April 20th, 2002
Last Sabbath and New Moon I spoke about the armour of God and the defence of the church and our brethren from the darts of the adversary.
This week I would like to take that matter on a step further.
In a short while we will issue a paper on self-righteousness.
It is this most difficult of sins that causes most damage in the church and was the direct cause of the destruction of one of the churches of God at the end of the twentieth century. The fabric of the church is most vulnerable to this sin and most people do not realise that they sin in this manner.
The church comes together as a whole at Passover and Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles and to a more diverse extent at Pentecost. At these great feasts we are all thrown together from different walks of life and different attitudes and different ways of thinking. At this time we often reveal how we think and there is often a tendency to judge those around you by the standards of your own indoctrination. Sometimes we are affected even by the viewpoints of the indoctrination of those around us in the world where we choose to hold the feasts. Often people drag into us ideas and attitudes of their previous church affiliations and apply those ideas to us and the application of the Law of God. Some are unable to address truth and adjust to error in their past thinking. In doing thus they incorrectly judge others and often slander those who do no wrong and are in some areas more righteous than those judging them.
There are three major areas that I have noticed self-righteousness intrude into the church and threaten the unity of the church. The fourth area concerns the inability of the individual to recognise their errors in the other three fields and in their approach to the faith generally.
These areas are:
2. Marriage Doctrines;
3. Alcohol; and
4. Doctrinal Self-Justification
Some of the application of self-righteousness stems from the practice fostered in some of the earlier churches of God of gossip. Indeed one of the church systems was run along the lines of a spy system and gossip was the logical and inevitable byproduct of that system. My wife once asked the wife of a minister of that system "why do they run spy rings?" and she was told by her, and by another minister of the same system in answer to the same question posed to him, that they had to know what was going on. That was precisely why that system was dispersed. One of our coordinators runs a major operation with some 350 employees. There is a rule in that operation that anyone caught gossiping will be dismissed. That is so because no other single sin does more damage and that sin stems from self-justification which is in itself self-righteousness. The problem with the truly self righteous is that they do not comprehend their own sin whereas self justification can be done in duplicity rather than complete delusion.
Over the last two feasts it has been made obvious to me that God is going to root this attitude and these problems out of the church and those not addressing them will go. Let us examine the problems.
In the churches of God there was a Health/Wealth Gospel which began emanating from the USA. This gospel taught that if you were sick and if you were diseased it was your own fault and you were healed by the stripes of Christ and by faith you were made whole. Hence the reasoning went: the sick simply needed anointing and they would be healed and if they were not so healed it was because they were in a state of sin. The same attitude was applied to wealth in that true faith was rewarded with success and to be successful was a sign of righteousness and, on the converse, to be poor was a sign of sin. Thus to be sick and poor was God's obvious condemnation of the individual. They deserved what happened and they obviously were not listening to God and should be shunned.
An anti-intellectualism, rife in the churches of God, sought to isolate the brethren from any rational thinking and objective assessment based on justice. Attacks were made on doctors and lawyers and universities as the tools of the God of this world. Now it is correct that the universities in the field of religion have been the stronghold of the Trinitarian oppressors of the faith, and people of our faith have traditionally been deposed, nevertheless we have produced some of the world's finest thinkers and much change in earlier centuries.
The early opposition to medicine was confined to the field of the worship of the god Escalapius. Luke, author of one of the gospels, was a physician. Healing was an aid to the church and faith did play a part but so did knowledge and control of disease based on the Law of God.
Much of the opposition to medicine came from a self righteous ministry who were a lot younger than the people they served and who suffered none of the industrial hazards the congregation faced on a daily basis. It was only when, for example, the ministry aged or faced problems did the church change its stance. For example Herbert Armstrong enforced an anti-doctor and anti-medicine doctrine of the Worldwide Church of God even allowing his wife to die without sufficient painkillers. However, he publicly changed when he himself was sick and needed an operation, rather than simply discretely taking medication as he had done. I have seen older people advised to throw away medicine that was necessary for their survival by younger ministers who themselves went on medicine less critical to their own survival. I have seen the obituary column of one church month after month reveal the tragic loss of mothers from cancer. This loss was usually as a result of the failure to treat problems in childbirth resulting later in cervical cancer and associated problems. Husbands lost wives, and children lost mothers, and grandchildren never knew their grandmothers and it was all put down to the will of God. We will address the healing doctrine at length later. However, the issues here that need to be addressed are the attitudes that flow from this crippling legacy of ignorance of the past.
