Friday, July 29, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #5 July 30, 2016

INSIGHT #5 JULY 30, 2016
Third Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Jesus on Community Outreach
July 30, 2016

Jesus on Community Outreach
                        "Christ is the only true, the great, the model missionary. He is the one who has to be constantly looked to as the guide and ever to be followed as the great exemplar in all missionary work. And to every one of his he speaks the word, 'As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.' And as the Father who sent him was ever with him, so he gives to us the same word, 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'
As Christ was sent to reveal the Father, so we are sent to reveal Christ, and in him the Father. In order that he should truly reveal the Father, 'He emptied himself, and took upon himself the form of a servant;' and to us who are to reveal Christ, and in him the Father, the word is spoken, 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who . . . emptied himself, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.'" July 1905 ATJ, MEDM 194.
In order to reach our communities for Christ, we must have the missionmotivation, and methods of Christ. This is fundamentally predicated on being emptied of self, and full of Christ. There can be no effective outreach without this experience.
When Jesus describes his mission in Luke 4:16-19, he is quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2, where the gospel prophet, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had placed it there for him to take up by faith and place into action. His ministry was to fulfill the purposes of the heavenly farmer, who was sacrificially revealing Himself in His Son.
"For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." Isaiah 61:11.
The method for obtaining this gospel harvest is the laying down of the life of Jesus for all humanity: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24.
Perhaps this is why Jesus left off the last part of verse 2 of Isaiah chapter 61. He wanted no misunderstanding about the full and free gift he was to provide, in his humanity bearing the vengeance and fury of perfect love meeting sin head-on. This is how God desires to repay: He becomes one with us, takes our sin, and pays us his righteousness. Reading further on in Isaiah:
"Who is this who comes from Edom, 
With dyed garments from Bozrah,
This One who is glorious in His apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength?—
'I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.'
Why is Your apparel red,
And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?
'I have trodden the winepress alone,
And from the peoples no one was with Me.
For I have trodden them in My anger,
And trampled them in My fury;
Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments,
And I have stained all My robes.
For the day of vengeance is in My heart,
And the year of My redeemed has come.
I looked, but there was no one to help,
And I wondered
That there was no one to uphold;
Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me;
And My own fury, it sustained Me.'"
Isaiah 63:1-5
In preaching the gospel, healing broken hearts, liberating the sin-enslaved,  giving sight to the blind, he was proclaiming "that most blessed time when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound." Thayer's Greek Lexicon on Luke. 4:16.
The universal scope of the gospel, the revelation of the love of God in His own sacrifice for all humanity, is the purest motivation for implementing the same mission to reveal how good God is to our communities.
Loving Your Neighbor - How does God love His Enemies?
In Luke 10:33, Jesus gives us a glimpse of this love, where the perceived enemy (the Samaritan), sees the one who would hate him, and "Saw him, and had compassion" on him.
It is God, who, "when we were enemies" reconciled us to Himself "through the death of His Son." (Rom 5:10). It is because of His compassion to us that we see others in our communities differently - we can act as God acts in and through us:
                        "In the parable we have a man, presumably a Jew, since he was going down to Jericho from Jerusalem, who was maltreated by robbers, and left for dead. Some of his own countrymen, a priest and a Levite, passed by, and left him to his fate. But a Samaritan, one of the despised and hated race, came by, and did to the wounded man as is described. He could not have done more for him if he had been his brother. Now the question is, Who was my neighbor to him that fell among thieves? The answer is, 'He that showed mercy upon him,' and this answer is accepted. The good Samaritan was neighbor to the disabled Jew, whom he treated as his own neighbor. And yet, the Jew was the enemy of the Samaritan. The only inference is, that when the law says, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' we are to hold ourselves ready to serve anybody who needs our assistance, and are not stop to inquire whether the needy person is a 'neighbor' or 'enemy' and have two standards of action. In other words, our enemies are to be treated as our neighbors; or, better still, we are to act as though we had no enemies. In our dealings with our fellow-men we are not to consider if any man is our enemy, but are to treat all with kindly consideration."  November 25, 1886 EJW, SITI 711.
The Whole Recipe - Love and Politics?
Tuesday's lesson includes a quote from The Desire of Ages, in which Ellen White equates the the savor of the salt to the love of Christ. It is the love of Christ, the great motivation of his heart, that is the only power for good in our lives. If this love is not in the mix, the recipe for community outreach flops. Love, not politics, is the real force for hope and change in our communities. Thus, we might contemplate more seriously our role in our communities, especially in this election season.
                        "'YE are the salt of the earth.' So said Jesus Christ to his followers, and the words remain true of his followers to-day. That is to say, the followers of Christ—Christians—are the preservers of the earth.
                        They are the preservers of the earth because they are Christians. And Christians are not of this earth, but have been 'born from above.' They are in the world, but not of the world. They have been 'called out' from that which is of the world. Christ has chosen them out of the world, and the world recognizes this fact by hating them. John 15:19.
Christians therefore are the preservers of the world by being unlike the world. They are the 'salt of the earth' by being unlike the world in which they are, even as salt is unlike that in which it is placed.
