Keep Pressing On… And On: A Response to Ted Wilson’s Adventist World Article


(Spectrumbot) #1

Every follower of Jesus is called to “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:14). Consequently, I was interested to read Ted Wilson’s article “Keep Pressing On” in the February 2019 edition of Adventist World and hear his thoughts on what this looks like in 2019.[1] I found the article thought-provoking, however it left me with a number of questions.

Wilson states: “Never has it been more important to work together as God’s remnant people than in these closing days of earth’s history.”

However my question is: has it never been more important for God’s remnant people to work together?

The Bible declares that God has always had a remnant (a remaining group) of followers on this earth. But was it less important for Noah and his family to work together than those living at the close of earth’s history? What about Elijah and the “7,000”? And what about the Babylonian exiles? I think it has always been equally important for God’s people in all ages to work together. To suggest that it’s more important for Adventists to work together than those before us belittles their dedication and commitment to God’s cause. It suggests, “Sure, they had a tough time. But what we’re facing now is much more difficult.” I’m not sure that Adam, Enoch, Noah, the prophets, the disciples, the Waldensians, or the millions of martyrs throughout history, would agree. It has always been important to work together as God’s remnant people. And in the closing days of earth’s history, we can gain courage and hope from how God has cared for His remnant people in the past.

Wilson states, “The true measure of the church’s success is found in its unwavering devotion to Jesus Christ and its unfaltering commitment to our God-given mission and message found in Revelation 14.”

My question is: who does the mission and message of the Three Angels belong to?

I’ve always found it interesting how Adventists claim exclusivity over Revelation 14:6-12. The Bible indicates that the Three Angels’ Messages are to be shared by “the people of God who keep His commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” We must remember that these three Messages can be found throughout the Old Testament, long before the apostle John wrote them in the New. And once recorded in Revelation 14, they did not become a sealed prophecy to be revealed exclusively to one denomination. A remnant people have always existed and shared these Messages; they didn’t just appear in the mid-1800s and call themselves Seventh-day Adventists. Perhaps Adventists are the only ones currently sharing these messages? But this doesn’t mean that they are our exclusive mission and message. They belong to “the people of God who keep His commands and remain faithful to Jesus” in every period of earth’s history, even if their membership is not in an Adventist church. God’s people are already a peculiar people; we don’t need to become an exclusive people.

Wilson states, “When Eve turned just slightly from God’s Word, she left herself open to the serpent’s deceptions.”

My question is: where’s Adam and Moses and Samson and David?

See, it wasn’t just Eve who sinned; Adam did too. In that moment, all of humanity sinned. It’s important we recognise this, and state it, especially as the Adventist Church vigorously debates the topic of Women’s Ordination, and in some parts of the world, debates if women are even fit for pastoral ministry. Lot’s wife is another example of a woman that disobeyed God and the disastrous consequences that followed. These are appropriate examples, notwithstanding the much longer list of men in the Bible who committed the same felonies. It’s always important to foster unity among God’s people, and so it’s important to reflect on how certain gender-limited examples will be perceived by members of our world church.

Wilson states, “As long as God’s people were unwavering in their devotion to the Lord and His Word their success was guaranteed. Yet repeatedly they exchanged moving ahead in faith with turning back in fear. On the very borders of the Promised Land they exclaimed, ‘Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us select a new leader and return to Egypt.’”

My question is: are Adventists wanting to ‘turn back to Egypt’?

This would be a travesty for God’s people in any period of history. Consequently the mere mention of this occurring should result in a sense of great alarm in the Adventist Church. But no idea exists in isolation, and with the world church in view, especially the events of the last few years, let me share how I see this metaphor being used:

We must be committed to the Word of God. But we haven’t been, and we have lost our opportunity to move ahead with the General Conference’s agenda because we have turned back to alternative views. We are on the verge of entering the eternal Promised Land. But because of our refusal to devote ourselves to the Word of God as interpreted by the GC, our wives (think: women’s ordination) and children (think: the GC-endorsed compliance video) will become victims of our alternative understandings of how the Gospel can be advanced through all the world. Because of these disturbances to the GC’s agenda, some have been calling to select a new leader. But that new leader (irrespective of who they may be) will lead us back to Egypt (i.e. in a direction against the will of God).

As we look out on our global Church, are we calling for a new leader to take us back to Egypt? Or has Moses fulfilled his calling, and it’s time for Joshua to lead the charge?

