THE identity of this remnant church with Laodicea immediately raises some very troubling questions in the minds of many. Those questions have to do with loyalty and authority. Can a person be fully obedient to the Word of God and still be loyal to a compromised Laodicean Church which stands in need of repentance? Where does the final resolution of truth reside?
Admittedly, these are delicate issues and one runs the risk of being misunderstood for even raising the questions. But I believe they must be clarified in order to save thousands from fatal rebellion against the “pillar and ground of the truth”—God’s church. This is the day for extremism. Satan is seeking to divide the advent movement into equally-polarized segments where false emphases prevail. Just as there is a decided dichotomy over the issue of legalism and cheap grace so there are two extreme views on the question of final authority. One group believes that the organized church should receive no support because it has made regressive errors in directing the work. Therefore, no recognition of its administrative or spiritual authority should be granted. They believe it is now an apostate organization whose leadership can no longer be trusted to formulate policies, and that each person must decide truth for himself.
The other group argues that God is not leading individuals but a church and, therefore, He has unified that body by providing infallible direction. This group believes that whatever is officially voted becomes the voice of God upon the earth, and all private convictions or opinions should be surrendered for the sake of unity in the church.
Neither of these positions is correct. The truth lies in between, where corporate leadership is recognized and respected, but where limits are biblically applied to the actions of governing committees. Sister White wrote the equivalent of an entire book to correct the extremist claims of these opposition groups. In Testimonies to Ministers she presented the most balanced treatise on proper leadership that can be found anywhere. She clearly established that in the Adventist Church there can be only one final infallible arbiter of truth, and that is the Word of God.
We have been justifiably suspicious of the Catholic concept of settling questions of doctrine and religious practice by decisions of men, regardless of their hierarchial rank. We have looked with amusement and pity upon pronouncements of the Catholic Church, reversing the former “no meat on Friday” rule, and declaring certain highly revered “saints” to be no saints at all. It brought considerable confusion to the Catholic laity, but they adjusted quickly because they accepted the ecclesiastical doctrine of papal infallibility. Truth for them could be settled and sealed by an ex-cathedra decision by the head of the church.
The Catholic myth of infallible men speaking with divine authority has been rejected, not only by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but by Protestantism as a whole. The leaders of our General Conference would be the first to dispel such a misconception. Often they have appealed to the membership of our churches to pray for them as they come together to make decisions regarding the administration of the worldwide work.
In the Bible, we are admonished to pray for kings and magistrates, but how much more important it is to uphold our church leaders in prayer. No political group on earth has ever met to discuss matters which are of greater importance than the affairs of this church. Discussions between nations may take the headlines of the newspaper, but they are only significant as they relate to the accomplishment of God’s work in the earth.
It is not vain on our part to recognize that the progress of this special, final message of truth is heaven’s highest priority. The coming of Jesus, and the end of the great controversy is closely related to the proclamation of Revelation 14 to every nation, tongue and people.
Many times during the last forty years I have served on administrative committees and prayed with my brethren for God to give us wisdom to make right decisions. I have never had the responsibility of sitting on a General Conference Committee, but I can imagine the tremendous sense of urgency with which those members plead for God’s counsel to prevail in their discussions. They understand very well their total dependence upon God to make right decisions. When special councils are held to decide issues within the church, the prayers of all our people should be ascending for God to guide the minds of those men who did not choose themselves to be in such sensitive positions.
Why do they need our prayers so much? Because we believe the General Conference Committee constitutes the highest spiritual authority on earth. Does this mean, therefore, that whatever decision they make about doctrine should be received as unquestioned truth? Of course not! No men are infallible. Our church has always urged that any teaching be submitted to the test of the Bible, and that no man or group of men should take precedence over the Word.
In the book, Questions on Doctrine, produced by the General Conference, we read the well-known, official stance of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on this issue:
“We believe that all theological beliefs must be measured by the living Word, judged by its truth, and whatsoever is unable to pass this test, or is found to be out of harmony with its message, is to be rejected.” (p. 28).
“The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority-not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in its support.” The Great Controversy, p. 595.
