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03. Kingly Power: Bright Lights, Dark Nights and The Morning Star

Ron Kelly
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There is danger in clinging to our private independence in opposition to the rightful authority that God has placed over us. This message takes a look at the risks of bright lights going out.

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Ron Kelly

Senior Pastor, Village SDA Church, Berrien Springs, Michigan

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Recorded

  • December 15, 2018
    11:30 AM
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Lord, open hearts and open ears, free lips, and the Spirit flowing freely is what we seek. May truth be what we desire, and may following it give us the freedom and the joy that it only can give. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

This morning I’d like to couch what I’m going to say against the backdrop of the larger picture of this germane series. If you’ve not been here for the other sermons, you can find them online.

 

Our church occasionally will go through cycles of trauma. I’m not talking about this local church; I’m talking about the larger church. We found this to be the case actually before the church was formerly constituted in 1863. There was a period of time the church went through trauma in regards to a lack of order and some really, kind of, out-of-balance experiences with people. And the Spirit of Prophecy and the leaders of the pre-Advent church had to face off with a number of fanatical elements.

 

The church later went through another serious trauma when the work of Jones and Waggoner was being promoted by Ellen White, and there was some insecurity and stress between the young upstart preachers and the denominational leadership. Ellen White stood in the gap to give support to them, but some of the stress between the leaders and Ellen White spilled out into the general public.

 

There was another point in time not long after that when Ellen White, having been, some would say, exiled to Australia where she willingly served as a missionary for Jesus and started the work there, found herself battling against the administrative process that was overcontrolled, by the testimony of her own writings, by two or three people in Battle Creek, something she came to call “kingly power.” And in the reorganization of the church, we found that some of the trauma that was more at the upper levels of administration actually came to be understood by the general populous of the church.

 

It would just so happen that in 2018 the church has found itself in another realm where what may be ought not to be the fodder of the mind is part of what’s understood by the local churches in that there has been stress between different levels of administrators and decision-making in our world church. It’s against that backdrop that I’ve been presenting these messages on Christian leadership, which I have entitled “Kingly Power and…,” and this morning it’s “Kingly Power: Bright Lights, Dark Nights and the Morning Star.”

 

In the first sermon, I talked about the phrase “kingly power” and how many places it’s used and repeated and what it means and what it doesn’t mean. In the second sermon I talked about authority, the proper exercise of authority and the improper use. I also was dealing with the dynamic of accountability, and I want to remind everybody that we are living in an age in which, as a result of apostate Protestantism partially, and our own carnal heart secondarily or primarily, however you want to look at it, we are living in an age in which, in collection with the general sense of the culture and its focus on liberty and freedom, that we want assurance that what we’re doing is right no matter what it is.

 

The problem is, is that assurance and accountability can be the opposite ends of the spectrum or they can be bound up together in the same thing. If you want assurance outside of the truth, then you are living in a very dangerous place, and you don’t want to hear anybody tell you anything you don’t want to hear. But if you’d like true assurance, the best place to get it is in the truth, which means, as we harken back to Edwin Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve, that we need to be both responsible and honest about ourselves. Now that goes for the preacher as well as all that might be listening to him. That goes for the conference president, union, division and General Conference president.

 

And this morning I’m going to broach a topic that has to do with the keeping of our own hearts, no matter what our role is. There is one thing you are responsible for in the end, and that is your own actions and your own attitudes. And when you allow those things to go awry in the name of somebody else’s mistake, or even worse, in the name of religious high horse, then you’re especially on dangerous ground, deceived by the arch-deceiver who has practiced his arts through the years with an amazing amount of success.

 

I had intended maybe to put up on the screen a list of some of those names that were bright lights in our denomination that went out. I think of [D.M.] Canright. I think of Desmond Ford. I think of Jones and Waggoner himself. And if you go back through the annals of history, you can find others, people who once walked in the Way. But as Paul would write in a distressed fashion, I hate to tell you, they are no longer walking that way.

 

It is not beyond me or you to lose our way. If we take our eyes off the Shepherd, if we’re not willing to listen to Him speak, whether it’s words of assurance or accountability or authority, Lordship as well as Savior, we could find ourselves in a very dangerous place. And I fear that is where we are.

 

So this morning, I’m going to lay before the people of God an invitation to follow Jesus in the narrow way no matter where you’re at, at the very upper levels of decision-making or if you think you’re at the bottom.

 

When I stood before you back in September of 2013, I quoted from Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address, which I’ll quote from here again. Towards the end, this is what he said, “I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment.” I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. I want you to realize, as good as your judgment may be, it could still be defective. You’re prepared to do a certain work. If you are holding a position or place that is in a religious institution, hopefully somebody laid hands on you and prayed for the Spirit to guide you. But you can still go wrong through defect of judgment. I’ve done it. Anybody else that’s honest will be able to admit they’ve done it. And some could be wrong through defect of attitude, even listening at this very moment.

