‘God's Final Message and Your Role’
The following is the closing address speech
that Adventist Church President Ted N.C. Wilson gave on Aug. 24, 2014, at a
10-day International Conference on the Bible and Science in St. George, Utah. Read the news report about the speech here.
It has been a privilege to get acquainted with so many of you during this International Conference on the Bible and Science. Our minds have been stimulated and our hearts have been affirmed in God’s personal and dynamic creative power.
I want to say a few words to the scientists and the theologians among us.
Scientists: Continue to do good scientific research. Do the work God has given you in a profound and careful way.
Theologians: Do the same thing. Reach out to those who may not agree with what we have voted today and with what the Seventh-day Adventist Church has stood for. Reach out to those people in care and love — not in a condescending way, but in a loving way.
But I want to tell you: Please do not in any way be reluctant to stand for biblical truth. Be open, be careful, but be bold.
It’s been stimulating the last few days to study God’s Word, and many of the presentations that have been shared with us have affirmed God’s personal and dynamic creative power. We’ve learned these last 10 days that creation is at the center of our fundamental understanding of who we are as Seventh-day Adventists.
We rejoice with the Psalmist in Psalm 8:1, 3-6, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! … When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”
Sabbath a Memorial of Creation
As part of God’s final message to the world, embodied in the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14, we are to proclaim to the world the perpetual memorial of creation, the seventh-day Sabbath, which caps the literal week of creation telling us where we have come from.
We are a direct creation of God and not from deep-time evolutionary or theistic evolutionary process. In identifying ourselves as a “Seventh-day Adventist,” we automatically proclaim that we believe in creation by God’s word, by fiat, by proclamation, an actual creation in six literal days with the ending of the week on the Sabbath as stated in the fourth commandment of Exodus 20:8-11. The wording of the fourth commandment is so plain. It’s so direct. It was obviously intended to counter any other alternative explanation. It states the facts so simply.
Let’s review them. We know these words by heart: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh-day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work.” It goes on to say, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
It’s obvious. Six literal days of creation and then the memorial on a literal seventh day. The same seventh day on which we worship every week and the day on which we worshiped yesterday. The actual seventh day has never been lost. It can be documented through history and through astronomy. When we indicate we are Seventh-day Adventists, we stand for a literal creation and global flood. It cannot be reinterpreted in any other appropriate way.
Of course, many have either tried to reinterpret or remove the meaning and distinctive understanding of the Sabbath and God’s creative power. And that’s indicated in Selected Messages, Book Two, page 385: “I was told” — and that implies that a High Power instructed her — “that men will employ every policy to make less prominent the difference between the faith of Seventh-day Adventists and those who observe the first day of the week. In this controversy the whole world will be engaged, and the time is short. This is no time to haul down our colors.”
A marvelous explanation of the devil’s plan is found in Patriarchs and Prophets, page 336: “When the law was proclaimed at Sinai, the very first words of the fourth commandment were, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’ — showing that the Sabbath was not then instituted; we are pointed back for its origin to creation. In order to obliterate God from the minds of men, Satan aimed to tear down this great memorial. If men could be led to forget their Creator, they would make no effort to resist the power of evil, and Satan would be sure of his prey.”
As Seventh-day Adventist teachers, educators, pastors and church employees living in the end of time — and not only employees but all church members — we should not reduce our “seventh-day” distinctiveness but rather trumpet it as a wonderful feature of life.
In Selected Messages, Book Two, page 370, you’ll find some powerful and inspiring words, “The Lord has faithful watchmen on the walls of Zion to cry aloud and spare not, to lift up their voice like a trumpet, and show His people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins.”
Now let me just say a little word of caution here. We do not necessarily need to point out everybody’s sins and act holier than other people. But God uses people to bring about clarity and an understanding of what is not being followed according to His word and He will use you and many others to do that.
The passage goes on to say: “The Lord has permitted the enemy of truth to make a determined effort against the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. He designs by this means to awaken a decided interest in that question which is a test for the last days. This will open the way for the third angel’s message to be proclaimed with power.”
Don’t ever deceive yourself that in the future the Sabbath will not be important. It will be the most important factor deciding who you are. That third angel of Revelation 14 shows us that the Sabbath will be God’s special seal or sign of His people in the last days and those worshiping on another day than the seventh-day Sabbath will not receive God’s special seal. That is how important the literal Sabbath is to God and to us.
