Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 9: "Releasing Into Ministry"

God calls upon those who serve Him to minister to others in need. He told Abraham that his descendants would be a blessing to the world: "Thou shalt be a blessing, ... and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:2, 3). Jesus saw that His mission was to help depressed people: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel [good news, glad tidings] to the poor [those who can't afford medical treatment]; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised" (Luke 4:18). These "poor" may be in India, Pacific Islands, South America, Indonesia, yes, in our inner cities, perhaps among our teens in high school, who knows, maybe your next-door neighbor whose tears you cannot understand.
Each of us who realizes his/her debt to the "Saviour of the world" will want to be ready to "know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary" (Isa. 50:4), because the Lord has sent us to do the work that He would do if He were here in person.
Realize that the Holy Spirit has been trying to communicate that good news to you all your life: as Paul says, "How shall they hear without a preacher? ... How beautiful are the feet of them, that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! ... Have they not heard? Yes, verily, ... Their words [went] unto the ends of the world" (Rom. 10:14-18). "Every man" (and woman) has been "lightened with that Light" (see John 1:9). At the point where every person stands, there is a Good Shepherd who has found him, who has a message of encouragement and hope for him, even though he has fallen and has wandered far away.
Church papers postulate what things might look like in the year 2020 A.D., a church and a movement vastly different from that of our pioneers. It will lay less stress on "truth" and greater stress on "relevance," in other words, frankly proclaim a message of "what's-in-it-for-me?" Colleges where mission service was once the ideal now advertise for students by touting "98.8 percent job placement," with graduates getting lucratively to "the top" at their "first stop."
Where is the self-sacrificing devotion of those who endured the Great Disappointment and gave their all to spread the good news message? One can't escape the conviction that those who do finally see Jesus return will be people of similar total dedication to truth as embodied in Christ.
The 2020 A.D. future looks much like a "me-too" image of the popular Evangelical churches. What has made us distinctly "Adventist" has been a firm belief in the soon return of Jesus, a life-changing belief in the Most Holy Apartment ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary on this Day of Atonement, and confidence in the prophetic gift of Ellen G. White. With lessened confidence in such doctrinal truths, the impact of the 2020 A.D. church is described in terms like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross in that a great proportion of our capability will be absorbed in relief work around the world--all being very good work, and certainly our Christian duty to perform. But continuing disasters, moral degradation, and economic distresses will make sure that an ever-increasing need for a social gospel will go on and on as long as the world stands.
Rather than speculate on what we will do with the church, or how the world may re-shape it into another image, let us inquire what the Lord says He will do. He is the Head of the church. Not all the demons in hell can stop what He purposes to do:
"He will send revival and reformation. As surely as His character is love, He will visit His people: 'The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord' (Acts 3:19). 'In visions of the night, representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God's people. ... A spirit of intercession was seen, even as was manifested before the great Day of Pentecost. ... Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest. ... The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence. ... there seemed to be a reformation such as we witnessed in 1844'" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 126).
He will accomplish this objective through a special message. "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14; the gospel is "truth," Gal. 2:5, 14). "Amid the confusing cries, 'Lo, here is Christ! Lo, there is Christ!' will be borne a special testimony, a special message of truth appropriate for this time, which message is to be received, believed, and acted upon" (Review and Herald, Oct. 13, 1904). As surely as day follows night, such a message will come. Repentance for the 1888-era rejection of such a message will bring a whole-hearted acceptance of its renewal.
This message will be the outpouring of the latter rain. It will bring spiritual refreshment and prepare the church for the final issue of the mark of the beast: "Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you--the former rain, and the latter rain. ... So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten" (Joel 2:23-25). "I heard those clothed with the armor speak forth the truth with great power. ... All fear of their relatives was gone, and the truth alone was exalted to them. ... I asked what had made this great change. An angel answered, 'It is the latter rain, the refreshing from the presence of the Lord, the loud cry of the third angel'" (Early Writings, p. 271).
The latter rain will be a clearer revelation of the gospel of righteousness by faith than we have yet discerned. The meaning of the Hebrew phrase in Joel 2:23 is "a teacher of righteousness," linking the latter rain to the message of righteousness by faith. Here is the key truth that is almost totally overlooked today--the initial showers of the latter rain were manifested in the "most precious message" of righteousness by faith which the Lord sent to this people in 1888 (seeSpecial Testimonies, Series A, No. 6, p. 19). Further showers of the latter rain must include a recovery of that message, because Heaven's intent can never be defeated.
This true gospel revelation will be so powerful that it will polarize the church into those accepting it and those rejecting it. Thus the final shaking will result from the "straight testimony" of pure gospel truth, as opposed to every semblance of legalism. "'Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,' says the Lord God of Israel" (Isa. 17:6). The brilliant light of the gospel that is to lighten the earth with glory will cause the "covetous ones [to become] separated from the company of believers" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 126).
With this recovery of the pure gospel of Christ, the shaken and purified Seventh-day Adventist Church will be ready to bear a final witness to the world. Through God's providence this will become the loud cry of the angel of Revelation 18: "I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory" (vs. 1). This final message will be of grace, grace which much more abounds than all the abounding sin that hell can devise in the last days.
The climax of world history will be "the marriage of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:7). This glorious climax of the gospel will prepare the church to grow up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, prepared to be His Bride. Christ's agenda for this church includes that spiritual growth and maturity--the fruition of His final ministry in the Most Holy Apartment. "I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying 'Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready'" (vss. 6, 7).

