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Respectable Conventionality

Kameron DeVasher

Presenter

Kameron DeVasher

Director of Sabbath School & Personal Ministries, Michigan Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

Conference

Recorded

  • December 31, 2011
    6:30 PM
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Good evening, GYC. (Audience: Good evening.) All right, that was not bad; we’ll try it one more time. Good evening, GYC. (Good evening!) I know you’ve been greeted a lot, but this is my first chance tonight, so thank you. Before I get started saying anything else, I want to get something off of my chest just briefly, in all seriousness. No one has told me or asked me or, you know, even knows, actually, that I’m going to be saying this, or maybe you don’t even think I need to, but I just wanted to apologize. In last night’s message I mentioned how sin dulls your sense of irony, and I gave the example of how you gossip about someone who talks behind your back. And sometimes Jesus talked about the plank in your own eye, and you don’t see, and you don’t even realize what you’re doing sometimes. And if I have accidentally in my presentation of the character of Christ not comported myself in a Christlike manner, and if in any way I have unintentionally been hurtful or anything like that, I sincerely apologize. And, again, no pressure, this is just coming off of my chest. It may not even be needed, but I just felt the urge to tell you, and is that okay?

 

And let me give you an example. Pastors do not live in a holy bubble. They need your prayers, young people, okay? If you have a concern with your pastor, pray for your pastor; he probably needs it. Is that clear?

 

Anyway, having said that, hold your pastors up to be biblical, to be bold, and to be humble, that all is done to the glory of Jesus Christ alone. Can we say amen? Having said that, there’s going to be a message tonight, and I’m excited about the message tonight. I’m pacing. The clock is running. I don’t even have time to talk about how excited I am about the message tonight, but before we begin, a brief word of prayer.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, we’ve been exploring the depths of Your Holy Spirit and what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And we know that the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is not to make us more powerful but to make us more Christlike. And, Lord, as we round out this theme this evening, as we come to our final evening meeting, Lord, I ask in a special way that You’ll send your Holy Spirit, not just to this room but to our hearts. Change us and make us more like You in everything that we do. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

I am not in anyway hesitant to tell you that it was with great fear and trepidation that I accepted the invitation to speak at GYC. I promise, and the reason is very simple. I’ve never done it before, and I’ve been to GYCs, and I know who has, some of those powerful and influential Adventist voices in contemporary Adventism have spoken at GYC, either in seminar rooms or from this pulpit. And they’ve had just extraordinary testimonies to share about how the Spirit of God has changed their lives. David Asscherick was a purple-haired, punk-rock atheist. Clifford Goldstein used to heckle Christians in the streets, then he went to Europe to write the great novel, and for awhile he lived on a kibbutz in Israel. Dwayne Lemon, my word, the stuff that this guy’s into. He was a professional hip-hop dancer, right? And once, he got caught up in a bar fight in Kentucky with the guys from “Naughty by Nature.” And then I think, “What am I doing here?!” I have not had that experience. I haven’t had any of those experiences!

 

As I look about, I am perhaps the single-most systemized Adventist on the planet. Okay? Nothing extraordinary about the testimony whatsoever. Let me give you…I was born to Adventist parents who had me in an Adventist hospital. Okay? You’re laughing because it’s hitting home, and I’m not even close to done. Okay? Across the street from the hospital was the church, which they still attend. Across the next street was the school I went to (schools I went to) for the first 12 years of my education, Adventist, Adventist, Adventist. Now, long before I was born, they’re local Adventist college had closed down, and so at the age of 18 circumstance forced a change in my life. Beloved, I had to leave home, not 2-1/2 minutes away, friends, 2-1/2 hours from my home to an entirely different town inside the same state, of course. And there I continued my education.

 

After graduating with the degree that pretty much the only thing I could know anything in life about, religious education, I went and got a job, working at an Adventist academy. I stand before you today having a master’s degree in religion. I taught at two academies, worked for three conferences, pastored four churches, and, friends, this is my seventh GYC. I could borrow the language of Paul, of the tribe of Madison, an Adventist of the Adventist.

 

Sebastien Braxton went to prison. I went to Southern, okay? Doug Batchelor lived in a cave. I lived in a dorm. These are two worlds apart, and I think to myself, “Why am I here? They’ve got all the stories…,” and it dawned on me, “Who am I speaking to?” Now, I’ll give you credit, their stories, much easier to listen to, right, but I’m guessing that my story is much easier to relate to for many of you here. In fact, I just daresay the vast majority of you here, many of you, most of you, I would guess have, some portion of your life, have gone through the system.

