Article Based On A Sermon given March 2004

Mature Passover Examination

by Jon Bowles


Just two weeks until the Passover. It hardly seems possible that another one comes around; and we therefore, begin a new Holy Day season. We're looking at the start of another Holy Day season, the start of rehearsing through the very plan of God. It's something that every single one of us in the Church needs to think and consider. It's not just even a consideration of the Passover itself, but what we're actually going into - we are looking at another Holy Day season that will be passed before the Kingdom of God itself actually arrives. How many more have we got? We don't know, but there's certainly one less as we take this particular Passover.

In fact, if you think about it, I remember that in certain cases I've given preparation for Passover sermons; but the following Passover there were people who weren't there within the congregation. That had died, who now are waiting for the resurrection, and their next thought will actually be within the Kingdom of God, within the resurrection and actually be there and therefore having to apply what they've learnt. There is no more time, no more time to learn. One thing I wrote down after the sermonette, which I thought was very good; "We're here in school for higher education" quoting from Isaiah 55:8. I thought that was very profound:

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9)

We're in higher education, the highest of education! Have we really done our homework? Have we really done what we need to do? That if for some reason you or I were not here next year - and it could be we wouldn't - could you take what you have currently learnt? Are we ready for that Kingdom? Are we ready to actually put into practice what we have actually learnt?

At the moment the Church is shattered, a great deal. You look at this little group here. If you thought back say fifteen years to the Church you were attending at that time, and the size of that Church. Think back fifteen years, twenty years, at the size of the Feast sites that you were actually attending. Could you ever have imagined being here like this? What is it actually doing? What's happening? I've got a task here which I never, ever, would have had in days gone by. I've had to go ahead and look after Feast sites in various foreign climes, and now even in the UK. I'd have never had the opportunity to do that! It's almost as if God is really putting a great deal more, and resting a great deal more, on us as individuals. As I say, we're in final education - higher education.

It is a completion of the process. And as we prepare for the Passover, as we prepare not just for Passover but going into the very Holy Day season, this time we've got to do it in that context. We've got to look at it in that context. That we are in higher education and that we are really getting close to those final exams when we will then have to take what we've learnt. So many people go to college or they go to a university, or school, and it's almost as if you're there forever, it almost seems. But it's not, you're there for a certain length of time; and then afterwards, you take what you've learnt and you apply it then for the rest of your life.

We also take what we've learnt in this time, and we've got to apply it in the future. And what we are learning now is vitally important because it is to do with that future Kingdom, with that future time when we are to be teachers ourselves. And it could even be - let's hope not - but it could be that one or two of us may not even be here in a year's time. So we do need to be sombered a little bit by that as we look forward.

And the question I really want to ask and answer today is; have you - or have I, because it's very much myself as well, as I am in the same process - have I grown? Have I matured? Have I grown up in the way that I'm now preparing for Passover as opposed to the way I perhaps was 20-30 years ago? Have I grown up? Have I grown some? Am I looking at it in a more mature way? Do I really prepare for the Passover and the Holy Day season that's coming on afterwards in a more mature way? And for those who are starting out, that's fine; you start out at a certain point and then you grow from that point.

But to those of us who have been around for a few years, we should actually be analyzing ourselves and looking at ourselves in a more mature way. We should not be looking at ourselves the way we were 20-30 years ago. It's still the basics, the basics have got to be there. Repentance is the primary, fundamental area; and we'll go on to that. But we should have grown and matured in the way that we analyze and look at ourselves in regard to the Passover and the Holy Day season. I've got three areas that I want to cover today.

1) Asking the question; am I growing in repentance? Because repentance is not a static thing, it is not something that you do once and that's it, you've repented. In a sense it is; you do it prior to baptism, but it's something that continues throughout life. It is a repentant frame of mind that continues throughout life, and that frame of mind actually increases in maturity; and we've got to be repentant in a more mature way now than we were when we were first baptized. We should actually be examining ourselves and saying; "Have I grown in that maturity, in the area of repentance?"

2) The way in which we grow in faith. Because faith also is essential, it's one of these fundamentals. And when we approach the Passover, it is looking at our fundamentals. It is re-examining those foundational fundamental things right at the very start of the very Plan of God.

3) I want to ask the question; are we growing in listening? Listening when God corrects us? Because God does, God works with us as children, but do we really listen? Or are we just blindly going on, going through the same old - I wouldn't say ritual - but it can develop into a ritual whereby we're doing something because we've always done it, and that's all it is? It's got to be more than that. We've got to look at our fundamentals; and we've got to make sure that, when God is teaching us something, that we do listen. We listen as obedient children, and we listen to what He has to say to us.

