When the storm comes and the crisis breaks, we are going to be destroyed. It is absolutely essential that we stand united to face the foe.
John 17 is the prayer that Jesus prayed just before he went into the Garden of Gethsemane. In this prayer, Jesus expresses His will that we all come into perfect unity of spirit and doctrine. Ellen White tells us that we should make a special study of that prayer because if we understand the principles contained in it, we will understand how unity is to be achieved.
“The true peace will come among God’s people when, through united zeal and earnest prayer, the false peace that exits to a large degree is disturbed.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 20.
A major obstacle to real unity is a false unity that many mistake for true oneness. As long as this condition exists, there can be no progress in achieving real unity. It is God’s plan to disturb the false peace that we have among us today. Though truth does not bring dissension, the presentation of truth does disturb the false peace because of the resistance that rises against it. This is not to say that we all have to believe everything exactly the same, but there are certain foundational pillars of the advent message that we have to agree on if we are going to have unity.
In the Scriptures, Jesus is not only described as a lamb, but as a lion. (See Revelation 5:5.) He is a General who makes war. (See Revelation 19:11.) He is the Commander in Chief of the celestial forces, and very soon, He is coming back to this world to conduct a battle. The message here comes from the Person who is the Commander in Chief—the General. It is not from a lamb; it is from the Lion.
These orders can be expressed in just three words: come into line. Ellen White states it like this: “In vision I saw two armies in terrible conflict. One army was led by banners bearing the world’s insignia; the other was led by the blood-stained banner of Prince Immanuel. Standard after standard was left to trail in the dust as company after company from the Lord’s army joined the foe and tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God. An angel flying in the midst of heaven put the standard of Immanuel into many hands while a mighty general cried out with a loud voice: ‘Come into line.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 8, 41.
For a long time, we have been treating this order as advice, thinking of it as something that sounds good, but we fail to realize what it means. But when the General says, “Come into line!” we must obey if we are to be saved.
What does a banner mean in a war? When you pick up a banner, it declares on which side you are going to fight. In picking up the banner of Prince Emmanuel, you are declaring to the whole universe that you are going to war and that you are going to fight.
Today there is a lot of apostasy because people do not have enough backbone to hold up the banner and go to war. They do not want to fight, but prefer to go to heaven sitting down. They want to just pray, read, and study, and expect the Lord to save them. If, however, you are not willing to take up the banner and fight, you are not going to heaven.
“Our work is an aggressive one, and as faithful soldiers of Jesus, we must bear the blood-stained banner into the very strongholds of the enemy.” The Review and Herald, May 8, 1888.
The first principle we have to understand is that if we are going to take hold of the banner and come into line, we have to be willing to fight. There is little use of an army even coming into line if it is not going to fight.
“Those who stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Immanuel, should be faithful soldiers in Christ’s army. They should never be disloyal, never be untrue. Many of the young will volunteer to stand with Jesus, the Prince of life. But if they would continue to stand with Him, they must constantly look unto Jesus, their Captain, for His orders. They cannot be soldiers of Christ and yet engage with the confederacy of Satan, and help along his side, for then they would be enemies of Christ. They would betray sacred trusts. They would form a link between Satan and the true soldiers, so that through these living agencies the enemy would be constantly working to steal away the hearts of Christ’s soldiers.” The Youth’s Instructor, March 30, 1893.
You need to realize that there are people who say that they are Seventh-day Adventists, but they have united with the world. They have formed a link with Satan. In a war you cannot be on both sides; Satan and the Lord do not work together.
“My message to you is: No longer consent to listen without protest to the perversion of truth. Unmask the pretentious sophistries which, if received, will lead ministers and physicians and medical missionary workers to ignore the truth. Everyone is now to stand on his guard. God calls upon men and women to take their stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel. I have been instructed to warn our people; for many are in danger of receiving theories and sophistries that undermine the foundation pillars of the faith.” Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 2, 15.
If we are going to hold the banner of Emmanuel high, it is our job to unmask those sophistries and teachings that are undermining the pillars of the faith. Have you noticed, however, that whenever anyone does this work, there are always some people who will say, “Oh, that is not Christ-like”? That is Christ-like! Christ is not only a lamb, He is a lion. He is a general and He says that you are to unmask those false doctrines and deceptions. You are to take the mask off so people can see the truth, while exposing the error. There is no sitting on the fence; you are either going to hold up the banner of Prince Emmanuel or, if you are ashamed of it, someone else is going to place another banner in your hands.
“There is to be no compromise with the powers of darkness. Individually we must take our stand. If we are not at enmity with the prince of darkness, the serpent, his folds encircle us and all our power; his sting is in our hearts. All who range themselves under the blood-stained banner of the Prince of life will henceforth count Satan as a foe, and will in God’s strength oppose him as a deadly enemy.” In Heavenly Places, 48.
The second principle that is involved in this warfare is that we must break with the devil’s force. You cannot hold two banners; you cannot fight for two armies at the same time.
“And everyone who will break from the slavery and service of Satan, and will stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Immanuel, will be kept by Christ’s intercessions. Christ, as our mediator, at the right hand of the Father, ever keeps us in view, for it is as necessary that he should keep us by His intercessions as that He should redeem us with His blood. If he lets go His hold of us for one moment, Satan stands ready to destroy.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, 104.
