In John 10, Jesus said that not one true sheep will be taken out of the Father’s hands; not one single soul needs to be lost. God has made ample provision; and yet the sad thing is that while God has made ample provision that all may be saved, so few people actually are saved. In the days of Noah, there were only eight. Today, in the last day and age, there will be just a remnant.
Few are saved because most of us have learned, like Eve, to trust our own wisdom as to what is right and wrong; but Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Can there be something that seems absolutely right and yet be absolutely wrong?
We know very well that millions of people are keeping Sunday, the wrong day, believing that they are keeping God’s holy day. Many people will be lost, not because they are deceived but because they do not believe the truth of the Sabbath when God presents it to them. They hold on to their false ideas, rejecting what is truth. As a result, millions will be lost while believing that they are serving God.
Satan’s greatest concern, however, is with Sabbath-keepers. The Bible says that he will come down with great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (See Matthew 24:24.) A true deception is one that we do not perceive but that we believe to be true. If we perceived it, it would no longer be a true deception.
Satan has a deception for every individual. We could not begin to unravel all of the deceptions of Satan, but I would like to go over some principles. There are two great areas in which Satan is trying to deceive people. Generally, we only look at the area of presumption. It is one great area of deception in which the majority of people are deceived. They presume that God will overlook a requirement or He will accept them in this area or that area. I believe that this is the great sin that we as a church are falling into. We acknowledge that we do not follow everything that the Lord says, but we presume that He will overlook areas of shortcomings. The New Theology is the theology of presumption in which we presume that God is not particular. This idea is sweeping hundreds of thousands of Adventists off of their feet.
Works and Fanaticism
But there is another area that is fully as dangerous as presumption—the area of legalism. Those who fall into legalism decide that they can do enough things to please God. They strive to be accepted of God for their good works. It is most often the case that they are led to fanaticism. The Lord tells us that in the last days we need to be especially careful of fanaticism.
While Satan is trying to keep the majority occupied in areas of worldliness, there are some whom Satan is trying to deceive in areas of fanaticism, knowing that he will never be able to deceive them with his other enticements. Ellen White says, “As the end draws near, the enemy will work with all his power to bring in fanaticism among us.” Gospel Workers, 316. Again in Selected Messages, book 2, 14, “Every phase of fanaticism and erroneous theories, claiming to be the truth, will be brought in among the remnant people of God. These will fill minds with erroneous sentiments which have no part in the truth for this time.” If the Lord says that the devil will work with all of his power to bring fanaticism in among us, then I believe that it will happen.
In the early Advent movement when God called people out of the liberal churches, many of them went on into fanaticism. The devil tried to keep them from accepting the Millerite message and the Adventist message. When he failed in this, he tried to push them into the area of works and fanaticism. Ellen White said, “At this very time, we are suffering from the reproach which was brought on the cause in the first message by unwise, ill-balanced minds who thought they were obtaining a wonderful experience which should receive the credence of all men. In our early experience, we had to encounter their ever-strange humility and false notions. The first labor given me to do was to reprove their man-made tests. The testimony which I bore against fanaticism gained me the envy, jealousy, evil-surmising, and criticism of those who participated in these movements.” The Paulson Collection, 130
The devil really does not care which camp he gets us into as long as he can keep us from following Jesus all the way. Whether we fall short of the Lord’s Word or go beyond His Word, it will suit his purpose.
Today we are indeed seeing every phase of fanaticism coming in like a flood among us. It is sweeping many of our people off of their feet, especially those who are the conservative people among us. Many people seem to be conservative by nature rather than because of a deep study of the Word. They are not rooted and grounded and cannot discern the true revival from some false, fanatical movement. Ellen White says in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 907, “As we near the end of time, falsehood will be so mingled with truth that only those who have the guidance of the Holy Spirit will be able to distinguish truth from error. We need to make every effort to keep the Word of the Lord. We must in no case turn from His guidance to put our trust in man. Those who are guided by the Word of the Lord will discern with certainty between falsehood and truth, between sin and righteousness.”
I am alarmed as I have observed people saying “Amen,” enjoying the messages, and agreeing with everything that I say, but the next week when somebody else comes along teaching just the opposite, these same people are saying “Amen” and agreeing with everything that they say. Who is speaking the truth is not the point. The point is that not both can be true, yet people are drinking in both messages and have no discerning power to determine which message is the truth. We cannot be rooted and grounded in the truth merely by listening to tapes or listening to those whom we have faith in. We have to study the Word and the Spirit of Prophecy for ourselves.
Wisdom Above Inspiration
The first area of fanaticism that I would like to look at is one that probably does not seem important. It is the area of Christmas and Christmas trees. Ellen White does warn us that we should be careful not to become worldly in what we do on Christmas, or even with the Christmas trees. Though we have rarely had a Christmas tree and Christmas has never been an important part of our lives, nevertheless Ellen White says in the Review and Herald, December 11, 1879, “God would be well pleased if on Christmas, each church would have a Christmas tree on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship.”
But when I point out to people that Ellen White talked about Christmas and about the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, their comment has been, “Ellen White was wrong in this area.” Now when I find people who know more of how we should act, what we should believe, how much different from the world we should become, and what is involved in keeping the commandments than the prophet of the Lord, it causes me great concern because it never stops there. Once they have established their wisdom above the prophet of the Lord, that same spiritual pride carries over into other areas. The belief regarding Christmas is only an opening wedge.
