Sunday, February 15, 2009

Proper Sabbath Attire

Sermon Transcript — December 31, 2006

Proper Sabbath Attire

by Mr. Richard Pinelli

Our Sabbath keeping reflects the relationship that we have with God. I said that two years ago in a set of sermons I gave here in the Cincinnati Home Office. How you and I keep the Sabbath says something about each one of us as individuals. God uses the Sabbath as a test for his people, and he gives us a test each Sabbath to see what is in our hearts. He watches us to learn something about our character, how much we understand about who he is and what he is doing, and also how important it is to us to learn more of his mind and his way. We learned in those two sermons that we gave about two years ago that there are basically four primary principles of Sabbath keeping. They are as follows:

• The commandment tells us not to work.

• The commandment tells us to rest.

• We are told that we are to assemble with others for worship. Now if you stop and think about it, most commandments can be done by yourself, but in the case of the Sabbath we are actually required to congregate. The purpose of congregating is obviously, number one, to worship the Creator God. Now Leviticus 23:23 tells us the following. It says that his Sabbath is an holy convocation. The term holy convocation is used in several places in the Old Testament and basically what it means if you boil it down to one specific statement, it means public worship service. Convocation. The word implies simply the product of an official summons to worship. And what God has done is he has asked us in his official summons to come and worship before him on the Sabbath day. This is part of our congregational responsibility. This is how we praise God together in song. We pray together as a group of individuals. And we learn what needs to be learned as we are taught every Sabbath day, as well as the fellowship we have with one another.

• We found out that Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, so much more as the day approaches. So we recognize the importance of being together. We recognize the importance of being members together in an ongoing Sabbath service wherever we might be in the world.

But there is one more scripture that I want to bring in today which has to do with this whole concept of understanding the Sabbath and our worship in it. In Leviticus 19:30, I would like you to turn to this particular scripture with me because this scripture tells us something very, very important, and from this scripture we are going to launch into a topic today that needs to be discussed as requested by the President, and by Ministerial Services, as requested by several other individuals who have asked this particular person to bring this topic to you today. In Leviticus 19:30 it says the following. You shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary. I am the Lord. You shall keep my Sabbaths, as we pointed out the four basic principles, but also there is a concept of reverencing the Sabbath, reverencing the sanctuary in which we are to meet, because I am the Lord your God.

To revere or to reverence means to regard with awe, to regard with great respect or with great devotion. It means a high honor that would be given. You and I worship God in spirit, and we worship God in truth. We may meet in a very plain building, sitting sometimes on metal chairs, but we are in spirit coming into the very presence of the God of the universe. And as a result of that we are here to reverence his sanctuary as we come into his presence.

Now you have probably heard the statement, clothes make the man. Clothes make the man. But I would like to ask a question of you this afternoon. If Christ were to decide to spend the day with you, if it were just you and he were spending the day together, would you dress any differently to meet the Savior, to meet the Creator, as the one who is the head of this church, the one we look to as the guide of the entire flock. Would you dress any differently when you had this meeting with him? Would you rush out perhaps to buy some new clothes? Or maybe you would make sure you dressed modestly. Or very conservatively. Would you? Think about that for just a moment. Maybe you would put on what the world calls its "Sunday best" or "go to meeting clothes". But I think we have to stop today to understand something about reverencing God's sanctuary in the way that we appear before God in our dress. So today the whole sermon is dealing with a concept from the Bible, because it is filled with examples of how they dressed up, notice the term I used, they dressed up to reverence God's sanctuary, to reverence his presence. And yes, they did make a big deal out of this one important facet. Why? Because spiritually the outward and spiritually the inward reflect our relationship with God. You will find that the look on people's faces will tell you what is going on inside. You will find that when you put both the inside and outside together in dress you will see that it reflects the relationship that we have with God.

So clothing in the Old Testament and even into the New Testament was very, very important to God. It is very important to us. And we have found over the years that it is time that we begin to talk a little bit more about some of these areas that we have not talked about.

Over in Deuteronomy 31, let's turn there for just a moment. We read in verse 11, Moses was inspired to write, or maybe it was Joshua by this particular time, but he said, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord your God in the place that he shall choose, you shall read this law before all of Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women, children, and the strangers that are within your gate that they may hear, that they may learn and fear the Lord your God to observe all the words of this law. And that their children who have not heard anything may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land where you go over the Jordan to possess it.

