Identifying Leavening

April 2019

 

Greetings Brethren:


           How blessed we are to be approaching another spring Holy Day season. Not only will
we begin another annual cycle of observing God’s Holy Days, but we are reminded of His
Master Plan of salvation and our requirements for salvation. It is a reminder because we
have been taught the Truth. The same revealed Truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ has been
taught to us by an end-time servant. It is the Faith once delivered. Or, the Faith that was
delivered once through an end-time servant by revelation, and from then on to be held onto
without change! We know that Jesus Christ came to preach the good news of the coming
Kingdom of God. We know that to those who overcome, an eternal crown of righteousness
will be given.


To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also
overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Revelation 3:21).


           We repeatedly hear that a primary job we have is to overcome the self. But just what
do we mean by overcoming? And remember, there are two functional areas of overcoming,
or personal mastery. First, mastery in our own lives by our actions, speech and thoughts.
Second, mastery in our relationships with one another by our interactions and conversations
with others. God created us with a nature that is evil and anti-God. And, if by nature we are
anti-God, we must change in a certain way to become God. Not a lesser God or a mini-God.
But God as God is. There will be authority and structure in the Kingdom, but all members
of that Family will be fully God.


           The God Family will be perfect, holy and righteous. The characteristics of flesh will
not exist.


Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery,
fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance,
emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness,
revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you
in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of
God (Galatians 5:19–21).


           For our pre-Passover examination, one of our tasks is to evaluate these characteristics
and see how we have been exhibiting them. What spiritual adultery did we commit by
desiring things that are not part of God’s character and Way of Life, because this is in

opposition to the will of God? What form of hatred did we show when we looked down on,
thought less of, or unjustly criticized a brother or sister in the Faith? What drunkenness and
reveling did we partake in when we either consumed an excess of alcohol, or failed to take
seriously the nature of our call and our job to overcome self? Have we been drunk like the
people of the world? Has our focus been misdirected?


With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the
inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication
(Revelation 17:2).


           The people of the earth are drunk, meaning they are taking pleasure in and giving into
their carnal hopes, purposes, and achievements. They are drunk with the wine, the concepts
and philosophies, of her (Babylon’s) fornication, meaning the illegitimate concepts and
philosophies of the world. They are illegitimate because these concepts and philosophies are
anti-God. Therefore, the people of the world are giving into, and enjoying, the concepts,
philosophies and activities of the world. Are we giving into, and enjoying, the concepts,
philosophies and activities of the world in a way that is improper? Have we still not
discarded all association with improper worldly holidays? A subtle acknowledgment on
Mother’s Day instead of a card? A silent “hooray” at midnight when man’s new year is
celebrated on January 1st? Have we remained trapped in the snares of Hollywood with its
content that is abomination to God? With music lyrics that denigrate women and glorify
adultery? With TV shows with humor that mocks true godly principles of honesty and
chastity? Have we allowed the pursuit of physical things—or daydreaming about the
acquisition of these things—to become a priority in our thinking? If not, looking deeper, are
they simply more enjoyable to think about than learning God’s Truth? Have we simply
resorted to living the Truth physically, but in heart and mind have fallen asleep spiritually by
not making effort to control our minds and emotions? If so, have we not succumbed to the
same thing? Has our focus been misdirected? Where is our true focus and what is it that we
really love?




Two Ways


           The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures our conversion process. It is a period of
seven days when we focus upon removing sin from our lives, as represented by leavening,
and add righteousness into our lives, as represented by unleavened bread—the Truth.


Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are
unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let
us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and
wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1
Corinthians 5:7–8).


           We need to make a choice. We need to decide which bread we really love. Deep
down, at the core of our hearts, what is it we really love? Our way, or God’s Way? The
reason for asking this question is to remind us that it is only one or the other. Desiring a
combination of both is not acceptable, but that is what our carnal minds tend to do.


No servant 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 (Luke 16:13).


           Before we say to ourselves the answer is completely God’s Way, take time to continue
more reflection upon self. The audience of this letter is those who have been called, and by
baptism, have accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior. A commitment to His Way of Life
has been made. An appreciation, liking or even love for the Truth may be present. We may
be exerting much effort and sacrifice to abide by the faith once delivered. That is not in
question. But, the deception, brethren, is that even still the subtle influence of the concept
of “both” may reside in hearts and minds. Both ways exist—our ways and God’s ways. What
we can do during the Feast of Unleavened Bread is to recognize this in ourselves and begin
to root out undiscovered leaven. We can find the activities, concepts or attitudes that are part
of our way and that to date we have not been ready to give up.