In defense of the inspired Scriptures as the last word on truth, Sister White pointed out that leaders of the work had made mistakes, and it would be disastrous to consider their human judgment as any kind of ultimate test for true doctrine. She wrote:
“Those who have not been in the habit of searching the Bible for themselves, of weighing evidence, have confidence in the leading men and accept decisions they make; and thus many will reject the very messages God sends to His people, if these leading brethren do not accept them.... Even if all our leading men should refuse light and truth, that door will still remain open. The Lord will raise up men who
will give the people the message for this time.” Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 106, 107.
“We must not trust to others to search the Scriptures for us. Some of our leading brethren have frequently taken their position on the wrong side; and if God would send a message and wait for these older brethren to open the way for its advancement, it would never reach the people.” Gospel Workers, p. 303.
These statements do not indicate that the leading brethren or General Conference leadership should not be respected and consulted. They merely remind us that their decisions are subject to the higher authority of Scriptural truth, and no one should blindly accept everything that men decide without submitting it to the test of the Bible. She clearly enunciated this principle in Testimonies to Ministers, page 30:
“It is the duty of ministers to respect the judgment of their brethren; but their relations to one another, as well as the doctrines they teach, should be brought to the test of the law and the testimony; then, if hearts are teachable, there will be no divisions among us.”
Again she wrote:
“Our church members see that there are differences of opinion among the leading men, and they themselves enter into controversy regarding the subjects under dispute. Christ calls for unity. But He does not call for us to unify on wrong practices. The God of heaven draws a sharp contrast between pure, elevating, ennobling truth and false, misleading doctrines.... I urge our brethren to unify upon a true, scriptural basis.” Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 175.
Notice that she made strong appeals for unity of the church and brethren, but that unity was to be based on the authority of the Scriptures rather than the majority vote of church committees, or the opinions of “leading men.” Six years before her death Sister White wrote in the Review and Herald: “We are not to put confidence in the counsel of men unless we have evidence that they are under the influence of the Spirit of God.” (July 1, 1909).
There were times when she saw that the Holy Spirit was leading the General Conference Committee, and their actions were in harmony with the Word. In 1875 she wrote:
“I have been shown that no man’s judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any one man. But when the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has on earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be maintained, but be surrendered.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 492.
It should be noted that only private opinions or judgments were to be given up, but not biblical principles or doctrines. And it is important to note how the Spirit of Prophecy qualified even that kind of submission to General Conference actions. Nineteen years later she wrote that she did not approve of some of their actions of 1894, and the following year she wrote these shocking words:
“At the center of the work matters are being shaped so that every other institution is following the same course. And the General Conference itself is becoming corrupted with wrong sentiments and
principles.” Testimonies to Ministers, p. 359.
Then, in 1896, she wrote this strong testimony to the Review and Herald office in Battle Creek:
“Who can now feel sure that they are safe in respecting the voice of the General Conference Association? If the people in our churches understood the management of the men who walk in the light of the sparks of their own kindling, would they respect their decisions? I answer, no, not for a moment. I have been shown that the people at large do not know the heart of the work is being diseased at Battle Creek.” Special Instructions Relating to the Review and Herald Office and the Work in Battle Creek, p. 20.
Nevertheless, the strongest qualification of the earlier 1875 statement was made in the year 1901 and was incorporated into the General Conference Bulletin of that year:
“That these men should stand in the sacred place to be the voice of God to the people, as we once believed the General Conference to be, that is past.” (p. 25, col. 2, paragraph 1).
These statements should not be construed as disrespectful or disloyal to the church leadership, and neither should they be automatically applied to other periods of the church’s history. We are simply establishing the principle that no inerrant committee is recognized within the framework of the remnant church. Like all other Protestant leaders, the officers of our General Conference would be horrified to discover that anyone looked upon them as any kind of infallible deciders of truth. Without, exception, they ascribe that sovereign role to the Scriptures. For this reason, we should give the strongest support to this special remnant church and the men who f have been chosen for administrative positions. They carry heavy responsibilities which require greater than human wisdom. We should constantly uphold them in our prayers and with our encouragement.
