different opportunities, different challenges. That's what your life's training is about. How can any of us be upset with what God puts us through? The happy moments or the sad moments.
Christ wasn't upset at His role. He defined how it is to play your role perfectly. He fulfilled it gladly and without complaint, and we should do no less for our God.
Have you lost a loved one? Have you lost a child? You learn from that. I think of little Naomi Martin who died recently. I learned how much a family learns from an experience like that. Learning how to comfort others. There's always something to learn in a loss. God is teaching you obedience in an imperfect world.
Has someone offended you? Someone lied about you? Caused you to suffer unjustly? Probably have. It's happened to me, I'm sure it's probably happened to you. God is teaching you obedience in an imperfect world.
Have you done your part as best you can? And in your relationship difficulty, we're all imperfect but God knows your heart. Are you suffering from it? God is teaching you obedience in an all too imperfect world.
All my life I've been taught the ideal. God is good. God is just. God's fair. God is merciful. Indeed He is because He's building the building, and He defines what is just, and what is fair, and what is merciful, and what is Godly. The church is God's people.
Indeed Imperial was God's school, in a sense because He was teaching me obedience in a not so perfect world. It taught me the scriptures, which were perfect. The people who applied them were not always perfect just as you and I are not always perfect. If everything were fair now, and perfect, I would not be who I am, and you would not be who you are. You would think differently, and you wouldn't have learned as much as you have learned. You wouldn't know how to comfort the lonely. You wouldn't necessarily know how to empathize with those who are treated unjustly; to console those who have lost jobs; those who have lost loved ones; understanding natural disasters, the tsunamis of life, the earthquakes.
I probably wouldn't desire the kingdom of God as much as I do, and the older I get and the more suffering I see, and witness, the more understanding I have of what Christ when He learned obedience. These are the things you suffer because this is a very, very imperfect world.
And we are fit into that building, fitly framed by suffering. We learn to fit through the suffering.
Ask God what He wants you to be? Let Him assemble you where He wants. And those buildings and those houses in my neighborhood, as they go up. It's fun to watch. It's fun to see the basements, and the side walls go up. It's fun to watch them put the floor down, and put the walls up, put the trusses, and to begin to see the shape of what the house is, and then they start putting the insulation and the wrapping on them. And you can see and understand what the master builder and architect had in mind when they started digging that hole.
The spiritual builder of the church is Christ, and God, the Father. Christ is the head of the church, and maybe what we look like at times is just the hole in the ground with the mud, maybe it looks like we've got a little bit of the foundation coming. Maybe we've got a few walls up as we get older. And as we get older, hopefully we can understand more of the size and shape of what we should be, because it's God's house with each of us in our place. And I can't tell you again where everybody fits. I just know that you do fit somewhere just as I do.
If we yield to Him. If we let Him plane the boards down to the size He wants it to be. He lets us be the nail that holds it together, or let him be the stucco or the wrapping. Where we truly fit in these difficult times we learn these things usually. As James understood, James 1, James understood as all the apostles did. I'm sure they witnessed their friends and fellows dying, being tormented, and tried as they fought a world that didn't want to accept Christ, just as our world doesn't.
Verse 3 – "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.
Verse 4 – "But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting for nothing." Patience, letting God work in us. Probably the hardest thing. Are we patient with God? He is patient with us, even let us rearrange the furniture at times. He lets us learn things through the choices we make, sometimes not the best choices.
Abraham came to an impasse with Lot. It was too crowded, and I'm sure it caused sadness to Abraham to imply that he and Lot, whom he had raised, that's his nephew, had to split up.
Genesis 13 tells us of the account; tells us how Abraham went out of Egypt.
Genesis 13:1 Genesis 13:1And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
American King James Version×- … he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, ….
Verse 2 - And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and gold. Yep, God blessed them.
Verse 3 - And when he went (on) his journeys from the south to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
Verse 4 – (Unto) the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abraham called on the name of the Lord.
Verse 5 - And Lot also, went with Abraham, had flocks, and herds, and tents. Lot benefitted from his uncle, and the training.