So the concept was to come to hear, and it was to come to fear. Now you look at the word fear and you will find that in the Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible every place that it talks about this particular word fear you will see that it talks about awe or a reverence of God. It shows an attitude that is to be from those individuals. Coming to church is simply doing the same thing that Israel did back then. They were to come before God. They were to fear God. They were to reverence his name. This is the concept that we find in the holy book of God. And you begin to find now that the emphasis is also on the right type of clothing.

Let me show you over in Matthew 22 an interesting example of a parable that Jesus gave in the latter part of the book of Matthew. It was interesting because it talks about a spiritual aspect, but it also was showing you the importance of how God and Christ feel about clothing. This is chapter 22, beginning in verse 11. And it said, when the king came to see the guests he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. Now we talk about the wedding garment as that which is the righteousness of God. We talk about the concept of the white robes that are to be there. They all reflect what is inward. But the point is that we see that there was a garment which was necessary to come to this particular wedding. And God places emphasis upon that particular point as he tells us here that he saw this man that did not have on the wedding garment. And he said to him, friend, how did you get in here not having a wedding garment? And the man was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, bind him hand and foot and take him away and cast him into outer darkness, for there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The point is simply that we see that there was an emphasis on having the right garment. If you want to talk about it just spiritually, fine. But you will find that the two are coming together both in the Old and New Testament both with clothing and with the attitude of righteousness that needed to be there by the individual in reverencing, in worshiping and serving God.

Chapter 19 of the book of Revelation, let's notice a couple of more scriptures here. This is Revelation 19:7-8. You have seen this scripture many times, but I am going to emphasize it from the point of view of coming before God on the Sabbath day as a part of this frame of mind that we are to have. Revelation 19:7-8. It said, Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him for the marriage of the lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready. Ah, so you see that there is something that is to be done, an example here of something. What is it? Let's see. And to her was granted that she should be dressed (or arrayed) in fine linen, clean and white. It is interesting to note that in the Old Testament when we begin to look at clothing we see that the number one garment that was worn by the priests was fine linen, top quality linen. And so we see here that the emphasis is on the spiritual garment which is a type of the physical garment that the priest worse. So you see, you can draw from the Old Testament the concept, as we are going to see in a moment, and you can bring it into the New Testament to see the importance of this clothing. And he goes on to say that she was going to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white (or bright, and it showed that the color was so bright that it really was dazzling in that sense of the word) for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. So you see that aspect of it.

Now you can turn to Isaiah 61:10. I won't turn there this afternoon in the sermon, but I will say that fine and clean clothing has always been a part of God's thinking as we come before God's presence.

Let's go to Psalms 110 for a moment, because Psalms 110 reflects on a very interesting concept. This is Psalms 110:3. We have talked about this before in a sermon a few years ago, but I think we are coming at it a little differently today in Psalms 110:3. It talks about the fact that God is sitting on his throne, that God's people are before him, and that Christ is going to come back to this earth, the Lord is going to send the rod of your strength, speaking of Christ coming back to this earth, and Christ will rule in the midst of the people. Notice verse 3. But your people shall be willing in the day of your power. So you see that the attitude of the people of God in their character and in their quality is one of obedience to God. They are going to be willing. There is a frame of mind that Jesus taught when he said, nevertheless not my will be done but yours. There has to be this willing attitude but it interesting to notice that this willing attitude is reflected in the clothing that was worn. In the Old Testament this willingness in the day of his power was seen, as it says in verse 3, in the beauties of holiness. Now it seems to be lost in the scripture as to what its actual true meaning is. But I think you will find that what we are seeing is there is an attitude and then there is something physical that we are seeing by this example.

Listen to what the Jamison, Fawcett, and Brown Commentary says about this particular section of scripture. He said, "in the beauty of holiness is a poetical phrase for the holy garments such as those worn by the high priests on the great Day of Atonement were referred to. Here it is referring to the same event as Revelation 19, being, shall I say, clothed in the fine linen of the saints.

So the concept is that in the Old Testament they took that physical outward example and they brought it into the New Testament as a part of the inward character of the individual. And he goes on to say, "here it refers to the same event as Revelation 19, though now too Messiah's people wear as their priestly garb the beauties of holiness, yet the garment outwardly in the Old Testament was a type of the inward character."

