Many of us have been sport fans during our lives. And often we have heard the interviews of the winning team’s members. One of the most relied statements has always been something like this, ”Well we won because we are very united, we stick together as a close team. Our teamwork is superb”. It’s no different in the Lord’s work, let us explain.
A while back we did a post called “Sowing Unity or Discord”, where we pointed out that a brother let his idea of the way another brother should proclaim the Elijah message, offend him and bring him to post against the other brother in public. We showed that such selfish actions really did nothing but hinder the message, and unfortunately sowed discord instead of unity.
But let us look at how the real culprit, pride, can cause us to lose track of the ultimate goal–win souls for Christ as we proclaim His last sealing message to His church. We’ll look at 4 important areas in relating to our brethren. 1) Respecting other views on non-salvational issues 2) Respecting different approaches and ideas in going about the Lord’s work 3) Reviewing how pride can cause us to be blinded and possibility a sower of discord 4) How humility and respect brings unity.
In Tract 10 called “The Sign of Jonah” http://www.shepherds-rod.org/Tracts/trac010.html, brother Houteff dealt with the mysterious 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth issue. Many have diverse views on it. Did Jesus die on Weds. night, Thurs. night, Fri. night, or what? How could He have been in “the heart of the earth” for 3 days and nights if He died on Friday afternoon? And so on. Anyway, as only he could do, he cleared the issue and explained the final days of Jesus’ life and how he fulfilled His promise to give the Jews the “sign of Jonah” and what “in the heart of the earth” really meant. (Matt. 12:39-41).
But I caught a real jewel of truth in this tract. In page 20 bro. Houteff writes, “After one acquires all the knowledge necessary pertaining to the sign of Jonah, he is neither better nor worse off so far as his Christianity is concerned, without taking into effect the time wasted if his conclusions on the subject be wrong.
But what is still worse, should a group of people who are rightly proclaiming all the revealed doctrines, disagree with these zealous preachers of the sign of Jonah, as to what “the heart of the earth” may mean, the latter will in most instances not only forsake fellowshipping with their brethren, and cease helping to proclaim more important doctrines, but will also become so obsessed with their pet idea that their minds cannot comprehend much else.” (Tract 10, p. 20-21)
That is one packed statement! Let’s recap this. First we see that bro. Houteff is counselling us that certain non-salvational issues are just that -non-salvational issues. But when we differ with someone else concerning these issues, we should let it go for the sake of unity. But as we read, the most often case is that our pride of knowledge gets in the way and we cloud our true perspective and purpose! The unity fails due to the pride of one or both of the brothers, or sisters.
A while back we did the 2 part post on the “Special Resurrection” and I was careful to point out that there are many diverse views on this issue. But I also pointed out that this is what is termed “extra” knowledge, and specifically a non-salvational issue. But unfortunately, in times past, even that issue has caused some to argue and break away from the fellowship and pridefully hold on to a “pet idea”.
In (1 Peter 5:5) we read”..God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” One of the prime reasons for a unrepetant heart is pride. We just don’t like to admit we are wrong many times. But this is where the “rubber meets the road” as they say. The essence of our Christian life is to show humility and love and understanding to our brothers and sisters. But that is hard to do in many cases if we have pride and a uncompromising spirit. A “real” man or woman is one that can say ” Sorry bro (or sis) I was wrong about this, thanks for pointing that out to me”.
“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will abide among the wise, if you reject instruction, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom, humility precedes honor.” (Proverbs 15:31-33).
Ellen White explains “There were others who had received the truth from Christ’s teachings…but who had lost their first love, and were without spiritual strength..they quibbled about matters of no special importance which were not given by the Lord as tests, and dwelt upon their differences of opinion, these differences became mountains, separating them from Christ and from one another, destroying unity and love.” (1888 Materials, p.1795)
The fact that a brother or sister sees things somewhat different from what we do on non-salvational issues should never cause us to abandon that person.
We need to point out that some may ask–How do we know what is salvational and what is not? The questions has many variables but it all comes down to this. If we have converted our lives to Christ and walking daily in His Commandments and obeying His last message and will in order so we can be sealed and to stand when His church judgment comes – we will have the Spirit of Truth within us and He will guide us into ALL truth (John 16:13).
Ellen White expounds on this beautifully “God never honors unbelief and questioning and doubt. When He speaks, His word is to be recognized, and carried out in the daily actions. And if the heart of man is in living connection with God, the voice that cometh from above will be recognized….Those that do the will of God shall know of what doctrine whether it be of God, for no deception will cloud their minds.” (Test. on Sabbath School Work, p. 64,65).
So the short answer is that we will know if a doctrine is vital for our salvation or is extra learning (as in the case of the Jonah example). And the ONLY place we can safely go –is to His word as said by HIS prophets. And we are counselled by bro. Houteff to “Hold not to what fabricated ideas seem to make Scriptures say, but grip tenaciously to what the Word, in simplicity, plainly says.” (Tract 10, p.13)
As we pointed out in our post on sowing unity or discord, a brother accused another of posting brother Houteff’s writings and hiding the author’s name. But let us look at what transpired back in bro. Houteff’s day, and which was published by bro. Houteff.
In Symbolic Code News, January 15, 1935, a Mr. and Mrs. C.E. Wessel wrote “After hearing the tirade against the SRod at the Carolina Camp meeting last June, we returned home determined to fight it, and a little while later were glad to have the opportunity of voting to have 13 members disfellowshipped from the Charleston church. But now we can better appreciate their position, as we ourselves with another were cast out Dec. 19.
A short time ago we received from one of the SRod believers a letter containing many quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy which we never dreamed were there. They put us to studying and we soon clearly saw how unfair the denomination has dealt with the SRod teachings.
