You Shall Be Perfect
On Saturday, June 5, 2004, Norbert Link will be giving the sermon, titled, “You Shall Be Perfect!” The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
The Third Commandment
by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
Recently, in the United Kingdom, we have had an outcry on a particular matter that clearly shows the gross hypocrisy that engulfs this godless society. No doubt, what happened in the United Kingdom may be mirrored in much, if not most of the civilized world.
A well known football (soccer) commentator erroneously thought the microphones were switched off after the conclusion of a semi-final European cup match which had been televised. His comments were transmitted live to a number of countries, including some in the Middle East. There was an immediate uproar, as he had used unacceptable expletives and an emotional racialist term about a particular player. He immediately resigned his position with the television company, and he lost his column in a leading national newspaper. This event was reported far and wide and was the subject of phone-ins and all of the usual media hype.
Such behavior cannot be condoned in any way. However, very often those who protest the loudest can be those who take GOD’S name in vain with impunity. Blasphemy is seen as a non-event. In fact, blasphemy is of epidemic proportions. Many (but not all) may not even know or realize what they are doing. Youngsters who have no religious knowledge or upbringing can be serial offenders in this area. Older people seem, in general, to behave little better. There is no respect for God in every strata of society. The names of God and Jesus Christ are used as expletives, swear words and terms of abuse. One can do this at will with no come-back, while comments about another human being particularly if they refer to his race or his sexual orientation, are considered racially abusive, or discriminatory.
God clearly tells us not to take His name in vain (Exodus 20:7), but mankind in general totally disregards the third commandment. Perhaps in many cases this instruction is not even known, as the knowledge of God is systematically eliminated by those in positions who think that they know and do better.
Interestingly, I took up the fact that blasphemy seems to be part and parcel of the staple diet of so many films that are made today, with the British Board of Film Classification, in 1999. Their replies were cleverly phrased in such a way that they made no real sense at all. They took an intellectual, non-godly approach, which was wholly secular and which attempted to exonerate the unacceptable with clever phrasing, reference to legal cases and no understanding of the truth whatsoever. It reminded me of the phrase that “a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” On careful reflection, such correspondence was, inevitably, an exercise in futility. In the last five years things will not have changed, except that they will have progressively deteriorated. Such disrespect for our Maker is endemic in society.
A world that takes such an approach is headed for disaster, and the great God will only let this go on for so long. It is a small part of a great malaise and disease. It is an approach based on the supposed dignity of man, while ignoring the supremacy of God. There is a time coming when the teachers in the wonderful world tomorrow will say, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). That way will not encompass blasphemy and disrespect for either man or, more importantly, for the great Creator God.
Let us pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”, and let us do so with ever greater intensity. In the Kingdom, we will experience a time of respect for everyone, especially God, and it will be a time that true Christians must surely yearn for. That time is coming — the sooner the better.
This Week in the News
U.S. and Europe Differ on Fight Against Terrorism
Associated Press reported on May 28, 2004:
“Their countries are among the richest, most powerful on Earth. But politically, European leaders heading to the United States for a summit with President Bush are walking wounded. Taking part in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq has hurt the British and Italian prime ministers, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi, at home. The leaders of Germany and France are burdened by sluggish economies. Only Russian President Vladimir Putin, re-elected in a March landslide, looks strong… France and other opponents of the war have no desire to see Iraq plunge deeper into chaos. Germany is helping train a new Iraqi police force, and European and American security agencies work closely in investigating, tracking and shutting down terrorists. But European governments don’t necessarily agree with Washington that the war on terrorism must be global, encompassing not only Iraq and al-Qaida, but perhaps even Iran and North Korea, countries Bush once labeled ‘an axis of evil.’ On terrorism, ‘there are two completely different visions,’ said Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris. ‘We agree on the goal, but disagree totally on how to get there.'”
