Monday, June 4, 2012

Lesson 10: "A Love Response"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 10: "A Love Response"

When "the Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones" in the 1888 era, its basic thrust was soul-winning in preparation for the second coming of Christ in that generation.

Specifically, it was "to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." [1] Thus it was far more than a mere theological game for the church members to play. Ellen White's definition of presenting the message to the world was the language of Revelation 18. It was what we speak of as the Loud Cry of the third angel's message. She recognized that the message of Jones and Waggoner was its "beginning." [2]
All during the years while she uttered her 300-plus endorsements of the message, Ellen White's heart-burden was to give the message to the world. She was sorry that in the end of the era human opposition to the message resulted in its being "in a great degree kept away from the world." [3] The message itself was built-in "evangelism." It couldn't be stopped once it started unless "the brethren" succeeded in paralyzing it.

At the end of the era, her principal expressed disappointment was not that more money had not come in for "public evangelism," but that our ministers and people had not grasped the message itself. What occupied her mind at that time of the Loud Cry was not so much what we call "public evangelism" where one or a few individuals proclaim the message and many come to listen to it (that came later), but personal evangelism on the part of members of the church who came to understand the message. She saw a one-to-one method of proclaiming it as highly efficient to the point of success in finishing the world gospel commission in that one single generation. She saw that as Heaven's intention for us.

But the power behind her vision needs to be understood: it was "the truth of the gospel" as contained in the actual 1888 message itself. It was not theological conundrums unraveled; it was not Conference-administered "efforts" held in tents or meeting halls; it was simple truth grasped by ordinary people which they had never seen so clearly before. It gripped their souls as Good News that met their heart needs. It included fresh views of the new covenant. It never before had been so clearly proclaimed. It inspired people to share the ideas.

It included fresh views of the justification that Christ accomplished by His sacrifice "for the sins of the whole world." Calvinist and Arminian views had functioned like spiritual cataracts that blinded people; they were now removed. The resultant clarity was a powerful motivation to share the message.

It included fresh views of the understanding of what faith is. It came into focus as a heart appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to save the world. Let the heart be moved with "the truth of the gospel," let the Savior be uplifted on His cross and nothing can stop the one who believes from sharing!

It included fresh views of obedience to the law. In the wake of the proclamation of the 1888 message, obedience became a joy. "Thousands of dollars" in back tithe flowed into the church without pressure being applied simply because the message of "faith which works by love [agape]" gripped souls.

Returning tithe to the Lord became a joy because now it was seen that Christ's "yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light." Love of money was eclipsed by love of the gospel.
It included fresh views of the nearness-of-the-Savior truth. This brought Jesus so close that "we" saw Him as being real, "a Savior nigh at hand and not afar off." The confusion in "our" idea of Christ's personality was resolved. Biblical ideas replaced the dimness of Protestant fog inherited originally from Roman Catholicism. Ellen White said that young people were brought face to face with Christ as though they turned a corner and there He was.
At last the boring sanctuary doctrine came alive. "We" discovered a reason for living that constrained "us" with new zeal. We could cooperate with Christ in His closing work as High Priest. Each individual suddenly acquired a self-respecting importance, someone who could help hasten the return of Jesus because we could actually help Him in His final task.
And on and on, the 1888 truths caused many to exclaim, "I never saw the Bible so clearly before!" They just had to tell others! No one could hold believers back.

That was "evangelism," pure and simple. The power was not in a Conference-promoted campaign, but in truth itself. It was seen how Paul was right when he said, "The love of Christ constraineth us." You couldn't sit still! (Power-pointed Conference-promoted campaigns are fine if the distinct and unique elements of the latter rain/loud cry truths are in the message. That's where the real power is that converts people and holds them faithful until the Lord comes.)

Ellen White's dream was that the message should be proclaimed in "every church," and then it would spill out to the world beyond, where millions would find precious truth in a teaching of the cross which they had never seen before.

The cold fact is that multitudes of Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians, utterly sincere, have never understood the cross of Christ! The reason is that their commonly held belief in natural immortality had been a dense fog that hides the truth of what happened on the cross from their view. Seventh-day Adventists have taught the non-immortality of the soul for nearly two centuries, but their confusion over the two covenants has kept them, too, from seeing clearly what happened on the cross. So the proclamation of the cross of Christ became the essence of the 1888 Loud Cry message that "we" had looked forward to for decades, and yet we had never known what it would be.

Jesus proclaimed this same truth which later is "evangelism" in the 1888 message. It was at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem just before His crucifixion:

"On the last and most important day of the festival Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice [was this a precursor of the "loud cry" we look forward to?], 'Whoever is thirsty should come to Me and drink. As the scripture says [Song of Solomon 4:15], 'Whoever believes in Me, streams of life-giving water will pour out from his heart" (John 7:37, 38, TEV).

This is a profound statement of the method of evangelism that Jesus loved. He is not putting pressure on us to do this or that; He is not making us feel guilty for not doing more "evangelism." He is guaranteeing that if we truly believe in Him, the purest evangelism will be flowing out of our hearts as from an overflowing fountain. Of course, no one can truly "believe" if he doesn't understand the message. Therefore the proclamation, the teaching, of the "most precious" truths is utterly essential.

This is the idea that Ellen White and Jones and Waggoner saw in the 1888 message. The love for the message that is awakened by one's first discovering it, never dies. You long somehow to share it with every soul you meet. It's a replay of what motivated the early Christians. Youth catch the vision readily once they understand the message clearly.

Ellen White told us that we" would be surprised by "the simple means" that God will employ in the final proclamation of the third angel's message: this message of 1888 was it. It took everybody by surprise in 1888, including Ellen White herself. When the message itself in its pure strength is undiluted with Babylon's concepts that compromise it, will it not be proclaimed as Heaven intended, to "every Seventh-day Adventist Church" and then to the world? (It will, yet, in the providence of God!) The final blaze of gospel glory will illuminate the world, and for the first time since Pentecost the word "evangelism" will at last come into its own.

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 91.
[2] Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892.
[3] Selected Messages, book 1, p. 235.
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