I am concerned and troubled over the growing tendency to water down the truth. Some Adventist evangelists no longer preach on the mark of the beast for fear of upsetting their listeners. The ecumenical attitude against rocking the boat has extended its subtle influence over many who should know better.
We have no right to keep silent on the great issues of the final conflict. Love and tact is needed, but the message must be given. Millions must be undeceived by hearing the truth proclaimed in language that cannot be misconstrued. Sometimes it seems that the more educated we get, the more fearful we become to take stands for the right. Is it possible to get too much polish and become too cultured in our attitude? I believe God has given us the answer to this question.
“Satan has devised a state of things whereby the proclamation of the third angel’s message shall be bound about. We must beware of his plans and methods. There must be no toning down of the truth, no muffling of the message for this time. The third angel’s message must be strengthened and confirmed. The eighteenth chapter of Revelation reveals the importance of presenting the truth in no measured terms, but with boldness and power.. . . There has been too much bearing about the bush in the proclamation of the third angel’s message. The message has not been given as clearly and distinctly as it should have been.” Evangelism, p. 230.
“Men will employ every means to make less prominent the difference between Seventh-day Adventists and observers of the first day of the week. A company was presented before me under the name of Seventh-day Adventists, who were advising that the banner, or sign, which makes us a distinct people should not be held out so strikingly; for they claimed that this was not the best policy in order to secure success to our institutions.” Testimonies, Vol. 6, p. 144.
Is there a danger that we might become so institutionalized that public relations will be more important to us than getting the truth to the public? There is evidence that this is happening right now. The Amazing Facts broadcast was dropped from four Seventhday Adventist college radio stations because of its straightforward approach in presenting the last warning message. Only two stations continued to carry the daily full-message broadcast. Here are actual quotes from those college station managers who canceled our contracts:
“There were numerous reasons behind the decision to cancel your program, but the overriding reason related to the program’s incompatibility with our easy listening format. “
“We had understood initially that the approach of Amazing Facts would be much more indirect than it is. The very strong doctrinal emphasis with forceful treatments of the Sabbath-Sunday issue seems not to fit the tenor and motivation for our work here at ____________.
For us to be making a direct ‘attack’ on the lifetime positions of our neighbors and friends through the medium of our station does not seem to us a wise approach.”
“We will no longer be able to carry Amazing Facts on _______. I’m sure the program is doing a great deal of good, but it doesn’t fit in with the type of outreach that we’re trying to do.”
“We are trying to reach a secular audience. Your program comes on too strong on a religious note.”
Surely these letters offer dramatic proof that Sister White was correct in warning us not to soft-pedal our urgent last-day warning message. This is no time for “easy listening.” God has provided the means for us to proclaim the truth for this time, and we are afraid to use them. The stations of Babylon beg us to use their facilities, but Amazing Facts was told it could not buy time at any price on those four Seventh-day Adventist owned and operated stations. If we are afraid to let our position be known now, what will we do when the death sentence stares us in the face?
In comparing the Elijah ministry of John the Baptist with this attitude, Sister White wrote:
“Many of those who profess to believe the truth would say, if they expressed their real sentiments, What need is there of speaking so plainly’? They might as well ask, Why need John the Baptist have said to the Pharisees, ‘0 generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’ Why need he have provoked the anger of Herodias by telling Herod that it was unlawful for him to live with his
brother’s wife? He lost his life by speaking so plainly.” Gospel Workers, p. 149.
In the approaching crisis when the warning swells to a loud cry, we have this promise:
“In the hour of greatest peril the God of Elijah will raise up human instrumentalities to bear a message that will not be silenced. . . . The voice of stern rebuke will be heard. Boldly will men of God’s appointment denounce the union of the church with the world.” Prophets and Kings, p. 187.
Do the people of God need to be warned now about the unholy union of the church and the world? We have already discovered that the “new theology” errors are the direct outgrowth of such a union. Some Adventist pastors are fearful that doctrinal subjects, reformatory messages or sanctification topics might be criticized as harsh and unloving. Calling people away from worldly indulgences is very likely to be labeled as “works oriented.” Does God have anything to say to those watchmen who are afraid to warn people against the practice of known sin?
“This goody-goody religion that makes light of sin and that is forever dwelling upon the love of God to the sinner, encourages the sinner to believe that God will save him while he continues in sin. This is the way that many are doing who profess to believe present truth. . . there must be a straining of every nerve and spirit and muscle to leave the world, its customs, its practices, and its fashions.” Selected
Messages, Bk. 3, p. 155.
