Be Like Me: Part 2

John Plunkett
August 24, 2013


Let me just go over basically what we covered on Part 1.  I told you about two instances where a minister expected me to be like them.  To bring you up to speed, let me just repeat one of the statements that I began last weekís sermon with: 

Some of us tend to want everyone else to be like us.  We want other people to act like we do and to be interested in and to enjoy many of the same things that we do.  But what is much more important is that we can tend to want everyone else to believe exactly as we do and to interpret the scriptures exactly as we do.

In Part 1 we covered the following sub-topics and we asked some of the following questions:

In the sermon today I want to continue with this subject and, if I was going to give you a "specific purpose statement" for todayís sermon, it would be to ask you to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

I want to talk today about righteous and unrighteous judgment.  I want to cover some of the common differences that frequently arise between Church of God members and I would like to spend just a few minutes discussing how we should deal with the differences that we may have with other Church of God members or other Church of God groups.

Judge Not and Be Not Judged

So first, letís talk about judgment. 

In our desire to choose who to be like and who not to be like, a certain amount of judgment is, of course, necessary.  But it has to be the right kind of judgment.  Jesus said so:

John 7:24: 
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

It is hard for human beings to judge anything other than by appearance; but with Godís Holy Spirit dwelling within us, that should make all the difference.  A Christian's judgment must not be condemnatory, and it should not be of the unforgiving kind:

Luke 6:37: 
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

Some Church members will tell you that Jesus is telling us here that we should not judge at all.  Is this true?  Is this what Jesus was telling us here?  We shall see.

This sub-topic of judging actually needs a full sermon of its own; but for now, let us continue by asking these important questions with regards to judging: What would Jesus do? and What did Jesus do?  If we are to follow Jesus and if we are to emulate Him and strive to be like Him, we must ask the question:  Did He judge?  Well yes, He did:

John 5:30:  
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Jesus is saying here that He did not judge by appearance.  Even as a human being He was able to hear the thoughts of other human beings.  Unlike us, Jesus had the ability to read minds.  Some of us think that we can sometimes; but, of course, we canít!  The important point here is that Jesus judged according to His Fatherís will.  Both in this aspect of judging as well as in all other things, Jesus and God the Father were One.  They were totally unified:

John 8:16: 
And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.

This speaks of the total unity between Jesus Christ and God the Father.  If Jesusí judgments were in accordance with the will of God the Father, then so must ours be.

However, some people might say that Jesus Christ had the authority to judge because He was the Son of God.  They might say that, as we human beings have not been given the same authority, we are not to judge at all.  That is human reasoning.  But would they be right?  Was Jesus the only human being who had the authority to judge?  If that was the case, why would He have told us back in John 7:24 to "Judge righteous judgment"? 

What about the apostles?  Did they think that is was wrong to judge?  Did any of them practice judging righteous judgment?  For an example, what about the apostle Paul?  Did He judge?  Well, yes He did.  LetĎs look at the letter that He wrote to the Corinthians:

I Corinthians 5:3: 
For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,

So we see that Paul made a judgment regarding a great sin that was being committed.  And in the very next chapter:

I Corinthians 6:
2:  Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?  And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
3a:  Know ye not that we shall judge angels?...  

That will likely be in the World Tomorrow...

3b:  ... How much more things that pertain to this life?...

This, of course, would be in the world today; or rather, as we shall see, in the church today:

Verse 5:  I speak to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?

Please do not let anyone tell you that we are not to judge at all.  Godís Word clearly tells us that righteous judgment is very necessary, especially when it comes to determining whether or not to agree with the beliefs and standards of others and also whether to agree or disagree with the teachings or doctrines of one or more of the many fragments of Godís scattered church. 

Should we believe what this group teaches on a certain thing or what that group teaches on a certain thing.  These are all very important things for us to consider.  I believe that there are about 400 or more Church of God groups out there.  I am not saying that we should go searching through them all.  But did the apostle Paul expect the church brethren to believe everything that they were told by anyone who claimed to be a preacher?

