Creeping Compromise

{commedia}Joe Crews|Creeping Compromise|mediafiles/audio/crews/creeping11.mp3{/audio}

Suppose some giant computer could make a faithful record of all our thoughts as well as our words. Would we be pleased to see the results spread out before us? It would probably be a shocking experience to see the concrete evidence of what we consider the most important matters in life. What do we think about the most? What subject is so important to us, so dear to our hearts, that we talk about it more than any other topic? Most of us, as Christians, would like to believe that the computer printout would reveal thoughts and words about Jesus and His glorious truth, above all other subjects.

Surely our spiritual commitment should take priority over every earthly competitor for our time and attention, including family and job. The personal relations with Jesus Christ must be given absolute and unchallenged recognition as the supreme issue in the life of every Christian. Jesus taught that we should love Him more than father or mother, husband or wife, son or daughter. He said also, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33. Talk about priorities! Anything that gets in the way of serving Christ should be immediately put out of the way. Anyone who begins to compete with God for the highest place in our affections should be instantly denied that position.

Obviously then, the focus of every Christian should be upon spiritual things. Every aspect of his life should revolve around the one great centre of serving God and sharing Him with others. This does not mean that most of our time will be spent in church. It does not imply either that we stay on our knees through much of the day. The fact is that family, profession, and friends will occupy most of the waking hours of every week. But the centrality of Christ in the life does mean that all the related activities of earning a livelihood, relaxing with the family, and associating with friends will be permeated with the sweet Spirit of an ever-present Saviour abiding in the heart.

Not many Christians are able to give sermons or Bible studies, but all can preach powerful sermons by living out the beautiful principles of Bible truth. Regardless of talents, education, or profession, every Seventh-day Adventist should be a soul, winning witness of the obedient life.

We do not have an ordinary message. Our doctrines are thrilling, life-changing principles taken directly from the Bible. We can cite the example of Jesus and the apostles for every one of the standards held by this church. We are the "remnant," or last end piece, of the New Testament Church. This is why we keep the Sabbath just like they did. We eat and drink to the glory of God by abstaining from harmful foods. So did the apostles.

Being filled with love and desiring to run no risk of displeasing the Saviour, we obey the injunctions of the Scriptures against worldly adornment and vain attire. The foot-washing service is peculiar to our worship, but it was given by the example of Jesus Himself. Our distinctive lifestyle touches every phase of daily conduct. It is all bound up with our religion and our spiritual commitment.

Christ is coming very soon. These final probationary moments are for preparing to meet Him. Others may not believe this, but we know it is true. There is no time to waste on the inanities of TV, dancing, theatre, and worldly pleasures. By the power of consistent holy living we must draw others away from the emptiness of materialism. Satan is almost having his way all around this polluted planet. Even popular religion has been infiltrated and manipulated by him.

One stubborn pocket of resistance stands against the evil one, and that is the remnant church. No heavier responsibility ever rested upon any people than upon those who represent the final warning message of truth in this generation. We are a savour of life or death to multitudes who linger in the valley of decision. Every soul will be drawn to join us in obeying this message, or else will receive the mark of the beast by rejecting it.

Everything we do will influence the people we meet to make a decision--a decision for or against the truth. What do our words, actions, dress, and diet say to those whose only sermon will be what they see in us? Many of them will be under conviction, but they will also be looking for a loophole around the unpopular demands of truth.

Whether we like the idea or not, our lives will be under the searchlight of scrutiny. Half-convinced to go ahead in faith to obey the Word of God, many will look to us for encouragement. Some will be wrestling over the Sabbath question. Their family business establishment will have to close on the Sabbath if they decide to be baptised. They need to know that it is all-important to Honour the Lord of the Sabbath by keeping His day holy. What will they see in us? Would your Sabbath-keeping right now show them the joy of putting Christ first? Or would they see you eating out in a restaurant for Sabbath dinner, causing them to question as to whether it really is all that important to close their own commercial enterprise on the Sabbath? If they are given the idea that the Sabbath is only a holiday and not a holy day, they will make a quick decision to stay right where they are. If Sabbath-keeping is just like Sunday-keeping, then maybe they can justify keeping their employees on the job that day.

