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1. Understanding the Character of God

Phil Mills Sr.

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Phil Mills Sr.

Dermatologist in Northern Georgia

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Conference

Recorded

  • June 19, 2017
    8:00 AM
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In an age on ages telling—to be living is sublime.

Hark! The waking up of nations, Gog and Magog to the fray;

Hark! What soundeth? is creation groaning for her latter day?

 

From around the world, the reports are live-streaming in. The Middle East, Europe, China, North Korea—the nations are awakening and marshalling for war. In the United Kingdom last year, more people died from antibiotic resistant infections than they did from breast cancer and the problem is growing. Creation is groaning for her latter day!

 

I do not have time to compare with you Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and Revelation 6 which give the parallel prophecies of the events leading up to the second coming but Luke alone gives the very last sign that precedes the second coming of Christ—terror—men’s hearts failing them for fear (Luke 21:26) and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth. Satan is the great terrorist. Terrorism has now been unleashed worldwide.

 

“We should study the great waymarks that point out the time in which we are living.” Review and Herald, June 23, 1896 We know that we are very near the close of this earth’s history. We should now pray most earnestly that we may be prepared for the struggles of the great day of God’s preparation. Although you each here are well aware of a few of the events that I’m going to tick off here, let me briefly review them to point out the times in which we are living. I want to start by reviewing a few civil waymarks that a few of you might know very well. Jesus likened the period at the end of time to the days of Lot and Sodom.

 

2015 was a pivotal year here in the U.S. It was a transition year, a watershed year as we’ll see in a moment, ignoring science, common sense, health and social consequences, a sharply-divided supreme court shredded the constitution, bypassed the representative voting process and declared the perversion between male and male and female and female with marriage. Since that time, the LGBTQ Movement has accelerated and various pressure on legislature to make unisex bathrooms the standard despite the fact that it meant combat requirements were lowered and the military’s own study showed that it reduced the fighting effectiveness of troops. The Defence Secretary Ashim Carga made the historic announcement that all U.S. combat and military positions would open up to women. Military uniforms and hats are now unisex. Every attempt has been made to obliterate the obvious differences between men and women.

 

Both major political parties have embraced the LGBTQ agenda. In an unprecedented and widely-applauded event in 2015, the Pope addressed a joint session of Congress. In 2015, Pope Francis published an encyclical on climate change and the world signed the historic agreement with the Pope Friday. He sees heads of states and heads of the largest corporations. Tim Cooks, CEO of Apple just gave the graduation talk to MIT ten days ago and in his talk at MIT, he said, “Last year, I had the chance to meet Pope Francis. It was the most incredible meeting of my life. He expressed a shared concern in a powerfully new way. “All the world marvelled” is in the process of fulfilment.

 

Two years ago, a much less-publicized event has occurred with a Catholic charismatic conference in Rome. For the first time, this was the Catholic charismatic movement that was officially blessed by a Pope who addressed the group. The Pope did not encourage them to study their Bible deeply. He encouraged them to carry the New Testament around in their pockets and read a little piece. A handful of leading and prominent Protestants from the U.S. were invited as guests to the event that celebrate the Mass that have an audience with the Pope and to meet with other Catholic officials. They were specifically invited to discuss the question “Can we find common cause in order to advance the life and ministry of Jesus so more people can experience the joy of Christian faith?”

 

Do you believe that Catholics and Protestants can find a common ground? Do you think the Catholic Church knows the answer to her own question? Can you hear in the question that was discussed in Rome by leaders and spokesman of varying denominations the echoes of prophecy? Would you like to understand exactly how the image of the beast begins to be formed? It’s a three-step process. This is step 1: GC 445: “When the leading churches of the United States uniting upon such points of doctrines as are held by them in common. This is where the image to the beast begins. You can never have the union of church and state which we’re looking for but we’re looking for it prematurely. You can’t have church and state united before you have church and church united. We first have the union of church with church and the year 2015 was the pivotal year as we saw but 2017 is a significant one. This is the 500 anniversary of Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Castle Church door on October 31.

 

Lutheran bishop James Hazelwood, Catholic Archbishop and Cardinal Chino Maley are marking the 500th anniversary by pushing for unity and collaboration between Lutherans and Catholics. Now, how are they going to encourage collaboration between Lutherans and Catholics? Here’s the plan: They’re encouraging the Catholics and the Lutherans to commemorate the Reformation by reading Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change this year.

