Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 10: "Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change"
The True Witness gives to the Laodicean Church a reform message that if received and believed results in lasting revival. [1] It is the "straight testimony," the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. The "straight testimony" is an understanding of justification by faith,--"the third angel's message in verity," [2]--which agrees with "the blotting out of sin" from the soul temple. For this reason many "rise up against it" causing the "shaking." [3]
The message of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner was the beginning of that testimony to Laodicea. [4] God's "most precious message" has yet to be seriously considered on all levels of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the authentic reformation leading to permanent revival.
125 years ago there was an unwillingness to "grow and change." In the 1888 era the Advent people resisted their High Priest. Ellen White wrote: "The people have not entered into the holy place where Jesus has gone to make an atonement for His children." [5] The spirit of resistance to the 1888 message is passed from one generation to the next. We continue to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the form of the latter rain, when, in fact, the Lord has already given it to us in our history and it can be rediscovered.
Inspired insight wrote over 100 times, "Just like the Jews." We are repeating their resistance to the Messiah. The only responsible thing for Jews today praying for their Messiah to come is to go back in their history and rediscover the truth that has already come. The only responsible thing for the Adventist Church is to go back in our history and see where the Lord gave us our showers of the "latter rain." Our ideas of revival and reformation are to be exchanged for the True Witness's ideas of reformation and revival. He is giving a thorough-going denominational repentance, but thus far it has not been received (Rev. 3:19, 20).
Since the turn of the 21st century a number of books bearing the titles "Latter Rain," "God's Last Message," and "Christ Our Righteousness" have come off the presses. They basically reinforce the idea that although the message of righteousness by faith was initially resisted during the 1888 era, things have changed and we are now proclaiming that message. One searches in vain to find any clarity of thought connecting justification by faith with the cleansing of the sanctuary idea. Little progress has been made in recovering our sanctuary message, much less advancing it as the clearest gospel of all. For all our "desire" to have lasting revival and reformation, our ideas about how to obtain it remain old covenant. Revival is something we must do in order to produce reformation.
In our lesson for this week we are encouraged to study several biographical vignettes illustrating how reformation works. One day Jesus visited the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. It's where the sick people hung out hoping for the movement of the water. A man who was lame for 38 years had a plan. If he could be the first to get to the water, he would be healed by the visiting angel. When Jesus showed up asking, "Wilt thou be made whole?" (John 5:6), the man said, before I can get to the water, others beat me to the draw. He implied that if Jesus could help him to the water, then he would be healed. That was his Plan A for getting healed.
When Jesus said, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk" (vs. 8) the man had a decision to make. Either stick with his plan A, or respond to Jesus' command. He chose the latter and was healed. Jesus' word produced a reformation in the man's thinking as to the way he could be healed. He had never thought of this way to healing. He was willing to give up his plan and be reformed by the Lord's idea for healing. The order here is that reformation of truth brings permanent revival.
The Bible revelation of the character of God is: Jesus says, "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10). The story of the prodigal son emphasizes the seeking love of the father--the lost boy would never have said, "I will arise and go to my father" unless the seeking love of the father had drawn him (cf. John 12:32, 33).
Our children and youth must not be given the idea that God is like a doctor deep in his inner office, hard to find! The seeking love of the Father and the self-emptying love of Christ must be made plain early and through their teen years. An outward profession based on fear is empty; it's the heart that must be won by the truth of His love.
Our current "offer" view of God's forgiveness forces us to see the prodigal son differently. If he is "under condemnation" until he takes the initiative to come home, he cannot be a family member, a son; he is a stranger. But the biblical view sees the prodigal as still being a son even while he was rioting and then in the pigsty--a son, indeed, although a lost one. Did the father "make" him a son only when he came home?
The Bible view tells the prodigal, You are a child of God "in Christ" by virtue of His sacrifice as the second Adam, and He has elected you since He gave Himself for you on His cross. But you have wandered away and sold your birthright. Now, realize and appreciate your true status in Him. Let His love draw you home where you belong, by virtue of His already adopting you "in Christ."
God does not regard unconverted people as wolves to be shot down as soon as possible; no, but He regards them as sheep, not in the fold, to be sure, but still sheep--lost sheep. They need to be converted, to be born again, yes; but all the while God considers them to be heirs to His estate because He sent forth His Son to be "made of a woman" as we are all "made of a woman." He has adopted the human race "in Christ."
You are not to think of yourself as an outsider, says Paul. Because of Christ's sacrifice, you are now "in the family," adopted (Eph. 1:5), loved all the while as the prodigal son was loved. But you didn't know it; you felt ostracised, estranged, alienated, lost, rejected; but God did not regard you as estranged or alienated. He reconciled you to Himself "in Christ." Now, says Paul, "be ye reconciled to God." The proof that He has reconciled you? Gal. 3:6, "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your heart, crying, Abba, Father." What a beautiful, yes and powerful, illustration of Good News "in Christ," and now you can see it for yourself, because your human heart is crying "Father... !"
Your sin-hardened heart receives the atonement. Now there is no end to the amount of good works faith can produce motivated by God's forgiving love. Here is justification by faith which manifests itself by obedience to all the commandments of God. [6] It is the clearest understanding of justification because it is consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary idea.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] "Amid the confusing cries, 'Lo, here is Christ! Lo, there is Christ!' will be borne a special testimony, a special message of truth appropriate for this time, which message is to be received, believed, and acted upon" (Review and Herald, Oct. 13, 1904).
[2] Evangelism, p. 190; Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[3] "I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God's people" (Early Writings, p. 270).
[4] "The message given us by A. T. Jones, and E. J. Waggoner is the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1052).
[5] "Need of Earnestness in the Cause of God," The Advent Review And Sabbath Herald (Feb. 25, 1890).
[6] This is what caused Ellen White's heart to rejoice when she heard "a most precious message [which the Lord sent] to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (1895), pp. 91, 92).
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