Joe Baity maintains that absorbing the culture of the world can damage our credibility as ambassadors of God's Kingdom. Abraham's nephew pitched his tent toward Sodom and incrementally absorbed the ways of his new home. As a 'righteous' man, he expediently opted for the evil of fornication to prevent homosexual sodomy. Likewise, Lot's daughters learned from the culture of Sodom that incest may be a necessary to preserve the family. When the Worldwide Church of God cozied up to the world's culture, the leaders started to accept premises which eroded God's precious law. As God's called-out ones, we have an obligation to separate ourselves from the evil influence of the world's culture in the same way that Moses did (rejecting the title of grandson to the Pharaoh) and Abraham also (remaining nomadic for his entire life). We need to resist the lure of the world to pitch our tent toward Sodom as Lot did. Love for the world's ways constitutes enmity for God and His law.
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.
Martin Collins, assuring us that those whom God has called will be kept safe, protected, and sanctified, reminds us that: 1.) No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him, 2.) All whom the Father has given to Him will come to Him, and 3.) None of those who remain in Him will be lost. In the prayer Jesus offered on behalf of His disciples, recorded in John 17, Jesus also prays for those called in the future, asking for their safe-keeping, sanctification, unity, and fellowship, all referring to matters of the spirit—protection from evil, separation from the world, and training for future responsibilities in God's Kingdom. Before our lives conclude, Satan, secular influences and our own carnality will all assault us. God as our true Shepherd provides total protection of His called out-ones forever. Being kept in God's name refers to assimilating the attributes of God: Joy, holiness, truth, responsibility, unity and love. Joy is an endangered characteristic among today's saints. We can have joy in the midst of trials when we take our minds off immediate circumstances and focus on the mind of Christ dwelling in us. This indwelling Spirit enables us to develop a vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father and a horizontal one with our brethren. God has separated us out to love and obey Him and teach others to do the same.
Bill Onisick, expanding on the "Being Unequally Yoked" youth Bible Study he delivered at the 2017 Feast of Tabernacles, explores the results of joining "mismatched" beings together. Examples range from an ox yoked to a donkey, struggling and pulling against each other, to ill-advised mixed marriages with pagan or gentile partners. When Israel ignored God's warning about assimilating Gentile ways, a yoke of bondage was the consequence. Compromise axiomatically leads to snare and abject bondage. When the Corinthian church tried to syncretize God's truth with the pagan culture around it, horrible enslaving consequences ensued. We are in the same position as the Corinthians, being immersed in a godless, evil world. We are greatly influenced by whomever we spend the most time. We become like those with whom we associate. God's way is not compatible with the world's way. Unfortunately, it is easy to become attached to worldly things. The antidote to being unequally yoked with the world is to take on Jesus Christ's gentle yoke—harnessing ourselves into His great plan. God earnestly wants us to be holy as He is holy because that is the only way He can dwell in us.
Joe Baity, observing that most of the brethren seem to be having challenging times, uses an analogy from title insurance to stress the need for boundaries. Due to successive English monarch's issuing multiple land grants to American colonies—grants which "overlapped" territory—the land between Pennsylvania and Maryland became subject to multiple conflicts and lawsuits for decades. Not until English engineers Mason and Dixon carefully surveyed these disputed 4,000 square miles and firm boundaries were determined was peace at last established. In Genesis, with the division of light from darkness, night from day, land from sea, the Sabbath from the other six days, and the such, God established clear boundaries, which He maintains to this day. When God destroyed the earth with a flood, He re-established the lines of order, restoring the Creation from corruption. Today, throughout mankind's culture-influenced-by-Satan, the lines separating morality from immorality have become blurred. As God's called-out ones, we need to recognize these God-ordained lines and, where we have allowed them to become blurred, to doggedly redraw them, thereby ensuring that we remain distinctive from the world.
Kim Myers, warning teenagers and young adults, who will be starting their own families shortly, to avoid the world's holidays (Satan's counterfeit 'Holy Days'), explains the pagan origins of New Years, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and birthdays. The most universal of the counterfeit festivals is New Year's, derived from the Saturnalia sun worship, involving orgies, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, and child sacrifice. The accoutrements surrounding Easter-eggs, rabbits, ham, and hot-cross buns all derive from the Babylonian mystery religion involving Semiramis, Nimrod, and Tammuz. Halloween and the Day of the Dead derive from the Celtic Festival of Samhain, a time the Irish lit bonfires and put on costumes to ward off ghosts. These ancient customs began two generations after Noah and his family left the ark, with Ham's grandson Nimrod. Most thinking people are aware of the pagan origins of these customs, but Satan entices them into accepting them through the appeal of pleasing children and grandchildren with something fun. As God's called out ones, we should not let Satan guilt us into compromise; we should not be afraid of being weirdos and oddballs, swimming upstream against a Satanic culture hurtling toward perdition and disintegration.
