Sermon presented by Randy Stiver on November 30, 2013 in the Cincinnati East, Ohio congregation.
Well, I hope that you've all enjoyed a good Thanksgiving meal – this American holiday. I've had a little argument with a Vertical Thought reader over the weekend, who thinks that it has pagan origins in conjunction with the Celtic harvest festivals of England and the various other ones, and so we went back and forth on that. Now it doesn't. It is a national holiday for America. It is designed to give thanks to God for His blessings back in Pilgrim times and then gradually there were other Thanksgiving days proclaimed infrequently, until Abraham Lincoln established it in 1863.
The lady who lobbied President Lincoln to establish a national day of Thanksgiving for the end of November wanted it to be modeled after the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. It was in that sort of spirit – in a way of doing things. It wasn't the Feast of Tabernacles, but it was on the same principle. So, it was an outpouring of just genuine appreciation for God's blessings. It has come down to us and now people call it "turkey day." But turkeys certainly have factored always in it – a native American bird that was very tasty and was here when the Pilgrims arrived. And they named it after the wrong country. It isn't from Turkey. Don't know what it is, really. It is just a big edible bird in America.
It is interesting, though, when you look back – and this ties into something that I want to talk about – the Pilgrims looked upon their arrival in America very biblically. That was their book. That was their textbook. That was the primary textbook. The Bible was the primary textbook of the American educational system for a very long time – I think well into the 1800's. They looked at their travel here to be in a sort of a parallel with the Exodus of the Israelites. They didn't just do it purely as an analogy. They considered America to be the new Israel.
You go back and read the forefathers. We have the founding fathers and then we have the forefathers. The forefathers are the leaders of America back to the time of the Mayflower and so on. They talked about that – wrote about it extensively. They thought America was to be new Israel – the new Promised Land. Now the way it has come down to us in a highly secularized 21st century is simply, the New World. It is just a new world. But to them, it was new Israel. What they were doing was a migration of biblical proportions, because that was their textbook. They studied it. They didn't fully understand it because they weren't a part of the true Church of God, but they did understand some of it and it guided their thinking. And I think that is one of the great blessings of America.
It is interesting how – and, of course, we understand it – that America actually is part of Israel – being the homeland of Manasseh, one of the tribes of Israel. This fits all the parameters of being the culture of Manasseh. It had prophetic proportions that they, in some cases, weren't aware of. Not all. Some did understand that it had that – and that was part of the British-Israel thinking – is that England and America were the descendants of the tribe of Joseph. Those writers who studied the scriptures and studied history on that subject – from the time of the Pilgrims and then going forward especially after the 1820's – and the 1820's they site as being particularly important.
There was a British scholar named Sharon Turner – I don't know if he was Jewish but you don't call a man Sharon, usually, in English. But Sharon was his name. It is a Hebrew pronunciation of it. He did a phonological or a philological study of the ancient Persian language and English and he found that ancient Persian – which basically was a variation of a dialect of Hebrew, Aramaic and so on – that is was very, very closely aligned. Now he studied that because it was from there – the area of Media and Persia – that the captive ten tribes broke loose from their captors as they repopulated and gained their own power. They began to migrate, as the Scythians, up between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and then over the Black Sea into Europe. Sharon Turner's research showed the direct connection between English and the Indo-European basic language, which is why we say we speak an Indo-European language when we speak English. At least most of us who speak English speak that language. I am not sure about some accents that I have trouble comprehending, but you know, seriously, it is an Indo-European language. He is the one that established that in the 1820's, Sharon Turner did.
So then the British recognized that they were descendants of the Scythians. The Scythians would have been called Skythians. Originally, the "c" would have been pronounced as a "k" and that is a variation of the name of Isaac – the core of the name Isaac. When you track the tribes – and I do get to give, sometimes, a Tribe-trackers Guide to History at a history seminar in a few areas – it is quite fascinating to see all that developed. But America comes down as part as the Saxon peoples. The Saxons are another variation of Isaac's name, by the way, and God, when Abraham was told to remove Hagar and Ishmael from the camp, sent him away from his dwelling, Abraham didn't want to do it. But God said to him, do what Sarah says for in Isaac shall your seed be called. It was a prophecy. It wouldn't be called an Ishmael. It would be called an Isaac. And then He said, "Don't worry about Ishmael. I will make sure that he will have his share of blessings and he will have twelve tribes to descend from him." And they are there listed, by the way – Hadar and a variety. He is one of the main ones, but a variety. His sons were twelve and they became significant – what we would consider, now, Arab tribes – back in their particular day of ascendency, historically.
But the Pilgrims didn't realize fully perhaps, in the 1600 and 1700's, how important that connection was in calling the place New Israel and giving thanks for being able to survive here and to have the freedom to worship God as they understood. The Catholic Church and then later the Church of England, each in their turn, as well as the Lutherans in Germany, were very repressive against everyone else. Freedom of religion was a foreign concept in most of history.
We are blessed greatly at this moment. How long this blessing will last, we don't know. We look and see what is happening – even over Thanksgiving weekend – and events that had been going on and the trending of even this government in this country and the invasiveness of it – the technological capabilities that are now available to make it more invasive than ever before – and you begin to wonder where we are headed. We don't really wonder. We know. It is not a good place. But after that, then it is a wonderful place, because that will be the World Tomorrow when Christ takes over. We look forward to that.
