Pastor's Pastor

Pastor's Pastor: Millennium bug

Pastor's Pastor: Millennium bug

Twin dangers as we approach the new millennium

James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Just when you thought you had lived through all the millennial hype and hysteria, those clever marketers discover that December 31 does not really usher in the third millennium.

Instead, the new year will dawn, along with the realization—"how could we have missed it?"—that we have another 366 days (2000 is a leap year!) for one last gasp of commercialism to exploit our fascination with times, dates, prognostications, and fantasy.

With sobering reality, we watch the world wavering between twin dangers, the one of attaching too much significance to the approaching new year (Y2K destroys civilization as we know it), and its equally dangerous counter part of attaching too little significance to the promised return of Jesus (eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die).

Adventists affirm, and have always believed in, the imminence of Christ's coming. We have correctly preached the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation and, appropriately, called our listeners to choose for Jesus and against Satan.

This is good and proper! Proclaiming confidence in the imminent return of Jesus motivates sinners to make good decisions and invigorates saints with fresh hope!

On the other hand, with a virulent spirit more deadly than any computer glitch, some have twisted Scripture to their own aims. Fascination with knowledge for the sake of possessing information, has tempted some to pronounce the parousia's general timing, if not its specific date.

Ignoring Jesus' own warning, these overconfident charlatans blare out clever calculations and ponderous pronoucements. Like a dry cloud in a parched desert, they make great pretense and display impressive activity. However, when spiritual thirst really needs quenching, they offer only vapid display and deliver nothing but dashed expectations.

For example, those who attach too much import to the year 2000 as a significant anniversary of our Lord's birth have missed both the millennium and the message. Since Jesus was most likely born in 4 BC, the millennial anniversary passed about six years ago with as little notice taken by the world or by the church as that which accompanied Christ's birth.

On the other hand, those who attach too little import to the year 2000 fail to appropriately appreciate and utilize the focus of the entire world on the passing of a calendar milestone. They miss both the message and the mission. Just as Easter or Christmas present unique opportunities for witness, so society's enthrallment with a new, albeit artificial, millennium brings unique opportunity to raise the right questions and provide the best answers.

As our former associate editor, Martin Weber, notes in his new book, Millennimania, millions are pondering whether there is more to the transition of centuries than merely a great date at Sydney Harbor, London's Millennial Dome, or Times Square.

So what are the right questions? I am convinced that asking the correct questions is more challenging than dispensing correct answers. Diagnosis is more difficult than treatment for a physician. As pastors and evangelists, too often we have been so busy offering answers that we have failed to ask correct questions. On the other hand, some have asked so many questions that hope-filled answers never get delivered.

What are the right answers? The response to hype's overstimulation or lethargy about missed opportunities lies in our message and our mission— lifting up Jesus and inviting people to Him.

Clearly, the right answers are not blasphemous attempts to control times and laws or to demand that Heaven behave according to the dictates of our speculation—as if we direct the Almighty to behave in concurrence with our projections.

In a seemingly earnest desire to discover divine mysteries, is it possible that some have loved knowledge more than truth? Some have exalted theoretical conjecture, speculative drivel, and curious interpretations that, though they may momentarily arrest the attention, nevertheless leave a person's spiritual condition unchanged.

These speculative and wrong answers too often are preceded by the wrong assumption that humanity is begging for insight into contrivances of prophecy and current events when, instead, humanity is gasping for a breath of hope that says, "Here is how to cope with the miserable reality of everyday life."

Tinned food delivered to a starving child is useless if not accompanied by a can-opener that gives access. Predictive prognostications falling on hungry hearts do not feed the soul if not accompanied by the Holy Spirit that provides Bread and quenches thirst.

What, then, are the right questions? I believe they surround the heart cry of lost souls who have just recognized their tragic condition. "What must I do to be saved?" "Who will deliver me from my wretched race toward death?"

And the answers? The only satisfying answer for over 2000 years is so simple—knowing Him Whom to know is life eternal!

If we lift up Jesus, the lost will beat a path to the Cross.

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James A. Cress is the Ministerial Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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