Mark Schindler, reflecting that God's Sabbaths or Holy Days are inestimable blessings which should not be squandered, cautions us of the need to tend and keep these blessings, avoiding the careless use of hallowed time. Relating a true story, Mark recalls a time when, attending a wedding which took place on the Sabbath, he and his wife were inadvertently drawn into non-holy activities when a wedding reception in downtown Chicago unexpectedly became a reviewing stand for a 200-unit nudist bicycle parade. Embarrassing incidents like this could be considered wake-up calls from God that this time should be spent more profitably in spiritual pursuits. In another recollection, Mark, in compiling a video memento of his romance with his wife Nancy, reflects that a loving and faithful wife is a blessing from God. The significance of this blessing was punctuated by the observation that his aging mother, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, excitedly recognized Nancy when she had practically lost memory of everyone else in the family circle. This miraculous observation reiterated the importance of treasuring, tending and keeping the many blessings God has bestowed to us. All the spiritual gifts God has given us should be carefully tended.
John Ritenbaugh, rehearsing our father Abraham's thought processes as he contemplated God's "I will" promises to him, concluded that Abraham realized he would be long dead before their fruition in the fullness of time. Nevertheless, he realized he needed those unspecified blessings applied to him, blessings that would apply to a descendant far greater than himself, a descendant which would be the source of the blessing—the Lord reincarnate, with whom Abraham had been communicating. Abraham realized that his descendant could not possibly be a mere human being, but the Creator Himself. Both Abraham and his descendent David reached the same conclusion, perceiving that fulfilment would be far into the future. Further, they both realized the promised seed (originally proclaimed to Eve, beginning a lineage from Seth to Abram, Isaac and Jacob) would be born into their family line. God promised Abraham that all peoples of the earth would be blessed by him, including those non-Israelite gentile peoples who would be grafted into the commonwealth of spiritual Israel though God's special calling, followed by receiving the Holy Spirit, becoming holy seed within the dynasty of Jesus Christ. No one is physically born into this family, but must be separated spiritually from the rest of the world by a special calling from God.
Joe Baity cautions us that we are in the middle of a continual media warfare in which God's truth is challenged with Satan's lies, forcing us, as God's called-out ones, to develop spiritual discernment to penetrate the widespread fog of disinformation perpetrated by Satan's society. Satan has been able to artfully blend lies with half-truths to create a poisonous blend which appears deceptively harmless to us. The state-controlled media has given our civil leaders a pass, enabling them to lie about the state of our nation, completely removing any stigma connected to lying. Philosopher David Livingstone Smith believes our culture has hard-wired into us the propensity to lie as a kind of defense mechanism to protect our self-esteem. Our culture, he explains, possesses an insatiable thirst for stories of deception such as Shakespeare's King Lear and Othello. For most of society, Satan has effectively taken over the cultural narrative. Consequently, as God's called-out ones, we must steadfastly remain separate from the world, keeping a safe distance from the hypnotic satanic intrigue served out by the media, trusting only in the pure word of God.
John Ritenbaugh, reminding us that remaining or abiding in Christ's word separates us from everybody else, exhorts us to treasure and appreciate the truth we have. Ezekiel prophetically warns Israelites today of imminent cultural collapse because of godly leadership. America, sadly, has never been a Christian nation; the hearts of the people have never been converted to God's truth, as a casual observance of a daily tabloid would attest. The fledgling Radio Church of God in the 1950's had a positive package of beliefs we referred to as "the truth"; members referred to the church itself and our calling as "the truth" or "coming into the truth." Regretfully, we had a skewed concept of grace in those formative years and still do for the most part because of the Protestant 'cheap grace' concept denigrating any kind of good works as earning salvation. God's grace begins everybody's history; there is nothing we have that did not come from Him, including our spiritual gifts, enabling us to carry out His divine purpose in us. Grace is an Old Testament concept just as much as a New Testament one (ordained before the foundation of the world), with the apostle Paul greatly augmenting the concept by splicing the Greek word charis (gifts) to the Old Testament Hebrew word chesed (connoting kindness, steadfast love, mercy, and devotion), greatly amplifying the meaning of the secular Hebrew and Greek words for grace. The precision of the Greek language gave the term grace a wider spectrum, as is indicated in the wide panorama of gifts indicated in James 1:16-18. The entire physical creation, including the elements, minerals, plants and animals are God's gift to man, and, as such, are part of His grace. Further, even the patterns of the sciences and the arts serve as a demonstration that God is the Giver of all gifts.