Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Witnessing and Service: The Fruit of Revival"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 4: "Witnessing and Service: The Fruit of Revival"

According to our quarterly: When God's people do this--study, pray, and witness; then they will have revival. [1] In other words, revival comes as a result of something we must do. The idea is that our performance produces the revival of the Holy Spirit. The old covenant promises of ancient Israel never resulted in lasting revival and reformation.
After 2000+ years, how much progress have "we" made as God's people? Think of them then: Israel expecting their Messiah to come "almost any time" just as we are expecting the same Messiah to return "almost any time now,"--at least, "soon." They knew 2000 years ago, just as we know now, that there must come "a great reformatory movement among God's people" in order to be ready for the Messiah. There was an atmosphere of expectancy among God's people then, as there is now. And uppermost in their minds was a question that, frankly speaking, is in ours today: "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" (John 6:28).
Today there are seminars and sermons presented that are variations of that question. "What program, what duty, what plan, shall we do that we might have that 'great reformatory movement' of revival in preparation for the return of our Messiah?" There is diligent study in the Bible and inspired writings that yield a multitude of quotations about duties to "do"--about health reform, diet, good works, tithes, offerings, witnessing, devotionals. And some sincere people are brilliant and have re-phrased the question, so it reads: "What shall we not do, to work the works of God?" "What worldly habit must we give up, in order to have that great reformation"? And each teacher has a new program that this time will work, if only we will do it, or give up doing this or that which is worldly. There must be something we can do (or not do) to cure the worldwide disease of lukewarmness that everybody agrees afflicts the church. We long for some program, some new idea, some committee plan from some fertile minds.
Could it be that Jesus had the solution, 2000 years ago? "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom [God] hath sent" (vs. 29). The solution is not doing something but seeing something. Let's "look."
Jesus isn't waiting for you to initiate or even maintain a saving relationship with Him. He Himself has taken the initiative to build it: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:16). What He is wondering about is how He can build a one-sided fellowship with you! He has made all the advances; your job is to respond--which is what it means "to believe." He did all the loving and the giving first (John 3:16).
He seeks to maintain the fellowship through the daily, even hourly prompting of the Holy Spirit: "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left" (Isa. 30:21). "The Father ... will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God" (John 14:16, 17, GNB). Yes, that's true; believe it. He will stay with you unless you take the initiative to drive Him off.
We work hard, energetically to proclaim the gospel. But is there a yet-untried method of soul-winning? Not merely by pushing electronic buttons, but that has such a built-in power pack that common people who believe the message can watch conversions take place?
If you attend church, you've heard the pleas: "Do more, work harder, win souls! Look how the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons go door to door; why don't we do more?" But is this what Jesus had in mind when He said, "Go ye ..." Is there a more effective way to finish the great gospel commission?
Who doesn't long to see far greater efficiency in soul-winning? The apostles put little pressure upon the early Christians. Paul commends rather than prods the Thessalonian Christians: "Not only did the message about the Lord go out from you throughout Macedonia and Achaia, but the news about your faith in God has gone everywhere. "There is nothing, then, that we need to say" (1 Thess. 1:8, GNB). An evangelist's or church administrator's dream! No need for high-pressure promotion.
Was the gospel of the Thessalonians self-propagating? It seems that it did have its own built-in power pack. It motivated people even to the point of being thought extravagantly zealous: "If we are out of our mind ... [or] in our right mind, ... Christ's love [agape] compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves" (2 Cor. 5:13-15, NIV).
In other words, they sensed a motivation fueled by something special they saw in the sacrifice of Christ. Once you grasped what had happened, you just couldn't sit still. The tongue-tied had to talk, and the timid grew bold (Isa. 32:4; Zech. 12:8). You saw the Messiah to be the second Adam; He died "for all." That meant--if He had not died, you would be dead. Since He became corporately one with the human race, "all died" in Him; from now on nobodycould go on "living for themselves." You could no longer think that you belonged to yourself, or that anything you possessed was yours. With one divine stroke, knot of human self-centered concern was cut. The cross did it.
A new purpose for living took over: if you believed this self-propagating gospel, you just had to live "for Him who died" for you, and it wasn't fear or hope-of-reward that moved you. Materialism, sensuality, all self-centered motivations were transcended by this phenomenal new reason for living. You saw yourself eternally in debt to the Son of God. And the idea caught on, because there were honest hearts everywhere. Jews and Gentiles came out of nowhere, ready to respond.
This understanding of what the cross meant first burst on people's minds at Pentecost. "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just," cried Peter." You "killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. ... Repent therefore and be converted" (Acts 3:14, 15, 19). And they did repent, and they were converted. "The truth in agape" compelled multitudes to respond--3000 in one day.
This was "the former rain." Today we await "the latter rain." In 1888 the Lord "sent" us "the beginning" of that message. Ellen White called it "the light which will lighten the earth with its glory." Had it been accepted, "then the strong, clear light of that other angel who comes down from heaven having great power, would have filled the earth with his glory ... Heavenly messengers have grieved, impatient at the delay. ... Angels of heaven were seeking to communicate through human agencies--justification by faith, the righteousness of Christ." "The loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ." [2]
That self-propagating gospel at Pentecost accompanied Christ's beginning work in heaven as High Priest. Now His closing work in the cosmic Day of Atonement will be accompanied by a fully developed "everlasting gospel" that will "lighten the earth with glory." The same cross-exalting motivation will fuel that final burst of soul-winning.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Quarterly, p. 35; p. 46 teachers' edition.
[2] 1888 Materials, pp. 673, 1070-1071, 1073.
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