Growing in Repentance (PLAY FROM 7:59)

So let's go into the first point that I want to cover, growing in repentance. Turn to Hebrews 4:15. I'll be coming back into this section a good deal because it's talking about the need for maturity, in the way that we examine things. That's what Hebrews 6 is really all about - that we don't kind of stay at the same level that we were originally, that we develop from that point. And if we just look at the overall section here:

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted [or tested the same] as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

Or actually it doesn't have " we are, yet..." it says; "...tempted like as, without sin." In other words, in His trial, in His temptations, He didn't have sin. He managed to go through them properly. We, unfortunately, don't.

But it says here in Hebrews 4:16: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Now this is the subject matter that he's dealing with. But he then puts an inset into this area, because it goes from this verse 16 - and you could almost tack on to that thought, verse 20 of chapter 6 -

"...Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (Hebrews 6:20)

"For this Melchisedec..." Let's just consider this particular individual. So he's going from this thought pattern at the end of Hebrews 4; and he picks it up at the end of Hebrews 6, going into Hebrews 7. These other two chapters are almost insets between them. And he then elaborates on something that the people that he was writing to needed to understand before they could really go and start to grasp his overall subject matter; because Hebrews is quite a deep book.

I know that in Ambassador College we didn't touch Hebrews until the fourth year. It was a fourth year class to study the book of Hebrews, because it is quite a deep book; and there is an awful lot to understand before you can kind of get onto it. But this section - Hebrews 5 and 6 - is very much an inset which explains something to us; and it should really teach and talk to each and every one of us at this time as well.

If we try to pick up this section over in Hebrews 5:10 it says:

"Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec [he's talking about this Psalm 110 which refers to the Messiah]. Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered [we are looking at higher education, we're looking at a little bit more than just the basics in this book], seeing ye are dull of hearing." (Hebrews 5:10-11)

We're not listening properly, this is why I said one of the things we need to ask ourselves if we've grown in is listening when God speaks to us? because Hebrews is all about God talking to us. Hebrews 5:12:

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [as I say, you or I could die between now and the next Passover; and we would then need to be teachers], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [this precious truth that's been given to us]; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." (Hebrews 5:12-13)

If all we're stuck on is the milk of the Word; in other words, we prove the Sabbath, we prove the Holy Days, we prove clean and unclean meats. We've got all these bits and pieces that we understand we've got to be keeping, we've got to be obedient to and if that's all there is, then it says here you are; "...unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe." (Hebrews 5:12-13). Now when we first start, we've got to start at that, at these kind of things; but we've got to grow from that point. Hebrews 5:14:

"But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age [they are mature, they are becoming perfect], even those who by reason of use [or habit] have their senses exercised [through life we are being trained by God] to discern both good and evil. [Hebrews 6:1] Therefore [because of that, because we're looking at the fact that we need to be teachers, and we need to go on a little bit further, it says] leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ [the teaching of Christ, so here's the foundational level, and we've got to then start building on this], let us go on unto perfection..." (Hebrews 5:14-6:1)

Now, remember, he's just been talking about perfection; " them that are of 'full age'..." (Hebrews 5:14) and "...let us go on unto 'perfection'..." (Hebrews 6:1) are the same word, Strong's 5047. Hebrews 6:1:

"...let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God," (Hebrews 6:1)

Now you see why I gave those two points as the first two points; of repentance and faith - and listening - because it talks here, it says; "...and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing." (Hebrews 5:11). We're not listening. We're not hearing them. And it goes in, then, into the other areas as well; but the first two that are mentioned are the foundation of the repentance from dead works and also of faith towards God.

Now the question is, in this area of repentance; okay, repentance means to change, it means to turn. We turn from dead works, as it says here. But Hebrews elaborates, after he's gone into this section, he then starts to elaborate. Turn over to Hebrews 9:11:

"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean..." (Hebrews 9:11-13)

Now "...the ashes of an heifer..." (Hebrews 9:13) were the red heifer that was burned outside of the camp. They then used the ashes there within water when they wanted to purify something for temple use. They would mix the water and have this water, and they would sprinkle it; and it was part of the actual ceremonies. Hebrews 9:13:

"...and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth [or cleans] to the purifying of the flesh [in a human or carnal way]: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience [your innermost thoughts and reasoning's] from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14)

So there are the fundamentals of repentance. It's from dead works. We're going in a certain direction, we've got dead works. We're changing from dead works, we're turning around, and it is to serve the Living God. Those are the two areas; and this verse then puts those two together and really explains to us very, very clearly what the subject is about. It explains what we just read about over in Hebrews 6:1, where it talks about repentance from dead works. But notice it goes on in Hebrews 9:15:

"And for this cause [this reason] he is the mediator of the new testament [the new covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first [covenant], they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9:15)

Now the eternal inheritance is the second covenant, is the new agreement that we are part and parcel of. But it's interesting that what it's saying here is it also covers sins that were also sins under that first covenant. Quite frankly, some of them were quite physical things. Clean and unclean meats is part of it, Sabbath keeping is part of it, Holy Day keeping is part of it. There are certain physical things that we can look at, and it covers that as well. It doesn't just go onto that. It goes onto many other things as well; and we need to go on to perfection, as it says. We move from that into the perfection.

