By Elder Lawrence Nelson
Let us begin with a most inspiring verse of scripture. It is found in Revelation 3:21, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” May I ask, “When did Jesus overcome?” – It was when He was here on this earth in our humanity and we can even overcome even as He did. Isn’t that beautiful? What a promise.
By contrast listen to this. Just a few weeks ago in one of our largest church in Southern California the speaker said that we cannot overcome sin until Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven. Such a doctrine originates in the minds of men for it does not agree with the Bible. The promise made in the Bible verse is, “To him that overcometh …even as I also overcame.” I have a great longing in my heart that not one of you will be left out of Christ’s kingdom that will be made up of overcomers.
Let me remind you that the same faith that was delivered to the saints of the apostolic church was reestablished by God with the pioneers of our church. This blessed truth is the present truth for the last generation on earth. The remnant church today must hold fast to these pillars of faith until Jesus returns, because the devil is desperately trying to implant within our church the seeds of error that they may spring up and flourish within our beloved church. These teachings seem to captivate the minds of those who are looking for excitement and for something new and pleasing to the ear.
In almost every church there are members who seldom study the scriptures like the Bareans of the early church who, we are told, “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things be so.” Acts 17:11. Instead those individuals accept without question what is preached or written in some book as long as the speaker or author has a doctrinal degree. But unless we study for ourselves, as did the Bareans, in the near future we may be in danger of becoming separated from God’s church.
Let us pray. Oh loving Father, as predicted in Your Word we are faced with a great crisis. Some leaders of our church are promoting unsound doctrines – doctrines that concern salvational truths that are a life or death issue. Therefore, as promised in Thy Word, we appeal to the Holy Spirit to guide us. May this presentation be so clear that there can be absolutely no doubt as to what truth is. Please help us to accept by faith the pillars of truth so clearly revealed in Thy holy Word. This we ask in the name of Jesus, our Savior, Amen.
Our study will be in keeping with Revelation 3:14 – 22. “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
I must discuss with you why I chose the title for this sermon “Separation and Unity.” You will notice that I did not say, “Unity or Separation,” I said, “Separation and Unity.” Why? – A very strange phenomenon is taking place within our church. Simultaneously there are two distinct movements or parties developing. One movement will lead you to separation and the other toward unity. You will discover that everything that is taking place has been clearly foretold by God’s servant.
Over 100 years ago Ellen White wrote these words found in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, p. 400, 401. She said, “As the trials thicken around us, both separation and unity will be seen in all ranks.” Isn’t that amazing? Here God pictures for us exactly what is happening today. “Some who are now ready to take up weapons of warfare will in times of real peril make it manifest that they have not built upon the solid rock; they will yield to temptation. Those who have had great light… will, under one pretext or another, go out from us. Not having received the love of the truth, they will be taken in the delusions of the enemy; they will give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; and will depart from the faith. But, on the other hand, when the storm of persecution really breaks upon us, the true sheep will hear the true Shepherd’s voice.” Those who are on the Lord’s side will not become fully evident between these two movements or parties until persecution, brought about by the coming Sunday Laws, which will break upon the church with satanic fury.
I will now read to you from Evangelism p. 707 what will transpire in these climactic experiences. We read, “The members of the church militant who have proved faithful will become the church triumphant.” The true sheep will hear and follow their Master’s voice, while those who drink from the wine of Babylon will depart from the faith and separate from the faithful few.
God sent William Miller a dream. It is recorded in Early Writings p. 81 – 83. His dream describes what has been taking place in our church since 1844 and what will take place in the very near future. Let me refresh your minds as to the details of this dream for it graphically illustrates what is actually occurring between these two movements now . In this dream God showed Miller a beautiful casket. It was filled with precious jewels – a most glorious sight to behold. But soon intruders came into the room where the box was open and began to scatter the gems throughout the room. And to make matters even worse, they also brought in spurious jewels with all manner of rubbish, which they trampled together with the priceless gems.
Then William Miller grew desperate. He feared that the genuine gems were forever lost and could never be separated from the counterfeit. But presently a man entered the room having a dirt brush. He began sweeping the rubbish and the counterfeit jewels out through the windows creating a great cloud of dust which the wind carried away. Then this man with the dirt brush placed the genuine gems into a larger and much more beautiful casket which shone with ten times their former glory.
This dream represents both separation and unity. It points out that sometime after 1844 false teachers would infiltrate God’s remnant church bringing ungodly doctrines, represented by the rubbish and the trash, into the church. Ellen White indicates that the man with the dirt brush represents Jesus Christ and what He will accomplish during the judgment of the living. Early Writings p. 48 says, “I saw that some of the people of God are stupid and dormant and but half awake; they do not realize the time we are now living in, and that the man with the ‘dirt brush’ has entered into the judgment and that some are in danger of being swept away.” Even in Ellen White’s day some were not ready and were in danger of being separated from the church. I believe that we will soon experience this solemn event in its fullness.
The name “Laodicean” reveals a time period within the church when the Investigative Judgment, including the judgment of the living, takes place producing a separation in which a great number are going to be found in a deplorable, lukewarm condition. Christ describes these in a Laodicean condition as “wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” These church members are actually Christless while they think that they are spiritually rich. They are self deceived; soon to be separated from God’s church, or as Inspiration states, “spued out of [his] mouth.” But praise God, there is hope for our church if they will heed the message to the Laodiceans.
On August 28, 1894 in the Review and Herald Ellen White wrote, “The counsel of the True Witness does not represent those who are lukewarm as in a hopeless case. There is still a chance to remedy their state. And the Laodicean message is full of encouragement; for the backslidden church may yet buy the gold of faith and love, may yet have the white robe of the righteousness of Christ, that the shame of their nakedness need not appear. Purity of heart, purity of motive, may yet characterize those who are half-hearted and who are striving to serve God and mammon. They may yet wash their robes of character and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.” God always gives us hope, doesn’t He? What a Savior!
The remedy offered to the Laodicean church members which have obeyed will enable a remnant to stand before the judgment bar of God, clothed with the spotless robes of Christ’s righteousness, for they have become partakers of His divine nature. “The names of the obedient, self-sacrificing, and faithful will be engraved upon the palms of His hands; they will not be spewed from His mouth, but be taken in His lips, and He will specially plead in their behalf before the Father. When the selfish and proud are forgotten, they will be remembered; their names will be immortalized.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 3, p. 251. I like that. There is going to be victory and we can each have a part in it.
We now come to the main thrust of this message. I plan to ask some pointed questions and I’m going to speak plainly and as clearly as possible. I pray that the Holy Spirit will open our spiritual vision. But first, I am going to ask, “What do you think would cause so many within our church today to be considered by God as “Christless” and living such a repugnant life that He must spew them out of His mouth; to separate them from the church?” Could it be that they have shut their heart’s door by refusing to sit down with Christ at His table, to partake of the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy? Do these members prefer to dine with those who have concocted a mixture of truth and error in the kitchen of Babylon? Could it be that they have drunk deeply of her wine and have become so intoxicated that they no longer discern their deplorable state?
Undoubtedly you are aware, as I am, of the two very different gospels that are being presented from the pulpits of some of our churches today. Now the question is, “Which one have you chosen?” One is truth the other is error; one will unite you in a relationship of faith and obedience to Christ, the other will bring a separation from Christ and eventually from His church. The final results will be as far apart as heaven and hell.
Now I will be specific by asking, “How do each of these groups define that little word ‘sin’?” The answer to this question is the foundation for each of these gospels, so I will ask again, “What is “sin”? Believers of the true gospel will quickly answer that the Bible defines sin in 1 John 3:4 as, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Ellen White tells us repeatedly that this is the only true definition of sin.
