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     There is an ever widening confusion and growing misunderstanding among our separated people over the issue of "INDEPENDENCE."  There is, of course, a true sanctified independence which is approved of heaven, as well as there being an unsanctified independence which is condemned of God.  And the lack of a clear distinction between these two forms of independence has allowed Satan to create all kinds of trouble among our people and home churches worldwide!
     True sanctified independence which heaven approves is briefly stated in the following principles: That we are an independent agent who is responsible to God for our own actions and spiritual life--no one else can be blamed if we lose heaven.  We are responsible to God to do our own personal study--no one else is to study for us.  We are responsible to think for ourselves--we are not to be the shadow or rubber stamp of any person.  We are responsible to help ourselves--no one else is required to help when we are able.  We are responsible for the performance of the work given us to do--no one else can be blamed if it does not get done.  We are responsible for our own daily maintenance--no one owes us anything.  We are responsible to maintain our integrity, moral righteousness, and obligations in the various affairs of life.  And we are responsible to stand for God, His honor, and His truth regardless of the consequences.  It can be clearly seen that this sanctified independence especially centers around us as individuals, not in a selfish self-centered way, but in an unselfish manner which does not adversely affect others.
     This kind of noble independence can be traced back to the two great and foundational principles of God's 10 commandments--an independence which places God first and foremost in our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and our neighbors as ourselves.  This independence, founded upon love to God and love of one another ahead of self, heaven highly approves of and which we are right to manifest and adhere to at all times as it will lead to complete sanctification and eternal life.  The fruits borne by this kind of unselfish independence are love, trust, confidence, fellowship, harmony, unity, order, and peace.  And it is clearly seen in the unity, oneness, and functioning of the Godhead.  Yet, there is another kind of independence which is unsanctified and extreme.
     This unsanctified independence which heaven condemns is briefly stated in the following principles: That we are responsible to God alone--no responsibility needs to be shown toward our fellow brethren.  We are responsible to God alone for our actions--no one can hold us responsible, or correct, or censure, or discipline us for what we do--even if our actions adversely affect our fellow brethren.  We are responsible to spiritually unite with God alone--no one is to visibly unite with one another in church or in working capacity.  We are responsible to believe and teach what we want to--regardless of what our fellow brethren agree is truth.  We are responsible to follow our own way--regardless of the counsel of our brethren.  And we are responsible to God alone and must center our interests in our own work--regardless of the work and interests of our brethren.  It can be clearly seen that this unsanctified independence especially involves our relationship to others, not in an unselfish way, but in a selfish self-centered manner which adversely affects others.
     Such unsanctified independence may be thought of as loving God supreme, but in reality it breaks God's law because it esteems self and places it first and foremost in our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and our neighbors last or unthought of.  This kind of independence heaven highly condemns, and which we are not to manifest or adhere to as it will lead to complete corruption and eternal destruction.  The fruits borne by this selfish independence are hate, distrust, envy, jealousy, dissension, division, disorder, strife, and rebellion.
     This unsanctified independence originated with Lucifer and traces directly back to his rebellion in heaven!
     "...Satan chose to follow his own selfish, independent will." Desire of Ages, p 762.

     The devil was not content to keep this unsanctified independence to himself, but spread these same corrupt principles throughout the heavenly hosts, and it deceived and leavened 1/3 of all the heavenly angels.  These then warred in union with Satan against God's will and were cast out of heaven (see Revelation 12:4, 7-9)!  Satan was still not content, and brought this same rebellious independent spirit down to earth.
     Satan's original lie to Eve was based upon these same principles of unsanctified independence (see Youth's Instructor, July 1, 1897).  But it did not stop there either.  Not only was this rebellious independence manifested by Lucifer, 1/3 of the angels, and Adam and Eve, but was also manifested by Cain (Signs of the Times, December 16, 1886); Pharaoh (Youth's Instructor, November 30, 1993); king Saul (Signs of the Times, June 1, 1888); the king of Babylon (Youth's Instructor, March 28, 1905); the prodigal son (see Signs of the Times, January 29, 1894), Judas Iscariot (Signs of the Times, June 5, 1884); and Laodiceans (Review and Herald, April 1, 1890).  And it will continue to be manifested by, and cause the fall of, many of our separated people until they wake up and clearly distinguish between the true and this false independence!
     Those who follow this unsanctified independence are especially against any call for, or movement towards, a full and complete visible unity of each separated believer with each other.  Even though this visible unity is based upon one biblical faith with Christ as our head under John 17 with Matthew 18 and Gospel Order to guard and protect this unity, yet they oppose it by charging that it will restrict their religious liberty and independence.  And our unsuspecting people are being led to accept and follow this unsanctified independence, not because it is preached by those who do not believe the present truth, but because it is being advocated by separated Ministries and separated ministers today!
     A separated minister in the Eastern part of America believes and teaches this in his newsletter: "Those who continue to cry `unity' show they still do not comprehend the words of Christ...Those continuing their search for unity have not eaten of the flesh of Christ spiritually.  Though they profess to be His followers and doers of His word, yet they have not flushed the structural mire of a temporal kingdom from their minds....and unless they are broken on the Rock Christ Jesus, they will continue their quest for unity until Jesus appears in the clouds of heaven.  They look for a tangible unity seen with the visible eye.  But God's few faithful standard-bearers view unity with the spiritual eye...Satan is always warring for the mastery over the mind and keeping the mind dwelling on unity is leading many to frustration and finally perdition."

