Do you have a longing for the return of Jesus?
Do you believe He is returning for a church without spot or wrinkle?
There is a heavy burden on my heart that I have carried for a while. The reason why this burden is heavy is because I realize that the presence and power of God, to a great degree, is missing from His church. The joy of the Lord, which is our strength, is not expressed on a daily basis. The gifts of the Spirit, which are promised, are as foreign to us as light is to darkness. The love of God, which is the bond of perfection, is as low as a river in the middle of the summer; it is almost dry. Indeed, for this realization, my heart is grieved. Now you may be wondering what my burden is. I am burdened by the thought that there are secret sins among God’s people and these secret sins are preventing the power of Jesus from being manifested within His church. Therefore, let us consider three interrelated results of secret sins and how to combat them.
First, what are secret sins? Simply put, they are cherished sins that are practiced by an individual or group within the church and which are hidden from the church body as a whole. For the purpose of space, we will only consider the secret sins of an individual.
In order to recognize three results of these secret sins, let us look at an event which occurred during the days of Joshua. In Joshua chapter 6 we see that the children of Israel had just crossed the Jordan River after 40 years of wilderness wandering and it was time for them to possess the promised land. Prior to them entering Jericho, the Lord gave them a clear command as to what they were to do with the inhabitants and their possessions. In Joshua 6:17–19 we read, “And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.”
Well, what did Israel do? In Joshua 6:23, 24 we read, “And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had … And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.” Yes! Mission accomplished! Praise God for His faithful people, right? Well, the story takes a bitter turn, and Israel is in for a secret surprise.
In Joshua 7:1 we read, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.” Now in this passage it was Achan who took of the accursed thing. However, who was God’s anger aroused against? It was the entire camp of Israel. This brings us to the first result of secret sins.
Not only the perpetrator of the sin is affected but the secret sins of one individual will arouse the displeasure of God against His entire church. It only takes one.
Now as we consider this, we can look at various times and places in the Scripture and see that this is displayed on various levels. For example, Adam transgressed in the beginning. In those days there were only two souls who composed God’s church on earth. However, on whom is the judgment of God placed as a result of Adam’s sin? It was on all humanity. We have all inherited the result of Adam’s sin. In Romans 5:18 Paul states, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” And in I Corinthians 5:6 Paul says that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
In light of this, here is what the Lord’s prophet says: “Achan’s sin brought disaster upon the whole nation. For one man’s sin the displeasure of God will rest upon His church till the transgression is searched out and put away.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 497. “No man lives to himself. Shame, defeat, and death were brought upon Israel by one man’s sin … Various sins that are cherished and practiced by professed Christians bring the frown of God upon the church.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 493.
Now the questions for you to consider are: How much do you truly love the church of God? Do you love the church of God in private, when no one else is around or looking? Do you love the church so much that you will do nothing in secret to cause the frown of God to rest upon her? These are questions that we all must consider.
Let us now look at the second result of secret sins. Israel had destroyed Jericho, and it appeared as if all was well. God granted them victory and it was time to press forward. Unknown to them, however, was the fact that there was secret sin in the camp. They went forth ready to take the next city, little Ai. Joshua sent out spies to view the city, and they reported to him that the city was too small to send the whole army of Israel. Joshua consented and sent only 3,000 men. As they went to dispossess the city, the men of Ai came out and chased Israel away. In this pursuit, thirty-six Israelites were slaughtered. Now this may appear as a small defeat, but to Israel it was so great a defeat that their hearts melted and became like water.
In response to this, Joshua fell down before the Ark of the Covenant and began to mourn. Perplexed, he says, “Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of Jordan!” Joshua 7:7.
When he ended his complaint, Jehovah responded. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed.” Joshua 7:10–12.
This brings us to the second result of secret sins. That is, the secret sins of one individual will cause the church to lose her battles and fall before her enemies.
Now, is the church engaged in warfare? Yes! And who is her enemy? In Revelation 12:17 we read, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Satan and his legions are undoubtedly at war with the remnant church. And what is Satan’s main strategy? How does he effectively war against the church? Well, his main strategy is to work through false disciples who enter the sheepfold over the fence and destroy the church by sowing strife, teaching falsehood, casting doubt, and trampling upon our faith. We are told by inspiration that, “The great deceiver has many agents ready to present any and every kind of error to ensnare souls … It is his plan to bring into the church insincere, unregenerate elements that will encourage doubt and unbelief, and hinder all who desire to see the work of God advance and to advance with it.” The Great Controversy, 520.
Now, this only addresses the battle front that Satan attacks us on as a church body. But what about the battle that each individual member has against the enemy called self? Since the secret sins of one individual will cause the church to lose her battles, could it be that the secret sins of professed brethren has a weakening effect on those who are earnestly trying to overcome? Consider these inspired words: “The influence most to be feared by the church is not that of open opposers, infidels, and blasphemers, but of inconsistent professors of Christ. These are the ones that keep back the blessing of the God of Israel and bring weakness upon His people.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 497.
Let us move to the third result of secret sins. Now that the Lord had told Joshua the cause of their defeat, notice the warning He gave: “Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” Joshua 7:12.
The Spirit of Prophecy gives implications that this text is applied to the church as a whole, but more importantly to the leaders. The Lord said that He would no longer be with Joshua unless he destroyed the accursed thing.
