Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 28 December 2002
"What is wrong with the churches?" someone once asked me many years ago. At the time, as I recall, which must have been at least 10 years ago - I think I said that the reason was because people preferred to party rather than to work. Today I'd like to refine that answer in the light of more experience.
I don't know how you feel but finishing a meal with a dessert or pudding really is, I think, rather nice. Whether it's ice cream, chocolate cake, apple pie and custard, or whatever your fancy may be, pudding, most will agree, is something to look forward to. Unfortunately, dessert has now become the main course in the churches so that people don't bother about a main meal anymore. And when they do concern themselves about a main meal, it's usually a fast food variety with a high fat content with lots of artificial preservatives that are bad for the heart and bad for the immune system. Our Bibles used to say:
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt.6:33, NKJV).
but for some reason the new church editions read: "But seek first these things, and the kingdom of God and His righteousness will be added to you". What, you may be asking, are "these things"? Well, let's see. Yah'shua (Jesus) says in the verse before:
"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" (Matt.6:31-32, NKJV)
Yah'shua (Jesus) is here pointing out food, drink, and clothes - things which the physical body needs in order to function and be comfortable - but He is really has a much wider range of temporal things in mind. He is saying, in short, that if you attend to the spiritual, your physical necessities will be taken care of.
The spiritual life - the Kingdom of God - is not an appendage to the outer life of physicality. The spiritual life is not the dessert - the pudding. The spiritual life is the main course - the main diet. It's not something we "add on" to what we are doing when we become believers - the spiritual life, once sought for and obtained, has to dominate the whole life completely. Yah'shua (Jesus) calls it our "manna" - miraculous food which sustains the soul in the wilderness, for this life is a wilderness compared with the literal Kingdom of God which we shall at length inherit.
The problems begin when life is viewed as one giant party. When that attitude is entertained, work ceases to have much meaning. It rapidly becomes something to avoid ... unless it's purpose is to finance the party. In the Kingdom of Yahweh "work" is actually the main pleasure and not something to be avoided. Indeed, the Kingdom is characterised by service to others from which, if we are truly in Christ, we derive our greatest pleasure. It means, as a consequence, that others serve us too. The greatest - and indeed, the only - true happiness is acquired by serving one another. Self-service - seeking food, drink, and clothes before all else - is the very opposite of the Kingdom of God. In fact, such a doctrine lies at the very core of Satanism.
I think most people would prefer to believe that there are three realities here: God, self, and Satan. They think that God is good but self is pretty good too so long as we stay away from Satan. Self is not, however, an independent entity. It never has been and never can be. There is no such thing as an individual who is separate from both God and Satan, even though Satan would like you to believe so. There is either the self in God or the self in Satan. There is - as I have said many times - no such thing as atheism, because Satan promotes and engergises the force behind atheism. Therefore there are only two types of people: there are those who are seeking the Kingdom of God first and simply letting Yahweh take care of food, drink, clothes, and the other necessities of life - and there are those who are seeking for food, drink, clothes, and other temporal things first and are either letting Yahweh take care of the Kingdom or want nothing to do with the Kingdom at all. Those are the only two categories of people that there are.
Those who seek after the material things Yah'shua (Jesus) calls "gentiles" or goyim. Those who seek after the Kingdom of Yahweh are Israelites - not by blood but according to the Ruach (Spirit) which is the only Israel that now matters. The gentiles are the unsaved who, because they are not seeking after the Kingdom of God, automatically align themselves with the Kingdom of Satan ... the world system, or Babylon, as it is figuratively called in the Bible.
Now I want to stress again that there is nothing wrong with food, drink and clothes. We all have need of these things. Earlier in the passage of Scripture we have been reading, Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matt.6:25-31, NKJV).
I must admit that meals without pudding can, and do, get a little boring at times. There have been times when we in our family have been short of money that we have done without them altogether. Yahweh is not against puddings. Indeed, it is His desire to bless us with all good things, including physical things, both for our own enjoyment - and, when he gives us surplus - so we can bless others through our generosity and good stewardship of resources. What concerns Him is that if we get our eyes focussed on puddings we will lose sight of the main course and get ill. Eat a life of puddings only and you will, in the end, die prematurely. To set the Kingdom of God aside spells instant death. But to relegate it to second place ultimately has the same effect.
