Pastors Report - 8 Mar 2019

Our Vital Passover...

"Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, 'Father, save me from this hour'? But this is the very reason I came!" (John 12:27 NLT)

A Problem of Perception:

Some years ago I was talking to a young lady of about 12 or 13 years old, who had never, in her entire life, seen a modern aeroplane close up. Her total experience of the modern jetliner was the faint outline that is just visible in front of its vapour trail 5 miles overhead. However, I happened to have a short video clip taken inside a plane I had just flown in to reach her country, which I then showed her on my laptop computer. In it, lunch was being served by the air hostesses who could be seen walking down the two aisles that separated the multiple rows of nine seats that spanned the wide-bodied jumbo jet. But try as I may, the young lady simply could not believe that this was taken inside a plane. She insisted that what I showed her must have been within an airport ... Or a station of some kind ... Or perhaps some kind of building – but the fact that it was inside an aeroplane, simply would not compute. She just could not accept it.

But aren't we all so much like her – in regard to God's Plan for mankind? Our awareness of "the above" is so clouded by the present "around" that we fail to truly grasp the enormity of what God is in fact saying to us. And this can also even be true of what He wants us to understand as we prepare for another Holy Day season and particularly the Passover. Take for example the destination of what the Holy days depict – our being born-again – totally transformed – into the spirit born sons of God. Do we really grasp what is being offered? All things, with life inherent and as the very sons of the Almighty God, as these scriptures promise;

  • And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away ... He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:4,7)

  • And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. (I Corinthians 15:49-50)

  • For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)

But, are these scriptures so familiar that we don't really comprehend what is being offered to us, and therefore how incredibly vital is the coming Passover?

The Power of God

We can be so swamped by the cares of this life and the trials and stresses that we underestimate at best, and ignore at worst, the astounding power of the One who calls Himself our Father and His firstborn Son Jesus Christ. Satan has human beings running around in little circles, just trying to keep body and soul together in most cases, and therefore without the time, let alone the inclination to mediate on just WHO created the reality we're sitting in and why.

Meditating on what was visible to them in the night sky, both David and Isaiah describe their understanding of the creation of the heavens as being spread out like a curtain, and indeed that is what we find when our telescopes examine the galaxies and find them all flying away from one another at a terrific speed, as if the product of an almighty explosion, commonly called the Big Bang.

  • Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain (Psalms 104:2)

  • It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:(Isaiah 40:22)

This initial creation of the universe was far from random in nature. In fact, the mathematician Sir Roger Penrose has calculated that "the Creator's aim must have been accurate to one part in 10 to the power of 10 123...a number which it would be impossible to write out in the usual decimal way, because even if you were able to put a zero on every particle in the universe there would not even be enough particles to do the job". (God's Undertaker, John C. Lennox page 71)

God's Creative Word:

And where does that incredible creating power lie? We have only to look at Jesus Christ – the living Word or Logos, without whom "was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3) – to clearly see the answer:

  • And God SAID : Let there be light ... Let there be a firmament ... let the dry land appear ... Let the earth bring forth grass ... Let there be lights in the firmament ... Let the waters bring forth ... and fowl that may fly ... Let the earth bring forth the living creature ... Let us make man in our image (Genesis 1:3-26)
  • By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth . For he spake , and it was done; he commanded , and it stood fast. (Psalm 33:6,9)
The entire creation – including the myriad of vast galaxies and stars systems – came into existence and are currently held there by the words of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:3). The absolutely vital creative part of "his glorious body" therefore is His tongue. And if that is true of Him, it also must be true of us as well – both in the future and also right now, as "our vile body" is prepared for its change into life inherent Spirit-born existence as the brothers and sisters of Christ (Romans 8:29).
A Key Area

It would appear that, once glorified, it will be our words that will actually be used in the creating process. It follows therefore that, if there is a key area that we need to concentrate on in this examination process of repentance, prior to Passover, it has to be the use of our tongue. The apostle James makes its importance very clear when he says the following:

  • My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.
  • For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:1,2)

And less than a year before he died, one thing Mr. Armstrong wanted to get across to us was the use and misuse of our tongues:

And what is sin? In another way, you can say sin is the absence of righteousness. That's what it is—the absence of righteousness. We sin in many ways that we don't realize. I was just thinking: one of the greatest sins is our tongue. Any of you free from ever sinning with the tongue ? Things you say? Are you always courteous, always pleasant? Always tending to make other people comfortable and happy? Always just reflecting love, and joy, and peace? We haven't attained to that quite yet, brethren. It's something we have to work for and strive for—day, by day, by day. And how do you achieve it? On your own power and strength? You aren't that strong! You don't have the power and the strength. ( "Rely on God" - sermon given UB 6 April 1985 )

From the Heart:

We read in Matthew "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (Matthew 12:37) Why should this be? What we need to grasp is that God isn't concentrating on what comes out of our mouths just to be picky and pedantic. Not at all ... just note what Christ brings out in the preceding couple of verses:

  • O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
  • A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. (Matthew 12:34,35)

He is trying to get us to see that in the future, if our character is up to scratch and our hearts and minds are on His level, He will grant us the power to also "spread out heavens as a curtain" ... can we grasp the enormous power that is on offer and the necessity to be able to adequately control that power? Yes, it is right now – in this life – where just such a vision is needed to give us purpose and direction. God is developing the character in each one of us for that very reason – so we can ultimately be entrusted with just such force and awesome power:

As we're told in Jeremiah 17:9, our heart is deceitful above all things...and we can't really know what is going on, but God can – and there is a way we can also. We can analyse what comes out of our mouths, which in essence is coming out of our heart. Can we recognise the wrong attitude shown in what we'd like to be able to say, but have to bite our tongues to refrain from doing so – at least for the time being! Is it the way of give or get that is winning the contest the majority of the time?

