Ted N. C. Wilson, leader of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, said Satan was using every means at his disposal to try to destroy the Adventist Church and neutralize its mission of proclaiming Jesus’ soon coming.
Wilson, speaking in a sermon that serves as his annual world pastoral address, said the devil’s tactics include ecumenism, charismatic worship approaches, and attacks on biblical prophetic understanding, and he said he had felt the blows personally in recent weeks with the death of a prematurely born grandson and the discovery that two other grandsons suffer serious health problems.
But he urged the listening church leaders of the Annual Council, a major church business meeting, to join him in submitting to God and taking a unified stand for the distinctive, biblical beliefs of the Adventist Church, regardless of whether the teachings might be derided as unpopular or politically incorrect.
“In these perilous closing scenes of Earth’s history, remember that the devil is attempting to neutralize anything and everything we do—even at this Annual Council,” Wilson told the packed auditorium at the world church’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. “Through God’s power, let us be entirely respectful, Christ-like, and loving in our discussions and exchanges during this Annual Council on whatever topic we may speak.”
The Annual Council has several key issues to discuss, including whether the world church should revise some of the wording of its 28 Fundamental Beliefs and extend ordination to women. The 338 members of the Annual Council will decide whether to send those issues for a final vote next July to the General Conference session, the top governing body of the world church.
Wilson expressed gratefulness to God for bringing about a “beautiful spirit” in pre-Annual Council meetings between world church leaders. He shared an appeal from General Conference and division officers to the Annual Council delegates, asking that they remain Christ-like even if differences of opinion emerged.
“Our humble demeanor and attitudes, through God’s power, will speak volumes to those who are watching,” he said, reading the appeal. “We earnestly appeal that we do all in our power to strengthen the church and this precious Advent movement.”
Read the full text of the sermon HERE.
Wilson said Revelation 13 outlines a two-pronged satanic plan to destroy God’s last-day people: an ideological war of lies and errors that challenge the truth, and outright persecution culminating in a death decree against those who obey God’s biblical laws.
“Though large-scale persecution will certainly come, currently Satan is trying to work from the inside to weaken the church through dissension, discord, and conformity to the world,” Wilson said.
Satan’s Destructive Tactics
Wilson repeatedly pointed to the Scriptures and the writings of Ellen G. White, co-founder of the Adventist Church, as the way to discern God’s will during the 70-minute sermon, which was punctuated with frequent “amens.” At one point he urged Annual Council delegates to make sure that they weren’t reading the Bible upside-down.
“When you read the Bible upside-down, you will get an upside-down understanding,” he said, citing an African saying that he heard on a recent trip.
He singled out the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation as undesirable, saying it clouded the themes and topics of the Bible.
“As we seek to know God’s will through a study of His Word, we must not place strange interpretations and employ interpretive gymnastics to draw out conclusions that are not evident from a plain reading of the Word,” he said.
Wilson, who has made a call for “revival and reformation” a hallmark of his presidency, listed a number of other ways that he saw the devil seeking to destroy the Adventist Church, including:
- Inspiring a belief that reformation within the church means giving up unique doctrines so that it is easier for people to become Adventists.
- Using tradition and philosophy to destroy faith in the Bible.
- Urging people to move independently of the main body of the church.
- Advancing charismatic and Pentecostal music and worship approaches that focus on church members and those leading out in services rather than on the true worship of God.
- Distracting people with secular activities such as competitive sports, the Internet, the media, financial deals, and materialism.
- Encouraging poor health habits and a lack of respect for God’s natural laws, thereby enfeebling the mind and benumbing the senses.
- Stirring skepticism about the veracity of the scriptural record of the origin of life and early history.
- Spreading spiritualism.
- Promoting ecumenism, or cooperation and better understanding among Christian faiths with the unattainable goal of universal Christian unity.
Wilson strongly cautioned against associating with ecumenical groups.
“Don’t succumb to the temptation to be so cozy with other religious organizations that you fall into the devil’s trap of neutralizing your own effectiveness through unbiblical ecumenical bonds,” he said.
Adventists also should avoid inviting clergy from other faiths from preaching to Adventist churches on Sabbaths, he said.
But he stressed that it was important for Adventists to be friendly with people of all faiths, to be leaders in public affairs and religious liberty, and to share their love for Jesus with the public.
Tragedy in the Wilson Family
Making his message personal, Wilson, 64, told of a series of hardships that have befallen his family and that he linked to Satan’s war against the church. Wilson and his wife, Nancy, have three married daughters and eight grandchildren.
Edward, the 2-year-old son of the Wilsons’ eldest daughter is suffering numerous neurological problems after eight months of cancer treatment left him cancer-free but with antibodies that are attacking his brain, Wilson said.
“We thank God that Edward is showing some improvement with treatment, but the extent of his future recovery remains uncertain,” he said.
A second grandson, 15-month-old James born to the Wilsons’ middle daughter, has been diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation that has only been detected in two other people in the world. Three weeks ago, the youngest daughter lost her third child.
“After the premature delivery at four months, she held the perfectly formed little boy in her hand,” Wilson said. “When the Lord returns, Catherine’s little son will be placed in her arms, and he will grow up in heaven.”
He said, however, that the devil would not succeed in any efforts to neutralize his family’s witness.
“In the last year or so, the devil has attempted to neutralize every one of our three precious daughters, their families and us as parents. But he will not succeed. God is in control. He will be victorious. The faith of my daughters and their families and all of us is strong in the Lord,” he said, drawing loud “amens” from the audience.
'We Are All in This Together'
Wilson cautioned that no one listening to the sermon in the main auditorium of the General Conference building was exempt from the devil’s attacks.
“We are all in this together,” he said. “There are many in this room who are going through far worse situations.”
Looking beyond internal church issues, Wilson said Satan was attacking the church on other fronts as well, including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and violence in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine.
Despite the difficulties, Wilson called on the delegates to boldly proclaim the distinctive message of the Adventist Church.
“Stay away from anything that will undermine our message or cloud our distinctive beliefs,” he said. “Don’t be tempted by the devil to blend in with the crowd or be politically correct.Don’t proclaim a generic Christianity or a ‘cheap-grace Christ’ that does not point to the distinctive Biblical truths to be declared worldwide, the very reason for which the Seventh-day Adventist Church was organized.”
The church leaders stood when Wilson concluded with an appeal to join him in submitting to God’s power and asking for protection from the devil’s attacks.
“Our only future hope is in our personal connection with Christ,” Wilson said. “Our hope as God’s people, your hope and my hope, is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”