Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Sequential Evangelism and Witnessing"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 5: "Sequential Evangelism and Witnessing"

A five-times divorcee with a heart like stone comes casually, flippantly, to Jacob's ancient well. Casting only a side glance at the Jewish Stranger, she makes sure she won't notice Him.
But He notices her. Tired, hot and thirsty as He is from His long journey, He does not sit in silence; He is ready to win a soul. He knows precisely the right way (often to us unknown) to arouse this worldly person whose prejudice has already closed all doors--she thinks. And look what happens: in the space of a few minutes she is in tears, her cold heart melted, ready to receive joyous Good News and start a genuine new life as a missionary.
How can Jesus have such phenomenal, insightful power to win sin-alienated hearts? We can answer, "He was divine, and had something we don't have!" But He tells us, "Greater works than these [you] shall do, because I go to My Father" (John 14:12). We have come to the time when those "greater works" must be done.
Jesus wants a soul-winning evangelism explosion that will outdo anything our denominational committees have dreamed of: a worldwide network of humble churches. His secret? We suggest: He had experienced corporate repentance.
Without approving of the lady's sins, He understands the inner pain of her beaten-down heart and thus has found an avenue of entrance, touching a chord of music that has been silent even through four or five marriages.
But was it really mysterious, what Jesus knew? Or can we learn from Him? Yes! If we will humble our proud hearts, to follow Jesus!
Shortly before Jesus met the woman at the well at Sychar (John 4), John the Baptist had baptized Him. But that meant a prerequisite of repentance, for the only people that John could baptize were those who had repented. But Jesus never had sinned! Then how could He let Himself be baptized? To be baptized without repenting would be hypocrisy, for John's mission was only "the baptism of repentance" (Acts 19:4). John knew this. That's why He refused Him the rite.
But here's the wonder: the sinless Son of God lets Himself be lowered into the water the same as any common sinner, making a public confession of repentance. (It's childish to think the reason was He merely wanted to show us the physical method--John could do that; or make a "bank deposit" of "merit" to be transferred to some disadvantaged people like the thief on the cross).
Jesus actually did experience repentance. He had to, or John could not have baptized Him; but it was not for His own sins, but for ours. Therefore it had to be corporate repentance. Totally sinless, He was "made to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21, KJV). Christ did not bear our sins as a man carries a bag on his back. In His own "body" in His soul, in His nervous system, in His conscience, He bore the crushing weight of our guilt. So close did He come to us that He felt as if our sins were His own. His agony in Gethsemane and on Calvary was real.
Ellen White describes Christ's deep heartfelt repentance for us in these perceptive comments:
"After Christ had taken the necessary steps in repentance, conversion, and faith in behalf of the human race, He went to John to be baptized of him in Jordan" (General Conference Bulletin, 1901, page 36).
He identified with the human race so closely that He felt that our sins were His own. His baptism shows that He knows how "every repenting sinner" feels (The Desire of Ages, p. 599). In our self-righteousness we cannot feel such sympathy with "every repenting sinner." That's a major reason why we win so few souls!
Only a Perfect Person can experience a perfect and complete repentance such as that. But we can become partakers of the divine nature. Jesus in His ministry had extraordinary power to win human hearts. Why? In His pre-baptism "repentance, conversion, and faith in behalf of the human race," He learned "what was in man," for He "had no need that anyone should testify of man" (John 2:25). Thus He learned to speak as "no man ever spoke" (John 7:46). Only through these experiences could He break the spell of the world's enchantment and say to whom He would, "Follow Me," passing by no human as worthless, inspiring with hope the "roughest and most unpromising." "To such a one, discouraged, sick, tempted, fallen, Jesus would speak words of tenderest pity, words that were needed and could be understood" (Ministry of Healing, p. 26). We can begin to see that we ourselves can never know such drawing power with people until we partake of the kind of repentance that Christ experienced in our behalf.
Jesus' perfect compassion for every human soul stemmed from His perfect repentance in his/her behalf. He becomes the second Adam, partaking of the body, becoming one with us, accepting us without shame, "in all things ... made like His brethren" (Heb. 2:17).
Analyze what individual repentance is. Is it egocentric or Christocentric? You will have to admit that it is egocentric. I do not say that anything egocentric is evil necessarily; but let's honestly face the fact that individual repentance is based on fear and a desire for personal security in God's kingdom. That of course is the usual appeal in modern "evangelism." Individual repentance is a vain hope for finishing the work in this generation. Our brethren have been calling for this for many decades.
Corporate repentance is genuinely Christocentric. It is not based on fear or concern for reward or security. By sensing a concern for the guilt of the sins of the world, corporate repentance makes an offering to God that is acceptable because it is not selfish. It is a genuine abhorrence for sin and a genuine concern for His vindication.
As long as we are concerned for our own forgiveness, our own justification, our own security, the power for finishing the work is absent. Such a concern is eros-dominated, and does not provide the constraint that will move human beings to the kind of consecration needed to finish the work. As long as self remains our center, we will continue to be lukewarm. Only a Christ-centered motive can possibly deliver us.
Corporate repentance is agape-related. It provides the love which will love others as Christ has loved us. Just as Christ identified Himself with every sinner on earth, taking the steps the sinner must take including repentance "in behalf of the human race" (GCB, 1901, p. 36), so in corporate repentance we identify ourselves with every sinner on earth, excepting none. I sense how another's sin is in reality mine, how that I have nothing of myself, no righteousness of my own,none.
As long as I confine my "repentance" to individual repentance, I do not feel any guilt for another's sin. I repent only for my own personal acts of sin. If I haven't committed murder; I need no repentance for murder. I've got my own righteousness so far as that is concerned, and I can't possibly repent in behalf of someone else's murder. To that extent I do not need the righteousness of Christ! I've got my own. Individual repentance is only for my own individual acts of sin; corporate repentance is what Christ experienced, and is for the world's sin, all sin. In corporate repentance I feel how I too am guilty of murder; all I need is the opportunity, the circumstances, the background, the provocation, that my brother had, and lo, I am involved with him.
Don't you want understanding and compassion? Sure. So Jesus learned how to feel that burden for others, including the five-times loser at the well.
The earth must someday soon be lightened with the glory of "the third angel's message in verity," when a multitude of all nations and tongues will join Him in winning every one in the world who is willing to believe the gospel.
Rather than a few celebrities doing it on screen or through electronics, that fourth angel's ministry must be performed "largely" by humble people working on a personal heart-to-heart level. Their "training"? Seldom that of "literary institutions," but knowing Good News better than for a century and a half we have thought it is.
The best thing one could do to foster evangelism and witnessing is to experience corporate repentance. It is the secret of Jesus' soul-winning power.
--Paul E. Penno
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