By Elder Lawrence Nelson
During the past twenty-five years, since I retired from active world leadership of our precious youth, I have remained silent as I have been watching my church directing the young people; but not any more. How can I when I see a united church leadership vainly using worldly ideas in an attempt to save the youth. Alas, the methods now being promoted are leading our youth down a path to perdition.
Our Lord had a similar problem with church leadership in His day as He beheld the ministry misleading the flock. Today I take my stand on the side of Christ and repeat His stern words with tears in my eyes when I plead, “Take these things hence!”
In our taped sermon last month we studied William Miller’s prophetic dream found in Early Writings p. 81 – 83. In his dream, God describes His church on earth in its infancy as being pure and beautiful. Its members He likened to bright, shining jewels. But sadly his dream reveals that the church would not continue to remain pure. All too soon unconverted members, represented as counterfeit jewels, joined the church. These spurious members were destined to bring in errors and false practices into God’s church. These were represented by sand, shavings, dirt and rubbish.
But this was not the end of Miller’s dream. God’s church was not to always remain in this sad condition. There would be a final purification of the church, which would restore it to a state of pristine purity. In his dream, this was represented by a man with a dirt brush who entered the room in answer to Miller’s prayer. As the man brushed, all the false members (in other words the sinners in Zion with their false doctrines and irreligious practices) rose up and went out the window and the winds carried them away leaving once again a church full of pure jewels.
In Selected Messages, Book 2, Ellen White calls this time of separation a “terrible ordeal.” It would be helpful for us to read this prophetic passage. But before we proceed, we need the special guidance of the Holy Spirit for the study of this most important subject. Let us pray. Our Father, which art in heaven, everywhere around this old world Thy faithful few are crying and sighing for the abominations creeping into Thy beloved church. Not only are we losing Thy precious youth, but the members within Thy church are so asleep they are unaware of what is taking place. Dear God, please have mercy upon us. Help Thy remaining wheat to not in anyway follow the developing tares and be led away from Thee, for these tares are soon to leave the church. Open our eyes that we may discern the wicked inroads of Satan within Thy church today. Help us to ever stay close to Thee. In Jesus name we ask, Amen.
I will now quote from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 380, “Everything in God’s world, both men and doctrines and nature itself, is fulfilling God’s sure word of prophecy and accomplishing His grand and closing work in this world’s history. We are to be ready and waiting for the orders of God. Nations will be stirred to their very center. Support will be withdrawn from those who proclaim God’s only standard of righteousness, the only sure test of character. And all who will not bow to the decree of national councils and obey the national laws to exalt the sabbath instituted by the man of sin, to the disregard of God’s holy day, will feel, not the oppressive power of popery alone, but of the Protestant world, the image of the beast. Satan will work his miracles to deceive; he will set up his power as supreme. The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out – the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place. None but those who have been overcoming by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony will be found with the loyal and the true, without spot or stain of sin, without guile in their mouths. We must be divested of our self-righteousness and arrayed in the righteousness of Christ.”
As revealed in the inspired passages we studied in our tape last month, the separation of the wheat and the tares in the church transpires during the time when the power of popery and the image of the beast are oppressively enforcing the Sunday Laws. It is then that the chaff, the counterfeit Christians, will be blown away in such numbers. “The church will appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains.” Sinners in Zion will arise and go out the window; they will be sifted out. Only pure, true Christians, arrayed in the righteousness of Christ will remain.
Through the prophet, to the remnant church, the Lord has sent many detailed accounts of this terrible ordeal of separation. One of the most graphic of these is found in Testimonies Series A, p. 116. The passage especially singles out the experience of church leaders, but of course it includes the followers also. Here, through Ellen White, the Lord compares the final cleansing of the church to occur in the last days with the cleansing of the temple when Christ was here on earth. Please keep in mind as we read that it was the sacrilegious traffic, which was being conducted in the temple courts in the time of Christ, that made it necessary for Christ to cleanse His temple. The Lord declares, “Today this sacrilegious work is being more than repeated.”
Please listen closely as I read. This is very important. “We are not to drift into worldly channels. Consider the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and at the close of His life, his personal labors in the guise of humanity. Whom did he find intent on gain? The Jews had made the courts of the temple a scene of sacrilegious traffic. They had turned the ancient and sacred institution of the Passover into a means of vile profit. They bartered deep, turned the once sacred service instituted by Christ himself into a worship of mammon. But Christ came suddenly into the temple courts; divinity flashing through humanity, and, raising a whip of small cords in his hands, with a voice that they will hear again in the execution of the judgment, He said, ‘Take these things hence!’ ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.’
