Last night my family and I arrived home after a long drive, and early this morning I had to drive my son to work. As we were driving through town it was eerie and calm. The “school zone” light was blinking, but there were no children and no cars on the road, and I said, “Wow, it’s creepy! Like some sort of ghost town.” He responded, “Yeah, I wonder why it’s like this?” We half-jokingly speculated that everyone knew something we didn’t, considering biohazard accidents and the rest.
Then it hit us: Oh, yeah! It’s Christmas!
Actually, the whole reason I was even taking him to work is because his employer is in our Church and he, too, was working. Today Boy #1 was apparently going to be helping to clean up after a little local flooding from some rains this weekend.
It aided our ignorance that we were on the road for ten hours last night, coming in a bit late. The fact that it was Christmas Eve meant that many of our potential stops for dinner were closed, but other than that the normal things associated with the evening (comments on TV, etc.) weren’t there, allowing us to wake up in our little bubble of no-Christmas reality.
Every year (or, perhaps, almost every year) I try to write a bit about why I don’t keep Christmas. I’ll try to keep it quick and simple this year: It is because of the fact of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that I don’t keep Christmas.
I wholeheartedly do believe that more than 2000 years ago a child was born of a virgin in the “little town of Bethlehem.” That child was God Incarnate–He was the Living Word who had existed with the One we now call God the Father for all Eternity Past. The Word was with God and the Word was God. And then, all of a sudden, here He was, in mortal, vulnerable, human flesh: One of us. I believe that He lived a life in perfect obedience to God, that He taught of the coming Kingdom of God and that God commands repentance to be a part of that Kingdom, that He was executed unjustly, that His blood was shed for humanity’s sins, that He was raised from the grave, and that He is in Heaven now, at His Father’s right hand, interceding for the saints, living within converted Christians through His Spirit, and awaiting the moment when He will return to complete the work of destroying the works of the devil and bringing to complete fullness the Kingdom of God in the Creation.
I am a Christian, and I believe with my whole heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Lord and Savior, my High Priest, and my soon coming King.
Consequently, I do not celebrate Christmas.
The reason is simple: The Scriptures make it clear that Jesus Christ would not want me to do so. And if I seek to follow Him, I will not keep a tradition He would find displeasing.
That Christmas is a celebration of pagan origins is an undisputed fact of history. Even mainstream Christianity agrees. I’ve seen Dr. James Dobson agree. I’ve seen Dr. R. C. Sproul agree. What we now call “Christmas” was introduced into Christianity from pagan sources, well after the time when Christians were being warned to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered” (Jude 3) due to the corrupting influences coming into that faith. From Christmas Trees to the gifts beneath them, from the wreath of holly on the door to the mistletoeabove it, from the burning Yule logs in the hearth to the ornaments that reflect its light–all of them are customs originating in pagan observances and worship traditions. Even some of the most conservative of mainstream Christian scholars agree on these facts.
The relevant question is whether or not Jesus Christ cares.
That really is the question: whether or not we keep such customs — whether or not we accept a day bearing His name that represents an observance born of the heathen worship days and customs of Saturnalia, Bruma, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, and the rest — really comes down to whether or not our Lord and Savior wants us to do so.
And our means for knowing whether He would want us to is the Word He has left us with, the Bible, and how His Spirit confirms that word.
From the Bible’s perspective, the facts are simple. Jesus Christ condemned violating God’s laws and commandments in favor of our traditions, regardless of how “religious” those traditions might be (e.g., Mark 7:6-9). God clearly does not want us to adopt pagan customs to worship Him (e.g., Deut. 12:29-31, Jer. 10:1-2).
In the Scriptures we find clear condemnation of adopting the practices of heathen cultures and worship traditions for the sake of worshiping God. It doesn’t make a difference if we claim to be worshiping God instead of the false gods for which those practices were originally designed. Consider Deut. 12:31a, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way…” and Aaron’s comment in Exodus 32:5b, where Aaron declared time set aside to worship the golden calf idol a “feast to the LORD (YHVH).” Attaching God’s name to something He forbade and choosing to worship Him with those practices did not make them acceptable in God’s eyes.
Such commands stand between us and the Christmas celebration. And what did our living Lord and Savior tell us? Does He give us permission to set aside those commands so that they are no obstacle between us and the traditions we want? No, He did quite the opposite. He condemned such choices: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:8). Jesus loved God’s commands, and He taught His followers not to lay those commands aside in order to keep traditions we think are better.
God commands not to worship Him through the practices of the pagans. Jesus condemns laying aside those commands for the sake of our traditions, however well-loved they may be.
Consequently, as a follower of Jesus Christ and a believer in the fact of His birth to a virgin so long ago, I cannot observe Christmas.
I know many who do, to be sure. My mother, until she died, kept Christmas. She didn’t understand what I and those who worship God in my Church have mercifully been shown. I know that she will have an opportunity in the future to learn, and I am thankful for that. I do not judge the sincerity of those who do keep these days — many of them do so with a passion and a zeal that I look at as an example to me, personally. But good intention does not excuse those who know better. And–through no wisdom or intelligence of my own, to be sure!–I know better.
I choose to worship Jesus Christ. I want Him to see in me, however imperfectly, someone He would see as a disciple–as a Christian. So I do not keep the day the world has attached His name to. I do not observe Christmas.
And I’m happy that way. Even if He had not provided other, biblical Holy Days to observe (and thankfully He has), I would still be happy. For although Christmas is generally understood and experienced as a day of joy for those who keep it, there is a profound joy I never would have accessed had I not learned the blessing of stepping away from Christmas and toward Christ. And in His mercy, He helped me to do that.
I know some who come across this post will find it offensive. It isn’t meant to be, and, yet, at the same time I would simply challenge you to make it a profitable offense and begin studying the matter. You might be surprised by what you find, but not all surprises are a bad thing. And it will be a more life changing surprise than anything you found under the tree this morning.
If you’ve got the courage, check out these magazine articles and explanatory booklets:
I was listening to something last night on the way home that made me think.
When we are introduced to God on the first page of the Bible, we see Him creating. But shortly thereafter, He is turning chaos into order. How he does that is interesting: He does it through establishing boundaries.