If you are going to hold up the banner, you need to break from the slavery and service of Satan. What is the slavery and service of Satan? In John 8:44, Jesus is speaking to the leaders of His day and He accuses them of being children of the devil. These people were lying and contemplating murder—breaking God’s commandments. Because of this, they had a character like the devil. Jesus said to them, “Your spiritual father is the devil.” It is true that they were the professed church of God, but their spiritual father was the devil. The same principle still holds today. No matter what the profession may be, if the character and life are not in harmony with God’s law, the person is in slavery to Satan, a member of his army. You may know with certainty that if a person is living like the devil, practicing unrighteousness, and without love for his brother, he is of the devil. It is just that simple. He can profess anything he wants, but he is under the black banner of Satan. We must develop a character like our Leader.
“What is it to serve God?—it is to resemble Him in character, to imitate Him. To serve God is to obey Him, to keep His commandments, to make an open confession of standing, not under the black banner of the great apostate, but under the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel. Those who serve God strive earnestly to obey His will. Thus they show to what army they belong.” The Signs of the Times, February 1, 1899.
Fourth, we must be organized as an army of soldiers. No army can win a war unless they are organized. The people who are going to win this war are going to be perfectly organized. They are not just going to be a group of independent ministries or separate groups of Historic Adventists with everyone doing whatever he thinks best. We are going to be in perfect unity.
“God’s people are called upon to rally without delay under the blood-stained banner of Christ Jesus. Unceasingly they are to continue their warfare against the enemy, pressing the battle even to the gates. And everyone who is added to the ranks by conversion is to be assigned his post of duty.” The Review and Herald, January 13, 1903.
When a person becomes a Historic Seventh-day Adventist in your home church, he is to be assigned a post of duty. The church is not just a club where everyone meets together to congregate. We are an army, and everyone is to be assigned his post of duty.
“Everyone should be willing to be or to do anything in this warfare. When church members put forth earnest efforts to advance the message, they will live in the joy of the Lord, and will meet with success. Triumph always follows decided effort.” Ibid.
We are both going to conquer or be conquered and we must have perfect order among us in order to prosecute the war that we are in.
“They have lifted the cross, separating from opposing friends and relatives, and have taken their stand under the blood stained banner of Christ, to be loyal to all the commandments of God. … Now this little flock are babes in Christ, and need to be taught and led along, step by step, into faith and assurance; they need to be educated and trained to do the work of soldiers in the army of the Lord, and to bear hardness, that is, trials and opposition, contempt and scorn, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” The Paulson Collection, 134.
If we are going to hold high that banner, we must be involved in the war, and forsake the slavery of sin and Satan. This means that we must develop a Christ-like character, and be organized—just as organized as a group of soldiers.
“Many have received all the evidences of truth that God will ever give them. They have permitted and encouraged false sentiments; and they have practiced deception to cover up their apostasy.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 194.
Part of the battle is to unmask these sophistries, but there are people who are working to cover up the apostasy with deceptive statements. This is why we have to produce videos and print tracts to unmask it.
“I am instructed to say to those who desire to return to God, ‘Cleanse your hands, and purify your hearts. Break loose from the spell of the enemy.’ ” Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 272.
This is the problem with many Christians. They are under the spell of the enemy. When my parents were missionaries in Burma, I remember going to a place where they showed snakes. The cobra starts weaving back and forth and can actually hypnotize its prey. This is the situation in our world right now. The serpent is trying to hypnotize Christianity and lull them into complaisance. Oh, friend, go to your closet and pray, “Lord, take the blinders off my eyes and help me to see what is going on.”
The problem with a large number of Christians today is that they have fallen into error, but they cannot comprehend it unless the Lord works a miracle in their hearts. We need to pray for ourselves and for each other and say, “Lord, give me a new heart, please. Open my eyes so that I can see.”
God is appealing to people to close up the ranks and to come into line! We have to be willing to be involved in the battle. We have to break from Satan’s banner, keep the commandments, develop a character, and become as organized as an army of soldiers. In the past we have worked in a much too haphazard way, and it is not pleasing to the Lord. This is why we must be organized. We need to counsel with each other; that is part of gospel order.
With whom are we to counsel? Somebody might say, “Oh, there are plenty of people with whom to counsel.” No, there are not. We have been forbidden to counsel with anybody who does not give evidence that they are under the control of the Holy Spirit. That severely limits the people with whom you can counsel.
“When all our ministers and physicians come into line, taking their stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Emmanuel, we shall see an army of men and women going forth to work for Christ, speaking the word with holy boldness and power.” The Review and Herald, February 16, 1905.
Friends, we are never going to finish God’s work if we do not come into line. It is a Divine command that we must be organized in everything we do. Do not think that just because you have a home church and you have been cast out, that you can forget about organization. It is more important now than ever before. Every Historic Adventist needs to belong to an organized body that is working for the Lord to finish His work.
I want to make an appeal to you. Very soon there will no longer be another opportunity. We are either going to be organized and in unity or we are going to be destroyed. It is just that simple. I am not asking you to do anything rash. In fact, I am not asking you to do anything at all; it is the Lord who has given the order. As the General of the armies of heaven, He says, “Hold up the banner and come into line.”
Are you willing to make this commitment with the Lord? You may not understand everything that is involved, and Jesus does not ask you to do what you cannot understand. The question is, are you willing to say to the Lord, “Lord, I am willing to come into line, to do your will. Lead us into that line that You want us to be in so that we will have a united front against the foe”?
Pastor John Grosboll is director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.