 

And don’t get me wrong. I love the system. I’m still in it. My kids are going to be in it until Jesus comes. Amen? I’m a fan of the system, but having said that, I believe there’s a danger in the system. Again, I work for the system, supported the system. You remember last night, tithe to the system. But the greatest danger to Adventist young people spiritually, the greatest danger to Adventist young people isn’t that they’ll fall headlong into a life of drugs and gang violence and crime. It’s not teenage pregnancy. It’s not disease, and it’s not suicide. The greatest spiritual danger is the mindset that by merely avoiding such obvious sinful pitfalls, everything’s okay. We unconsciously rationalize that because we’re not being bad, all is good. “I don’t have a tattoo. Cool. Not pierced, don’t smoke, don’t drink…I’m good. I’m in the church – good!”

 

Let me allow Mrs. White to explain. Anytime you say something controversial, hide behind Inspiration, okay? Let them do the heavy lifting. I’m just under there, okay?

While addressing the delegates at the 1902 General Conference Session, Mrs. White coined a term. In the following year, it was included in that powerful book Education. The term is “respectable conventionality.” It’s the title of tonight’s message, “Respectable Conventionality.” Say it with me: Respectable conventionality…Three of you said it. Please obey. Respectable conventionality.

 

Here’s the context; here’s the statement. “‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ is Christ’s command to His followers. Not that all are called to be ministers or missionaries in the ordinary sense of the term; but all may be workers with [Him] in giving the ‘glad tidings’ to their fellow men. To all, great or small, learned or ignorant, old or young, the command is given.” Okay, so we’re clear that she’s talking about the command to go and preach the gospel. Is that clear?

 

Now, next paragraph, “In view of this command, can we educate our sons and daughters for a life of respectable conventionality,” comma, here’s her definition, “a life professedly Christian, but lacking His self-sacrifice, a life on which the verdict of Him who is truth must be, ‘I know you not’?”

 

Chilling words are next. “Thousands are doing this. They think to secure for their children the benefits of the gospel” (parenthetical, getting in, right?) “while they deny its Spirit,” fitting in. You see the difference? “But this can not be.” And here’s what we’re going to be honing in on tonight of this statement, “Those who reject the privilege of fellowship with Christ in service, reject the only” (what kind?) “the only training that imparts a fitness for participation with Him in His glory. They reject the training that in this life gives strength and nobility of character.”

 

Respectable conventionality, it means just living a conventional life in a respectable way. And in our society these days, it probably is something like, you go to school, then you get married and you have kids, and you make sure that they go to school and get married and have kids. And then you work hard and play a little, and retire and relax, and that’s life. That’s the world’s view. This is the conventional life that the whole world is living. You go to school, you get married, you have kids, they go…It’s the same round that everybody’s basically going through.

 

And respectable conventionality, if you’ve gone through the Adventist system, might be to simply take that template and sanctify it with Adventism. “I went to an Adventist school.” “I married an Adventist spouse,” which, by the way, I did, and I’m happy. Then you’re going to perhaps even work at an Adventist institution. Then you’re going to have Adventist children who go to the same Adventist school, and then you’re going…Do you see what I’m saying? It’s the exact same template; you’ve just added in Adventism. You’ve just created a subculture of every other culture that’s out there. And it’s a good one, too, right? We’re healthy, we don’t smoke, we don’t drink, we’ve got…So people look at us from the outside and say, “You’re living a conventional life but in a respectable way. That’s admirable. Good on you,” high five. Good for you. We’re just a shiny version of what, well, everybody else is: respectable conventionality.

 

Now, everything I’m about to say for the next few minutes, there’s a flow to this message, okay? I’m going to step out of the flow, and I want to take you with me inside of a big set of parentheses. Is that cool? Do you understand? Okay, because you’re very quiet, and it makes me nervous. Okay?

 

Parenthetically: If that is our idea of Adventism, a life of respectable conventionality with the hope of Heaven as a cherry on top, then it’s no wonder that we have no zeal for evangelism! Our burden transitions from preparing people to see their Savior face-to-face at the Second Coming to simply trying to tell the world that we’re really not that weird. Think about it for a minute. You know I’m saying some truth right now. “No, no, no, we’re not crazy. We’re just your quirky Christian neighbors. We go to church on a different day, and, odds are, we’ll outlive you by eight to ten years, but basically in every other respect, we’re just like you.” Folks, that’s not evangelism; that’s public relations. That’s not an evangelistic campaign. That’s a PR campaign.

