Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 3, Qtr 2-06

Special Insights No. 3

Second Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Holy Spirit”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Jesus and the Holy Spirit”


Our Sabbath School lesson is about the Holy Spirit: let’s be practical—and learn to let Him lead us! Let me tell how He has led me thus far. Those who believe have the “Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him;.... for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit bearing witness with my spirit led me to the message of 1888. Hence, abandoning the traditional method of writing the Insight, allow me a personal testimony of the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life.


I grew up in an agnostic (non-believing) home where there was an environment of dissension. I wanted to get as far away as possible, so immediately after High School I joined the Navy and continued on a course of destruction. Before being discharged I was invited to a Sunday-keeping charismatic church and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. My heart was melted and my face was aglow with the radiance of the Holy Spirit’s drawing power. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).


The Lord did not keep me in that church, but led me to a book called The Great Controversy, a worldwide “historical” view of the church and its teachings. “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you all things to come” (John 16:13). My Sunday-keeping friends ridiculed this seemingly false prophet and the message she proclaimed. I had to stand alone, “obeying truth through the Spirit” (1 Peter 1:22). Not long after, someone saw me with The Great Controversy clutched in my hand and invited me to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which I have been attending for over 20 years.


Seven years ago, while going through struggles due largely because of misconceived representations of the gospel, I began studying the book of Romans. Two powerful gospel truths were opened up, which brought me to the foot of the cross. Unbeknownst to me, these truths were sent to “us” over 100 years ago by way of two “messengers,” A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. Ellen White stated, “In Minneapolis God gave precious gems of truth to His people in new settings” (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 518).


1. Christ’s sacrifice is not merely provisional but effective for the whole world. His sacrifice has legally justified “all men,” and has literally saved the world (Rom. 3:23, 24; 5:15-18). God’s gracious gift has come upon all men and if we do not resist will be saved at last. It is not my initiative (the popular view) but “the grace of God that brings salvation” and “has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).


2. Christ came all the way to where we are, taking upon Himself our fallen, sinful nature, being tempted in all points as all humans. He came in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3). He is not “afar off” but nearest of kin, “nigh at hand.” “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest … For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:17, 18).


My joy was so great that I started sharing Christ and Him crucified through a deeper revelation of His unfailing love for me and the world. It was the “love of Christ that constrained me” (see 2 Cor. 5:14) to share the gospel with brothers and sisters at church. What do you suppose happened? My wife and I had to stand alone when the pastor reviled us in front of the whole congregation. We sheepishly left the building not understanding why there was such resistance to this good news. The next Sabbath my wife and I decided to attend another church, and noticed in the bulletin that the subject of prayer meeting was the humanity of Christ. We attended, and the pastor was teaching on the “nearness of our Savior” and how, at the cross, “by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18, KJV). After the meeting I asked the pastor why there was resistance where we previously attended, and he directed me to a book, 1888 Re-examined, which gives an account of our 1888 history. “The Lord often works where we least expect Him; He surprises us by revealing His power through instruments of His own choice, while He passes by the men to whom we have looked as those through whom light should come. God desires us to receive the truth upon its own merits—because it is truth” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 106).


We need not be ashamed or grieved that the “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. … This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure” (1888 Materials, pp. 1336, 1337).


Self has gotten in the way too often, and I have hesitated to share when opportunities arose because I was afraid of rejection. We can gather courage and strength from the One who understands us better than we understand ourselves. “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isa. 53:3). This revelation can be a comfort of epic proportions in light of our own 1888 history, bringing us reassurance when the Lord calls upon us to share it.


Ellen White sounded encouragement for those who will believe. In the aftermath of the Minneapolis rejection she said, “I was encouraged to stand firmly against the human impulses that were bearing strongly against [the] light and truth which the Lord had for this time for His people. I was told that, comparatively, I should stand almost alone; but I was not alone, for His Spirit was moving upon many hearts who were like-minded with the Spirit of God. [God said to me], ‘I have a testimony for you to bear before My people who are hungering for truth. Be not of a doubtful heart, neither be discouraged. My word shall be as a hammer to break the flinty hearts. Be zealous only for the honor of God’” (1888 Materials, pp. 315, 316).


May we respond to the Spirit of Jesus from a heart filled with the self-sacrificing love of God. Let self be hid, ready to share the gospel—even our 1888 history. Are you not blessed because someone shared it with you? I am! That blessing is meant for others too.

John Sheffield


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