Like Cain, God’s church today is saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9. Abel, Adam’s son, was dead, but it was of no concern to Cain, his brother, for he had killed him. As Abel was dead, the world is dead in trespasses and sins, but even though their voices are crying out to us, just as God said, regarding Abel, “The voice of thy brother’s blood cries unto me from the ground” (verse 10), are we concerned?
The church, God’s watchman in this world, is helping to kill those who need guidance. The unconverted, the Gentiles, are saying, “Watchman, what of the night?” Isaiah 21:11. By their poor example of righteousness and holiness, the church is killing the world. The apostle Paul, speaking to the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 14:8, said: “For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for the battle?” Peter states, in 1 Peter 2:9–12, “But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past [were] not a people, but [are] now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims . . . .” We do not belong here; we are strangers and pilgrims, yet we are operating as though this world is our home. Too many of us are behaving as though we live here and are not going anywhere. This world is not our home! Peter says, “Dearly beloved, I beseech [you] as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation” or your lifestyle “honest among the Gentiles.”
It is said that businessmen are not happy anymore to do business with Seventh-day Adventists, because we are not filled with fear. We bargain down their prices to the minimum or below the minimum. We should be a people of righteous statute. When people hear about Adventists, they should be honored to be in our presence; they should be honored to deal with us, because we are of a royal stock. We are children of the heavenly King. But, alas, this is not so. Satan has made his inroad on us, and we have lost our identity. We have become comfortable. We are like other Gentiles. We curse like them; we eat like them, and we sin like them. When people look at us, they see no difference. When they speak to us and need guidance, we cannot give guidance, because we ourselves need guidance.
“Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by [your] goods works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Verse 12. I am saying that people do not necessarily come to church because of what we say to them, but because of what they see in us.
I can never forget about what Ellen White wrote regarding Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. (See John 19:39.) “For a time Nicodemus did not publicly acknowledge Christ, but he watched His life, and pondered His teachings. In the Sanhedrin council he repeatedly thwarted the schemes of the priests to destroy Him.” The Desire of Ages, 176. Although Nicodemus was convinced that night that Jesus was the Saviour of the world, he did not show it right away. Mrs. White says, “Nicodemus hid the truth in his heart, and for three years there was little apparent fruit.” Ibid. Why was that? It was because he was a Pharisee, a learned man. He was watching Jesus.
After his interview with Him, Nicodemus was observing Jesus to see if what He said corresponded with how He lived. And after three years of observation, Nicodemus was satisfied that what Jesus said corresponded with His life. She states that, “After the Lord’s ascension, when the disciples were scattered by persecution, Nicodemus came boldly to the front. He employed his wealth in sustaining the infant church that the Jews had expected to be blotted out at the death of Christ. In the time of peril he who had been so cautious and questioning was firm as a rock, encouraging the faith of the disciples, and fur-nishing means to carry forward the work of the gospel. He was scorned and persecuted by those who had paid him reverence in other days. He became poor in this world’s goods; yet he faltered not in the faith which had its beginning
in that night conference with Jesus.” Ibid., 177. Praise God that Nicode-mus’ name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.
There are many intelligent people whom we have come across, there are many people to whom we have witnessed, and they are convinced in their hearts. Sometimes they may not tell us, but they are convinced about what we say—that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, that the sanctuary is true, that health reform is right. But they are privately watching us. They will not tell us, but they watch when we start the Sabbath. In our homes, they watch what we eat.
God has called us to be a peculiar people, holy in lifestyle, showing His glory and praise to the Gentile world. We are not to be giving the world an uncertain sound. To give an uncertain sound means to give confusion, when people not knowing which way to go are depending on us for guidance in the dark hour of earth’s history. The people are depending on the watchmen, God’s true church that keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus.
Uncertainty and Confusion
Today, however, among God’s people there is great uncertainty and confusion over many things. As a result, the world is perishing in darkness for want of guidance. Consider some areas of uncertainty and confusion in the Adventist church today.
There is confusion on the fact that Jesus is coming back for a church without spot or wrinkle. Many who are struggling with sin question that if Jesus is our example, then why did He not sin? Jesus led a sinless life, and He is our example, that we should follow in His steps.
Another significant problem in the church is the issue of worldly music in the church. People are confused as to what type of music we are to play in the house of God. Why are we confused? God does not want reggae music in His house. God does not want rap in His house either. God is not asking for rock and roll or the blues. There will be no such music in heaven.
What about health reform?
What about the Holy Spirit? There are those who are teaching that the Holy Spirit is not a person. Confusion! What does the Bible have to say about the Holy Spirit? That He is the third person of the Godhead. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Mat-thew 28:19. (See also Romans 8:16; 1 Corinthians 2:11–14; Acts 5:3, 4.)
