Life in the Channel (Practical Experience)
Preach the word; be ready in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)
A few weeks ago, Pastor Adrian preached a sermon entitled The 5th Commandment Amplified. In it Pastor Adrian expressed that he found us, his church body that he ministers to, far more ready to receive doctrine and the preaching of the word than personal pastoral advice. In this area, he often finds that people get upset enough that they are willing to separate themselves from this movement.
In some ways this isn’t surprising, for most of us have come into the message due to how sublime it is and how it fits together so beautifully, not because we were looking for lifestyle and relationship counseling. But in another sense, it is shocking – why separate from something so beautiful just because the pastor says, “hey, I’d be careful about ____ in those videos you are sharing.” And why are we offended when he does it, as if it is not in his job description when it says right there that a minister is to “reprove” and “rebuke”? Our devaluing this aspect of God’s ministry causes us to not receive much of the blessings God wants to give us.
I feel that my experience as someone under Pastor Adrian may be helpful, especially regarding the blessing aspect of submission. As an ambitious and proud young man, it has not been easy. It has taken a lot of studying how it is that God organizes His kingdom to let go of the need for control and power. But when I have done so, I realized I have had much more peace, for much of the weight that I thought I had to carry I didn’t actually have to, and the umbrella of being under authority causes me to be protected in numerous ways. It allows me to feel a strength of purpose, committing myself to being a cog in something I believe in, rather than going it out alone.
But before I realized that, I had to go through the struggle we all have of finding our place in the body of Christ. I went to my first Passover in 2017 and was captivated by the beauty of the sermons preached. I had studied through Father-Son with some other ministries, and came straight into Maranatha Media reading character of God booklets, and the whole feast thing was new and fascinating. But I still was caught up in a performance mindset; I hadn’t read Identity Wars, and I watched the sermons with a mindset of: How can I best this?
This was the mentality I learned from the world (being a convert from atheism). If you want to get on the school’s varsity team, you don’t need to be the best, you just need to better than enough other people to make the cut. This same mentality works for the jobs you apply for, and when I did my Master’s degree I had to look for an angle to make a name for myself that my writing would be published over others.
But what God is trying to make is a family community, not a competitive environment where employees fight over a limited number of promotions. And this struck me when Pastor Adrian preached a sermon, ‘The Gospel in the Channel of Blessing’. He asked this question: Did God make His promises to you personally? No. He made the promises to Abraham, and you inherit it by coming into Abraham’s family, becoming one of his descendants through his seed – Christ.
Pastor Adrian: “In Abraham shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Gen 12:3). How does that work? Do you need to have Abraham in your life to be blessed?
…We inherit the promise through Abraham. This is really, really important to understand because it goes to the heart of the great controversy. And in the illustration we see between God and Abraham, we see a pattern of how God has blessed the universe through His Son. And if you look at these words, you can see that God has said to His Son: “I will bless them that bless You, and I will curse them that curse You, and in Thee shall all the kingdoms of the universe be blessed.”
And Satan says, “No, I want to have access to the blessing directly. Why do I need to have to go through this individual? Why do I have to go through this person in order to receive a blessing from God? I want it directly!”
You see? Because submission is the key to the blessing. Without submitting…If you want to be blessed by the shower, what do you have to do? You have stand underneath it! You have to submit to the shower! If you don’t step into the channel, you cannot receive the blessing. This is the point about Abraham.
The big point that came to me in these texts is that – in order to receive a blessing, you must step into human channels. God says, “I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.” And if we want to be blessed, we have to come into the channel of Abraham.
Authority in the Family System
The point Pastor Adrian made has stayed with me. The system of hierarchy that God wants to set up in His church, through His use of human agents, is there to teach us lessons about submission – the hardest of traits for us humans to accept and see value in. We learn how to relate to God through how we relate to human authority. Authority in God’s family is not something we obey when it is convenient to us and then disregard when it becomes annoying. Nor is authority something we just change as we want. We can’t just change who our parents are. And if we do that with the only living God, we will die. Submission to people is a channel to understanding submission to God, just as loving other people is a channel to loving God. This is stated here:
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20)
Shouldn’t we patiently consider the advice of human authorities that have blessed us so much? If we cut them off when they annoy us, then won’t we also easily do that to God? Let us not fool ourselves that we won’t; our carnal hearts are at enmity with God and will find any excuse to be disappointed with Him. When God doesn’t do the things we think He should, when He allows events to chastise us, if we have this attitude of impatience – won’t we easily just fall back into the Old Covenant, doing our own will instead of God’s? (though we may still think we are worshipping God, just as the Sabbath keeper who goes back to Sunday thinks he is still worshipping God)?