We thank God that He mercifully gave us willingness and courage to read and investigate for ourselves after we had set our hearts against the message. Praises be to Him for His goodness and for present truth. We expect to put ourselves and our all into this work.” Signed– Mr. & Mrs. C.E. Wessel, Charleston, S. Carolina
In the above we notice how that certain brother reached out to the objectors, yet with tact and wisdom (they emphasised that which would not prejudice them -Ellen White writings). Look at the results. They won them to the Lord’s cause! Truth was revealed to them on a basis of which they could relate to. As bro. Houteff has pointed out, the Elijah message is largely based on Scripture and EGW.
So we see two important areas that we should take close heed in relating to our brothers and sisters. Watch that we don’t get hung up on our “pet idea”, a doctrine or teaching that is non-salvational. And be careful and tactful in approaching a fellow bro or sis, that has a different, yet possibly successful way of reaching out to the brethren. Unity should always be a foremost thought in our minds.
Ofcourse we can’t be so accommodating with salvational issues, such as keeping and waking daily in His Commandments (ie. compromise with Sunday keepers doctrine. Or debating whether the Lord’s last message of Elijah is important and needed (ie. SDA who claim no Elijah message is needed)
The ultimate important focus should be that we want to stay united and that we want to win souls for Christ. With Satan and his devils fighting our Lord’s last message and messengers, can we afford to bicker and fight amongst ourselves?
If we take the counsel given from Paul we would solve many of our disagreements over the non essential issues. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3).
“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you are doing. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” (2 Thes. 5:11-13)
What work would that be? It cannot be the worldly work, so it is those who are active in the Lord’s work. Teaching, admonishing, spreading the Lord’s word and plans. So we must think very highly of each of our co-workers, minor disagreements and all.
We should point out that a good and in-depth discussion of certain non-salvational issues can be rewarding and be part of our “studying to show yourselves approved” (2 Tim. 2:15). However we must guard the ever tempting behavior to start lambasting the other one’s views as wrong or inferior to ours.
What I have found as a good way to gently leave the issue, if I find that my view is not understood or coming across as I intended, and is at odds with their different view, is to say something like, “That’s an interesting view you have, we’ll just have to agree to disagree brother” (or sister). This way you let them know that their view is not “wrong” per se, but “interesting”. Who knows, they may have done lots of research to come to that view.
Conversely, there will definitely be times when the salvational issues come into discussion and we must hold firm (yet respectful) and give them our best viewpoints. But after trying to show the points and they mock or deride us about the issue, we must move on and at that point it is most likely left to the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts. Or there may be a situation that another brother or sister can reach them more effectively than we can.
Another example of all of the above, is concerning a well-known brother who teaches present truth. Recently I got his report on “The 144,000 and those with”, again it’s another non-salvational issue. I studied it and then got an opposing report from another brother. I compared them both, with the Spirit of Truth guiding me on the latter’s report as truth. But the first brother was basically saying in his report that if one doesn’t believe in this issue exactly like he says–they are lost! What a selfish travesty of the work for the Lord! We see a selfish view is promulgated on a point, that as brother Houteff says ” he is neither better nor worse off as far as his Christianity is concerned.”
We read counsel from James ” Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9). Is not what the brother , in the above example doing worse than grumbling? For he has mounted the judgment seat.
Bro. Houteff taught much about humility and that we should not seek to take credit for things we do for Christ. Speaking of those who desire the true Christian principles he states ” He is unselfish, he rejoices in the good fortune of others, and loves to have others receive credit for something he himself may have accomplished. He expects credit from the Lord only.”(Bro. Houteff’s Letter “To Any Seeking to be DSDA)
In closing, just as we made mention of what constitutes a winning team ,let us as team members of the Lord’s final team, also strive to be united. Let us not think of ways to divide but to unite. Yes, we must and will hold firm to the salvational issues, but the less important areas should not cause us to be a divided team.
In the 1970′s I remember a song that was famous around the country called “United We Stand”, it had these words– “For united we stand, divided we fall, and if our backs should ever be against the wall, we’ll be together, together, you and I”.(The Brotherhood of Man, 1970)
Questions and Answers:
I understand how the doctrine of the 10 Commandments can be a salvation issue, but how does the Elijah message fit into that catagory?
That really is a great and timely question. We as SDA and DSDA, certainly understand that one of the main doctrines we believe is that in 1844, Christ went into the most holy part of the sanctuary to begin the judgment of the dead. But soon this will pass unto the existing living. The prophesised Elijah to come (Mal.4:5), many believe is he who is to forewarn the next coming of the Lord. Just as John the Baptist warned his “own” people of the coming of the Lord, so too this anti-type Elijah is to warn our own people, in the church, of the coming of the Lord( not to warn the world).
However this coming, as one truly studies Scripture, Spirit of Prophecy, and the Rod message, shows that it is the beginning judgment for the living and is to be in God’s house (His church–sanctuaries). (See Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p.209-220. Same book, vol.3, p.266-267, 1 Peter 4:17, Mal 3:1-5, and our post “Ezekiel 9″) Consequently, the soon to come solemn judgment and execution of judgment starts first among us,upon our Lord’s next “invisable” coming. This is more fully explained in the above references.
So the Elijah message is the last message to us to reform our lives and do right before the Lord, and gives us instructions on how we can escape the dreadful judgment that will soon come upon us, his church. It warns us to reform, in our work, dress, diet, worship and so forth.It asks us to truly care about the sins in our lives and in the church, so much so that we “sigh and cry” for these abominations. For those who have taken our Lord’s counsel in Rev. 3:18, and searched Scripture and anointed their eyes with eyesalve, they have been led to understand this last message clearly. So obviously this is a very real salvational issue. And as such we cannot compromise the teaching/spreading of this truth.