John Ritenbaugh speculates about a prophecy in Zechariah 13:2-5, which concerns prophets or church leaders who, coming to feel ashamed of their false teachings, will later claim they were farmers rather than ministers. Most of the billion nominal 'Christians' have no understanding that (1) the reason for the estrangement between God and man is that man does not believe God, (2) God never lies and the Scriptures do not contradict themselves, (3) nobody seeks God on his own, (4) mankind so hated the Creator that they put Him to a vicious death, (5) the Father clearly gave the Son the authority, power, and privilege to choose who would be in God's family, and (6) every calling is personal and individual rather than collective. The Father calls or chooses those He wants; the Son places them at specific places within the body, approving some and rejecting others.
Charles Whitaker, focusing upon the saccharine altar calls issued by evangelical preachers to "throw your sins upon Jesus," a rite generally accompanied by a hymn such as George Root's "Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord," explains that these altar calls are based on a pack of lies. The bondage of our sin could be figuratively represented by the burdensome chain which burdened some convicts of the past. The Scriptures amply prove that Christ alone bears our sins and takes them from us; we have no power to cast our burdens upon Christ. Rather, our task is to humbly yield to His will, keeping His Commandments, and accepting His grace when God the Father calls. We do not "dump our sins on the cross"; we repent of them and then rip them out our lives with the help of God's Holy Spirit. God calls us—not the suave golden-throated evangelist. The altar call and the crucifix both perpetuate the falsehood that Christ is still hanging on the cross. Jesus Christ's sacrifice covered our sins; our obligation is to obey His Commandments and yield to His work of sanctification.
Martin Collins, arguing that the subtle infiltration of secularism is the major cause of fissures in the greater Church of God, warns church members how secularism threatens spiritual growth. During our pre-Passover period of self-examination, we must focus on what the Father demands of us and embrace His truth with all our might, esteeming God's words over everything else. Sadly, mainstream 'Christianity' gives little heed to God's Word, valuing consensus (a plurality of 51%) over doctrinal truth as revealed by the Scriptures. We seriously err if we rely on the secular media to give us spiritual understanding. God sends strong delusion to those who do not love the truth. We cannot reject obeying God, but we must reject the world's theology, as it defends degeneracy. The dominant world culture militates against God's Sabbath, allowing sporting events, shopping, and entertainment to take its place. In the latter days, secular concerns have increased; "everybody does it." Being set apart requires we become an example (which will appear alien to the world), serving, metaphorically, as lighthouses in a dark world. Thankfully, Christ has our back by sanctifying us with His truth and giving us the will and power to do His work thorough the means of God's Holy Spirit.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon the death of Billy Graham and his impact on American religious culture, comments that some have dubbed Billy Graham as "America's pastor." Four traits that endeared him to people were his 1.) persuasive oratory, 2.) courage, 3.) morality and 4.) humility in the face of immense influence. Some commentators have suggested that he preached to more people than any other evangelist. However, when assessing this claim against the impact of Herbert Armstrong, its veracity is doubtful. Herbert Armstrong began preaching long before Billy Graham came on the scene, using the medium of radio before it was forced to compete with television as a tool of mass communication. His current-event driven message was a blend of news and doctrinal truths. People had never heard anything like this before. As God began providing funds, Herbert Armstrong began to utilize multiple powerful, clear-channel stations in North America, thereby blanketing the entire continent with God's truth every night. God subsequently opened doors in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Africa, facilitating a virtually world-wide effort. Looked at in terms of numbers, the impact of Herbert Armstrong was far greater than that of Billy Graham.