We know that we have been called to be a part of the World Tomorrow – that greater, better place, by far, than America ever was in its originally Thanksgiving Day time or there after – as great as a nation it was and as tolerant and as responsible and as law abiding. And it was law abiding. The rule of law really came into its own as a term in American jurisprudence. The rule of law meant that everybody was governed by the same law – from the president to the newest immigrant or the littlest baby. Everybody was governed by the same law, which is a biblical principle, because God established that in Israel. You will be governed by one law – one law for the Israelites and the same the law for the Gentiles who dwell among you. Again that was a principle directly out of the Bible that came into a modern physical fruition here in the United States.
But we've been called and we anticipate a time when America will again – in fact, all the nations will live again – but they won't be the fallible, problematic, war making, crazy nations that they have come to be in our age. We can look forward to that very much. You look back and you wonder why. Here we are, part of a nation, those of us who are in America. I know some of you who will be viewing this webcast of the sermon later maybe, live in other countries. I mean we have comparison in principle. I think you can understand quite easily.
We live in a nation of about 300 million people and those who know what we know – now we are in the business of education and so we are teaching people the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and people know bits and pieces of it – but those who know what we know – those who are living what we're living by the standard we live by – have been specifically called by God out of hundreds of millions. It is a very small number.
At our heyday historically in our age – in our heyday, which would have been in the early 90's – our numbers were about 150,000 – a little over that – at the Feast of Tabernacles. Now we look at what we have in the United Church of God – and we know that we are not the only organization of God's true Church – but, if you added them all together, we are a fraction of what we were when we were that large, which seems gigantic in today's terms to us. At that time we were barely a blip on the religious radar. Almost all the other traditional Christian churches were vastly, vastly larger than what we were. What we had was a voice. We could make noise, because God blessed the noise through the mass media – through the print and then through television and radio and so on. We have similar abilities even now with the Internet. In some ways it is better and in some ways it is not as good because everything has diffused. Every thing is available on the internet, so it is harder to catch attention than when radio was the king mass media compared to say, print. Then you were paid attention to because there were not that many radio programs on the air at one time. But still, we do have access to reach hundreds of millions and billions of people ultimately because God works through us. But here we are. We are just this tiny little piece as a family or as an individual out of the billions – what is it? Around 7 billion, 7 ½ billion people? I lose count – try to keep track of how many people are being born and how many are dying and what it is. Somebody does that, I guess, theoretically, but we are closing in on 7 ½ billion people. In England they would say 7 ½ thousand million. They used to use billion in a different way than we use it.
When you think about how tiny the odds are that God would call you or me to know these things, it is kind of humbling. It is something to give thanks for that is for sure. But you have to ask, "Why me?" Why you? Why the other brethren? How can we explain the miracle of our calling? That out of all those people God selected just a few in this age to know His truth. Thus the title is The Miracle of Our Calling. How did we come to know the things we know about the Bible and God's way of life? What does God's calling mean to you? And finally, how should your calling to the truth of God motivate you? I think those are vital and important questions.
Now, as I launch into that element of it I do need to advise you, seriously, that I forgot my watch today. And so I thought, "Oh man, I'd hate to be shooting in the dark! Sometimes I get into a subject and like to shoot right past the ending bell at ABC. So I ransacked my brain, "What can I do?" I didn't have a clock in my office that would work, but somebody did, and so I got one! So I do have a watch. I forgot when I started. I think we will be fine because there is also one on the wall. I was going to take it but I thought well, that is a little obtrusive. It is hard to hide it behind my coat so I borrowed this one out of the mailing room for today.
God calls us. Let's just look at some basic fundamental points to understand this. Now we talked about being a few called. You stop and think well, Christianity is so huge. It is the world's biggest religion. If you throw all together it is, but when you go back and look at true Christianity, and believe me in the sermon, one of the key side-points of the sermon is that there is a true Christianity and there is a Christianity that is the world's Christianity. It is not the true Christianity. There are a lot of honest and faithful people who believe it but it is not the true religion anymore than all the other religions in the world are true.
You need to stop and answer this question, and there were billions or not billions that there were – I don't know. Maybe there was a billion people at the time of Christ, but at the end of His ministry out of the few million Jews which is where He did most of His work of His ministry, there were 120 people's names. That is in Acts 1. A 120 people that were a part of the faithful Church that Jesus built. Hold it. Isn't He the rock star of evangelism? Shouldn't He have had millions or at least hundreds of thousands of followers at the end of His life? You know the whole work He gave His life for literally, and He had 120 believers at the end of that, a 120 disciples. They were the ones who met in the upper room there in Acts 1 and Acts 2 with the apostles. The apostles were part of them.
Now that is 12 of them right there – right 11, but then they had to pick an alternate so then it was 12 again and then on the first day of Pentecost it seems like things were going to explode into action because they baptized 3000 people. Now the percentage of growth was quite phenomenal. From the morning on the day of Pentecost you got a 120 in attendance, and at the end of the day you've got 3120. That's huge and wow, with those kinds of astronomical increases, just project that out like business loves to do, and look where we will be. The whole world would be converted! Well, they grew to about 15,000 after a few years in Judea and Samaria, about 15,000. Well, that is not so much. That's tripled it but that is nothing like that first day. That's right, it wasn't and then it slowed down as far as percentage of increase. It grew, it always grew but it was always, always small. It was a little flock and often referred to as a little flock by Christ and by Paul and other writers of the Bible.
