FACING THE CRISISWITH THE LESSER AND GREATER LIGHT - Part 2by: Elder Lawrence Nelson
In Part 1, we spoke of two brief quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy that are often taken out of context, misunderstood, and therefore misused. The one we presented is found in the Review & Herald, June 20, 1903. It reads: "Little heed is given to the Bible and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light."
In Part 1 we read references where Ellen White clearly defines for us the meaning of these two terms. All prophets, she clarifies (including Bible prophets and Ellen White) are "lesser lights," leading us to Christ who alone is the "greater light." As the moon reflects light from the sun, so a prophet having no light in himself or herself, can only reflect light from the Sun of Righteousness. Who is Christ? - The light of life! (See Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 2, p. 83, 84.)
Before I introduce you to the second brief passage, let us pray. Oh, loving Father, we beseech Thee to open our understanding to Thy heavenly truth. Fill us with Thy Holy Spirit with an unquenchable thirst to be fed from Thy "lesser lights," and be prepared to meet the "greater light"—Jesus, our Sun of Righteousness. May we thus be ready to meet Thy soon coming without fear. This we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Now, let us identify the Inspired statement under consideration. I will quote it as it is found in Prophets and King, p. 626: "The words of the Bible, and the Bible alone, should be heard from the pulpit."
As we near the end in this final crisis, Satan seems more determined than ever before to keep the Spirit of Prophecy from being presented to God's remnant people! An examination of this sentence in its context clearly reveals that she is not here referring to the pulpits of Seventh-day Adventist churches, but to those times when Seventh-day Adventist ministers/workers stand before the professed Christians of the world. Read for yourself in Prophets and Kings p. 623-627, and it will become very apparent which pulpits are referred to.
Time will permit us to read but a few thoughts from p. 625, 626: "Between the laws of men and the precepts of Jehovah will come the last great conflict of the controversy between truth and error. Upon this battle we are now entering.… Many have come to deny doctrines which are the very pillars of the Christian faith. The great facts of creation as presented by the inspired writers, the fall of man, the atonement, the perpetuity of the law—these all are practically rejected by a large share of the professedly Christian world.…"
I continue reading: "Christians should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise, and this preparation they should make by diligently studying the word of God and striving to conform their lives to its precepts.… God calls for a revival and a reformation. The words of the Bible and the Bible alone, should be heard from the pulpit. But the Bible has been robbed of its power, and the result is seen in a lowering of the tone of spiritual life. In many sermons of today there is not that divine manifestation which awakens the conscience and brings life to the soul.… Let the word of God speak to the heart. Let those who have heard only tradition and human theories and maxims, hear the voice of Him who can renew the soul into eternal life."
We might ask. "Was Ellen White speaking of Seventh-day Adventist churches when she said, 'Many have come to deny doctrines which are the very pillars of the Christian faith?'" She proceeds to name which pillars she is referring to: "The great facts of creation as presented by the inspired writers, the fall of man, the atonement, the perpetuity of the law —these all are practically rejected by a large share of the professedly Christian world."
She cannot be including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, because true Seventh-day Adventists do believe in "the great facts of creation as presented by the inspired writers, in the fall of man, the atonement, and the perpetuity of the law."
"God calls for a revival and a reformation." To accomplish this, when teaching these professed Christians, she says, "The words of the Bible and the Bible alone, should be heard from the pulpit." Please note that Ellen White does not say from our pulpits, but "from the pulpit."
How sad that some pastors of large churches have used this brief sentence to keep God's people from hearing the Spirit of Prophecy. After retiring, I was once a church elder of a very large church in Southern California. In this church of some 1,200 members the pastor instructed his board of elders that they were never to use the Spirit of Prophecy from his pulpit. He then quoted this statement we have just read.
Certainly, when speaking before an audience made up of professed Christians and unbelievers, it is not proper to use the writings of Ellen White. We have this counsel in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 669, "I stated that some had taken an unwise course; when they had talked their faith to unbelievers, and the proof had been asked for, they had read from my writings, instead of going to the Bible for proof. It was shown me that this course was inconsistent, and would prejudice unbelievers against the truth. The Testimonies can have no weight with those who know nothing of their spirit. They should not be referred to in such cases."
