We are all Fallible

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my ministry I have met people who claim the Adventist church is Babylon. I have also met people who think the Adventist church is infallible. Both ideas are wrong. The Adventist church is not Babylon, but it is not infallible either. Just because the Adventist  church is not Babylon does not mean it does not make mistakes. Remember at the cross it was not Babylon crying out “Crucify Him!” It was God’s chosen remnant people. The commander of the Lord’s army realized the fallibility of God’s chosen people when He met Joshua one day.

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua 5:13-14 NLT

“Neither one?” Seems like the Commander was taking a neutral stance on the situation. We can’t assume just because we are God’s chosen people that He is always on our side. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our foes do the right thing. God loves everyone in the world, not just us. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who is credited with saying, “The question is not if God is on my side but rather if I’m on His.”

Throughout history God had to punish His own people. Today when people tell me how “corrupt” the church has become, I ask them, when was the church ever perfect? When harlots got their business at the temple doors during Eli’s day? When God had to let Babylon destroy His holy nation because of their habitual apostasy and idolatry?  When people tell me the Adventist church has strayed too far from what it used to be, and we need to go back to how it was in the days of Ellen White, I ask them, “You mean when God had to destroy the Adventist publishing house with fire because they would not follow inspired counsel?”

In Ezra’s day it was no different.

When these things had been done, the Jewish leaders came to me and said, “Many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the other peoples living in the land. They have taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons. So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages. Worse yet, the leaders and officials have led the way in this outrage.” Ezra 9:1-2 NLT

When the leaders and the majority of those in the church fall away from the truth no one detects it as apostasy because the apostasy becomes mainstream. Therefore apostasy looks normal. The only way to detect apostasy is to stop looking at the leaders and the majority, and look at the Word of God.

Years ago I attended a health seminar, where a doctor told us that many  Americans are obese and are close to having a heart attack. They don’t understand how unhealthy they are because they are no more obese than everyone around them, not realizing everyone around them is also on the verge of a heart attack. Just because obesity is mainstream in American culture does not make it healthy or any less deadly. It is the same with sin in the church.

In Ezra’s day there was a reformation as they stopped looking at those around them as role models and began comparing themselves to the Word of God. So today, we can have a reformation like never before as we compare ourselves to God’s Word instead of each other. In Daniel 9 Daniel confesses that his people have corporately sinned, and included himself as part of the sin problem. Nehemiah as well as Ezra brought about a great reformation, but even Nehemiah saw himself as part of the sin problem  when he prayed,

Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! Nehemiah 1:6 NLT

While praying for reformation in the church we must confess our individual sins as well as the sins of the church. We can’t divide the church into camps and then say God is on my camp’s side, because God is not choosing sides today anymore than He was in Joshua’s day.  Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. That goes for all of us. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. That is why Jesus never told us to follow Christian leaders. He told us to follow Him. For true reformation we must recognize our own guilt and apostasy. We must not set ourselves or anyone else up as an example to follow. We must follow Jesus and His Word alone.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Religious Toleration

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back, I was a member of a church that joined other community churches of various denominations, in a social justice group. The idea was good. They wanted to help homeless people get cell phones, so they could leave a number on job applications. They wanted buses running later at night for people who work various shifts. My first red flag something was not healthy in the group came before one of our meetings, with a city councilman. Our social justice group was instructed by the leader not to applaud or even smile at the councilman until he agreed to all our demands. The message was basically, be ice cold towards him until he does what we want. After we manipulate him, we can make him feel loved and welcomed. To me, this was not social justice. This was bullying! I left the “social justice” group, because it wasn’t very social or just.

This is nothing new. Martin Luther thought he had a just cause for wanting Anabaptists put to death. After all, in his mind they were cutting children off from God by not baptizing them at birth. In his mind Jews were also worthy of death since they rejected Jesus. Luther had a lot of good ideas, but even he was tempted by the reasoning, that a just cause excuses us from being loving and civil to each other. Luther wanted religious tolerance for himself, because he considered his cause just. But he did not exercise tolerance towards those whose causes he did not consider just.