So when we come to Acts 2, the first point that we want to look at is that God calls us. God calls us.
We don't just decide that we are going to be a part of the true Church of God. Our mind has to be opened to this. God opens it. He reaches down and points a finger at us and then He sort of signals. Over there. You, now. And we go. Sometimes kicking and screaming and sometimes not, depending. Let's look at the conclusion of that first day of Pentecost beginning in:
Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version× Then Peter said to them – the people who were listening as the sermon which is - You know, I teach public speaking here at ABC so I love to study speeches and this is a speech. Granted, it is condensed but the points are all there that Peter was laying out. He started with a joke. Do you realize the very first sermon in the New Testament Church started with a joke?
If you'll note, this is just an aside. It is not really what I want to cover but I will cover it anyway just because it is there. Some were mocking, you know people were saying, whatever does this mean? We can hear these men speaking in our own language these wonderful words of God and you have 14 different regions with at least that many languages represented, but part of the miracle was in the hearing. It wasn't just in the speaking. And then,
V.13 – Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
These guys are drunk. That's why they are babbling on like this and that's why you think you are hearing them in your language.
V.14 – But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.
V.15 – For these are not drunk, as you suppose, (So you will think: what's funny about that? The punch line is funny.) since it is only the third hour of the day.
You didn't get it. These men are not drunk because it is only nine-o-clock in the morning! That's what the third hour was. It was nine-o-clock in the morning. It's a joke. Okay, well, I don't know if it went over better then or not but one thing you have to note is one of the leading apostles who often was the spokesman for the others started the very first sermon with a humorous rejoinder. Humorous rejoinder – now it takes some fun out of it, doesn't it, but that also means a joke. Now let's go to the end of the sermon. If you didn't get the first part I hope you get the last part.
In this very effective sermon as he argued, he was pointing out and explaining and proving that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and that you, maybe not you directly, but you as the people here, killed Him. You killed your Messiah. That's what he said in:
V.36 – "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah. They mean exactly the same thing.
V.37 – Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
You know, they slapped their foreheads and they had this sinking feeling in the back of their knees. Oh no! They reacted. It suddenly became clear.
V.37 – Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
Peter was serving as the spokesman this day so it would appear that the rest of the men who were speaking turned to him for the answer so that it comes directly from one of them, and
V.38 – Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The converting power of God. It is not the consciousness of God. God as His Father has His own consciousness and so does His Son but this is the power (the converting power of God) by which everything is done that God does. Whether it is God the Father, or God the Son. They both use the Holy Spirit as their power to convert our minds, to change our thinking, to create things. It is marvelous and that was the keystone. They had to be converted, and it goes on in Acts 2:39 Acts 2:39For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version×, very interesting:
V.39 – For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, (in time, as it were. Or, as afar off geographically) as many as the Lord our God will call.
It doesn't say, and so God calls all. It says: as many as He will call. Because we understand the time frame of converting mankind that God has worked out here below and right now is the time of the small harvest. Compared to the spring harvest the Feast of Pentecost pictures, it is a small harvest, the winter grains mainly, compared to the vast, much larger and more diversified autumn harvest, which the Feast of Tabernacles pictures.
So we have then those that God will call, therefore He called these ones that were converted that day. He called them. Did they just instantly repent? You've got to stop and think: Why did they come? Why did that crowd come to listen to the Apostles talk? Maybe there were a few, you know, walkers-by so to speak upon the temple mount area where gatherings could be held, but more likely these were people who had heard Jesus preach. They were people who were mystified as what did it all mean? They knew that these men, these 12 out there, had been with Him and had been trained by Him so obviously they would know something and they came to hear.
So, there is a little bit of seed that has already been planted as far as the gospel of the Kingdom of God goes, in their minds; planted in their minds and then it comes to fruition. It all came together. The repentance can be quite swift when everything comes together all of a sudden. There are times when it comes a little slower and part of it has to do with a recalcitrant factor, otherwise known as mule-headedness that most of all of us have - at least some of us. I don't know why we pick on mules. They've done us a lot of work through the years, but we do and they don't seem to mind. They take pride in it I think.
Then as it goes on, what were they called to? You will call them to what?
V.40 – And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."
Be saved from this perverse generation!
V.41 – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized: and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
V.42 – And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Many signs and wonders were done. So you stop and think about all that unfolded here. You had a few there that were called. They were there and later and in other locations there were others that were called in the early New Testament period. A few were called then as in time as well as geographically but ultimately God will call all men everywhere. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×)Peter wrote that under inspiration.
God's calling to salvation is each person's opportunity to accept the true Jesus Christ of the Bible and then to endure to the end and overcome and thus to be in the Kingdom of God. So God calls us.
The second point is this: God calls us out of this world and into His Church. Out of this world and into His Church, His true Church, as contrasted to traditional Christianity. We will get into that in a moment. Now we have already read here:
Every generation in history is perverse. I want to stress that lest those of you who are younger and who are of the current generation coming of age, would think that your generation is better than all the rest. It isn't. It is the same as all the rest, the same.