Ephesians 4:14: 
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

I am not suggesting that all Church of God groups and/or all of their ministers are being cunning or crafty or that they are lying in wait to deceive us.  I believe that most are very sincere.  I am using this verse to show that we all must be very careful not to be easily swayed into adopting alternative doctrines of which there are very many; nor to easily flip-flop on our own doctrinal opinions just because some church group publishes a new study paper which perhaps reverses their former official stance on a certain teaching.  God wants us to use the Holy Spirit that is within us; but He also wants us to use "our little grey cells" (I Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:10-12).
 
The apostle Paul knew that there were many differences of doctrinal opinion in his day.  We are going to talk later about some of those that are common in today's church.  Both Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul knew that Godís people had proper righteous judgments to make.  There are judgments to be made between, on the one hand, beneficial truthful doctrines, solidly based on the Word of God and, on the other hand, harmful, false doctrines that are based on menís carnal ideas, influenced by Satan and his demons.  Here is how Jesus put it:

Matthew 7:
16:  Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?...
20:  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

There is an element of judgment here, in knowing whether we are getting good fruit or thorns and thistles.  Jesus used these differences in various types of plant life to symbolize the differences between the various levels of truth and error.  Grapes and figs symbolize life-giving truth; thorns and thistles symbolize dangerous and harmful error.

Further on in Matthews's gospel account, we see that Jesus changes the symbolism a little.  He symbolizes truth with the good fruit of a good tree and error with the rotten fruit of a corrupt tree:

Matthew 12:33: 
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.

Again, there is judgment required here.  We have to think about what is good and what is corrupt.  In both of these verses, Jesus uses the words Ďknowí and Ďknown,í again implying that comparison, recognition and judgment are required.  

As I mentioned earlier, the topic of judgment is a huge one and requires much more time to cover it completely; but this should be enough to prove to you that our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, wants His sheep to exercise proper, righteous judgment in what to believe and where to find His "sub-shepherds" that are safe to follow.

Did God Know?

Did God the Father and Jesus Christ know that their people would have differences of opinion?  Do they know that now?  Of course they did and still do!  We have just read scriptures that prove that they did.  It is to be hoped that most of our brethren have a sincere desire to have unity with one another.  In this regard, God the Father and Jesus Christ inspired the apostle Paul to write these very important words in Colossians:

Colossians 2:
16:  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17:  Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

These verses jump right out at us.  They are very important words.  Paul is not saying here that these five things are not important at all.  If they are part of the shadow, remember that Jesus Christ is the One who shines the light to make those shadows!

But what is God, through Paul, telling us here, especially in verse 16?  Is He saying that it is okay for us to righteously judge other church members; but it is not okay to let other church members righteously judge us? 

No.  That would be confusion and God certainly is not the author of confusion.  The apostle Paul is writing here to a group of church members in the city of Colossae, and is referring to some unrighteous judging that was going on, possibly between church brethren. 

We read of five sub-topics here: meat (food), drink, Holy Days, New Moons and Sabbath Days.
Without getting into too much detail, I want to take a quick look at these five areas and to consider some of the different points of view on them among true Christians in todayís Church of God.  These things were being argued about two thousand years ago and are still being argued about in Godís Church today.  I want to take a respectful look at them without "knocking" the different viewpoints.  We all may have differences of opinion on some of these things; but remember that only God knows the pure, unadulterated truth on them. 

1. Meat

The New Testament Greek word is Ďbrosisí and it can more generally mean food or eating; but it is still proper to translate the word as meat as we think of it Ė e.g. beef, lamb, etc. 

So the first question that comes up is this one: Should Christians eat meat at all?  Or should we all be vegetarians?  Is it okay to have a personal preference one way or the other?  Should we all like the same kinds of meat?  There is no implication, of course, that Paul is giving the okay for the consumption of unclean "foods."  

Another relevant question is: How much meat and other foods should we eat?  Although gluttony is frequently prohibited in the Bible, is it okay to differ in our dietary appetites?  For example, should a physically hard working manual labourer be restricted to the same smallish diet as a comparatively sedentary office worker?  (N.B. I am no knocking office work).  These are the kinds of questions that come up.  The question of vegetarianism has been a big deal over the years in God's church.

2. Drink

We can almost guarantee that this is primarily referring to alcoholic beverages.  The first question is: Should we drink alcoholic beverages at all?  There are some professing Christian groups who will instantly stand up and answer, "No."  But Godís Word says, "Yes; but in moderation."

