Pastors Report - 28 Feb 2020
AgeOfDivision

The Age of Division:

"... Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:" (Matthew 12:25)

When we look around the world today we very much see a society built on contention. This is certainly true in the political sphere but can also be witnessed in the judicial system, business and commerce, and even sports and entertainment. What we need to be aware of though, is that such contention is destined to increase dramatically as we approach the end of the age as part of the perilous times mentioned by the apostle Paul in II Timothy 3:1. Yes, it will be manifested in literal wars between nations - but such things come from the mind of man, driven by the spiritual power of Satan's broadcast, so we can expect contention and division to increasingly become a sign of the times, and we ourselves are not naturally immune! Satan's system - built up over 6,000 years - is just about to end. We can only imagine the divisions and schisms there must be in his spirit realm at this time. Even the beast power - specifically given its power by the Dragon - is described as being a mixture of iron and clay ... elements that don't naturally mix well together.

Church Division:

Satan - the word means our "enemy" - is also identified in Revelation 9 as Apollyon, or "Destroyer", and we certainly have witnessed the destruction of what was once a unified, worldwide Church of God a few decades ago - now shattered into many hundreds of groups. "Divide and Conquer" seems to be his aim, and on the surface it looks like he is achieving just that. Sadly, as though a decimated church wasn't bad enough, there is even hostility and antagonism between some groups on occasion, and Christ warned us specifically to be on our guard for this particular problem at the end time. After warning us that we won't know the precise time of His return (Matthew 24:42-44) - we're also cautioned to be alert to the problem of aggression towards one another - fellow brethren, in the church!

  • But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
  • And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
  • The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
  • And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48-51)
Current Politics:

Here in the UK we've been immeshed in the Brexit tangle for over three years, with almost half of the UK unhappy about us leaving the EU. But we've finally cut ties with Europe - apart from working out vital trade agreements, and those are causing much dissention from both sides of the English Channel, as each side vies for getting the best of the bargaining. And even within the Conservative party itself, there have been major disagreements on policy, with various members handing in their resignations. And even the opposition party - Labour - is having its own internal struggles now it's in the throes of having to elect a new leader.

In the USA we see the nation gearing up in full swing for the presidential election due to be held in November. And we are witnessing vitriol and character assassination as never before. This particular passage from Proverbs seems to sum it up very aptly and God's view of the machinations also!

  • These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
  • A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
  • An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
  • A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

It's not just between the Republicans and the Democrats, but even within the political parties themselves. And we can easily get drawn into the contest if we are not careful, and find ourselves supporting mentally, if not outright verbally one party or the other. As the US stands at this present time, some have warned against another Civil War, the division and disunity is so great and deep-rooted.

As brought out in his GN article "Ever know why Money is the Root of all Evil?", Mr. Armstrong reminds us where this spirit of hatred and competition springs from:

Beginning of competition

But Lucifer, once on earth’s throne, cast competitive eyes on the universe throne. “WHY,” he reasoned resentfully, “should God sit on the throne of the whole universe, while He gives me only this one little earth? He wants me to COOPERATE. I believe COMPETITION is the better way. I would rather TAKE than GIVE or cooperate. I will have more for myself if I COMPETE, TAKE, ACQUIRE and then HAVE, instead of GIVING Him love, obedience, loyalty, so HE may have everything.

“I see,” Lucifer further reasoned, “He has everything to enjoy, even my kingdom here on earth, while I have only this earth – just like a small dot in His whole vast universe. If I rise up against Him in COMPETITION – if I strive to TAKE from Him His whole vast universe – think what a THRILL – think of the ECSTASY I shall enjoy if I WIN. I realize fully the agony I may have to suffer if I LOSE. But I think the ECSTASY of WINNING is worth the risk of defeat. I believe COMPETITION is the better way of life – the struggle to WIN – the strategy of DEFENSE against Him as my opponent. It’s the one who WINS the race who enjoys the thrill and ecstasy of WINNING. Winning is a goal worth the risk of defeat. ( The Good News - October/November 1980)

A Contentious System:

Surely it's not a major problem for us to favour one political party or candidate over another. Or is it? Mr Armstrong indicates very clearly the answers to such questions in his closing comments of the article in the Worldwide News on the subject of "The Presidential Campaign" in 1980:

... Just consider how idiotic – how foolish – it all is!

The GOVERNMENT OF GOD will then soon take over. Jesus Christ, in SUPREME POWER AND GLORY, will HEAD the government of the world tomorrow over all nations...

...Christ will be Supreme Judge as well as Supreme Executive. The “Congress,” “Parliament” Or LAW-MAKING BODY will be GOD THE FATHER IN HEAVEN. Those of us who are given office of rule will rule by God’s LAW! All will be JUST. We shall not rule or judge as the world does now – but we shall have power to read men’s minds and hearts (Isaiah 11).

