Over the past few weeks I have been traveling in the U.S., and I’ve met a wide range of people of different values and personalities. As a conservative Seventh-day Adventist there are some values that I have, and I have these values because of my study of the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. I have met a large number of Seventh-day Adventists over the past few weeks that have access to the same material that I do, yet do not value the same things that I do.
WHEN INDIVIDUALS PAY LIP SERVICE ONLY
There is nothing wrong with this if these individuals were ignorant. That is, if they were not aware of the practices and standards that God requires of His remnant church in these last days. Maybe they just have not yet read and studied what I have. Or maybe I am just naïve and I am not yet mature enough in Christ. However, it becomes an issue when individuals pay lip service to the standards of God and fail to practice them in their lives. It’s not my issue, though, it’s between them and God, and, well, God’s not finished with us yet.
I must confess, shamefully, that it has irritated me a bit to see some individuals who were pursuing a known wrong course of action still seeing God working in their lives. I mean, being in direct violation of counsel that has been given to the church, yet you still see God working in your life, performing miracles, speaking to you through scripture, sending you messages in season through people that don’t even know what you’re going through.
“Lord, these people are openly disobeying you, how can you be a God of Love to them?” And then I am rebuked. “Lord, forgive me for thinking that I know better than you.” A verse comes to mind: “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (KJV, Matthew 5:45).
GOD LOVES ME IN SPITE OF MY SHORT COMINGS
Well, firstly, I need to acknowledge that I am not just. There may be things in my life that God dislikes, yet He gives me sunshine, and sends me rain. And secondly, despite our shortcomings, whether out of ignorance or whether by deliberate disobedience accompanied by lip service, God still shows His love towards us, and I cannot fault Him on that. Who am I? He loves His children. Unconditionally. A day will come though, when the pleadings of God will cease, and mercy will be cut off forever.
WE MUST AVOID TRAPS OF WRONG THINKING
I want to transition, though, to another lesson that I’ve learned throughout this experience. When we see God working in the lives of others despite their disobedience, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God is okay with what they are doing. This is also the case when a certain individual is a proficient speaker, or knows how to pray well. We see some of the inconsistencies in their life and we think, “Well, maybe it’s okay to do these things.” Or, maybe we think, “I am too strict, or too fanatical about my values. Look at this guy, he is well versed in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, yet he’s not so strict.”
Furthermore, we see the “perfect” lives of those around us, and we wonder why our lives do not reflect that same perfection, that same “happily ever after” that we see portrayed in family pictures, in Facebook updates, and in anecdotes and speeches at social gatherings. “Perhaps I am not living a pure life. Perhaps I’ve missed the plot. Perhaps God looks at me and sees me as the greatest failure of all time, a poor excuse for a Christian, let alone a Seventh-day Adventist.” I’ve been there. It’s a dangerous place to be.
THE SOLUTION TO JUDGING OTHERS
If we want to know what God requires of us, if we want to know what things we should value, if we want to know whether or not we are in His will, if we want to know if He is pleased with the course that we have taken, then we must find out from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, not by by looking at other people. We must look to Jesus, as He is revealed in the Bible and in the Testimony of Jesus, which is the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10).
We have the privilege of spending time with each other in social gatherings as fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, to speak words of comfort, encouragement, and exhortation. Yet, it is important for our own salvation that we do not look to each other for examples. We must look unto Jesus, for He is our example. You do not know what goes on in a person’s life, in their secret chamber, behind closed doors. You do not know what their daily heart’s cry is to God. And it’s none of your concern either. Your only concern is with the Pattern. “Am I reflecting Christ?” “Have I been obedient to His word?”
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY BEFORE GOD
Each of us must work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), and it goes without saying that God is the One working in our lives throughout this whole process. Though we may receive counsel from elders, and from the brethren, though we may receive exhortation and admonition from those around us, and though those around us are not living lives in accordance with what God has revealed to us, we are personally responsible for our decisions and our decisions must be in accordance with what God has plainly revealed to us in the law and testimony (Isaiah 8:20).
I have enjoyed my stay in the U.S. thus far. I have learned a lot, seen a lot, experienced a lot. I am grateful for the many blessings that God has bestowed on this beautiful country, which I have been privileged to partake of. The fellowship with people of like-faith has been a blessing and has taught me a lot about the behavior and culture of Seventh-day Adventists on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. I appreciate the insights. I really do. I am especially appreciative of the believers who have instilled in me a desire to reach greater heights in my spiritual journey. But, regardless of what I have seen being practiced, good or bad, and regardless of what I’ve heard being preached, I will look to Christ as my example and pattern of a true Seventh-day Adventist.
May God help us as we travel this world. May He keep us standing firm on His word during this time when winds of doctrine seek to toss us about. May our names remain in the book of life. May we take our eyes off each other and look unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.