No one has ever said to me "I follow a man". Of course most people would not consciously follow a man. It is easier to say "I follow Jesus Christ". If I ask one question here it is this: Do people, specifically the people in the COGs, really follow Jesus Christ?
Now, I want people to think about the irony of the statement "I follow Christ" from those who attend a church started by a man who described himself as "the spiritual and temporal leader of the church" and who then proceeded to change the laws of God. Is it following God to change God's laws? Did God come and change His own laws? No. Then who did? A man. When Herbert Armstrong changed his views time and time again, the Bible did not change with him. Yet people followed along before and after. So who were people following? A man. When Ron Weinland did the exact same thing, who were people following? A man. So who is being followed? Christ? That's just not possible!
I observed during my time in the COGs, and even participated in the practice, of following after my ministers in using the phrase "so called Christians". What is that? According to the COGs, that is any person who claims to be a Christian but does not follow the Old Covenant laws. Think of the irony. Think of the irony of a group of people who are not fully following the Old Covenant laws, calling people who do not follow the Old Covenant laws "so-called Christians". I recently got into a little tiff with a minister for this very thing. I attempted to show him the gap between what he says in one place and another. He basically told me I wasn't affording him the deference due him and vowed never to speak to me again. VERY Christian, that! On whose behalf was he offended?
For those who are still in Armstrongism, ask yourself, "Do I keep the law - the WHOLE law?" I understand the natural inclination to excuse yourself. Please fight that inclination and answer honestly. Understand that I don't mean to ask you if you could keep the law more perfectly. You are correct that Jesus Christ covers sins. I mean to ask you if there are portions of the law you don't keep at all. And I am not referring to third tithe. For examples of what I am talking about, do you build a sukkah (booth) at Tabernacles (LEV. 23: 42; NEH. 8: 14-17), or do you travel three times in a year to the place where the Lord places His name (EXO. 23: 14; EXO. 34: 24; DEU. 16), or do you regard a false prophet (DEU. 18: 20-22), or perhaps do you ingest animal fat (LEV. 3: 17)?
Let's put this into a little perspective. According to James 2: 10 and Galatians 5, if you set out to keep the law but do not keep it all, if you even stumble in one point, you have nothing. Have you stumbled in even one point? Then you are guilty of all and are the same as a liar and a murderer and all other such things. Paul does one better and says clearly that if you even attempt to find your salvation through the law then Christ Himself profits you absolutely nothing (GAL. 5: 1-5)! Consider, or think deeply about, your calling!
This reminds me of Galatians 6: 13
(GAL. 6: 13) For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.
Not keeping the law while boasting in fleshly ordinances seems to be the way of Armstrong. Yet over and anon we used to say "we are God's true church because we keep His laws". But we didn't keep His laws! Oh, we said we did. And we were very confident in the law. But it goes to show that we never understood Paul or the law!
(I TIM. 1: 5-7) 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. [emphasis mine]
The law is not the proof that God is working in us. His Spirit is. His Spirit does not come from the law, nor the keeping of it. Where do you ever read that? Man's own reasoning conjured it up. I'll tell you what we can read, however:
(GAL. 3: 2-5) 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
I've talked about this before in my post "By This All Will Know". You say the Spirit comes to those who keep the law. Paul calls it foolish to think the Spirit comes through law. So then, is the proof that God is calling you to be found in your foolishness? "Not many wise now are called," it says. Is it proof that you are poor, or in other words, not mighty nor wise? Does it make sense to say "I'm among the weak and foolish of the world, therefore I know God is working with me"? And what is it that is too hard for you to grasp? There is simplicity in Christ!
Or perhaps you view the proof that God is calling you to be found in that you are a "little flock"? As if to say, "We are part of a small church, therefore we are God's true church"? Then why boast about 33% growth each year? Why does the PCG website boast a great deal about increase in size? Why does the CGG write against using size as a measure? So both small size and large size are proof?
Do you glory in your foolishness or your small size or your partial law keeping? In what are those who glory supposed to glory in? CHRIST! There is nothing confusing about that. It does not say to glory in the law or your understanding or your calling or that God has revealed to you some thing or anything at all to do with yourself. It says to glory in HIM. Him personally!
Christ did good for all mankind. All good flows from the Father through Christ. Christ's own faith is placed in His own people. Sin is conquered in Christ. Christ gave up all things, all things that exist. Christ inherited all things. Christ is worthy. Who is Christ? He is the Son of God, at the right hand of God, the Head over all things to His Spiritual Church. Make your boast in Him.
What good have we of ourselves done? None. What faith have we on our own? None. What sin have we personally resisted on our own according to God's standards? Not a single one. What do we deserve from God? Nothing. What have we earned from God? Nothing. Who are we? Nobody.
