The Uncompromising Truth
Midland SDA Church
November 5, 2016
As the mud puddle reflects the clear blue sky, dear Heavenly Father, may my words reflect Your truth in the light of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Many of you who were brought up in Adventism, never had the privilege of floundering around in the darkness and then seeing the light of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and being drawn to it and finally realizing, through the help of the Holy Spirit, that this is as good as the truth gets in any church on earth.
A preacher spoke here last August and mentioned the need for each preacher to share his testimony. I understood this to mean that our testimony is sort of our credentials—it tells the listener that I know whereof I speak—that as a man named Newton famously wrote, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” It tells people what the Lord has done for me, that what I say isn’t all stuff I learned in a book, and that I’m not up here just clanging a cymbal.
I was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church but fell away from it when I went off to college. There I studied the occult, including Gnosticism. I believed all the Gnostic lies, such as, “You shall not die, for your soul is immortal; there was from the beginning, a good god, the god of light (called the light bearer or Lucifer) and a bad god, Jehovah; there is a fight between body and spirit; and that the spirit is everlasting. I thought that God (the Christian Creator God, Jehovah) was responsible for all the bad things I saw in the world. I believed there were spirits that people “channeled” and used to write books of secret knowledge. I believed there were secret societies such as the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons who were repositories of arcane knowledge—the deep secrets.
I believed there were many paths to God and it didn’t matter which religion led to God or even if it were a religion (maybe it was a drug-induced mystical experience). I can look back on countless times that I could have been killed or imprisoned—it is truly the grace of God that I was not. You don’t need the gory details. Several years ago I used to go on a prison ministry every six months and some guys who also went would regale the inmates with their past in such detail it was almost as if they were bragging about past sins and comparing notes with the inmates to see who was the baddest guy on the cell block. I’m not going to do that—the important thing is that God saved me from that so called life! I don’t want anyone to misunderstand and think that I believe that anything about my sinful life was worth bragging about—except to give God the glory for getting me out of it! And now I want to tell others about the Good News that can save them!
Churches hinder the search for salvation
I will say that for me it was a long process to come to Jesus—actually hindered in many cases by churches and their false doctrines. I would also like to note that no one will be saved until they first know and recognize that they are lost! Somehow through all the craziness I went through with Gnosticism, I never felt I was in danger spiritually. I was spiritually blind and was content with my wanderings, feeling it was just part of growing up.
Jesus instigated the search
Gradually I came to Christianity (I almost said “back to Christianity”, but Roman Catholicism is so alien to true Christianity, that I can’t say that when I was a Catholic I was a true Christian, although I thought I was in the “true church.” Finding the truth was very difficult. If Jesus hadn’t been looking for me, I would never have found it. After several tries, like a compass needle swinging wildly, I was finally drawn to true north.
When you have found the truth, stop looking!
As I said, I was lucky, in that I came new to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I appreciate it for being the remnant church, the true church that I found after much searching. To those of you who were born into the SDA or who came into it without a lot of searching, I’d just like to say--when you come to the realization that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the true church—STOP LOOKING! I mean, when the truths you have found in the Word of God are the doctrines of the church, and only Biblical truths are the foundation of this church, you find all the truth you have ever found, and you find it in one place, why would you keep searching in other churches? Especially, why would you go back to searching in the Sunday churches? If you accept the obvious truth of the seventh-day Sabbath, then why would you take a huge step backwards into error to enter a church that clearly has missed a major truth in hopes of finding more and better truths than you have found already in the SDA? Would you search a text book for better truths about mathematics when the first page of that text book states that 2+2=5? Throw that book in the trash!
Pearl of great value
It’s like the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13:45 of the man who finds the pearl of great value and sells all he has to buy it. That man doesn’t go out the next day and trade that pearl for a trinket some sidewalk vendor is hawking!
That brings up another important idea—if you go searching for the truth, you had better know what you are searching for. It’s almost deer season here in Michigan. A whitetail hunter doesn’t equip himself with the finest hunting clothes and the best rifle and the warmest boots and gloves, a wonderful hunter’s orange hat to top it all off and head out into the woods without having any idea of what a whitetail deer looks like, or its habits so he might know where to find it and so on. No, he studies what he’s hunting for and then goes out to find it. Nor does he go out and say, “I just have a good feeling about this—I feel that tree is a perfect place for the wily whitetail and so I’ll be ready to shoot one as soon as one flies out from there!”