 

October 31, 2016, on the 499th anniversary Archbishop Angie Jacqueline, the prime head of the church of Sweden and Pope Francis held an ecumenical service in Absalom, Sweden. On June 28, 2017 Anders Arbreles became the first-ever Cardinal of Sweden. This is union but it doesn’t stop there. Steps two and three follow quickly.

 

They will unite on points of doctrine held by them in common and then they shall influence the state to enforce their decrees. How do states enforce church decrees? Through civil laws. And to sustain their institutions—that’s the third step. How do states raise money to give to institutions? Through taxation.

 

So what is the union of church and state? The state enforcing church laws and the state taxing its citizens to support the church. This means the compliance of church rules will no longer be voluntary and support of church funds will no longer be voluntary. When this happens, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy.

 

What is the image? The image is doctrinal unity and Sunday worship, civil laws enforcing uniformity in Sunday worship and taxation sustaining conformity to Sunday worship. The unholy trinity of church union with compulsory church rules and compulsory church taxes are the essence of the beast Rome and when these are adopted by the United States, a mirror image of the beast will emerge in Washington and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.

 

Let’s review this three-step process to the mark of the beast. Doctrinal unity, laws enforcing church doctrine, taxation for religious institutions resulting in a loss of religious freedom and civil persecution. The three principles that are the essence of the beast of Rome are Sunday-keeping, Sunday laws and access to tax money. The adoption of these three principles leads to papal persecution. As these same principles are adopted by the U.S., a mirror image of the beast will emerge in Washington. And the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result. But permit me to fill out a few more details before we move on.

 

To secure such a union, the discussion of subjects upon which all were not agreed, however important they might be from a Bible standpoint, must necessarily be waived. p. 444

 

Is there any topic that virtually every Christian has agreed on? Virtually every denomination has agreed on rejecting the seventh-day Sabbath which honors God’s law. They believe and teach that worship should be on Sunday in honour of Christ’s resurrection and they incorrectly refer to Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Because they believe in Sunday unitedly, what will be the foremost topic in religious discussions in the process of uniting churches? Sunday! So that the churches can unite on Sunday, other topics will need to be avoided.

 

“In the warfare to be waged in the last days there will be united in opposition to God’s people all the corrupt powers that have apostatized from the allegiance to the law of Jehovah. In this warfare, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment will be the great point at issue.” 3 SM 392

 

The Catholic Church is reaching out its hand to Protestants. Will Protestants spurn that hand?

 

The religion of spiritualism, the religion of mediums and séances has been evolving. The most successful spiritualist congregations consider themselves Christian. The spiritualist worship services have adopted Catholic, Protestant and Charismatic worship service form. They have hymns. They have healing services. They have preaching. Do spiritualists, too, hold something in common with Catholics and Protestants? All three believe in the immortality of the soul. However, that is not sufficient to unite them. That simply makes Catholics and Protestants vulnerable to spiritualist deceptions. But notice what will unite them:

 

“Through the agency of spiritualism, miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and many undeniable wonders will be performed and as spiritualists profess faith in the Bible, and manifest respect for the institutions of the church, their work will be accepted as a manifestation of divine power.” GC Page 588 What unites them? Miracles, healings, undeniable wonders. Second, profession of faith in the Bible and third, manifest respect for church institutions. What unites Catholics and Protestants? A common belief in Sunday worship. What unites Catholics, Protestants and spiritualists? “Papists who boast of miracles as a certain sign of the true church will be readily deceived by this wonder-working power and Protestants, having cast away the shield of truth, will also be deluded.” GC 588

 

We expect Papists and Protestants to link with spiritualists. These three groups are organized but there is a fourth group, perhaps much bigger than Papists, Protestants and spiritualists combined—this is the image to the beast mixed multitude--Papists, Protestants and worldlings.

 

Who are worldlings? Counsels on Health, page 280 tells us they are “servants of the world,” not servants of God, eager and ambitious to follow its fashions in extravagant dress and in the gratification of appetite. Worldlings are servants of the world. Their words and actions are not governed by the instruction of God’s Word. They order their lives around the maxims, customs and demands of culture.

 

What is a Catholic? A Catholic is someone who follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. What is a Protestant? A Protestant is an individual who follows the teachings of his Protestant church. What is a spiritualist? That is a person who follows the teachings of spirits purporting to be the spirits of the dead.