In fact, if we look at Pastor Adrian's earliest writings on the Divine Pattern, we will see that much of the insight is on precisely this issue of headship and submission as it relates to God - the head, and His Son - the submitted channel.
The Problem of Idolatry
This whole matter is complicated by human nature being prone to IDOLATRY. Humans create their own gods (which can be ideologies, musicians, films, pastors, etc), and then raise up and tear down their own imagined idols according to their whims. This is in accordance to our nature as judges. This type of thinking is toxic, especially when it is brought into the family. “Why have I been born into this family?” many ask, especially Thai Buddhists who believe in reincarnation and karma. Having idolized a spouse, how quickly it can all fall apart when they don’t live up to our expectations! Thus we are constantly let down, forever looking for new idols to comfort us yet never having peace.
God wants us to realize we are all sinners (thus no need to idolize anyone), and that if anyone or any work is good it is due to their being a channel of God’s goodness, though they know it or not. This goodness flows through structures of headship, from teacher to student, parent to child, government to citizen, musician to listener, etc. We don’t need to idolize or resent their authority over us if we understand that it is God who we are to see as working the goodness in the system, and that if it isn’t working well then we are to pray and entreat, not attack and obstruct.
Understanding our relationship to God and to each other, we accept each other as family recognizing the brokenness in all of us that needs healing, which God is trying to do and we can help Him, instead of trying to fix things in a way that makes a broken thing more broken.
For example, instead of thinking why is my dad so harsh and my mom so prone to nag, God wants us to think: what is it that I can learn from this? Is there an underlying issue? How can I think of creative ways to bring rest and healing into the family from my position under them (with my love and respect for them clear)? What specifically should I pray for? And most importantly, God has put them as an authority in my life, what can I learn from their experience and how they see the world and what they are telling me, different as I am from them?
I am a Christian convert, and I am prone to what happens to many converts: getting puffed up with my newfound knowledge of God and looking down at my unbelieving family. My mom talks about seeing spirits (she is a Buddhist) and my dad gives me articles about million-year ages of the polar ice caps (he is a secular evolutionist); I am tempted to disrespectfully disagree with them and selfishly draw my family’s interactions to MY beliefs. This leads to conversations revolving around me and others feeling forced into my frame of reference.
But I am to honor my parents, so now I try to take their ideas sincerely and pray: “Father in Heaven, what is it that I can learn from this, even if it is in the wrong framework (or it doesn’t work in the context I am in, the subculture I am in, the age group I am in)? I love and appreciate my parents very much; I thank you for them; and know that they have much wisdom that I can learn from.”
I have been abundantly blessed by this attitude of gratitude towards my parents, especially my dad, and his questions about the character of God (For example: “Danny, you try to reconcile Old and New Testament by keeping Sabbath and following health laws, but the fundamental problem cannot be reconciled – God in the Old Testament and Christ in the New are fundamentally different in character”) helped me to recognize the preciousness of the character of God message we have been given. Note that I was able to learn and be blessed through respecting his opinion on something I disagreed with!
Idolatry in the Church
As Christians, we may not make idols of gods, but we can still raise up pastors and preachers as idols. We may even think we are respecting them and honoring them according to what Ellen White said regarding the 5th commandment:
“It [The 5th Commandment] also enjoins respect for ministers and rulers and for all others to whom God has delegated authority.” PP 308
We feel that since we listen to them and ask them questions, we are honoring them – and of course we are, in a way. But that is easy to do when the minister is popular and preaches what we want to hear. But what if he shares something that goes against what we believe, or if others are turning away from him, or he is getting older and less sharp? Do we also leave him by the wayside? Were we only honoring him because we saw him as a good boss of a good company? Or do we see him like an elder in our family, whom it is our duty to listen to, like I do with my human father?
Pastor Adrian has been given great light because he has been willing to submit himself to the message of God, no matter the consequences. And though most of us have heard him share how much he has suffered, I still think there is the temptation to downplay and underestimate how difficult it truly was. I think the evidence is in the fact that almost no other ordained Adventist pastor has put himself through what Adrian has gone through for the sake of truth. And Pastor Adrian got through due to his submitting to Ellen White, AT Jones and EJ Waggoner, and that has been his strength – he came into the channel; while also keeping a respect and love for his church and his former bosses [see Return of Elijah appendix, Divine Pattern].
The human authority’s love to us is how God shows his love to us
We do ourselves a great disservice by throwing away our relationship with our Pastor because of a disagreement on pastoral advice regarding lifestyle, health, personality issues, etiquette, relationships, family matters, etc. Remember, we are free to take the advice however we want, we are only asked by God to respect the delegated authority. That means taking the counsel we are given in prayer and asking God, what is it that you want me to learn from this? We are not robots who have to obey our pastor. Neither are we children who have to feel belittled by our parents for giving us advice that we disagree with.