Charles Whitaker takes aim at several destructive heresies which have crept into western religious (Puritan-Protestant) culture, including the rapture lie (espoused by Edward Irving 1825 and Margaret McDonald 1830) and the so-called dispensationalist theory (espoused by John Nelson Darby and Cyrus Scofield-author of the Scofield Reference Bible). David McPherson, in his book, The Rapture Plot, exposes the intellectual dishonesty of the world's churchmen, who consistently engage in plagiarism, alteration of text, and suppression of other documents, pushing the rapture heresy as the immortality of the soul and heaven as the reward for the saved. The destructive dispensationalist theory, guided by the study guides in the Scofield Bible, savagely denigrates God's Law, claiming that grace does away with the necessity to obey God's Law. Darby's and Scofield's dispensationalist doctrines have knocked the moral props out of God fearing Puritans and Protestants, totally ignoring the reality that God's spiritual and holy Law spans covenants, spans history, and is not connected with only one covenant, the Mosaic.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that Satan has indeed deceived the entire world, maintains that not only has Satan made exponential progress enslaving people with 'progressive' socialist leadership, but he has infiltrated the ranks of millions of nominal Christians, infecting them with destructive, pathogenic immorality, causing our current society to resemble the time of Noah immediately prior to the Flood. Though Satan has been working feverishly for thousands of years, the most dramatic erosion of spiritual and moral values has occurred in the last 70 years. Recently, the Pew Research Center, conducting a 6-year poll measuring 'Christian' acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle, demonstrated wholesale acceptance of this aberration in all major denominations, with the largest acceptance rate appearing among Roman Catholics, and the lowest rate among Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists. The percentage of increases represent millions and millions of adherents, indicating that for many 'Christians' God's Holy Law is not taken very seriously. Consequently, God's wall of protection has been removed from modern Israel.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that although Transcendentalism as a movement never had an abundance of adherents, submits that Emerson's teachings did permeate the schools of philosophy of American Ivy League Schools, institutions , ironically, which were started as Puritan Theological Seminaries. Harvard welcomed him with open arms, giving him an honorary doctorate and placing him in an influential teaching and advising role. In this capacity, having already jettisoned his Unitarian roots, Emerson waxed syncretistic, absorbing ideas from Mormonism, Paganism, Buddhism, and other Eastern philosophies, including the idea of "The Over-Soul"—a blobby plastic-like bubble where everything blends together without individual parts, making no distinction between Creator and creation. In Emerson's analysis, the only God to which we are beholden is the "god" in our own minds, trusting in ourselves rather than trusting in our Heavenly Father.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the apostasy and diaspora of our previous fellowship in the 1990s, observes that those reveling in the new 'freedoms' cannot be persuaded to return to former beliefs because they no longer believe in the sanctified Word of God. Instead, many seek scholarly 'higher' criticism of the Scriptures to provide license to various varieties of sin. Like Thomas Jefferson's redaction of Scripture, modern biblical scholars, much further away (in time and understanding) from the original intent of the Scripture than contemporaries of the apostles, presumptuously pontificate, without accurate knowledge, on the intent of the Scriptures. Consequently, 'biblical' scholars, steeped in post-modernist deconstructionism, pick and choose what they pompously believe to be significant. Today, the main representatives of nominal Christianity (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) may believe God exists and may believe in various aspects of His character, such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipotence, love, and grace; nevertheless, they do not want to do what He says, discarding the Old Testament (and much of the New Testament) and that 'horrible' Jewish Sabbath as well as God's commanded Holy Days. Unlike the majority of nominal Christians who believe in God, the First-fruits (a select group of individuals called and set-part by God), as depicted by the Holy Day of Pentecost, faithfully follow Christ's example, allowing God to knead, pound, shape, and bake them in the intense heat of trials, making them acceptable to God, with the goal of becoming the 144,000, redeemed from the earth who will follow Christ as His collective Bride. As we grow toward that goal, we are commanded by Almighty God to live a life of obedience to His Commandments, walking as Christ walked, practicing righteousness until we get it right, and knowing that faith without works is stone dead.
David C. Grabbe: In the Christian era, the Sabbath has been a point of controversy since at least the fourth century AD, when the Roman Catholic Church assumed the authority to change the day of worship from the seventh day to the first. ...
Richard Ritenbaugh, challenging the Protestant assumption that "getting our lives straight" (morality) distracts from the Gospel message of grace, suggests that this emphasis on "hyper-grace" is wrong-headed, denying any need for repentance and overcoming, and totally at odds with the teachings of Christ. The Gospel of the Kingdom emphasizes the plan of God, requiring that we become cleansed from our past sins, living a life of righteousness, preparing for the Kingdom of God—the endgame of God's plan, which is the creation of sons and daughters formed in His image and character. As our character is changed through the sanctification process, we can be turned into Spirit beings. Protestants have an extremely truncated concept of the gospel, denying the sanctification process of salvation and the resurrection. In order to destroy sin, it is necessary to get rid of all sin. God the Father and Jesus Christ want to get rid of all sin—a major part of God's plan. Repenting requires glomming onto God's Law and relinquishing our carnal control over to God's Holy Spirit. God has never finished His Work. In our Christian life, we have lots of rough edges which have to be smoothed before we can rule and reign. The hyper-grace gospel denies any responsibility for our behavior, revealing it to be a throwback to antinomian Gnosticism. Like He did for our forebears, God performed acts of grace to free us, but we have to walk away from sin, repenting of our sin and overcoming our vile human nature in the sanctification process, growing spiritually. The whole Bible is about putting on morality. God's people are to be involved in their sanctification— from consecration, separation, and the rigorous purification process, removing the dross, a process which takes place over a lifetime. The only proper response to grace is obedience to God, walking in His commandments to please Him, fulfilling His will. God called us to be Holy, exercising His Holy Spirit to make moral choices, cleansing ourselves
John W. Ritenbaugh: This morning, upon opening the inbox of my email account, I discovered an item declaring that the United States Postal Service has issued a stamp commemorating the Islamic holiday of Ramadan. ...
When Satan confronted humanity's first parents, Adam and Eve, he fed them three heresies that he continues to promote to deceive the world today. David Grabbe expounds on these three lies, revealing how Gnosticism incorporated them into its parasitic philosophy and way of life.
Though the world's political bodies have agreed that proselytism is a human right, in practice it is a right denigrated and even suppressed in certain regions. Charles Whitaker holds that, though proselytism has a poor reputation now, a time is coming when it will be used properly to bring this world peace and prosperity.
Domestic and foreign policy formulations derive from what a nation's people think about themselves. Charles Whitaker delves into the disproportionate divide among Americans between cosmopolitans and nationalists, and answers the bigger question, "Did we invent our self-image, or did God create it?"
Most of us are living in the midst of the end-time manifestation of Babylon the Great. We can resist its influence if we understand what makes it so attractive to human nature. John Ritenbaugh explains what makes the Mystery Woman tick and why God judges her so severely.
News, events, and trends according to a prophetic perspective for November 2004: "Europe: Ripe for Change"; "Protestantism's Decline"
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon the cosmology of ancient Greece (a combination of pagan and scientific thought), explains that these ideas and notions—many totally saturated with astrology and Gnostic dualism—filtered into the doctrines of the early church. These syncretized, polluted Hellenistic ideas have never left the cardinal doctrines of mainstream Christianity. The incorporation of Gnostic dualism into doctrine has led to sloppy stewardship of physical health laws (dressing and keeping our bodies), a consequence of anti-nomian thought processes. The denigration of grace to license—"sin, that grace may abound"—derives directly from Gnosticism. "Modern" Gnostic thought (including the pernicious doctrines of progressive revelation and the immortality of the soul) literally destroyed or blew apart the Worldwide Church of God. We need to ensure that these virulent strains have not infected us.
David C. Grabbe: Can anything be more paradoxical than professing Christians not following the words of the One they claim as their Savior?
David C. Grabbe: Hardly a day goes by without a major newspaper or newswire keeping us up-to-date on the latest dirt in the "Catholic clergy abuse scandal." With such media saturation it is easy to see why the general populace has such a negative opinion of Catholic priests. Through thick and thin, the media hangs on, determined to bring every gory detail to the fore. It is time we stopped to consider why, and take a look at some of the statistics surrounding this issue. ...
Americans and Europeans once provided the driving force behind Christianity, but Charles Whitaker informs us that Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans are re-energizing Christianity—and creating conflict with declining Western churches in the process.
The Bible describes many men, but one of the most important is the new man. What is this new man? Charles Whitaker explains that the new man is a creative effort of renewing our minds in cooperation with God.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focuses upon the life and character of Balaam, 1) an internationally renowned individual 2) from a family of soothsayers, 3) a baru or sorcerer, and 4) someone who probably knew of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Balaam, an insane practitioner of occult power, greedy and covetous of wealth, desired to lead people into sin for his own profit. Balaam illustrates the paradox of someone who knows God's will, but willfully and deliberately disobeys, presumptuously thinking he could manipulate or bribe God, placing self-interest or expediency above God's interest.
John Ritenbaugh reminds us that the Sabbath constitutes a recurring appointment with the Deity, a special time for developing and building our relationship with God. It is from the proper use of this day—in fellowshipping with Him and getting to know Him—that we derive true spiritual rest and refreshment. Keeping the Sabbath properly, as a special date with God, will restore our energy, renew our strength, and liberate us from bondage to sin and worldly entanglements. We need to vigilantly guard our minds from any unlawful desire which detracts from the Sabbath, taking the place of God. This idol will destroy our relationship from God. We desperately need this vital seventh of our lives to rehearse and experience what we are to become.
John Ritenbaugh warns that keeping the right days on the calendar is no guarantee of attaining a right relationship with God. How and why a person keeps the Sabbath determines whether this test commandment is really a sign between God and His people or an idolatrous act of futility. The Sabbath could metaphorically represent a date between God and His affianced bride, a special 24-hour time to become more intimately acquainted, the actual courtship stage before marriage. Letting worldly concerns enter the Sabbath is like committing adultery or flirting with other lovers. When we take time to know God, we become refreshed, strengthened, and actually liberated from worldly entanglements.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that there is a very clear "them and us" demarcation in God's mind regarding which is the true way and which is not. We were formerly children of Satan (John 8:44) until God rescued us from this evil system (Ephesians 2:3), making us at odds with the entire world (I John 5:19). The churches of this world have attempted to appropriate the name of Christ and the grace concept, but then vigorously have thrown out God's law. The acid test indicating God's true church consists of obedience of His laws (John 14:15) including the Sabbath (Exodus 31:16-17), preventing the confusion and shameless compromising (the fruits of disobedience) which characterize the majority of the world's religions.
John Ritenbaugh clarifies some difficult terms which Protestant theologians have misapplied, characterizing God's holy law as a "yoke of bondage." If we fail to realize that Paul's focus in the Galatians epistle was justification (rather than the whole salvation process of sanctification and glorification) we could become confused. The Old Covenant had no provision for justification nor did it provide a mechanism to change the heart. The antinomian argument ignores that Christ also puts a yoke of responsibility on New Covenant participants (Matthew 11:29-30). The yoke of bondage Paul referred to was a syncretism of Halakhah- the code of regulations added by the Pharisees- and Gnostic ascetic ritualism, neither a part of God's Law. God's Spirit and law keeping are not contradictory.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the days, months, and times referred to in Galatians 4:10 do not refer to Jewish Holy Days or the law of God, but to Pagan Gnostic rites connected with the worship of demons. To refer to the liberating law of God as weak and beggarly constitutes rank blasphemy. To use Galatians as an antinomian tract denigrating God's holy and righteous law creates a hypocritical dichotomy- in which Paul, while keeping the law, allegedly urged the people not to keep it. Paul, as a light to the Gentiles, kept the Sabbath and the rest of God's law in the middle of gentile territory (Acts 18:11, 13:44) indicating that neither the Sabbath nor any other aspect of God's law had been done away. The target of Paul's wrath was Gnostic asceticism, which was syncretized with both extra- biblical Judaistic and Pagan elements.
John Ritenbaugh affirms that the Word of God is not ever improved by syncretizing or alloying it with human philosophy, a pattern of reasoning which often begins with a faulty or dangerous premise. The Gnostics criticized by Paul in Colossians 2:16-17 were guilty of bringing in ritualistic ascetic discipline to propitiate demons. While Paul never criticized self-discipline and rigor, he did condemn the practice if it did not emanate from Jesus Christ and if it contaminated the keeping of the Sabbath or Holy Days. God is not merely interested in what we do, but why we do the thing. Some misguided scholars, looking at the "touch not, taste not" phrase, assume that God is not careful about rules. They ignore the context in which Paul condemns an attractive self-disciplining mind control regime or system (Gnosticism) totally cut off from the Headship of Christ.
John Ritenbaugh uses an analogy of a 1910 automobile as opposed to a modern one. Obsolete doesn't mean, as Protestant understanding would have it, "done away." The fault of the Old Covenant was with the hearts of the people. Christ took it upon Himself, with His death, to amend the fault enabling us to walk in the light, keeping the commandments. Salvation and conversion is a cooperative effort between God and His called-out ones, requiring both a calling and a response (justification and sanctification), a circumcision of the heart, imposing responsibilities on the participants of the covenant. Though the process took a unilateral act of sacrifice on behalf of the Testator to make it work, God demands of us unconditional surrender.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the problem with the Old Covenant was with the people, not with the Law, as some have alleged. Paul uses the term "covenant" to describe an agreement made by two consenting parties and "testament" to describe the unilateral, one-sided commitment made by God to improve the promises (eternal life) and the means to keep the commandments (God's Holy Spirit). The New Covenant will be consumated at Christ's return during the marriage of the Lamb when God's Law will have been permanently assimilated into His bride during an engagement (sanctification) process.
John Ritenbaugh insists that the New Covenant was designed by God in order to circumcise the heart, making it possible for God's laws to be permanently written in our hearts and reflected in our behavior (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16). External rites such as circumcision or baptism do not automatically make Christians. If one is circumcised or baptized and then breaks God's laws, he is instantaneously uncircumcised or unbaptized and blasphemes the name of God (Romans 2:24).
John Ritenbaugh takes issue with the Protestant assumption that justification does away with the law. Justification does not any more "do away" with the law than it does with the edge of the paper. The argument that law-keeping is now voluntary fails to take into account that law keeping has always been voluntary (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) a matter of free moral agency. In Hebrews 10:34 Paul emphatically insisted that justification was a motivation to keep the law. Justification (not a synonym for salvation) brings us into alignment with God's Law, imputing the righteousness of Christ. Justification provides access to God and the means to bring about our sanctification. Justification in no way does away with the law of God.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the doctrinal changes made by the leaders in the Worldwide Church of God were intended to destroy the vision of the purpose God is working out. Ignoring the last portion of Ephesians 2:10, the proponents of the no works, no conditions, no standards, cheap grace mentality have perverted the name of Christianity, adopting the fruit of the world's brand of Christianity, cutting itself off from the law and rule of God. In contrast to this adolescent "obey because we feel like it"- "all roads lead to heaven" mentality is God's package, consisting of a body of laws, a body of beliefs or doctrines, and a way of life, all of which are working to produce a magnificent product- not merely to save us.
John Ritenbaugh examines the serious and devastating ramifications of the doctrinal changes made by the misguided leaders of the Worldwide Church of God. This pernicious incremental package of changes totally destroyed the vision of God's true purpose for mankind—a marvelous plan of reproducing Himself, creating a God Family (Romans 8:29)—and replaced it with the nebulous Protestant goal of going to heaven or the Catholic concept of a "beatific vision." Predictably, when the vision was changed, then the law (intended to guide that vision), of necessity, had to be thrown out.
Nothing is more confused than the state of religion today. God's people can stay above the fray by being firmly grounded in His Word. Included are seven principles of Bible study.
The vast majority of Christian churches today teach the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, as a time for rest and worship. Yet it is generally known and freely admitted that the early Christians observed the seventh day as the Sabbath. How did this change come about?
In 1893, the Catholic Mirror—the official organ of Cardinal Gibbons and the Vatican in the United States—ran a series of articles discussing the right of the Protestant churches to worship on Sunday. The articles stress that unless one was willing to accept the authority of the Catholic Church to designate the day of worship, Christians who wish to follow the Bible should observe the seventh-day Sabbath.
John Ritenbaugh warns that we dare not allow a root of bitterness to spring up in us as a result of the trials we go through - those burdens intended by God to strengthen us and perfect us. We are warned not to emulate the example of Esau, whose worldly mindset blunted his ability to distinguish the sacred from the profane, leading him to give up his birthright to satisfy a bodily craving. We have superior promises (of future Eternal life and a place in God's very family as well as current access to God's presence through the work of Jesus Christ). The intense admonitory quality in the twelfth chapter stems from the stark, inescapable reality that God will not budge one inch on sin. Far from being an indulgent lenient parent, God is a consuming fire to those who will not obey. We need to develop the same white-hot hatred for sin as does our Heavenly Father. Finally we are admonished to (1) increase our fellowship with our brethren, (2) practice hospitality, (3) sympathize and empathize with those going through trials, (4) strive for pure and chaste marriages, (5) resist covetousness, and (6) ease the ministry's burden
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