Sister White, under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, wrote hundreds of pages of the strongest counsel and warning on this very matter of lowering the standards. She was unafraid of the charges that some would get offended at her strong words. Said she:
“Brother E suggests that it would please the people if I speak less about duty and more in regard to the love of Jesus. But I wish to speak as the Spirit of the Lord shall impress me. The Lord knows best what this people needs. I spoke in the forenoon from Isaiah 58.1 did not round the corners at all.” Selected Messages. Bk. 3, p. 64,
“The church has received warning after warning. The duties and dangers of God’s people have been plainly revealed. But the worldly element has proved too strong for them. Customs, practices, and fashions which lead the soul away from God have been for years gaining ground, in defiance of the warnings and entreaties of the Holy Spirit, until at last their ways have become right in their own eyes, and the Spirit’s voice is scarcely heard.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 103.
Why do we hear so little about this danger today? If the worldly drift was so strong a hundred years ago, what would the prophet write about the sad state of things today?
I can tell you why the silence is deafening on this subject. Satan has generated an opinion, based upon the distant past, that legalism is the big problem in the Adventist church right now. No one can deny that some is present, but I contend that it is minor, compared to the problem of permissiveness. Once in a great while one meets a genuine legalistic fanatic, but it is hardly possible to visit a church without meeting several proponents of the new, liberal theology. The need today is to counteract the obvious bent toward cheap-grace preaching. There is no present evidence that our church suffers from too strong doses of sanctification doctrine. How much material is available which dares to pinpoint the specific areas of slackened discipline within the remnant church? There is practically nothing. We have swamped our people with books on faith, justification, love, self-worth, and forgiveness, and there is nothing at all wrong with those subjects; they are important. But why haven’t we balanced the picture by speaking out on the
sanctifying effect of true justification?
The answer is twofold. It certainly appears that the majority of our writers and editors have assumed that Adventists are already too works-oriented, and many others are afraid they will be branded as legalists. In the meantime, our people perish for want of real Adventist sermons on the subject of victory over sin, and practical godliness.
How many books have been written primarily to combat the deceptive inroads of worldliness into the remnant church? Considering the proportion of the problem, and the space devoted to it in the Spirit of Prophecy, there should be many books available on the subject. If you want to see the practical results of our neglect to speak out in warning and counsel, look around at the next large gathering of Adventists you attend. Camp meeting would be a good place to make your observations. What will you see? Even though it is a religious gathering, one will look in vain to discover much difference in the general appearance of these people and those thronging the streets of Babylon.
At one recent camp meeting, a beautiful Christian mother shared her concern for her teenage daughter who wandered the grounds dressed in very, very tight jeans. The mother was a recent convert and her husband was a communist who did not even believe in God. Yet he objected violently to his daughter’s provocative attire. Our convert was puzzled that the spiritual leaders of her new church did not seem to recognize a violation of modesty which her atheist husband could see clearly. What a commentary on the blindness produced by exposure to the world! And we become more blind as we adjust to a toleration of that which we know to be wrong.
Not so many years ago, the MV Department of the General Conference took a firm position against mixed swimming in our sponsored youth activities. Not only has that standard been changed for the young people, but it is quite a normal practice for churches and even ministerial groups to promote mixed bathing at their picnics and retreats. Few pastors seem to recognize those activities as being unfitting and inconsistent with their holy calling. One worker did observe that it seemed to be out of harmony with God’s command to His priests in the Old Testament not to mount the altar by steps lest they expose their nakedness in the process. (Exodus 20:26.)
I think it is right here that we see the alarming extent of the worldly invasion of our church. We have become so accustomed to the ways of the world that we no longer recognize our departure from true principle. Those who do see it are often charged with fanaticism or having an evil mind. It is easy to understand why they would be reluctant to expose themselves to such unsavory charges. Yet the dangers must be exposed by the watchmen who have been assigned that responsibility. We are not engaged in a popularity contest. The truth must be told whether it is pleasing or not. As long as we are telling the truth in a constructive manner to help people find their way back to God’s great ideal, we must not be afraid of what men might say or do.
The real problem is that the continuing compromise has rendered many of our people incapable of discerning between truth and error. In great sincerity they will oppose the work of reform in the church with the words, “I can’t see anything wrong with what I’m doing.” No state is more hopeless than this. Only the Holy Spirit can open the eyes of those who do not even know they are blind. If they could only recognize their need, their sin, and their blindness, they might seek a remedy. But the sad words are heard again and again, “I can’t see . “I can’t see . ...”
The involvement of our people with the things of the world has led to the cancellation of prayer meeting in many Seventh-day Adventist churches across the land.
They are too busy with the job, the house, or other material concerns to find time for midweek fellowship or prayer. Youth meetings have become a relic of the past in large numbers of our churches. Church bulletins are filled with announcements about activities of the week, but many of them are social in nature. Alas, the Bible study and prayer appointments occupy only a portion of the long list of sponsored functions. But because there is a whirl of exciting activity, the church is rated highly successful. The chief concern seems to be to get everybody involved, but involved in what?
Certainly, it’s not evangelism or soul winning. A few weeks ago from this writing, I watched night after night as the faithful forty or fifty members joined the largely non-Adventist crowd in the crusade auditorium. Where were the other 750 members of the sponsoring church? I could almost understand why the Wednesday-night prayer meeting had been canceled in that church. Why cannot our people sense the solemnity of living in the time of the judgment? The heart searching attitude of Israel on the day of atonement should be manifest among Sabbath-keepers today.
What was that attitude? Deep concern that every sin had been confessed and forsaken. With intense interest they listened to the bells on the high priest, and followed him in spirit as he moved about in the holy of holies interceding for them. Just as deeply, we must be aware of the final atonement which is unfolding in the heavenly sanctuary above and follow our blessed High Priest as He ministers for us in the most holy place.
Every day we should remind ourselves that we are not just another denomination. This church is on assignment by God to RESTORE the foundations of truth which have been broken down, and to FINISH
the great reformation work of ages past.
The greatest tragedy which could ever occur would be to forget our prophetic mission, and slowly lapse into the familiar pattern of luke-warmness which has overtaken every other religious movement. It must not happen to us, and yet we see it happening! Hardly one of us is unaware of subtle changes which have been creeping into our churches and institutions. We have wept over it and prayed earnestly that we might not be a part of the problem. Yet we know in our heart of hearts that we are. Every time we neglect to study and pray, every time we refuse an opportunity to witness, we are frustrating God’s holy purpose for us.
Every Seventhday Adventist church should be a swarming beehive of evangelistic activity. We have not been called into this exciting message to relax in a corner. The age-old mysteries of the great controversy have been revealed to us for one purpose-that we might share them with others. Each new member of this glorious faith is immediately invested with the power of the Spirit to be a witness. Men and women alike are to recognize the commission and ordination of God to begin a personal ministry of reconciliation. The laying on of hands is not necessary. All do not have to engage in the same work, but everyone has a gift which may be used in soul winning.
Nothing will combat the spirit of Laodiceanism more effectively than evangelism, Bible studies, and personal missionary work. Too many of our people are waiting for some special emotional experience as a sign that they are to launch into a witnessing program. But we already have the promise of the Spirit and that is quite enough. We receive it by faith, not feeling. Only those who begin acting on God’s command by faith will receive the latter rain and have a part in the loud cry.
“In many places consecrated men and women may be seen communicating to others the light that has made plain to them the way of salvation through Christ. And AS they continue to let their light shine, as did those who were baptized with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they will receive more and still more of the Spirit’s power. THUS the earth will be lightened with the glory of God.” The Acts of the Apostles, p. 54.
Please remember that the whole purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is to make us witnesses. (Acts 1:8.) Paul declares that the promise of the Spirit is received by faith. (Galatians 3:14.) How do we show our faith? “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26. So if we truly believe we have the promised witnessing power, we will begin to act upon it in faith. In other words, we will start doing what we can to share our witness, whether we feel any power in us or not. Sister White wrote that AS that work is launched “more and still more” of the Spirit’s power will be supplied. Then she declared, “THUS the earth will be lightened with the glory of God.”
Isn’t that a tremendous thought! Those who have had no experience in soul winning would not even know what to do with the power if it came. Only those who are doing it already will be qualified to receive the latter rain and participate in the loud cry, and none will be saved who do not share that sealing experience. No wonder, then, that Satan wants to keep the remnant church occupied with everything else except soul winning. He has perfected a dazzling, numbing array of worldly attractions to keep average church members away from the very work which would prepare them to be translated.
How painful it is to look upon the spiritual paralysis that has immobilized many of the saints in this critical hour of time. The trumpet tones of straight testimony have become more and more muted as the worldly subversion proceeds. Even people outside the church are able to detect the altered emphasis.
In the October, 1984 issue of Christianity Today, a former Seventh-day Adventist described the changes that are transforming what she called “the oldstyle sabbatarian” approach which claimed that the “Sabbath is the seal of the living God and that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast.” She said, “This is still the official Adventist line. . . . But it lacks a little warmth, and nowadays in Adventist circles you are likely to hear quite a different approach.” Then she described two well known Adventist theologians who were still preaching the Sabbath, but who emphasized “the day’s quality rather than the sequence in the week . . . . and worship, rather than belaboring the fate of those who fail to observe the Sabbath as Adventists do.”
How interesting it is that this softer line in presenting the Sabbath and mark of the beast has been clearly recognized even by those who are not members of the church. What Joan Craven is saying, in this very popular Protestant magazine, is that Adventists are getting less concerned about the particular day of the week they observe. Could this be a prelude to the terrible end-time apostasy predicted by Sister White? To fulfill that prediction, our people will surely have to be programmed to see the claims of the law and the seventhday Sabbath as less and less important. Ms. Craven has observed that our theologians are leading the way in the downplay of the Sabbath.
The trend which she described in her unusually candid article is the very same which is revealed by our conciliatory attitude toward the papacy, our continuing acceptance of government aid in our institutions, our ongoing dialogue with the World Council of Churches, our dalliance with the ordination of women, and a radical de-emphasis of the great Reformation prophecies about the Antichrist.