The third result of secrets sins is this: The secret sins of one individual will eventually fall upon the leaders of the church and they will be held accountable for those sins. Surprising? This is what inspiration says: “If the leaders of the church neglect to diligently search out the sins which bring the displeasure of God upon the body, they become responsible for these sins.”
“God’s displeasure is upon His people, and He will not manifest His power in the midst of them while sins exist among them and are fostered by those in responsible positions.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 269, 270.
Are you a leader in the church? Are you being faithful to your duty?
Now I have just presented three interrelated results of secret sins. Once again they are:
The secret sins of one individual will arouse the displeasure of God against His entire church.
The secret sins of one individual will cause the church to lose her battles and fall before her enemies.
The secret sins of one individual will eventually fall upon the leaders of the church, and they will be held accountable for those sins.
Now consider the most subtle secret sin that exists within the church—covetousness.
After the Lord warned Joshua that He would depart from him unless he removed the accursed thing, He tells him to sanctify and assemble the people (Joshua 7:13, 14). Joshua then conducted an investigation by the process of elimination. In the morning, all the tribes of Israel appeared before the Lord, and the tribe of Judah was taken. Out of Judah, the family of the Zarhites was taken. Out of the Zarhites, the household of Zabdi was taken. And out of this household, Achan was singled out. In Joshua 7:19–21 we read Joshua’s plea: “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.” (By the way, when we confess our sins to God, we are giving Him glory. We are recognizing that His law is just and that He is righteous.) Achan answers, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw …” Notice that he saw. Friends, we must be careful of what we see. There are three evils of this world, and one of these is the lust of the eyes. Achan says, “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them.” Notice that he coveted and then took of the spoils. Covetousness was the root of Achan’s problem, and it led him to practice deceit and theft. We must beware of covetousness.
We often stress the importance of all of the Ten Commandments. We proclaim that they have not been abolished and that we are still obligated to keep them. It is easy for us to recognize when murder occurs or when someone is being disobedient to their parents. It is even easy for us to recognize when the fourth commandment is broken; we see this all over the Christian world. But how often do we recognize and reprove covetousness, the tenth commandment?
So what does it mean to covet? Well, one way to covet is to wish for something earnestly. This can be a positive action. But in a negative sense, to covet means to have a strong desire for what belongs to another. On a basic level, therefore, covetousness means to have a strong craving for possessions. We want so many things. We want and want until our wants are out of control.
In spite of this, coveting in itself is not evil. What makes it evil is the object of our desires mingled with our ambition to gain that object. For example, Achan coveted evil because his desire was for that which the Lord commanded to be destroyed or consecrated to Him. On the better side of coveting, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” I Corinthians 12:31. We are told to covet spiritual things; we are to covet heaven; we are to covet after treasures that will last forever.
Why is it that covetousness is so subtle? Well, as humans we have desires; God has created us with the capacity to want. However, because of our lack of self-control, we allow our desire to overpower our ability to reason and make moral decisions. As a result we find ourselves thinking that our strong desires are legitimate when, in reality, we are being greedy and covetous. Inspiration says, “The deadly sin that led to Achan’s ruin had its root in covetousness, of all sins one of the most common and the most lightly regarded. While other offenses meet with detection and punishment, how rarely does the violation of the tenth commandment so much as call forth censure.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 496.
On top of this we have an astonishing quote from Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 236: “The greatest sin which now exists in the church is covetousness.” This was written in 1860 and at that time the church was not as wealthy as she is today. So if covetousness was the greatest sin in 1860, how much more are we struggling with this leaven today?
In conclusion, I wish to make an appeal to all Adventists, especially the youth. I want you to consider a possible solution for secret sins. Do you realize that there is no institution more precious to God than is his church? It is the church of God that receives the affections of the entire universe, and all the angels of God are working on her behalf. With intensity they are working to bring the church into perfect unity, but their labors are limited because of secret sins. But change indeed is possible, and a final reformation will come. But what is needed in the church for this reformation to occur? What is needed in the church to bring her into that condition in which she may receive the latter rain? Yes, we have evangelists, we have pastors and teachers. We have Bible workers, colporteurs, and medical missionaries. But there is still a vital office that is empty, and until this office is filled, we will continue to journey in this wilderness. Church of God, what we need at this time are true living prophets. Not necessarily prophets who have visions and dreams, but prophets who rightly proclaim the truth into the context of their community; prophets who, as God’s mouthpiece, speak light into a situation full of darkness. And more than that, we need true prophets who, in the name of Jesus, will call forth order out of chaos. Now not all are called to be prophets. However, let those who have ears to hear, listen to what the Spirit says. The apostle Paul says, “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” I Corinthians 14:1. And just as every other gift comes through constant prayer and obedience, so the gift of prophecy will be revived if you earnestly pray for it and obey Christ. Indeed, the only way to realize this gift is to learn what it means to truly love; to love God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself. I leave you with these final words of inspiration. “God would have His people disciplined and brought into harmony of action, that they may see eye to eye and be of the same mind and of the same judgment. In order to bring about this state of things, there is much to be done. The carnal heart must be subdued and transformed. God designs that there shall ever be a living testimony in the church. It will be necessary to reprove and exhort, and some will need to be rebuked sharply, as the case demands.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 360.
Once again I ask: Do you have a longing for the return of Jesus, and do you believe He is returning for a church without spot or wrinkle?
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A member of Steps to Life staff, Demario Carter works in the Mail Order Services Department. He can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 316–788–5559.