“Then these priests and rulers saw as it where an avenging angel with a flaming sword, such as guarded the way of the tree of life. Today this sacrilegious work is being more than repeated. There will be messages born; and those who have rejected the messages God has sent, will hear most startling declarations. The Holy Spirit will invest the announcement with a sanctity and solemnity which will appear terrible in the ears of those who have heard the pleadings of infinite love, and have not responded to the offers of pardon and forgiveness. Injured and insulted Deity will speak, proclaiming the sins that have been hidden. As the priests and rulers, full of indignation and terror, sought refuge in flight at the last scene of the cleansing of the temple, so will it be in the work for these last days. The woes that will be pronounced upon those who have had light from heaven and yet did not heed it, they will feel, but will have no power to act. This is represented in the parable of the foolish virgins. They cannot obtain a character from the wise virgins and they have no oil of grace to discern the pure light or to accept it. They cannot light their lamps and join the procession that goes in to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Now, I hear many exclaim, “Brother Nelson, what are you talking about? Surely we do not have sacrilegious traffic in our church today; or do we?” The Lord answers, “Oh yes, we do.” It is interesting to compare three prophetic passages: Miller’s dream in Early Writings, Selected Messages, and Testimonies Series A. From these writings we discern where we are in the stream of time, for the enforcement of the mark of the beast is to be in the very near future and so is the purification of the church soon to take place. However, the scroll of time has already unrolled far enough that we can recognize that we are living in the days when sinners in Zion are tracking into our church sand, shavings, dirt and rubbish.
The time has come when our beloved church not only has within its borders sinners, but their sacrilegious traffic as well. How tragic. In speaking of our sacrilegious traffic you will agree that it is not the buying and selling of lambs, sheep and doves etc. in the foyers of our churches, but it is what we are engaged in. It is what we are practicing that caused the servant of the Lord to proclaim that we have “more than repeated their sacrilegious work.”
Let’s explore the meaning of this statement. Ellen White’s first words in passage from Series A are, “We are not to drift into worldly channels.” I ask you, have we obeyed this counsel? Let us investigate. We need not look far, for everyone seems to be aware of the worldly changes we have made in our style of church worship in order to make our services more attractive to the youth. Let us halt and ponder. Those youth we wish to please, have they not already drifted into worldly channels? According to their lives what is the fruit they bear? Jesus says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” These words of Jesus are found in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:15, 16.
Here is another question: Do the spiritual members of our church object to the changes we have made? – I’ll say they do! Now if we were to make changes in our services so they would be more appealing to our spiritual youth I promise you these changes would appeal to all – young and old alike. There would be no such things as a generation gap. Did I say changes? Yes. Ungodly changes have for years been introduced and practiced in our style of worship, our camp meetings, our churches, our youth meetings, our schools. We need to clearly understand these changes.
I will now use an explicit example to illustrate my point. I’m talking about Genesis 2000, which was last years New Year’s celebration. It is one very, very good example. Believe me, this example could be multiplied, but this one should be sufficient to answer our question concerning this type of modern, sacrilegious traffic; it is typical. Genesis 2000 was organized not only to make our church services and our other activities more appealing to the youth, but also to give the youth actual leadership in our evangelistic work and our churches.
In keeping with this goal Genesis 2000 was planned and executed by the youth. It was considered to be an evangelistic marvel. By satellite it was presented to the whole world – to the Seventh-day Adventist world and to any others who wished to view it. It transpired on Friday evening and was on during the sacred hours of the holy Sabbath. The celebration lasted for four hours and more. The youth displayed their leadership from key locations – from Dallas, from Los Angeles, Denver, and New York City.
The celebrations started in the early Sabbath evening and lasted until midnight, ushering in the New Year in Los Angeles. The programs from the different areas consisted of loud, Celebration rock-style music with drums, guitars, rhythm makers etc. The singers jumped about and shouted or yelled the words of the song and strange facial expressions were exhibited. There was also an abundance of theatrical performances using lewd gestures, which included sacrilegious drama and joking on the holy Sabbath evening. You should have heard them shout at the stroke of midnight when the balloons were released. Now and then they paused to pay lip service to the Sabbath by merely mentioning that it was the Sabbath hours and adding, “Happy Sabbath, everybody.”