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reviewing Charles Hughes Smith's findings that the entire status quo is a fraud, reiterates that the financial system, the political system, national defense, the healthcare system, higher education, mainstream corporate media, and culture are all hopelessly corrupt. Science fiction writer, Theodore Sturgeon, claims that 90% of everything is pure garbage, prompting economist Gary North to proclaim that we have a responsibility to salvage the 10% that has not yet deteriorated. The vast majority of the current $20 trillion-dollar national debt stems from fraud. Because histories are usually written from the viewpoint of the victors (that is, the cultural survivors), we can never be sure about the extent of fraud and prevarication in historical narratives from previous civilizations. Nothing has changed over time, as is reflected in the contents of the missing 28 pages of the 911 Commission report, suggesting nefarious Saudi involvement in the World Trade Center attack. In this cesspool of prevarication, we have received a life preserver from Jesus Christ, receiving sanctification in His Truth, protecting us from curses. Accepting and living in God's truth has the inexorable effect of separating us from the world. As we continue to feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, we worship God in spirit and truth, a worship which centers around a spiritual relationship with God rather than a physical place. God is not tethered to any geographical place as was believed by the woman at the well and Naaman the military leader; God is omnipresent and omniscient. Eternal life is to know the Father and the Son. God wants a living relationship, like He enjoyed with Abraham, who was the friend of God. We should continually live and think on the same wavelength as God does, maintaining a close relationship with Him as we continue in the sanctification process. The book of John throughout characterizes Jesus as Truth, our standard and model of true living, the vine to which we must cling, faithfu
John Ritenbaugh, suggesting that much of Protestantism shares more of an approach to Deism (that is, God establishes His laws and then abandons His creation to their machinations) than to Theism (that is, God maintains watchful control on His Creation), takes issue with the Dispensationalist views of John Darby and Cyrus Scofield, both of whom believed that God, like an absent-minded inventor, continually changed His approach, in the process dumbing down the process for salvation. In reality, God has had the same plan from the beginning, creating godly seed in His image, having His inner character. From the beginning, God has set certain individuals apart, putting them through an intensive sanctifying process, purifying, cleaning, and perfecting their character until they reflect His image like a mirror. From the line of Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God has called individuals who demonstrated blamelessness in their dealings, providing them grace, giving them tools to perform tasks He ordained for them, continually proving their faithfulness. Sanctification requires that we clean up our act, from our physical lives to our spiritual lives, having clean and wholesome thoughts as we wear clean garments. As we, the descendants of Seth, Noah, and Abraham, progress in the sanctifying (sanitizing and cleaning) process, we can expect antagonism and enmity from the seed of Satan, that is, the descendants of Cain, those who, under Satan, move and shake to this present evil generation), those who hate and reject God's Law and His covenants.
Richard Ritenbaugh, citing Charles Hughes Smith's pronouncement that the entire status quo is a fraud, emphasizes that the entire western society seems to be invested in corruption and fraud, even as society as a whole is plunging off a precipitous cliff. Gary Sturgeon insists that 90% of everything is garbage, with only 10% possibly salvageable, but Satan has a grip on the entire cosmos and has the capability of damaging everything unless God miraculously intervenes. God's called out ones have been given the priceless gift of God's Word of sincerity and truth which has the power to sanctify (set apart and make holy). We must guard it as a life preserver, never letting it out of our sight. God the Father and Jesus Christ intended to leave us in the middle of all this fraud, providing a protective hedge against the worst Satan can do, sanctifying us with His truth in order that we rise above the deceit and fraud, learning to exercise godly discernment. In this worldly environment, we appear strange, odd, and even alien to society. In the Festival of Unleavened Bread, we recognize that God had to do something extraordinary ("flexing His muscles") to free our ancestors and us from the ruler of this world, redeeming us to be His people. God literally had to pull us out of our worldly prison, a way of life leading to certain death. As a symbol, unleavened bread emphasizes that the ancient Israelites had to leave in haste, totally unprepared for the trek ahead of them, and that they were totally dependent upon God for everything. God fed them manna (something unworldly and a type of the Bread of Life) to them for 40 years to test them, whether they would walk in His Torah. Abundant life comes to those who live by every word of God, ingesting it continuously. Unleavened Bread symbolizes Christ's body, His Words of sincerity and truth, and most importantly His Spirit, our portal to an eternal relationship with God, transforming us into what God is.
