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The Blessing of the Church

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The Blessing of the Church

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The Blessing of the Church

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On the road to Damascus, Jesus spoke to Paul with a thunderous voice saying "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Saul was persecuting the disciples, who Jesus declared to be His own body. Do we always consider what a privilege it is to come together as members of the Body of Christ? Let's consider five reasons to be personally thankful for the Church.

Transcript

[Gary Antion] Good afternoon, everyone. And it's sure nice to see you all on this Sabbath after Thanksgiving. I want to thank Katie and Chad. Thank you. Chad's been a blessing since he's been at ABC helping out with the singing program, the music, and helping with the chorale with Mr. Shoemaker. Really appreciate him and Katie, and it was a beautiful song. Thank you so much. It took a lot of work to do that one, I'm sure. Nice to be with you.

As my brother, Dave, who's with us today, by the way, and I sat in our car to the side of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in the summer of 1958. We watched those who walked to the building. We knew that this was the location of the Pittsburgh Church for Sabbath services. However, we did not know what meeting hall they were meeting at, because Soldiers & Sailors has a lot of meeting rooms and a huge one that's been used for years by the Pittsburgh Church.

So we sat watching. How would we know what meeting room to go to? So we watched. How would we identify any of God's people going in there? Because my brother was back from a baptizing tour, and I was not even interested in the Church that much, but he asked me to go with him, so I said I'll go. I think he may have even given me one of his Bibles to follow the service. So we saw several people going in and out up the steps, big long steps to get up into this facility. And sure enough, we saw this couple going up and we saw this man carrying a Bible, and they looked plain. They weren't wearing Amish clothing or anything, but they looked plain. And so we thought maybe that's them.

So we got out of the car and we followed them at a distance behind, and we followed them down the hallway, and sure enough, they turned into a room with about 45 or 50 people there, and we met with them for Church services. This was my introduction to the Radio Church of God, which was later changed to the Worldwide Church of God. My brother had been the ambassador for two years, was home to visit parents that summer, and had invited me to join him in attending. C. Wayne Cole was the pastor of that Pittsburgh Church, which by the way, was the closest Church to the East Coast. There was no other Church east of that. So Pittsburgh was kind of like the coastal Church in the Worldwide Church of God or Radio Church of God at that time. C. Wayne Cole was the pastor, and Charles Black was an undergraduate student from Ambassador who was assisting for the summer.

So we sat and we listened to the services, and I didn't get much out of it. I wasn't that interested. Only a year before that, I had been really speaking derogatory terms about the Church. My brother had already been to Ambassador for a couple of years. So this was my introduction to the Church, which I had made fun of about a year or so before. I didn't take much away from the service, except that I did note the humble people who seemed anxious to learn from God's Word which was being taught. God did break me down in the next year, and I came to greatly appreciate God's Church.

Thanksgiving has just passed. And we all hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. And those who aren't here, by the way, we understand. You are with family somewhere, or you are going to services somewhere else, or watching on the webcast, whatever. And certainly, we wish you a wonderful weekend or Sabbath day today.

So we were in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving with my sister who lives there. And my brother, Dave, flew into Pittsburgh, spent a couple of days, and we drove over on Wednesday and we met for dinner there. And then we had dinner Thursday, and we drove back on Thursday with my brother who's going to fly out of Cincinnati tomorrow to go home. But we haven't seen each other in a year, and I hadn't seen my sister in a year. So it's nice to be able to spend some time with family, and I hope you have done so.

I have a list that I made several years ago. It's about 22 things that I thought of just off the top of my head years ago to be thankful for for Thanksgiving. And one of those 22, is the Church, the Church of God. I have that list, things we should be thankful for, could be thankful for, that I was thankful for. But on the list was the Church of God. Why am I thankful for the Church of God? And my question for you is, are you?

So let's see from Scripture why we need to be thankful for the Church of God, for our Church, the Church we attend. First of all, before going to those reasons, I want to establish that God's Church is precious. God's Church is precious. And I know we often don't think of it. I don't think of it all that way at times. But in preparing this sermon, I was struck with how precious God's Church is, and I hope that we all feel it is precious.

Matthew 16:18. And by the way, I have my Scriptures printed out from New King James Version, and they're over here in order, so I've got those to read. So I won't be turning in my Bible unless I miss my place somewhere, but I've got them printed out, New King James Version. Matthew 16:18. This Church we are a remnant of, this Church was built by Jesus Christ. The Church of God was built by Jesus Christ. Is it precious? Let's read it.

Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter," that's a small rock, "and on this rock," a big, massive rock, "I will build My Church." Ecclesia or Ecclesia, which means called out ones. "I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades," the hell, "will not prevail against it."

Now that tells me and told me somewhere on this earth there had to be a Church that Jesus Christ built because the gates of hell haven't come yet to close on it. So I knew that. So again, the Church is called the body of Christ in Ephesians 1:22-23, as well as Ephesians 2:19-20. I'm not going to read those Scriptures, but I could share them with you. It says, "He gave Him..."

Ephesians 1:22-23, "He gave Him," Jesus Christ, "to be the head over all things to the Church."

And by the way, the word Church is listed almost between 114 and 120 times, depending on various versions, between 114 and 120 times. Almost every single time. It's Ecclesia, or Ecclesia, as some might pronounce it, which means called out ones. Most of it is in Acts, the Gospels, and Ephesians. You'll find them. Church. It's a Church that Jesus Christ built.

1 Corinthians 12:13 We read this. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- and have all been made to drink into or of one Spirit."

That's 1 Corinthians 12:13. Verse 27 dropping down, we read this.

1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are the body of Christ and members individually."

How does that strike you, that God considers you the body of Christ? I find it rather interesting that when the apostle Paul, I think it's in Acts 9, was going over to Damascus. He had received letters of introduction from the synagogues in Jerusalem area to go over to Damascus, Syria, to find anybody who was attending that synagogue who was believing the way the Apostle Paul later began to speak and teach what the Church of God was preaching, what the apostles were preaching. And he was going to take them and put them in prison like he had done already to many Christians. While he was on his way to wreak his havoc upon the Church, he was struck down with lightning. And what did he say? He was blinded. And you heard this voice saying, "Saul, Saul. Why are you persecuting me?" Now Saul could have responded, "Who are you?" And he said, "I'm Jesus whom you are persecuting." He said, "I'm not hitting you, Jesus, I'm just hitting your people. I'm not pounding on you, I'm hurting your people, throwing them in prison. I'm not throwing you into prison."

You know what Jesus Christ considers the Church? His body. When you attack His Church, when you attend His Church, you are coming to a very special place, not because of you, not because of me, but because God made it so. Do we consider the Church of God precious? 1 Corinthians 1:2. What is it called? Well, Paul wrote to the Church of God.

1 Corinthians 1:2 "The Church of God which is at Corinth, and to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus," to those... What does it mean to be sanctified? Set apart, blessed, special purpose set apart for a holy purpose. Those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:2, “called saints.”

Every Sabbath we come together we are meeting with God's saints. You don't have to become like Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was canonized by the Catholics finally, many years after her death, because of certain miracles she supposedly had done, and she is now a saint according to them. You don't have to be canonized, shot from a cannon. I put it that way laughably. You don't have to be canonized. When you are baptized and you receive the Spirit of God, you are put into the Church. And that makes us saints. So every Sabbath you come to meet together and I come to meet with you, we are in the presence of saints. They're God's people. They're not your people, they're God's people. So it's a wonderful blessing.

Philippians 1:1 Paul wrote, "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints." He wrote to saints. He wasn't writing to heaven. He wrote to the Church. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi." And he said, "With the bishops and deacons."

Philippians 4:1 "Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, stand fast in the Lord."

So when we come together at Church, we are coming to the Church that Jesus Christ built. It's called His Body. Secondarily, when we assemble together with whom are we meeting, we are meeting with saints. What a privilege and a blessing, what a precious blessing it is for us to have that as something that we can have as individuals.

So let's take a look at five reasons I have why we should value the Church, why we should consider the Church on our list of blessings, and hopefully, you did at Thanksgiving time. What is it about? What is the Church of God about? And let me ask the question, do you consider it a blessing to being a part of God's Church? Do you consider it an honor and a privilege, a privilege to attend? Or are you a lone ranger? I don't need a Church. It's me and God. I'm sorry. When Paul and Barnabas needed a place to go and Apollos, guess where they went? To the Church. They didn't say, "We're lone wolves out here, or lone rangers out here doing our part." God expects us each to do our part in the Church to help build it and support it.

I'm going to read you a quote that I found. I knew I'd have it. It's an anonymous, by the way. It's called The Perfect Church. "I think I shall never see a Church that's all it ought to be, a Church that has no empty pews, whose preacher never has the blues. A Church whose deacons always deak, and none is proud, but all are meek, where gossips never peddle lies, or make complaints or criticize, where all are always sweet and kind, and all to others' faults are blind. Such perfect Churches there may be, but none of them is known to me but still we'll work and plan and pray to make our Church the best that we can. If you can find a perfect Church without one fault or smear, for God's sake, don't join that Church. You'd spoil the atmosphere. If you should find the perfect Church, then don't you ever dare to tread upon such holy ground. You'd be a misfit there. But since no perfect Church exists made of imperfect men, then let's cease looking for that Church and love the one we're in. Of course, it's not a perfect Church. That's simple to discern. But you and I, and all of us, could cause the tide to turn."

Do we do all we can to help the Church be the best it can be? That's what it's about. It's not about fun. And I know, I know. Hey, every time I was troubled about something the Church did, that the leadership did, not the Church as a whole, I'd be out of the Church so many times in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out. Why? Because it isn't like me. But God didn't call me to find people like me. He called me to be a part of people like Him. And people somehow they say, "The minister did that. He made a mistake. The minister said that, it was a mistake. I'm leaving." Okay, good, you ever find a Church you're going to agree with, everybody's going to agree with you, you better have a Church of one, and it'll be you and maybe you even get upset at yourself sometimes. So you wouldn't even have a Church. God is the one who leads His Church.

It's interesting that we can read reasons that we come to Church. Number one reason is fellowship. I have. It's not necessarily in order of importance, just in order when I put them down. Number one reason is fellowship. We come to Church to meet with people of like minds. We come to Church to meet with people who have the same goals, same aims. And what is that aim and what is that goal? It's the Kingdom of God. It's a goal of doing the work of God on this earth for Him as He commissioned. That's what we're about. But let's notice reasons for fellowship.

Philippians 2:5 I'll read this. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."

What a blessing it is to meet with like-minded brethren. Like-minded brethren. And I'll tell you, after being away from Church for many weeks, this is about six weeks when I was in the hospital and rehab, I got letters, cards, notes, encouragement, and all that, I'll talk about that later, but I also missed you. And the first Sabbath I came back, they were celebrating our 60th anniversary. And I was sitting out in the hall. And Alex Johnson came up to me and said, "It's so good to see you." You know what I said to her? "It's so good to see anyone, anyone from the Church." It's so good to see you all. And when you're alone you don't realize how much that fellowship means when you come back. You don't realize it fully when you're away. You need it. You know you need it, but you don't realize how good it is to have the fellowship of the brethren. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 and Chapter 3 verses 6 and 7, we see that we can be happy and encouraged by being at Church.

1 Thessalonians 2:17 "But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, but not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire."

Do you have great desire to come to services? I want to find out how that person got that job they were telling me about they were looking for. I want to find out if they got it. I'm excited to see. I want to see how their health is. I want to see them in person and ask them. I could send emails and so on. I want to see them in person. I want to see how they're doing. I want to give them a hug, a congratulatory hug for whatever this, that, or the other thing, or a firm handshake. a warm, firm handshake.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 The Apostle Paul writes... And the Apostle Paul was an affectionate man. "But now that Timothy has come to us," he said, "and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us." Notice what Paul says, "Greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you."

We greatly desire to see you. One of the blessings of Church is meeting people of like minds. We're not all like personalities, like minds. We look in the same direction. We have the same hope and the same plan and the same goals we're trying to overcome with the Spirit of God and the help of God and the grace and mercy of God. We're trying to overcome.

1 Thessalonians 3:7 "Therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress, we were comforted concerning you by your faith."

When we saw how faithful you were, that was a great comfort to us. 1 John 1:6-7, the same theme of fellowship.