The factor that makes her ready, which has never been fully effective previously, is a true understanding of righteousness by faith. The next verse reads: "And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints," made possible only by a clearer, brighter, more mature faith. This is Christ's agenda for His church. She is to accomplish the task appointed for her by the One who died for her. His vindication requires that she overcome even as He overcame. This scenario is the much better good news that must emerge!
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Compiled by Paul E. Penno

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

8. EQUIPPING FOR EVANGELISM AND WITNESSING


8. EQUIPPING FOR EVANGELISM AND WITNESSING

So, we ask: which is stronger, sin or grace? Paul answers unhesitatingly: “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness” (Romans 5:20, 21).
But this has been difficult for us to believe. How often we have thought that the TV was stronger than reading the Bible, or prayer meeting. How often we have thought that sharing the seventh-day Sabbath truth, or the state of the dead, or health reform, or lifestyle change was difficult. We find the world’s hold on us so alluring that it seems by comparison that the work of the Holy Spirit is as weak as a radio signal from Mars.
If so, something is not clear to us. We have not understood the gospel. We turn again to the 1888 message for some much-needed Good News:
When grace reigns, it is easier to do right than it is to do wrong. That is the comparison. Notice: As sin reigned, even so grace reigns. When sin reigned, it reigned against grace; it beat back all the power of grace that God had given; [That was Saul of Tarsus kicking against the pricks.] but when the power of sin is broken, and grace reigns, then grace reigns against sin, and beats back all the power of sin. So it is as literally true that under the reign of grace it is easier to do right than to do wrong, as it is true that under the reign of sin it is easier to do wrong than to do right (Jones, ibid., July 25, 1899).
It can never be repeated too often, that under the reign of grace it is just as easy to do right, as under the reign of sin it is easy to do wrong. This must be a for if there is not more power in grace than there is in sin, then there can be salvation from sin. . . .
Salvation from sin certainly depends upon there being more power in grace than there is in sin. Then, there being more power in grace than there is in sin . . . wherever the power of grace can have control, it will be just as easy to right as without this it is easy to do wrong. . . .
[Man’s] great difficulty has always been to do right. But this is because man naturally is enslaved to a power—the power of sin—that is absolute in its reign. And so long as that power has sway, it is not only difficult but impossible to do the good that he knows and that he would. But let a mightier power than that have sway, then is it not plain enough that it will be just as easy to serve the will of the mightier power, when it reigns, as it was to serve the will of the other power when it reigned?
But grace is not simply more powerful than is sin. . . . This, good as it would be, is not all. . . . There is much more power in grace than there is in sin. For “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” . . . Let no one ever attempt to serve God with anything but the present, living power of God, that makes him a new creature; with nothing but the much more abundant grace that condemns sin in the flesh, and reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Then the service of God will indeed be “in newness of life”; then it will be found that his yoke is indeed “easy” and his burden “light”; then his service will be found indeed to be with “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”[1]
As usual, Waggoner chimes in with some more Good News:
The new birth completely supersedes the old. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.” He who takes God for the portion of his inheritance, has a power working in him for righteousness, as much stronger than the power of inherited tendencies to evil, as our heavenly Father is greater than our earthly parents.[2]
The context of Waggoner’s quotation from 2 Corinthians 5 says, “The love of Christ [agape] constraineth [motivates] us” (verse 14). People get that backwards. Constrain, the very opposite of restrain, means “to propel,” “to push.” That love doesn’t push us against our will, but the Holy Spirit gives us all the motivation possible, short of that.
In the early days of motoring, some car makers (Locomobile, for example) advertised that their cars were so strong they could climb Pike’s Peak. But anyone trying to drive a simple Model T up that steep road found it “hard.” The poor flivver would shudder and stall, and the radiator would boil over. The poor man’s car just wasn’t built for that mountain.
Need I say that many Christians view getting ready for the Lord’s turn as even more difficult?
But now let’s drop a 420 cu. in. V-8 engine in that Model T, and then watch it zoom up the steepest road.
It’s only a pathetic ignorance of the agape in the pure, true gospel of Christ that makes the Christian life seem to us so “hard.” The Bible has been telling us that the Holy Spirit is a mighty power plant to motivate:
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain (Zechariah 4:6, 7).
