Prepare to Teach the Remnant
HOLD FAST LETTER
Dear Brethren and Teachers in Training:
Greetings from Florida.
As you know, we have been called by God and chosen by Christ to make ourselves ready to teach the remnant of mankind who survive the Tribulation and day of the Lord. They must learn from us God's way of doing things.
However, before we can be allowed to instruct others in Christ's millennial kingdom, we must prove now that we, ourselves, will take instruction. The Church is a workshop or training center set up by God to help prepare us. To become a good teacher we must first prove teachable. To become an effective teacher, it is critical to understand how the Church is structured and how that structure facilitates effective teaching.
Based on God's pattern, the government in the Church of God is from the top down: Christ is the Head of the Church, then the pastor is under Him. Below the pastor are the elders, followed by the deacons and the laity. The structure is intended to avoid confusion and to help create cohesion and unity. In any given situation, it is important to know who is in charge. The pastor is the person in charge, but he can then delegate certain responsibilities to others. This was the structure that Moses was advised by his father-in-law to adopt to avoid wearing himself out.
In the World Tomorrow, we will be helping men and women to make wise decisions. In this letter, I would like to give some pointers to help us make wise decisions using the ministers of God to positive effect in the Church environment now. In any area of human endeavor, the pastor, although not an expert, can give an overall biblical perspective and then point the inquirer to those who have a more technical understanding.
A Christian by biblical definition is imbued with God's Holy Spirit. God's true ministers have that same Spirit. It is a Spirit of love, wisdom, sound judgment and unity. When making decisions in an important area of our lives, using sound judgment and wisdom are important to insure they are right decisions. Right decisions will lead to unity and a loving conclusion, rather than division and bitterness.
Mr. Armstrong taught trainee ministers to look for a teachable attitude in those they visited for the first time. He pointed out that this was a sign, that although the people were not yet converted, God's Spirit was beginning to work with them. This should be even more true of those who are baptized. Remember, our natural carnal nature is absolutely deceitful and selfish. Whereas, godly love is an outgoing, outflowing concern for others. Yet, that old nature is always there, under the surface, struggling to come to the top. A Christian caught off guard will quickly find himself overpowered by it and in a fight for spiritual survival.
In regard to making decisions, the ministry are here to provide counseling before the decision is made. Let's say someone wants to start a business of his own. Should he just start it or should he get ministerial advice first? The answer should be obvious. But how can the pastor help, since he may have no experience in this specific field or profession the individual wishes to get into. The pastor does know the personality, character and background of the individual. He has seen how he handles church assignments and how he interacts with other members, with his spouse and family. These and many other factors will enable the pastor to either encourage him or steer him away from starting his own business. Should he proceed, he must provide a business plan etc. Many factors have to be considered carefully to ensure a successful endeavor. It might be wiser for him to stay where he is, rather than getting in over his head and ending in debt. This is a good example of getting ministerial counseling before committing to a course of action, so a disaster can be avoided.
The most important decision a man or woman will ever make is to commit oneself totally to God. The process involves repentance from our sinful ways and our sinful nature. This leads to baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and the laying on of hands by God's ministers for receiving the Holy Spirit. The fact that God uses His ministers, for the laying on of hands, is to teach the brethren that God has given His ministers authority and that it is to them brethren should go before making critical or important decisions.
Baptism is a case in point. When someone goes to a minister regarding baptism, he is essentially asking the minister to help him decide if he is ready to take this most important step. The minister as a result of counseling may say “yes,” or “no.” He may send him back to study more in areas where he lacks understanding. He may have to go through numerous counseling sessions before the minister feels he is ready. For example, if he has not gotten to the point where he sees how intrinsically evil his nature is, how can he truly repent of it? Without genuine repentance, God will not give His Holy Spirit. Without that Spirit, by biblical definition, one is not a Christian. People do not get baptized first and then ask for counseling! A minister's input is essential. However, today the question must be asked, is the man a true minister of God? For God to give the gift of the Holy Spirit, the man laying on hands must be God's minister. Is he Philadelphian? Is he Laodicean? Is he converted? These are questions we never thought we would have to ask.
The second most important decision Christians will make involves entering into marriage. Marriage is a gift from God, and Christians should want God to bless it and be in it since it is called “holy matrimony.”