NO ELECTIONS! NO LITTLE MEN unqualified for office spending millions of dollars crying out, “Vote for me – I want to be President.”

Well, we now do not have long to wait. This present election travesty may well be the very LAST political election for the presidency of the United States, with little incompetent men vying for the coveted prize. There will be no more coveting, nor lying, nor murders, nor broken homes and families. There shall be PEACE, HAPPINESS, JOY, all living the way of “GIVE,” which is outflowing LOVE! ( The Presidential Campaign – WWN 30 June 1980)

Was Mr Armstrong needlessly taking a stand in being so dogmatic, so forthright? Does it really matter? Yes, we recognise that nobody is perfect – but surely some candidates are 'less imperfect' than others, so what can be the problem with letting our personal preference be known through the ballot-box? Or at least voicing such preference through political comments on social-media, for example?

Notice carefully Mr Armstrong's article above. It is THE SYSTEM that is wrong – a travesty "with little incompetent men vying for the coveted prize" – not merely the choice of one candidate over another. And it is that system – based on DIVISIVE CONTENIOUS VYING – that must be changed, and therefore avoided today by the true followers of Christ. Appearing to support THAT SYSTEM is what Christ is pointing out that His supporters can have no part in in John chapter 18. The Greek word used for "fight" in the phrase, " then would my servants fight", does not necessarily imply fighting in warfare, but rather more "to contend" as in a gymnastic or political contest. In today's world, it could well include postings on Twitter or Facebook, as well as organised marches and demonstrations.

But God's Way is the utter antithesis of such politics. It looks forward instead to God's outgoing solution in every aspect of life – including the political aspect – as the only true solution for humanity. As Jesus Christ brings out in James, worldly carnal strife – found by the spadeful within modern politics – " descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish". He also previously makes clear that whatever spirit we exhibit is going to be either one or the other. It can't be both - and more to the point, which one do we exhibit?

  • Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
  • My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
  • Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
  • But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
  • Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.
  • For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
  • But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
  • Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:11-18 NIV)
Nimrod led by Satan:

So how did such a SYSTEM begin? When we really begin to understand the answer to that question, it becomes doubly clear that anyone who claims to be a Christian in the true sense of the word can have no part in this world's politics whatsoever. There can be no preference made within it. No attempt to "patch it up" to somehow make it more acceptable. Its very foundation is rotten — rooted in the historic satanic antithesis of all that God's people are to stand for and aspire to. Notice what Mr Armstrong has to say about the origin of modern politics:

... Now notice how the present world's society became organized. Nimrod organized the present world's first government — the city of BABYLON. Later he organized Nineveh and other cities. He instituted the system of regimentation, whereby one or a few at the top, by directing their efforts, profit from the sweat and labor of others.

Thus the BABYLONISH system of government was started. Soon. there were many cities, each ruled by a king.

Then an ambitious king, swayed by Satan's philosophy, seeking more worlds to conquer, organized a portion of his manpower into a fighting force and by aggression ruled over adjoining cities. Thus nations were born, and then empires.

This BABYLONISH principle of government, intertwined with economic manipulation, has ruled the world ever since. It has ruled under various forms — whether called oligarchy, monarchy, dictatorship, autocracy, democracy, communism or Naziism — but it's the same old BABYLONISH PRINCIPLE under slightly different modes of administration.

And this is the origin of what we call CIVILIZATION. Its forms of administration have undergone change, but its basic principle has remained the same — competition and strife based upon greed and vanity . ( "How Would Jesus Vote for President?" – GN – Oct/Nov 1984)

Nimrod's Politics:

Being the first recorded despots of the modern era, Nimrod and his wife Semiramis certainly fit the politician's profile – of " vying for the coveted prize" – and incredibly, the one with whom they were vying was God Himself ... as Josephus brings out:

"...they, imagining the prosperity they enjoyed was not derived from the favor of God, but supposing that their own power was the proper cause of the plentiful condition they were in, did not obey him. Nay, they added to this their disobedience to the Divine will, the suspicion that they were therefore ordered to send out separate colonies, that, being divided asunder, they might the more easily be Oppressed.

2. Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it was through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to be able to reach! and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers!

3. Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower..." ( Antiquities of the Jews. Book 1. Chapter 4)

Note carefully: although Nimrod was the instigator of the rebellion — persuading those under him that they didn't need God in their lives, — it was the entire population – gathered together within his city, his country, his political system, exposed to his political "media" – who were then persuaded to "a constant dependence on his power". They ALL became involved with and bought into his political ideas. They ALL began looking for solutions within his political principles of competition and strife based upon greed and vanity.

And Wikipedia defines Politics in this way:

"Politics (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, definition 'of, for, or relating to citizens') is the practice and theory of influencing other people. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a usually hierarchically organized population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities."

Spiritual Problems:

Those children of Israel who will be coming out of the nations of their captivity — and the rest of the world as well who have managed to survive through the Great Tribulation — will at last have their eyes opened to the futility of the politics in which they trusted. Every possible form will have been tried - and found wanting.