Only the SDA observe all of the truths of the Bible—we observe all of the Commandments—even the seventh day Sabbath and only we see it as the sign between us and our God that identifies us as the remnant mentioned as set apart in the end times. We are one of the very few churches that have an historical view of prophecy and see the Books of Daniel and Revelation as having relevance to the past, present and future. We are one of the few Protestant churches carrying on with the Reformation—many, most notably the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have made special efforts to sign agreements with the “Mother Church” the Roman Catholic church through her representative the pope, who still claims the title (among others) of Holy Father. We are one of the few Protestant churches that are truly Biblically based. Others say that they are, but if that were true, they would all have their Sabbath day of rest on the Saturday, not Sunday.
How much information is enough?
We talked about “being all things to all people” when we did the Sabbath school lesson a while back about Esther. Esther followed Mordecai’s advice not to tell the king about her ethnicity and that sometimes not telling someone everything about ourselves is good advice. As in my introduction, I told you about myself, but I did not tell you everything about myself—I didn’t want to empty the church before I even got started!
What I have found is that if I look at my experiences, I can always find something that I have in common with just about anyone. These common experiences allow a starting point for compromise and, if used prayerfully, shared experiences can be the beginning of good relations. In some cases, it seems that the only thing we have in common may be that we both breathe air, but if that’s the case, be glad and celebrate that commonality and build upon it!
However, there are also times when you must get out from among certain people and not share in their experiences, nor should you compromise with them.
What does the Bible say about compromise? 1 Corinthians 10:20 says not to eat food offered to idols--not because idols have any power, but because you share in something offered to demons and one cannot serve both demons and God—just as one cannot serve both Mammon and God. One cannot have two masters—you will hate one and love the other (Matt 6: 24). In Ephesians 5:11 Paul says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
Paul: All things to all people
Not too long ago we studied Paul in adult Sabbath School and we discussed Paul’s mission and message. The lesson in the quarterly noted that Paul did not dilute or compromise truth when speaking to others in order to reach them with the gospel.
We hear that Paul was all things to all people. In 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23, Paul says that “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak, I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this all for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.” In 2 Corinth., Ch. 11, starting at verse 22, Paul says, “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? So am I.” We know that Paul was a Jew, when it suited his purposes, yet also a Roman citizen when that suited his purposes. Yet he was not deceitful in this practice of being all things to all people.
How Paul Preached at Athens:
A good example of how Paul worked for the Lord can be found in Acts 17: 16-31, where he saw that the people of Athens worshiped many idols. He stood up in a meeting of the highest court of Athens which met on Mars’ Hill and said, “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are religious people. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with an inscription: To an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”
He then told them that their heretofore unknown god was the God who made the world and everything in it and that we are that God’s offspring. He told them about the judgment and the resurrection of the dead. After that he left the Council and continued preaching and some became followers.
Note that he did NOT tell the people of Athens something along the lines that their goddess Athena was really the ever virgin mother of Jesus under a different name and that he and they really pretty much worshipped the same gods. He did not purchase a statue of Athena to bring to the next church meeting and have them venerate it as Mary.
No compromise with heresy
Antinomianism (the belief that faith alone is all that is necessary for salvation and the law is of no account) is what many nominal Protestant churches today are teaching under the idea that “the law has been nailed to the cross.” This antinomianism is part of a heretical belief system of the first century called Gnosticism, which comes from the Greek word for knowledge—“gnosis.” Gnostics believed that there were special secrets and that knowledge alone would save people.
I believe that Jesus was talking about this heresy when he talked about the error of the Nicolaitans and He said these words to the church of Thyatira in Revelation 2:20: “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who by her teaching misleads My servants into committing sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” Adherents of this sect taught that deeds of the flesh do not affect the purity of the soul, and thus have no bearing on salvation. Thus the mention of Jezebel. When He adds, in verse 24, “I say to the rest of you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets…” He is again referring to the Gnostics who claimed to possess a "Secret Knowledge'" that made them superior to the common Christians, who were not privileged to have the same information that they themselves had. They asserted that Christ had allowed them to inherit the Secret Doctrines or esoteric (hidden) teachings of God's Word. And by combining pagan philosophies with the apostolic doctrines of Christianity, Gnosticism became a very strong influence in the ancient Church. But the true Christians labeled it as 'heresy' and fought vigorously against it! Note that while the Gnostics claim that Christ allowed them to inherit the “secret teachings of God’s Word,” Jesus himself says in Revelation 2:24 the so-called “deep secrets” are Satan’s!