1 John 1:6 "If we say we have fellowship with Him..."

And by the way, the Apostle John was an apostle of love, which is probably why he and Jesus Christ hit it off so well together. Remember, Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and what is God? God is love. And what does John write about really more in the Book of the Gospel of John as well as 1, 2, and 3 John and Revelation to a certain extent but more in those Books? Love. What is love? And he writes about it.

1 John 1:6 He says, "If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."

Because we're headed the same direction. And where are we headed? In the paths of righteousness. Where do the paths of righteousness lead you to? The righteous God. That's where it leads you to it. How can you keep the paths of righteousness? Maybe we stay in that same path. Takes God's Spirit, God's strength, not your own strength, His strength. You have to couple your strength with it. The old adage that I remember from being taught at Ambassador College. We have to do as if it all depends on us, but we have to believe as if it all depends on God. God will give you the strength. You have to have the desire. but He'll give the strength.

1 John 1:7 So he says, "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another."

If I'm walking in the light and you're walking in the light, we're probably going to bump into each other. Catch up with each other. Walk beside each other. And how do we do that? Because God is light. Remember, what did Jesus Christ bring into the world? Light. And if we're walking in the light, we're not only walking with Him, Jesus Christ, but we're also walking with others who are walking in the light, and we have fellowship with one another.

Is fellowship saying, "Hi, brethren, hi, Joe, hi, this one, hi, John, hi, Mary, hi, Hugh, hi, Marina?" Is that fellowship? It's not fellowship. Fellowship is sharing, sharing your journey, sharing what's going on in your journey. In some Sabbaths, you may only talk to one person, but you talk to them a lot. And the next Sabbath you might talk to another one or two, but you talk to them a lot and you know them and they know you. That's fellowship. And he said, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses from all sin."

It is interesting in Acts 11, and I'm not going to read it, verses 25 and 26. Barnabas departed to look for Saul to help him along this tour to Tarsus, where Paul was from.

Acts 11:25-26 "And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch of Syria. So it was that for a whole year they assembled," not by themselves. We're apostles. We're sent by God. We don't need brethren. What do we need the Church for? We're the lone rangers here. “They assembled with the Church for a whole year and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians” Where? “in Syria.”

Christians. But it wasn't a nice term back then. It was the followers of Christ. That was more of a derogatory term. But that's where it came from. But they assembled with the Church, not by themselves. That's reason number one, fellowship. Treasure it. Treasure the saints that you're able to be with.

Number two, reason number two, that Church is the pillar and ground of truth. You want to find the truth, you should find it in the pulpit. You should find it in your Bibles. And those who preach at Church use the Bible. I don't want to speak my words. I want to speak God's words. How can you guarantee that what I'm saying is inspired of God? If you read it in the Scripture. I hope that what I say otherwise is inspired too. But I know that when I read the Scripture to you, those are inspiring words. I know it. Why? Because the Scripture is given under God's inspiration. All Scripture is given by God and has His breath upon it, His blessing upon it. So I know you receive blessings in that.

2 Timothy 3:15-17. We know what that means. We know what that...the pillar and ground. “And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise through salvation which is in Christ Jesus.” Verse 16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And I'll tell you where that Scripture is found in 1 Timothy 3:15. 1 Timothy 3:15. The Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And so you come to Church, you expect to hear the truth. And of course, what did Paul write? He said in 2 Timothy 4:2, instruction to evangelist Timothy, "Preach the Word." Preach the Word. I know you have your own words, I have my own words, but I want to preach the Word. I pray to God, give me the strength to preach. It's not about me. It's about you. It's not about my words. It's about Your words. Brethren, the Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And you should come to Church and you should be ready, you know, in season and out of season.

2 Timothy 4:2 He said, "Convince, rebuke, exhort," that's 2 Timothy 4:2, "with all longsuffering and teaching."

Preach the Word. We all need to have that in mind, and I try to encourage that among the ministers in the Northeast region. Preach the Word, not your words. Preach the Word. And it's interesting in Acts 18:24-26. It's more than just Scripture. There's a way of God that is being given to you.

Acts 18:24 "Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. And this man," verse 25, "had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the Spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John."

So he can only tell them you need to do the baptism of repentance, not the baptism into Christ. So he'd do everything else. And notice verse 26.

Acts 18:26 "So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue." And of course, there must have been a certain section there where the people who believed the way the apostles would ultimately be teaching. that they would gather together. "So when Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." The way of God more accurately.

Proverbs 14:12 "There's a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

And what does he say in Matthew 7, is it in verse 13? That you need to enter in at the straight gate? For broad is the way that leads...and narrow is the way that leads to life. So we try to teach a way of living those Scriptures, a way of living God's way. And so we come to Church. And there are a lot of Scriptures on this, Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, Acts 24:14, and 22, all talk about the way of God. There's a way of applying those Scriptures, a way of living those Scriptures. And we get that as we come to Church, as we visit with each one, as we hear the message of God being taught by His ministers.

Reason number three. We come to Church to receive direction. Direction. What do I mean by this? Acts 20:28. When Paul was about to go on his journey to Rome, he let the Ephesian elders know that he was coming through. And so they gathered together with him. And he said to them in Acts 20:28... Reminds you his last time he probably would ever see their face.

Acts 20:28 He said, "Take heed to yourselves," Acts 20:28, "and to all the flock." He's talking to the elders, "among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Ministers have a responsibility to oversee, to look over. When I come to Church, I'm glad to see the minister here. I'm glad to see Mr... And by the way, Mr. Welsh really cares about you. He cared about me a lot when I was sick. He stopped and saw me at the hospital. He came by to see me after I had my operation. Called me and followed up on me several times. And he does that with not just me, he did that with all the people because there's caring. There's caring. It didn't make you an overseer to crack the whip on you. Make more bricks. Make more bricks with less hay, less straw. Make more bricks. That isn't what... Overlooks you. And I don't mean to sit in the back and there's a bad person there or there's a bad one over there. I don't mean that. That one needs three stripes, that one needs six stripes. That is what a minister does, but he does oversee you.

And it's interesting, why does he oversee you? Are we aware what happens to sheep? Are we aware what happens to sheep when they don't have a shepherd? They get all scared. and they run amok and they don't know what happened. They don't know where they are. And what can happen to them? Sheep scatter without a shepherd or pastor. They wander aimlessly and getting lost and not paying attention to dangers nearby. Not paying attention to any dangers that are nearby without a shepherd. The shepherd, most of the time, slept out in the fields with his sheep. He didn't leave them. He looked after them.

I remember when there was a split in the Church and some of the ministers were going the other way and going to this group that split off. I remember Mr. Myers saying, "What kind of a shepherd would you be when you leave the sheep?" What kind of a shepherd are you? If you just walk away, what about the people that don't go with you? You try to influence them. What about the people that don't go? You're just walking away from them. So you might also notice Matthew 9:36-38, where Jesus Christ spoke about this. It said,

Matthew 9:36-38 "Jesus went about the cities and villages teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd."

What if we all just decided what time we want to come to Church? What if we all decided whether it would be morning or afternoon? What if we all decided that we'll have the chairs facing the other way? Who wants to look at these ugly faces up here anyway? Let's just turn. They can still hear better. Hear okay. Maybe they won't be distracted as they see a minister up there flailing his hands around. No, it takes organization and it takes somebody who knows what he's doing to lead the flock. But it's not about beating on them, it's not about hurting them. So direction is one thing we have.

Titus 1:5-7 He said, "For this reason, I left you in Crete that you should set in order the things that are lacking," Titus 1:5-9, "and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you, if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of insubordination. For a bishop," that's an overseer, "must be blameless as a steward of God." He's got to take care of God's people. That's what a steward does. Looks after his master's goods and household. And so here he is taking care of them. "For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed." Blameless means you're not accused, and that accusation has no substantiation. That's different. "For a bishop must be blameless, not self-willed." I'm doing what I want to do. Don't tell me otherwise.

We have to yield. I can tell you there have been times when I was a council member of the Church, or first full council of the United. I would introduce... I thought this was a really great idea, introduce it to the whole council. I was for it. Eleven others weren't. I still think that's a great idea, but they didn't. So did I fight it? No. I said, "You know what? I think it's still a great idea, but they don't. And they have the Spirit of God like I have the Spirit of God. Those 11 men with the Spirit of God don't think it's good, and one of them with the Spirit of God still thinks it's good. So be it." Or I could say, "I'm mad I didn't get my way, I'm out of here." Again, don't be self-willed.

Titus 1:8-9 He said, "Nor quick-tempered, nor given to wine or violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable," willing to share with you, share time, share goods, share meals, whatever he could do as a minister and his wife. He said, "Hospitable, a lover of what is good."

Some say lover of good men. God, I can't qualify because there's nobody good on the earth. You know what? There are good men. Jesus Christ loved people that were good, but not good as God. Nobody is as good as God. But the word agathos, you could look it up. You'll find several good men, but they're not good as God. So there's a difference there. But he said, "Holding fast the faithful word as he's been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." So that's why we have a minister to guide us, to lead us, to bring us messages.

Acts 14:23 "When they had appointed elders in every Church..."

So there was direction that was being given to the Church to look after us, to care about us. Ephesians, he said he gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors, some evangelists, some teachers for the equipping of the saints. So he gave the ministry responsibility to direct, to look after, but not to direct just because of their own needs.

1 Timothy 1:12 Paul said, "I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has enabled me because He has counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry."

The one thing we must be very careful about is if we're not ordained to serve as a minister that we don't arrogate to ourselves ministerial responsibility. We must be very careful. God wants us all to serve, and the servant doesn't have to be ordained to serve but to be doing the work of the ministry. To tread into that office is very serious. It's presumptuous and it is wrong, and yet there are people who will arrogate to themselves. And I'll tell you, I read the Scripture of James. I taught that many, many years, 32 years. I taught the general epistles. And James says, "Don't be many teachers, because you will be held to account for what you say and what you do." So again, there's responsibility.

Hebrews 13:7 "Obey those that have the rule over you."

And remember those who have the rule over you. Who are those who have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the Word of God? You can read John 10, the Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He's the Great Shepherd of the sheep. But He also has pastors to look after you for Him. And believe me, as a pastor, one thing that was driven into me as a trainee for many years, I heard Hebrews 10:31. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You mistreat God's people and He will take care of you. He will reckon with you. Hebrews 10:31. Now ministers normally are caring, loving, and kind.

2 Corinthians 1:24. "Not that we have dominion over your faith."

We can't tell you how to believe. Your belief system, no, no, it's wrong. My belief system is what you need to have. What you believe. Nobody can change your belief system unless you want to. "But we are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand." So we're there to help their joy. We're not there to dictate their faith. We're there to teach them about the faith and faith wouldn't bother your belief. We're not there to dictate. You can't tell me what everybody thinks. Everybody believes what's in their heart. And I don't know their heart, but God does. And we're there to try to teach them how to believe, but they have to be the ones who believe.

2 Corinthians 1:24 But the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:21, "What do you want?" He told the Church at Corinth. It had a lot of problems. "Do you want me to come? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and in a spirit of gentleness?"

Should I come to you as a corrector, or shall I come to you in a spirit of gentleness in love? All of them is done in love. But there is authority. And if I see someone hurting the Church… I was asked one time when I was a candidate to be one of the candidates and they were looking for a new president years ago. They said, "So what would you do with the people that are trying to leave, that are mistreating, teaching wrong?" I said, "I would investigate. I would get the facts. But if they are hurting God's people, I will hurt them, and I don't mean physically. I will not stand for them to hurt God's people." Well, I wasn't made president. Some of them didn't like that, who were on the council. They didn't like that. But I still believe that. Don't you hurt God's people. And that's where I stood as a person.

 

Colossians 2:5 But Paul said, "How do you want me to come?" And then he said, "I've already..." In Chapter 5, he said, "Though I'm absent in the body, but present in Spirit. I've already judged." About the man who was living with his stepmother in sin. And he said, "Put him out of the Church. Turn him over to Satan. Don't have anything to do with him at this time."

So again, we as individuals have to be careful and have to appreciate the direction that God gives us. It's direction. And Paul said, "I cared for the people." He cared for the people.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 He said, "Tenderly leading the flock toward the Kingdom of God."

He talks about like a mother with a newborn child, a nursing child. If you've ever held a newborn baby in your hands, you don't jerk them around. In fact, till they're about three years old, you're not even wise to throw them in the air because their brains aren't settled yet. When you throw them in the air, the brain is hitting the skull. You don't do that. You've got to hold them gently, kindly, lovingly. Pat them. Help them feel secure and safe and loved. Paul said just like that, that's the way we are.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 We are tender. He said, "We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children."