One of the CCG officers recently was suffering from a problem and went to the doctor to be assessed in order to determine if they needed medication and quarantine as they were at the feast. The officer was publicly attacked for a lack of faith by going to the doctors by a person who had come to the church from one of the WCG offshoots. This attitude was based on the health wealth reasoning of the past. The person making this attack was struck down with severe problems two days later. That person did not repent and had to leave the feast site and could not remain with us. Another person who was unable to address error in their previous doctrines was also removed.
Friends, God is dealing with us and we are being given the grace and knowledge to correct error. Those failing to address error and who impose their own self-righteous justification on the church will be removed.
The church position on healing is this.
1. The sicknesses and diseases of the planet are a combination of factors over six thousand years that have crippled and are killing a planet that was once created perfect but was firstly cursed and secondly destroyed over millennia.
2. It is not necessarily the fault of the individual that they are ill.
3. The love of God and the love of man dictate that we care for one another. The first step is to seek the assistance of the brethren in anointing by the ministry and by prayer and fasting of the church.
4. It is the responsibility of each of us to determine the remedies necessary to the control and quarantine of disease and the rehabilitation of the individual and those in their care.
5. Confidentiality in disease and treatment is a right of privacy for the individual but must not affect or be contagious to the church.
6. The consultation of the proper medical authorities is a legal requirement in most civilised nations.
7. Whatever a person does in consultation with the proper medical authorities, provided it is not a direct breach of the ten commandments and the health laws as they are displayed in the Bible, is a private matter.
Consequently anyone found gossiping negatively about or berating publicly another person for medical consultation and subsequent medication or procedure will be disciplined.
Secondly, if an individual is contagious do not come, or bring them, to church. Quarantine them. Some viruses, passed off in younger people, are fatal to the elderly and the very young.
There is no love in passing judgment and placing psychological pressure on the ill because you think faith is the only medicine or you kill or injure someone through failure to quarantine or seek treatment for them.
Divorce and Remarriage
This next area invites self-righteousness from all areas. It is a matter of fact that the law recognises divorce both biblically and civilly. More importantly marriage is a rite of the nations and not a rite of the church. It is only when couples are both baptised and married do they come under the prohibition given by Christ. While the unbelieving adult consents to live with you, then are you bound. When they no longer consent to live with you, then you are no longer bound. That is you no longer are bound by the bands of marriage and the vows that you made to them.
Christ said to the woman at the well. You have spoken well woman because you have had five husbands and the one you are living with now is not your husband. In this he encapsulated the marriage and divorce ruling and the concept of cohabitation. He did not recognise cohabitation as a legal marriage. He did not recognise the previous five as invalid but as valid marriages. Now it is unlikely that she managed to chew through five mates like a black widow or funnel web spider. The law recognised divorce because of the hardness of our hearts but it was not so from the beginning. Thus marriage is necessary and divorce was permitted.
The criticism of remarriage in the church has the effect of dividing the church and bastardising the offspring of the remarried. This insidious doctrine was in the church of God, especially in the Worldwide Church of God up until 1972. Herbert Armstrong only changed it when he wished to marry Roma Martin in spite of the havoc it caused in the church. The error continues in the self-righteous schisms that refused to give up this vicious little attack on the brethren. The doctrine misuses the Law to the benefit of the adversary and causes untold hardship and misery, divorces and suicides. I have seen it aired in two feasts in the USA and it has angered me. The view will not be tolerated and those espousing it will be removed from the church.
The doctrine of the CCG is this:
1. If a person is validly married in the eyes of the nation in which they live they are married for the purposes of the church.
2. Their offspring are legal offspring.
3. On baptism all their sins are forgiven and they are married.
4. Those cohabiting are required to marry before baptism. Or, if they do not wish to marry and have no offspring, they are required separate before baptism. If they have offspring and one wishes to marry and the other does not then the one wishing to marry may separate and be baptised and the other may not. Only in this instance is separation effected and as a voluntary decision of the individual.
We will not tolerate this error and we will remove, and have removed, people from the church for trying to insinuate it into the CCG.
In no other area is this self righteousness exercised in a daily basis by some. We have seen people attend functions and count glasses as they disappear down the throats of the brethren at the feast. In this way they advance their own superiority and self-righteousness with each mouthful taken by the other feast goer. We have seen slander and gossip pile one upon another in false witness against brethren committing no sin.
