Monday, January 20, 2014

Fwd: Fw: Sabbath School Today, Lesson 4, Quarter 1-14

                                       Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Lesson 4: "Discipling Children"
We read that "seventy percent of our young people do not understand the good news of the gospel." After decades of assumed success in preaching "righteousness by faith," the report indicates that our children are still legalism-oriented, for children say that "to be saved I have to live by God's rules."
A century ago a "messenger" who exercised the gift of prophecy indicated that "It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books, are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner. ..." [1]
The Review reports "that what is being taught by Adventists is being easily shredded by secular culture." "Worldly success and prosperity truly put our feet in slippery places. And many Adventist youth are in slippery places today." [2]
Are the devil's temptations too much for us? The final test of the mark of the beast looms inevitably before us. It will be the ultimate appeal of that same "worldly success" which already "easily shreds" Seventh-day Adventist values for our children.
We sincerely teach these "Adventist values" in Sabbath School and church and in the academy. And then we mourn because the "slippery" appeals of TV, wine, dancing, theaters, amusements, sports, and sensuality, overwhelm the children. Will the final test of the mark of the beast be easier to endure than these "cultural" pressures because persecution will then be included? We must find some means to help them resist and triumph over peer pressure.
What they need is the gospel. And Ellen White says honestly that "we" have withheld it from them. [3]
The time has come for serious repentance throughout the church from top to bottom on every level and in every department and institution. Fasting and prayer, honesty, and deep humbling of hearts before the Lord are the only appropriate response. What options are before us?
(1) We can revert to the "historic Adventism" that prevailed in past decades--high standards rigorously proclaimed with legalistic imperatives. But this has driven many out.
(2) We can turn to the Pentecostals and modern Evangelicals to learn their "gospel." Desperate to find some way to hold our children, many of our pastors have turned to the Pentecostal "Celebration" format.
(3) We can be apathetic and do nothing.
(4) We can turn humbly to the "most precious," much more abounding grace which permeates that pure "third angel's message in verity" that the Lord "in His great mercy sent" to us a century ago.
In truth, the basic essentials of that "most precious message" have not only been withheld from our children; they have been denied before them. We have repeatedly taught them that it is "hard" to follow Christ truly.
The "everlasting gospel" that the Lord "sent" to meet the temptations of these last days is the "third angel's message in verity." Its "beginning" came in 1888. What are its essential elements that children must understand?
The nearness of the Saviour. Children must know that Christ understands them because He took our (and their) fallen, sinful nature, yet did not sin. He is "nigh at hand," not "afar off," says Ellen White in enthusiastic endorsement of the 1888 message. Children need to know of a Saviour who was "tempted in all points like as [they] are, yet without sin," not tempted merely as was the sinless Adam.
Christ's yoke is easy, His burden light. Our children have been taught the opposite. They have no clear grasp of how grace "much more abounds" than the most alluring sin which to them "abounds."
Forgiveness of sin is the taking away of sin, not excusing it. Identifying with Christ on His cross creates a hatred of sin; identifying with him in His High Priestly work delivers from its power.
Genuine righteousness by faith is related to the cleansing of the sanctuary on this Day of Atonement. This truth grips the hearts of children and makes the gospel exciting and permanently life-challenging. Nevertheless, the concept has become almost totally unknown to most of them.
Christ has elected every human being to be saved. His sacrifice has already done something for every human being. Salvation is due to God's initiative; damnation is solely due to man's initiative. If we do not resist the goodness of the Lord, He will draw us all the way to repentance. This truth motivates children to self-sacrifice.
God's love is active, not passive. He has not left us to seek and find a Saviour; He is seeking His lost sheep. The former idea hardens youthful hearts; the latter melts them. Secularism, materialism, sensuality, cannot prevail against a comprehension of the length, breadth, depth, and height of God's love revealed at the cross.
Our salvation does not depend on our making or keeping our believing and appreciating His promises to us. The 1888 idea of the two covenants is in refreshing contrast to the view generally taught today. It motivates to the same kind of faith which activated Abraham's heart.
Since the cross of Christ, sin is condemned in the flesh, forever proven to be unnecessary. This has been ridiculed and denied repeatedly. But it is possible for believers in Christ to overcome even as He overcame--if we see Him as He is, undistorted by Babylon's confusion. Some among us deride this as "perfectionism," when in reality sinless living is the natural fruit of genuine faith in Christ, the reason for the third angel's message. Unpopular as the idea may be, Christ is the example for children.
The true motivation for overcoming is not our personal salvation (which does degenerate to perfectionism), but a heart-felt concern for the honor of Christ. A motivation beyond self-concern gives children a reason for living. Fear of surviving the judgment, and hope of personal reward in heaven, encourage apathy. And apathetic legalism has had its day.
Christ's call for denominational repentance, "be zealous therefore and repent," inspires in children a hope for the future of the church (Rev. 3:19). Without this reality, they view the spiritual inertia of the church as virtually hopeless, and certainly not worth sacrificing their ambitions, comfort, and worldly pleasures. To believe truly that the Seventh-day Adventist Church will become the victorious and repentant church will propel children to action.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, General Conference Bulletin, Feb. 4, 1893; pp. 132, 133
[2] Advent Review 168, 1 (1991), p. 4.
[3] Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:
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Raul Diaz