 

Exodus 19, verse 5, tells us that God’s church in the Old Testament was supposed to be His peculiar treasure. Amen? First Peter, chapter 2, verse 9, says that God’s church in the New Testament is to be His peculiar treasure. Amen? Last Day Events, page 45, we read, “Seventh-day Adventists have been chosen by God as a peculiar people, separate from the world. By the great cleaver of truth He has cut them out from the quarry of the world and brought them into connection with Himself. He has made them His representatives and has called them to be ambassadors for Him in the last work of salvation. The greatest wealth of truth ever entrusted to mortals, the most solemn and fearful warnings ever sent by God to man, have been committed to them to be given to the world.”

 

What makes us peculiar is not our subculture, friends, it is our message. We are the only body of believers in the world preaching the present truth of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, the everlasting gospel in the context of Christ’s final work in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. With such a message in a missionary mandate, how in the world can we settle for respectable conventionality? Close parentheses.

 

Back to the stream of the thought. Now, you might be thinking, “Two nights ago you’re the same guy,” right, “who told us that the great object in life is the development of a Christlike character.” Please tell me you remember that, okay? The great object of life is to secure not only a getting in but a fitting in for the heavenly realms. Okay? Then we followed it up last night with saying that part of the thing that’s involved in developing that Christlike character is the ending of sin. We need to kill the fat pig. Do you recall that? And you might be thinking, “Okay, then my job in this life is to develop a Christlike character and not sin. So, I should just go through life and do my best to not sin. And thus, I’m being like Jesus.”

 

It could be a logical conclusion, but, my friends, if that’s all your Christianity consisted of was simply living a life that included no sin, it’s an incomplete gospel. When we come to believe that the most decisive evidence of genuine faith is simply not sinning, our commitments to Christ tend to revolve around what we want to stop doing. Do you see what I’m saying? And I think we should stop doing some things, but we become the people who “don’t,” right? We don’t use foul language, praise the Lord. We don’t eat unclean or really any meat. We don’t wear jewelry. We don’t work on Sabbath. We don’t participate in ungodly entertainment, you know, music, movies, TV, internet, and all that kind of stuff. We don’t lie. We don’t cheat. We don’t steal. We don’t kill. We don’t fornicate, fight, drink, smoke, etc., and the list could go on and on and on of all the stuff we don’t do. And, praise the Lord, we should do none of those things. Amen?

 

But here’s my thought for the evening, if that’s all we left you with was at this GYC you’re going to be filled with the Holy Spirit and develop the character of Christ and stop sinning, then the rest of your experiences, you’re going to go through life just like everybody else, but the only difference is you’re going to try to not be bad. And you end up kind of just making sure, “See no evil. Hear no evil…” “Be careful, little eyes. Be careful, little ears,” and you’re just kind of insulating yourself off from the rest of life in your zeal to be sinless. Is that making sense? And here’s the thought for the evening: Is it possible that in our zeal to not sin, we actually commit a sin? When we come to think of Christian character as merely the avoidance of evil, we leave ourselves vulnerable to deeper and more subtle temptations.

 

If I were to ask you, by the way, this evening what the biblical definition of sin was, every true Seventh-day Adventist in this room would likely answer the same. In fact, let’s try this out, okay? You know I want you to speak now. Let’s do a little experiment. All together with one voice, finish the following sentence from 1 John, chapter 3, verse 4, “Sin is…” (Audience: Transgression of the law.) Ahh. It’s like I’m home. This is wonderful. “Sin is the…” We know that text. And how many of you could finish James, chapter 4, verse 17? “To Him…” It’s a little muddled; I’ll help you out. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Remember those words from the statement I read earlier? “Those who reject the privilege of fellowship with Christ in service reject the only training that imparts a fitness for participation with Him in His glory.” Apparently, according to the Scriptures and according to the Pen of Inspiration, sin is more than doing bad, it’s also the refusal or neglect to do good.

 

Let’s study this out a little bit, Matthew, chapter 19. I will do my best to go slowly with the texts. I apologize. Matthew 19…In all seriousness, I want you to see that this is in your Scriptures. Starting with verse 16. Of course, when you all get there, I’m going to read it really fast, so I need you to still stay with me, okay? “Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’” Let me ask you a question: Is he asking, “Lord, how can I fit into Your Kingdom?” or is he asking, “Lord, how can I get into Your Kingdom”? He’s looking to get in. Is that clear? Okay. Jesus understands this. It goes on, “So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life…,’” and obviously He’s talking about eternal life because he’s in his first life having the conversation. “‘If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’” Then he said, “Which ones?” Then, “Jesus said, ‘”You shall not murder,”’ ‘”You shall not commit adultery,”’ ‘”You shall not steal,”’ ‘”You shall not bear false witness,”’ ‘”Honor your father and your mother,”’ and, ‘”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’” Then look at verse 20, “The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’”

 

“Is there anything else? Make a list. I’m good at keeping lists. Tell me. I’ll do it.” Or more technically, “I’ll avoid it.” “Tell me what I don’t have to do.”