The position in some nations is different to those of another regarding types of alcohol consumed. In some nations beer is more favoured than red wine and in other nations spirits are drunk by some and not by others.
Nations are regulated by law as to the consumption of alcohol and those laws are reasonably standard and agreed on by the nations passing them. In some counties of the US for example, in the South in Texas, alcohol is prohibited to be sold. When we had a feast in one such locale for example I was amazed that such a thing existed. For an Australian to have a community that prohibits totally the sale of alcohol is regarded as a curious passing phase of an aberrant prohibition mentality in the USA. In Australia people would simply not live in such a place. I said when I was there that Australia has pubs without towns but never towns without pubs. When our people went there we were fascinated by the fact that the county line had a liquor facility and it did a very brisk trade dealing with the people across the line who enjoyed a drink but had the views of 51% of the county pushed on them. I was told that only some of them did not drink at all and the ones who said they did not often had private supplies.
At that time one of our people, now a minister of CCG, told me that one of the xCG people had allegedly gone to speak with their officers some years ago about a business matter. They did not know he was of the church of God and when he arrived the officers were allegedly all in the board room with big cigars. Now anyone familiar with WCG and the offshoots knows that smoking is prohibited there. They seemingly had two faces. One for the general public and one for their own people. Often this is the case with hypocrisy. People do what they condemn in others or wish they could do what they condemn in others. Sometimes people make up stories about people to condemn them and make themselves look good or justified. Much gossip and slander in the church is based on hearsay. Some of it is based entirely on assumption.
The church gathers together for three feasts a year. In some cases and in the USA particularly they are hard workers who get very little time off and the feasts are the entire recreation periods of a hard working people. That was so in ancient Israel as well and the prince was commanded to gather and make available sufficient resources for the public festivals. Deuteronomy 14 commands attendance at the feast and states that the individual attending may buy wine or strong drink or anything their hearts lust after. This is not used in a negative sense.
Drunkenness is prohibited in the church of God and a drunkard will not inherit the kingdom of God. However, nor will a glutton or a number of other categories and all of those sins must be repented.
I will say now that neither I nor any of the officers in the church have ever seen anyone intoxicated at our feasts or gatherings. That fact was also remarked on to me by a minister of another church who did not himself drink. He said our people drink alcohol but I have never seen anyone abuse it or intoxicated. He was correct.
The position is this.
1. Alcohol is permitted by the Bible in all its forms. Basically if it is a vegetable or fruit that can be eaten alcohol can be made out of it for consumption. It is a blessing of God and is termed the fat and the sweet (of the earth) by Nehemiah for consumption at the feast.
2. Drunkenness is forbidden and will be dealt with by the church.
3. Driving a motor vehicle is governed by the state and the legal limits in most countries is .05 or in the case of heavy vehicle licences it is .02. Such drivers are not permitted to drink and drive. If you break these laws it is only matter of time before the offenders are arrested.
What a person drinks within the above limits is their business. People that are intoxicated are not to be served and the ministry is to be informed.
People found gossiping about others will be dealt with or may even find themselves the subject of litigation and it will be their own fault.
If you don't drink that is your decision. If someone is a recovering alcoholic then they are not to be encouraged to consume alcohol.
If you have pet theories about the superiority of one type of beverage over another do not criticise others who don't agree with you.
An example of the stupidity of fads in this regard is that of tea. I have watched traditional tea condemned by the health cranks, who have inflicted every strange plant to the rigours of hot water in the name of good health and medicine, only to find this month that the traditionalists who drank tea and did not follow the health cranks were far less likely to get cancer than non tea drinkers because of the antioxidants in it. The same discoveries have earlier been made about red wine.
The French drink red wine and have only 40% of the heart attack rate of the USA and Scandinavians in spite of the fact that they consume the same amount of fat. That is solely because they drink red wine. The teetotalers in the Bible Belt are keeling over from heart attacks at two and a half times the rate of the Frenchmen. Yet I have heard the same unenlightened bigots make comments about how alcoholics who are wine drinkers are far less likely to recover than spirit drinkers. Now this is nonsense but they utter it with authority.
No other aspect is likely to strike at the capacity of the church to meet together and enjoy one another's company in the system and the way we meet at present. If the self-righteous are allowed to go unchecked the end result will be the division we have seen in the other churches of God and people will go to services and then refuse to socialise with others. Cliques will develop and the church will commence to gossip and divide on lines unrelated to truth and justice. Our congregational system is to be protected. Anyone making judgmental accusations about people based on their opinion as to what constitutes appropriate quantities or types of beverages is to be told it is opinion with no biblical basis and it is to be stamped out.
