Little by little
Pastor Rod Thompson
Midland SDA Church
January 27, 2018
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American abolitionist and author. She is best known for her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Stowe wrote 30 books, including novels, travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential for both her writings and her public stances on social issues of the day. She once wrote these words
To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.
Ellen White wrote something from the opposite end of the spectrum in Patriarchs and Prophets pg 718. She says, “The work of the enemy is not abrupt … It is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle. It begins in apparently small things.”
This is Satan’s tactic isn’t it? His purpose is to get us to make small subtle changes that often lead to bigger and broader compromises. The way in which quail are often captured can provide us a picture of how he works.
Wheat is placed several feet away 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 relieved. The next day the wheat is placed a little bit closer to the snare, and the birds are less wary of the scattered grain. Day after day the wheat is placed just a little 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.
Today I want to talk to you about the subject of Christian standards. I am reluctant to do this, for two reasons. First, there is the fear of offending the large majority of church members may very well be living far below the biblical standard. Second, the fear of being labeled as judgmental, legalistic, holier-than-thou, or even being accused of not loving others.
But I will say this to you in my defense. The doctrine of Christian standards is for spiritual people only. Much the same as our constitution being made only for a moral and religious people. John Adams once said, “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Brothers and sisters, instruction is needed even for the most committed Christian.
There is no question whatsoever that Satan is pulling the strings and directing subtle forces which are designed to destroy us spiritually. Under the hypnotizing 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 traps have been planted all around us. And almost imperceptibly our thinking has been affected by what we see and hear. Spiritual convictions have softened and often disappear altogether. The fine sensitivity to sin has been blunted by incessant exposure to the apparent innocent influences of our baited society.
Listen to some of the things that are said in scripture regarding the world and compromise with the world
1 John 2:15-16 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves 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.
James 4:4 You adulterers and adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God. Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
2 Cor 6:17 therefore, come out from among them and be separate … and I will receive you
Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
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.”
Read Like 16:15
I think we need to study that statement carefully. Christ is saying that the most honored, respected things in society will be the greatest enemy of the truth. He is saying that His people will have to stand on the opposite side from the prevailing practices of the world. In other words, true Christians will have to reject the lifestyle which will be the accepted, approved norm for the rest of the world.
Fundamentals of Christian Education pg 289
“When we reach the standard that the Lord would have us reach, world lings will regard Seventh-day Adventists as odd, singular, strait laced extremists.”
I ask you brothers and sisters, do those around you view you as an extremist? I have to confess to you that there are times that I have considered my wife an extremist. She is so solid and determined in her purpose to maintain the healthiest lifestyle possible that it often rubs against my unwillingness to let go of the things of the world. I read verses like Daniel 1:8 which says that Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself with delicacies of the king, and I long in my heart to be like that. But I don’t do the things that I have to do to separate myself from the things of the world.
I love you honey, and I love Daniel for their willingness to come out and be separate.
We know what prophecy says about the world and the end of time don’t we? We know that it says that majority of the world is going to compromise. And those who have yielded step by step to worldly demands, and conformed to worldly customs, are going to yield to the powers that be.
But we always think that it’s those out there in the world right? But my fear is that thousands of Seventh-day Adventists have been blinded to the schemes of the devil. Some 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 judgmental. This is certainly how Satan would have us feel. We talk about the final test over the true Sabbath, but we fail to see how the outcome of the test is being determined right now in the little choices that we are making every day.
My purpose today brothers and sisters is not to beat you up or make you feel like you or never going to make it to heaven, but rather it is to point out to you that we should be cautious enough to consider the direction in which we are being led. And I ask you are you willing to give up even the “good “things if they are taking you in a direction of spiritual danger.
That really begs the question, can good things lead in the wrong the direction? Indeed they can. And often Christians are led to give up their high standards by degrees, often by a completely innocent looking process.
This is the way that compromise has always slipped into the church. Satan introduces an activity that 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. So they decide to wait until there is a larger issue before they take a strong stand.
Unfortunately, there may never be a larger issue. The devil makes sure that all the steps of compromise are just “small things.” He knows that hardly anyone would have the courage to make a sustained objection to the minute degree of digression.
Once upon a time, the devil’s favorite argument was, “Everybody else is doing it.” Although this is still used occasionally, a new term is being tossed around to justify worldly conformity. The phrase is “a little bit is alright.”
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 violence
The wedding ring is only a small one or it only has a little diamond in it
The cosmetics add just a little color
We could go on and on couldn’t we?
