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Creeping Compromise

{commedia}Joe Crews|Creeping Compromise, Chapter 1|mediafiles/audio/crews/creeping01.mp3{/audio}

The world today is in an incredible state of flux and change. Traditional views and values have been altered and almost reversed within a relatively short time. Under the numbing influence of television and the highly mobile electronic media, minds have been manipulated, thought patterns set up, and decisions dictated. And most of the millions so influenced are almost oblivious to the powerful artificial agencies which were used to change their minds and their morals.

There is no question whatsoever that Satan is pulling the strings and directing the subtle forces which are designed to destroy us spiritually. Under the hypnotising influence of these forces, Christian minds have been just as successfully brainwashed as those of the most unregenerate sinner.

Our only safety is to recognize the clever camouflages of the enemy. A thousand disguised death traps have been planted all around us. Almost imperceptibly our thinking has been affected by what we see and hear. Spiritual convictions have softened and disappeared altogether. The fine sensitivity to sin has been blunted by incessant exposure to the apparent innocent influences of our baited society.

In the Scriptures these assault weapons of Satan are referred to simply as "the world." And no one can say that we have not been warned against their demoralising effect. Paul, James, and John all wrote with dramatic urgency about the dangers of collaborating with the world:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:15, 16.

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." James 4:4.

"If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." John 15:19.

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing;, and I will receive you." 2 Corinthians 6:17.

"Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titus 2:14.

These writers had an inspired obsession to expose the deadly error of mingling together the sacred and profane. They are saying to us with one voice, "Don't love the world. You are not of the world. Come out of the world and be a peculiar and separated people."

These texts are not to be construed as orders to leave the physical occupation of the world. Obviously, they are warnings against certain influences, customs, and ideas which would be highly detrimental to the Christian way of life. Furthermore, Jesus Himself indicated that things of the world would appear completely innocent in the eyes of men. He laid down an eternal principle when He spoke these words to the Pharisees: "For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Luke 16:15.

Study that statement carefully. Christ is saying that the most honoured, respected things in society will be the greatest enemy of the truth. He is saying that His people would have to stand on the opposite side from the prevailing practises of the world. True Christians will have to reject the lifestyle which will be the accepted, approved norm for all the rest of the world. Do we have any idea what is involved in taking such a position? It is not easy to stand against the sincere, articulate opinions of popular national figures. And then there will be full support from the great church systems to give even more credence to the things which are "highly esteemed among men." This wrong way of life will be so patently taken for granted that any deviation will be looked upon as stupid and irrational. E. G. White explains it thus: "When we reach the standard that the Lord would have us reach, worldlings will regard Seventh-day Adventists as odd, singular, strait-laced extremists.'' Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 289.

This brings us to another most important question: What effect will all of these glamorised, disguised approaches have upon the remnant church? The studied purpose of our great enemy is to make sin appear unobjectionable, and if possible, to infiltrate the camp of the saints. The one great citadel of strength, the last bulwark of defence which stands against the lawless one, is the seed of the woman. According to Revelation 12:17, "The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."

Satan hates the law of God. He hates the Sabbath. And he hates those who stand in the gap, upholding the validity of that law. Down through the centuries the devil has devised special weapons to use against the people of God. Those weapons have varied from generation to generation. Often the sharp edge of persecution was turned against the little remnant who stood loyal to the commandments of God.

Persecution and the death sentence will come into the picture again as a desperate devil unleashes the worst that he has against the true church. He knows this is the life or death encounter which will settle the issues of the great controversy for all eternity. This time he will overlook no advantage. Relying upon the psychological expertise of 6,000 years' experience of trying to bend the human mind, he has initiated a softening-up operational plan against the people he hates. That plan consists of gradually weakening the spiritual defences of Seventh-day Adventists through worldly compromise. This will be the ultimate weapon which Satan has cleverly designed to undermine the faith of every member of the remnant church.

How successful will it be? How many will be shaken out in the approaching crisis because they yielded to the things of the world? We don't have to wonder. The answer has been given over and over in the Spirit of Prophecy. It is a sickening answer, and we would like to believe it is not true. But read it and marvel:

"I would say that we are living in a most solemn time. In the last vision given me, I was shown the startling fact that but a small portion of those who now profess the truth _ will be sanctified by it and be saved. Many will get above the simplicity of the work. They will conform to the world, cherish idols, and become spiritually dead." Testimonies, Vol. 1, pp. 608-609.