Now let us turn immediately to the inspired writings. Does God consider all such activities to be proper during the holy Sabbath hours or does He consider them to be sacrilegious? First we will research considering the type of Celebration music they used. Ellen White predicted that just before the close of probation, worship with a bedlam of noise called music would be introduced into our church. I quote from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 36 – 38, “The things you have described as taking place in Indiana, the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit.”
Beloved, don’t overlook the fact that we are actually now living just before the close of probation. The startling prophecy is now being fulfilled before our eyes and in our ears. I continue quoting, “The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time. Better never have the worship of God blended with music than to use musical instruments to do the work which last January was represented to me would be brought into our camp meetings. The truth for this time needs nothing of this kind in its worship of converting souls. A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing. The powers of satanic agencies blend with the din and the noise, to have a carnival, and this is termed the Holy Spirit’s working. …The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with such confusion of noise and multitude of sounds as passed before me last January. Satan works amid the din and confusion of such music, which, properly conducted, will be a praise and glory to God. He makes its effect like the poison sting of the serpent.”
Satan does what? – He makes its effect like the poison sting of the serpent. Unless an antidote is administered the poison sting of a serpent kills its victim physically; the poison sting of “a bedlam of noise” of so-called music which is nothing more than Celebration-style music, spiritually poisons a person whether young or old. Unless the antidote called “repentance” is administered it will bring spiritual death. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but that’s the way it is.
Through Ellen White the Lord warns us that together with this “bedlam of noise” erroneous theories and methods would be brought into our churches – “As goes the camp meeting, so goes the churches.” Again I quote, “I will not go into all the painful history; it is too much. But last January the Lord showed me that erroneous theories and methods would be brought into our camp meetings, and that the history of the past would be repeated. I felt greatly distressed. I was instructed to say that at these demonstrations demons in the form of men are present, working with all the ingenuity that Satan can employ to make the truth disgusting to sensible people.” Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 37. Oh friend, the Lord pleads with us to heed His warnings and repent.
Once again I quote from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 38, “Satan will make music a snare by the way in which it is conducted. God calls upon His people, who have the light before them in Word and in the Testimonies, to read and consider, and to take heed. Clear and definite instruction has been given in order that all may understand.” God wants all of us to understand that such music is a snare of the devil and that it is associated with erroneous theories and methods. None need be deceived; all are without excuse. The Lord pleads with us to heed His warnings and repent. Well, that’s enough said for now about the satanic musical phenomena.
We must take time here to also research what the inspired writings teach us about theatrical display for theatrical activities have become a part of our sacrilegious traffic as well. What does the servant of God say about amusements, cheap talk, jesting and joking, grotesque workings of the body and features of the face? I hope you are paying attention for God’s counsel is very clear. He informs us that not one jot or tittle of anything theatrical or savoring of strange performances is to be brought into our work. “It is not a theatrical performance that glorifies God, but the presentation of the truth in the love of Christ.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, p. 142.
Quoting from Evangelism p. 137, 138, “I am instructed that we should meet with all kinds of experiences and that men will try to bring strange performances into the work of God. We have met such things in many places. In my very first labors the message was given that all theatrical performances in connection with the preaching of present truth were to be discouraged and forbidden. Men who thought they had a wonderful work to do sought to adopt a strange deportment and manifested oddities in bodily exercise. The light given me was, ‘Give this no sanction.’ These performances, which savored of the theatrical, were to have no place in the proclamation of the solemn messages entrusted to us. The enemy will watch closely and will take every advantage of circumstances to degrade the truth by the introduction of undignified demonstrations. None of these demonstrations are to be encouraged. The precious truths given us are to be spoken in all solemnity and with sacred awe.”
Worldly-minded young people may not be attracted to precious truths spoken with solemn dignity and sacred awe, but we know that theatrical performances, cheap presentations and a bedlam of noisy, so-called Christian rock music will not save them either. It will only prepare them for the loss of their souls and for everlasting destruction. I am sure that the following Bible verse would be comparable with this inspired passage: “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8.
The following three passages are all found in the book Evangelism p. 147, 210, 211: “Some who stand in the pulpit make the heavenly messengers in the audience ashamed of them. The precious gospel, which it has cost so much to bring to the world, is abused. There is common, cheap talk; grotesque attitudes and workings of the features. …God is offended when His representatives descend to the use of cheap, trifling words. The cause of truth is dishonored. …Amusement is not to be interwoven with instructions from Scriptures. When this is done, the hearers, amused by some cheap nonsense, lose the burden of conviction. The opportunity passes away, and no one is drawn by the cords of love to the Saviour.” Such sacrilegious traffic as described in these passages will one day have to be cast out. Such can not be taken to heaven.
