Tuesday, April 24, 2012

“Evangelism and Witnessing as a Lifestyle”

Second Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Evangelism and Witnessing as a Lifestyle”
For the week of April 22-28, 2012

Christian Authentication

One day a friend viewed her bank statement and found that her account was overdrawn. She asked herself, “How could this be?” She saw a series of charges for items she never approved or purchased. In fact, she had never been to nor heard of the places where the charges were made. At last it dawned on her that someone may have stolen her identity; or at least a part of it. That led her to call the bank, but they would not take her call right away because she was calling on a different phone line from the one in their records. You see, she had to prove to the bank representative she was who she claimed to be. After relaying her story, the representative told her there was a procedure she needed to follow, with letters to be written, forms completed, and an investigation conducted. She was then told that if her claim was substantiated, the bank would replace the stolen amount in a few weeks. But before that could be done the bank must authenticate her identity. The bank must validate her claim.

Authentication is the process of proving that something is genuine. Because the scenario above is far too common these days, there are now even more processes for verifying that a person is who they claim to be. The ways by which someone may be authenticated fall into three categories: something only the person knows, such as a password or personal identification number (PIN); something the person physically possesses, for example, a wrist band, ID card, or security token; and, lastly, something they physiologically / biologically possess, for instance, fingerprints, retinal, face, and voice recognitions, or other bio-metric identifiers. How different things would be if thieves had to undergo the same scrutiny before committing their misdeeds as their victims do once they’ve been victimized.

In the supernatural realm, is there such a thing as spiritual identity theft? How can a Christian be authenticated? Is there such a thing as Christian forgery? Is there a need to make a distinction? Throughout the scriptures, various writers do make these distinctions, and warn us of some who pose as Christians but are not.

We read this warning in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Christ continues to distinguish between genuine Christians and false ones in verses 21-23: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

These are not worldly “heathen” people Matthew is talking about, they are church going folk. 

Matthew 25 contains a similar story, in which Jesus divides the sheep from the goats by placing the sheep on the right and the goats on the left.  To those on the right He says, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34).  These were rewarded for sacrificially caring for others’ needs as though they were caring for Jesus himself. Interestingly, they were ignorant as to the heavenly estimation of their actions.  To those on the left Jesus said, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  They did not care for others’ needs, therefore they demonstrated that they did not care for Jesus.  If this last group is the same as the group in Matthew 7, (many mix these parables) they thought that whatever they had done was worthy of the Kingdom, as Cain thought his offering worthy of Christ’s approbation. Like Cain, the source and motive for their work was not Agape, therefore their works were rejected, as were Cain’s.

There is also a distinction in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).  Outwardly they all appeared the same: all were virgins awaiting the groom, all were asleep, and all had lamps which were currently lit.  However, none were privy to the fact that some had more oil than others.  When the groom arrived, only those with the extra oil were ready to receive Him; they were the wise virgins.  Those with insufficient oil were foolish.  If we can make comparisons, the wise virgins can be equated to those whose fruit was ripe in Christ, even though they were unaware of the fact.  They pleased Christ (Hebrews 11:6).  The virgins with no extra oil correspond to the group rejected by Christ as being full of iniquity.  Since oil represents the Holy Spirit, we can conclude that the void created by a lack of oil was filled with iniquity.

Those full of the Spirit were accepted as pleasing to God, because through grace they had faith.  Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  And, insofar as they acted out of faith, what they did was not sin, because whatever is outside of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).  While the rejected ones worked in Christ’s name, in reality they were displeasing to Him because all that they did was regarded as sin.  After all, iniquity is a way of defining sin, or self-love. This implies that some who we think are great Christians may actually be full of iniquity, and some whom we think are not so spiritual might be the ones to whom God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mathew 25:21, 23). 

The Master bestowed His praise on those who invested the talents given to them (the ones given five and two talents) and then brought the profits to their Master.  The one given one talent did not invest because – in his own words – “`Lord, I knew thee, that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed. And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth. Lo, there thou hast what is thine” (Matthew 25:24-25). 

The servant with one talent had a misconception of the Master.  What he thought of his master led Him to behave as he did. How we view God prompts our motive and method of working for or with Christ. There are those who work to gain favor and appease God, and there are those who work out of a great heart-felt appreciation for Him.  Even if both groups do the same work, the motives, and thus the results, are different.  What do you believe about God?  Do you believe He is authentic, and are you allowing Him to authenticate you, as a true believer - a wise one, with extra oil, investing the Master’s talents? Or are you a fool; one who lacks extra oil and hides the master’s talents, preferring to be full of iniquity?  God wants to fill you with oil (His Holy Spirit).  He wants to delight in the increase you bring to Him. Let us give Him the permission He desires.

--Raul Diaz