We were having a discussion one time about what how the generations were different and alike and there are some general differences that are shaped by the times, and technology affects the modern generation but one of the comments was, it was the generation X's. Now that will be those of you who will be basically in your 30's up to your early 40's at least. They blamed the baby boomers for ruining the world which really hurt the feelings of the baby boomers because that was the hippy movement that saved the earth, and the ecology and environment. Those were invented words from that time. Well, not really, but they were certainly emphasized so the poor baby boomers felt terrible about that, that their kids would blame them for wrecking the world.
And then it dawned on me. I thought: Just a minute! I asked: What did the boomers think about the generation of the traditionals? The traditionals were the ones who fought WW11 and the boomers were the ones who were born after WW11. I fall into the category of the boomers. The lecturer said well, the boomers blamed the traditionals for ruining the world. Really? So, the traditionals ruined the world. You could say they did. I mean they did have WW11. They fought it! Yes, that generation caused it too by the way, and it was a terrible war that killed tens of millions of people all around the world. It was terrible! And the boomers blamed their generation before them for ruining the world and they were going to save the world and they did what they did, and then their kids blamed them for ruining the world.
It is sort of catching. When generations sort of have an antagonism for each other you always blame the previous one for all the problems because obviously you aren't causing any. The bottom line is that every human being, no matter what age they were born in, is a human being and has human nature. I don't mean the good parts. Human nature has that too. Every generation has some of the better parts of human nature but the bad parts as well.
So, "be saved from this perverse generation" is a statement that applies to every generation that God's people could have ever lived in, from the time of Adam and Eve to now.
So we are called out of this present evil, perverse world as we call it, or age, into the true Church with all its churchly qualities and we saw those qualities.
V. 42 - They continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine - The teachings of the true Church which are not going to be the same as even traditional Christianity, which is the closest comparison you could make as far as the world's religions go.
V.42 - … doctrine and fellowship, (those who also believe in those qualities and teach those doctrines) and the breaking of bread (which is the element of fellowship that is the bonding and the family building of the church, as it were) and in prayers.
All of those are churchly qualities; aspects of being a part of a church body except that these are the ones that were taught by the Apostles.
Both points apply to God's calling at any time in the age of man. Whether it was the time of the Patriarchs, the time of the Prophets, the time of the New Testament true Church in the early years or since, all the way up to when the rest of the dead will live again and have their opportunity to know the truth and that's going to be the vast majority of mankind during the Great White Throne judgment, the vast majority. All of those years in between, it includes the Millennium, we have to come out of what is wrong and into what is right.
Now Jesus underscored this in John 18. This was of course when Christ was having His conversation with Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea. He wants to know if Jesus is a King and Christ had just been scourged so He is bleeding badly down His back, His skin is all ripped and shredded, you can see His ribs, some of the ribs, because of the prophecy that said that you can see His bones - the whipping, the scourging would have done that and He had been beaten so He is bruised, it is a wonder He can speak and yet the governor wants to have a conversation with Him. Very interesting.
John 18:33 John 18:33Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him, Are you the King of the Jews?
American King James Version× Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?"
V.34 – Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?"
He answered the question with a question. That He had the presence of mind to answer a question with a question is quite remarkable and amazing.
V.35 – Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?"
Roman governors were not known for being particularly humble or gentle hearted but he was curious. So Jesus answered the king issue.
V.36 – Jesus answered, "My kingdom (so He is a King of a kingdom) is not of this world. (It is not from here, not of this age.) If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.
We become, in advance, citizens of the kingdom of God when we come into the church. The Kingdom of God - that was what Christ's life was built on; preparing for the Kingdom of God. His parables were all about the Kingdom of God. His gospel was the gospel of the Kingdom of God and so is ours and this is why we don't fight. We are not involved in the wars and fighting in the deadly force of this world. We belong to a different world. We have an allegiance that supersedes our physical citizenship. It is a spiritual citizenship. We love our countries, physical countries. We love America and we give thanks for the blessings that God has given us. Other brethren in other countries, they give thanks for the country that they live in. Some are able to give more thanks at one time than at another perhaps, as time goes by, but our kingdom is the same as Christ's. It is the Kingdom of God. So in a sense we are the seed of the Kingdom of God. The true Church of God is not of this world either. It is the seed population of the Kingdom of God. We are looking forward to that time.
So we are called out of this world because we have a different world we are headed for. We call it the World Tomorrow, the millennial age, that is when Christ returns and rules the earth and it is a total change in history.
Let's go to Luke 6 to further identify this point that God calls us out of the world and into His church.
This is one of the great questions. Christ challenges those who profess to be followers of His. He was popular when He was alive but He had only 120 believers when He died.
V.46 – "but why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,' (meaning, Master, Master) and not do the things which I say?
You call Me your Master but you don't do what I tell you to do or teach you to do.
V.47 - Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, (those who actually follow through when they seek Me) I will show you whom he is like:
V.48 – He is like a man building a house, (so here we go into a parable) who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.
V.49 – But he who heard …
He heard what was said but he did nothing! You know, "why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do the things I say?" He did nothing
V.49 - But he who heard is like a man who built a house on the earth (or the sand) without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."
We need to be building our spiritual foundation on a rock is the big lesson there. As a part of the true Church of God we strive to do what Christ taught, to do what He said. That is not the same as traditional Christianity and they know it. Now, here is the evidence of that last statement.
