Feast: God Works in Marvelous Ways (Part Two)
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 07-Oct-17; 74 minutes
My sermon this afternoon is going to be a continuation of the theme of my first holy day message that was essentially on human carnality that plays a major role in keeping mankind separated from God.
I believe that there may be in some of us a stream of thought that sins motivated by human carnality may rate only as a second class sin. I hope that is not in you because they are just as bad as any other sin that comes along, just motivated, activated, or generated from a little bit different area. A sin we kind of might think of as not on quite the same evil, serious, level of such sins as murder, rape, adultery, lusting, thievery, or fornication. Now, do you think yielding to carnal thought is not involved in any of those things? They are.
Let us go back to I Corinthians 6 and make sure that you understand that the carnal nature is an awesome generator of death if we follow it in the wrong direction.
I Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God.
But what if you, a justified and sanctified person, backslides and you follow the pulls of your carnal nature into a activity that is very clearly a sin? Does the fact that maybe you followed your carnal nature make it any less of a fact, less of a sin, than it was before? What is the end result of following the carnal nature into something that it desires and that what you desired was murderous, slanderous, thievery? It played a part, did it not? And it was as dangerous as dynamite, just like any other thing would be in that kind of a situation.
Revelation 21:7-8 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. This is the second death.
Does God say, "Well, I'll forgive you because, after all, it was just a carnal thought that you had, and it motivated you to commit that sin and therefore it's second class, and we don't have to worry about that." I hardly think that is correct.
Let us just analyze this a little bit further. I will make it very plain to you. Following carnality is idolatry. That is what it is. It is idolatry because it is bent on pleasing the self rather than pleasing God, regardless of what the act is in committing the sin—be it murder, rape, marrying outside the faith in defiance of God, whatever. When carnality is not involved in that it does not in any way lessen anything in regard to a sin. It is simply one step in committing it and because that carnality comes between you and God, it becomes idolatry because all carnality is, at the beginning of those thoughts, is nothing more than a pull, like gravity, towards self-satisfaction in spite of God's Word. And the object of one's satisfaction can spiritually become an idol one is bowing before. We must control and overcome that attraction. It is just a serious as anything else that pulls us into a sin.
In my previous sermon, I covered examples of mankind's proud and hardheaded reasons for not believing in God's existence. Then, on top of that, even if people do believe in His existence in overwhelming numbers, they still choose to not believe what He says. The proof we are hardheaded is right here. There is nothing in life more important than God and His creation, and yet as measured against the world's population, He is virtually ignored.
Each of us, with our inborn carnal nature, finds what is to him good reasons (to that person, that is) to override both the evidences of His existence and the weighty authority of His sovereign word, in favor of our foolish inexperience and immaturity so that our desires, whatever they might be, will be met. So what happens? We simply ignore the Great Creator in service of ourselves. We committed idolatry. Now we do not want to let that idolatry get between us and God. That is part of the reason for this series that I am giving on carnality, and I believe that it might take us one more sermon to cover it fairly well. But right now we will go far as we can.
We each make this choice in life to choose our carnality early in life before we have much in the way of discernment so as to choose on the basis of wisdom. If we waited a while, we might have a little bit more wisdom, and we might have second thoughts about just simply jumping into things following our carnal nature. Our choice, though, clearly appears to stick with us until God, in His mercy, intervenes miraculously to begin to release us from this bondage.
Now, one of the clearest examples of this bondage beginning in early life is found in the first of Adam and Eve's sins. In that circumstance, you will remember that they were just created, taught truths honestly and solidly by our Creator as then their only teacher. There was no competing counsel from anybody. They had no experience in the world to instruct them. But when their first test came for which they were fully prepared, they chose to choose to fulfill their untested desires rather than do what God instructed them to do.
I just happened to think of a scripture here that I want you to turn to because I told you there that Adam and Eve were fully prepared to meet Satan and, we might say, to take him on because God knew sure as anything that Satan was going to challenge them and to try to get them to sin.
I Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
That is there as a warning to us to remind us that before we enter into something that might be dangerous to us spiritually, it is a good thing to think about, really, "Am I prepared to meet this challenge?" Adam and Eve did not have the possibility of checking that out, but guess who checked for them? It was God Himself. Before He sent them into battle Satan, He prepared them so that they could overcome him. So verse 13 applies to Adam and Eve as well as it does to us.
I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation [no trial] has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
God does not send people into battle unprepared to face the enemy. He has evaluated the situation and if we go to it, we may get taken, I guess, as you might say. But on the other hand, in God's evaluation, we could win that battle. He does not send us in over our head, as it is. He does not want to lose us. And He wants to be fair to us as well.
Now we have Adam and Eve, and so we have another, in a way, explanation clarifying that God did not put them into a situation where they were in over their head. He prepared them to overcome Satan and his temptations.
Here is what has happened, though, and let us say it was one effect of what happened because they followed their carnal nature rather than do what God said. And so we find a scripture back in Genesis 6 as to the beginning of the end of the outplaying of that sin.
Genesis 6:5-6 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
He let things run that began from Adam and Eve's sin without making much effort at all to stop it. And this is what it led to—the Flood, or a situation in which things were so bad, violence seemed to be on people's minds all the time.
That level of the foolish choices of Adam and Eve ultimately led to these displays of raw carnality. Was it bad to follow one's carnality? Of course it was! Look what it produced down the line—the Flood and every life on earth died, except for eight people. And it all began with two people following their carnality.
These are not minor sins because we choose to follow the desires of our own mind that are at odds with God's pure righteousness and His law. Now, it is entirely possible that we have all done things, in principle, similar to what Adam and Eve did, but perhaps not quite so egregiously vicious as these, because Adam and Eve's were done in such a unique circumstance. It saddened God greatly because of what it dumped into mankind's lap. But if we are willing to be instructed by our Creator, then Genesis 6:5 is what a virtually untamed carnality led to, and it is very deadly, is it not?
This also gives us an overview of why conditions such as we are now facing exist. I do not believe that we have reached the point described in this description, but that is indeed where we are headed, giving evidence that The Fourth Turning prophecies are on track, thus far more difficult times lie ahead.
Now in our circumstances, seeing the example of Adam and Eve and the period before the Flood through our mind's eye, let us not be deceived that despite Christ's gifts given upon conversion, most especially the gift of faith, we must be aware of an alert too. That though converted, carnality still resides within our character, and it is still very influential in our decision-making processes.
I do not know whether you grasp it, because I did not number what I was giving you the other day (number one, number two, number three), but in my sermon on Thursday, I was giving you reasons why God absolutely requires that His children live by faith. But an overview is this: It is because our carnality is so downright cleverly tricky at justifying the self that God wants firm evidence from our life, that with His help, He is seeing clear evidence that we are getting our carnality under control. That is, to me, a very important statement.
The carnality is going to be with us. We carry it with us everywhere we go. Do you realize that? It is not that we need to be afraid of it but we need to be aware of it, and we need to be serious enough about stopping it, understanding it is deadly to spiritual life. That is why there is so much, especially in the New Testament, regarding getting it under control, not letting it lure us into sin.
An overview of just understanding how deadly it is, is this: It is because our carnality is so downright cleverly tricky we can conclude that it takes a great deal of pain to convince us that sinning is not to be desired as the means of achieving our desires. Our nature eventually learns to avoid the pains when converted and being obedient by truly loving God. The desires of the carnal nature can be devastating, because that is what Eve did. She followed her desire and gave in to what her nature was asking for in order to be satisfied that things were as they should be with her.
We are going to continue in this series where we left off on the holy day, affirming the persuasive powers carnality exhibits. A major and an obvious cause is that as a result of a massive dose of misinformation, laziness inhabiting many of us, and plain old disinterest inhabiting the vast majority of mankind, appears to lead people to believe that God has no organized plan. So on one hand, we have got the carnality that is right within us. On the other hand, we have a public out there that appears to the unconverted that He is merely saving people without further purpose. We will eventually get more of this, and most of it may take place in my next sermon.