We tend to think that those who are higher up the authority structure set up by God are somehow more loved by God, as if submitting to someone else as an authority in our life means we are less than them in God’s eyes. This is a grievous misunderstanding on our part. We are all members of the body of Christ, and each of us are equally loved by God. And God shows His love for those through His people, particularly those of us higher in the channel of blessing.
In fact, it is those covered by the most levels of headship – children – that are the most loved members of society; it is by them being under so many layers of authority that God shows his love to them and protects them and cares for them. A humble child who has a willingness to learn and obey vs a proud child who thinks he knows it all – we all know who is more appreciated and loved!
In a recent sermon entitled Seven Churches Cycle, Adrian made a point about this verse in Revelation 1:
And he [Christ] had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (Revelation 1:16)
Just as Christ sits at the right hand of His Father doing His Father’s will, so are the seven stars, the leaders in the church, in Christ’s right hand to do Christ’s will. They are Christ’s voice to church members. Furthermore, church members are the right hand of church leaders; they are the fruit of the Pastor’s work. Thus the glory of the Father, of whom are all things, flows through the Son to the theologians, to the pastors, to the church members, to the world. Paul expresses this idea here:
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God… (2 Corinthians 3:2-5)
No human authority is perfect, as Paul says: “our sufficiency is of God”. But we hurt the Spirit of God when we hurt His ministers. Let us learn how to communicate with those in authority without feeling like we must end our relationship with them when we disagree. What is the spirit of what the Pastor is trying to tell us? If we can figure that out, we can make it work for us, and still be blessed.
Relationship to Rulers
The situation is just as bad regarding how we relate to worldly authorities. It pains me to see Christians speak so disrespectfully of political leaders like Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin and etc. It has come to Thailand, where vitriol against our military dictator Prayut is a way of life, a way to form a bond with others – but it is not a Christian way. Rather than meekness, there is a puffed up feeling that I can do better than them as a ruler. Denigrating someone powerful makes us feel powerful. This attitude is going to bring the ire of political authorities on many Christians unnecessarily and not according to God’s will in the future.
It is easy for me to say things like this in writing, but I find it extremely hard to do actual reproof in personal ministry. It is scary to tell people, especially those who think they have knowledge, that a belief they have isn’t healthy or fruitful. We often look at headship/leadership and see only the advantages of it: no one to boss me around, I can decide what direction we take, people respect me, glory comes to me. But for those of us in a relational kingdom where our value comes from Jesus, these things don’t excite us much and instead it is the solemn responsibilities of leadership that loom large.
My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:1-2)
That burden to look after your flock, to not let your moods cause you to “offend in word”, to live a pure life to ensure that Christ can communicate clearly with you so as to keep the ship moving forward – all this weighs on the leader. Any mishaps can be used by Satan to condemn and bring down. His hold on the Word of God must be solid, and that hold is a cover over all under him. Spoiling the family is achieved through taking down the leader.
Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. (Matthew 12:29)
When we were young, did we know about our dad’s financial problems? His struggles of whether he should emigrate to another country, or how he is going to support a fourth child, or how to stay true to his conscience in his spiritual walk? No, we trust that he will take care of us, and that peace and rest allows us to grow. We get this in Christ, but we also get it through our leaders.
This isn’t easy, and we are tested on it
But this resting in the channel, this submission that is thoughtful and not robotic, is something that isn’t immediately granted us. Indeed, it is a crucial part of the new covenant, and we know that we are by nature in the old covenant first and that God has to dig the old man out of us. So there will be times when we will be tested in how we relate to authority; not because that authority is trying to test us, not even that the issue is that serious, but still it becomes a battle in your mind due to the struggles between the spirit and the flesh – like when the body gets hot when we are fighting off a virus.
I remember one example I had when I was in Fernvale, at Paul and Di’s house who had graciously let me come stay for a few days to get a change of scenery. Adrian was back at his house outside Brisbane. Kevin Mullins, Adrian and I were having a discussion about whether it was ok to edit video clips of other speakers and comment on what they were saying and put it on YouTube to prove that they were wrong, contradicting themselves, teaching falsely. Pastor Adrian didn’t think we should do it. I pointed out that we quote other people’s written material and comment on it in books, so is it really that different do it in video? Adrian felt there was a difference. And for whatever reason, I couldn’t accept that.
Though I didn’t really tell Adrian, it became a full-on struggle in my mind. I couldn’t seem to let it go, and it bothered me more and more. The logic didn’t make sense. Why couldn’t we do it? We could do it in a meek way, a polite way. Why not?