It takes a powerful engine to flatten out steep hills. But that is just what an understanding of the cross does for us:
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died forth and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
Look at what this actually says:
1. If One had not died for us, we would actually be dead—all of us.
2. Christ bought the entire world with His blood. Whether we heathen or Christian, whether we recognize our obligation to Him not, we are infinitely in debt to Him. All we have and all we are, already owe to His sacrifice:
To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread we eat is purchase of His broken body. The water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring.[3]
3. Simply believe this truth, says Paul, and “henceforth” you find it impossible to keep on living a self-centered life. The “constraint” goes to work immediately, and unless we resist, we shall “henceforth live . . . unto him who died for . . . [us], and arose again.”
Don’t let that phrase, “should not,” throw you. In the original language it does not mean our usual vain sighs, “I should be more faithful; I should pay more tithe; I should keep the Sabbath better; I should s my lesson more, I should sacrifice more,” “I shouldn’t watch TV much.” The gospel idea is that you will find it impossible not to serve Lord enthusiastically if you comprehend and appreciate the significance of the cross of Christ—what it cost Him to save you.
This idea of the constraint of God’s agape permeates Paul’s to writings. Consider the following:
Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repents (Romans 2:4).
His idea is that God is not standing back, as many conceive of Him with His divine arms folded in disinterested unconcern while we wallow in our lost condition. He is not saying, “Well, I made the sacrifice for two thousand years ago; I’ve done My part—it’s up to you now. You must take the initiative. If you want to come, come; and if it seems hard to you, you just don’t have what it takes to be a Christian. I have somebody else waiting to take your crown.”
How many millions of people feel that way about God! And some shy and timid ones feel, “God does have plenty of people ready to take my crown—He doesn’t need me, and I’m not really sure He wants me.” In contrast, Waggoner emphasizes the seeking, persistent love of God toward “every man.” It is He who takes the initiative, a radically different idea than our usual one:
And we need not try to improve on the Scriptures, and say that the goodness of God tends to lead men to repentance. The Bible says that it does [emphasis supplied] lead them to repentance, and we may be sure that it is so. Every man is being led toward repentance as surely as God is good.[4]
When you pray for a loved one, a friend, or a neighbor to be converted, you don’t have to wake the Lord up out of sleep to persuade Him to do something that He is reticent to do—not according to what Paul says. The goodness of God is already working, leading your person to repentance. The trouble is that we often hinder what He is already seeking to do! We thwart His answer to our prayers because we haven’t understood the goodness, longsuffering, and forbearance of the Lord in their true dimensions.
A lady came to prayer meeting each week asking prayer for her unbelieving husband. I don’t remember how long it was later, but one Sabbath morning he came down the stairs before breakfast dressed up in his good suit. “What does this mean?” she inquired. With a big smile he answered, “I’m going to church with you and the children.” Quick as a flash, out came her true feelings: “But darling, if you lose your job because of the Sabbath, how can we make the car payments, or the house payments?”
Hubby never said a word, went backup, put on his work clothes, and that was the end of it forever.
Instead of begging the Lord to please do something for our loved ones, a better way for us to pray would be, “Lord, thank You that You are already leading my loved one or neighbor to repentance. Now please, please, help me get out of the way!
We continue the same passage from Waggoner:
Not all repent. Why?—Because they despise the riches of the goodness and forbearance and long-suffering of God, and break away from the merciful leading of the Lord. But whoever does not resist the Lord, will surely be brought to repentance and salvation.
That sounds revolutionary to many who say, “Well, I just can’t believe the Good News is that good! It seems to me that if a sinner wants to be saved, it’s only fair that he work hard at it, he must take the initiative, he must do something. But this has it backwards. It says that if he stops resisting, he will be saved!”
Yes, that’s exactly what it says.
However revolutionary it sounds, that is the Good News of the gospel. It presupposes the active, aggressive, persistent love of God as a Good Shepherd taking the initiative to find His lost sheep. Ellen White says the same thing in Steps to Christ, page 27:
As Christ draws them to look upon His cross, to behold Him whom their sins have pierced, . . . they begin to comprehend something of the righteousness of Christ. . . .
The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ—but if he does not resist, he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God’s dear Son (emphasis supplied).
