Church of God, New World Ministries

Fatal Familiarity

You have just been challenged! Your first reaction to the above title will perhaps be to assume that you already know what is to come in this article or in other articles which might appear on this website. “It is just another article, in another guise, on some old and familiar subject,” you might think.

Suppose familiarity is your big problem, big enough to keep you out of God’s Kingdom, wouldn’t you want to know what to do about it?

Tragically, though, those who suffer from the deadly disease of familiarity are the least likely to listen and heed a God-given warning.

In World War II thousands of young men were called into the service of their country. Many were trained physically, technically and psychologically to face the dangers of flying combat missions from aircraft carriers. Demands were exacting. Special training was given. Special flight rules were carefully, methodically ground into each pilot. No cost was spared, and in spite of wartime urgency and desperate need for pilots, no time was eliminated which was deemed necessary to instill into each flier the rules which could save his life.

They were repeatedly told” “Watch out! If you lose respect for your airplane, it can kill you.” They learned a healthy respect for the laws of aerodynamics; they were a matter of life and death!

These men were young and thought life held a good future. They knew the war wouldn’t last forever. And so they wanted to survive. Yet they all learned one thing, all rules had a safety factor. If you didn’t fly at the prescribed altitude, you could still survive. If you didn’t fly at the recommended speed, your survival wasn’t necessarily at stake. You could shade these rules until trouble came.

Trouble came for one young man; there was a sickening, grinding tearing of metal, an explosion then the last-minute attempts of asbestos-covered fire fighters to smother the flames. But it was too late. The young navy pilot’s life was snuffed out.

The fire fighters quickly succeeded at their task. But all they were able to extricate from the still-smoldering airplane was the partially-charred and lifeless body of the young man. Like too many others whose bodies were sent home to their grief-stricken parents, this man never fulfilled his commission. His death was totally futile. No glory. No medals no recognition. Nothing but a sad memory. Why did he die?

This young pilot found he could survive when flying at below-recommended altitudes. He was so skillful he could literally make the water foam with his propellers close to the surface of the water, but this wasn’t what killed him.

He also discovered he could fly slower than the recommended speed during his final approach to the landing field. And he got away with it time after time. That is, until one time. His last landing. It isn’t too difficult to reconstruct what took place in the cockpit of that airplane. As he approached for landing, the signal officer frantically warned him to add more power. Once again he was getting away with it until a slight gust of wind caught his wing. In quickly spreading terror, he felt the sluggish response of the plane as it started to roll over from this sudden current of air. In panic he jammed the throttle forward. The engine roared its response, but too late. Nothing could change the inevitable now, no skillful maneuvering, no frantic surge of power could prevent the inevitable grinding, wrenching of metal on the unrelenting concrete pavement. The plane was upside down with the pilot trapped in the cockpit, soon to die from suffocation as the high octane gasoline-filled fuel tanks burst into flames. What was the cause? FAMILIARITY!

At first this pilot was very careful. He knew he had much to learn. He feared to break the rules. He believed what his instructors told him.

With us, the analogy shouldn’t be too difficult. When we first came into God’s Church we took seriously the admonition to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). We really believed God meant it when He said: “And if the righteous SCARCELY be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear” (I Peter 4:18)? It wasn’t something to be taken lightly.

When we first heard that we were to become the very sons of God, we were astounded at what we began to understand, and at the blindness of others. We realized that a merciful God had reached down to our minds and miraculously given us a tremendous gift. We didn’t deserve it. We hadn’t earned it. We knew it was a gift and we were thankful! We desired rulership with God. We were willing to work for it.

Fasting? We did it whenever the need arose! No price was too great for this calling. It wasn’t that we felt we could earn our salvation, we knew that it is God’s gift but we wanted to respond to God, childlike and eager to do what His Word showed us was our part.

But sadly, too much of this attitude is now in the past tense. Fasting, praying, the excitement, the thrill, the gratitude - is it all past history with you? Are we becoming just plain bored? When Feast days come along and the sermon starts, “Now brethren, why are we here?” do we have to battle to maintain interest? Is it now a question of keeping ourselves from being critical?

I know I have described a growing number in God’s Church. Some of us are only partly guilty of this. Just “partly guilty”? That is akin to saying we only have a “small case of cancer.” It’s dangerous to have cancer in any degree. Cancer spreads. And as with cancer, familiarity is slow death!

One definition of familiarity is: “An intimate acquaintanceship with something.” It only happens after a period of time after we have become intimately acquainted with something. Do we as long-time members see the danger? It’s only going to happen to those who have an intimate knowledge of the Church, our calling, the great plan of God and how we are part of that plan. Prominent members who have been intimately associated with God’s Work for a long time are prime candidates for becoming infected by familiarity.

Just as other members of the Navy were helpless witnesses to the death of the young pilot, so ministers may be having to watch with horror as others are perishing spiritually because of familiarity.

This article will show us how we can escape this spiritual destruction, how we can avoid and conquer familiarity.

Let’s go back to the origin of fatal familiarity. This kind of familiarity is older than man. Fatal familiarity was and actually is the attitude of Satan the Devil.

Satan was once Lucifer. That powerful being must have stared in wonder at the spectacle he beheld in the day of his creation. His powers of perception were many times greater than ours. What we can only understand in physical terms of the magnificent splendor of God, Lucifer saw intensely magnified because he was created a spirit being.