At first, the earth is tohu and bohu and is uninhabitable. But man cannot live in chaos and disorder, tohu and bohu. Such a state is not fit for habitation, and God intended the earth to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18).
I noticed some time ago that there seems to be a structure in the Genesis 1 account. Well, there are several structures, but in particular, each day of 1-3 seems to be devoted to establishing a domain for inhabitants to come in days 4-6, and each in order. Day 1 involves establishing the domains of day and night, whereas Day 4 involves populating those domains with the sun and the moon and stars. Day 2 involves establishing the domains of the waters below and the waters above, and on Day 5 God creates the sea creatures to live in the waters below and the birds who fly among the clouds above. On Day 3 He establishes the land apart from the waters and fills it with vegetation, and on Day 6 He creates land animals and man to enjoy that realm.
Days 1-3 seem devoted to crafting places and domains of habitation that are, in turn, filled in the same order with their inhabitants.
That said, how does God establish the domains? How does He craft those domains out of the chaos?
He establishes them by setting boundaries where there were none. He takes what was total darkness (Genesis 1:2) and sets a boundary between Day and Night. He takes the waters and sets a boundary between what will be below and what will be above. He takes what was completely water covered and sets a boundary between dry land and the now-divided seas.
A major task of crafting order from chaos is setting boundaries. And perhaps it follows, then, that creating chaos often involves the removal of needed boundaries.
I think we see this theme in many places. God is angered at the spiritual chaos of Israel and says that part of the problem is that her priests have not taught the people to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, the holy and unholy (Ezekiel 22:26) — a failure to draw proper boundaries. God set boundaries between Israel and the other nations around her, not just physical but through command and ordinance, to create a “space” where He could work with her and craft her. In fact, God set the boundaries of the nations of the world earlier in the history (Acts 17:26), to create families of men according to His desires, much like some might create a beautiful, orderly garden on their property. In Babylon at the Tower, the people opposed that order for one of their own choosing (Genesis 11:4), in which the people remained together in opposition to God (certainly a form of chaos), so He manifested the boundaries He wanted through their speech, forcing them to naturally create the order He desired in the world.
God defines what is orderly in sexual relations by defining boundaries not to be crossed (Leviticus 18). Crossing those boundaries causes chaos in the realm of sexual and family relationships and an “anything goes” mentality, much like we are seeing more and more of today. In fact, that awful and immoral (and as we highlighted, irrational) Australian “lesbian ad” we discussed yesterday was all about trying to convince people through emotional appeal to ignore boundaries.
How do we craft a safe, orderly world for our young children? We create boundaries for them. How do we teach them to have an orderly world of their own as adults? We teach them to create and establish boundaries of their own.
Anyway, just a thought! I had never seen that before — that God’s creation of order out of the tohu and bohu chaos in Genesis 1:2 was through the establishing or restoration of boundaries. Seemed interesting.
I went out today to check on my wonderful father-in-law and my multi-talented Beautiful Wife as they were working on some paint and gutter issues on our house, and I noticed that some Jehovah’s Witnesses had been by and stuck a pamphlet in our door — pictured there on the right.
The heading asked, “Would You Like to Know the Truth?” and it asked six very important questions.
I thought I would take the time to list those questions for any who might wander through to this blog–maybe they received a Jehovah’s Witness pamplet like this, themselves–and for each question add a link to a resource that can help them find begin to find the real answers. (Spoiler alert: The real answers aren’t with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
Just a quick, celebratory note to say that the Feast of Tabernacles begins Sunday night in less than 24 hours! What a pleasure to be keeping it here with the men and women of the Living Church of God at the time God commands and in one of the locations where He has placed His name, the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks area!
Sabbath services today were wonderful. It was a bit of a logistics challenge, with many more than the number registered, but nothing that couldn’t be solved by more chairs and patience–that precious fruit of God’s spirit! The messages were both very helpful (my thanks to Mr. Brown and Mr. Friz) and the various volunteers who served in various capacities were very much appreciated. I joked during announcements that this was the inaugural service of the Sardine Church of God. 🙂 What a joy to work with God’s people, where hardship is met with laughs and good nature rather than complaints and anger–truly, what a privilege.
Wherever you are keeping God’s Festival, I pray that it is powerfully profitable and deeply meaningful for you. I know that here at the Lake of the Ozarks, things look wonderfully promising already!
(Warning: I didn’t actually check those links, so some of them might be “Here’s a link to a post I did a couple of years ago” posts.)
This year, though, I’ve decided to make my life easier and to take advantage of the great commentary we have on the Tomorrow’s World website at the moment: “This the season — customs with a curse” by Mr. Davy Crockett.
Here’s the tiny first paragraph:
Tis the season … a time for beautiful music, lovely pageantry, parties, fun and family time, the annual bedlam in shopping malls, specialty stores, discount houses and now the Internet. [Read more]
To read more, just click “Read more”! To not read more, then don’t click “Read more.” (It’s nice when things are straightforward, huh?)
Well, thank God for Roderick C. Meredith. His article in this month’s Living Church News, “Which ‘Armstrong’ Do You Follow?” not only made the same point I did back in my “Recreating Herbert W Armstrong in their own image” post, but he said it better. (Go figure!) More importantly, as someone who spent so much of his life working with Mr. Armstrong so intimately, he said it more authoritatively than I–or, really, anyone else–ever could.
God’s Word is incredibly clear. It is a lie that the gospel is simply a story about Christ’s life. That’s not the gospel of the Bible. Even secular resources recognize the vital and central position that the Kingdom of God had in the message of Jesus Christ and the apostles. For anyone actually reading the Bible, the Kingdom of God cannot be escaped in the teachings of Jesus, and it is a scandal that mainstream Christianity neglects it so. It is also a lie to say that salvation through Jesus Christ is not a part of that gospel of the Kingdom of God and is not to be preached to the nations. It is. Don’t believe me, believe your Bible. And it is also a great lie to say that Jesus taught nothing about Himself in the message He brought from God. He did. Again, just read your Bible. Really, try to read the book of John while skipping over all of the teaching Christ gave about who He was to the masses. He truly was going to be the King of that coming Kingdom. He didn’t walk around telling everyone stories about His birth, etc., yet He truly did explain His role as the King of the kingdom and His role as the Way to that Kingdom.