 

And, “Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be,’” and here’s the word, what’s the word, “‘perfect,’” I’m just quoting it from Scripture, not me saying it, Jesus saying it, “‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

 

Luke, chapter 10, the same story, quickly over to Luke, chapter 10, at least the same moral to the story, and verse 25. We won’t go through the whole thing; you know this story very well, but I want you to notice the similarities. Chapter 10, verse 25, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” Is he asking, “Lord, how can I make my character fit in?” or, “Lord, how can I just get myself in”? He’s looking to get in. And, “He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,”’ and ‘”your neighbor as yourself.”’” And Jesus said, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

 

And he had no problem with the “not doing” part, but he tests Him. He’s like, “Well…” Notice why, verse 29, “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

 

“I mean, I’m okay with not doing stuff, but the doing good to others, exactly who do You mean?” And the Bible says he asks that because he wanted to justify himself, the implication being he wasn’t doing good for others. Hmm.

 

And, of course, then Jesus gives the story of the Good Samaritan, and at the end, look at verse 37, and he said to him…Who was the answer to the question, “Who was his neighbor?” “‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Go and do, not simply go and don’t do. Go and do.

 

In Matthew, chapter 16 and verse 27, when He discusses His own return, He explains that, “The Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his…,” and is it faith or works? “Works.”

 

Revelation, chapter 22, verses 11 and 12, where Jesus talks about His soon return. Once again He mentions, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his” (what?) “his work.” Apparently righteousness is not simply not doing stuff, but actually doing some stuff. So the question is, what are we supposed to do? I thought I wanted to develop the character of Christ. I thought the only way to do that was not sin, and my job now is to live my life and not be bad. What is it I’m supposed to do?

 

Well, the answer, of course, is to give the three angels’ messages to the world. This is what we’ve been called to do. And there is no question about…That is our Seventh-day Adventist message. That is the End-Time, last generation movement message. This is the thing the world needs, is the message of Revelation, chapter 14. And while I agree that the message of Revelation, chapter 14, is our message, I want to suggest that our method of conveying the message is found in a different chapter of the Bible.

 

Please go to the Old Testament book of Isaiah, chapter 58, Isaiah, chapter 58. Now, you might know a piece of this chapter. You might know talking about keeping the Sabbath and all kinds of neat things there in Isaiah 58, but I want you to see it in the broader context. We’re going to read through it, again, very quickly, but I want you to see the context of this chapter. Starting with verse 1, Isaiah, chapter 58, “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” We love that part. We’ve been called to rebuke sin and say it loud. Let the trumpet have that certain sound. Amen? Verse 2, “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God. ‘Why,’” verse 3, “’have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’”

 

They’re speaking to the Lord. “Lord, we want to be good people. We’re trying to obey You. We’re calling out sin every which way, and we want a spiritual life. We want to be filled, but why do You not answer?”

 

“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers. Indeed,” verse 4, “you fast for strife and debate,” Seventh-day Adventists. You ever have a holy…what’s the word I’m looking for? Convocation, thank you, and all kinds of unholy wars break out? Strife and debate? It goes on, “and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high.” Then He asks this question, “Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”

 

He’s like, “Your righteousness is simply coming together and pleading for the Holy Spirit, and that’s it? Avoiding sin and asking for the Holy Spirit? That’s the entirety of your religion?” You’re like, “Well, of course. That’s all we do.”

 

Verse 6, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen” (He’s like, “If you want to have a fast, why don’t you have a fast in the Spirit of the Lord that goes something like this”): “To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” Isaiah continues, verse 7, “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?”

 

“You know, they’re your brothers and sisters, too, yet you hide yourself away when they’re in need. And why? Because you’re at a retreat. You’re fasting. Is this the fast that I have called for?”

 

Verse 8, “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory,” which, of course, is the character, “of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer.” Mmm!