The Lord desires to lead the minds of the committees who stand at the head of the work. As long as they act in harmony with the inspired counsels of God, they are to be accorded attention and respect as the highest authority of God on earth. But all of their actions and votes are—to be subjected to the final test of all truth—the Bible. No committee on earth, including the General Conference Committee, has authority to vote upon revealed Bible principles. Those principles are not subject to the vote of man. They can be approved or disapproved by the committee action, but they cannot be made less binding or more binding upon the consciences of men.
With these reasonable inspired principles our church has always been in agreement. Those who say that God will use some other organization to finish the work are mistaken. The final call for revival, reformation and separation from Babylon must come from within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. They are wrong who contend that the church has gone too far in apostasy to repent. Such a scenario does not fit the biblical blueprint nor the Spirit of Prophecy. No other church is revealed in the counsels of God to receive the Latter Rain, the seal of God, and to give the Loud Cry.
There is no basis for the belief that God has rejected this church because of its lukewarmness. It is easy to forget, amidst the apostasy, that there are faithful shepherds and leaders who have not bowed the knee to Baal. They are grieved at the worldliness invading our churches, and are doing everything possible to stem the tide. We are clearly told that the church will not be spewed out, but only those people who will not be hewed by the message.
“God is leading out a people. He has a chosen people, and a church on earth, whom He has made the depositories of His law. He has committed to them sacred trust and eternal truth to be given to the world. He would reprove and correct them. The message to the Laodiceans is applicable to Seventh-day Adventists who have had great light and have not walked in the light. It is those who have made great profession, but have not kept in step with their Leader, that will be spewed out of His mouth, unless they repent. The message to pronounce the Seventh-day Adventist church Babylon, and call the people of God out of her, does not come from any heavenly messenger, or any human agent inspired by the Spirit of God.” The Remnant Church, pp. 51, 52.
“Some have advanced the thought that, as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization. But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man’s being independent.... It is not a good sign when men refuse to unite with their brethren and prefer to act alone. Let laborers take into their confidence the brethren who are free to point out every departure from right principles. If men wear the yoke of Christ, they can not pull apart; they will draw with Christ.” Testimonies, Vol. 9, p. 258.
Whatever final work the Spirit will do in relation to this earth must be done through those who heed the Laodicean message. That message does not call for people to leave the lukewarm church of Laodicea, but to repent. God will spew out only those who do not apply for the heavenly eyesalve, the oil and the gold. Admittedly, the majority will reject the invitation, but God has never promised to finish His work by vast numbers. “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.” I Samuel 14:6.
But here is a most important truth to remember: We must not try to ignore the fact that a Laodicean departure has taken place. God would not call for repentance if sins had not been committed which demanded such repentance. Doctrines and standards have been altered. To deny that we are guilty and need repentance is to negate what we have taught for over one hundred and forty years.
We have always applied the Laodicean prophecies to ourselves. We are Laodicea! We are the church that needs to hear the Straight Testimony. The trumpet needs to be blown in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is alarming that some still deny that the church has been guilty of anything which demands repentance. They charge that those who see things wrong in the church are “critics” and “judgmental” and are really trying to appear as the only ones who are righteous. Those who say that everything is great, and the church is not in need of repentance, are proving by such statements that they are the blind who stand in the greatest need of repentance.
The inspired writings do not tell us how Laodicea will respond except to say that the majority will reject the strong call to make things right, and the resultant “shaking” will cleanse and purify the church. The chaff will be removed, but the faithful minority will remain to be sealed and to give the Loud Cry. I do not speculate on how this traumatic purging will affect the organization of the church. That has not been revealed. Suffice it to say that the church will not fall even though it may seem ready to collapse. The “little company” will remain and go through in triumph with that host of others who will be gathered in from Babylon.
But as the sifting becomes more pronounced in the church, many sincere members perhaps wonder how to relate to leadership actions, especially when they might disagree with those actions.