 

“When right,” he went on to say, “I shall often be thought wrong by those whose position will not command a view of the whole ground.” I can’t emphasize this enough. There are many times when what we would call from the “Monday morning quarterback position,” we think we’ve got it figured out. But if we were to have a broader spectrum, we would understand that there is a reason for caution, and there is a reason for patience, and there is a reason for going carefully from point A to point B. “I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional.”

 

What is he saying here? What he’s saying is, “I’m going to try my best to do a good job.” “And your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all of its parts.”

 

There is a humility that undergirds the life of a true Christian, which is careful not to judge too quickly and careful to judge graciously when it must. When thinking about the story of great works, I’m led to the journey of Luther, Martin Luther, who for a period of time hid himself away in the Wartburg. While he was hidden away in the Wartburg, Professor Carlstadt, who had some ideas but weren’t particularly balanced, aided and abetted the people in exercising unrestraint, revolutionary spirit. It was partially this that actually brought Luther out of the Wartburg to make sure that the work he had begun was not ruined by being associated with the wrong things.

 

Every work that’s good, the devil is going to try to do something to sideline the centerpiece of its nobleness. There aren’t very many videos that I would encourage people to watch, but one that I have watched multiple times for its power of inspiration is the film Amazing Grace about the life of William Wilberforce. And there are different points in the narrative as put together by the producers (most of which I trust are relatively close to the truth) in which the man who is responsible for bringing Wilberforce (this is fact; it didn’t come from the movie), the man who is responsible mainly for bringing Wilberforce into the fight against the abolition of slavery has had enough. His name is Thomas Clarkson.

 

He was a man who dedicated himself to the abolition of slavery in 1785. As a matter of fact, there was a monument erected in Wisbech, England. It’s there today, and it says, “On this spot where stands this monument in the month of June 1785 Thomas Clarkson resolved to devote his life to bringing about the abolition of the slave trade.”

 

Now, most of us, I trust all of us, would agree this was a noble act. Five years later he convinced Wilberforce to join him. For 18 years, 18 long years, every fall, every spring, whichever time of the year it was, Wilberforce would bring before the House of Commons, he would bring a bill for the abolition of the slave trade. If you’ve seen the film before, you know at one point in time he’s no longer quite the man he was. Depending on the modern narcotic of the day, laudanum, and his evanescent relationship he has, the new relationship that he has with his, what would become, fiancée and wife, challenges him. And in the midst of one of those conversations, he kind of loses it, and the passion that’s all pent up from the frustration of a long process is spilling out. And finally, when he’s all done, because he didn’t want to talk about it, she finally says, “We’ve now found something we can agree upon,” and he keeps going.

 

But in one of those chapters, when the vote has come up the wrong way again, Clarkson finds him in his study. Now Clarkson precedes him by five years in this fight, says, in effect, “I hear that they’re imbibing the wine of revolution in Paris, and I’m going to go down there to drink a little.” And he invites Wilberforce to come with him. And it’s one of the most somber lines of the film when Wilberforce, leaning over his desk, looks straight into the eyes of Clarkson, and he says, “You must never speak to me of these things again in my presence.”

 

Wilberforce was unwilling to take the shortcut to victory by allowing the unruled mentality of the masses to overturn the order of the day. Now, from 1790 to 1807, 18 years of legislative cycling, Wilberforce waited for that to be approved. When it was approved, it did not set all the slaves free in England. That wouldn’t happen until 1833.

 

I just want you to put your arms around the painfully slow process of change. If a cause is right, our patience in the process can be sustained by our knowledge of its nobleness and its truthfulness.

 

Take your Bibles this morning and turn to the book of 1 Timothy, 1 Timothy, chapter [1]. At the end of the day, if there’s one Scripture to remember from this message it’s this one. First Timothy, Paul with his last advice, the last two books that he’ll pen of the New Testament. First Timothy, chapter 1, verses 5 to 7, “The goal of our instruction,” the purpose of the commandments, some of your Scriptures say, “is love,” love, “from a pure heart;” now he’s not done, but I want to pause there.

 

What I find in the current stress and strain of our church across its 13 world divisions is that some along the way, I think, have lost the practicality of what this is. They have reasons; they have purpose. Woven into the fabric, that keeps us all one and family, are threads of doubt, threads of resentment, threads of animosity, threads of evil thinking. They can be woven into a local church family. [They] can be woven anywhere.

 

I used to think it was only churches that could be sick, but I’m convinced now that it could be larger bodies; it could be a conference; it could be a union; it could be a division; it could be a General Conference. All you need is enough people who forget that the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, and you’re on the slippery slope to what divides a body that bonded in the love of Christ.