When one reads the Bible—actually paying attention to it the way Mr. Armstrong taught us to do instead of simply trying to grab from it what they already agree with and ignoring the rest—the gospel brought by Jesus Christ and taught by His disciples, and by His Church today, is one of the greatest subjects ever discussed, truly vast in its scope, implications, and power.
Really, the Bible is clear, and that should be enough for us. But there are those who are so enamored by their own version of Mr. Armstrong and how their version of him emboldens them in their own stances and pursuits that they fail to see the truth of the Bible that Mr. Armstrong taught us so much about. They fail to see the man through the caricature they’ve created.
But Mr. Armstrong was clear, too. He preached the whole gospel. Indeed, I wouldn’t understand any of the gospel at all save for what God taught me, and many of us, through the words of Mr. Herbert W Armstrong.
Did Mr. Armstrong recognize that the gospel taught by mainstream Christianity was disastrously off? Of course! If anyone reads anything Mr. Armstrong wrote and doesn’t pick that up, they haven’t read much at all! He recognized that the “gospel” being touted by most was simply a story about Christ—not the actual Divine Message that He preached at all! Most cut the very heart of the gospel right out: the coming Kingdom of God! And the part they tried to teach about salvation, he recognized was a counterfeit that didn’t explain salvation, at all!
Plenty of quotes could be provided from Mr. Armstrong demonstrating that he understood this—and many provide such quotes. That Mr. Armstrong recognized that the shallow “gospel” about Christ had replaced the actual gospel OF Christ is a given, as easily demonstrated by ample amounts of “quotable quotes.” Who disputes that? I don’t. No one I know in the Church does.
But what about the quotes that those who attack the gospel don’t give? What about the quotes that illustrate Mr. Armstrong understood the gospel more fully than those who attack his message (while claiming to believe in it) give him credit for? Why don’t they provide those quotes, as well? And in the rare case when they do provide one of them, why do they insert their own commentary into the middle of Mr. Armstrong’s words, making him out to be the world’s worst writer instead of the powerfully effective “plain truth” preacher that he really was?
Again, for the sake of emphasis: The Bible record is clear about the gospel brought by Jesus Christ, and I am humbled to be allowed to be a part of a Work that continues—just as Herbert Armstrong did—to preach that gospel. If anyone would like to prove to me that what we preach is not that gospel, they are free to open their Bibles and try. I’d rather be shown to be wrong and be right with God, than to be declared right but be wrong with God. Really: Show me. Put your Bible where your mouth is.
However, this post isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that many continue to, in effect, slander Herbert W Armstrong by saying that he preached an incomplete gospel—all while claiming to “stand for Herbert W Armstrong.” Some seem to do so with good intention, being honestly deceived by those skilled at quoting a lot without (wink, wink) quoting too much (nudge, nudge). Those who are self-deceived by their Jeremiah 17:9 hearts are another matter. It’s one matter to believe a lie out of confusion, but another entirely to continue in a lie because it serves one’s ego. As for which category one falls into, thankfully it is not my task to judge, but His. I’d rather assume the best until I have good reason to believe otherwise.
So, in the interest of serving those who can be served and of showing deception about a man many of us love and learned so much from for what it truly is, I provide the following far-from-exhaustive list of…
QUOTES THEY “FORGOT”
Mr. Armstrong’s emphasis on the coming Kingdom of God is legendary—he restored to the gospel what was lost or, worse, covered up. Quotes could be piled up forever to demonstrate that. But he also clarified and rectified that part of the gospel that others claimed to preach but corrupted and counterfeited. Here are some quotes a few seem to have forgotten and some self-appointed teachers seem to ignore. If you’ve never seen them before, perhaps they will help.
(Note: Where possible, I provide a link to the source, as well, so that you can also examine the quote in context. Many deceptively claim that the context changes the meaning of these quotes—I invite everyone to check the context for themselves to prove that this is not the case. In most cases, you can click on the title of the work or the date of the letters to see the whole file for yourself.)
In each case the emphasis is Mr. Armstrong’s except for any underlining I might use to draw attention to the parts relevant to the point at hand–which I will try to avoid, tempting as it may be!
“Now for centuries that Gospel has not been preached! It’s the ONLY true Gospel–the Message Jesus brought and preached–the one His first-century disciples DID carry to all the world of that day. Today that which is being preached around the world is a DIFFERENT gospel–a preaching which DENIES the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM. The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that. It’s the Message of the coming KING, to establish GOD’S KINGDOM, which shall replace all present kingdoms and governments on earth, and rule over all peoples. The whole, pure Gospel OF THE KINGDOM is not being preached today to all the world for a witness to ALL NATIONS, and it has not been preached since Jesus’ first-century disciples carried it!”
Yes, the message preached by the world’s Christianity is, indeed, a “DIFFERENT gospel.” But does that mean that Christ’s role as Saviour is not a part of the message? Well, not according to Mr. Armstrong: “The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that.” Wow. You’d think Mr. Meredith had written that very statement today. Those who erect a version of Mr. Armstrong in their own image try to make one part of the gospel replace the other, but—as Mr. Armstrong understood—they are part of the same gospel together! It’s not that “Christ as Saviour” is NOT part of the gospel (as some would say)—rather, there is so much more to the gospel!
Read it again if you didn’t get it the first time: “The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that. It’s the Message of the coming KING, to establish GOD’S KINGDOM, which shall replace all present kingdoms and governments on earth, and rule over all peoples.” Note: “MORE than that,” not one instead of the other. This is exactly what we are saying, and it is exactly as Mr. Armstrong understood: we are to preach, in his words, not mine, “The whole, pure Gospel OF THE KINGDOM.” To completely leave out “Christ as Saviour” from the message would FAIL to be the “whole, pure” gospel just as leaving out the Kingdom of God. Why should we make EITHER error? The first century Church didn’t. Mr. Armstrong didn’t. And we won’t. Why won’t others preach the whole gospel? I don’t know, but they certainly can’t claim Mr. Armstrong as their reason (let alone the Bible).