 

What is a worldling? Anyone who follows the dictates of the majority around him. This person follows the trends and fashions. This is a person who is an echo of the media. He knows what the world says but does not know what the Word says. He is familiar with the world’s heroes but unfamiliar with Bible heroes. Worldlings are committed to worldly causes, social causes, environmental causes. A worldling is involved in political causes of the day. A Christian cannot be for Christ has said His kingdom is not of this world. A worldling may be a member and attend Catholic mass if it is sufficiently popular or convenient but he is not committed to Catholicism. A worldling may be a Protestant member and attend on Sunday if it is sufficiently entertaining or not inconvenient or popular but he is not committed to Protestantism. Dare I say it? Dare I not say it? A worldling may be a baptized SDA and attend on Sabbath but he is not fully surrendered to every world that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Worldlings are the masses of humanity. If worldlings support something, it’s wildly popular. Catholics, Protestants and spiritualists provide the organizational support for unity but worldlings provide the multitudes and the media support and the unity of Catholics, Protestants, spiritualists and worldlings reveal that they were never separate, never really different to begin with. Papists, Protestants, and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power and they will see in this union a grand movement for the conversion of the world and the ushering in of the long-expected millennium.

 

But we need to notice another word in this paragraph: Power! Wonder-working power can unite people. Ancient histories of the early church tell about Simon Magus. The demons would pick him up and levitate him. He would fly. The NT tell of the effects of the miracles of Simon Magus on the people of Samaria, to whom they all gave heed, from the greatest to the least, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” End time Simon Maguses will perform such miracles that multitudes from the least to the greatest will be deceived.

 

Papists will be readily deceived by this wonder-working power and Protestants will also be deluded. What will Catholics see? Wonder-working power with healing. What will apostate Protestants see? Wonder-working power with healing. What will the worldling see? Wonder-working power with healing. But how does the Bible describe this final revival that unites Catholics, Protestants, spiritualists and worldlings by its wonder-working power? As being without power. Papists, Protestants and worldlings will alike accept the form of godliness without the power of godliness. Catholics see wonder-working power. Apostate Protestants see wonder-working power. Spiritualists see wonder-working power. Worldlings see wonder-working power. The Bible, however, sees no power whatsoever. We must be able to differentiate the true power which is from heaven, the only real power from counterfeit wonders that will fool nearly all. But worldlings, Catholics and Protestants will make lies their refuge. Isaiah 28:15 tells us. Volume 5, p. 451: “When Protestantism shall stretch her hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when under the influence of this three-fold union (You see, you first have the union then you the church-state union) our country shall repudiate every principle of its constitution as a Protestant and Republican government and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions. And the word “propagation” means to spread and promote widely. This is where we get the word “propaganda.”

 

There is quickly coming a time when the U.S. laws and the U.S. dollars will be utilized to widely spread and promote Catholic dogma. Then we may know that the time has come for the marvellous working of Satan and that the end is near. All around us are the events foretold in prophecy. We are living, we are dwelling in a grand and awful time. We are living the closing scenes of the earth’s history. 18MR, page 358: “Like a lion sneaking up on its prey, quietly downwind, slowly, just so, the Desire of Ages tells us, “the crisis is stealing gradually upon us but it doesn’t stay slow and gradual forever. There comes a moment when the lion is no longer quiet. There comes a moment when a lion is no longer moving gradually. There comes a moment when the lion roars and makes a sudden and violent attack. 9T 11: “Great changes are soon to take place in our world and the final movements will be rapid ones.

 

We should note that the end will not be gradual. It will be sudden, unexpected and climactic. You will hear people say, “We’re in the final rapid movements.” We’re not, folks, but it’s about to spring on us. The stealth is about to be uncovered. The lion is about to attack. There will be a change. There will be a sudden and unexpected attack. We have little dream of the ferocity in the days ahead of us.

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 “Great pains should be taken to keep this subject before the people. The solemn fact is to be kept not only before the people of the world, but…” What is the next phrase? “before our own churches also that the day of the Lord will come suddenly, unexpectedly. The fearful warning of the prophecy is addressed to every soul. Let no one feel that he is secure from the danger of being surprised.”  Fundamentals of Education, page 335. You don’t have to go to Rome to see prophecy being fulfilled. While our eyes are busily scanning the horizons for signs in the distance, there is a sign right under our nose. Are we clasping our hands with the world? Are we reaching our hands across the abyss? Have we adopted an ecumenical approach to the world?