Wilson states, “Centuries later Paul instructed Timothy to preach the Word. ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.’ It is important to note that both in ancient Israel and the Christian church, God’s people had no problem submitting to leadership as long as their leaders capitulated to their desire to be led away from the Lord’s commandments and be turned back to the world from which they had been delivered. But this cannot be. We must never deviate from the direction the Lord leads us according to His Word.”

My question is: are we willingly being led away from God’s commandments?

There was a period in the 20th century when truths were true, and fables were fables. In the 21st century, everything is labelled as “fake news” and it is increasingly difficult to squint through the smog and see reality. To claim that another individual does not accept sound doctrine is a serious accusation. Perhaps because of their age, culture, education, position in society, political views, and religious experience, they communicate the same truths in a different manner. Jesus leads all His followers along the same narrow path, but they are all wearing different shoes and are walking at different speeds. Furthermore, this narrow path does not lead us away from planet earth, but around planet earth so that we can invite others to join us on this journey.

From Bible history we know that there will always be false teachers calling God’s people to leave the narrow path. But the Bible is filled with accounts of people who refused to listen to them, and instead followed the instructions of the prophets, kings, and apostles who pointed them towards their Saviour. Of course there were times when people left the narrow path. But I am reminded again of the 7,000 who did not worship Baal (1 Kings 19:18). The apostle Paul thought this was important too, because he recounted this holy defiance towards false leadership in Romans 11:2-4.

God’s true followers in every age (i.e. the “remnant”) have never submitted and capitulated to leaders who draw them away from God’s commandments. History declares that they would rather be martyred then compromise their allegiance to their heavenly Leader. Consequently, there is an increasing need for leaders in the church who foster unity and encourage us to support one another on the narrow path.

Wilson states, “As the stream of modern culture rushes headlong toward destruction, standing firm on the solid rock of Scripture will make it appear as though we are removing ourselves from society” (emphasis mine).

My question is: should we remove ourselves from modern culture?

“Modern culture,” “ancient culture,” and every culture in between are simply the culture of the time. None are better or worse than the other. How can it be said that the Babylonian culture was “better” than the proceeding Greek, Roman, British, German, or American cultures? They are all different, and they are all the “new normal” of that time.

The consistently repeated thought in Adventism that “modern culture” is all shock and horror, is not helpful in facilitating a loving and compassionate mindset towards those who don’t know Jesus yet. Every aspect of every culture can be used for good or for evil. Think: social media, or literature, or medicine, or music, or religion. Every individual chooses how they will engage with the culture of their time.

At this point I am reminded of Joseph, who used his place in arguably the most pagan nation on earth to do good and save the lives of many people, just as God had intended (Genesis 50:20). Consequently, negative portrayals of “modern culture” need to cease if we are to work together and see others as people that God created, loves, died for, and wants to spend eternity with.

Wilson states, “Request that at your local Adventist academy or college the time, energy, and money spent on varsity sports for one year be spent on evangelism training, programming, and direct outreach to the community instead.”

My question is: can we give a sporting chance to sports evangelism?

Adventist academies and colleges provide ample opportunities for evangelism through extracurricular activities such as performing arts tours, outdoor-rec activities, cultural excursions, and sport events. The apostle Paul reminds us that, “whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).

Sport programs provide fantastic opportunities for athletes to share Jesus with other like-minded individuals engaged in activities that promote physical, social, emotional, and mental well-bring. Church pastors would rarely be involved in these events, which is why we need ministers of the Gospel (which includes every follower of Jesus) using their God-given skills and talents to share the Gospel within their unique spheres of influence. Sport programs don’t have to be a drain on the resources of our academies and colleges; instead when staffed and resourced appropriately, they can provide great evangelistic opportunities.

Wilson quotes Ellen White who states, “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. It is the privilege of every Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine).

My question is: when will Jesus take us into eternity?

There are many profoundly misunderstood statements of Ellen White, especially her statements around Christ’s character being perfectly reproduced in His people. Some have twisted her comments to teach that there will be an exclusive remnant within the “remnant” who will reproduce Christ’s sinless character, and thereby usher in the Second Coming. This interpretation of White’s comments is fascinating, because it suggests that human beings can force God to act — that human beings can prevent Jesus’ return, or force Him to return even if He was preparing for another time. Supporters of this view suggest that a good proportion of those who claim Jesus as their Saviour are not doing much to share the Gospel, and that it’s essentially their fault that Jesus hasn’t returned yet.

