Even with God’s spirit in us, after being begotten of it, we still have difficulty grasping the smallest portions of the magnitude of what it means to be “called” by the One Almighty Self-Existing God. We cannot fully grasp what it means to be called into such a relationship that eventually can lead into actually being born into God’s Family – Elohim.
As the Hubble Telescope peers farther and farther into a seemingly endless universe that consists of what scientists can only guesstimate as hundreds of billions of galaxies, with each potentially containing billions of stars and solar systems, how can a person conceivably grasp the magnitude of the Great God who created it all? How can one grasp the power of an Almighty God who sustains all that He has created? No one can! Then if no one can remotely begin to grasp such a Mighty God, how can anyone begin to grasp what an awesome privilege (beyond any measure), honor, blessing, and opportunity it is to receive an invitation (calling) from Him to come into a Family relationship with Him? We only grasp this in a highly limited way, but we should be so moved by that “small understanding” that we be deeply humbled, honored, and have zealous desire to embrace that calling with all of our being.
The True Value
The history of the Church is that many have failed to consistently place high value in a true and lasting relationship – fellowship – with God. It should be so very sobering to understand that the human mind can actually allow familiarity (through pride) to breed contempt for such a calling. Those who fail to continuously embrace and truly value that fellowship can easily fall into a consequential state of becoming disfellowshipped.
If it becomes necessary for a person to be disfellowshipped, God’s Church may “formally” give notification of being disfellowshipped; however, the individual being disfellowshipped has already “chosen” (if even by neglect) to remove themselves, as they produce the kind of bad fruit that reflects the true value they have placed on fellowship with God, His Son, His Church, and His ministry. Yet these same people become so spiritually weak and cold that they deceive themselves into believing they are continuing in a relationship with God through “some other means (way)” than what they had originally been called into within God’s true Church.
The true value a person places on their fellowship with God is reflected in how they live towards God – to the degree they walk in the light – in unity with Him, His Son, and His Church.
Christ stated that many are called, but few are chosen. This has been the history of God’s Church. The reason few are chosen is because of the individual “choices” (wrong choices) made by those who are called. When God “calls” (invites) someone into His Church, it is with the offering of power and truth to yield to the transforming of our human mind in a process of a new creation that leads to becoming part of Elohim. The apostle Peter was inspired to reveal the awesomeness of what it means to be “called” of God: “But you are a chosen generation (chosen out of the world, but not yet chosen into Elohim), a royal priesthood, a holy nation (spiritual Israel), a peculiar people (“special” is often used here, but over simplifies what the Greek is saying. The expression is made up of two words, as an “acquisition into,” as God has acquired one to come into an active purpose of “living” something that is indeed special as a result of a relationship with God.), that you should show forth the praises (Gk.- moral excellence, character, and virtue) of Him who has called you out of darkness (as a way of living like the world) into His marvelous light (to walk/live in the light – in unity with God)” (1 Pet. 2:9).
If someone even only partially grasps this magnitude of life that God offers to those who are called, how could they turn away from such an incredible offer of true fellowship with Him? But it happens, and it happens all too often. In nearly every Feast of Tabernacles at which I have spoken, I have admonished and warned that some who are observing the Feast with us that year will not be with us at the next one. Yet I am deeply convinced that not one of those individuals that became disfellowshipped over the following year believed that it would ever be true of them when I stated this. Every year of my 43 years in God’s Church, this has been true. Every year there are those who disfellowship themselves from God, His Son, and His one true Church.
One Way Is Right
In the examples of Christ stating that “many are called, but few are chosen,” there are different lessons that can be learned. One of the greatest lessons is that only one way is right and that is God’s way. This is reminiscent of the “way” that God led the children of Israel out of Egypt. In Exodus, it states that God led them in a “way” that they did not know, as He did not lead them through the way of the land of the Philistines, which was nearest to them (Ex. 13:17). There was another route whereby God could have taken Israel – the way of Shur, but God did not lead them that way either. Instead, He took them by a way that did not exist – the way of the wilderness through the Red Sea.
God does not lead anyone in a “way” that is known, as God’s way must be revealed by Him. Someone who is called to follow in the way that God leads them has two choices before them – to follow or not. Yet, just as it was with the Israelites, it often does not take long before individuals begin to murmur against the way God leads.
