Do You Still Love the Truth More Than Anything Else?

December 2019

 

Greetings Brethren:


          What a true blessing it was to be able to assemble in God’s presence and worship
Him during the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day. Did you have fun? Were you
relaxed? After the planning, preparation, and probably stressful times right before the
Feast, did you find yourself at peace, being removed from the turmoil of the world? As
chaotic and uncertain as these times are, was it not nice to take a break from whatever
issues or problems exist, and experience a time of true peace, unity and joy? These
things do not just randomly happen. They are not things that a group of people can
make on their own and by their own efforts. They are spiritual gifts and are
manifestations of the Holy Spirit.


          How real was it to you that the Creator of the universe was in your presence?
This Being, who knew you by name before the foundation of the world, desired for you
to enjoy the companionship of your brothers and sisters in the Faith and to grow closer
to Him. Did you think that His mighty angels were encamped at each of the designated
places and shielded you from the desired attacks of Satan and those demons who are
ever willing to distract you, to frustrate you, and to destroy you?


Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may
exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for
you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring
lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:6–8).


          Are the memories of the Feast still fresh in your mind? Do you recall the fun
activities, spiritual conversations, and good times that you had? These are all part of the
blessings that come from proper observance of God’s Holy Days. But the time comes
fast when these days end and we return home. The reality of daily life begins again as
the long, cold days of winter set in and given that the Spring Holy Days will not be
observed for many months. So what do we do? The answer to that will provide insight
to the question, “Do we still love the Truth more than anything else?” Does that sound
ridiculous to you? Why would we even need to ask that question? By the fact that we
planned, prepared for and attended the Feast of Tabernacles, as well as all of God’s Holy
Days this past year, does not that indicate the answer to be “yes”? With the difficulties,
trials and unknown circumstances we have been facing, and the effort we have been
exerting to live by the Faith Once Delivered, does not that mean the answer is an
automatic “yes”?


          No, it does not necessarily mean “yes.” It very well may be the case that the
answer is “yes,” but it does not guarantee it. Do we carry on, take the lessons learned
and continue to grow spiritually? Or, do we settle back into our pre-Feast routines and
eventually forget? That is something we all must evaluate and be mindful of.


          The life of the called is not a life of ease. There are many blessings and rewards,
but there are also many difficulties and trials. We must constantly fight to stay close to
God and overcome our carnal natures. We must fight to continue to think like God, and
to make effort to be more like Him. How often? Every day! It is a fight we face every
day:


Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the
law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot
please God (Romans 8:7–8).


          As long as you have a carnal mind, your automatic and natural responses will be
opposite to God’s mind. He made it that way so that we must fight against it. That
battle is much easier said than done. We may think we are making the necessary
progress because we are living a way of life that the uncalled say is foolish. But, we
also may be going through the motions on certain things which reveals a different
orientation. We say we are focused spiritually, but our lives indicate we are too focused
physically and not effecting the required change of mind.




Initial Love

          Think back to the time of your initial calling when this new thing called the Truth
made complete sense to you. You were reading and hearing things that you had never
seen or heard before, and it was wonderful! Complex questions that the world’s greatest
philosophers and intellectuals cannot grasp became so clear to you. Why were you
born? How do you worship and please God in order to inherit eternal life? What does
it mean to overcome the self? The answers seemed so simple!


          Simple, because God was opening your mind to spiritual Truth. You responded
by wanting to learn more and so began your conversion process. You read, studied,
listened to sermons and constantly thought about the Truth. You may even have begun
to drive far distances to meet with brethren on the Sabbath. The sacrifices and daily
effort made were huge. Did this statement by King David apply to you at the time of
your calling, and reflect the tremendous effort you were making to learn the Truth and
to change your life?


O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day (Acts 2:28).




Change

          Life was good and exciting. You may have experienced many blessings that
fueled your desire to learn and grow. And while certain obstacles and difficulties arose,
the excitement and enthusiasm you had for the Truth overrode those problems. You
may not have liked every aspect of the Truth, but there was enough of what you did
understand and value that drove you to learn more, and to want to change your view on
what you did not like. Would you say that you had an initial love for the Truth? Was
it your priority?


          This was a time when you made effort, were always wanting to do the right thing,
and were very conscious to avoid doing the wrong thing. When you realized an error,
you felt your conscience pricked immediately. As awkward as it was, maybe that was
to simply stop saying “Merry Christmas” when a neighbor or co-worker said it to you.
Maybe it was to ask questions about how to properly observe the Sabbath. Overall, your
desire was to do things that are pleasing in God’s sight.


