Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Evaluating Witnessing and Evangelism"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 12: "Evaluating Witnessing and Evangelism"
How does God evaluate our witnessing and evangelism? Over and beyond all the Reformers and Protestant denominations, God raised up the Great Second Advent Movement to be a second-in-time Pentecost. The first Pentecost was the early rain of the Holy Spirit. The disciples and early Christians were united because they appreciated what Christ had accomplished on His cross on behalf of sinners. Their hearts were reconciled to God and repentance was its manifestation. This was the result of Christ's first apartment ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and He blessed those believers with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which initiated the growth of the early church.
For eighteen hundred years the world was blessed by the first apartment ministry of Christ. But there never was a Reformer or church or body of believers that was fully mature in their reconciliation with God that they could stand side by side with Christ as a final demonstration of the truth that the gospel not only forgives sin but removes sin completely. All pre-1844 believers in Christ were prepared to die and come up in the first resurrection at His second coming.
In other words, pre-1844 believers witnessed and evangelized making their appeal on the basis of individual repentance for sin. Individual repentance for sin is a good thing if one is preparing to die.
However, since 1844 we are living in the cosmic Day of Atonement (Daniel 8:14). And Heaven's sanctuary cannot be cleansed until the hearts of God's people on earth are cleansed and they cease to send their sins to heaven for pardon. This means a special work of cleansing the taproot of sin--the heart motivations--"that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19).
The root cause of sin is the "old man" of self. What formerly passed for faith as motivated out of self-interest--a fear of hell and a hope of reward--is now transcended by a stronger motivation. Justification by faith is no longer self-centered (individual repentance so that I can go to heaven), but it is an ever-deepening heart appreciation of what it cost Jesus to die on His cross. Jesus reveals the truth of the cross in such high-fidelity that the heart is reconciled to God. And if the heart is reconciled to God then "faith works by agape" (Gal. 5:6) and is inevitably reconciled to God's law including the seventh-day Sabbath.
This necessarily involves corporate repentance. Corporate means of the body. The body of humanity has one common denominator and that is "the flesh." As descendants of the first Adam we inherit through our parents a "carnal mind" which "is enmity against God ... not subject to the law of God" and "the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7, 8). The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus to reveal our unconsciouscorporate sin, which is common to all humanity.
So justification by faith before 1844 was understood as solely a legal pardon for sin, so that sinners could go on sinning not recognizing the necessity for the cleansing of the taproot of sin, which is selfishness. However, the post-1844 understanding of justification by faith is not only a legal pardon for sin, but contemplates the complete eradication of sin from its source, which is the heart cleansing.
Satan has set up his false high priestly ministry in order to deceive the self-centered heart that it can receive a legal pardon for sin and yet never have a heart completely cleansed from the taproot of sin. Satan wants evangelism and witnessing to be based on this kind of understanding of justification by faith--an individual repentance for sin. [1]
God raised up the Seventh-day Adventist Church to proclaim the sanctuary truth--"the foundation of our faith." [2]
The "everlasting gospel" in high-fidelity is the sacrifice of the Lamb for the world which reconciles alienated hearts to God. This is the evangelistic message which produces the quality of fruit manifested in obedience to God's law. [3]
"Another gospel" has crept in derived from the popular evangelical "church growth" movement sponsored by such organizations as Fuller Theological Seminary; Bill Hybels' Willow Creek Church; Rick Warren's Saddleback Church per The Purpose Driven Church. It's called the "Empowered Church." Its objective is: "Evangelism is the only reason the church exists." Everything is evaluated on the basis of "How are we doing in this particular ministry?" [4] The church is told that "we exist to win souls for the kingdom." [5] "How can we be more effective?" [6]
These are old covenant questions reminiscent of how ancient Israel bound themselves to a "yoke of bondage" at Mt. Sinai (Gal. 5:1; 4:24) when they promised, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). The self-centered motivation of we is firmly in place in this evangelistic strategy.
If evangelism and witnessing are the sole reason for the existence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, then we are no different than any other Protestant or evangelical church. Furthermore, evangelism and witnessing as the first priority would invalidate the Second Advent Movement since 1844 based on the pioneer's understanding of the cleansing of the sanctuary truth which they believed was to be proclaimed to the world.
"We exist to win souls for the kingdom" is a Biblically incorrect statement and principle that undermines and eliminates the need of Jesus to have a Bride who has fully grown up in His agape. This philosophy is in direct opposition to the central Adventist doctrine related to the "cleansing of the sanctuary." This teaching ultimately negates the Adventist understanding that explains the "Great Disappointment" of 1844 and invalidates the Advent Movement altogether.
The underlying philosophy of all churches that are involved in the Church Growth movement and Evangelicals is that they exist to win souls to the kingdom. It is "another Gospel" (Gal. 1:6).
Based on the criteria of how many souls are won to the kingdom, does this determine when the Lord Jesus will return? Is there a quantum level of baptisms that must be reached in order to trigger God's command to that "angel" to unleash Jesus the Harvester to return? In other words, is it on the basis of how well we are doing in witnessing and evangelism that determines the nearness of Jesus' coming? If that is the case, then it is salvation by works or soul-winning. If a billion souls are won on the basis of individual repentance in order to save their own selfish souls, will that bring Christ's coming any nearer?
We've all heard the story of getting the cart before the horse. In other words, is it the cart that pulls the horse or is it the other way around? Of course, it's the horse that pulls the cart.
Likewise, what pulls or drives the "cart" of evangelism and witnessing in the church is "the truth of the gospel." It is the message of Jesus' cross that converts souls and turns them to God and His commandments. The message produces the fruit. More precisely, the clearer we comprehend the everlasting gospel in all its high-fidelity, the Holy Spirit can effectively reach the heart without human distortion or interference.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church exists as its number one priority to faithfully proclaim the sanctuary truth which is the message of Jesus' unparalleled sacrifice for the sins of the world. This is the criterion upon which Jesus evaluates Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-21). To the degree that she is faithful in proclaiming that truth, the maturity of souls will testify as to the quality of a truly converted harvest at Jesus' coming.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Early Writings, pp. 55, 56.
[2] Evangelism, p. 221; cf. 222, 225.
[3] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[4] "Evangelism and Witnessing," Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (April-June 2012), Sunday, June 17, p. 138 Teachers' ed., p. 97 Standard ed. (emphasis added).
[5] Ibid., Thursday, June 21, p. 142 Teachers', p. 101 Standard (emphasis added).
[6] Ibid., Thursday, June 21, p. 138 Teachers', p. 97 Standard (emphasis added).
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