So as the old song used to say, you can't have one without the other. So as we physical human beings are coming before God we begin to understand that clean and fine clothing has always been a part of God's thinking when it comes to his sanctuary. The outward should reflect the inward. And the inward should be seeing how one dresses to meet God, and to meet Christ as well in reverencing his sanctuary.

Now let's go back to the Old Testament and see some of these examples. Let's go over to Leviticus 16 for a moment and read a couple of examples here in Leviticus 16 to point out the emphasis that God puts on this whole concept of clothing. Notice over in Leviticus 16:1-4. Beginning in verse 1, the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron when they offered before the Lord and they died. And the Lord said unto Moses, speak unto Aaron your brother that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat. He only was allowed to come one time in the year, that is on the Day of Atonement which we will be observing in just a few weeks. And he said, which is before the mercy seat which is upon the ark that he die not. For I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place with a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, showing that he had to be cleansed, and the burnt offering was to worship. So you have the same thing that you and I when we come into the holiest of God, we have to have a sin offering, which is Jesus Christ, and we come spiritually with the burnt offering, in the sense of sacrificing ourselves to worship God. It is a nice parallel to draw from as we have talked about before. Verse 4. He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen britches, or as the Old King James calls it breeches, the pants or the slacks that go along with the coat that is worn. The coat was worn from the top up here at the shoulders all the way down to the waist area, even dropping below that, and then you had a pair of pants or a pair of slacks that were worn below that all the way down to the floor. This is what he was to wear. And he was to have a linen miter that he should be attired with. And these are the holy garments. Therefore, he shall wash his flesh in water and put them on.

So we see that there basically was this example on the Day of Atonement of what he was to wear, how he was to prepare for that one time of meeting God in the holiest of all. And the picture, of course, of meeting before God you and I would do as we do it every day, obviously, in prayer, but I think the concept of reverencing God's sanctuary in the way that the priests did.

Now there was clothing for the holy place, and there was also clothing to minister in the priests' office. And I think both of those need to be understood as part of this very fine clothing.

Let me read to you Exodus 39. Let's go back to Exodus 39 for a moment and look a little bit more at this clothing that was worn by them. This is Exodus 39:8. It says, And he made the breastplate of cunning work like the work of the ephod of gold and blue and purple and scarlet and fine twined linen. So we see that this breastplate that was put upon the high priest when he was going in for judgment and seeking God's judgment was made of some very beautiful materials that were of the highest quality that could be. Notice going on to verse 22, and he talks about how he made the robe of the ephod of woven work all of blue, and there was a hole in the midst of the robe, as of the habergeon with the band around the hold that it should not rend. So it was made in such a beautiful way that it was not capable of being rent or torn easily. It goes on to say in verse 24, they made upon the hems of the robe pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet and twined linen. They made bells of pure gold and put the bells between the pomegranates. So you see a lot of work went into this particular garment that the priest was going to wear to come before God. God put emphasis upon them preparing that. It shows much work went into preparing to meet God in the sanctuary.

My point to you today is clothing to God in the Old Testament was very, very important. And it is no less important in the New Testament than it was back at that particular time.

The JFB Commentary says the following about that. Listen to what he says. He said, "An exterior tunic larger and fuller than the common one worn by the persons of rank and distinction and by priests, especially by the high priest, it was the middle garment under the ephod and above the coat. It had a hole through which the head was thrust that was formed carefully of one piece, such as was the coat of Christ."

So again my point is that you can read all the rest of the chapter. My purpose is to show you the quality, to show you the time they took to do these things because they were meeting before God.

He goes on to say, "The binding of the course at the neck was strongly woven and it was trimmed below in a fringe made of blue, and purple, and scarlet tassels." It must have been a gorgeous piece of clothing. It must have taken a little bit of money to buy that. But I think we see that this whole concept of this garment became very important in the worship of God.

It goes on to say that, "the garments of holiness always applied to the official dress of the priest. No inherent holiness belonged to either the materials or the workmanship, but they are called holy simply because they were not worn on ordinary occasions."

Reverencing the sanctuary of God became very, very, important, top notch, number one in the minds of these individuals that God had called to the high priesthood, and to the Levitical priesthood.

He said, "In material it was elaborately embroidered and colored. It had an imposing splendor, the tabernacle being adapted to the early age of the church it was right and necessary that the priest's garments should be of such superb and dazzling appearance that the people might be inspired."

I thought that was very interesting, that the reflection of what they wore was very, very important to the overall concept.