What about the Spirit of Prophecy? Many Adventist ministers do not believe in the Spirit of Prophecy at all. They say that it is your personal opinion, that it is devotional; use it if you want. And because they do not believe, the church does not believe.
What about the sanctuary? Many Adventist ministers do not believe in the doctrine of the sanctuary. These are the people who are preaching in the pulpits Sabbath after Sabbath! “Watchman, what of the night?”
What about dress reform? I am so disturbed when I attend church and see my sisters dressed a certain way—as if to say we have no guidance. I do not believe our sisters should dress in a way that exposes them. A godly woman dresses godly. We have guidance on that.
What about Seventh-day Adventists worshipping on Sunday? Oh, yes. I have been in churches where you can worship on Saturday, if that is your choice, or you can worship on Sunday, if that is your choice. Confusion! “Watchman, what of the night?” Which day is the Sabbath? Whichever—it is up to you! Is that what we teach as a people? Is that what we believe as a people?
Everybody seems tired of worship, so the celebration style of worship is coming into the churches. Many do not know why, but allow me to give you an idea about why this celebration style of worship is in our churches. In my office, I have a copy of the book, The Purpose Driven Life. (Rick Warren, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002.) Have you heard about it? Rick Warren is senior pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, a wealthy suburb of greater Los Angeles. The church has an enormous membership. In the past seven years alone its congregation has taken in 9,100 new members! Today, I hear Adventists saying that we need mega churches. We need churches that seat 5,000 or 10,000 people. This is not, however, what the Spirit of Prophecy counsels.
We are not here to entertain people. The church must move away from being an entertainment center.
Warren or White?
Warren is remarkably gifted in the use of words and phrases, and his latest book, The Purpose Driven Life, has sold over 23 million copies.
The leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination have decided that this book is the book that all of its members should study with extreme care. So, if we are to read Rick Warren’s book, what about the Spirit of Prophecy books that we are throwing away?
I was visiting at my brother’s home in Florida some time ago, and as he was showing me around his new home, we went into his library where he showed me a couple of the older Spirit of Prophecy editions. He told me that while he was attending a seminar at an Adventist school, these books were being thrown away in the garbage, so he said, “Give them to me.”
While the Spirit of Prophecy books that were given to guide us are being thrown away, a Sunday worshipper’s books are being advocated. Do not take me wrong. I am not saying that some Sunday worshippers cannot write good things. What I mean is that we must understand what this book says.
40 Day Guide
In it, Mr. Warren states that the current objective is to get each local church—talking about our denominational leaders—to carefully go through the book in study groups, very slowly, over a period of 40 days during lent. This is what the denominational leaders are saying to the local church leaders, so all of the churches can buy Rick Warren’s book and go through it in 40 days during lent, culminating in a grand Easter celebration. Does that sound like anything Catholic to you? We keep getting closer to the world, to its forms, ceremonies, celebration, and teachings.
“Those who will be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ to the immortal inheritance, will be peculiar. Yes, so peculiar that God places a mark upon them as His, wholly His. Think ye that God will receive, honor, and acknowledge a people so mixed up with the world that they differ from them only in name?” Testimonies, vol. 1, 287.
Let me define what lent is, if you do not know. Lent is a period of six and one-half weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. During lent, for 40 days, excluding Sunday, fasting is recommended for all Catholics. Lent readies the faithful for celebrating the Pascal mystery after a period of closer attention to the Word of God and more ardent prayer. (Catholic Encyclopedia, www.catholicity.com.)
The Purpose Driven Life is more than a book. On page 9 of his book, Rick Warren states that it is a guide to a 40-day spiritual journey that will enable you to discover the answer to life’s most important question, What on earth am I here for? He asserts that, by the end of this journey, you will know that purpose for your life.
Why are you here on earth? What is God’s plan for your life? According to Warren’s book, it does not include obedience to the Ten Commandments. In Chapter 35, “God’s Power in Your Weakness,” he says that the reader need not concern himself about his weaknesses and imperfections, that it is true that we can learn to live with many of our weaknesses and drawbacks, but we do not have to stay with them all. There are flaws and mannerisms we all probably should rise above and overcome. Warren uses Romans 7 in a way that will lead to false conclusions. Paul modeled vulnerability in all his lectures. He openly shared his failures: “When I want to do good, I do not, and when I try not to do good, I do it anyway.” (Romans 7:19.)
In Chapter 36, “Made for a Mission,” Warren carefully instructs the reader that he should totally ignore all preparations for Christ’s Second Coming and, of course, the final judgment. When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, he writes, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. That is what Warren says. Jesus wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. Sounds good, does it not? But deceptive. Warren is intimating that Jesus was saying, in a sense, that the details of His return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission He has given you; focus on that.
From another Saddleback brochure, we learn that 40 days of The Purpose Driven Life was publicly endorsed and used in a large number of denominations, including: Assembly of God, Baptist, Church of God, Evangelical Free, International Pentecostal Holiness, Seventh-day Adventist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Nazarene, and I could go on.
