Is the Church Going Through?

"No matter what, the Seventh‑day Adventist Church is going straight through to the kingdom," a veteran leader declared. "Even if the General Conference president and I are the only ones left in the church, I'm staying with the ship."

Amen? First let us pause and consider: What is God’s "ship" of salvation? Is it having our names recorded on the books of the Adventist Church? Or is it the gospel of Jesus Christ in the context of Bible truth for these last days?

And what is the church that is "going through"? Do we mean God will preserve a remnant in the last days who keep His commandments and trust the faithfulness of Jesus? Or do we imagine that the Seventh‑day Adventist organization is guaranteed a once‑saved, always‑saved status?

Misguided Enthusiasm

Caught up in blind denominational patriotism, some Adventists forget the principle of conditional prophecy. Faithfulness to God's covenant has always been a condition of salvation — for organizations as well as individuals.

Every loyal member wants to believe the best about our beloved church, but can you see how mistaken it is to insist it’s impossible for Adventism to forfeit favor with God? The arrogance of such a statement is exceeded only by its ignorance. Do we imagine ourselves immune from the rejection suffered by the Jewish nation — God's chosen people — when they failed to fulfill their mission?

Consider the following warning from Ellen White, which I’ve never read in any church publication: “In the balances of the sanctuary the Seventh-day Adventist church is to be weighed. She will be judged by the privileges and advantages that she has had. If her spiritual experience does not correspond to the advantages that Christ, at infinite cost, has bestowed on her, if the blessings conferred have not qualified her to do the work entrusted to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence: ‘Found wanting.’ By the light bestowed, the opportunities given, will she be judged.”[1]

Quite a sober warning — yet appropriate: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48*). Evidently the stewardship of grace and truth entrusted to the Adventist Church conveys greater responsibility rather than immunity.

It is painfully obvious we Adventists don't have an exclusive franchise on God's grace and truth. While our songs and sermons insist we want Jesus to return, many Adventist congregations seem no more eager for Christ to come than for ISIS to come and disrupt business as usual. That said, we may rejoice that many Northwest Adventist churches are lighthouses of grace and truth in their communities.

In other congregations, however, church members may not smoke but they are not on fire. They don't drink, yet they refuse to be under Christ’s influence. They don't dance, but neither do they delight in His salvation.    

Five Essential Solutions

For Seventh-day Adventists to fulfill God’s purpose in these last days, I suggest four fundamental goals to pursue and attain:

  1. Uphold Christ crucified as the central focus of our public proclamation and personal beliefs. Any belief or lifestyle standard that denies or diminishes God’s grace is a doctrine of devils.
  2. Keep the Bible alone as our rule of faith and teaching. Some Adventists enthrone Ellen White as lord over the Word. Instead let us do what she says and make the Bible the foundation of our faith and practice.
  3. Don’t confuse unity of the Spirit with enforced hierarchical uniformity. We may respect God’s law as the eternal standard of holiness without imposing upon fellow Adventists — globally or locally — human convictions, traditions and policies. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3:17).
  4. Affirm the historic doctrines of the church, but let’s be open to learn more about the truth as it is in Jesus. God wants us to be ever-growing, never holding back.

Final Generation Missionality

God’s final remnant will prevail during the time of trouble soon to burst upon us. His people will be united in experiencing and expressing heaven’s grace and truth. They will fulfill Christ’s purpose to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2–3).

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,” Jesus predicted, “if you love one another” (John 13:35). “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

*All Scriptures are from the New International Version.

 

[1] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 247.

September 26, 2017 / Perspective
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