Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Discernment: The Safeguard of Revival"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 8: "Discernment: The Safeguard of Revival"
One of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to converted people is discernment, which in simple language means the ability to recognize the truth in difficult situations. A detective can recognize an incriminating clue in a murder case. That's discernment, something most of us don't have.
The apostle John gives us a clue to recognize the difference between a false prophet and a true one, between a false christ and the true Christ: He says, "test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). In other words, don't let yourself get fooled! You don't want to end up taking the mark of the beast! John's clue? "Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist" (vs. 3).
Two Christs are clearly distinguished in Revelation 13:8--the power behind the Beast, and the Lamb. The latter is the term Inspiration uses to designate Christ as the Crucified One, "the Lamb slain." Thus the true Christ is the Christ of the cross; the christ of Babylon the one who spurned the cross. It follows that the true Christ is the One who will draw men if He is lifted up as the Crucified One (John 34, 33; Gal. 3:1). The false christ is the "radiant," winsome, lovable, kindly one who draws all men literally (except those written in the Lamb's Book of Life) when he is lifted up, but not signifying what death he should die. In other words, the power of this "christ" to appeal is in his winsome lovable ways to make people happy, relaxed, integrated, and to give them an "abundant life," apart from the appeal of the cross. The false christ will have absolutely everything the true Christ has, power to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse lepers, set people free from anxieties, worries, etc., feed thousands, smile (constantly), a radiant personality, everything absolutely except the nail prints of the cross.
In a sermon regarding the 1888 General Conference Session, Ellen G. White said: "Let me tell you, brethren, if you have discernment you can understand where God is working. You do not need wonderful miracles to testify of this, because you see the miracles did not do any good to the Jews." [1]
The Lord wants His love (agape) to straighten out our thinking (if we will permit Him to do this for us). It is His Holy Spirit who does this, and He will always lead us to the Word, the Bible. Our Sabbath School lesson mentions Psalm 119, which contains an important "safeguard": "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (vs. 105).
Treasure that Book! If you humbly ask the Lord to make you become "a giant" in the Word, He will bless you and you will grow in knowledge you never dreamed could be yours. That "knowledge" is "the truth of the gospel " which "truth shall make you free" (Gal. 2:5; John 8:32). The truth is what happened at the cross. With no extremism the church will proclaim the "third angel's message in verity" as "not to know anything ... save Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (cf. 1 Cor. 2:2). Let the solemn truth stretch your mind and "enlarge [your] heart" as David prays (Psalm 119:32), so you can "comprehend" its vast dimensions, "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love (agape) of Christ" (Eph. 3:14-19).
Our lesson suggests that fanaticism "tends to be unbalanced, focusing on one aspect of faith to the neglect of all others." The question is later asked: "How could you help [your local church] find the right balance?" But what is faith? How does the Bible define it? It is not a synonym for works! The devil hates the idea of salvation by faith alone, by faith which works. If in any way he can inject into our thinking the idea that faith is itself works, then he has us deceived. John 3:16 has it: "God loved," "God gave," and we "believe" (the same in Greek as have faith). Faith is a human heart response to God's loving and giving.
Conservative Christians for hundreds of years have discussed (even argued) the relationship between faith and works. Their favorite word used to describe it is "balance." The popular idea is that one must hold faith and works in "balance." If you talk about faith for ten minutes then you must also talk about works for ten minutes. However, a check of the concordance reveals that nowhere in the Bible is the word "balance" used to describe this relationship. In inspired writings, there is practically nothing to suggest the use of that word as being appropriate. Scripture and inspired writings are clear "beyond question" that salvation is totally by grace through faith, and Paul even goes out of his way to add, "Not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9). The "balance" idea strongly suggests that salvation is by faith and by works, a 50/50 deal. Which if true, would certainly give the saved ones something to boast about: "yes, Jesus saved me, but look, I did my part too!"
Yes, the Bible is true; there is only one Savior, Jesus; none of us is a co-savior. It's not a 50/50 salvation trip; it's 100% salvation by Christ, received by faith. But the faith is not the "dead faith" that the apostle James decries (James 2:20). A "dead faith" can produce nothing except self-righteousness (which doesn't have a very nice fragrance!). A living faith works; it has to work; it will work; it always works. (The "works" is a verb and not a noun.) "In Christian work there is ample room for the activity of all the gifts God has given. All are to be united in carrying out God's requirements, revealing at every advance step that faith which works by love and purifies the soul." [2]
The good news is, God loves His church infinitely more than we can. He is ready to work for reformation as soon as He can find human agents prepared to cooperate intelligently and humbly with Him. He will do what this inspired quotation says: "The Lord will raise up men to bear the message of truth to the world and to His people. If those in responsible positions do not move forward in the opening providences of God, bearing an appropriate message for this time, the words of warning will be given to others who will be faithful to their trust. Even youthful Christians will be chosen to 'cry aloud and spare not.'" [3] In other words, the Lord is already at work; our task is to discern what He is doing and whom He is using. We dare not err in judgment!
--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 2, "The Spirit of Discernment," p. 607 (recommended reading).
[2] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 114, 115; Manuscript 16, 1901 (emphasis supplied).
[3] Ellen G. White, Sabbath School Worker, April 1892; Testimonies on Sabbath School Work, p. 56.
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