Friday, June 01, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #9 June 2, 2018

JUNE 2, 2018
            In April, 1943, on a moonless night off the coast of Huelva, Spain, an already dead Glyndwr Michael floated into history as "the man who never was."
            For your interest, I will briefly recap a few of the highlights of this amazing story. The Allies had mostly finished fighting in the African arena and needed to move their troops and war machinery to the European front. They considered Sicily to be the best place to invade, but the Axis realized the same and it was heavily guarded by their forces. Although the Allies felt that they could take it regardless that it would be with great loss of life. Therefore, they hatched a plan (nearly as crazy as it was plausible) to have an already dead man wash up on a beach carrying top secret messages implying that the Allies were about to invade a different location. Finding a body and getting permission to use that body from the bereft family proved to be a challenge all the while making sure that the cause of death would look like drowning. Each and every detail from the clothes he wore to the additional letters he carried were involved in this deception. Even the location for this ruse was chosen based on the tidal system that would bring the body to the beach and the reputation of a meticulous German spy stationed there who the Allies could trust to find every detail of Michael's possessions played important parts in the plan. Delivery of the body and attached briefcase was carried out by a special forces submarine in the pre-dawn hours of a dark night off the coast of Huelva, Spain, and Glyndwr Michael effectively "lived" to die again. Through the expert work of the spy ferreting out the "facts," eventually the German leaders believed the letters he was carrying. Some have suggested that Hitler made the final determination of the "truth" of the information and gave the order to move their forces to another location allowing the Allied army to invade Sicily. Years later when all the classified information surfaced, and the story leaked out, the events associated with "the man who never was" have been called the most successful deception in military history: Operation Mincemeat.
            As we consider this week's lesson focus I would like to use Operation Mincemeat as a helpful metaphor. Of course, I must remove the story from its historic bearings of Axis and Allies and apply it to the spiritual realm. So, after stripping this metaphor of the countries and people involved we can see that it is a story of intentional deception. That should be no surprise. Wars on this sinful earth are all fought by deception. Deception is trying to keep people from the truth by any means necessary because the truth is so important. According to Winston Churchill, "in wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." Andrei Sakharov said it this way, "I've always thought that the most powerful weapon in the world was the bomb and that's why I gave it to my people, but I've come to the conclusion that the most powerful weapon in the world is not the bomb but it's the truth." So, wars continue on earth in an effort to define and control truth. Yet, the heavenly Great Controversy that rages in each of our hearts is about truth as well: the truth of God's character. Satan will do whatever he can to keep us from believing God and His love, usually with lies which fill his arsenal.
            So, this week's lesson is looking at some deceptions which the enemy of our souls will use with adept accuracy as he fights to the very end to secure as many humans as he can in his failed rebellion. Adventists around the world will study the normal deceptions that we have historically shared since the founding of our denomination: denying the reality of Satan, false Christs and prophets, the immortality of the soul, changing of the Sabbath, evolution, and the counterfeit trinity. Knowing that a high percentage of Adventists (more than 50%), outside of the USA, Australia and European countries, have been in the church less than 10 years and are new to our teachings, the Sabbath School lessons play an important role in educating our members and shoring up our distinctive beliefs. The study this week will be an important one; I pray that you are blessed.
            However, I would like to take this readership in an additional direction, one that I see exhibited clearly in Operation Mincemeat. It seems that we often focus on the deceptions faced outside of our community of faith. The study this week discusses the doctrinal points that we often argue about with others as we witness or defend our reason for existence. But, my question is: what about the lies finely crafted for the Remnant people who "know" the truth? Is there a deception that we need to guard against so that we ourselves are not overrun by the enemy's forces in the last days? As we engage in the daily battles of life which according to both Ephesians 6:12 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 are not against people are we facing intentional demonic devices designed to move us away from the real territory to be defended, just as in Operation Mincemeat?
            Consider this statement from Desire of Ages. "The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists. The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory. The same danger still exists. Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it, therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Men may profess faith in the truth; but if it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly-minded, it is a curse to its possessors, and through their influence it is a curse to the world." Page 309 (Italics and bold type added)
            Those seem like unnecessarily strong words. But, has Ellen White identified the battle that Operation Mincemeat capitalizes on? Are we in danger of being deceived like that? Could Christianity really become a curse to the world?
            There is a book called Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. . . and Why It Matters. The reason for the title, Unchristian, is very telling. In their own words, it "reflects outsiders' most common reaction to the faith: they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be. . . . [and] for many people the Christian faith looks weary and threadbare. They admit they have a hard time actually seeing Jesus because of all the negative baggage that now surrounds him." (page 13) On page 27, Kinnaman and Lyons describe from their research the top six things that outsiders think of Christians. These are things that Christians have portrayed to the world. All of these six were above 60%, and the top three were closer to 80%. Imagine, 80% of outsiders think this when they meet a Christian, you're: 1) Hypocritical; 2) Too focused on getting converts; 3) Anti-homosexual; 4) Sheltered; 5) Too political; and 6) Judgmental. These are shocking and tragic perceptions! To describe it in more "on the street" language, one outsider said this, "Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn't believe what they believe." (page 24) Wow! Breathe again and consider those words, especially the last phrase. That is exactly what Ellen White said years ago.
            What a tragic statement to describe the people who are supposed to be known for following Christ. People who as their highest mark of commitment to Christ should be loving. Verses like John 13:35, Romans 13:8, Ephesians 4:12-16, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 4:7, all flood my mind at times like this and I cry out - what has happened? That perception of Christians is not what it should be! Apparently, in the eyes and experience of many in the USA, we have not been living like Christ. People are not seeing love exhibited in our lives. Operation Mincemeat has deceived us into moving our focus from a real experience with God day by day, which by the way, changes our hearts of stone into soft, and loving hearts, instead into the picture captured in Unchristian. How horribly tragic. That is an end time deception we need to seriously guard against. We need to recognize the effects of this deception creeping into our personal lives, families, Sabbath Schools, board meetings, churches, and even our organizational structures! When our opinions are more important than the person we are talking to we should recognize a dangerous shift in our focus. We would be wise to heed these words and perceptions.
            This week as you study, consider this paragraph: "The wondering crowd that pressed close about Christ realized no accession of vital power. But when the suffering woman put forth her hand to touch Him, believing that she would be made whole, she felt the healing virtue. So in spiritual things. To talk of religion in a casual way, to pray without soul hunger and living faith, avails nothing. A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Savior of the world, can never bring healing to the soul. The faith that is unto salvation is not a mere intellectual assent to the truth. He who waits for entire knowledge before he will exercise faith, cannot receive blessing from God. It is not enough to believe about Christ; we must believe in Him. The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Savior; which appropriates His merits to ourselves. Many hold faith as an opinion. Saving faith is a transaction by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. Genuine faith is life. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which the soul becomes a conquering power.Desire of Ages, page 347
            The only way to guard against this deception is to have the same monomaniac focus that David talks about in Psalms 27:4, "one thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple." Amidst the daily toils of life and the distracting tweets, news blasts (fake or real), shallow friendships, and fragmented lives we need to keep our hearts open and connected to God with that saving faith. Busyness is not godliness. Don't let anything distract you from a deep, vibrant life with Christ. We need that daily experience that will color every aspect of our lives.
            Let's keep our focus pristine and our hearts filled with the experiential knowledge of the character and love of God, then the devil won't make mincemeat of our faith in these last days!
~Bryan Gallant
If you would like to read more thoughts like this and have them applied to the mission challenges being faced by the world church you are welcome to download and read the extended version of the article that Bryan Gallant wrote for the Journal of Adventist Mission at: