The Last Things
Larry Kirkpatrick, Moab Seventh-day Adventist Church, 3 June 2001.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17).
Today I stand in this pulpit in Moab for the last time, at least for some time to come. I appreciate all of you, my brothers and my sisters in the Lord Jesus, and in Adventism. This pulpit, with the three angels flying by here on the front, that's a great touch. You cannot look at the front of the church here without being reminded that this is an Adventist church. Pastors and preachers, we come and we go. We have our successes and we make our mistakes. Sometimes you trust us too much and some times too little. But finally in the Lord's time the wheel turns and away we go. God has other precious and bright things in store for us and for you. And finally there comes a moment in each ministry when a pastor may speak his "last things" to the flock.
This I choose to do today.
Not that I claim these things as mine only, for I understand them to be a word from the Lord to us all. I would focus today on the last things. Let's turn to Revelation 22:17. "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
One day God will call me to account. He will say, "Larry, I sent you to Moab for two years. What did you do there? Did you prepare the people?" As a preacher, there are many ideas I might speak of today: the joy of our final reunion in heaven, or the preciousness of Jesus, or how much we've enjoyed our work here with Moab. But as a pastor, the luxury wears thin very quickly. My first obligation includes warning you. So today I warn. Today I stand as watchman on the wall here one last time. God bless His word today.
The Spirit and the bride say, Come
At the end of the book of Revelation comes an invitation. It is an invitation given in unison. It is the invitation of the Spirit and of the bride, given by both the Holy Spirit, and the Church endowed with the Holy Spirit. They call together. And they say, "Come."
It makes a lot of sense that the Holy Spirit of God and the church of the Holy Spirit of God would make the same plea. "Come." The Holy Spirit is divine. He is everywhere present, both in heaven and in earth. We might say He is not in everything everywhere, but still that he is everywhere present. Maybe it seems like we are talking in circles. But I have come to the realization that when little beings like us try to speak of big beings like God, we will, all too often struggle. Maybe we'll get things wrong sometimes. But god will guide us and help us go forward.
I make this distinction (everywhere present but not everywhere incorporated) in speaking of the Holy Spirit for the following reason: The Holy Spirit is not with those who are fighting against the commandments of God. Today this church has been raised up by God to uphold the Ten Commandments. I know, I know. We haven't done this so well. Even now tragic inroads and sorrows are afoot from place to place. The three angels do not fly so proudly on very many Seventh-day Adventist pulpits today, and perhaps the message symbolized by them is heard yet less often. We could speak here today of problems in this place or that. But the situation would all just boil down to this: they are there. We are here. We can impact things here. This is where God has put us.
What is being done elsewhere in God's church, whether good or bad, may be a point of prayer, but our first responsibility is to make certain that here, in Moab Utah, that the Spirit and the bride are giving the same message. Here we are those directly responsible. Are we in "sync" with heaven?
Prophecy tells us that the judgment began in heaven a century and a half ago. We expect that it is nearly over. History tells us that God's law was being trampled back then by those who claimed to be His friends. And as we know, nothing has changed today but that the attack today comes more often from within, from every mouth that is so ready to complain of "legalism." True, some of us have at times been on a mistaken road of legal religion, but this is hardly--hardly--our problem today. The law which points out our sin and directs us to Jesus for salvation, is negated. Then it isn't the third angel's message any more.
Remember, the Spirit and the bride say, "Come. They are together. You can take the law out of the gospel, but then it isn't the gospel any more. You can take the law out of the third angel's message, but then it isn't the gospel any more either. The Spirit who says, "Come" uses His law to show us our need of Christ. Think of it: He says "Come," but without the law cannot tell us why we must come. Think of the Jews. They thought they were spiritual dynamos. But they needed salvation as everyone else. But they couldn't see it. Why couldn't they see it? Because Satan had attacked them at what point? Precisely at the point of the law. His strategy? To obscure the law, to muffle it, blur it, fog it over, add all these spurious regulations that led to a narrower sense of what salvation was. So they concluded that salvation was limited to the Jews and everyone else was a dead dog, a despised gentile.