The Ecclesiastical History books, that means church history books, the true Church - they don't know it is the true church they are writing about necessarily. Most of the times they don't. The true church though is referred to in these church histories as the early church. It is one of the phrases that is used for it, meaning it was decidedly different than the church as it was defined 100 or 200 years later. They call it the early church. It was also called the Apostolic church and I don't mean this in a Pentecostal sense of today. Apostolic in the sense that the Apostle's doctrine was taught and followed during their life times, John being the last one to live and he died about 100 AD, and those who continue to follow it after them, and there were disciples of John who helped carry on the ministry of the true church.
So it is sometimes called the Apostolic church and sometimes it is called the primitive church, again meaning early, the beginning church in history. Other times other authors will refer to it as the Jewish church. Why would they call it the Jewish Church? Well, most of the members were Jews. The Apostles were all Jewish so it could be viewed that way but I think what they actually mean is because it kept the Sabbath, not Sunday, and it kept the annual Holy Days of God and not the pagan celebrations that had been adopted into Christianity later.
It all made it tremendously different than Christianity as it moved down through the ages – tremendously different, precisely because of keeping the Sabbath and annual Holy Days, rejecting the pagan philosophies that were the basis, not the Bible but the pagan philosophies were the basis for the doctrine of the immortal soul, for the doctrine of going to heaven when you die, or for the doctrine of an ever burning hell fire, or for the doctrine of the personhood of the Holy Spirit, which is also known as the trinity. Those were added 100 to 200 years, 300 years later than the time of Christ and the Apostles. There were other doctrines that were added too.
Why would they add those doctrines when it is not what the Bible teaches? Because their eyes are blinded. They understand only in part. They get some things out of the Bible but there are other things that they adopted. It became tradition and the tradition lives on and they can't think about ever not having that tradition. Traditional Christianity, and I call it traditional Christianity for specific reasons:
1. Traditional was respectful.
2. We are non-traditional in religious terms.
This is a very non-traditional Christian church, the Church of God. The reason is: we keep the Sabbath, not Sunday; We keep the annual Holy Days which are thought to be Jewish festivals which are not - they are God's festivals; we have these other doctrines that are from the Bible and not from the traditions of Christianity as it has come down for the 1800 years or so.
So they consider themselves to be traditional Christianity. We would be non-traditional. I use the term traditional Christianity. It is the world's Christianity. It is not God's Christianity. It is very different. We were called of the world and into the true Church of God. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are therefore unique. We stand out. We are just a little bit weird, in a good way, but as viewed by others we would be considered weird.
Now the next point: We are called to the truth. It builds on what we covered but it is in John 4. We are called to the truth. John 4 contains one of the most interesting episodes in Christ's ministry because it is an extended conversation. You can capture the drama of the whole thing.
They are in Samaria. Samaria used to be the capital city of the northern 10 tribes of Israel, the house of Israel and then when they were taken captive in 720 BC by the Assyrian Empire the last bastion to fall was the capital city. It fell in 720 BC and they were all hauled off, deported. But the Assyrians had also some trouble and revolt down near Babylon, part of the area around Babylon, and that was their m.o., or modus operandi, is that when they would conquer troublesome people they would just deport them, dump them off some place else in the empire and I think the theory was, if I try to analyze this because I really have never seen it in a Cunene form tablet, but I haven't seen any Cunene form tablets so who knows, maybe it is there.
Their theory, I think was, that if you pull them away from their real estate, from their turf that they want to defend, and you dump them off you will then reorient them and you can work with them more manageably. That was their idea. So they brought back former Babylonians or people near Babylon, and placed them in Samaria. They became known as the Samaritans, the ancestors of this lady, and the Israelites were taken off to where they were taken off.
History records that that wasn't a very enlightened approach. The Babylonians did it right after the Assyrians. The Babylonians took over and they did the same thing. The Persians on the other hand, did not. When they captured Babylon, they let everybody go back to their homeland except that the lost 10 tribes had already started wandering and they started a vast movement in world history of the great wandering as they did for centuries and centuries and centuries. The Jews, a chunk of them, went back. Others were considered dispersed through the diaspora as they are referred to.
The Samaritan woman was descended from the Babylonians that had been brought in. You can read about it in 2 Kings. They had some trouble with man-eating lions. They hadn't invented blow yet, like in gunpowder, so if you have a man-eating lion you are going to face him with a spear or if you are talented and can make archery equipment, with bow and arrow. Lions who charge don't normally drop with the first arrow unless you get a lucky brain shot or spine shot maybe. It is very hard to get a spine shot when the spine is lined up coming straight at you with the mouth up and running at terrifyingly fast speeds.
Cats are mostly twitch-muscle so they are capable of jumping into gear really, really fast but twitch-muscle requires vast stores of energy so they sleep most of the time. That is why they sleep because they are feeding their twitch-muscles. They are terrifying. I watch our cats. They are not very big, thankfully. They are about 15 pounds – well, one is a little bit more than that. They can sprint uphill in our back yard just really scary fast. Can you imagine a cat that's 10 times their size, which would basically be a cougar here in America, coming after you and forgetting that he is supposed to be friendly – it would be terrifying.
