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2013-11-07 21:43Z

Four Seventh-day Adventist Sins That Prevent the Advent, Pt. 3: Worldliness

Larry Kirkpatrick, Mentone Seventh-day Adventist Church, April 30, 2005


We are embarked on a multi-part series. In our first part, we explored the experience of the Hebrews in the wilderness as they left Egypt for Canaan more than three millennia ago. But we learned that at the very borders of the promised land, they were turned back. Four sins kept them out of Canaan. God could not fulfill His covenant with them, not because of any issue on His side, but because they themselves refused. There were conditions that kept God waiting and so His people were kept waiting.

Inspiration reveals four specific sins that kept them out and that made it so that that virtually that whole generation died in the wilderness. Not only that. We also learned that the same sins have kept modern Israel out of Canaan. Let us again begin by reviewing the inspired data:

God had committed to His people a work to be accomplished on earth. The third angel’s message was to be given, the minds of believers were to be directed to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ had entered to make atonement of His people. The Sabbath reform was to be carried forward. The breach in the law of God must be made up. The message must be proclaimed with a loud voice, that all the inhabitants of earth might receive the warning. The people of God must purify their souls through obedience to the truth, and be prepared to stand without fault before Him at His coming.

Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith…. Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history!

It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in ‘because of unbelief.’ Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.

For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years (Evangelism, pp. 695, 696).

Those fateful words give us guidance. They instruct us. We may learn from past mistakes.

Before we work on the issue of worldlinss, let’s break down those paragraphs into a simple outline, and see if that doesn’t help clarify to us what is being said.

  1. God had COMMITTED to His people a work.
  2. The Third Angel’s Message was to be given.
  3. The minds of believers directed to the Heaenly Sanctuary where Christ had entered to make atonement for His people.
  4. The Sabbath reform was to be carried forward.
  5. The breach in law to be made up.
  6. The message was to go to all the inhabitants of earth.
  7. The People of God must be purified and prepared for the close of probation.


IF Adventists had

  1. Held fast their faith,
  2. Followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God.
  3. Receiving the message of the third angel and
  4. proclaimed it to the world…


  1. They would have seen the salvation of God.
  2. The Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts.
  3. The work would have been completed.
  4. And Christ would have come ere this [1883] to receive His people to their reward.


In the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment:

  1. Many of the advent believers yielded their faith,
  2. The work was hindered
  3. The world was left in darkness


The whole Adventist body had united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus


How widely different would have been our history.


  1. It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed.


God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness.


  1. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and
  2. Establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people.


THEIR unbelief opened them to murmering, rebellion, hatred, and HE could fulfill His covenant with them.

There is little ambiguity here. The words are straight and true. The church did not at that time fulfill her mission. We shall have to be more decided in the pursuit of heaven’s purpose for us in our time than they were in theirs.

Worldliness Where Least Expected

Israel was miles and miles from the big city. There was not an iPod in sight. Or a walkman, boombox, cassette deck, eight-track-tape, 33 or 45 or 78 rpm record. No cable, satellite television, no BMers or Lexus’ or automotive curiosities. No competitive sports teams. No comedians.

Yet worldliness was part of their downfall.

We tend to associate worldliness with music, television, movies, immodest dress, jewelry, buying and selling on the Sabbath. But even when we fast forward to a century ago, only some of these things are in the mix. And yet worldliness was one of the sins that locked Israel out of the promised land. How? Remember: “Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.”

Hearts were filled with something. Imagine a household filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred. And the occupants of that household sitting by, sullenly, waiting for the one whom they murmur against, rebel against, and manifest obvious hatred for, to shower them with his favor. Does this make sense?

He could not fulfill His covenant with them because they refused to permit Him to do what He asked them to permit Him to do. He sought their consent. “I want to heal you,” He said; “I want to transform you. I want to take away the heavy burden and give you my peace.” But they stubbornly held onto their sin, their cheap, untransformed lives, as if the wood, hay, and stubble they were building was inflammable.

So the Bible tells us, Hebrews 8:8 says that He found fault with them, and 8:9 says that the covenant that God would make with His people in the future would be “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” But the covenant He wants to make with us means transformation, the character of God written in us. Then how can He do that if already our hearts are filled with these other negative emotions and attitudes nesting in us?

The Essence of Worldliness

At its essence, what is worldliness? Is it not the idea that by obtaining something for ourselves we will attain fulfillment? That may not sound so bad. But I mean that by obtaining something—for ourselves exclusively—that we will attain to fulfillment—apart from God. Now it will make more sense. It is the idea that getting something into our possession will, in itself, bring us to fulfillment. It is a substitute we are talking about. Worldliness substitutes self-fulfillment at the expense of others, for an interest in others and a willingness to trust in God.

Do you recall the delusion of Adam and Eve? How they cast away their trust in God and chose to believe instead the lie of Satan? What had been Satan’s argument? “This will make you wise. God is hiding something from you that will fulfill you. He doesn’t want you to realize that there is fulfillment apart from Him.” They took the bait.

Maybe you had never before thought of Adam and Eve’s sin as having anything to do with worldliness. Worldliness? Why, there was hardly even a world to be worldly with! The world was new; the wrapping was just being taken off.

Didn’t we notice that what they gave up when they embraced the lie of the demon was a loss of enmity, of hatred against, enemy-status toward, sin? This is clear, because God says that He will intervene in just what way? “I will put enmity between” man and Satan again. So enmity existed, it was voluntarily surrendered, now man by his newly disordered nature was inclined towards sin. So God promised that for those who were willing to be, He would facilitate the restoration of moral definiteness and preference for righteousness.

