It is a great privilege to be at the ASI Convention. ASI is one of God’s great missionary organizations that is a tremendous blessing to the world wide evangelistic outreach of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I want you to know that the General Conference appreciates you and is delighted with your strong supportive activities and many supporting ministries that make up this dynamic organization. Your emphasis on soul winning through the power of the Holy Spirit is how God wants you to work—–sharing Christ in the marketplace! Your support of so many church evangelistic outreach projects is thrilling…….projects such as the one-day church and one-day school and many other marvelous projects. Recently, it was a privilege to attend the ASI Europe Convention in Konstanz, Germany, and see hundreds of dedicated, energized, Spirit-filled church members who want to experience revival and reformation and a renewed mission emphasis for evangelistic outreach on the European continent. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Europe as they plead with the Lord for a renewed sense of mission to proclaim the three angels’ messages with power in that secular and materialistic society. There are millions of people in Europe and all over this world waiting for Seventh-day Adventists to stand up, speak out, and share the precious Biblical message of Revelation 14. The giving of those three angels’ messages is the reason God raised up the Seventh-day Adventist movement. We have a mandate from heaven to preach the everlasting Gospel and Christ’s righteousness, to boldly proclaim the fall of Babylon’s apostate religion, and to warn the world not to receive the mark of the beast but instead be sealed with the seal of God’s everlasting mark of authority—–the seventh-day Sabbath.
Brothers and sisters here at ASI and those watching around the world, we have the great privilege of belonging to something much larger than a denomination or a church body, we belong to the heaven-born Advent movement – we belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, God’s remnant church. A church that has been called by God at the end of time for a unique purpose ………A church that has gone through challenging times and will go through very challenging ahead according to Biblical prophecy and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy……..A church that does not rely on traditions or human reasoning but relies completely on the written Word of God as its sole foundation and the Living Word, Jesus Christ……..A church that does not derive its power from itself but accepts fully the admonition of the Lord in Zechariah 4:6 which says, “…..’Not by might nor by power, but My Spirit’ says the Lord of hosts.”
I like your theme for this 2011 ASI Convention……..”Inspired to Finish Strong!” Inspired by God, the Father; Inspired by God, the Son, inspired by God, the Holy Spirit. The three Persons of the Godhead who are One……Who are from everlasting and are everlasting. God wants His church to finish strong and has prophesied that it will! John records in Revelation 21:1-3, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, no sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then, He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” True and faithful……God has promised…..His words are true and faithful…… that His church, under His personal direction, will finish strong! His church will finish strong through His grace and power! You will finish strong through His grace and power! This is not just hyperbole and triumphalism…….this is Biblical truth!
On that great and wonderful day we are all looking forward to…….the culmination of the Blessed Hope, we will see Jesus appear with power and glory………the Blessed Hope that will finish strong! Matthew records in chapter 25 verse 31 that “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.” Christ will come in power to claim His remnant people. This is God’s remnant church and, through God’s power, it will finish strong! I’m looking forward to that day when I will see my precious parents again and you will see your loved ones again.
How is it that we can humbly claim to be God’s remnant church? There are those, even in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who would dispute that we are the remnant church. Some may say we are “part” of the remnant or that perhaps the remnant is yet to come. My brothers and sisters, in order to say that God’s church will finish strong, we need to know who we are and why we are here as an Advent movement. We need to understand our special calling from the Lord. We don’t say any of this in a self-centered, egotistical way, but we humbly understand that we fulfill the qualifications of God’s remnant people who know that the church will finish strong.
God has told us in Testimonies for the Church, Vol 7, page 138, that “Seventh-day Adventists have been chosen by God as a peculiar people, separate from the world……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.” But do we believe that? How can we understand this from Scripture?
