Paul preached 'simplicity and godly sincerity,' so keep it simple, please
The writer has been a Church of God member since 1974. He lives with his wife, Cindy, and son Nathaniel on a farm near Big Sandy. The Bursons in the 1980s published--anonymously until its last issue--Faithful Word newsletter. Write Mr. Burson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ed Burson
BIG SANDY, Texas--If you ask God a simple question He will give you a simple answer.
Complicated and confusing opinions about the nature of God abound within the community of the Churches of God. The clear and simple knowledge of the true God appears to be slipping away from the church.
Is God baffling or mysterious to you?
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to reveal God's nature to His children. Its purpose is to help you grow to understand Him: how His mind works, how He thinks. His mind should not be unclear or obscure to those who love Him.
Men claim to love God with one breath and openly admit they do not really know Him, or say they cannot know Him, with their next. How can you love something you do not understand?
God is comprehensible
You can fear what you do not understand, and with God that is a beginning. You can be perplexed by something you do not understand.
If you have been in the church for 20 years, fear or perplexity is not enough. Can you expect to be in the resurrection if you do not learn to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind"? (Matthew 22:37).
If the statements you hear about God's nature are complicated and difficult to understand, you are listening to the wrong people. You are either listening to people who do not know Him, or you are listening to His enemies (who also do not know Him).
Complex answers about God originate with two types of people.
A huge following does not turn an ignorant man into a wise man. One of the important lessons of history is that an ignorant man often appears wise to other ignorant men.
This cloud of confusion is often called science (evolution is a perfect example). That which the liar cannot call science he calls philosophy or religion.
God's nature, His mind--the laws by which He created and governs the universe--are utterly simple and logical.
Truth should not be complicated.
Simplicity is the rule of the universe. This is true in philosophy, religion, carpentry, electronics or quantum physics. It is the nature of reality.
Answers appear complex when we are not properly grounded or when our teachers are not properly grounded. They can also appear complex when we are not hearing truth.
True answers are confusing only when we are not familiar with their foundation. Every truth rests on a solid foundation of many other truths.
A vital part of your responsibility in the process of conversion is to check every precept you hear against the Word of God to see if it is true. If you did not do this when you first accepted it, you should do it now.
The truth will stand
You should always be willing to examine the conclusions that make up your doctrinal foundation. Look them over, and make sure they still fit. Make sure the doctrines you developed from your conclusions still fit the Word of God. Don't be afraid to question what you believe. If it is the truth, it will survive your inspection, and your convictions will be stronger than ever.
All of our knowledge must fit with all of the Scriptures. You must remain quick to reject what does not fit the Scriptures, no matter what the source of the idea and no matter what the cost of rejecting it. ". . . The scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
This is where life can get difficult, because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few will find it (Matthew 7:14).
When you reject a teaching of your church, your church may reject you. If your best friend has accepted a false teaching and you disagree with him, he also may reject you. Can two walk together except they agree? (Amos 3:3).
Your first loyalty
Nevertheless, your first loyalty is never to the church, and it is never to your friend.
Perhaps you have not always understood this to be true, but your first loyalty is and always must be to the truth. You must be willing to endure the rejection of your church, your friend, your family and anyone else for the truth.
Those who seek out the truth and cling to it have always been rejected by their church and friends. This has been true since God first sent the Holy Spirit to those who followed Christ.
Do we forget what Christ said? "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). We expect hostility from people in the world, but should we expect it from brethren in the Church of God?
Why do so many people feel threatened when someone questions what they believe? Have they no confidence in their beliefs? Is it because they are so poorly grounded in the Scripture that they cannot defend what they believe?
At any rate, if they were secure in their concept of God they would not feel threatened.
Deceiving the elect
All we have ever learned about the nature and the purpose of God during the last 30 years in the church is under attack. A systematic assault is under way against every facet of the truth of God. It exists at all levels in the Churches of God, in the churches of the world and throughout society. It is gaining momentum, and it will grow quickly and deepen until it threatens to deceive even the elect of Christ.
If there were ever a time for you to become secure in what you believe, it is now.
Make no mistake. It is your responsibility before God both to recognize and reject a lie. Deception is not a satisfactory excuse.
Many people in the Church of God have never read the entire Bible, including some in the ministry. If you wish to recognize the truth, you must study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
How can the Holy Spirit "bring to remembrance" things Christ said if you have never even read the words of Christ? (John 14:26).
To understand how God intends you to apply His law, you must spend your life thinking about His Law.
