THE IDOLATRY OF WORLDLINESS
Satan had utterly failed in his attack on the Exodus Movement through Balaam the false prophet. His attempted curses were turned into blessings and he was compelled to acknowledge that "there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel." His predictions of the success of the movement he was trying to curse included "the increase and prosperity of the true Israel of God to the close of time." —P.P. 447. But our wily foe is not easily defeated. When one plan fails he tries another. He has many weapons of warfare and his long experience has made him an expert in their use. His next attempt to keep Israel out of the promised land was by leading them into sin through the idolatry of worldliness.
Curse of God
The only curse that can affect God's people is the curse of sin. The transgressors of God's law place themselves under a divine curse. See Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Jeremiah 11:3; Malachi 3:9; Matthew 25:41. Peter declares that those who follow "the way of Balaam" are under a curse. 2 Peter 2:14, 15. It was at the suggestion of Balaam that Balak pursued a course that would bring the curse of God on Israel. "Balaam knew that the prosperity of Israel depended upon their obedience to God, and that there was no way to cause their overthrow but by seducing them into sin. He now decided to secure Balak's favor by advising the Moabites of the course to be pursued to bring a curse upon Israel. … The Moabites themselves were convinced that so long as Israel remained true to God, He would be their shield. The plan proposed by Balaam was to separate them from God by enticing them into Idolatry." —P.P. 451.
A Separate People
The success and prosperity of Israel depended on their remaining an entirely separate people from all other nations. As long as they remained distinct and separate from the world they could not be cursed or defied. See Numbers 23:8, 9. Moses warned the Israelites that worldly associations would lead to intermarriage and idolatry which would bring upon them the curse of God and final destruction. Deuteronomy 7:2-6. The promised blessing of God upon Abraham depended upon his making a complete separation from the world. Genesis 12:1-3. The favor of God and the blessings of the promised land depended on Israel's maintaining their complete separation from all other people. Exodus 33:16; Leviticus 20:24. Satan knew that if he could lead the children of Israel into worldly associations with the Moabites and Midianites he could bring upon them the curse of God and thus accomplish what he had failed to do through the curses of a false prophet.
"Balaam witnessed the success of his diabolical scheme. He saw the curse of God visited upon His people, and thousands falling under His judgments; but the divine justice that punished sin in Israel, did not permit the tempters to escape. In the war of Israel against the Midianites, Balaam was slain." —P.P. 451. Numbers 25:1-3. This experience happened on the banks of the Jordan when the Exodus Movement was on the very borders of the promised land when they were preparing to enter and take possession of Canaan. "Only the river Jordan lay between them and the promised land. … During the time of their encampment beside Jordan, Moses was preparing for the occupation of Canaan. In this work the great leader was fully employed; but to the people this time of suspense and expectation was most trying, and before many weeks had elapsed, their history was marred by the most frightful departures from virtue and integrity." —Id. 453, 454
"But amid these attractive surroundings they were to encounter an evil more deadly than mighty hosts of armed men or the wild beasts of the wilderness. That country, so rich in natural advantages, had been defiled by the inhabitants. … On every side were places noted for idolatry and licentiousness, the very names being suggestive of the vileness and corruption of the people. These surroundings exerted a polluting influence upon the Israelites. Their minds became familiar with the vile thoughts constantly suggested; their life of ease and inaction produced its demoralizing effect; and almost unconsciously to themselves, they were departing from God, and coming into a condition where they would fall an easy prey to temptation." —Id.
"At first there was little intercourse between the Israelites and their heathen neighbors. … At Balaam's suggestion, a grand festival in honor of their gods was appointed by the King of Moab, and it was secretly arranged that Balaam should induce the Israelites to attend. … Great numbers of the people joined him in witnessing the festivities. They ventured upon the forbidden ground, and were entangled in the snare of Satan. Beguiled with music and dancing, and allured by the beauty of the heathen vestals, they cast off their fealty to Jehovah. As they united in mirth and feasting, indulgence in wine beclouded their senses, and broke down the barriers of self-control. Passion had full sway; and having defiled their consciences by lewdness, they were persuaded to bow down to idols." —Id.