          But many of us have seen some of our brothers and sisters in the Faith begin the
same way. They exerted effort and appeared to be dedicated, but at some point in time
they changed and departed from the Faith Once Delivered. That change may have taken
place just months after their outward dedication to the Truth, or possibly after decades
of faithful service and sacrifice. Unfortunately, for some reason that initial love either
disappeared, or became overshadowed by a love of something else.


And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when
they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have
no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when
affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are
offended (Mark 4:16–17).


          We see this and ask why. Why would they discard this priceless gift that we hold
so dear? Why would they want the things of the world more than God? What
temporary thing has so much more value than the eternal things of God? We can ask
these questions because we see the visible manifestation of a potentially deadly change.
A change that could, if not repented of, result in a loss of salvation. We see, by their
actions, that they lost their love of the Truth and departed.


          But for us, brethren, there is a different, potentially deadly change we may be
making and not even see it. We may be falling into a similar category as those that have
departed, all the while remaining in a physical organization and continuing to observe
commanded doctrines such as the Sabbath, paying of tithes, and avoiding unclean foods.


          Our potential change is the subtle change of mind and attitude back to our natural,
carnal orientation. It is serious, brethren, because it does have implications for our
salvation. Let us assume you are faithfully attending the weekly Sabbath and annual
Holy Days, tithing, eating according to God’s health laws, avoiding worldly holidays,
and frequently doing some sort of spiritual study such as listening to sermons, Bible
studies or reading Monthly Letters. You are making some effort to control your
thoughts and actions. These things demonstrate that you still love the Truth the most,
right? But, what change could be happening that is potentially deadly and indicates
your love for the Truth may be fading, or becoming secondary to something else? To
start, reflect on the everyday you. Not just the fact that you adhere to the major
doctrines, not just the fact that you are struggling through trials and difficult
circumstances, but include the everyday, little things you do for a complete picture.


          When it comes to people you interact with, society around you, the trials and
difficulties you are facing, what is your attitude and what are your actions? The reason
is that your responses to these things demonstrate the level of your love for the Truth
versus love for other things. As you mature spiritually, simple physical obedience to the
doctrines is not enough. As you mature spiritually you need to be adding the mind of
God. Your attitude toward, and reactions to, these things demonstrate your love of the
Truth. The following are not the only indicators of our level of love for the Truth, but
they are major areas we all encounter. We will fall short. If we are looking, we will see
areas where our actions, thoughts, emotions and attitudes are not right. At that point,
we need to ask God to help us change our attitudes from our natural, carnal minds to His
spiritual mind. Is that not conversion? The changing of our minds. The development
of righteous character.




People and Society

          Now that we are home and going about our regular lives, we are interacting with
people and faced with the input of society. We are no longer “on our best behavior” as
we were amongst brethren during the Feast. If we are at school, we will be interacting
with other students and teachers. If we are at work, we will be interacting with co-workers. If we are fulfilling certain family responsibilities, we may be taking our
children to school and extra-curricular activities which require us to interact with other
parents. If we have unconverted mates, we may need to socialize with their friends. In
any case, we are back to interacting with people that have a different way of life than we
do.


          They think about things differently. And how can they not? Their minds have
not been opened to spiritual Truth and they simply live according to their carnal minds.
Their interests and humor should be different than those who are called. What music
do they listen to? What TV shows and movies do they watch? How much are they into
sports and can recite every statistic about a player or a team? Do they spend hours on
fantasy football leagues, or similar activities? If you were at a social gathering and any
of these topics arose, would you be able to carry on a conversation just as well as anyone
else? If you watch the same TV shows and movies, listen to the same music, or spend
your free time focused on the same things as they do, you will be able to fit right in. In
these situations, can you honestly say that is you? Or, do you start to feel uncomfortable
after a little while because you do not have much to add to the conversation, and
eventually you do not have anything more to say? You feel out of place and do not fit
in. To some degree that will be the case if your interests and time spent really are that
different from theirs.


          Well, if you do fit in like the rest of them, what does that say about your love for
the Truth? Because to love the Truth is to live the Truth, ALL the time, and to keep it
as the number one priority in your life. Not just following the doctrines physically by
habit or routine, but by your thinking and your mind as well. The denial of Jesus Christ
is not just stating that He does not exist or is not our Savior. The denial of Jesus Christ
occurs when we do not live the Truth spiritually as given to us.