           Why would we not be ready to give up these things? The answer may be that we still
value, or love, those things more than God’s ways. We remind ourselves of the things of God
we abide by, and blind ourselves to the things that we know to give up but do not want to.
For example, you faithfully attend Sabbath services but tend to cut the Sabbath short for
social events. Before sunset, you get yourself ready and then drive to your destination so that
you arrive right at sunset. You feel good because you observed Sabbath, but were the last
minutes of it kept holy? Was the priority on the Sabbath for twenty-four hours, or making
sure you did not miss your social time? Was the result of cutting Sabbath short having it both
ways? Or, you are always kind and considerate to the brethren, but frequently get agitated
and snap at a rude cashier at the store, a co-worker, a neighbor or a family member. In fact,
you do not even pay much attention to your responses outside of church. Are we not
supposed to have the controlled, settled mind of Jesus Christ at all times and in all
circumstances? The most difficult things to give up, often, are not the physical things of this
world, but the concepts, attitudes and thoughts that comprise our carnal minds. For
everything that you have already given up and discarded, well done. Now it is time to move
on to the rest.




What Is Real Love Toward God?


           Will you move on to the rest if you still love, or want, those carnal things? If you love
God more, you may, if those other things decrease over time. But if you only love parts of
God more, and do not reduce those other things, then you might not. Foundationally then,
what is it to love God? If a miracle has been performed in you and you now understand and
know spiritual Truth, what is it to love God? This is what it is not: It is not just following
the physical rules of the faith once delivered, although these things are absolutely required.
Examples of these would be the acts of attending Sabbath services, tithing, avoiding foods
prohibited and stated as unclean or unhealthy, and spending time in Bible study. These all
are absolutely required for us to do. But, simply doing these things does not mean the needed
change of mind is occurring. We can do these things but still value things of our carnal
minds more.


           Any of us can attend a Sabbath service and listen to a sermon, but that does not mean
we will deem it as holy time and that we are conscious of the fact that we are in God’s
presence. In mind we may still focus on our things. Any of us can tithe by sending money
to an organization, but that does not mean we recognize and value it as the means by which
God is sustaining His work on Earth. Any of us can avoid eating certain foods because it is
the rule, but that does not mean we do it because we value the physical body and
acknowledge that maintaining health is a glory to God. Any of us can engage in Bible study,
but that does not mean we will apply the teachings to our actions and thoughts. All we may
have done is busy work.


           We may value many of these things, but still value other things more. Our allegiance
is divided. Why, then, can we do these things and not completely love God? It is because
to some degree we still desire both ways—our ways and God’s ways. We have not totally
committed to Him.


           Jesus Christ confirmed that we are to fear God, love Him, and abide by the
Commandments, and to do so with total commitment from the heart.


And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment
(Mark 12:30).


           A requirement for overcoming is not simply to follow the rules, or doctrines, by
physical observance only. For example, attending the Feast of Tabernacles. Is physically
being present at a designated place the only thing God requires, regardless of our attitudes
or desires? Or, is there also a mental component to proper observance? Following the rules
physically is required, but it must be done with a specific attitude and desire. Following the
rules by habit or routine only does not necessarily develop character. Following the rules
should provide us guidance in how we must think and act so that we are thinking and acting
like Jesus Christ. We must want to follow the Commandments and change the self. We must
want to change the self because we must want to develop righteous character. It is by
developing righteous character that God may deem us worthy to inherit eternal life. If we
do not want godly character now, why would we want it when we are God? Just being all
powerful does not mean we will automatically want righteous character. The desire to be
holy and righteous as God is does not begin after we are changed from mortal to immortal.
The desire and change in mind need to start now. Therefore, we must honestly ask ourselves
if we truly want to change our character. Not just do we want eternal life. Not just do we
follow the rules to avoid penalties. Not just do we partially want righteous character, and
partially want to keep our carnal minds. But, do we want to be like God, completely? If the
desire is not there, we can ask God to help us have the desire to properly change. We were
made by nature not to want to change. But through the miracle wrought in us, we can have
that desire.


           Children are required to go to school. They will be made to follow the rules, learn a
planned curriculum, and take tests. Some of those children will follow the rules but dislike
the schoolwork. When recess comes, they will be excited to run free and have the shackles
of school loosened for a while. But soon enough, recess will end, and they will be back to
the constraints of the classroom. They will do what is required for years, but not enjoy it or
really want to do it. They will follow the rules physically, but their hearts and desires are not
devoted to it. It is tolerable because they have their recess breaks to provide enjoyment,
knowing someday school will be over.