Again, is it okay for us to have a personal preference one way or the other?  One important question regarding drink might be this one:  Is it okay to drink alcoholic beverages in the presence of a person who has alcohol intolerance?  Most of us would logically answer, "No.  Of course not!"  

How much should a person drink?  Godís Word prohibits drunkenness; but is it okay for us to differ in our appetites and tolerances for alcohol?  Does a big man necessarily have the same tolerance for alcohol as a small woman? 

Although those first two items -- food and drink -- are somewhat important, they are perhaps the least important of the five topics listed here by Paul.  Now we will move on to what I believe are the three more important ones.  For a smoother idea flow, I will switch the order in which they were listed by Paul.

3. Sabbath Days

Nowhere here does the apostle Paul give Godís New Testament people the freedom to decline keeping Godís Holy Sabbath days at all; nor he is saying that it is okay to keep the Sabbath on any day that a person feels like keeping it.  The seventh day is the only day of the week on which the weekly Sabbath may be kept.  We all know that.  No other day of the week may be referred to as "the Sabbath."

Letís put the really big questions regarding Sabbath keeping on the table for discussion -- questions that often arise between brethren.  Again, I am being respectful and I am not criticizing any of them.  I am just asking the questions.  I want to make it clear what was being talked about here and how these same potential differences are extant in the church today.

How should Godís holy Sabbath time be kept?  We have Sabbath restrictions that are commanded in the Old Testament.  Are they still applicable in the New Testament; and if so, to what extent?

What can we do during Godís Sabbath time?  What are we commanded not to do on the Sabbath?

Some brethren tend to be somewhat on the conservative side in their use of Sabbath time.  Others may be more liberal.  

Can we cook during Sabbath time?  The King James Version calls it ďseething and baking.Ē  Is that okay?  In the Old Testament, God said, "No."  Were Godís commands against Sabbath cooking just for the Old Testament people?  And if so, what scriptures tell us so, or tell us that it has changed?  

One of the big questions in this day and age, is:  Is it okay for Christians to eat out at a restaurant on the Sabbath?  Is it okay to shop for necessities that we forgot to pick up during the week?  How about shopping for non-necessities?  I am not giving you the answers right now.  I am just giving you some of the common questions.  In all of these questions what does Godís Word say?  Do the holy scriptures support our viewpoint?

4. New Moons

This sub-topic has been all but ignored by most of the church brethren, including me, for many, many years.  I first came into contact with God's church in 1965, and I would say the topic of the keeping of the New Moons hardly crossed my mind for many years.  Nevertheless, for some reason, God has either brought it -- or at the very least, allowed it to be brought -- onto the table for discussion amongst brethren in recent years. 

Here are the main questions with regards to New Moons.  And once again, letís treat them and their adherents with respect and letís not pre-judge them.  

Should the subject of New Moons even be considered in the New Testament era?  New Moons are only mentioned once in the New Testament even though the Hebrew term (qodesh) is actually mentioned 224 times in the Old Testament, which would indicate that it has to be somewhat important.  

If the New Moon days should be considered in the New Testament, how should they be kept?  Some brethren say that they should be kept with a communal church service, or a Bible study together with family or with brethren, or a special dinner.  Others say that a simple recognition that that day is the day of the New Moon.  Or the final alternative is: not at all. 

The timing of the Holy days is (or should be) dependant upon the timing of the New Moon days; so they should be very important to us.  Just when is the actual day and time of the New Moon?  That question and its answer seems like a "no-brainer"; but it really is not. There are surprisingly many disagreements on this one point.  When I first started looking into it, I was absolutely blown away by how many different human opinions there are on this one question.  Is it the actual dark of the moon (often called the "conjunction")?  If you look on some regular Roman calendars, you often will see the little symbols representing the moon phases: a black circle, a half circle and a full white circle.  The black circle means that, astronomically, the moon is in full shadow on that day -- hence the dark of the moon. 

Is the New Moon, according to the Bible, at the actual dark of the moon?  Or must the first sliver of the first crescent of the new moon be observed? 

A supplementary question comes from that one.  If that first crescent must be sighted, must it be viewed only with the naked eye?  Or is it okay if we use a telescope to view it?  How about eye glasses?  These questions might raise a smile; but they really are serious questions that are separating Godís people throughout the world. 