The world has become infected by the "party spirit" or the "spirit of entertainment". People want more and more entertainment all the time. And the world system pours more and more money into it. What was originally intended as a desert has become the main course ... what everybody is striving for. The drive behind society today is the "market force" whose spiritual centre is the carnal appetite. If people want something, the market adjusts to supply it. Businessmen are constantly looking for new markets and new economic niches. Consumers demand more and more. The media advertise and stoke up the carnal appetite.
This same mentality has found its way into the churches and in almost all of them it has now found deep roots. The Church or Assembly has become entertainment. Ministers are constantly trying to find new methods to "pull in the crowds" - to get new members - in order to pay their bills. Churches have become theatres for entertainment - singers, actors, and performers of all kinds. The programme includes audience participation. People can now roll around the floor behaving like animals, babble nonsense for hours on end, laugh themselves silly, and generally enjoy a good party. Church has become party-time. And the name of the game is business. Babylon has come home to the churches.
When a person wants to be entertained - because that is his primary drive - then any 'gospel' he embraces will be a party-time gospel. Because it is driven by the senses and by psychic forces, it will always make him hungry for more and more. He happily calls those psychic forces the "Holy Spirit" though it has nothing to do with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) at all. It is carnival time in the churches - Rio de Janeiro is in the pulpits and in the aisles.
We can, for the most part, discern these things clearly enough. Most of you here and in our world-wide congregations know what I am talking about. But what of the more subtle aspects of this Babylonian way of being? Could it be that this is a universal principle of corruption that it manifests itself in areas of the spiritual life that the more aware believers are even oblivious to?
Last week I was talking to you about the unseen motives below the surface of our conscience that drive our lives and I invited you to consider the foundation beliefs that lie in the deepest parts of your souls. So much of what we "take in" by being exposed to the Babylonian system is unconscious - we don't even know it's happening. We are being programmed to behave in a certain way subliminally - by simply being around certain people often enough, or in certain atmospheres, we become subtly influenced. I have noticed both in myself and in my family members that when we have been away from home for a while on vacation and have been around friends and family who are not believers that our behaviour sometimes changes. We become a little more like them. And the longer we are around them, the more we resemble them spiritually. Water flows along the path of least resistance under the influence of gravity. Once you stick around people in the Babylonian system you subtly gravitate towards them. You become more like them. That was Lot's hard lesson when he was attracted by the lure of the cities in the plains whilst Abraham stuck to the more rigorous wilderness. Living in Sodom was disastrous for him and his family. And though he was a good man his family was affected by the surroundings in a catastrophic way. And when Yahweh commanded him to leave that doomed city, only he and his two daughters survived to create a bastard people through incest. The rest were swallowed up completely and lost forever.
Christians are Israelites. We are called to be a "peculiar" people - meaning a people who are different from the surrounding pagan culture. That is why Yahweh calls us "saints" - not Roman Catholic 'saints' but people who are 'set apart'. Our whole life style is to be set apart from the gentile world around us. We are, as I mentioned two weeks ago, supposed to stick out like sore thumbs. Yahweh's people are different - very different - different in behaviour, different in appearance, different in morals, different in life goals. To be a believer is to be different - to be set apart or separated - not according to race but according to the spiritual reality that attends belonging to the Kingdom of God.
Now the purpose of this separation is not to create barriers between people that prevents contact between them but to ensure that the mustard seed - which is the Kingdom of God planted within us - grows up healthily and unspoiled. Lengthy exposure to the Babylonian world system is not at all unlike putting a fruit fly under damaging radiation and getting horrible mutations such as stunted wings. Exposure to the world system is highly damaging - its values, customs, morals, ethics, music - all that is the gentile world - is very damaging to a child of God learning to grow in a world of spiritual purity and refinement. In time, believers become strong and can endure longer periods of 'radiation' in the outside world, but only for the purpose of witnessing and drawing others to the Kingdom or for maintaining family links. The world does not exist for our entertainment. If it does - and we are attracted to it - then there are likely two Kingdoms at work inside us vying for attention. And when that happens a choice has to be made - for the one Kingdom or the other.