 

The Great Controversy, p. 588: “The line of distinction between professed Christians and the ungodly is now hardly distinguishable. Church members love what the world loves and are ready to join with them.”

 

I am concerned when the Roman hand of friendship is stretched out by the leading Protestants but I am more concerned that the beckoning hand of the world is stretched out for me to grasp. Am I reaching across this abyss? Multitudes of Christians are doing this and it, too, is a sign of the end.

 

“Knowing the time,” Paul said, “it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Never forget that the world’s hands stretched out in apparent friendliness is ready to slap you if you refuse the gesture! “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12.

 

Walsh is a committed SDA. He is a graduate of Oakwood College and Loma Linda University School of Medicine. He is an excellent speaker. He is highly regarded and was on the short list of candidates to be Surgeon General of the U.S. In 2010 he was hired as Pasadena’s Public Health Director. He remained active in his local Adventist church. In fact, he functioned as a volunteer associate pastor. He was invited to speak all over the world. Pasadena City College is a liberal arts college in Pasadena. It was under some community pressure for having classes which required watching pornographic movies. When openly-gay screen writer Dustin Lance Black was invited to be the commencement speaker that spring, pornographic Youtube of Dustin Black was circulated and another community outcry was raised. The Board of Trustees cancelled Mr Black’s invitation. But Mr Black asked the students to pressure administration to reinstate his commencement address. Eric Walsh was asked to take Mr Black’s place as the commencement speaker and students went through Dr Walsh’s sermons online. In one sermon on audioverse, Dr Walsh had used the Bible and its clear separation of genders, men and women, its clear teaching on marriage between men and women to make a point on the danger that the church faced when it uses the expression “without regard to gender”
when it’s discussing ordination. Dr Walsh was in a unique position to understand this as he had pioneered an HIV clinic in Pasadena, a free clinic that he had administered and started. The expression “without regard to gender” is an expression that those who believe that there are many genders, not just male and female used. From his sermons, these students took out a comment here, a comment there and placed them in their most extreme setting. As a result, not only was Eric Walsh disinvited, but he was fired from his job and he had great difficulty finding a new job. He was hired in my own state in Georgia but his detractors discovered it and they got him fired there before he could even begin. He just won a lawsuit but has a very difficult time.

 

Furthermore, although his local church supported him, as disappointing as it sounds, his alma mater Loma Linda, his local conference, local union, our own North American Division, and even the General Conference Legal Department declined to support him, distancing themselves from him.

 

But, you see, God allows these things for our good, just as Paul said, “Everyone left him.” He was alone, just as Jesus’ disciples left Him and He was alone. So in this time, God wants Dr Walsh to learn that all he needed was Jesus. Dear folks, God wants us to learn that same precious lesson. God overruled this for his good and in his extremity, he told me how he learned in a deeper way to trust in God alone. These are storm warnings of coming events. This is a preview of the opportunity, privilege and high honour that God will soon be giving His children. But in these experiences, we will learn the great lesson of how to trust Jesus. We’re not ignorant of Satan’s devices. Satan’s two-fold approach: his enticement on the one hand coupled with threats on the other. That brings us to the paragraph that will be the focus of this morning, tomorrow and Wednesday, the Lord willing.

 

The Great Controversy, p. 593: “Those who endeavour to obey all the commandments of God will be opposed and derided.” This paragraph originally appeared in volume four of the Spirit of Prophecy page 411. It adds an interesting clause: “Their way will be made very hard.”

 

One of the first visions God gave Ellen White was the future opposition she would face in accepting God’s assignments. This is the same message that she received. It is no different for us if we accept God’s assignment. God doesn’t want us surprised but opposition, delusion and hardship—this is the distinguishing badge of honour that God grants commandment keepers.

 

Spalding and Magan’s Collection, p. 370 “Troublous times are before us. In many instances, friends will become alienated. Without cause, men will become our enemies. The motives of the people of God will be misinterpreted, not only by the world but by their own brethren. The Lord’s servants will be put in hard places.” Who will be put in hard places? The Lord’s servants. “A mountain will be made of a mole hill, justifying men to pursue a selfish, unrighteous cause. The work that men have done faithfully will be disparaged and under-rated because apparent prosperity does not attend their efforts. Like the friends of Job who blamed him during his time of trouble. By misrepresentation, these men (i.e. servants of God) will be clothed in dark vestments of dishonesty because circumstances beyond their control made their work perplexing. They will be pointed to as men that cannot be trusted. And this will be done by members of the church.” How do we relate to such problems?