I searched through the Spirit of Prophecy and found twenty-two pages of statements on Christmas. It is interesting that for almost eleven years, Sister White wrote about Christmas every year in the Review and Herald.
Many people, realizing that Christmas has a pagan origin, have come to believe that it is wrong to give any recognition to Christmas. As Christmas is of pagan origin, they conclude that Christmas trees are something that must be pagan and are an abomination, and having a tree is, therefore, just like keeping Sunday. Therefore, if any church has anything to do with Christmas, it has apostatized. But Ellen White identifies this as being narrow minded. “May God forbid that any should be so narrow-minded as to overlook the event because there are uncertainties in regard to the exact time of Christ’s birth.” This Day With God, 360. Those are not my words; they are the Lord’s words. There is a vast difference between Sunday-keeping and Christmas. Sunday has replaced the Sabbath and led to the breaking of God’s commandment.
I remember one Christmas on which I gave a Christmas sermon. I thought that the Lord blessed, but some people told me afterwards that if I was ever preaching at Christmastime again, they would never come to hear because I had mentioned Christmas. To even recognize it, they felt, is the same as keeping Sunday. “Well,” I asked, “what do you do with the statements of Ellen White?” They replied, “Ellen White was wrong in this area.” Now you see, my concern is not Christmas but are we going to follow human wisdom or the Lord’s wisdom? Who understands best what constitutes rebellion against God? Whether or not other people have a Christmas tree is not the point, but their belief in the Spirit of Prophecy is. The Lord must give us balance, as none of us are very balanced to start with. For this reason, we have to lay aside our ideas and accept the Word of the Lord.
God has not forbidden that which allows us to fit into society which is not rebellion in nature. To keep Sunday is breaking the fourth commandment, so that is going to be part of the mark of the beast. To keep a twenty-four hour clock is not necessarily pagan, unless the Lord tells us that it is. As a result, in dealing with civil matters, we generallly use a civil clock, which is pagan. When it comes to keeping the Sabbath, we use God’s clock because we are dealing with holy time; and God has to decide how His day is going to be kept.
Going Beyond What God Says
I have found that once someone goes beyond what God says, it is harder for him to humble himself and come back to simple allegiance than it is to convert a person right out of the world. Fanaticism is the one hardest thing in the world to cure because there is a sense of holiness, a sense of righteousness that puts one head and shoulders above the common, lukewarm, Laodicean Christian. It is not easy to humble oneself and to let go of the fanatical idea.
I have also noticed that many people who take an extreme position on Christmas very shortly end up taking extreme positions in other areas. One area that is becoming popular is the keeping of the feast days.
Paul addresses the matter of continued adherance to the ceremonial law. “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe,” and notice what he is talking about, “days [the various daily ceremonies] and months and seasons [we have seasonal and monthly ceremonies] and years [the years, by the way, is the jubilee].” We have the Jubilee, we have the Passover, we have the Day of Atonement, we have these various things that were added at Sinai or after the Fall. He says, “I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.” Galatians 4:9–11
Now Paul is not saying, “Well, it is fine. Some of you keep the feast days, you who are really holy. For the rest of you, it is not really necessary.” He says, “I am afraid of you who are keeping these feast days, lest I have labored for you in vain.” In chapter 4:22 and onward, he talks about those who are holding on to the ceremonies given at Sinai and compares them to Hagar and Ishmael. In verse 30 he says, “Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ ” So Paul says that we are not to allow those who continue to keep the feast days to be a part and parcel of God’s holy church. By the way, to return to keeping the feast days of the ceremonial law is cause for disfellowshipping, according to Paul in Galatians. He says, “Do not allow them to remain. Cast them out.” What does it mean to cast out? If is a very serious thing in Paul’s mind. It is total apostasy in the area of fanaticism.
Look at what Paul says in the next chapter. He brings in circumcision. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.” Galatians 5:1–3. Now what is the whole law? The whole law means animal sacrifices, an earthly priesthood. He said that if you are going to keep the Day of Atonement, you have to offer an animal sacrifice; that is the rest of the law. If you are going to keep the Passover, you have to offer an animal sacrifice. If you are going to keep circumcision, you have to offer an animal sacrifice. You have to keep the whole ceremonial law; you cannot pick and choose. Now he says in verse 4, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Now, dear friends, do not think that this thing of going back and keeping the feast days is some new area of sanctification or some new light that has come into the church. It is total apostasy.
Speaking of the ordinance of humility and the Lord’s supper, we are told, “In this ordinance, Christ discharged His disciples from the cares and burdens of the ancient Jewish obligations in rites and ceremonies. These no longer possessed any virtue; for type was meeting antitype in Himself, the authority and foundation of all Jewish ordinances that pointed to Him as the great and only efficacious offering for the sins of the world. . . .
“If His disciples had not needed this, it would not have been left for them as Christ’s last established ordinance in connection with, and including, the last supper. It was Christ’s desire to leave to His disciples an ordinance that would do for them the very thing they needed,—that would serve to disentangle them from the rites and ceremonies which they had hitherto engaged in as essential, and which the reception of the gospel made no longer of any force. To continue these rites would be an insult to Jehovah.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1139, 1140
“None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.” The Great Controversy, 593. It is time that we are fortifying our minds. Not one of us is going to make it through the times ahead unless we are fortifying our minds with God’s Word every day.