So why glory in "us"? Why boast in "us"? Why condemn "them"? Why say or even think such things as "God isn't working with them" or "they are as good as dead anyway"? Why sequester yourselves? Why hide what light you have? Matthew 5: 43-48 says you're no better than the tax collectors if you act this way. Why hold your head up over someone else? Why call attention to your organizations? We are all guilty of such things from time to time. But why? Are we not making ourselves wise; wise in our own eyes?! "Not many wise now are called." Put your boast in Christ, not your minister, or your responses to a magazine, or any sort or form of carnal thing. If you can clear away the "us vs. them" mentality, clear away this identification with a clique, then perhaps you will begin to see how "they" aren't one bit less important than "we". Perhaps if you see that Jesus Christ is trying to make one Spiritual man out of many physical men, then perhaps you will cease trying to divide things up again. "But they aren't called because they don't keep the law," you say. Well, you don't keep the law either! Then the rock of James 2 and Galatians 5 falls upon you and it will crush you.
Have we forgotten Philippians?
(PHP. 3: 7-11) 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. [emphasis mine]
Notice how many times Paul mentions Christ. It is obvious where his focus is. Let's contrast that.
On the Philadelphia Church of God website is a section on their history. There you will find this statement,"The PCG broke away from the Worldwide Church of God in order to preserve the teachings and legacy of its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong". Oh really? Not Jesus Christ? In all actuality, the words 'Jesus' and 'Christ' do not appear anywhere on that page. On the other hand, the word 'Armstrong' appears at least 13 times. A rich tale of HWA's past is told, there is even a link to another article all about Herbert Armstrong... again, no mention of Jesus Christ. Not one word.
In the "About Us" section on the Living Church of God website, we see this "The Presiding Evangelist, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, was one of the original evangelists ordained by the late Herbert W. Armstrong in December 1952." Notice carefully where Rod Merideth believes he derives his authority. Once again, Jesus Christ is absent.
The Restored Church of God mentions Christ 3 times, Armstrong 4 times. Not a bad start, until you notice the link to the eight chapter 'book' (complete with preface, introduction, and epilogue) about Herbert Armstrong's life. A glance into their uncompromising and unapologetic self-promotion left me queasy. Take for example this sentence "While many groups arose from the WCG, we are the only true extension of Mr. Armstrong's ministry—the Church in which Christ is now working!" In the RCG mentality that I see on display, if you aren't "us" then you are nobody.
Where is the focus? Why, "we" are the focus, of course! Complete and utter "us vs. them" mentality. Competition. Strife. Envy. Pride. Godly? No!
Time would fail before I investigate with you all of the various groups who make Herbert W. Armstrong into an idol and a requirement for salvation.
This kind of thing is par for the course with Armstrongism. For more of this exact same thing, please read my earlier posts "What Do You Mean, One True Church" parts 1 and 2.
What have we seen so far? As a general rule, the boast of the COGs is in Herbert Armstrong. The authority is from HWA. The focus is often on HWA. The teachings came from HWA. And even though many will like to say "but from Christ through HWA", this is clearly not the case since HWA clearly changed the laws of God. So, when given the choice between the version of the law in the Bible and the version given by HWA, the COGs choose HWA. Is HWA greater than God? Where, then, is the focus? And not only did HWA change things, but he contradicts the clear words of the Bible! When HWA says "The Spirit comes to those who keep the law", the COGs eat that up! Yet when Paul says "The Spirit does not come by law but by faith, grace, and promise" and again "the law brings condemnation", the COGs say NO! NO! So, where is your focus? The Bible says "by their fruits you will know them." When scores and scores of primary and secondary witnesses come forward to tell about the kind of fruits HWA had (and his ministers after him), the COGs say "if any man today was found to be guilty of what David did that they would be rejected as a servant of God as well." And after such an avalanche of confirmable, demonstrable, falsifiable evidence the COGs cover their ears and bury their heads and say, "Slander!" Where then is the focus? All of this for a man?
Please understand my motives are not to attack you! I do not confront you with this for your harm. Quite the opposite! I care about you, and I want you to see the distance between yourself and Christ so you will take the steps to close that gap! There were barriers in my way when I was in Armstrongism, and I know those barriers are before you. To see those barriers, you need to accept a few things.
First of all is that God loves you so much He died for you. But not just for you - for all mankind! God is love. Love comes first.
Second, I hope beyond hope that I can get you to see how judgmental and condemnatory the belief system is. The condemnation has got to stop. I think one of the greatest obstacles to my own personal happiness while I was in my former association was the condemnation. No one can be truly happy while condemning others.
Thirdly, and the focus of this post, is I pray you see, by the grace of God, where your focus lies. Is it with Christ? Because I'll tell ya, from the evidence, it does not look good. Or is it with a man or the ministries of men? If that is so, that has got to change immediately.
I want you to ask yourself a question: "Who is the leader of your church?" If you didn't immediately respond, "Jesus Christ", then please allow me to suggest you have much work to do. I would like you to ask yourself another question: "What is my church?" If you didn't respond, "It is the Spiritual body of Christ, composed of everyone with God's Spirit, regardless of all man-made organizations" (or some such thing along that vein), then may I please suggest you have much work to do. How will you know these people? The Bible tells us without doubt "by their fruits." I have looked at the fruits of the COGs and asked, "Do people, specifically the people in the COGs, really follow Jesus Christ?" And from what I see, the answer is a resounding NO!