Europe Condemns U.S. Tortures
Russia’s Pravda ran this article on May 29, 2004: “Latin America and Europe condemn US tortures in Iraq.” It continued: “In a joint statement, leaders from all Latin American and European nations condemned US tortures of Iraqi prisoners… Leaders and top diplomatic officials from 33 Latin American countries and 25 European nations [met] in the Mexican city of Guadalajara to blast the US-led campaign in Iraq. The 58 nations signed a joint declaration which denounces ‘the abuse of prisoners in Iraq’, and delivered criticism of the United States for its refusal to cooperate with the United Nations. As it was expected, neither British Prime Minister Tony Blair, nor his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi, attended the meeting. In a declaration… officials attending the Third Summit of Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union condemned unilateral actions contradicting international law and outlined ‘our horror at the recent evidence of mistreatment of the prisoners in Iraqi prisons… We energetically condemn all forms of abuse, torture and other cruelty, degrading and inhumanly treating people, including prisoners of war, in whatever location they occur,’ states the document. ‘We express our horror at the recent evidence of mistreating prisoners in Iraq. These abuses go against international law, such as the Geneva Convention.’…”
The article went on to say: “At a stopover in Mexico City on May 25, on the way to the Guadalajara summit, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder produced some important remarks on the U.S.-British draft UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. Mr. Schroeder said that the current draft version must be modified, and added that Germany wants a ‘real handover of sovereignty’ in Iraq. Germany — together with Russia, France and China — is proposing major changes to the resolution, which would give Iraq’s interim government control over the Iraqi army and police and require the U.S.-led multinational force to consult on military actions except for self-defense. [As Der Spiegel Online reported on June 1, 2004, President Bush called Chancellor Schroeder for support of the U.S. resolution. Details of the phone conversation were not made public]. French President Jacques Chirac, visiting Guatemala before the summit, said the U.S.-British resolution needed to be improved, adding that Iraq should have sovereignty over its armed forces and natural resources starting June 30. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in turn, when meeting with Mexico’s Vicente Fox, praised Mexico’s ‘bravery’ in refusing to back the Iraq war and lauded Mexico’s calls for multilateral foreign policy actions. Trade issues also dominated the summit’s agenda, with the EU and the four Mercosur nations — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — saying they intend to sign an ‘ambitious’ free trade accord in October. However, they did not agree in crucial points, as the total liberalization of the agricultural trading.”
Associated Press reported last week that “a major earthquake that hit Alaska in 2002 set off a flurry of smaller quakes in far-off Yellowstone National Park and changed eruption intervals in several geysers… Scientists say that the Denali fault earthquake, which registered a magnitude of 7.9 and hit in November 2002, is believed to be the first in modern times in North America to trigger large-scale changes in geysers and hot springs so far away.”
U.S. Catholic Church Under Attack?
As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on May 28, 2004, “Cardinal Bernard Law was appointed by the pope yesterday to a ceremonial but highly visible post in Rome, outraging many in the archdiocese Law left in disgrace at the height of the clergy sex scandal [Law and other church officials had shifted child-molesting priests from parish to parish for decades] … Bob Bowers of St. Catherine’s church in Charlestown said he was astonished the Vatican would ‘reward’ Law.”
The paper also reported that a watchdog group asked the IRS to revoke tax-exempt status of the Roman Catholic diocese in Colorado Springs over the bishop’s threat to withhold communion from those who vote for politicians who disagree with the church’s religious teachings on abortion rights and other topics. The watchdog group claims that “the church uses its resources for political purposes.” It is only hoped that the IRS will not fall for such ridiculous argumentation, lest a church is no longer permitted to teach and engage in its religious beliefs.
The Pope and the Beetle
Zenit reported on May 26, 2004, that “the last Volkswagen Beetle made in Mexico has been given to John Paul II. The car, one of a limited series of 30,000 was given to the Pope today… John Paul II blessed the car… The light blue Beetle, which will have a Vatican City license plate (its initials are SCV), is the last in this series of cars whose origins date back to the 1930s. [In fact, it was Adolph Hitler who was instrumental for and supportive of the mass manufacturing and production of the “bug” or “Volkswagen” — meaning, the “people’s car.”] Some 21 million ‘bugs’ have been produced over the years. Their production stopped in Europe in 1978, but continued in Mexico until last July 30.”