That's how a minister treats us. Ought to. But he also knows he's got a stick there to give people direction in the right way, as a shepherd carried both a rod and a staff. And he never used the rod on the people. He used the rod on the enemies. But he used the staff to pull them back sometimes when they were going the wrong direction. So that's the third reason. We get direction. And Paul said, "You are our crown of rejoicing. What is our hope?" He said.

1 Thessalonians 2:19. "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ? For you are our glory and our joy."

What greater blessing and satisfaction can a minister have than to know that God's people were faithful to the end and that he could be assured, as much as he can know, they're going to be in God's Kingdom? That's the greatest joy here. So he's trying to lead you to the Kingdom of God, not lead you away from the Kingdom of God.

Reason number four is we can be a part of the work. What is the work? What did Jesus Christ say before He left the earth in Matthew 28:18?

Matthew 28:18-20 "Jesus came and spoke to them and He said, 'Authority is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them, to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen."

We have the blessing being a part of a work.

2 Corinthians 6:1 "We then, as workers together with him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain."

I've got a sermon I'm working on on how can you receive the grace of God in vain. What does it mean that the grace of God in your life is in vain? And you don't want it to be in vain. You want it to be plentiful. You want it to be active. So I've got a sermon I'm working on on that one. But we as workers together, that's the key. 2 Corinthians 6:1.

We are to be a light to the world. We're to let the light of Jesus Christ in us shine to the world, that there's something different about you. There's something special about you. And the reason you have that light is because Christ can be in you. Let your light shine. How does your light shine? Because what is God? God is light. And if God is in you and you let it shine and you don't put it under a bushel and hide it, your light will shine and people will see different.

And I often tell the students how precious they are when I was teaching them. You don't realize how precious you are, what other people see in you. And you are God's people. They see that in you, too. Why? Not because you're good, not because I'm good, but God is good, and God in you makes you good. His goodness makes you good. So we are part of the work. Do what we can. Go, therefore. Our examples. When we discuss things with people, friends out in the world, stand for what you believe in, as Mr. Japhet was saying. Stand for what you believe in. Stand tall. That doesn't mean you have to be argumentative, but stand tall. Be a light to the world. Romans said... Again, being a part of the work does not mean you go to preach.

Romans 10:14 says, "Don't go preaching unless you are sent."

You can't preach the gospel if you aren't sent. And what did we read in Romans and Acts? They sent the apostle Paul. They sent Apollos. They sent... Who did it? The Church. So again, we are part of the work. Be an example. Pray for the Church. Pray for the work to be done. And that's a great example that we need to do and follow. Psalms 19 talks about presumptuous sins, so I won't go there. Don't go too far in your trying to be a minister. Don't try to arrogate to yourself responsibilities of the minister. Don't.

Reason number five. Reason number five we have is prayer, comfort, love, and support. Why do I go to Church? Because I appreciate their prayers. And your prayers covered me when I felt lonely in the hospital, when I wasn't sure what was happening, when sometimes I was being given too many sleeping pills to even know what I was doing. I knew that God's people were praying for me. Remember when they killed James, the brother of John? Herod thought he's doing something great. The people will love me. I'm killing these Christians. And I'll take Peter, too. I'll hold him for ransom. Now he wasn't a Muslim, but he did take Peter. But I don't want to do it before unleavened bread or Passover unless the Jewish people, you know, rebel so I won't do it then. So he arrested him, put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him. Well, one man needed four squads of soldiers. Why did he need that? Well, what did the Church do?

Acts 12:5 "So when he had arrested him, put him in prison, delivered him to the four squads of soldiers to keep him, Peter was therefore kept in prison but..." This is in the Book of Acts, sorry, yes, Acts, and verse 5 of that particular verse, 12 verse 5. "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the Church."

As you know, an angel came and released him from his bonds and let him out of the prison, set him on the street where he knew where he was, and disappeared. And nobody saw him. They knocked all these other guys out. And he went and he knocks on the door at one of the brethren he knew nearby. And Rhoda comes to the door, one of the...everybody's praying for him. And she opens the door, and there's Peter. She slams the door, runs back. Guess what? I see Peter. They said, "You're hallucinating. Peter's not here. He's in prison. We're praying for him." But he was released. They were praying for Peter, and Peter was released. What a blessing. Prayer by the Church. Miraculously, he was let go.

Colossians 4:12 “Laboring in prayer.”

2 Thessalonians 3:1 "Pray that the gospel may have free course."

That the gospel can go out freely and not be hindered.

Philippians 1:19. We could read this particular verse. He says, the Apostle Paul writes, "For I know that this will turn out to my deliverance." Why? "Through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."

I know I'll be okay because God's people are praying for me. So again, prayer is so important. What about love? What about love?

John 13:34-35 Jesus Christ said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you."

And what is the newness of it? Not that you just love others as you would like them to love you, but you love them as Jesus Christ loved you. Did Jesus Christ expect anything in return? No, He didn't. He did it for us because He cared. And sometimes you do something for people you never get a thank you, but that's okay. You did it for them. He didn't do it for you. Do you do something nice so people can thank you and you feel good about yourself, or do you do it for them because you care about them? That's love. That is love. And love is the identity of Christians. We read that in John 15:12.

John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another."

And I've had many people tell me at the Feast where they met brethren they hadn't seen for a while, they run up, hugged each other's arms, and those people behind the desk thought they were relatives, and they were spiritually, but they weren't physically, because of the love they had for one another, the love you have for one another.

John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give, you love one another."

John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

1 John 3:14 "We know that we have passed from death to life." We know we're headed to life. How and why? "Because we love the brethren."

And it's not just words.

1 John 3:18 John says, "My little children, let's not love in word or in tongue," and it means it only, "but in deed and in truth."

Make sure it's correct. Make sure you're doing it honestly and uprightly and do it in deed. Love translates into action. And then for support, I'll just read this one Scripture. Paul got a lot of support. Jews plotted against him. Remember when he was first switched from being an antagonist to a promoter of the Church? And when they were trying to get him and apprehend him, and they attempted to kill him, but when the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea, and they sent him to Tarsus. They rescued him. They saved him. We're supposed to be supporting each other.

Galatians 6:10 Says, "Don't be weary with well-doing."

Acts 20:35, what did Jesus Christ say? It's not written, but He said, "I've shown you how to support the weak and remember the words..."

Acts 20:35-37 "and remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that He said, 'It's more blessed to give than to receive.'" He told that to the Ephesian elders and it said, "And when He had said these things, He knelt down and He prayed with them." And verse 37, "They all wept freely and fell on his neck." Not that they were kneeling on it like, whatever, George Floyd, but they came on His neck, they hugged Him. They hugged Him. "And they fell on His neck and kissed Him and they had a good cry." We're told to have the same care, one for another.

And Hebrews 3:13 tells us to exhort one another daily. That means to encourage. When you see the brethren at Church, give them encouragement. Help them. The Apostle Paul was encouraged. In Philippians 2:19, he was encouraged when Timothy came. He was encouraged because he came. He was encouraged when Epiphras came.

Hebrews 3:13 He said, "I hope to send to you Timothy."

But he was encouraged because they looked after him. They took care of him.

Philippians 4:15 "No other Church supported me but the Church of Philippi," even when he traveled to other Church areas.

That's why the Book of Philippians is such an awesome Book to read because it's all positive. He loved that Church and they loved him.

Philippians 4:15 "No Church shared with me, concerning giving and receiving, but you only."

So pray, support, love. care, fellowship. All of those are important. I hope, brethren, that we can have a greater appreciation for God's Church. I hope we'll do all in our power to help it be the best it can be. It's not a perfect Church, but we can help do what we can to perfect it.

In conclusion, in light of these five reasons and others that I have not mentioned, let's be grateful for the blessings of being a part of God's Church, the Church that Jesus Christ built, and do all in our power with God's Spirit to contribute to the unity and faithfulness of the precious body of Jesus Christ, the Church. Have a good rest of this weekend. Thank you for allowing me to take you a couple of minutes overtime. I'm sorry.

If you're interested in all the Scriptures I gave you, you can email me, gary_antion@ucg.org, all small letters, and I'll be happy to email you back the list of all the Scriptures that I have written down. If you want it, I'll be happy to give them to you. May you have a wonderful rest of the Sabbath afternoon, and may you who are out still not here, but maybe online, may you enjoy your wonderful family even more this Sabbath, this Thanksgiving weekend. Godspeed to you all.

[Gary Antion] Good afternoon, everyone. And it's sure nice to see you all on this Sabbath after Thanksgiving. I want to thank Katie and Chad. Thank you. Chad's been a blessing since he's been at ABC helping out with the singing program, the music, and helping with the chorale with Mr. Shoemaker. Really appreciate him and Katie, and it was a beautiful song. Thank you so much. It took a lot of work to do that one, I'm sure. Nice to be with you.

As my brother, Dave, who's with us today, by the way, and I sat in our car to the side of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in the summer of 1958. We watched those who walked to the building. We knew that this was the location of the Pittsburgh Church for Sabbath services. However, we did not know what meeting hall they were meeting at, because Soldiers & Sailors has a lot of meeting rooms and a huge one that's been used for years by the Pittsburgh Church.

So we sat watching. How would we know what meeting room to go to? So we watched. How would we identify any of God's people going in there? Because my brother was back from a baptizing tour, and I was not even interested in the Church that much, but he asked me to go with him, so I said I'll go. I think he may have even given me one of his Bibles to follow the service. So we saw several people going in and out up the steps, big long steps to get up into this facility. And sure enough, we saw this couple going up and we saw this man carrying a Bible, and they looked plain. They weren't wearing Amish clothing or anything, but they looked plain. And so we thought maybe that's them.

So we got out of the car and we followed them at a distance behind, and we followed them down the hallway, and sure enough, they turned into a room with about 45 or 50 people there, and we met with them for Church services. This was my introduction to the Radio Church of God, which was later changed to the Worldwide Church of God. My brother had been the ambassador for two years, was home to visit parents that summer, and had invited me to join him in attending. C. Wayne Cole was the pastor of that Pittsburgh Church, which by the way, was the closest Church to the East Coast. There was no other Church east of that. So Pittsburgh was kind of like the coastal Church in the Worldwide Church of God or Radio Church of God at that time. C. Wayne Cole was the pastor, and Charles Black was an undergraduate student from Ambassador who was assisting for the summer.

So we sat and we listened to the services, and I didn't get much out of it. I wasn't that interested. Only a year before that, I had been really speaking derogatory terms about the Church. My brother had already been to Ambassador for a couple of years. So this was my introduction to the Church, which I had made fun of about a year or so before. I didn't take much away from the service, except that I did note the humble people who seemed anxious to learn from God's Word which was being taught. God did break me down in the next year, and I came to greatly appreciate God's Church.

Thanksgiving has just passed. And we all hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. And those who aren't here, by the way, we understand. You are with family somewhere, or you are going to services somewhere else, or watching on the webcast, whatever. And certainly, we wish you a wonderful weekend or Sabbath day today.

So we were in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving with my sister who lives there. And my brother, Dave, flew into Pittsburgh, spent a couple of days, and we drove over on Wednesday and we met for dinner there. And then we had dinner Thursday, and we drove back on Thursday with my brother who's going to fly out of Cincinnati tomorrow to go home. But we haven't seen each other in a year, and I hadn't seen my sister in a year. So it's nice to be able to spend some time with family, and I hope you have done so.

I have a list that I made several years ago. It's about 22 things that I thought of just off the top of my head years ago to be thankful for for Thanksgiving. And one of those 22, is the Church, the Church of God. I have that list, things we should be thankful for, could be thankful for, that I was thankful for. But on the list was the Church of God. Why am I thankful for the Church of God? And my question for you is, are you?

So let's see from Scripture why we need to be thankful for the Church of God, for our Church, the Church we attend. First of all, before going to those reasons, I want to establish that God's Church is precious. God's Church is precious. And I know we often don't think of it. I don't think of it all that way at times. But in preparing this sermon, I was struck with how precious God's Church is, and I hope that we all feel it is precious.

Matthew 16:18. And by the way, I have my Scriptures printed out from New King James Version, and they're over here in order, so I've got those to read. So I won't be turning in my Bible unless I miss my place somewhere, but I've got them printed out, New King James Version. Matthew 16:18. This Church we are a remnant of, this Church was built by Jesus Christ. The Church of God was built by Jesus Christ. Is it precious? Let's read it.

Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter," that's a small rock, "and on this rock," a big, massive rock, "I will build My Church." Ecclesia or Ecclesia, which means called out ones. "I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades," the hell, "will not prevail against it."

Now that tells me and told me somewhere on this earth there had to be a Church that Jesus Christ built because the gates of hell haven't come yet to close on it. So I knew that. So again, the Church is called the body of Christ in Ephesians 1:22-23, as well as Ephesians 2:19-20. I'm not going to read those Scriptures, but I could share them with you. It says, "He gave Him..."

Ephesians 1:22-23, "He gave Him," Jesus Christ, "to be the head over all things to the Church."

And by the way, the word Church is listed almost between 114 and 120 times, depending on various versions, between 114 and 120 times. Almost every single time. It's Ecclesia, or Ecclesia, as some might pronounce it, which means called out ones. Most of it is in Acts, the Gospels, and Ephesians. You'll find them. Church. It's a Church that Jesus Christ built.

1 Corinthians 12:13 We read this. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- and have all been made to drink into or of one Spirit."

That's 1 Corinthians 12:13. Verse 27 dropping down, we read this.

1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are the body of Christ and members individually."

How does that strike you, that God considers you the body of Christ? I find it rather interesting that when the apostle Paul, I think it's in Acts 9, was going over to Damascus. He had received letters of introduction from the synagogues in Jerusalem area to go over to Damascus, Syria, to find anybody who was attending that synagogue who was believing the way the Apostle Paul later began to speak and teach what the Church of God was preaching, what the apostles were preaching. And he was going to take them and put them in prison like he had done already to many Christians. While he was on his way to wreak his havoc upon the Church, he was struck down with lightning. And what did he say? He was blinded. And you heard this voice saying, "Saul, Saul. Why are you persecuting me?" Now Saul could have responded, "Who are you?" And he said, "I'm Jesus whom you are persecuting." He said, "I'm not hitting you, Jesus, I'm just hitting your people. I'm not pounding on you, I'm hurting your people, throwing them in prison. I'm not throwing you into prison."

You know what Jesus Christ considers the Church? His body. When you attack His Church, when you attend His Church, you are coming to a very special place, not because of you, not because of me, but because God made it so. Do we consider the Church of God precious? 1 Corinthians 1:2. What is it called? Well, Paul wrote to the Church of God.

1 Corinthians 1:2 "The Church of God which is at Corinth, and to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus," to those... What does it mean to be sanctified? Set apart, blessed, special purpose set apart for a holy purpose. Those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:2, “called saints.”

Every Sabbath we come together we are meeting with God's saints. You don't have to become like Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was canonized by the Catholics finally, many years after her death, because of certain miracles she supposedly had done, and she is now a saint according to them. You don't have to be canonized, shot from a cannon. I put it that way laughably. You don't have to be canonized. When you are baptized and you receive the Spirit of God, you are put into the Church. And that makes us saints. So every Sabbath you come to meet together and I come to meet with you, we are in the presence of saints. They're God's people. They're not your people, they're God's people. So it's a wonderful blessing.

Philippians 1:1 Paul wrote, "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints." He wrote to saints. He wasn't writing to heaven. He wrote to the Church. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi." And he said, "With the bishops and deacons."

Philippians 4:1 "Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, stand fast in the Lord."

So when we come together at Church, we are coming to the Church that Jesus Christ built. It's called His Body. Secondarily, when we assemble together with whom are we meeting, we are meeting with saints. What a privilege and a blessing, what a precious blessing it is for us to have that as something that we can have as individuals.

So let's take a look at five reasons I have why we should value the Church, why we should consider the Church on our list of blessings, and hopefully, you did at Thanksgiving time. What is it about? What is the Church of God about? And let me ask the question, do you consider it a blessing to being a part of God's Church? Do you consider it an honor and a privilege, a privilege to attend? Or are you a lone ranger? I don't need a Church. It's me and God. I'm sorry. When Paul and Barnabas needed a place to go and Apollos, guess where they went? To the Church. They didn't say, "We're lone wolves out here, or lone rangers out here doing our part." God expects us each to do our part in the Church to help build it and support it.

I'm going to read you a quote that I found. I knew I'd have it. It's an anonymous, by the way. It's called The Perfect Church. "I think I shall never see a Church that's all it ought to be, a Church that has no empty pews, whose preacher never has the blues. A Church whose deacons always deak, and none is proud, but all are meek, where gossips never peddle lies, or make complaints or criticize, where all are always sweet and kind, and all to others' faults are blind. Such perfect Churches there may be, but none of them is known to me but still we'll work and plan and pray to make our Church the best that we can. If you can find a perfect Church without one fault or smear, for God's sake, don't join that Church. You'd spoil the atmosphere. If you should find the perfect Church, then don't you ever dare to tread upon such holy ground. You'd be a misfit there. But since no perfect Church exists made of imperfect men, then let's cease looking for that Church and love the one we're in. Of course, it's not a perfect Church. That's simple to discern. But you and I, and all of us, could cause the tide to turn."

Do we do all we can to help the Church be the best it can be? That's what it's about. It's not about fun. And I know, I know. Hey, every time I was troubled about something the Church did, that the leadership did, not the Church as a whole, I'd be out of the Church so many times in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out. Why? Because it isn't like me. But God didn't call me to find people like me. He called me to be a part of people like Him. And people somehow they say, "The minister did that. He made a mistake. The minister said that, it was a mistake. I'm leaving." Okay, good, you ever find a Church you're going to agree with, everybody's going to agree with you, you better have a Church of one, and it'll be you and maybe you even get upset at yourself sometimes. So you wouldn't even have a Church. God is the one who leads His Church.

It's interesting that we can read reasons that we come to Church. Number one reason is fellowship. I have. It's not necessarily in order of importance, just in order when I put them down. Number one reason is fellowship. We come to Church to meet with people of like minds. We come to Church to meet with people who have the same goals, same aims. And what is that aim and what is that goal? It's the Kingdom of God. It's a goal of doing the work of God on this earth for Him as He commissioned. That's what we're about. But let's notice reasons for fellowship.

Philippians 2:5 I'll read this. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."

What a blessing it is to meet with like-minded brethren. Like-minded brethren. And I'll tell you, after being away from Church for many weeks, this is about six weeks when I was in the hospital and rehab, I got letters, cards, notes, encouragement, and all that, I'll talk about that later, but I also missed you. And the first Sabbath I came back, they were celebrating our 60th anniversary. And I was sitting out in the hall. And Alex Johnson came up to me and said, "It's so good to see you." You know what I said to her? "It's so good to see anyone, anyone from the Church." It's so good to see you all. And when you're alone you don't realize how much that fellowship means when you come back. You don't realize it fully when you're away. You need it. You know you need it, but you don't realize how good it is to have the fellowship of the brethren. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 and Chapter 3 verses 6 and 7, we see that we can be happy and encouraged by being at Church.

1 Thessalonians 2:17 "But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, but not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire."

Do you have great desire to come to services? I want to find out how that person got that job they were telling me about they were looking for. I want to find out if they got it. I'm excited to see. I want to see how their health is. I want to see them in person and ask them. I could send emails and so on. I want to see them in person. I want to see how they're doing. I want to give them a hug, a congratulatory hug for whatever this, that, or the other thing, or a firm handshake. a warm, firm handshake.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 The Apostle Paul writes... And the Apostle Paul was an affectionate man. "But now that Timothy has come to us," he said, "and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us." Notice what Paul says, "Greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you."

We greatly desire to see you. One of the blessings of Church is meeting people of like minds. We're not all like personalities, like minds. We look in the same direction. We have the same hope and the same plan and the same goals we're trying to overcome with the Spirit of God and the help of God and the grace and mercy of God. We're trying to overcome.

1 Thessalonians 3:7 "Therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress, we were comforted concerning you by your faith."

When we saw how faithful you were, that was a great comfort to us. 1 John 1:6-7, the same theme of fellowship.

1 John 1:6 "If we say we have fellowship with Him..."

And by the way, the Apostle John was an apostle of love, which is probably why he and Jesus Christ hit it off so well together. Remember, Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and what is God? God is love. And what does John write about really more in the Book of the Gospel of John as well as 1, 2, and 3 John and Revelation to a certain extent but more in those Books? Love. What is love? And he writes about it.

1 John 1:6 He says, "If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."

Because we're headed the same direction. And where are we headed? In the paths of righteousness. Where do the paths of righteousness lead you to? The righteous God. That's where it leads you to it. How can you keep the paths of righteousness? Maybe we stay in that same path. Takes God's Spirit, God's strength, not your own strength, His strength. You have to couple your strength with it. The old adage that I remember from being taught at Ambassador College. We have to do as if it all depends on us, but we have to believe as if it all depends on God. God will give you the strength. You have to have the desire. but He'll give the strength.

1 John 1:7 So he says, "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another."

If I'm walking in the light and you're walking in the light, we're probably going to bump into each other. Catch up with each other. Walk beside each other. And how do we do that? Because God is light. Remember, what did Jesus Christ bring into the world? Light. And if we're walking in the light, we're not only walking with Him, Jesus Christ, but we're also walking with others who are walking in the light, and we have fellowship with one another.

Is fellowship saying, "Hi, brethren, hi, Joe, hi, this one, hi, John, hi, Mary, hi, Hugh, hi, Marina?" Is that fellowship? It's not fellowship. Fellowship is sharing, sharing your journey, sharing what's going on in your journey. In some Sabbaths, you may only talk to one person, but you talk to them a lot. And the next Sabbath you might talk to another one or two, but you talk to them a lot and you know them and they know you. That's fellowship. And he said, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses from all sin."

It is interesting in Acts 11, and I'm not going to read it, verses 25 and 26. Barnabas departed to look for Saul to help him along this tour to Tarsus, where Paul was from.

Acts 11:25-26 "And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch of Syria. So it was that for a whole year they assembled," not by themselves. We're apostles. We're sent by God. We don't need brethren. What do we need the Church for? We're the lone rangers here. “They assembled with the Church for a whole year and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians” Where? “in Syria.”

Christians. But it wasn't a nice term back then. It was the followers of Christ. That was more of a derogatory term. But that's where it came from. But they assembled with the Church, not by themselves. That's reason number one, fellowship. Treasure it. Treasure the saints that you're able to be with.

Number two, reason number two, that Church is the pillar and ground of truth. You want to find the truth, you should find it in the pulpit. You should find it in your Bibles. And those who preach at Church use the Bible. I don't want to speak my words. I want to speak God's words. How can you guarantee that what I'm saying is inspired of God? If you read it in the Scripture. I hope that what I say otherwise is inspired too. But I know that when I read the Scripture to you, those are inspiring words. I know it. Why? Because the Scripture is given under God's inspiration. All Scripture is given by God and has His breath upon it, His blessing upon it. So I know you receive blessings in that.

2 Timothy 3:15-17. We know what that means. We know what that...the pillar and ground. “And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise through salvation which is in Christ Jesus.” Verse 16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And I'll tell you where that Scripture is found in 1 Timothy 3:15. 1 Timothy 3:15. The Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And so you come to Church, you expect to hear the truth. And of course, what did Paul write? He said in 2 Timothy 4:2, instruction to evangelist Timothy, "Preach the Word." Preach the Word. I know you have your own words, I have my own words, but I want to preach the Word. I pray to God, give me the strength to preach. It's not about me. It's about you. It's not about my words. It's about Your words. Brethren, the Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And you should come to Church and you should be ready, you know, in season and out of season.

2 Timothy 4:2 He said, "Convince, rebuke, exhort," that's 2 Timothy 4:2, "with all longsuffering and teaching."

Preach the Word. We all need to have that in mind, and I try to encourage that among the ministers in the Northeast region. Preach the Word, not your words. Preach the Word. And it's interesting in Acts 18:24-26. It's more than just Scripture. There's a way of God that is being given to you.

Acts 18:24 "Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. And this man," verse 25, "had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the Spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John."

So he can only tell them you need to do the baptism of repentance, not the baptism into Christ. So he'd do everything else. And notice verse 26.

Acts 18:26 "So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue." And of course, there must have been a certain section there where the people who believed the way the apostles would ultimately be teaching. that they would gather together. "So when Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." The way of God more accurately.

