Tag / babylon
We are all Fallible
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
In my ministry I have met people who claim the Adventist church is Babylon. I have also met people who think the Adventist church is infallible. Both ideas are wrong. The Adventist church is not Babylon, but it is not infallible either. Just because the Adventist church is not Babylon does not mean it does not make mistakes. Remember at the cross it was not Babylon crying out “Crucify Him!” It was God’s chosen remnant people. The commander of the Lord’s army realized the fallibility of God’s chosen people when He met Joshua one day.
When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua 5:13-14 NLT
“Neither one?” Seems like the Commander was taking a neutral stance on the situation. We can’t assume just because we are God’s chosen people that He is always on our side. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our foes do the right thing. God loves everyone in the world, not just us. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who is credited with saying, “The question is not if God is on my side but rather if I’m on His.”
Throughout history God had to punish His own people. Today when people tell me how “corrupt” the church has become, I ask them, when was the church ever perfect? When harlots got their business at the temple doors during Eli’s day? When God had to let Babylon destroy His holy nation because of their habitual apostasy and idolatry? When people tell me the Adventist church has strayed too far from what it used to be, and we need to go back to how it was in the days of Ellen White, I ask them, “You mean when God had to destroy the Adventist publishing house with fire because they would not follow inspired counsel?”
In Ezra’s day it was no different.
When these things had been done, the Jewish leaders came to me and said, “Many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the other peoples living in the land. They have taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons. So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages. Worse yet, the leaders and officials have led the way in this outrage.” Ezra 9:1-2 NLT
When the leaders and the majority of those in the church fall away from the truth no one detects it as apostasy because the apostasy becomes mainstream. Therefore apostasy looks normal. The only way to detect apostasy is to stop looking at the leaders and the majority, and look at the Word of God.
Years ago I attended a health seminar, where a doctor told us that many Americans are obese and are close to having a heart attack. They don’t understand how unhealthy they are because they are no more obese than everyone around them, not realizing everyone around them is also on the verge of a heart attack. Just because obesity is mainstream in American culture does not make it healthy or any less deadly. It is the same with sin in the church.
In Ezra’s day there was a reformation as they stopped looking at those around them as role models and began comparing themselves to the Word of God. So today, we can have a reformation like never before as we compare ourselves to God’s Word instead of each other. In Daniel 9 Daniel confesses that his people have corporately sinned, and included himself as part of the sin problem. Nehemiah as well as Ezra brought about a great reformation, but even Nehemiah saw himself as part of the sin problem when he prayed,
Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! Nehemiah 1:6 NLT
While praying for reformation in the church we must confess our individual sins as well as the sins of the church. We can’t divide the church into camps and then say God is on my camp’s side, because God is not choosing sides today anymore than He was in Joshua’s day. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. That goes for all of us. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. That is why Jesus never told us to follow Christian leaders. He told us to follow Him. For true reformation we must recognize our own guilt and apostasy. We must not set ourselves or anyone else up as an example to follow. We must follow Jesus and His Word alone.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
The Type of Kingdom That Lasts Forever
Daniel 2:1-48 is a prophecy that assures us God’s Kingdom is coming, and that it is coming soon. But that is not all it teaches. It also shows us the character of the people who make up God’s kingdom.
When the wise men could not tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream, Nebuchadnezzar orders all the wise men to be killed, and that included Daniel. When they went for Daniel this was the first he had heard about it and asked for time to tell the king his dream. When God showed Daniel the same dream the king had, notice Daniel’s response.
Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT
If I had been Daniel my first reaction would probably be to just get myself down to the king, tell him the dream and save my own neck! Not Daniel. His first reaction was to save the other wise men who were actually phony wise men. And so it is, that the wicked will never know how much they owe to the righteous for all the blessings they receive.
Remember when the disciples were with Jesus on that boat in the storm? They pleaded for Jesus to calm the storm and He did. When Jesus calmed the storm He did not just calm it for the disciples little boat. All the boats on the water in that storm enjoyed the peace and calm that the disciples requested.
It reminds me of a parable Jesus told about someone needing bread.
“Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” Luke 11:5-8 NLT
The lesson here is not about persistence only. Jesus is telling us that God blesses our prayers when we are seeking to be a blessing to others. The person in the story is not just asking for bread for themselves. They are asking for bread to share with their friend. The disciples’ request on the stormy sea secured safety for everyone. Not just themselves. Likewise Daniel’s prayer not only saved his life. It saved all the lives of the wicked wise men too. Now I wonder to myself. I realize these are Babylonian wise men, and it was actually the Persian leaders who had Daniel thrown in the Lion’s den, but is it possible that some of those men could possibly be some of the same men Daniel saved in Daniel 2? If so, then it shows us how God cares for us, even when we make ourselves vulnerable in caring for others.
Either way Daniel was being selfless in his prayer life and attitude towards others. His first concern was the wise men and not just saving his own neck. A careful Bible study of the image in Daniel 2, teaches us several things about the kingdom of God. It teaches us that while other nations rise and fall, that the kingdom of God will never fall. It is the only thing that is sure to last for ever. Spain won the world cup in 2010 but this year has already been eliminated. Fame and fortune is fleeting in this world. Even though the men tried to kill Daniel he was the lone survivor. Likewise while people try to destroy God’s kingdom, it is the only kingdom which endures forever.
Those who are righteous will be long remembered. Psalms 112:6 NLT
Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted. Psalms 112:9-10 NLT
Daniel 2 also teaches us that we are living in the days of the toes. The next event in this prophecy is the coming of God’s kingdom, and we can be sure, that just as accurately as every other kingdom in this prophecy has come and gone, that God’s kingdom is surely coming and will never end.
Just as importantly as the accuracy of the prediction about the nearness of the kingdom is the description of those who make up the kingdom. All who make up the kingdom of God will be like Daniel. People whose first thoughts, even in the face of death, is for the welfare of others and not just their own. People who have a prayer life that seeks to bless others and not just themselves. Those are the people who will last forever.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.
Who is The “Man of Sin?” Could it be you?
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Monday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “In what subtle ways are each of us susceptible to having the same kind of attitude as we see revealed here in this “man of sin”?
As Adventists, we often think of the anti-Christ as the leader of a system reveled in the book of Revelation. While Revelation does identify a specific leader within a specific system, setting himself up as God, and thus an anti-Christ, John the revelator also tells us in 1 John 2:18, “even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” So the Scriptures warn of many anti-Christs. So who are all these anti-Christs?
To answer this question, let’s back up a little bit. In studying the three angels message, we see that a so called religious system, Babylon falls. Again we know from studying Revelation that this is a specific system. However, we also see that this system has an attitude. That attitude is legalism. Man- made laws, man- made day of worship, leading to a man -made way of salvation, outside of trusting in the merits of Jesus and His blood. While Revelation pinpoints this system, that fact is clear, that this attitude can be found in other systems as well, and history has proven it has been. Were not the Sadducees and Pharisees making their own laws and trusting their own works for salvation? Yet they were not Babylon. So could it be that if I am not careful to crucify self and die daily, that this same attitude of Babylon could be found in my heart too?
So, if it is possible for me to have the attitude of Babylon, would it also be possible for me to have the same attitude as the anti-Christ, thus making me one of many anti-Christs? An anti-Christ is someone who sets himself up as Christ, just as the man of sin mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” Here we see that the man of sin, or anti-Christ sits in the place of God. So how could I possibly be an anti-Christ, sitting in the place of God? Isaiah 33:22 tells us; “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver.” Our Lord God is our lawgiver and judge. So, when I set myself up as judge of other peoples motives, or think that I can interpret the law for everybody, I am usurping the seat of God and setting myself up as God, and thus becoming an anti-Christ!
Like Babylon, Anti-Christ is more than a system. It is an attitude. In the book, Great Controversy, Pages 292-3, Ellen White explains, that while the pilgrims came to the new world, to escape the anti-Christ, that they carried the attitude of anti-Christ with them to the New World. “It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation. Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. “Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.”–Ibid., vol. 5, p. 297. The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors.”