From our beginnings as a people, the reason for the need of a health message was not so much the desire to live longer and enjoy lives more free from suffering, as to maintain clarity of mind to comprehend the truths to be associated with the grand “Adventist” concept of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. That sanctuary message was the driving force that made the Adventist message unique and appealing to “the remnant” who reverenced the Bible.
The idea of “cleansing” came to be thought integral to living in the antitypical Day of Atonement. Tobacco was seen as “the filthy weed,” and its use “defiling.” The emphasis on giving up tobacco was not so much fear of lung cancer or high blood pressure or all the other ills that follow its use today, but on this idea of “cleansing.”  Abundant Scripture was found on the evils of drunkenness, and total abstinence easily became the application of the idea of “cleansing” in the abandonment of all alcoholic drinks.  In the early literature of the church, little is said about the physiological detriments of alcohol or tobacco use. Their use was viewed in the light of the cleansing of the sanctuary.
From the 1844 era to that of 1888, the health consciousness of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was concentrated on the idea of a preparation for the second coming of Christ. The motivation was not egocentric as is the popular emphasis on “health” in the American public today. The concern that transcended that egocentric one was getting ready for the soon-coming close of probation (and yet its motivation was largely Old Covenant, and therefore egocentric at heart). We have to be honest and recognize the egocentricity; fear played a prominent role in “health reform.” (This is not to suggest that fear is or was a bad motivation for healthful living, nor is it so today; it is to suggest the need for a better motivation in order to become a more effective truth in practical godliness).
That idea of a better motivation was finally to arrive with the proclamation of the 1888 message when its time came.
Let us make clear what is the contribution that the actual, original 1888 message makes to the true Sabbath, the nature of man and lifestyle changes. “The Lord in His great mercy sent it,” to strengthen these teachings among Seventh-day Adventists today. The 1888 message on does not torment us with greater fear or guilt. But it encourages us with that much more abounding grace that motivates us to be reconciled to our Lord and to His truth. In that experience of reconciliation with Him we find the blessed motivation to deny self gladly and live the health reform message because we find that self-denial is a joy “in Christ.” It’s beyond the “burden” experience.
This is accomplished by a simple but powerful truth that is seldom comprehended among us as a people:
The self-denying death that Jesus died on His cross is not the kind of death that the popular Sunday-keeping Evangelical churches assume that it was. The gospel is far greater Good News than they are capable of seeing![5] Jesus died the second death of the entire world.
Not until the sinner can grasp that holy truth can he sense the “power” that is in what Paul calls “the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:4, 15). It’s the power of God unto salvation that Paul describes in Romans 1:16. Lukewarmness in practicing health reform is that which Jesus describes in Revelation 3:14-21 as what makes Him so sick at His stomach that He feels like throwing up.[6] We can wear a cross around our necks and decorate our churches with its symbol and still appreciate nothing of what happened on Christ’s cross.
Paul begs us, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). If we are, as Christ implores us, we shall also be reconciled to “health reform.” So “practical” is the “godliness” of Day of Atonement faith that our long-indulged perverted appetites our wrong religious beliefs. You won’t miss your harmful favorites. To bring Paul up to date, “Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh [the flesh where appetite rules] I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
On the annual Day of Atonement the lifestyle of God’s people was appropriate to the solemn faith that followed their high priest in his special work in the most holy apartment of the sanctuary. This was not due to cowardly self-centered fear, but a concern for the high priest himself, in whom the entire nation was incorporated. On that day alone, he would come into the solemn presence of the Holy One of Israel, to be judged as the representative of the people of Israel. The people understood that if their high priest were to perish, the nation would perish.
It’s easy to see why they were concerned. They laid aside all their day-to-day interests and concentrated on the success of his mission. We might say that they were more concerned for the plan of salvation for the nation than they were for their own individual salvation.
What’s special about living in the antitypical Day of Atonement?
Christ our High Priest is now cleansing the heavenly sanctuary. As the ancient Israelites had special duties in that typical service, so God’s people around the world have special duties appropriate to this antitypical service. The correlation appeals to common sense. No one is so na├»ve as to think that since 1844 God requires total abstinence from food as the ancient Israelites practiced it in “type” for one day. The point is that today we don’t make food an idolatrous “god” and live to enjoy sensuality. We practice reasonable health reform so we can keep our minds clear to appreciate the special solemn work our great heavenly High Priest is accomplishing because it’s the most important activity going on in the universe. The Seventh-day Adventist health and dress reform message with its idea of world soul-winning mission grew out of this unique understanding of the heavenly Day of Atonement. It’s not a fear trip or a works program. It’s a growing concern for the mission of Christ.
Without food life could not be sustained; but of all periods of world history, our Saviour has singled out this post-1844 era as uniquely the time to “take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting [eating gourmet food or even too much good food], and drunkenness [the use of anything that lessens mental and physical alertness such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco], and cares of this life [keeping up with the world’s materialism]” (Luke 21:34).
Now as never before is the time when we eat to live, not live to eat. The true motive in health reform is not trying to add a few more years so we can play golf, or to vacation a little longer. It is living for the honor and glory of our Redeemer as He brings the great controversy with Satan to a triumphant victory. We want to keep in tune with His special work, alert to the promptings of His Spirit, mentally, spiritually, and physically capable of cooperating with Him in His ministry for ourselves and for the world.
Does “ye shall do no manner of work” (Lev. 23:31) mean we mustn’t hold a job during this antitypical Day of Atonement? Common sense says we have to work to make a living and support a family. But now our identity with Christ gives us something far more exciting to live for than worldly pleasure and acquiring things. “After all these things do the Gentiles seek” (Matt. 6:32).
What was permissible or normal in past history becomes out of date on the great Day of Atonement. In World War II, the nation’s common “innocent” pursuits like pleasure driving gave way to the priority needs of gasoline for the national emergency.
The Day of Atonement is a cosmic emergency.
Adventist distinctive lifestyle reform grew out of this concern for cooperation with the heavenly High Priest in His closing work of atonement. In a special sense, those who follow Christ by faith have their attention focused on Him, not on themselves. Their motivation again is not egocentric but a corporate concern for the final success of His mission. A clearer understanding of the cross and the Saviour’s sacrifice delivers them from vanity. The miracle takes place: self is crucified with Christ. Then, wonder of wonders, they become really beautiful!
The glorious good news of it all is that never in world history have we had a better opportunity to find release from the painful, crippling tyranny of self. God’s people in these last days are to be the most beautifully free from pride, sensuality, and materialism of any people of all time, and the most selfless humans the world has ever been refreshed to see, and therefore the happiest.
Their lifestyle is not a do-it-yourself works program of self-torture. It is a “sign” of an inner devotion to Christ and a preoccupation with Him that demonstrates they have found something more exciting to live for than adorning themselves or indulging sensual appetites. (Incidentally, Bible principles exclude something worse than wearing jewelry: the pious extreme of dressing in shabby, unattractive clothes that call attention to one’s superior “relationship” with the Lord. That’s another ego trip. True dress reform requires both neatness and unobtrusive, sensible good taste).
Ellen White saw a connection between dress reform and the cleansing of the sanctuary. She was overjoyed to connect the Day of Atonement ministry with the special 1888 message of justification by faith (see her Review and Herald articles for the first four months of 1890). Her constant concern for the church was a “correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary [which] is the foundation of our faith.” Professed believers must be able to “exercise the faith which is essential at this time, [and] occupy the position which God designs them to fill” (Evangelism, pp. 221, 222). This is why she said, “To dress plainly [that is, without drawing attention to ourselves], abstaining from display of jewelry and ornaments of every kind, is in keeping with our faith” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 366). “Our faith” is unique in the world: it is following Christ in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary.
At the age of 38, Frances Havergal paid a five-day visit to a family in London, all of whom were either unconverted or unhappy. She prayed that she might help them find Christ. When it came time to leave, she rejoiced that the Lord had answered her prayer, and in her gratitude she wrote her poem, “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee” (SDA Hymnal #330).
Four years later she re-read the poem and was struck by her lines, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold.” She wrote a friend that this “now means shipping off all my ornaments to the Church Missionary House (including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess).”
Frances never knew about the heavenly Day of Atonement, but the love (agape) of Christ motivated her to give up her jewelry. Can we who know the truth do less?
“When I survey the wondrous cross
     On which the Prince of glory died,
My riches gain I count but loss
     And pour contempt on all my pride.”—Isaac Watts