  • The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.
  • So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
  • Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.
  • We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.
  • For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:
  • rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
  • So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. (Isaiah 59:8-14)

They will finally recognise that the only real solution has at all times remained spiritual as man's problems themselves are spiritual. As Mr Armstrong pointed out continually;

"Man was cut off from spiritual knowledge, and that’s why he can’t solve his problems. That is why, right there. He can do wonderful things that are physical and material. But he can’t solve his problems, because they’re spiritual; and it’s a spiritual nature, and a spiritual law." ( Sermon 14 Feb 1981 Building the Temple)

The spiritual nature of the problems facing the various Presidents and Prime Ministers of this world is why Mr Armstrong pointed out:

"Whatever happens in the U.S. elections, the country LOSES! If there exists a man in the United States of presidential calibre he would be big-minded enough to refuse to run for the job." ( Plain Truth - 1980-09 - Personal)

Fortunately for Israel 3,000 years ago, Solomon as a young man began his reign as a king of just such calibre. He humbly recognised his own shortcomings and desired wisdom from above, not his own wisdom. He realised that if he was to rule over a united Israel - and not a bunch of divided, squabbling tribles, he needed God's help! How times have changed.

  • In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
  • And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
  • And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
  • And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
  • Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? (I Kings 3:5-9)

Similarly Moses could also see his own shortcomings concerning the job he had been given, and therefore emphasised the strength and wisdom he needed from the Being who became Jesus Christ:

  • Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people.
  • And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
  • And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.
  • For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
  • And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. (Exodus 33:13-17)
Christ's Role:

Even Jesus Christ — as the reigning all-wise King of kings — is going to recognise the true source of His strength and rule. When He returns, He will only do so at the specific direction of The Father, for as David prophesied:

  • The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
  • The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. (Psalm 110:1-2)

In that position — subservient to The Father — Christ will rule, guided by the Holy Spirit of God and led by that Spirit as a Born Son of God. Isaiah indicates that it is that Spirit — and the resulting Spirit-led mind that flows from it — that will cause Jesus Christ's rule to be so wise and righteous, healing all divisions and bringing true unity and peace to this war-torn world:

  • And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
  • And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
  • But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
  • And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. (Isaiah 11:2-5)
Our Calling:

There are vital, far-reaching reasons for our specific calling at this juncture in history, and Aversion Therapy is one of them - that we can see in 'glorious technicolour' that self-centred competition and confrontation brings only division and utter misery - whether it is within families, churches, or nations. Mr Armstrong said of this subject:

"You didn’t volunteer to become a follower of Christ, or to become a Christian. You were drafted. You are not a volunteer. God chose you! And for each one of you, you were chosen out of perhaps a few thousand others that were not chosen. And so I have tried to tell you that there is a very, very great responsibility on you because you have been chosen for something very great." ( Sermon 1982-12-11 - Mark Of The Beast)

Being a chosen, hand-picked people with illuminated minds does not give us some divine right to live/rule as we see fit. Far from it. The repentant mind God requires has not only repented toward Him and His Way and Law in this world, but has determined to do so for eternity — following very much in Christ's footsteps whose entire thrust was always, and IS always "not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) And what is that will? "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:34,35)

And that love is destined to produce peace throughout the Kingdom of God. Interestingly, the Greek word for peace is "eirene" (Strongs 1515) which comes from a word "eiro", meaning "to join" - the very antithesis of division. As Paul mentions to the brethren in Ephesus, there is a God-given way we can avoid disunity and division - thereby building peace.

  • That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
  • But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
  • From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
The Antidote to Division:

At His very last evening before the crucifixion, Christ witnessed a heated altercation between His disciples, arguing who was the greatest. Christ then illustrated His reply in a very practical way, using the footwashing...the usual job of the lowest servant. It's the first thing we're commanded to do in the Passover service, as a very practical reminder to get our minds away from the attitude of superiority, or even alienation and disagreement - so evident in the world.

  • And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
  • And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
  • But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
  • For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:24-27)

Even so, it's possible to go through this ritual as just that ... another ritual to get over and done with and miss the whole point. What is going to be THE foundational requirement for a king and priest in the coming Government of God is agape...the outgoing love and concern for all fellow human beings, devoid of any incoming, contentious and divisive attitude, showing true light in an age of division.

  • If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don't have love, I'm a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal.
  • If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don't have love, I'm nothing.
  • If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I've done but I don't have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.
  • Love is patient, love is kind, it isn't jealous, it doesn't brag, it isn't arrogant,
  • it isn't rude, it doesn't seek its own advantage, it isn't irritable, it doesn't keep a record of complaints,
  • it isn't happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth.
  • Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
  • Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end.
  • We know in part and we prophesy in part;
  • but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end.
  • When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I've put an end to childish things.
  • Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known.
  • Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:1-13 CEB)