Now, this is the crux of the issue: In church growth seminars, pastors, including Seventh-day Adventist pastors, are being taught how to bring in more people off the streets and get them to join the church in droves. How is this done? Church growth seminars teach that doctrine should not be emphasized. That is why in the churches today you do not hear such things. Several years ago, for a couple of weeks, there was a Sabbath School quarterly that talked about the mark of the beast. I was in a church the Sabbath that lesson was studied, and the assistant pastor was teaching the class. He was saying that the mark of the beast could be anything! He said the mark of the beast could be your name; you could be the mark of the beast!
I said to him, “My brother, let me say this to you. We have no reason to apologize for what we believe. We know what the mark of the beast is; the Bible makes it abundantly clear, and we have no reason to apologize.” But we are confused, and it is because of where our ministers are being taught, where they are going and coming back with one voice to re-educate God’s people: Do not focus on standards! And as I see today in the church, wear anything you want to wear; eat anything you want to eat; listen to any kind of music; it does not make a difference as long as you are in the church. As long as you are called Seventh-day Adventist, that is fine.
Warren says that music, sociability, and excitement are key factors in bringing in and holding multitudes, not religious beliefs. Do not teach the doctrines, because when you teach the doctrines, it will run away the people. People want a convenient religion. Give the people what they want.
The Willow Creek (Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Illinois) philosophy is that baptism and revival are really religious marketing, and when I studied into this, I discovered that this church and this minister employ a consulting firm called CMS. This firm markets the church for them.
Place for Holy Spirit
So what about the Holy Spirit? Jesus did not tell us to employ consulting firms. Jesus said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” John 16:7, 13. Are the consulting firms the Holy Spirit? CMS, the consulting firm that the Willow Creek Community Church employs, has an impressive list of clientele, including: the Quakers, Isuzu Motors, the City of West Covina, Saddleback Valley Community Church, Presbyterians, etc. A full-service custom marketing and communications agency headquartered in Covina, California, CMS’ consulting services are varied, but their focus is to give the people what they want. That is the strategy they use.
To better understand, consider music. You should be made aware of the fact that Rick Warren calls his church the flock that likes to rock. He is referring to the music at Saddleback. According to Warren, every possible type of music is good. Now, remember that this is a man who is teaching Seventh-day Adventist ministers. Do you understand why different types of music are coming into this church? Do you understand the praise and worship? In one church I attended, I saw a lady on the stage starting to do some bodily things. Do you know what I mean?
According to Warren, every possible type of music is good, as long as it has Christian words. There is no such thing as Christian music; there are only Christian lyrics. It is the words that make a song sacred, not the tune. That is what he says. You must match your music to the kind of people that your church wishes to reach. The music you use positions your church in your community; it defines who you are. It will determine the kind of people you attract, the kind of people you keep, and the kind of people you lose. That is what Warren says. Now you can better understand why your local church is changing on Sabbath morning.
Warren says that God loves all kinds of music because He invented it all. But that is not true. Rick Warren says that we should use drums, clashing cymbals, loud trumpets, tambourines, and stringed instruments. Is that what we have in the Adventist churches today? How sad!
I want you to understand that the hour is late. The time in which we live is a momentous and stupendous one. Earl Nightingale, founder of the achievement-learning company Nightingale-Conant, once stated that we are living in a changing world. Great, solemn, and eternal events are taking place that point to one magnificent occasion.
Because the world knows us as a people of prophecy, the question comes to us again, “Watchman, what of the night?” The night of this current world is not very encouraging.
From the Sunday Observer (Jamaica), April 24, 2005, it was reported that Pope Benedict XVI said that he is determined to unite Christians of whatever stripe, and that his final attack will be to reconstitute the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers.
Not many people understand why Benedict XVI chose the name Benedict. He took the name Benedict XVI because the Order of St. Benedict had sworn with a solemn oath to destroy the Sabbath-keeping, Bible-teaching churches and schools in Europe.
One Sabbath I visited with a pastor who had met, several years ago in Columbia, a former priest who used to work at the Vatican. This former priest had just become a Seventh-day Adventist, and he told that the Seventh-day Adventists had a bitter enemy in the Vatican—Joseph Ratzinger.
Today, Joseph Ratzinger is the pope, and he is resolved that Adventist Sabbath keepers will either cooperate or be annihilated. I believe Adventists are up for an awakening. We need to determine what we are about. Are we watchmen on the walls of Zion? Will we stand for Jesus no matter what? We have a decision to make today. If you have been fooling around with your Christianity, today is your opportunity. You can recommit yourself and get right with God.
Yes, as watchmen, we must be able to say, “The morning cometh”—the morning of hope, the morning of peace, the morning of deliverance. “Watchman, what of the night?”
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.