How incredible! The great majority of those who now rejoice in the truth will give up their faith and be lost. They will be lost because they "conform to the world." Satan's insidious, innocent-appearing, highly esteemed lifestyle will disarm them, weaken them, and finally destroy them. Another statement is even more specific: "The great proportion of those who now appear genuine will prove to be base metal." Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 136.

The softening-up strategy of the enemy is clearly described by E. G. White in these words: "The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The observance of the false sabbath will be urged upon us. The contest will be between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will then yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. At that time the gold will be separated from the dross. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliance will then go out in darkness. Those who have assumed the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed with Christ's righteousness, will then appear in the shame of their own nakedness." Prophets and Kings, p. 188.

Don't miss the line which describes the reason for this mass apostasy. "Those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, will then yield to the powers that be."

Not only will the majority be shaken out of the church they will actually turn against their former brethren and become bitter enemies of the truth.

"As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead the souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath keepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents for Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them." The Great Controversy, p. 608.

Again we are fascinated by the expression, "By uniting with the world ... they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side." Notice that it is a preparation work---"They are prepared ..." Here again is revealed the fantastic psychological program of Satan to break down moral barriers. Worldly compromise. Worldly conformity.

"The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances. The warnings that worldly conformity has silenced or withheld, must be given under the fiercest opposition from enemies of the faith. And at that time the superficial, conservative class, whose influence has steadily retarded the progress of the work, will renounce the faith, and take their stand with its avowed enemies, toward whom their sympathies have long been tending. These apostates will then manifest the most bitter enmity, doing all in their power to oppress and malign their former brethren and to excite indignation against them. This day is just before us." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 278.

The words "worldly conformity" spring out at us again from this statement. Repeatedly we have been warned about this massive attack of Satan through worldliness. Yet, we hear so very little about this particular subject. Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists have been blinded to this operational plan of the evil one. Some of our people have been led to believe that it is legalistic to make any kind of issue over standards and lifestyles. To them it is "quibbling" and judgemental. This is surely the way Satan would have them feel. They talk and think much about the final test over the true Sabbath, but fail to see how the outcome of the test is being determined right now.

Says Ellen White: "Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mould and preparing for the Mark of the Beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God, and purifying their souls by obeying the truth-these are receiving the heavenly mould and preparing for the Seal of God in their foreheads." Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 216.

The mark of the beast will be enforced. Every soul will have to go to the side of the true Sabbath or the counterfeit, Sunday. Seventh-day Adventists will face the death sentence for their faith. And, tragically, the majority will not be able to stand in the crisis. They will prove disloyal because of earlier compromise and vacillation over Christian standards. By yielding gradually to worldly custom and fashion their strength of will and decision will be so diluted that they cannot endure the test. And this compromise is going on right now! This very moment the great majority of our fellow church members are bending toward the world to such a degree that they will be lost when the mark is enforced.

Here's the question that bothers me: Am I bending with them? How can I be sure that I'm not following the drift which will bring on the great shaking in the church? What cleverly disguised, diabolical method has Satan employed to blind the eyes of so many of God's people that they will finally choose the world over the truth? It must surely be the polished masterpiece of all the deceptive plans he has ever used against the saints. The people who have been noted for their high standards will be tricked into yielding up their separated lifestyle. The average Adventist today would indignantly deny that he is being worldly. The majority of our members would express full assurance that they will not give up their faith, even in the face of death. Yet we have just read that they will!

What does this mean? It means that most of our members are caught up in worldliness and don't even realise it. They are indulging in dangerous compromise and think it is perfectly innocent and acceptable. They have been so blinded that they cannot recognize the worldly things they are doing.

Why can they not see their involvement with the world? Because the lowering of standards was so gradual that none realised what was happening. The devil's scheme is not to make the church suddenly abandon its historic position against the flesh and the world. He is far too clever to think we will make any public announcement that it's all right to go to movies, wear makeup and jewelry, or drink tea and coffee.

