Seventh-day Adventist: Christian or Cult?

Date: 06/07/2003 
Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians or are they a cult? It's important to look at the foundational teachings of a church and not be side-tracked on a few people or offshoots. Many members don't even know what their church teaches. This sermon covers the baptismal vows of Seventh-day Adventists.
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Morning. Happy Sabbath. Today I’m going to address the subject that you maybe have thought about. Some of you may cringe when you hear the title. Some of you may be thankful that it’s something that’s being addressed head on. The title is Seventh-day Adventists: Cult or Christian? Now, just by a show of hands, I know not everybody here is a Seventh-day Adventist. We always have a number of visitors every week. But how many of you have heard somebody at some time say or assume that Seventh-day Adventists were a cult? Let me see your hands. Does that bother you? It bothers me. There’s a lot of misconceptions that float around out there, and, you know, when I’m done today with some of the evidence we’re going to explore some people’s minds may not be changed. Some people may be more convinced than ever. It depends on your approach and how you define that word. So maybe it would be appropriate to begin by looking at some definitions. Using Miriam Webster’s dictionary even the Encarta dictionary that you can find with most Microsoft products I began to find out what is the definition of a cult. And here’s what I came up with. First of all, it comes from the word cultis which is where we get the word cultivate. It’s “a religion or a religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false.” Now I want to pause right there. By whom?

Are you aware that by this definition agnostics believe that Christians are all a cult? And I’ll show you from the Bible and history that there was a time when much of the world looked at all Christians as a cult. “With its followers often living in an unconventional manner, under the guidance of an authoritarian charismatic leader.” Now that’s something we’ll look at more carefully. Another definition: a system of religious beliefs and ritual plus its body of adherents. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious. So we get some idea of what a cult is. I am not that concerned with the world’s concept of a cult. It's in the context of what Christians define as a cult that would make me the most uncomfortable. First of all, just the word is an ugly word. I mean if I… close your eyes. If I say, a cult, what images are conjured up on your mental screen? I mean, I know about you, but I see people sacrificing chickens in front of the pentagram. Stuff like that. I mean don’t you get these spiritualistic, diabolical, people being mesmerized and hypnotized and it’s an ugly word. It’s like the word yoghurt. It just sounds bad, doesn’t it?

I don’t know how anyone can eat something called yoghurt. Some words just have that twang. You know the word bad doesn’t sound as bad as the word wicked. Is that right? Wicked! Wicked, oh! That’s how the word cult sounds. It’s just an ugly word. And when you say, “Yeah, they’re part of a cult.” That can mean a lot of different things to different people so I thought we better talk about this. Now, you might want to know right from the start what is the need for a denomination? There are so many different Christian denominations. The Christian church is probably just in North America got five to six hundred registered denominations that some people would figure are mainstream or at least known. What is the purpose for that? You know at the infancy of the Seventh-day Adventist movement they were strongly opposed to organizing. They believed that in order to be a church of God they needed to avoid becoming a denomination. That’s almost like incorporating and then they’d just become another denomination. They wanted to be a movement because they were comprised of people from many different religious backgrounds. They wanted to be a Bible movement, but you know it caused a lot of confusion. People would say, “Well, what church do you go to?” And they’d say, “I’m part of god's church.” “OK. What do you believe?” and they had to itemize all the different beliefs. It creates a lot of confusion. It became difficult for them to hold property and to grow unless they organized. You and I have met people that say, “Well I don’t wanna be a part of any organized church.” You know what they’re really saying? Let me translate that for you. “I want to be part of a disorganized church.” You really only have a couple of choices.

You can either be organized or disorganized. And so it was necessary to organize and when you organize you need a name under which you organize to be identified. That's where we get the word denominate, to name. But all these church names become very confusing. Now, how many of you have had someone say before, “What church do you go to?” “Well, I’m a Seventh-day Adventist.” “Seventh-day Adventist. Oh, you’re the ones that believe in multiple wives.” Now, granted there may be some in our church that believe that way, but that is not a belief of ours. People confuse the names. You get Latter-day Saints which is Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists, and you can understand. I’ve heard people get LBJ and LSD and LDS all mixed up. One is LSD a hallucinogenic, one is a former president and one is a church. I’ve met people before. “Seventh-day Adventists, are you the ones that don’t believe in blood transfusions?” Sorry, Chris & Kathy. But that’s what… have you ever had that before? People get you confused. And this is what lends to some of the need for clarification. Sometimes we’re found guilty through association.

Let me tell you a little story. Then you can understand some of the reason that I felt it was important to address this. I was doing meetings with Karen in Redding. She was pregnant with Stephen. Must have been ten and a half years ago. Right in the midst of our meetings the whole Waco episode began to unfold and it really was heartbreaking for me when I heard someone on the national news say, “A group of Seventh-day Adventists are holed up. They’ve shot some ATF agents and they believe in multiple wives and…” I thought, “Oh, no!” And you know, right away of course the leaders of our church got on the phone, they called the media, they said, I don’t know what they said, but they said something where they changed that and they realized they were not Seventh-day Adventists. There were some Seventh-day Adventists that were there but they were not Seventh-day Adventists. They were not even out of Seventh-day Adventists. They were out of a group called Shepherd’s Rod that had come out of Seventh-day Adventists in the 1930’s and they were so completely different in their views that you really couldn’t fairly make an association. Let me illustrate. When Jim Jones became famous, did they say on the news, “Methodist minister Jim Jones and a bunch of his followers have committed suicide down in Guiana”? Do you know he used to be a Methodist minister?