May I say a word here to those who sing gospel songs and hymns in our churches and for our evangelistic meetings? Surely these singers are not the ones who invented all the gestures, some of which are grotesque. The emotional face contortions and the yelling, rather than singing about and to their Lord, is in common use today, even in some of our more conservative church. This is the popular way that so-called Christian and gospel songs are sung in the churches of Babylon. The singers may not even be aware of it, but are they not actually imitating none other than the rock stars. Rock singers are undoubtedly the inventors of such emotional singing, accompanied by erratic, theatrical gestures. By such behavior the attention of those listening to and observing these singers are drawn, not to the Savior, not to heavenly things, but to the person or persons who are singing and who by their actions are actually exalting themselves. Furthermore, the words they sing are unable to capture the attention so as to have the desired effect. Please think about this. Not all of our singers however have adopted this method for which we praise God.
Last year’s Genesis 2000 New Year’s celebration, though planned and executed by worldly youth was sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist youth leaders, and I’m sorry to say, approved by the highest officials of the General Conference. Why should our leaders promote such sacrilegious, worldly policies when it is so clearly denounced in the inspired writings? It makes one sigh and cry to realize that it was planned to show the world that Seventh-day Adventist young people are just like the other youth of the world.
But doesn’t the Lord tell us to be separate from the world? “The condition of our being received of God is, to separate ourselves from the world. The followers of Jesus and the world cannot unite.” Review and Herald, November 26, 1861. Despite this counsel, this worldly, sacrilegious traffic is carried on from week to week in some of our churches, and from year to year in our youth divisions in our camp meetings, and from day to day in some of our schools. How sad to say that some of our church leaders and some of our teachers are promoting this type of behavior.
Just listen to this. In The Waymarks of 2000 is a copy of suggested evangelism promoted by the General Conference youth department at Toronto to train our youth in worldly evangelism. It was called “Street Ministries.” I’m going to read some of this to you. “Christian Café: Need a place to hang out with other young people who want to share Christ in a café?” “Christian Magician: God created rabbits, but can you pull one out of your hat? Use your slight-of-hand skills to share the gospel in this unique ministry.” “Clowns and Balloon Ministry: Learn all about the clown techniques for sharing the gospel with a smile, a red nose and big shoes.” “Compassion Ministry: Feeding the homeless, visiting the children’s hospital, and parking meter mayhem is all part of the Compassion Ministry.” “Creative Movement Ministry: Those who are coordinated and inclined to tap their toes to music will enjoy this ministry.” “Drama Ministry: Drama is powerful on the streets. Those who have dramatic skills and enjoy performing need to check out this ministry.” “Mime Ministry: Preaching the gospel with painted faces, white gloves, lots of gestures is an excellent way to minister.” “Puppet Ministry: Singing songs and telling people about Jesus using puppets is what this ministry is all about.” “Recreation Ministry: Love sports, American football, European football, “Aussie Rules” football, how about baseball? Sport may be your ministry!” What a list of evangelistic programs that will lead our young people away from God and out of the church!
We are told, “Satan will work with all his deceiving power. …Thus it has been in the past, and thus it will continue to be. …Deception will come to human mind, paralyzing spiritual discernment, and the deceiver will succeed in mingling the common fire with the sacred, until sacred things are brought down to a level with common, earthly imaginations, and conducted after the manner of worldly maxims, meeting the world’s standard.” Review and Herald, May 30, 1899.
Now let us return to the flight of the priests as pictured in paragraph two of Series A, p. 116. To refresh our memories we will reread a portion. “Today this sacrilegious work is being more than repeated. …Injured and insulted Deity will speak, proclaiming the sins that had been hidden. As the priests and rulers, full of indignation and terror, sought refuge in flight at the last scene of the cleansing of the temple, so it will be in the work for these last days.” Envision this picture. The Spirit of Prophecy has warned the leaders and their followers regarding such sacrilegious practices and erroneous doctrines. But I’m sorry to say that they seem to pay no heed so when the time comes for the church to be cleansed these evil leaders will be compelled to flee from the scene. But alas, then it will be too late. Too late for them to repent and too late for the youth who have followed such leaders.
However it is exciting to realize that the time will come soon when God will take the reign of the church machinery in His own hands. I quote Testimonies to Ministers p. 300, “Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. … God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reigns in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness.”