 

“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer. You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

 

Do you get the picture that we’re talking about here? Please notice that the people were not rebuking…Isaiah was not rebuking wicked people. These are not pagans. These are not heathens. They’re not having idolatrous festivals. They’re actually trying to receive the Spirit of the Lord. They’re like, “We’re calling out sins, Lord. We’re avoiding sin ourselves, Lord, but why, when we call on You do You not answer?” And the Lord’s like, “Did I ever ask you to do a life of respectable conventionality where you simply go through life and avoid evil and call that righteousness.” He said, “No, no, no. My idea of Christianity, My Christlike, My Godly character is bigger than just merely the avoidance of sin. You need to do some stuff for others, Seventh-day Adventists.” Hmm. Apparently, the people in Isaiah’s time were so absorbed in their personal spiritual experience that they neglected to do the good for others that Israel was originally established to do.  

 

Genesis, chapter 12, the call of Abraham, “I will bless you, and you will be a,” what? A blessing! He didn’t just say, “I will bless you. Enjoy.” He said, “I will bless you for the purpose of being a blessing to others. You’re going to be a light to the Gentiles. You’re going to be My representatives on the earth. You’re going to demonstrate the character of God in a dark place.” And Satan twisted their minds to think the only thing God did was nothing. And they were curious, “Lord, why don’t you answer us? Where is Your power? Where is that Holy Spirit Pentecostal revival?” God is like, “You’re not doing anything.” They were so intent on being good before God that they neglected to do good for others.

 

I’m going to read you some statements from the Pen of Inspiration. By the way, I make no apology for that; I’m just letting you know. If a Seventh-day Adventist pastor at a Seventh-day Adventist convention can’t speak to Seventh-day Adventists about the Seventh-day Adventist inspired prophet, there’s a problem (close parentheses), okay?

 

The work specified in these words…By the way, “The work specified in these words,” speaking of Isaiah 58, “is the work God requires His people to do.” (I thought we were just supposed to hold evangelistic crusades) “…the work God requires His people to do. It is a work of God’s own appointment. With,” notice the combination, “the work of advocating the commandments of God and repairing the breach that has been made in the law of God, we are to mingle” (we are to mingle) “compassion for suffering humanity. We are to show supreme love to God; we are to exalt His memorial, which has…” She’s speaking of the Sabbath, right, preach the Sabbath. We should keep the Sabbath. We should teach the Sabbath. “We are to exalt His memorial, which has been trodden down by unholy feet; and with this we are to manifest mercy, benevolence, and the tenderest pity for the fallen race…As a people we must take hold of this work. Love revealed for suffering humanity,” notice this, “gives significance and power to the truth.

 

Is it possible that we can preach and teach the truth and it still have no significance and power because we’re just preaching and teaching the truth instead of living it? The reference for that is Welfare Ministry, page 32. Did you even know there’s a book called Welfare Ministry?

 

From the next page, page 33, “I cannot too strongly urge all our church members, all who are true missionaries” (I love that all true church members are supposed to be true missionaries, but anyway…) “all who believe the third angel’s message, all who turn away their feet from the Sabbath, to consider the message of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. The work of beneficence enjoined in this chapter is the work that God requires His people to do at this time.”

 

My Life Today, page 241, “In the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah the work that the people of God are to do in Christ’s lines is clearly set forth. They are to break every yoke, they are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.... If they carry out the principles of the law of God in acts of mercy and love, they will,” check it out, “represent the character of God to the world, and receive the richest blessings of Heaven.” Do you want a blessing from Heaven? Live the faith of Jesus Christ in your life.

 

Christ’s Object Lessons, page 384, “Love is the basis of [all] godliness. Whatever the profession, no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love for his brother. But we can never come into possession of this spirit by trying to love others.” Don’t fake it, by the way. People can smell hypocrisy. It looks bad. “What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously.” Notice this one. Have you ever just asked the question…I wish there was a litmus test, a list to check off, a way to know when my Christian character has been completed, you know? It would be nice to be able to look around, like, “Oh, I’ve arrived,” which, of course, you’re never supposed to say that. It’s bad theology. I’m just saying this is a mindset we have. Is that clear? “The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within,” when it doesn’t even dawn on you to try, you just kind of do it because that’s who you are now, “when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance.” Apparently the Christian life is supposed to be life more abundantly, joyful, caring, giving, benevolent.

 

Medical Ministry, page 263, “To teachers in our schools, to ministers and physicians and nurses, I would say,…you can succeed in revealing the truths of the third angel’s message.” Good. Apparently spreading the Word is possible. Amen? However, “this will not be done merely by preaching the word, but by the deeds of loving ministry.” We can hold all the evangelistic crusades we want, preach the Word, preach the Word, and say it and say it and say it, and it will never be enough. The world doesn’t need a proclamation of the character of God, it needs a revelation of the character of God. There’s a difference between proclaiming something and revealing it from within. “Those who have the spirit of Christ will work His works.”

