sermon: Who Are We and Where Do We Fit? (Part One)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 04-Apr-15; 80 minutes
We will begin this sermon in the book of Deuteronomy. I am going to link three sections of scriptures together. There is a common factor in each one.
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. Therefore you shall keep the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.”
I Corinthians 1:26-31 For you see your calling brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
I Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
A number of factors have worked on my mind in the recent past as I was preparing this sermon, to refresh and re-emphasize a truth that is important to our spiritual well being. The term or subject that fits the line of thinking is Israel's and the church’s sanctification. It is interesting as this week was coming toward a close, I just happened to get an email that was addressed to me, I noticed too that one year ago almost to the day, Richard gave a sermon on sanctification. I was already well underway with the preparation of this sermon and I wondered what did he speak on? He spoke on sanctification but it was not quite the same as I was thinking of doing here.
The subject is going to be Israel's and the church’s sanctification. Both are considered in this. The church’s will be much more dominant in the theme but nonetheless Israel was sanctified as well. Both of these events share some similarities in that in one sense they had the same result, but on the other hand the purpose of God in sanctifying the church has a far, far more serious purpose to it.
Sanctification is basically indicating a setting apart, separating certain ones from others of essentially the same kind, thus making the one separate, distinctive, distinguishing from others by some peculiarities. The term ‘peculiar’ as used commonly tends to imply a sense of odd, or strange, or even freakish. That is simply the way we tend to use it. However, it does not have to be understood in that manner. It also simply means unique, untypical, or out of the ordinary. Separateness can include beauty and skill, as well as a distinguishing mark on a person.
The conclusion to thinking on the church’s sanctification has led me once again, along with the world as a major part of the picture, that I have in my mind to ask you to try to answer these questions. Who are we? The church, where do we fit? You can see certain activities, attitudes, and so forth that are going on in the world, and you can already begin to imagine how the church is already different from the world in many of the ways that we look on things, think about things, and act upon things.
We are becoming very distinctive and at the same time peculiar to those in the world, but we are still in it, so where do we fit in all that is going on? There is a factor in our sanctification that is made clear in Deuteronomy 7. Our sanctification, our being set apart, is the first act, or first step, or first stage of God's ever-expanding grace given wholly, completely, and totally because He loves us.
I want you to notice an important truth that appears in Deuteronomy 29. This is an easy scripture to remember, and it says something significant to us.
Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
God desires, He makes very clear, that we accept as a fact of our life and no longer look any further for a distinct answer as to why did He call me? Why did He sanctify you? That is a secret. Yet it is in a way rather unsettling, because in our humility we can come to conclusions about ourselves, comparing ourselves with a neighbor and say, “why didn’t He call that person?” Look how smart they are, look how much they have accomplished, look how good looking they are, admirable people with wonderful character and all of the good things that you want us to become, and yet You called me. “Why?”
We may get an answer later on, but He has His own reasons and we have to leave things like this to Him. There is wisdom in what He did in calling you and not your next door neighbor that seems to have all of this ability.
Look around. You will not see many wise or mighty that are called, and we certainly are not one of them. Maybe that is the reason we were called, we really need help. I want to get to something far more important here.
He does give us an answer in Deuteronomy 7. He says, I love you, is there anything better? Not on your life! He loves you in a different way than He loves your neighbor. That is something that we have to accept as a fact of life, not to brag about it, but to have the knowledge that the Great God of heaven who called you and me, loves us in a way that He does not love other people.
There is a closeness that He feels toward us and He included you in His first stage of His great spiritual plan, and He has not done that for others. That is something to use to your spiritual well being—He has singled us out because He said Himself, “I love you” That is something to build upon. Why does that have to be searched out any further? What greater reason can possibly be given? He set us apart from the crowd because He loves us. That is the beginning of sanctification.
What is our responsibility? Deuteronomy 7 gives the answer. Our responsibility is to respond to His love. That is broad, it is not specific. He gives us some things in that He says, I want you to keep My laws, keep My statutes, that is about the limit to the direction regarding our responsibility. We are to use our faith to conform to His desires more specifically given in other places in His Word. Is that not what two human beings, one male/one female who love each other also do? They require one another to respond to them, to also love them and to be kind, good to them. If something like that does not occur within the dating period, you will not have a very good marriage because you are not responding to one another.