If you think that you need to see the first sliver of the first crescent, what if it is cloudy and you canít see the moon at all?  There are groups who actually drop it back until they can see it.  I donít claim to understand all of the workings of all of this and how everything would work if you make these decisions; but some do.  Whether you opt for one of the observation metods or one of the calculation methods, where should it be observed from or calculated from?  Some brethren say from Jerusalem.  Others say from our individual home areas.  Apparently, there is one astronomical conjunction point in the world that changes every month.  Some brethren believe that that is the place that it should be calculated or viewed from. 

Again, I am giving you some of the relevant questions.  I'm not giving you the answers.  I donít even claim to know all of the answers.  But I do know that these questions are a big deal. 

What did the ancient Israelites do; because they kept the New Moons?  Did the early Christians keep the New Moons at all?  Colossians 2:16 strongly indicates that at least some of them did.  So how did they calculate them?  What did the human Jesus Christ do?  We know that He would surely have obeyed His own laws on it.  If the YHVH of the Old Testament set these rules and said that the keeping of New Moons was necessary, we know that He certainly would keep them.  Again, what does the Bible say?

5. Holy Days

In some important respects, this sub-topic on the Holy Days is closely related to the previous one on the New Moons.  How do we Christians know the Holy Day dates?  How should we get to know the Holy Days for each year?  Should we just consult our Church of God group's little Holy Day calendar card; and accept it without question?  

Somebody somewhere sat down and made some calculations in order to produce those little calendar cards.  There is no easy way of putting the dates into a computer and it automatically spits all the Holy Day dates.  Somebody somewhere has to sit down and make a determination on these things; and it is not a simple one. 

Should we accept what the producers of our little card says -- in faith and without question?  As some may disagree with that traditional method, is it wrong for our church organizations to resort to that method? 

Like many others, I must admit that I can get confused by all of the alternative methods, arguments, technicalities, and timings.  So, is it wrong for us to resort to that traditional method if we are confused and donít know any better how to calculate them?  I donít know how to calculate them all.  I hope that one day in the future, I will; but right now, I donít. 

Should we be like the Bereans, by questioning these things in the proper and respectful way (Acts 17:10-12)?  Should we respectfully ask how the calculations for those calendar cards are made and where the producers of those cards get their dates from? 

Where does your Church of God group get its Holy Day dates from?  Does it adopt the timing from the Jewish methods and calculations, either wholly or partially?  I believe that the majority of the Church of God groups do -- at least partially.  In accepting the Jewish point of view, some of the church groups quote Romans 3:1-2 which states that "the oracles of God" were given to the Jews.  

So the sacred calendar and the Holy Day calculation methods are all part of "the oracles of God" that were given to the Jews?  Is that true?  Or is that false?  Do we know what "the oracles of God" are and what is included in them?  Do you know?  Again, some differ on these things and it causes a lot of dissent; and in some cases, separation. 

The Jewish calculations include a set of rules called "postponements" which were made by the Jews, evidently to prevent a Holy Day and a weekly Sabbath Day falling back-to-back. But those rules are not in the Bible.  They are non-scriptural.  They are man-made rules. 

Some claim that the postponements were introduced as late as the 4th century AD.  But if they were introduced in the 4th century AD, they could not have been applied by the early Israelites or the early Christians. 

Others claim that the postponements were in force during Jesusí human lifetime.  I have heard two different sermons which claim to prove that this is true -- that the postponements were in force during Jesusí human lifetime; that He both observed them, and thus approved them. 

Again, what is true and false regarding these things?  And how can the average church member be sure what the Bible does say about them?

Godís Word clearly tells us that His months begin at each New Moon and that His Holy Day season begins at the first month of His sacred year (Exodus 12).  But there are even disagreements on this point too.  When does the New Year begin?  We know that it is not in January; we are talking about what we refer to as "the sacred New Year" -- Godís New Year. 

Is it, as some claim, on the first New Moon that is closest to the Vernal (spring) Equinox, which is normally around March 20th?  Others believe that it is always on the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox.  Or, there is yet another point of view that it is on the first New Moon after some professing authority says that the firstfruits of the barley, in a certain area, will be ready by the Wave Sheaf Offering day.  These are all different ideas of when Godís New Year begins. 