Is it possible for committees always to make decisions which will be agreeable to all members of the body of Christ? It is entirely unlikely and probably impossible. In the administration of a worldwide church which seeks to coordinate workers in hundreds of countries and languages, insuperable problems are constantly confronted. Many of the decisions facing our world leaders are of secondary importance to the total membership. They have to do with only certain segments of the field, and involve policies of local administration.
From time to time, representatives serving on the General Conference Council bring specific problems from their division which may indeed affect the entire church. Usually the substance of such problems are either moral or cultural. In other words, they are either based on matters which involve biblical principle, or else they concern optional issues where no violation of principle is at stake.
By perusing the minutes from past committees, it seems obvious that most decisions have to do with the latter class of actions. But even in these peripheral matters, some might disagree and take exception to the final vote. What is their duty after the action is taken? Individual judgments and opinions should be surrendered to the counsel of the brethren. For the sake of unity and order, there must be submission in these matters to those who have been placed in administrative authority.
Do those committees ever make mistakes? Without question! The men who serve on them are human and they lay no claim to infallibility although they pray earnestly for wisdom and guidance. Is it even possible for them to make a wrong decision concerning the more important issues of doctrine and principle? Sister White makes it very clear that this is a possibility, and consequently urged everyone to let the Bible, not the leaders, be the final test in such cases. In the area of morals and conscience, the true Christian is answerable only to God. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12.
It is largely because of an over-confidence in corporate accountability that great religious movements of the past have lost their power. From a position of primitive faith and dedication, many denominations yielded step by little step to the pressures of conformity and compromise. As the members, with their varying degrees of commitment, gave way to weaknesses of the flesh, the POSITION of the church came into conflict with the PRACTICE of the church. Then, to resolve the inconsistency, the ecclesiastical leadership gradually modified the doctrinal standards to harmonize with the way members were living at the grass roots level.
Satan’s program of hammering away at the fallen nature to gain entrance to the mind has brought about the spiritual ruin of many religious groups. Soon there is an accommodation made by the corporate committees to conform to the majority practice of the membership. This is the exact way most of the reformation churches lost their strength and influence. How carefully we, as Seventh-day Adventists, should consider the appeal of those Union Conference leaders who stated that there is “a head-on collision between what is happening in our colleges and churches, and what the church has been teaching and preaching.”
The Andrews University survey made the same kind of appraisal. “Our historical positions simply do not correspond to our members’ general practice.” Ministry, April 1985, p. 6. These statements are not attacking the church or its institutions, but they are recognizing that there is exactly the same dangerous breakdown of standards that preceded and precipitated a top level liberalization on the part of other church movements. We stand in a most dangerous position right now. As the president of the North Pacific Union stated in The Adventist Review, “We are at a crossroads in the church as to whether we will go the way of what we classify as mainline, nominal Protestantism, or whether we will uphold the standards of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy.” August 1, 1985, p. 14.
Let us not suppose that because we are fulfilling a special mission to restore the apostolic faith that our leaders could not come under pressure to lower the standards just like other movements before us. Our General Conference Council is made up of human beings with the same fallen nature as were the members of all other church councils of the past. They are subject to the same errors of judgment and emotional influences.
Think for a moment. Just as churches are made up of individuals at varying levels of spirituality, so the controlling committees are composed of the same mixture. All are under similar stresses and temptations from Satan’s specialized arsenal of sensory weapons, but all; have not responded in the same way. Some have not yielded at all; others have compromised a little, and some much. Those with televisions in their home may have, different convictions than those who do not. Those with sons or daughters who have been involved in divorce may have a different attitude than those whose children are happily married. All these pressing influences, and more, get through to the highest church councils just as they often surface in the local church boards. It is just as difficult for the General Conference leaders to separate their emotional feelings from biblical issues of principle as it is for our laymen to do it. By the grace of God, they do a wonderful job, but this is what makes all human committee work short of infallible. And, of course, this is why the Word of God must be the final test of authority in matters spiritual.