Stick to the Scriptures
In Selected Messages, Book Two, page 367, the following appeal is made, “Brethren and sisters,” — we might as well address this to ourselves, Brothers and sisters of the International Bible Conference — “I appeal to you as Seventh-day Adventists to be all that this name signifies. There is danger of departing from the spirit of the message. The people of God are not to be guided by the opinions or practices of the world.”
Scripture instructs us in 2 Chronicles 20:20, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”
What a marvelous promise that helps us avoid the opinions of the world and focus rather on God’s truth in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
Now this is not a politically acceptable quotation to be read to a room that is highly educated, but I want you to listen. We read in Christ’s Object Lessons, page 79, “As in earlier ages, the special truths for this time are found, not with the ecclesiastical authorities, but with men and women who are not too learned or too wise” — and might I add not too proud — “to believe the word of God.”
The simple truth is that God loves us and longs for us to trust Him explicitly. He loved us, creating us in His own image and establishing the Sabbath as a sign of His authority in creation so that we would not forget from where we came and to whom we direct our worship.
In His love, He established the plan of salvation even before the foundation of the earth and the entering of sin. He loved us so much that He longed for close communion. Each day He visited Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening and then, after sin, He fully explained the plan of salvation, His loving rescue plan to save us. Because He loved His creatures, He prepared an ark of safety for those who would believe in Him when He destroyed the earth by a global flood. And I am so grateful for the strong underpinning explanations that we have heard here for the last few days about a global flood.
God loved us enough to provide, with His own hands, the Ten Commandments, which include the magnificent fourth commandment reminding us of His creative power and the Sabbath as His memorial.
Patriarchs and Prophets, page 305, says, “Jehovah, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the Source and Sustainer of all, is alone entitled to supreme reverence and worship.” As I mentioned on the first day of this conference, last month, I had the privilege of looking down from Mt. Sinai where the “Sustainer of all” met with His people, the children of Israel. God loved them so much that He provided the earthly sanctuary to “dwell among them.” The sanctuary portrayed the great controversy theme and directly pointed to Christ’s personal intervention as the slain Lamb, and finally, the ultimate disposition of sin.
Christ loved us enough to forever identify with us in the form of human nature and will forever — forever — bear the marks of the cross as a human. He died for us, rose to heaven and continued His work on our behalf interceding for us as our High Priest first in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary and since 1844 in the Most Holy Place. He loved us enough to make the seventh-day Sabbath a sign of those who accept Him as the Creator of the universe, the One who has the authority over all, and a sign of those who are loyal to Him as their Redeemer.
His love for us will propel Him to soon return physically in the air to command life to be placed back into those who have died and believed in Him, and to provide for them and for us the miracle of meeting Him in the air to take us home to heaven.
The same power and voice of the creative authority of God Himself that created this Earth and the universe by speaking it into existence, by fiat, by His own proclamation, is the same power that has the authority to save us and have us join Him in the air to proceed to heaven with Him as explained in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
God Is Seeking Leaders
You see, biblical creation is intertwined with God’s authority, His plan to save us for eternity, and His ultimate restoration of all that is good. What a wonderful Creator and Redeemer we serve! He wants us to accept His creatorship, miraculous power and complete authority. He wants us to accept His Lordship over us just as He demonstrated His authority over the children of Israel in leading them out of Egypt through miraculous intervention.
In recounting that experience, Joshua, the great leader who followed Moses, exclaimed in Joshua 24:15, “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
God is calling for all of us as leaders in His church, and every one of you attending this conference are leaders, and even more so after attending this conference, to proclaim His final message and reject the false teachings of evolution, theistic evolution and any other false aberrations that are products of false gods “on the other side of the river.” We are to accept the Biblical teachings of creation and declare that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
The challenge to us today as teachers, educators, scientists, administrators, pastors, theologians, church employees and church members is to fully believe in God’s word and to unreservedly serve our Creator. It is time to proclaim God’s final message in classrooms, pulpits, websites, hallways, media and in every way and place explaining that we love and serve a Creator God who has a direct interest in our welfare and is actively working to bring us into a right relationship with Him in preparation for His soon return to take us home.
My friends, don’t give up on your biblical beliefs. The entire Bible is trustworthy as an accurate account of God’s instruction for and intervention in our lives. It is the source of our understanding of Christ’s saving power and His righteousness. The Holy Word of God can be believed: the Old Testament —from the Pentateuch to Job to the Psalms to the Minor Prophets — all can be believed as real and true and explain God as the Creator; the New Testament — all of the New Testament declares Christ as the Creator and Re-creator. The Spirit of Prophecy can be believed as it is as relevant today as it was when written.