(And in case someone claims that the context changes the meaning of the quote, please feel free to read the entire letter. It’s clickable there at the date under the quote.)
“The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that.” Thanks, Mr. Armstrong—we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
“THE TRUE GOSPEL
“Over 1900 years ago Jesus Christ came into this world with a Message direct from GOD. His Message was the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) of His coming WORLD GOVERNMENT to abolish all present governments, to rule the whole earth, and bring, at last, PEACE, PROSPERITY, HAPPINESS, JOY, to sin-cursed suffering humanity.
“He proclaimed Himself the future KING of that world-ruling Kingdom of God. He revealed plainly WHY we have no peace today–no real happiness or joy! The ways of God are the TRUE values. But men are living wrong. Jesus taught men how to live–revealed and taught the LAWS of His coming millennial Kingdom. He called on men everywhere to REPENT of the ways they live now, to live by the laws of God, to accept Him as Saviour, High Priest, and coming King, that we might be converted–CHANGED by the power of God from sinning mortal flesh into righteous immortal spirits.”
So, the “Message direct from GOD” that Jesus came into the world to give about the Kingdom of God included a lot of things, didn’t it! Mr. Armstrong says that Jesus “proclaimed Himself the future KING of that world-ruling Kingdom… revealed plainly WHY we have no peace today… called on men everywhere to REPENT… to live by the laws of God, to accept Him as Saviour, High Priest, and coming King, that we might be converted…”
Just to be clear, Mr. Armstrong says here that Jesus Christ’s message to those who heard Him included—among many things—that they should repent, live by God’s laws, and accept Him as Saviour. Don’t believe me, believe Mr. Armstrong! (Of course, believe your Bible, but notice how Mr. Armstrong’s message matches that Bible.) Those who claim that Mr. Armstrong denied part of the gospel or that he taught that teaching “men everywhere” Christ as our Savior has no part in the gospel brought by Christ really have no leg to stand on.
Some try to make this mean that Christ had two “good news” messages (despite Mr. Armstrong’s statement that “Christ Brought No Other Gospel” on p.13 of The Incredible Human Potential) or that salvation and Christ as Savior is only taught to those who’ve been called and have responded (despite his comment that Christ taught these things to “men everywhere” and despite the fact that our booklets included Mr. Armstrong’s wonderful “Just what do you mean… SALVATION” (linked to below) which was offered publically and which tied in the truth about salvation and the kingdom of God nicely).
In the event that this quote from that letter doesn’t do the trick, Mr. Armstrong makes it explicit later:
“THIS is the TRUE GOSPEL–the Good News of the Kingdom of God, its Message of the right way to live, its Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life! Yes, THIS is the KINGDOM OF GOD which Christ revealed over 1900 years ago–THIS is the true NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL–the true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!”
(By the way, I’d like to see a certain self-appointed apostle stick some commentary into the middle of that sentence and changeits meaning.)
Who can read that sentence and claim that Mr. Armstrong thought that the “TRUE GOSPEL”—“the Good News of the Kingdom of God”—did not also include the “Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life”? Notice, he calls redemption through Christ and salvation “its Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life!” The “its” refers back to the “Good News of the Kingdom of God”! If it isn’t clear enough, after mentioning the Message about the right way to live, redemption through Christ, God’s gift of eternal life, Mr. Armstrong says immediately after: “Yes, THIS is the KINGDOM OF GOD which Christ revealed over 1900 years ago—THIS is the true NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL—the true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!”
Don’t read my commentary—read what Mr. Armstrong wrote! Don’t believe what I say that he said, read what he said! And don’t fall for the line that the quote is out of context—click on the date and read the entire letter. You tell me if the context changes anything. (Hint: It doesn’t.)
The letter explains how the false “gospel” of mainstream Christianity has rejected the Kingdom of God and perverted that portion of the gospel—“salvation”—which they claim to retain. Mr. Armstrong explains that “They [ministers today] have, thru deception and without knowing it in most instances, rejected the true way of salvation and entrance into that Kingdom!” He continues, explaining that they pervert “born again” and try to do way with God’s law. It’s good stuff! And stuff we preach, ourselves. To say that Mr. Armstrong’s condemnation of the world’s counterfeit “gospel” meant that he did not preach the whole gospel, himself, is to tell a lie. Or, at best, it is to mistake what he powerfully emphasized for the whole. (I may emphasize to my wife over wine and candlelight that she is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t a smart cookie, too. Don’t mistake emphasis for entirety—Mr. Armstrong didn’t. Many who boast of carrying his banner do.)
“Back in 1934 God began RESTORING the knowledge of THE KINGDOM of GOD to those who would listen. That knowledge–the true GOSPEL of Jesus Christ–is being thundered with constantly multiplied power over ever-increasing areas, now WORLD-WIDE. God is now pleading with people around the world, THRU PREACHING–by A MESSAGE OF LOVE–to REPENT, surrender and return to GOD in obedience thru Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest and soon-coming KING.”
So, preaching the “true GOSPEL of Jesus Christ” means preaching “A MESSAGE OF LOVE—to REPENT, surrender and return to GOD in obedience thru Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest and soon-coming KING.”
How does this differ from the gospel we are preaching? Not a bit. Why do some want to perform a “Saviorectomy” on the gospel—as if “soon-coming KING” is a part of the gospel, but “Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest” is not. Sure they have the right to claim that. But it’s not in the Bible. And it’s not in the writings of Herbert W Armstrong.
“Yes, what GOOD NEWS! A world filled with good, sound, vigorous HEALTH—beaming, happy faces—PEACE—prosperity—JOY—SALVATION! It is to be real UTOPIA. It’s not impossible! ALL things are possible with GOD, and this is the DOING OF GOD.
“The original apostles carried on GOD’S WORK thru their lifetime. They preached this GOOD NEWS. They preached OBEDIENCE to GOD! They preached, not only believing in Christ—not only believing He is the divine Saviour—but also BELIEVING CHRIST— that is, believing what He preached and taught.”
