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:
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.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN:
IF Adventists had
In the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment:
The whole Adventist body had united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus
How widely different would have been our history.
WHAT WAS NOT GOD’S WILL:
EXAMPLE OF ISRAEL:
God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness.
[BUT GOD DID DESIGN:]
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:
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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