Is the feast calendar God's litmus test?
The writer pastors the Church of God Big Sandy and is a regular columnist for The Journal. For other articles about the calendar, see James Ussery's beginning on page 9 and Pam Dewey's beginning on page 10.
By Dave Havir
BIG SANDY, Texas--For anyone tempted to avoid reading anything about the calendar, this article is about ideas that transcend calendar issues. In fact, I predict that many of you will appreciate my buyer-beware analogy.
I want to share with you two concepts I recently heard about the calendar.
Do you see a common thread inherent in the two opinions?
At first glance you may notice that one group strongly supports the Jewish calendar and the other group strongly denounces the Jewish calendar.
But do you see what they have in common?
Here's what they have in common: Both groups use the calendar as a litmus test of a person's relationship with God.
God gives His Spirit
Even though I still use the calculated Jewish calendar, which was used by the Radio Church of God and Worldwide Church of God, I strongly disagree with people identifying the Jewish calendar as the criterion to endorse a person's relationship with God.
I believe the two concepts of 2 Timothy 2:19:
Here is another way of saying it:
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in the past 10 years is to quit viewing church leaders and master teachers as people who speak for God like Old Testament prophets.
God told Aaron and Miriam: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision and will speak unto him in a dream (Numbers 12:6).
Has God spoken to modern church leaders or master teachers in either a vision or dream?
God also told Aaron and Miriam: With Moses I speak mouth to mouth (verse 8).
When people liken themselves or their leaders to Moses, they greatly exaggerate.
Bright lights of Damascus
Another valuable lesson I have learned in the past 10 years is to quit viewing church leaders and master teachers as people who speak for God like New Testament apostles.
No succession of apostles
Someone may ask: Do you believe in apostolic succession?
My response: No.
Church leaders and master teachers are not the only ones who make calendar choices a litmus test for determining a person's relationship with God.
Some people who now use a different calendar to determine feast days pressure people to accept their new conclusions.
For the record, I understand why people have studied various calendar options. For years people connected their view of what they called "God's sacred calendar" to their perception of God's government on earth. The headquarters of their church told them when they would observe the annual feast days.
When many came to realize that God's government on earth was not to be found in any specific administration among the Churches of God, they perceived a need to become more familiar with the process of determining when to observe the annual feasts.
I respect people for taking responsibility for their own decisions and for following their convictions (Romans 14:23).
However, I am disappointed that some people are on a mission to proselytize people to accept their new calendar views.
Jesus Christ described how some people zealously seek to make proselytes (Matthew 23:15). These people will seek to force their will upon others.
Many people use the following approach when considering purchasing a product or service: "I am here to buy something, but I am not here for you to try to sell me anything."
A similar phrase is true when people consider taking ownership of religious ideas: "I am here to learn something, but I am not here for you to try to force anything on me."
Beware of pushy people who do not treat people as buyers with the freedom of choice.
Only store in town
Consider how the buyer-beware analogy relates to some church leaders or master teachers who claim to speak for God.
Some church leaders and master teachers say: We are the experts, and we will tell you what you must buy. If you do not agree with us, you are not worthy of our product (theories). Leave our store (religious group).
If you wonder how church leaders and master teachers convince people to stay in their store, let me remind you about one of their marketing strategies. Some promote the idea that they are the only store in town. This common approach to religion influences people to forget that they are in the position of buyer. Hence, individuals surrender their freedom of choice.
(For the record, other church leaders and master teachers use another marketing strategy when they claim they are the best store in town. However, it is difficult to determine if the pitfalls of elitism are much better than the consequences of exclusivism.)
Consider how the buyer-beware analogy relates to religious zealots seeking to cram interpretations down someone's throat.
Some salesmen send unsolicited mail about their doctrinal theories. Unsolicited mail is often junk mail.
Some salesmen will make unsolicited telephone calls about doctrinal theories. People who make unsolicited telephone sales calls are telemarketers.
If you are interested in hearing about calendar issues, remember that you are the buyer. Do not let salesmen push you around.
Even when you initiate a discussion, you can terminate the conversation when your interest is satisfied or if you do not like the approach of the salesman.
Even when you choose to read material, you can stop reading when your interest is satisfied or when you deem that reading such material is not the best use of your time.
At this time, I want to tip my hat to Dixon and Linda Cartwright (the publishers of The Journal).
Here are three simple benefits of The Journal:
(Five years ago I skipped most of the calendar articles. When I chose to study about the subject, I found them to be helpful in understanding different perspectives.)
A little dab of love
God expects saints to take personal responsibility and to follow their convictions. However, personal convictions can transform into an attitude of despising other people (Luke 18:9-14).
Does your knowledge puff you up, or is it mixed with enough love to edify others? (1 Corinthians 8:1).
Remember this final thought: If we have the perfect calendar but we have not charity, we are nothing.
The Journal: News of the Churches of God is available from P.O. Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A., and http://www.thejournal.org. For more information write . To comment on this article or any other article or feature in The Journal or Connections, write . The preceding article or feature is from The Journal, February 25, 2002.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God