So, as a pastor, when I give Bible studies to non-believers, and in my evangelistic meetings when I preach, I have always proved every statement from the Bible. This is in keeping with Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 29 which says, "In public labor do not make prominent, and quote that which Sister White has written, as authority to sustain your positions. To do this will not increase faith in the Testimonies. Bring your evidences, clear and plain, from the Word of God. A 'Thus saith the Lord' is the strongest testimony you can possibly present to the people."
We might also mention that when speaking before "professed Christians of the world" [or before any other group for that matter], ministers should never deliver sermons consisting of stories or anecdotes, or "the gospel according to Time Magazine" etc., just to entertain them. Ellen White declares, "Let those who have heard only traditions and human theories and maxims" hear "the words of the Bible and the Bible alone!" Christ's Object Lessons p. 40.
We conclude that for very good reasons it is improper to use the writings of Ellen White in public meetings, such as evangelistic campaigns or when giving someone a Bible study, or even when having a discussion with unbelievers or members of the worldly churches.
Now that we have noted when it is not proper to use the Spirit of Prophecy, let us find the answer to the question, "When is it proper?"
Turning to the pages of the Spirit of Prophecy, we will quickly observe that on many occasions the Lord instructed Ellen White to send testimonies to be read from our pulpits, not only in our churches, but in our camp meetings.
Let me list a few examples:
Speaking of the Illinois camp meeting, from Battle Creek Letters, p. 49 (also in Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 27), I quote, "When I went to Colorado I was so burdened for you that, in my weakness, I wrote (in September 1881) many pages to be read at your camp meeting. Weak and trembling, I arose at three o'clock in the morning to write to you. God was speaking through clay.…" But the document was entirely forgotten; the camp meeting passed, and it was not read until the General Conference.
In his biography of Ellen White, Arthur White comments that this testimony arrived from Ellen White during the middle of the Illinois camp meeting, and that there was no excuse for the leaders having neglected to read it as requested.
Thus we recognize that it is not only in our day that some Seventh-day Adventist leaders avoid, if possible, the reading of the testimonies of God's Spirit from the pulpits of our churches. Ellen White faced this same problem. Please note that she had felt such a great urgency that this testimony be read in that camp meeting that, though ill, she arose at 3:00 A.M. to write it. But, alas, it was not read. It is also recorded in Manuscript 8, pp. 250 and 296, that she sent two large manuscripts to be read at the Avondale, Australia, camp meeting. So this was not a singular practice of hers.
In addition to sending testimonies to the camp meetings, the Lord instructed her to send testimonies to the churches to be read to the congregations. Two such testimonies, which she sent to the Battle Creek, Michigan, church are preserved for us today in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 45-84. Even though the Lord instructed her to send these testimonies, once again she had some problem. Her request was ignored for several weeks. I quote from Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 62, "Dear Brethren and Sisters in Battle Creek: I understand that the testimony which I sent to Bro. _______, with the request that it be read to the church, was withheld from you for several weeks after it was received by him. Before sending that testimony my mind was so impressed by the Spirit of God that I had no rest day or night until I wrote to you."
Once again she felt such a great urgency to get this testimony to the church that she had no rest day or night. But alas! Despite her feelings of urgency, her first testimony was withheld for weeks. Among other things it contained the following counsel found in Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 61. She points out here that there was a problem in the church. I quote, "Many of our younger ministers, and some of more mature experience, are neglecting the word of God, and also despising the testimonies of His Spirit. [And I add, we can surely see this today.] They do not know what the testimonies contain, and do not wish to know. They do not wish to discover and correct their defects of character."
The next testimony she sent to Battle Creek to be read to the church, contained a variety of counsels. Her main burden was to call them to repentance. She told them they were spiritually dead, needed to crucify self, repent and be converted. Speaking directly to them, she continued, "'Your sins have separated you from God.' You must lay aside every besetting sin." Then she warned: "If you continue on in your present spiritual state, nothing but evil can be prophesied against you."
These testimonies from Ellen White answer our question, "Is it proper to use the Spirit of Prophecy in our pulpits?" - If the Lord requested that the testimonies of the Spirit of Prophecy rebuking sin, etc., be read from the pulpits in our churches in her day—surely it is equally proper in our day! Why would it not be proper to read counsel from the Lord in our churches and at our camp meetings now, when it is undoubtedly even more urgently needed than it was in the 1880s?
We conclude that it is proper to use the writings of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy together in our church, namely:
(1) in the Sabbath School
(2) in the divine service
(3) in prayer groups
I quote: "Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given, and in his own chosen way brought them before the people, to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse." Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 665. So let us not be fearful to stand behind the pulpit and read from the Spirit of Prophecy. Who knows better how to give counsel than does the Lord?