Turn with me to Genesis 19
I think that there is a very valuable lesson that we can learn from the story of Lot as he left Sodom. Most of his family had refused to leave the city. He was losing everything he owned by choosing to live in that wicked environment – his home, wealth and family. But when the angels urged him to flee into the mountains, he begged for permission to move to another city! And his rationalization was, “is it not a little one.”
Read 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 judgment.
So I ask you, how many in the modern church have long ago pitched their tents toward Sodom. How many have there been, that have taken that first step toward compromise? And how many fellow Christians felt uneasy about it but had no courage to raise a warning? And what happened later? Those desensitized Christians began to defend the progressive drift of lowering standards by the same argument, “Is not only a little one?”
Ellen White gives us a great example of this in testimonies for the church, vol 1, pg 278
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.
Does that sound familiar? Girls and ladies alike in the remnant church began to inch up their hemlines. If the knee length was alright, then what is wrong with a half inch above the knee? If it was modest at a half inch above, than how could another half inch make it immodest?
Our how about the man who wears a small necklace or the woman with a small diamond ring, small earrings, or a small broach on her vest?
I remember years ago talking to one of my daughters who was over 18 and moved out of the house but who had just gotten a tattoo. I asked her the question, what’s next? If tattoo’s are ok on the back then how about one on the forearm or leg? And if that’s ok then how about one on the face. Or how about some hooks in the lip or eyebrow or tongue.
Brothers and sisters please don’t be offended by my words. I could care less if you have a tattoo. I am simply talking about creeping compromise. I’m talking about how one little thing leads to another.
Spiritual gifts Vol II pg 284-285
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 to them, and have peace, peace, cried in their ears. I view the church in a more dangerous condition then they have ever been before. Experimental religion is known by but a few.
Brothers and sisters, the only way that we are going to stop this world from encroaching into the church 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.
Spiritual Gifts Vol IV, pg 68
The distance is widening between Christ and His people, and lessening between them and the world
Testimonies for the church Vol V, pg 78
Our only safety is to stand as God’s peculiar people. We must not yield one inch to the custom and fashions of this degenerate age, but stand in moral independence, making no compromise with its corrupt and idolatrous practices.
I would like to close this morning with words of a poem by an unknown writer
Whatever you think, never think what you feel
You would blush, in presence of God, to reveal;
Whatever you speak, in a whisper or clear,
Say nothing you would not want Jesus to hear.
Whatever you read though the page may allure,
Read nothing of which you are perfectly sure
Consternation at once would be seen in your look
If God should say solemnly, “show me the book”
Whatever you write, though in hast or in heed,
Write nothing you would not like Jesus to read;
Whatever you sing, in the midst of your glees
Sing nothing His listening ear would displease
Whenever you go, never go where you fear
Lest the great God should ask you, “how camest thou here?”
Turn away from each pleasure you’d shrink from pursuing
If God should look down and say, “what are you doing?”
whatever you wear, can you be very sure
that the feelings it quickens are blameless and pure?
would your face be un-blushed and conscience be clear
Should your wardrobe be opened and Jesus appear?
When you think, when you speak,
when you read, when you write,
when you sing, when you walk, when you seek for delight
to be kept from all wrong when at home or abroad,
Live always as under the eyes of the Lord
The focus of this sermon has been on little things, and how Satan nibbles away at the high spiritual standards of God’s people. It is through gradual compromise that the power of the gospel truth has been diluted. Some would suggest that I am majoring in minors and that such concern is over trivial things which distract from the important issues. They label these concerns as legalism. But I ask the question is it legalism or love?
Even if each tiny lowering of the standard did not lead to large departures from the truth, there is another reason for being particular about the smallest deviation from God’s will. Christianity is not based upon prohibitions and rules – not even such highly esteemed rules as the 10 commandments. In fact Christianity rests solely upon a love relationship with a person, Jesus Christ.
The foundational basics of the true Christian life are summed up in the two great commandments. Love God and love others
All the writers of the Bible make it very clear that this is really what Christianity is all about. The theme of love is woven throughout the Old and New Testament, and the effects of that love is obedience.
Even human love finds no strain in doing things to please the one and only object of affection. Brides and grooms do not count it grievous duty to make each other happy, and they do not fulfill their vows because state law requires it on pain of fine or imprisonment. In fact, they do much more for each other than the law requires, just simply because the love each other. Any little thing which is possible to do for the happiness of the other becomes a joy to perform.
And this is why we do not conform to the things of this world. Simply because we love God more than the little things
Does that describe you? Are you unwilling to allow compromise to creep in between you and your savior? Are you willing to draw a line in the sand today and say no further? If that’s you, would you pray with me now?