Satan is clever. He will work, sometimes over generations, to pervert truth. Hear this from the Desire of Ages, p. 283: "As the Jews departed from God, and failed to make the righteousness of Christ their own by faith, the Sabbath lost its significance to them. Satan was seeking to exalt himself and to draw men away from Christ, and he worked to pervert the Sabbath, because it is the sign of the power of Christ."
God's last-day church, surely, will be a place where "the power of Christ" is on display. And the last day church, as we know, has been called to exalt the Sabbath. But did we realize that the Sabbath is the sign of the power of Christ, and that it is because of this fact particularly that Satan has worked to pervert the Sabbath? Very interesting. So the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And among the things they say--among the last things--is "Let's keep the commandments of God, including the seventh day Sabbath." Therefore, we need to be saying this here, in Moab.
You have not been placed here by God in Moab to tell the same story as every other church here. So many churches have wonderful pieces of the truth, but they are blended up with destructive pieces of error. You are here to give a "present truth" message. Like John the Baptist, like Noah. And so on. Jesus is coming back. Are people ready for it? Has every burning brand been plucked from the fire here in Moab?
When the Spirit and the bride speak together, they not only say "come," but also "Let him that heareth say, come." That is an invitation to the eleventh hour workers to get on board, to join the team, to be part of the action, to live and give the third angel's message. Satan sought to pervert the Sabbath because it is the sign of the power of Christ, but as we lay hold of the righteousness of Christ the Sabbath re-enters our radar screen.
We love Him because He first loved us. When we see how bankrupt we are, we see how rich He is. Sabbath is kept, not merely by attending worship services on the seventh day somewhere, but by letting it be our delight (Isaiah 58:13). It is, above all other things, that concrete time which our Maker set aside to be with those whom he has made and remade. We find our home in our Maker, and in the intake of His word there is pleasure forever more.
His word heals. His truth changes. His love empowers. His embrace forgives. Why would anyone--anyone with an inkling about how good God truly is--want to bypass His direct presence in time? When one hears he too may join the movement and himself give the call, "Come."
Salvation is not to be hoarded up. Whoever is thirsty for the living water is invited to drink it. The local Adventist church is supposed to be the local well. Yes, the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Our part is to be heaven's soldiers on-site. This church is to be His fortress, His outpost, for the salvation of others. It is to be a sentinel building where we serve not common cookies and coffee, but the spiritual drink of truth and life.
Our task here is to give the message here. And you don't need a pastor from Seminary to do that. You can read. You have your Bibles. You have your Spirit of Prophecy books. You have your experience. Keep it growing. Keep it going.
Is This Faith Your faith?
Never feel small because the church stands here on the back side of the desert so-to-speak. God does giant things on the back side of the desert; just ask Moses; just ask John the Baptist; just ask Jesus and recall His temptation and testing in the wilderness. Sometimes the farther away from home base a church is, the better it is for that church. Sometimes.
You know, I don't understand sometimes where it is we get our ideas about God from. Can it really be from the same sources? Listen. Too many Adventist sermons/writings are little more than theological whipped cream--you know--a whipped-up mass of sugar and air, all white and fluffy and momentarily fluffy. But put it under the scorching heat of the word of God for but a moment or two and watch it vaporize like whipped cream in the hot sun.
If I didn't know any better, I'd suspect that very few of us are studying our Bibles or reading from the Spirit of Prophecy books. Why would I say that? Brethren, I am speaking to you here some my last warnings. If God is speaking in some measure to you through these lips, then listen up. Do the following lines from Ellen White's amazing book, Christ's Object Lessons, match your understanding?
You see, church membership is here called what? "The solemn covenant of the church." And what then have you and I pledged ourselves to? "To receive and obey the word of God," and to give ourselves in service to Him. When do the numbers of the church swell in great rolling, boiling waves of baptismal numbers? Probably when joining the church "involves no sacrifice." Interesting today, how our numbers look so good, and yet strangely enough there is very, very little emphasis on church standards, and no talk at all about "the solemn covenant of the church." Too many of my associates in the ministry are preaching smooth as butter and leaving behind any demand to obey the word. Instead, the pattern is you go and hear the preacher discredit the Bible and then you go home.