But Satan knows how the mind operates under the power of suggestion and association. With infinite patience he introduces pictures, words, ideas, and practises that cannot be condemned per se. In fact, many of Satan's "innocent" devices are not only highly esteemed among men, but have some commendable qualities and features. A perfect example of such a device is television. And how many of us have heard convincing arguments for the fine news, documentaries, and religious programming. No one can say that the TV console in the living room is an evil thing in itself. Taken by itself it is a fine piece of furniture and a source of good information.

Then begins the masterful process of psychological assault in which Satan is unexcelled. Very slowly the discriminations are dulled by glimpses and snatches of borderline comedy, violence, etc. The mind adjusts to the new level of input, and almost imperceptibly begins to tolerate the changing quality of sight and sound.

Two inspired statements will help us see how the work of the enemy develops:

"Satan will insinuate himself by little wedges, which widen as they make a place for themselves. The specious devices of Satan will be brought into the special work of God at this time." Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 21.

"The work of the enemy is not abrupt .... It is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle. It begins in apparently small things." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 718.

How important it is to recognize the direction in which we are being led by any particular influence. The manner in which quail are often trapped provides a parallel to Satan's tactics. Wheat is placed several feet from the spot where a snare is triggered to spring shut on the quail. At first the birds approach the good wheat with some obvious apprehension, but because there is no danger in view their fears are allayed.

The next day the wheat is placed a bit nearer to the snare, and the birds are less wary of the scattered grain. Day after day, the wheat is placed just a little bit closer to the trap, until the quail are completely confident that there is nothing dangerous about the fine wheat. Then, of course, the grain is placed inside the snare, and the birds still come. Innocently they trust the good food to remain good, and a safe feast to remain safe. Then the trap is sprung.

I'm not contending that quails should stop eating wheat or that Christians should cease all good activities. The point is that we should be cautious enough to consider the direction in which we are being led and be willing to give up even the "good" things if they are taking us in a direction of spiritual danger.

Can good things lead in the wrong direction? Indeed they can. Christians are led to give up their high standards by degrees, often by a completely innocent-looking process.

This is the way compromise has always slipped into the church. Satan introduces an activity which is only slightly objectionable. In fact, it might be very hard to define exactly why the action isn't good. And because the deviation is so tiny no one really wants to make an issue over it. Some faithful members of the church feel uncomfortable about the matter but are reluctant to say anything for fear of being called fanatical. They decide to wait until there is a larger issue before they take a strong stand.

Unfortunately, there will never be a larger issue. The devil makes certain that all the steps of compromise are very small. He knows that hardly anyone would have the courage to make any sustained objection to the minute degree of digression.

Once upon a time, the devil's favourite argument was, "Everybody else is doing it." Although the young people still use that one occasionally, a new term is currently being tossed about to justify worldly conformity: "A little bit is all right." The dress is just a little bit too short. The drink contains only a little bit of caffeine. The TV program shows only a little bit of violence. The wedding ring is only a small one, and the cosmetics add just a little bit of colour. We could go on and on.

We can't seem to learn the lesson of Lot as he left Sodom. Most of his family had refused to leave the doomed city. He had lost everything he owned by choosing to live in that wicked environment--his home, wealth, and lovely daughters. But when the angels urged him to flee into the mountains, he begged for permission to move into another city! And his rationalisation was, "Is it not a little one?" Genesis 19:20.

How could he do that? Surely Lot had learned that the cities had almost destroyed him. Since the day he "pitched his tent toward Sodom" the family had inched almost imperceptibly toward involvement with the corrupt society of the inner city. Little by little the transition was made from borderline neutrality to tongue-in-cheek participation.

When Lot pleaded to live in yet another city, he was demonstrating dramatically how gradual compromise can blind the senses and distort the judgement.

How many in the modem church have long ago pitched their tent toward Sodom? How many have taken that first, easily justified step toward compromise? And how many fellow Christians felt uneasy about it but had not the courage to raise a warning? Later, what happened? Those desensitised Christians began to defend the progressive drift of lowering standards by the same argument, "Is it not a little one?" Does this not explain how worldliness has crept even into the remnant church? For example: How did the miniskirt abomination become such a familiar sight in Seventh-day Adventist churches on Sabbath morning? Sister White explains how it happened with the hoop skirts in another generation, and you can see how Satan used the same subtlety to introduce the miniskirt.