A few years ago at a meeting, I had a very bright and intelligent person come to my supper table and ask a challenging question. He asked me what my greatest challenge was. I thought for a moment and then responded by indicating that one of our greatest challenges was to keep the vision alive in the church that we are a unique movement. He looked at me and asked, “Really? Are we?” He said, “I’m first a Christian and then a Seventh-day Adventist.” Of course, we are Seventh-day Adventist Christians, but we have a special task that others are not doing. Well, he proved my point right then and there. He didn’t seem to think we were unique. Who are we as a unique movement? Are we better than others? Of course not. We are all in need of Christ’s justifying and sanctifying power. We are in need of revival and reformation through the Holy Spirit that will lead to the latter rain. We are indebted to Christ for salvation and His all-encompassing grace and righteousness. But we are also a unique movement, people of the Book, a prophetic movement, people who believe in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. People who understand those books from a historicist viewpoint. We are not preterists—-assigning the events predicted in the Bible to singular events of the distant past. We are not futurists who assign prophetic events as having some place in the distant future and have no relevance to history—-current or past. We are historicists who understand that the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 represent not only historical places but periods of church history represented by the characteristics of those original churches—-we believe in the prophetic landmarks throughout history which were predicted before they happened and lead us to an understanding of who we are and where we are in earth’s history. It helps us know that we are living in the very end of the toes of Daniel 2 and that the next event will be the stone appearing which was cut without hands representing Christ’s second coming. Daniel 8:14 tells us exactly what happened in 1844 and that the sanctuary message which is replete in Scripture is a powerful and meaningful message for the world throughout time and even more so during these last days of this earth. The sanctuary message of God’s plan of salvation and how Christ, our High Priest, is interceding for us in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary at this very time is a most precious Biblical belief that needs to be fully shared with the world. Christ is our Creator, our Redeemer as the Humble Broken Lamb on the cross, our Example, our High Priest, and our coming King. The sanctuary message shares it all. Brothers and sisters, we are living in a most incredible time in earth’s history. We have been called to proclaim God’s incredible message of salvation through Christ and His righteousness and we need to know who we are if we are to deliver that message with Holy Spirit power.
There are many Biblical texts which give us a picture of who we are as a unique movement that will finish strong. But there is one text that identifies us so clearly it cannot be misunderstood. It is the great identifier. It is the “Caller ID” of the Biblical prophecy. Just as your cell phone or home phone can identify the calling number and name, in many cases, of those calling you giving you the opportunity to decide whether to answer or not—–so the Bible in Revelation 12:17 identifies God’s remnant church or people at the end of time. That marvelous text tells us who we are! It reads, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Verse 9 tells us that the dragon is Satan. Verses 1 and 2 identify the woman as God’s church. Verse 4 tells us of the war against God’s church and Jesus Christ who is then caught up to God and His throne. But who are the remnant? The remnant of her seed, God’s last day church, will consist of people with two characteristics——-those who keep the commandments of God and secondly, they have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
That first characteristic of keeping the commandments of God means all the commandments of God including the fourth commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy….” Those who are part of the remnant church will keep, through the power of God, not just a few of the commandments or even nine of the commandments, but all ten of the commandments. The fourth commandment about God’s holy Sabbath is sign of God’s creative and redemptive power. It is a sign that He alone is the Creator who recently created this earth in six literal days and capped the marvelous and miraculous process with the seventh-day Sabbath as a day in which to specifically remember that He did create by the word of His mouth. The Sabbath is not only a sign of God’s power but it will be a seal placed on us as His people…….God’s mark in the universe and on us. In the very last days during the most difficult times of persecution, stand fast for God’s Bible Sabbath. Finish strong through God’s power. Don’t let anything detour you from faithfully adhering to God’s only true day of worship…….the seventh-day Sabbath. When you worship on this very day on which we are worshipping, you testify to the world that God is the omnipotent Creator who accomplished this work through His power and not through an evolutionary process. We are to preach this, teach this, and believe this. Don’t let anyone intimidate you into believing that this is an outmoded, uneducated or unsophisticated belief……..the belief in a literal six-day creation week with the Sabbath as the weekly memorial of God’s creative power is very much a major part of the final characteristics of God’s remnant church. Let me also indicate that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all participated in the literal creation of this world——-they are the Godhead, Three in One and have existed together since eternity and will exist throughout eternity. They are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and everlasting. Three distinct, eternal persons—–one God. Our almighty God!