[1] Ibid., September 1, 1896.
[2] The Everlasting Covenant, p. 66.
[3] The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
[4] Signs of the Times, November 21, 1895.
[5]  This raises the question why we as a people and as ministers especially have been flocking to Bill Hybel’s Willow Creek and Rick Warren’s Saddleback and Robert Schuler’s Crystal Cathedral to learn from them how to proclaim the Gospel!
[6]  The literal Greek of Revelation 3:16 can be rendered accurately in this way.

"Equipping for Evangelism and Witnessing"


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 8: "Equipping for Evangelism and Witnessing"
  
"Now Bezaleel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the Lord has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the Lord has commanded" (Ex. 36:1, NASB).
The Lord called Israel out of Egypt--"the house of bondage"--not because they were a distinguished and accomplished people, they were quite the opposite. Displaced from their own land, they did not remember God's promises given to their forefathers and gradually succumbed to dominance by the Egyptian overlords, which ultimately made them slaves. In spite of their insignificance, God honored His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and raised up Moses to lead them out of tyrannical Egypt to the promised land.
While in the wilderness God instructed them to make Him a sanctuary in which He would dwell. That structure was to demonstrate the plan of salvation to them, and their understanding of its message was to equip them to witness to the entire world. God also called "every skillful person in whom the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him, to come to the work to perform it" (Ex 36:2).
Note that God had already put skill into people. The literal translation is, God gave them "wisdom of heart." Their hearts were prepared, now God was giving them the opportunity to use their skill to His glorification. Our lesson this week rightly observes that without the heart preparation we are not equipped to evangelize. If we haven't allowed the Holy Spirit to give us a heart appreciation for what it cost the Godhead to save the human race, we will only be able to tell others facts, dates, and stories. These may entertain for a while, but without the Spirit, the wonder of discovery inevitably wanes and people move on to whatever is more exciting. Without a faith that is growing in God's love, we have nothing to share.
God first equipped Bezaleel and Oholiab with artistic talent, but He also gave them the ability and a heart-motivation to teach (Ex. 35:34). Those who have come to understand the gospel in the special way given to our church in 1888 have all experienced the desire to tell folks about how good the good news really is. Growing in our understanding of "the most precious message" makes us sharper tools so that the Holy Spirit can use us more effectively in communicating the gospel.
To be effective evangelists there is a deepening conversion. The "wisdom of God" revealed in the cross is infinite. It is important to know "the truth of the gospel". The fundamental basis of the message given in 1888 is a greater revelation of God who is love, the special self-emptying agape demonstrated most clearly on the cross. Not only did God accomplish justification, or a verdict of acquittal for all, He consecrated the way of character perfection by overcoming in our faulty human equipment. The best demonstration of the entire subject is found in studying the sanctuary message which God gave to us in 1844. 1888 was meant to be the sanctuary truth in a new and living way. Without an understanding of the cleansing of the sanctuary truth, we open the door to the popular churches' understanding of righteousness by faith as a legal transaction--devoid of New Testament love. We will be unable to discern the relation between the ministry of the heavenly High Priest in the Most Holy Apartment and an understanding of true righteousness by faith.
Ellen G. White gives us a sobering description of the results of ignoring this doctrine:
"Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to Him in the holiest [the Most Holy Apartment], and pray, 'My Father, give us Thy Spirit.' Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. In that breath was light, power, and much love, joy and peace. I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne [who had not followed Christ by faith into the Most Holy Apartment]; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, 'Father, give us Thy Spirit.' Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy and peace" (Early Writings, pp. 55, 56).
The setting of this passage is critically important, for it has a direct bearing on our understanding of the gospel itself. "The company who were still bowed before the throne" is the group who rejected the sanctuary truth in the 1844 era. Although the imagery is highly symbolic, it is clear Ellen White was referring to the change in Christ's ministry at the end of the 2300 years. Those who did not appreciate the change exposed themselves to a lethal deception--Satan masquerading as the "Christ" in a ministry which the true High Priest had now "left."
For 1800 years since His ascension, Christ was engaged in a ministry of the forgiveness of sins so that people could die and come up in the first resurrection. But after 1844 Christ's second phase of ministry is not only to merely pardon the sinner, but also to impart His righteousness character in saving believers from their sin. Christ's High Priestly ministry is for the purpose of preparing a people in character to be translated when He comes again. Without this unique Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the way to righteousness that Christ consecrated for us, we must necessarily, though unwittingly, preach a nominal gospel. Christ wants to consecrate His Bride by giving the individuals who make up His true church that new heart of love so they are experiencing His righteousness, not just talking about it.
Those who are willing to let the Holy Spirit guide them into all truth in their study are the ones God can effectively use to proclaim the everlasting gospel. There will be no self-centered fear of punishment or hope of heavenly reward, only a desire that the Bridegroom at last be united with His bride. Like Bezaleel and Oholiab, Christ is giving the necessary skill to communicate His sanctuary doctrine. It is a truth that is matched for the times in which we are living. Evangelicals, Catholics, Buddhists, Moslems, Jews, and Protestants have yet to see clearly what Christ has accomplished by His sacrifice. Christ's much more abounding grace will bring alive the testing truths of the Sabbath, the nature of man and the sanctuary which heretofore have gone unrecognized by the world.
--Arlene Hill
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CORPORATE EVANGELISM AND WITNESSING


