Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 12: "Reformation: Healing Broken Relationships"
Our lesson on "Healing Broken Relationships" seems to focus on inter-personal relationships--"breaking down the barriers in our relationships with one another." This will be impossible until the greatest "broken relationship" in the history of the planet is healed--the crucifixion of Christ. And what will create this healing? The crucifixion of self--the repentance of the ages that Christ has been calling us to since the time He walked this earth.
Our lesson says that "great spiritual revivals in the past fostered healed relationships." In describing the revival meetings held at South Lancaster early in 1889 (shortly after the 1888 General Conference Session in Minneapolis), Ellen White directs us to the vital heart of the practical godliness aspect of the message given by the Lord to A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner to present at that Session:
"I have never seen a revival work go forward with such thoroughness, and yet remain so free from all undue excitement. There was no urging or inviting. The people were not called forward, but there was a solemn realization that Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. ... We seemed to breathe in the very atmosphere of heaven. .. What a beautiful sight it was to the universe to see that as fallen men and women beheld Christ, they were changed, taking the impression of His image upon their souls. ... They saw themselves depraved and degraded in heart. ... This subdues the pride of the heart, and is a crucifixion of self." [1]
This idea of "crucifixion of self" is, or course, not new. Paul, Christ's best defender, says, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20); you are never crucified alone. He says that if you can understand how good is Christ's Good News (in Matt. 11:28-30, for example) you'll consider all this love of self, this love-of-the-world baggage that has so engrossed you, as being so much "garbage." You'll drop it in a moment when you see the "excellency" of being crucified with Christ (read Phil. 3:7, 8; that word "dung" in the KJV means literally "what is thrown to the dogs").
Yes, let yourself feel ashamed--it's a healthy experience. Our souls unite with Him "through faith" (Eph. 2:8). His cross becomes our cross and His glorious victory becomes ours. "Behold Him" on that cross; join Him there. Then you can learn to "glory" in Christ's cross.
Tuesday's lesson admonishes us that "God calls us to cooperation, not competition." Again, the focus must be on Christ, cooperating with Christ first, then cooperation with each other will follow naturally. Cooperation with God involves saying "Yes!" to His call to service. Many shrink from making a full consecration of themselves to Christ because they fear the consequences such a consecration might involve. If the thought of giving yourself to "Africa" as a missionary frightens you, think of one truth that will help you: read Romans 6:13 and grasp that you would be in your eternal grave now if the Son of God had not died in your place and bought you with His blood. Seeing, realizing, comprehending, appreciating this simple truth makes sacrifice for Him "henceforth" "easy," and His "burden [to be] light" (see Matt.11:28-30; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15). Cooperate with Him; let Him use you as one of His agents to help somebody else who is "weary and heavy laden."
As we wind down these lessons on "revival and reformation," the quarterly asks "... what is the greatest thing holding us [the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a whole] back from the kind of revival and reformation that will be needed in order to reach the world?" The answer given is that "the problem lies solely in us, in our inter-personal relationships, our petty jealousies, our bickering, our selfishness," etc.
The 1888 message shows us that the spiritual failures of many sincere people are the result of being taught old covenant ideas, especially in childhood and youth. The new covenant truth was an essential element of the 1888 message, and lifts a load of doubt and despair from many heavy hearts. [2]
The New Covenant truths were the central issues in the 1888 message story. Young E. J. Waggoner had been gifted by the Lord with an understanding that far surpassed that of his silver-haired elder brethren. Ellen White declared that the Lord had done this for him. She said, "Since I made the statement last Sabbath that the view of the covenants as it had been taught by Brother Waggoner was truth, it seems that great relief has come to many minds." [3]
Old Covenant thinking on the part of sincere Christians who want to follow Jesus "genders to bondage" (Gal. 4:24). It's tragic that they do not realize that the Old Covenant ideas that have enslaved their thinking are a counterfeit of the pure, true gospel. They wonder why their "Christian experience" is so disappointing; they do not know the truth of the New Covenant. They assume therefore that the gospel is impotent, when they have inherited only a distorted view of it.
Many of you have probably memorized at least part of what Ellen White has written in Steps to Christ (p. 47): "You are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you [this is what Paul means when he says that the old covenant 'gives birth to bondage']. ... You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. ... Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him."
The Old Covenant was formally endorsed by the leaders of Israel at Mt. Sinai when they got together and voted to respond to the Lord's Good News Gospel declaration of what He would do for them, "All that the Lord hath spoken, we will do" (Ex. 19:8; in a matter of days they were worshipping a golden calf!).
The Lord never asked them to make that promise! When the Lord in Genesis 15:6 called Abraham out of his tent to count the stars of the Milky Way and declared to him as a divine promise, "So shall thy seed be," He did not ask the patriarch to make any promise in return! Abraham's job was to believeHis divine promise.
God's promise was one-sided. And when Abraham did believe, the Lord graciously "counted it to him for righteousness" (15:6). That's what He does for all of us; our promises to Him are vain. Worse, because the Lord does not call for such vain promises, the whole system is lethal, producing "bondage."
Now, let us walk in the bright sunshine of the New Covenant promises of God.
--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] Review and Herald, March 5, 1889.
[2] Robert J. Wieland, Ten Gospel Truths That Make the 1888 Message Unique, Gospel Truth #6, pp. 22-24.
[3] Letter to Uriah Smith 59, 1890.
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