We are SEVENTH-DAY Adventists! Don’t forget that. We are a unique people with a unique message. In Selected Messages, Book 2, page 397, we read, “I am instructed to say to Seventh-day Adventists the world over, God has called us as a people to be a peculiar treasure unto Himself. He has appointed that His church on earth shall stand perfectly united in the Spirit and counsel of the Lord of hosts to the end of time.”
That second characteristic listed in Revelation 12:17 is that God’s remnant church will have the “testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 1:2 and 9 talk about the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 14:12 talks about the patience of the saints who keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 19:10 tells us plainly that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Here we have a clear indication from the Bible that the remnant church will have a special voice that God will provide which is the Spirit of Prophecy. This is a mark of the remnant. I believe that God spoke through Ellen G White as a fulfillment of Revelation 12:17 to provide God’s instructions to His last-day, remnant church. As I have said before, I believe the Spirit of Prophecy, the writings of Ellen White, is one of the greatest gifts given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. There are many attacks on the Spirit of Prophecy and we shouldn’t be at all surprised. The Spirit of Prophecy contains direct counsel and truth which the devil does not want available to people. Selected Messages, Book 1, page 48, indicates that “Satan is….constantly pressing in the spurious—to lead away from the truth. The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God……..There will be a hatred kindled against the testimonies which is satanic. The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them, for this reason: Satan cannot have so clear a track to bring in his deceptions and bind up souls in his delusions if the warnings and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded.”
That is why currently there are so many attacks against the Spirit of Prophecy. That’s why people simply choose to not read the instructions. But this is one of the two important characteristics of the remnant church according to Revelation 12:17…….this is part of the “Caller ID” of who we are.
Listen to Ellen White’s plea for revival, reformation, and the latter rain explained in Testimonies for the Church, Vol 8, pages 297-298: “The Lord calls for a renewal of the straight testimony borne in years past. He calls for a renewal of spiritual life. The spiritual energies of His people have long been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death. By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King’s highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the Pentecostal energy. This will come, for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power. Perilous times are before us. Everyone who has a knowledge of the truth should awake and place himself, body, soul, and spirit, under the discipline of God…….We must follow the directions given through the spirit of prophecy. We must love and obey the truth for this time. This will save us from accepting strong delusions. God has spoken to us through His word. He has spoken to us through the testimonies to the church and through the books that have helped to make plain our present duty and the position that we should now occupy.”
What is the position that we now occupy? It is that we are “the remnant of her seed.” We are a unique movement of destiny. We are to proclaim Christ’s great message of warning and salvation found in the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14. We are to not to allow anything to distract us from our mission that will finish strong!
God has called us to proclaim this last day message with power. The three angels’ messages must be on our lips and presented in love. I am thankful for the great support of ASI in the massive evangelistic outreach activities of the church worldwide. I ask for your continued strong support for our overall evangelistic plan of “Tell the World.” All of these plans are based on our humble submission to the Lord and built on the foundation of revival and reformation in our personal lives and the life of the church as a body. Let us never forget that anything we accomplish is only done “by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
One of the aspects of the Tell the World evangelistic program is The Great Controversy Project. I request that you give it your full support. This is a result of that second characteristic of God’s Caller ID in Revelation 12:17 which indicates that His remnant church will have the “testimony of Jesus Christ.”
The Great Controversy Plan, which has been accepted by the world church, asks church members to read or reread “The Great Controversy” this year of 2011. Nancy and I are rereading it and it is so powerful. Then in 2012 and 2013 a massive distribution of that book will take place around the world as a special evangelistic opportunity. Various editions will be utilized. Bible study cards or imprinted websites will be included to take readers to resources where they can take Bible studies, download Biblical information, if needed, download the entire book, connect with Seventh-day Adventists television networks, and find truth-filled Bible information. Some have asked, “Why distribute The Great Controversy—–it is not so politically correct……why not distribute Steps to Christ or The Desire of Ages?” It would be great to distribute those books as well. They are wonderful books. But the fact is that Ellen White herself said that she wished The Great Controversy circulated more than any other book she had written. It tells the story of the Christian church from the beginning to the end. It tells how God’s remnant church will finish strong only through God’s power.