Yes, I know that that's a very broad accusation to throw around. But here is a concrete example. A sermon on the internet. You can hear it if you want. I can tell you after the service exactly how to hear it. It's about what Jesus would say about being gay. Part way into the sermon you hear this line: "You cannot be lost for sexual impurity." It only goes downhill from there. At the close, this preacher says that the testimony of the Bible about homosexuality is unclear. The hearers were/are told that "It is gray." Ah. You are wondering. "Was it a sermon in an Adventist church? Surely not!" But indeed it was. Preached just a few weeks ago, in May 2001. And I am sure that many of those present streamed out after the service, shook the pastor's hand, and said, "That was fantastic!"
The church is very precious in God's sight. He values it, not for its external advantages, but for the sincere piety which distinguishes it from the world. He estimates it according to the growth of the members in the knowledge of Christ, according to their progress in spiritual experience. (p. 298).
You see, it is what we are, not how many baptisms or how big the membership list is that is how God values His church. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. And Satan does too--the human cattle, the lost herd. And he would gladly fill the church with these unconverted decoys. Do you think Satan is fearful of evangelism? Hah. Not at all. He rubs his fallen angel hands together in glee when we plan an evangelistic series. He knows that there is a good chance that he can work matters so that an unconsecrated, rental evangelist is brought in and in combination with a pastor desperate for baptisms be led to bring in a fresh platoon of non-Adventists who will still be non-Adventists when the meeting is over.
Now there are good, straight workers out there; don't misunderstand me. But there are those who you do not want to come to your church, you really don't. Sure, bring in the evangelist, but only in a church where you have a careful process of evaluating who you bring in and where a faithful work will be done. If a congregation is not watchful, it deserves what it gets. But God never deserves what it gets, for His truth and His gospel and His message is thereby shamed and ultimately blasphemed by the secular community which sees these unchanged worldlings now claiming the name of Christ.
Now here's a very precious one. Is this the theology you are hearing:
Satan had claimed that it was impossible for man to obey God's commandments; and in our own strength it is true that we cannot obey them. But Christ came in the form of humanity, and by His perfect obedience He proved that humanity and divinity combined can obey every one of God's precepts. (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 314).
Do you catch that? There is a paragraph speaking of the great controversy between good and evil, Christ and Satan. There is a paragraph that minces no words on this crucial point: the humanity of Christ, or as it is termed, the nature of Christ, is among the foremost truths in a theology of overcoming. He lived-out a perfect obedience in our humanity, and in so doing "proved that humanity and divinity combined can obey every one of God's precepts." How many? "Every one."
One more now. You see, because it is so plain that we can obey, what of our failures and moments of darkness and sin and failure? Listen to this:
Oh, how different are the standards by which God and men measure character. God sees many temptations resisted of which the world and even near friends never know--temptations in the home, in the heart. He sees the soul's humility in view of its own weakness; the sincere repentance over even a thought that is evil. He sees the wholehearted devotion to His service. He has noted the hours of hard battle with self--battle that won the victory. All this God and angels know. A book of remembrance is written before Him for them that fear the Lord and that think upon His name. (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 403).
That's right. The Spirit of God not only granted this church these precious writings pointing out how possible victory was, but we are shown also God's mercy. When God measures your character and mine, "He sees many temptations resisted" that others don't realize we are resisting. Perhaps even we ourselves rarely give second thought to those which we have resisted. We don't remember them. But when we fall and sin, Oh don't think for a moment that you will have any peace, for your conscience will prick you and Satan will remind you. Gold will help you by reminding you of your sin, but Satan will harass you by saying you cannot be saved, that it is too late, that you are spiritually nothing but a failure, that your guilt is too much to be forgiven.