It’s absurd to think that humanity can control God; that the creation can control the creator. This theology is not Adventist doctrine, neither is it a biblical teaching, and for the eternal sake of our church family, we need to forcefully refute this false teaching.[2] [3]

When accurately understood, Ellen White’s comments on this topic are beautiful and uplifting, but in isolation, they appear accusatory and inflammatory to those who are doing their best to follow Jesus on the narrow path. Any text without a context is a pretext for demoralising God’s people.

As I reflect on the Adventist Church I love, I am encouraged that what I see is so often the opposite of what is published. I see:

• Church members and institutions working together to foster unity and proclaim the Gospel in effective and creative ways.

• I see church members and leaders using their God-given freedom of conscience to question the status quo, and pursue new methods of ministry and evangelism to share the love of Jesus within their spheres of influence.

• I see Adventists of all different ages, cultures, educations, positions in society, political views, and religious experiences interpreting passages of Scripture in different ways, but still arriving at the same glorious truth that “God is love.”

• And finally, I see and believe that the Second Coming is imminent, because as Jesus declared, “The kingdom of Heaven is forcefully advancing” according to His will.

Notes & References:

[1] Adventist World, Volume 15, Number 2

[2] Recently, leading Adventist theologians have published two great books on this topic which are available from your local Adventist Book Centre, or online.

See: God's Character and the Last Generation, by Jirí Moskala, John C. Peckham, Woodrow Whidden, Martin Hanna, Richard M. Davidson, Denis Fortin, Ante Jeroncíc, Peter Swanson, Ranko Stefanovic, Darius W. Jankiewicz, and Felix Cortez.

See also: End-Time Events and The Last Generation, by George R. Knight.

[3] For a brief overview, consider reading a section of Ranko Stefanovic’s chapter which he shared online: https://www.facebook.com/ranko.stefanovic.3/posts/2194473597455357

Jared Martin holds degrees in Construction Management and Ministry & Theology. He currently works as an Associate Pastor at Mt Gravatt SDA Church and Brisbane Fijian SDA Church in the South Queensland Conference, Australia. In his spare time, Jared helps develop a Sabbath School app for Apple and Android which is available in 37 languages: https://sabbath-school.adventech.io/

Image credit: Adventist World

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9453

#2

Thank you for this pointed response. Also, thank you for calling out false doctrine which is one of the greatest threats to our church and our mission in our history.


#3

A timely article. Thanks, Jared. Leaders can be forgiven for making mistakes. But how many serious mistakes should we expect to find in a single article from the GC president? Especially when they are chronic mistakes, made again and again. Adam and Eve were together when they took the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:6). Yes, Sarah laughed (Gen 18:12). But Abraham had already laughed (Gen 17:17). He beat her to it.
The church needs to hear a more balanced approach to gender issues from the GC president, who needs to put away his personal prejudice, abandon the “fake news”, and start facing reality. The church needs a forward-looking GC leader with a large vision, not one who panders to sections of the world church that hold onto male headship.


(Mikecmanea) #4

“It’s absurd to think that humanity can control God; that the creation can control the creator. This theology is not Adventist doctrine, neither is it a biblical teaching, and for the eternal sake of our church family, we need to forcefully refute this false teaching.”

It’s actually more ‘controlling’ to deny God the ability to make certain events contingent on human action.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

Elder Wilson write like a pope without the credentials beyond an intern except time in the political arena of Adventism.


(Leroy Gillan) #6

I believed that Spectrum was a site to hear “the other side” of the question. But an article like this makes me think otherwise. Have Christian’s been authorized of God to criticize and condemn one another? Is it Christian charity to gather reports and articles written by another then criticize and cast suspicion on the character of another? I was taught that true Christians do not expose opinionated faults and deficiency of another. Enough said.


(Ian m fraser) #7

PoAs a man not particularly interested in sports, I could sympathize with Elder Wilson’s classics view on sports. But I think there are many positive character building benefits to varsity sports as the authvor points out. Rather than using the funds instead how about raising a similar amount for evangelism! Incidentally much of the fun ding for sports comes from. the family of the student or the students themselves (loans ( for evangelism??))5 Also how about getting more money for evangelism by reducing spending on multiple levels of beauocracy. And of course my favorite suggestion by moving the GC to a low cost area in Africa.where the church has massive membership and needs more guidance and diversity in leadership. Using an. Appropriate staff pay scale based on living in Africz versus xSilver Spring massive funding for evangelism in NAD could become LL available and could be used to incentivize funding in the churches


(Steve Mga) #8

At the end of God’s letter [Revelation] to the 1st Century churches, God told John
to write – “Behold! [Look!] I am coming quickly”
It is NOW 2 thousand, 18 years later. Perhaps some way we have failed to
understand this statement.