Stand firmly for heavenly inspiration. Don’t let anyone discourage you from taking a strong stand for biblical truth and promoting it. Don’t let anyone undermine your biblical beliefs in a private or public setting or wherever you may be. Look the person in the eye and with a smile reaffirm your precious experience with Jesus.
You may not be able to scientifically prove all things, but you can see the results of God’s creative power in nature and also, very importantly, you can see the results of God’s power in human nature — God’s power to re-create a new heart and life.
Meet Ehab and Joanna Mouawad
Let me give you a prime example right here in this International Conference of the Bible and Science. Let me introduce you to Ehab and Joanna Mouawad from Middle East University in Beirut, Lebanon. These two, along with their university president, Leif Hongisto, are the three representatives from the Middle East and North Africa Union with a population of 500 million and only, at best, 3,000 Seventh-day Adventists, a place of great challenge but with people of faith in what God will do.
Nancy and I had the opportunity to sit for a meal with Ehab and Joanna. At our meal together, Joanna shared her personal testimony of what Jesus has done in her life. She comes from a Maronite Catholic family in Beruit, Lebanon, and grew up in Septia just near Middle East University. Her religious experience was very formal and did not include a growing relationship with Christ.
In her youth not so very long ago, she rebelled against conventional life. She urged her parents to allow her to attend a college some distance from her home. After attending the school for just a few days, she realized it was not the place for her. She came back home not knowing if she could get into college for the school year. Her mother suggested that maybe Middle East University would allow her to enter even a few days late, so they went.
The university accepted her and she started a wonderful journey. She noticed people were different. They were friendly, happy, had purpose in life and were kind.
As she took classes and observed teachers and students, she began to notice what true Christian experience was all about. She was not pushed or coerced into believing our precious message, but shown love. She slowly accepted God’s truth as she heard it. She joined some Bible studies.
Soon she was asked to translate some Bible studies into Arabic for the university front gate guard. In the process, as she learned more about our Creator, about God, His love and His enormous truth in the Bible. And she fell in love with Jesus as her Savior! Joanna was baptized in 2011! Praise God! This is the result of evangelistic Christian education.
She and Ehab were married two months ago in June by Pastor Hongisto. They are still on their honeymoon, so to speak, at this Bible and Science Conference so let’s congratulate them!
Interestingly, when Joanna told her family that she wanted to get baptized, they were very much against it. But they have now seen the incredible change that has taken place in Joanna and her life and when relatives or friends criticize her decision, her mother, who is not yet a Seventh-day Adventist, is the first to defend her and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Creator Who Re-creates Hearts
This is one of the greatest illustrations that there is a Creator because He can—He can supernaturally re-create a new heart in someone which proves He can create from the beginning as well! As Tom Shepherd [a professor at Andrews University Theological Seminary] mentioned on Friday in his focus on references to Creation in the New Testament, we read in Colossians 3:10 that we “have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”
In that marvelous text, 2 Corinthians 5:17, perhaps one of the most beautiful texts about salvation and new life in Christ, we are energized when we read, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”
The best proof that God exists and is a creating God is the proof of a changed life. God says in Ezekiel 11:19, “I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh.” A changed life like Joanna’s, and like yours and yours and yours and all of ours is a marvelous testimony of what the Creator can do when we submit and commit ourselves to the Creator of the universe.
This commitment to our Creator God is vital in our personal relationship with Him, our ultimate salvation and the salvation of others for whom we have great responsibility. Each one of you as leaders has great influence. Your public biblical witness is greatly needed in every area of educational and church life as we all participate in the mission of the church to proclaim Christ, His righteousness, His creatorship, His sanctuary service, His Sabbath, His three angels’ messages and His soon return!
We can proclaim now and ultimately, when we are taken to heaven at Christ’s Second Coming, the wonderful words expressed by the heavenly beings found in Revelation 4:8 and 11 explaining God’s power to save, create and recreate: ”Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! … You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
My friends, are you willing this afternoon as we close this incredible conference on the Bible and Science to make that full surrender and commitment and proclaim God’s final message in the home, in the classroom, in the office, in the community and in the world? If you are willing to make that commitment, would you quietly stand with me in acceptance of our Creator and His mission entrusted to us?