     But the God of heaven clearly states this about whether unity is only spiritual, or is also to be visible: "God wants unity to be seen..." General Conference Bulletin, April 10, 1901.
     "Many who profess to love God and keep His commandments are making void His law.  God is greatly dishonored by the failure of professed Christians to reveal the unity that should be seen among His children." Review and Herald, February 11, 1902.

     "We are not to strengthen any evil work.  Let those who have used their talents of influence in doing this, do so no longer.  Let them not by pen or voice act on Satan's side of the question.  In obedience to a `thus saith the Lord,' let unity of action be seen." Review and Herald, August 6, 1901.

     If these individuals do not repent and obey God's will and seek for true visible unity with their brethren, they will receive the curse of Meroz, their candlestick will be removed, and another will take their crown!  "God does not design that His workmen shall stand apart as independent atoms....I pray that you may now, as never before, both ministers and church members, come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty powers of darkness.  Study prayerfully the 17th chapter of John.  This chapter is not only to be read again and again, but its truths are to be eaten and digested.
     "Are these words, of such import to us, to be always neglected?  God calls upon those who claim to be His children to study these words, to eat them, to live them.  Seek for unity and love, else the candlestick will be removed out of its place." Pamphlets, #156, p 12-14.

     Another separated minister from farther South in the Eastern part of America believes and teaches this in his newsletter: "I believe, at this very moment, the gospel order that is being pushed by some in the Separation Movement is uncalled for because of the very few scattered sheep....Do you realize how much time and money would be wasted if we had to follow Matthew 18 to the letter..."

     But God has this to say regarding the above statement: "The Lord has shown me that gospel order has been too much neglected and feared.  That formality should be shunned; but in doing so, order should not be neglected.  There is order in heaven.  There was order in the church when Christ was upon the earth; and after His departure, order was strictly observed among His apostles.  And now in these last days, while God is bringing His children into the unity of faith, there is more real need of order than even before; for, as God unites His children, Satan and his evil angels are very busy to prevent this unity and to destroy it." Early Writings, p 97.

     "The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God.  The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another." Acts of the Apostles, p 95-96.

     Another separated Ministry in the Western part of America believes and teaches this in their newsletter: "At the present time we see God's people being scattered by every conceivable means....Is it possible that we should desist from fighting against the disunity that seems to be everywhere?...all our efforts to gather God's people into one belief system and one company are going against the will of God....What composed truth for the pioneers over 100 years ago is not necessarily present truth for today."

     But God says: "Some have advanced the thought that as we near the close of time, every child of God will act independently of any religious organization.  But I have been instructed by the Lord that in this work there is no such thing as every man's being independent....In order that the Lord's work may advance healthfully and solidly, His people must draw together." Gospel Workers, p 487.

     "There will be, among the remnant of these last days, as there were with ancient Israel, those who wish to move independently, who are not willing to submit to the teachings of the Holy Spirit of God, and who will not listen to advise and counsel.  Let such ever bear in mind that God has a church upon the earth, to which He has delegated power.  Men will want to follow their own independent judgment, despising counsel and reproof; but just as surely as they do this they will depart from the faith, and disaster and ruin of souls will follow.  Those who rally now to support and build up the truth of God are ranging themselves on one side, standing united in heart, mind, and voice in defense of the truth." Selected Messages, book 3, p 23.

