The following Scripture passages are offered to aid beginning fellowships. The readings and commentary for this week are more in line with what has become usual; for the following will most likely be familiar observations. The concept behind this Sabbath’s selection is the wilderness of unbelief.
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For the Sabbath of March 17, 2012
The person conducting the Sabbath service should open services with two or three hymns, or psalms, followed by an opening prayer acknowledging that two or three (or more) are gathered together in Christ Jesus’ name, and inviting the Lord to be with them.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and of B<,b:"J@H (\@Ø [spirit holy] distributed according to His will. Now it was not to angels that He subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere,
"What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet."
Now in putting everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside His control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him. But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
"I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise."
"I will put my trust in him."
"Behold, I and the children God has given me."
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:1–18 some translator added words to the original text in vv. 4–5 have been removed with emphasis added to vv. 1–3)
Everything that is needful for salvation has been declared to endtime sons of God if these sons were to pay much closer attention to what we [they] have heard … within the recent history of the Sabbatarian Churches of God, there was a movement to seek the academic accreditation of legal entities; so ministers and instructors at what was truly a bible college dressed up to look like a liberal arts university set out with innocence and good intentions to pursue terminal graduate degrees from other institutions to bolster the academic standing of this bible college. But what happened was predictable: these ministers and instructors encountered historical criticism, fell under its spell, and quickly—remarkably so—succumbed to this method of biblical inquiry, abandoned what they had previously been taught, abandoned Sabbath observance, and embraced the orthodoxy of historical Christianity, not realizing exactly how unprepared they had been to trek through the dark wilderness of unbelief until they were lost.
John records Jesus saying,
The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. (John 12:35–36)
Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in Him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees Him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me." (John 12:44–50 emphasis added)
What happened to instructors of the former Ambassador University is, perhaps, the best reason why novices should not be permitted to teach; for a child can learn a little from another child, but not very much. Thus, instructors trained by the particular bible college couldn’t journey much farther into the dark wilderness of this world without getting lost, without getting turned around and confused, than their guide [their fuehrer] had himself journeyed into this wilderness before camping in a small clearing still quite a ways away from the foundation of the house of God that Paul had laid (see 1 Cor 3:10–11) and there building for himself a house.
The fuehrer of this bible college was himself a novice when he began to teach others: he relied on a holy spirit, the parakletos, to lead him into all knowledge and truth, but he lacked the basic informational package necessary for this spirit of truth to do its work in him. Thus, he wore out congregations by repeatedly returning to the Temptation Account in Genesis chapter three of the last five years or so of his ministry—for the parakletos was telling him where he needed to go to return his ministry to the way of God; for after coming back from death or a near death experience, he realized how far his ministry was from where it should be.
In the fuehrer’s absence after experiencing heart failure, the fuehrer’s ministry under the guidance of his son had produced a Systematic Theology Project (STP) that sought to codify doctrines and beliefs, thereby freezing in print all learning and revelation … if the goal of a ministry is to turn itself into a theological fossil, a book such as Ambassador’s STP will accomplish that purpose, something that the fuehrer understood; for truly, the parakletos was working with the fuehrer.
However, because the fuehrer had begun to teach others and ceased teaching himself fifty years earlier, the ministers and instructors trained by the fuehrer were ill prepared for the dark wilderness of unbelief through which every Christian has to trek at some point during the son of God’s maturation process. Hence, when these ministers and instructors encountered the reality that the Bible was not an infallible text—infallibility is actually the state in which a text is received, not the state in which the text was produced for readers [auditors] must assign meanings to words and interpretations to extended passages—these ministers and instructors dumped what their fuehrer had taught them and ran headlong through the darkness until they became thoroughly lost and hopelessly entangled by the affairs of this world.
My stepfather was a Seventh Day Adventist and would not hunt on the Sabbath. Oregon deer seasons always opened on the Sabbath. And when thirteen I didn’t want to wait until the second day of season to go hunting so I awoke early and set off on foot up Slick Rock Creek Road [Lincoln County] along which we lived, eager to get to an abandoned hilltop orchard before daylight. I knew the road well, but in the pre-dawn darkness, the familiar became unfamiliar. Dark shadows of bushes and trees loomed over the gravel road, some looking for all the world like bears (I would see a bear that morning), all appearing threatening. And as I hurried to walk the three miles or so to where I was going, all the while feeling adrenaline running from encountering potential threats that intellectually I knew were not threatening at all … I arrived in the orchard more than two hours before sunrise, sat down and leaned against the trunk of a larger apple. A doe came into the orchard and actually ate apples on the ground between my feet (she was the length of my legs away). But just before dawn a bear came into the orchard and scared the doe and another deer that I could barely make out away. At any rate, I never forgot that trek through the darkness and have returned to that memory on occasions where I have had to again trek through areas where most threats were imaginary, but not all of them.