Would it be fair to call him a Methodist? Do Methodists believe what Jim Jones believed? No, people realize that that was an outrageous connection to make. And so I’ve been bothered by some of the connections that you hear. This guy Marshall Applewhite, I forget if he was Episcopal or Presbyterian but he used to be part of a church. When the Heaven’s Gate people were all found and they’d committed suicide down there did they say “the Episcopal church people” because they had once had some connection with that? So the devil loves to capitalize on bad advertising and through association to try to slander God’s work. Did they do that to the apostles? Did they do that to Jesus and Paul? Don’t fall for some of this. You know, when you’re going to find out what a church is don’t look at a couple of individuals because you’re going to find good and bad people in almost every religious movement. I have met some people that I’ve talked to that seemed very gracious and very kind and then in talking to them I found out that they were part of some secret Nazi society. Well, I’m not going to assume that that’s a good society because I met one nice person. I want to look at what they stand for. Are you with me? I have met some people who are members of my church and other churches, other denominations that were just mean, ornery, unchristian people.

You don’t judge a whole denomination by different people. Even Jesus had a Judas in his group. Isn’t that right? So you’re going to find good and bad people everywhere. If you want to find out what it is go to the foundational teachings of the organization and read for yourself. You know one thing I’ve discovered, I used to attend a number of Baptist churches when I was in Texas. The closest Seventh-day Adventist church was seventy miles away. I would make the trip, but on Sundays, because I couldn’t get to church for prayer meeting, it was too far away, I’d visit some of the area Baptist churches. And I know that from one Southern Baptist church to the next there were incredibly diverse doctrinal views, and you can ask the typical Baptist and many of them were not sure whether they believed in a post-tribulation rapture or a pre-tribulation rapture, some spoke in tongues, some thought it was of the devil. I mean, just broad spectrum of conflicting views.

I actually went to the Baptist foundation teachings to find out what do they believe. And I was amazed because, for instance, some of my Baptist friends were calling me a legalist for believing in the Ten Commandments. They said “we’re not under the law”, but in their own teachings it says they believe in the Ten Commandments. They didn’t know their own teachings. So you cannot judge a church by what some people in the church believe because, let’s face it, a good percentage of the average church members in every denomination have no idea what the church teaches. So if you’re going to find out you need to go to the foundational teachings, the constitution. If I want to know what an American is and what our government stands for you don’t listen to all the politicians. Where they go as final word? They go to the Constitution. That’s where we understand our laws and if someone wants to immigrate and be naturalized they need to know what are the laws of the land and so they go to the Constitution. We need to go to the constitution of what we believe if you want find out what a Seventh-day Adventist is. Finding out the reasons why some other Christians call us a cult was interesting. I went on the Internet. I don’t recommend this. You know, trying to find religion on the Internet can be really convoluted. There’s all kinds of crazy things out there.

I was playing racquetball this week at a health club with a friend. Between games we stepped out to cool off and, you know they’ve got the TVs on if you’ve been to a health club, and people watch. They had world class wrestling on. You know the wrestling? Now, if you watch wrestling don’t raise your hands. But if you have seen it I want you to all look at me and just blink. I can see it. No one else will see you blink. I see those blinks. I appreciate that. You don’t want a raise your hand if you watch that. You're perceived IQ will go down right away as soon as you tell people that. But let’s face it, we’ve been exposed to it. The credibility of the accusations and some of the claims that you find about Seventh-day Adventists that you'll read on the Internet are as accurate and as believable as wrestling. Did you get that? There is some of the most absurd, ridiculous things you could ever imagine that are floating around. But some people think as soon as something’s in print it must be true. You realize anybody can write anything on the Internet. Especially if it’s religious there’s no accountability. So don't get your information that way.

I thought it would be a good idea if you want to find out what Seventh-day Adventists believe, and let’s look at some of the criteria of what is a cult, I’m going to go through some of the most common misunderstandings by going right through what we call our baptismal vows. There are about a dozen foundational teachings that outline what we believe as a religious movement. We’re going to look at them, and I’m doing this. I’m putting myself on the spot. I’m doing this in the presence of a congregation that is predominantly Seventh-day Adventist. And so it will be really easy to turn the camera around any time and have somebody say, “We don’t believe that!” But it’s in writing so you’re going to have a hard time arguing with it. If you go to the baptismal vows that most of you who joined the church received a certificate. You said you that you believed these things, there should harmony among our primary beliefs. Here's what you will read.

First vow or foundational teaching: I believe in God the Father in his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Now isn’t that a basic fundamental Christian tenant that these three individuals are held forth in the Bible as God?

Point number two: Salvation through Jesus and Jesus only. Some people think we believe we’re saved by works. Have you run into that before? Well, you may have made some that act that way, but that’s not what we believe. If you look at our foundational teachings here’s what it says and this is vow number two and three: I accept for the death of Jesus on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for my sins and I believe that through faith in his shed blood I am saved from sin and its penalty. You notice it doesn’t say in sin.

Point number three: I renounce the world and its sinful ways and I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal savior and I believe that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven my sins and given me a new heart. We believe in the new birth. We believe the new heart. We believe it’s for Christ’s sake because of his shed blood. This is just basic foundational Christian belief. Isn’t that right? Any way you read it. Acts 4:12 says, “There is salvation in no other for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” And that’s what we believe. We believe we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. Amen? Now, some are going to say, “Whoa! But you make a big deal about the law.” We’ll get to that. I’m going to do this sequentially here.

Point number four you would find in the baptismal certificate of foundational beliefs: I accept by faith the righteousness of Christ recognizing him as my intercessor in the heavenly sanctuary. Now, we’re putting this right up here so you can see it in I was going to see black and white but it’s really white and blue, isn’t it? And I claim his promise to strengthen me from his indwelling spirit that I might have power to do his will. It’s through the Holy Spirit that we have power to do his will, but I want to stop here. I’m going to park for a moment. Some people say that because we believe there is a heavenly temple and Jesus is our high priest that we do not believe in the completed work of Jesus on the cross. Over the issue of the sanctuary and the judgment a lot of people have been confused. Now, let me just see if I can explain how simple this is. It doesn’t qualify as a cult teaching among Christians. The Bible is very clear. Hebrews 8:1-2, now this is the main point of what we’re saying, “We have such a high priest who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens a minister of the sanctuary in the true tabernacle which the Lord erected and not man.” About eight times in Hebrews it calls Jesus our High Priest. So is it biblical that Jesus is our high priest?