In taking the first step toward the world the Israelites started on a dangerous course that led to tragedy for thousands. Doubtless the leaders in this apostasy were of the "mixed multitude" who had always been the first to transgress. "One cherished sin will, little by little, debase the character, bringing all its nobler powers into subjection to the evil desire. The removal of one safe-guard from the conscience, the indulgence of one evil habit, one neglect of the high claims of duty, breaks down the defenses of the soul, and opens the way for Satan to come in and lead us astray. The only safe course is to let our prayers go forth daily from a sincere heart, as did David, 'Hold up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.'" —Id. 452. One step led to another until many of the Israelites had gone too far to return.
The Antitype. 1 Corinthians 10:6-8, 11
One of the last attacks of Satan on the Advent Movement will be with the same effective weapon. On the borders of the heavenly Canaan he will seek to defeat the purpose of God for modern Israel by leading them into the idolatry of worldliness. "It was by association with the idolaters and joining in their festivities that the Hebrews were led to transgress Gods law, and bring His judgments upon the nation. So now it is by leading the followers of Christ to associate with the ungodly and unite in their amusements, that Satan is most successful in alluring them into sin. … God requires of His people now as great a distinction from the world, in customs, habits, and principles, as He required of Israel anciently. If they faithfully follow the teachings of His Word, this distinction will exist; it cannot be otherwise. The warnings given to the Hebrews against assimilating with the heathen were not more direct or explicit than are those forbidding Christians to conform to the spirit and customs of the ungodly." —Id. 458.
"Many of the amusements popular in the world today, even with those who claim to be Christians, tend to the same end as did those of the heathen. There are indeed few among them that Satan does not turn to account in destroying souls. Through the drama he has worked for ages to excite passion and glorify vice. The opera, with its fascinating display and bewildering music, the masquerade, the dance, the card-table, Satan employs to break down the barriers of principle, and open the door to sensual indulgence. In every gathering for pleasure, where pride is fostered or appetite indulged, where one is led to forget God and lose sight of eternal interests, there Satan is binding his chains about the soul. … Those who would not fall a prey to Satan's devices must guard well the avenues of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, hearing that which will suggest impure thoughts. The mind should not be left to wander at random upon every subject that the adversary of souls may suggest. … This will require earnest prayer and unceasing watchfulness. We must be aided by the abiding influences of the Holy Spirit, which will attract the mind upward, and habituate it to dwell on pure and holy things. And we must give diligent study to the Word of God." —Id. 459, 460. Here is set forth the sound Christian principles which should guide us in choosing our reading, music, and amusements and which should regulate the conduct of our social gatherings.
Form of Idolatry
That worldliness or worldly conformity is a species of idolatry is evident. Worshiping and serving "the creature more than the Creator" is idolatry as set forth in Romans 1:25. "Idolatry is every worship that stops short of the Supreme." —New Standard Dictionary. "Creature" includes any object or person made by the Creator. "Man is forbidden to give to any other object the first place in his affections or his service. Whatever we cherish that tends to lesson our love for God or to interfere with the service due Him, of that do we make a god." —P.P. 305. Anything that is permitted to come between us and our Lord Jesus Christ is an idol. It may be a person whom we love more than we love God, or it may be other things, interests, objectives, or purposes which has first place in our service and affections and therefore constitutes idolatry. Covetousness is called idolatry in Ephesians 5:5.
Warning to Us. 1 Corinthians 10:7, 11, 14
Pleasure seeking is here called idolatry from which the members of the Advent Movement "upon whom the ends of the world are come" are told to "flee." The idols of the idolatry mentioned here are identified in the following statement in the Spirit of Prophecy: "The apostle's words of warning to the Corinthian church are applicable to all time, and are especially adapted to our day. By idolatry he means not only the worship of idols, but self-serving, love of ease, the gratification of appetite and passion. A mere profession of faith in Christ, a boastful knowledge of the truth, does not make a man a Christian." —A.A. 317. "Anything that men love and trust in instead of loving the Lord and trusting wholly in Him, becomes an idol, and is thus registered in the books of Heaven." —Vol. 5:250. Thus when we look at at the command of God, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," we must respond with the Psalmist, "They commandment is exceeding broad."