Satan noticed that I was having an issue and really pressed it. Does Adrian really have good reasoning for the decisions he makes? Why does he get to decide what we do? This is a good way to help people understand, and we won’t do it? This will slow down the whole movement!
And thus a small thing begins to gain speed in your mind. I actually had to bike around the whole neighborhood for a while, praying to God and asking what I should do and to help me get over this. Finally I had victory – Adrian thinks by cutting people's quotes in video and picking it apart appeals to much to our fleshly nature to judge and condemn, and I can see that. It could/would bring bad vibes to the movement and set an unpleasant precedent; we want to preach in new ways instead of following the ways of the world. Furthermore, if he one day thinks it is ok to do it, then we’ll do it. It isn’t a big deal. God gave me victory, and it was like a huge weight lifted off of me.
The Blessing of the Channel
This may seem like a small thing, but as we all know, it is small things with the people close to us that can turn into lingering resentment before finally causing a blow up. So many of us just decide: I’ll go somewhere else. If we do just go somewhere else, we’ll never learn (I’m not talking about this in relation to real trouble, like people inviting you for drinks and drugs – in that case it’s ok to run!). I can testify that, after a few of these experiences, if we can reflect on them and grow from them, our place in the family in the God feels much more certain. A great peace comes with knowing that I can truly trust my head, and my head can trust me; and that we don’t have to worry about walking on eggshells around each other.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
The bond of trust and love makes us feel more assured of God’s love for us. We are more able to overcome times of difficulty, knowing that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Let us not be afraid to have familial love to those in our family of faith.
Eldership and Hierarchy
A great and often unheralded blessing God has done for the message is establish a group of elders to give us stability as we journey into uncharted waters. These are older men, and have had leadership positions in churches, worked many jobs, been married - they have a lot of experience, in life and in ministry. Having been privileged to get to know them, it comforts me that there are level-headed men there to advise Pastor Adrian and pray with him. They have been there since the beginning of the message and watched it mature, and this experience is invaluable.
Yet it seems, strangely, that the elders remain unappreciated and underutilized. People don’t feel the need to get to know them, nor to draw a blessing out of them, preferring to get to know flashier, often more-transient figures who come into our movement. We all want assurance of value, the feeling that we are guaranteed of salvation and loved by God, yet the very people God has given to us through whom He would act to comfort us we disregard.
The same is true of the older women. It is hard to believe it possible, but it seems younger women look to older women for advice even less than young men look to older men! Have we had such difficult experiences with those older than us, whether siblings, adults, in school, or at work, that we think that they will condemn us and command us? And also the other way around: older people are tempted to think younger people just don’t care and won’t listen because of their own past experiences trying to give advice to young people. But we must believe that God will do things a different way among his people, and give each other a chance. We all will make mistakes, but we will learn and get better if we see the spirit of love behind the actions.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
When will we become wise on these matters? When we dismiss those of authority over us and decide to do it alone, we hurt ourselves and we hurt the elders too, who are caused to feel uncertain over their position and unsure whether their knowledge is wanted. They may be tempted to withdraw and focus on other things. This would a be a disaster for the movement – it is one thing for newer members to fall away, but for older experienced members to do so discourages everyone.
There is an art to being the channel, to being in the position of submission; just like there is an art to being the head. Both are to be done with wisdom from above, without force. The good student can draw out of the teacher amazing insights through his willingness to listen and his faith that there is something to be learned. But if the student feels he has nothing to learn, the teacher feels a sense of dryness in himself also. For what is a teacher without any students? As an English teacher myself, what my students think of me matters, and their attitude really affects how I teach.
I have been in the message long enough that I am now often in the position of a teacher, as head, with responsibility to bless others. Does this come naturally to me? No. Is it scary? Yes. Am I tempted to doubt myself? Yes. But when I have people who believe in me, who listen to me with ears of a friend rather than hunting for flaws, who take and apply to themselves in their own way rather than robotically parroting, then I am encouraged. We can do this for each other. We can learn from each other, and as one body serving one another.
Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren;
The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.
(1 Timothy 5:1-2)
My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; Neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; Even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
I really hope the reader who has come this far will begin to realize the importance of what is being said here. We need to get over our carnal need of independence, for an independent life outside the will of God is death. Due to our inherent enmity, is extremely difficult to submit to God and to anyone else, and that is why we need to meditate daily on the begotten Son and His submission to His Father.
God gives us experiences in our relationships to help us understand our duties to one another, and to grow agape in His body – let us see God in all of this, and bear it patiently. Therefore whatever your position in the body, remember that “Christ is all in all”.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5)
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:11-15)