"The power of example is great. Sister A ventures to wear small hoops. Sister B says: It is not worse for me to wear hoops than for Sister A, and she wears them a little larger. Sister C imitates the example of Sister A and B, and wears her hoops a little larger than A and B, but all contend that their hoops are small." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 278.

Does that sound familiar? Girls and ladies alike in the remnant church began to inch up in their hemlines. If the knee length was all right, then what was wrong with half an inch above the knee? If it was modest at a half-inch above, then how could another haft-inch make it immodest?

Why was so little said about it in protest? Because every stage of the leavening process was too small to stir an alarm. Not even the ministry realised what was really taking place. Many dared speak out, but they were quickly silenced by charges of having an evil mind. Very few continued to blow the trumpet of warning against the growing violation of modesty.

How can we explain the blanket of silence that often attends these specious intrusions of the world? Apparently much of it is rooted in the fear of offending.

"I saw that individuals would rise up against the plain testimonies. It does not suit their natural feelings. They would choose to have smooth things spoken unto them, and have peace cried in their ears. I view the church in a more dangerous condition than they ever have been. Experimental religion is known by but a few. The shaking must soon take place to purify the church.

"Preachers should have no scruples to preach the truth as it is found in God's Word. Let the truth out. I have been shown that why ministers have not been more successful, they are afraid of hurting feelings, fearful of not being courteous, and they lower the standard of truth and conceal if possible the peculiarity of our faith. I saw that God could not make such successful. The truth must be made pointed, and the necessity of a decision urged. And as false shepherds are crying, Peace, and are preaching smooth things, the servants of God must cry aloud and spare not, and leave the result with God." Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, pp. 284-285.

"By some there is a shunning of the living testimony. Cutting truths must not be shunned. It needs something besides theory to reach hearts now. It needs the stirring testimony to alarm and arouse; that will stir the enemy's subjects, and then honest souls will be led to decide for the truth. There has been and still is with some a disposition to have everything move on very smoothly. They see no necessity of straight testimony.

"Sins exist in the church that God hates, but they are scarcely touched for fear of making enemies. Opposition has risen in the church to plain testimony. Some will not bear it. They wish smooth things spoken unto them. And if the wrongs of individuals are touched, they complain of severity, and sympathise with those in the wrong .... When the church departs from God they despise the plain testimony, and complain of severity and harshness. It is a sad evidence of the lukewarm state of the church." Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, pp. 283-284.

The great need is for courageous ministers who will speak boldly about right and wrong. The pastor who truly loves his flock and his God will not hesitate to call sin by its right name in every discourse. Straightforward preaching which creates concern over wrongdoing is the most genuine demonstration of true love. Such men will weep much over their flock and with their flock, but they will not withhold the message which can heal and restore.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together made this significant statement: "Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin." A paragraph from the book Patriarchs and Prophets has influenced my own ministry more than any other thing I have read outside of the Bible. Its solemn message has burned in my soul from the first time I read it soon after ordination. It applies equally to parents as well as to pastors. So, for me it has double impact.

"Those who have too little courage to reprove wrong, or who through indolence or lack of interest make no earnest effort to purify the family or the church of God, are held accountable for the evil that may result from the neglect of duty. We are just as responsible for evils that we might have checked in others by exercise of parental or pastoral authority, as if the acts had been our own." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 578.

Don't miss the thrust of that statement. If I am afraid to blow the trumpet and warn God's people of approaching spiritual danger, and they are led into sin as a consequence, then I will be held as accountable for those sins as if they were my own. I don't want to answer for the sins of others. That's one reason I am writing this book. Too few are hearing about the covert tactics of our great enemy to break down the strength of the church today.

The only way we are going to stop this worldly encroachment is to draw a line somewhere, and stand on it. The nibbling away of our standards will continue until we muster the courage to resist the first compromise. Mrs. White said, "The distance is widening between Christ and His people, and lessening between them and the world." Spiritual Gifts, Vol. IV, p. 68. Again she wrote: "Our only safety is to stand as God's peculiar people. We must not yield one inch to the customs and fashions of this degenerate age, but stand in moral independence, making no compromise with its corrupt and idolatrous practises." Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 78.

It will be our purpose in the following chapters to study certain large areas of Christian standards which Satan has made the special focus of his plan of creeping compromise.

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