Examining Repentance:

In these remaining weeks before the Passover ceremony, we're encouraged to take the time out of our frenetic lives to seriously think about ourselves as compared to the "stature and fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13), hence the job of physical de-leavening we've been given. The degree of change required for our frail flesh to become a literal son of God is something that Mr. Armstrong wondered greatly whether we were "getting" or not. It involves a change of absolutely everything, from mere human dirt into an actual God being, complete with a God mind. From a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. We can't do such a thing ourselves. That is totally impossible – unthinkable, but nevertheless, WE DO have a profound and vital role in the process. And that role involves a total and complete surrender of our will to the will and direction of God. That complete relinquishing of our way – of being conquered by God – is invariably a traumatic process initially, and for some it can takes some years before we "give in". But that is repentance. That is "turning", and that is precisely what is required. Note how Mr. Armstrong brings this out:

Do you know God has to break our wills and break us? And we have to be brought to the place of surrender to Him. How many of you have gone through such an experience? Or have you just, in your own goodness, seen the truth; and said, “Oh yeah, that’s true, I’m going accept it. I’m so ‘good’ that I just want to accept it. And I’m going be a Christian from here on.” I wonder if you have really received the Spirit of God. I wonder if you get it that easily? I didn’t. The apostle Paul didn’t. I didn’t, and Paul didn’t. I had to be whipped. I had to be conquered... I had to confess and admit how wrong I had been. Not only that I had done wrong, but that I WAS WRONG; and I was wrong through and through. I had to come to a new attitude in life, a new purpose in life, altogether something new and something altogether different. ( Passover Examination (USA) )

Godly Sorrow:

When this complete surrender to the will and direction of God is in place there will be specific evidence that we are indeed repentant. Repentance is not merely being sorry for the sins committed. Though it is important to regret disobedience to God, the apostle Paul clearly showed that the Godly sorrow itself is merely a stage in the journey to true repentance;

  • Even if I caused you sorry by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it - I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while -
  • Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.
  • Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret: but worldly sorrow brings death.
  • See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be [clear] in this matter. (II Corinthians 7:8-11 NIV)

Notice what Paul stresses in verse 11 is the CHANGE – of attitude and actions – that this had brought about that showed it was truly repentance. For us today, maybe it's those that were inclined to be thieves will have turned to giving to others instead. Those that tended to be harshly critical will have changed to give encouragement, the belligerent will have become peacemakers, and so on. Hopefully we all will be able to see that over the past 12 months, we too have grown closer to what God desires and requires of us.

Our Glorious Future:

In a few short weeks, the Holy Day season will be upon us once more and it begins with the Passover. And it's from this vital foundation that all the stages of the Plan of God – enacted each year within each of the seven annual Holy Days – will flow. In this way Passover – and the priceless sacrifice it commemorates – becomes the foundation, not merely of the Holy Day season to follow, but the foundation of everything. It's absolutely vital in what we are here for. It's vital in why human beings even exist!

As we read in the service each year – "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come." (I Corinthians 11:26) – partaking of the bread and the wine is to remind us of the sheer immensity of that sacrifice – the very death of the Logos of ancient times, the Eternal God Himself, the Creator. A sacrifice willingly given on our behalf for sin of all kinds. God will not compromise with sin to the slightest degree, so without that sacrifice, the events signified via the Holy Days simply couldn't get off the ground. The entire plan of God would have been stopped in its tracks.

Without the Passover, we would be left without hope in this world, just living out a physical existence, knowing eventually we would just return to dust, and that would be the end. Neither would we have the incredible privilege of contact with God the Father during that time, or the blessing of being healed of our diseases. Our life would become utterly meaningless, vanity of vanities, as Solomon commented. Thankfully, that is far from the truth!

Without that glorious body – one, like Christ's, that is capable of subduing all things to our will – we would be totally unable to do the job God has for us up ahead: From initially being the righteous King priests throughout the millennium (Revelation 20:6); To going out from New Jerusalem when the holy city comes down to earth ... to plant the heavens (Isaiah 51:16). For can we imagine, for example, being told to alter a planet's orbit that would place it in the Goldilocks zone – not too hot and not too cold – where water is able to exist comfortably in all three of its forms: as a vapour, liquid, and ice?

The plan of God and what is on offer to us mere human beings is so immense our minds can hardly grasp it. It is far more than just not being able to comprehend the size of a jumbo is more like trying to explain to a child in the womb – whose "universe" is so restricted, what lies "out there", once born – in "the land that is very far off"? In the meantime, we all have some changing to do.

  • The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
  • He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
  • He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
  • Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. (Isaiah 33:14-17)