October 28 Letter From President Luker
October 28, 2010
What’s ahead for the Church of God? As we settle in after the Feast of Tabernacles, what should we be looking forward to and achieving over the coming months?
As baptized members, all serving the Great God, Paul gives us this direction: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2, emphasis added throughout). Later on, he magnifies this direction, raising the bar to the highest level: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
As we go through our daily tasks, are we looking for and earnestly seeking the direct guidance of Jesus Christ, the living Head of our Church? Is our true focus on serving God through Jesus Christ and accomplishing His purpose for us?
The Bible reveals that we all are self-willed. At the very beginning of human history we see our ancient ancestors—Adam and Eve—exercising that self-will in making the wrong choice: taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, even though it was directly forbidden by God (Genesis 2:17). A few thousand years later we see God again calling His people to yield their wills to Him, even as Moses commanded the ancient Israelites.
On that epochal day, Moses made it clear both for ancient Israel and for us today: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life…that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Brethren, do we today choose life? Are we yielding our human wills to God and making Him truly the center of our lives? This total commitment is what Jesus described as “the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:38).
As frail humans, we often find it difficult to truly surrender our human will to that of God’s. Even Paul himself faced this very challenge: “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:15). But Paul knew the answer, which applies to us today. We can confidently go through the Temple veil that was torn (Matthew 27:51) and enter the place of the Holy of Holies, joining with Paul to ask and receive the answer: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
Through His own experience as God in human form, Jesus intimately knows what pulls and challenges we go through. Through the grace of God He stands ready at every moment to give us precious divine strength and unite us with God Himself!
What are we to do in this delivered state? When we are reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ, what is our role? The dual mission of the United Church of God—based directly on the Word of God—makes it clear: We are to be dedicated to preaching the precious gospel of the coming Kingdom of God, and we are to be daily—minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour—preparing ourselves to serve for all eternity under Jesus Christ Himself!
We begin this daily process by spiritually renewing ourselves, dedicating each and every day in prayer to the divine purpose of God, and yielding ourselves to His will. Seeking His will and doing it, offering ourselves as “living sacrifices,” is what Paul—under inspiration of the Holy Spirit—defines as our daily “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, New International Version). The rewards of doing this are great! As we do this daily we find the true meaning of what Jesus taught: “Come to Me, all you who labor… Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest… For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Yielding our human wills to that of God is critical for our salvation. It is the first step in obedience, which is contrary to the way of this world. It requires true humility, a direct gift from God. That in part is why we fast—which we should be doing frequently, not just on the Day of Atonement. We must be right-sized in thought and action, and the physical hunger and weakness of fasting helps put us in the right spiritual frame of mind. Without food and drink we would soon cease to exist. We are dependent on God’s daily blessings—on Jesus Christ sustaining the physical laws of the universe—to continue to live in this physical life.
Consider this critical spiritual fact: Even as we believe ourselves to be seeking and doing the will of God, we can inadvertently fall under the powerful but subtle influence of our adversary and begin to deceive ourselves. Unless we are truly humble, we can fall prey to wrong thinking and not even be aware of it.
Notice the example that God gave us through Samuel the prophet. God chose Saul to be king of Israel, and Saul initially thought himself to be so unfit for the task that he hid himself when the time came to recognize him as king (1 Samuel 10:21-24). But as time went on, Saul changed. He began to mix his own thoughts about what was “right” with the direct instructions from God, which diluted his ability to be used as a true servant. It finally all came to a head when Saul diverted—however slightly or greatly—from specific commands of God.
Samuel, as the Bible records, was horrified, even though a casual reader might think “What was the big deal?” God had ordered Saul to go up against the Amalekites and destroy every vestige of their existence. Saul conquered the Amalekites, but not in the way God directed. He won the human battle, but lost the spiritual war, as Samuel cried out: “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” (1 Samuel 15:19).
Samuel pointed out the cause. When Saul was first anointed king over Israel, he was truly humble before God. “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel?” (verse 17). But something changed. Despite knowing the direct commands of God, Saul changed them to what he humanly thought was better. His human reasoning thus led him to “do evil in the sight of the Lord” (verse 19).
As Saul sought to justify his actions, Samuel cut him off: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice… For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (verses 22-23). The net result? God rejected Saul as king and deposed him!
This underscores the spiritual danger before us in our daily lives. Peter warns us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Even though we may think that we know the will of God, we must be on guard against self-deception. James, the human half brother of Jesus, brings this home: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).
But God, through Christ, gives us the victory! On a daily basis—complemented by regular fasting and times of intense prayer to seek the almighty will of God—God will open our eyes and give us incomprehensible spiritual strength to overcome and become more like Him (Revelation 3:12). As we go through the autumn and winter months (in the northern hemisphere) approaching the spring Holy Days, let us rededicate ourselves to seeking “those things which are above.
Let us all—individually and collectively—choose life, that we may all live and that our Church may accomplish its purpose, according to the good and perfect will of God.
Thank you, brethren, for your continued prayers and for asking God to direct and guide all of us! All of the dedicated ministers and employees here at the home office in Cincinnati send their greetings and love to all of you.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,