October 13, 2019

From a Convicted Murderer to a Humble Servant of God

Seventh-day Adventists have been called to proclaim a message of God’s restoring salvation with everyone, Adventist Church president Ted Wilson said during his Sabbath message at the 2019 Annual Council in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. Wilson’s annual address to the members and invitees of the General Conference Executive Committee on October 12 highlighted God’s power to restore and transform each one of us, and even the worst of sinners.

“Seventh-day Adventists have been asked to proclaim this amazing message, this restoring plan of salvation,” Wilson said.

A Message of Justification and Sanctification

Even though we were sinners, Jesus made us just—justified us—when He died on the cross for us, Wilson reminded his audience. But Christ's righteousness does not stop with His justification, he added. It continues as we accept the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, working in our lives to will and to do according to His good pleasure, not your own.

This sanctification process, Wilson explained, is based on Jesus’ life on this earth. The Bible says that after Jesus died, he rose again and went to intercede for us in the heavenly sanctuary. “Jesus entered that Holy Place, and He began to minister for us because He lives,” Wilson reminded. It is what should prompt us to “come boldly to the throne of grace,” he said, quoting Hebrews 4:16. 

Against this backdrop, Wilson emphasized, Jesus’ death on the cross is just the beginning. Quoting from Ellen G. White’s book Faith and Works, he read, “If we accept Christ as a Redeemer, we must accept Him as a Ruler. We cannot have the assurance and perfect confiding trust in Christ as our Savior until we acknowledge Him as our King and are obedient to His commandments” (p. 16). 

God’s power of salvation transform us, Wilson emphasized. “When you accept this marvelous power,” he said, “you are then empowered to do good works.”

Transformative Power

But the message of God’s restoring salvation is not just a theoretical proposition, Wilson suggested. It has the power to change us. As a real-life illustration of this power, he shared the story of Don Johnson, a convicted murderer who was recently executed by the State of Tennessee in the United States. Don became a Seventh-day Adventist and eventually a church elder in prison.

Wilson invited Adventist lay members John and Pam Dysinger, their daughter Kirsten, along with Pastor Furman Fordham to the podium. The Dysingers and Fordham witnessed to Johnson in prison, allowing him to become an active witness to others for years.

“It’s was an incredible encouragement to see his passion for people,” said Pam Dysinger.

Kirsten seconded.

“Probably the noblest quality we witnessed when visiting him was his perpetual positivity, his joyful contentment no matter the situation,” she said. “He would tell us, ‘I am too blessed to be stressed.’ It has been a wonderful testimony in my life,” Kirsten added.

Fordham, who is involved with Prison Ministries at the church he pastors, said that when they would visit him, “instead of us giving Bible studies to inmates, we would go to meet people to whom Don had already been given Bible studies.” And Fordham added, “The individual who murdered his wife died years ago, and we saw a new creature, God’s sanctifying power in action.”

Wilson agreed.

“Don represents those whose lives are changed by the power of the Gospel message with Christ’s justification… and His sanctifying power working in their lives,” he said.

A Message to Proclaim

In the last part of his message, Wilson said that God’s justifying and sanctifying power in our lives should drive us to share that restoration message with others. 

“Preach this precious message!” he said. “You’re not saved by works. You’re saved by His justifying power, and His sanctifying power helps you to accomplish good works.”

Wilson then invited every church leader to make room in his or her busy schedule to take part in an evangelistic initiative within the next few months.

“Allow God to work through you as a leader to model the mission proclamation of God’s restoring salvation to the world,” he said.

You can read the full text of Ted Wilson’s sermon HERE.

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