Now there are some astute believers apart from the true church who believe that He does have a plan, but they are few in number compared to the vast number of the population. The overwhelming majority believe that if He does have a plan, it is extremely vague and insubstantial. They complain that they cannot find it. And if you ask them to describe what they believe saving is, I do believe they will not give you a biblically correct reply in the vast majority of cases. If you did receive an answer, I believe it would be vague at best and most likely be focused on going to heaven.
It is a surety that some astute believers exist apart from the true church, but overwhelmingly mankind in general is simply stubbornly, bullheadedly ignoring what is in fact an obvious reality when one truly studies and in faith deeply believes God's insistence that we obey Him to the best of our understanding. That is another portion that I may not get to till the next sermon, but it is important.
Here is yet another possibility as to why so much confusion exists. This one is somewhat understandable considering the overwhelming amount of false teaching most of the world has received through the centuries from those they hold as their ministry. Now, some of those reasons are considered in this sermon, and I will tell you right off what I believe is the major reason why there is so much confusion.
Following Adam and Eve's sin, Satan did not waste any time attacking by means of deception. As he did, especially with Eve, he almost immediately perceived an angle of vulnerability towards sinning within the bounds of her heart. What I am saying is, I think he was reading her mind as best as he was able, looking at her attitudes, facial expressions, or anything that might give him an indication as to where he could drive a wedge between Eve or Adam, but mostly Eve, and God, and break down the loyalty that they had because He was their only teacher.
He did this especially with Eve, and he almost immediately perceived an angle of vulnerability towards sinning within the bounds of her heart. How can I say that confidently, her heart? Because that is where Jesus said that sin arises from—from the heart. There is nothing mysterious regarding this. Mankind's problem is not esoterically deep. God made sure that He recorded this episode so that we would understand clearly. It is a glimmer of a motivation that from the beginning, starting with Adam and Eve, mankind has not believed God to the depth necessary for consistent obedience— from the beginning.
Now, how did Satan start the conversation with Eve? It was not much of a conversation, but do you realize that he mentioned God the second word into his opening? He said, "Has God indeed said." Why did he actually say God? I think there is a reason why he did. Why could not he just say, "Have you been taught that" such and such and so and so? But he did not. He made sure he included the name of God within what he began with.
Genesis 3:1 "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"
Well, I believe it was the mention of God that helped trigger a rebellion against God. As Satan challenged God's authority right before Eve's eyes and ears and helped her decide to go against God as Satan already was, he challenged Eve's concept of God. Here is what I think triggered her, and that is, in her carnality, there was already a bit of indication that she resented her Leader. It was not a big thing, but it is natural with man that they do that. Leaders do not know what to do, do they? It is part of our carnal nature to criticize those who are above us, calling into account the decisions that they made, the teaching they give, or whatever.
I think that we are being shown by God that that is why Satan did what he did. He introduced the name of God immediately, and if there was any resentment there, if there was anything about God that she questioned or did not like or whatever it was, then the antagonism, the difference in mind between Adam and Eve and God would begin to irritate her. It did not affect Adam quite the same way. Maybe there was a male/female thing there. I do not know. But I do know this: Satan is not dumb. There is a reason why he mentioned God so quickly, and it was the cause, an irritation to rise within her against somebody that she should have completely admired and really have been in fear of.
See, there is another thing. She really did not fear God. Not the way we should, where we respect what He says so highly, we hold on to what He says and do not let it slip away. She did not! She was being led down the primrose path there into a sin, and she did not catch it. He got her distracted with the name of God.
As that challenge went on, I believe that this added impetus to her decision to find out for herself whether or not God was right. "Don't eat of that tree." Her carnal desire convinced her that nobody was going to tell her what to do and they did not. The Bible makes clear Satan is very persuasive in penetrating human psyches.
Now, Adam and Eve appeared to have already been in sinning mode. I think that is pretty clear. She was a little bit ahead of him, but he very quickly joined her because he wanted to be satisfied by pleasing her. You see, if he had really been in the fear of God and was obeying God, even though Eve took of the tree, he would not have done that. I am becoming more and more convinced by myself that this mention of God was very important. It was a trigger. So that got things started. Even though that is incredible, I believe that even in the face of the fact that until that point in time when they committed their sins, all of their instruction came only from God. The Bible does not reveal any other living communicating being made to them. God had no competition giving contrary advice to their minds, but they still did not believe Him.