But I want you to notice - basic lying. We shouldn't lie. We shouldn't steal. But these are things people out in the world know. They understand this. Now if we keep at that particular level, you're a babe. You basically have got this: "using milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness", because righteousness goes further than that. It's got to go further than that. Therefore, are we growing in our repentance? When we're looking at repentance, are we still stuck on this kind of physical area and not moving on a little bit further than that, progressively, so that we can then be ready when we come into the Kingdom of God to be the teachers - that we are prepared?

If we go over to Hebrews 10:16, the next chapter from where we were, he talks about this new covenant, this new agreement, this new testament that that was mentioned in verse Hebrews 9:15, that we've just been reading:

"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;" (Hebrews 10:16)

So it goes more. It's not just a case of not stealing; it's the way of stealing. It's not just a case of not lying; it's the way of lying. It goes on beyond, we move on to perfection. And this is something that we, as we approach Passover this year, this is what we need to look at. Are we growing in our real understanding of what we're examining?

"...I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more [this is the agreement that we have with God, which God has made with us and which we then are going to use in the future]. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin [physical sacrificing]. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest [the very Holy of Holies that nobody but the High Priest could go in once a year on the Day of Atonement] by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;" (Hebrews 10:16-20)

Because once that spear went into His side and the flesh was ripped open, that's when the blood came out; and that's when the principles of the New Covenant began applying to the Church. The New Covenant doesn't actually begin till Christ returns. We are the teachers that are going to teach that New Covenant in the future; so we've got to be under its terms now. We've got to be there now within the Church.

People use this verse sometimes to say; "Oh, it's talking about the flesh, therefore you can't have physical sin" And all this kind of stuff. No, it's to do with the spear going in, ripping the flesh open. That's when the blood came out, and that's when the veil of the temple was torn in two. And that, therefore, began this new and the living way that He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say; His flesh, as it says here.

Now if we go over to I Corinthians 11:25, which we'll be reading on the night of the Passover itself and just remind ourselves of this when we're looking at growing in repentance, turning from dead works. Those dead works we start to understand are more than just not stealing, not lying, not eating unclean meats, that kind of thing. It's going beyond that by a new and a living way. In I Corinthians 11:25 it says:

"After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament..." (I Corinthians 11:25)

Is the new covenant; so when we come to Passover we are renewing that covenant. That's what we're doing, that's one of the purposes of the Passover. We're saying; "Look, I'm putting myself under the blood of this covenant, this agreement, this new agreement, by a new and a living way." This is the cup of a new covenant, the New Testament. I Corinthians 11:25:

" my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." (I Corinthians 11:25)

It's a memorial. So it's kept once a year, because memorials are kept once a year. I can't think of anything that's kept every six months. I can't think of any memorial that people decide to keep every six months, or even every month or week or whatever. Nothing; it's always once a year. I Corinthians 11:26:

"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)

Now this, again, is important. As we approach the Passover, realize what we're doing. We are gathering as a memorial, once a year, for the death of God Himself, really, because He's one of the members of the very godhead. And if we do that in an unworthy way, if we approach it in a casual way, we're out of line. We are completely and totally out of line! And, therefore, that's why it goes on in I Corinthians 11:27 and says:

"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily..." (I Corinthians 11:27)

It's not talking about being worthy. None of us are worthy. The idea of being worthy is nonsense. Mr. Armstrong dismisses this in a couple of sentences in his; 'Passover Examination 4 March 1982' sermon. But it's talking here about how we do it. When we come into that room, do we start fellowshipping? Do we start laughing and joking, or slapping each other on the back, or whatever? That is doing it in an unworthy way, because we are there as a memorial of the very death of Christ and we approach that evening with the solemnity that it requires. That is what it is talking about. We must do it in a worthy manner, and we must approach it properly. And if we don't we:

"...shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." (I Corinthians 11:27-28)

It's not examining ourself and saying; "Am I worthy to keep it?" Because it says we must keep it. So it's not talking about whether we're worthy or not. We examine ourselves to make sure we keep it in a worthy manner. But we also examine ourself repentance-wise, not just a case of have we repented. We should have repented at baptism. But have we grown in our understanding of that repentance? Do we really understand that we turned from dead works of all kinds, the mental kinds that were mentioned in the sermonette, and turned to the Living God? I Corinthians 11:29:

"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily [in an unworthy manner], eateth and drinketh damnation [or judgement] to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." (I Corinthians 11:29-30)

In other words, God allows us to get sick; and we therefore are judged in that area first before He then starts taking His very Spirit away from us. Because He will deal with us as sons in a loving way, to make sure we are corrected correctly. But we do need to look at ourselves as we come towards the Passover. Certainly, one of the areas we need to make certain we do look at is that we do approach the Passover in a worthy way that we approach it with reverence, and we do realize that this is a serious business. Christ actually had to die. And this is a memorial, the memorial once a year that we keep.

It is interesting that in this section of scripture within I Corinthians 11, if you notice in verse 17:

"Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse [there were problems within the Corinthian Church, and he certainly is addressing these problems]. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I [believe that part of you are; is probably a better way of translating that last part]. For there must be also heresies [or sects] among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (I Corinthians 11:17-19)

Now, that's an interesting section. Reading that twenty or thirty years ago we probably didn't really understand it. Today, in this little group here, we do. We've had our nose rubbed in that, and we've filtered our way through different groups looking for the Way of God and trying to find the Way of God and the leadership by the very Spirit of God. "For there must be also [these schisms or] heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (I Corinthians 11:19) And he then goes into the rest of the section.

Now what kind of things then, if we're growing in repentance? In the past, when we first came into the Church, when we first started in this journey that we are destined to continue until we finally make it into the Kingdom of God, quite physical things were being looked at. But what kind of things are we looking at other than that? I think I'll give one main area that every single one of us can look at, that every single one of us can measure. What is the growth? What is our growth in understanding about repentance, about this turning from dead works to the Living God? Turn over to Matthew 12:33:

"Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit [if you've got a good tree, you get good fruit, if you've got a bad tree, you get bad fruit, it's quite simple]. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matthew 12:33-34)

He is talking about what comes out of the mouth. Now every single one of us in this room can look at the things that come out of our mouths; and we can say; "Hey! We're wrong!" And I mean, we don't have to go back six months. We can go back, probably a week, probably a day, where something comes out of our mouth and; "That's not right, it came out wrong!" No, it didn't come out wrong at all. It came out right, that's the problem. That's the problem! It came out right. It came out from our heart and the way from which we're thinking. That's the problem. Matthew 12:34:

" 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. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment [that is scary!]. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (Matthew 12:34-37)

Now do you see what I'm talking about when I say growing in repentance? Repentance from dead works to serve the Living God. Oh, we can go ahead and say; "We're righteous! We keep the Sabbath. We keep the Holy Days. We don't lie. We don't steal." But what about the stuff that comes out of our mouth? Is it always with grace? Is it always for the benefit of the people and whoever happens to be around us? You see we cannot change that by changing what's coming out of our mouth. You change that by changing what's inside. If the inside is wrong, you will put up a front, the front will be there; but eventually it will crumble, and people will see that. And if you're doing it so that the people will see, or that the people won't see, again, we're doing it for the wrong reason. It's repentance toward God. It's repentance from dead works toward God. That's what it's all about.

So we're looking at an area, and again we've just read about the kind of schisms and splits within the Church, and that only some are approved. Turn over to I John 3:24:

"And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him [talking about loving one another as in the preceding verse, not just ticking off all these commandments and saying that we are righteous]. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but [test] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (I John 3:24,4:1)

In other words, people speaking from a spiritual perspective. And he then goes on and he tells us: how do you actually test it? How do you make the discernment? I John 4:2:

"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God [so simple]: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (I John 4:2)

The problem is, it's not very well translated; confess 'homologos', Strong's 3670 that's what it is in Greek. 'Homou', Strong's 3674 meaning 'the same'; and 'logos', Strong's 3056 meaning 'word'. So, with the same word, every Spirit that has the same word as Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh is of God. So is what's coming out of the mouth as if Christ was there speaking? That's what it is. What comes out of the mouth, it comes from the heart. The word Christ means the Anointed One. So if what comes out of the mouth is the same as with Christ speaking, then it's of God. I John 4:3:

"And every spirit that confesses not [or homologos] And every spirit that confesseth not [is continually coming in the flesh] is not of God..." (I John 4:3)

It's not just a one off. It's a continual thing. It's a continual process, and you assess: what is the spirit? What are these words coming from? Where are these words coming? We will all make mistakes. We will all fall flat on our face. We all have to repent before God. But this is how this is assessed. I John 4:3:

"...and this is that spirit of antichrist [ antichrist means against the anointing or the Anointed One], whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you [or, that that is in you], than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." (I John 4:3-6)

Remember the word Spirit means breath. What kind of breath is producing the word? That's how we know. That is what this section is all about. It goes on to say in I John 4:17:

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (I John 4:17)

As Christ is, so are we in the world; and we assess the word that comes out of people's mouths. That's the way in which it's done. So, we can see that there needs to be a growth, and that growth, one area that we need to grow in, is growing in the understanding of repentance. It's not just a case of physical things that we're repenting of. Initially it is, when we first come into the Church. But it's got to be of what we are, of what is inside; and we can tell what is inside by what's coming out of our mouth.

