Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Role of the Church in the Community
Lesson 6. Jesus Mingled With People
The Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus the paramount witness have always been at work preparing the harvest for us. When we mingle with others, it is with the sure conviction that God has already been convicting their hearts. Nothing is more invigorating than to know that we are never alone in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. Not only is God working before us to save others, He continues to do so.
The Bible often tells us to seek the Lord. "It is time to seek the Lord" (Hosea 10:12). But the Bible also tells us that the Lord is seeking us: "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). He says He is the Good Shepherd, who seeks His lost sheep. Jesus told how the Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine sheep and sought the one lost sheep (15:3-7). He is like the woman who searched and found her one lost coin (15:8-10). Even the parable of the prodigal son tells the same truth: the son did not create love in his father's heart--he walked home only because he knew there was love in that father's heart for him.
Our salvation does not depend on our skill, our strength, our intuitiveness, in finding an elusive God who is hiding from us; it depends on our believing, realizing, comprehending, appreciating, what it cost Jesus to seek and find us. If you work hard trying to find Him, you will naturally be proud of your accomplishment, especially when you consider how few people succeed. But if you realize that "from first to last," it has been Christ's seeking love trying to find you, then your proud heart is melted. And that is the beginning of a genuine Christian experience.
We are to pay attention to the Lord while He is available, and call upon Him while He is near (Isa. 55:6). In this solemn Day of Atonement, it surely is time to "pay attention to the Lord." That He is still "available" is tremendous good news.
This is the first new covenant truth of the Bible which the 1888 message zeros in on. Christ takes the initiative in seeking us for salvation. This is God's grace. If it's the other way around, that we seek Him first in salvation, then it's old covenant legalism. Rather, God is seeking us. Then the appropriate new covenant response is to pay attention to Him.
Now this is the pattern in soul-winning. In the first step of Christ's method, He did not just mingle with others, but He did so as one desiring their good. People were His first priority. But how did He do that? He sought access to their hearts in "a way that made them feel the completeness of His identification with their interests and happiness." 
Jesus associated with people simply because He loved them, and because He had their best interests at heart.
Usually we react toward people rather than act. We wait for others to take the initiative.
"Christian sociability is altogether too little cultivated by God's people. ... Especially should those who have tasted the love of Christ develop their social powers, for in this way they may win souls to the Saviour."  Ellen White also admonishes us "not to renounce social communion. We should not seclude ourselves from others." Why? Because "they will seldom seek us of their own accord," and because "social power, sanctified by the grace of Christ, must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour." 
The purpose of the salt in the saltshaker is for it to be used not placed on a shelf to be admired by whomever passes by. It was put there for the sole purpose of being sprinkled on the food, mingled with it, and giving it taste. Ellen White uses the term mingled in illustrating this point: "Salt must be mingled with the substance to which it is added; it must penetrate and infuse in order to preserve. So it is through personal contact and association that men are reached by the saving power of the gospel." 
The Lord has raised up His church as the only hope the world has; it is the medium through which He intends to pour out His grace upon the world; it is to have an influence on world population far out of proportion to the smallness of its numbers. Scripture makes clear that the remnant church is to spread abroad a knowledge of the pure true gospel that will serve like salt served in Jesus' world--a preservative of the fish that were caught in Lake Galilee and transported to the markets in Jerusalem.
In Matthew 5:13 Jesus says His church is the salt of the earth. In Luke 14:34, 35 He speaks of salt that has lost its saltiness and asks the pointed question: If His church has lost or forgotten the gospel that is the saltiness of the salt that the world needs to keep it from spoiling like spoiled fish, "wherewith shall it [the earth] be seasoned?" In other words, what other hope is there for society except revival, repentance, and reformation permeating His remnant church? Pray for that repentance and reformation--please.
How has the Holy Spirit already been busy influencing human hearts around us? "The same divine mind that is working upon the things of nature is speaking to the hearts of men and creating an inexpressible craving for something they have not. The things of the world cannot satisfy their longing. The Spirit of God is pleading with them to seek for those things that alone can give peace and rest. ... Through influences seen and unseen, our Saviour is constantly at work to attract the minds of men from the unsatisfying pleasures of sin to the infinite blessings that may be theirs in Him." 
Not only does He already thoroughly know the person we are contacting, but He is doing His utmost best to reach out through us to that individual. The Holy Spirit takes our simple social contact and humble and sincere testimony, and uses them to soften and convict the most hardened heart. "By being social and coming close to the people, you may turn the current of their thoughts more readily than by the most able discourse."  God has so many providential opportunities to witness that He wants to send our way. And if we are in tune with His great passion to save the lost, and take the initiative, remarkable experiences will happen that would not otherwise.
Jesus' incarnation ministry is where we identify with people's needs and feelings, while pointing them to Jesus, who can satisfy their deepest longings. And from being anchored in Him the Rock, from that position of strength, we can reach out to others, identify with them, lift them out of sin's ditch, and set their feet on spiritually higher ground.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes [Ellen G. White]:
 Gospel Workers, p. 45.
 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 172.
 The Desire of Ages, p. 152.
 Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 36.
 Steps to Christ, p. 28.
 Gospel Workers, p. 193.
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org