John Ritenbaugh, cuing in on the words of the covenant which the Lord made with Israel, recorded in Deuteronomy 29, maintains that this covenant still applies to the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) even though the vast majority of modern Israel have rejected this covenant and, consequently, can no longer claim to be God's "chosen people." We dare not go down the same path as our fellow Americans or our fellow descendants of Jacob have followed, remembering the absolute uniqueness of the Church (or Israel of God.) If we follow the dictates of our heart, as has physical Israel, we will not acquire peace, but will instead share in their curses. As long as we mirror God's characteristics, we are the Israel of God. We have been called to qualify to provide leadership under Jesus Christ, leadership which will be tested throughout a lifetime of testing and trial. We learn from our original parents that as soon as we sin, a stark change occurs throughout our nervous system, subjecting us to shame and fear. As part of God's judgment on Satan, a marvelous piece of workmanship who manifested himself in a heretofore beautiful creature, enmity was created between Adam and Eve's offspring and the serpent, a living organism forced to crawl on its belly rather than ambulate on its feet. Universal repulsiveness instantly replaced admiration. Sin turns all beauty into ugliness. Likewise, the creatures of nature expressed wariness of human beings, the same kind of wariness we should have for the fallen archangel, the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this world. As Adam's offspring, we are forced to contend with a demonic presence in our worldview throughout our entire lives. Thankfully, the prophecy that Adam and Eve's offspring (Jesus Christ) will crush the head of the serpent advances the distinct likelihood that God intends to annihilate defective spirit beings permanently, including Satan and his entire demonic entourage, a prospect which fills them with terror and rage as the end of this age approaches.
Ronny Graham, asking how we respond to being holy, suggests that he formerly relegated that aspiration to widows, deacons, and people other than himself, but now he has reflected on the importance of separating oneself from the unclean and profane things of the world. Becoming holy is an arduous process spanning an entire lifetime, which includes embracing God's holy days, His tithes, and His spiritual gifts. Becoming holy takes continuous practice; one act of love or kindness does not constitute a composition of holiness. We are to invest our talents for the good of the entire body of Christ. The house of Israel (as well as the greater church of God) is scattered because collectively we have profaned God's holy name by our careless conduct. We are obligated to repent and be holy in all our conduct.
Mark Schindler, recaptures the drama of the Continental Congress, occurring after the Revolutionary War, a time of runaway inflation, when colonies treated each other more as enemy countries rather than united commonwealths, when George Washington expressed despair that everything the colonies had fought for seemed to have been in vain. The despair and gloom suddenly dissipated when Benjamin Franklin urged his colleagues to actively seek dependence on Divine Providence. Following this affirmation of following Divine Providence, 28 Principles of Liberties based upon the acknowledgement of Divine Providence were drafted, making the new American experiment in governing the envy of the Western world, bringing peace and tranquility to the United States. We as God's called-out ones have the responsibility to become positive examples to the rest of the world by growing in holiness, separating ourselves from impurity, becoming a holy people. Holiness moves beyond the scope of godliness (a reverential attitude), demanding that one applies energy to living as God lives, seeking a meaningful relationship with God and conforming to His expectations. Living as God commands us to live will bring the wrath of the world on us, but what the whole world is groaning and yearning for we have the privilege of practicing right now. We must be guarding the trust of holiness God has given us, realizing that judgment is on the Israel of God right now. Treating our responsibility lightly or with contempt risks committing the unpardonable sin. Abraham Lincoln said America will never fall to an outside enemy, but will perish from within as we suffer moral rot. The same is true for God's called-out ones; the only one who can violate the trust demanded by our Covenant with God is we ourselves. We have the sobering responsibility of guarding the trust of holiness God has placed in us.
Joe Baity, continuing his exposition on “Letting Go” suggests that the carnal man’s mission statement appears in Genesis 11:4—let us make a name for ourselves, let us build ourselves a tower, defining our own destiny , imposing our will on everyone, including our own Creator. Mankind is solemnly warned in Romans 1:28-32, that if it refuses to acknowledge God, the automatic penalty is the curse of a reprobate mind, degenerating into base, disgusting perversion, and a yawning void. There are NO carnal solutions which can fill this void, re-instating meaning to life. Social media, entertainment, self-help books cannot fulfill mankind’s longing for the meaning of life; only God’s Holy Spirit can do that. The more we compromise with the world, the more frustrated and anxiety laden we will become. As we follow God’s way, the more we will stick out like a sore thumb, but the more we will be appropriating the peace of God through His Holy Spirit, providing a beacon of light to our poor hapless neighbors who have not yet received God’s Holy Spirit. If we look at our unconverted neighbors and see a reflection of ourselves, we are not much of a witness. God expects us to radiate His character, demonstrating a positive escape from the horrible bondage of sin and carnality. Filling the void is not found in carnal solutions, but in the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.
David C. Grabbe: One of the greatest blessings we have been given as Christians is our calling by God. When God calls us, He performs a miracle in our minds that results in our becoming more aware of spiritual truth, of our sinfulness, and of God and His claim on our lives. ...