God begins our relationship by telling us He loves us. That ought to be enough for us to work on the sanctification aspects all by itself. The Days of Unleavened Bread deals with what we are to do as a result of the grace that He has already given to us, but do not expect that we will ever find where we fit anywhere into the flow of what is going on in the world, because the separation has already begun, as the days go by the separation becomes more apparent.
Exodus 12:40-42 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night of solemn observance to the Lord for bringing them out of the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord, a solemn observance for all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
We will consider a clear example of sanctification that fits right into the true understanding of the Days of Unleavened Bread. Israel's location in Egypt began with Joseph being sold into slavery there. Joseph, by means of a peculiar event that appeared evil on the surface, was sanctified to God's purpose, he was set apart from the rest of the family. It was not until his father Jacob, and his family, joined Joseph in Egypt that these two culturally different families, that is the Egyptians and the Israelites, became seriously mixed.
Egypt's national leadership took steps right from the start to keep the Israelites and the Egyptians separate within the nation, something that this nation should have done with the Mexicans that are flowing across the border. We have actually promoted their being integrated with the Israelitish people.
The Egyptians did this by restricting the Israelites living area to Goshen. They could work other places but their living area was going to be restricted. They were separated away from the rest of the world at that time, however because the Israelites birth rate was so high and their growing population numbers became threatening, the Egyptians forcibly made the Israelites slaves.
When it came time in God's purpose to separate the two different peoples much more permanently, God sent Moses to begin a serious process of separation through his preaching. However, the Egyptians refused to cooperate. If you have not thought of it yet, I am going to tell you. We are seeing a reaction here between the world and those people that God is separating. He is still in the process of doing it, in my storyline here, but they are getting on one another's nerves, very badly. So the Egyptians refused to co-operate, because the Israelite slaves were too valuable to their economy.
God then greatly aided, producing the separation by plaguing the Egyptians severely enough that the Egyptians came to desire that the Israelites leave. Thus in this true recording that which is given in the Bible of human history, we see God exercising His sovereignty. Thus the fifteenth day of Nisan began. Israel, in darkness, began separating themselves from Egypt.
The word darkness is used. If it happened once it will probably happen again. Darkness will play a major role in the separation of people, even as it played a major role in Jesus’ death. The darkness was very prominent and there is, I am sure, moral and spiritual darkness that is enveloping the Israelitish people. Darkness was already in other parts of the world, but the Israelitish people had a bit of light because they carried elements of true Christianity within their culture.
That light is being put out, and as the Israelitish people and their cultures get darker and darker, you can be sure that relationships between the church and our own fellow Israelites are going to get just like they did in Egypt, more and more violent. In order to proceed with a physical separation, God is going to have to do something like He did with the Israelites, and make these people want to get rid of the ones that they feel are the irritants.
I know that you are somewhat aware of what is happening, but it is going to get more intense by what is happening. I am talking about where people who have some Christian values in their life are being plagued already by the courts in the United States of America, fined, imprisoned, or whatever, simply because they discriminate against customers they do not want to have.
It was an unwritten rule in this nation, until just the last couple of years, everybody understood, no business man had to take care of a customer that he did not want, he could simply refuse their business. Now they are taking away people’s wealth, people's employment, because you cannot discriminate against these people, but at the same time they are allowed to discriminate against you, without danger of any loss on their part.
Things are becoming just like they were in Egypt. Israel came out in darkness, seven days later they passed through the sea in a type of baptism, and they arose on the far bank of the sea completely, physically separate and distinct people from the Egyptians. One thing this does do is that it gives us a clear picture of what the word sanctification literally means—they were now set entirely apart from the Egyptians.
Sanctification as a spiritual process does not end there, even as Israel's physical separation from Egypt did not end with Israel and Egypt merely on opposite sides of the sea. As a nation Egypt remained where they were but for another forty years Israel moved further and further away, physically.