If what comes out of our mouth is wrong, there's something wrong inside. If it's right, then it's getting changed inside. And as we are repentant before God, we're turning from our way; and we're going across to God's way. That's how we tell. That's probably the greatest area that you and I can look at and say; "Are we turning? Are we really turning? Have we really repented? Have we really recognized what's going on inside?" What's coming out of our mouth? That's the question that provides the answer.

Faith Is Essential (PLAY FROM 37:48)

So, let's go back to Hebrews 6 again; but first the lead-in of Hebrews 5:12:

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of [mature], even those who by reason of use [by habit] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works [which we just covered], and of faith toward God," (Hebrews 5:12-14,6:1)

You see, here is another area. So I want to read the whole section, again let's put it into context; faith toward God is one of these principles. We need to leave faith toward God, and we need to mature. What kind of faith are we having now? What is the faith scale? How is our assessment of the faith that we had at baptism and the faith that we have now? We look at it and, quite frankly, we come up short. Today's society particularly comes up short.

Now I just bought a new computer, and it's got all the bells and whistles and all the rest of it. But I look at the thing and I think; "Okay, fine, it'll work; but how on earth do they get all that whatever it does into such a small space?" Compared to the mammoth that I used to work with back in the sixties which had a fraction of memory and everything else, it is amazing! But it is physical and I know and I have faith that there are physical explanations for everything that I'm dealing with; whatever I'm touching, whenever I'm typing. I understand about programming machines. I know what is going on, to a certain degree; about the program that is throwing up this window or whatever else I happen to be doing. And when I press a key, I understand a little bit about the goings on that will allow that letter to come up on the screen.

We trust that. We have faith in that - the material world. We switch on a light; okay we don't understand electricity completely - nobody really does - but we can see the kind of cause and effect. We can put these things together. We live in this materialistic world, and it is destroying our faith. It does destroy our faith. This is what Mr. Armstrong continually mentioned as the problem with faith - the world in which we find ourselves. We trust what we see. We don't trust what we can't see. When I say see, I don't mean literally see. I mean, I can't see the wire going into the light over there, but when I switch the light on, I can't see the wire. I can't see the electricity, but I know it's there. We see and we comprehend it.

But you see, there are certain things that God tells us to believe in and that God says that He will do. And we don't see God. We see what He's done. We haven't seen Him and there are unseen things. And we do, in this society and at this age, we have a real problem with faith. And yet here it says, we are to leave behind the faith toward God, we're going further than that. Do we really? Can we go further than that in today's society? When Christ said when He returns, will He find faith on the earth? You know, this is something that we should ponder prior to Passover, prior to going into the Holy Day season.

Turn over a couple of pages to Hebrews 11:6 and look at one of the foundational areas of this faith towards God:

"But without faith it is impossible to please him [and then he explains what he means]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is [you've got to believe that there's a God, if we don't believe that there's a God, how on earth can we pray, how on earth can we do anything? We can't even take our first steps], and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

You know, we are so weak in this area at this time, that we even struggle on that. You know, a child has complete faith in his father. But we struggle with faith. We struggle with believing that God would actually take any notice of me, personally. Elijah, Moses and all the rest of them, He'd listen to them; but When I get on my knees would He listen to you and to me? Would He really? Do we really have the faith that we need? There is a real problem at this time, and we've got to be aware of that. And we've got to look at ourselves and we've got to say ... Well, you know, it could even be in this fundamental area. Do we really believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Do we really believe that? If we go back a little bit, into Hebrews 10:35:

"Cast not away therefore your confidence [your faith], which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise [those that diligently seek Him. You've done the will of God, you WILL receive the promise. We need to believe that, and yet do we?]. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." (Hebrews 10:35-37)

It will be here. The Kingdom of God will be here. You know, sometimes we go through life and we go through day after day after day, and it almost seems it's never coming; but it will. It will be here. Hebrews 10:38:

"Now the just shall live by faith [everything they do is governed by it, and as we'll go on and see, faith has an enormous part to play in justification and being just]: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." (Hebrews 10:38-39)

The saving of the being, the very character that we have in that regard. If we turn back to Romans 3:19:

"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." (Romans 3:19)

Every single one of us has sinned. And when we understand about repentance truly, when we understand about words coming out of mouths and where words come from, then we haven't got a leg to stand on. We just don't. Romans 3:20:

"Therefore by the deeds of the law [by works, by physical works of the law] there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)

We know when we're off track. We don't justify ourselves by keeping it. We can't make ourselves righteous. We've got to keep it, but we don't make ourselves righteous in that way. Romans 3:21:

"But now the righteousness of God [apart from] the law is manifested [it can be seen], being witnessed by the law and the prophets [they were prophesying of this time that we find ourselves in, today]; Even the righteousness of God that is by faith of Jesus Christ [notice it is the faith OF Christ in us that produces the righteousness, not our faith in Christ; it's the faith of Christ in us producing the righteousness] unto all and upon all them that believe..." (Romans 3:21-22)

There's your faith in Christ. We believe God and that He's a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. There's your starting faith. But from that starting faith, it's got to grow, and it becomes a faith which is the faith of God as the relationship with God develops. Romans 3:23:

"...upon all them that believe: for there is no difference. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a [mercy seat] through faith in his blood..." (Romans 3:22-25)

In other words, we come before that mercy seat. Remember, we're coming by a new and a living way; and when we are looking at the Passover, we are looking and re-examining that new and that living way. Romans 3:25:

" declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past [because you come to that mercy seat, trusting in that sacrifice blotting out sins that are past], through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time [at that time when we're before that mercy seat, when the sins of the past are gone] his righteousness [it's the faith of Christ in us at that time that then gives us the righteousness; we are then righteous before God], that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-26)

So there are two types of faith being mentioned here. One is the faith of God in us, the other is the faith that we have towards God. And Hebrews 6 says the faith towards God is a starting faith and that we move on from that.

One other scripture in this section; Galatians 2:16. Now this is justification by works, by keeping the physical ordinances largely, or quite frankly, any other ordinances. We're not justified before God by keeping - whatever. It doesn't make any difference what it is, because that's our reasonable service. Obedience to God is our reasonable service.

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ..." (Galatians 2:16)

Notice that; it is the faith OF Christ that makes us just. As Christ said to the man who came to Him, He said; "...Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17). Okay fine; but the goodness comes from God, the faith OF Christ. Galatians 2:16:

"...even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ [some translations mess this completely up, they completely massacre it, but you go back to the original and the King James is correct in the way it treats it], and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:16)

Just not stealing, not lying, not doing these various things is not going to justify us. The justification comes from the faith of God in us, and that faith of God in us comes from faith in that sacrifice. That sacrifice, then, blots out the sin and allows us then to keep a different life. Galatians 2:17:

"But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid [you cannot continue in sin, if this process is underway]. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [dead to that penalty] I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me [that's the faith OF Christ in us]: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2:17-21)

And then he goes on to the Galatians who believe this Gnostic heresy that they could somehow make themselves righteous by doing this work here, and doing that work there, and doing all the various bits and pieces; and that is not correct. We do not become righteous that way. We become righteous because it's got to be God's righteousness, not ours. But there are two kinds of faith being mentioned in this area. It is the faith OF Christ that justifies us and makes us righteous; and we obtain that by the faith IN Christ, which allows us to approach that throne, as it mentions in Hebrews, to come before God the Father, and be plugged in, in that regard.

So when we're looking, when we're going approaching the Passover, we're looking at the subject of faith. Are we still where we were 20-30-40 years ago? Is that still the understanding that we have? Are we repentant? Are we still in the level of faith that we had at that time, or has it grown? Has the understanding of the subject of faith grown? And as I say, here we are in a materialistic world trying to understand something that we have phenomenal difficulties with. In the third world, they don't have the same problem because they are not surrounded by the same materialism; and we are, and we do have a problem. We really, really do. But that doesn't justify saying; "Oh well, we've got a problem; and therefore we can't have it." No! Sorry! That is not right.

We've got to get to grips with that. We do need to draw close to God by this new and living way and ask for that faith, that faith OF Christ. It's the faith OF Christ that does the works. As Christ said Himself; "...the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." (John 14:10). And that's the faith of Christ. It's the kind of faith Christ had that did the works that He did. The Father does the works. It wasn't even Christ. But that was His faith; His faith was in the Father. Is our faith in the Father the same as Christ's? That He's living within us, producing whatever God has for us to produce.

As I say, we've got problems. We have problems! We need to make sure we recognize that and ask God to lead us and to show us where we need to change, and how do we change? How can we live in this modern materialistic world and get our minds correct in regard to faith? How do we do it? We need to ask God, and we need to come before God and ask Him. That's what we need to do.