 

And then I think to myself, that’s some grand idea. That’s a high standard. I wonder what the Seventh-day Adventist Church would look like if we took on in equal fervor, ministry for the needy in the same proportion as we do with proclamation of the truth? What would that look like? And, by the way, I know someone’s thinking, “Well, this is dangerous ground. You’re preaching social gospel. All you want us to do is pass out bread, give a smile, and call that sharing Jesus.” No, no, no, my friends. Social gospel is a term that, you know, Satan has employed to keep us from doing good, but let me tell you something, while the social gospel, just giving out bread and walking away and not sharing the real – the Bread of Life – right, is not what we should do. The gospel that we preach must be inherently social. There is no such thing as a Christian hermit. It’s oxymoronic. So I’m not preaching social gospel. I’m preaching a gospel that is social. There’s a difference.

 

By the way, The Desire of Ages, page 86, “Instead of secluding Himself in a hermit’s cell in order to show His heavenly character, [Christ] labored earnestly for humanity.” You know, Jesus could have come in a glass box, a shaft of light (Aaaaaaaaah), maybe on a turntable, and people would come by to get invitations far and wide to come see the glory of God in a jar. But that’s not how He demonstrated the glory. He said, “I have no beauty or comeliness, and I want you to see it in My character. And I want you to see My character in what I do, not merely what I don’t do.”

 

“He labored earnestly for humanity. He inculcated the principle that Bible religion does not consist in the mortification of the body.” When we have appeals like I led last night; I have nothing against the appeal. I think it’s the right thing to end sin, but if all you take away from GYC this year is that, “I want to be filled with the Spirit and that means I’m going to do even less,” have mercy. “He taught that pure and undefiled religion is not meant only for set times and special occasions,” GYC. “At all times and in all places He manifested a loving interest in men, and shed about Him the light of a cheerful piety.” You know what’s great, though? Is that there was a tiny little flicker of time in Adventist history when people took these principles and said, “I wonder what that would actually look like in practical…” Because I went to a seminar on preaching today, some of you might have been there, you know, flying at 30,000 feet, set in the theory and the principle, but where are the legs? What would it look like if a church embodied this idea of just equal force, preaching the truth and showing love? What would it look like?

 

Around the turn of the century, well, the last turn of the century, 1901, it happened in the town of San Francisco. Let me share with you what was going on in San Francisco. In a fun, little active game, you can count how many things were going on in San Francisco. Try to keep up, okay? “There are many lines of Christian effort being carried forward by our brethren and sisters in San Francisco. These include, the list begins, “visiting the sick and destitute, finding homes for orphans, and work for the unemployed” (do these sound like anything that our churches are doing right now? And that’s an application; we’ll get there); “nursing the sick, and teaching the love of Christ from house to house; the distribution of literature; and the conducting of classes for healthful living and the care of the sick. A school for the children is conducted in the basement of the meeting-house. In another part of the city a workingmen’s home” (What’s the modern equivalent of a workingman’s home? A homeless shelter) “and medical mission is maintained. On Market Street, near the City Hall, there is a bath establishment” (which, of course, is a hydrotherapy center), “operated as a branch of the St. Helena Sanitarium. In the same locality is a depot of the Health Food Company, where health foods are not only sold, but instruction is given as to reforms in diet.

 

“Nearer the centre of the city, our people conduct a Vegetarian Cafe, which is open six days in the week, and is entirely closed on the Sabbath. Here about five hundred meals are served daily, and no flesh-meats are used.

 

“Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Lamb are doing much medical work for the poor in connection with their regular practice” (so a doctor was volunteering at a downtown medical clinic); “and Dr. Buchannan is doing much free work at the Workingmen’s Home.”

 

And notice these closing words. “We earnestly hope that the steps taken in the future in the work in San Francisco will still be steps of progress. The work that has been done there is but a beginning.” Mrs. White looked at all those things that were going on, she looked at it, and she’s like, “Oh, that is a great, great start.” Of course, we know shortly thereafter there was an earthquake in San Francisco and some things changed in Adventism politically with the medical work, which, by the way, all of those things are medical work. Medical work is not just coronary heart transplants, okay? It’s giving bread to the neighbor. Medical work and the ministry kind of…, and for over 100 years now, they haven’t really met together. And we’re at GYC saying, “Why haven’t we seen a Pentecostal revival yet?” Is it possible that we’re living out Isaiah 58?

 

By the way, wouldn’t it be great if in the Scripture there was just a simple definition of what perfect religion looked like? If there was a text that was like, “Pure and undefiled religion is this.” I’ll say it slowly so that you can see that it’s actually in there. Go to the book of James. That’s not rhetorical. I want to hear it. Book of James, chapter 1 and verse 27, notice the combination of the two works, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this…,” colon, we’re looking at a definition now. Is that clear? Say amen. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

 

How many times do we think that just the second half is the fullness of Christian character? Jesus didn’t come just to not do; He came to do some stuff for humanity. “Pure and undefiled religion is this,” Scripture says.

 

My final statement from the Pen of Inspiration tonight. Christ’s Object Lessons, page 416 and 417, we read, “The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory,” and, of course, glory is an equivalent with what other word? Character. “The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.

 

“The light of the Sun of Righteousness is to shine forth in good works— (hyphen, and she defines) “in words of truth and deeds of holiness.”

 

Later in that same statement, “All around us are heard the wails of a world’s sorrow.” You know, as we get closer and closer at the end of time, and we see the time prophecies have expired, and the signs of Christ’s coming are all around us, do we not hear the wails of a suffering humanity? Do we not turn on the TV and get the news streams, that we see video clips of atrocities in our world? And I’m not talking just around the world, but, yes, they are, but in our world right here. “On every hand are the needy and distressed.” Did you know the economy is not doing too well right now? I’m guessing you might know firsthand, but I’m guessing there are people who know even more firsthand. “It is ours to aid in relieving and softening life’s hardships and misery.” If we walk by a person in need, and all we do is tell them what to believe, it seems to lose its significance and power.

 

This is a standing rebuke to me, this next sentence primarily. “Practical work will have far more effect than mere sermonizing.” Praise the Lord, by the way, if you’re a church that even still does evangelism. I mean, the worst rebuke is you do neither. “Don’t worry, pastor, we’re not doing that. We don’t preach the Word or reveal the love of God.” You don’t get a cookie for that, you know what I’m saying? That’s not the objective. And if you are doing public evangelism and literature evangelism, praise the Lord! But you’re not done yet. A proclamation is only half the battle. They need a revelation of the character of God in good works.

 

Practical work will have far more effect than mere sermonizing, and she lists them off. I know we like lists, sevens, we like numbers, 28, you know. “We are to give food to the hungry, clothing to the naked,” and here it is again, “and shelter to the homeless.” When was the last time you heard of a Seventh-day Adventist homeless shelter? If we leave here asking for the Holy Spirit to fill us, and yet we refuse to demonstrate the character of Christ in our lives, we have robbed ourselves of an experience that God wants to give us.

 

Then she says, “And we are called to do more than this,” that’s the social gospel, right? Just do those things. She said, “We’re called to do more than this. The wants of the soul, only the love of Christ can satisfy.” That’s their greatest need, but in order to get to their greatest need, we have to go to their first needs. “If Christ is abiding in us, our hearts will be full of divine sympathy. The sealed fountains of earnest, Christlike love will be unsealed.”

 

And as we close tonight, I want to turn you to Matthew, chapter 25, Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus speaks of His return. And on night number one we talked about how the goal of the great object of our life is not simply to live to the Second Coming but to live through it. Right? Not simply to have a transaction that gets us in, but perhaps by the grace of God and the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit to have a transformation that fits us in so that we can go from this world to the next seamlessly. Preparation for the Second Coming is not merely knowing the time; we need to develop His character. Matthew, chapter 25, starting with verse 31, “When the Son of Man comes…”  Our musicians can come on out. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (come on in, and the reason, verse 35): “‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”

 

And I love the response, verse 37, “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

 

And do you catch the significance? Well, wait for it because the conversation’s not done. He now turns to His left side, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (I do not want to hear those words. And here’s the reason, verse 42): “for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’”

 

And what’s powerful about this message besides the obvious is that their response, the response of the wicked to this truth that God has just spoken, is identical to the response of the righteous! There are two different sides; the only difference is one did and the other didn’t, and both of them say, “Lord, when did we see You?!” Notice it says, “They also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’”

 

The implication being, “Lord, if we had known it was You, sure, we would have put on a potluck. You could have come to my house. We would have done anything. We would have had a clothing drive. We would have collected cans. We would have gone ingathering. We would done community service. We would have done it all! We would have done prison ministry. We would have done all the things we could have if we knew it was You. But it wasn’t You. It was just people.” These folks are fully expecting to get in, but in this life they do not develop a character that would fit in. Do you see the difference?

 

And I love the other people; remember what they’re response was? “Lord, when did we see You naked? I mean, I’m not complaining; I’m coming in, but, Lord, when did we see You? I mean, I never saw you sick or thirsty or naked or hungry or in prison. When did we see You? All we saw were people. And that’s what we do when people need help.”

 

And He’s like, “That’s my point. You didn’t even know it was Me, and you did it anyway. You fit in. Come on in.”

 

Do you see that the great object of life is not merely getting to the Second Coming but living through it? God wants something more for you than simply to get you into Heaven, to take you to a new place. He actually wants to transform you so that when you get there you’ll fit in! If you’ve understood tonight’s message, can you raise your hand? If it made logical sense, if it was cohesive, if it was clear? Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

 

If you believe that the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with its marvelous message of truth, could perhaps do a better job, not only proclaiming the truth but also demonstrating the character of Christ, and you say, “Lord, that’s the church I want to be a part of. That’s the church we should be. I’m going to leave from this place making us a force for the Kingdom of God,” and that’s your commitment, would you stand with me tonight? If you understood and disagree, that’s fine, but now I’m asking you to commit to saying, “Yes, that’s what we want; that’s what we need; that’s what I’m going to strive for.”

 

But now I’m going to ask a tough thing: I’m asking for specific commitments to do something practical for God, not because you’re trying to but because, “Lord, I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit, now translate that into practical good for Your glory. I have loved this conference. I have been taught, I have been filled, I have been trained, now I’m ready to go! And, Lord, I’m young. I don’t even know…I’m so young I don’t even know that I’m supposed to fail at things, so I’m willing to try.”

 

I’ll start easy. If there’s someone here tonight who’s willing to go back to their local church, and, please, for the love of mercy, help the 85-year-old lady who’s running your community service center, and you’re doing nothing, say, “I’m going to go home, and I’m going to volunteer at community services to do something to reveal the character of God to the world around me.” Raising your hands is good, but I want you down front. I want you on camera. I want to record this thing. Your pastor should be watching, like, “Ah-ha, okay.” “I’m going to help in community services,” and if that’s not your gift, don’t come down if you’re just helping with community service. But maybe prison ministry could use your help. Can you come down front?

 

Okay, before the crowd gets going, because everybody’s going to get…and I don’t want that moment; I want serious commitment. Is there someone here, by the grace of God, that will finally open a Seventh-day Adventist homeless shelter? There are too many people now, so I don’t know which one it is, but I see hands. Praise God. Maybe a vegetarian restaurant. Maybe some sort of health food thing. Maybe some sort of practical…Maybe some idea we haven’t even thought of yet. Is it possible there is some stuff we haven’t thought of because we haven’t been doing it for 100 years?

 

Maybe there’s a ministry that I can’t even ask you to come down for because you haven’t created it yet. But could we say, “Lord, by Your grace, I want to use the mind that You’ve given me, the body and the life that I have in these few years to reveal Your glory and good works, and I’m not just going to have a social gospel, but I’m going to hang the gospel of the everlasting gospel of the Revelation, chapter 14, that I’m supposed to proclaim, and I’m going to clothe it in the character of Christ”? Would you come down front? This is not a pie-in-the-sky thing. This is a practical commitment. You go home this week; you’re going to make a plan. You’re going to wrack your brain. You say, “I’m going to respond to this thing, but I don’t even know what I’m going to do. But when I get home, I’m going to do something for Jesus Christ.”

 

“Lord, I’m Yours. I’ve been filled, here I am, send me. I’m willing to go. I’m willing to do. I’ll go where You want me to go. I’ll do what You want me to do. You make the plan, and I’ll follow it.” Study Isaiah, chapter 58. Read the little book Christian Service and do some stuff. Read Welfare Ministry and do some stuff. Study the Adventist history of things that have been tried that have been good and make them better and do some stuff! This is not work’s righteousness. This is a righteousness that works.

 

Too much theory in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, too much proclamation and not enough revelation, is that clear? Can we finally, for the love of mercy, combine them, let Christ use every ounce of our being, glorify His character, hasten His soon return, and see Jesus face to face? Now, that’s not to the exclusion of literature evangelism and proclamation. Please, if you want to hold an evangelistic campaign, there is room in the aisle. Come down front for that, too. If not, one or the other. There’s a higher standard, a higher ideal. God wants to use every bit of you for His glory. This is the commitment you’re making tonight. I expect at next year’s GYC in Seattle when we talk about The Revolution of the Book of Acts, that you’re going to come back and have a story to tell because I believe that God doesn’t expect you to do it. He wants to do it through you.

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