           We are, in a sense, in school spiritually. We are being taught a planned
curriculum—the faith once delivered. We take tests by applying the lessons we have been
taught into our daily lives. Some tests we pass, others we fail. Regardless, we are working
toward graduation, or inheritance of the Kingdom. If our hearts are like the children who do
not want to be in school, we too will be excited for recess and make sure we do not miss it.
Our recess can be categorized as those things that are deemed as our way, not God’s Way.
We can tolerate the rules of the classroom—that is, following the doctrines—because we
know a break will be coming.


           Our breaks are wanting to do or think things that are not part of God’s Way or
character. We do them because we still desire some of our way. The question is whether we
are willing to give it all up and pursue the spiritual mind. Can any of these statements apply
to you? I’ll be nice to brethren at services and put on a smile, but once I am home I can relax
and have a bad attitude about life and complain, because that’s just what I do (variance). I’ll
be kind to my brothers and sisters in the Faith, but find ways to help such that I am seen by
others to be doing good works (idolatry). I’ll tell someone I am not offended, but secretly
hold a grudge (hatred). I’ll be faithful and follow the doctrines, but in my heart know that I
desire to vote in political elections, to eat bad food, or resent that I can’t take advantage of
the best shopping sales because they are on Sabbath. I wish I could be part of the world’s
way of life, at least sometimes (adultery). I resent that my standard of living is lower than
what it would be if I didn’t tithe, and it prevents me from having things I want (lust). I really
don’t like having to control my thoughts and emotions all the time. I wish I could just relax
sometimes (uncleanness).


           If any of us tolerate living this Way of Life because we get satisfaction from these
kinds of breaks, then we are simply trying to have both ways. We may value God’s Way but
do not want to commit totally. We are not loving God with all our hearts and all our minds.
How can we tell the difference? How can we gain insight into whether we are just struggling
with overcoming a weakness, or deep down do not want to change one of our carnal traits?
We want to hold onto parts of self. We have been called, baptized and allowed to understand
spiritual Truth. We know it and have an appreciation for it. But, are we just following the
rules because we know they are right, or are we desiring to follow the rules to effect real
change in mind?


           We know we are not to hate, to be envious, to be miserable, to be argumentative, to
be selfish, to be uncaring, to mentally hold onto past injustices, and a host of other things.
Apply this contrast to any concept, attitude, or the things we do when we recognize them in
ourselves: “I shouldn’t, so I’ll try not to” versus “I can’t stand it when I. . . .” We know we
are not to hate. When you recognize any variation of hate in your life, do you try to stop it
because you know it is the rule and out of respect you are following the rules? Or, do you
detest that aspect of your mind and earnestly want to change it? When you have been
emotionally hurt or let down by someone, and catch yourself complaining about it, what do
you constantly say? “I know I should let this go, but . . .” and then proceed to complain,
week after week, month after month, year after year? Or, do you say, “God, please help me
get over my hurt feelings and give me the strength to control this carnal mind?” Do you see
the difference? Are you following the rules out of understanding and respect for the rules
only, or deep down do you truly want a change of mind? Are you just going through the
motions and are not really into it?


           Maybe we have not matured enough spiritually to grasp it. Maybe we just have not
been able to see that fault yet, but will earnestly want change when we do see it. And maybe
it is an indication that we respect the rules, follow them physically, but still do not desire a
total change of character. For this Feast of Unleavened Bread, let us all think a little
differently. Let us evaluate all the things we do and think. Why are we living this Way of
Life? Are we living it because our minds have been opened to know it to be right, but in
reality, we are obedient just because we do not want the punishment for disobedience? Or,
are we living this Way because we desperately want a change of character and the Way leads
us to it? In everything we do, think and say, what is our motive? In your pre-Passover
examination, did you take time, reflect, and state specific reasons for why you are living this
Way of Life? If you did not, you should. If you did, what were your reasons? Was one of
your top three answers to change your character to godly, righteous character?




Resistance or Recesses


           What if the things stated above do not apply to you? What if these descriptions do not
match the kinds of things you believe? You believe the doctrines and want to follow them.
You really do want to develop righteous character. You are making sacrifices because you
value the future reward. Are you in the clear? Is there no hidden, leavened bread that you
want to hold onto?


           How can you be resisting the purging of self, or still holding onto your ways, while
at the same time seeing yourself as doing what is required? One way is when we focus on
the big things and do not pay attention to the little things. It is the root of these little things
that make them important when we evaluate what we really love. Non-compliance with the
little things is one way we hold onto our ways. It is us saying we will abide by God’s ways,
but only up to a certain point. When we reach a certain point, we revert to our ways. The
question each of us needs to answer is, where is our limit? That will help us see ourselves
as God sees us.