So they were terrified, so what they did is that they went to their Assyrian governors and said, we got to have some of the Priests that were taken from this land so they can teach us how to appease the god's. They were pagans; they thought every land had its own gods. So, they ended up getting some Levites back. Then they mixed their Babylon mystery religion with some knowledge of the truth and so they came to think that they were the true descendants of Moses and that the Jews were a bunch of imposters down in Jerusalem and that Mount Gerizim was a place to worship and Mount Zion was not. Now you think, well, that is really a twisted history. But they thought it was true and they backed it up so that is an incidental thing that comes out here in this conversation which is why it is such a fascinating one, but finally Christ gets down to the jist of it. He said to her:
John 4:22 John 4:22You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
American King James Version× You worship what you do not know; (In other words: you have ignorance; an ignorance factor here) we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
The Messiah was to come from the tribe of Judah. Salvation is of the Jews.
V.23 – But the hour is coming, and now is (in fact), when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
V.24 – God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth
Well now we are starting to sink in. We have to worship in spirit and truth and that is what the Church does. We believe what the Bible says. We seek the truth. We do not account for the religious tradition of this world to be of great value. We seek what the truth is.
In fact, for those of you who have been in the true church for a long time, you can remember back, decades past, and I mean many decades now, when you introduced yourself to someone at the Feast or at a church service and some of you travelled up to 6 hours to church services when you first came in to the church, depending on where the congregations were scattered at that time, and you would begin a conversation, one or the other member that you didn't know, and would ask: when did you come to the knowledge of the truth?
My grandmother – that was her leading line. She loved to ask that and loved to hear the story and she had a story as well, how she came to the knowledge of the truth; how she first heard about it. We had a lot of dairy farmers who came into the church because they heard the World Tomorrow broadcast while they were milking their cows. And you wonder, why are they listening to the radio when they are milking their cows? Because the cows are listening to the radio. Blame it on the cows. Actually by that time, you know, they have found that animals relaxed and were more at ease if they had a human voice around and some music and talk. It was comforting to the cattle, especially the milk cows. They've got a pretty heavy-duty life. Somebody is always bothering them; you have to release some more milk now. Wow, you were just here this morning! Now it is afternoon and we need some more. Okay.
So there were always those "when did you come to the knowledge of the truth?" or "how did you come to the knowledge of the truth"? Either way. With all due respect traditional Christianity does not know the truth. They know bits and pieces of the Bible. I grant them that. They don't know the truth. They don't understand the package of God's way. Their day of understanding will come. Don't worry about that but they don't know it yet.
Acts 5:29 Acts 5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
American King James Version× But Peter and the other apostles (again) answered and said: (they were arrested; they were on trial for preaching in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth) "We ought to obey God rather than men.
They said, you can't preach in His name anymore. Who is talking to them? The Sanhedrin. That was the legislative council of the Jews right under the Roman Government. They said, you can't preach in that Man's name anymore and they said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.
V.30 – The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.
You know Peter wasn't particularly backward in things there.
V.31 – Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
V.32 – And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit which (it should be "which" rather than "whom", because it is not a person) God has given to those who obey Him."
You see we receive God's Spirit; it leads us to the knowledge of the truth. That is how God works through us. It is very powerful. "The Holy Spirit which God has given to those who obey Him". The Church of God strives to obey God and thus we receive and maintain a presence of God's Spirit growing in our minds, enabling our mind to change, converting us from just being purely human to being ultimately the children of God. We are called to obey God and God does His part (of being called to the truth) and He has given it to those who obey Him; who obey the truth.
The churches and religions of the world don't obey God's law and so they are not given His Spirit. In fact, for the bulk of Christianity or least a huge segment of it, they discount the word law at all. It is grace, never mind philosophically you can't have grace if you don't have a law to have it waived, the penalty waived. They don't seem to notice that. They reject the law but they believe in the principles except for the Sabbath. They believe in the 9 Commandments more or less, is what I am saying. However, this is a time of temporary blindness. Their day of spiritual conversion will come as God works out those times of opportunities.
We are called to the truth.
We all were. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Every human has. So we were dead, therefore. The penalty of death was upon us.
V.2 – in which you once walked according to the course of this world,
We were called out, from where? If you a multi-generation in the church of God, you know your parents came in, your grandparents, your great grandparents – it was my grandmother in that case - then our forefathers of foremothers as the case might be, walked according to the course of this world, a part of this society.
V.2 - …. According to the prince of the power of the air, (who influenced them. That is Satan. This is another way of describing Satan) the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
V.3 – among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
We were, but we are not now. We have rejected the influence of that evil spirit, that is, (being) the devil, a fallen angel. We sometimes have to battle with that but we have rejected it and we are following God's truth. That's what makes the Church of God the Church of God.
Now, how do we talk about other religions? Respectfully. We do not belittle or deride or mock. We speak respectfully. We once believed something else and so we must be respectful. They are God's children too; they just don't know it yet. We didn't know it when we didn't know it.
The next point, after being called to the truth, we are called through and to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. We are called through the Gospel of the Kingdom of God into it.
Let's notice Mark 16 for this one. This is what we would call, the great commission, as Mark wrote it down. You will find a similar one in Matthew. They are all parallel and you add them all together to get the complete picture, and in Luke, but here it is in Mark.
Mark 16:14 Mark 16:14Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
American King James Version× Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.
