BY BERTIL WIKLANDER
n one of our churches a simple glass door separated the church hall from the vestry. One day a church member, failing to see the glass between himself and where he wanted to go, walked into it, sending shattered glass everywhere.
Life would be much easier if things were as they appear. What we see often reflects the unknown; hidden factors determine events and behavior. How may we understand life's deeper dimensions?
Life is a struggle between good and evil, a standard theme of the endless films and videos produced by the entertainment industry. We may dream of life at its best for ourselves, our families, and our communities; but we often seem defenseless against evil. It breaks down bonds of community; sows distrust; destroys peace; inflicts pain, sorrow, and death; and keeps us in a state of suffering and sin.
How can we find rescue? The answer is found in Paul's words: "the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph. 1:13).*
God and His Enemy
The gospel describes an ongoing spiritual conflict, a conflict between God and an enemy to whom the Bible gives many names, e.g., Satan, the evil one, the serpent, the dragon, the god of this age. Motivated by envy and pride, his ultimate goal is to take God's place (Isa. 14:12-14; Eze. 28:12-18; 2 Thess. 2:3-8).
The enemy's intentions are clearly revealed in the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness: Satan wants us to worship him instead of God (Matt. 4:8-10). He defames God by accusing him of not being trustworthy, and disclaims God's right to be universally worshipped. He questions God's truth, attacking His word, His law, His people. Ellen G. White's book The Great Controversy gives a historical overview of how Satan's attack on God's truth has influenced the history of humankind, and particularly the Christian Church.
Because of this conflict, life is a matter of choosing to live either for God or for the enemy. Since Seventh-day Adventists stand for God, the knowledge of God's truth unifies us. We seek not only to know God's truth but to grow in our understanding of it. Bible reading and Bible study must be a daily occupation, especially for our children and youth.
The enemy's opposition to God began in heaven. By deceiving humanity into sinning against God, the enemy brought evil, suffering, and death to the world. But by grace and truth God brought us salvation in Jesus Christ (John 1:12, 14). We are involved in the final conflict between Christ and Satan over the true nature and character of God. It is our duty to be united in understanding "the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:2, 3).
But can we really understand God?
God and His Truth
Our ability to understand God is limited, but He reveals Himself through His inspired word (1 Cor. 2:9-16). In biblical times when a word was spoken, it was expected that a true relationship existed between the word and the matter it referred to, and this expectation depended on a trustful relationship between speaker and listener. A moral element was always involved in communication. The truth of the word revealed the uprightness of the speaker in whom the word originated. Faith in the speaker's word reflected faith in the speaker's character. The truth of God's word implies our trust in His person and goodwill; it is guaranteed by His character, power, and righteousness, that is, His divinity.
By speaking to us, God took a risk. If God's word or His promises should prove untrue in the lives of His followers, this would produce doubt in His power and righteousness, even in His divinity. Every confirmation of the truth of God's word attests to His character and generates trust in Him. Being united in witnessing to God's truth, therefore, is an act of worship: it confirms and acknowledges God's divinity (Rev. 14:7).
God and His Son
Jesus Christ is God's word of salvation; He embodies the gospel truth by which He confirms that God is righteous and truthful. Jesus Himself said: "Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God" (John 3:33, 34, NRSV). Similarly, John wrote: "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).
Therefore, we are united in witnessing to the truth of God's divinity and righteousness. We witness to the truth of God's word, His law, and His creation, according to the teachings of Jesus, who "opened [his disciples'] minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45).
God and His Church
God established the Christian church to counteract the enemy's plans. This was the mission Jesus gave to paul: "I am sending you [to your own people and the Gentiles] to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me" (Acts 26:17, 18).
As many Christians and churches lose their grasp of the truth and grow spiritually lukewarm, God calls a prophetic movement to restore His truth (Rev. 14:6-12). By God's grace alone, and in great humility, the worldwide community of Seventh-day Adventists accepts this divine calling, recognizing that we live at a time when "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Rom. 16:20).
1. Is "the truth that is in Jesus" theoretical or practical? Can it be one without being the other? Explain.
2. The reality of good versus evil cannot be ignored. Is there danger in focusing too much on one or the other? What is the best way to stay balanced?
3. The 12 disciples grew in their understanding of God through their contact with Jesus. What was the most important lesson they learned? What has been your most recent discovery about God's character through your study of Jesus' life?
This is a time of hope as we prepare for God's victory over evil, suffering, death, and sin. It is also a time when the truth must be vigorously and boldly defended; when the reformation of the Christian church, begun in the sixteenth century, needs to continue.
We need to be united in exposing false teaching, as the first Christians did when exposing the sorcerer Elymas. Paul said to him, "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10).
We need to be united in maintaining faith in the Bible, the true word of God, by commitment to His law, including the Sabbath, and to a life in the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23) and in Christian love (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
Above everything else, we need to be united in witnessing about "the truth that is in Jesus" (Eph. 4:21).
Paul wrote: "God our Savior . . . desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3, 4, NRSV). God's heart is broken for the lost. Since lost people matter to God, they must matter to us. We must offer ourselves as instruments of God for His salvation. Without unity in this truth, we become lost ourselves. When we fail to witness to the divine truth in Jesus, we fail to fulfill God's purpose in our lives.
The Truth, the Church, and the Lost
James White described our movement by saying we are "bound together by the bonds of love--love for the truth, love for each other, and love for a perishing world" (in the Review and Herald, Aug. 11, 1853). This must remain our commitment and identity.
It is a serious commitment, for the apostle Paul wrote that people will eventually perish because "they refused to love the truth and so be saved" (2 Thess. 2:10). When we see so many around us who do not know Him, the Holy Spirit gives us a sense of compassion for them, that leads to both prayer and witness.
God has a work for us to do, the work of salvation committed to us by Jesus. When we fully accept the gospel commission, only then will Jesus be with us always, until the end of time. And when He comes into our hearts, He teaches us that "love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).
Bertil Wiklander is president of the Trans-European Division, with headquarters in St. Albans, England.