God looks and "sees the soul's humility in view of its own weakness; the sincere repentance over even a thought that is evil." We didn't think of that. We just thought of our guilt. God sees our resistance. He sees us trying to lay hold on His strength. He is mindful of our frailty, but He sees more than our sins--He sees also our victories. And He keeps them there on record. You thought he was a stern judge, because Satan provoked you to think of Him that way, but He is a loving God, looking to save you and to save me. He won't leave us wallowing in our sins and doom, but will save us "from" our sins, if we but let Him, if we but co-operate with Him.
Is that the theology you are reading of?
Study to Shew Yourself Approved
The Spirit and the bride say "come." Come, not to error, but to truth; not to antichrist, but to Christ; not to ecumenism, but to Adventism; not to church planting, but to third angel's message presenting (then the church planting will take care of itself). All the gimmicks and fads from Babylon will never plant one truly Seventh-day Adventist church--I'm sorry. I'm speaking the truth today.
What works in Babylon will not work in Jerusalem. The Spirit and the bride say come. God's church is in harmony with God's Spirit. Those fighting against God and His commandments will have church growth techniques that we cannot use, for they will lead to violation of God's commandments because they are methods from organizations that teach violation of God's commandments. Is this too hard to understand?
I call you to witness here today before heaven and earth; I charge you to live and give the real third angel's message. That will grow the church. Oh how heaven is seeking for hearts that will join with it in doing God's work for this hour! Then all this growth stuff will take care of itself. How heaven longs for a few receptive places where upon a faithful people the very torrent of heaven's blessings can be poured out beyond abundance!
I am praying about doing a series later this year called "Fairytales in Church Growth." You see, you don't make an Adventist the same way you make a Babylonian. Our church growth guides are going to Fuller and Willow Creek and, it seems, everywhere but Adventism to learn church growth. But Adventists are preparing for another world. We are called to prepare a holy people, saints truly rather than paper-work saints, baptized worldlings that are worldlings still. Oh yes, when you and I were baptized we still had a whole lot of the world in us. Probably we all still do in dangerous measure. No one is asked to be perfect before baptism. But one should know something of the difference between his faith and every other when he joins his faith instead of any other.
Know your mission, should be our motto. Seventh-day Adventists in Moab, do you know your mission?
You will be told that your mission is to grow. Well, your mission is to grow more holy, to become more right with God, to better live in obedience to His commandments because you love Jesus and His death for you on the cross has made a difference. Our mission is to prepare as many people as possible for lift-off, for translation. It is not to grow churches full of multiplied new theology-cloned folks who are milling around on earth entirely unprepared for what is coming upon the earth. We aren't doing our job. We aren't preparing people for eternity. Too many of us are shearing the sheep and then sitting back at the feasting table and glorying in the baptismal numbers. We are numbering Israel.
It will catch up with us if we don't stop it. As Belshazzar's Babylon was weighed in the balances, numbered by God and found wanting, so shall we be found wanting if we do not get back to living and giving the third angel's message to a world that needs it. The only--only--reason we are here today as a special end-time movement is because God still has people in Babylon and He is calling them all out before He comes. All heaven is waiting for us to do this work. The whole population of planet earth is waiting for this work to be finished, and then we can get on with things. But still we are here and still we loiter in our work, we lounge about the markets and the town squares, hob-nobbing with the oracles of Babylon and the functionaries of Philistia. May God have mercy upon us in the day of judgment.
Hold your ground. Gain more. Be a Seventh-day Adventist Church. Grow with God's growth and not man's. Keep this place a lighthouse for the truth of Jesus in these closing days, and our God shall bless you. Be friendly. But be Adventist. Many souls locked in error are counting on your fealty truth and Jesus and your unwillingness to compromise it. Be true to God and He will be true to you. He gave His Son for you. How shall He not then freely give us all things? No matter what you see, stay the course. Know what your work is. Let God finish it and all the great controversy, by being active in fulfilling the calling of God here in Moab, Utah. By His grace you will conquer and glorify His name. God bless you all in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Last Modified 29 June 2001
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