I am not trying to confuse you.  I am actually trying to shed light on some of these differences that exist between brethren.  Some of these differences are actually separating brethren. 

Does the Bible even mention the Vernal Equinox?  I looked; but I canít find it.  Some people believe that there is a biblical Hebrew word for it: "Tequwphah ."  

Again, from where should these New Year issues be determined?  From our own local area?  Or from Jerusalem?  If observance is required at Jerusalem, that is fine today with our cell phones and our modern communication technology; but letís go back even just two hundred years!  If observing of the New Moon or the barley crop is required from Jerusalem, what about the Jews and the Christians in all of the rest of the world?  How do the people who sight the New Moon over in Jerusalem contact the people in Britain, Italy, North America, etc?  

Again, I am not ridiculing these ideas and I am not trying to confuse you, or coerce you to rebel against your church's teachings on these things.  Not at all!  I am just trying to explain some of the differences in the sincere beliefs of various sincere believers.  All of these are striving, as we are, to do what they believe God wants them to do.

Once we have determined the correct timing of the Holy Days, how should we keep them?  For many years we had our own tradition in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), where we had two church services on every Holy Day other than the Day of Atonement.  Do we have to continue with that?  Is it a sin to depart from that tradition?  Some brethren even think that having a different hymn book than the one that we had in WCG is a sin!  They think that any departure in what was done back then is a sin, or at best, disrespectful.  

For all of these questions, who says so?  What does Godís holy, authoritative written word say on these things?  These are real concerns to many sincere brethren; and their differences on some of these points are separating Godís people.

Who's Judging Who?

When Paul wrote this epistle to the Colossians and he mentioned this judgment that was possibly being directed against those people, who were the ones that were doing the unrighteous judging?  It might possibly have included some of their family members or neighbours -- some of whom were likely unconverted.  It might possibly have included local Jews who considered themselves to have a better understanding on all of these teachings.  But the verse reads "Let no man" without specifying any specific group of man.  There is then some implication that some of this unrighteous judging might possibly have been done by their fellow church members.

Please think about this for a minute.  Please think about the differences of opinion between today's brethren on certain doctrinal matters.  Have you ever heard someone say things like "We are all at different levels of understanding on this."  This is a true statement; but there is an unspoken implication there that the person who says these words, and those who follow him or agree with his teaching, believe that his level of understanding on the point in question is higher than that of those with whom he differs.  In other words, "You might disagree with me on this; but I know better than you. You are 'down there' in your understanding; but I am 'up here.'"

Still in Colossians 2, letís take a quick look at a few of the preceding verses that lead up to the all-important verse 16, because there is some good information in there for us:

Colossians 2:
6:  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7a:  Rooted and built up in him...

It says ďin HimĒ twice.  It is not just a case of following Jesus Christ; but actually walking in Him; being rooted and built up in Him.  And conversely, as other scriptures tell us, walking with Him and His Father; and having them both dwelling in us, through the indwelling of Their Holy Spirit.

7b: ... and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8:  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

We must set our doctrines and beliefs according to Christ.  Not according to menís principles or traditions, whether those men are unbelievers, Jews, professing Christians, or even true Christians! True Christians may be off the mark in some aspects of their beliefs and their teachings.  I am not trying to frighten you, but I'm sure you know that that is the case.

In verse 16, Paul wrote ďLet no man judge youĒ; but we can turn this around and look at its converse.  In other words, "Donít you be unrighteously judging others either."  

How to Handle our Differences

Before we finish, letís see how we are to properly handle our differences.  How does God want us to handle any doctrinal differences that we may have with some of our brethren?  Right off the top, the apostle Paul recommends quite simply that we must not argue about them:

I Timothy 1:6: 
From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;

Vain jangling is arguing backwards and forwards where the argument just doesnít go anywhere.

I Timothy 6:20: 
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

Titus 1:10: 
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:

Doctrinally, "they of the circumcision" -- the Jews of Paul's day -- were not perfect.  Even today, God's people need to be careful not to put all of our doctrinal eggs into the Jewish basket. 