God Owes Me?

Not so sure?? Then read James 4:3, 4: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” When we ask and we ask with the notion, perhaps unspoken, perhaps not even so aware to ourselves, that this is for me, as in “me, not you.”

Be honest with yourself. Haven’t you prayed on some occasion, asking for something, and deep down you knew that your attitude was not, “Lord, I truly realize I am undeserving,” but actually it was, “Lord, please give me this because I am deserving.” O yes, we ask amiss; we ask for something that is for us, us in the sense that it is for us alone. Us selfishly. And James comes back to us and says we are at the place of adultery. We have stopped putting God first and have subtily put ourselves first. Don’t you know that friendship with the world is what? It’s enmity toward God.

Friendship with the world is enmity toward God. There is enmity again. But this is the enmity that Adam and Eve picked up; it is the virus from Satan.

Enmity toward God was worldliness then and it is worldliness now. Now the way worldliness is manifest, shown, demonstrated, that is where we more often have focused our attention. But worldliness is more the underlying attitude that results in that outward behavior. At the root, worldliness refuses transformation and purification. Listen:

In the epistle of Paul to Titus, chapter 2:13, 14, we read: ‘Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ This great work is to be performed for those only who are willing to be purified, willing to be peculiar, and who manifest a zeal in good works. How many shrink from the purifying process! They are unwilling to live out the truth, unwilling to appear singular in the eyes of the world. It is this mingling with the world that destroys our spirituality, pureness, and zeal. Satan's power is constantly exercised to stupefy the sensibilities of God’s people, that their consciences may not be sensitive to wrong, and that the sign of distinction between them and the world may be destroyed (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 274, 275).

Do you see the signs of worldliness in your own life? Then could it be that you are resisting the purification process that you need in order to enter the heavenly Canaan? From the same article, hear this striking warning:

God’s people have so long been led by the inventions and fashions of the world that they are unwilling to move out independent of them. When I study the Scriptures, I am alarmed for the Israel of God in these last days. They are exhorted to flee from idolatry. I fear that they are asleep and so conformed to the world that it would be difficult to discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not. The distance is widening between Christ and His people, and lessening between them and the world. The marks of distinction between Christ’s professed people and the world have almost disappeared. Like ancient Israel, they follow after the abominations of the nations around them (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 276).

The Hebrews had been in slavery for four hundred years. God’s way of living was new and different for them. What they were used to was slavery. In like manner, we are used to the bondage and slavery of sin. God’s way is new and different for us. We must learn to incline our hearts in a new and different way. It is the way of the cross, the way tread by Christ. Listen:

The way of the cross is an onward, upward way. And as we advance therein, seeking the things that are above, we must leave farther and farther in the distance the things which belong to the earth. While the world and carnal professors are rushing downward to death, those who climb the hill will have to put forth efforts or they will be carried down with them.

The children of the world are called the children of darkness. They are blinded by the god of this world, and are led by the spirit of the prince of darkness. They cannot enjoy heavenly things. The children of light have their affections set on things above. They leave behind them the things of this world. They fulfill the command: ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate.’ Here is the conditional promise: ‘I will receive you.’ From the beginning, Christ has chosen His people out of world and required them to be separate, having no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. If they love God and keep His commandments, they will be far from having the friendship, and loving the pleasures, of the world. There is no concord between Christ and Belial (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 279).

Which am I, we should ask. Am I a child of darkness, or one of light? Am I in the way of the cross, or am I in the way of self? Am I climbing the hill, or am I rushing downward toward the filth of the grave? Am I seeking the things that are above? Then I must leave farther and farther in the distance the things that belong to earth. Upon what are my affections set? He will receive us—conditionally. But all that is just the way of saying that in the end, we will be wholly in love with Christ, or wholly in love with a selfish fully-bent self-indulgence. The choice is ours.

We can do no better today than by concluding with the following appeal:

As we read the word of God, how plain it appears that His people are to be peculiar and distinct from the unbelieving world around them. Our position is interesting and fearful; living in the last days, how important that we imitate the example of Christ, and walk even as He walked. ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ The opinions and wisdom of men must not guide or govern us. They always lead away from the cross. The servants of Christ have neither their home nor their treasure here. Would that all of them could understand that it is only because the Lord reigns that we are even permitted to dwell in peace and safety among our enemies. It is not our privilege to claim special favors of the world. We must consent to be poor and despised among men, until the warfare is finished and the victory won. The members of Christ are called to come out and be separate from the friendship and spirit of the world; their strength and power consists in being chosen and accepted of God (Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 286). GCO

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Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick is an ordained minister of the gospel. Since 1994 he has served in the American Southwest as pastor to several churches. He received his Batchelor of Arts in Religion from Southern Adventist University in 1994 and a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in 1999 with specialization in Adventist Studies. While in Michigan he was employed by the General Conference at the White Estate Berrien Springs branch office. Each year he fills speaking engagements in North America and sometimes overseas. Pr. Kirkpatrick has been involved in youth ministry including the General Youth Conference and other initiatives. He is author of the 2003 book Real Grace for Real People and 2005’s Cleanse and Close: Last Generation Theology in 14 Points. As a Seventh-day Adventist minister, he pioneered internet ministry, launching GreatControversy.org in 1997. He also serves as Pastor of the Mentone Church of Seventh-day Adventists, located near Loma Linda, California. Larry is married to Pamela. The couple presently live in Highland, California along with their children, Etienne and Melinda, and are actively involved in foster parenting.