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine and correction. I can only define God’s law by what is in the Scriptures , but not by my personal opinions or traditions, like the Pharisees in Christ’s time, and religious leaders in the dark ages did. I am not the interpreter of the law for the whole world, nor, can I think to change times and laws to meet with my own opinions or inclinations. Simply put, I am not the lawgiver, and cannot judge people by my own standards. Also, while open sin must be dealt with, according to 1 Corinthians 6, as a church we may have to address outward actions, but I as an individual cannot judge inward motives. In judging outward actions we must still be careful. Joseph almost put poor Mary away thinking he had all the evidence of an affair. Even with his overwhelming evidence he was wrong! Even with all his evidence he tried to put her away privately without any public embarrassment. What a great example for us to imitate. Even with his overwhelming evidence, Joseph was not going to judge Mary’s heart.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul teaches churches, not individuals to judge open and outward actions very carefully. Paul teaches no one to judge the heart and inward motives. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us God and the Scriptures alone tell us what is right and wrong. I am not the lawgiver or the interpreter of the law for the rest of the world. The Lord our God is our lawgiver and judge. When we judge people according to our own standards, opinions and understanding, we usurp the throne of God and become an anti-Christ.
Garments of Grace; Elijah and Elisha’s Mantle
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
This week’s SS lesson, (download the SS app here) dwells on one of the low points of Elijah’s life when he was discouraged and actually asked to die! (1 Kings 19:4). Kewl thing is, God did not grant Elijah’s request. Instead of giving Elijah what he asked for, God takes him to heaven in a chariot. Elijah, who asked to die, is one of only three men who have ever left this world without ever having to die first! I am glad God deals with us in the same way, often giving us something much better than what we are asking for ourselves. While Elijah’s prayer was indeed foolish, let’s not be too critical. Consider what he was up against.
And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, [Art] thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. 1 Kings 18: 17-18
“In every generation God has sent His servants to rebuke sin, both in the world and in the church. But the people desire smooth things spoken to them, and the pure, unvarnished truth is not acceptable. Many reformers, in entering upon their work, determined to exercise great prudence in attacking the sins of the church and the nation. They hoped, by the example of a pure Christian life, to lead the people back to the doctrines of the Bible. But the Spirit of God came upon them as it came upon Elijah, moving him to rebuke the sins of a wicked king and an apostate people; they could not refrain from preaching the plain utterances of the Bible– doctrines which they had been reluctant to present. They were impelled to zealously declare the truth and the danger which threatened souls. The words which the Lord gave them they uttered, fearless of consequences, and the people were compelled to hear the warning.
Thus the message of the third angel will be proclaimed. As the time comes for it to be given with greatest power, the Lord will work through humble instruments, leading the minds of those who consecrate themselves to His service. The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions. Men of faith and prayer will be constrained to go forth with holy zeal, declaring the words which God gives them. The sins of Babylon will be laid open. The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power–all will be unmasked. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they
hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from heaven. As the people go to their former teachers with the eager inquiry, Are these things so? the ministers present fables, prophesy smooth things, to soothe their fears and quiet the awakened conscience. But since many refuse to be satisfied with the mere authority of men and demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord,” the popular ministry, like the Pharisees of old, filled with anger as their authority is questioned, will denounce the message as of Satan and stir up the sin-loving multitudes to revile and persecute those who proclaim it.
As the controversy extends into new fields and the minds of the people are called to God’s downtrodden law, Satan is astir. The power attending the message will only madden those who oppose it. The clergy will put forth almost superhuman efforts to shut away the light lest it should shine upon their flocks. By every means at their command they will endeavor to suppress the discussion of these vital questions. The church appeals to the strong arm of civil power, and, in this work, papists and Protestants unite. As the movement for Sunday enforcement becomes more bold and decided, the law will be invoked against commandment keepers. They will be threatened with fines and imprisonment, and some will be offered positions of influence, and other rewards and advantages, as inducements to renounce their faith. But their steadfast answer is: “Show us from the word of God our error”–the same plea that was made by Luther under similar circumstances. Those who are arraigned before the courts make a strong vindication of the truth, and some who hear them are led to take their stand to keep all the commandments of God. Thus light will be brought before thousands who otherwise would know nothing of these truths.” —- Great Controversy pages 606- 607