No question about that. And here it’s telling us that he’s ministering in a sanctuary, the real tabernacle that the Lord erected. If you read in Revelation you picture Jesus standing among seven candlesticks and it says, “The temple of God is open in heaven.” Is there plenty of biblical support for a temple in heaven? I think there is. I wish I had a better amen, but I still believe it. It’s very basic. Now, someone will say, “The fact that you believe that Jesus is still ministering in heaven means that you don’t believe that his sacrifice on the cross was enough, that salvation is not complete.” That’s a loaded question. That’s like when a prosecuting attorney says to the defendant, “Do you still beat your wife?” If he says, “No” they’ll think you mean “I’ve stopped beating her.” If you say, “Yes,” well obviously you’re guilty for beating her. Just the question makes you look bad no matter how you answer it. Was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross complete? Yes, there doesn’t need to be another sacrifice for sins. It was accepted. That’s why he said, “All hail,” after he ascended to the Father and he appeared to the disciples.

That’s why he told Mary, “Do not detain me. I’ve not yet ascended to my father.” His sacrifice was complete. That’s why you and I have forgiveness for our sins. Amen? OK, but there’s something you can’t escape. We’re still here. Something about the battle between good and evil isn’t over. He is our high priest. What does a priest do? They intercede, they make atonement, they minister. Our high priest is still interceding in our behalf. The battle is not over. So is the Plan of Salvation complete? Has the salvation of the human race been consummated? No, because his kingdom on earth has not happened yet. The spiritual kingdom, yes, but the physical kingdom will come someday and so people who try to make out the church to be a cult because we believe Jesus is our high priest as though we don’t believe in the completed work, well, that’s not fair. Now, I’ve got to go on to be fair. We believe there is a temple in heaven. We believe that Jesus is our high priest as there was a temple on earth where there were daily sacrifices and then a final cleansing of the sanctuary we believe that there is a final cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven. If the blood of lambs symbolically stored the sins of the people in the earthly temple, and that’s all a symbol, how much more does the blood of Christ atone for our sins? In the heavenly sanctuary he is interceding.

The Bible says we come boldly before the throne of grace because of Christ. Now, we believe that, and this is some of the nonsense that I hear on the Internet. People say, “Seventh-day Adventists believed that the Lord was coming in 1844.” There were no Seventh-day Adventists in 1844. That’s more of that wrestling-mania theology that you hear out there. You’ll hear all kinds of absurd things. I heard someone say William Miller got his dates about 1844 from Ellen White. I just read that yesterday. Just nonsense! Anyway I don’t want to spend too much time on that. Many Christians, the great Advent movement has nothing to do with Seventh-day Adventists. There were Christians from all different backgrounds believed that Jesus was coming in 1844. Obviously he did not come. Based on the prophesies in Daniel they thought it pointed to that date. They later found that the date was right, the event was wrong. It’s called the Great Disappointment. Now, when Jesus died on the cross in 31AD, did he die at the right time? Did the disciples misunderstand the nature of his first coming? Were they deeply disappointed? Did that mean that they weren’t disciples? No, it’s just human nature. It’s typical. And so during the time of the Great Disappointment they had nothing wrong with the date. They had the event wrong. They later found out that the sanctuary being cleansed had nothing to do with the second coming of Jesus. It had to do with two things. God was going to cleanse his sanctuary on earth his people from the false teachings of the dark ages.

Daniel said the truth would be cast to the ground and that’s what happened. It would be exalted again and Christ began his final work as our high priest in heaven. You enter the last church which is called the Church of Leodasea. That means a judging of the people. And follow this, when Christ comes is he giving out his rewards when he comes? Does it make sense to you that some aspect of the judgment takes place before he comes? It’s just clear logic. It has to. If he is rewarding people with either life or death when he comes some aspect of the judgment takes place before he comes. The Bible tells us about it. Ezekiel 9 tells about a judgment that begins among the house of God. Then Peter quotes that. He says, “Judgment must begin at the house of God.” So there is a judgment that takes place of the church prior to the second coming. We believe this. If people think that that identifies you as a cult, well, I’m sorry you feel that way. I think it’s a very clear Bible teaching that Jesus is our High Priest. When he ceases his intercession we’re all in big trouble. We need to have our names written in the book of life because he’s coming back. There will be a great time of trouble. Another…I want to read on. I could go on and on about each of these, but I will run out of time and I want to see if I can get this in one message.

The Bible alone. Some people say a cult is identified because they do not base their teachings on the scriptures. Have you heard that? And people say, “Seventh-day Adventists do not base their teachings on the scriptures, they base them on Ellen White.” I get so angry sometimes and I know I shouldn’t. Pray for me. I listen to Harold Campion, I’m going to tell you his name, on the radio and I hear him say the most outrageous things I’ve ever heard. Seventh-day Adventists base their teachings on the visions that Ellen White had because she got hit on the head with a rock. Let’s admit it, friends, that’s kind of a mean thing to say. It’s not at all true. We base our teachings on the Bible. I do public evangelism.

I go from start to finish, twenty-seven, twenty-four, thirty-two nights I’ll do meetings and it’s all right out of the Bible, scripture after scripture about what the beliefs are so you can understand why I want to reach through the radio speaker and grab him by the tie. It’s because it’s just not true, but I’m helpless. I can’t stop him from spreading those ridiculous things. Let me read it to you. Here’s what our beliefs are, black and white, blue and white. I believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and that it constitutes the only rule of faith and practice for the Christian. That’s our belief. The Bible only. The Bible constitutes the only rule for faith and practice for the Christian. We base our teachings on the Bible. And every teaching that we believe, I believe I can support it from the scriptures. And so this is just one of the, another example of the crazy things that you’re going to hear out there.