Proverbs 14:12 "There's a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

And what does he say in Matthew 7, is it in verse 13? That you need to enter in at the straight gate? For broad is the way that leads...and narrow is the way that leads to life. So we try to teach a way of living those Scriptures, a way of living God's way. And so we come to Church. And there are a lot of Scriptures on this, Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, Acts 24:14, and 22, all talk about the way of God. There's a way of applying those Scriptures, a way of living those Scriptures. And we get that as we come to Church, as we visit with each one, as we hear the message of God being taught by His ministers.

Reason number three. We come to Church to receive direction. Direction. What do I mean by this? Acts 20:28. When Paul was about to go on his journey to Rome, he let the Ephesian elders know that he was coming through. And so they gathered together with him. And he said to them in Acts 20:28... Reminds you his last time he probably would ever see their face.

Acts 20:28 He said, "Take heed to yourselves," Acts 20:28, "and to all the flock." He's talking to the elders, "among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Ministers have a responsibility to oversee, to look over. When I come to Church, I'm glad to see the minister here. I'm glad to see Mr... And by the way, Mr. Welsh really cares about you. He cared about me a lot when I was sick. He stopped and saw me at the hospital. He came by to see me after I had my operation. Called me and followed up on me several times. And he does that with not just me, he did that with all the people because there's caring. There's caring. It didn't make you an overseer to crack the whip on you. Make more bricks. Make more bricks with less hay, less straw. Make more bricks. That isn't what... Overlooks you. And I don't mean to sit in the back and there's a bad person there or there's a bad one over there. I don't mean that. That one needs three stripes, that one needs six stripes. That is what a minister does, but he does oversee you.

And it's interesting, why does he oversee you? Are we aware what happens to sheep? Are we aware what happens to sheep when they don't have a shepherd? They get all scared. and they run amok and they don't know what happened. They don't know where they are. And what can happen to them? Sheep scatter without a shepherd or pastor. They wander aimlessly and getting lost and not paying attention to dangers nearby. Not paying attention to any dangers that are nearby without a shepherd. The shepherd, most of the time, slept out in the fields with his sheep. He didn't leave them. He looked after them.

I remember when there was a split in the Church and some of the ministers were going the other way and going to this group that split off. I remember Mr. Myers saying, "What kind of a shepherd would you be when you leave the sheep?" What kind of a shepherd are you? If you just walk away, what about the people that don't go with you? You try to influence them. What about the people that don't go? You're just walking away from them. So you might also notice Matthew 9:36-38, where Jesus Christ spoke about this. It said,

Matthew 9:36-38 "Jesus went about the cities and villages teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd."

What if we all just decided what time we want to come to Church? What if we all decided whether it would be morning or afternoon? What if we all decided that we'll have the chairs facing the other way? Who wants to look at these ugly faces up here anyway? Let's just turn. They can still hear better. Hear okay. Maybe they won't be distracted as they see a minister up there flailing his hands around. No, it takes organization and it takes somebody who knows what he's doing to lead the flock. But it's not about beating on them, it's not about hurting them. So direction is one thing we have.

Titus 1:5-7 He said, "For this reason, I left you in Crete that you should set in order the things that are lacking," Titus 1:5-9, "and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you, if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of insubordination. For a bishop," that's an overseer, "must be blameless as a steward of God." He's got to take care of God's people. That's what a steward does. Looks after his master's goods and household. And so here he is taking care of them. "For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed." Blameless means you're not accused, and that accusation has no substantiation. That's different. "For a bishop must be blameless, not self-willed." I'm doing what I want to do. Don't tell me otherwise.

We have to yield. I can tell you there have been times when I was a council member of the Church, or first full council of the United. I would introduce... I thought this was a really great idea, introduce it to the whole council. I was for it. Eleven others weren't. I still think that's a great idea, but they didn't. So did I fight it? No. I said, "You know what? I think it's still a great idea, but they don't. And they have the Spirit of God like I have the Spirit of God. Those 11 men with the Spirit of God don't think it's good, and one of them with the Spirit of God still thinks it's good. So be it." Or I could say, "I'm mad I didn't get my way, I'm out of here." Again, don't be self-willed.

Titus 1:8-9 He said, "Nor quick-tempered, nor given to wine or violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable," willing to share with you, share time, share goods, share meals, whatever he could do as a minister and his wife. He said, "Hospitable, a lover of what is good."

Some say lover of good men. God, I can't qualify because there's nobody good on the earth. You know what? There are good men. Jesus Christ loved people that were good, but not good as God. Nobody is as good as God. But the word agathos, you could look it up. You'll find several good men, but they're not good as God. So there's a difference there. But he said, "Holding fast the faithful word as he's been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." So that's why we have a minister to guide us, to lead us, to bring us messages.

Acts 14:23 "When they had appointed elders in every Church..."

So there was direction that was being given to the Church to look after us, to care about us. Ephesians, he said he gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors, some evangelists, some teachers for the equipping of the saints. So he gave the ministry responsibility to direct, to look after, but not to direct just because of their own needs.

1 Timothy 1:12 Paul said, "I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has enabled me because He has counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry."

The one thing we must be very careful about is if we're not ordained to serve as a minister that we don't arrogate to ourselves ministerial responsibility. We must be very careful. God wants us all to serve, and the servant doesn't have to be ordained to serve but to be doing the work of the ministry. To tread into that office is very serious. It's presumptuous and it is wrong, and yet there are people who will arrogate to themselves. And I'll tell you, I read the Scripture of James. I taught that many, many years, 32 years. I taught the general epistles. And James says, "Don't be many teachers, because you will be held to account for what you say and what you do." So again, there's responsibility.

Hebrews 13:7 "Obey those that have the rule over you."

And remember those who have the rule over you. Who are those who have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the Word of God? You can read John 10, the Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He's the Great Shepherd of the sheep. But He also has pastors to look after you for Him. And believe me, as a pastor, one thing that was driven into me as a trainee for many years, I heard Hebrews 10:31. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You mistreat God's people and He will take care of you. He will reckon with you. Hebrews 10:31. Now ministers normally are caring, loving, and kind.

2 Corinthians 1:24. "Not that we have dominion over your faith."

We can't tell you how to believe. Your belief system, no, no, it's wrong. My belief system is what you need to have. What you believe. Nobody can change your belief system unless you want to. "But we are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand." So we're there to help their joy. We're not there to dictate their faith. We're there to teach them about the faith and faith wouldn't bother your belief. We're not there to dictate. You can't tell me what everybody thinks. Everybody believes what's in their heart. And I don't know their heart, but God does. And we're there to try to teach them how to believe, but they have to be the ones who believe.

2 Corinthians 1:24 But the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:21, "What do you want?" He told the Church at Corinth. It had a lot of problems. "Do you want me to come? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and in a spirit of gentleness?"

Should I come to you as a corrector, or shall I come to you in a spirit of gentleness in love? All of them is done in love. But there is authority. And if I see someone hurting the Church… I was asked one time when I was a candidate to be one of the candidates and they were looking for a new president years ago. They said, "So what would you do with the people that are trying to leave, that are mistreating, teaching wrong?" I said, "I would investigate. I would get the facts. But if they are hurting God's people, I will hurt them, and I don't mean physically. I will not stand for them to hurt God's people." Well, I wasn't made president. Some of them didn't like that, who were on the council. They didn't like that. But I still believe that. Don't you hurt God's people. And that's where I stood as a person.

 

Colossians 2:5 But Paul said, "How do you want me to come?" And then he said, "I've already..." In Chapter 5, he said, "Though I'm absent in the body, but present in Spirit. I've already judged." About the man who was living with his stepmother in sin. And he said, "Put him out of the Church. Turn him over to Satan. Don't have anything to do with him at this time."

So again, we as individuals have to be careful and have to appreciate the direction that God gives us. It's direction. And Paul said, "I cared for the people." He cared for the people.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 He said, "Tenderly leading the flock toward the Kingdom of God."

He talks about like a mother with a newborn child, a nursing child. If you've ever held a newborn baby in your hands, you don't jerk them around. In fact, till they're about three years old, you're not even wise to throw them in the air because their brains aren't settled yet. When you throw them in the air, the brain is hitting the skull. You don't do that. You've got to hold them gently, kindly, lovingly. Pat them. Help them feel secure and safe and loved. Paul said just like that, that's the way we are.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 We are tender. He said, "We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children."

That's how a minister treats us. Ought to. But he also knows he's got a stick there to give people direction in the right way, as a shepherd carried both a rod and a staff. And he never used the rod on the people. He used the rod on the enemies. But he used the staff to pull them back sometimes when they were going the wrong direction. So that's the third reason. We get direction. And Paul said, "You are our crown of rejoicing. What is our hope?" He said.

1 Thessalonians 2:19. "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ? For you are our glory and our joy."

What greater blessing and satisfaction can a minister have than to know that God's people were faithful to the end and that he could be assured, as much as he can know, they're going to be in God's Kingdom? That's the greatest joy here. So he's trying to lead you to the Kingdom of God, not lead you away from the Kingdom of God.

Reason number four is we can be a part of the work. What is the work? What did Jesus Christ say before He left the earth in Matthew 28:18?

Matthew 28:18-20 "Jesus came and spoke to them and He said, 'Authority is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them, to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen."

We have the blessing being a part of a work.

2 Corinthians 6:1 "We then, as workers together with him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain."

I've got a sermon I'm working on on how can you receive the grace of God in vain. What does it mean that the grace of God in your life is in vain? And you don't want it to be in vain. You want it to be plentiful. You want it to be active. So I've got a sermon I'm working on on that one. But we as workers together, that's the key. 2 Corinthians 6:1.

We are to be a light to the world. We're to let the light of Jesus Christ in us shine to the world, that there's something different about you. There's something special about you. And the reason you have that light is because Christ can be in you. Let your light shine. How does your light shine? Because what is God? God is light. And if God is in you and you let it shine and you don't put it under a bushel and hide it, your light will shine and people will see different.

And I often tell the students how precious they are when I was teaching them. You don't realize how precious you are, what other people see in you. And you are God's people. They see that in you, too. Why? Not because you're good, not because I'm good, but God is good, and God in you makes you good. His goodness makes you good. So we are part of the work. Do what we can. Go, therefore. Our examples. When we discuss things with people, friends out in the world, stand for what you believe in, as Mr. Japhet was saying. Stand for what you believe in. Stand tall. That doesn't mean you have to be argumentative, but stand tall. Be a light to the world. Romans said... Again, being a part of the work does not mean you go to preach.

Romans 10:14 says, "Don't go preaching unless you are sent."

You can't preach the gospel if you aren't sent. And what did we read in Romans and Acts? They sent the apostle Paul. They sent Apollos. They sent... Who did it? The Church. So again, we are part of the work. Be an example. Pray for the Church. Pray for the work to be done. And that's a great example that we need to do and follow. Psalms 19 talks about presumptuous sins, so I won't go there. Don't go too far in your trying to be a minister. Don't try to arrogate to yourself responsibilities of the minister. Don't.

Reason number five. Reason number five we have is prayer, comfort, love, and support. Why do I go to Church? Because I appreciate their prayers. And your prayers covered me when I felt lonely in the hospital, when I wasn't sure what was happening, when sometimes I was being given too many sleeping pills to even know what I was doing. I knew that God's people were praying for me. Remember when they killed James, the brother of John? Herod thought he's doing something great. The people will love me. I'm killing these Christians. And I'll take Peter, too. I'll hold him for ransom. Now he wasn't a Muslim, but he did take Peter. But I don't want to do it before unleavened bread or Passover unless the Jewish people, you know, rebel so I won't do it then. So he arrested him, put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him. Well, one man needed four squads of soldiers. Why did he need that? Well, what did the Church do?

Acts 12:5 "So when he had arrested him, put him in prison, delivered him to the four squads of soldiers to keep him, Peter was therefore kept in prison but..." This is in the Book of Acts, sorry, yes, Acts, and verse 5 of that particular verse, 12 verse 5. "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the Church."

As you know, an angel came and released him from his bonds and let him out of the prison, set him on the street where he knew where he was, and disappeared. And nobody saw him. They knocked all these other guys out. And he went and he knocks on the door at one of the brethren he knew nearby. And Rhoda comes to the door, one of the...everybody's praying for him. And she opens the door, and there's Peter. She slams the door, runs back. Guess what? I see Peter. They said, "You're hallucinating. Peter's not here. He's in prison. We're praying for him." But he was released. They were praying for Peter, and Peter was released. What a blessing. Prayer by the Church. Miraculously, he was let go.

