Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"Revival: Our Great Need"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 1: "Revival: Our Great Need"
An email from Jesus in the sanctuary addresses our pathetic lukewarmness toward His cross. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19).
We are still on this earth and Jesus hasn't returned. So we haven't turned to Jesus in repentance. Even religious people can be blinded by their own sinful hearts when Jesus' love disciplines them. We don't understand what He means by repentance because we think that we are His good people.
It's more than isolated ones here or there that are called to repent. Jesus' witness is to "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans" (Rev.3:14). This "messenger" is said to be one of "the seven stars ... in My right hand" (Rev. 1:20). "God's ministers are symbolized by the seven stars." [1] Mostly there is dead silence in our lesson quarterlies regarding Christ's call to repent. The church appears to have overdosed on sleeping pills.
Although each of us must apply individually and personally any counsel in the messages to the seven churches, this call to "repent" is specifically addressed to more than individuals. The appeal in Revelation 3:20 ("if any man hear my voice") contains a significant Greek word, tis, which primarily means "a certain one," not just "anyone." In the Laodicean message, it refers to the "angel" as the certain one to whom the message is addressed. Unquestionably, Jesus quotes the Song of Solomon in His appeal, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (5:2, LXX). The "certain one" who must hear is His beloved, the church. The Lord appoints leadership to role models and examples.
The idea prevails that it's impossible to develop a character like Christ's. Perfection of character isn't possible. So an ever-deepening repentance is rejected and is at odds with what Jesus wants. Could this be an imperceptible roll-over to the side of the enemy in his warfare with Christ?
Repentance is a turning of the mind away from sin. What we once loved we now hate. It's a 180-degree U-turn going the other way. We have thought Christ calls for individual repentance from Laodicea. So we have based our entire evangelistic enterprise on calling individual sinners out of the world to save their own souls from "hell" and receive Christ's "offer" of salvation. The appeal has been based on fear of hell and hope of heavenly reward. Hence, faith is motivated by egocentric concerns. This leaves the individual "under the law" (in disobedience of the law), for his faith is driven by self-interest rather than agape which "is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10).
It's obvious that after a century or more of evangelism calling for individual repentance that this has not hastened the coming of Christ, but delayed it. We have misunderstood the nature of repentance that Christ gives to Laodicea.
Christ's remedy for "lukewarmness" is both an individual and a corporate repentance. Herein lies the secret to lasting revival and reformation. Sin is a corporate disease of the human race. "In Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). "All have sinned" following the footsteps of our father Adam (Rom. 5:12). Instinctively we recoil against this, for we feel that surely we have something good in us. But Scripture reminds us: "In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing (Rom. 7:18). This means that the sin that another human has committed, I could commit if Christ had not saved me from it. We need the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ 100%.
This was the stumblingblock in 1888 and still scandalizes many today. Apart from the grace of a Saviour, the sins of the whole world could be mine if I had the "opportunity" to be in the shoes of other people, to be tempted as they in their circumstances.
This idea is impressively stated by Ellen White: "God knows every thought, purpose, every plan, every motive. The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity." [2] There is indeed abundant forgiveness and heart-cleansing with Jesus, but He cannot "cleanse us from all unrighteousness" unless we "confess" it with understanding; and we cannot confess it unless we realize it. We have something yet to learn.
An infected mosquito bites the finger. The result is the disease of malaria which enters the bloodstream and becomes a corporate disease. The only remedy is medicine which provides for a corporate healing.
How can we be guilty of sin as a church or corporate body? "There is a terrible amount of guilt for which the church is responsible." [3] The great gospel commission could have been completed before the horrors of World Wars I and II, and subsequent ones that were unleashed on the world. [4] The reason is that the 1888 message was the "beginning" of the latter rain and the loud cry; she says it was "to a large degree" rejected by the leadership of the church. Thus those who fervently believed in the doctrine of the second advent actually delayed it for generations. The sorrow of "what might have been" filled Ellen White's soul with anguish. [5]
If we were to have another 1888 Session where the Holy Spirit manifested Himself as the latter rain, would we again insult Him? Unless there is repentance for doing it the first time, the answer has to be yes.
What is denominational repentance? It is a "body" of believersindividually experiencing corporate repentance. As surely as theSeventh-day Adventist denomination is the "remnant church" of prophecy, the Laodicea of Revelation, so surely will such repentancepermeate that "body" in the time of the "final atonement." This is Christ's gift to His church.
"Unto two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed" (Dan. 8:14). The books of heaven cannot be cleansed of the record of our sins until our hearts are cleansed. The righteousness by faith issue thus comes into focus: justification by faith is more than a mere legal declaration; it makes the at-enmity soul to be at-one-with-God.
Is such a repentance possible? Will God ever have a people who have so learned contrition that they feel that all the sins of the human race could be theirs but for the grace of a Saviour, and who thus stand before the throne "cleansed"? Will He have a people who recognize their 100% need of the imputed righteousness of Christ, who fully realize what they would be without it?
Some sadly say no; ancient Israel failed, and so must modern Israel. But the bottom line of Bible prophecy says: "Then the sanctuary shall be cleansed." Zechariah foretells an experience of corporate denominational repentance, followed by a glorious experience of cleansing (Zech. 12:7-14; 13:1). Such an experience permeating the church is denominational repentance. Christ calls for it in His message to Laodicea. Isn't it time for us to respond?
--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:[1] Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, p. 13.
[2] SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1085.
[3] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 457.
[4] General Conference Bulletin (1893), p. 419; Evangelism, p. 696.
[5] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 104-106; The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (Dec. 15, 1904).
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