John Ritenbaugh, finding a commonality in three scriptures describing our calling and sanctification, answers the questions: "Who are we?" and "How do we fit?" God has demonstrated that He loves us in a different way than He does our neighbor (perhaps a neighbor having better traits than we do) calling us because He loves us—the very beginning of the sanctification process. Our responsibility is to respond to His love as a couple responds to one another at the beginning of a budding romance, conforming to desires and expectations. As we respond to God's calling, we find a hostile reaction from the world. As the moral darkness envelops the Israelitish peoples, the relationship between the church and fellow Israelites has grown more fractious and hostile and will continue to become more so in the future as physical Israel turns its back on God. As our forebears experienced a grueling walk through the desert for 40 years, our spiritual journey will take a lifetime, enabling us to get farther and farther from the world's influences, submitting to God, and growing in the stature of Christ. We are not in a physical desert, but we are battling the elements of a mental wasteland, resisting horrendous pressures from the world's dominant religion (intolerant secular humanism) to cease, desist, and conform, in much the same manner as the Israelites of Christ's time were bullied and intimidated by the Sadducees and Pharisees and just as the ancient Israelites were by the Egyptian religion. True religion must be motivated internally from within the heart; true sanctification is internal. If we really considered or believed in our hearts that our calling was truly a treasure, we would take extraordinary steps to prevent any loss of this treasure. When we realize that God has set the individual members of the body as He pleased, and when we finally understand our place in His plan, we become willing to do what God wants us to do in order to help us function more efficiently. Our sanctification will ne
Christianity is not for the faint of heart. As we have seen, Jesus urges us to "count the cost" of discipleship to see if we have what it takes, and many of the patriarchs had to choose between God and family ...
John Ritenbaugh, cuing in on Psalm 73:1-9, describing the despair of someone seeing the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer, affirms that it is a delusion that people in the world are leading comfortable lives. Christian living, while not comfortable, has a restorative faith in God. If our focus is on comfort, we cannot glorify God. Ecclesiastes, written for the spiritual well-being of God's children, teaches that the world is living in vanity and uselessness, producing nothing of quality. To this end, God has put a protective hedge about us in order to separate us from what is happening in the world. God knows where He is leading our life; we only vaguely know, unaware of the ultimate purpose of the trials we go through, not as punishment, but in shaping and molding us to be transformed in the image of Jesus Christ. The difficulties we experience after our calling have an educative purpose, leading us to a closer relationship with God, giving us a quality life. A test should be considered a positive learning experience, preparing us for more growth and for more solid, stable, sound-mindedness based in good judgment, controlling and disciplining our thinking though God's Holy Spirit. Since God arranges the trials for us, we should take comfort in His presence. We must, however, assiduously avoid the extreme of straining for perfection or obsessing on righteousness, presumptuously 'improving' on God's plan, blinding us to our own sinfulness and carnality. Self-righteousness leads to a life of desperation. Even righteousness done through obedience to God is still tainted with sin. The righteousness of Christ is given to us when we exercise faith in Him, realizing we are still sinners.
Mike Ford explores the possible physical and spiritual significance of the prohibition to mix wool and linen which appears in Deuteronomy 22:11 and Leviticus 19:19. One explanation seems to come from the consumer protection corner, asserting that mixing fibers produces an inferior garment. Some commentaries refer to the respective offerings of Cain and Abel, suggesting that linen may represent worldliness or unrighteousness (even though the book of Revelation tells us the saints will be clothed in linen), while wool symbolizes righteousness. Some Protestant commentaries jump to the conclusion that linen refers to works while wool refers to grace, indicating that they should never be joined. Some commentaries suggest that linen signifies Egypt (even though the Aaronic priests were commanded to wear linen undergarments) and that Israelites were forbidden to mix with Egypt. Realizing that since neither one jot nor tittle will pass from the Law until heaven and earth pass away, we are obligated to look for the commonsense spiritual applications. Since this law appears with other prohibitions of mixing seed, mixing livestock, and keeping things separate, we conclude that God wants us to remain separate from the world, not being unequally yoked with any aspect of this world.
Joseph Baity, reflecting on Marcellus,' oft-quoted pronouncement from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "something rotten in the state of Denmark," suggests that this aphorism has served as a shorthand for political corruption and intrigue in our culture. In scanning the Internet, one finds impelling substantiation for this poignant observation in the bizarre headlines which surface on a daily basis, indicating that the family of man is becoming highly dysfunctional, reflecting an abnormal behavior contrary to what is intended, threatening social stability. Functional refers to fulfilling the role for what was intended or performing as designed. Functional families deal with conflict, avoiding abuse or neglect. When God created the earth, everything was called good—functioning according to how it was designed. The Mechanical Translation of the Torah translates the word good as functional. All of us were designed by our Creator to function in a specific way. We were designed to obey God's commandments; to disobey is to be dysfunctional, leading to chaos, disorder, and misery. Dysfunction comes from denying the truth regarding the chaos and disorder we experience. The Laodicean era could be considered a time of dysfunction. Spiritual creation did not end at the conclusion of physical creation, but only commenced. Satan tries to make us dysfunctional by focusing on the lures of the world, enticing us to be productive in our pursuit of them. When we try to blend the world with God's Truth, we actually water down the truth. Watered down truth is not truth. Knowing the truth is not equivalent to walking in the truth. Spiritually, to function is to use and process the truth. To function or not to function; that is the question.
