Thursday, June 28, 2012

"A Perpetual Ministry"

Sabbath School Today With the 1888 Message Dynamic Evangelism and Witnessing Lesson 13: "A Perpetual Ministry" If you think the 1888 message will never take root and overwhelm the lukewarmness of Laodicea, then think again. This series of thirteen studies on "Evangelism and Witnessing" causes us to turn to the Scripture prophesies of a worldwide proclamation of pure gospel truth. "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). "Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem" (Zech. 14:8). "In the last days, saith God, ... on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit" (Acts 2:17, 18). "I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power: and the earth was lightened with His glory" (Rev. 18:1). Great good news of Christ's "perpetual ministry" to finish His work! In his chapter 60, Isaiah is overjoyed to write about the time when the earth will be drenched with a special "light" of "the truth of the gospel." He says to God's people, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and ... Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isa. 60:1-3). We have usually thought of this as the time when we will have more radio and TV stations, bigger megaphones for increased volume, so everybody in the world will at last hear what has been our traditional understanding of the message. There is an identical "loud voice" in Revelation 14:9 and 18:1-4 that characterizes the last soul-winning, "perpetual ministry" of all time. Will it be a greater noise level that will command the world's attention? We have talked, and prayed, and sung about it for generations. Have we assumed it will be a glorious and triumphant success for the church, to validate all our past labors? Millions who have gone to "sleep in Jesus" have dreamed of living in those awe-inspiring days when the earth will be "lighted." Is there anyone concerned that our campaigns and publications are not as yet truly fulfilling these prophecies? Can it honestly be said that our message is stirring the world, or even arousing any significant opposition as in apostolic times? Is it more expensive slick paper that our publications need? More four-color pictures, more refinement of the photoengraver's art? Is it merely more money, more psychological techniques, more music, more professional finesse, that our evangelistic campaigns need? Or is there a problem with the message content, the proclamation of gospel truth itself? Our Lord says we are "poor," where we have thought we are "rich," in our comprehension and proclamation of "the third angel's message in verity," the pure truth of the gospel that has not been clearly seen "since the day of Pentecost" (Fundamentals of Christian Education,p. 473). It is an old cliché with us to say that "we need the Holy Spirit." Of course, we do; but the reception and inspiration of the Holy Spirit is not a matter of magic or good fortune. "The gospel of Christ ... is the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16), and that "power" is not resident in emotional extravaganza but in truth, even "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:14). "We have the truth," is the universal boast. The music on the record is fine; all we might need perhaps is a little more "emphasis," to turn up the volume control a little. Many who speak of righteousness by faith speak of it as a proud possession and our proclamation of it as solely a matter of "emphasis," of how much the volume control needs to be turned up from time to time. But gospel truth has nothing to do with such "emphasis." The very use of the word betrays an ignorance of what it is. Who would dare say that the apostles preached a mere "re-emphasis" of Judaism? Nowhere did Ellen White use the word "emphasis" or "re-emphasis" in relation to the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness, as though it were a matter of mere adjustment of homiletic balance. Righteousness by faith is a vital, throbbing, explosive truth, and God has given man no volume-control knob to "emphasize" it with, to turn it up or down. You have it or you don't have it; and if you have it, you turn the world upside down. Nothing less. And if we're not turning the world upside down, the only thing to do is to confess that the True Witness is right. We are wretched and poor, whereas we have pathetically thought we are rich. Until the "angel" sees it and confesses it, there can be no will to take the proffered remedies the True Witness has for us. But wait a moment: The Bible is not talking about an increased noise level, but of increased "light." It's to be a clearer grasp of what Paul repeatedly calls "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5, 14). Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:43). Greater light in understanding the gospel of righteousness by faith brings that freedom. But if someone feels "rich and increased with goods" in his understanding of the message, it could mean he has no "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (see Matt. 5:6). Emotionalism can easily be mistaken for truth. The "glory" that Isaiah speaks of (Isa. 60:2) and Revelation (18:1-4) will be a clearer grasp of justification by faith parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. It is an understanding of justification by faith that reconciles alienated hearts to God in an ever deepening repentance. We don't want to be blinded to the light when the Lord sends it as the Jews were blinded to their Messiah when He came. You can "follow" Jesus only if you "take up your cross daily" to be "crucified with Him" (Luke 9:23). --Paul E. Penno --------------------------------------------------------Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to sabbathschooltoday@