Decidedly Different

MOSES was a good man. There really wasn't anything wrong with him. It was just that as a leader he hadn't kept up with the times. Back in Father Abraham's day they could insist on high standards and old-fashioned religion. But this was a new day, one that called for new ideas and a new approach. . .

-Retired Minister from Candler, North Carolina

MOSES was a good man. There really wasn't anything wrong with him. It was just that as a leader he hadn't kept up with the times. Back in Father Abraham's day they could insist on high standards and old-fashioned religion. But this was a new day, one that called for new ideas and a new approach.

In the absence of his brother, Aaron was more tolerant. He remembered how Moses had been such a stickler for scruples, so unyielding when a little time might have brought the people round to his way of thinking. Didn't he know there was such a thing as expediency? The simple device of relevancy would go a long way, too. And then there was love. That was it--love and understanding. Things were going to be different now. Much different!

Aaron was right about that. Things are always different when men try to solve spiritual problems by human means, when for reasons of their own, logic replaces revelation and the narrow way becomes a roomy thoroughfare.

The Early Church

Things were different for the early church, too. "During the lives of the apostles the church remained comparatively pure. But 'toward the latter end of the second century most of the churches assumed a new form; the first simplicity disappeared, and insensibly, as the old disciples retired to their graves, their children, along with new converts, . . . came forward and new-modeled the cause.' " --The Great Controversy, pp. 384, 385.

Earlier the apostles were spoken of as "these that have turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). But their children, that is, their spiritual descendants, allowed the world to turn the church upside down. New converts, no better than the worldly believers they imitated, were fol lowed by a "pagan flood," which, "flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices, and idols" (ibid., p. 385).

Bigger but Not Better

Having "assumed a new form," the church readily expanded, only to hurt itself. It was bigger but not better. What to many appeared to be wonderful growth was for the most part a deadly bloat. Only the most drastic measures could save the church now.

But where could such a saving work begin, and who would have the courage to do what was needed? It would be hard enough to hold the lines where they were, to say nothing of regaining ground already lost. Compromise demanded more compromise, not less.

Such was the pitiable condition of the early Christian church only a generation or so from the days of its founders. How quickly spirituality declines once vigilance is relaxed, once human inclination takes its natural course!

What About Our Church?

Our concern is that the remnant church shall be different, but not for the same reasons not as in the day of Aaron's folly nor as it was when Christians "new-modeled the cause." But if we are to do better than they we shall have to consider the cost as well as the need. As things are, it would be difficult enough to maintain our present level of spirituality. But to go far beyond that, to think and act in terms of God's standard for His people, is to envision the impossible.

Yet this is the goal. God would have us retrace every backward step that we have made in our lack of faith. This is no time to rationalize or temporize because of our dilemma. Spiritual things are not only spiritually discerned but they are spiritually produced. Only God can make a church what it ought to be. Only He can mold us into the kind of Christians of whom the apostle wrote, "So you may become blameless and innocent, God's faultless children in the midst of a crooked and distorted generation among whom you shine like stars in the universe" (Phil. 2:15, Berkeley).

The quality and purpose of our lives, our goals, and our growth are to be determined altogether by a humanly impossible standard. That standard God has revealed and provided for in His unfailing grace. While others conform more and more to the world we are to envision greater and better things, so that by contrast we shall appear as a light from heaven to a darkened and confused world.

Is such an objective too idealistic, too impractical? If so, what are the other choices, and what will time or eternity do to them? God waits and the world waits for the recovery of our faith, the living out of a new vision the vision of that people who "shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and ... as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3).

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-Retired Minister from Candler, North Carolina

January 1973

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