So here is what we must consider. Have we become more fully aware of the powerful, deceptive influence of our own heart yet? Our natural heart can generate sin if motivated to do so. And it is right in us! How strong is our carnal self-centeredness, elements of which we still carry in daily life? Let us go back to the New Testament now to Ephesians, the second chapter. I think that this verse is very interesting in light of Adam and Eve's experience in sinning, so that it helps us to understand why God does what He does with us at the time of our calling.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith [and for this sermon, this is what is important], and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
You have just seen two more reasons why it is an absolute requirement those called shall live by faith. We must prove to God's satisfaction, on the strength of our love for Him and the faith He has given, that we have subdued the enslavement of us by our nature. Will we use this gift or ignore it, even as Adam and Eve both saw and heard Him but still ignored what He said? This simple word pictures simply shows that it is the lack of using faith that fouls up everything.
Another major reason for this mass confusion that is going on—spiritual confusion—is to be given brief consideration right now. Brief, because the circumstance is not the real problem. That lack of belief is the problem. This matters greatly and we too can be influenced the wrong way. These are things that we know commonly but we have to go through them because I want you to see in one sense, that without God's help, the deck is stacked against us.
Now, did you notice the difference between Adam and Eve? From what we see, there is no indication that Adam and Eve were given additional faith as we are when we become converted. God reaches out to help us in a way that will enable us to be given salvation. He gives us some faith to get us started so that we can live by faith right from the beginning. The question is, will we use this gift or ignore it? Even as Adam and Eve, both saw and heard Him, but still ignored what He said.
Turn with me to I John 5. But like I said here as a little introduction, this is not the real problem, yet nonetheless is here. This is something that is wearying to us, but it is there, and we have to deal with it.
I John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
This gives us an additional reason why God gives us a gift of faith upon conversion. The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. The wicked one and all of his captains, lieutenants, corporals, sergeants, and whatever, are always on the job seeking to trip us up. As a result of that, it is a wearying battle, a wearying fight very, very often so that we are attempted to be put to death. Now let us add to this verse Romans 5:12.
Romans 5:12-14 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who was a type of Him who was to come.
The statement there that I want you to latch on to is "everybody sins." That is why sin is so prevalent. There are billions of people, but hardly anybody truly exercises faith in God's Word. Instead, our carnal nature simply urges us to go with the flow. "Don't swim upstream." You will be looked upon as odd, strange, queer. You are not going on with what everybody else is doing. "Do what everybody else is doing." Go along with what is popular.
Here is a major, clearly-stated bottom line of these descriptions that I have just given. Silently and invisibly Satan labors strongly to destroy confidence, aided by mankind's vulnerability. Do not let slip from your mind that God held Adam and Eve responsible for their sins. Mark that down in your mind! He prepared them to go to battle against them. We do not know that He gave them an additional surge of faith, but they were prepared to go into the battle. But when the sins were totaled up, added up, God held Adam and Eve responsible for their sins. He held Satan responsible for his sin. But he did not hold Satan responsible for Adam's and Eve's sins.
There is a big difference there. He undoubtedly played somewhat of a role, but they were blamed because God held them prepared to fight him and therefore they were responsible to Him for the sins that they committed. He did not hold Satan responsible for their sins.
Brethren, they were guilty. There is just no getting around it. And what were they guilty of? Sin invaded this world through their sin—primarily Adam is the one who is blamed because he was the responsible one in authority. But it came through Adam, not Satan, Adam. It came through man, not demons. The sins were committed because of the carnality of the two people who brought sin into the world.
You think carnality is not dangerous? In one sense, it is responsible for everything that went wrong if we can just blame it all on Adam and Eve. Now we know that everybody else that came along were exactly the same way and they added to the circumstances of the seriousness of sin. And for you and me, the seriousness of our carnal nature because here we are now walking in this world, living in this world, and we have been called by God. We have been given His Spirit. We have been given extra faith, and we still have carnality that can generate sin!