Every son of God will have his [or her] faith tested by having to undertake a second journey of faith as Abraham had to undertake a second journey of faith:
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you." And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided." And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice." (Gen 22:1–18)
The Apostle Paul neglected mentioning to new converts that in addition to the journey of faith undertaken from Babylon (the kingdom of this world and analogous to Ur of the Chaldeans from Abraham) to heavenly Jerusalem, a journey that requires the convert to begin keeping the commandments by faith, with keeping the Sabbath forming a line of demarcation equivalent to crossing the Jordan River, the convert must undertake a second journey of faith within the Promised Land (i.e., within Sabbath observance) after the convert has gained some spiritual maturity. And it is this second journey of faith that forms the testing of the convert as Abraham was tested by God.
James understood that a second journey of faith was necessary; hence he wrote,
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from spirit [B<,b:"J@H — pneumatos, breath] is dead, so also faith [B\FJ4H — pistis, belief] apart from works is dead. (Jas 2:10–26 emphasis added)
The Christian’s second journey of faith requires the implementation of belief into deeds of the flesh, with this implementation of belief/faith coming in the face of doubts, of trials, of false teachings, of being mocked for being a legalist. … Abraham was tested three days’ journey into the wilderness, the same length of time for which Moses asked Pharaoh, the same length Jesus’ disciples were tested when Jesus was in the garden tomb—
The wilderness symbolically represents unbelief, doubt, unanswered questions, the ways of the world prevailing over the Christian who must intellectually suppress the unknown, suppress fears that there is no God, no Christ Jesus, no inspired word of God, no life after death. The Christian must pit mind against emotions and prevail. The Christian needs to understand that desert varnish on rocks [hydration rind] suggests that the earth is older than Creationists contend, but polonium decay in amber also suggests that the earth was created suddenly, in microseconds. The Christian needs to be able to hold conflicting information in mind without losing faith, without being overcome by unbelief as the men of Israel were overcome by unbelief in the days of Moses. And if the Christian cannot hold conflicting data in mind, neither accepting nor rejecting the data, the Christian will either lose faith entirely or will succumb to idiotic heresies such as the Sacred Names Heresy.
The dark shadows of red huckleberry bushes cast onto the dark gravel of a familiar road didn’t look like berry bushes in the faint light of a moon concealed by clouds: these shadows took on gruesome and fearful dimensions, with waving arms as the everpresent wind lifted and twisted branches that seemed animated. Even though I knew what the shadows were, they involuntarily produced fear of the sort that a nearby roar of a lion produces (see Amos 3:8) … when the Lord God speaks to a person, who can help but prophesy? Doubts about whether First Timothy was really written by the Apostle Paul shrivel, figuratively returning to being bushes that months earlier held berries that looked like salmon eggs but were of no interest to either the coastal cutthroats in Slick Rock Creek or to the pre-migrants of salmon and steelhead in the stream.
The imaginations of humans—our imaginations—play tricks on us, causing what should concern us [frighten us] to be ignored or neglected and causing what is of no importance to take us far from God, so far that in the darkness of this world we never find our way back. We are routinely tested by our imaginations: we’re not tested just once in an epic second journey of faith that lasts for a few days or a few weeks or even a few years. Rather, we are tested as Job was tested; we are tested until we pass the test. If it takes repeating a test many times before we pass, then we will repeat the test many times.
A devotional Christian—the one who attends weekly services to feel good about him or herself—keeps Christ Jesus at a distance, never permitting the Lord to get near enough to the person that he or she might feel threatened and begin to actually tremble when comprehending the gulf between man and God, a gulf the person cannot cross on his or her own. Thus, the communal hymns, the communal prayers, the snippet of a sermon—all of these things are designed to maintain a safe distance between the Christian and his or her Savior, a distance shortened by actually reading Scripture for him or herself so Scripture is never read as another book might be read, beginning at the beginning and arriving at the end in a week or two. And yes, the Bible can be read cover to cover in two weeks, a short enough period that the beginning hasn’t been forgotten when the end is reached.
