May 12, 2011

Up to the Challenge

The world is falling apart. Major disasters are everywhere. People are dying by the thousands without knowing Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. We have an urgent, divine summons to all who live in these last, difficult days.
Each of us should be able to resonate with the words of an essay by Bob Moorehead called “The Fellowship of the Unashamed”: “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.”
But before we “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19), we must go back to the basic tenets of our faith and God’s charge to “preach the Word . . . in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Our mission is to partner with Christ “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Ours was originally a “movement,” not to build institutions that demand more of our financial resources to maintain, leaving little to employ ministers to work for Jesus. Too many divinely called men and women, filled with the Holy Spirit and trained to labor for the Lord, are being turned away because of a lack of funds to hire them. Our mission is clear: we are to know nothing more than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We must go speedily and tell everywhere that humanity’s hour of decision has come.
2011 1514 page27Our message is first and foremost the everlasting gospel that declares unequivocally: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish [that is, experience “the second death”] but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This must be preached from the perspective of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 as we shed nonessential discourses in which the kernel of truth is buried so deeply that people can’t hear the certain sound of the gospel.
Our method is set forth by the apostle Paul in Acts 20:17-35. At the end of his third missionary journey he seemed to have a premonition that he would never again see the elders of the churches he founded in Ephesus. While in Miletus he sent an urgent message summoning them to join him. They responded immediately, and upon their arrival they received a poignant, profound farewell message, much like the one Jesus gave His disciples before His crucifixion (John 13-17). Paul underscored the foundation of our method of reaching the world:
First, we must serve God and others, not ourselves. People must know personally, from the very beginning, that we “have not coveted [their] silver or gold or clothing” (Acts 20:33), but worked hard on their behalf, helped the weak, “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (verse 35).
Second, we must not shrink from declaring the truths of the gospel. Ours is a divine call to preach prophetically. This means not only addressing prophecy, but exercising divine authority to question the status quo, offer biblical insights into current situations, challenge listeners to repent, call members to revival, and invite all to return to a faithful relationship with God.
Third, we must submit to the Holy Spirit with the assurance that He will take care of us. In other words, He has our back. This works only if we are certain that we are “compelled by the Spirit” (verse 22). Paul warned that “savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock” (verse 29). Yet he expressed the depths of his willingness to serve, as we must serve. He wrote: “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (verse 24).
The challenge before us is great; but God’s grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).
Hyveth Williams is a professor of homiletics at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. This article was published May 19, 2011.