Sunday, May 31, 2015

What To Do About The Enemy Within?

We all should be looking in the same direction,
that is, if we all plan to go to the same place.
Dan Jackson, President of the North American Division of the SDA Church recently issued an appeal for unity within the church. He did so in response to an alarming increase in the number of disruptive factions within the church. It's not surprising that we see this as the signs of the times point ever more clearly toward the soon-coming of Christ.

There was a line I remember from an old 60s rock song that went, "Satan, Satan is my name, confusion is my game."

We should not be surprised that our fellowship is being attacked from within. Satan knows he's fighting a losing war and the only way to win a war you will lose if you fight out in the open is to fight a guerrilla war using subterfuge, lies and manipulation.

The many denominations of the Christian Church are evidence of Satan's past attempts to fracture the fellowship of Christians.  They are also evidence of God's ability to work all things together for good to them that are called according to his purpose. The various denominations and independent churches also serve as MASH units for wounded children of God looking to find their way to Him. Churches minister to various specific needs, bind up wounds and, if they follow scripture at all, point the way to Christ.

Anyone, whatever denomination he or she may at first find themselves in, may find their way to God for God is strong enough and smart enough to find his true children in whatever church or place they may find themselves. Scripture does not teach that we must learn magic words or perform special rituals to earn the favor of God. There are some things like communion and baptism that we practice as a way to help us to mark the milestones in our journey to God and to remind us of what it means to follow Him. But one thing is certain. Wherever we are when we get started, God will lead us surely to Himself and the closer we get to Him, the closer we draw to one another.

So what have we got to contribute as Adventists that we should do as Elder Jackson says and stand together in unity?  Well, the most important thing we contribute is a clearer understanding of God's character. Let me give you some examples of SDA theology that helps people to know God better. After all, to know God, as Jesus said, is the only way to have eternal life.

  1. The soul is NOT immortal.  God told the truth about that to Adam and Eve. Therefore, God is also not an unrelenting torturer of sinners. As Jesus said, God can destroy both the body and soul in hell.
  2. There is no ever-burning hell.  God does not want his lost children tormented forever, nor for his saved children to ever have to see such a thing again.
  3. You don't mess with the ten commandments including the one about the Sabbath. God is just and his law is not complicated. Ten simple rules is all the universe needs to work quite well.  Nobody should meddle with them in order to better market the church to pagans. God is consistent. He is not capricious. You can trust that He will be the same tomorrow as He is today. Also through the Sabbath command, we learn that God wants us to take a day off every week to spend with Him. How cool is that?
  4. Jesus is coming soon. God can be trusted. If He says, "I will come again and receive you unto myself..." then He means it and will actually come back and get us.
  5. We are saved by God's grace alone.  God knows our frame, He knows that we are dust. He knows that we cannot change our hearts nor our behavior on our own and supplies us the strength to obey his law and to choose what is right. We need only choose to allow him to work that change in us. God loves us that much.
We Adventists have a lot to say about God's character. It's not about who has the right take on doctrine. It's about having the right understanding of God's character because knowing God is the key to achieving eternal life. We should teach these wonderful revelations to all the people out there for whom the hell-fire and damnation preaching and legalism is seriously problematic. The fact that we do just that for the most part, may account for the fact that in North America, the Adventist Church is the fastest growing Christian denomination out there.

Elder Jackson's right.
Instead of spending time playing "Sister Bertha Better'n You" and looking down our noses at our brothers and sisters over some obscure doctrinal interpretation, we need to be telling people the good news - the stuff we already agree on and quit attacking our brothers and sisters over minute and petty points of interpretation in order to make ourselves look more pious than everyone else.

God's not going to be impressed with your sanctimony I promise you. If you stand up before the judgment and try to get by with saying, "But God, I had my doctrine exactly right!" He's going to say to you, "I never knew you."  That would be sad given how easy God has made it for you to gain eternal life.

(c) 2015

Tom King

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