There is another aspect of sin however and that is called “guilt.” We are not left to wonder about its meaning. The Bible explains the difference between sin in general and sins of which one is guilty. James 4:17 explains, “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” This tells us that a man is not held guilty of sinning, or lawbreaking as long as his sins are committed in ignorance. In order to incur guilt one must know God’s will and choose to do it not. Many other Bible texts establish this same truth. Someone may wish to remain ignorant of truth, but if opportunity presents itself we dare not choose to be willingly ignorant for this also brings guilt upon us.
On the other hand the new theology believers would answer the questions “What is sin” and “What is guilt?” very differently. They would insist that the definition of sin is a broken relationship with God and that we are guilty of sin when we are born. We have no choice, they say, for sin is a condition of the body. Further, they might add that we are guilty of sin from the moment of our conception by virtue of our father Adam’s sin. This teaching of New Theology was invented by the Roman Catholic Church. It is called the “original sin” doctrine.
Believers teaching the true gospel would counter by explaining that through our modern prophet, Ellen White, in the book Mind, Character and Personality p. 236, God has instructed us, “The flesh of itself cannot act contrary to the will of God.” In other words, the flesh or body, is not “sin” and cannot of itself sin. Romans 6:13 explains that the members of our body are merely used as instruments of sin or of righteousness.
The true believers would explain further that sinning is a function or process of the mind – not the body. Sin both originates in and is committed in the mind. For example, a dead body cannot sin for its mind is dead. Likewise, a brain-dead body cannot sin for the same reason. The body merely carries out the dictates of the mind. Turning back to p. 72 of the book Mind, Character and Personality we read, “The mind controls the whole man.” It would be wise for us to remember this short passage and keep it fresh in our minds.
Surely you can understand the wide difference in the foundations laid by these two groups by their diverse definitions of sin and guilt. This discussion of sin brings us face to face with the question of the nature of Christ for a different kind of Christ is needed in these two gospels.
I can just see church members throwing up their hands and saying, “This is too deep for me. I’m going to leave this topic to the theologians. Whatever the preachers say that’s good enough for me. Besides, I don’t think it makes much difference either way.” But friend, we shall observe that it makes a great deal of difference.
Since the nature of Christ while on earth was both human and divine, any Christian worthy of the name will never dispute His divinity; that is settled, not questioned. The problem arises over the nature of His humanity. Now follow me closely. The true gospel clearly explains the human nature of Christ. Listen to this quotation, “Clad in the vestments of humanity, the Son of God came down to the level of those He wished to save.” What kind of a Redeemer do we have? – One who in His humanity came all the way down to our level. What a Savior!
Now the question, “Was Christ exempt from taking our sinful heredity?” God’s true people would answer, “No.” Then by using Inspiration to prove their very point they would explain that Christ took our sinful heredity upon His body just as any other child of Adam would receive it. In the book Desire of Ages p. 49 we read, “It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature even when Adam stood in his innocency in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity. What these results were is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life.”
We also read in Bible Commentary, Volume 4, p. 1147, “He took suffering human nature degraded and defiled by sin.” Christ was not only made in the “likeness of man” Philippians 2:7; He was made in the likeness of sinful men. Romans 8:3. Mary was a sinner, for all have sinned. She transmitted to Christ a sinful, human heredity. This did not make Him a sinner. The same principles apply to all other men. In spite of the fact that Christ took human nature, “degraded and defiled by sin.” His mind was ever pure and undefiled. Christ was sinless.
At this point the New Theology teachers interrupt by saying, “Jesus had the nature of Adam before his fall into sin, for if He had taken our sinful nature that would have had of necessity given Him a sinning nature and He could not take our sinful nature without taking our sinfulness.” These false teachers conclude by saying, “Since Jesus did not sin, therefore He took our physical stature, He took the nature of unfallen Adam.”