How crucial a “not only” can be, hmmm? Apparently, it has the ability to make certain words invisible to some people. “Not only” implies a “this too” not a “that instead.” Mr. Armstrong understood.
“Yes, JESUS CHRIST is opening doors–SPEEDING UP His powerful Message to a dying world. As world events hurl a helpless humanity faster and faster toward DESTRUCTION, so CHRIST hurls to a deceived world, faster and faster, His Message of PEACE, and SALVATION by God’s GRACE (those who try to deceive people into thinking we preach a gospel of salvation “by works” are deceived or deliberately misrepresenting to serve Satan)! The way is being prepared before CHRIST’S RETURN TO EARTH! Christ’s own Gospel is being RESTORED!”
So, Christ’s own Gospel, His Message, included “SALVATION by God’s GRACE.” For those who do not include it, as Christ’s gospel did, what does that say about their gospel?
“Christ’s new Message for this hour — His TRUE Gospel — is going to ALL THE WORLD, into all nations, where it HAS NOT GONE, and could go in NO OTHER WAY, than this way God has opened up — of giving me such providential FAVOR in the eyes of heads of state — of delivering the Message through the very TOP officials in these nations. It is the MESSAGE OF WORLD PEACE — for universal PROSPERITY — and of salvation and ETERNAL LIFE — the Message of THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
“NOBODY ELSE is carrying this Message to these nations! NOBODY!!!”
So the “Message of the KINGDOM OF GOD” that we are to preach to “ALL THE WORLD” is the Message of “salvation and ETERNAL LIFE” – pretty clear. They are a part of the Message about that coming Kingdom.
I could quote letters all day—the point would be the same. YES, Mr. Armstrong condemned the false gospel of his (and our) day. YES, he pointed out that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was not being preached, and that he was restoring what so many had rejected or lost—and how thankful we should be that he did! YES, he illustrated that the “substitute” gospel about the person of Christ instead of the message of Christ was a deceptive slight-of-hand by Satan the devil! YES, he pointed out that the world’s version of “salvation” is corrupt and degraded and that the true Way to salvation is not truly taught, unlike the vibrant fullness of salvation as described in the Bible and the true Way revealed there!
But, YES, he also understood that true salvation and redemption through Christ by grace, acceptance of Jesus Christ as our perfect Savior, the gift of eternal life and the true WAY to eternal life were all a part of that Message, as well—the Message Christ brought of the coming Kingdom of God. No one can legitimately deny that Mr. Herbert Armstrong believed these things. And though he recognized, as we recognize, that not all would “get it”—that not all would understand in this age—he also recognized that the mission to preach these things is still our mission, and that the Gospel will go out as a witness to the entire world, whether believed or not!
Since the theme of this (long) post is the “Quotes They ‘Forgot’” let’s look at a few others from the literature Mr. Armstrong produced.
One I won’t quote from because it would be too much, but here is a link to it: “Just what do you mean… SALVATION?” In this booklet offered to the public, Mr. Armstrong explains the topic SO plainly and he ties it in with the Kingdom of God. Anyone who does not believe that preaching the gospel does not involve preaching forgiveness through Christ’s blood on repentance and the unearned gift of eternal life (including what both of those things actually MEAN) either haven’t read this booklet in too long or else are in denial. Feel free and read it for yourself.
Then there’s Herbert W Armstrong’s booklet “What Is the True Gospel?” In it, like Mr. Meredith does in our booklet “Do You Believe the True Gospel,” Mr. Armstrong makes the powerful case that the Message of Christ was the Message of the Kingdom of God! Makes sense to quote from this one, huh? But why is page 10 avoided?
“Conditions of Entering
“Now, HOW do we enter into that glorious KINGDOM? Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, ‘REPENT,’ and ‘BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.’
“Just TWO things we do – REPENT and BELIEVE. We must BELIEVE the Gospel, and that means also believing on JESUS CHRIST, the KING of the Kingdom of God, and coming KING of kings over all the families of the earth. It means believing in Him as personal SAVIOUR, as High Priest now, and as coming KING.”
So believing the Gospel includes “believing on JESUS CHRIST” and “believing in Him as personal SAVIOUR” (Mr. Armstrong’s emphasis, not mine). This makes no sense whatsoever if Christ’s role as our personal Savior were not a part of the Gospel.
Feel free to read the entire booklet. Get all the context you want. Nowhere does it contradict the idea that Christ’s role as our Savior, yours and mine, is, indeed, a part of the Gospel.
Mr. Armstrong makes the inclusion of these things even more explicit in his article “Seven Keys to Understanding the Bible”—published no less than FIVE TIMES while he was alive (July 1949, July 1953, July 1959, January 1971, January 1980) [Note: The one I link to is the original July 1949 publication, but feel free to look any of them up that you like in various resources on the Internet. If anyone claims that one of them says something different, I will happily post it here, too.]
Read what Mr. Armstrong says so clearly in the section titled “The True Gospel”—I will quote a large section partially because some say that we’ve taken his statement out of context and partially because some have inserted their own commentary into Mr. Armstrong’s plain words so as to twist what he says. Read it for yourself—no twists, just the facts:
“What is Christ’s Gospel? What is the Message God sent to mankind by Jesus Christ? It is the GOOD NEWS of the KINGDOM OF GOD! ‘Kingdom’ means GOVERNMENT! It is the Message of Divine Government–government by GOD’S LAWS!
“It is the prophetic proclamation of the coming WORLD GOVERNMENT to rule all nations and bring today’s confused, chaotic, war-weary earth PEACE, and JOY! It is the vital, dynamic, powerful living Message of GOD’S GOVERNMENT, first in individual hearts now in this world, later over all nations internationally in The WORLD TOMORROW!
“Of course that power-filled Message includes the knowledge about the Saviour, High Priest and coming King! Of course it includes the true way of salvation, which the churches seem to have lost! And it includes also knowledge of the location of the TERRITORY to be ruled over by the King of the coming Kingdom–the fact it is this earth, and not heaven! But there can be no GOVERNMENT without LAWS, and so the TRUE GOSPEL also must proclaim the LAW of God, which alone can bring peace to the world and success, happiness and joy to the individual!”