Verse 6 - And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great,…. And the strife came between them, as often happens when we see the things that we have limited. And we wonder what we should do,
Verse 8 - And Abraham said to Lot, "Don't be upset. We don't need this strife. We're family." …Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we be brethren.
Verse 9 - Is not the whole land before us? Separate yourself, (I pray thee,) from me: if you take the left, then I'll take the right; or if you take the right, (then) I will go to the left.
Verse 10 - Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as you come to Zoar. Lot saw something he liked. He made a choice. I can fit in real good over there.
Verse 11 - (Then) so Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated themselves from each other. Sometimes the better choice is not what we seek. Lot's choice cost him his wife. Cost him most of his children except two daughters. Cost him much of what he had. He didn't get to take everything out with him.
Abraham's unselfishness led him to rely on God. "God, whatever he picks is fine. I'll take what's left. You can bless me." To let God mold and fit him into the plan. It's one thing Abraham did, he had patience in those areas, to let God mold him.
I wonder if Lot could have seen ahead what this would do to his family if he'd have made another choice. He could have said, "Maybe I should have taken the mountains." So God delivered him, even used his bad choice to make him into the board that he wanted for His temple. With it came some pain and sorrow, and that molded Lot. Lot's gonna understand people because of what he went through. God was fitly framing Lot through the things that he suffered in teaching him obedience. He wanted the well watered plains, and it was not the panacea that he thought it was.
Today God gives us all opportunities to make choices, like Lot. What do you choose? If we use human reason to decide we'll probably make some mistakes like Lot did. If you choose not to be a supporting wall where God wants you, you want to be another part of the house; the house is going to crash. God can't let that happen. He's molding you to fit where you really fit.
I don't know, when I got my job flying, how many people came up and asked me how they get a job like that. They wanted to be close to the top, I guess. Wanted to see the world, perhaps. Nothing wrong with that. Didn't understand what the job was, and every time they'd ask me that I'd say, "Are you crazy?" Because the job wasn't that much fun. It was educational. I learned a lot through it, and I'm glad I was able to make it through there but I always asked them, "Why would you want a job that takes you away from your family all the time?" My wife and I didn't have children on purpose because I didn't want to be an absentee father, and of course, it cost a lot of people their marriages to be gone that much. So why would they want something? It may seem glamorous. Be careful what looks glamorous humanly.
Remember the old country song titled "Thank God for Unanswered Prayer?" I'm often thanking God for not answering some of the prayers I made. Because that song's about a man that's madly in love with this little girl, so beautiful. He finds her twenty years later and she's kind of mean, and not the kind of person she was when he prayed to God to give her to him. And he thanks God for not answering that prayer.
There are times when I thank God for not answering some of my prayers because I don't always know what God is making me. I don't always know where I fit in some of these things. To be fitly framed is to let the builder put you where he wants you.
Passover is to make you useful to the master builder, to be like His son where you serve your purpose, and He can assemble you. Are you letting God build the temple? Are you letting God make you useful in Christ's sacrifice? If not, then you're going to end up in that bin beside the house where they throw the pieces that don't fit.
God expects us to yield to Him. He expects us to do like His Son did in a world that is imperfect. He expects us to fit through suffering through our life, through the highs and the lows.
My life has been fun in many respects. It's also been very difficult in many other respects. And it's a joy when I look back because I know that God had a purpose through the things that He put me through just as I know that He has a purpose for everything that you go through, and I see it as a joy because that's what Christ said, and what the apostles taught, that this is a joy.
We each try to be obedient, and when successful you learn something. You grow. Be an optimist. Look at everything that comes to you as something that God is doing to help you fit in His building. That you're going to be holding up a part that's much bigger than you are. And like Noah, Daniel, and Job you'll be in it. Only you can save yourself by your righteousness. And your righteousness only comes through Christ's Passover and His sacrifice.
Through Jesus Christ may we all have a wonderful Passover and Unleavened Bread season. And may each of us be fitly joined together as Christ was in an imperfect world, preparing for the perfect world to come.