     "I had a message to the believers...that all who are truly converted unto the proclamation of the third angel's message must not present to the world, to angels, and to men, division in the place of unity." Manuscript Releases, vol 4, p 297.

     Why is it that we have so many problems in our ranks?  Is it because God is trying to keep us from being united?  Or is it because many of our separated brethren--especially ministers and workers--do not want to be united together in obedience to God's will?  What is the real cause of the troubles in our separated ranks?
     "The cause of the trouble it is not difficult to determine.  The workers have been independent threads, when they should have regarded themselves as threads that must be woven together to help form the pattern.  These things grieve the Holy Spirit....Unsanctified independence places us where He (God) cannot work with us." Testimonies, vol 7, p 197.

     Another separated minister farther South in the Western part of America believes and teaches this in his tapes: "So the church has no business in forcing, basically its view or its will upon the members.  Because liberty of conscience must be respected....We know that when it comes to doctrine, that God has given us as individuals the freedom to choose what we shall and shall not believe....and it is in this manner that they (God's people) will be united as a body..."

     But God states this regarding whether we are all to independently believe and teach what we want to regardless of our brethren, or whether we should be in union with each other having one faith with gospel order protecting this unity: "You must restrain the disposition within you of being original.  You must lean upon the faith of the body or you will mar the work of God, and injure the truth....Unless there is order in these things there would soon be great confusion in our ranks.  It is not in the order of God for one to feel at liberty to express his views independently of the body, another express his, and so on.  If such a course should be taken we should not all speak the same things and with one mind glorify God.  All of us have a part to act, but it is in union with the body." Manuscript Releases, vol 3, p 262.

     "Jesus and holy angels are bringing up and uniting God's people into one faith, that they may all have one mind and one judgment.  And while they are being brought into the unity of the faith, to see eye to eye upon the solemn, important truths for this time, Satan is at work to oppose their advancement.  Jesus is at work through His instruments to gather and unite.  Satan works through his instruments to scatter and divide." Testimonies, vol 1, p 332.

     "I saw that this door at which the enemy comes in to perplex and trouble the flock can be shut.  I inquired of the angel how it could be closed.  He said, `The church must flee to God's word and become established upon gospel order, which has been overlooked and neglected.'  This is indispensably necessary in order to bring the church into the unity of the faith." Early Writings, p 100.

     "`But,' you say, `should I follow the judgment of the brethren independent of my own feelings?'  I answer: The church is God's delegated authority upon earth....There is altogether too little respect paid to the opinion of members of the same church.  It is the want of deference for the opinions of the church that causes so much trouble among brethren....A few persons may be as blind as the one in error, but the majority of the church is a power which should control its individual members....Unless the advice and counsel of the church can be respected, it is indeed powerless.  God has placed a voice in the church which must control its members.
     "If you are led by truth rather than error you will be willing to...sacredly regard the voice of the church." Testimonies, vol 5, p 107-08.

     In fact, it is because our people are not united together in one body, under one faith, under discipline and being responsible to one another, that fanaticism is rampant in our midst and false teachers are allowed to remain among us!  "Had professed Sabbath-keepers...earnestly sought and labored to be in union with the prayer of Christ, to be one as He is one with the Father, Satan's work would have been defeated.  If all had sought to be in union with the body, the fanaticism which has brought so deep a stain upon the cause of present truth...would not have arisen, for it is the result of drawing off from the body, and seeking to have an original, independent faith, regardless of the faith of the body." Testimonies, vol 1, p 327.

     "...the work of God is not committed to men who feel it their privilege to move out on their own independent judgement, to preach whatever they please, and to be responsible to no one for their instructions or work.  Let this spirit of self-sufficiency once rule in our midst, and there will be no harmony of action, no unity of spirit, no safety for the work, and no healthful growth in the cause.  There will be false teachers, evil workers who will, by insinuating error, draw away souls from the truth.  Christ prayed that His followers might be one as He and the Father were one.  Those who desire to see this prayer answered, should seek to discourage the slightest tendency to division, and try to keep the spirit of unity and love among brethren." Review and Herald, May 28, 1888.