Murmuring can come from various attitudes that are more direct against God. It can be stated that this (way) is just too hard – too difficult to live – as a person begins to turn away from what God has offered them. Another attitude that was covered earlier, is revealed when someone chooses any relationship that pulls them away from putting God first. Still another is an attitude that is reflected in defiance directed more toward God, which is tied to one’s unfaithfulness in giving God His tithes and offerings, and then it is also often reflected in personal judgments of how they think such funds should be used, since they also tend to find fault with how such funds are being used.
An indirect affront to fellowship with God, which commonly involves justification and disagreement to following His way is to find fault with the leadership He has placed over His Church. This is usually done by a person stating some disagreement with some teaching, instruction, decision, or revealed truth God has inspired to be given to His Church through His human servants. Such people unwittingly disfellowship themselves from God when seeking to justify their own actions to follow some other way than the way God originally called them to follow. In reality, such people actually turn against God’s one true way that is given through His one true Church.
The first example where Christ stated that “many are called, but few are chosen” is in the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Some who had been working in the vineyard throughout the day were finding fault with the owner who brought others to work there later in the day, but was paying the same wage for a full day’s work. This reveals much about selfish human nature that so easily finds fault with “how” God does as He wills in the “way” He leads His people. Indeed, how can anyone become so presumptuous as to question God in how He leads, governs, tries and transforms His own creation?
The reply in this parable is actually God asking a direct question to all those whom He calls: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil because I am good?” (Mat. 20:15). Yet those who disfellowship themselves are those who find evil in the good that God does through His Church and His ministry. When I think of this example, I think of the large numbers of people who found fault with Herbert W. Armstrong when he built a high-quality auditorium for the headquarters of the Church that he had dedicated to the Great God whom we serve. It is also easy to recall the criticisms made toward him for the purchase of the jets and cars that he bought through the Church for his use in the “work” God had given him. It was shallow minds that failed to see “what and why” God did as He willed through Mr. Armstrong. Most people with such attitudes also deceive themselves into believing they have some right to judge how “their” tithes and offerings should be used. But such things never belonged to them, but only to God.
Another parable stating, “many are called, but few are chosen,” is in the example where there were many who had been invited to a great wedding feast and one came who had not clothed himself in proper attire. Satan has deceived mankind into believing that they can come before God “just as they are” – “in” their own way. That is a natural tendency – to follow one’s own way rather than God’s one right way.
Makeup: A Lesson of Where We Place Value
Believe it or not, but thousands turned against Herbert W. Armstrong and God’s true Church over a very small matter – whether or not women should wear makeup. Many ministers and their wives were among those who became divisive and murmured against the decisions that were made at that time. Those who were filled with such bitterness and anger over such a small matter in life failed to grasp that these accounts actually tried and tested their faithfulness to follow God – to upholding and supporting Him and His government over them.
We are going to look at the history of this example as it reveals much about the kind of “value” people can place upon true fellowship with God.
As I think about this subject today, it is even more incredulous to believe that anyone would disfellowship themselves from a relationship with God (though they would not “see” it as that) over something so relatively small in the scheme of things. Yet that is how shallow, selfish, and contemptuous the human mind can be.
The decision (judgment made that was bound) Herbert W. Armstrong made for the Church concerning the wearing of makeup was changed back and forth a couple of times over a period of less than a decade. These changes tried and tested the thinking, attitude, and faithfulness of everyone in God’s Church. For those who did not have this experience, this may seem unimaginable that such a thing happened. To grasp what happened, one needs to understand what was occurring in society during this same period of time.
This period of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s was caught in the shadow of a movement in western society in what was widely referred to as “women’s lib” (liberation). Society was experiencing a backlash to an oppression of women that was being more fully exposed and debated at that time. Although it is true that women were being harshly oppressed in society, they did not know how to properly or even adequately address these obvious inequalities between men and women. The reason is because society lived in rejection of truth from God and therefore could not find true answers and solutions. Only now is God giving this true understanding to His Church, as these matters are going to be far more fully addressed in the Millennium.
After World War II, as a result of women carrying a vastly greater role in business, manufacturing, and much of the backbone for military support, society began to experience a shift in norms for women. The very role of women began rapidly changing from the common stereotypes that had predominately existed up to that time. During this period that led into the 1950’s and 1960’s, religious institutions and an older generation of people still held on to much of the old stereotypes of ways believed to be “better,” and were often equated with a more righteous way to live. The woman’s place was seen as being in the home and it was deeply frowned upon by many that a woman would work outside the home to help in the support of family.
