A safe place for whom?

Much has been written and said in response to the recent sermon, “Adam and Steve,” by Jonathan Henderson at the recent Week of Prayer at Pacific Union College.  From beginning to end, as I watched this sermon unfold I wanted to weep, for I knew immediately where he was coming from and to where he was going with his message. 

Where he's coming from is found in the very first sermon ever preached, in Genesis 3:4, “Thou shalt not surely die,” “sin and live,” “God does not really mean what He says.”  In fact, Henderson cited many instances in the Bible where God had actually and often “given in” on issues: repenting of having even created man in the days of Noah, sparing Nineveh from destruction, deviating from His original plan for marriage by allowing divorce.  So, today He might be Okay with “Adam and Steve” unions as well as “Adam and Eve.” So, yes, where he was coming from was “Thou shat not surely die.”  To where he was going was simply salvation in sin, rather than salvation from sin.

As much has already been said about the sermon, both pro and con, I would like to focus briefly upon the conclusion of the presentation and the appeal.  Henderson’s appeal was that a safe place be established for “Adam and Steve,” at Pacific Union College.  But more than that, it should not be a designated area on the campus, but rather that the college itself should be that safe place.  And upon making that appeal, virtually the entire student body stood up in acceptance.  The sermon has been praised by students and faculty alike.

Now, one of my very favorite and oft used quotes from God Himself is found in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together.” So, let us reason together on this point among ourselves and with God’s input from His expressed word.  I totally agree that our schools, our colleges, our universities, our churches and our homes should be designated as “safe places.”  But for whom? This is the issue we need to consider.

According to the words of Gabriel himself in Matthew 1:21 we are told that Jesus was to be the name of our Savior, “for he shall save his people from their sins.” 

If we are to be saved from sin, then it only stands to reason that sin is the enemy, right? When one is in bondage to sin, and sin is the enemy, then our Savior wants to provide us with delivery from that enemy (sin) and safety from it.  The entire plan of salvation is about deliverance from sin, redemption from sin, restoration from sin, transformation from sin into the very image of our Deliverer, Redeemer, Restorer, Transformer, Re-Creator Himself.

Therefore, if it is a safe place that we are wanting to establish as a Christian institution, it should be a safe place for our students, not a safe place for sin and for the enemy of souls.

Unfortunately, it seems that some of our institutions are already, or are fast becoming, safe places for the enemy.  For example, on almost all our campuses there exists some form of straight/gay alliances in which homosexuality and those caught up in it are protected – protected from a plain “thus saith the Lord” in regard to the issue. 

At the same time presentations on campus of the gospel of salvation from the sin of homosexuality by a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and the sharing of one’s own personal testimony in this regard based upon the very words of God Himself, are derided by articles in the school papers as gay bashing and hate speech.  The thoughts from the messages are taken out of context and given a spin in a way that seems to validate such claims.  These claims go without rebuttal and are left to stand with the student body.

Homosexuality is more and more being tolerated, accepted, embraced, celebrated and promoted within the boundaries of our schools.

1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love.  It is with incomprehensible love and compassion that He appeals to the sinner, to the homosexual and straight sinner alike, and from a heart broken at the cross of Calvary, to turn from sin, to repent, not willing that any should perish. 

Why is God’s loving appeal so strongly and fiercely opposed on the campuses of our “schools of refuge?”  Are they destined to become safe places for open sin and rebellion and defiance? for political correctness and conventional thinking rather than places of “higher learning?” (as in higher standards)

For us as Christians, and our Christian institutions, the expressed will, thoughts, and feelings of God should be received with a very warm welcome.  After all, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).  And our schools do exist, do they not, for the very purpose of instruction?  The same holds true for our churches, and should hold true for our homes as well.

I totally agree that our institutions should be safe places, but for what and for whom? Let’s make a list:

1) Our children and youth

My wife and I have a son in college and a daughter in academy.  As parents, we would like to believe that our schools are safe places for them to be educated in harmony with true Christian principles, safe places in which they may socialize and fellowship with like-minded Christian young people who are being taught to put God and His expressed will first in their lives, others second, and self last.  Making our institutions safe places for open sin would certainly be establishing stumbling blocks for our children and youth where their spiritual values are concerned, rather than establishing an environment where they might grow and flourish in their relationship with the Lord.

Needless to say, we are very concerned parents.

2) The expressed will of God as revealed through His word, the Bible

Again, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  His counsel, promises and threatenings alike come from a heart of love.  His word is not “hate speech,” and our institutions should be safe places from which the word of God can be taught and promoted.

After all, “God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain.  In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view.  Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves.  Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God.  No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures.  The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction (Steps to Christ 46).