 

“The goal of our instruction is love,” love, “from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” This triad of Christian character is essential to staying on the narrow road. Timothy’s going to get some strong counsel, some painful direction, not the least of which is to stay in a church that he might wish to leave. But at the end of the day, when he deals with the flock, he needs to have a pure heart. When he deals with the flock, he needs to have a good conscience. He might not do it right all the time, and when he deals with the flock, he’ll have to move past what looks doable and challenge them to be faithful and remember there’s a God on the throne.“…Love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”

 

Take your Bibles and turn to the book of Proverbs, chapter 4, Proverbs, chapter 4, looking at verse 23, Solomon’s direction for each of us. Proverbs, chapter 4, verse 23, it says in the New American Standard, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the springs of life. Paul, in writing to one of his young preachers in the New Testament, will write, “Take heed unto yourself.” Stop and check yourself. You’re not a Christian because you’re a pastor. You’re not a Christian because you’re a president. You’re not a Christian because you’re an elder or a deacon or a Sabbath School teacher. You’re not a Christian because your name’s written on the rolls of Seventh-day Adventism. You’re not a Christian unless you’re in Christ and your actions, not just your words, legitimate it.

 

I don’t have the privilege, and neither do you, of failing to forgo the pangs or the plucking of conscience when the Lord says to me, “Ron, you are allowing yourself an emotional journey of dislike towards someone.” That is something the conscience is designed to do. “Ron, you didn’t speak properly to that person.” “Ron, you did that wrong, out of fear and insecurity.” The truth of the matter is, is that we can start in the light but end up in the darkness.

 

Take your Bibles and turn over to 1 John, chapter 2, verse 11. And it doesn’t matter what position you hold in the denomination. Your humanity is my humanity and mine is yours. First John, chapter 2, looking at verse 11. Jesus made it clear in John 13 that, “By this all men should know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Easy to say, hard to live, especially when we work in close proximity to each other. First John, chapter 2, verse 11, it says, “The one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

 

Writing in a letter in 1856, Ellen White made a very interesting statement. She said, “Every honest one,” this is when dealing with some of the different challenges of that fanaticism period of time, “Every honest one that may be deceived by this people will have the light in regard to them if every angel has to leave the glory to visit them and enlighten their minds. We have nothing to fear in this matter. As we near the judgment, all will manifest their true character and it will be made plain to what company they belong.”

 

I don’t have to hear every negative sentiment and evil thought that flows through the differing ranks of Adventism, including this church. I don’t live on the verge of conspiracy theories, and I don’t want to know all the dirt somebody has on somebody else. The truth of the matter is, what I want is an honest heart, a sincere love, and I have the assurance that if I’m sincere seeking the Lord, every angel in Heaven, if necessary, will be emptied from the ranks of the faithful to make sure I can know where the truth lies and what the narrow road looks like.

 

I want to look at three illustrations this morning that are very important for the age in which we’re living. Three individuals who have the potential to know the light and walk in the light but refuse to. Take your Bibles and turn to Luke, chapter 15. Luke, chapter 15, is the last parable of lostness. We know that at least one boy is really lost. What we discover is that it was two, and then by God’s grace it goes back to only one, but it’s a different one than we thought.

 

Luke chapter 15, looking at verse 11, “He said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.” So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.’” That’s quite a bit of the story in one verse. He got what he thought he wanted, he wasted it, and now he’s got trouble. It’s the story line of a whole world at the end of the age who, in their pursuit for freedom and pleasure and self-exaltation, find themselves dysfunctional and broken down. You can see it written as a subscript just beneath the storyline of our modern culture. Get what you want, nobody stand in your way, have as much fun as you can have, and when the pieces need to be picked up, hopefully there’s somewhere to go.

 

He’s in the pigpen reflecting on life, and the Scripture says, “when he came to himself.” There is no more potent and powerful line that’s the result of parental prayer. We should keep praying. We don’t know what it’s going to take for some to wake up and say, “You know what? I’ve looked through the wrong lens at my father.” There are children who have never known their parents even though they’ve grown up with them. Their hearts are locked by self-interest. Their hearts are shriveled and encased by self, and they couldn’t understand the best efforts of their parents if they wanted to.

 

When we listen to the unregenerate heart to get counsel for how to redirect our parental efforts, we are getting bad advice. I’m sure there are some pastors out there that mismanage their life, but I know for a fact after doing this for three decades, there are a number of the following generation “PKs” behind them, that have never embraced the cross and can’t appreciate the burdens their parents carried and the sacrifices their parents made and never entered into sharing in the sacrifice of their parents’ ministry. Some of those locked hearts ought not to be given the credibility of the republication of their sentiments.

