Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Musings on the Future

by Bill Brace

Just recently I had an invitation to be a special guest at a Jewish-Roman Catholic ceremony that was to be attended by high ranking officials of both faiths, including the Cardinal of Boston. I was flattered by the personal invitation extended to me by a new Jewish friend of considerable rank; however, I was forced to decline due to a previously committed engagement. The purpose of the high-profile meeting was not only to honor past victims of the Holocaust but also to publicly display the rapidly growing rapprochement between the two aforementioned religious entities.

I am certainly aware of the manifold counsel we have been given not to separate ourselves from leaders of other faiths. We’re advised, in fact, to pray with and for them. Certainly, all are candidates for the kingdom of heaven.

But this got me to thinking of the differences between the message of Seventh-day Adventism and the other world religions as shown to climax in the events described in Revelation 13. Quite correctly there is the conflict over the day of worship which has been our denomination’s traditional understanding. Even though there seems to be a growing denial of such an interpretation among a few within our ranks, I still hold that to be true, very true. The Sabbath will be the central external bone of contention.

However, we also know the Sabbath represents God’s ultimate sign of freedom—freedom from succumbing to the attractiveness of the old covenant and salvation by man’s devising. Freedom from self-centeredness. It is the Lord’s sign for those who are, indeed, living righteously by faith. Sunday is a sign of force; the Sabbath, a sign of freedom.

Not too long ago I was saddened to see that an ordained pastor, who formerly worked among us, has not only given up the seventh-day Sabbath truth, but he is now also on an unfortunate slide into further spiritual oblivion. One of his recent publications, that many of us receive, highlighted the popular but heretical belief within Christianity of immediate life after death. Both these untruths, Sunday worship and immediate life beyond death, do a tragic disservice to the central Christian teaching of the cross. They seriously rob God of His glory. Unfortunately, that which he thinks to protect, he actually depreciates and grossly diminishes.

Brothers and sisters: this is no time to drift. The finish line in this great marathon of faith and life is within sight!

The events forecasted to unfold in Revelation 13 may soon come upon us. None of us has the sanctified insight to know exactly when. It is our duty as pastors to prepare our flock for what has been described by the servant of the Lord to come as “an overwhelming surprise.” What is to be our objective in such a preparation? Well, I do believe it is to develop within the hearts and minds of all members ones who will “love not their lives unto the death.” Quite contrary to an egocentric faith that still exists, to one degree or another, in our hearts.

The ancient prophet Isaiah bids us to proclaim to our parishioners, “Messengers of good news, shout to Zion from the mountaintops! Shout louder to Jerusalem—do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, ‘Your God is coming!’ Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in all His glorious power. He will rule with awesome strength. See, He brings His reward with Him as He comes. He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will carry the Lambs in His arms, holding them close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isaiah 40:9-11 NLT).

Yes, while we are to be alert for opportunities to come as close as we can to men and women who are leaders of other faiths and, indeed, to form friendships with them, let us not forget we have a message that can “save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him.” Indeed, “we have not followed cunningly devised fables.”

Be of good courage. The message given you, as it is permeated with the gospel of righteousness, still has the power within it to transform lives into the likeness of Christ. So, as pastors and watchmen on the walls, let us dig deeply to find those veins of gospel gold that invite us to discovery. May we never be content that what we know is sufficient for what lies ahead.

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