Friday, July 17, 2015

Lesson 3: The Unlikely Missionary

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Biblical Missionaries
Lesson 3: The Unlikely Missionary

The story of this unnamed captive young girl captures the essence of the spirit of evangelism: love and concern for others regardless of whether they deserve it, or what they have done to you or the people you hold dear. This girl could easily have nursed a hatred for the military man who was responsible for the victory that led to her capture. No doubt, her early education in the agape of God prepared her for this encounter, but she still had a choice to make. Being a spoil of war was also part of her education, which could have sent her choice in the wrong direction, but it didn't. What made the difference? How can we understand that difference and apply it to ourselves?

The unique ideas of the 1888 message are based on a proper understanding of Isaiah 53 and its description of the Messiah's word. His first job was to convict the world of sin. Naaman had just about everything a pagan could wish for. Because of his expertise and prowess in overcoming people on the battlefield, position, reputation, wealth, power, military victories, and what sounded like a nice home were all his, except for one thing.

Many in the world who have a reasonable position and station in life believe they should be happy, but have a nagging sense that something is missing. Television, Internet, radio, even our phones tell us that we can fill that void by buying a new car or some trinket that will capture our interest for as long as it takes for a pampered cat to become bored with another toy.

The way to reach these folks is never to mimic the world's methods, but to follow the method of Christ, to convict the world of sin. The only way to effectively convey that concept is to acknowledge our own sin in proper humility. How do we do that? Many spend their lives trying to achieve greatness instead of quietly accepting our position in life as part of God's plan for our specific witness. Had our little captive girl decided to hate her new "family," she still would have had to act her part, but many would applaud her for not letting them "have her mind."

Paul has instructed us to "count it all joy" when different trials and disappointments happen to us, and be content. How can this happen? It's against everything a self-focused mind believes.

Once again, it's at the foot of the cross where we learn this lesson. One of the more difficult aspects of the 1888 message is the teaching that Christ died for every person ever born into the human race. Our evangelistic efforts can therefore be directed and tailored to each individual's needs rather than the "one-size-fits-all" approach. We tend to find the biggest auditorium to fill with "sinners" and give them the 28 fundamental beliefs, and fervently urge them to be baptized. From a human standpoint, this seems most efficient, but it was not Christ's method. He lived and traveled among people and considered them friends. His mission was always based on the fact that His death was for each and every one of them individually, not collectively, so He didn't deal with them collectively. Rather, He healed them one by one.

If we learn to treat each person we encounter as someone for whom Christ has already paid their penalty for sin on the cross, we recognize they are no different from us. We can love them as family, and let our concern for their welfare flow from Christ through us to them.

The Christian evangelical community generally believes: "The initial requirements for Naaman's healing were belief and compliance. As soon as he conquered his pride and complied with God's expressed will by bathing seven times in the muddy Jordan, he was cured." [1] The idea is that if we comply with all of God's pre-conditions, He will look on us favorably and heal us.

The 1888 message teaches the opposite. We cannot conquer our pride, but we can accept Christ's victory over it through the working of the Holy Spirit. We can never "comply with God's expressed will" enough by doing things to get His attention. The cure for sin demands payment of its penalty, which is the second death. God healed Naaman from his leprosy, the biblical symbol of sin, not because he bathed seven times in the Jordan, but because as surely as all sinned, so surely has the Lord already laid that iniquity upon Christ (Isa. 53:6). In other words, Christ has already paid the full debt for every man's sin, which is death. But the sinner carries that burden on his sinful heart and conscience until someone tells him the gospel and he accepts the Good News.

Over the face of the whole earth, the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin because the sacrifice of the Lamb of God has been applied to atone for every "curse." Conviction of sin is possible only if Christ has already paid the penalty for that sin (Zech. 5:1-4).

"All this deliverance is 'according to the will of our God and Father.' The will of God is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). He wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). And He 'accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will' (Eph. 1:11). 'Do you mean to teach universal salvation?' someone may ask. We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches--that 'the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men' (Titus 2:11, RV). God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it and throw it away. The judgment will reveal the fact that full salvation was given to every man and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession." [2]

When Naaman bathed in the Jordan, he was demonstrating his acceptance of the drawing of the Holy Spirit Who was convicting Naaman of his great need. Naaman made the choice that healing was worth his pride. The change had taken place in his mind, and his actions flowed from that. Once we realize how good the Good News is, humility and gratitude are the natural responses. Naaman's expressions of gratitude were his witness of God's power to create life out of death.

"The gifts which the gospel offers are not to be secured by stealth or enjoyed in secret. ... Our confession of His faithfulness is Heaven's chosen agency for revealing Christ to the world. We are to acknowledge His grace as made known through the holy men of old; but that which will be most effectual is the testimony of our own experience. We are witnesses for God as we reveal in ourselves the working of a power that is divine. Every individual has a life distinct from all others, and an experience differing essentially from theirs. God desires that our praise shall ascend to Him, marked by our own individuality. These precious acknowledgments to the praise of the glory of His grace, when supported by a Christ-like life, have an irresistible power that works for the salvation of souls." [3]

--Arlene Hill

[1] Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, p. 26.
[2] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp.13, 14.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 347.

Raul Diaz