Some judgement-bound souls will be struggling over the problem of giving up unclean foods. Convicted and convinced about the body temple, they look around in the church for strength to make the difficult break. What do they see? I'll tell you what one person saw. I know, because it happened just two weeks ago from this writing, in one of my crusades. A young mother had made her decision for baptism. A few days before the baptism she was invited to the home of a Seventh-day Adventist lady. While there she was offered a cup of coffee. Only a week earlier she had, with severe trauma, made file break with a lifetime habit of drinking coffee. Although she explained this to her new Adventist friend, she was still urged to go ahead and take the coffee. She held her ground, but the next day she faced me with some questions that I had a hard time answering. Unfortunately, that lady did not follow through with baptism, and has not at this writing. Coffee drinking does not appear as a small thing when it causes a soul to make a decision against obeying the truth. Christian standards are tied to the Christian witness, and thousands are destroying their witness by the distorted notion that little things don't matter.

Every lady who enters the remnant church passes through the throes of decision over makeup and jewelry. It is not easy to change the customs of time and tradition, especially when they are rooted in feminine vanity. Fashion is a slave master. Sometimes husbands are opposed to everything the new religion is doing to their wives, and when they remove the wedding ring with the other ornaments, it precipitates a real crisis in the family. Convicted by the Word of God these ladies decide to put God first, and to accept the challenge of Peter to win their unbelieving husbands by removing their ornaments (1 Peter 3:1-3). Then they look around the church for support and approval. What do they see? Not only a sprinkling of wedding rings, but flashing brooches, pins, and costume jewelry. Are they encouraged? Yes, they are encouraged to go ahead and wear the wedding ring; and if symbolic rings are acceptable, then the class rings, birthstone rings, engagement rings, and friendship rings are all right too. And perhaps even the sentimental earrings that Grandma passed along as a remembrance.

Are we talking about practical things? Does it really happen? Indeed it does, and many are turned away from the truth because the members are not living what they preach. Some ladies are devotees of style, and find it hard to give up the vanities of the world. They see just enough dyed hair, wigs, and artificial adornment in the church to comfort them in their own worldly pride. Their questions about wearing slacks and pants are also settled quickly as they see them walking into the sanctuary on Sabbath morning and Wednesday night.

The problem is that no one can ever win the victory over an enemy that they secretly admire. Many sisters in the church have a secret love of the world, and have, therefore, never been able to win the battle against sinful pride and worldliness. Until they learn to love Jesus supremely and are willing to deny self, they will continue to be stumbling blocks to others.

What will it take to arouse and revive the church on these crucial issues of Christian living? How can we get the church members excited about the truth, so that it fills their lives? When evangelistic meetings are held every member should be there, eager and enthusiastic about the opportunity to share the truth. Tragically, only a faithful few of the members support the meetings night by night as the message is presented. I've seen fine men make their decision in the crusade and join the church. Later they are invited to the homes of deacons and elders who gave only token support to the evangelistic meetings. But in those homes the new member is invited to spend an afternoon looking at a ball game on TV. There the church leader finally gets excited, but alas, it is over the fanatical excesses of one team trying to beat down and humiliate another team. With shouts and uncontrolled excitement he sits for hours, completely absorbed in an activity that is the very antithesis of everything Jesus stood for and taught. That deacon knows all the batting averages and league records, but he'll sit next Sabbath half asleep in church and will not know a single answer in the Sabbath School class. He will probably give his ingathering goal and will do lip service to the lay activity plans for literature distribution, but his life interest is not God's work. Like Mrs. Lot he is bound to the things of the world, and all his stereotyped, platform-religious functions will not change the sentence of death against him. Until that man becomes more vocal about soul winning than he is about a ball game there can be no hope for his salvation. This is why the great majority in the church today will be shaken out. Little by little, they have allowed the world to nibble away their experience, followed by the loss of Christian standards. Finally, only a dead form remains---a form that will crumble quickly under the stresses of the time of trouble.