Ryan McClure, reminiscing about an airline flight into the Los Angeles basin late at night, viewing millions of sparkling and flickering lights of the city below, asks what God must see as He looks down viewing our lives as we function as spiritual lights in this darkening world. Do we let our lights shine through our lives by godly conduct, or are we trying to blend in with the world, compromising so as not to stand apart? What we do and what we do not do separates us from the world; when we embrace the ways of the world, we become adulterers and our lights go out. When we compromise just a little, our lights dangerously flicker. Every time we act according to God's ways, our light burns a little brighter. As we approach the end of this age, our light (that is, our example and conduct) should intensely burn.
To be a prophet of God is no easy task, and it is one that tends to be mentally and emotionally burdensome to the prophet. As Charles Whitaker explains, God desires His people to have an emotional yet entirely rational response—to sigh and cry—to the lawlessness and idolatry increasing around them in the world.
The fifth commandment stands at the head of the second tablet of the Decalogue, the section defining our relationships with other people. John Ritenbaugh examines why this commandment is so necessary for our families, for our societies, and even ultimately for our and our children's relationships with God Himself.
Most Christians realize that I Corinthians 13:13 lists faith, hope, and love as the three great Christian virtues, and love, as "the greatest of these," seems to get all the attention. However, through the life of Abraham, John Ritenbaugh illustrates how foundational faith—belief and trust in God—is to love and salvation itself.
Far more than on any other hero of faith in Hebrews 11, the apostle Paul concentrates on Abraham as the father of the faithful, the Bible's premier example of a human being's walk with God. John Ritenbaugh illustrates how Abraham's faithfulness to God sets a clear pattern for us to follow.
Pentecost is known for its stupendous signs, particularly the display of power in Acts 2. David Grabbe shows that Pentecost teaches us of another, more personal witness: our own display of Christ's way of life in us.
Charles Whitaker expresses alarm about liberal education's drive to destroy the faith once delivered by introducing a mode of questioning they sometimes refer to as 'critical thinking,' an obsessive drive to bring every value and assumption held by society and parents under question. The ultimate effects of this practice has led to: (1) a disengagement from the past, (2) a state of lethargy, and (3) an abandonment of the traditions that have bound us together as a culture- leading to isolation and fragmentation of society. We need to guard against forces that would systematically undermine the faith once delivered to the saints, and learn not to denigrate the 'old stories' passed down from our forebears.
Charles Whitaker, focusing upon the proclamations of two Gentile kings (Cyrus and Artaxerxes) in the book of Ezra, examines the impact they had on the remnant of Israel- as well as the lessons we may derive from their lack luster behavior. Those who returned to Jerusalem did not completely fulfill their commission, failing to completely rebuild the walls and failing to totally rebuild the temple. These people lacked resolve and stamina. Sadly the re-establishment of the God's law, educational system, and civil system- (a theocracy governed by God's laws) was embarked upon with less than optimal results because they refused to expunge the Babylonian system from their culture and separate themselves from the pagan customs around them- assimilating (through intermarriage) the religious culture around them, including the Sabbath defying business practices, and sports events. The wall serves a symbol of the separation of God's people from pagan culture ' a partition between sin and righteousness ' a special sanctification. Unfortunately the lack-luster effort aborted this sanctification process. We dare not emulate their foolishness.
John Ritenbaugh admonishes that amidst the erosion of doctrine in truth from the Gentile culture of moral relativism, we must, after the manner of Jeremiah and Nehemiah, build a wall, be a wall, and summon the courage to stand in the gap. We must stay focused in our thinking, girding up the loins of our minds, submitting to the will of God, realizing that in these perilous times we will be hated by the many. Conforming to God will set us apart, sanctify us, separating us from the world, making us a virtual wall. Our determination will determine the strength or the durability of this wall. Building a wall requires standing, holding firm, showing alertness and a readiness for action- even if it requires self-denial and unpleasant dirty work, ultimately aspiring to know God, living as He lives, cleansing ourselves from filth and becoming holy.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the imagery in Revelation 12:16 of the torrent or flood spewed out from Satan's mouth, depicts the torrent of misinformation and lies, causing anxiety and confusion. Like the scattering of the church, the greater nation of Israel will be compromised with Satan's torrent of misinformation. In the wake of this misinformation barrage and the corruption of doctrine, we in the diaspora or scattering, after the manner of Ezra and Nehemiah, must commence rebuilding the collapsed walls of doctrine and truth, providing protection for God's church. God and His ministering angels provide a wall of protection for us, but we must assist in the building of our wall of holiness by yielding to and obeying God. Like Jeremiah, we must become a part of that wall.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Most of us are by nature conformists. ...