I want you to think about that. This is no little subject and we carry it within ourselves everywhere we go! We cannot duck it. We cannot run away from it. We cannot squash it. It can be overcome though by obedience, because God will enable us to obey. He will help us to meet, to rise, to the challenges of what He is watching as we go through our lives.
Let us look at a biblical example of Satan's effective deceptive power from within Jesus' encounter with a well-known biblical personality. This man was a spiritual and judicial leader who played a major role in at least two parts of Jesus' life. Now consider Jesus' response to this man who was a member of the Sanhedrin, the authoritative Jewish spiritual body. We are going to go to John 3, and I will read the first verse so you know for sure who we are talking about here.
John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
John 3:3-10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?"
What happened here is this. When things with those two got going, Jesus clarifies what He first said because He said something that startled Nicodemus. Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Now what follows that is a clear explanation for Nicodemus' benefit. I would have to say, that from what I gauge as Jesus' response to what Nicodemus said, that Jesus expected Nicodemus to know these things that are basic to one's calling and therefore a relationship with God. But Nicodemus appears honestly ignorant. This guy was a spiritual leader and a judge of things that appeared in their court. You would think that he would know, but he did not.
So if we have judged Jesus' response to Nicodemus' ignorance correctly, it thus appears that there was, even in Jesus' days, at least a general public awareness of God's part in calling people even before Jesus stated what He did in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me, except they are drawn by the Spirit of God." Regardless of how well that truth was known, Nicodemus, despite his high ranking leadership position, did not grasp the spiritual reality of this truth.
We are covering things that are rich in understanding for those of us who are trying to live as sinlessly as we possibly can. Now, regardless of how well that truth was known, Nicodemus did not grasp the spiritual reality of this truth. I am bringing this up for one major reason: that it takes a God-given miracle to break through the almost impenetrable shell of the hardness of our heart with its ingrained belief. What we have been given by Christ as we were being converted is what breaks through the hardness of our heart so we can begin to really get control of our carnality. Because unless we are given that gift, we do not care enough to make the effort to overcome it so that it does not lead to sin.
Now if we go in our thoughts back to our time once again because true knowledge regarding God and the failure of the public in general to believe what God is doing has not changed since Nicodemus' time. Nicodemus, this great leader, really did not know what was going on either. Just like the general public. It is no wonder the guy got converted. Out of all the people in the New Testament, he is one of the few who was a real name, if I can put it that way, who really did get converted. And he began to overcome that nature that was within him and was one of the few leaders in Israel that even spoke up and defended, spoke well of Jesus Christ before the Romans. But now we know he had help from God's Holy Spirit that enabled him to do this.
What I am trying to get across to you here is this: the things that makes possible overcoming this force, this power within us, this carnality, are the gifts that God gives as we are being converted. And God expects us to use them. God expects us to use them to overcome the carnality that is within us. God expects us to overcome it as we are living this life and carrying His commands out left and right as we can.
Thus, like Nicodemus, a major part of the truth regarding God's revelation of Himself is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people making these rather wild statements about what they believe (I gave them earlier), is that they too are in ignorance and they are not yet called of God. The only ones who can really overcome are those that God has called. Do you know that God signals this right at the beginning of the Bible? How many people came through the Flood? Only those that God called—Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives.
That is the position that we are in right now. The only ones who can be saved, brethren, are those who are receiving the calling and probably the single most dangerous thing that collectively we all have in common in terms of things that can trip us up, is our carnality. And He has given us faith so that we can beat it.
Now, what is so interesting is that we are surrounded by a world that is unconverted, going their own ways, and yet they are unbelieving and spreading their disbelief to others within the framework of their lives without having sufficient knowledge, true knowledge, of what the Bible teaches. This is why the expansion of the population of those who are unconverted keeps getting larger and larger and larger. However, they nonetheless indeed are teaching others, whether formally, as in a church service, or informally as an example and in conversations. In these conversations, and in more formal situations in churches, people are dogmatically stating things that we clearly know are untrue.