He saw the glorified magnificence of God. He saw God’s power and His beauty. He knew he was created by God. He was so aware of the awesome power of God that to this very day he stands in terror and fear of Him (James 2:19). He knew the inner workings and the intricacies of God’s government. He must have stood in awe and amazement when God revealed to him His perfect plan. The angels shouted for joy! (Job 38:7). But what came from that intimate knowledge and acquaintanceship with God?

Something happened. After a long acquaintance, Lucifer saw something. In spite of his awareness off God’s tremendous power, he thought he saw one weakness in God.

Impossible? Not at all! The fact is Lucifer came to believe he could exploit God’s apparent weakness and gain control of the universe himself.

Lucifer was no robot. He was and is a thinking being. But like any thinking being, he could make mistakes. The angels are also thinking beings. And one third of the angels made the mistake of thinking as Lucifer did and followed him into error.

What was that “weakness” Lucifer thought he saw in God? Lucifer misunderstood one of the qualities of God’s love His great mercy, Do we?

Surely we can all say, “But I don’t want to exploit God or to conquer His universe.” And right you are. We know our physical limitations, and we are not so ambitious. But isn’t this the area where we test God the most, in the area of His mercy? Isn’t this the area where, perhaps unknowingly, we can be mistaking God’s mercy for weakness, or in some way be presuming on that mercy by beginning to act as if God will do neither good or bad (Zeph. 1:12)?

God gives us time. Time to do good or evil. He gives us time to work out our salvation. Time to overcome our weakness, time to do the Work of God. But familiarity is a product of time. Tragically, some of us begin to presume upon God’s mercy and love and grow slack in overcoming and doing the Work.

God grants us time to repent of this. He corrects and warns us through His Word and His ministry not to settle into a continuous pattern of sin and rebellion: “But exhort one another daily, while it is called TODAY; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).

Remember the mistake of our young pilot. It finally became exciting fun for him to see how close he could come to the ultimate limits of safety. It became a pattern, a way of life to him.

If he could talk today he would have one request: “Just give me five more seconds of time for that last landing.” That’s all he needed. But his time had run out. What deceptive reasoning! Sound logic would show we have less time now than ever before!

Each passing day brings the “end one day nearer.” The majority of us have had years in God’s Church. That time is gone. We can’t bring it back. That time will never return. Every passing second gives us not more, but less time. That is a hard, cold fact.

When you read the many letters from Mr. Trent: “Brethren we don’t have much time left,” do you consider this a cry of “wolf”? If we do, we’re in trouble, mighty serious trouble.

For over nineteen hundred years the minister of God’s Church have thundered this same warning “time is short!”

The apostle Peter thought Christ’s coming was imminent. He honestly thought the prophecy of Joel 2 applied to the day and age he lived in (Acts 2:17) it did, but its fulfillment only began in Peter’s time; it is to end in our time!

About 55 A.D. Paul wrote an urgent letter to the Church at Corinth and warned them that the examples in the Old Testament were written for their warning because the end of the age was imminent (I Corth. 10:11)! At this, the “old timers” undoubtedly rolled their eyes and began to question the credibility of Paul. Some began to question Paul’s veracity literally. The sharp ones remembered other warnings of time running out on them. Paul had been preaching this same message for years.

They smiled to themselves, slowed down and could not understand why Paul got so uptight about their conduct. They probably thought he was getting a little too old. It has an old “familiar” pattern to it, doesn’t it?

About five years later James warned the people, “Be patient for the coming of the Lord draws nigh” (James 5:7-8). You can be sure that by this time some of the old-timers had heard this old “familiar tune” many times before.

At the time Peter warned his people, not long before 70 A.D., “The end of all thing is at hand” (I Peter 4:7), you had better believe that a lot of disillusioned, cynical and thoroughly incredulous people couldn’t’ believe the old “familiar” story. It was almost forty years after Peter made his first statement (Acts 2:17) that time was close to completion. Maybe even he had to fight to keep from losing his sense of urgency.

By the time John finished the Book of Revelation, about 65 years after Peter first said that the prophecy in Joel 2 applied to his day and age; there were probably not many people around who took the message seriously. But remember one thing time ran out for every one of them, just as it will for us, either as we die along the way before the end, or when the calamities at the very end begin to occur. Therefore, we had better be busy building character and getting rid of sin, while we still have time. If we don’t, “therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking comes suddenly at an instant” (Isa. 30:13)!

God warned His people 1,500 years before Jesus came the first time: “Is not this (the character and deeds of every person) laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? To me belong vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste” (Deut. 32:34-35)!

Do you get the significance of those words? Both punishment and reward is laid up in store with God! In a sudden and calamitous way this whole society is going to be upended. Then the rewards will be given.

Modern Israel is not going to turn to God. “For the people turns not unto Him that smites them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts. Therefore the Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day” (Isa. 9:13-14). If you are overly familiar with God’s truth and His Church, then you could suffer with Israel and the rest of the world. Or you could die disapproved of God before that time!

This is why every Co-Worker letter urges us never to lose our sense of urgency! Analyze yourself. Have you grown lethargic? Lukewarm? Dulled? Apathetic? All these are symptoms of the fatal spiritual sickness of familiarity. Change now, before your time runs out!

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