Cliff’s Edge – The Truth of the Universe
More often than not, when I tell people that I am one of the younger members of my local church they gasp and/or laugh, to which I reply, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
I know what it means. How could I, at 61, be one of the younger members of my church, unless lots of really old people are members, too. Which is the case, not just in my church but in myriad Seventh-day Adventist churches in North America. With the exceptions where large Adventist institutions exist, Adventism in North America seems to be withering, with few younger members taking the place of the old ones.
I can’t understand it, not with what we have been given.
Alan Reinach, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the Pacific Union Conference, told me about how he first heard about the Adventist message in the late 1970s. A friend, David Lawrence, had called from Hawaii and declared, “Alan, I have found the truth of the universe!”
He was right. He did. The light given to Adventists is the truth of the universe, at least as much truth that, at this point in salvation history, has been revealed to humanity.
However, when I told a friend at the General Conference that I couldn’t understand why the church in the West is struggling when we have the truth of the universe, he responded: “A lot of young people are not interested in the truth of the universe. They are interested in what can make a difference in their lives.”
The problem’s not with the gift but with us.
Fine, but this truth—which covers everything from the best times of the day to eat, to the metaphysical principles of God’s cosmic government—can and should make a difference in people’s lives, if they let it.
Who, young or old, doesn’t care about health? Look at what we have been given in regards to taking care of our bodies? The health message can and should make a powerful difference for good in those who follow it.
Young people worry about the environment. The Sabbath itself, if adhered to, can make a difference as people every Sabbath refrain, at least somewhat, from the hustle and bustle that many fear is destroying the planet.
Vegetarianism, too, can be an even greater help as it’s much easier on the environment compared to the beef industry’s plunder of the ecosystem.
Young people want to rest from the frenetic pace of existence. What better answer than the Sabbath?
Young people are concerned about greed. Again, the Sabbath, along with a system of tithe and offerings, provides a powerful antidote.
All people, young or old, wonder about death. Look at what we have been given regarding the state of the dead, and the wonderful promise that, after a rest that seems like a moment only, we rise to eternal life.
Also, when human suffering is one of the big obstacles for people to believe in God, how nice to know the truth about hell, and that it will end human suffering forever rather than, according to popular teaching, prolong it for eternity.
Young people worry about the lack of justice in the world. How nice to have the insights in the judgment—the pre-Advent judgment (Dan. 7:22; 8:14), the millennial judgment (1 Cor. 6:3), the final judgment (Rev. 21:8)—that Adventists have been teaching for years.
Young people struggle with questions about how evil could exist in the world with a loving God. The truth of the universe includes the powerful narrative of the Great Controversy, and the wonderful, but costly, gift of freedom.
Young people want hope. What greater hope can we present than Jesus, God Himself, taking upon Himself the punishment that we deserve so we can have the righteousness that belongs only to Him and thus, we can have the eternal life that He offers by grace?
Don’t tell me Adventism doesn’t have the potential to meet the needs of young people.
Young people want to know about the future of the world that they have inherited. Look at what the prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, and 8 teach about that future, and the ultimate hope they bring: “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him” (Dan. 7:27).
Young people care about helping those in need, those who are poor, those who suffer, those who are displaced, those who are homeless. Look at what we have been given in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy regarding the life and character of Jesus, and our obligation to follow His footsteps by ministering to others. Hence all that the Adventist church does—from ADRA to Adventist Community Services, and a host of other local church ministries—to help those in need.
“What more could have been done to my vineyard than I have done for it?” (Isa. 5:4).
If we’re not reaching people in the industrialized West with what we have been given, the problem’s not with the gift but with us. Yes, we have the truth of the universe, but what good is it if we don’t do with it what we have been called to do? Instead, we can be so busy fighting among ourselves over issues that are so petty in contrast to the privilege and responsibility we have in proclaiming the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14 to a world intent on destroying itself.
In the late 1970s I was a 23-year old being lured from the darkness of secularism into the deeper darkness of the occult when the Lord rescued me, bringing me to Seventh-day Adventists, whose characters, doctrines, and influence changed my life in a powerfully good way.
Don’t tell me Adventism doesn’t have the potential to meet the needs of young people. I shudder to think where that 23-year old would be today (if even alive), were it not for the truth of the universe with which Adventists have been entrusted. We have what we need, but until we do with it what we must, our churches in the West will continue to be composed mostly of people like me—and older.