John Ritenbaugh warns that we must not become contaminated or spiritually defiled by absorbing the ways and customs of this world. The Sabbath is not a mere ceremonial observance, but identifies God's people as different, and consequently a perpetual irritant to the world. We cannot cozy up to the world's customs, becoming spiritually defiled. We have to constantly battle human nature which metaphorically acts as a magnet attracting defilement. God's purpose can only be worked out if there is a great deal of separation between us and the world (II Corinthians 6:4-17).
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that Old Testament activities picture New Testament realities, far from done away, but raised or elevated to their spiritual intent. As a parallel to the Aaronic priesthood, the church has been chosen as a royal and holy priesthood (in training) offering up spiritual sacrifices and proclaiming praises of God (I Peter 2:5,9). Paul insists that our sacrifices (reasonable service) should extend to everything we do in life (Romans 12:2), including prayer, study, meditation, as well as sharing goods and experiences (Hebrews 13:15-16).
John Ritenbaugh cautions that we may have had a somewhat incomplete understanding of the symbolism of eating unleavened bread, exaggerating the importance of our part in the sanctification process. Egypt is not so much a symbol of sin as it is of the world or the location of our bondage. Leavening represents those elements of the world we are to leave behind- symbolic of every weight which encumbers our spiritual progress. Symbolically we eat unleavened bread because of what God has done- not what we have done. Eating unleavened bread symbolizes following God, displacing sin by doing acts of righteousness. God's total involvement in the whole sanctification process makes it impossible for any flesh to glory in His presence.
The Sermon on the Mount is as vitally important to us today as it was when Christ preached it. It contains within it the very way we are to conduct our lives as God's representatives on this earth. How well are we following what Christ taught?
John Ritenbaugh insists that we must be aware of our awesome status as a unique, called-out, chosen, royal priesthood—teachers of a way of life and builders of bridges between people and God. Because God owns us, we differ from the rest of the people of this earth. We need to seriously think of what we are now (His chosen people) and also what we have been (children of Satan). As former bond-slaves of satanic human nature, we effortlessly have given ourselves over to excesses and unrestraint. The Old Testament examples were given to show us what God had to do (the tremendous cost in life) to pave the way for our calling, sanctification, and ultimate glorification. Reflecting on the awesome cost of our calling, we must resolve not to go back into the slavery of sin.
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 reiterates that a recurring pattern God uses is to set apart one group of people to become a blessing to the rest of the world by keeping His covenant, providing a good example. Ancient Israel was asked to purge the land of Gentile customs and practices. In the New Testament, the church (the Israel of God) was asked to come out of the world, having as little contact as possible with its political, educational, and social institutions (with its unseen spiritual influences). Like Nehemiah, our worldview has to stem from a fear of God. Adopting the world's standards automatically makes one an enemy of God. Our enemy is not the people of the world, but the subtle satanic spiritual influences that determine their attitudes and values. Our intimate fellowship should not be with the world, but be concentrated upon God and those who have made the Covenant with God, loving them as we would ourselves.
John Ritenbaugh shows that God has set a pattern of separating people from the world, making a covenant with them, and enabling them to be a blessing to others as an example of faithfulness and obedience to the covenant. Because of Israel's unfaithfulness and disobedience, God scattered them among the nations, causing them to forget who they were, and they blended in with the world. Like Nehemiah, our worldview must be shaped by a fear of God, a love and concern for His people, and a hatred for the world's practices that destroy our intimate relationship with God. As God's called-out church (Abraham's spiritual offspring, the Israel of God), we have the sobering responsibility of staying loyal to the New Covenant, keeping the spiritual Temple free from the world's defilement — or lose our spiritual identity as ancient Israel lost its physical identity.
John Ritenbaugh describes the process through which God perfects His image in us, linking three sub-themes: 1) God's disciplining, 2) our listening, and 3) God's watchful care. Obedience to God's Word strengthens us, enabling us to receive our spiritual heritage. Remembering the lamentable condition of our slavery to sin and God's deliverance and involvement in our lives helps us to exercise obedience, keeping us growing toward perfection. Paradoxically, humble dependency upon God strengthens us, while prideful self-sufficiency weakens us. No matter what situation, God carefully watches over us like an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11), ready to come to our aid and supply us with what we need.
God has invited us into a love relationship--one in which He has already shown Himself to be absolutely faithful. If we truly love Him, severing our affections with this world, we will meet the demands of becoming holy. God's Holy Spirit enables us to have this love (Romans 5:5), but we must actively use it or lose it. We must seek God as ardently as we would a physical love relationship, spending quality time with Him. If we make no effort to pursue this relationship, it cools. Similarly, unfaithfulness (idolatry) will destroy it. Obedience (expressing our love toward God and proving that we trust Him) will strengthen this relationship, giving us a higher quality, more abundant life and increased blessings.