 

Ellen White will write that there are people that will leave their farms and their fortunes and their families, and the call will be answered, she says. That call in little bitty bits and pieces goes on throughout the generations and is going on yet today. If my children so desired, they could probably write their own book on how they were uncared for and neglected by their daddy, except for one thing—they weren’t uncared for and neglected by their daddy. And when they find themselves locked in those moments, they get to run into two things, the power of the Holy Spirit and the true history of sincere people who have laid down their lives not only for them but for others.

 

This younger boy couldn’t see his dad in the right light. This is a true change of frame. It’s a paradigm shift. This boy goes from saying, “Dad’s the problem,” to saying, “I’m the problem.” And he says, “Dad is the problem, but now dad is the solution.” And in the midst of the pigpen where the Holy Spirit is able to speak to him, and in brokenness he can say, “I’m the broken one.” He says, “I’m going home.” Praise God. “I’m not going to live in the arena of my own definitions and my own resentments. I’m not going to live with self at the center.” And he’s on his way home, and his father sees them, and there’s a beautiful encounter.

 

What we find in the rest of the story is that the older brother doesn’t feel much different. Verse 25, “His older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring,” what’s going on? Verse 27, “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come,’” home, “‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him [back] safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and [yet] you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends.”

 

I’m telling you, this poor dad, whose heart is anguished over wondering about where his son is in the pre-Facebook, pre-internet, pre-cellphone, pre-landline phone life, pre-postal service days, can’t even have a moment of rejoicing. He goes from being stabbed every day as he’s thought about his younger son and whether he did the right thing, he walks right into the bosom, right into the face of his older son who basically says, “You know what? You’ve never really cared about me.”

 

Yes, I tell you, an unconverted heart is a dangerous thing. And when a conscientious parent allows themselves to be directed and dictated to, or even a denomination, in following the general tendency of society and say every feeling is legitimate, which it is not, we don’t live that, we don’t believe it. The Bible doesn’t teach it. It’s not true. Some of your feelings ought to be jettisoned as soon as they find their way into your cranium. Anybody who is not aware of this truth is not prepared to fight the first battle with themselves.

 

But this young man can’t even allow his father to enjoy a brief moment of celebration. He has to, in effect, say, “You’ve been a bad dad to me, too.” But the dad is quite a good dad, and he’s not going to let it be framed that way. Verse [31], “[And he said to him], ‘Son,’” I can see him kind of squaring his shoulders and looking straight into the eyes of this boy, “‘you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But,’” in parentheses, if I was doing the Eugene Peterson version of the Bible, my own paraphrase, I’d probably put, “but (you’re wrong).” “‘We had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and he’s alive,’” or as this version says, “‘he has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

 

Why do we stop at Luke 15 on a morning about authority and submission and leadership and kingly power? Why are we here? We’re here because some of the things you think are fact are not fact. We’re here because, if the younger brother could get it wrong and, on his way out of town, say to his buddies, “Yeah, I’m finally leaving the old man behind. Life’s going to get good,” and if the older brother could say to his father, “You know, dad, you never really looked out for me either,” if two boys could grow up with a good dad who in this parable represents the Father, and neither one of them understand his motivations and his actions, it’s really plausible that some of the information you’ve gotten from your inside source is twisted by the same self-interest. It’s wrong.

 

If I was a reporter doing a story about the Prodigal’s father, I’d have to come to kind of a quick conclusion, and my conclusion would either have to be that he was a stalwart man with a brave heart that was willing to go up against both boys in the hope of helping them get over the threshold of spiritual adolescent thinking, or else he was the worst authoritarian in the world, because neither one of his boys liked him, and one only came home so he could eat.

 

But you’d be hard pressed to say that one or two of the boys didn’t have the inside track on the dad. There are some kids who don’t even know their parents, even though they have lived with their parents their whole lives.

 

Take your Bible and turn over to the Gospel of John, chapter 12. Bright lights that go out. John, chapter 12 is probably one of the most telling moments in Jesus’ interaction with Judas except for our Scripture reading. Jesus was trying to reach Judas up to the very end. Jesus knew Judas’ heart. Jesus understood Judas’ experience, his choices, his private actions, and Jesus, even as He’s getting a hug from Judas, will appeal to Judas, “Please don’t do this.”

 

But in the days preceding that moment, as a matter of fact, five days in front of that encounter is this one. “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” They made Him a supper there. Martha was serving. Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. “Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot,” this is what Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t tell us, “one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said…”

 

Now Matthew and Mark are really clear. Depending on where your Bibles divide the narratives, Matthew, in my Bible, has a subtitle in between Judas’ action and this event. Mark, in this version, New American Standard, doesn’t have that. It’s all tied real tight together. What’s about to happen right here will be the final shove to Judas to go betray Jesus.