Now, what does Ellen White say about that? I’m going to actually quote her. I know that might seem like circular logic, but does she say support your teachings from me or from the Bible? This is mostly quoted from one chapter in one book out of hundreds of books I could have picked. It was so clear that that’s all I needed. “By the testimony of the scriptures every statement, every miracle must be tested. None but those who have fortified their minds with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict. It is the first and the highest duty of every rational being to learn from the scriptures what is truth and then to walk in the light and encourage others to follow his example. We should day by day study the Bible diligently weighing every thought comparing scripture” with my writings. That isn’t what she says. “…comparing scripture with scripture. We should exert all powers of the mind in the study of the scriptures and should task the understanding to comprehend as far as mortal can the deep things of God.” This is one excerpt from the chapter on the scriptures in the book Great Controversy. And that theme is found all through her writings. Never does she say, now you check all the Bible by me. She doesn’t say that.

She says get your teaching from the Bible. And so these people out there that are just kind of winging it and saying, “Yeah, the Seventh-day Adventists they base their teachings on Ellen White.” They don’t know what they’re talking about. Granted, remember what I said, there are kooks in every church and we have some that embarrass us, Amen? And so you’re going to meet people out there that will carry around an armload of Ellen White books and they don’t know anything about the Bible. There are people out of balance in every church. There are Lutherans that only read Luther. There are Methodists that only read Wesley. There are Baptists that only read Calvin and Church of Christ that only read Campbell, but I’m not going to judge those denominations by some extreme people in their fellowship. Everybody has that, isn’t that right? You just have to feel bad and pray for them, but you can’t control that. I want to read the next one.

Point number six: I accept the Ten Commandments as still binding upon Christians. Legalists! Here’s my question. Is obedience legalism? You’ll be interested to know that in the foundational teachings of most major denominations Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic they all say the same thing. Did you know that? Some of their people don’t know that. And if you start quoting it…you know, actually let me read this whole thing then I’ll back up and explain. I accept the Ten Commandments as still binding upon Christians. That word just means that we have an obligation to obey them. Friends, you’ve got two choices. God gave us the Ten Commandments. He either wants you to obey them or he doesn’t care. Where are you going to land? What’s your vote? You got two choices. Does he want us to keep them or not? Look at where you’re going to end up if you say, “He doesn’t care.”

Have you read them lately? Of course they’re binding upon Christians. And it's my purpose by the power of Christ, not on our own strength, through the indwelling of Christ to keep God’s Law including the fourth commandment which requires the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord. Now, that’s where people have a problem with the law. You could go to most churches in town and stand in the pulpit, I know, I’ve done it, and preach a sermon and talk about honoring your father and your mother, you could talk about not stealing, you could talk about fidelity and marriages, right? Couldn’t you do that in most churches? And they’d say, “Amen!” You don’t have anybody get up and say, “You legalist! What are you telling me don’t commit adultery? Legalist!” You don't ever hear that, do you? They'd get kicked right out of the church. You could preach on, in most churches, nine out of the Ten Commandments. One church you can't preach about idolatry, it makes them uncomfortable. But most churches you could reach on nine of the commandments and they’d just embrace you. Preach about the Sabbath, “Legalism! We’re not under the law!”

You see the inconsistency there? The only reason that this baptismal vow expands is because many people, “Yes, I believe in the ten commandments.” You identify the Sabbath and they go, “Wait! wait a second here. What are you talking about?” And so we just spell it out so there’s no confusion that we include the fourth among the ten. Does that make you a cult you have the audacity to include the fourth among the other ten? Is that really fair? Well, I don’t think it’s fair. I think it’s consistent. I don't think it's radical to say that if God blessed it back in Genesis, if they’re going to keep it in Heaven, if the disciples and Jesus kept it, if God’s people in the Old Testament kept it, it’s consistent for Christians to keep the Sabbath today. I don’t think that makes any one a cult. Some people say, “Well, you talk only about the Sabbath.” That’s not true. Do we talk about the Sabbath more than other commandments? Probably. You know why?

It’s one of the most obvious commandments that Christians are neglecting, so what choice do you have? You know, I’ve worked among other peoples of the world and depending on where you are in the world you have to accentuate certain teachings because that’s where their need is. Some places where I go I need to talk over and over again about the validity of the Bible and then there’s other places in the world… We went to Cameroon, Africa and they all believed the Bible. We had no problem. We didn’t even take a sermon on it. Took it, took it right out of our evangelistic series and we put in stuff that they were having problems with. And so you've got to figure out where the need is and that's where you scratch. Let's face it, a lot of Christians have “hid their eyes” as the Bible says from God’s Sabbath and so you need to accentuate something that’s being neglected like that.

Vow number seven: I look forward to the soon coming of Jesus as the blessed hope. Now this is where we get the word Adventist, the word Advent. That’s where you get the word. It means the coming of. Adventure is the coming of a venture. Advent means the coming of and here it’s Adventists are the ones who believe in the coming of Christ. I look forward to the soon coming of Jesus as the blessed hope in my heart. I am determined to be ready to meet the Lord and do all in my power to witness to his loving salvation and by life and word help others be ready for his glorious appearing. Have we come to the place where Christians who believe in the imminent return of Jesus are a cult? That we want to be ready and help others get ready? I think, a matter of fact, as you look around look at all the attention that's been drawn to the second coming through this Left Behind phenomenon. Most of the Christian world doesn’t think you’re weird for saying you believe in the second coming of Jesus. I just hope Seventh-day Adventists have not lost that sense of urgency. Amen? We need to believe. Revelation 22:20, this is how the Bible ends. “He who testifies these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly, even so, come Lord Jesus.’” So is it unbiblical to say you believe that he’s coming soon? It’s the last words of Christ to us. “Get ready. I’m coming quickly.” So that’s number seven.