The physical separation only completed the first stage of Israel's sanctification from Egypt. This was because, though separated, the Israelites and the Egyptians still had very much in common internally, that which was in their hearts. These commonalities were elements that determined the quality of their lives. God fully intended the forty-year trek in the wilderness to separate them internally too. He wanted to create new elements within the hearts of the Israelites that determined the quality of their way of life, and of course would glorify Him as a result of them submitting to His way.
I Thessalonians 4:1-7 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification [This is the direction He wants to move those He loves. He wants them to be separated away from those who are not His.]: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that none should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
The term sanctification appears three times in that context, verses 3, 4, and 7. All three of those verses contain the same Greek term that is sometimes translated in English as sanctification, or holiness. All three are translated from the Greek term hag-ee-as-mas. The apostles used that Greek term to help us to understand. In verse 7, hag-ee-as-mas is also used in this verse but it is translated holiness. In Greek it not only indicates a setting apart, but also at the same time suggests the purpose one is set apart to.
Cowboys used to separate, sanctify a calf for the slaughter, but in this case God sanctified—hag-ee-as-mas—us in order to become part of His group and to become more distinctive. Hag-ee-as-mas indicates both separation and also within the context, and indication of why one is set apart, and that term also indicates a divine connection. That connection indicates purity of conduct. That is why they use the word holiness.
You are not only set apart but right along with it the word suggests the reason why you are set apart, and that is for holiness. What that means in our relationship with God, who is absolute purity, holiness, indicates that is what separates us. Ultimately it is not just a matter of moving from one place to another that separates a person. What God is after is the character, the attitude, the reason why we are set apart. That is to be holy. That is far more important than the mere meaning of word.
So hag-ee-as-mas indicates both separation and also the reason why. Thus the one term hag-ee-s-mass, that is sanctification, suggests separation. Its purpose, which is holiness, as well as a godly connection because the one who called and separated us is the Father. This also tells us why hag-ee-as-mas in English appears either as sanctification, or holiness.
In order to understand properly what it is saying when either one of those words appear in a given sentence, it is best to find out what the whole context is about. You will get a great deal more out of it. Is He just talking about being separated, or is He talking about the reason for the separation, that is being Godlike?
It depends on the context, the subject of a context, which is being emphasized. This helps explain why those who are separated are called saints. It comes from the same root. It is the divine suggestion contained within the term.
God is connected to this word, and the purpose that He is working out and why He is working it out, are all contained with understanding the meaning of this word, hag-ee-as-mas. This teaches something very important to spirituality. Sanctification consists of more than just coming up out of the waters of baptism soaking wet, forgiven, and separated as one of God's children. The term suggests two things as to why we are set apart.
The first purpose is to cease to do evil, as we did while were living in spiritual Egypt. The second purpose is continuing learning to do well those attitudes and conducts which we must be prepared to do in the Kingdom of God. If we are not prepared to do them, we will not be there.
This really throws a great deal of importance upon the Days of Unleavened Bread. If you look at the analogies that God gives to us in His Word, especially in regard to the holy days, there is none that occupies anywhere near close to the amount of time of your life as the Days of Unleavened Bread. We are going to spend most of our lifetime in Christ, making efforts to get further and further apart from the world as God has willed.
This is the major reason why the journey through the wilderness took forty years. He wants to impress that on our minds, this is no walk in the park, it is not something that we are going to do in forty-five minutes some Sunday afternoon. This is going to take the major portion of a life, to get from one end of the journey to the other end. This is no little thing, and that is why the Days of Unleavened Bread are seven days long and it is encompassed by the beginning—God calling us because He loves us—and the end—because He has made us holy the way He is holy. And we are in His Kingdom at the end of the journey.
It is a beautiful, simple analogy that God gives to us, but it is jam-packed full of exciting pressure. The Israelites were under the gun that whole time. I do not think that God took it easy on them, because He was setting a pattern for us. You can read the beginning of Deuteronomy 8, coming right after chapter 7, which says there were times when there was no food nor water, but their clothes, shoes did not wear out. God was there but there were many times when they did not think God was there, but all the while God was working in their behalf. How well did Israel use their faith?
This is what we have to consider and why I said right at the beginning that our responsibility is to use our faith to submit to God, grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and understand fully that He started this whole thing because He loves us and will continue to be with us the whole way through, because He has a purpose that He is working out.
I can guarantee you that when we get to the end of it we are going to fully agree with Him that we did not deserve it. We only grew, we only overcome, because all the way from beginning to end He supplied our need.
Here is an important question for this sermon. Considering these specific realities that I just mentioned, where do we fit in what is going on? Would the Egyptians fit within the Israelitish people as they were going through the wilderness? During their period of sanctification, they did not fit there. There were a few strangers who were with them but they were few and far between. That is why the Egyptians were not there, and that is why God drowned them all in the sea, so that they would not be there.
We are dealing with a little bit different situation because we are not out in the wilderness in the same way the Israelites were, but in Matthew 15 Jesus had an experience with the Egyptians who were living alongside of the called of God.
Matthew 15:7-20 “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ ” Then He called the multitude and said to them, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone, they are blind leaders of the blind, and if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.” So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man, for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, these are the things which defile a man but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
We will review this a little bit more specifically. The first thing I want you to notice is that Jesus labeled the Pharisees hypocrites. They were an organized religious group that in his lifetime claimed one thing but did another. They claimed that they were the holy people and yet in reality they were the world. Did Jesus treat them as though they were a separate holy people to God? Not by using the term hypocrite.
What happened was that they set themselves apart as the examples to follow. They could not get past Jesus’ judgment of them—they did not fit the mold of what Jesus considered as sanctified and holy and it is Jesus’ judgment that matters. He is the one we have to impress, not the world—Him—because it is His judgment that matters, it is He who sets the standards under the Father for the Kingdom of God, and within the context they were distinctive from His judgment of holiness by means of what they carried in their hearts.
This is, in a way, the most important part of this sermon. It was what they had in their hearts that motivated them to have the attitudes and the conduct that they were exhibiting before the world in which they thought should be the example that everybody should follow because they were the holy people. Jesus disagreed very strongly with them.
We have in principle some of these same things going on in this world. These people call themselves humanist. They think that they are the ones who are the holy people in the culture, in the United States of America right now, and that they are the ones who should be followed and that their attitudes, and their actions should be the ones that are duplicated and in order to perform this or get it performed they are putting pressure on the real holy people to get them to conform to their standards.
This is what the Pharisees did. They put pressure on the public to get them to conform to their concepts of rightness and wrongness. Jesus saw right through them. They had the public pretty much buffaloed even as the humanists in the United States of America have the public buffaloed and afraid to step out of line with what is popular with the leadership in this nation. If this has not sunk into you yet, this is a loosely organized religion that we are facing here in this nation, the church of humanism. What they are doing is pretty much the same thing as the Pharisees.
I saw a pretty interesting comment in an email. The tactic that the humanists use, is that every liberal has a totalitarian struggling to get out of his heart, and become a totalitarian. This is what the Pharisees did, they just had a more religious appearance to it. But these humanists are trying to force their religion, which is anti-God, on the American public and they are doing it in England and France as well. In principle it is exactly the same thing.
The Pharisees, if they did not get their way, applied pressure through their ecclesiastical courts to get people to conform to their idea. If any of you have seen the movie on the book of John, that is really shown clearly, how the Pharisees ecclesiastical courts tried to get that man who was blind from birth, and Jesus healed him, gave him his sight, and they did everything in their possible power to get those people convicted, they accused them of lying, kicked them out of the synagogue, and so on.
We are just in the beginning stages of what is going on. Part of the reason that I am giving this sermon is so that we will know what we can anticipate in the future. It is going to be gradually intensifying the putting on of pressure to get us to conform to the way they are doing things.
Within the context here in Matthew 15, the Pharisees were distinctive from His judgment of holiness by means of what they carried about in their hearts.
Matthew 15:18 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.”
The Pharisees acted the way they did because of what was in their hearts. If you begin to turn this around in your own mind, we act the same way, we act according to what is in our heart. So our heart has to be sanctified because true sanctification begins on the inside.
Again we can go back to the Israelites in the wilderness. I said it earlier this way: the Israelites were physically sanctified from Egypt, but Egypt was right along there with the Israelites as they went through the wilderness because Egyptian concepts, ideas, thoughts about things were still in their hearts, even forty years of that, without conversion, without God's Holy Spirit, was not sufficient to remove it from their hearts.
For those of you whom God loves He has already sanctified you and He loves you and has empowered us with His help to get rid of what is in our hearts and replace it with His way.
Matthew 15:8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Matthew 15:13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.
Jesus is making a clear declaration of what separates one from another, spiritual separation. Those the Father planted, are those whom He has called, converted, and given His Spirit to. They are the Father’s family, His church, and the distinctiveness is most certainly not in the way we look. From this section that we are drawing on here in Matthew 15, that which distinguishes, what separates His family, His called ones from all others, is what those people He plants carry about in their hearts.
Spiritually, what sanctifies, what truly separates, lodges in the heart, this is very important to grasp. The heart carries in it the belief and understanding upon which those planted by God base the words that they speak, and their conduct, upon the way one lives externally is driven, motivated, internally. If it is not there, something is wrong in the conversion.
Recall Israel's example in the wilderness. Each person had to at least choose to follow the cloud and the pillar of fire, and then make the physical effort to literally do so. Using this simple example and adding another simple clear thought, I think it helpful toward clarifying. Since our voluntary, freely-given participation in this spiritual creating process is required, how can we be more effective in contributing more to the process that produces both creation of character and separation from the world at one and the same time?
Also, that process is nowhere near as easy as it might sound. Recall that though Israel was separated geographically from Egypt, Egypt was still inside of them, influencing them in their attitudes and conduct. In the wilderness analogy, the journey across is described as a time of difficult trials and privations that brought out high numbers of bad attitudes. Thus it is with us as well during our conversion and spiritual sanctification. Sanctification describes the actual process by which the mind and character of Jesus Christ becomes a reality in us.
As we proceed, I do not believe I will be giving anything new, but perhaps we will see connections that are necessary to the creative process. I believe that you will be made aware of some major responsibilities that we have in this process. Remember I am talking about movement toward being sanctified, and that Israel had to follow the cloud, they had to make a choice, they had to actually do something in order to proceed—a simple step-by-step process.
The first step that we must do is double barrel in terms of belief and understanding that we must carry in our heart. This is not something that is merely intellectual, it begins as intellectual but being in our heart is something that is acted upon and is becoming habitual.
We must believe that we have been called to is so valuable we absolutely do not want to lose even a drop of it. This is important! Our calling has to mean something to us, that it is an emotional thing as well as being just a piece of our intellect. If it really means something to us we will begin to make progress, or continue the progress.
I used the word treasure. It is a treasure so valuable that it will motivate us to sacrifice to meet the demands so that sanctification takes place. I do not know how many success stories I have read of people who achieved some measure of greatness in this world. I do not care whether that person was an athlete, artist, or just spent their time and efforts trying to make money, or whatever it is, but those people always have something that is so valuable, so important to them they will give everything in their life to achieving what it is that they carry in their mind.
Their vision is focused, I mean really focused. Possessing this requires deep, thoughtful meditation for it to be firmly in place.
The key term for the sermon here is treasure. In this parable, the treasure is something totally unexpected that is found by the man. That sounds like our calling. We do not know why God called us except that He loves us, out of all the billions of people on this earth He picked us up! Jesus said no one can come to Him except the Spirit of the Father draws that person, and this treasure came into our life unexpectedly, undeservedly. It just began to dawn on us that something was going on that was interesting to us.
We did not, in most cases, see anywhere near its value at first, but nonetheless, the more we learned the more intriguing it began to become, until we actually began to be motivated to do something about it to make it more to us than it was at the beginning.
You will find some examples of this in Jesus’ preaching. I will give you three examples where the people somehow got a picture and they did something about it immediately. The first one is in John 4, where the woman who met Jesus and she gave Him a drink of water. Her mind began to be opened up to her as to whom it was that this Man was. She did not get the whole picture there, but she went back to her village and she began telling everyone there about this Man that she met at the well, who told her everything about her life.
What I am getting at here is that her mind was affected, her heart was affected, she began doing something immediately to spread the good news to others that she could share it with. She was motivated by a vision of something that she did not have a complete picture of, but it was there, it was beginning to work and she was so excited she wanted to share it with others.