Again, if you don’t trust the context, read the whole article. Nothing in that context changes the simple truth of what Mr. Armstrong says. And, just as importantly, the actual context completely disproves the silly commentary that certain pretenders have inserted themselves, as if Mr. Armstrong couldn’t carry a coherent thought through a handful of paragraphs. Unbelievable.
Reading the whole helps to shine light on the deception in some who claim that somehow in that entire passage, “Message” means Gospel except for the one sentence where Mr. Armstrong says that the Message includes “the knowledge about the Saviour” and “the true way of salvation.” Look at the VERY NEXT SENTENCE: “And it includes also knowledge of the location of the TERRITORY to be ruled over by the King of the coming Kingdom…” The “it” refers to the Message just discussed—you know, the one that “of course” includes the knowledge of the Savior and the true way to salvation. Was Mr. Armstrong truly the worst writer in the world, or did he actually mean what he said? Did he actually write an entire section about the “Message” of the Gospel, but—in one, single, weird non sequitur sentence—change “Message” to mean something else, and then CHANGE RIGHT BACK to meaning the Gospel, again?!? In the very next sentence?!? Did Mr. Armstrong use “Message” five times in one small section of an article and mean “Gospel” in four of them and “Not Gospel” in one of them—and changing the meaning without notifying the reader that he had done so, and then changing it back, all in the space of two or three sentences?
One who claims this is either a deceiver or self-deceived (cf. 2 Tim 3:13). Regardless, they insult Mr. Herbert W Armstrong.
The fact is, those things—“knowledge about the Saviour” and “the true way of salvation” are so obviously a part of the Gospel that Mr. Armstrong prefaces each statement with an “Of course”: “Of course that power-filled Message includes the knowledge about the Saviour, High Priest and coming King! Of course it includes the true way of salvation, which the churches seem to have lost!”
No wonder particular deceivers have to insert commentary into Mr. Armstrong’s words and fail to quote the entire passage. Mr. Armstrong really did write the plain truth. Why are we criticized for including something in the Gospel that Mr. Armstrong said was included “of course”?
Again, the Bible is clear. But, for the record, so is Mr. Armstrong.
I know this has been a long post, and I do beg your forgiveness, but given the way a tiny few desire to twist and pervert Mr. Armstrong’s words, this topic gets me rather riled up. While we could swim in quotes forever, let me just give you one more reference: the first two chapters of Mr. Armstrong’s amazing book The Incredible Human Potential, both of which cover the Gospel.
There is WAY too much to quote from this source, and I encourage the reader to obtain a copy of this magnificent book. You can find it on Amazon or Ebay at times. My copy is the orange-covered “Special Commemorative Edition” from the 1978 Feast of Tabernacles. Rather than link to the entire book (though I do encourage you to read the entire book!), let me provide a link to a copy of the first two chapters.
Read the whole thing, but here are some highlights that put the lie to the idea of a narrow Gospel that has no room for salvation, and Jesus Christ as our Saviour and the true way to salvation…
“I must call the reader’s attention again at this point to the fact that a full and complete understanding of the message sent by God to all mankind, by His Divine Messenger Jesus Christ, involves a vast comprehension of God’s great purpose, and of events prehistoric, historic, present and future.
“I might say that it means an overall understanding of everything!”
Interesting that it somehow isn’t supposed to include the meaning of or need for Christ’s sacrifice for us, huh? I suppose that “everything” doesn’t include those things. (I hope you note that my tongue is in my cheek.)
Please note this passage on p.16. Those who believe that preaching the truth about Jesus Christ or about salvation or about a right understanding of grace (which Mr. Armstrong explained thoroughly) need to understand the real problem Mr. Armstrong saw in the world’s “gospel”! The following passage has his usual emphases (with full caps for small caps, though), but the underlining is mine to highlight what so many seem to miss:
“I have said that you hear many gospel programs today. One uses the slogan, ‘Preaching Christ to the Nations.’ One might ask, ‘Well what’s WRONG about preaching ABOUT Christ?’ Or, ‘Well what’s wrong about preaching a gospel of grace?’ Or, ‘What’s wrong about proclaiming a message about salvation?’
“I have shown you the scriptures showing they started, even in the first century, preaching about a DIFFERENT Jesus – a Jesus supposed to have abolished His Father’s commandments – who turned ‘grace’ into license to disobey (II Cor. 11:4, 13-15 and Jude 4). They do not today preach the REAL Jesus, who said, ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments,’ setting us an example that we should keep them also.
“If those who claim to preach a gospel of SALVATION understood and proclaimed WHAT salvation really is – whether it is going to a PLACE, being changed into a different CONDITION, or WHAT – or WHERE – and HOW it may be obtained, it might be a part of the true gospel. But today’s ‘gospel’ programs do not teach what salvation really is or how one may receive it. Then the blind lead the blind, they all fall into the ditch.”
How much plainer can Mr. Armstrong make it? In fact, if you’ve actually read his booklet on Salvation, linked to above, then you know this is EXACTLY WHAT HE DID PREACH ABOUT SALVATION! By his own words, if the TRUTH about salvation—what it really is, what it truly means, and how it is truly obtained—were taught, then it could be—according to Mr. Armstrong—a part of the true gospel! Did he teach correctly about these things? Yes, he did! Then they were a part of the true gospel!
He didn’t take issue with the fact that Jesus and salvation were being talked about, in and of themselves. Rather, that a DIFFERENT Jesus and a COUNTERFEIT salvation were being preached! Not only were these things, alone, insufficient to encompass the Kingdom of God, they were counterfeits of the truth! And he showed repeatedly the plain truth of this in his own writings.
For anyone to say that teaching biblically and accurately who Jesus Christ was and what salvation truly means and how salvation may truly be received is somehow NOT part of the gospel, they disagree with Mr. Armstrong. Again (again, again, again,), the most important thing is whether or not the BIBLE says these things! But for those who are smearing Mr. Armstrong by claiming that he preached otherwise, it’s important to know that he preached them, too.
Really, read both of those chapters from The Incredible Human Potential—if not the whole book.