Let’s look at number eight. This will be of interest. I accept the Biblical teaching of spiritual gifts and I believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church. OK now what is that mean? You know, as I go through the vows and I prepare people for baptism and membership to the church I always like to ask them, do you understand that? Do you know what that means? And sometimes their eyes glaze over when I get to that one. If you go to Revelation 12:17 it tells you “the dragon was wroth with the woman and he goes to make war with the remnant of her seed that keep the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus.” And so this concept of the remnant having two characteristics keeping the commandments and having the testimony of Jesus.

Now, what does that mean? You go to Revelation 19:10 it says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy.” Here it identifies God’s church in the last days. That’s why they’re called the remnant, the remainder, at the end. The devil knows he has a short time. He has great wrath the Bible says he knows his time is short. Where is his wrath because his time is short? Against the church that keeps the commandments, they’ve got the law and they’ve got the prophets. They believe in the word of God. They believe in the gifts of the spirit and that would include the gift of prophesy. One of the characteristics of God’s church in the last days is that it believes in the word of God, it has the gifts of the spirit including a modern example of the gift of prophecy. Most Seventh-day Adventists used to believe that that gift was demonstrated in the life of Ellen White. I still believe that. I believe that she did have this prophetic gift. Does that mean that you put her writings and her things on the same level as the Bible? No, she never recommended that. Does that mean God does not speak through people? Friends, think about it and be fair.

Every reform revival movement they never come because some committee got together and said, “Let’s start a revival.” God raises people up. When you think of the Lutheran church what individual pops into your mind? Martin Luther. Was he the only reformer? No, he was someone special that God raised up, and I believe that God raised him up to bring the church light-years ahead of where they were to get people back to the Bible. I mean, Martin Luther was a pivotal point in history and God used people. When you think of the revival that came to Britain and America through Wesley and Whitfield you’ve got the whole Methodist denomination. God uses people. And again I already talked about Calvin and Campbell and some of these others. That doesn’t mean that everything was pure about what these guys said. I believe that the gift of Ellen White was even beyond that. Now, I’ll tell you why people are suspicious. As soon as you say, “I’ve had a dream or a vision...”

I’ll just admit it, friends. You know I travel a lot and I’ll admit it sometimes people come up to me and say, “Pastor Doug, I had a dream I want to share with you.” I start looking for a way of escape right then. “Really? Could you hold that thought just a minute?” Because am I the only one? Show me your hands. If you meet people in a religious circle and they say, “I’ve got a vision.” What’s your first thought? We’ve got a kook here. Isn’t that right? And all the council that we’ve got in the Bible about be ware of false prophets in the last days there will be many false Christ, false prophets. It would have been very easy for Jesus to say, “In the last days don’t believe any prophets,” but he didn’t say that. He said that there will be a lot of false ones, but does the Bible teach us that the gift of prophesy will still be evident in the last days? Yeah. I believe that. Now, keep in mind in this baptismal vow do you find Ellen White’s name anywhere?

I read it to you just a minute ago. I’ll read it one more time. This is point number eight: I accept the Biblical teaching of spiritual gifts and I believe that the gift of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church. That’s just stating the obvious from the Bible. When you look at the gifts of the spirit in I Corinthians is prophesy listed among the gifts? How many of you believe that the gifts of the spirit are still available to God’s church? Then why do we get so blown away when someone would dare to have the audacity to say, “I believe I have the gift of prophesy”? It scares us. First of all, she never said that. She said the Lord has given me a message. The Lord has given me a dream, and was extremely reluctant. The bottom line was Jesus said, “You’ll know them by their fruits.” One thing I have seen in many of the false churches and the cults their personal lives were in disarray. Their families were in disarray. Mary Baker-Eddy, her husband divorced her. George Tays-Russell, wife sued for divorce. I said that wrong. It’s Charles. Charles Russell. Joseph Smith had too many wives.

They ended up killing him for that. You go down the line. Ellen White, her sons joined her in her work. She never remarried after she lost her first and only husband. Her family supported her in the ministry to her dying day continued and they said all through her life and even after she was gone she was a consistent Christian, she practiced what she preached. Third grade education and is the fourth most translated author in the world. Third grade education. Well, that’s noteworthy. Considering she had a third grade education through her council she said, “The Lord has shown me that we should have printed material circling the world like the leaves of autumn.” And through her council and her advice we now have printed material circulating the world like the leaves of autumn. She said we need a medical work going around the world and through her council saying we should start a school here, we should do it this way and do it over here, third grade education.

Now we have the second largest medical work of any Christian denomination, the only one that, the first of the protestants. The only ones that have more hospitals than the Seventh-day Adventists are the Catholics. She said, “We need schools.” I think we’ve got the second largest Christian education system in the world. Third grade education. And you know what the critics say, you get online? They say, “Well, Ellen White got hit in the head with a rock when she was a little girl and that’s why she had these visions.” Well, I’ve got news for you, friends. She did get hit in the face with a rock when she was a young girl at school, broke her nose. I’ve had my nose broke. I never had any visions. The doctors here among us know that you probably don’t get hit on the nose and start having visions. It hurts like crazy and you can bleed to death, but you gotta get hit somewhere else to have the visions. But if it means I can get hit on the head and lead the way she lead then, Lord, throw a rock at me. Amen? I mean, you hear the most outrageous, cruel, ridiculous things that were said and yes, every great religious movement God has raised people up, but one of the things that is a misunderstanding is that the leader of the Seventh-day Adventist church was Ellen White.