Surely it is most apparent how much we need to pray for those men and women who must make decisions affecting the entire corporate body of believers. Without question, Satan will make unprecedented
attempts to influence their vote on matters affecting the spirituality of the church. Sometimes Satan so veils an issue that only he is aware of the implications behind a negative or positive vote.
Great struggles of conscience take place over the resolution of delicate problems involving political and cultural relationships in various countries. There is often a strong debate over whether policies should be applied to the world field or only to the geographical area where the problem has broken into the open. Local leaders sometimes are inclined to press for church-wide regulations to cope with a situation in their country or island which looms larger than life at the moment.
Should concessions be made for the world field in order to accommodate these complications peculiar to only one area? Surely this would be the quickest way to dilute the message and weaken the work in other fields. A test situation in Borneo may have nothing to do with the work in Russia or America. In countries where polygamy is practiced, policies must be formulated to meet the problem, but it would have little relevance to the rest of the world. If concessions need to be made (short of violating a moral principle) let it be done only for those affected, and not for the entire denomination. To mitigate our world stand on polygamy because we feel sympathy for a group of our members in one area who are placed under special trial would be a compromising move for the church.
The same can be said of countries where the Sabbath is a special problem. Our hearts go out to parents in certain countries where the children are forced to attend school seven days a week. We are tempted to back off from the strong biblical stand our church has taken on the Sabbath in order to spare our suffering people from imprisonment or even worse. But what a mistake it would be to change a Bible principle for reasons of feeling or circumstance. Any circumstance must be God’s stance or it is wrong to accommodate it.
Then there are countries where cultural mores make it difficult for our people to conform to the church’s stand on the wearing of jewelry. Local marriage customs may dictate wearing nose jewels, bangles, necklaces or rings. Again there is pressure on the governing body to make a denominational ruling which will allow for some leniency in the area of adornment in order to relieve a local situation. It should never be done. History has already taught us that such actions diminish the strength of any church, and lead to sterility and death.
Over and over we have witnessed the demise of vibrant, Spirit-filled religious movements because they yielded to the illusive appeal of lowered standards. Satan is gambling that he will be able to destroy the remnant by the same avenues of approach.
Will people be saved just because they belong to the true remnant which is identified in prophecy as keeping the commandments of God and having the spirit of prophecy? No. We have found that the majority of its members will turn against the truth and be shaken out. No one should find comfort in simply being a member of a certain organization or church-not even the remnant church. Not one person will find assurance of salvation outside a deep, personal, Spirit-filled commitment which is demonstrated by total obedience to God’s will. The church is made up of people, and the church of the translation will be composed of people who are without spot and blameless.
What will enable that little company to resist Satan’s relentless, unrestrained attempt to capture their wills at the very end? How will they maintain an unbending loyalty in the face of the most unimaginable opposition? They will do it through faith, prayer and Bible study. Those who endure to the end will have an unshakable faith in the message. Their experience with Jesus will be so real that no combination of demons will be able to weaken or destroy it. Though distrustful of the flesh, they will radiate a perfect assurance of salvation through the justifying merits of Christ’s blood.
Because they will be sensitive to the deadly nature of even the smallest compromise, that triumphant last legion for Christ will stand without wavering upon the straight line of Bible principle. Drawing power from the promises of total victory, they will confidently affirm their faith in the righteousness of Christ to keep them from falling.
The trying of God’s professed people during that fearful final phase of Armageddon will disclose both weakness and strength. At that time, the real tragedy of Adventism’s dallying with the “new theology” will be revealed. Entire companies will find it easy to loose their last links with a law that has gradually grown burdensome and embarrassing. At the same time those who have delighted in the law as a character-expression of their dearest Friend will proclaim such an anointed message that entire tribes will accept the truth. As the true nature of sin is exposed, men will recognize the honor and integrity of God’s moral law of the Ten Commandments. Only those who allowed the Holy Spirit to write the law into their mind and heart will receive the Latter Rain and give the Loud Cry.