In 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2 we were warned that there would come a "falling away" in the Church and that this "mystery of iniquity (sin)" was already at work. The Gnostics tried to interpret Christianity in terms of pagan philosophies, which came from Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian metaphysics. They took the various teachings from these Occult Mystery Schools, and then attempted to fit the teachings into a new 'Christian' setting, claiming that Gnosticism was the true form of Christianity.
The Gnostics claimed that they could know God, yet this so-called "knowing" was not backed up by obedience to God. This war by the true Christians against Gnosticism in the early church can be seen by the words of the Apostle John. Many Christians in his day claimed to "know" God, but John let them know in no uncertain terms that their claim was false, unless it was backed up by obedience to God’s commandments! In1Jn 2:3 John says, "We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” and reiterates in the next verse, "The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him." So, the idea that “all we have to do is believe and just know God” had its origin in the Spiritualistic Gnosticism that had entered into the Early Church, yet their claim to know God was not backed up by the keeping of His commandments.
Here’s what Ellen White says about
the Nicolaitans and antinomianism:
"Christ consented to die in the sinner's stead, that man, by a life of obedience, might escape the penalty of the Law of God. His death did not make the Law of God of none effect; it did not slay the law, lessen its claims, or detract from its sacred dignity... The death of God's beloved Son on the cross shows the immutability of the Law of God. His death magnifies the Law and makes it honorable, and gives evidence to man of its changeless character. From his own divine lips are heard the words, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." The death of Christ justified the claims of the law.
But the doctrine is now largely taught that the Gospel of Christ has made the Law of God of no effect; that by "believing" we are released from the necessity of being doers of the word. But this is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which Christ so unsparingly condemned.
Men may talk of freedom, of Gospel liberty. They may assert that they are not in bondage to the Law. But the influence of a Gospel hope will not lead the sinner to look upon the salvation of Christ as a matter of free grace, while he continues to live in transgression of the Law of God. When the light of truth dawns upon his mind, and he fully understands the requirements of God, and realizes the extent of his transgressions, he will reform his ways, become loyal to God through the strength obtained from his Saviour, and lead a new and purer life. 'Whosoever abideth in him,' says John, 'sinneth not; whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.'"
Jesus is the eternally existing Son of the living God. He is and always has been, always will be one of the persons that make up the Godhead. He is and was and always will be fully divine, even when He was walking the earth as the Son of Man. He was born in a sinless state of a virgin mother. When he was baptized, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit. This isn’t my opinion. This isn’t the opinion some cherry-picked theologians. This is what is stated plainly and consistently in the Bible in many texts written by many inspired writers.
There is a major religion that says it is just like us Christians because it too, worships one God and accepts Jesus who was born of Mary as a prophet. Yet this religion has inscribed around one of its places of worship on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem the statement from its prophet that Jesus was the literal son of Mary (not the Son of God, that God would not stoop to have a Son), that Jesus was only a messenger of God, and that there is no Holy Spirit as part of the Godhead. The same prophet who made that statement received his messages from an angel—not the first person to be misled by an angel of light. As Paul said in Galatians 1, verse 8, “But even if we or angels from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one I preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.”
These false gospels are presented by angels from heaven; such prophets are dressed in sheep’s clothing. They do not appear in their real forms, but in disguise. It takes discernment to see their real forms under their disguises. If it were easy, no one would be deceived. Satan is real—we often forget that—but he isn’t going to appear to you as a monster or a beast. The false prophets will not show up in your church as wolves.
Where can we go today to find Apostasy?
We don’t need to go to the Temple Mount to see apostasy. As Pastor Bentley said in this very church not too long ago, we don’t have to go far to find apostasy—we need only journey a few blocks on Ashman Street and right there on the corner of Ashman and Swede we can see a sculptural display of children paying homage to an idol.