I hope and pray that our church leaders will not wait until it is too late to repent for Christ will surely come suddenly into His churches one of these days and with a commanding voice like thunder He will say, “Take these things hence!” If the young people were in the midst of one of their Celebration services would they not gather up their drums, their guitars, their stage props, their clown suits, their puppets etc. and follow their leaders as they flee from the presence of the Lord? The truth is they would have no power to act otherwise. What a sad, sad day that will be.
Properly used of course, guitars and even drums have their place in good music. I will never forget my travel in the Inner American division, out in the jungle churches, where they had nothing but the guitar to play. I must honestly state that I have never heard such worshipful music that they played.
In comparing these inspired passages which we have studied we might summarize. In Miller’s dream false members rise up and go out the window. In Selected Messages the sinners in Zion will be sifted out, and in Testimonies Series A the sinners will flee in terror from the presence of the Lord. Is it not common sense for the saints to rise up now and urge all who are involved in bringing in and practicing these sacrilegious traffic to repent while there is yet time.
Let us urge those youth and their leaders to obey the following counsel. I quote from Evangelism p. 137, “Never bring the truth down to a low level in order to obtain converts, but seek to bring the sinful and corrupted up to the high standard of the law of God.” So I must state, as a youth leader for some thirty years of my life in the Conference, Union and the General Conference, let me say I agree – never bring down the truth to a low level in order to make church services more attractive to worldly young people. They cannot be saved in this manner. The only way to save our youth is to bring them “up to the high standard of the law of God.”
Evangelism p. 207 instructs us to “preach the word in a manner that will leave a most solemn impression upon those that hear.” But how sad to find that in some of our churches we have brought the truth down to a low level by allowing worldly, unconverted youth to take over leadership as it were. When, oh when, shall we allow the spiritual youth to seek to bring the sinful and corrupted up to the high standard of the law of God?
By now I’m sure you have conceived the purpose of this sermon which is to awaken us to urge our leaders and people to repentance. In Ezekiel’s day the temple worship had become so corrupted that Ezekiel cried out to the people, “Turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” Ezekiel 33:11. I believe this is the message we should be giving for our people today.
In answer to any who do not like this message I have given today, let me read from Testimonies to Ministers p. 410, “Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. Do not any longer pick flaws in them, saying, ‘They are too positive; they talk too strongly.’ They may talk strongly; but is it not needed? God will make the ears of the hearers tingle if they will not heed His voice or His message. He will denounce those who resist the Word of God.” Isaiah admonishes, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Isaiah 58:1. Deceived leaders and members must know now what it is that they need to repent of and why.
“Listen to the Spirit of the Lord as He calls us to repent before it is too late. “Repent, repent was the message wrung out by John the Baptist in the wilderness. Christ’s message to the people was, ‘Except ye repent ye, shall likewise perish.’ Luke 13:5. And the apostles were commanded to preach everywhere that men should repent. The Lord desires His servants today to preach the old gospel doctrine, sorrow for sin, repentance, and confession. We want old-fashioned sermons, old-fashioned customs, old-fashioned fathers and mothers in Israel.” Evangelism p. 179, 180. May I be so bold as to add that we need old-fashioned church worship services. We need not only old-fashioned fathers and mothers, but old-fashioned young people and yes, old-fashioned ministers.
Old-fashioned church services do not mean of course that there cannot be changes made in our services – that is, if they are kept within the proper God-given standards. Truly converted members will be on fire for their Lord and their words and testimonies will reveal their love for God. Let us obey the voice of God to His church and repent now. “Oh, my brethren, hold the beginning of your confidence firm in the end. …There is before the church the dawn of a bright, glorious day, if she will put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance to the world. …Turn to the Lord, ye prisoners of hope. Seek strength from God, the living God.” Testimonies for the Church, Volume 8, p. 11, 12.
God’s Word declares, “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem. Shake thyself from the dust; for the thus saith the Lord, Ye shall be redeemed.” Isaiah 52:1-3. “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” Amos 4:12. And may such preparation be made before injured and insulted Deity find it necessary to speak to His church with the voice of thunder saying, “Take these things hence.”
Let us pray. Dear Father, awaken our youth leaders to follow Thy counsel and not bring Babylon into the church, but rather to conduct and preach solemn, soul-stirring sermons that will compel the youth to surrender to the loving Jesus. This we ask in His precious name, Amen.