 

“God’s servants must arm themselves with the mind of Christ.” Notice what church members will do to God’s servants: “They must not expect to escape insult, and misjudgement. They will be called enthusiasts and fanatics but let them not become discouraged. God’s hands are on the wheel of His providence, guiding His work to the glory of His name.”

 

“All things work together for good to them who love God.” Romans 8:28 And when we have the mind of Jesus, we will not feel victimized by others. We’ll see even more others’ need of Christ and try to illustrate in our relationship to them how Jesus would relate in a hope and in many cases, it will result in their conversion.

 

The enigma machine was one great advantage that the allies had in World War Two. The Germans saw this cryptographic machine undecipherable. They thought they could send communications securely. However, in 1932, before the War broke out, the Polish had cracked the code. And at the start of the war, they gave their secrets to the British. Dwight Eisenhower called this information decisive because the allies often knew the German military’s plans in advance. The Bible is our decisive weapon for it decodes all the plans of the enemy. We need never be ignorant of his devices.

 

Notice the quotation that will be the focus of our series. We have now seen how the first sentence has been proven true already. Let’s notice the next: “Those who endeavour to obey all the commandments of God will be opposed and derided. They can stand only in God. In order to endure the trial before them, they must understand the will of God.” But how can they know the will of God? “As revealed in His Word. They can honour Him only as they have a right conception…” And then she gives three things that are required in a right conception of at the end of time. 1. They can honour Him only as they have a right conception of His character, His government and His purposes.” But knowledge is not enough. It is not enough to understand God’s habitual thoughts and feelings or to be able to teach a civics class on heavenly government or to comprehend the reason God allows what He allows. “We can honour God only as we have a right conception of His character, government and purposes and act in accordance with them. “None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict. To every soul will come the searching test: “Shall I obey God rather than man?” We don’t need to wait for some future dramatic crisis to face this test. We face it every day. Are we going to go with the flow and follow the crowd in the way we live, in the way we eat, in the way we dress, in the way we spend our time and our money? Is the world going to determine our view of what is right or wrong, good or evil? Do we approve of social drinking because the world approves it? What is our standard of conduct? Will we excuse white lies? The decisive hour is even now at hand. These tests are not for some future time. They are for now. Everyone who has ever lived and died has gone through an end  of time experience for themselves. For some it was sudden and unexpected. For others it was slow and painful. My mother died almost three years ago. She was nearly 98 years old. And at the end her eyes were failing. Her ears were failing. Her joints were failing and her stomach was failing. She was going through the difficulties of the end of time. She had to learn to trust Jesus in a whole new way and in an unexpected way. She was expecting trials at the end but she wasn’t expecting those trials at the end. Are our feet planted on the rock of God’s beautiful Word? Are we prepared to stand and defend the Ten Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus?

 

This paragraph is one of the most important paragraphs in the entire Great Controversy since it exposes Satan’s end-time strategy. “The devil intends to frustrate and frighten us by subtle and open opposition, mockery and derision finally persecution. In an effort to increase the effectiveness of these attacks, he intends to keep us from understanding the will of God by spreading misinformation about God in three critical areas—His character, His government and His purposes.”

 

“Satan is constantly at work with intense energy and under a thousand disguises to misrepresent the character and government of God. With extensive, well-organized plans and marvellous power, he is working to hold the inhabitants of the world under his deceptions. God has outlined Satan’s principal method of spreading his misinformation.” Patriarchs and Prophets, page 78.

 

“Tradition and misinterpretation have obscured the teaching of the Bible concerning the character of God, the nature of His government and the principles of His dealing with sin.” The Great Controversy, page 492

 

Tradition is built on the assertions of man, scholars, rabbis, religious leaders or preachers that may be wise and knowledgeable, but they are only men.  Jesus was very good at differentiating the assertions of men from the Word of God. We, too, must recognize the difference between an assertion of a man and the plain word of God. We must dispense with tradition. Beware of misinterpretation, Bible pretence masquerading as Bible truths.