God used many different people who were leaders in this movement. And Ellen White learned a lot from Joseph Bates, from her husband James White. You’ve got J.N. Andrews and Loughborough and just there’s a broad spectrum of spirit filled leaders and you read the writings of these people. They knew their Bibles a hundred times better than the average Christian today. These folks laid an incredible foundation for this movement. They had so much Bible knowledge that many of them had just about the whole Bible memorized. J.N. Andrews, someone asked him one time if he had the whole Bible memorized. He said, “No, but if the New Testament was destroyed I could reproduce it.” He had the entire New Testament memorized. These people knew the Word of God, and they laid a good foundation for this movement based upon the scriptures. Something else you need to know is they all came from many different religious backgrounds and they said, “Let’s put aside our differences and let’s unite on the Word of God.” And they would spend entire nights in prayer. When was the last time you did that? They would spend all night in prayer with their Bibles open on their knees trying to understand what is truth. That’s very rare these days. And so we read through vow number eight and it did not say that our church is based upon the teachings of Ellen White, did it?

Number nine: I believe in church organization. It’s my purpose to support the church by my tithes and offerings and through personal effort and influence. Is tithe and offering a Biblical teaching? Now there are some people that say that it is not for New Testament Christians, but really there is nothing in the New Testament that says that it’s not still in effect. Matter of fact, there are things in the New Testament where Jesus said, in Matthew 23:23, speaking of the Sadducees and Pharisees that were paying tithe on their herb gardens he said, “These things you aught not to have left undone,” meaning the tithe as well. And so there is nothing in the New Testament that says we shouldn’t pay tithe. I don’t think a church is classified as a cult. Are there a lot of other churches that believe in tithe and offering? Keep in mind there are some churches that police their people to see if they’re paying tithe. We don’t do that. We believe that it’s up to the individual, but that’s not a cult teaching.

I believe my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I’ll honor God by caring for it by avoiding the use of that which is harmful, by abstaining from all unclean foods the use, manufacture, sale of alcohol or tobacco in any of its forms and from the use or misuse of narcotics and drugs. To take care of our bodies, is that a cult teaching? Matter of fact, you know why there was prohibition back in the thirties? Because the Christians in the temperance movement was talking about the evils of alcohol and how it defiles the body temple. You ought to listen to some of those old sermons by Billy Sunday. Any of you ever dug any of those out? You’ll find them online right next to the wrestling information.

No, there’s some great sermons by Billy Sunday and some of these other evangelists that you should read. Powerful! They weren’t Seventh-day Adventists. And now today… you know it used to be 50 years ago when Seventh-day Adventists said that nicotine was a poison people looked at us like we were a cult because a lot of Christians did smoke back then. Today with all that we know are we finding out that modern science is catching up with the church? It is a deadly poison. They figured it’s the number one avoidable practice in North America to prevent disease is smoking. And so for a Christian to say their body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I mean does it hurt your witness if someone says I have been saved by Jesus and you blow cigarette smoke in their face? You look like you’re still addicted. What about the clean and unclean foods? Well, first of all, there are a lot of people in the world that still believe those are still in effect because the distinction between the clean and unclean was not a Mosaic law, it was given to Noah. Now here this is a test. How many people here are related to Noah? Let me see your hands.

That should be everybody unless an alien dropped you off we all came from Noah. God made a distinction between clean and unclean animals for Noah. Why do you think Jews still observe it? Even Moslems. Some Christians are mocked by Moslems because they say, “You eat those pigs!” People eat every part of the pig except the squeal and they’d package that if they could too, right? I heard someone say that this week and I thought that was funny. They’d package the squeal if they could. So we believe… are you a cult because you believe your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and you want to avoid the obvious practices that are bad for your health? “Whoever defiles that temple him will God destroy.” It’s a Bible teaching, New Testament Bible teaching.

Point number eleven: I know and understand the fundamental Bible principals as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist church and it’s my purpose by the grace of God to order my life in harmony with these principals. All that’s saying is I understand these fundamental teachings, and I not only want to understand them with my mind, but by the grace of God I want to follow them. Otherwise you fill your church with people who are hearers of the Word but not doers. A lot of people have been welcomed in to different churches because of mental assent but in life they’re not practicing. We invite people to be doers of the Word as well… and that’s, we’re asking for their intention to be doers of the Word. Isn’t that what we read?

Point number twelve: I accept the New Testament teaching of baptism by immersion and desire to be so baptized as a public expression of my faith in Christ and his forgiveness of my sins. Is that a Bible teaching? Yeah, of just baptism by immersion? If it’s not then all the Baptists are cults. But you can’t… you look at these basic teachings and you can find other orthodox Christian denominations that embrace all different aspects. Well, there are a lot of other things that people talk about.

Let me read number thirteen so we can finish this part of it off. I accept the Seventh-day Adventist church is the remnant church of Bible prophesy and believe that people from every nation, race and language are invited and accepted into its fellowship and I desire to be a member in this local congregation of this world church. One thing I like is it’s not an exclusive church. It welcomes people from every nation, tribe, race, tongue into its fellowship. Amen? Now some people choke on the concept that it sounds exclusive because it says we believe we’re the remnant church. If you look in Revelation 12 again it says “the dragon makes war with the remnant.” The word remnant means the last day church. It doesn’t mean that Seventh-day Adventists believe they’re the only ones that are saved. One of the things that attracted me to the Seventh-day Adventist church is the teaching that the greatest part of Christ’s true followers are in the fellowship of many other churches.

Matter of fact, if you read in the book Great Controversy that’s what it says word for word. We believe the greatest part, not a few, the majority of genuine followers, believers in God, they’ve got his spirit, are not in our denomination. They’re in the fellowship of other churches. But we believe that as the Lord comes through prophesy there’s going to be a shaking and Jesus said there’s going to be one shepherd in one fold when he comes back. You’ll either have the mark of the beast or the seal of God. Isn’t that what the Bible teaches? There’s going to be a polarizing going on and people from all different backgrounds, all different religions and fellowships are welcome and invited into this fellowship. I sometimes regret that we are talked about as a denomination. I always prefer to use the term we’re a movement. I just want to see how many of you who are here today come from a background other than Seventh-day Adventist? Show me your hands. Lift your hands up. Look at that. This is an evidence of prophesy being fulfilled. We’re not just a biological club. It is something that is drawing and attracting people from many different backgrounds.