(Steve Mga) #9

Addressing Sports in Academy. In the Georgia-Cumberland Conference
every summer for many years, under the assistance of the Conference
quite a number of churches conduct Basketball Camps during the day
time for a week or so.
In order to do so there HAS to be leaders who have had Experience at
Basketball, actually play well, and Able to Teach ALL the Basketball
moves.
Many of the SDA Basketball players I know got their start for good while
attending Academy somewhere. I have no problem with NOT bussing
Academy students from school to school, but WHY shut down an
athletic program like that in the individual Academy. For a lot of persons
being introduced to sports as a teen allows them to develop a lifetime of
enjoying non-sedentary activities.


(Kim Green) #10

"I was taught that true Christians do not expose opinionated faults and deficiency of another."

Leroy, have you ever been a member of a church that did not violate this principle? Besides, there are some “faults and definciency” that need to be exposed. Christ did not sit idly by and not decry hypocrisy and sin.


(Kim Green) #11

"It’s actually more ‘controlling’ to deny God the ability to make certain events contingent on human action."

It might be- if we had the power to do so… but God does not “need” us to “deny” Him anything.


#12

Love the article Jared. Your analysis is thorough and loved the exegesis on Revelation 14. It seems to me we dig a hole for ourselves with our exclusive claims around the Three Angels Message. The clue is in the text - “having the Everlasting Gospel.” God is consistent across the Scriptures - a God of love looking to include within His family.

I would like to suggest we could do so much better than one year of refocusing the Sport program monies. Given we spend about $45 million USD a year on maintaining the GC, permanently reduce it to a steering committee of one representative per Division and empower the Divisions at their level to operate.

Not only would this return millions of dollars permanently to front line evangelism, it would be default allow the Divisions to make the call on women’s ordination, and remove the stranglehold that the conservative wealthy men hold over the current GC leadership. I saw that in person at a GC meeting in the last several years and was stunned at how blatant this was.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #13

Yes Elder Wilson does mention the Gospel we love but the rest is life style etc. message the Amish would love. how different from the approach of Des Ford, Edward Heppenstall, And Graham Maxwelll. To understand the Cross is a life changer from self centered whipping to joy, gratitude and generosity.


#14

Yes ! Exactly !

‘Jesus’ is also ‘God’.
John said that, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” ~ John 1:11

Jesus said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father;
so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” ~ John 14:9

Ellen White, in writing to her son, Edson, on November 18, 1895, from Armadale, Australia where she, W.W. Prescott and others were speaking at a hugely-successful camp meeting at which non-Adventists were flooding the main tent and standing outside to hear the presentations that some later begged to be given copies of . . . she expanded in the last paragraph of her letter on that idea that Jesus had tried to explain to Philip:

Had God the Father come to our world and dwelt among us,
veiling His glory and humbling Himself, that humanity might look upon Him,
the history that we have of the life of Christ would not have been changed in unfolding its record of His own condescending grace. In every act of Jesus, in every lesson of His instruction, we are to see and hear and recognize God. In sight, in hearing, in effect, it is the voice and movements of the Father. But language seems to be so feeble! I refrain, and with John exclaim,
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not” [1 John 3:1].” – Letter 83, 1895.

Neither Jesus, the Son of God, nor the ‘Father’, are ‘strong male leader-type’ rapists.

Going back through the Biblical prophecies and Gospels describing Jesus, then,
we can replace anything referring to the ‘Son’ with the ‘Father’, or ‘God’:

“THE FATHER, ‘GOD’, was oppressed, and GOD was afflicted, yet GOD opened not his mouth: GOD is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so GOD opens not his mouth.” ~ Isaiah 53:7

“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, . . .
'THE FATHER, ‘GOD’, shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear GOD’s voice in the streets.
A bruised reed shall GOD not break, and smoking flax shall GOD not quench, till GOD send forth judgment unto victory. And in GOD’s name shall the Gentiles trust.”
~ Matthew 12:17, 19-21

“Then Pilate said unto them, “Why, what evil hath THE FATHER, ‘GOD’, done?”
And they cried out the more exceedingly, “Crucify GOD !”
And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them,
and delivered GOD, when he had scourged GOD , to be crucified.
And the soldiers led GOD away into the hall, called Praetorium;
and they call together the whole band.
And they clothed GOD with purple, and platted a crown of thorns,
and put it about GOD’s head, And began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they smote GOD on the head with a reed, and did spit upon GOD,
and bowing their knees worshipped GOD.
And when they had mocked GOD, they took off the purple from GOD,
and put GOD’s own clothes on GOD, and led GOD out to crucify GOD.”
~ Mark 15:14-20

