commentary: An Anniversary Message
A Thank You
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 08-Jan-11; Sermon #1027c; 11 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, affirming that our future involves immersion in both religion and government, suggests that the church may be the most important teaching vehicle for getting us ready for leadership in God's Kingdom. All the sermons, commentaries, and Bible studies have been crafted to assist us in preparing for these leadership roles. The hierarchical structure involving ministerial control extant in the WCG is completely absent in the CGG. The emphasis in the Church of God is on self-control and self-government, responsible only to God. Each person must individually demonstrate his allegiance to God without any kind of ministerial control. Coerced behavior does not develop character, self-control, or responsibility. It would be well on the anniversary of the Church of the Great God to re-read Preparing the Bride.
I often wonder, brethren, how many of us are seriously looking toward the Kingdom of God, and because we are seriously looking forward, are diligently preparing for that future.
Revelation 5:10 tells us that we are being made—the emphasis here is on "made"—"kings and priests, and we shall reign on the Earth." Paul tells us that we are a new creation, and the Apostle John says that we are being made into kings and priests. Well, we are being made right now, or to stretch it out a bit, since we have been called. Our future is to be leaders within God's family, completely immersed in government and religion.
These should be seen by us as the two most important activities in life. The church is not intended by God to be merely a social organization of pleasant people. It is not fun and games, though it may—at times, anyway—be a joyous institution. The church has a very serious purpose. It is God's teaching vehicle. It is the academic arm of His work on earth, and it's been given the responsibility of helping to prepare its own membership for the responsibility as kings and priests that lies ahead. It exists primarily because of the future. It's not here to convert the world. It does not exist to make things better in society. It's not here to provide outlets to somewhat peculiar people cut off from activities that those in the world seem to have so much fun involving themselves in.
From the start, the Church of the Great God ministry has been preaching, "Do you see God?" Even the commentaries I give each week are designed in part to fit into this circumstance. Almost always, these commentaries involve government and religion—what to do, what not to do, how things are being done, and how maybe they should be changed.
Just in this past year, my sermons have gone through a long series, touching on priesthood character and the responsibilities God requires of those serving Him before His people, as shown through the symbolism of the garments that He himself designed for them to be garbed in ["The Priesthood of God"]. Richard added sermons, showing the symbolism found in the Tabernacle and its furniture, which further teaches aspects of the character and the service of church members as portrayed by the house of God ["Approaching God Through Christ"]. Martin gave a long series on marriage, which again serves as instruction regarding the character, attitudes, and service of the bride of Christ—the church ["Marriage and the Bride of Christ"]. Why did he do this? Because Christ's Bride is to be a reflection of Christ Himself. Are we prepared to be such a reflection?
Richard has been speaking lately a great deal about things found in the early chapters of Genesis that show how all these things began, and at the same time revealing the infinite detail of how far reaching God's word impacts from the very beginning of the spiritual creation He has undertaken ["Imagining the Garden of Eden"]. And now I am involved in a series that shows that Satan has not been idle ["The March Toward Globalism"]. He is busy—very busy—for many generations of time, preparing the vessels of wrath, those involved in the preparations and the rise of the beast power that will be Satan's last attempt to usurp God's rule and to end God's creation of mankind in His image. These preparations [of Satan] involve something as commonplace as childrearing, whose intent is to destroy the family. He is doing these things through deceptive, false teachings that promote self interest and competition above all other things in life. And he is succeeding in throwing society into warring and angry minorities.
In our lifetimes, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) grew great in numbers, but was driven to split. Now the largest of those groups that survived that attack is in the process of being thrown into chaos in the same basic manner.
I wonder if you are aware of and thankful for what God has entrusted you with? You are part—as far as I am aware—of the only split-off from the WCG that has no ministerial hierarchy that stands between you and your relationship with God. The weight of that relationship, humanly, is on you, not the ministry. It's on you. And that's a great blessing.
I believe in hierarchical government, because God's governmental structure is hierarchical. But notice that I said "no ministerial hierarchical government." The ministry is not the police. We are not here to run your life or to force you to demonstrate your loyalty to God and to build your character. We are here to teach. Paul says at least one time, we—meaning the teachers—are here to persuade you, and then to get out of the way and let you live your life.
I think that I mentioned a couple of times before that when I gave that sermon on self government the first time in the Anaheim congregation, a man—an elder with us at that time—said following it, "Aren't you afraid of the result that this will produce?" And I said, "Yes." He understood, and so did I, that this approach would produce chaos if people were not converted and diligently preparing for the future. That man soon left us. I have no idea where he is now—he may even be dead—and others also began drifting away, one at a time to this very day.
Why do they drift away? I believe it's largely because they do not get it, or they do not want the responsibility, or they simply forget. Each person must individually prove his loyalty to God and God's governance without being forced into it. He must voluntarily choose by faith because he understands and because he believes.
I believe that the Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong was on the right track, but it became hijacked in the '60s and '70s by young men under him, and government became strictly enforced through the ministry. That form of governance will give a sense of stability and unity. But in the long run, it fails to produce much in the way of godly character in the individual. Is the character in you, or is the character in the force of the ministry?
The proof of our faith is what we believe, and lies in our works or our conduct. Each person must show this to God. It doesn't earn salvation; that's a gift. But it does glorify God, and it allows Him to create us in the image of Jesus Christ. But a person must be truly free for the best and the most to be created.
So on this anniversary, our nineteenth, I want to thank you for your loyalty to God, not to me, nor to the CGG, but to God, because there is nothing standing in your way to do whatever you please except your faith in God and therefore your self-control and the relationship you personally have with Him.
Now, I have a suggestion. I believe that this is a good a time as any that has come along in a good while to re-read Preparing the Bride in order to see the foundational statement of why the Church of the Great God exists.