7. CORPORATE EVANGELISM AND WITNESSING

Our laborious exhortations to become a “witnessing church” have wearied us. Endless commands to “do” something are transcended by a simple divine invitation to “see” something.
To understand what is involved in Christ’s call to repentance (Rev. 3:19) we must consider Paul’s brilliant metaphor of the church as a “body.” We sustain a corporate relationship to one another and to Christ Himself as our Head. Although this idea is foreign to much of our Western thinking, it is essential to the Bible concepts.
In fact, the word “corporate” is a good Bible word. “As the body is one and has many members, . . . so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).
There is a corporate unity of the “one body” (1 Cor. 12:13); a corporate diversity of its various “members” (verses 15-18); a corporate need felt by all (“the eye cannot say to the hand; ‘I have no need of you,’” verses 21, 22); a corporate balance of the various members (verses 23, 24); a corporate “care,” they feel for each other and for the head (verse 25); and corporate suffering and rejoicing which all members share together (verse 26).
How beautifully our human body illustrates this divinely inspired relationship! If on a sharp rock, my whole body feels the pain and sympathizes with the injured member. The leg shares the guilt of projecting the poor toe against the sharp stone; the other leg wishes it had taken more of the weight so as to lessen the injury; the eye wishes it had been more observant to see the danger; the hands cooperate by rubbing the wounded toe to bring com­fort; the whole body halts in order to care for its suffering member, and in perfect cohesion and unity seeks relief.
Sin is a corporate disease of the human race, the latter represented in Scripture as “one man” infected by it, for “in Adam all die.” “So death passed upon all men,” a corporate relationship, as malaria affects the whole body (Rom. 5:12, 18, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Strictly speak­ing, apart from Christ no human is better than another; all have sinned, “all alike have sinned” (Romans 3:23, NEB).
As Seventh-day Adventists, we share another example of corporate guilt in a special way for a very special sin. Not that we are personally guilty, but we are the spiritual “children” of our forefathers who in a notable sense repeated the sin of the ancient Jews. This corporate guilt causes the latter rain to be withheld from us as surely as the Jews’ impenitence keeps the blessings of the Messiah’s ministry from them.
“We” rejected the “most precious message” that the Lord sent to us and which in a special way represented Him. What our forefathers really said was similar to what the ancient Jews said, “The responsibility for delaying the coming of the Lord be on us and on our children!” (Matt. 27:25). In fact, Ellen White has said that “we” had far greater light than they did.
“The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1575).
“Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God’s message” (Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1651).
We may claim that we are not repeating that sin of our forefathers; but what means the constant effort to suppress and discourage people understanding the actual message of 1888, and keep it from them?
To pray for the latter rain is good. But is there something we are leaving out? We have been earnestly praying for it for a hundred years, as the Jews have been praying for the coming of their Messiah for thousands of years. Would it not be a better plan for us to repent of rejecting “the beginning” of that same blessing which the Lord sent us a century ago, and to demonstrate our repentance by recovering the message which we lost? (1SM 234, 235).
Is our Lord’s call to repent as serious a matter as this? (Rev. 3:19). Does decade after decade of spiritual drought roll by because His call has not been seriously considered? If He calls for repentance, there must be some way that we can respond.
It seems difficult for us to acknowledge our need of the imputed righteousness of Christ 100%; surely we have something good in us: But Scripture is emphatic: “In me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). Apart from the grace of Christ, the sin that another human has committed I could commit “had there been opportunity.” The righteousness of Christ cannot be an adjunct to our own good works, a slight push to get us over the top; our righteousness is all of Christ or it is nothing. Apart from the grace of a Saviour, the sins of the whole world are my sins.
The principle of corporate guilt recognizes this truth by defining the reality of our need as members of one common human race. In a larger sense than we may have realized we also share our common responsibility, a corporate guilt as “mem­bers of the body of Christ.” We have failed our Head. If we rightly understand our relationship, we can see how the sins of others are really our own as well, except for the grace of Christ.
John Wesley said of a drunk lying in the gutter, “There but for the grace of Christ am I.” Suppose I had been born on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, had a prostitute for a mother and an alcohol­ic criminal for a father and had never been inside a church or heard a sermon; what could I be today? How can I truly help another soul unless I sense this corporate relationship I sustain to him?
When the church learns to appreciate what this is, Christ’s love will course through its veins and transform it into the most effective soul-winning “body” history has ever seen.[1]
This is because such repentance alone can enable one to love his neighbor as himself, not in the sense of excusing or palliating his sin in that we know we could be as guilty as he, but because such repentance includes an effective cleans­ing from the defilement of the sin itself. Such love for one’s neighbor goes far beyond a sentimen­tal sympathy; it becomes an effective cooperation with Christ in reaching the heart with redemptive power. The Head at last finds members of the body prepared to be His effective agents.—Robert J. Wieland.


