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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