The Amish and Mennonite peoples have built a way of life around coming out of this world. Although we commend their zeal, the proper emphasis consists of avoiding the religious, psychological and philosophical systems of this world. God promises to destroy them when Christ returns.
In this sermon on the meaning of Unleavened Bread, John Ritenbaugh warns that emphasizing our initiative at putting out sin is wrong. Unleavened bread serves as a memorial of God's initiative of delivering us from the bondage of sin. Like our forebears, we have to realize that our part of the salvation process is to follow God's lead, cooperating with His will. When we metaphorically leave Egypt (a type of the world), we leave the location of our sin, leaving behind anything that will hinder us from reaching the Promised Land. Eating unleavened bread symbolizes following God's lead, doing righteousness, and imitating the righteousness of God.
John Ritenbaugh, using Lot's wife as a sobering example warns us that God does not want us to maintain close associations with the world because it almost inevitably leads to compromise with godly standards, jeopardizing the consistency of the Christian witness to God. Much of ancient Israel's (as well as modern day Israel's) problem stemmed from a false sense of security (pride) apathy (from an abundance of food) and a luxurious life of ease (from spending time in self indulgence). Not many of us will be able to stand before the spiritual onslaughts of the world having the pride-filled, overfed, and unconcerned attitude (Psalm 30:6-7) - an attitude causing Lot's wife to love the world and Lot to linger and procrastinate.
John Ritenbaugh ponders the qualifier "righteous" when applied to Lot. Unlike Abraham who separated himself from sinful society, Lot seemed to involve himself in the affairs of the perverted city, arrogating to himself the role of a judge, attempting to change the behavior of the people- but nevertheless, attempting to co-exist with sin. Evidently Lot's close proximity to the evil behavior, while not corrupting him personally, gave him a somewhat confused divided attention, compromising the safety and morality of his family, leading him to prostitute his principles to gain favor of the world. When communicating with God, Lot, unlike Abraham, equivocated with God's instructions, looking for conditions and escape clauses, showing him to be a very self-centered, worldly wise, carnal Christian, attached to or compromised by the values of the corrupt world.
Abraham's example has taught us that in our attempt at living by faith, we do not have a smooth transition from begettal to maturity, but the annoying or pesky problems we deal with are gradually removed (gradually disconnected) or conquered by faith and our relationship with God. God removes us from our problems in an unraveling process, sometimes taking us backwards through the consequences of the bad habits we have accumulated, educating us to examine and analyze the process that produced the sin in the first place. Character cannot be created by fiat, but must be created in a climate of free moral agency, learning the consequences of our mistakes (as had Abraham, Sarah, and Lot) as well as the consequences of our right behavior. From Lot's example, we learn not to blend or syncretize God's ways with the world's ways.
In this study, John Ritenbaugh teaches us that Abraham's iron clad faith was developed incrementally as a result of calculating or "adding it all up," matching the promises of God (perceiving His overall intent) with the current situation, realizing from his ongoing relationship with God, that it was impossible for Him to lie. We learn from Abraham's experience to trust God even when we have incomplete data. We learn from Abraham's experience, that when we attempt to take the expedient way out (embracing a carnal or worldly solution), we will run into grave difficulties- forcing us back to the fundamentals of faith. As descendents of Abraham, we must learn to trust God, forming an on-going relationship with Him, realizing that God's ways and the world's ways do not mix.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that Abraham is the only biblical character singled out as a type of God the Father. He is also the only one to receive the approbation "friend of God." As a result, we, as Abraham's offspring or seed, receive incredible material and spiritual blessings, including the Holy Scriptures, the chief means through which we learn "the deep things of God." Because of this, we have to make God central in our lives, submitting to His law, reproducing the obedient spirit of faith the father of the faithful and the friend of God demonstrated. Like him, after our calling we are obligated to cross the river separating ourselves from the world, leaving the old man or carnal self behind. Our new life is one of continual, often unsettling and unstable movement on a pilgrimage toward God's Kingdom (Hebrews 11:8-10).
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 did not have a blind naïve faith, but one built incrementally by careful examination of the evidence- adding things up or calculating- from cumulative life experiences. From this acquired faith, these otherwise ordinary people received the inspiration to go against seemingly impossible odds, accomplishing super human goals and objectives. This roll call of the faithful serves as a cheering section for the rest of us who are still enduring our trials, still enduring God's chastening, prone to discouragement and occasionally feeling like giving up. Like the heroes of faith- and most notably our Elder Brother Jesus, we need to look beyond the present, looking at the long term effects of the trials and tests we go though, seeing their value in providing something in us that we would otherwise lack (the peaceable fruit of righteousness) to successfully make it into God's Kingdom. God lovingly chastens and disciplines those He loves.
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