[1] “Those who wait for the Bridegroom’s coming are to say to the people, ‘Behold your God.’ The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them.” COL 415-418.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Corporate Evangelism and Witnessing"


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 7:

Our laborious exhortations to become a "witnessing church" have wearied us. Endless commands to "do" something are transcended by a simple divine invitation to "see" something.
To understand what is involved in Christ's call to repentance (Rev. 3:19) we must consider Paul's brilliant metaphor of the church as a "body." We sustain a corporate relationship to one another and to Christ Himself as our Head. Although this idea is foreign to much of our thinking, it is essential to the Bible concepts.
In fact, the word "corporate" is a good Bible word. "As the body is one and hath many members, ... so also is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12).
There is a corporate unity of the "one body" (vs. 13); a corporate diversity of its various "members" (vss. 15-18); a corporate need felt by all ("the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of thee,'" vss. 21, 22); a corporatebalance of the various members (vss. 23, 24); a corporate "care," they feel for each other and for the head (vs. 25); and corporate suffering and rejoicing which all members share together (vs. 26).
How beautifully our human body illustrates this divinely inspired relationship! If the toe strikes a sharp rock, the whole body feels the pain and sympathizes with the injured member. The leg shares the guilt of projecting the poor toe against the sharp stone; the other leg wishes it had taken more of the weight so as to lessen the injury; the eye wishes it had been more observant to see the danger; the hands cooperate by rubbing the wounded toe to bring comfort; the whole body halts in order to care for its suffering member, and in perfect cohesion and unity seeks relief.
Sin is a corporate disease of the human race, the latter represented in Scripture as "one man" infected by it, for "in Adam all die." "So death passed upon all men," a corporate relationship, as malaria affects the whole body (Rom. 5:12, 18, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Strictly speaking, apart from Christ no human is better than another; "all alike have sinned" (Rom. 3:23, NEB).
As Seventh-day Adventists, we share another example of corporate guilt in a special way for a very special sin--rejecting the latter rain message. Not that we are personally guilty, but we are the spiritual "children" of our forefathers who in a notable sense repeated the sin of the ancient Jews who rejected their Messiah. Our corporate guilt causes the latter rain to be withheld from us as surely as the Jews' impenitence keeps the blessings of the Messiah's ministry from them.
"We" rejected the "most precious message" that the Lord sent to us and which in a special way represented Him. What our forefathers really said was similar to what the ancient Jews said, "The responsibility for delaying the coming of the Lord be on us and on our children!" (see Matt. 27:25). In fact, Ellen White has said that "we" had far greater light than they did.
"The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1575). "Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God's message" (p. 1651).
We may claim that we are not repeating that sin of our forefathers; but why is there constant effort to suppress and discourage people from understanding the actual message of 1888, and keep it from them?
To pray for the latter rain is good. But is there something we are leaving out? We have been earnestly praying for it for a hundred years, as the Jews have been praying for the coming of their Messiah for thousands of years. Would it not be a better plan for us to repent of rejecting "the beginning" of that same blessing which the Lord sent us well over a century ago, and to demonstrate our repentance by recovering the message which we lost? "The message given us by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays." "The Laodicean message must be proclaimed with power; for now it is especially applicable. ... He who does not abhor himself cannot understand the meaning of redemption. ... There are many who do not see themselves in the light of the law of God. They do not loathe selfishness; therefore they are selfish" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052 [1892]; Review and Herald, Sept. 25, 1900).
Is our Lord's call to repent as serious a matter as this? (Rev. 3:19). Does decade after decade of spiritual drought roll by because His call has not been seriously considered? If He calls for repentance, there must be some way that we can respond.
It seems difficult for us to acknowledge our need of the imputed righteousness of Christ 100 percent; surely we havesomething good in us. But Scripture is emphatic: "In me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). Apart from the grace of Christ, the sin that another human has committed I could commit had there been opportunity. The righteousness of Christ cannot be an adjunct to our own good works, a slight push to get us over the top; our righteousness is all of Christ or it is nothing. Apart from the grace of a Saviour, the sins of the whole world are my sins.
The principle of corporate guilt recognizes this truth by defining the reality of our need as members of one common human race. In a larger sense than we may have realized we also share our common responsibility, a corporate guilt as members of the body of Christ. We have failed our Head. If we rightly understand our relationship, we can see how the sins of others are really our own as well, except for the grace of Christ.
John Wesley said of a drunk lying in the gutter, "There but for the grace of Christ am I." Suppose I had been born on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, had a prostitute for a mother and an alcoholic criminal for a father, and had never been inside a church or heard a sermon; what could I be today? How can I truly help another soul unless I sense this corporate relationship I sustain to him?
When the church learns to appreciate what this is, Christ's love will course through its veins and transform it into the most effective soul-winning "body" history has ever seen. [1]
This is because such repentance alone can enable one to love his neighbor as himself, not in the sense of excusing his sin in that we know we could be as guilty as he, but because such repentance includes an effective cleansing from the defilement of the sin itself. Such love for one's neighbor goes far beyond a sentimental sympathy; it becomes an effective cooperation with Christ in reaching the heart with redemptive power. The Head at last finds members of the body prepared to be His effective agents.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Compiled by Paul E. Penno
Endnote:
[1] "Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, 'Behold your God.' The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them" (Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415-418).

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Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to sabbathschooltoday@1888message.org