Here again counseling with God's ministry is a must before a firm commitment or engagement is made. Marriage, like Christianity, is a life long commitment. In society 50% of marriages end in divorce. Yet, people don't get married with the intent to fail. They intend to be happy. How many more couples stay married but are miserable? Why the unhappiness and failure in marriages today? Predominantly because God is not directly involved, but there are more mundane factors that play a large part. Lack of adequate finances is listed as a major component on the failure list, as well as insufficient time to really get to know one another. These points are also true for people associated with God's Church. Premarital sex may not be looked upon by this world as a component of why marriages are unhappy, but the Church of God realizes its effect. Since it breaks God's law, it clearly puts a halt to God giving His blessing to the union. Even when repented of, there will still be a penalty to pay in the marriage in the area of sex. Yes, in the very area in which God's law was violated.
The sex act itself is only part of the problem. The foreplay leading to the sex act also crosses the line in breaking the spirit of God's law. As an example, consider the following scenario:
Boy meets girl. Both are attracted to each other. Soon boy takes girl's hand; girl does not resist this advance. Girl is telling boy he is accepted, which boy takes as a signal to move forward. But move forward into what? A deeper yet still innocent relationship? Usually the situation progresses to boy taking girl in his arms and kissing her. Girl responds, and within just a few seconds, boy is fully sexually aroused. Even if everything stops at this point, God's law has already been broken. Where things should have stopped is when the boy took the girl's hand. Right then she should have said, “What are your intentions?” By not doing so, she could be encouraging him in order to get a commitment! Such a scenario is very human, but it certainly does not display spiritual maturity. The more spiritual maturity men and women have the more successful their marriages will be.
By the same token, a young Christian man is supposed to be a leader. He should be very careful to avoid any advance that could lead to the possibility of overstepping the line sexually and thus breaking God's law. Remember God's law is first broken in the mind. It is also true that men are generally more quickly sexually aroused than women. This too is important for a young woman to understand.
Holding hands and kissing may seem to some people just minor infractions, but they can and frequently do lead to pain and hurt when, as often happens, couples breakup. Why? Because a spoken or non-spoken commitment has been broken. To hold hands is, in a sense, to take possession, and kissing further solidifies that possession. When either partner backs out, the other will feel hurt. Sinning leads to pain. True love leads to joy.
God does not want people to enter into lifelong agreements, such as marriage, on largely emotional grounds. Mr. Armstrong, in the first volume of his autobiography, talks extensively on how he went about selecting a lady to marry for life. Physical attraction needed to be there, but many other qualities were more important to him, and this was years before he was called into God's Church. I encourage everyone to read about this episode of his life.
Before people associated with God's Church commit to marriage, they should want the input of God's ministry. It is not a case of the ministry insisting on who someone should marry, rather it should be a case of God's people coming to their ministry to ask advice about the wisdom of proceeding before a firm commitment is made.
As pointed out previously, finances are a factor to be considered seriously. How about spiritual maturity and character? Has there been a pattern of sexually crossing the line? Is emotion driving everything? What about the family background on each side? People don't just marry one another. They marry their in-laws and spouse's family too. What about the man and woman's personality? Is he easy going? Is she hard driving? Is he a leader, a follower or just out of the way? Who will wear the pants? These and many other questions should be looked at before a final decision is made.
The Church encourages young people to take a compatibility test before making a firm commitment. The test takes all the emotion out of the situation and really is a good guide to see how compatible people are. It highlights areas that need to be worked on and raises points that may not have been considered.
Over the past 30 years, I have been approached by many couples seeking to be married. Let me give you two examples of the approaches taken, and see which you think is the wiser of the two.
(1) A man called me to say that he had begun to date a young lady and that both of them liked one another a lot, but they wanted the pastor's input. Before the situation went any further. I talked to them, and asked them if they had decided to get married? They said they had thought about it, but it was such a big step that before they committed to an engagement they needed the advice of God's ministry. They also said they would be willing to abide by that advice.
(2) A man told me he and a lady had decided to get married. Would I now counsel them? I explained to him, that he had put me at a great disadvantage because the two of them had made a commitment without input, and that if I disagreed with their decision they would just get mad at me. Thankfully that didn't happen, and they came to accept that for various reasons the marriage should be postponed. Sadly, in other similar cases, some people have not accepted the ministry's counsel and instead have gotten angry and bitter.
It is all so unnecessary, especially if you follow the first example. When people are teachable, they can be helped. When they really understand that God's ministers love them and want the very best for them, they seek their input and are glad to accept it. It is all a matter of attitude.
