Thursday, September 15, 2016

Lesson 12. Urban Ministry in the End Time

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Role of the Church in the Community 

Lesson 12. Urban Ministry in the End Time


"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 soul-winning power that prophecy indicates will be in the 'latter rain' and in the 'loud cry' of Revelation 18.* This evangelistic '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?" † [1]

Although this statement is not specifically dealing with outreach efforts in the cities, it highlights the genuine basis for all evangelism regardless of geography. One of the most compelling aspects of the 1888 message is the love it generates for others.

"Wherever the life of God is in the hearts of men, it will flow out to others in love and blessing. ... That which selfish hearts would regard as humiliating service, ministering to those who are wretched and in every way inferior in character and rank, is the work of sinless angels. ... When the love of Christ is enshrined in the heart, like sweet fragrance it cannot be hidden. ... No sooner does one come to Christ than there is born in his heart a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus; the saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart." [2]

Notice the sequence, "wherever the life of God is in the hearts of men, it will flow out to others." Programs are good and we should support them, but nothing motivates like gratitude for what God has done for us. This must be genuine gratitude, not out of fear of punishment, or hope of reward or recognition.

The nation of Israel revealed the true condition of their hearts as they became more legalistic and exclusive. They claimed Abraham as the venerable father of their faith. Their idea was that before Abraham, humanity was simply an undifferentiated mass hardly noticed by God. By calling Abraham out of this mass, God distinguished him and this honor was perpetuated to his progeny by the rite of circumcision. Any legalistic religion can fall into this trap by selecting some outward sign of pious allegiance and using it as a division between those who are acceptable and those who are not.

If the standard is, "When the love of Christ is enshrined in the heart, like sweet fragrance it cannot be hidden," if we have not enshrined that love in our hearts, we have nothing to share. A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner taught the idea of Christ having legally, objectively, saved the world, dying every man's second death, bearing the iniquity of all sinners, legally justifying all men. This is the evangelistic message in Revelation 14. It is "the everlasting gospel" because it alone can truly reconcile the alienated heart of sinful man to God and to His holy law.

It is easy for the legalist to fall into the trap that evangelism must take the form of an organized church-sponsored activity, but that was not Christ's method. He relied on His Heavenly Father to create circumstances where He witnessed in most effective ways. We can believe that God is willing to use those who love Him in the same way. This kind of witnessing can be so subtle, that we humans can easily miss the opportunities.

Statistics tell us that most of the world's population live in cities, and even those in rural areas must go into town for various things. If we consider even simple interactions as opportunities we will realize how frequently they occur. If we genuinely value everyone as someone Christ died for, we can be kind to anyone. Persons who serve us at stores or restaurants are entitled to be respected and treated kindly, even if we or they are having a bad day. People in jobs considered menial also deserve respect, and all people appreciate a word of kindness and thanks. If the Lord continues to keep you in a relationship with a person, your consistent kindness will impress them that there is something different about you. Doors can open in simple ways.

When we allow God to do everything, we will never boast or take credit for our witnessing. We know that whatever we have done has flowed out of our hearts "like sweet fragrance," which is a gift from Him. We never have to force ourselves to do something "kind" out of a guilty sense of obligating God with our sacrifice. We can never obligate God to do anything, including feeling better about us. "But no man can put the Lord under obligation to him. ... If anyone could do something for the Lord for which the Lord would be under obligation to him, then all things would not be from him. That is to say, the idea of justification by works is opposed to the fact that God is the Creator of all things. And, conversely, the recognition of God as Creator is the acknowledgment that righteousness comes from him alone." [3]

--Arlene Hill

[1] What Is the 1888 Message? Is It Biblical? An Answer to Inquiries, Nov. 1998 & May 1999, p. 44.
* The loud cry cannot be presented unless the latter rain is first received, which fits God's people to proclaim it (Ellen G. White, Early Writings, pp. 271, 272).
** Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-93; Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235; Letter B2A, 1892.
† Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy chapter, "The Final Warning," implies that it will appeal most phenomenally to those whose culture saw the rise of the Advent Movement, where cynicism and apostasy have been the worst.
[2] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 77-78.
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 4.81.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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Raul Diaz