He goes on to say, "Furthermore, all made of linen they were symbolic of the truth, purity, and other qualities in Christ that rendered him such an high priest."

So when you go back and look at those things you begin to realize how important they are. Why is it we live in a society that is dressed down? Why do we live in a society that sometimes we don't recognize that they are not looking at this concept that we in the church must look at, that is, reverencing God's sanctuary. We have to take a totally different approach. When you look at the Old Testament you realize how important this was to God and to the priesthood, and how important should it be for us as we appear before God on the Sabbath day.

Exodus 19:4. We see in Exodus 19 before the Ten Commandments were given the people were told that they were to come before God. And he said, you have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you unto myself. Now, therefore, obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, for then you shall be a peculiar, a very special treasure unto me ,above all the people. For all the earth is mine. Verse 6. And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak unto the children of Israel.

So we recognize the importance of being the pilgrims and the sojourners, but we are also this kingdom of priests. The Bible talks about the very fact that when you look at 1 Peter, spiritually speaking, we are to act as priests in that particular relationship that we have with God. We are a holy nation. I am not talking about ordination in any case. I am talking about the spiritual aspect of being one of God's children, as a kingdom of priests and teachers and guides for people. So our example, as mentioned this afternoon in the sermonette, becomes very, very important.

Now let's go down to verses 10, 11. He said, and the Lord said unto Moses, go unto the people and sanctify them. (That is, set them apart) today and tomorrow. How were they set apart? Notice what it says. And let them wash their clothes. So you had this external thing that became important. Why? Because the people obviously did not understand internally, they understood externally. But God intended to sanctify them by having them wash their clothes, be clean, both in the clothing and their physical bodies, as we see. And be ready again the third day for the third day the Lord will come down in sight of all the people on Mount Sinai. Of course, in verse 14, it said He did come down and the people did sanctify themselves and they did wash their clothes.

Again you see the point I am making, the importance of sanctifying and the physical clothing became the same. You can't have one without the other.

So let's ask some questions this afternoon. Does your appearance count before God? I think if we stop for just a moment we realize that in recent years the fad has simply been dressing down, or dressing to draw attention to the body. Our society, it is amazing as we see what is going on. As I go to the gym sometimes and I see some of these videos that flash on the screen and what they do, the clothing they wear, and how their objective is simply to draw attention to the body, especially with some of the female singers that are there. It is shocking to see that. These things probably are perfectly acceptable in a society without understanding. They are probably very acceptable to most people. But not in God's church. We don't accept that. We will not accept that. We cannot accept that. Because what we see happening in the world we live in is an abysmal lack of training in dress, an abysmal lack of training in grooming, an abysmal lack of training in hygiene is evidenced by the increasing number of strange and different looking people that you see that you have to deal with so much. We see that everywhere. The problem is, the more and more you are around it, it seems like it is normal standard. And it isn't. It is so far away from the principles that God has intended that it is absolutely unbelievable.

I would like to read to you from an article that I pulled out of the Cincinnati Inquirer several weeks ago. I think it is profound, because I think what we are seeing is that the business world is even looking at this and they are shocked at the attitudes they are finding in society. I am going to read the whole article to you. I do apologize if it becomes boring, but I think it says it so well that it shows you the attitude I am talking about.

The title of it is, "Got A Job Interview? Then Ditch the Flip flops." When Lynn University professor Lisa Vandao held mock job interviews with her business administration seniors this spring, the students tripped themselves up with an obvious wardrobe gaffe, open toed shoes. Vandao says they all wore these 5" heels with open toes. Strappy sandals are more suitable for the dance floor than the sales floor. Some members of the generation Y don't make the distinction. There is something that is definitively happening with the younger generation now says Joseph Rosenfeld, an image consultant. (Notice what he is. He is an image consultant.) based in San Jose, California. There is a lot of "accept me now". Accept me for who and what I am and give me whatever I want right now. For those students the real world provides a harsh wakeup call. If someone is accustomed to wearing PJs to poly science, is it any wonder she will be equally laid back at a job interview?"

