Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lesson 8: With the Rich and Famous

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Lesson 8: With the Rich and Famous
When Phil Robertson, quoted the Apostle Paul equating homosexuals with idolaters [1], he stirred up a hornet's nest, and was suspended indefinitely from A&E's hit show Duck Dynasty. Divisive portrayals by Christians between themselves and the ungodly and unholy, is a misrepresentation of "the truth of the gospel."
There has been a string of such categorizations in recent Sabbath School lessons: discipling children, the sick, the "ordinary," social outcasts, rich and famous, and the powerful. Does the gospel of Jesus Christ cast a worldview in such a divisive manner? Did Jesus and the early apostles have different strategies for reaching the various classes of society? Should we specialize in ministries to various segments of society? Or is there one true gospel that reaches the heart-needs of every soul in the world?
One truth shines forth clearly from the 1888 message which is essential for Christian disciple-makers. The problem of "us" and "them," of the "righteous" and the "sinners," which is so divisive, is healed by Christ's gift of corporate repentance.
The secret of Jesus' soul-winning power was found in His identification with sinners through repentance. As the Sin-bearer, He was tempted "in all points like as we are, yet without sin." God "made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." He experienced the powerful temptation to sin from the devil in the wilderness, the world, and yes, even from within Himself. God sent Him "in the likeness of sinful flesh." He knew that He could sin. "He ... offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears." He "learned ... obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. 5:7, 8).
The lesson which Christ our Teacher is giving Laodicea in our Day of Atonement, goes beyond our narrow understanding of "individual repentance" for sin. Such "individual repentance" is motivated by getting our own personal souls into heaven so that we won't go to hell like the rest of the world. "Individual repentance" generates divisive disciple-makers who view sinners as groups or even atoms.
Our Heavenly Psychiatrist gives us a systemic view of the world, which is healed by corporate repentance. All the sin that exists in the world would be my sin, if it were not restrained by the grace of God.
Yes, Christians were born into this world with a "carnal mind." "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God" (Rom. 8:7). We are all natural-born killer-lions, with the potential of hate and murder.
This reality is confronted daily by the glorious truth of the gospel. Salvation is not 99 percent Christ's righteousness and one percent our righteousness. It is Christ our righteousness, 100 percent all the way.
When the True Witness makes His heart-appeal to Laodicea, "Be zealous therefore and repent," His gift is a yet-to-be-realized systemic repentance. Can the potential Bride of Christ learn from her Husband and repent as He repented during His earthly ministry?
Corporate repentance is the realization that it is my sin that "murdered" the Son of God. It is my heart "enmity against God" that nailed Him to the cross. Therefore I, in myself, am no better than all the world, for whom Christ died.
Laodicea is just one heartbeat away from realizing the ultimate truth of all history taught by Calvary, that she is the one most "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked." And when she learns the lesson of corporate repentance it will manifest itself in individuals from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, spontaneously appreciating the words of Christ on His cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Our unknown sin murdered the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. A corporate body will individually respond to the Spirit of Christ, as He gives the water of life freely to all. They will not consider themselves any better or of a special class. They will not view themselves as discipling various classes of people in the world. We are all sinners in need of the much more abounding grace of God.
Those sins "that would have been committed had there been opportunity" which we have not repented of, represent our unrealized guilt. Other people have committed them and we have been thankful that we have not been pressured sufficiently by temptation to do them ourselves. But Luther wisely says that we are all made of the same dough, alike. It follows that corporate repentance is repenting of sins that we would have committed had we had the opportunity. This goes rather deep.
Wesley said of a drunk in the gutter, "There but for the grace of Christ am I." When the church learns to appreciate such contrition, Christ's love will course through its veins and transform it into a truly "caring church," the most effective soul-winning "body" history has ever known (Zech. 8:20-23; The Great Controversy, pp. 611, 612).
This is because such repentance alone can enable one to love his neighbor as himself, not in the sense of excusing or palliating his sin in that we know we could be as guilty as he (this lowers Christian standards), but because such repentance includes an effective cleansing from the defilement of the sin itself. Such love goes far beyond a sentimental sympathy, for it becomes an effective cooperation with Christ in reaching the heart with redemptive, cleansing power. The Head at last finds "members" prepared to be His effective agents in actually saving people. Never does corporate repentance encourage the slightest "holier-than-thou" spirit.
In a time of widespread lowering of standards and tragic failures, "sighing and crying" for the "abominations" in the land becomes a negative and helpless hand-wringing, unless it grows out of a corporate sense of the weakness and guilt that we all in truth share. Corporate repentance automatically eliminates the schism of the "us" versus "them" mentality. It is the true path to heart-unity.
If clearly understood and presented to the world, the accomplishments of Christ's sacrifice will move human hearts as no other truth can. Such truth, presented together with the fulfillments of prophecy and our major doctrines, will bring the phenomenal discipling power that prophecy indicates will be in the "latter rain" and in the "loud cry" of Revelation 18. This discipling "efficiency," says Ellen White, "might have been [ours] in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost," but it has been "in a great degree" lost to our work in consequence of the rejection "in a great measure" of the 1888 message. Is not the recovery of that "most precious message" therefore priority for the world church?
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).
Note: “Sabbath School Today” and Pastor Paul Penno’s video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org
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