                        But to this statement that Christians are the salt of the earth, the Saviour added: 'but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.' Matt. 5:13. If the salt loses its taste, so that its presence in the food cannot be distinguished, it is good for nothing; it will neither season anything nor preserve it. And if Christians, in the world, become conformed to the world, they are good for nothing as preservers of the world.
                        And now for years it has stood forth as a fact before all the people, and one becoming ever more prominent, that those who profess to be follower of Christ, the members of the churches, are combining into organizations to work by political methods for the salvation of the state. Through methods which are of the world, and in the use of which they must be identified with the world, they propose to work for the preservation of the world.
                        While the Word of God which they profess to believe says that the world is preserved only by that which is unlike the world, they propose to preserve it only by that which is like the world.
                        It is perfectly plain, therefore, that as certainly as the words of Christ are true, the Christians Citizenship and kindred organizations who are working to get control of the popular ballot and to shape legislation, for the preservation of the state, in these very things are working directly for the destruction of the state. In just so far as they make use of these methods they become identified with the world and lose their identity as Christians; for as Christians, they are to pursue methods of work for the uplifting of mankind which rest not upon the power and wisdom of man, but of God; not upon the power of law, but of love.
                        "Why cannot Christians see that in their Christianity—their separation from the world, their nonconformity to it, their very lack of identity with it in anything—lies the only guaranty of the world's preservation? " March 3, 1898 ATJ, AMS 129-130.
                        "God put people in this world to be together. He knew the nature of the beings whom he created, and knew that society was necessary to their welfare. He brings people into this world for their happiness, to enjoy themselves together, not to be miserable somewhere in seclusion. But aside from the enjoyment to be derived from human companionship, he puts people together for their spiritual good. His own work in the earth, the proclamation of the gospel truth, so far from demanding the exclusion of its adherents, demands the exact opposite. God's servants are the 'salt of the earth:' and to be this they must be in the world, mingling freely with all classes of society, and with world-loving people especially. God sends his servants to sinners, not away from them."  September 8, 1898 ATJ, AMS 550. 
                        "Politics represents selfishness—the instinct of self-preservation, self-advancement, self-exaltation—which is common to all people. Any person, except perchance the true Christian, will resent an invasion of his rights, and will make trouble if he can for the person or party seeking to invade them. Hence there is a necessity felt to a greater or less degree by all persons in power, of respecting the rights of the people; and it is this necessity caused by the common instinct to 'look out for number one,' and not the 'Christian vote,' that maintains the rights and liberties which civil governments are instituted to preserve." April 5, 1900 ATJ, AMS 211.
                        "Christians are the salt of the earth. That means that they are to have a saving, purifying influence on the world. But that does not mean that they are to become a part of the world, and to adopt the ways of the world, salt must remain salt, if it is to do any good. If we use it to preserve meat, we do not want it to turn to meat, but to retain its distinctive character. The church is not going to overcome the world by using the weapons of the world. The Gospel is the power of God, not the power of man; and God's ways are as much different from man's ways as the heavens are different from the earth."  July 13, 1893 EJW, PTUK 240.
On Being a Farmer - The Work of Faith and Love
In John 4, Jesus showed how the gospel harvest is produced. His faith and love, freely expressed and given to the woman at the well, in spite of her past, sprang up in her, and through her, spread to the entire town in which she lived. This was His method of cultivating community outreach - faith and love. This is how the gospel seed grows.
                        "In the growth of the grain we have an illustration of the Christian's growth in grace. 'For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.' Isa. lxi. 11. In the first place, the work is wholly of God. The showers that fall upon the earth show the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; the sunshine which warms the seed into life, shows us how the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings. So the grain grows, because under the favourable conditions which God provides, it cannot do otherwise. We also, if we are consciously as passive in the hands of God as the corn is involuntarily, and as willingly receive the things that pertain to life and godliness, which His Divine power gives in perfection, will as surely bring forth fruit to the glory of God throughout eternity, as the corn ripens to the harvest." September 1, 1898 EJW, PTUK 545.
Church Planting - Human Resources, or Divine?
Why were the disciples sent out without any resources of their own to speak of? Perhaps so they could realize that no human resource can accomplish this work.
God has all the resources, but He can bestow them on us and bless our planting efforts only as we exercise faith and love in each other, working together to plant the gospel seed which will raise up enduring, effective fellowship.
"Christ's dignity and office work are in imposing such conditions as he pleases. His followers are to become more and more a power in the proclamation of the truth as they draw nearer to the perfection of faith and of love for their brethren. God has provided his divine assistance for all the emergencies to which our human resources are unequal. He gives the Holy Spirit to help in every strait, to strengthen our hope and assurance, to illuminate our minds and purify our hearts. He means that sufficient facilities shall be provided for the working out of his plans in this field. I bid you seek counsel from God. Seek him with the whole heart, and 'whatsoever he saith unto you, do.'
'Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.'
ELLEN G. WHITE. March 2, 1899 N/A, GCDB 131.

~Todd Guthrie