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t tell us it was Judas, but Judas said, and John’s not willing to let him off the hook, Judas said, and he was a preeminent disciple in the minds of the unconverted 12, “‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?’ Now,” he didn’t say this, “because he was concerned about the poor,” although it sounded like a really high-minded critique, “but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said,” I could only imagine but directly to him, as the originator, but to all, “‘Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.’”

 

Think about how embarrassing it must have been for Mary, whom The Desire of Ages tells us she didn’t really think it all through. She didn’t really think about the fact that it’s going to overpower the smell of the meal that’s about to be put on the table, and she won’t be able to do it secretly, and she’s going to be center of attention for a few moments. And when it happened, she couldn’t have imagined that she’d be critiqued in a negative way for doing something for Jesus, but that’s what happened. Jesus had never openly confronted, rebuked Judas in all of their three-plus years of interacting, but today is the day.

 

Judas is not Peter. Peter has a deeper, purer love. His heart has not been shut down by avarice and greed and covetousness and self-centeredness. Peter’s heart can endure the loving point and counterpoint of a Discipler, of a Mentor, who’s not willing to let him march off on his wrong ideas. But Judas, on the other hand, his heart, while he was in the presence of Jesus, knew not Jesus, and Judas’ light has been slowly going out and is about to go out forever.

 

If you wanted to make a case that somebody knew Jesus, talk to Judas. But what he’d tell you is that Jesus is too slow. He’s not a man of action. He can’t really get this kingdom thing going on, and beside that, He makes people mad sometimes. And what kind of kingdom do you establish on the backs of confronting people? Yes, Judas was a man who could have known Jesus but didn’t. Judas was in the midst of the brightest light ever walking the face of the globe, but his heart was darkened. It needed the direction of Paul. “Keep your love pure, a pure, sincere love for your worst enemy,” Jesus would say. Blessed are you when men persecute you and revile you. They might even be your boss! They might be somebody you’ve heard something bad about that the rumor mill is making its way across Facebook and every other internet forum. We’re a Christian family, but Judas chose his own leadership over the leadership of Jesus.

 

Now Ezekiel 28, the brightest light that ever was, aside from Christ, that went out, Lucifer himself. Ezekiel, chapter 28, the one who knew God, but didn’t. Now, before I read this, Ellen White wrote, you can find this in the fourth [SDA] Bible Commentary, she says, “I ask our people to study the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel,” so the prophetess said, “Study this.” “The representation here made, while it refers primarily to Lucifer, the fallen angel, has [yet] a broader significance.” Now, these next words I never ever recall reading, but they are sobering. It says, “Not one being,” this is the broader significance, “Not one being but a general movement, is described, and one that we shall witness.” In other words, the problem with Lucifer is not just an issue of a bright angelic being gone bad, it’s the tendency of the human heart, and more than that, she says some form or organization, “a movement.”

 

It says here in Ezekiel 28, verse 12, “Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “You had the seal of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain [of God]; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until,”’” until, “‘“unrighteousness was found in you.”’”

 

Now, I’m going to spend the last little bit of this message showing you how the brightest light of the angelic host went dark. I want you to understand something. When we read in your bulletin there, if you care to look at it with me under “Reflecting Christ,” go ahead and get it out. There’s a reason I’m preaching this sermon because it doesn’t matter if you’re the covering cherub or the General Conference this or that, or the division this or that.

 

Testimonies for the Church, volume 5, page 80 and 81, “The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor or not. “…In this time the gold will be separated from the dross in the church. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness.” She wrote it for me; she wrote it for you. We all need leaders, people to give direction, people to inspire with example, people to teach, people to pray. But beyond those people, above those people, is the living Christ, the Shepherd of His flock. But if we fix and focus our mindset, our mentalities, maybe even our arguments over any given subject matter on the shoulders of any one person, watch out. You might be in trouble because theological expression and conciseness of thought, your ability to explain yourself and state your argument well is not proof that you’re a Christian. “Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat. All who assume the ornaments of the sanctuary, but are not clothed [with] Christ’s righteousness, will appear in the shame of their own nakedness.”

 

So, what was Lucifer’s job? All those brilliant stones that adorned him, Lucifer had a job. Lucifer’s job was to stand in the presence of God as a buffer from the glorious light that was flowing, that was just the essence of who God was. Ellen White will write that, “A special light beamed in his countenance, and shone around him brighter and more beautiful than around the other angels.” But something went wrong. Lucifer was given a special position. She writes that, “Everything of nature comes from God; yet Satan can inspire his agents with thoughts that appear noble and elevating.”