Titus 3:
9:  But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

I believe that we all need to be proving all things (I Thessalonians 5:21), searching the scriptures daily (Acts 17:10-12) and studying to show ourselves approved (II Timothy 2:15).  I believe that we all need to be studying to make sure that we know that what we believe is in accordance with Godís Word.  However, I do not believe that, when we differ with someone, we should endlessly argue the point.  What did the apostle Peter say?

I Peter 3:8a: 
Finally, be ye all of one mindÖ

Imagine if we all had one mind on everything with all of our brethren!  This is the ideal goal -- to have total unity of thought and doctrinal opinion through the indwelling of Godís Holy Spirit.  What a goal that is!  It reminds me of Jesusí command for us all to be perfect like God the Father is (Matthew 5:48).  There are quite a few other New Testament verses that encourage Godís people to have one mind.  But letís be truthful.  In Godís church today, do we have one mind?  The true answer has to be, "No, we do not."  What about the early church in Paul and Peterís time?  Did they have one mind in the church back in those days?  No they did not.  We know that they had their differences of opinion too.
 
This being the case, what do we need to do?  The apostle Peter continues:

8b: ... having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous...

This doesnít mean "pitiful" as we think of it.  It means "tender-hearted."

9a:  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing...

If somebody says something bad about what you believe, donít argue incessantly against them and their opinions.  We should not ridicule or accuse other brethren or other Church of God groups, because they may disagree with us in some doctrinal aspects.  Please remember that God is the ultimate righteous judge.  His doctrines are His!  They're not ours!  He knows who His people are, and He knows who is right and who is wrong in the "interpretations" of His doctrines.

9b: ... but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing...

If we are the children of God the Father, and if we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we share a wonderful inheritance.  Do we, in Christian love, desire to share that same wonderful inheritance with our brethren?  Yes, even with the brethren with whom we might disagree on some doctrinal points?  Yes, even brethren in other Church of God groups?  Yes, they are our brethren.  Who are we to say they are not?  Again, God knows who His people are.  We must desire these same things for our brethren -- even those with whom who we may disagree on certain things.

10:  For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile...

We are not to try to hide anything from anyone; neither are we to point the finger at anyone, always telling them that they are wrong.  Let us refrain from bad-mouthing or arguing with those who donít agree with us on every single point.

11:  Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it...

We must turn away from evil and we must seek and earnestly pursue peace with all people -- but more especially with all of our brethren.

12:  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil...

Do we want to be counted amongst the ranks of them that do evil?  Do we want to have the Lordís face turned against us?  Of course we donít!  Every one of us wants to have the Lordís face turned towards us and we all want to be counted amongst the tiny flock of the righteous.  The Lord tells us here that His ears are open to our prayers.  So letís pray for the increasing unity of doctrinal opinion in Godís church.  Not unity based on my doctrinal opinion, because that doesnít matter one whit!  But unity based upon Godís pure truth; that is what we need to be praying for.  Let us be praying that God the Father would help us all to follow Him, follow Jesus, and follow those things that are good:

13:  And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

The bottom line in all of this is that we should all realize that Godís church is not like a box of yellow pencils.  Godís people are not all the same in every respect, although we are very much alike in so many ways -- hopefully in most of the important ways.  But we still have differences of opinions.  We all have had different backgrounds and experiences, which very much shape the way we think about many things, including how we view Godís Word. 

Our personal opinions on many of these things are ultimately between us and God.  He is the ultimate Judge in all of these things.  He is the Expert on all these doctrinal matters.  The Holy Bible is our textbook.  Jesus and God the Father are the Ones who make the rules.  They are the Ones who have totally unbiased and uncluttered views of their rules and laws. 

It is not my job and it is not your job to negatively, unrighteously judge or criticize others who differ with us on some points; and vice-versa, it is not their job to judge and criticize us either.  

If you differ with a fellow member on a certain point, and if you feel the need to tell him or her of your difference, then please explain it according how God, through His apostles, told us to do it... gently, patiently and politely.  It is also best to do it privately.  Again, please do not try to argue the point and donít try to browbeat him or her into agreeing that your viewpoint is the correct one. 

Letís stop saying or thinking ďBe Like Me.Ē  Rather, let us all be using Godís Holy Spirit within us and letís all of us be striving for total unity by becoming more and more like Jesus Christ and God the Father.


JHP/pp/jhp