When people are emotional, they don't make wise decisions. Determined to do what seems right in their own eyes, they resist any interference with their plans. This is very human, but does it demonstrate spiritual maturity?
People with good teachable attitudes, in most every case, will get married with a minister's input and blessing. The wedding date may be delayed for sound reasons or it may not. It all depends on the circumstances and what is the wisest and best course of action to take to insure optimum success.
On rare occasions, a minister might conclude that only an unmitigated disaster would result if certain people got married. Years ago I watched as a minister decided he would marry a couple who had serious emotional problems. He thought they would help one another. My view was that they might physically hurt one another. He married them and some time later a local elder dropped by their home to find it in a shambles with blood everywhere. They had almost killed each other.
As I have explained in various sermons over the years, God's ministers are placed over His Church as a tool for God's people to use. Don't use a hammer in place of a screwdriver and expect effective results. A tool should be used correctly in the job for which it was originally designed.
Don't misuse your ministerial tool, and it will prove helpful to you. Learn to be guided by God's Spirit and your decisions will be blessed, because you brought His ministry into them at the proper time. That at least has been my experience.
The alternative is to have your own way. But again, my experience has been that when people push and strive to have their own way, when they get it, it doesn't please them.
Brethren, it is absolutely essential that you understand the tremendous opportunity God is offering you; an eternal relationship with Him and Jesus Christ as part of the 144,000 firstfruits of Revelation 14. Remember, you have a great adversary, Satan the Devil, ready and waiting to destroy you. He doesn't want you to become a son of God. He wants you exterminated! He hates you! He is determined to get you to destroy yourself by committing spiritual suicide. Most people don't know he is attacking them until it is too late. The apostle Paul was not ignorant of Satan's devices. How about you?
God requires unity in His Family, so Satan incites division. In the context of this letter, he can begin to create it when people make unwise decisions because they are hell-bent on having their way. Human nature is Satan's nature; it is selfish; it does not like to be thwarted. So when God's minister objects to the wisdom of any given decision, the defensive mechanisms spring into action. These sometimes include playing one minister against another. This is done by only providing selective pieces of information, which leads to confusion. I remember many times when on counseling and anointing duty at the Feast of Tabernacles, people would come for advice on some situation going on in their local area. I would always ask them what their local pastor had said on the subject. Usually it turned out that they didn't want to follow his advice and were hoping that I would agree with them. Selective information leads to division. If you really comprehend that Satan is real and powerful and vicious, you will understand what I am telling you in this letter. He hates you. He is determined to destroy you and he will use your own nature to do it. Not only will he destroy you, but many associated with you. Bitterness is a spreading cancer. As Paul said in Hebrews 12:15, “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (NKJ, emphasis ours).
Is it not amazing, brethren, that the same ministers of God you thank for holding fast to the truth in today's Church chaos suddenly become ogres when they contest the wisdom of your decisions. Sadly, that is a reality. If it has not happened to you yet, it is only because you have not yet been confronted by a minister who gets in the way of your plans. This letter is written as a testimony, so that should such a test come upon you, you will know how to succeed.
Since human nature is evil but wishes to appear good, in any conflict it must make the other party look bad. Misinformation, incomplete information, lack of communication, and fear of authority (the authority of course being the minister) lead to confusion; for which the minister can be blamed, thus making the other party look good. Remember this is written in the context of thirty years of experience with people associated with God's Church.
I have been amazed to hear what I was supposed to have advised someone about a certain situation. Of course, before accepting the story, no one confirmed the accuracy of the report with me. Many times the pastor is not called for any clarification of what he supposedly said.
Brethren, do we really know what we are? Do we comprehend just how powerful and evil our nature is? A wise woman told me she knew what others were like because she knew herself.
As I write this letter, I think of the many letters Mr. Armstrong wrote to the Church and how few responded.
Satan seeks every opportunity to attack God's Church, and the Church is you. Can you respond with prayer, fasting and deep repentance for you own sake and those around you in the body of Christ?
It is an honor to be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Those invited will have proved themselves responsible and wise before God. He knows our every doing; however, Satan knows too.
Having come so far, should we fall now? Satan cannot defeat a humble, teachable attitude in a Christian willing to be guided by those he or she has proved to be the ministers of God.
Let's complete the good work begun in us. Hold fast.
In Christian love,
Robert J. Elliott
Other Important Articles:
Prepare to Teach the Remnant
God's Church, Worldwide