Here is a general overall summary to what I have established to this point. That even as we were before our calling, the unconverted have a measure of pride about their spiritual knowledge and leap to carnal conclusions. Their conclusions are drawn from within a great deal of ignorance, existing within what they may sincerely believe is true. They want to share it but it is not true. It just adds to the strength of their carnality because it is not true.
I will make a plain statement here. This is why things keep getting worse! We are surrounded by an ocean of unconverted people who do not care much about obeying God. Some of them may care that there is a God, and to the best of their knowledge they love Him, but nothing changes because, first of all, there are not near enough of them and God is not making much of an effort now to convert them either. This is not something that I intend to in any way frighten you with. We will get to a verse that is good for that.
Really, in this particular point, the core problem is they think they do know, and talk about what they believe they know to others. All you have to think about here are the evangelicals. You know they are nice people. They sincerely believe that they have a relationship with God, and in many, many cases they keep none of the commandments consistently, especially the Sabbath. That is so obvious. So the result of that is they believe their carnality, they follow their carnality, and they keep adding to those who are unconverted.
I like this part of the sermon. We have all done this to some degree. But how did this circumstance come to be? Why is it that everybody in the world, practically, is mystified about what is going on? How many institutions, churches, did I tell you the other day that claim to be Christian? Over 50,000, Wikipedia said. Fifty thousand separate institutions claiming to be Christian and they are all somewhat different from one another. They think they do know, and they talk about what they believe they know to others, and so the misinformation keeps getting deeper and deeper.
There are many reasons why Mr. Armstrong titled his final book, Mystery of the Ages. The Bible clearly admits that a spiritual mystery exists. Is this mystery causing problems? Where did it come from? But the Bible says there is a mystery. Turn back to Revelation 10.
Revelation 10:5-7 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.
There is a mystery, and God admits there is this mystery in His Word that is, in a sense, feeding to some degree, the kind of situation that we are living through on this earth. Mr. Armstrong's book, Mystery of the Ages was named such because though millions of people now live and many, many more billions have lived and died, how many, even from within what is termed Christianity—Christian religion—really grasp a true overview of why and what has been going on since Adam and Eve were created? Thus, considering the massive numbers who are now living, we are surrounded by a huge array of people who disbelieve what we believe.
Here is another question to consider. Did God cause the confusion to happen because there is a mystery included in the book that He wrote? Well, He did not have to. We humans did it on our own in ways similar to Adam and Eve as they rejected God's Word on their own even though they saw Him and talked with Him. How much do you think that was reported by the descendants of Adam and Eve was really accurate in every point? The way human beings are, the inaccuracies spread and they are more and more likely to be accepted the further one gets from the beginning of what was said and done. God let it happen, and the mystery keeps getting bigger and bigger and more and more people get caught in it. So there is a mystery, and God really did not have to do very much in order for it to build.
Now we are going to continue this section of the sermon by being reminded of a conclusion that Solomon gave in the book of Ecclesiastes as he was looking for wisdom so that he could understand more clearly by means of at least an overview of what was going on in his time. What his conclusion tends to show is how stubbornly recalcitrant our carnal nature is, and this therefore shows that this is what we face too in our time, because I have been telling, you it keeps growing.
Ecclesiastes 7:21-23 Also do not take it to heart everything people say [That is an interesting way to begin.], lest you hear your servant cursing you. For many times, also, your own heart has known that even you have cursed others. All this I have proved by wisdom. I said, "I will be wise"; but it was far from me. As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep [a mystery], who can find it out?
That is, in a way, what I am looking for in these sermons. Who can find it out as to why things are the way they are? I am giving you reasons right out of God's Word as to why things are on this earth the way they are. I am not giving you real specific answers. I am giving you broad generalities but those broad generalities are true.
Ecclesiastes 7:23-29 As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out? I applied my heart to know, to search and to seek out wisdom and the reason of things, to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness. And I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God shall escape from her, but the sinner shall be trapped by her. "Here is what I have found," says the Preacher, "adding one thing to the other to find out the reason, which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: one man among a thousand I have found, but a woman among all these I have not found. Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes."