Do problems with the Bible as a text exist? Are the words of Genesis the words of Moses? Why does the narrative voice in Genesis differ from that of Exodus or Deuteronomy? Or have you ever read closely enough to realize that there is a different narrative voice?
Scholars have slain themselves in the dark wilderness of unbelief when they encountered questions for which their youth pastors had not prepared them. They were like knot-head bucks, first year spike deer kicked off by their mothers as breeding season began. These little bucks don’t know what to fear and what not to fear: they are not really babies, but they are too young to have well developed survival instincts. So they stand around in the open, waiting to get killed … they can be likened to the ministers and instructors that Ambassador sent off to get graduate degrees from accredited theological programs. These little knot-heads are tender, perhaps the right age to be harvested—and the ministers and instructors of Ambassador were indeed harvested by the Adversary after they got lost in the darkness of the wilderness of unbelief.
Again, the intellect must prevail over the imagination: what was it that Jesus came to reveal to His disciples? Miracles? Healing the lame, the blind, lepers, the deaf? Did Jesus come to raise up the dead? Did Jesus come to preach the good news of the Kingdom to the poor? Or did Jesus come to reveal the Father, a deity about whom Israel knew nothing, to His disciples?
And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. … The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:5–8, 22–26)
Israel’s monotheism prevented Judaism from accepting Jesus as the Son of God … the man Jesus the Nazarene and the Creator-of-all-that-has-been-made couldn’t be, according to the elders of Israel, the same entity. The Messiah was to be an all-powerful king that restored the fortunes of Israel, that defeated Roman legions, that elevated Israel to worldly dominance of the sort King David temporarily had. But Jesus was none of these things: He was lamb-like, not mighty-warrior-like. So according to Judaism, the suffering prophecies that had never before been applied to the Messiah could not post-Calvary be applied to the Messiah; hence, for Judaism, Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, the Christ.
What Judaism didn’t understand; what most early Christian converts didn’t understand; what most endtime Christians do not understand was/is that humankind was born with a dead inner self, soul, consigned to disobedience and therefore condemned to death without ever having indwelling heavenly life. This is what the fuehrer of the bible college that dubbed itself Ambassador University didn’t understand although he came closer to understanding what Jesus said, what Paul knew than anyone since the 1st-Century CE. For the human person is born without indwelling life, but acquires an indwelling immortal soul—glorified inner self—when the human person receives a second breath of life, the breath of God in the breath of Christ. Thus, Gentile converts who came from Greek paganism believing the human persons are born with an immortal soul could not grasp the reality that this is not the case. Likewise Jews who had resisted the Gentile teaching of inner immortality could not grasp that being born of God pertained to an inner self, not the person’s fleshly body that could never enter the kingdom of God. Jews could not accept the reality that the kingdom of God over which the Messiah would reign was not an earthly kingdom like the Roman Empire or the Parthian Empire, but was a heavenly kingdom that reigned over the mental topography of human beings.
Paul was called because he was capable of making the transition from thinking of Israel as being an outwardly circumcised physical people to being the assembly of living inner selves that have been raised from death through receipt of a second breath of life, the indwelling breath of Christ Jesus. But this will have all that Israel did and was forming the non-symmetrical mirror image [chiral image] of the circumcised-of-heart nation of Israel—and frankly, Judaism wasn’t going there. Judaism would not accept this reality in the 1st-Century, nor now in the 21st-Century. And converts from Greek paganism weren’t about to live as uncircumcised Jews so a schism formed into which the Christian Church fell and as the Body of Christ died as did Jesus’ earthly body.
For the Christian who is able to make the transition from thinking of Israel as being a physical nation to thinking of Israel as being the assembly of inner selves [souls] that temporarily dwell in tents of flesh, an assembly to be liberated at the Second Passover as Israel in Egypt was liberated at the first Passover, the dark wilderness of unbelief is neither foreboding nor difficult to transverse. The Christian who makes the transition from a physically oriented mindset (which the fuehrer could not do) to a spiritual mindset has nothing to fear; for being able to make this transition discloses that the Christian has truly been born of God as a son and has been inwardly glorified.
Someone should have told the ministers and instructors from Ambassador who went to get graduate degrees what is contained in this Sabbath reading, but they wouldn’t have believed anything that the fuehrer didn’t tell him; so they perished spiritual in the wilderness. And that is sad. Some of them truly desired to serve Father and Son, and now where are they? Spiritually gutted, butchered, and hung in smokehouses where they cure slowly as if they were hams.
The person conducting the Sabbath service should close services with two hymns, or psalms, followed by a prayer asking God’s dismissal.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
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