And then He said this to them: Okay, this is what I want you to do: don't ever do that again. You believe. Here's your marching orders; here is your great commission; you are now apostles and I want you to go into all the world, all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. And the 12 apostles did.
I am actually going to do a presentation because the history is available. We know where most all the 12 apostles went and they were sent specifically, initially to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so you have to go to where the tribes were at that time. I plan to do that at the Winter Family week-end. It is a very interesting study.
V.15 – And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
V.16 – He who believes and is baptized will be saved; (you've got to believe and then you have to make that official change. Baptism is not magic. It is an outward ceremony that marks the inward change of repentance) but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Ultimately we do have to believe God. Not just believe in God. That is good – that is a good start but the demons believe in God and they tremble. That is what it says in James. We have to believe God.
V.17 – And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues: (or languages)
V.18 – they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
These were all fulfilled by the early apostles in various times. Paul is the one that got bit by the snake. I don't know who drank something that was poisonous but we do know that they were given the ability to speak in languages on the day of Pentecost. The apostle Paul could speak in languages. Probably in his case it wouldn't all be miraculous because he was a multi-lingual man. I figured out he must have spoken Hebrew and Greek and Latin and Aramaic to start. That is four he was conversing in because those were four basic ones from where he came from but he must have spoken in other languages as well.
The bottom line from this is that the gospel is a gospel of the Kingdom of God. It is not the popular gospel about Jesus that is preached by traditional Christianity. They don't understand the Kingdom of God. You can't fault them for that. We couldn't understand it before either, but if you go to the traditional Christian bookstore and you go down the doctrinal isle looking for the books that are written on different doctrinal subjects, you are not going to find many that use "Kingdom of God" in the title, if any at any particular time. They know the phrase; they sing songs about it; but they don't have the concept. Their theology messes up the process of the development of the Kingdom of God.
We were called and we are called through and by the preaching of the gospel and therefore we are called to the gospel of the Kingdom of God. In other words, when we come into the church we support the carrying on of the preaching it and that has been the truth down through the ages. But when you stop and think about it, what about our children? What about them? How do they fit in to the plan? Well, they weren't called out of the world you could say. Well, they were in a way and they weren't in a way.
1 Corinthians 7 - I think this is really important for our children. Our children in a way speak in a broader sense of the term, means some who are baby boomers like myself who are 2nd generation Christians or maybe even 3rd by then, all the way down through the other generations whatever labels it - the generation labelers have labeled them with.
1 Corinthians 7 is where we have a particular statement that is important that we keep it clearly in mind. When you are raising your children in the faith you don't talk to them indifferently about God's way. You know, I hope that you come to believe what I believe. You've got to find your own way. (If you don't ) that is not childrearing; that is cop out. You teach God's way; you teach faith; you encourage that faith in your children.
1 Corinthians 7:14 1 Corinthians 7:14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
American King James Version× For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, (the believing wife) and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the (believing) husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
So our children are holy. They are in a category apart from the world and God calls them through the family. The family, the ideal family in the faith, is that you transmit the faith and the believe and the desire to follow God to your children and you teach them His way from the beginning, and they come of age and they are to repent because they are also human and will sin like all humans do; they repent of their sins and they are baptized and they carry on. It is intended to be multi-generational. They are coming into the Church through what we might call, the front door.
Those of us who are salvaged out in our own experience over the years, who were salvaged out of the world - we had no clue what was going on - that is the back door. Think about it this way: How will God's calling be transmitted to the people during the millennium? Well, you say, they are all called. They are all called then, yes, those who survived into the millennium. But what about the next generation because the millennium is going to have a prodigious size of generations as they begin to repopulate under ideal world conditions and no wars. There will be a very large population by 1000 years and the answer is, that the parents teach their children to follow God and thus they come into the Church through the front door as they come of age as well. You have to come of age to make that final decision. So our children are holy. Remember what Peter said in Acts 2:39 Acts 2:39For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version× – we read it earlier,
Acts 2:39 Acts 2:39For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version× For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off.
To your children. It was promised that this calling, if we do our part, would extend beyond our own lives to our children and even to our grand children. Second, third, etc., generation children are called as surely as those who directly were called through the gospel proclamation. Their calling is just as powerful. If you imagine a poster of Uncle Sam who wants you, well, Jesus Christ wants you. He wants all of our young people to be a part of His work, His way and of the truth.
Now let's look at one final point. This is one you need to do some meditating on.
What should the miracle of your calling to God's truth do to you? How should your calling affect you? How should it motivate you?
I want to give two examples this morning. This afternoon I am going to use a different example but first let's look at Christ in John 5.
John 5:16 John 5:16And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
American King James Version× For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, (so we had a discussion about the Pool of Bethsaida on the Sabbath) and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
He healed a man on the Sabbath.
V.17 – But Jesus answered them, "My Father (I love the King James better than the New King James here) works hitherto and I work".
I think hitherto has this sort of a forceful in your face attitude and all the modern correct grammar doesn't quite capture this sense.
V.17 - … "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." (New King James Version).
Well, that's nice. My Father works hitherto and I work. Imagine John Wayne saying hitherto. It just got the right rhythm for his sort of delivery style.