She goes on to say, "Denise Bobber, director of human resources at the Baker's Resort in Palm Springs says she is amazed by the number of young women who show up for job interviews showing way too much skin. If you look in the mirror and you look sexy, she said change. (Interesting. This is the business world. They are not religious. They have no axe to grind with anything from the Bible. They just simply recognize the problem that they are facing.) Alas, inappropriate beach attire isn't limited to beachfront properties. We have had applicants come in with bare midriffs or flip flops says Jennifer Loyales, spokeswoman for the Public Defender's Office in West Palm Beach. This does not give us the impression that they respect the work we do. (An attitude, an attitude.) And communicating respect and professionalism through both attire and demeanor is one of the most important components in scoring a new job. Grads should never delude themselves into thinking that grades trump attitude, (thank you!) says Kari O'Donnell of the Kari O'Donnell PR Group. Learn the company's dress code, then dress one step above it."

Interesting, isn't it? That's what we are facing. This is what is happening in our society. We are living at a time in 2006 when we in the Church of God have had to have someone stand up in church and do what I am doing today. We have to do that because we need to begin to explain that, both in the United News, and in sermons, and at our feasts. We simply do. That is what the President wants. That is what Ministerial Services Operation Manager wants. This is where we have to go because people don't always understand that.

The champion women's U.S. Lacrosse Team met with President Bush just recently. Guess how they appeared? They appeared wearing flip flops at the White House, when meeting the highest dignitary in the land, the strongest nation in the world and its leader was met by people wearing flip flops. It shows, as this article that I just read to you, that there is a need for education in this particular area.

Over in 2 Corinthians 6, let's turn there for a moment. 2 Corinthians 6 gives us a principle, beginning in verse 14. The Apostle Paul tells us here a very important point. Notice what he says. Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion (or agreement) has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? What part has he that believes with an infidel?

The whole set of standards is so different when it comes to those things. Yet we are to love the people in the world, yet we are to respect them as another human being. There is no question about those things. But the question is, do we agree with the standards, do we follow the same principles and the approach that they do have.

It goes on to say, What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come out from among them and be you separate says the Lord and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you unto Myself.

It simply gives you a series of principles. It means to come out of the way of this world's thinking about fashion, hair, clothing, religion, etc. We are to be different. We are to be, as it was pointed out in the sermonette, we are pilgrims and sojourners. We have a different way of life. We are to set that example in this particular way of life. He is simply saying, don't worship your God like the people around you. Don't worship your God like the people around you.

Recently I was talking with a person who attends one of the mainstream Protestant churches. And he was telling me, church for many at his church was no Bible. The Bible was not needed. They came to be entertained. They had their bands. They had a short sermon. They had these cute little games they would play in church. Sometimes just before the Super Bowl they had this little thing that was going on. It was all a part of their supposed worship. But the point was that they simply had this way of life. He said it was interesting, no Bible, they wear shorts to church, tee shirts, flip flops or running shoes.

And you know as well as I do that is not the way we worship God. We recognize from the Old Testament some very basic principles of clothing and the importance of it. I think we recognize simply in Romans 12:2 not to be confirmed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

1 Peter 1:14-15 puts it this way. Let me read it to you. As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lust in your ignorance, but as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conduct. And I will add to that dress, as you will see in the rest of the sermon.

There is an error in the thinking by people. Sometimes I affects us in the church. I think it goes something like this. What I am wearing is modest when I compare what I am wearing with what the world is wearing around me. That is the thinking by some people. What I am wearing is modest when I compare what I am wearing and what the world around me is wearing. Sad problem is, it is immodest compared to what the church teaches is modesty. The church has a different standard and the church will stand behind that particular standard.

Let me be more specific today. Let me get down to some real nitty gritty stuff that we have talked about, that we have discussed and we have put out in articles, and we have also just put out this past week in Clothing To Be Worn On The Sabbath. There are five articles that have been written in the United News concerning topics such as sex and relationships between men and women, girls and guys, as well as material on modesty. They are entitled, "Good Sex, Bad Sex", "Heart to Heart Talk with Men and Teen Boys", "Heart to Heart Talk with Women and Teen Girls" and "Modesty, a Vanishing Virtue, part I" and "Vanishing Virtue, part II". We also put out a video over a year and a half ago on modesty by Mr. Jim Franks. Today I printed out for you copies specifically for you to read along with me this afternoon so you will know what the church teaches in this particular area. I printed out copies so that you can see one of the two most recent articles, and it has to do of course with the concept that we will deal with here, and that is the topic in just a little bit about "Heart to Heart Talk with Women and Teen Girls". We will get to that in a moment. You can have that in front of you because we are going to be going through it. This material is the official material from our newspaper of the United Church of God. It is a part of how we get out all of our material. I have covered all of this with a number of people. We have put together this material so this is not something that is coming from the mind of Richard Pinelli. It is not a personal thing. It is something that is there. These are not suggestions, brethren. These are the teachings of the United Church of God on this topic. We have standards, we have teachings, we have customs that we follow. These articles have the approval and backing of the organization, the Council of Elders, and are the latest material that we have put out to date. The reason I say that is because I want to be sure you understand this is not Richard's opinion. It is what has been written and approved by people outside of me.