           Here are a few simple examples that most of us will encounter virtually every day.
They can be used to illustrate the point of limits and provide a formula which you can apply
to any circumstance in your life to see where you stand. As you read these examples
remember that none of us is perfect. Mistakes will be made. Areas for growth still exist.
A mistake does not necessarily mean orientation of mind. What we are evaluating is
orientation of mind to discover at what point we admit we want our way and God’s Way. We
want both. It is only when we admit this that we can work to overcome.


           Food. Let us assume you believe in healthy dietary principles, put effort into eating
good food and are eliminating refined flours, refined sugars and other food stripped of its
nutrition. In other words, you believe in eating according to God’s ways. Have you been to
a restaurant and all they had to complement your meal was white rice or white bread rolls?
What did you do, and why? Did you refuse to eat it? Or, did you eat what you know and
believe is not good to eat? But it was free. I would be hungry otherwise. There was no other
option so I “did my best.” You say it is only a small physical sin, not a spiritual sin too. If
eating better is something you are working on and acknowledge weakness exists, that is one
thing. But, did you eat the food because deep down you did not think that it really mattered?
This one-time, small thing did not really matter. What you are saying is that at some point
of sacrifice, at some point of discomfort, you stop putting on the mind of Jesus Christ and
desire your way. You acknowledge God’s commands for healthy eating and agree. But, to
do so ALL the time? Is it not OK to bend the rule sometimes? Was this event really your
food recess and a break from the efforts and sacrifices of healthy eating? How about if you
have access to drinking raw milk and you do not because you have an “issue” with raw milk?
Are you obeying with all your heart and all your mind? You know it is good for you, yet you
resist. Is this your recess from dietary rules because you are holding onto a small piece of
your way? At what point do you reach your limit? No other person knows but you.
Acknowledging your limit will put you in a position to grow more.


           Self. You acknowledge weaknesses of character and try not to make excuses for
mistakes. When corrected, you often take it as good advice and something to be worked on.
But if certain people offer correction, you dismiss them or get agitated. Have you asked
yourself why? Is this a recognized weakness of flesh? Or, is this a small piece of your way
that you are holding on to? Is this your recess from abasing yourself? You have discarded
much of yourself already, but to let go of everything? Recall Philippians 2:3: “Let nothing
be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than
themselves.” Are we willing to give up our carnal selves totally? Or, are we trying to hold
on to some of it? If the correction is valid, why resist it?


           Love. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and by nature we do not have true, godly love.
But now that we have a down payment of the Holy Spirit, we should be exhibiting more love.
Year by year we should be growing in the manifestation of love.


This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John
15:12).


           It is easier for us to love our friends and family. It is easier for us to demonstrate love
when there are no barriers to overcome. But is that the love we are commanded to have? Is
it right to be selective in our love because it is easier? No, but that is the natural thing for us
to do. What is one way this is demonstrated and easy for us to not be aware of? Cliques at
the Feast of Tabernacles, and limiting our service to others.


           If we have the mind of Jesus Christ, we will want to love and serve our brothers and
sisters in the Faith at the Feast of Tabernacles, and throughout the year. But what if we are
shy? What if we are too busy with life? What if we are too disconnected geographically?
What if we just do not have time? What if we do not know what to say? These are all
obstacles and reasons it is harder to stay connected or form new relationships. Is the real
reason, however, that the work or effort involved is too much? Do you find yourself ever
saying, “I would like to but. . . .” Is it just possible that your recess from the work of loving
is to avoid making more effort? The point of this is not to set a standard for what each
person should do, nor to suggest that time for our personal obligations and family is not
important. The point is for each of us to ask a simple question: have I not made more effort
because I reached my personal limit? Can you see how we want God’s Way (to love one
another) and our way (to hold onto self) simultaneously?


           In these examples, it could easily be said that these faults are simply weaknesses. On
our conversion journey, these are known areas where more work is needed. And as the
Apostle Paul described the battle of mind, it is a constant struggle fraught with successes and
failures. But, they may also be indicators of areas where we have reached our limits. We
want God’s Way, we want to reduce our way, yet we discover that we place limits on how
much of ourselves we are willing to give up. Those are the nuggets of leavening we can
remove.


           Physical observance only is not what God is looking for. Paying attention to the major
doctrines only is not enough. All things, large and small, matter. It all matters because it
reflects desire of the mind and heart. Are we only following the rules out of physical respect,
but our hearts are not really dedicated? Are we dedicated in many things, yet resist with
other things? During the Feast of Unleavened Bread we are commanded to have no
leavening, and to add unleavened bread. Our task this year will be to pay careful attention
to ourselves and discover the elements of leavening we are keeping for ourselves.


           May this be an insightful, rewarding and uplifting Feast of Unleavened Bread.


Your servant in Christ,
Robert G. Burke


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