It was the summer of 1979, my second time at the Worldwide Church of God summer camp in Orr, Minnesota. I was sitting in the audience at Sabbath services in the newly completed gym when the Church’s pastor general, Herbert W. Armstrong, got up to speak. In this message, he delivered the now well-known new revelation about 1 Corinthians 7.
He later wrote about this sermon in the August 1979 Worldwide News: “I put emphasis on the fact that God Himself has a very special interest in children of all ages, from infants on through teenagers.” That means you. God has a special interest in you compared to other teenagers in the world.
He continued: “… [T]he children of those called are set apart in a separate category! … [N]otice [1 Corinthians 7] verse 14: ‘For the unbelieving husband is sanctified’—put in a special category—not necessarily called, but not cut off—free to come to Christ if he wishes! Continue: ‘else were your children unclean’—that is, cut off from God like other children are—‘but now are they holy.’ Or, in other words, the children of a believing parent are set apart, in the sense that they are not cut off from God as are other children.”
That is you! You are not cut off from God as your peers in the world are. You are sanctified because of your parent or guardian’s conversion. “Sanctified” means “set apart,” or put in a separate category. Mr. Armstrong defined “sanctified” as “set apart for holy use.” God has set you apart for His use.
So, you are sanctified. But what does that really mean? Mr. Armstrong wrote, “While other people—not members of the true Body of Christ—and all other children are cut off from access to God, your children—if you are a truly converted member of God’s Church—can believe in Christ—are not cut off from God and much of God’s truth, even though as yet too young to be converted. But they are a special treasure to God.”
You are a very special treasure to God just as gold and pearls and precious stones are special treasures to the world. God is only working with a select few now, and that group includes you. “It does not mean they are converted. Just that they are not ‘cut off’ from God—the believing parent can teach them, and when they are mature, hopefully they may be converted.”
What happens once you are sanctified? What is the next step in God’s process of calling you?
In 2001, Gerald Flurry received revelation about the first verse of Jude. He wrote in the Jude booklet, “In the rsv, Jude addresses his letter ‘to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ’ (verse 1). That is the way it reads in most commentaries: something like called, beloved, and kept, in that order. But that is wrong. In the King James, which really is a better translation, this letter is addressed ‘to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.’”
This scripture helped explain so many things that members in the Church had thought and felt for years: that God had been preserving and protecting them throughout their lives. “Jude says that first of all, we are sanctified by God the Father, then preserved in Jesus Christ, and then finally we are called.” (ibid.)
Think of all the biblical examples of God preserving specific sanctified individuals for His purpose. God protected Moses from being killed as a child by inspiring his mother to send him down the river in a basket. Joseph was thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, tossed into jail after being wrongfully accused, and ultimately was made second-in-command of the nation of Egypt after saving it from the seven-year famine. Daniel was taken captive by the Chaldeans and educated at the pagan Chaldean capital. After showing his loyalty to God, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, but God shut the mouths of the lions; Daniel escaped unharmed. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace, and not even a hair on their heads was singed. Ancient Israel was protected from God’s plagues on the Egyptians. Even Jesus Christ was preserved as a child; God sent Joseph and Mary to Egypt with the baby Jesus to escape Herod’s decree.
When I was teaching canoeing at sep in the ‘80s as an Ambassador College student, there were many instances where both the campers and I were miraculously protected. One trip in particular stands out in my memory.
I was on a canoeing trip with a group of camper girls. We canoed through Blind Pig Channel and camped out on the east end of Lake Namakan, near My Island and Your Island (those are real places—you can look them up on Google maps if you don’t believe me.)
We stopped for the night on somebody’s island and set up camp, watchful of the storm clouds brewing on the horizon. I had 16 girls and my assistants with me, and we settled in for the night after dinner. We made sure that we didn’t leave any food out because that could have attracted bears—a real danger in backwoods northern Minnesota. I had a pot by my tent to scare the bears away if they came, but I hoped that we wouldn’t have to face one.
We were all in our tents when we heard the bear growl.