While the Reformers rejected the creed of Rome, they were not entirely free from her spirit of intolerance. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 293

Do we do the same?

While traveling through Samara, James and John did not like the way Jesus was being rejected, so in their religious zeal they offered to call down fire from heaven and burn those Samaritans up! Like Luther and the rest of us, they had a lot to learn about the love of God. Jesus said,

 “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Luke 9:55-56 NKJV

Jesus never condoned sin, but always loved the sinner. Too often we love the sin and hate the sinner!

The same John who wanted to burn up the Samaritans, later realized, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8. Since God is love, I don’t care what you believe or how well you understand the Bible, without love your theology is incorrect! I heard Wintley Phipps say, “Our love for God is no stronger than the love we have for the person we like the least.”

Even Martin Luther and John the Beloved needed to learn how to love. Do you think we still need to learn to love? May God help us all to love!

You may read this week’s SS lesson here.

False and True Revivals

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we study this week’s SS lesson, different churches and denominations may change their ideas on integrity, wholeness and holiness, but God never changes.

We are told in the last days there will be false revivals as well as a true revival of “primitive Godliness.” So how do we know a false revival from the real? In my line of work I am constantly meeting people who are choosing a church or denomination where they can feel like a Christian without having to live like one. Or if I can be a little bolder, they want to be called a Christian without living like Christ, and following His path of self denial and self sacrifice. Self remains a big part of their worship. Fact of the matter is, no matter what church or denomination you choose, there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus. Jesus says, “If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23  Churches may over time swing the pendulum back and forth between strict or lenient standards, but the words of Jesus never change. His standards never change.  Please consider the following from The Faith I Live By, page 326.

   Revivals True and Counterfeit

     Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Matthew 7:16, 17

     Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth, there will be, among the people of the Lord, such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times. The Spirit and power of God will be poured out upon His children. At that time many will separate themselves from those churches in which the love of this world has supplanted love for God and His Word. Many, both of ministers and people, will gladly accept those great truths which God has caused to be proclaimed at this time, to prepare a people for the Lord’s second coming. The enemy of souls desires to hinder this work; and before the time for such a movement shall come, he will endeavor to prevent it, by introducing a counterfeit. In those churches which he can bring under his deceptive power, he will make it appear that God’s special blessing is poured out; there will be manifest what is thought to be great religious interest. . . . 

     Wherever men neglect the testimony of the Bible, turning away from those plain, soul-testing truths which require self-denial and renunciation of the world, there we may be sure that God’s blessing is not bestowed. . . . 

     A wrong conception of the character, the perpetuity, and the obligation of the divine law, has led to errors in relation to conversion and sanctification, and has resulted in lowering the standard of piety in the church. Here is to be found the secret of the lack of the Spirit and power of God in the revivals of our time. . . . 

     It is only as the law of God is restored to its rightful position that there can be a revival of primitive faith and godliness among His professed people. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16.

Click here to read more about modern revivals in the Great Controversy.

I want to see the church grow! But much more than this I want to see souls added to the kingdom of God!  While in my ministry, the churches I have served, have at times led the English speaking churches in baptisms for their conferences , I have always purposed to remember my true goal as a Christian Servant:

Our Goal–Truly Converted Members.–Ministers who labor in towns and cities to present the truth should not feel content, nor that their work is ended, until those who have accepted the theory of the truth realize indeed the effect of its sanctifying power, and are truly converted to God. God would be better pleased to have six truly converted to the truth as the result of their labors, than to have sixty make a nominal profession, and yet not be thoroughly converted. These ministers should devote less time to preaching sermons, and reserve a portion of their strength to visit and pray with those who are interested, giving them godly instruction, to the end that they may “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”  {Evangelism, p. 320.1} 

In the road to death the whole race may go, with all their worldliness, all their selfishness, all their pride, dishonesty, and moral debasement. There is room for every man’s opinions and doctrines, space to follow his inclinations, to do whatever his self-love may dictate. In order to go in the path that leads to destruction, there is no need of searching for the way; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad, and the feet naturally turn into the path that ends in death. {Thoughts on the Mount of Blessing, p. 138}

 

You may find more devotionals and studies at In Light of The Cross.