Growing in Listening (PLAY FROM 55:08)

Turn back to Hebrews, because the book of Hebrews is about listening to a large degree. It's about many things, it's about tithing, it's about many things; but one of the things that it kicks off with, in the very first verseof Hebrews 1, it says that:

"God, who at sundry times and in [different ways] spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [a] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;" (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Here; "God who speaks in different ways and in times past, in these last days has spoken to us by a Son..." (Hebrews 1:1-2 paraphrased). By The Son, His Son; But do we listen? Do we listen, really? And he then starts the whole process off; and if we go over to Hebrews 5:10 where we read before:

"Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. Of whom we have many things to say [he is starting to explain how this talking goes on, how God is now speaking to us through a Son, He says; 'I've got many things to tell you about this'], and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing." (Hebrews 5:10-11)

The problem is, we don't listen! And he says; "Look, the problem is that you're going to have to be teachers. But you're not listening to what is being said to you." He says; "We're not going to go ahead and re-lay these foundational issues, we don't need to do that. We've got to move on from that point. But we've got to listen to what God is saying. If we don't listen, we can't learn. And the growth that is necessary depends on listening. Another word for growing in listening is meekness. Meekness means teachableness, and we grow in the way in which we are being taught. .

In Acts 28:23 we find the Jews that went to Paul, and here was Paul, who was himself a Jew at one time. He was struck down and had to listen to what Christ had to say to him, and then he was trained for three and a half years in the desert and listened to what Christ had to say; who then took that word out. Here in Acts 28:23:

"And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word [one central thing, this would cause the separation], Well spake the Holy Spirit by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is [ become fat, fat and sluggish and a heart that doesn't respond], and their ears are dull of hearing [full of wax], and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (Acts 28:23-27)

It's understanding with the heart, that's the problem. But do we listen? Do we listen properly? Acts 23:28:

"Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation [the rescue] of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves." (Acts 28:28-29) In other words, they had an awful lot of arguments amongst themselves. You can imagine the kind of conflab that was going on at that particular time.

You see, one thing that has to happen and one thing that's tied over into the Passover. Turn over to Exodus 12:43, part of the Passover and the reason the people were able to keep the Passover:

"And the [Eternal] said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance [or the statute] of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: But every man's servant [or slave] that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof [he then becomes part of the household; but he's got to be circumcised before he can take the Passover]. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof." (Exodus 12:43-46)

That's why you'll find that Christ was stabbed with a spear; He didn't have his bones broken. That is also why it is a tradition in the Church that the bread is broken at the time. You don't break it into pieces before it comes up here; you break it in front of the people, that is why. Exodus 12:47:

"All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the [Eternal], let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof." (Exodus 12:47-48)

So circumcision was the key area as far as eating the Passover was concerned, of a male obviously. And if we turn over to Romans 2:28; and this was a great debate at the time, as to whether, in fact, physical circumcision was required. Was it part of the works of the law that were no longer required? Or was it part of the Law which really should be required? The fact is that it had to be done on the eighth day anyway. And the conclusion was that; no, it was part of those works and therefore was no longer required as such. But in here the meaning is very clear:

"For he is not a Jew [the word Jew, in Hebrew, means praised or praise, Paul is using a slight play on words here; for he is not a Jew, or praised], which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew [or praised], which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. What advantage then hath the [praise of the] Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?" (Romans 2:28-29,3:1)

So it's clear that we're looking at, at the end of Romans 2, that the circumcision is now of the heart. When we look at Passover, and we're growing in listening, is our heart circumcised? Are we? Do we present ourselves before God and listen with a circumcised heart? Romans 10:17:

"So then faith [the subject we just dealt with previously] cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God [these things are all linked up together; repentance, faith, listening, it's all part and parcel]. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world [Psalm 19:4]. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Isaiah is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." (Romans 10:17-21)

If you go back and check what it says it Isaiah 65, it then goes on a bit and says; "...which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;" (Isaiah 65:2). Now, " thoughts are not your thoughts..." (Isaiah 55:8). Here it's talking about Israel. He stretches out His hands to Israel, and yet they don't respond - they want to go after their own thoughts. They won't listen to God's thoughts, or His thinking.

And the question is; do we? Are we dull of hearing? Are our ears full of wax? Has our heart become gross and fat? Do we actually listen when God talks to us? And sometimes He talks and He corrects us. Do we really listen? Are we prepared to listen? As we approach the Passover, repentance is always about listening. It really is. It is largely about listening. But, unfortunately, we don't.