"O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts" (Psalm 119:97-100).
David gained his wisdom differently from the way Solomon, his son, gained it. God gave Solomon his wisdom all at once. David developed his over a lifetime by dwelling on the law of God. Solomon fell away from the truth. David remained faithful.
How in the world can you recognize a lie if you do not know the truth? How can you know the truth if you do not study the truth or think about the truth?
". . . Strong meat belongs to them who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14).
If you do not accept this responsibility, and determine in your heart to reject what is not true, then you will add lies to your foundation of truth. Then any new pieces of truth or new doctrines that you build on that foundation will rest on error, will they not?
Pure truth can no longer be built upon that foundation. It is your job to keep the foundation clear of deception and lies.
Seeing is believing
One more thing to consider: You are responsible to believe what you see in God's Word. You are not free to transfer that responsibility to someone else. God expects you to shoulder the burden of believing what He tells you--alone, if necessary. It is not pleasant to carry this burden alone, but if you must it will strengthen you.
If you need a church or a minister (or a priest) to sanction what you believe before you feel free to believe what you see revealed in the Word of God, then you do not fear God; you fear men. It requires much courage to have an honest, open, personal, two-way relationship with Christ.
If you need a man to place his stamp of approval on what you believe, then what you have is a personal relationship with a man. This type of relationship requires much less courage, and it is not good enough.
What is the point of having direct access to Christ if you are afraid to believe what He says and choose to take the word of a man over the Word of God?
Ancient Israel was afraid of Christ when He spoke from Sinai. The Israelites could not look on the face of Moses, after he had been in the presence of Christ, without a veil to cover his face.
The truth was preached to them, but it did them no good. "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Hebrews 4:2).
They had no faith in the Word of God. They would not believe God. They needed a man to stand between them and God. They were not able or willing to trust Christ. A personal relationship with Christ would require them to surrender their thoughts to Him, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). This they could not do.
We are not ancient Israel. We are the Church of God. We have accepted the responsibility to continually strive to bring our thoughts into submission to the Spirit of Christ. We should not fear men.
If you lack the courage to trust the truth you see in the Word of God, your only recourse is to repent and change saviors (in midstream, as it were). Stop trusting men; surrender your fate to Christ. Trust Him with your sin-riddled body and mind. Trust Him with your eternity as He trusted His Father with His eternity.
Believing is seeing
If you "delight in the law of God after the inward man," then you cannot lose. Sinner that you are, you have won already (Romans 7:22).
When you begin to trust Christ again, He will fix it. He can fix anything. He will help you begin to discard the lies from your foundation of truth and rebuild pure truth upon it.
Knowledge does not remain static. It is always in motion. Satan walks about like a roaring lion, desperate to snatch the truth out of your heart and substitute his lies.
The unfortunate fact is that throughout history Satan's most powerful and effective tool has been a sharp, deceived man in a position of authority.
The more of men's lies and half-truths and false doctrines you accept, the more corrupt your foundation will become. Your grounding in the truth will continue to weaken, and your footing will begin to slip. It will become ever more difficult for you to recognize the truth when you see it.
Then the distance between you and your Creator will grow ever wider.
As you continue to lay erroneous precept upon erroneous precept, the truth will begin to seem to you as just so much double-talk, so much foolishness. Your faith in the true God will slowly disappear.
Ultimately you will have altered your perception of the personality of Christ to the point that you will not recognize Him when you see Him. When He returns, you will believe He is Satan coming to place an evil yoke of bondage upon mankind.
You will have accepted "another Christ," the "world's Christ," a Christ who cannot save you and does not want you to be saved.
Then your true Savior will be left with no choice but to confess before His Father and His angels that He never knew you.
Next time: Even minor errors can mushroom into great false doctrines. In the last decade or so a few of these errors have grown to the point of insanity. They have given birth to strange, absurd and even laughable doctrines within the Churches of God. The unlearned and unstable have twisted the Word of God almost beyond recognition. Our brethren are being blown about by every wind of these new twists of doctrine.
How does this happen?
We will begin to look at a few of these incredible doctrines. We will see how easy it is for people to come to believe and accept these amazing distortions of the simple truth. We will examine the mechanics of this process. It too is simple.
How does a mind that is seeking truth so easily turn to error? What fundamental mistakes in reasoning allow it to be so thoroughly ensnared by strange doctrines? How can we avoid making these same mistakes?
Finally, can we help friends and family extricate themselves from these foolish errors, or is it possible only to irritate or offend them?
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God