March 16, 2011

Symbols of Christ's First and Second Advent

At a recent faculty meeting seminary dean Denis Fortin gave an inspired introduction of a document, “God’s Promised Gift,” voted at the October 2010 Annual Council. The subtitle, “An Urgent Appeal for Revival, Reformation, Discipleship, and Evangelism,” had little impact until Fortin invited us to read the almost five pages aloud.
Something stirred inside me as we processed each word. It wasn’t like a mighty wind or a great earthquake; it was more like a sudden movement, an almost imperceptible kick of a child in the womb. It was a radical push by the Holy Spirit that made our minds strive for methods by which the message could be presented to our community.
I wasn’t the only one so affected. Our faculty voted unanimously to endorse the document. Ideas were immediately put forth regarding ways to broadcast its content and share the good news with our students. Seeds of revival and reformation that will manifest themselves in our worship, teaching, witnessing, and preaching were sown.
2011 1508 page25It’s impossible to predict how revival will manifest itself in everyone, but when it comes there will be an intense desire to share with humanity the good news of God’s gift in the person of His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s akin to this message: “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you’” (Matt. 2:13).
Let’s say, for the sake of responding to the appeal for revival and reformation, that the document passed by the Annual Council represents the angel; Joseph is every one of us; Herod, like Satan, wants to kill Christ in us; the Child is Jesus; His mother symbolizes the church; and Egypt is the world spinning out of control. All around us are parents, like Rachel (verse 18), weeping for their children.
Get up, church! We can’t just sit here while the world is in chaos and we know the remedy and have the cure. Call it what you will: Laodicean lukewarmness or 10 virgins’ syndrome; the time to get up is now! God’s promised gift is our midnight cry! Can you hear it above the silence of our long spiritual slumber? The Holy Spirit is shaking us awake, saying, “Get up out of your complacency. Get up from your arrogance. Get up from your laziness. The time has come to be revived in spirit so you can reach the world for Christ.”
No one can have Jesus without His church. We have to take the Child and His mother when we evangelize. A popular belief among many is that one can have Jesus and reject His church. But we must dispel this myth with the biblical principles on which our church stands.
When Jesus was born, God chose Egypt as a refuge for His Son, the place that had been a house of bondage to Israel. God is still sending His people to Egypt, where men and women shake their fists at Him. When revival comes, we will get up and leave the comfort of our congregations to enter “Egypt,” knowing that God can and will make the worst of places serve the best of purposes.
Since the church is the apple of God’s eye, we can’t just sit here another day and continue to drink from spiritual wells we did not dig without protesting the greed, violence, prejudice, and abuse that sap the moral strength of our world. We can’t just sit by another year and warm ourselves by fires we didn’t kindle and remain silent against sin’s increasingly evil shadow over an age of excess and aggression.
Let’s go into the world and impart God’s promised gift like autumn leaves, and bring about revival and reformation for Christ’s sake!
Hyveth Williams is a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan. This article was published March 17, 2011.