I mentioned this one earlier, about the man that He healed of his blindness. He was blind from birth (this is in John 9 and10). That man did not know who it was who healed him. Jesus had to tell him it was Him, and immediately he began telling people that he was blind, now he could see, and that Jesus healed him.
The apostle Paul. Here he was an enemy of Jesus Christ, he was struck down, he was so impressed by the little bit that was shown to him about the Kingdom of God—which in a sense was that he saw the Savior and he knew Jesus was real—and on that faith he began preaching immediately after he was baptized.
This is what I am getting at. If it is in our hearts, we will begin to do something about it, motivated by the little bit that we see. This does not mean that we will go out on a street corner and begin preaching about this thing. I do not mean that at all. God places people in the body as it pleases Him and not everybody is called to be a teacher, not everybody is a preacher, not everybody is an apostle. Every body has different parts to it, but God puts us in that and we begin immediately to fill that job that He has given to us. We begin to adapt, and as we begin to adapt, sanctification is taking place, and we are being moved from the body of this world into the body of Jesus Christ.
What we have to see is this. We are unlike other manufactured things, and we are being manufactured by God, but in this case the manufactured item, us, is contributing to the manufacture. That is required. That is a great deal different from what we normally would expect it to be but in this case we have to do it.
Treasure plays a big part in this. I think that you are aware that in the book of Matthew, the first thing we have at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, is He makes sure He mentions treasure, because it is a motivator. He wants people who are motivated to get out of Egypt.
The second stage of this double barrel thing is in the book of Matthew.
Matthew 13:45-46 “Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
The parable heads in a somewhat different direction, because it focuses on the efforts given in the pursuit of the pearl of terrific value. The lesson here focuses more on treasure discovered as one is searching. Its value, the treasure, is more or less revealed as one continues his walk.
There were an awful lot of Israelites who started out from the Red Sea toward the Promised Land and they never made it. They died along the way, they gave up, there was not enough energy to carry them all the way through. But then again there were others who kept trudging on and that is where the lesson lies.
This is what carries the sanctification process along. The idea of treasure gets us started, but the idea of treasure, the concept and importance of it, is something that we cannot just drop. It keeps on building as we go along, and if we are thinking properly and keeping in alignment with God properly, that intense desire for treasure will fuel our efforts to do more and more. We will keep on growing.
An example of this is the apostle Paul, in the book of Philippians.
Philippians 3:7-8 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.
He got started but the more he learned about Christ, the more he saw that the treasure that had been given to him had so much more value to it than it ever had at the beginning. Even as that motivated him in the beginning, now we find him growing.
Philippians 3:9-12 And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Was Paul co-operating with Christ? Did he think that the treasure of Jesus Christ had any end to it? No, he wanted more and more, so he devoted himself to that way of life and continued to grow and to overcome.
Turn to Matthew 6. I want to remind you that here we are in the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus Christ is giving us basic things regarding not just our calling, but our sanctification and how we are to continue to grow and these things become then part of our heart.
Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
We have two virtues here which in actual practice in one’s life arise from within us to provide motivation to do what is necessary. Loyalty and value are both powerful motivators and our minds must be fixed on both. Again this is not as easy as it sounds, because Satan has cleverly surrounded us with attention-grabbing electronic sights and sounds, possible business and entertainment divergences in this twenty-first century world.
If one’s vision is not clear, nor disciplined, or well organized, one can very easily and faithlessly be pulled off track into what this world demands in terms of attention. In I Corinthians 1, this pertains directly to something that I said a little bit earlier. It is important to this next point, having to do with our treasure, and our spiritual vision.
I Corinthians 12:18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
Now believing this as a fact is important. We are not here accidentally, but grasping our place as part of a functioning team increases our spirit of co-operation with God's purpose. When we grasp purpose more clearly it really helps us function more effectively in prayer, study, and in service.
During the Feast in 20l3, I can recall as I was preparing the sermons, there was a thought dominating my mind that became a sub-theme in each of the sermons I gave there. It is that we must not allow ourselves as God's children to follow what Satan did but rather what we must give our Creator faithful service within the scope of the gifts that He has given.