For those who are simply confused about how salvation through Jesus Christ relates to the Kingdom of God, Mr. Armstrong touches on this in his last section of Chapter 2 (pp.18-19):
“What Christ’s Gospel Was All About
“I say Christ’s gospel – the message He brought from God – as the advance good news of the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
“But just what does that include?
“And why is the Kingdom of God necessary?
“Just how does it affect and relate directly to your personal and individual life?
“Actually, Christ’s message of God’s coming Kingdom is directly concerned with world origins as they are – with human nature – its source and origin – with world evils, suffering, unhappiness – with world peace. It’s concerned with government – with the reason present human governments fail to be the benefactors of their peoples they are supposed to be.
“His message hits directly at the very roots of individual personal happiness and at the awesome transcendent potential of each human life. It is concerned with the CAUSES of present conditions that affect every human and with the WAY that will solve all problems.
“But it is concerned with far, far more.
“It is concerned with God’s tremendous, overwhelming, overall purpose a Creator of the entire universe. It’s concerned with the entire vast universe, filled with its uncountable galaxies, nebulae, suns, stars, planets, and with God’s purpose for them. It’s concerned with all the angels – with the fact that one third of all God’s created angels turned to SIN from which there can be no redemption, and God’s great purpose and plan to prevent such a catastrophe happening to the other two thirds.
“Most of these things are never remotely considered in religious teachings in this world. God’s message is concerned with overall truth.
“What has been covered so far should be considered as merely the introduction to the entire story of Christ’s gospel message.”
Wow. The purpose of man, his whole history, the way he has failed and the Way to succeed—the universe in all its created majesty and all it contains… All of this, “merely the introduction to the entire story of Christ’s gospel message.”
Those who claim—against all evidence—that the sacrifice of Christ, His living in us, and the way of salvation are no part of the gospel should be ashamed. The Bible shows them to be wrong. Mr. Armstrong’s words show them to be wrong. The Gospel that Jesus Christ brought to mankind and asks us to proclaim really is, as Mr. Armstrong described it, “all-encompassing subject that can enter the mind of man.”
For those who’ve too quickly taken the word of confused individuals concerning what Mr. Herbert Armstrong said about these things, I hope this is a help.
There are so many more quotes we could go through, but this post is gigantic as it is.
Thank God for Mr. Roderick Meredith and his willingness to be faithful to the Bible, which just so happens to mean being faithful to Mr. Armstrong in this vital issue, as well. Thank God for his friendship with Mr. Armstrong, and for living long enough to provide a living link to the man instead of the false images of the man crafted by others.
Thank God that Mr. Herbert Armstrong did not match any of the caricatures his supposed, self-appointed “standard bearers” make of him.
Thank God for the truth about what Mr. Armstrong called “the whole, pure gospel.”
Don’t let anyone slander Mr. Herbert W Armstrong by saying he only preached part of the gospel—waving their hands like a magician and trying to turn what he powerfully emphasized in the gospel into the “only” thing he taught of the gospel.
Don’t let anyone perform any similar “hand waving” to make you think that Mr. Armstrong said something other than what he actually said. Don’t take their word for it—read the original in context and without their inserted commentary.
Don’t let anyone take advantage of your love for Mr. Armstrong and what God did through him in such a way that they ironically pull you away from the very gospel he, himself, preached.
If anyone can prove to me from God’s Word that the gospel is somehow different than what we are proclaiming, they are free to do so. I’m all ears. Until then, we’ll preach the same biblical message Mr. Armstrong believed and preached in. Thanks.
And, as always, don’t believe me—believe your Bible.
I do believe that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was used as an Apostle by Jesus Christ. It is a shame to those who would twist his words today while professing some sort of weird faithfulness to him.
[UPDATE, 12/13/2011: I can’t believe that I missed the fact that we had a commentary run this very weekend on the Tomorrow’s World website that discusses Tim Tebow, as well! I subscribe to our commentary updates (and I urge you to do so, as well!), but in the hustle and bustle of the weekend, I must have missed it. My thanks to my Beautiful Wife for pointing it out to me! I’d rather you read that than this or at least go read than and come back. Here it is: “Faith on the Football Field?” by Mr. Dexter Wakefield.]
Well, many hate him and many love him, but few football fans seem to feel one way or the other about Tim Tebow.
If you have no idea who that is, don’t worry, you’re fine. No need to adjust your TV set. He’s the current starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos who (1) happens to be enjoying a very good season so far in spite of a number of shortcomings in his technique, (2) happens to be very open (and sincere) about his nominally Christian faith, frequently kneeling (increasingly called “Tebowing”) and praying after successful moments on the field, and (3) happens to seem like a genuinely decent and caring fellow.
As for his religion, itself, I have no comment beyond my normal comments about mainstream Christianity: It is a far cry from “the faith once delivered” and I would suspect that Mr. Tebow’s preferred version of Christianity is no different.
But rather than pick at the details (e.g., are his public displays, however sincerely motivated, violations of Matthew 6:5-6?), I’d like to focus on the fact that his attitude is terribly refreshing in a world–that of professional sports–that seems so often to be one of glorifying the self above others. Football is just like any other professional sport in the sense that it is what you make of it — not inherently vile or righteous in and of itself, and commendable/condemnable based on the attitudes of its participants and fans. I’ve seen “no contact” sports like golf, tennis, and track produce and display individuals with incredibly satanic attitudes, and I’ve seen “full contact” sports like football and wrestling produce and display some pretty decent human beings and moments of real virtue. But all sports, especially at the professional level, seem to risk a glorifying of the self above others–definitely not the attitude of Philippians 2:3. And all the kneeling and “I thank the Lord Jesus” Tebow moments aside, those moments where he simply behaves like a clean decent fellow are, I think, wonderfully refreshing.
There are a few anecdotes related in the Wall Street Journal’s article this weekend “Tim Tebow: God’s Quarterback” (12/10/2011 — and no paywall!) that illustrate this refreshing quality. Here’s my favorite, I think: The moment after Tim Tebow had been sacked (that’s where the quarterback is tackled while still in possession of the ball, for the sports ignorant) in the Broncos’ came against the Detroit Lions, the “sacker,” Stephen Tulloch, took a knee to the ground in an obvious attempt to mock Tebow’s own kneeling prayers. But when asked later what he felt about Tulloch’s mean spirited jab, the WSJ reports that Tebow responded, “He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack. And good for him.”
