Addressing a crowd of 69,989 Seventh-day Adventists and friends, Ted N. C. Wilson, in his first Sabbath sermon as General Conference president, urged members to “go forward” in confidence through the days ahead.
Wilson’s message — delivered as he was surrounded by the Church’s 13 division presidents, nine general vice presidents, and his two immediate predecessors — came in a morning service where worshippers heard the fourth movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, the “Reformation Symphony,” and where the world church leader read words of welcome from United States President Barack Obama.
“Throughout history, faith has shaped our philosophies, our perspectives, and our lives,” Wilson read. “As we face the challenges and opportunities of this unique moment in history, may faith move us to unite in common cause to serve our fellow brothers and sisters. … I wish you all the best for a wonderful event.”
Wilson began his sermon stressing the “heaven-directed journey” of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: “With the power of His truth, God has carved out of this chaotic world the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We are to be a peculiar people, God’s remnant people, to lift up Christ, His righteousness, His three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, and His soon coming,” he said.
“God is the Creator and is to be worshiped on His Sabbath day as a sign of our loyalty to His Word and creative power,” Wilson said, adding later, “Brothers and sisters, look to the Almighty God who can take you through anything you will face in the future. Never lose your full confidence and trust in Him. Always obey His command to ‘Go Forward.'”
“God has a plan for your life and for this church,” Wilson urged the massive crowd. “Never doubt the destiny of this mighty Advent movement. It is in God’s hands. God has given us prophetic instruction to know the culmination of the great controversy — God is the Victor.”
The new world church leader also stated, “Go Forward in lifting up Christ and proclaiming God’s grace; Go forward in presenting the three angels’ messages; Go forward in pleading for revival and reformation; Go forward in following the Bible as it reads; Go forward in reading and adhering to the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy; Go forward in proclaiming to the world the good news of salvation and the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ.”
After cautioning against adopting unscriptural fads in end-time ministry, Wilson mentioned some specifics: “We must be vigilant to test all things according to the supreme authority of God’s Word and the council with which we have been blessed in the writings of Ellen G. White. Don’t reach out to movements or megachurch centers outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church which promise you spiritual success based on faulty theology. Stay away from non-biblical spiritual disciplines or methods of spiritual formation that are rooted in mysticism such as contemplative prayer, centering prayer, and the emerging church movement in which they are promoted.”
Instead, he said, believers should “look within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to humble pastors, evangelists, Biblical scholars, leaders, and departmental directors who can provide evangelistic methods and programs that are based on solid Biblical principles and The Great Controversy theme.”
Believers were also cautioned to use discernment in worship styles: “Use Christ-centered, Bible-based worship and music practices in church services,” Wilson said. “While we understand that worship services and cultures vary throughout the world, don’t go backwards into confusing pagan settings where music and worship become so focused on emotion and experience that you lose the central focus on the Word of God. All worship, however simple or complex should do one thing and one thing only: lift up Christ and put down self.”
On a related issue, theological trends, Wilson said, “Don’t succumb to fanatical or loose theology that wrests God’s Word from the pillars of Biblical truth and the landmark beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Don’t be swayed with every little whim of ‘new’ theology or complicated time chart purporting to carefully explain unusual or obscure concepts that have little to do with our overall theology and mission. The historic Biblical beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church will not be moved. The Biblical foundation will stand secure to the end of time.”
Wilson also counseled his hearers to stand firm for what the Bible says about origins: “Don’t go backwards to misinterpret the first eleven chapters of Genesis or other areas of Scripture as allegorical or merely symbolic. As just this week we have once again affirmed in an overwhelming manner, the Seventh-day Adventist Church both teaches and believes in the biblical record of creation which took place recently; in six literal, consecutive, contiguous 24 hour days,” he said.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church will never change its stand or belief in that foundational doctrine,” Wilson added. “If God did not create this world in six literal days and then blessed the Sabbath day, why are we worshipping Him today on this seventh-day Sabbath as Seventh-day Adventists?”
Wilson also pointed his audience towards the Church’s traditional understanding of scriptural interpretation: “Let Scripture be its own interpreter. Our church has long held to the Historical-Biblical or historical-grammatical method of understanding scripture, allowing the Bible to interpret itself; line upon line, precept upon precept. However, one of the most sinister attacks against the Bible is from those who believe in the Historical-Critical method of explaining the Bible. This unbiblical approach of ‘higher criticism’ is a deadly enemy of our theology and mission,” he said.
Additionally, Wilson also encouraged Adventists to remember the special gift God has given the Adventist movement.
“Accept the Spirit of Prophecy as one of the greatest gifts given to the Seventh-day Adventist Church not just for the past but even more importantly for the future,” he said, referring to the writings of church co-founder Ellen White. “While the Bible is paramount in our estimation as the ultimate authority and final arbiter of truth, the Spirit of Prophecy provides clear, inspired council to aid our application of Bible truth. It is a heaven-sent guide to instruct the church in how to carry out its mission. It is a reliable theological expositor of the Scriptures.” The Spirit of Prophecy is to be read, believed, applied and promoted.”
However, he added, “it is not to be used as a “club” to beat people over the head, but it is to be regarded and employed as a marvelous blessing to direct God’s church in the last days of this earth’s history.”
Wilson closed his message with a direct appeal: “I invite you to accept Christ’s marvelous grace in your life, to renew your commitment to Him and this great Advent movement, to proclaim God’s grace, and to ask the Lord to help this church ‘Go Forward.'”