The pen of inspiration tells us how to recognize false teachers. “ ‘Beware of false prophets.’ Matthew 7:15.
“Teachers of falsehood will arise to draw you away from the narrow path and the strait gate. Beware of them; though concealed in sheep’s clothing, inwardly they are ravening wolves. Jesus gives a test by which false teachers may be distinguished from the true. ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits,’ He says. ‘Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?’ [Matthew 7:16.]
“We are not bidden to prove them by their fair speeches and exalted professions. They are to be judged by the word of God. ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them.’ ‘Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.’ Isaiah 8:20; Proverbs 19:27. What message do these teachers bring? Does it lead you to reverence and fear God? Does it lead you to manifest your love for Him by loyalty to His commandments? If men do not feel the weight of the moral law; if they make light of God’s precepts; if they break one of the least of His commandments, and teach men so, they shall be of no esteem in the sight of heaven. We may know that their claims are without foundation. They are doing the work that originated with the prince of darkness, the enemy of God.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 145.
Be honest now. How long has it been since you heard a pastor preach on a subject such as the Law of God and obedience? Is the power of Celebration affecting his sermons? Think it over. So few of those within the organized church today have any idea how this all began. Believe it or not¾it is a fact¾the birth of Celebration took place within the Vatican Council II in the early 1960s. The papal document from Vatican Council II indicated that through Celebration worship, which would be absorbed into all the churches, the objective to bring the whole humanity to one fold, meaning the Roman Catholic Church, would be realized.
As soon as these actions of the Vatican were published, seminars began to be given encouraging pastors to conduct Celebration worship services within the churches.
Objectives from the Second Vatican Council included: (1) Let there be a custom application (use) of the word Celebration. (2) Let there be a custom of revival in Celebration worship in which the people will be involved directly with both verbal and physical participation. (3) Let there be a custom of Celebration worship dialogue between the pastor and the people. (4) Let us use as much variety in worship as is possible. (5) Let music, while they worship there, be the most effective. (6) Lessen the difference between the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper. Teach people that the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper are the foundation of Christian unity, friendship, and Celebration of the Lord’s Day (meaning Sunday). (7) Do all your best to encourage observation of Sunday, including rest from work.
Can you now see what the purpose of the Celebration movement is within the church today? As a result of these Vatican objectives, Celebration started within the Catholic Church with noisy music, and soon the Pentecostal, charismatic churches followed. The old method of Jesuit infiltration of Protestant churches was suspended by the new infiltration of Catholic philosophy called love and unity.
The Second Vatican Council added its blessing by no longer calling the Protestant churches heretics but separated brethren from the Mother Church. The Council then began to emphasize the Holy Spirit by holding revivals among its nuns and priests. The result was startling. Tens of thousands of priests and nuns began speaking in tongues! Now both the Catholics and the Protestants had something in common¾they both spoke in tongues in the Celebration movement. (<www.beliefnet.com/story/127/story_12789_1.html>; < www.religion-cults.com/spirit/charismatic.htm> June 11, 2007.)
Celebration vs. Three Angels
I would like to confront this Celebration movement with the Three Angels’ Messages. John Janiuk, in his book Great Controversy Endgame II (publisher unknown, 1999), identified points which clearly differentiate between what is true and false justification by faith. These points include:
- The Three Angels’ Messages are a call of God to leave Babylon. It is the message of separation; but the message of the Celebration movement calls for unity of all churches.
- The Three Angels’ Messages are a warning message; but the Celebration movement is the message of peace and security and also of love and unity. Sin and the Law of God are treated lightly.
- The foundation of the Celebration movement is a false gospel, a false justification teaching salvation in sin¾You will be sinning until the Second Coming of Christ. It is a gospel without the power. If you continue in sin after accepting the gospel, which is the power of God, if you accept a false gospel, a false justification, you have no power of God.
Satan also has power. Do you know what Satan’s power is? His power is through his lies. For example, Satan demonstrated his power with great effect in Eden, and we are still affected by that same power today. Today he says that we cannot keep God’s Commandments. If you believe this lie, you will not obey God’s Law.
The Bible says, “Here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12. The pen of inspiration says, “Christ left his heavenly home, and came to this world, to show that only by being connected with divinity can man keep the law of God. In itself humanity is tainted and corrupted; but Christ brought moral power to man, and those who live in communion with him overcome as he overcame.” The Signs of the Times, December 3, 1896.
Ellen White also wrote: “He who has not sufficient faith in Christ to believe that he can keep him from sinning, has not the faith that will give him an entrance into the kingdom of God.” Review and Herald, March 10, 1904. “Man’s obedience can be made perfect only by the incense of Christ’s righteousness, which fills with divine fragrance every act of obedience.” The Acts of the Apostles, 532.
We continue with John Janiuk’s points:
- The Three Angels’ Messages are calling the whole of humanity to fear, to reverence God, in complete surrender to God and His Word and also His will¾the ten moral commandments of the gospel. But the Celebration movement depends on theology which interprets the Bible “in a manner that is attractive to the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are made of no effect. A God of love is presented; but his justice, his denunciations of sin, the requirements of his holy law, are all kept out of sight.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 405.
- The three angels call to give glory to God. The pen of inspiration tells us how we can give glory to God. “To give glory to God is to reveal His character in our own, and thus make Him known. And in whatever way we make known the Father or the Son, we glorify God.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 979. The Celebration movement does not preach anything about this.
- The Three Angels’ Messages proclaim that the hour of God’s judgment has come. This is the pre-Advent investigative judgment, which began in 1844. The Celebration movement does not warn the people about this. However, if the subject is mentioned, they simply say, “Do not be scared of the judgment. If you believe in Jesus, do not worry about it.”
- God chose the way in which we can worship Him. His way tells us to keep holy the Sabbath day as a special day in memorial of His creation and redemption. The purpose, aim, and goal of the Celebration movement, according to Vatican II, is to observe Sunday and recognize the pope as the vicar of Jesus Christ and submit to him.
- The second angel’s message declares, “Babylon is fallen.” Why is Babylon fallen? Because Babylon rejected the Biblical truths. Revelation 18:2 describes the last-day condition of Babylon, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”
The fallen churches¾Catholic and Protestant¾are attacking the Seventh-day Adventist Church with the Celebration movement. Of course, God still has in these fallen churches some individuals who are His children. Our message, especially in the time of the Loud Cry, will be, “Come out of her, my people.” Revelation 18:4.
- The third angel’s message is the most fearful of any before. This message was proclaimed to mortal man as a warning against receiving the mark of the beast; that is, the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath. According to the document of Vatican II, the purpose of the Celebration movement is that the whole world come to observe Sunday and to submit to the papacy. It does not matter to them what else you believe, so long as you submit in these two things. Do you see where this movement is leading us?
- The Three Angels’ Messages are summarized in Revelation 14:12 and describe what people will be like after they accept the Three Angels’ Messages. “Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Here are presented the main characteristics and qualities of God’s people¾the patience of the saints, they keep the commandments of God, and they have the faith of Jesus.
The Celebration movement, however, says that we cannot keep the commandments of God. In this point they are honest, because they cannot keep the commandments of God. Why is this? Because they accept a false justification by faith which claims that in justification there is no transformation. The new birth and the Holy Spirit do not come into the believer’s heart with Christ’s righteousness, and God does not write His Law in their hearts. This is why they have no power to keep the commandments of God. If somebody mentions that God requires His people to obey the law, they say that this is legalism.
Ellen White says, “Men who are under the control of Satan repeat these accusations against God, in asserting that men cannot keep the law of God.” The Signs of the Times, January 16, 1896.
Heart of Celebration
Let me become more pointed. An important element of Celebration worship style is found in the music. What kind of music? Contemporary Christian music or, as some say, Christian rock. (See www.willowcreek.org/history.) What is the message of Contemporary Christian music? It is love and praise for the most part. What is missing? A call to repentance, appeals for sacrifice, and prayer for sinners. The Second Coming is almost absent. Bible doctrines are not found. There is no mention, of course, of the seventh-day Sabbath.
Have you ever stopped to consider what is lacking in these Celebration ditties? As I heard someone put it, “In the typical, contemporary ‘praise and worship songs’ there are no expressions of confession, petition, or submission¾just praise.” Pioneering Seventh-day Adventists sang many hymns containing our message; hymns with several stanzas. They did so because they believed God had called them to proclaim a message even in their singing.