 

She goes on to say, “Lucifer did not see where he was drifting…Taking advantage of the loving, loyal trust reposed in him by the holy [beings] under his command, he had so artfully instilled into their minds his own distrust and discontent that his agency was not discerned. Lucifer had presented the purposes of God in a false light.” Get me a better witness! Get somebody who is more authoritative than Lucifer, please, but you can’t. He doesn’t exist. He is in the presence of the eternal God Himself, and what he says carries an authority and a weight and a credibility. Because of his place, because of his position, because of his person. But he was, “misconstruing,” she goes on to say in Patriarchs and Prophets, “and distorting them,” the purposes of God, “to excite dissent and dissatisfaction.”

 

And Ellen White will tell us that Lucifer was slowly creeping into the presence of the prerogatives of Jesus Himself, and Jesus must have been slowly just backing up. Lucifer thought that God’s forbearance was weakness, and he goes to the agencies of Heaven, and he tells them that for the sake of the stability of the government, he needs to be the one. “God’s mercy,” she writes, “was misinterpreted. Lucifer pointed to the long-suffering of God as an evidence of his own superiority, an indication that the King of the universe would yet accede to his terms. If the angels would stand firmly with him…they could yet gain all that they desired…Rejecting with disdain the arguments and entreaties of the loyal angels, he denounced them as deluded slaves.”

 

By the way, friends, whenever you have a disagreement with somebody, and they have to go to ad hominem logic (in other words, they have to abandon the subject matter and run down the individual associated with it), you are talking to a polluted well.

 

The Bible is clear that the sweetness and beauty of Jesus can’t flow from the brackish waters of a dark heart. So, when some of the loyal angels said, “You’re wrong, Lucifer,” he told them they were “deluded slaves.” Make them feel small, make them feel ignorant, make them feel like they don’t know anything, these arguments have existed for years.

 

“No angel could successfully oppose the law of God, which was as sacred as Himself.” Some of these good angels said, and, “They warned all to close their ears against Lucifer’s deceptive reasoning, and urged him and his followers to seek the presence of God without delay and confess the error of questioning His wisdom and authority.”

 

When you’re around somebody who’s spewing forth, gushing forth or even insidiously just eking out little bits of negativity about somebody that God has established as a leader, you probably need to plug your ears and walk away. It’s not your duty to machinate, to work through, and deal with the dynamics of second-hand negative potential truth and potentially twisted supposed truth.

 

Satan went farther. He came to a place when it appeared the final separation was going to happen between the angels, and do you know that the loyal angels and God Himself was appealing. Patriarchs and Prophets, page 40, he goes to a new level of deception. “The mighty revolter now declared that the angels who had united with him had gone too far to return,” and how does he know that? He takes full advantage of the credibility of his position, and he states that, “He was acquainted with the divine law, and knew that God would not forgive.”

 

How do you go from being the covering cherub to being the black hole, the sinkhole, in the whole universe? How does this happen? “Satan had been Lucifer, the light-bearer,” she writes, “the sharer of God’s glory in heaven, and second to Jesus in power and majesty.” The words of inspiration described him, “as the one who ‘sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.’ But Lucifer had perverted the beauty and power with which he was endowed by the Creator, and his light had become darkness.”

 

She goes on to write, in Manuscript, number 22, “He practiced the work of accusing, of fraud, of deception until he himself was his own dupe. He believed his own lies; his darkness was to him light, and light was darkness. To Satan this was his ruin.” Then writing later, she says, “When the Spirit of God ceases to impress the truth upon the hearts of men, all hearing is vain, and all preaching also is vain.

 

“Until the conflict is ended,” she goes on to say, “there will always be a departing from God.” And, “The safeguards of our purity,” February 22, The Review and Herald, 1906, “The safeguards of our purity must be watchfulness and prayer.”

 

I had a surprise happen to me the other night. By the way, I love this church, but I had a surprise happen to me the other night. I was sitting in the board meeting. It wasn’t on the agenda, and I’m pretty careful about what’s on the agenda because I want to be prepared. I want to know what we’re going to talk about. We don’t just throw things on the agenda. Things get on the agenda ahead of time. This wasn’t on the agenda. It was kind of one of those anecdotal moments, you know, just a little something that squeezes out that you don’t anticipate.

 

But I’m sitting there in the meeting, and we got off on a conversation, and pretty soon our treasurer speaks up, and she says, “Yeah, I had somebody tell me they were going to quit paying tithe here.” It was directly related, not to anything we had done here, but to the idea that somehow the organization farther up the line wasn’t worthy of receiving it.

 

Ellen White addressed this. “Some have been dissatisfied, and have said, ‘I will no longer pay my tithe; for I have no confidence in the way things are managed at the heart of the work.’ But will you rob God because you think the management of the work is not right?” And then listen to this advice, friends. It summarizes what you have to do.