What did Satan do? Or what did he fail to do so that he failed in his service to God? I will give you what he did or failed to do, in the book of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 28:17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you.”
The word beauty should not be understood only in the sense that he was nice to look at. It is actually a term that is being used in a collective sense here in which beauty represents all of that which God, in His love for Satan, created within him in order to carry out the responsibilities that God had planned for him. The beauty included what was in his mind, the way that he looked, the wisdom, the intelligence, the understanding, the greatness of powers that he had, but what happened is that it drove him in a different direction because this is what he either did, or failed to do.
We know that his heart was lifted up, and therefore he did not control his mindset regarding what he was—all of his beauty, all of his power, all of his understanding, his rank over the other angels—and he became filled with pride. He did not control himself.
If we put this into our situation, God places us in the body as it pleases Him. God placed Satan in the body as it pleased Him, but what Satan did or failed to do, he did not appreciate the job that he was given, he did not appreciate his gifts, and he began in his mind, in his heart, to turn his attention to things that he desired rather than what the One who put him into the body, and created the powers within him, wanted him to do.
That same process, that same sort of rejection is open to us as well as it was to Satan. This is tied to Deuteronomy 29:29. Even as we will never know absolutely for sure why God has called us and not our neighbor, we will never know unless it is revealed as we are going along what He wants us to do, the part He wants us to play, what He wants us to fulfill within the body, that is His desire.
I can honestly say to you, that I never, ever dreamed that I would do what I am doing right now. Who would ever need a welder to teach people spiritual truths? This is not so unusual. Paul was a tent maker, Peter was a fisherman, John was a fisherman, others did other jobs. They seemingly on the surface did not have within them the ability to do the job that God called them to do. Even the people from the public said, these are all unlettered men.
Are we willing to do what God wants us to do? There are certain responsibilities within the body that every single one of us has to do, and we have to allow Him time to create within us the gifts, the skills, or whatever it is that He wants us to do and so it becomes apparent to somebody else that, Hey you ought to be doing this.
I can see how some of you that are called to give a sermonette feels, but we learn to be humble, and prepare as well as we can, and go forward. If God has called you to do that, it will begin to be apparent to some who has the authority or position to move those people around to where God wants us to be.
Satan was unwilling to follow that script. He had other self-centered things in his mind that he wanted to do. What God gave him to do was not his treasure. This is why our treasure has to be in alignment with what God wants us to do and sometimes it takes years and years for that to be developed within us to where we can begin to fulfill the responsibility that He placed us in the body to carry out.
When we left Worldwide Church of God we did not leave to start a church. It only became apparent to us that I was ordained to be a pastor—I was taught and trained. I began to evaluate what happened in my life. Here I was welding, working at U.S. Steel, giving sermonettes in Pittsburgh, and suddenly out of the blue I get a telephone call asking me if I wanted to go to Ambassador College. I was given a scholarship. I was taking Bible from eight in the morning till five at night, so in one year we got four years of Ambassador College teaching. Then someone said they wanted me to pastor a church in Anaheim and Long Beach.
That is the way our life has been. We chose to break away from the Worldwide Church of God, but we thought it was over and I was going to go back to the business world and start working. But then I started receiving phone calls from people all over the country saying, would you be our pastor. As far as I am concerned it was a renewal of the call of God.
So now here is this little group of people who are part of the Church of the Great God, and we have a unique place. We have been sanctified, set apart for a responsibility within His greater work in which you have become the benefit of His grace.
We are still being sanctified, it will never stop. The journey in the wilderness was over in forty years. Evelyn and I have been at this now for fifty-five years and it will not stop until God is done with us, and who knows how long that is going to take!
That will be identical to what you are going through. When God is finished we will say it is finished, just like Jesus did. When the work was done, that is as far as He had to go there, but there was still work to be done and it will be the same with us. Our path will be finished but it is not going to end there, because the resurrection will come and we will have a place within the body that is going to move on to other things.
So do not think that sanctification is just some obscure little thing that is happening to you. It is the heart and core of our period of growth and being qualified for greater works under God in the future.