Now there are some other things that set us aside. They’re not specifically in the baptismal vows. Our view about death and hell is a little bit unorthodox. Have you run into that before? Compared to other churches. But I believe it’s what the apostles believed. Traditionally churches believed that when you die you go right to heaven or right to hell before the resurrection and before the judgment. We don’t believe the Bible teaches that. Let me just…you know I could read a number of scriptures but I don’t have time for them all. Jesus says in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear them who kill the body but cannot kill the soul but rather fear him who will destroy soul and body in hell.” We believe in hell. Have you ever heard people say, “Seventh-day Adventists, you don’t believe in hell?” Have you heard that? “You’re a cult. You don’t believe in hell.” It’s not true. We believe in hell. We believe in a lake of fire. It’s a very hot lake of fire.

Make our Baptists feel better. The wicked are going to burn in it. We believe in that. We believe they’re punished according to their works, and that’s the key. If everybody burns forever then how do they get different punishment? See the Bible says that the wicked will perish, they’ll consume, second death, be devoured, burn up. These are all Bible terms and are the dead in heaven or hell yet? No, they don’t get their rewards until the judgment. The living know they’ll die, the dead don’t know anything. Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep.” After being dead four days he raises Lazarus. Lazarus has no comment about having been up in heaven or in hell or Abraham’s bosom or anywhere else. There’s silence because the living know they’ll die, but the dead don’t know anything. Yes, that’s what we believe. Does that make us unorthodox? You know, John Stott, how many of you have heard of the British theologian John Stott? He’s written some beautiful things on theology. He’s one of the most renowned, respected scholars in the Christian church, in the orthodox church. He believes the same way we do about death and hell. Did you know that?

There’s a lot of them out there. Pentecostal, even some Baptists, believe it or not, Methodists that understand this because there’s so much scripture on it that people can’t help but notice it. And so there’s quite a movement among various… I was… there’s a church here in town, I probably should not name, they’ve got several thousand members. I had lunch with one of their members the other day and as we were talking about the differences in our beliefs I said, “Well, you probably believe different than we do about hell and death.” And they said, “No, our church” it’s a Pentecostal church. He says, “We believe just like you because it’s in the Bible.” So that doesn’t make you a cult. Why would that make you a cult? It’s a doctrinal understanding about the state of the dead. Is that a cultish view? Does it make you bizarre and sacrifice chickens or anything like that? No, it’s a mental thing.

Something else that people struggle with… I’m racing here. People choke on the idea that Seventh-day Adventists believe that another title for Jesus, another name for Jesus is Michael the Archangel. Have you run into that? I’ll tell you why. There are cults that believe that prior to the incarnation Jesus was an angel, that he is a created being, he was once an angel, that he became an angel to save angels and after he got done saving all the angels he could then he became a human to save people. That’s not us. We don’t believe that. We simply believe that when you find Michael the Archangel in the Bible (he’s not always called Archangel) that is one of the preexistent titles for Christ. It doesn’t mean Jesus has wings. He is not a cherubim. He is not an angel in that sense. The word angel means messenger in the Bible. Here’s a quote from Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry is the most respected, quoted Bible scholar from the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

Spurgeon quotes him frequently. He says, “Michael signifies who is like God.” That’s what the name means. “And the name with the title of the Great Prince points to our divine savior.” That’s Jesus. Spurgeon says about Henry, “First among the mighty for general usefulness we are bound to mention the man whose name is a household word Matthew Henry.” So because we are in the camp of tens of thousands of other Christians who believe that “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of” what? “the Archangel.” The Lord has the voice of the Archangel. You got that? And so there’s so much scripture on it. Michael will stand up, the great prince that stands for the children of my people. Does it make you a cult because you believe that this? He’s also called the Wonderful Councilor, Everlasting Father. He’s got many titles. He’s called the servant. He’s called the branch. That’s all we’re saying. This is just one of his titles. Jesus is not an angel. We don’t believe that. You all understand what I’m talking about here.

Now, you know one of the most common misconceptions… oh, I’m running out of time! How late is it? Oh, it’s getting late. Oh… I can start hearing your stomachs growl and that’s how my indicator of how much time I’ve got left. This is really important, friends. I’ll just take a moment before I tie this off. People say that we’re a cult because Ellen White got hit on the head and had visions and then she copied her writings. Have you heard that? I’m trying to cover as much as I can. That is one of the most absurd things. I went online to find out the examples, I’ve done this before, of where Ellen White supposedly copied her writings. I wanted to laugh and yell at the same time. Laugh because it was ridiculous. Yell because I was mad that nobody else saw what I saw. They said, “Ellen White” and this whole website is dedicated… don’t look at this website, please. “Ellen White copied her writings from her husband who copied his writings from J. N. Andrews and she lied.” And they start citing examples, and they got example after example and it shows how in her book Desire of Ages or Great Controversy she quotes somebody then they’ll go to James White’s book who is quoting the same person, the same quote. Then they go to J. N. Andrews, they say, “Same exact quote. This is proof she copied them because they wrote it first.” Help me.

When you quote somebody isn’t it supposed to be the same every time? And they go through her books and they show all these places where she’s quoting and then they go to James White and he quoted the same people, quoted them the same way. She copied! The most absurd examples I’ve seen or I’ll tell you some of the others they made a big deal out of. She was in Australia writing The Desire of Ages, incredible memory. She had a great mind. She studied. She would be writing something and she would take a phrase from another writer that was in her head. I do that all the time when I’m preaching. Are you aware that out of the four hundred and four verses in Revelation two hundred and seventy-eight can be found other places in the Bible? And John, not at one time, gives credit to any other Bible writer. Is he a plagiarist? Ten percent of everything Jesus said he’s quoting the Old Testament and he often gives no credit at all to Moses or Amos or Malachi. Is Jesus a plagiarist? What she did was not even like that. She would remember a phrase that she’d seen in a book and truth is truth no matter where you find it. Paul did that. Paul even quoted Greek poets, isn’t that right? Does that make him a plagiarist? The interesting thing is that not one person has ever sued Ellen White or her estate for plagiarism. You know why?