After the ball game is over it is not hard to imagine that our new male member might question his Adventist host about the correct procedure for tithing. Being a businessman he has a little misunderstanding about gross income and net pay. Also, what about the offerings beyond the tithe? Can people really afford to give more than ten percent of their income? It has been a tremendous step of faith for this man to make his decision for baptism because of a financial crisis in his business which made it seem insane to start tithing. Now he feels the need of reassurance from a leader in the church who will be able to confirm the promises of the Bible.

It may well be that the deacon will bear a thrilling testimony of God' s miracle grace in behalf of those who are faithful stewards. Being an officer in the church he would be one of the 51 percent who are faithful tithers. Incredibly, there is a 49 percent segment of our world membership who are not tithing at all. Perhaps some have no income, but many are literally stealing from God every week by misappropriating His holy tithe. With this fact before us it is easier to understand how that greater proportion of God's people will be shaken out in the testing time.

Perhaps more Adventists will be lost over the issue of money than any other factor. This may explain why Jesus had so much to say about stewardship. In these days of materialistic plenty it would seem logical for Satan to concentrate on this device. There is an innate selfishness within the carnal heart of man which Satan is successfully exploiting today.

Is it not a reasonable and extremely advantageous arrangement for a tenant to cultivate a farm, keeping 90 percent of the harvest, and yielding up 10 percent to the owner of the property? Everything that passes through our hands belongs to God and He is merely allowing us to use it. How good and gracious He is to ask only a tithe which is assigned back by Him to use in preaching the Gospel.

Do the promises of faithful giving mean what they say? Will God rebuke the devourer? And what about giving beyond the tenth? Jesus said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over." Luke 6:38. In other words, we cannot out-give the Lord. No matter how drastically we stretch our faith and try to give a sacrificial amount, it always comes back to us in some way. The promises of God cannot fail.

Most people suffer from pocketbook protectionitis. Whether they have little or much there is a propensity to grasp it tightly and try to get more and more and more. Jesus indicated that few rich men would make it into heaven. This is not because it is a sin to have money or property. Some wealthy people are dedicated Christians and they will be saved. There are really only two kinds of rich people--those who have made themselves rich and those whom God has made rich. By giving liberally some have claimed the overflowing blessings of the Bible promises. They keep pouring it out and God keeps pouring it back in greater measure.

Some may object and say, "That doesn't make sense. There is only a certain amount of money to deal with, and it can only go so far." The ones who raise such objections are sincerely perplexed because they have not experimented with the promises, and it does seem presumptuous and unreasonable. We can just as well explain how the loaves and fishes fed a multitude as we can comprehend how we get more by giving more. But those who have stepped out in faith to do it know that it happens. They don't try to explain it. It will not work out on paper, but the more they give to the Lord the better off they become financially.

I'll never forget being challenged by a friend years ago to put God to the test. He was giving 25 percent of his income to God and had prospered tremendously. My wife and I decided to take God at His word. We stepped out into an apparent giving plan of great sacrifice, but we have yet to catch up with the sacrifice. Gradually, our giving increased from 25 percent to 30 percent to 35 percent and almost to 40 percent one year, yet we have increased in material blessings as our faith increased. How thankful we have been that someone urged us to test the promises of God. Now we feel so sorry for those who have missed the thrill of seeing God do the impossible by multiplying the loaves.

In a thousand cities, towns, and villages around the world the work of God languishes for lack of funds. This should be the smallest problem facing the remnant church today, because God has given the means to His people for finishing the work. What an account we must settle some day if we hold that money and property until it is worthless. Now it can be used to prepare souls for the Kingdom. ;Jesus urged His people to lay up treasure in heaven by using the money, not storing it away to rust and mildew. Millions of dollars have been willed to godless children by Adventist parents who should have known that it would be used to advance the devil's cause instead of the truth. That money could have hastened the coming of Jesus and the restoration of all things.

Jesus spoke of the "deceitfulness of fiches," in Matthew 13:22. Will that deceit involve Seventh-day Adventists who plan some day to place their property upon the altar for God? Many right now are watching the last opportunity pass by in which their accumulated wealth could be utilised for the cause. In the face of a miserable giving record they live in luxurious ease. How true Christ's words, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:21. When the money has been invested in God's work, the giver's heart is bound up with the work as well. These are the exceptional ones who will not be deceived by riches, but will have treasure in heaven.

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