In response to this error God’s people quickly turn to Hebrews 2:14, 18 and read these verses, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (help) them that are tempted.”
Here is another question: “Can fallen men follow the example of Christ?” Turning again to the inspired writings of the true people of God, by using the following quotation, they would answer, “Yes.” I quote, “Jesus came to this earth to show that man, when filled with the Holy Spirit, could obey the law of God.” Manuscript 1, 1892. Again I quote, “In Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily. This is why, although He was tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the world, from His first entrance into it, untainted by corruption, though surrounded by it. Are we not also to become partakers of that fullness, and is it not thus, and thus only, that we can overcome as He overcame?” Bible Commentary, Volume 7, p. 907. How clearly this reveals the secret of Christ’s success. From His first entrance into the world He was filled with the Holy Spirit, thus He was connected with God the Father. This is why He could live sinlessly. This is why He was untainted by corruption.
Jesus explained all this to Nicodemus when He said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. The same power by which Christ overcame, that same power of His success is offered to men. Just as Christ was born of the Spirit at His first entrance into the world, we have the advantage of being forgiven and then the privilege of receiving that same measure of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit dwelt in the mind of Christ, it will dwell in our minds connecting us with Christ. That is the secret of our success. “It is thus and thus only that men can follow Christ’s example.”
Until we are born again of the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit controls our minds, we cannot follow Christ’s example, but when we are born again we can. The New Theology followers loudly dispute this. They declare that it is not possible for men to stop sinning until Jesus comes and changes our vile bodies. How sad. The mind, not the body, must be changed and it must be changed now. Now is the time to prepare. When Jesus comes, it will be too late. The body, with its hereditary genes, cannot be changed in this life, but the mind, which controls the whole body, can be. How marvelous is the plan of salvation.
Once again we will ask, “How did Christ overcome?” – By uniting His humanity with the divine power of His Father, through the Holy Spirit. He was able to overcome every temptation that is common to man. God promises that we too can overcome even as He did. Jesus said, “Go, and sin no more.” How dare any man preach from the pulpit that man cannot stop sinning! Such a message is just what pleases the enemy.
The true gospel teaches that faith and works are both essential for salvation. While through faith we are saved, Inspiration clearly reveals that “faith without works is dead.” The false gospel teaches that all we need to do is believe, that works of obedience are “legalism.” Yet, in Matthew 7:21 are these words spoken by our Savior, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
That is why we read in James 2:24, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Once again I quote, “The gospel that is to be preached to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people presents the truth in clear lines, showing that obedience is the condition of gaining eternal life.” Bible Commentaries, Volume 7, p. 972.
As we proceed you will note that these two gospels continue to differ widely. The New Theology preachers are no longer preaching the Three Angels’ Messages in their fullness. One seldom hears from the pulpit anything about the beast, his mark or his image. Instead of preaching last-day events ministers dwell freely upon psychology and a so-called relationship of love and unity. The true gospel teaches a sanctuary doctrine including the investigative judgment as a part of the Three Angels’ Messages. The false gospel ignores the sanctuary doctrine of an investigative judgment.
The true gospel teaches that the Spirit of Prophecy is divinely inspired. The false gospel largely disregards the Spirit of Prophecy. As a typical example, some time ago I received a telephone call from a local church elder wondering what he should do. His pastor had gone to camp meeting and told him that in his absence he would be in charge and that he would need to preach the sermon on the next Sabbath. As he left, however, he told the elder not to mention Ellen White from the pulpit. If he wished to mention a quotation just tell the people, “I’m reading from a favorite author.” The New Gospel depreciates the Spirit of Prophecy.
New books are coming from our presses in which little space is given to passages from the Spirit of Prophecy. In their place they freely quote the sayings of men, including quotes from men of the world. Though they may give lip service to some of our important doctrines they do not teach them.