They have no case and they know it. It’s just slander is all it is, just ridiculous slander. Now as we tie this off I want you to keep something important in mind. What did Paul call the Christian church when he first began to kill Christians? Did he consider them a sect? A cult? And he was trying to kill them all. He thought they were the epitome of evil. How can someone so brilliant as Paul be so deceived? Finally Jesus had to hit them between the eyes, get his attention, and say, “Paul, I’m the Jesus you’re killing.” Later Paul was accused of being a cultist by the religious mainstream. Acts 24:5, “For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissention among all the Jews throughout the world, a renegade of the cult of the Nazarenes.” Some places translate it “the sect of the Nazarenes, the heresy of the Nazarenes.” But Nazarenes was another name for what group? The Christian church, you know, Peter, James and John. Good company to be in.

You know what that’s telling me? If you’re following the Bible is the devil going to call you a cult? Are you with me? Acts 28:22… oh, no, I want to go… this was our scripture reading. Paul said, “But this I confess to you that according to the way that they call a cult a sect I do worship God. I confess it! The God of my fathers believing…” Why do I worship the way I do? “Believing the things that are written in the law and the prophets, the Word of God.” I can’t help it. I’m sorry, you can call me what you want but I’m going to follow the Bible. That’s what Paul said. The way you call a cult. That’s what he said. This is how I worship God. Acts 28:22, “But we desire to hear from you,” the Jews in Rome said, “what you think concerning this sect for we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” This is the condition of the church back when Jesus came the first time. What do you think the condition of the church will be when he comes back?

Do you think we’re going to be popular? Jesus said, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you for so they did of the false prophets” and false churches. God forbid. I see movements where some of our leaders would like to change things so we could be more accepted, more popular. No, we’re not moving any of the foundation stones, friends. We have a good foundation. We’re going to follow the Word of God. Jesus was accused of being a cult leader. Matthew 11:18, Jesus said, “for John came neither eating nor drinking and they said he had a demon,” speaking of John the Baptist. John preached it straight. They said he was devil possessed. That’s sort of like being… that’s as bad as a cult. John 8:48-49, “Then the Jews answered and said to Jesus, ‘Do we not rightly say that you’re a Samaritan and you have a demon?’ Jesus answered and said, ‘I don’t have a demon, but I honor my father and you dishonor me.’” Luke 11:15, “But some of them said, ‘He casts out devils by the power of Beelzebub the prince of the demons.’” Isn’t that slander?

Isn’t that saying that you’re not of God, you’re of the devil? And when someone accuses your church of being a cult, when Christians accuse your church of being a cult what are they really saying? You’re spirit lead or devil lead? Isn’t that what they’re accusing you of? Of being lead by the wrong spirit. John 15 my last scripture. “If the world hates you keep in mind it hated me before it hated you. If you are of the world the world would love its own.” You know what that tells me? If we are being called a cult we might be doing something right. “If you are of the world the world would love its own. Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I have said to you. A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, he says, if they called me a devil, if they accuse my teachings of being a cult, they’re going to do it to you. “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they’ll persecute you. If they kept my word they’d keep yours also. The bottom line is, friends, are we following his word?

If we’re trying to find out what teachings are popular in the world or even among other professed Christians we’re never going to make everybody happy. All we can do is say, what does the Bible teach? And let the chips fall where they will. I’ll confess to you. I like to be liked as much as you do. How many of you like to be liked? Come on. Some of you…oh, there. Sure you do. Come on. We all like to be liked. I would like to be part of a denomination that was maybe more accepted so you don’t meet with so much resistance when you preach, but if it means not following Jesus and his Word I can’t do that, friends. I’ve got to follow the teachings of Christ because he says otherwise, he says, “If we’re following the traditions of men instead of the commandments of God we don’t belong to him.” And so you know you let the chips fall wherever they need to. He said, “He that hears these words of mine and does them is building on the rock.” When Christ comes, friends, I don’t want to be building on the sand. I want to be standing up for Jesus no matter how unpopular I might be and building on the rock of his Word. Amen?

If that’s your prayer reach for your hymnals. We’ll sing 618 “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” You can’t sing that sitting down.

Before we sing the last verse. If some of you at times have felt a level of discomfort in being associated with something that the world might think of as a cult I want you to remember this is what the world thought of Jesus. When he came the first time, not only among the Jews but in the Roman Empire they were looked upon as weird, peculiar, strange. Nero spread rumors that the Christians were cannibals because when they had the Lord’s Supper they said, “This is his body and this is his blood.” And so rumors were spreading that Christians were cannibals. This is the devils tactic through his advertising to make the truth of God as unpleasant, as undesirable as possible. But you know what the truth is. God has given us his word and we want to follow him no matter what the world thinks. If you’re looking for doing what’s popular you won’t be in the kingdom, friends, because I can guarantee you the day is going to come where we’re all going to stand alone for Jesus. We have to know that we’re following him. We have to stand up for him now. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Amen? If you want to say, “Lord, by your grace I’m going to stand for you” lift your hands to him now. Let’s sing verse four.

Father in Heaven, we’ve sensed your presence here today as we’ve talked about something that maybe we’ve often thought but have had trouble sorting out and articulating. And I pray that we will be determined to follow your truth and your teaching no matter what the world thinks. Help us not to be swayed by popular opinion, but to keep out eyes fixed upon Jesus and rooted in the rock of his word. In his name we pray. Amen.

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