In the midst of this, were attitudes and stereotypes that were still being associated with women who wore makeup. Yet throughout this period of time, cosmetics were rapidly growing in popularity, acceptance, and becoming a new norm for society. The stereotype of women who wore makeup, which was once associated in the past with those who were considered loose, promiscuous, and sexually flirtatious, was rapidly changing.
Religious institutions tended to make changes more slowly as many past stereotypes were looked down upon and judged as being unrighteous. Along with all this, due to technology, much of the western world was rapidly changing and this was bringing about a shift in many of the norms in society.
At the same time many of the norms in society were rapidly changing, God’s Church was experiencing more and more growth, yet it was still very young and only beginning to grow in greater maturity. God had now restored and established all necessary truth that had been lost during the era of Sardis. From the time God had called Mr. Armstrong to restore truth to His Church beginning in the 1930’s to this time period up to the late 1970’s, the Church’s teaching on makeup was that it was wrong to wear. Upon being called, women were expected to quit wearing makeup if they wanted to come into fellowship with God’s Church. In looking back, it seems somewhat amazing that some simply could not give up something like this in order to receive what God was offering them.
Although some believed there was scriptural evidence to give credibility for the forbidding of makeup, it didn’t truly exist, but was being “read into” passages and concluded this was the case. Regardless, many people simply missed that the primary matter was not whether or not it was forbidden in scripture, but that it had been decided (judged) by God’s apostle that it should not be worn. This was an administrative decision and had everything to do with how God’s government works. As the Church became more uncertain as to the scriptural instruction on the matter, someone still had to make a decision about how it should be addressed as there was controversy regarding it within the ministry. It then became a simple matter (as it was all along) of government alone.
If something is not a matter of sin and an administrative decision is made that people should adhere to certain behavior for the sake of unity and order, then whether a person is faithful and supportive to God’s government becomes the issue. Then it indeed becomes sin for anyone who creates division, who condems or slanders others through their own judgment of what they believe is right or wrong, and who is unfaithful to work for unity and peace.
This decision concerning makeup was switched back and forth a couple of times as God was beginning to bring the Church to a higher level of maturity in its transformation. Through this process the Church would be forced to begin addressing such matters from a perspective of what is truly “spiritual” in judgment of the weightier matters of God’s law.
When the first change was made to now allow the wearing of makeup, there were large numbers of people who had lived the belief that makeup was sin and they could not change from that stance, and they therefore judged, condemned, and looked down upon those who accepted the change. This created an uncomfortable division with the Church and the ministry.
The Spirit of the Matter
After a few years, the decision was made to change back to forbidding the wearing of makeup. Those who had been harsh in condemnation and treatment of others became justified (in their minds) and vindicated in “their” righteousness. Many who had now become accustomed to wearing it rebelled in spirit and began living a lie by not wearing it to services, but wearing it at other times. There were many other wrong attitudes that emerged from all this, but the Church was being tried and tested through this. The Church was being dragged (drawn) into the position requiring the need to address the “spirit” of the matter. The matter of government and unity began to be more deeply understood as the Church began some of its first stages into a greater spiritual maturity.
By the time the next change was made in which it became permissible to once again wear makeup, the Church had experienced a process that it did not fully understand through that time. It is much like the beginning stages of maturing growth a teenager might experience in learning to make choices and decisions that have a more direct impact on their life. Most of these involve “their place” in relationships with family and friends (peers).
As the Church was learning to yield itself to this transforming process through this one experience alone (that of changes concerning makeup), brethren were learning more about the importance of God’s government in the Church and the need to support and be faithful to it. It was God’s Church. If the Church makes binding decisions (judgments), then there is one correct choice before each member – to live God’s way in unity of spirit that is void of rebellion, condemnation, division, and self-righteousness.
Those who learned from this experience and grew more spiritually mature over the course of these changes made through administrative decisions (government) began to recognize the weightier matter of God’s law concerning judgment.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
Even over something as small as whether one should or should not wear makeup, some chose to be adversarial to God and His Church and they disfellowshipped themselves. To be in true fellowship with God, Jesus Christ, and God’s Church one will seek to be perfectly joined together in the same mind (unity) and same judgment in all things given through God’s Church.
(Pt. 3 will follow next week)