We don't stand alone in all of this. Because there are several organizations that are there that have talked about their standards, I thought perhaps I would read to you from two different organizations to show you how they feel about dress and how they look at this whole concept. I am going to read a couple of paragraphs from one.

This particular one is a major mainstream church that keeps the Sabbath day. And it says, "We have been called out from the world. We are reformers. True religion which enters into every phase of life must have a molding influence on all of our activities. Our habits of life must stem from principles and not from example of the world around us. Customs and fashions may change with years but the principles of right conduct are always the same. Dress is an important factor in Christian character. Early in our history instruction was given as to the way a Christian should dress, the purpose for which was to protect the people of God from corrupting influences of the world, as well as to promote the physical and moral health. Truly, a comprehensive purpose. There is no virtue in dressing differently from those around us just to be different, but where the principles of refinement or morality are involved, the conscientious Christian will be true to his or her conviction rather than following the prevailing customs." There is more to it, but I will leave it at that.

There is a second one which happens to be a large school and it is also a religious organization, and they set down, just like many businesses have set down so far as people coming to work for them certain rules and regulations. And I want to just read to you some of them. This is not something we are saying we are following. We are simply showing you that they have put down some rules. "The dress and grooming of both men and women should always be modest and neat and clean, consistent with the dignity adherent to representing _____ Church and any of its institutions of higher education. Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity to which students, staff, faculty represent the principles and standards of the church. (These are the standards that they follow.) Men: a clean and well cared for appearance must be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes of style or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ears uncovered. (Let me tell you, if you want to go to this school, this is what you will do. We have not gone to some of these things. We are simply showing you some principles that I am going to cover with you in a few moments.) Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, mustaches must be neatly trimmed and they may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven. Beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercings are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas. Women, a clean and well cared for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing, and has slits above the knees or is formfitting. Dresses, skirts and shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles and colors. Excessive ear piercings, more than one per ear and all other body piercings are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas. (Now they are pretty strong. And they have made those principles simply because they recognize they have a standard to follow. Now the Church of God has a standard and I am going to read that to you this afternoon.

What is the teaching of the United Church of God on the question of Sabbath dress? We will start with the men. This will also appear in the United News newspaper probably coming out this weekend.

For men, except in the tropical climates and islands of the tropics where the formal dress may be special shirts and dresses, or the custom may be other formal garments (I think we see that in Africa) we expect men to at least wear a shirt, tie and quality slacks. We believe most men can afford a suit, shirt, and tie and we will expect most men to be attired that way. Some in our congregations have found suits in places like Goodwill and other nonprofit outlets for $5 or $10 apiece. (I saw a person this morning who was wearing a beautiful tan suit and it cost him $10 to buy that at Goodwill.) If you have financial problems the church has said the pastors will privately help in this area. The same also applies to the women in God's church.

For women (this is the basic principle) For ladies we expect you to wear the best suit or pantsuit you can afford. Strapless dresses, halter-tops, and outfits which show a plunging neckline or backside are not acceptable Sabbath wear. Short revealing dresses and other clothing is explained very well on page 2 of this particular article. I would like you to turn there with me and I would like to read to you…it starts down under Wise and Unwise Decisions. The reason I am doing this is because some people do not read the United News. This is also going to be going out on tape to some of the churches as well so I want to be sure we have all of this information right before you. Under the section of Wise and Unwise Decisions this is paragraph number seven.

There is a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract. Many women wear clothing that is too low, too high, too tight, or too transparent. Much of it is way too formfitting, defining every curve exactly. Often clothing, body jewelry, and tattoos draw attention to body parts like printed words across ones breast or bottom.

We suggest (in the next paragraph, paragraph eight) the sit down test. Sit in a chair in front of a mirror. See if the hem of your skirt still reaches your knees and look in the mirror to see what others can see under your skirt. Then lean over to see if you can see down your blouse. Godly character is shown by not compromising even in small ways. He quotes the scripture over in Luke 16:10. She who is faithful in that which is least is also faithful in much.

