"Lord, You Don't Mean Me?"

THE CHURCH and the world both stand under impending judgment, but before judgment falls, God in love and justice sends warning. . .

-president of the General Conference at the time this article was written

THE CHURCH and the world both stand under impending judgment, but before judgment falls, God in love and justice sends warning.

"The Lord Cod of heaven will not send . . . His judgments for disobedience and transgression until He has sent His watchmen to give the warning." --Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 19.

But before God can give the final warning to the world, He must have a purified, holy people through whom to speak. Thus He first warns His church in the Laodicean message, which you recognize is God's final, ardent appeal to His people a call to repentance, to godly living, a call to exchange formality and spiritual apathy with godly zeal, a challenge to finish the work and sit down with Him in His kingdom.

The church is spiritually sick, lukewarm in devotion and zeal. Death is inevitable unless she responds to the warning of Jesus, yet she feels no need. She is spiritually bereft but does not realize it. Her condition is alarming and an alarming message is necessary to meet the situation.

But we who are God's messengers are not simply to give the warning to the churches under our care. The Laodicean message is in a special sense addressed to us as ministers. It is to the "angel" the ministers of the Adventist Church (Rev. 1:16, 20; Gospel Workers, p. 13), as well as members that the True Witness declares: "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" (Rev. 3:17).

It is not hard to recognize the inroads that worldliness and cold formalism have made in the remnant church. What is so difficult for human nature yes, even for us to whom has come the sacred calling of the ministry is to see how this severe rebuke applies to us personally. But Christ's mes sage of rebuke and entreaty must first do its work in our own hearts before it can reach the hearts of His people through us.

Can God use us to finish His work and prepare His church for translation if we ourselves are conforming to the culture around us in what we do, where we go, what we read and hear? A lukewarm, spiritually indifferent condition will neutralize the message we give.

If we are seeking popularity with the world instead of with God, if we make light of God's instruction regarding healthful living, if we feel no sense of our own need, if faith and love and repentance are not a part of our daily experience, we can bear no fruit.

Christ warns those who are in different to these things "that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expressions of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His word or your spiritual work in anywise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you."--Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 408.

Must Be Overcomers

We must be men in whom is found the gold of true faith and love men who have experienced godly repentance, who have our selves forsaken sin, men whose eyes have been anointed with heavenly eyesalve to discern sin, men who recognize our own spiritual bereftment without Christ. We must ourselves be covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness, overcomers expectantly awaiting our Lord's return.

When this is our experience, God will be able to trust us with the awesome responsibility of being His watchmen, carrying out His command: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isa. 58:1).

Eighty-five years ago the servant of the Lord wrote: "I have waited anxiously, hoping that God would put His Spirit upon some and use them as instruments of righteousness to awaken and set in order His church. I have almost despaired as I have seen, year after year, a greater departure from that simplicity which God has shown me should characterize the life of His followers." --Ibid., vol. 5, p. 663.

Not a Popular Message

The message God bids us to bear is not a popular message. "The ministers preach smooth things to suit carnal professors. They dare not preach Jesus and the cutting truths of the Bible; for if they should, these carnal professors would not remain in the church. . . . The religion of Jesus is made to appear popular and honorable in the eyes of the world. The people are told that those who profess religion will be more honored by the world. Such teachings differ very widely from the teachings of Christ. His doctrine and the world could not be at peace. Those who followed Him had to renounce the world. These smooth things originated with Satan and his angels."--Early Writings, p. 228.

There is a close parallel be tween the condition of God's people in Jeremiah's time and today. "They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace," declared the prophet (Jer. 6:14).

His warning is repeated in an earnest appeal that fills forty pages of the Testimonies. We can only quote a few brief sentences here.

"The message to be borne to His people by ministers whom He has called to warn the people is not a peace-and-safety message. It is not merely theoretical, but practical in every particular."--Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 252. "The testimony of the True Witness is not a smooth message. The Lord does not say to them, You are about right." --Ibid., p. 257.

In our day "some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this will cause a shaking among God's people." --Ibid., vol. 1, p. 181.

Nevertheless, we cannot evade our solemn responsibility for the church: "But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand" (Eze. 33:6).

Again and again God has spoken to His ministers through Ellen White in urgent summons:

"There is need of the voice of stern rebuke; for grievous sins have separated the people from God. . . . The smooth sermons so often preached make no lasting impression; the trumpet does not give a certain sound." --Prophets and Kings, p. 140.

Love—Part of Message

But while we are faithful in preaching the messages of rebuke God has commanded us to bear, we must never forget that faith and love and invitation are just as much a part of the message.

"Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [that is], I discipline and instruct them. . . . Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [shall eat] with me" (Rev. 3:19, 20, Amplified).*

Despite their imperfections and failures, their immorality and idolatry, God did not quickly cast aside the people of Israel. He tenderly bore with them and sought to woo them back. Even His rebukes were evidence of His love. So with His weak, needy, imperfect church today.

"Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts." --The Acts of the Apostles, p. 12.

Where Reformers Make Mistake

Here is where some reformers and offshoots make their mistake. They dwell only upon the first part of the Laodicean message. They direct their invective against the church in a hail of destructive criticism without preaching the whole message. They have over looked the clear picture given of God's plans for His defective church:

"I know that the Lord loves His church. It is not to be disorganized or broken up into independent atoms. There is not the least consistency in this; there is not the least evidence that such a thing will be." --Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 68, 69.

We must fill our message of rebuke with love and offers of mercy. Otherwise, we will discourage our people. Every agency of heaven is at work on our be half Father, Son, Holy Spirit, angels. We must portray it so vividly that people will respond with faith and courage.

"Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness, and relies wholly on the merits of the Saviour. God would send every angel in heaven to the aid of such an one, rather than allow him to be overcome." --Messages to Young People, p. 94.

This is just as much a part of the message as are scathing rebukes. God is seeking to prepare people for the kingdom, not to break up churches. Such a commission of rebuke and love demands a ministry of prayer, a ministry of tears.

"Could the curtain be rolled back, could you discern the purposes of God and the judgments that are about to fall upon a doomed world, could you see your own attitude, you would fear and tremble for your own souls and for the souls of your fellow men. Earnest prayers of heart rending anguish would go up to heaven. You would weep between the porch and the altar, confessing your spiritual blindness and backsliding." --Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 408.

What a precious message of encouragement Jesus has given His ministers in revealing Himself to John as holding in His right hand seven stars, which are the angels of the seven churches His ministers. To us as to His whole church He sends both rebuke and encouragement. May the Holy Spirit give us a new and deeper sense of our solemn responsibility in this hour of desperate danger to the church.

* From The Amplified Bible and New Testament. Copyright 1965 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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-president of the General Conference at the time this article was written

July 1975

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