     So the great majority of all the problems, as well as false teachers, among our separated people and home churches is because we have not followed God's will and are not united together as one under one faith in Christ.  Yet, when those who want to do God's will try to awaken our people to the necessity of coming together in a visible unity under one faith in Christ so that Satan, along with these problems and false teachers, may be eliminated from our ranks, many of our fellow ministerial brethren rise up and declare: "This is popery!  This is hierarchy!  Do not unite together as one or stand together under one faith because God wants us to be solely united with Him in a spiritual union, but not united together with each other in a visible union!"  But God has already warned His people that just such a cry would be leveled against this true call for unity among us!
     "Satan well knows that success can only attend order and harmonious action.  He well knows that everything connected with heaven is in perfect order, that subjection and perfect discipline mark the movements of the angelic host.  It is his studied effort to lead professed Christians just as far from heaven's arrangement as he can; therefore he deceives even the professed people of God and makes them believe that order and discipline are enemies to spirituality, that the only safety for them is to let each pursue his own course, and to remain especially distinct from bodies of Christians who are united and are laboring to establish discipline and harmony of action.  All the efforts made to establish order are considered dangerous, a restriction of rightful liberty, and hence are feared as popery.  These devoted souls consider it a virtue to boast of their freedom to think and act independently.  They will not take any man's say-so.  They are amenable to no man.  I was shown that it is Satan's special work to lead men to feel that it is God's order for them to strike out for themselves and choose their own course independent of their brethren.
     "God is leading a people out from the world upon the exalted platform of eternal truth...They will not be at variance, one believing one thing and another having faith and views entirely opposite, each moving independently of the body." Testimonies, vol 1, p 650.

     And do not let any separated Ministry or minister or laymember try to get you to believe that God desires His people to remain divided, disorganized, and independent of one another in faith and work and fellowship, even if they do quote a testimony from Sister White which seems to substantiate their position, because they are only twisting the quote to say something which Sister White never intended.  So says Sister White herself:
     "...please do not use my name as sustaining you in taking an independent course." Manuscript Releases, vol 17, p 257.

     God does not want His separated people to be enlisted in the ranks of Satan's army, to advocate his erroneous doctrines, manifest his unsanctified independence, and mislead souls to division and destruction.  But Christ wants all of His true separated people to enlist in the ranks of His army, to advocate His pure doctrines, to manifest His sanctified character, and to lead souls to Jesus and unity and eternal life.
     "An army would be demoralized if they did not learn to obey orders of the captain.  Each soldier must act in concert.  Union is strength; without union efforts are meaningless.  Whatever excellent qualities a soldier may possess, he cannot be a safe trustworthy soldier if he claims a right to act independent of his fellow comrades.  This independent action cannot be maintained in the service of Christ.
     "Self-restraint is essential to be exercised by every Christian if they answer the prayer of Christ.  He is not a good soldier who will not submit his own judgement and his own ideas to preserve unity of action....The meekness and lowliness of Christ always leads to unity and hence to strength in united action." Manuscript Releases, vol 5, p 373-74.

     "Those who belong to Christ's army must work with concerted action.  They cannot be faithful soldiers unless they obey orders.  United action is essential.  An army in which every part acts without reference to the other parts, has no real strength.  In order to add new territory to Christ's kingdom, his soldiers must act in concert....He calls for a united army, which moves steadily forward, not for a company composed of independent atoms." SDA Bible Commentary, vol 4, p 1146.

     "In spite of all the good qualities a man may have, he cannot be a good soldier if he acts independent of those connected with him....Take a strong team of horses.  If, instead of both pulling together, one should suddenly jerk forward and the other pull back, they would not move the load, notwithstanding their great strength.  So the soldiers of Christ must work in concert, else there will be a mere concourse of independent atoms....In union is strength.  A few men and women who unite together, having the glory of God in view, will be growing in strength and wisdom, and gaining new victories." Signs of the Times, September 7, 1891.

     God is not so much concerned with the numbers of those who unite together, but is concerned that they do unite!  The question is: Which army do you choose to enlist in and fight for?  It will be plain for all to see exactly which army you have enlisted in and which general you are fighting for.  All they would have to do is to examine the position you take and advocate in this issue of unity, one faith, and Gospel Order!
     "The two great powers in controversy are working, one from beneath, the other from above.  Every man is under the secret influence of the one or the other, and his acts will reveal the character of the inspiration from which they proceed.  Those who are united with Christ will work always in Christ's lines.  Those who are in union with Satan will work under the inspiration of their leader, opposed to the Holy Spirit's power and action.  The will of man is left free to act, and by action is revealed what spirit is moving upon the heart.  `By their fruits ye shall know them.'" 1888 Materials, p 1508.