(Paragraph nine.) Be aware that women's fashions change frequently to maintain sexual excitement and sales. For example, once the public is thoroughly accustomed to seeing bare midriffs, fashion designers will cover the belly and expose another part. Total nudity is less erotic than sexy packaging. Women in skimpier type clothing is more exciting and mysterious because she is tantalizing and teasing to a man in a way similar to a strip tease show. His appetite is stimulated to see and imagine more.

(Paragraph eleven.) The peek-a-boo effect is also erotic. Advertisers know that a split second sexy image can have as great an impact as a longer scene. Likewise high slits in skirts are like flashing lights. Now you see the thigh, now you don't. Also, sheer clothing and loose blouses, when a woman leans forward in sleeveless tops with loose armholes offer titillating peeks of skin and underwear.

Now that was written and went out about three or four weeks ago, and I thought I would quote that for you so we would have it.

Another aspect of this we need to look at is the fact that flip flops, beach sandals, and running shoes are not footwear for Sabbath services. As well, we should understand that beachwear even if you are in Hawaii, or Panama City Beach, or Jekyll Island for the Feast of Tabernacles is not acceptable for services. We have seen over in Hawaii several times that they were wearing halter tops and bare midriffs to services. That is not acceptable.

Now let me talk to the parents for just a moment. I was a parent. I have two children that have grown up. I had children that were teenagers and they went through the period of clothing, and you say, yeah, but that was way back in the dinosaur age. I know that. But that's okay because we had our problems back then. And I just want to explain to you that I need the parents' help to help us in this particular regard. It is not an easy task to shop and encourage proper dress among young people. It must begin somewhere, and the church has given you some basic guidelines now through the articles and through what is being said, and we hope you will support our efforts to raise our quality of dress for services. Some years ago just before going to Sabbath services my daughter came downstairs with inappropriate clothing. I won't tell you what it was, but it was inappropriate. And I saw her coming down the stairs, and I said to her…that means back up stairs. And she said, what? I said, you are not wearing that today to Sabbath services. Why? Because I said so. That's a bad answer, but it was the only answer because I saw that it was inappropriate. I stopped her, I sent her back upstairs, and she had to change. It was very difficult brethren, and I can tell you it was mighty cold in the car driving to Sabbath services that day. The look, the attitude, you could have cut it with a knife because it was so bad. But I will tell you, it never happened again. And the reason it didn't is because her dad was just a meany and he had to do that. Not just because I happened to be a minister and my daughter is to set an example, but the other side of that was it just was not appropriate.

So I encourage you to work with you family, I encourage you to work with your children. I know there are no stores that have the clothing like you need sometimes and I know it is a struggle. But I tell you, bend your knees and ask God for help and I think you will find, as I had to with my own children, I had to fight that fight even back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when it was a different situation and wasn't what we have today but there were serious problems.

I think we also need to understand for those of you sitting in this room that there have been people who have come to me from this congregation and from the other congregation in the morning and say, we have received numerous letters and verbal complaints over the last two years when I was the pastor about offensive clothing in Sabbath services. We have a duty not to offend our brethren. The Bible says in several places that we are not to do that. And I hope you will understand the importance of that, because ministers get that. Ministers are told that. And I told the people I would be working on it, and we have been working on it. We have been giving it, as we say, the college try.

Listen to what Romans 14 says. Romans 14:12-13. So then, every one of us shall give an account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another, but judge this rather that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. We simply have to understand that there are things that simply have to be done decently and in order, things that have to be done in a very modest way.

The apostle Paul went on to tell us over in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33. Notice what he says. Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God, even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of many, that they might be saved.

I think it is very, very important because I will tell you as I was your pastor, there were times when people would bend over and I would do this, I literally would do that. I have had to struggle with that, and I tried not to do anything that would be harmful or hurtful for people, but I will tell you I just felt it was time to say some things. The church has said, let's say the things that need to be said in a kind and a gentle way, but nevertheless we have had people who have found themselves very embarrassed or offended by some of those things.

Christ has given his ministry the responsibility to expound the Biblical principles, to encourage unity, to encourage togetherness, to encourage single-mindedness. That is the purpose behind what we are trying to do now with all of the customs and the traditions.

Let's go over to 1 Corinthians 11:2. Let's put this all together now and look at some principles as we go down the road to the end of the sermon. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:2, Now I praise you brethren that you remember me in all things and keep the ordinances (Old King James, the word is traditions) as I delivered them unto you.