Do not encourage others to intoxication and do not become intoxicated yourself. Do not inhibit others from enjoying the feasts and if you don't drink or have had enough to drink let others who do wish to drink enjoy themselves. Don't count what people drink and then accuse them or gossip about them later or you will find yourself in trouble under the law of both God and man. If someone comes to you with a tale go and find the facts of an issue first instead of gossiping and accusing your brethren at the instigation of others.
Often we have new people who come in and learn a great deal in a short time. Most come with open minds. Sometimes we get people who are unable to come to grips with the fact that they have been carrying out a function incorrectly for years. In some cases they have not been carrying it out at all. The healthy mind addresses this matter. CCG systems allow this to be addressed.
We have an open system of Bible studies which allows more freedom than any other church system. We traditionally allow people to ask questions at any stage of our proceedings. They simply have to identify the passage about which they have a question, state the purpose of the point or question, and read the passage. Our leaders have spent quite a lot of time explaining problems and doctrines to many of the brethren. As a rule this freedom is greatly appreciated by all of our people and it is used to great effect to clear up misunderstanding. It is however used by some to promote their own private agendas.
It has become obvious that some important services are sometimes disrupted with points long ago examined but raised for purposes not stated and which strike at the purpose of the faith. If you have a pet theory and you have raised it and you don't understand the answer put it all in writing and send it to your coordinator. If he can't explain the matter it will be sent on to your supervisors who will in turn send it to the national headquarters and on to the staff at World Conference. I we can't answer the point then we will fast and pray about it as a church until God provides a sign. That has not been necessary to date in CCG.
We wish to preserve our freedoms established in the church and which are not present in other organisations. What many of us take for granted as a learning environment are often seen as radical changes for those used to a quite rigid formula of worship where individuals are not allowed to raise questions about anything.
Do not allow the church to be undermined because someone wishes to "grind a particular axe" or "push their particular barrow."
If it becomes necessary to introduce restrictions in some service formats we will all be the losers for it. We try to ensure that people coming to feasts have a basic grounding and so do not find it too confronting in comparison to what they have done in the past. However, some seem to be unable to grasp that what they have done is wrong.
If you are new do not be threatened because you have not done something but merely rejoice because you have greater understanding now. An example is the keeping of the Wave Sheaf Offering at 9 am on the Sunday morning in the feast of Unleavened Bread. This activity is commanded in the law in Leviticus 23 in the same chapter as the Feasts and Sabbaths are all commanded yet it has not been done in the churches of God for some decades in the Twentieth Century. This doctrine is critical in understanding Christ as the Wave Sheaf and also in determining the correct Pentecost as it was kept in the Temple period. For this reason rabbinical Judaism and the Judaisers that support them move the festival from its original position so they can justify a Sivan 6 Pentecost but more importantly to strike at the very concept that Christ was the Messiah and that he went before God as an acceptable sacrifice on that day as the first fruits of the faith.
Often ex-WCG and offshoots find it difficult to grasp or admit as it means they not only have to adjust but that they had it entirely wrong and did not keep it at all. The Easter advocates and the rabbinical Jews are of like purpose in this matter. Do not be deceived by them. If WCG had kept the Wave Sheaf correctly they would not have misunderstood Pentecost for thirty odd years. They realised it had to be kept but did not implement it because there was a dispute between Ernest Martin and Herbert Armstrong as to Pentecost and Armstrong would not correct the doctrine because it would have meant correcting Pentecost and giving in to Ernest Martin. He would not do that and so it was only when Martin left that Pentecost was corrected but they forgot about the research on the Wave Sheaf and did not implement it. We were informed of this problem by the head of WCG in Canada. Thus the arrogance of men prevented the Law of God being implemented.
On the other hand we have seen ex-WCG and UCG ministers, who come to us, grasp it and repent of their error and explain it to others as they understand. The attitude depends entirely on the heart and their willingness to please God in the truth.
Also there is another category of problem in this regard and that is stress. Often accusation or confrontation comes from stress caused by a failure of some in that they are sick and do not understand why God has allowed them to be sick and are simply reacting to circumstances. Deal with all people in love and care and it will become obvious in the Holy Spirit what the problem is for the person concerned.
Remember in all things love one another and prove all things.
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