Colossians 4:12 “Laboring in prayer.”

2 Thessalonians 3:1 "Pray that the gospel may have free course."

That the gospel can go out freely and not be hindered.

Philippians 1:19. We could read this particular verse. He says, the Apostle Paul writes, "For I know that this will turn out to my deliverance." Why? "Through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."

I know I'll be okay because God's people are praying for me. So again, prayer is so important. What about love? What about love?

John 13:34-35 Jesus Christ said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you."

And what is the newness of it? Not that you just love others as you would like them to love you, but you love them as Jesus Christ loved you. Did Jesus Christ expect anything in return? No, He didn't. He did it for us because He cared. And sometimes you do something for people you never get a thank you, but that's okay. You did it for them. He didn't do it for you. Do you do something nice so people can thank you and you feel good about yourself, or do you do it for them because you care about them? That's love. That is love. And love is the identity of Christians. We read that in John 15:12.

John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another."

And I've had many people tell me at the Feast where they met brethren they hadn't seen for a while, they run up, hugged each other's arms, and those people behind the desk thought they were relatives, and they were spiritually, but they weren't physically, because of the love they had for one another, the love you have for one another.

John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give, you love one another."

John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

1 John 3:14 "We know that we have passed from death to life." We know we're headed to life. How and why? "Because we love the brethren."

And it's not just words.

1 John 3:18 John says, "My little children, let's not love in word or in tongue," and it means it only, "but in deed and in truth."

Make sure it's correct. Make sure you're doing it honestly and uprightly and do it in deed. Love translates into action. And then for support, I'll just read this one Scripture. Paul got a lot of support. Jews plotted against him. Remember when he was first switched from being an antagonist to a promoter of the Church? And when they were trying to get him and apprehend him, and they attempted to kill him, but when the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea, and they sent him to Tarsus. They rescued him. They saved him. We're supposed to be supporting each other.

Galatians 6:10 Says, "Don't be weary with well-doing."

Acts 20:35, what did Jesus Christ say? It's not written, but He said, "I've shown you how to support the weak and remember the words..."

Acts 20:35-37 "and remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that He said, 'It's more blessed to give than to receive.'" He told that to the Ephesian elders and it said, "And when He had said these things, He knelt down and He prayed with them." And verse 37, "They all wept freely and fell on his neck." Not that they were kneeling on it like, whatever, George Floyd, but they came on His neck, they hugged Him. They hugged Him. "And they fell on His neck and kissed Him and they had a good cry." We're told to have the same care, one for another.

And Hebrews 3:13 tells us to exhort one another daily. That means to encourage. When you see the brethren at Church, give them encouragement. Help them. The Apostle Paul was encouraged. In Philippians 2:19, he was encouraged when Timothy came. He was encouraged because he came. He was encouraged when Epiphras came.

Hebrews 3:13 He said, "I hope to send to you Timothy."

But he was encouraged because they looked after him. They took care of him.

Philippians 4:15 "No other Church supported me but the Church of Philippi," even when he traveled to other Church areas.

That's why the Book of Philippians is such an awesome Book to read because it's all positive. He loved that Church and they loved him.

Philippians 4:15 "No Church shared with me, concerning giving and receiving, but you only."

So pray, support, love. care, fellowship. All of those are important. I hope, brethren, that we can have a greater appreciation for God's Church. I hope we'll do all in our power to help it be the best it can be. It's not a perfect Church, but we can help do what we can to perfect it.

In conclusion, in light of these five reasons and others that I have not mentioned, let's be grateful for the blessings of being a part of God's Church, the Church that Jesus Christ built, and do all in our power with God's Spirit to contribute to the unity and faithfulness of the precious body of Jesus Christ, the Church. Have a good rest of this weekend. Thank you for allowing me to take you a couple of minutes overtime. I'm sorry.

If you're interested in all the Scriptures I gave you, you can email me, gary_antion@ucg.org, all small letters, and I'll be happy to email you back the list of all the Scriptures that I have written down. If you want it, I'll be happy to give them to you. May you have a wonderful rest of the Sabbath afternoon, and may you who are out still not here, but maybe online, may you enjoy your wonderful family even more this Sabbath, this Thanksgiving weekend. Godspeed to you all.

[Gary Antion] Good afternoon, everyone. And it's sure nice to see you all on this Sabbath after Thanksgiving. I want to thank Katie and Chad. Thank you. Chad's been a blessing since he's been at ABC helping out with the singing program, the music, and helping with the chorale with Mr. Shoemaker. Really appreciate him and Katie, and it was a beautiful song. Thank you so much. It took a lot of work to do that one, I'm sure. Nice to be with you.

As my brother, Dave, who's with us today, by the way, and I sat in our car to the side of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in the summer of 1958. We watched those who walked to the building. We knew that this was the location of the Pittsburgh Church for Sabbath services. However, we did not know what meeting hall they were meeting at, because Soldiers & Sailors has a lot of meeting rooms and a huge one that's been used for years by the Pittsburgh Church.

So we sat watching. How would we know what meeting room to go to? So we watched. How would we identify any of God's people going in there? Because my brother was back from a baptizing tour, and I was not even interested in the Church that much, but he asked me to go with him, so I said I'll go. I think he may have even given me one of his Bibles to follow the service. So we saw several people going in and out up the steps, big long steps to get up into this facility. And sure enough, we saw this couple going up and we saw this man carrying a Bible, and they looked plain. They weren't wearing Amish clothing or anything, but they looked plain. And so we thought maybe that's them.

So we got out of the car and we followed them at a distance behind, and we followed them down the hallway, and sure enough, they turned into a room with about 45 or 50 people there, and we met with them for Church services. This was my introduction to the Radio Church of God, which was later changed to the Worldwide Church of God. My brother had been the ambassador for two years, was home to visit parents that summer, and had invited me to join him in attending. C. Wayne Cole was the pastor of that Pittsburgh Church, which by the way, was the closest Church to the East Coast. There was no other Church east of that. So Pittsburgh was kind of like the coastal Church in the Worldwide Church of God or Radio Church of God at that time. C. Wayne Cole was the pastor, and Charles Black was an undergraduate student from Ambassador who was assisting for the summer.

So we sat and we listened to the services, and I didn't get much out of it. I wasn't that interested. Only a year before that, I had been really speaking derogatory terms about the Church. My brother had already been to Ambassador for a couple of years. So this was my introduction to the Church, which I had made fun of about a year or so before. I didn't take much away from the service, except that I did note the humble people who seemed anxious to learn from God's Word which was being taught. God did break me down in the next year, and I came to greatly appreciate God's Church.

Thanksgiving has just passed. And we all hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. And those who aren't here, by the way, we understand. You are with family somewhere, or you are going to services somewhere else, or watching on the webcast, whatever. And certainly, we wish you a wonderful weekend or Sabbath day today.

So we were in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving with my sister who lives there. And my brother, Dave, flew into Pittsburgh, spent a couple of days, and we drove over on Wednesday and we met for dinner there. And then we had dinner Thursday, and we drove back on Thursday with my brother who's going to fly out of Cincinnati tomorrow to go home. But we haven't seen each other in a year, and I hadn't seen my sister in a year. So it's nice to be able to spend some time with family, and I hope you have done so.

I have a list that I made several years ago. It's about 22 things that I thought of just off the top of my head years ago to be thankful for for Thanksgiving. And one of those 22, is the Church, the Church of God. I have that list, things we should be thankful for, could be thankful for, that I was thankful for. But on the list was the Church of God. Why am I thankful for the Church of God? And my question for you is, are you?

So let's see from Scripture why we need to be thankful for the Church of God, for our Church, the Church we attend. First of all, before going to those reasons, I want to establish that God's Church is precious. God's Church is precious. And I know we often don't think of it. I don't think of it all that way at times. But in preparing this sermon, I was struck with how precious God's Church is, and I hope that we all feel it is precious.

Matthew 16:18. And by the way, I have my Scriptures printed out from New King James Version, and they're over here in order, so I've got those to read. So I won't be turning in my Bible unless I miss my place somewhere, but I've got them printed out, New King James Version. Matthew 16:18. This Church we are a remnant of, this Church was built by Jesus Christ. The Church of God was built by Jesus Christ. Is it precious? Let's read it.

Matthew 16:18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter," that's a small rock, "and on this rock," a big, massive rock, "I will build My Church." Ecclesia or Ecclesia, which means called out ones. "I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades," the hell, "will not prevail against it."

Now that tells me and told me somewhere on this earth there had to be a Church that Jesus Christ built because the gates of hell haven't come yet to close on it. So I knew that. So again, the Church is called the body of Christ in Ephesians 1:22-23, as well as Ephesians 2:19-20. I'm not going to read those Scriptures, but I could share them with you. It says, "He gave Him..."

Ephesians 1:22-23, "He gave Him," Jesus Christ, "to be the head over all things to the Church."

And by the way, the word Church is listed almost between 114 and 120 times, depending on various versions, between 114 and 120 times. Almost every single time. It's Ecclesia, or Ecclesia, as some might pronounce it, which means called out ones. Most of it is in Acts, the Gospels, and Ephesians. You'll find them. Church. It's a Church that Jesus Christ built.

1 Corinthians 12:13 We read this. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- and have all been made to drink into or of one Spirit."

That's 1 Corinthians 12:13. Verse 27 dropping down, we read this.

1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are the body of Christ and members individually."

How does that strike you, that God considers you the body of Christ? I find it rather interesting that when the apostle Paul, I think it's in Acts 9, was going over to Damascus. He had received letters of introduction from the synagogues in Jerusalem area to go over to Damascus, Syria, to find anybody who was attending that synagogue who was believing the way the Apostle Paul later began to speak and teach what the Church of God was preaching, what the apostles were preaching. And he was going to take them and put them in prison like he had done already to many Christians. While he was on his way to wreak his havoc upon the Church, he was struck down with lightning. And what did he say? He was blinded. And you heard this voice saying, "Saul, Saul. Why are you persecuting me?" Now Saul could have responded, "Who are you?" And he said, "I'm Jesus whom you are persecuting." He said, "I'm not hitting you, Jesus, I'm just hitting your people. I'm not pounding on you, I'm hurting your people, throwing them in prison. I'm not throwing you into prison."

You know what Jesus Christ considers the Church? His body. When you attack His Church, when you attend His Church, you are coming to a very special place, not because of you, not because of me, but because God made it so. Do we consider the Church of God precious? 1 Corinthians 1:2. What is it called? Well, Paul wrote to the Church of God.

1 Corinthians 1:2 "The Church of God which is at Corinth, and to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus," to those... What does it mean to be sanctified? Set apart, blessed, special purpose set apart for a holy purpose. Those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:2, “called saints.”

Every Sabbath we come together we are meeting with God's saints. You don't have to become like Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was canonized by the Catholics finally, many years after her death, because of certain miracles she supposedly had done, and she is now a saint according to them. You don't have to be canonized, shot from a cannon. I put it that way laughably. You don't have to be canonized. When you are baptized and you receive the Spirit of God, you are put into the Church. And that makes us saints. So every Sabbath you come to meet together and I come to meet with you, we are in the presence of saints. They're God's people. They're not your people, they're God's people. So it's a wonderful blessing.

Philippians 1:1 Paul wrote, "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints." He wrote to saints. He wasn't writing to heaven. He wrote to the Church. "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi." And he said, "With the bishops and deacons."

Philippians 4:1 "Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, stand fast in the Lord."

So when we come together at Church, we are coming to the Church that Jesus Christ built. It's called His Body. Secondarily, when we assemble together with whom are we meeting, we are meeting with saints. What a privilege and a blessing, what a precious blessing it is for us to have that as something that we can have as individuals.

So let's take a look at five reasons I have why we should value the Church, why we should consider the Church on our list of blessings, and hopefully, you did at Thanksgiving time. What is it about? What is the Church of God about? And let me ask the question, do you consider it a blessing to being a part of God's Church? Do you consider it an honor and a privilege, a privilege to attend? Or are you a lone ranger? I don't need a Church. It's me and God. I'm sorry. When Paul and Barnabas needed a place to go and Apollos, guess where they went? To the Church. They didn't say, "We're lone wolves out here, or lone rangers out here doing our part." God expects us each to do our part in the Church to help build it and support it.