3) The Holy Spirit

The apostle Paul warns us to “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

That being said, should we not endeavor to make our institutions safe places in which the Holy Spirit can do His work?

We need to realize that the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking these grounds.” MS 66, 1899 )from a talk to the students at the Avondale School, now Avondale College in Australia)

The Holy Spirit has a personality, else He could not bear witness to our spirits and with our spirits that we are the children of God.  He must also be a divine person, else He could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God. 20 MR 69

…The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts [Jesus] could ask from His Father for His people. God would give the Spirit to regenerate us.  …[Men and women] could resist sin and overcome it only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with all divine power.  The Spirit makes effective what the world’s Redeemer worked out.  The Spirit makes the heart pure.  Christ has given His Spirit to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil and to imprint His own character on His church.  The very image of God is to be reproduced in humanity. Health and Healing 312

4) The Angels of God

Above all things, parents should surround their children with an atmosphere of cheerfulness, courtesy, and love.  A home where love dwells and where it finds expression in looks, in words, in acts, is a place where angels delight to dwell. Adventist Home 426

I know this counsel is specifically for our home institutions, but the principle involved certainly applies to our churches, schools, colleges, universities, and all Christian institutions.

5) Our Standards as Seventh-day Adventists

I am instructed to say that in our educational work there is to be no compromise in order to meet the world’s standards.  God’s commandment-keeping people are not to unite with the world to carry various lines of work according to worldly plans and worldly wisdom.

Our people are now being tested as to whether they will obtain their wisdom from the greatest Teacher the world ever knew, or seek the god of Ekron (Pagan Canaanites). Let us determine that we will not be tied by so much as a thread to the educational policies of those who do not discern the voice of God, and who will not harken to his commandments. RH 3/6/1913

Yes, our standards as Seventh-day Adventists need to find all our institutions to be safe places from which they can be taught, practiced, and upheld.

6) Present Truth

Similarly to number four, all our institutions should be “safe places” in which our doctrines in their purity, unadulterated, and undiluted can be preached, taught, embraced and practiced.  Present truth can be summed up in the words of the prophet Amos (4:12),  “Prepare to meet thy God.”

Satan is pressing in on every side, and unless we watch for him, and have our eyes open to his devices and snares, and have on the whole armor of God, the fiery darts of the wicked will hit us.  There are many precious truths contained in the Word of God, but it is ‘present truth’ that the flock needs now.  I have seen the danger of the messengers running off from the important points of present truth, to dwell upon subjects that are not calculated to unite the flock and sanctify the soul.  Satan will here take every possible advantage to injure the cause. Early Writings 63

If we and our institutions are to embrace open sin, that which God Himself labels as abomination, how then are we preparing ourselves, our youth, and others to meet our God?  Are we not loving and accepting them into and along the broad way that “leadeth to destruction?”  Should we not rather be loving and nurturing them along the “narrow way, which leadeth unto life?”

7) New church members – (Babes in Christ)

The apostle Paul refers to new converts as babes in Christ.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able…” (1 Cor. 3:1,2)

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.  For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb. 5:12-14)

Our institutions need to be safe places for these new converts, these babes in Christ, where they can be nurtured with the pure milk of truth and carefully led into and along the narrow way without the stumbling blocks of open sin being tolerated, accepted, and coddled in their midst.  Will we not be held accountable to God as false shepherds for distracting those tender in the faith through such careless shepherding?

8) Visitors to our churches and institutions

In my own search for truth and confirmation in it 23 years ago while desperately desiring deliverance from my own homosexuality, I was disappointed and even offended by messages of tolerating and palliating open sin.  Why would I need to stop smoking, stop drinking, and accept the Sabbath if it were true that I could sin until Jesus comes?  Where is the consistency in such a message?  Where is the promise of deliverance to the sin-sick soul?

Visitors and “interests” will not be impressed by such “pablum” if, under conviction of the Holy Spirit, they are searching for truth.  However, they may be impressed with seeing true Christianity being taught and practiced in our churches, in our homes, and among students, faculty, and staff in our institutions.  All these need to be safe places for the sin-sick soul who is looking for deliverance from sin and from the control of Satan.

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holly Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20

In conclusion might I suggest that from God’s perspective true safety is promised only to those who accept His authority as Lord and Master, leaning upon Christ and rendering obedience to His expressed will.  He does not want us to wander into and along the broad way that leads to destruction.  Therefore, through reproof, correction, and instruction He lovingly guides us into and along the narrow way, which leadeth unto life. Notice:

“…whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25

“Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.” Psalm 119:117,

“Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.” Leviticus 25:18

May our homes, churches, and all our institutions truly become safe places, but in harmony with the expressed will of God.  This is my prayer.

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