 

God is love and genuine love is central to His character, His government and His purposes. So let us turn our attention first to the character of God and look at this briefly. What is character? “Character is the habitual thoughts and feelings.” 5T page 310. When we study God’s character, we are studying God’s habitual thoughts and feelings. What are God’s habitual thoughts and feelings? Jeremiah 29:11—“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

 

Understanding God’s character is not optional. It is an essential aspect of all beings who would live eternally. John 17:3 says, “This is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” This was necessary for the angels.

 

I found an interesting and important quotation from research for this topic. Speaking of heaven before the rebellion of Satan, we are told in 18 MR, page 360: “The principles of the character of God were the foundation of the education constantly kept before the heavenly angels.” Heaven is a school and the angels are its students. The character of God is their classwork. God is very intentional about the angels continuing education course work. “From the beginning they received instruction on the character of God.” Not occasionally, not every now and then, this was their constant study. There was no part of their work or worship that did not teach them about the character of God. “The principles of the character of God were the foundation of the education constantly kept before the heavenly angels. These principles were goodness, mercy, and love.” What are the principles of the character of God? Goodness, mercy and love and this was designed to keep them from falling.

 

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” This is what is to be the foundation of our education here on this earth. This is to be the foundation of our children’s education specifically in Adventist education in general. This is what parents are to teach children.

 

Review and Herald, 15 Sept, 1891: “The mother is God’s agent to Christianize her family. She is to exemplify the biblical religion shown how its influences is to control us in its everyday duties and pleasures, teaching her children that by grace alone can they be saved through faith, which is the gift of God. This constant teaching as to what Christ is to us and to them, His love, His goodness, His mercy revealed in the great plan of redemption will make a hallowed, sacred impress on the heart. Love, goodness, mercy.

 

“Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you,” Jeremiah declares. It is understanding God’s love that draws us to Jesus.

 

Desire of Ages, page 388: “Those who see Christ in His true character and receive Him into the heart have everlasting life. It is through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us. The Spirit of God received into the heart by faith is the beginning of the life eternal.”

 

Can the character of God be misunderstood? Can His goodness, mercy and love be taken advantage of? Though all the angels, both seraphim and cherubim receive graduate education on the character of God, which angel received the most study on God’s character? Lucifer. Notice this: Desire of Ages, page 761: “To him as to no other being was given a revelation of God’s love. Understanding the character of God, knowing His goodness, Satan chose to follow his own selfish, independent will. This choice was final. There was no more that God could do to save him. We are not lost because of our sins alone. God can forgive us of our sins. We are lost because we reject such great salvation. Is God’s love reasonable? Should a shepherd give his life for a sheep? Should God give His life for a human?

God’s only method of saving us is to teach us about His unreasonable love, His character, His great love. It’s not doctrine that will save people. It’s knowing the character of God. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Our job in reaching others is to teach not merely the theories of the kingdom of God. We don’t want them to accept or reject those but to present the character of God in our understanding. We don’t want people to accept or reject the Sabbath but to accept or reject the Lord of the Sabbath.

 

What is God’s character? “God has given to man a declaration of His character and of His method of dealing with sin. “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. Many stop there. This is their declaration about the character of God and all this is true in what it affirms but it is false in what it fails to affirm. It is not all there is to the truth. “and will by no means, clear the guilty.” The Great Controversy, page 541

 

God’s love is righteousness but you do not have love if you do not have hate. You do not love your children if you do not hate that which would harm your children. You do not love your spouse if you do not hate that which would harm your spouse. And God hates iniquity because it will harm us. “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity,” Paul says. Modern translations says, “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” All the wicked will be destroyed. The transgressor shall be destroyed together. The end of the wicked shall be cut off. The power and authority of the divine government will be employed to put down rebellion. Yet all the manifestations of retributive justice will be perfectly consistent with the character of God as a merciful, longsuffering, and benevolent Deity. God is just. The punishment meted out will fit the crime committed. The penalty will be exact. The pain will be precisely what is necessary for all to see that Satan got away with nothing. He reaped what he sowed. And the anguish experience by the sinner will be the proper anguish. Satan seeks to have us not understand this part of the character of God.

 

Notice how he deceived those who lived before the Flood, the antediluvians. Patriarchs and Prophets, page 95: “As sin became general, it appeared less and less sinful and they finally declared that it was contrary to the character of God to punish transgression. This belief led them to reject the message of Noah. This belief makes countries hesitant to punish criminals. This belief leads parents to fail to properly discipline their children. It leads churches to ignore the heinous crimes committed by their members. All this is done in the name of love but it is not love. It is not God’s love. It doesn’t reflect on God’s character.