An Example of Futility
The San Diego Union Tribune reported on June 1, 2004, about an unbelievable situation in California and in the United States that punishes the innocent and rewards the evildoers. We speak of the concept of punitive damages in civil suits. As the paper pointed out, “The irony of current tax policy is that while the innocent victims who receive punitive damages must pay taxes on them, the payors — those who commit malice and oppression — can write off the payments as tax deduction… Exxon’s $1.1 billion settlement with the U.S. government over the Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation cost Exxon a maximum of $524 million after the oil company’s tax deductions. The Congressional Research Office found that more than half of the civil damages totaling $900 million could be written off on Exxon’s federal tax return.”
Truly, this world has it all backwards…
U.S. Lost in Afghanistan
On June 1, 2004, the San Diego Union Tribune reprinted an interesting article from the Chicago Sun-Times, titled, “Barely holding on in Afghanistan.” While the world’s attention is mainly focused on Iraq, the article pointed out how the situation in Afghanistan is equally troublesome for the U.S. The article explained:
“The handful of valiant American warriors fighting the ‘other’ war in Afghanistan is not a happy band of brothers. They are undermanned and feel neglected, lack confidence in their generals and are disgusted by Afghan political leadership. Most important, they are appalled by the immense but fruitless effort to find Osama bin Laden for purposes of U.S. politics… [The] overlooked war continues WITH NO END IN SIGHT. Narcotics trafficking is at an all-time high. If U.S. forces were to leave [Afghanistan], the Taliban — or something like it — would regain power. THE UNITED STATES IS LOST IN AFGHANISTAN, BOUND TO THIS WILD COUNTRY AND UNABLE TO LEAVE. The situation in Afghanistan… looks NOTHING like a country alleged to be PROGRESSING TOWARD representative DEMOCRACY under American tutelage. Harrid Karzai, the U.S. sponsored Afghan president, is regarded by U.S. troops as hopelessly corrupt and kept in power by U.S. force of arms… The basic U.S. strength in Afghanistan is 17,000 troops of ‘straight-legged’ infantry — conventional forces ill-prepared to handle irregulars…” The article’s conclusion: “Being lost in Afghanistan transcends politics and is a LONG-TERM AMERICAN BURDEN.”
Can you explain the Scripture in 2 John 1:10-11 and similar comments in the Bible which speak of people who hold to false teachings? How should we act when we meet someone who has left the Church of God or who is not in our fellowship?
Some have stumbled over this issue, and it does require a balanced understanding to properly apply ALL the Scriptures on this topic. Let’s begin with 2 John: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (verses 10 and 11).
In the previous verses John speaks of “deceivers” and of “whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ” (verses 7 and 9). It is evident that the subject being dealt with in this letter is that some no longer walked in the truth. Some had embraced a false doctrine and were actually preaching that Christ was not coming in the flesh; that is, that Christ was not living in the lives of His disciples (verse 7). After several decades in the first generation of the Church of God, false teachers and false teachings were spreading and threatening to deceive some. John also stated in 1 John 4:1-6, that some taught that Christ never came in the flesh.
In 3 John, once again this faithful apostle of Jesus Christ is writing to Gaius about the issue of deception. Note what he says in verse 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in [the] truth.” He singles out Demetrius who “has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself” (verse 12). However, he also speaks of Diotrephes. The actions of this man give us insight as to what was then happening in the Church of God: “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the pre-eminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church” (3 John 9-10).
Just how extreme the situation within the church had become was also attested to by Jude: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (verse 3). We see in verse 4 of Jude that “certain men have crept in unnoticed.” Then in verses 16-19, Jude warns: “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual [worldly] persons, who CAUSE DIVISIONS, not having the Spirit.”
Paul also had to contend with those — especially among the ministry — who would embrace Christianity for their own purposes: “‘Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, from among YOURSELVES men will rise up, speaking perverse [misleading] things, to draw away the disciples after THEMSELVES. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears'” (Acts 20:28-31).
Indeed, this happened. We find this further record from Paul in Galatians 1, verses 6-9: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
What was then happening to this Gentile congregation was that some were teaching that these Christians must be circumcised — in other words, they were being falsely taught the religious dogma of Judaism. Concerning this “other gospel,” Paul stated: “… he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is” (Galatians 5:10). In chapter 6, Paul shows that the reason for this false teaching was merely so that they would “… not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” (verse 12).
In writing to Titus, a minister who later might have left his responsibility (Compare 2 Timothy 4:10), Paul admonishes: “But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a DIVISIVE man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).
Jesus taught His disciples how to handle problems within the Church of God.
In Matthew 18:17, we find this final step: “‘And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.'” We see how Paul later taught the Church according to Christ’s instructions. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, he said: “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.”
Paul applied this in the Church of God: “Now I urge you, brethren, NOTE those who cause DIVISIONS and OFFENSES, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).
Paul continues to explain the approach that faithful brethren are to use when situations arise where this kind of action must be taken: “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, NOTE that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him AS A BROTHER” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).
We are told that we must deal compassionately with those who make mistakes. God instructed His people Israel to carefully reprove their neighbor with the idea of not condoning wrong behavior, but they were not to hate their neighbor in the process. We find this instruction in Leviticus 19:16-18: “‘You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.'”
Jesus taught that rather than hating those who might be our enemy, we should follow His example: “‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who spitefully use you and persecute you'” (Matthew 5:44). The overarching teaching from Jesus Christ is summed up in Luke 6:31: “‘And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.'”
We see from the Biblical examples that the Church of God is administered through the ministry. There are times when people have to be told to stop attending services or to be put out of the church (Compare 1 Corinthians 5:1-5). There are also times when the ministry invites repentant people back into fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:6-11; compare John 20:23).
We have witnessed the fragmentation of God’s church in our own time. Many have left the faith, while a lesser number have continued as best they could. Some have come to hold very extreme views, and others have become less zealous, even to the point of compromising with the truth. This very circumstance has torn families apart — and that includes God’s family!
While we indeed must use discretion to avoid being deceived by false teachings, we must still not allow ourselves to assume a self-righteous approach when dealing with the people of God outside our own fellowship. We must let our light shine before all, and that includes speaking to even those who may now be cast in adversarial roles. However, that would not include listening to false teachings (including via literature or tapes) or spiritually fellowshipping with those who have chosen to follow and promote such wrong doctrines. Paul warned the Church at Corinth: “…that a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6).
Let’s be careful in how we deal with people to make certain that we don’t participate in sins, but let us also strike a balance and interact with others just as Jesus did — with great mercy (compare Jude 22-23).
The command in 2 John 10, and similar commands, refers mainly to those who come to us for the purpose of sowing discord and creating division. It is not to be understood as a command to have no social relationship with anyone who is not in our fellowship. Christ did not refuse to accept invitations from Pharisees (!) to eat in their houses. He would have lodged with the Samaritans, if they had offered Him a place to stay. Sinners and tax collectors approached Him, and He did not reject them, when He saw their willingness to be taught by Him. We are to go after the lost sheep — how can we do so, if we refuse to speak or eat with everyone who does not belong to, or has left, our fellowship? We must understand, too, that the Church of God, the body of Christ, is a spiritual organism, and not a corporation. This means that there are people of God in other human organizations outside our particular fellowship. How can we reject those and refuse to have any social contact with them, when God has accepted them (compare Romans 14:4)?
We must be careful not to be influenced by wrong teachings and practices. At the same time, we must be careful not to develop an “exclusive” approach toward others in our minds and actions.
Two new StandingWatch programs, titled, “Who Was Jesus?” and “Life After Death,” have been posted on the Web.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
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