The Kingdom of God is not a concentration camp or a communist supermarket. It is not a prison régime. It has its physical dimension and physical pleasures. It has its entertainments. The Kingdom of God has its scientists, musicians and artists, its comedians and philosophers. But they are quite unlike the scientists, artists, musicians, comedians and philosophers of the world. They live by a different set of values and have a different set of life goals. There is a universe of difference between a true Christian artist and a Babylonian one - their art is entirely different. The art has entirely different purposes. And - most importantly of all - the Christian artist does not live for his art but for the Kingdom.
Now this is critically important. The Christian artist is seeking first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and letting his art follow in its wake. The Christian entertainer is seeking first the Kingdom of God and giving all the glory and honour to Yahweh. Consider the worldly entertainer - what is he doing? He is first seeking the glory and honour for himself. He seeks fame and popularity. He wants to be seen to be admired, adored, and followed. He wants wealth. He is building his own Kingdom. And many misguided Christian entertainers think they can enter the world system of entertainment and add the Kingdom of God to it. You can't! The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Babylon are utterly and irreconcilably incompatible.
All of us - every single person - wants to be seen and noticed. We want to be loved and appreciated. And we also want to give others pleasure for pleasure's sake. A true believer wants to do all things for his brother or sister - to make him or her happy. We want our talents and skills to bless the Kingdom - artistic, scientific, administrative, or whatever. A car mechanic wants to help his brother or sister when they have car problems. A tax collector wants to help fellow Christians with tax problems. A musician wants to bless the local congregation by enhancing the praises of Zion. A computer expert wants to help the Assembly or Church have good PC equipment and software so the Kingdom can run more smoothly. A nurse wants to help with the health of the local congregation. All true believers want first of all that their skills can be used to build the Kingdom, because it is the Kingdom and its righteousness that they are seeking first.
There is, however, even amongst believers, a subtle line which divides this Kingdom-motivated desire to bless others and a carnal, selfish desire which wants to be adored or worshipped, or to be entertained in the way that Babylon behaves. And it's that which concerns me today. It's the line between the spirit and the flesh. Drawing it correctly is essential for the spiritual and material prosperity of Yahweh's people.
In all of our lives there are jobs to be done which may not be particularly appealing. Toilets have to be cleaned, nappies (diapers) changed. We have to do jobs sometimes we don't like and maybe even loathe. Whatever these unpleasantries may be, Yahweh tells us that everything we do - especially when it is in someone's employment - is ultimately for His glory. Being a slave can't have been much fun anciently but Yahweh insists that slaves remember that it is not their slave masters they are serving but Him and that they are to therefore serve faithfully and honourably. Whether housewife or employee, we are to do everything for Yahweh. And the fact that He allows us to sometimes be in unpleasant jobs, we are given to understand, is for our character refinement and purification, so that eventually even the most menial tasks can become a sheer joy in the knowledge that Yahweh is being honoured and the saints blessed.
As a man, I have never much enjoyed cooking, but there have been times in my life when I have been forced to and have learned to do the best job I could, and to enjoy its fruits. Some men make good chefs and some women hate cooking. And I know there are things I would like to have done, or be doing, because I find them pleasurable. However, I made the decision many years ago that I would place the Kingdom of God first in my life and let Yahweh take care not only of the material things but also my attitudes to them. I am going to focus on the main course and make the best meal of it that I can - and if Yahweh sends me a pudding, I shall eat it enthusiastically and share what I have with others. If he doesn't - well, I'll have the satisfaction of eating a really good roast chicken and potatoes and know that it is sufficient. Amen.
This page was created on 23 December 2002
Last updated on 23 December 2002
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