Under the new covenant, God declares, “I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts.” 3 Hebrews 8:10. We have already concluded that surrender of the heart to Christ actually signifies a yielding of the, mind through a decision of the will. Why does God use the terms “mind” and “heart” in describing the new covenant experience? The answer to this question is very important. The Bible often uses the word heart as a symbolic representation of the emotional nature while the mind represents intelligence and willful decision.
The sealed ones of God will not only have a thorough knowledge of truth through searching the Scriptures, but they will also be bound to Christ in a deep, personal heart-experience of love and commitment. The combination of knowing and doing will distinguish them from the shallow sentimentalists whose counterfeit love produces no obedience. No definition of love which excludes law-keeping could be valid or biblical, just as no definition of sin is correct which does not include lawbreaking. John the Beloved’s two classic statements on law and love have been lightly regarded by many in the remnant church today: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” I John 5:3, and “sin is the transgression of the law.” I John 3:4.
Ellen G. White seemed to anticipate a time when John’s definitions of law and love would be twisted to make sin appear less objectionable. She wrote:
“We are authorized to hold in the same estimation as did the beloved disciple those who claim to abide in Christ while living in transgression of God’s law. There exist in these last days evils similar to those that threatened the prosperity of the early church; and the teachings of the apostle John on these points should be carefully heeded. ‘You must have charity,’ is the cry heard everywhere, especially from those who profess sanctification. But true charity is too pure to cover an unconfessed sin. While we are to love the souls for whom Christ died, we are to make no compromise with evil. We are not to unite with the rebellious and call this charity. God requires His people in this age of the world to stand for the right as unflinchingly as did John in opposition to soul-destroying errors.” The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 554, 555.
Some modern exponents of Adventism define sin as breaking a relationship, and love as so forgiving and tender that it can tolerate disobedience. Let it be forever settled that such definitions are only half true, and therefore are very misleading. A true conversion experience will bear the sweet fruit of compliance with all of God’s requirements. Unless the law is written into the mind through a knowledge of right and wrong, and is written on the heart by an obedient love, there can be no real salvation. The heart and mind both must reflect the character of God as revealed in the law. Those who have only a head knowledge without the love which produces obedience will miss heaven by eighteen inches—the distance from the head to the heart. Those who have only an emotional experience which does not acknowledge the requirements of the law will miss heaven by the same eighteen inches—this time from the heart to the head.
This failure to coordinate love and obedience is largely the cause for our complacent, self-righteous Laodiceanism. Some are lukewarm, even though they are proper and careful about keeping the law, because they lack the joyous assurance of Christ abiding in the heart. Others are lukewarm because they have a highly vocal, emotional experience which gives little or no credence to principles of sanctified Christian living. Repentance and reform are called for on the part of both these groups.
There is no way to separate these two aspects of truth. Just as the law of God was bound to their fingers and written upon the table of their hearts (Deut. 11:18) signifying both physical and spiritual submission, God’s people will be identified by their outward obedience and their inward devotion. True worship always involves both head and heart, mind and spirit. Concerning His Father Jesus said, “They that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24.
Is it possible to worship with a lot of fervency and emotional spirit, and yet lack knowledge of and obedience to the truth? Certainly the boisterous Baal worshippers on Mount Carmel prove that such is altogether possible. Jesus said, “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:9. People can have excitement and spirit in their worship, and yet be teaching false doctrine. The Master described such worship as vain.
But here is the serious question that every Seventh-day Adventist needs to face: Is it possible to worship God with a full theoretical knowledge of truth, and yet be lacking in the spirit of true worship? Indeed it is a deadly danger that we face as a church. By lack of that inward attitude of joy in Christ, worship services may become lifeless and almost mechanical; songs of praise may be turned into mournful dirges. In such meetings no revival is possible, and the dull spirit of Laodicea has full control.
I see four steps as absolute requirements in responding to the Laodicean call for repentance:
A HEARTFELT COMMITMENT TO FORSAKE THE PRACTICE OF ALL KNOWN SIN. No reservation can be permitted in this area. Known sin is not compatible with genuine revival and reformation. It is only when God’s people become serious about dealing with a worldly lifestyle that the power of Satan can be broken. Because of deep-rooted deceptions over this issue, thousands of Seventh-day Adventists
continue to believe that behavior patterns have little to do with salvation. Until this diabolical error has been corrected there will be continued game-playing and false security among our pastors and members. It goes without saying that this commitment must spring from a heart which is fully yielded to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.