If you are among those who have departed from God’s truth by accepting Satan’s New Theology you may feel uneasy as if something is lacking in your worship service. Fear not, the devil has prepared something to fill this need. In the book Vatican Council II , 1988 (revised edition), published by St. Paul’s Editions, the papacy introduced a Celebration movement to fill the lack of God’s power in the worship service. The excitement of the “beat-y” drums with its rock music, with the arts of the drama, of the theater, will fill the void of sacred worship and eventually prepare you for Satan’s spiritualistic phenomenon of speaking in tongues.
Now we come to the final results. In the judgement of the living God He will separate the genuine from the counterfeit. After this separation there will remain a purified church – most beautiful to behold. “The members of the church militant, who have proved faithful, will become the church triumphant.” Evangelism p. 707. As God looks upon them He pronounces, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.
In perfect unity they will give the Loud Cry with the power that is described in Song of Solomon 6:10, “Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” After having been tested and sealed with the seal of the Living God they will be ready to meet Jesus when He comes. This is the end result of those who believe the true gospel – they are heaven bound.
Now we must conclude, by revealing step by step, the end of all who accept the New Theology taken from the Catholic teachings called “the original sin” doctrine. Belief in such a doctrine gives you no choice, for you are a sinner by birth – born with sin, guilty from the moment of conception, doomed to continue sinning till Jesus comes, all because Adam sinned. In accepting this belief the Savior you acknowledge had to be born of a sinless Mary, for this is the only way in which such a Christ would have been born of holy flesh so He could take the place of Adam before he sinned. Mary had to be sinless, contrary to the Bible teaching that “all have sinned.”
Having accepted such a false teaching you have now been prepared to accept the Immaculate Conception – a doctrine of the papacy that teaches that this was the only way that Jesus could have been born without taking our human nature. This will prepare you for the next step of these false teachings – that sinless Mary is now in heaven with Jesus as our co-Redeemer. If this is so, why not pray to her for your salvation? Can you not see that this teaching leads you into the arms of Rome?
With steps in false belief you will also discover the necessity to baptize your child soon after it is born for our precious child has been born with the curse of sin – doomed to hell unless it is baptized according to Catholic doctrine. These false beliefs and practices have prepared you to accept a Christ that had an enormous advantage over you. Since He never experienced our human nature with its desires to sin He is unable to help you overcome sin. Therefore, you have no choice but to remain a sinner until Jesus comes and too late to be saved.
These false teachings destroy the true gospel which teaches the spiritual kingdom of God is within you. You are now ready to accept the false doctrines of Babylon that God’s spiritual kingdom of peace and prosperity is to be obtained in this millennium with the New World Order totally controlled by the antichrist.
But what is the final end of those who choose to believe and follow these false doctrines? – Remember the man with the dirt brush? What is He about to do? He’s going to brush out of the church all the counterfeit, spurious jewels together with all their debris and their false doctrines. At that time false members are going to leave God’s church like a cloud. They will be carried away by the winds of eternal destruction. This separation will leave only the true, precious jewels in the church, fully united with their treasured gems of truth.
This battle between the two gospels is waging within our church now. I trust that I have coordinated this together for you clearly enough that you can readily see the difference between the two.
In closing let us heed the following words taken from inspired writings. “This life and death question is before the whole race. The choice we make in this life will be our choice through all eternity. We shall receive either eternal life or eternal death. There is no middle ground, no second probation. We are called upon to overcome in this life as Christ overcame. Heaven has provided us with abundant opportunities and privileges, so that we may overcome as Christ overcame, and sit down with Him on His throne.” Bible Commentaries, Volume 6, p. 1112.
Let us pray. Loving Father, we pray that in our personal relationship with Thee, the devil will not be able to deceive us with his New Theology. Please help us, by the Holy Spirit, to always understand and believe what is truth, and obey it, that we may be enabled to overcome sin and be ready through Thy divine power to sit with Jesus on His throne. In the precious name of Jesus, Thy dear Son we ask, Amen.