"Then said the FATHER, ‘GOD’, “Jesus, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted GOD’s raiment, and cast lots.” ~ Luke 23:34

Now, I ask those who still think that a ‘creation’ never ‘controls’ the ‘Creator’, and that such a thing is not a “Biblical teaching” but a “false teaching” that needs to be “forcefully” – not graciously – ‘refuted’, rejected, ‘for the eternal sake of our church family’ . . . :

Is GOD going to return to Earth, just to be ‘forcefully’ rejected and sacrificed, again, and again, . . . and again, by ‘His own’, who continue to choose to ‘refute’ Him ?
Or, is one sacrifice of Him, while being fully-controlled by ‘His own’ creations, enough to convince anyone paying attention, of His own ‘condescending grace’ ?

condescend, definition:
“of God, a king., etc., “make gracious allowance” for human frailty, etc.”
“voluntarily waive ceremony or dignity proper to one’s superior position or rank and willingly assume equality with inferiors”

“The sick man was lying on his mat, and occasionally lifting his head to gaze at the pool, when a tender, compassionate face bent over him, and the words, "Wilt thou be made whole?” arrested his attention." ~ DA 202

The Creator even asked what this creation of His wanted,
before going ahead with healing him.
GOD ASKED PERMISSION of ‘HIS OWN’ !

I don’t know where these ideas about God being a ‘strong male leader-type’
Who won’t stoop to being controlled by ‘humanity’ are coming from,
but I know they are not coming from ordained female SDA pastors, or the Bible.

We need to stop making God in our own arrogant image, and start asking if He will heal us back into His own condescending, gracious image. Maybe then we will ordain women as pastors, too.


(Andrew) #15

A very well written response. Do we really need to revisit some of these old chestnuts like competetive sports likes it’s the 70’s again.

Heaven forbid academies compete against other schools, demonstrate enthusiasm and commitment to their school, play with the right attitude and leave a good impression. Isn’t that witnessing?
Elder Wilson seems to believe that spending a fortune on printing and giving out copies of Steps to Christ (most of which would have been thrown out) is the only way to witness.


(Steve Mga) #16

Andrew–
Recall when the Great Controversy was sent out in mass through the Postal
Service. People filled the trash cans with them.
BUT, it made the Leaders in Silver Springs “feel good”.
And it gave the composers and the printers a paycheck.
YES, UNSOLICITED MAIL of MOST KINDS usually gets to see the
“circular file”. No matter WHAT it is or WHO it is from.


(George Tichy) #17

Steve,
It reminds me how “good” politicians feel wasting taxpayers’ money. After all, it’s money that just pours freely to the coffers, so what???

At the GC:
.
The “generous faucet,” fed by church members:
Image result for image money pouring from faucet
.
.
The “results faucet”:

Image result for image money pouring from faucet

… … … … … … … … …???

Well, at least they “feel good,” and that’s certainly a priority…


(Steve Mga) #18

George –
In MOST communities, not connected with our Jerusalem Centers, the
Seventh day Adventist church is relatively UNKNOWN. So anything we
print and pass out “like the leaves of autumn” END UP like Autumn Leaves.
In Black Trash Bags at the curb.
THAT is the Result of being FEARFUL of being CONTAMINATED by doing
things with our Babylonian Community of neighbors.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #19

Adventism is built upon a reaction to the great disappointment of 1844., Thus it created a two compartment heavenly sactuary, a Christ with the sinful seed of Adam, and a final perfect generation thus creating a low tolerance for any view outside of that “norm”., it has since Glacier View and before declared anathema on any deviation from their established norm. Now the church has established complance committees a very popish concept. The question That abhors is The Gospel Of Grace. Thus the church must face a platform built upon either Law or Gratitute and Generosity the project of the Gospel Of Grace. The Davenport saga uncovered the selfish greed that classic Adventism breeds. Tithe separate the sheep from the goats. Faithful tithe payers get a pass.


(jeremy) #20

sadly, i think it is clear that TW’s leadership is no longer effective in the developed world…i was just reading an interview he had recently with andrea luxton…he’s really all about the mentality going on in africa…he doesn’t seem to understand the negative impact he’s decisions and actions with respect to WO have had on n. american adventism outside of the extreme conservative crowd…he’s like trump, just playing to his base…this kind of leadership isn’t legitimate…it isn’t what anyone needs, or can benefit from…