I'm going to read you a quote that I found. I knew I'd have it. It's an anonymous, by the way. It's called The Perfect Church. "I think I shall never see a Church that's all it ought to be, a Church that has no empty pews, whose preacher never has the blues. A Church whose deacons always deak, and none is proud, but all are meek, where gossips never peddle lies, or make complaints or criticize, where all are always sweet and kind, and all to others' faults are blind. Such perfect Churches there may be, but none of them is known to me but still we'll work and plan and pray to make our Church the best that we can. If you can find a perfect Church without one fault or smear, for God's sake, don't join that Church. You'd spoil the atmosphere. If you should find the perfect Church, then don't you ever dare to tread upon such holy ground. You'd be a misfit there. But since no perfect Church exists made of imperfect men, then let's cease looking for that Church and love the one we're in. Of course, it's not a perfect Church. That's simple to discern. But you and I, and all of us, could cause the tide to turn."

Do we do all we can to help the Church be the best it can be? That's what it's about. It's not about fun. And I know, I know. Hey, every time I was troubled about something the Church did, that the leadership did, not the Church as a whole, I'd be out of the Church so many times in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out. Why? Because it isn't like me. But God didn't call me to find people like me. He called me to be a part of people like Him. And people somehow they say, "The minister did that. He made a mistake. The minister said that, it was a mistake. I'm leaving." Okay, good, you ever find a Church you're going to agree with, everybody's going to agree with you, you better have a Church of one, and it'll be you and maybe you even get upset at yourself sometimes. So you wouldn't even have a Church. God is the one who leads His Church.

It's interesting that we can read reasons that we come to Church. Number one reason is fellowship. I have. It's not necessarily in order of importance, just in order when I put them down. Number one reason is fellowship. We come to Church to meet with people of like minds. We come to Church to meet with people who have the same goals, same aims. And what is that aim and what is that goal? It's the Kingdom of God. It's a goal of doing the work of God on this earth for Him as He commissioned. That's what we're about. But let's notice reasons for fellowship.

Philippians 2:5 I'll read this. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."

What a blessing it is to meet with like-minded brethren. Like-minded brethren. And I'll tell you, after being away from Church for many weeks, this is about six weeks when I was in the hospital and rehab, I got letters, cards, notes, encouragement, and all that, I'll talk about that later, but I also missed you. And the first Sabbath I came back, they were celebrating our 60th anniversary. And I was sitting out in the hall. And Alex Johnson came up to me and said, "It's so good to see you." You know what I said to her? "It's so good to see anyone, anyone from the Church." It's so good to see you all. And when you're alone you don't realize how much that fellowship means when you come back. You don't realize it fully when you're away. You need it. You know you need it, but you don't realize how good it is to have the fellowship of the brethren. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 and Chapter 3 verses 6 and 7, we see that we can be happy and encouraged by being at Church.

1 Thessalonians 2:17 "But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, but not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire."

Do you have great desire to come to services? I want to find out how that person got that job they were telling me about they were looking for. I want to find out if they got it. I'm excited to see. I want to see how their health is. I want to see them in person and ask them. I could send emails and so on. I want to see them in person. I want to see how they're doing. I want to give them a hug, a congratulatory hug for whatever this, that, or the other thing, or a firm handshake. a warm, firm handshake.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 The Apostle Paul writes... And the Apostle Paul was an affectionate man. "But now that Timothy has come to us," he said, "and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us." Notice what Paul says, "Greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you."

We greatly desire to see you. One of the blessings of Church is meeting people of like minds. We're not all like personalities, like minds. We look in the same direction. We have the same hope and the same plan and the same goals we're trying to overcome with the Spirit of God and the help of God and the grace and mercy of God. We're trying to overcome.

1 Thessalonians 3:7 "Therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress, we were comforted concerning you by your faith."

When we saw how faithful you were, that was a great comfort to us. 1 John 1:6-7, the same theme of fellowship.

1 John 1:6 "If we say we have fellowship with Him..."

And by the way, the Apostle John was an apostle of love, which is probably why he and Jesus Christ hit it off so well together. Remember, Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, and what is God? God is love. And what does John write about really more in the Book of the Gospel of John as well as 1, 2, and 3 John and Revelation to a certain extent but more in those Books? Love. What is love? And he writes about it.

1 John 1:6 He says, "If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."

Because we're headed the same direction. And where are we headed? In the paths of righteousness. Where do the paths of righteousness lead you to? The righteous God. That's where it leads you to it. How can you keep the paths of righteousness? Maybe we stay in that same path. Takes God's Spirit, God's strength, not your own strength, His strength. You have to couple your strength with it. The old adage that I remember from being taught at Ambassador College. We have to do as if it all depends on us, but we have to believe as if it all depends on God. God will give you the strength. You have to have the desire. but He'll give the strength.

1 John 1:7 So he says, "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another."

If I'm walking in the light and you're walking in the light, we're probably going to bump into each other. Catch up with each other. Walk beside each other. And how do we do that? Because God is light. Remember, what did Jesus Christ bring into the world? Light. And if we're walking in the light, we're not only walking with Him, Jesus Christ, but we're also walking with others who are walking in the light, and we have fellowship with one another.

Is fellowship saying, "Hi, brethren, hi, Joe, hi, this one, hi, John, hi, Mary, hi, Hugh, hi, Marina?" Is that fellowship? It's not fellowship. Fellowship is sharing, sharing your journey, sharing what's going on in your journey. In some Sabbaths, you may only talk to one person, but you talk to them a lot. And the next Sabbath you might talk to another one or two, but you talk to them a lot and you know them and they know you. That's fellowship. And he said, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses from all sin."

It is interesting in Acts 11, and I'm not going to read it, verses 25 and 26. Barnabas departed to look for Saul to help him along this tour to Tarsus, where Paul was from.

Acts 11:25-26 "And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch of Syria. So it was that for a whole year they assembled," not by themselves. We're apostles. We're sent by God. We don't need brethren. What do we need the Church for? We're the lone rangers here. “They assembled with the Church for a whole year and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians” Where? “in Syria.”

Christians. But it wasn't a nice term back then. It was the followers of Christ. That was more of a derogatory term. But that's where it came from. But they assembled with the Church, not by themselves. That's reason number one, fellowship. Treasure it. Treasure the saints that you're able to be with.

Number two, reason number two, that Church is the pillar and ground of truth. You want to find the truth, you should find it in the pulpit. You should find it in your Bibles. And those who preach at Church use the Bible. I don't want to speak my words. I want to speak God's words. How can you guarantee that what I'm saying is inspired of God? If you read it in the Scripture. I hope that what I say otherwise is inspired too. But I know that when I read the Scripture to you, those are inspiring words. I know it. Why? Because the Scripture is given under God's inspiration. All Scripture is given by God and has His breath upon it, His blessing upon it. So I know you receive blessings in that.

2 Timothy 3:15-17. We know what that means. We know what that...the pillar and ground. “And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise through salvation which is in Christ Jesus.” Verse 16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And I'll tell you where that Scripture is found in 1 Timothy 3:15. 1 Timothy 3:15. The Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And so you come to Church, you expect to hear the truth. And of course, what did Paul write? He said in 2 Timothy 4:2, instruction to evangelist Timothy, "Preach the Word." Preach the Word. I know you have your own words, I have my own words, but I want to preach the Word. I pray to God, give me the strength to preach. It's not about me. It's about you. It's not about my words. It's about Your words. Brethren, the Church of God is the pillar and ground of truth. And you should come to Church and you should be ready, you know, in season and out of season.

2 Timothy 4:2 He said, "Convince, rebuke, exhort," that's 2 Timothy 4:2, "with all longsuffering and teaching."

Preach the Word. We all need to have that in mind, and I try to encourage that among the ministers in the Northeast region. Preach the Word, not your words. Preach the Word. And it's interesting in Acts 18:24-26. It's more than just Scripture. There's a way of God that is being given to you.

Acts 18:24 "Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. And this man," verse 25, "had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the Spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John."

So he can only tell them you need to do the baptism of repentance, not the baptism into Christ. So he'd do everything else. And notice verse 26.

Acts 18:26 "So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue." And of course, there must have been a certain section there where the people who believed the way the apostles would ultimately be teaching. that they would gather together. "So when Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." The way of God more accurately.

Proverbs 14:12 "There's a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

And what does he say in Matthew 7, is it in verse 13? That you need to enter in at the straight gate? For broad is the way that leads...and narrow is the way that leads to life. So we try to teach a way of living those Scriptures, a way of living God's way. And so we come to Church. And there are a lot of Scriptures on this, Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, Acts 24:14, and 22, all talk about the way of God. There's a way of applying those Scriptures, a way of living those Scriptures. And we get that as we come to Church, as we visit with each one, as we hear the message of God being taught by His ministers.

Reason number three. We come to Church to receive direction. Direction. What do I mean by this? Acts 20:28. When Paul was about to go on his journey to Rome, he let the Ephesian elders know that he was coming through. And so they gathered together with him. And he said to them in Acts 20:28... Reminds you his last time he probably would ever see their face.

Acts 20:28 He said, "Take heed to yourselves," Acts 20:28, "and to all the flock." He's talking to the elders, "among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

Ministers have a responsibility to oversee, to look over. When I come to Church, I'm glad to see the minister here. I'm glad to see Mr... And by the way, Mr. Welsh really cares about you. He cared about me a lot when I was sick. He stopped and saw me at the hospital. He came by to see me after I had my operation. Called me and followed up on me several times. And he does that with not just me, he did that with all the people because there's caring. There's caring. It didn't make you an overseer to crack the whip on you. Make more bricks. Make more bricks with less hay, less straw. Make more bricks. That isn't what... Overlooks you. And I don't mean to sit in the back and there's a bad person there or there's a bad one over there. I don't mean that. That one needs three stripes, that one needs six stripes. That is what a minister does, but he does oversee you.

And it's interesting, why does he oversee you? Are we aware what happens to sheep? Are we aware what happens to sheep when they don't have a shepherd? They get all scared. and they run amok and they don't know what happened. They don't know where they are. And what can happen to them? Sheep scatter without a shepherd or pastor. They wander aimlessly and getting lost and not paying attention to dangers nearby. Not paying attention to any dangers that are nearby without a shepherd. The shepherd, most of the time, slept out in the fields with his sheep. He didn't leave them. He looked after them.

I remember when there was a split in the Church and some of the ministers were going the other way and going to this group that split off. I remember Mr. Myers saying, "What kind of a shepherd would you be when you leave the sheep?" What kind of a shepherd are you? If you just walk away, what about the people that don't go with you? You try to influence them. What about the people that don't go? You're just walking away from them. So you might also notice Matthew 9:36-38, where Jesus Christ spoke about this. It said,

Matthew 9:36-38 "Jesus went about the cities and villages teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd."

What if we all just decided what time we want to come to Church? What if we all decided whether it would be morning or afternoon? What if we all decided that we'll have the chairs facing the other way? Who wants to look at these ugly faces up here anyway? Let's just turn. They can still hear better. Hear okay. Maybe they won't be distracted as they see a minister up there flailing his hands around. No, it takes organization and it takes somebody who knows what he's doing to lead the flock. But it's not about beating on them, it's not about hurting them. So direction is one thing we have.

Titus 1:5-7 He said, "For this reason, I left you in Crete that you should set in order the things that are lacking," Titus 1:5-9, "and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you, if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of insubordination. For a bishop," that's an overseer, "must be blameless as a steward of God." He's got to take care of God's people. That's what a steward does. Looks after his master's goods and household. And so here he is taking care of them. "For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed." Blameless means you're not accused, and that accusation has no substantiation. That's different. "For a bishop must be blameless, not self-willed." I'm doing what I want to do. Don't tell me otherwise.

We have to yield. I can tell you there have been times when I was a council member of the Church, or first full council of the United. I would introduce... I thought this was a really great idea, introduce it to the whole council. I was for it. Eleven others weren't. I still think that's a great idea, but they didn't. So did I fight it? No. I said, "You know what? I think it's still a great idea, but they don't. And they have the Spirit of God like I have the Spirit of God. Those 11 men with the Spirit of God don't think it's good, and one of them with the Spirit of God still thinks it's good. So be it." Or I could say, "I'm mad I didn't get my way, I'm out of here." Again, don't be self-willed.

Titus 1:8-9 He said, "Nor quick-tempered, nor given to wine or violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable," willing to share with you, share time, share goods, share meals, whatever he could do as a minister and his wife. He said, "Hospitable, a lover of what is good."