In the current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Review and Herald Publishing, Hagerstown, Maryland, 1998) there is a topical index of hymns. Nearly every major doctrine is represented there¾salvation through faith in Christ, the Second Coming, the Sabbath, the judgment, the sleep of the dead, stewardship, and even the sanctuary, along with still others. God intended that the great hymns of faith should be used to teach God’s end-time message. Is there any comparison between the messages of the hymns and the messages of Contemporary Christian Rock Celebration music? The majority of Celebration music falls under the broad heading of praise songs and are often characterized by monotonous repetition of a single phrase. Topics even so basic as contrition, repentance, obedience, and witnessing are noticeably absent or at least very rare.
The great fear is that these Contemporary songs, reproducing after their kind, are replacing the message songs entirely and are doing their part to produce a generation devoid of doctrinal certainty. A church’s music is not merely a vehicle for socializing or for setting a happy mood. It is an essential part of its self-identity, its witnessing, and even its survival. The ultimate unity of our end-time movement requires the unifying influence of a common “hymnity.”
The former choir director of heaven uses his Celebration music to charm people, to bind them to himself, and to control them. He uses emotionally oriented religion that depends on feeling rather than on the Word of God.
Can you imagine an Adventist professor of religion asking this thought-provoking question: “How seriously should Adventists take apocalyptic books like Daniel, Revelation, and The Great Controversy?” Answering his own question, this theologian said, “Perhaps we should replace them with the gospel of love, acceptance, and forgiveness.” This is the central message of the Celebration movement and its worship services.
Steve Daily, former chaplain and professor at La Sierra University, Riverside, California, suggests some practical things Adventists can do to contribute to this goal. Among these are:
- We can cease to speak or think of ourselves as the remnant church and see ourselves as a part of God’s larger remnant.
- We can take advantage of the special opportunities we have to attend other churches since they meet on a different day, to befriend them, learn from them, share with them, and affirm the good things we see in them.
- Each of us can make a special effort to maintain active membership in at least one non-Adventist community service organization to combat our natural tendency to isolation.
- We can involve ourselves in inter-denominational Bible studies and a charismatic intercessory prayer group to broaden our spiritual perspectives. (Adventism for a New Generation, Better Living Publishers, Portland, Oregon, 1993, 315, 316.)
Such advice is absolutely contrary to the Spirit of Prophecy. Is this the time for Seventh-day Adventists to seek such new light on worship, church growth, and learning from others?
The Prophet’s Warning
Ellen White has warned us: “If God has any new light to communicate, He will let His chosen and beloved understand it, without their going to have their minds enlightened by hearing those who are in darkness and error.
“I was shown the necessity of those who believe that we are having the last message of mercy, being separate from those who are daily imbibing new errors. I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings; for it is wrong to thus encourage them while they teach error that is a deadly poison to the soul and teach for doctrines the commandments of men. The influence of such gatherings is not good. If God has delivered us from such darkness and error, we should stand fast in the liberty wherewith He has set us free and rejoice in the truth. God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to those meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffetings of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels; and the light around us becomes contaminated with the darkness.” Early Writings, 124, 125.
If we reject true justification by faith and continue to proclaim a false justification, then true revival and reformation will not take place, and we will not receive the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Latter Rain. We will never finish God’s work in this world. We will lose our identity, our credibility, and the purpose for our existence. What a tragedy this would be.
On the other hand, if we accept true justification, then the last great revival and reformation will take place. We will receive the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Latter Rain, and God will finish His work through us in this world now. May God give us wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and power to fulfill this for His honor and glory and also for the salvation of the people of the world. Then we will go home to praise Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
For over 60 years Pastor Lawrence Nelson served as an evangelist and minister for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Of that time, he served 13 years as the director of evangelism for youth at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Upon retirement from the General Conference, he continued to pastor, but when, as a result of his stand for truth, he was denied the opportunity to continue his pastorate, he started Keep the Faith Audio Tape Ministry, recording his sermons and making them available to individuals. Before his retirement from this ministry in 2004, over 18,000 audiotapes were being sent around the world each month.