 

If you don’t like what a leader has done, you’ve got three options. One is, cut the leader a little bit of slack because you may not see it from the full vantage point. Associated with number one in cutting the leader a little slack, is cut the leader a little slack also because the leader may be erring in judgment. It may be that their judgment is defective, but they’re a human being just like you. Option number two, forgive the leader for what they have done, and it may not be worthy of dialogue. And option number three, do what so few Christians are slow to do or resistant to do, have enough love for the leader to actually write them a kind prayed-over letter or go talk to them with a prayed-over spirit.

 

Here’s what she says, “Make your complaint, plainly and openly, in the right spirit, to the proper ones. Send in your petitions for things to be adjusted and set in order; but do not withdraw from the work of God, and prove unfaithful,” I would put parenthetically—yourself, “because others are not doing right.”

 

Now, listen. My wonderful mother, who left the denomination as soon as she left the academy, and who had probably left Jesus behind before that, but whom Jesus is reaching today (praise God), when she found her oldest of four doing wrong and maybe all the four doing wrong, and maybe I, as spokesperson or maybe I, just trying to vindicate myself, would say, “But so-and-so was doing it,” she would say to me, “So if they told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” She taught me early personal responsibility with her own form of integrity, minus some of the dynamics of attitude and spirit that only Jesus can bring in.

 

Lucifer went from light to darkness, from knowing God to not knowing God, because he was not responsible and honest with his thinking.

 

Now, I’m going to tell you, in five-plus years of being here, I have never entered the fray of whether women’s ordination is right or wrong, and I’m not entering it today. But I’m going to tell you something, Ellen White is clear. You’ll find two references to when the General Conference is not the voice of God. They all predate the reorganization, at least what she’s referencing to predates them. And she makes it very clear that when she wrote those sentiments, she was talking about a period in time when two or three men had charge over everything.

 

But she goes on to say—I’m just going to read it to you—she goes on to say, “But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field, should not be respected.” Now, it doesn’t matter to me what kind of inside information you have about somebody who might be twisting and churning and manipulating at any level. When we were talking for four years about the theology of Ordination Study Committee, we gave our journey, time, if Wilberforce had to wait 17 or 18 years and then another 15 or so years beyond that—he died three days later after slavery was abolished in all of England. The vote in 1807 was to stop the slave trade, but the vote against abolition of slavery completely came three days before he died—we might have to just have enough nobility of purpose and patience, because we moved from a theological discussion, and what we’re in right now is an issue of governance. And our denomination has not taken a stand that we no longer believe that a duly appointed decision composed of an assembly of representative men from all parts of the field is no longer to be respected.

 

So, I am entering the fray for the sake of the unity of this church, and I do believe, whether you’re the General Conference president or the division president, or the union or the conference or the senior pastor of the church, you should guard your heart with all diligence because out of it flows the springs of life, and a lot of people are taking cues from how you act and what you do. And until we’re willing to say, “We don’t do business this way,” this is how we do business. That is consistent with our theology of governance, and it remains our understanding of how it works. And to twist and to turn until we can rearrange it another way is not keeping our heart pure.

 

Now, I now there are people listening to me that are favorable for one thing and not the other. I know there are people listening to me that aren’t favorable for this but they are for this. I have friends who stand on different sides of the dividing line, but you know what my position is: The line shall not divide us. We shall wait patiently for due process and trust the Lord in the meantime.

 

This is our journey. This is who we are as a people. My heart must be kept pure! I cannot afford to dislike this person or that person who has power over me. I’ve lived in the arena where I’ve not been treated right. And while I don’t know that it would edify you to go through all of the chapters, I can assure you that I’ve thought about going through one of them today, putting it up on the screens so you could see it. I know what it’s like to work for somebody who is not really looking out for the people that they’re supposed to be serving and is exercising their power in a wrong way. I don’t stand before you as a novice in serving this church.

 

God loves us. As defective as we may be, we’re His children. I had a man once who wanted to transfer into my church. What he didn’t realize was he couldn’t leave his past totally behind. As a matter of fact, before his transfer made it to his church, the wife. Whom he was cheating on, found my phone number and called me up. Her name’s right there. I was a younger man without a lot of experience, but I knew this was wrong. I wasn’t going to rush to condemn the man. I was going to give him an attempt. Maybe there were mitigating circumstances. Maybe something was off. Maybe this lady herself had problems; I don’t know. I’ve learned not to rush in. The Bible says be careful because everybody sounds right until you hear the other side.