I unzipped the tent and peered into the darkness. One of my assistants and I got out to investigate further—and saw a bear tearing apart the thick canvas military bags carrying our food. He was licking the hot chocolate as he shredded the bags on his quest for a snack. Everyone started banging on pots to scare him away, and finally we convinced him to move on.
After that close call, we all went back to our tents, but we realized we would need to be more vigilant in case the bear came back and brought some friends.
Five minutes later, the thunderstorm burst on us with a vengeance. It was pouring domesticated animals, and the wind was blowing like a hurricane. We heard the girls screaming—the tents had fallen on them during the storm. All right, stay calm. We resurrected the tents with sticks and tape, and made sure the girls were all right.
Then we looked up.
We had hung our packs—huge 150-lb rec packs—from the trees, 30 feet in the air to keep them away from bears. The wind was blowing so hard that the packs were swinging from side to side. Suddenly, we heard a crack, and the bags fell to the ground—narrowly missing the girls in the tent beneath them. Those girls could have easily been crushed, but the bags just missed them.
The next morning, the rain was gone, and the weather was glorious. We went out to see if our canoes were damaged during the night’s storm and discovered another miracle. The canoes had been pulled up and tied at the edge of the lake. A huge tree had been standing next to them when we tied them up the night before, but in the storm, the tree had fallen. It could have easily fallen on the canoes and crushed them to smithereens—the wind was blowing that direction, and the tree should have fallen on top of the canoes. But it didn’t. Somehow, that huge tree had fallen into the wind—away from the canoes instead of on top of them. Completely against all laws of physics, our canoes had been protected, and we were not stranded on the island.
This is just one story from one night on one canoe trip. There are so many more stories I could tell about sep miracles. God does protect His children like a loving Father (Isaiah 40:28-31; Revelation 21:14).
But knowing that God will preserve you is not a license to do whatever you want. You have your part to play. You have to obey all God’s laws. If you behave foolishly—if you jump off a 10-story building or do something else foolhardy—do you really think God is going to protect you? Satan tempted Christ on this point; he took Christ to a high pinnacle in the temple and told Him to cast Himself down, misquoting scripture to make it sound like the angels would protect Him even while He was doing something foolish (Matthew 4:5-7). You can’t do stupid things believing God will protect you. But if you are obeying God, you will be preserved.
Mr. Flurry wrote, “[Jude 1] teaches us God’s careful selection process. First a person is sanctified, or set apart, by the Father, then he or she is preserved by Christ, then invited into God’s family! If God the Father sets us apart, certainly Christ would then have to preserve us, or Satan would destroy us spiritually.
“So before God invited you, you had a history with God. …We were under the closest scrutiny by the Father, probably for years, before we were invited. During that period of time, Christ had to preserve and protect us from Satan. Then, when and if we are ready, the Father invites us into His family!”
You are in that stage now: You have already been sanctified, and now you are being preserved. You are making your own history with God! Now God is protecting you until the time is right for Him to extend the ultimate invitation. But Satan wants to destroy you and this potential invitation, just like he and his demons destroyed the Earth.
Satan hates government, but God maintains and protects through His government—and that includes the government in your household. The government in your family and in the Church is there to help preserve you. You always have someone to go to for advice: You can go to your parents for help, you can go to the ministry for help, and—most importantly—you can go to God. As a sanctified teen, you have access to God and can always go to Him for help.
Don’t take this gift from God lightly like I did at that sep in 1979. I heard Mr. Armstrong deliver this new revelation from God, and there was a buzz in the Church, particularly among the parents and older generation. But I didn’t really get what the big deal was. Do you? You need to understand this.
Satan has been cast down, and he is hunting you! He is not just fishing; he is on a hunting trip, and you are the target. He hates all of mankind, but he hates you especially because you are sanctified—set apart by God. That is why God has to preserve you until the time is right to fulfill His purpose in your life.
Never take the special category God has placed you in for granted. You are God’s teens—teens whom He has sanctified, is currently preserving, and is now just waiting to invite.