It has been exciting to see the world divisions and the church membership around the world become so excited about this special project. We had set a goal of 50 million copies to be distributed worldwide. Most of these books worldwide will be given personally to friends, relatives, neighbors, and others. I personally had a prayer goal of 100 million. However, the latest estimated total of classic and abridged versions, reported from the divisions, and it will undoubtedly go higher, is now approximately 127 million and counting……and that does not include any internet-generated downloads. God has inspired His people around the world to spread the three angels’ messages with power.
I received a lovely note the other day from a sister in Anderson, SC, which said, “I am rereading ‘The Great Controversy’ and I know you said you want to, in 2012 and 2013, flood the earth with it!” She indicates that she and her husband plan to send it to over 200 people. She said, “As Mrs White said—of all her books—this is the one she would want everyone to have and it is the very one Satan did not want printed. May God continue to bless you and Mrs Wilson and your staff as we all press forward to the kingdom. I am a 4th generation Seventh-day Adventist and I praise God for that……..I don’t know how I was so blessed.” My brothers and sisters, we are all blessed to be Seventh-day Adventists and participate in the proclamation of the great Advent message.
On Sabbath, March 24, 2012, I plan to spend the day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they plan to pass out on that Sabbath alone three million copies in that city and 18 million copies that Sabbath throughout the South American Division. Last Sabbath I was at the Hendersonville, NC, church where I shared appreciation to that church and one of its members for helping to start this great project which has now encompassed the globe. Let us never forget that we are one great global family in Christ and what one part does can affect the whole church family. Reread The Great Controversy this year and next year join the world family in distributing The Great Controversy like the leaves of autumn.
I want to share another enormous initiative God has placed on our hearts. This October at Annual Council we will be unveiling, by God’s grace, the most comprehensive urban evangelism initiative in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is to be an ongoing, sustained program until the Lord returns.
Half of the world’s population now lives in urban centers. At times our big city evangelism has been spasmodic, with large campaigns sometimes followed by months and even years of silence. The Spirit of Prophecy model is very different, and involves a sustained, Biblical, and compassionate approach to doing urban evangelism.
This model is best described as comprehensive urban evangelism—with the emphasis on comprehensive. The model includes establishing working units, centers of influence, and activities in the cities that use the skills and gifts of local churches, young people, small groups, medical missionary workers, pastors, social workers, literature evangelists, and all of the available media platforms. The church needs to develop comprehensive and sustainable programs for evangelizing the cities of the world. We must not have one big program once in a while and then forget the people of the cities. We must work in a united and sustained effort to accomplish God’s plan for the cities as outlined in the Spirit of Prophecy. God’s servant has said in Medical Ministry, page 304, that “There is no change in the messages that God has sent in the past. The work in the cities is the essential work for this time. When the cities are worked as God would have them, the result will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement such as we have not yet witnessed.” For those of you who may hear my sermon on October 8 at the 2011 Annual Council, you will hear much more about comprehensive urban evangelism.
Another highly important component of comprehensive urban evangelism and our church work for the future is what is termed in the Spirit of Prophecy, “Medical Missionary Work.” This is a marvelous work that encompasses everything from sharing simple health principles and a loaf of whole wheat bread with friends and neighbors to clinics and health centers. However, much of medical missionary work focuses on what local church members can do to help people find physical, mental, social and spiritual health. It also involves Seventh-day Adventist health professionals working in a blended ministry with pastors and church workers. We will have a committee to be chaired by Mark Finley to work on this vital initiative to unveil a comprehensive medical missionary work plan at the 2012 Annual Council. We will look forward to working closely with ASI supporting medical missionary ministries.
God has promised that as we follow His counsel and His ways that His work will prosper and we will finish strong. However, the devil does everything he can to deter God’s people from following Biblical counsel. He brings in every possible aberration and confusing idea that will throw God’s people off-track from finishing strong. I have felt convicted in the past weeks to speak out in a stronger way about certain subjects that, in my opinion, are removing us from God’s mission for His remnant church………things that will take us out of the position to which God has called us. Let me briefly share some of them with you:
- Guard against mystical beliefs and practices that are finding their way into the church through formats like spiritual formation and the emerging church. The basis of much of this is an emphasis on the experiential and emotional rather than a strong foundation on the Word of God. Read helpful information on this subject in the current Adventist Review ASI Special which our editor, Bill Knott, has organized and which was passed out here at the convention. Note Mark Finley’s two page article and watch for more material that we will be releasing in the near future.