 

But after a period of time, it became clear to me that not only was he a repeating philanderer, but his father who had been an elder in the church was a philanderer as well. Eventually, I remember, sitting in a room in the church explaining to him that I understood the situation and that it was really not in any way, shape or form okay with God or acceptable to this church or myself personally. He appeared to be undeterred, although I think he sensed that I genuinely cared for him. But he could not come to an understanding that I did not want him up leading the praise time while he was living like this. For most of you, that won’t be hard to understand.

 

In his unsurrendered mental posture to the Ten Commandments, he found one of the elders’ wives and began complaining. By the way, friends, the worst lie is a twist on the truth. And this lady is dead now, and the reason I know the story is because she told it to me. But she looked at the man, and she said, “That is not the Ron Kelly I know.” Now, I’m going to tell you something. Some of the sweetest-talking, salesmenship-py people in the world are living some of the most debauched lives behind the scenes, and they’re good at trying to divide the body and make the leader look like he’s the problem. Nobody gets a free pass in this denomination, whether you’re [O.A.] Olsen, the General Conference president when Ellen White had to write some of those things in the 1880s about kingly power, or whether you’re A.G. Daniells in the early 1900s.

 

A few weeks ago, a month or two ago, actually on the Sabbath, the Autumn Council was taking place. We had Elder Pacheco here, Union President of El Salvador, and we had Pastor Aguillon, the Secretary, and we had Brother Martinez, the treasurer. They all stood right here, and I handed them two pieces of paper. Each piece of paper had a one with four zeroes and then a dot with two more. So they took 20,000 dollars away to build churches down in El Salvador. Those two churches have been built, and I’ve been there to dedicate them. One of them is one of the baby churches from the Fords. The other day, I was at a district superintendents’ meeting in Michigan, and sitting kitty-corner from me across the table was an older man with white hair who has an Inter-American background. And we got to talking after the meeting, and he said, “Pacheco,” he said, “I had him as a student at Alajuela at the college in Costa Rica.”

 

Well, I got an email on Thursday from one of the pastors who went down to El Salvador with us. They’ve already got 10,000 dollars for one church. This is a smaller district, by the way. They’ve already got 9,000 dollars for another one, so they’re almost there. And then there’s a member, I don’t even think he’s an Adventist, who says, “I need to rearrange some funds, and I’ll have money for another one.” Three churches from a little church district.

 

Well, I forwarded that email onto a friend of mine, which brought him great encouragement. I told him on Friday morning, I sent him a text; I said, “Check your email. It will encourage you.” And he sent me back an email, and I want to read it to you because it gets the point of what I’m saying. I wrote, “One of the older ministers in Michigan knows the Union president. He was a student of the pastor years ago in the school in Costa Rica,” and this is what my friend wrote back: Speaking about Seventh-day Adventists, he said, “Even though there are millions of us, we’re still a family.” So that includes Ted and Dan and Maurice and Jim. Do you cannibalize your own family? Some of you do, but most of us don’t.

 

You’re duty-bound, friends, but if you avoid your duty, just remember this: The light that’s in you can become darkness, `and God forbid. And I don’t care where your source of information comes from. It could be the elder brother or the younger brother. It could be one of the 12, someone who works in that division. Or it could be the covering cherub himself. When the well is polluted, you have a hard time telling at first, but especially if your heart is prone to believe evil. You could be glad to get substantiation of your suspicions.

 

I am appealing to all of you, no matter where you stand on any theological topic, it is time to be practical Christians and have love from a pure heart with a good conscience and a faith that can be seen, and to press together for a lost world. And we must, we must be real Christians as we process issues of the Kingdom. God forbid we should do any other, and may our own hearts be honest enough to let the Spirit speak in this message however He needs to speak. God bless you.

 

Father, none of us could imagine for a moment that it would be our own light that would go out. But, perhaps, Lord, the same one who drifted without knowing it would seek to sever the cords that bind our hearts in pure love, a good conscience and faith unfeigned. Lord, when those winds of strife blow, and the chaff is removed from the threshing floor, and the tinsel from the gold, I pray, Lord, may we have understood all along the way it’s Jesus that’s leading us on a narrow road that checks our own thinking, checks the condition of our heart, trusts in the patience of a process tested by time. I pray for every leader of this General Conference, this division, the world divisions, our union and the world unions. I pray for our own conference president, for the leadership of this local church, and I pray, Lord, give us hearts that are large, minds that are broadened by experience and slow to thinking evil.

 

I am praying now, Lord, bind up the wounds. Heal us, and we will be healed; save us and we will be saved. And, oh, how I’m praying, Lord, may we walk in the light as You’re in the light, and may we have fellowship one with another, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins.

 

Now, Lord, do with this message as You would, but save us from the blinding influences of pride, arrogance and superiority of opinion, and may there be a sweet humility that makes us one, and patient and strong when we need to be strong, not about theological posturing but about attitudes and Christian charity. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

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