Now this is the the answer to "how did it get this way?" God did not have to do anything. He just let man pretty much loose. We have done it ourselves because our carnality motivated it. We did not have any true spirituality to go before. Even Nicodemus did not have the truth over 2,000 years ago. He could not figure it out even though Jesus seemed to feel that there was enough that maybe if he had really applied himself, he could have known something. But God through Solomon gives us the truth. God just pretty much let things alone and mankind brought this horrific world on himself. We cannot blame, really, anybody. I wonder how many times God has had to intervene in order to save the day so it did not get destroyed.
Now God did give it an assist by simply allowing it to occur and He did so because it fit His purpose to test us in this way. That is kind of interesting, I think, because the reason He let it go on as He did is for our well being so that we are prepared for the World Tomorrow because we learned these things as we went along. And we find what we just saw there in Revelation 10:7. We will be prepared because the mystery of God now is finished. (Not yet.) So the fault is mankind's, though God allowed it to develop. But God has used it wisely. But that is what happened. Paul was basically asked this question, "Where is God?" and they were berating what was going on. Then Paul came to God's defense that He was doing things exactly as He should for us.
He could have stopped at any time. He had the power to do those things but God has a purpose that He is working out. And this purpose is focused on you and me, His children, His converted children, and He felt we needed to face the kind of world that we are living in in order to be prepared to live in the World Tomorrow. We will have an understanding then that we otherwise would not have had.
We must be sure that we do not overlook the reality that mankind has not believed God from the very beginning. Adam and Eve chose to sin! They did not fall into it. They made the choice to sin. That is so important. And all have followed their lead. That is what Romans 5:12-17 tell us. We just followed what Adam and Eve did and so we added to the confusion that is going on. Satan and mankind, together in sinning, are the sources of the confusion.
Now let us look into the term "mystery." The Greek term mysterion is translated into English as "mystery." It is used twenty-two times, seventeen of them by Paul, four by John, and once by Jesus. Biblically, it does not mean "an enigma," as mystery normally does in English. When Mr. Armstrong titled his book using "mystery," he used the term as an English-speaking person normally would. That is, as a problem difficult to solve or even a secret. Nothing wrong with that. That is the way he chose to use it because, in a sense, you might say he wanted to pique the interest in people getting the book out in the public.
But biblically, mysterion is used much more narrowly in the Greek and in a highly specialized way to indicate any of the divine but invisible activity of God in our behalf for our preparation for His Kingdom and salvation. The world is the way it is because God allowed it to keep coming to this development so that we would have to experience it. It is part of our preparation.
Basically, mysterion much more selectively indicates an action of God taken so we, His called and chosen, can grasp more clearly His activity in our behalf. God is invisible. We never see Him, but He gives us signs and signals every once in a while and these are the things that He calls "mystery." The further I get into this, in a sense, there really is not a godly mystery. I will tell you why the next time.
This activity on our behalf is indeed obscure, and it might not appear publicly for centuries. But when God inspires its reality so it can be taught to His people clearly and with understanding as if it is a brand new revelation, as he did for Nicodemus, but it was only new to Nicodemus. There were others who already knew. But to Nicodemus it was new. It is for our benefit and much clearer understanding results. When God revealed it to Nicodemus, the light went on and the picture began to clarify. That is what happens when we are converted.
The truth has been out there all this while, but God picked you to understand it now, and it is brand new to you. Others have known for years, but it was in the Book the whole while. That is why I say it is not really a mystery. It is just that God explains it to us as He is going along with His program, and it is brand new to us, even though it may have been in there for centuries of time.
That is the kind of God we have. He saved those those things for us. And even like Nicodemus, we may not know, but it is in there. Then God opens our eyes and we understand. "Isn't that something. I never knew that before." That is a mystery being revealed, though it has been there for a thousand years. But it is new to us. His revealing is given to encourage our faith that He indeed is working in our behalf.
I will conclude this by saying that these mysteries are not really hidden. We might want to call them something "hidden in plain sight." We just did not get it. They have been there all the while, but they do need some explanation given us, and so He reveals it. It might be better for our understanding to know them as something unrevealed but vital once God flips the switch.