Now we turn from these illustrations in modern Israel to a similar illustration from ancient Israel. For the purposes of this illustration, however, we will not consider Jeremiah as an ancient prophet, but as a modern, living prophet—which indeed he was at the time of this graphic illustration which is recorded in Jeremiah 36:1-8, 18-23: "And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; and they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
"Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book. And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up: I cannot go into the house of the Lord: therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the Lord in the ears of the people in the Lord's house upon the fasting day: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. It may be they will present their supplication before the Lord, and will return every one from his evil way: for great is the anger and the fury that the Lord hath pronounced against this people. And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the Lord in the Lord's house."
I quote again, beginning with verse 18, "Then Baruch answered them, He pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book. Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be. And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king.
"So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe's chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. Now the king sat in the winter house in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth."
These verses have illustrated two points: That the Lord commissions a prophet to write a message, with the request that it be read in the church in the ears of the people (in this case, the church was the temple). It also reveals the attitude of this leader as he rejected the testimony God had sent to awaken himself and his people to repentance that they might receive forgiveness and salvation. In anger, the king burned Jeremiah's testimony in the fire!
There is a very startling statement concerning our church pastors, which the Lord has sent to us today—to His modern Israel. It is found in Testimonies to Ministers p. 409, 410. Let us not overlook that there are times when apostasy is so great that such startling pronouncements as this are needed. I quote, "Unsanctified ministers are arraying themselves against God. They are praising Christ and the god of this world in the same breath.… Let the sin of deceit and false witness be entertained by a church that has had great light, great evidence, and that church will discard the message the Lord has sent, and receive the most unreasonable assertions and false suppositions and false theories. Satan laughs at their folly, for he knows what truth is.
"Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan. If doubts and unbelief are cherished, [then note what will happen:] the faithful ministers will be removed from the people who think they know so much."
In Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 77, we will read a passage that continues this same subject, "Who knows whether God will not give you up to the deceptions you love? Who knows but that the preachers who are faithful, firm, and true may be the last who shall offer the gospel of peace to our unthankful churches? It may be that the destroyers are already training under the hand of Satan and only wait the departure of a few more standard-bearers to take their places, and with the voice of the false prophet cry, Peace, peace, when the Lord hath not spoken peace. I seldom weep, but now I find my eyes blinded with tears; they are falling upon my paper as I write. It may be that ere long all prophesying among us will be at an end, and the voice which has stirred the people may no longer disturb their carnal slumbers." What a picture! Are not these predictions being fulfilled today?
If Ellen White were shown in vision some of the new Seventh-day Adventist churches that are being "planted" by the North American Division now how could she keep from weeping? How could she keep the tears from blinding her eyes? Many of these new churches are typical Celebration churches. Church leaders may deny this fact, but nonetheless they have all the right earmarks of such apostasy. The noise they make with their "music" and shouting and dancing would surely make Jesus Himself weep!
There is no doubt about it; through the servant of the Lord, God had predicted that this very type of satanic influence would be brought into our midst "just before the close of probation." Consider the following sad prediction from Selected Messages, Book 2, p. 36, "Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit! [Did you get that?]
"The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time. Better never have the worship of God blended with music than to use musical instruments to do the work which last January was represented to me would be brought into our camp meetings. The truth for this time needs nothing of this kind in its work of converting souls. A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing. The powers of satanic agencies blend with the din and noise, to have a carnival, and this is termed the Holy Spirit's working."
Speaking of our present Celebration churches, not only is their "bedlam of noise" that they call "music" an abomination, but also their senseless dramatic skits and other drama that are a part of their so-called "worship" services. All such drama is plainly condemned in the word of the Lord! God has counseled: "Let nothing of a theatrical nature be introduced." Review & Herald, February 14, 1907.
If we had read these startling warnings personally, and also to the people from the pulpits of our churches and at our camp meetings, we may have been spared from engaging in this terrible apostasy! By our neglect do we not, as did the king of Israel, virtually burn the writings sent from God in the fire?
While we have had Celebration churches in our midst for several decades by "planting" such churches, it seems that the leaders are now making a more determined effort than ever to promote this type of worship. In an official church paper, the North Pacific Union Gleaner, August 1999, we find the following advertisement for the Oasis Christian C enter in Vancouver, Washington. I quote: "A refreshing place for people who have given up on the church, but not on God. Great Kid's Programs; Dramatic Skits; No-Jive Band, etc. Not your typical church. Check it out." The Oasis Christian Center that is being advertised is one of the "planted" Seventh-day Adventist Celebration churches.
