Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community
Lesson 10. Jesus Won Their Confidence
While we live in the midst of distrust, uncertainty, and changeableness, in Christ we have a friend who is perfectly trustworthy and reliable, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). And only as we draw trust from Him, the source, can we gain people's confidence to lead them to Him. In having Christ's love and life, we become more like Him. "When men will show confidence in their fellow men they will come much nearer to possessing the mind of Christ." 
Jesus tells youth and older folks, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ... My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30, NKJV).
You might ask, "How can I come to Him? I can't find Him, I can't feel Him. He's a trillion miles away, and His yoke seems hard, and His burden heavy."
Most people don't know how near He actually is. He says, "It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you." That Helper is His Vicar, the One sent in His place. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 16:7; 14:16-18). We are closer to Jesus by the Holy Spirit today than His disciples were then.
Many see Christ as Isaiah describes Him, "a root out of dry ground." All that many see is a desert with this ugly root sticking out. "There is no beauty that we should desire Him." "He has no form nor comeliness" (Isa. 53:2.). Why? An enemy has done the work of an antichrist, and misrepresented Christ.
There is a little letter the apostle John wrote where he says, "Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist" (2 John 7). Oh yes, they say He's come, and you can see churches everywhere with steeples and crosses on top. They say, "We're Christian. We believe in Jesus!" But John puts his finger on the root of the problem when he says that there is an antichrist. They do not see that Jesus is come in our flesh, for the only kind of human flesh there is in the world is our flesh.
Antichrist says that Jesus came in some different kind of flesh, pale-faced, hollow-eyed, sunken cheeks, a halo around His head like you see in old stained glass windows, hardly ever smiled, thin, emaciated, intoning His words like a preacher at a funeral--effeminate, an ugly "root out of dry ground." This is "Christ" to many people. Many wonder, "How could Christ be my best friend?"
This horrible antichrist is masquerading as Christ. The word anti can mean three things: "instead of," "in place of," or "against." He has advanced himself instead of Christ, he's against Christ, and he misrepresents Christ while professing to be for Christ. No wonder many people are deceived.
We will not find answers in what this world has to offer, because genuine love and trustworthiness come only from God, its source. He did not wait for human beings to become trustworthy before entrusting them with His only Son. The all-trustworthy God trusted the totally untrustworthy in order to draw them close to Himself, transform, and redeem them. All because of His great love for us. "He [Christ] honored man with His confidence, and thus placed him on his honor." 
What a staggering thought to realize that God has faith in man or He would never have sent His Son to us. This faith of God in man was exercised before the foundation of the world, when the Father and the Son agreed together to make an infinite sacrifice for man should he fall.
John wrote, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). The 1888 message draws this great conclusion with its evangelism potential: "We believe in Him because He first believed in us." Which of us could bring himself to trust a converted thief enough to put in his hands every cent we possess, and expect him to keep it for us? Could you trust human nature that much? If you were trying to evangelize a band of notorious kidnappers, could you bring yourself to entrust your newly born son or daughter to their arms while you left for an extended trip? That illustrates what God did!
When we reach out to others, they definitely need to sense that we have their best interest at heart--that we are not manipulating them for some ulterior motive but have genuine concern for them for their own sake, for the great value that God has already invested in each one of them. "The love of God causes us to love, not Him alone, but all men."  Like Jesus, we need to reach "the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good." 
As true Christians we listen to them, identify and sympathize with them. Christ's "strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts."  "By visiting the people, talking, praying, sympathizing with them, you will win hearts." Ellen White describes this as "the highest missionary work" that we can do. 
Asking a simple favor of someone, lets him know we need him and are willing to accept his kindness, and this builds trust. Jesus demonstrated this when He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. That simple act helped to break down barriers that had accumulated for years, and showed her that Jesus accepted and trusted her. Tradition said that Samaritan women were always ceremonially unclean, so devout Jewish men would never accept anything that they had touched. It probably stunned the woman at the well when Jesus accepted water despite the fact that tradition said her very presence had made the vessel that contained it "unclean." But His trust stirred up trust in her own heart. He "was seeking to find the key to this heart, and with the tact born of divine love, He asked, not offered, a favor. The offer of a kindness might have been rejected; but trust awakens trust. The King of heaven came to this outcast soul, asking a service at her hands. ... [He] was dependent upon a stranger's kindness for even the gift of a drink of water." 
Certainly Zacchaeus had no reputation for trustworthiness. On the contrary, he was notorious for his fraudulent tax-collecting practices. But when Jesus showed him acceptance and trust in going to his home, it awakened his nobler characteristics, and he yearned to prove himself worthy of Christ's friendship and trust. One cannot help getting the impression that the publican was just biding his time till someone like Jesus would believe and show confidence in him. People had constantly looked down on him, making it difficult for him to extricate himself from his predicament. But Jesus freed him.
Ellen White movingly describes how Jesus inspired and won the confidence of those coming in contact with Him. She writes, "In every human being He discerned infinite possibilities. ... Looking upon them with hope, He inspired hope. Meeting them with confidence, He inspired trust. ... In His presence souls despised and fallen realized that they were still men, and they longed to prove themselves worthy of His regard. In many a heart that seemed dead to all things holy, were awakened new impulses. To many a despairing one there opened the possibility of a new life." 
The challenges and opportunities before us are unprecedented. In the immediate future lies the culmination of the great controversy. God calls each of us to have a part in the proclamation of this message to the world.
--Paul E. Penno
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