Greetings MOL Family!
In the loving arms of Jesus – what a place to hide! What a wonderful hiding place! Let’s read about it again, in Isaiah 32:1-2…
From Every Stormy Wind
Behold, a King shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a Man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest. – Isaiah 32:1-2
Who is this Man? Jesus. Thank the Lord. “…A man shall be as an hiding place…” From what? From the wind. And in Ephesians 4, in our previous lessons, we were reading in the 14th verse that expression, “every wind.”
From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat;
’Tis found beneath the mercy seat.
Oh, friends, I’m so glad we know the place to go to get out of the wind. What do you say? Every wind. Well, we studied two of these “every winds”. We’ve studied about the whirlwind of lawlessness that’s sweeping over the world and soon to culminate in Armageddon. And we’ve studied about the hurricane of persecution which is to blow against the church and sweep out all the chaff. Thank God, the church founded on the Rock will still be here when the hurricane is over.
Today, I want to study with you the icy winds of formalism, chilling the warm spirit of love that God desires to be in the heart of each member of His church, each one of His children.
A number of years ago, [our dear *Elder was] holding an evangelistic effort in Oklahoma City, and witnessed an ice storm. It had been raining, but in just a few hours the temperature dropped 25 degrees and the rain, which had been coming (and, of course, was on the trees and the wires and all), rapidly froze. You could go down the streets of Oklahoma City that night, and it was just as if every avenue was lighted with beautiful chandeliers for all those trees were coated with ice, and the reflection from the street lights and from the headlights of the cars just made it one fairyland – frozen.
Of course, you could hear every now and then some bang, crash, as some of that ice would turn loose, or a whole limb of a tree would be broken off under the weight and fall down, or perhaps a whole tree be taken with the wind and the weight. And as you went down the streets the next day, it was quite a scene of devastation. It was pretty while it lasted, but it was destructive.
And so it is, my dear friends, with the icy winds of formalism as they sweep against the church and through the church. They may make some results which seem to be beautiful, but we need to look a bit farther and a bit closer at their results.
The Devil’s Icy Wind
In Germany, when the persecution of millions of human beings was going on, someone thought up this method of dealing with some of them: human beings were taken out into sub-zero weather and placed in what the tormentor thought was appropriate poses, and then water was sprayed upon them. And it froze. Those human beings, of course, died, frozen statues.
The devil has an icy wind that he’s trying to involve you and me in, my friends. God help us to know what the proper reaction is to these winds for the winds are blowing. Every wind is blowing. And this icy wind of formalism is blowing. Do you know what the devil wants? He wants to fix every human being in a rigid, mechanical shape.
Turn to Revelation, the 17th chapter. I want you to see the frozen of this world as they’re pictured here in the very near future. Revelation 17:13, speaking of the powers of earth who respond to the leadership of Rome:
These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. – Revelation 17:13
You notice there is a unity, but it’s a unity of rigidity. It’s a unity of conformity. It’s a unity in which the minds of men are frozen in a death embrace. Rome is perhaps the supreme example in human history of what can be done through the icy winds of formalism. The spirit of Rome, the mystery of iniquity, took the early church, when it was warm and vibrant and on fire for God, and froze it into the Papacy, which we see in all its glory and all its beauty in the Dark Ages. Glory? The glory of conformity. Beauty? The beauty of rigid likeness to the rulership of the pope. This is the mystery of iniquity.
You know, the ecumenical winds are blowing now, but they are the chilling, icy winds which will freeze into conformity all who do not react against them. All others will have their part in the fulfillment of this 13th verse.
Now, I want to ask you something, friends. If Rome is an outstanding example of formalism in the worship and religion and the spiritual life, don’t you think we ought to be a little careful how we ‘ape’ that system, how we imitate it? Don’t you think we should? But Protestants in general, today, have lost the fear of the Papacy.
Read this wonderful chapter in Great Controversy on “Character and Aims of the Papacy.” See how the prophet of God points out how in generations past, Protestants taught their children to be wary of and afraid of, fearful of, the inroads and encroachments of Romanism. But, that’s largely past now.
We who are believers in the three-fold message of Revelation 14 should not lower our defenses. We should not lessen in our wariness. Remember this, friends: it isn’t just the roaring lion that we need to be afraid of. When he purrs, he’s just as dangerous. And the spirit of Rome is this spirit of formalism, the spirit of conformity.
Turn to Romans, the 12th chapter, and the 2nd verse. What’s the 4th word there? ‘Conformed.’ Is that what we’re supposed to be? No, it’s what we’re not supposed to be:
And be not conformed to this world… – Romans 12:2
Phillips translates it, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” And I may add, freeze you into its mold. Freezing is a certain way of achieving a rigid conformity to a mold. Am I right? If you’re frozen, you’re rigid. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold and don’t let its icy winds chill you and freeze you into its mold.
The chilling influence of conformity is manifest everywhere today. How else shall we explain the terrible conformity to the modern, shameful fashions in dress? But the place to begin, my dear friends, is with yourself in your own home, your own wardrobe. Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold or freeze you into its mold.
Do you know why a lot of people do not make the changes in their dress that in their hearts they know they really ought to make? They’re afraid of the chilling winds of ridicule. They’re afraid of the icy stares of their friends and neighbors and relatives. From head to foot, my friends, from hair right on down to the toes, modern society is under the chilling influence of conformity. There’s hardly a person who dares to be himself or herself. There’s hardly one who dares to be natural. No, we must be in fashion at all cost. This is due to failing to react against these chilling winds of conformity.
Why are so many yielding to the influence of worldly education today? Why is it popular to attend worldly places of education and to get worldly acceptance? Ah, my friends, it is because of these icy winds of formalism, these chilling winds of conformity. The early church was peculiar. They were a ‘peculiar people’; that’s what the New Testament says. And in dress, in education, in music, in their witness, they were indeed separate from and distinct from the world.
What a strange thing that the devil should get so good in these last days that he would allow the world to become so near like what God’s people ought to be that you can’t tell them apart! Oh, no, my friends, it isn’t that the devil has gotten good – not at all. The icy winds of conformity, the chilling winds of formalism have blown; they are blowing. And these icy winds will chill into a rigid conformity all who do not have a warm, strong current of blood flowing through their spiritual veins.
Turn to 1 Corinthians, the 14th chapter, and the 15th verse. I wish to spend a little while today, especially on the influence of these chilling winds of formalism as they affect our worship, our religious services: in the home, in the Sabbath school, young people’s meetings, and particularly in church services. I want to share some things with you from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, and I ask you to consider carefully, friends, are you frozen? If you are, how much life is there in that?
Most things that are frozen have little or no life in them. Am I right? It’s true that there are certain forms of life that can be frozen for the winter and thawed out in the spring. But you’ll agree with me that they don’t accomplish very much while they’re frozen. And to many forms of life, freezing means death. 1 Corinthians 14:15:
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. – 1 Corinthians 14:15
Now, I want to read you an inspired comment on this in Volume 9, page 143:
The evil of formal worship cannot be too strongly depicted… – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, pg. 143
There’s something here that’s impossible to exaggerate. It’s the evil of what? Formal worship. I wonder what that is. Well, it’s something to be afraid of. It’s something that’s so much to be feared that it’s impossible to exaggerate its danger.
The evil of formal worship cannot be too strongly depicted… – Ibid
May I tell you, friends, if you want to know something about formal worship, just think of the Roman Catholic system. That’s formal worship gone to seed. That’s formal worship in the ultimate. And I ask again: why should we be interested in aping the mystery of iniquity, in imitating satan’s masterpiece?
Join us next week, as we study more into the icy winds of formalism. Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.