I am a proponent of doing what you can right where you are when it comes to serving God. There are many churches right here in Midland deep in apostasy. We don’t need to journey to deepest, darkest Africa, nor do we need to wait till we are any closer to the time of the end of the age. I know from personal experience two churches, actually two denominations, who have antichrists in their midst—some at the highest levels. Remember what John said in 1 John 4:22? “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”
Remember too when Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father and Jesus replied, “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” [John 14:8&9]
There are denominations whose leadership, and whose teachers in the seminaries do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, or many of the other root doctrines of Christianity. They do not believe that the Bible is the word of God. Now, we all have doubts from time to time, but it is one thing to have doubts, it is another thing to teach others heresy.
It’s bad enough that there are non-Christian religions which claim to be “just like Christians.” But to have Christian denominations who don’t accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, who have substituted the knowledge of men for the wisdom of God, is just too much.
Ecumenism or Apostasy?
Other examples of compromise of truth are Protestant churches returning to their Mother—the Roman Catholic Church. I knew the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has signed a letter recognizing the RCC as their progenitor and in turn, the Pope has formally apologized for the excesses of the counterreformation, but as Dani Arthur who spoke here two Sabbaths ago mentioned, all the Lutheran denominations have agreed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral by formally ending the Reformation. Some Protestant Churches, most notably the ELCA, have sent letters to the Grand Mufti of Egypt offering their hands in friendship, mentioning the metaphor of bridge building, to which the Mufti noted to his people that, of course, the bridges were one way—from Christianity to Islam.
These are they who like Pilate, have the Truth standing facing them and, refusing to acknowledge His reality, ask Him, “What is truth?” These are they that just can’t believe in a literal six-day creation, or who cannot accept that God himself made the seventh day holy and set it aside as a day of rest and that the seventh day and no other is sanctified and that man cannot change it. They can’t believe that the stories in the Bible—the account of Noah and the ark, the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the reason for it, the account of Jonah and the fish—are real, despite that Jesus Himself referred to them. They want to add and subtract from the Bible as they and the “scholars” and “experts” see fit. I have read apocryphal Gnostic gospels and they are nonsensical. Secondly they add an immense amount of arcane mumbo-jumbo that a person must know in order to be admitted to heaven—which is actually becoming like God (who does that remind you of?) The Gnostics are like the Pharisees—adding impossible burdens and impossible to keep laws to the existing laws. They cannot believe a Bible that defies their human logic. Like the Jews of the time of Jesus, they demand a sign and Jesus answers they will only receive the sign of Jonah—but they don’t believe the story of Jonah, so they, like the contemporaries of Jesus may find themselves left desolate! They may call out, “Lord, Lord!” and hear the reply, “Be gone from me—I never knew you.”
In conclusion, there is a time when compromise is okay and a time not to compromise at all. Too many people are too eager to show others they are willing to meet them half way or to show them they are unbiased and are willing to accept their ways or to show them that, “hey, I’m just like you.” We need to ask God for the discernment to know when we should even want to be just like someone of another faith.” There’s a scene in “Gran Torino” where the main character, Walt Kowalski, played by Eastwood, rescues a Hmong girl from 3 bad black kids while her white male companion looks on helplessly. The white companion tries to act bad and has taken on all the black ghetto argot, body language, dress and so on, and after Kowalski drives up, the white kid calls one of the black guys, “bro’.” Kowalski says to the white boy, “These guys don’t want to be your ‘bro’.”
And that is often how it is. Many Christians are out there presenting themselves as friends to everyone, altering their Bibles to remove references to Jesus Christ as the Son of God and tiptoeing around the many non-Biblical traditions of men, including the despicable practice of FGM, the changing of the Ten Commandments to make Sunday the day of rest, praying to so-called saints, and more.
Once we discern that something is evil, wrong, or a lie, compromise must stop. In 2 Corinthians 6, starting at verse 14, Paul says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” A few verses later (verse 17) he paraphrases Isaiah 52:11, by saying, “’Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.’”
Of course the ultimate subject of every sermon is the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and the redemptive power of His blood. What I am saying, what scripture is saying, is that, concerning this good news, there can be no compromise. Concerning exactly who Jesus is, there can be no compromise. How Jesus came to be the anointed One, the best and final sacrifice for sin, the Lamb of God, there can be no compromise. How Jesus will return as the Lion of Judah, the triumphant King of Kings who conquers death, there can be no compromise.