From Selected Messages, we just read that such exercises as these are an invention of Satan, and that "the powers of satanic agencies blend with the din and noise to have a carnival." It's hard to realize that we are condoning and conducting "Adventist carnivals" in church! Could this be the work of the "destroyers" who have been trained "under the hand of Satan?" In this connection let us turn to Testimonies to Ministers, p. 109, 110, and read again that frightening prophecy, "Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan!"
Let me read just one more passage from the testimony that was sent to be read to the Battle Creek Church which surely applies to us today—to the leaders of God's remnant church. It says, "There are men among us in responsible positions who hold that the opinions of a few conceited philosophers, so called, are more to be trusted than the truth of the Bible, or the testimonies of the Holy Spirit." Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, p. 79.
Now I'm going to ask you a very thought-provoking question, and to some it may be disturbing. "Which would you choose to hear from your church pulpit—the voices of the 'Many [who] will stand in our pulpits,' teaching doctrines of devils and conducting services whose spirit is 'kindled from the hellish torch of Satan?' Or would you prefer to hear the voices of faithful ministers standing behind the pulpit teaching biblical truths and, when appropriate, quoting from the Testimonies that are inspired by the Holy Spirit of God?" Think it over.
The Lord pronounces a woe upon all false shepherds! "Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord." Jeremiah 23:1, 2.
Then again in Jeremiah 34:18, 19, "Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? And to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet."
Thus God will bring woe unto the false pastors! At such a time as this, what is the duty of God's faithful ministers? Isaiah shouts, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." Isaiah 58:1.
In Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, p. 321, the servant of the Lord admonishes, "In this fearful time, just before Christ is to come the second time, God's faithful preachers will have to bear a still more pointed testimony than was borne by John the Baptist. A responsible, important work is before them; and those who speak smooth things, God will not acknowledge as his shepherds. A fearful woe is upon them."
Thus, to the congregations and the laymen of modern Israel, I quote this from Testimonies to Ministers, p. 10, "Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. Do not any longer pick flaws in them, saying, 'They are too positive; they talk too strongly.' They may talk strongly; but is it not needed? God will make the ears of the hearers tingle if they will not heed His voice or His message. He will denounce those who resist the word of God."
As we face the final crisis, we read in Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 83, 84, "Men may get up scheme after scheme, and the enemy will seek to seduce souls from the truth, but all who believe that the Lord has spoken through Sister White and has given her a message, will be safe from the many delusions that will come in these last days."
How sad that Ellen White had to write the following letter, written to those who would diminish her work which was authored by the Holy Spirit! "I have tried to do my duty to you and to the Lord Jesus, whom I serve and whose cause I love. The testimonies I have borne you have in truth been presented to me by the Lord. I am sorry that you have rejected the light given.…Are you betraying your Lord, because, in His great mercy, He has shown you just where you are standing spiritually? He knows every purpose of the heart. Nothing is hid from Him. It is not me that you are betraying. It is not me that you are so embittered against. It is the Lord, who has given me a message to bear to you." Manuscript Releases, Volume 5, p. 139.
In the same year, 1903, she wrote those who would give up their faith in the Testimonies, "One thing is certain: Those Seventh-day Adventists who take their stand under Satan's banner will first give up their faith in the warnings and reproofs contained in the Testimonies of God's Spirit. Selected Messages, Book 3, p. 84. Rather than neglecting the Bible and the Testimonies, let us eagerly ask: "Is there any word from the Lord?" Jeremiah 37:17.
The following words from the Lord are found in Ezekiel 33:11 and Jeremiah 22:29, "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord."
Let us pray: Our loving Father, forgive Thy people who have invited the power of Satan to enter our church through Celebration, with so-called Christian rock music and drama, with the use of drums and even dancing. Open the eyes of our leaders who are determined to force their devilish inventions upon Thy dear people!
Please help the faithful as they strive for a spirit of holy reverence, so all may feel Thy divine presence as we worship. Give us, O God, a ministry that will preach end-time messages from Thy word, the Bible, and the Spirit of Prophecy. Awaken our pastors to give us sermons that will help us to prepare and be ready for the coming crisis! This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.