Some say lover of good men. God, I can't qualify because there's nobody good on the earth. You know what? There are good men. Jesus Christ loved people that were good, but not good as God. Nobody is as good as God. But the word agathos, you could look it up. You'll find several good men, but they're not good as God. So there's a difference there. But he said, "Holding fast the faithful word as he's been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." So that's why we have a minister to guide us, to lead us, to bring us messages.

Acts 14:23 "When they had appointed elders in every Church..."

So there was direction that was being given to the Church to look after us, to care about us. Ephesians, he said he gave some apostles, some prophets, some pastors, some evangelists, some teachers for the equipping of the saints. So he gave the ministry responsibility to direct, to look after, but not to direct just because of their own needs.

1 Timothy 1:12 Paul said, "I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has enabled me because He has counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry."

The one thing we must be very careful about is if we're not ordained to serve as a minister that we don't arrogate to ourselves ministerial responsibility. We must be very careful. God wants us all to serve, and the servant doesn't have to be ordained to serve but to be doing the work of the ministry. To tread into that office is very serious. It's presumptuous and it is wrong, and yet there are people who will arrogate to themselves. And I'll tell you, I read the Scripture of James. I taught that many, many years, 32 years. I taught the general epistles. And James says, "Don't be many teachers, because you will be held to account for what you say and what you do." So again, there's responsibility.

Hebrews 13:7 "Obey those that have the rule over you."

And remember those who have the rule over you. Who are those who have the rule over you, who have spoken to you the Word of God? You can read John 10, the Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He's the Great Shepherd of the sheep. But He also has pastors to look after you for Him. And believe me, as a pastor, one thing that was driven into me as a trainee for many years, I heard Hebrews 10:31. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You mistreat God's people and He will take care of you. He will reckon with you. Hebrews 10:31. Now ministers normally are caring, loving, and kind.

2 Corinthians 1:24. "Not that we have dominion over your faith."

We can't tell you how to believe. Your belief system, no, no, it's wrong. My belief system is what you need to have. What you believe. Nobody can change your belief system unless you want to. "But we are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand." So we're there to help their joy. We're not there to dictate their faith. We're there to teach them about the faith and faith wouldn't bother your belief. We're not there to dictate. You can't tell me what everybody thinks. Everybody believes what's in their heart. And I don't know their heart, but God does. And we're there to try to teach them how to believe, but they have to be the ones who believe.

2 Corinthians 1:24 But the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:21, "What do you want?" He told the Church at Corinth. It had a lot of problems. "Do you want me to come? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and in a spirit of gentleness?"

Should I come to you as a corrector, or shall I come to you in a spirit of gentleness in love? All of them is done in love. But there is authority. And if I see someone hurting the Church… I was asked one time when I was a candidate to be one of the candidates and they were looking for a new president years ago. They said, "So what would you do with the people that are trying to leave, that are mistreating, teaching wrong?" I said, "I would investigate. I would get the facts. But if they are hurting God's people, I will hurt them, and I don't mean physically. I will not stand for them to hurt God's people." Well, I wasn't made president. Some of them didn't like that, who were on the council. They didn't like that. But I still believe that. Don't you hurt God's people. And that's where I stood as a person.

Colossians 2:5 But Paul said, "How do you want me to come?" And then he said, "I've already..." In Chapter 5, he said, "Though I'm absent in the body, but present in Spirit. I've already judged." About the man who was living with his stepmother in sin. And he said, "Put him out of the Church. Turn him over to Satan. Don't have anything to do with him at this time."

So again, we as individuals have to be careful and have to appreciate the direction that God gives us. It's direction. And Paul said, "I cared for the people." He cared for the people.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 He said, "Tenderly leading the flock toward the Kingdom of God."

He talks about like a mother with a newborn child, a nursing child. If you've ever held a newborn baby in your hands, you don't jerk them around. In fact, till they're about three years old, you're not even wise to throw them in the air because their brains aren't settled yet. When you throw them in the air, the brain is hitting the skull. You don't do that. You've got to hold them gently, kindly, lovingly. Pat them. Help them feel secure and safe and loved. Paul said just like that, that's the way we are.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 We are tender. He said, "We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children."

That's how a minister treats us. Ought to. But he also knows he's got a stick there to give people direction in the right way, as a shepherd carried both a rod and a staff. And he never used the rod on the people. He used the rod on the enemies. But he used the staff to pull them back sometimes when they were going the wrong direction. So that's the third reason. We get direction. And Paul said, "You are our crown of rejoicing. What is our hope?" He said.

1 Thessalonians 2:19. "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ? For you are our glory and our joy."

What greater blessing and satisfaction can a minister have than to know that God's people were faithful to the end and that he could be assured, as much as he can know, they're going to be in God's Kingdom? That's the greatest joy here. So he's trying to lead you to the Kingdom of God, not lead you away from the Kingdom of God.

Reason number four is we can be a part of the work. What is the work? What did Jesus Christ say before He left the earth in Matthew 28:18?

Matthew 28:18-20 "Jesus came and spoke to them and He said, 'Authority is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them, to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen."

We have the blessing being a part of a work.

2 Corinthians 6:1 "We then, as workers together with him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain."

I've got a sermon I'm working on on how can you receive the grace of God in vain. What does it mean that the grace of God in your life is in vain? And you don't want it to be in vain. You want it to be plentiful. You want it to be active. So I've got a sermon I'm working on on that one. But we as workers together, that's the key. 2 Corinthians 6:1.

We are to be a light to the world. We're to let the light of Jesus Christ in us shine to the world, that there's something different about you. There's something special about you. And the reason you have that light is because Christ can be in you. Let your light shine. How does your light shine? Because what is God? God is light. And if God is in you and you let it shine and you don't put it under a bushel and hide it, your light will shine and people will see different.

And I often tell the students how precious they are when I was teaching them. You don't realize how precious you are, what other people see in you. And you are God's people. They see that in you, too. Why? Not because you're good, not because I'm good, but God is good, and God in you makes you good. His goodness makes you good. So we are part of the work. Do what we can. Go, therefore. Our examples. When we discuss things with people, friends out in the world, stand for what you believe in, as Mr. Japhet was saying. Stand for what you believe in. Stand tall. That doesn't mean you have to be argumentative, but stand tall. Be a light to the world. Romans said... Again, being a part of the work does not mean you go to preach.

Romans 10:14 says, "Don't go preaching unless you are sent."

You can't preach the gospel if you aren't sent. And what did we read in Romans and Acts? They sent the apostle Paul. They sent Apollos. They sent... Who did it? The Church. So again, we are part of the work. Be an example. Pray for the Church. Pray for the work to be done. And that's a great example that we need to do and follow. Psalms 19 talks about presumptuous sins, so I won't go there. Don't go too far in your trying to be a minister. Don't try to arrogate to yourself responsibilities of the minister. Don't.

Reason number five. Reason number five we have is prayer, comfort, love, and support. Why do I go to Church? Because I appreciate their prayers. And your prayers covered me when I felt lonely in the hospital, when I wasn't sure what was happening, when sometimes I was being given too many sleeping pills to even know what I was doing. I knew that God's people were praying for me. Remember when they killed James, the brother of John? Herod thought he's doing something great. The people will love me. I'm killing these Christians. And I'll take Peter, too. I'll hold him for ransom. Now he wasn't a Muslim, but he did take Peter. But I don't want to do it before unleavened bread or Passover unless the Jewish people, you know, rebel so I won't do it then. So he arrested him, put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him. Well, one man needed four squads of soldiers. Why did he need that? Well, what did the Church do?

Acts 12:5 "So when he had arrested him, put him in prison, delivered him to the four squads of soldiers to keep him, Peter was therefore kept in prison but..." This is in the Book of Acts, sorry, yes, Acts, and verse 5 of that particular verse, 12 verse 5. "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the Church."

As you know, an angel came and released him from his bonds and let him out of the prison, set him on the street where he knew where he was, and disappeared. And nobody saw him. They knocked all these other guys out. And he went and he knocks on the door at one of the brethren he knew nearby. And Rhoda comes to the door, one of the...everybody's praying for him. And she opens the door, and there's Peter. She slams the door, runs back. Guess what? I see Peter. They said, "You're hallucinating. Peter's not here. He's in prison. We're praying for him." But he was released. They were praying for Peter, and Peter was released. What a blessing. Prayer by the Church. Miraculously, he was let go.

Colossians 4:12 “Laboring in prayer.”

2 Thessalonians 3:1 "Pray that the gospel may have free course."

That the gospel can go out freely and not be hindered.

Philippians 1:19. We could read this particular verse. He says, the Apostle Paul writes, "For I know that this will turn out to my deliverance." Why? "Through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ."

I know I'll be okay because God's people are praying for me. So again, prayer is so important. What about love? What about love?

John 13:34-35 Jesus Christ said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you."

And what is the newness of it? Not that you just love others as you would like them to love you, but you love them as Jesus Christ loved you. Did Jesus Christ expect anything in return? No, He didn't. He did it for us because He cared. And sometimes you do something for people you never get a thank you, but that's okay. You did it for them. He didn't do it for you. Do you do something nice so people can thank you and you feel good about yourself, or do you do it for them because you care about them? That's love. That is love. And love is the identity of Christians. We read that in John 15:12.

John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another."

And I've had many people tell me at the Feast where they met brethren they hadn't seen for a while, they run up, hugged each other's arms, and those people behind the desk thought they were relatives, and they were spiritually, but they weren't physically, because of the love they had for one another, the love you have for one another.

John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give, you love one another."

John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

1 John 3:14 "We know that we have passed from death to life." We know we're headed to life. How and why? "Because we love the brethren."

And it's not just words.

1 John 3:18 John says, "My little children, let's not love in word or in tongue," and it means it only, "but in deed and in truth."

Make sure it's correct. Make sure you're doing it honestly and uprightly and do it in deed. Love translates into action. And then for support, I'll just read this one Scripture. Paul got a lot of support. Jews plotted against him. Remember when he was first switched from being an antagonist to a promoter of the Church? And when they were trying to get him and apprehend him, and they attempted to kill him, but when the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea, and they sent him to Tarsus. They rescued him. They saved him. We're supposed to be supporting each other.

Galatians 6:10 Says, "Don't be weary with well-doing."

Acts 20:35, what did Jesus Christ say? It's not written, but He said, "I've shown you how to support the weak and remember the words..."

Acts 20:35-37 "and remember the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that He said, 'It's more blessed to give than to receive.'" He told that to the Ephesian elders and it said, "And when He had said these things, He knelt down and He prayed with them." And verse 37, "They all wept freely and fell on his neck." Not that they were kneeling on it like, whatever, George Floyd, but they came on His neck, they hugged Him. They hugged Him. "And they fell on His neck and kissed Him and they had a good cry." We're told to have the same care, one for another.

And Hebrews 3:13 tells us to exhort one another daily. That means to encourage. When you see the brethren at Church, give them encouragement. Help them. The Apostle Paul was encouraged. In Philippians 2:19, he was encouraged when Timothy came. He was encouraged because he came. He was encouraged when Epiphras came.

Hebrews 3:13 He said, "I hope to send to you Timothy."

But he was encouraged because they looked after him. They took care of him.

Philippians 4:15 "No other Church supported me but the Church of Philippi," even when he traveled to other Church areas.

That's why the Book of Philippians is such an awesome Book to read because it's all positive. He loved that Church and they loved him.

Philippians 4:15 "No Church shared with me, concerning giving and receiving, but you only."

So pray, support, love. care, fellowship. All of those are important. I hope, brethren, that we can have a greater appreciation for God's Church. I hope we'll do all in our power to help it be the best it can be. It's not a perfect Church, but we can help do what we can to perfect it.

In conclusion, in light of these five reasons and others that I have not mentioned, let's be grateful for the blessings of being a part of God's Church, the Church that Jesus Christ built, and do all in our power with God's Spirit to contribute to the unity and faithfulness of the precious body of Jesus Christ, the Church. Have a good rest of this weekend. Thank you for allowing me to take you a couple of minutes overtime. I'm sorry.

If you're interested in all the Scriptures I gave you, you can email me, gary_antion@ucg.org, all small letters, and I'll be happy to email you back the list of all the Scriptures that I have written down. If you want it, I'll be happy to give them to you. May you have a wonderful rest of the Sabbath afternoon, and may you who are out still not here, but maybe online, may you enjoy your wonderful family even more this Sabbath, this Thanksgiving weekend. Godspeed to you all.