Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Let the Church Know

Second Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Let the Church Know"
For the week of June 16, 2012

Let the Church Know 

             "Who hath believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"  Isaiah 53:1

            God's agenda has always focused on letting the church know.  From the time of the Patriarchs and ancient Israel to the present time, He has sought and is still seeking to make clear what He is doing and how salvation, in light of His covenant, would unfold.  While we are to report and share information with others, and with each other in the church, His report to us (and that of the apostolic church) show that we must conduct the mission of the church by using His methods, in His authority and power.  While we ought to utilize reporting methods to keep abreast of how our mission of proclaiming the gospel is proceeding (i.e. internet, periodicals, radio, TV, church newsletters, etc.), it is crucial to undergird our mission by a clear understanding of God's reports as provided in the Scriptures.  The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, "Who has believed our report and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" The prophetic reports given to us under inspiration are vital to establishing the framework - the context - of our mission.

            At the time of Christ's first coming, the religious and spiritual leaders of Israel were not leading out in preparing the people.  Clearly they did not understand the reports of the prophets, so God raised up John the Baptist to give an accurate report of the unfolding mission of Christ.  The disciples and apostolic church, trained by Jesus, and with God's direction, would continue that accurate spiritual reporting and interpretation of the meaning of events as they did the work of mission, evangelism, and resolving the issues they faced.  They indeed kept records of the progress and the souls reached and won.  Those records formed the foundation of what we know as the New Testament.

            It was in the middle of an evangelistic mission that the disciples received the news that John the Baptist had been murdered by Herod, and it is in this context that we read this week's memory verse:  "Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught," Mark 6:30.   There were various dimensions to their reporting.  Some of it was self-examination of the missionary work.  Some of it was testimony:  that which they had seen, that which they had heard, and that which their hands had handled of the Word of Life (1 John 1:1).  It included eyewitness accounts of God's grace and His manifestation, his intervention, and His Spirit making their work effective.  These were truly encouraging reports.

            The eye of faith was a part of the reporting.  There was honesty in the reporting and no political spin to make the reports appear other than they were. Conflicts and divisions were revealed, and unity in the Spirit overcame them.  These were converted people who fought the good fight of faith against pride and every un-Christ-like trait.  They wanted to give Him the glory in all things accomplished.  With clear reports of the challenges they faced they could counsel together, they could pray, they could access the transforming promises of the grace of God. They knew Christ was at the right hand of the Father, ministering to them and with them through the Spirit, even from the heavenly sanctuary.  Thus they were the highly commended church of Ephesus, the apostolic church.

            What does reporting mean for us today?  We certainly need to conscientiously plan and utilize biblically revealed and Spirit empowered strategies.  God makes much of Christ's method and the messengers who give it preeminence.  The same apostolic cry asks of us today: "Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? [i.e., the baptism of the Holy Spirit], and are you seeking daily baptism?"  With the Spirit comes counsel, correction, and direction in our individual lives, but also the "pricks" (Acts 9:5) urging the execution of the corporate mission to tell (report to) the world about their loving Creator's soon return.

            The remnant church is immeasurably blessed with the Spirit of prophecy to help and empower our mission.  Despise not prophesyings, prove all things, and hold fast that which is good (1 Thess. 5:20, 21).  We have over 1800 pages of counsel on our history as a people of present truth, and we are told that we came to a crossroads in 1888.  Only recently have we truly begun to acknowledge that.  But when we consider we have nothing to fear for the future except as we forget God's leading and His teaching in our past history, then we understand that we must believe His report.   It is not a criticism, but it is the news of God's faithfulness and the certainty for fulfillment of the 3 angels' messages.  It also assures the outpouring of the fourth angel – the great power that will manifest itself in God's people as they reveal Christ to the world.

            In the Wednesday, June 13 lesson,  we review the historical event of Kadesh Barnea during the Exodus.  A critical turning point in the movement arose when two different reports were voiced to the people of God.  The minority report of Joshua and Caleb was dismissed in favor of the majority report of the ten other spies, thus delaying possession of the promised land by many years.  Type met antitype in a similar manner at the 1888 Minneapolis Conference of our denominational history..  The sad incident is at the center of our history as the prophetic Advent Movement.  Taylor Bunch recognized this in his book Exodus and Advent Movements inType and Antitype, and Morris Venden set forth its significance in his book, From Exodus to Advent.   

             Most recently, Ron Clouzet has given a fair and insightful account and shows the relevance to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which we now seek in worldwide revival and reformation (the 777 initiative: Seventh-day Adventists praying 7 days a week at 7 am/pm).  Ministers, scholars, and numerous others are also giving reports through the ministry of teaching.  Thus, at this time in our denominational history, so near to the Lord's return, the reporting of the prophetess on  the events at Minneapolis can only benefit us if we embrace it as a spirit-motivated and loving report for our present and eternal benefit.  Regrettably, some were (and are) offended by the report that the showers of blessing had begun in 1888. Looking back to Kadesh Barnea, however, we can see a parallel. As Roy Gane wrote in Dialogue: An International Journal of Faith and Action: 

            In the book Early Writings, at a strategic point just before describing her first vision (p. 14), Ellen White wrote: "I have tried to bring back a good report and a few grapes from the heavenly Canaan, for which many would stone me, as the congregation bade stone Caleb and Joshua for their report. (Num. 14:10.) But I declare to you, my brethren and sisters in the Lord, it is a goodly land, and we are well able to go up and possess it."
--Michael Horton