 

The Desire of Ages, page 805: “On the church in its organized capacity, He (Christ) places a responsibility for the individual members. Towards those who fall into sin, the church has a duty to warn, to instruct and if possible, to restore. “Reprove, rebuke, exhort,” the Lord says, “with all longsuffering and doctrine. Deal faithfully with wrongdoing. Warn every soul that is in danger. Leave none to deceive themselves. Call sin by its right name. Declare what God has said in regard to lying, Sabbath-breaking, stealing, idolatry and every other evil. They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

 

Turn to 2 Kings 17. I want to quickly summarize the story. Under King Jeroboam the modern kingdom of Israel apostatized and started worshiping the golden calf. However, they retained many of the same customs and beliefs as the southern kingdom of Judah. Though God bore long with Israel because of this continued idolatry, the northern tribes were finally carried captive into the kingdom of Assyria while other nations were carried captive and released into the northern kingdom of Israel. Those now inheriting northern Israel were pagans and God sent lions among these pagans and they requested the Assyrian emperor to send priests to teach them the customs of the God of Israel. One of the priests from the temple of golden calf came to teach them about the God of Israel. In 2 Kings 17:33 tells how they listened to this priest and adopted his outward forms but they continued worshiping their own gods. Notice what it says: “They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.”

 

Please listen to me carefully. Those who are baptized in the SDA Church without a complete change are like these Samaritans. They adopt certain outward forms such as keeping the Sabbath, but retain their old way of life. They worship on Sabbath but are otherwise indistinguishable from the world in their dress, their jewelry, their diet, their music and they watch the same things on TV. They go to the same movies and they want to bring their sins into the church. “If they persisted in sin, (Desire of Ages continues) the judgment you have declared from God’s Word is pronounced upon them in heaven. Either we let the Saviour take away our sin or we let our sin take away our Saviour. In choosing to sin, they disowned Christ. The church must show that she does not sanction their deeds or she herself dishonours her Lord. She must say about sin what God says about it. She must deal with it as God directs and her action is ratified in heaven. He who despises the authority of the church despises the authority of Christ Himself.”

 

Paul said in Romans 2:4, “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Paul tells us that it is the goodness of God, His character, that brings us to repentance. God has no other mechanism to save us from sin. But it is not to lead us to think that we can sin and somehow escape punishment for evil. I want a character like God’s, don’t you? A character of holy love. Because the word “love” has so many meanings, God has left a picture for us to study His loving character. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character.” Desire of Ages, page 762. Do you want those attributes as the attributes of your character? May we never prefer a different god with a different character. How do we become like Jesus? How do we become godlike in character?

Patriarchs and Prophets, page 460: “This will require earnest prayer and unceasing watchfulness. We must be aided by the abiding influence of the Holy Spirit, which will attract the mind upward and habituate it to dwell on pure and holy things and we must give diligent study to the Word of God.

 

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word…Thy Word, says the psalmist, “have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” Earnest prayer, unceasing watchfulness, the abiding Holy Spirit, diligent Bible study—without these four we are not gaining God’s character to survive the present crisis.

 

An advertisement for a television station in Norfolk, Virginia, was seeking to enlist more viewers to the station’s one-hour long evening news program. Here was the ad: “Give us one hour and we will give you the world.” An advertisement for a museum Smithsonian: “Give us an hour and we will give you a hundred years.” But God’s ad is “Give Me an hour and I will give you eternity.”

 

There are some tests that are relatively easy to study or a driver’s exam requires little cramming and it can be passed in a few moments but the difficult exams such as the lawyer’s bar exam or a national board exam cannot be mastered in a few moments of study. Some require consistent study for several years. And we cannot be prepared for the final crisis without daily study and prayer. The disciples had been warned of coming troubles and events but they didn’t expect them so soon. And they slept when they should have been praying. I don’t know when the surprise is going to come but it’s going to come soon and it will be a surprise. We can be prepared for that final crisis. Will you be surprised like the disciples or will you be prepared? Will you say with me, “By God’s grace, I will commit to daily Bible study, the Spirit of Prophecy study and daily prayer? If that is your commitment, bow your heads with me and let’s pray. “Dear Lord, it’s easier for us to commit than for us to persevere and do. We need Your help. We have enemies within and without that would take us away from Your Word. Preserve us. Transform us. Give us the mind of Jesus, the character of Jesus.

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