Friday, September 23, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #13 September 24, 2016

Third Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
How Shall We Wait?
September 24, 2016
How shall we wait?  As the coming of Christ draws near this question becomes more relevant.  We consider it more thoughtfully.  We contemplate it more purposefully.  It is a serious question and requires, even demands, a serious answer.  So often our witnessing seems to have a hollow ring.  We share our beliefs but there is an undeniable hook in the testimony.  We are not really sharing the goodness of the Lord.  We are not seeking to get others to praise the Lord with us.  Careful analysis of our witness reveals that we are just trying to get them to join us.  Every time someone does - we feel validated.  It serves as an endorsement of our position in the world, a vote for our legitimacy.  When reading these "tracts", one often feels sick to the stomach even to the point of throwing up.
Can't we share the gospel for the gospel's sake?  Why must we always seek to get others to accept some unique, perhaps peculiar tenet of our faith?  Why must every tract seek to correct some popular misconception in the other churches?   We can't hope to win someone every day.  We can't hope to have someone join our church every time we "witness".  Isn't the Lord good and doesn't He want us to tell somebody about the goodness of the Lord?  Getting someone to join our church shouldn't be the only thing on our minds.  How shall we wait?

We believe we belong to the remnant church of Bible prophecy.  But don't believe we are the only ones that are going to be saved.  The Bible clearly teaches otherwise.  Zech. 13:6 says, "And one will say to him, 'What are these wounds in your hands?'"  Consider the implication of that prophecy:  Some will get to heaven having never heard the gospel.  The person in that prophecy is asking about the most fundamental truth of the gospel.  They are unaware that Jesus was crucified on their behalf.  Yet they are there in heaven anyway.

"For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law" (Rom. 2:12).  So we see that some will perish without law just as some will be saved without law.  Our witness isn't as essential to the salvation of souls as we may have thought.   Then why do we witness and why did the servant of the Lord say, "Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary" (ChS 11)?  Isn't witnessing essential?  Why did Jesus say, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14)?

Can it be that the witnessing is for a different purpose than we have assumed.  Can it be that we witness for our own benefit rather than for the benefit of those to whom we witness?  Can it be that we are to be learning more about the character of God as we share the truth about him?  Can it be that we are learning to care for the lost as He cares?  Can it be that we are learning to love as He loves?  Can it be the process shapes our character as no other process can shape it?  Can it be that this is the only way that we can have our characters so changed and our hopes and dreams and aspirations so molded that we become fit for the kingdom of heaven? 

Jesus already told us that our witness is for another purpose.  He said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations."  Some versions say it's for a "testimony."  Both "witness" and "testimony" can be used in a legal sense.  They both suggest that legal observations of the facts of a case are being described.  In this case what is at stake?  The Bible describes the last days as a time of deception.  Jesus said, "Take heed that you not be deceived" (Luke 21:8).  There will be all kinds of deceptions on every hand.  The most significant of the deceptions of the last days will be that Satan will impersonate Christ.  He will have already misrepresented his character and convinced the world that God is really like him.  Then ultimately he will come to convince the world that he is God.

Therefore, to prepare the world to detect the deception, someone will have to tell the world what God is like.  A clear, unambiguous, believable, testimony of the truth about God will have to be given.  Thus Jesus said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world."  This preaching is not for the conversion of sinners.  It will be for a witness unto all nations.  It must be a clear, unambiguous, believable, testimony about the character of God, without the taint of self interest.  For "the hour of His judgment is come" (Rev. 14:7). 

Are we ready to give that testimony in all the world?  That will be our job in the very last days before the end.  How shall we wait?  We shall be giving that testimony for a witness unto all nations.  It will be a clear testimony about the goodness of the Lord.  It won't be a clever trick convincing the world that they should join our church, give up their flawed doctrine and adopt the truth before time runs out.  There will no longer be a hook that spoils our testimony.  It is about His goodness, not ours.  We will finally be clearly convinced that He is worthy of our witness.  We will give the testimony regardless of the consequences.

No longer will we be concerned about our place in the world.  We will feel no need to tell the world how many millions are in our church.  We will no longer recount the number of our churches, or our schools or our colleges, or our hospitals.  Our motive will be like that of John the Baptist, "He must increase, and I must decrease."  Our central burden will be to tell the world about Jesus, the Saviour of the world.  And no competing agenda will cloud our vision.  Only "One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,--Christ our righteousness" (SD 260).

Until this becomes our focus, our one interest, our consuming desire, we shall wander from place to place feeling that we have no place in this world.  We shall wring our aching hands and empty arms knowing that we have no meaningful purpose down here.  We shall look for meaning, and explanation, reasons for our existence in this world and find nothing.  Life shall be empty and futile and barren and we shall cry, "How long O Lord, how long." 

When we shall cease trying to establish ourselves in this world, when we shall abandon all effort at propping up our agendas, when self shall be completely humbled in the dust, then we will finally choose Christ.  His agenda will be the only agenda.  His mission will become our mission.  Whatever He desires will become our only desire.  Then life will finally have meaning.  We will not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.  We will not be driven by every significant event.  Come what may, we shall know that nothing matters and nothing will amount to anything, except Christ our Righteousness.

Then we will know the answer to the question, How shall we wait? 

~Mark Duncan