Deadly Distractions

Posted on November 10, 2013


jesus-sanctuaryAuthor: Andrew Kerbs

The Art of War, a classical work on military tactics by Sun Tzu, is still studied at West Point and other military academies throughout the world. It is remarkable to say the least for a text to transcend time and culture as this one has. Upon a recent perusal of the full text, a few things jumped out at me.

For one, though Sun Tzu’s text was written with physical conquest in mind, it applies equally to spiritual warfare. One of the earliest statements that Sun Tzu makes is profound yet obvious: “All warfare is based on deception.” Not some warfare, but all successful warfare.

The second point is built upon the first. One should attack the enemy where he is not expected. The surest way to penetrate stout defenses is to feign a frontal assault, allow the defender to believe he is withstanding the onslaught while simultaneously the bulk of the attacking army is secretly performing a flanking maneuver, out of sight and out of mine. The defender is deceived into believing he has held the field when the reality is he is succumbing to a double envelopment and complete disaster.

So let’s apply this to the world of spiritual warfare. Recently in the Seventh-day Adventist church there has been a lot of heat and tension surrounding the issue of women’s ordination. Also the issue of homosexuality in the church has had its fair share of debates as well. Though these issues are important and ought to be addressed, you won’t see me arguing about them. That’s not to say I don’t have opinions—I do. But I do not believe they are the crux of the end-time message that is to go to the world as depicted in Revelation 14.

With our understanding of the Art of War in mind, what might be happening here? I would suggest that our church is buying into an end-time distraction by affording so much time and energy to these issues. They’re important issues, but secondary issues nevertheless.

Thus, the full frontal assault, so to speak, appears to be aimed at women’s ordination and homosexual issues. Could the reality be that this is a feigned assault, while the true attack will be elsewhere? If we take away anything from the Art of War, we should be open to this possibility.

Subtlety abounds in false doctrines. Christ himself warned that “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt. 24:24) Paul affirms the danger facing the end time church. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…” (2 Tim. 4:1)

Here are the issues as I’ve seen them. I will be as forthright as possible, so please forgive me if I appear overly confrontational or judgmental.

Lately, the church has focused on 1) women’s ordination and 2) homosexuality in the church.

What are the real issues being undermined by the devil as we focus all our eyes on the aforementioned topics?

  1. The atonement of Christ and what that actually means. Can a sinner live without sin and live to meet a sinless God? If so, how? This is the crux of Seventh-day Adventism and the sanctuary message that followed 1844.
  2. The nature of the pre-advent judgment, also called the Investigative Judgment. I prefer to it the Investigative Vindication. After all, Daniel 7:22 says this is the time judgment is made in favor of the saints. And who are the saints? The righteous, and righteousness is clearly determined by faith, not works (Rom. 3:21-31). But if we do not have a clear understanding of the power of the atonement in the life of the believer, the message of the judgment isn’t good news at all.

That’s it. The power of the atonement and the significance, and good news, of the sanctuary! It’s not that complicated, yet how many of our members do not understand it? How often is our church depicted as a legalistic cult by others due to misunderstandings of the atonement and the sanctuary? Yet, properly understood, this is the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14. Yet instead of focusing on how to be saved, we are arguing about who is or is not qualified to be “ordained.”

All warfare is based on deception.

I know this to be true when I hear church members remark that it’s impossible for God’s people to keep the law this side of heaven. (By themselves, this is true, but with the indwelling spirit of Christ, they are new creations and are thus enabled).

I know this is true when I hear church members say the sanctuary is irrelevant and we ought only to focus on the cross. (For a Christian to even say that with a straight face shows that they not only do not understand the sanctuary, but they don’t even have a full understanding of what happened at Calvary).

I pray we can begin to see past the hype and commotion of certain secondary issues. Understand the core of God’s end-time message as laid out in Revelation 14. Follow this up with a solid study of Romans and Galatians. Understand that the end-time issue here is the salvation of souls. It is an issue of a sinful people preparing to meet a holy God face-to-face.

Above all pray. And study the Word. This is not to undermine those other issues as irrelevant, but let us not elevate them at the expense of the most precious message that is to go to the world.