Practical Application of the Word of God
In the wake of COVID-19, there are many things that have come to the surface within the church of God corporate organizations, the people they’ve placed in leadership positions, and the people who are affiliated (only the “ministers” are members in the Big Three – Church of God, a Worldwide Association, United Church of God, and Living Church of God) with them. They are things that both surprise and don’t surprise, but they are definitely very disappointing.
Let’s back up to a big-picture perspective before we get into the details. You and I were baptized, “not into any denomination,” but into the spiritual body of Christ, the ekklesia (which is incorrectly translated as “church,” in most Bible translations that were spawned from the King James Version – for an in-depth discussion of why, read this).
What does this really mean and how does it differ from what we’ve heard over and over and over through the years?
Being baptized into the body of Christ means that you and I have become part of a spiritual organism that is being hand-crafted by God and Jesus Christ (this is God’s work or the work of God, not what the corporate churches of God claim God’s work is). It is a spiritual organism that has no end (every single human will have the opportunity to become a member, in God’s time and purpose).
When we entered into the covenant of baptism with God and Jesus Christ, we renounced our allegiance to everything else. As the adopted children (who are born and not embryos, as many of the church of God groups claim) of God our Father and the younger brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we became citizens of the kingdom of God.
Governments have founding laws, principles, and boundaries. Their governing documents spell these out. The kingdom of God is no different. The word of God is the foundation of the kingdom of God.
That is the rock that Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God, talked about in Matthew 7, when He compared the two houses (the other was built on sand). Both houses endured the same adverse weather, but the house built on the rock stood, while the house built on sand (representing everything other than the word of God) did not.
To become a citizen of a government, people must pass a citizenship test. You and I are required to do the same. A question we must ask ourselves – and answer – is whether we could pass the citizenship test for the kingdom of God.
Do we even know what is required to be a citizen of the kingdom of God? If our houses are built on the sand of humans (what they say and think) and physical organizations (which are, first and foremost, businesses, and, therefore, corrupted because their bottom lines are what is paramount at all times), then we may think we know what is required.
Don’t count on it! If we want to know what is required, then God’s word must be our sole source. Everything we see and hear must be tested against the entire word of God and proven or disproven.
This will be uncomfortable. It should be. If God’s word doesn’t make us uncomfortable and we don’t end up realizing that we don’t really know anything and we absolutely depend on and need God and Jesus Christ for everything in our lives, then we have something other than scripture as our sole source.
Our loyalty is not to anything physical. Our loyalty is to God, Jesus Christ (the Word of God), to God’s kingdom, and to His righteousness. Period. If anyone says anything different, then they are being deceitful.
There is no one right church of God group that you can attend and be assured that you’re okay with God. They are all a mixture of good and evil (just as you and I are, but with the help of God’s spirit, we are being made aware of where evil and sin are within us, and we are given the help to turn away from it and turn to God).
However, the business model of the churches of God force them to promote themselves as the “one true church.” While this is patently false on so many levels, it gives them leverage to scare, to bully, to try to force loyalty to them.
We have not been given a spirit of fear, so if fear is one of the emotions that you constantly experience from the church of God group with whom you’re affiliated, you have to ask where that spirit comes from.
In essence, (and I believe this is a strong delusion that most of the people saying and doing this are completely unaware of), the church of God corporate organizations are asking you to break the 1st commandment. They want to be God to you and have you worship them.
Tough to hear, but you have to remove the emotional component and look at what you’re hearing and seeing rationally, objectively, and logically.
Jesus Christ says in Matthew 6 that we can’t have two masters. Either God is our master or someone or something else is. Who is your master?
Now, let’s get to COVID-19 and what it has accomplished, but also what it has revealed about the mindset of the churches of God (both the corporate organizations and the people associated with them).
Before COVID-19, many of us had anything but rest on the Sabbath. We got up early, showered, got in our cars, often driving at least an hour (if not more) to services, and spending four or more hours there, often working before and after for physical things (with may an hour devoted to a sermon and sermonette), and then going back home, arriving exhausted.
With COVID-19, God has restored Sabbath rests to us. Instead of all the running and working, we’ve been given the opportunity to rest and fellowship with God and Jesus Christ, along with assembly by virtual means. It has been refreshing.
However, since the beginning of COVID-19, many people have been chomping at the bit to go back to the way it was (Egypt, anyone?). Why?
Because their spiritual houses have been built on physical foundations that have been embedded by the church of God organizations:
This mindset is clearly seen in this question from a recent church of God congregational survey:
Notice the many implications here (this is not conscious on the part of the writer).
The first is that a lack of in-person assembly inevitably brings you spiritual challenges, which says implicitly, in reverse, that in-person assembly eliminates your spiritual challenges.
The second implication is that your spiritual life outside of the once-a-week in-person assembly on the Sabbath is directly impacted by that assembly (i.e., “keeping a regular schedule for prayer, Bible study, and Sabbath-keeping”). In reverse, not assembling in person will impact this negatively.
Pretty presumptuous and pretty scary. Our spiritual lives are our relationship with God and Jesus Christ and the word of God. If not assembling in person has had a negative effect on that, then, to be brutally honest, we didn’t have much of a spiritual life to begin with.
It’s time to get our spiritual houses in order and understand who and what are the source of our spiritual lives. God gives us His spirit. Jesus Christ teaches us. The vehicle for our instruction is the word of God. Those three things have to be embedded in us 24/7 (James calls it “the implanted word”) and we have to understand that these alone are our foundation for an intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ.
It’s not wrong to want to fellowship (not socialize, as has become the custom in all the COG congregations) with spiritual brothers and sisters. In fact, we should do that as often as we are able!
However, true godly fellowship begins with and resides in His word. The reality is the most people who attend services don’t want to talk about the word of God. In fact, it is actively discouraged in most congregations because it might be “divisive.”
That is because much of the church of God foundation is based on human ideas and speculation that has been overlaid on top of scripture. Some of it is wrong and some of it simply can’t be proven, based on scripture. Layered in with this are the complicating traditions and commandments of men that are replete throughout the churches of God.
Make no mistake. There is John 17:17 truth mixed in, but to distinguish between God’s truth and the rest requires eating abundantly from the Bread of Life regularly, asking God for His wisdom, His knowledge, His understanding, and His discernment.
It also requires a lot of courage, because when we are aware and asking for God’s help, He will give it. But what we see may shake us up.
It shouldn’t. We can count on God’s word alone. Not any human’s, including mine. You and I need to go to God when we wonder, we’re worried, we have questions, we are shaken up, and He will, like any good Father, help us, comfort us, and teach us.
I’d rather follow God and Jesus Christ with an awareness and confession that I don’t know anything compared to what They know, than to follow anything or anyone physical believing I know everything and don’t need to know or learn anymore.
If we know everything, and this is the best we can do, then we are pretty pitiful.
Here’s the other obvious light that COVID-19 has shone on the churches of God.
They are eager, just as humans have been since Adam and Eve (why scripture is our mirror), to run away from what God wants into doing what is right in their own eyes.
Time and time again, God purged the sin (breaking the Sabbath and removing the idolatry of pagan temples and other gods) and gave the people physical and spiritual rest.
But notice how quickly the people ran right back to both as soon as they could.
We had Sabbath rests. The pagan temples that many of the church of God congregations have been meeting in have been physically removed.
But, as soon as they have been or are able, the church of God congregations are running back to breaking the Sabbath (even more than before, because of the extra work required because of COVID-19) and to their pagan temples.
Here’s a description of just one church of God congregation that’s begun meeting again (I’ve heard similar stories about others):
“The whole thing starts with a reservation to attend services (so as not to exceed numbers for the building)…arrived to find they are assigning seats… famil[ies] all sit in a group. Those who are alone have…one chair allotted with a perimeter around it. Then we are told, ad nauseum, about staying away from one another.”
Does anyone in their right spiritual mind think this is pleasing to God? It’s not.
Not only that, but if you’ve actually witnessed this live (either virtually or in person), it is nothing short of ludicrous. No touching, no real talking (unless you want to scream across six feet of space), and no real non-verbal communication (masks make it impossible to read people in a deeper way to understand them).
So, why are they doing it?
Control and a lack of trust. In the minds of the people in leadership positions in the churches of God, we – the sheep – can’t do anything without them (they tell us this regularly).
Like many of the employers who are so adamantly opposed to telecommuting in positions where it absolutely makes sense to, there is a sense that if they don’t have eyeballs on us regularly, then we can’t be trusted to “do the right thing” (according to their “doctrine”) and they will lose control, which means, ultimately, that they will lose their jobs (and their income).
Although some are keenly aware of this, most are not. It’s part of the strong delusion.
The reality is that the only being in the universe we can’t do anything without is Jesus Christ (John 15:5). We are under His and our Father’s watchful eyes all the time (while, at best, the church of God organizations get a portion of 1/7 of our time) and it is to them whom we answer all the time.
The church of God organizations teach domination. Here’s the paraphrased version: “They’re stupid. They can’t do anything right. You have to lay into them all the time or they’re just going to do the wrong thing.”
Again, except for a few, most of those involved aren’t aware that this is the thinking that has been drilled into them from the beginning of their involvement as members. But you hear it slip out now and then, and you know they sat in Ambassador College and had this implanted in them.
What does God say? “I’m raising you, teaching you, helping you, and I’m growing you.” Like any good parent, He doesn’t carry us (look at how many times Paul uses the word “walk” in Ephesians), but He gives us the right and wrong ways we can choose, and then He lets us choose.
There is a point in time where we’ve learned (perhaps from making the same wrong choices over and over) that the right way is the only way and it becomes who we are and what we are.
Guess what God’s response is? “I trust you.”
Look at Abraham. Here’s a man whose only knowledge of God probably came through Seth. No one around him obeyed God or believed God or worshiped God. He didn’t have an assembly to congregate with in person.
Yet, look at his responsiveness to God, who called him a friend. There was a trust relationship – based on a spiritual intimacy that had nothing to do with anything or anyone physical – between Abraham and God.
“Now I [God] know.” Those would be the sweetest words to my ears to hear God say that about me. It doesn’t matter what any human thinks or says. What matters is what God and Jesus Christ think.
For each of us, this is true.
So, what is your foundation built on?
Do you worship God on the Sabbath and holy days in a building with other people in the “right” organization and believe that’s the key to your salvation?
Or do you worship God continuously, every day and night, in spirit and in truth (John 17:17), building the intimacy and trust of that relationship – both ways – and realizing that salvation is God’s gift and it comes through Jesus Christ alone?
What is your answer?