Now, on one hand, this sort of response should be non-news. On the other hand, the fact that it is news is what makes it news. (Those looking for an unending iterative loop in that statement are free to have at it.)
Actually, the article is a good one for a number of reasons — it’s discussion on why someone such as Tebow, who seems like a genuinely good fellow, stirs such reactions in the public, as well as on other matters, was interesting to me (one who is otherwise not a big sports fan). A comment made in the article (and highlighted in a sidebar in the print version) that caught my eye was this one: “A public figure’s seemingly admirable character throws us. We don’t know how to trust goodness.” I really do think it’s a worthwhile read, regardless of one’s opinion about sports — check it out here if you’d like.
Having grown up in the era of Tom Landry and Roger Staubach’s Cowboys, today’s sports and the attitudes that accompany them irritate me to no end. And if even mainstream Christians are irritated at Tebow’s displays, however sincere they may be, I can understand (for example, I can’t imagine Landry or Staubach wearing their faith on their sleeve so much — even though Landry, himself, taught “Sunday School” and adult Bible studies). But it is refreshing to me to see some positive attitude from a big name player who really does seem to recognize that football is, after all, only a game, and that there really are more important things out there.
Having given some sermons recently on God’s approach to government as depicted in Scripture, the passage I came across in an article I read tonight was just too good (in my opinion) not to pass along.
It was an article in the magazine The Home School Report, sent out regularly by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) of which we are members. The article “The Mississippi Five and the Case of the Missing Case” was a really good one illustrating how some judges can too easily assume much, much more power than they actually have (thankfully, the Supreme Court of Mississippi saw it the same way), and one detail in the article seemed written with God’s approach to government in mind.
Oddly, perhaps, it wasn’t anything related to the actual “governmental” issues on which the article focused. Rather, it concerned the relationship between two of the HSLDA lawyers working on the case (or, as it were, the non-case, which was the issue at hand).
The unique legal situation in Mississippi demanding immediate action was brought to the attention of HSLDA Director of Litigation and author of the article, Jim Mason (as he says in the byline: No relation to Perry). Realizing the scope of what they would be dealing with, he brought it to the attention of HSLDA Board Chairman and one of its two founding lawyers, Michael Farris. After Mr. Farris, a very busy man, read the information brought to him by Mr. Mason, he looked up and said, “I know what I’m doing for the rest of the day.”
Without going into the details of what they had to address and had to address quickly on behalf of homeschoolers in Mississippi (which they did successfully, by the way), let me simply say that it required immediate action to create necessary filings the very next day involving analysis of a very novel situation.
That said, it was Mr. Jim Mason’s description of how he and Mr. Michael Farris, his boss, worked together — in that instance and generally — that grabbed my attention unexpectedly:
“After working on dozens of cases together, Mike and I have developed a working relationship that lends itself to quick, decisive, but careful action. Mike is bold, aggressive, and optimistic. He immediately sees the big picture and focuses on the pros.
“I am more cautious, worry about the details, and think about the precise legal theories and all of the objections to each. My mind runs quickly to the cons.
“These early legal discussions tend to be vigorous, freewheeling, sometimes heated, but always collegial and respectful. Mike does me the great honor of listening to my objections and taking them seriously. He knows that I in turn will cheerfully defer to his final decision and work hard to carry it out even if a few minutes before I was vigorously arguing against it.”
That working relationship, so described, was so good a picture of something I’ve tried to describe that I was surprisingly excited to read it. In particular, it was that last paragraph. Mr. Mason speaks of the freedom the two of them have to be honest with each other and to express strong opinions, even if different. He speaks of the fact that although Michael Farris is the one who will ultimately call the shots he listens sincerely to Mr. Mason’s objections and disagreements to consider them seriously. And he points out that Mr. Farris, in turn, knows with confidence that once he makes the call, Mr. Mason will devote himself to making that call work, even if it was not at all the way that he recommended it should go.
(Actually, my “summary” of their relationship is longer than the one Mr. Mason wrote, and his description makes the points better! Forget you read that last paragraph and go read his last paragraph again. The last three sentences are gold.)
That is exactly what God wants to see in the governments that He ordains. There IS a head in those governments. There IS someone who must, when it comes down to it, call the shots! Such a person should listen to those under him — listen to their advice and counsel (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 24:6) and search out their perspectives (Prov. 20:5), even if the resulting opinions differ greatly from the one he brought to the discussion. Then that head makes the call. (Because someone always has to make the call!) Once he does, those under him work to make it happen, even if they had been advising the opposite the moment before.
That this arrangement exists in the God Family is clear and in God’s design for the human family is clear (1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:22-33, Luke 22:42, et al.). That such principles apply in the New Testament Church — just as surely as they did in the “Old Testament Church” (e.g., Exodus 18:13-26) — is unpopular to say, but that doesn’t make it false. Nor does the unpopularity of the principle remove the truth that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), and that it is only sensible to think that the government that He has experienced since eternity, that He personally placed within the family, and that He will be implementing in His Kingdom during the Millennium and for all eternity, would not be the same one that He would implement within His own Body, the Church.
(Side note: Some might say from this, “What if the ministry goes ‘off the rails’ and begins to apostatize? You’re demanding that we follow them over a cliff and put them before God!” Please. 1 Cor. 11:1 is still in the Bible! Just because a wife is commanded to submit to her husband does not mean that she must murder, steal, etc. at his command, right? And yet, do such situations nullify God’s clear commands about government in marriage? Sincere questions about how one can determine that a government has abandoned God and, thus, abandoned its legitimacy can be profitable to discuss, and I enjoy such discussion — and, thankfully, the Bible gives us guidance and direction. But sadly questions like these are too often used to justify throwing out these principles, not understanding them more clearly. And that’s a shame.)
I know I’ve written about such things before, but seeing in print these principles at work in these two lawyers was encouraging. If they can get it, others can, too. Like gravity, God’s approach to government works whether you believe in it or not.