Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"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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