Christ worked. His calling as Messiah, as the first Apostle of the Apostles – He was. He created the title apostle and of prophet and of this and of that as well as the Son of God. His work was His calling. Promoting Him and projecting the calling to God's truth and to His Church and the preaching of the gospel, that was what Christ lived. Now, if we take our calling seriously, that is our ideal! We want to have a calling that is so much a part of our lives that it was almost like Christ's.
Notice His concluding comment on this regard in John 17. This is that prayer that came at the end of the teaching session on that final Passover, just a few hours before he would die during the day light portion of the 14th day. This is during the night; the beginning of the 14th after the Passover meal and the Passover sacraments of the New Testament have been instituted and He is in this prayer. This whole chapter is a prayer that Christ is praying and we will begin in:
John 17:3 John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
American King James Version× And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
V.4 – I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.
See, we seek to glorify God and we seek to finish His work. We must finish the work He gave us to do in our lifetime. Our hearts and our prayers, obviously our offerings and our tithes go into this but our hearts and our prayers and our service to the brethren and to the Church and to the gospel and whatever way that we can help, it is all a package. The church has to have a functionality so that it can do the work of preaching the gospel. We live the gospel. We are examples of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Our worldview is different than any body else's and when an opportunity comes up we need to be able to give an answer of that hope that lies within us. You don't have go pounding on doors and telling them the answer; you wait for the moment – in a conversation until they are ready to listen and then you say something that is of value that gives them some insight into God's Kingdom.
The apostle Paul also was driven by his calling. Let's notice that in Philippians 3. If you want to take the time this afternoon, read 2 Corinthians 11, that is one of the places and I think Philippians 3 also has some added aspects as well beyond what we are going to look at.
Paul went through a lot. He suffered. He understood why; he made Church members suffer; he was responsible for the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr in the true Church – Acts 7. He was there. He was presiding over it. He was in many respects basically a Pharisee Gestapo agent or the Pharisee Gestapo agent, hunting down church members. Hauling them out of their houses at night, imprisoning them, beating them and having some of them executed. He was on his way with extradition papers to Damascus to go and find some that got away from him and bring them back to the chief priests so that that can happen to them too, and that is when God struck him down and began to change his life.
So Paul knew he had been called because he had been knocked out of the air. He didn't have the air knocked out of him. He had just been knocked out of the air by Christ in many respects.
Philippians 3:13 Philippians 3:13Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before,
American King James Version× Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
He had some things behind that he needed to move ahead from. His conscious weighed heavily, I am sure, knowing what he had done before he was called into the Church and then he took his calling seriously.
V.14 – I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward high (upward) call of God in Christ Jesus.
I like "high" calling – I think it speaks a little bit more clearer to us in that regards from the King James. The "high calling of God in Jesus Christ".
He took his calling seriously. Notice an example of that back in 1 Corinthians 9 and then I am going to tell you just a synopsis of somebody else that is a good example to read about.
1 Corinthians 9 – Paul knows that it is his job to preach the gospel and with the preaching of the gospel there is going to be results of that so then he pastors people. He is the councilor, the teacher, the baptizer and so on. We will pick it up in:
1 Corinthians 9:16 1 Corinthians 9:16For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid on me; yes, woe is to me, if I preach not the gospel!
American King James Version× For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of,
I can't write home and say well, I have an extra bar or extra star or whatever, because I preached the gospel today. He says it goes with the territory; I have to.
V.16 – For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!
V.17 – For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, (you know he may believe in the gospel but he doesn't want to preach it; kind of like Jonah did) I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
So Paul loved the truth; he loved God's people; he loved the Kingdom of God; he loved the Father; he loved the Son and he had to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It wasn't just the love that was with him, it was also his duty even when he didn't feel like it. There probably were times when he didn't feel like it. If you've been beaten with rods as he was or received 40 lashes minus one, five times; your back had welts all over – the chiropractor couldn't find a spot to touch that didn't hurt, if they had them then. I don't know if they did. But Paul knew that it was his duty. He had to get up and do it and that duty, when you are down, the duty gets you back up. Duty and love are tied very closely together.
So we have the example of motivation of Christ finishing the work that He was given to do and the work of Paul in the gospel; taking his high calling seriously and making it his life. That is an example of motivation and dedication of God's way that should inspire and energize our prayers for God's Kingdom to come and for the work to be done today.
This afternoon I am going to cover Jeremiah because Jeremiah was a younger man than Paul. Not younger than Christ but like Christ he was called from the womb. God specifically told him that. He began preaching or at least delivering his prophecies as early as age 14, according to some scholars. Very young. Nobody liked him. Jeremiah was an outcast. He had a handful of friends and he had to go and tell everybody off all the time on behalf of God. And you think, oh boy, we don't have to do that. No, but we have to drive forward and push ourselves forward in preaching the gospel. Jeremiah is an inspiration though; he was motivated even when he didn't want to, like the apostle Paul. Woe is me if I don't preach the gospel; I have to. He couldn't get away from what God had called him to do. He had to do it and it is a great inspiration.
So let's think about that. We, by God's miracle of His personal choice, have been called out of this world, or our family was called and so then we are called into the front door of the church going down through time.
We have this precious, wonderful, fabulous calling to God's truth, to the true gospel of the Kingdom of God, to the true Church of God. We have been invested by God with the duty to carry this good news of the world tomorrow forward. Let's take that calling seriously and be thankful for the miracle, brethren, of our calling.