There are traditions that we have. They are based on principle. They are based on concepts of the word of God as I show you the concept of dress in the Old Testament and in the New. Many times traditions are having to be given in order to fit the needs. Sometimes they are based on the times we live in. Sometimes they are based on the experiences the church is going through. It happened in Paul's day, and whenever the church sees the need to do so in future years we have to also realize that these are principles we have to apply to keep the church, as I said, encouraged in unity, togetherness, and single-mindedness on those basic principles.

Paul had to deal with unity and clarity in his time in society and had to make judgments in areas such as the following. There are six of them; let me read them to you.

• The Passover observance and how it was to be done. Remember some people were getting drunk on the Passover wine. Remember the problem he had to face there.

• He talked about hair lengths for both men and women. He talked about what was long and what was not long. He talked about the difficulties that were being faced.

• He talked about how services were to be conducted in relationship to speaking in other languages because there was confusion and there was a problem. Therefore, Paul had to make some judgments and decisions that needed to be rendered.

• In 2 Thessalonians 3 he talked about the laziness of people who decided to wait for the return of Christ and sponge off the brethren. And so what he did was, he began to show them that was wrong and if a man did not work he did not eat. So the apostle Paul put some teeth into that, and those individuals I assume went back into work because they did not want to starve.

• You see immorality in that part of the world. It was a terrible problem that had to be dealt with. And immorality is not any less in our society today.

• The sowing of discord and disrespect that was seen toward the ministry, and he had to deal with that in some of those areas that he had to work and deal with. 2 Corinthians 10:8, 13. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority which the Lord has given us for edification (that is for building up) and not for your destruction. That is the purpose behind sometimes having to make some decisions, make some clarifications, teach some things. It is not to embarrass or run anybody down, but it is for the purpose of building up and keeping the body of Christ working together. Verse 13. But we will not boast of things beyond our measure but according to the measure of the rule which God has distributed unto us. That is a part of what our job is. It is a part of what the President has to do. It is a part of what the Council has to do. It is a part of what we need to be working on. That is, the rule which God has distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.

So the principle is the church teaches these clear principles from God's word and expects all of us to follow those principles of modesty as we strive to come out of the world and be Christ like. We believe the way we appear before God on the Sabbath is very important; hence the articles that were written in the United News and the sermon today that we are giving. It is the standard we are giving based on Biblical principles, as you see. It is for edification and not for destruction. It is for the good of the church as we work together.

Last of all, one final thought, remember Leviticus 19:30. Remember I said to you in the beginning, our Sabbath keeping is to reflect our character and how much we understand about who the Almighty God is and what he is doing. Leviticus 19:30. It says simply, You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary. I am the Lord.

[ back to sermon transcripts ]

© 2006 United Church of God, an International Association Visit

What constitutes "formal" in God's eyes isn't always the same as "formal" in the eyes of "stiff" businessmen types who strangely insist on wearing an illogical rope around their neck, a pagan phallic symbol at that (that feels like it's choking those of with bad necks).
In the Bible they wore robes - not three piece suits. The Church of God should offer guidelines and leave it at that, not dictate like Carl Craven of the PCG once told me men were to wear a suit jacket, and I told him I got hot easily and was at least compromising by having it over my shoulders when I stood for prayer and to sing, and how being hot and sweaty distracted me from listening. He went on to say, "I remember when the ministers heard Herbert Armstrong in Texas, they were sitting there with sweat just rolling down their faces, and then Mr. Armstrong told them they could take off their jackets." I told him I thought they were stupid to need to be told to take off their jackets. And furthermore, God commanded the priests to wear materials that purposely did not cause sweat! (Ezek. 44:18) They were also barefoot.
I have seen, and been appalled, by a woman wearing SWEATS to Sabbath services. We are coming into the presence of the King, a formal environment, but today what we call semi-formal should be sufficient. It's interesting and hypocritical that those who mock religious Jews for wearing pagan headcoverings, kippot, skull caps, have their religious traditions of pagan ties.

I believe I met Mr. Pinelli during one of the celebrations of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem.

Did you ever stop to think why Christians keep Sunday? Did they get it from the Bible? Is there a clear-cut command that says, "Thou shalt keep Sunday?" Why did Jesus worship on Saturday? Was it only because He was a good Jew? Or does it go beyond that?

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