The very purpose of the Advent Movement is to call God's people out of modern Babylon, which embraces the whole world. Revelation 18:1-5. The acceptance of this call makes them a separate and distinct people from all nations; a people who "dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." Just before the final decree goes forth against God's remnant people who have gathered "together" out of Babylon they will be reckoned as "a nation not desired." See Zephaniah 2:1-3. They are "the meek of the earth" who have sought God's "righteousness" and "have kept His ordinances," and therefore they are "hid in the day of the Lord's anger." The final decree of death goes forth against the Advent people because they have "separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God" (Nehemiah 10:28), and are therefore a peculiar and separate people.
Cause of Persecution
Being "not of the world" because different from the world is the chief cause of persecution. John 15:18-20. Jesus was persecuted because He was not of the world and was therefore different. His godly life was a constant rebuke to sinners and it made them angry. He was hated, maligned, reproached, persecuted, and finally murdered, not because His enemies could find any fault in Him, but because they could not. It was because He was different and separate from them that they nailed Him to the cross. The same is true of His genuine disciples. If we are like Christ we will be different from the world and differences always arouses opposition. A genuine Christian is a constant rebuke to the selfish and proud hearted and makes them feel uncomfortable. His unselfish life offends them and stirs up their hatred and enmity which ends in persecution. Jesus prayed that His disciples be "not of the world" even as He was "not of the world" and while they remained in the world that they should be kept "from the evil," and "sanctified by the truth." See John 17:15-17.
Condition of Discipleship. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Without a complete separation from the world we cannot be God's people or enjoy His family of sons and daughters. He will not receive into His family those who are conformed to the world and to its customs. Only those who are "transformed by the renewing" of their minds and the cleansing of their hearts and habits can enter the Kingdom of God. Romans 12:1, 2. We are told that all who experience the new birth and become new creatures in Christ Jesus will "overcome the world" through faith. 1 John 5:4, 5. "The world" here represents "the sum of all the forces antagonistic to the spiritual life." It includes all of the worldly temptations and influences that lead to sin. For our encouragement Jesus said: "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33.
Our Eternal Destiny
The question of our relation to the world involves our eternal destiny. 1 John 2:14-17. We cannot love both God and the world, nor can we "serve two masters." In overcoming the world we must overcome "the wicked one" who is the prince, god and ruler of the world. All of the worldly lusts and temptations are embraced in the three here mentioned. Before these three the first Adam fell, but the second Adam met the same threefold temptation and conquered. Getting the victory over worldliness is a life and death question. "There must be far greater humility, a much greater distinction from the world, among Seventh-day Adventists, else God will not accept us, whatever our position or the character of the work in which we are engaged." —Vol. 7:296, 297.
The Seal of God. Ezekiel 9:1-7
"The leaven of godliness has not entirely lost its power. At the time when the danger and depression of the church are greatest, the little company who are standing in the light will be sighing and crying for the abominations that are done in the land. But more especially will their prayers arise in behalf of the church, because its members are doing after the manner of the world." "Those who are uniting with the world, are receiving the worldly mold, and preparing for the mark of the beast. Those who are distrustful of self, who are humbling themselves before God and purifying their souls by obeying the truth,—these are receiving the heavenly mold, and preparing for the seal of God in their foreheads. When the decree goes forth, and the stamp is impressed, their characters will remain pure and spotless for eternity. Now is the time to prepare. The seal of God will never be placed upon the forehead of an impure man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of the ambitious, world-loving man or woman. It will never be placed upon the forehead of men and women of false tongues or deceitful hearts. All who receive the seal of God must be without spot before God—candidates for heaven." —Vol. 5:219, 210, 216.
Satan's Last Attack
Infecting ancient Israel with the spirit of worldliness was one of Satan's last efforts to thwart the purpose of God to lead them into the promised land. It will also be one of his last attacks against modern Israel to defeat the Advent Movement and delay the entrance of God's remnant people into the heavenly Canaan. It will be one of the means by which the chaff will be separated from the wheat in the final shaking that will purify the church for translation. The modern world is defiled by its inhabitants. Isaiah 24:5. The newspapers, magazines and billboards contain names and pictures and suggestions of that which is impure and which leads to idolatry. Only the power of God can protect His remnant people during Satan's last and most desperate attempts to keep them from entering the heavenly kingdom.
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