A RETURN TO SERIOUS BIBLE STUDY AND A DISCIPLINED PRAYER LIFE. No stirring of new spiritual life is possible without the sanctified influence of these two ingredients. Social demands, work schedules and electronic entertainment have devastated the devotional habits of many Seventh-day Adventists today. It is probably not an exaggeration to say that most of our members depend upon their pastor to do the studying for, them and to tell them what to believe and not believe. No church can be strong and progressive whose members do not have deep convictions of truth based upon a personal study of the Scripture.
A SPIRIT OF CONTINUAL INWARD PRAYER AND PRAISE, because Christ, the hope of glory, has been enthroned in the heart. It is the absence of this sweet intimate awareness of the presence of God
which robs many of their Christian joy. I cannot overemphasize the powerful influence of being in constant fellowship with Christ by having the mind stayed upon Him. It is altogether possible to train the thoughts in such a way that they spontaneously flood the conscious mind with sentiments of praise and worship. Instead of allowing the thoughts to ramble undirected, we may deliberately turn them into words and phrases of our most fervent feelings of devotion and love to God.
I believe that this experience is of special significance for Seventh-day Adventists who have been conditioned to be very restrained in their outward forms of corporate worship. We have often stifled the spirit of praise for fear of appearing too emotional or demonstrative. This has also cast an inhibiting influence over the mind so that we have lost some of the ability to praise and worship God in the spirit. For this reason, our services sometimes tend to be stereotyped and lacking in spiritual warmth and spontaneity.
This is not any kind of call to follow the noisy Pentecostal style of worship with its attendant confusion. But on the other hand, we should not become known as unemotional formalists who scrunch down in the pew if someone feels moved to say “Amen” or even “Praise the Lord.”
I truly believe that if our heart experience is one of habitual inward praise, our Sabbath services will be more vibrant and satisfying. There should be restraint and reverence in the company of fellow-worshipers, but in the realm of the spirit, we do not have to be concerned about disturbing others. We can give unrestrained expression to our deepest emotional feelings. As I converse with God in my mind, and struggle to articulate my overflowing love and gratitude for what He has done in my life, tears often flow and a sense of ecstatic joy envelops my being. For years I assumed that all Christians were experiencing that same personal relationship with the Master through His indwelling Spirit, but, as a pastor and evangelist, I have learned that is not the case. I also believed for years that those deep, moving experiences were too private and personal even to share with other human beings. I felt, probably wrongly, that to talk about those precious seasons of intimacy would violate some unspoken confidence between Jesus and me. Now I am convinced that God is pleased for us to tell our friends what wonderful things He has done for us. “Talk ye of all his wondrous works.” Psalm 105:2. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” Psalm 107:2. And this brings me to the fourth prerequisite for revival and reformation.
A PARTICIPATION IN EVERY EVANGELISTIC OR WITNESSING OPPORTUNITY TO REACH SOULS WITH THE TRUTH. A tragic poverty of spirit is revealed when Christians refuse to share their faith. No religious experience will survive long in such a barren climate. Not only have individuals been separated from Christ, but entire churches have shriveled and disbanded because they lost their burden for souls. Some Seventh day Adventist Church boards have taken official actions against conducting evangelistic crusades. My own personal observation, as an evangelist, indicates that about eighty percent of our membership don’t even bother to attend one meeting of a crusade. Even though decisions of eternal life are being made by souls who hang in the balance, only a fraction of our members are there to help love them into the church. What a tragedy! I cannot believe that the triumphant church of the translation will be made up of those who are so unconcerned about the salvation of others. We insult the Spirit of God and heap reproach upon the truth by pretending to be Seventh-day Adventists while refusing to do all we can to win souls for Christ. Nowhere is Laodicean apostasy more clearly manifest in the church than through the lack of love and concern for the unsaved.