     "Where there is unity there is strength.  United we stand, divided we fall.  It is the special, declared plan of the enemy of Christ and man, to break up the church into independent factions....He loves to see discord and want of harmonious action in the church." Review and Herald, July 10, 1888.

     "...never, never forget that you are either servants of Jesus Christ, working strenuously for that unity of believers which Christ prayed might exist, or you are working against this unity and against Christ." Testimonies, vol 5, p 478.

     Not one of our separated people, whether they be ministers or laymembers, will ever make it into heaven until they knowingly give up their unsanctified independence, stop opposing a visible unity and oneness among our people, and instead work towards a complete and full union with one another in one faith with Christ as our head!  "A self-confident, independent spirit will never enter into the kingdom of God." Selected Messages, book 2, p 216.  And why can't such make it to heaven?  "You would act an independent part in heaven as you have acted on the earth." Kress Collection, p 152.
     God is trying to fit His people up in righteousness and make them ready for eternity with Him by leading them to be one in purpose, one in faith, one in work, and one in unity.  Yet, separated ministerial brethren from both the East and West Coasts of America are determined to stop this from happening, and our separated people are caught right in the middle of this controversy!  But God has a clear purpose in calling for His true separated people to be united together as one.  God is actually desiring to perfect our characters through our coming together as one and prepare us for translation!  And those who oppose this visible unity are working to keep our people connected with sin and character defects, lose out on translation, and are thereby working their own selves out of a home in heaven!  "Perfection of character means perfection in unity.  `That they all may be one,' Christ said, `as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee' (John 17:21).  What possibilities are before us.  Shall not our faith grasp them?" Manuscript Releases, vol 11, p 179.

     "...they should not take on an independent spirit, but as followers of Christ be subject one to another.  This is the very means that God has ordained that one shall have influence over another and all be transformed and molded after the divine Pattern, that all the believers in Christ are to be sanctified through the truth." Manuscript Releases, vol 15, p 357.

     "There is order in heaven, and it is to be imitated by those upon earth who are heirs of salvation.  The nearer mortals attain to the order and arrangement of heaven, the nearer are they brought to that acceptable state before God which will make them subjects of the heavenly kingdom and give them that fitness for translation from earth to heaven..." Testimonies, vol 2, p 697-98.

     "None should feel that it is of no special importance whether they are in union with their brethren or not; for those who do not learn to live in harmony here will never be united in heaven." Ellen G. White in Europe, p 70.

     May our separated brethren, especially those Ministries and ministers who are opposing or who are not advocating a complete visible unity in one faith among us, wake up, become converted, and stop their opposition or lack of interest.  "I call upon you, my (brethren), in the name of the Lord to unite with us, to close every door through which Satan would enter to cause strife and alienation among brethren.  Let us counsel together.  There has been altogether too much moving in one's own independent judgement.  Self-sufficiency and self-esteem lay at the foundation of the greatest trials and discords that have ever existed among the people of God.  The angel of God has repeated again and again, `Press together!  Press together!  Be of one mind, of one judgement!  Let God be your Leader!  Follow His footsteps!'" Manuscript Releases, vol 20, p 369.

     May our separated brethren, especially those Ministries and ministers who are opposing or who are not advocating a complete visible unity in one faith among us, accept this invitation and unite with the rest of us, that we all together may fulfill Christ's prayer and lovingly help each other perfect their characters.  May we earnestly labor and press together until we are of one accord, of one mind, of one heart and soul and body, with Christ and the advancement of His kingdom of righteousness foremost in our thoughts.  May we all become trustworthy soldiers in God's army and arise and shine in a united front, that we may fill this earth with the glory of God.  Then this great controversy can end, and we can then enjoy each other's companionship forever in heaven by the side of our Lord and God.  All this will be possible only when we have achieved this blessed oneness and harmony on this earth!  We are moving forward in God's strength, will you be left behind?
     "In the carrying forward of God's work, we shall not be as separate, independent agents.  The unity of God's people is to be to the world a convincing argument that God sent His Son to save the world.  Christ prayed for His disciples, [John 17:21-23 quoted].
     "Such is the unity for which we are to seek,--such unity as exists between the Father and the Son." Review and Herald, August 15, 1907.

     "To a world that is broken up by discord and strife, their love and unity will testify to their connection with heaven." Testimonies, vol 7, p 156-57.