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.”
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.
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. 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.
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! 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. 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
. The people understood that
if their high priest were to perish, the nation would perish. Israel
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 naïve 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
, 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). London
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).”
“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
 Ibid., September 1, 1896.
 The Everlasting Covenant, p. 66.
 The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
 Signs of the Times, November 21, 1895.
 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!
 The literal Greek of Revelation 3:16 can be rendered accurately in this way.