          Is your time and energy focused too much on the ways, or things, of the world?
Note also that focusing on the things of the world is not limited to the physical things
the average person strives for: like having a fancy car, a glamorous house, a high-paying job, status in the community, and various sorts of entertainment. It includes your
mind. If you allow yourself to constantly think and react naturally, automatically,
according to your natural mind, you still are focusing on the world. If you talk and act
like everyone else, you still are focusing on the world as a priority. What does that say
about you and your love for the Truth? If you love the Truth you will be living it and
continually growing in it. And, if living it, will you not be different than those that do
not, and cannot, live their lives according to the Truth? Following is an excerpt from
a sermon given by Mr. Raymond Cole titled, “Acknowledgment,” which explains it very
well.


Before we assume anything, I want us to get all the information. So,
number one, we are going to talk about the actual acknowledgment of God
in our ways—not as specifics, but as a generalized pursuit of our lives.
You see, when I live a certain way, by that very life pattern, I am
acknowledging something. . . . But what if, now, our demeanor—that is,
our response in life, the manner in which we live—is so negligibly
different from outsiders that people can’t even see any difference? Then,
are you a light? You see, oftentimes people behave in the same way. A lot
do with respect to various responsibilities in life. . . . And so, in many,
many areas, we live lives that aren’t revelatory at all. We’re just one of the
group.
One of the, I guess, greatest slurs, or indictments, that could ever
be given to you is, “Well, I would never have known that you were such
and such.” If you’ve ever had that thrown back at you and say, “I just
found out that you do this and this and this, and you believe in this way of
life—I would never have known it.” Somebody is saying that you are not
a light at all, then. You’re just one of them. They ought to be able when
they see you—the manner in which you react, the way you handle
situations—they ought to say there is something different about that
individual. They don’t respond normally. They don’t react to given
situations the way the average human being would. They don’t verbalize
the way many people would. They have a kind of control in their lives.
They see within you evidence—evidence of that character that God has
promised. . . . It does say that you are living a way of life that the average
person doesn’t live.
” (Mr. Raymond Cole, March 10, 1984,
“Acknowledgment,”) [emphasis added]


          If we love the Truth more than anything else, we will be striving to live it and
avoiding things contrary to it. If we are living it, over time we will become quite
different than those in the world. Our interests in entertainment (music, movies, sports)
will change and be different than the average person’s. Our humor (jokes we tell and
listen to, subject matter of TV and movies) will be different than the average person’s
and we will reject the filthy language and innuendo in most forms of entertainment
today. The way we talk to our neighbors, co-workers and classmates (in word choice
and subject matter) will be different than the average person. Was it not part of why the
Feast was so special, because we were with people of like mind?


          In any of these areas, are you just like your neighbor, co-worker or unconverted
family member? Do they see you as being the same as them? If so, then how can you
say that you still love the Truth more than anything else? You may love the concept of
the Truth, or elements of it, but by your daily life you are demonstrating that you love
the ways of the world more. You may be adhering to certain physical requirements, but
in mind you are demonstrating a love of the world—or the carnal mind—more than
God’s mind.


Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man
love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).


          Over time, has the zeal and enthusiasm you had at the time of your initial call
faded? Are you still excited about the Truth and make the time to learn more? If you
do, you probably always seem to have a long “to-do” list for everyday things. Or, do
you just get around to spiritual time once everything else gets done? If you were to
make a log, and record the amount of time you spend each week in Bible study, prayer
and meditation, how much would it be? Try it for one week. Based on your life,
circumstances and God-given responsibilities, does that amount of time reflect the
dedication that you say you have? If you love the Truth more than anything else, is it
evident in the numbers? Life is stressful, busy, and we all have many physical
obligations that we must fulfill. Many are godly responsibilities, so the balance and
quantity will be different for every person. What is your quantity of spiritual time? In
any way can you see yourself slowly drifting and becoming more like the people in the
world? If so, can you really say that you still love the Truth the most? It is either the
most, or not. There is no acceptable, equal combination.


No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the
other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot
serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).


          The danger for us is to know the Truth, follow basic physical requirements, but
by actions, thoughts and conversations appear just like anyone else in the world. Is that
you? Are you just like anyone else in the world? Simply knowing the Truth and
observing the rules, physically, does not mean you love it more than anything else.




Trials and Tribulations

          If you are chosen by God and working to develop righteous character, you will
face difficulties. It is one of the primary avenues for developing righteous character.
But it is not just going through difficulties that is important, it is our attitudes. And,
have our attitudes changed over time? All may have been fine at the beginning of a trial
or difficulty. But what about now?


          We are exhorted by the Apostle Paul:


Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be
blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of
a crooked and


perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Philippians
2:14–15).