- Stay away from mystical forms of prayer such as contemplative prayer, prayer labyrinths, repetitive prayer using one word or a certain phrase or centering prayer that seem to have become popular but lead to the occult since in many cases all thoughts are eliminated thus allowing the evil one to invade rather simple and humble prayer of sharing your concerns with your Lord.
- Resist worship styles and music that have more to do with self-centered entertainment than a humble worship of God. We have to recognize that we have many different cultures and styles of worship in our world church but all should bring glory to God and not to the participants——preachers, musicians and everyone. We need to focus on worshiping God and not elevating self. Music should lift us to the throne room of heaven. I don’t wish to offend anyone and this is my personal opinion, but if music sounds like it belongs to a hard rock concert or a night club, it should stay there. This week’s Sabbath School lesson on “Worship and Song and Praise” by principal contributor Rosalie H. Zinke, has some very helpful points. In Thursday’s section, it said, “What is important for worship music is that it point us to the noblest and the best, which is the Lord.” Study Revelation 4 and 5 and the Holy Spirit will lead each of us to the right forms of worship and music.
- Avoid the practice of inviting major spiritual speakers who are not Seventh-day Adventists to speak to church meetings, men’s meeting, women’s meeting, retreats, pastoral meetings, youth meetings and large convocations. I’m not talking about inviting civic, community, or religious leaders to attend a meeting. We need to make friends with people and share our faith. What I am talking about is asking them to give a major spiritual presentation when they probably have no concept of the Great Controversy theme. We certainly can learn things from others who are not members and should encourage them in their walk towards God’s truth . However, we need to be very proactive in requesting humble, Bible-centered Seventh-day Adventist speakers to instruct our church members in fully understanding God’s great Biblical messages for this time.
Brothers and sisters of ASI, if we want to finish strong, we must focus on Christ, His righteousness, and His Word. As in the Protestant Reformation, the Bible must become our foundation. The Spirit of Prophecy indicates that God never intended for the Protestant Reformation to end with Martin Luther but that we were to continue the reformation. I will never forget recently visiting the Wartburg Castle in Germany where Martin Luther was sequestered for almost a year for his own personal protection and to protect him from pride. Read the fascinating details in The Great Controversy. While Martin Luther was there God led him to translate the New Testament from Greek to German in ten weeks using 16 dialects effectively creating the official German language. The printing press which had just been invented became the vehicle to place the Bible in the hands of the common people and allow them to more fully understand their relationship with God. Let’s use these Bibles in our hands to fully understand God’s mission for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and through His power finish strong!
Brothers and sisters, Jesus is coming soon and His church will finish strong! The signs of Christ’s return are all around us: ever-increasing natural disasters, political challenges that elude answers, economic misery based on greed, social and moral decay, and ecumenical advances that will deny us religious freedom. We should support any effort to increase religious liberty but not align ourselves with any organizations that will neutralize our ability to proclaim the three angels’ messages and finish strong.
Let us focus on Christ and His soon return. In Heavenly Places, page 127, says, “The more we behold Christ, talk of His merits, and tell of his power, the more fully we shall reflect His image in our own characters and the less we shall submit our minds and affections to the paralyzing influences of the world. The more our minds dwell upon Jesus, the less they will be enveloped in the fog of doubt, and the more easily shall we lay all our trials, all our burdens, upon the Burden Bearer….”
How many of you today wish to lay your trials and burdens upon Jesus? How many wish to rededicate yourselves to Christ and His saving power? How many want to reaffirm their belief that this is God’s remnant church with a unique message based on God’s caller ID of Revelation 12:17? How many wish to proclaim this precious Advent message through the power of the Holy Spirit so that God’s church will finish strong? If you do, would you join me in standing before the Lord?