Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lesson 5: How to Be Saved

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 5: How to Be Saved
This week's lesson teaches that there are "simple practical steps needed for salvation" (p. 38 regular ed.), in other words, "how to be saved." However, the Bible and the 1888 message teach that Christ has saved the world. "It is a fact, plainly stated in the Bible, that the gift of righteousness and life in Christ has come to every man on earth. ... Do you ask what then can prevent every man from being saved? The answer is, Nothing, except the fact that all men will not keep the faith. If all would keep all that God gives them, all would be saved." [1]
Throughout history it is deeply engrained in human thinking that salvation is initially dependant on human initiative. Nothing happens until like the prodigal son we say, "I will arise and go." But did Jesus teach that the salvation of the prodigal son was due to his own initiative? In eternity, will he boast, "I'm here because I came home"? Or will he thank God for his father's love that spoke hope to his heart even while he was sitting in the pigsty? Was it is his own initiative that drove him to "arise and go" or was it the drawing of that love?
It appears that the teaching of Jesus was clear that "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (John 12:32). He did not teach that those who are saved at last are those who come under their own self-starter power.
Eternal life is promised to everyone who "believes" in Jesus: "If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death," He said (John 8:51, NKJV). "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life" (5:24, NKJV). But what does it mean to "believe" in Him?
The Bible warns us of a massive counterfeit of "believing" in these last days (Matt. 24:23, 24, for example). Genuine believing has to do with the Father giving His Son for the world ("God so loved the world that He gave ..."; John 3:16). He gave, not lent Him. That means a totality of giving and an eternity in its duration. It also means an appreciation of His dying for us because the only way we can "believe" is by seeing Him "lifted up" as Moses "lifted up" a snake on a pole "in the wilderness" (vss. 14, 15). That directs us to the kind of death that Jesus died--on a cross (12:32, 33).
Therefore, "believing" in Jesus means a heart-appreciation of the Father's giving Him and of Christ's giving Himself in dying for us our "second death" (cf. Heb. 2:9, Rev. 2:11). Such "believing" transforms the believer. It is a genuine new birth because the love of self is "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). There is a well of "rivers of living water" springing up from within the depths of the heart of every true "believer" in Him (John 7:37, 38). That's what it means to believe in Jesus! You are a channel through which that "water of life" flows to thirsty people. 
Love Is the Only Way
Our problem of great importance is how to achieve active and powerful love as a body, so that the full resources and cohesion of the church can be perfectly used to demonstrate it to the world. Truth must be the vehicle, because only truth can penetrate to the secret recesses of the human heart. The Lord has in reserve a means of motivation that will be truly effective. There will be no need to harangue God's people to respond, no need to provide artificial stimulation to induce them to put forth effort, any more than the apostles needed to in the beginning. Something happened at Pentecost that provided the early church with a truly phenomenal motivation.
That motivation was provided by an experience of full repentance, a doctrine that pervades both the Old and New Testaments. A hazy, indistinct concept of repentance can result only in a state of lukewarmness. Like medicine that must be taken in a quantity sufficient to provide a proper concentration in the bloodstream, Bible repentance must be full and thorough, or a truly Christlike love can never operate effectively in the church. This is the kind of repentance Christ demands of Laodicea.
The "end" could have come many decades ago if the "angel of the church of the Laodiceans" had been willing to receive the Lord's message when He says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:19). We are still in this world of confusion and rebellion, battling still with evil spirits and wrestling with constantly worsening problems, for one simple reason: we have never truly done what our Lord has told us to do.
Repentance is sorrow for sin and turning away from it. But if our view of sin is superficial, our repentance will likewise be superficial. Unless we truly appreciate the depth of our sin, only a veneer repentance becomes possible; and it is this that produces ever new generations of lukewarm church members.
The grand finale of the work of the Holy Spirit will be a work of extraordinary beauty and simplicity, as Ellen G. White described it: "Those who wait for the Bridegroom's coming are to say to the people, 'Behold your God.' The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory." [2]
Once this Christlike love can permeate the church as a body, the message will indeed enlighten the earth in an incredibly short time. Human nature is the same the world over. Scratch the surface among all nations, races, or tribes, and one finds underneath the same human hunger for reality. The love of Christ manifested in human flesh is the universal language that will evoke a response everywhere.
The closer we come to what the Bible speaks of as "the end of the world" (Matt. 24:3), the more intimate will the people of God become with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Their acquaintance will become like that of a couple who meet, get slightly acquainted, then fall in love, become engaged, and finally marry; no woman on earth will become the "bride of Christ," but there is a body of people known as "the church" who will "make herself ready" for that epochal "wedding" (cf. Rev. 19:7, 8; Eph. 5:23-27).
A "paradigm shift" in understanding is a mild term to describe the upheaval that will occur in the spiritual experience of God's people as they near when Christ closes His High Priestly ministry in the Most Holy Apartment. The grand antitypical Day of Atonement will be a reconciliation with Him that can only be described as a bride yielding herself joyously at last to her long-loved but never yet "known" bridegroom.
The tremendous spiritual upheaval will be a new motivation supplanting our old egocentric one. We have always responded to the desire to be saved--a very wholesome one, indeed; a thousand times better than acquiring worldly wealth. But it's still the desire for a reward; we have sung, "I Shall Wear a Crown in My Father's House," we have contemplated exchanging "the cross for a crown," we have widely taught that "securing our own salvation is the highest duty of life." Again, wonderfully true; but still puerile.
In the closing up of the Day of Atonement, which began in 1844, a new motivation takes over: a concern for Christ that He receive His reward, that He be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords; our concern for Him eclipses that old one of egocentricity.
This won't be righteousness by works; it will be a new chapter in righteousness by faith. At last, "perfect agape [will] cast out fear" (1 John 4:18). A new heart-appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to die for us will be grasped.
This will be our communication to the world of "Christ and Him crucified" as the world has never before heard it in such clarity since Pentecost.
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Endnotes:[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p. 101; 69.
[2] Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415, 416.
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