          What do many people do when they are faced with severe difficulties? Some will
sink into depression. Some will get angry. Some will lash out at others. Some will lose
their faith in God. Some will run away from their problems through various forms of
addiction. Some will take charge of their lives and do whatever it takes to get to the
desired result. These are all natural, common things the average person may do because
it is how the natural mind reacts to challenges.


          By contrast, how do we react when faced with difficulties? In reality, some
degree of any of the above categories may apply because our minds are automatically
reacting and we are fighting for control of them. How do you feel when you lose a job,
cannot find one, or have one that does not provide sufficient income to pay the bills?
How do you feel when you are isolated from brethren and have no friends with which
to fellowship? How do you feel when you have a persistent health problem that just
does not seem to end? How do you feel when living with an unconverted mate causes
you to push the boundary of Sabbath observance or socializing with people you
normally would not? How do you feel when you want, and ask God for, something that
in general is acceptable in His eyes, yet you feel is being withheld from you? How do
you feel when other people do not treat you the way they should?


          If you are faced with any of these circumstances, what is your attitude or what are
your actions? Even though you do not have what you want, or are not in the situation
that you want, do you have peace of mind and are you accepting of your situation? Do
you recall that God is lovingly molding you for purpose, and thank Him for it? Or, are
you frustrated by the fact that if you were not called and did not have to sacrifice to live
this life, you think you probably would have those things you want and desire? Are you
simply waiting for this trial to be over so that you can get back to enjoying life? If you
do, might your priority really be you, your feelings, and not God?


          We all face frustrations and doubts. We are human. But through it all, what is
our priority? Are we demonstrating that we love God more than anything else, still?
Do we love Him and trust Him? While in the midst of distress and uncertainty, do we
thank Him for helping us to develop righteous character? After the weeks, months,
years or decades of struggling, are we starting to fade away from the spiritual zeal we
once had? Is whatever burden we carry too much to handle, causing us to lose the zeal
and love for the Truth we once had? Are we starting to take matters into our own hands
because God will not deliver what we have been asking for?


          If we have grown weary and our time is increasingly diverted to things of the
world, can we honestly say that we still love the Truth the most? If we have grown
weary of waiting for something and thought, “Haven’t I been waiting long enough?,” and
then make things happen ourselves, do we still love the Truth the most? God will often
put us in, or allow us to stay in, certain situations to see how we react. So how are we
reacting? Even though the situation may be stressful, uncertain, or overwhelming, what
has been our reaction to, and thoughts about, the situation. Do we still love the Truth
the most and are we thankful to God? Or, are we in a constant state of frustration,
agitation, doubt or fear, and are we biding our time until the issue passes? Again, are
we desiring our comfort more than God’s will?


Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth,
give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid
(John 14:27).


          Shortly before the arrest, trial, scourging and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, He said
that He was leaving His peace. What peace? Knowing that He was about to be
brutalized physically and abandoned by His loved ones, mocked and criticized by those
who eventually may qualify to be part of the Family of God, how could He have, and
be leaving, peace? Peace existed because His priority was the will of the Father. Peace
existed regardless of the physical surroundings because of His spiritual focus.


          So where is your peace? If you still love the Truth more than anything else, will
you not have that peace also? Will not that trait of the Holy Spirit be evident in you?
That does not mean that stress, uncertainty, doubt, frustration and a host of other
emotions will not appear. They will, because it is the natural you responding, often with
the encouragement of Satan. But through it all, and over time, are you demonstrating
an increasing amount of peace of mind? Or, are you constantly reacting like anyone else
in the world, according to the natural mind?


          For whatever circumstance we are in, whatever trial exists, whatever difficulty we
face, how are we responding? Is it important, and does it reflect our love of the Truth?


But, if God has opened our eyes—set them in sharp, clear
focus—permitted us to comprehend, through His precious Spirit, what the
world is not able, yet, to see, we need to remember this is DANGEROUS
KNOWLEDGE—for God will hold us accountable for what we do with it!
(Herbert W. Armstrong, “Heart to Heart Talk With the Editor,” The Plain
Truth
, August 1961, p. 25)


          God will hold us each accountable. So what are we really doing with it? Is it our
priority? By the way we interact with people, and respond to society around us, is it
evident that the Truth, this Way of Life, is more important than anything else? By the
way we are responding to trials and difficulties, is it evident that the Truth is priority
number one? If we still love the Truth more than anything else, the answer will be
“yes.”


          God has called you and given you the opportunity to be part of His Family.
Everything He is doing, and allowing, in our lives is for the creation of righteous
character in us. He is doing His part. Are we doing our parts by keeping Him and His
ways as the priority in our lives?

Your servant in Christ,
Robert G. Burke


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