We live in a world that is faithless. We live in a world that has closed its mind to God. It doesn't even believe in a God. It's not even as far along as the time of Paul. He says the words are going out, but there's a gap there. The listening isn't there. They're not really listening. It's this gainsaying people that says something against what is actually being said to them; because they want to go after their own thoughts and their own ways. And if we'll go over to Hebrews 12:5 we find here:

"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children..." (Hebrews 12:5)

Remember, this whole book of Hebrews is one subject, is one complete discourse. He says that; "God...spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath [now] in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;" (Hebrews 1:1-2). It goes on and it says; "Look, you should have been teachers, but you've got people needing to be taught the very first principles." (Hebrews 5:12 paraphrased). And it says we're not listening. Then he goes then into Hebrews 11 on to faith; and in Hebrews 12:5 it says:

"[Look] ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. [Verse 8] But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." (Hebrews 12:5-6,8)

So, when we are being spoken to, it's like a little child. You put a child down there; and you say; "Now, you look at me!" And he looks at you and the scowl comes on the face. He's not listening. You know, there are certain problems there. And it's almost like a book and the poor child's suddenly thinking; "How does he know what I'm thinking?" It's that scowl that comes on their face. "But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." (Hebrews 12:8). Hebrews 12:22:

"But ye are come [here we are, don't faint when you're rebuked of Him] unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God [remember, by a new, by a living way], the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are [enrolled, is probably best] in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant [the new agreement],and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. [You therefore] See that ye refuse not him that speaketh..." (Hebrews 12:22-25)

It is a case that God is speaking to us, and He speaks to us by correcting us sometimes. And when God corrects us, do we listen? Or do we scowl; 'I don't like it!' So often, that is the case. So one area that we do need to look at and be examining is whether, in fact, we are listening. Turn over to John 15:1:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away [and that's scary]: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15:1-2)

But to get the fruit, you do need to prune, depending on the fruit; and each tree has got to be pruned differently. Each tree is pruned in different ways. Some have got to be tip pruned. Others have got to be hack pruned. In other words, you cut out great branches at a time. Whereas with others, you've got to just literally snip off the tips all the way round, because the fruit is forming behind them. It puts the nutrient back into the fruit. And that's about my limited knowledge of pruning. But it says here in John 15:2:

"...and every branch that beareth fruit, he [prunes] it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you [stay in Me] As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it [stays] in the vine; no more can ye, except ye [stay] in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that [stays] in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:(John 15:2-5)

Now we read this on the night of the Passover. These are some of the last words that Christ left us, at that time. "... for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5) And as we approach the Passover, and the season of the Holy Days, we've got to re-examine these areas. We've got to look at some of these areas. The main area is repentance. The main area! That is the area that we examine. That's the main area. But even some of these areas as well, as we're going into the Holy Day season, it's worth just understanding and casting our mind over this again. John 15:6:

" If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you [it's not just a case of staying in you, it's a case of living in us, those words living in us], ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (John 15:6-8)

That is what it's about. We've got to be bearing the fruit, and being pruned, and being prepared for being teachers in the future. If we go back to Hebrews 5:12 again, it talks about being teachers:

"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." (Hebrews 5:12)

So he lays it on the line there and talks in chapter 6 about how you don't go ahead and lay again the principles and doctrines of Christ. There's no need to re-lay these. It's a case of, yes, check them; but we need to grow from them. The meaning of the Passover should be more profound to us today. It should not remain the same profound nature that it was when we were first baptized. It must move forward from that. It goes on here in Hebrews 6:3:

"And this will we do, if God permit [that we move on from there]. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away [it's impossible], to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." (Hebrews 6:3-6)

In other words, having started in the route that God has laid before us, we must continue. There's no going back. There is absolutely no going back for any of us. We have got to continue. Hebrews 6:7:

"For the earth which drinketh in the rain [the Spirit of God is likened to water] that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth [vegetables] meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation [or rescue], though we thus speak [though I've mentioned these things]. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:" (Hebrews 6:7-11)

He's encouraging them to keep going, not to give up, even though he's saying; "Look, you've got some problems, they need to be sorted out." When you should have been teachers, it's almost as if you need to be taught again." But he says, "No, we will. We can move on. We can move on from this foundation."

So are we ready to be teachers? Well, I certainly hope we are working towards that end. Be aware that, you know, there will undoubtedly be some people within the Church who will find that this is their final Passover. Someone, somewhere, within the Church, from the wider Churches of God, who are converted people, will find this will be their final Passover. We don't need to be morbid, but we do need to realize why we're taking it. We are taking it to become teachers. We are taking it to be ready to be used by Christ at that time.

He's going to prune us. He's going to work with us. He will talk to us, but we've got to listen. And we've got to make sure that the faith and the repentance is something that has grown from that initial baptism, from our initial repentance and faith we had at the point of baptism; and it must continue to grow as we move forward from this point also.