Commentary on "Personal Evangelism and Witnessing"
Day 2: Sunday, May 6, 2012 - My God and Me
Today's lesson focuses on the importance of a strong personal relationship with Jesus in order to effectively evangelizing others to Adventism. The author states that while the Adventist may be able to pass on 'important knowledge' they will not be able to encourage a 'vital spiritual life' if they do not have one themselves. The author asks, '…how can we pass on to others what we don't have in and of ourselves?' The author then writes that even those 'tottering on the edge of apostasy' are able to be used by God. He follows this statement with an example of a Seventh-day Adventist woman who converted her brother to Adventism and a month later 'left the faith'.
The author concludes the lesson by writing that as Adventists consider their personal mission fields by 'assessing the ripeness of the grain and the urgent need of laborers' they need to let the Lord draw them into a meaningful relationship with Him that 'will give us power that, otherwise, we wouldn't have.'
Today's lesson helps to further reveal three of the ways in which Seventh-day Adventism possesses the markings of a false church. We will look at how some of the statements above reveal this by listing them with the corresponding markings found in day one of this weeks commentary. While this may seem redundant, it is extremely important to see how Adventist teaching on evangelism is always for the purpose of furthering their agenda rather than the gospel of Jesus according to scripture. After doing this, we will examine the Adventist understanding of 'conversion' verses the experience of the regenerated man. This will serve to aid us in considering how the born again believer is used in drawing man to God, verses the evangelistic requirements of the Seventh-day Adventist as we move throughout the week.
Seventh-day Adventism: Markings of a False Church
1) 'Important Knowledge': We have already seen that the 'important knowledge' imparted to God's 'last day remnant people' is seen as the 3 angels message which is synonymous with the 'gospel' according to Adventism.
2} 'Apostasy': This term is used when speaking of a woman who left the Seventh-day Adventist organization. This not only further exposes the fact that Adventism is viewed as being the remnant of Christianity in the end of time, but it succeeds in acting as a fear tactic to keep people from leaving lest they too become apostates.
Conversion vs. Regeneration
Lets begin by simply defining these two terms. This will help to understand the purpose for using these terms when placing Adventism along side Christianity. I will be using the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
As stated in Mr. Webb's introduction to the Adult Sabbath School Lesson, Adventists believe that they were raised up by God to proclaim a last day's message as they interpret it through Ellen G. White and the three angels of Revelation 14. The entire purpose of the church is to bring all of Christianity into their 'special knowledge' given only to them. They do this via End-Times seminars, health classes, and their world wide medical ministries (to name a few). In order for a Seventh-day Adventists to evangelize, they must administer their special messages in premeditated doses (see Friday's commentary) to convince their listeners of their trustworthiness and convert them over to their way of 'understanding' scripture and the 'cosmic battle.' For the Adventist, 'leading people to Jesus' is about leading them away from their 'apostasy as daughters of babylon' and into the 'present truth' of the three angels messages. It is completely informational and meant to bring about a 'decisive adoption' of their religion.
According to the Great Controversy worldview, once man is educated on 'spiritual reality' it is up to him to choose sides within the cosmic battle over good and evil ('logical conversion'). Should they choose God's side they will show their allegiance by vindicating His character to the watching worlds through commandment keeping.
The spiritual regeneration (re-birth) of the believer through the resurrection power of the cross is not taught in Adventism primarily because Adventism denies the human spirit, and secondly because one cannot know if they have eternal life until the closing of the books following the investigative judgement. Therefore conversion is a human cognitive commitment to God that beseeches the power of the Holy Spirit (given in doses based on their level of personal righteousness and obedience [more on that later in the week]) to help them keep the law of God. Furthermore, the Adventist gospel does not honestly teach the depraved nature of man for it claims that man can be good and keep the law with the support of the Holy Spirit.
Regeneration of Man: The Birth of the Christian
The goal of the Christian evangelist is to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ revealed to us in the Bible. When a Christian evangelist learns of someone being born again they do not see it as an effective logical conversion. They acknowledge it as the miraculous work of God in the life of the new believer.
Present day evangelist Don Green once used the sermon of Jesus in Matthew 5 to give a picture of true repentance and the regeneration of man (http://youtu.be/FfJTPkrQdZE). I would like to draw from that sermon to share with you the Christian understanding of the new birth. In Matthew chapter 4, just before 'the sermon on the mount', scripture says 'from that time on' Jesus began to preach repentance (Matthew 4:17). Let's look at how the Beatitudes which follow in chapter 5 gives a beautiful picture of true repentance and spiritual regeneration.
The individual called by God is given eyes to see their true nature through the work of the Holy Spirit. Once he see's his nature, he is poor in spirit because he knows he is dead in his transgressions. He mourns because he has nothing good in himself to offer a Holy God and he recognizes that he is an object of wrath separated from God. This mourning brings him to accept the gift of repentance and he humbly calls on the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring him to life through His resurrection power, for this man counts the atonement of Christ as acceptable and full payment for his sin and asks to be covered by the blood of Jesus. Jesus reconciles him to the Father and the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and begins a great work in him. Once reconciled the now born again believer is meek and longs to serve his savior by partaking in the sufferings of Christ. He hungers and thirsts for righteousness because the Holy Spirit indwells him and wills him to live and exist in accordance to the Father's will. He is merciful because he knows through personal experience the powerful mercy of God. He is pure in heart because he has been possessed of God. He is a peacemaker because he has been commissioned to work in the ministry of reconciliation through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit working in Him, and he is persecuted because he is an alien within the province of the prince of this world. The born again believer draws strength from the word and promises of God for he knows that '… theirs is the kingdom of heaven…for they shall be comforted…inherit the earth…be satisfied…receive mercy…see God… (and) be called sons of God…' YES! '…For theirs IS the kingdom of Heaven.' (Matt 5: 2-10)
So you see, a believer is born through the work of the Holy Spirit who awakens the called to see who they are before God— wretched, fallen, dead, an enemy—and then brings them to the foot of the cross where they can choose life. To be born again is to experience the transformation of the inner man by the power of God. It is the birth of a new creation and it can only be done by the work of God in the perfect timing of God. While we are commanded to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have, it is not up to us to summon people to spiritual life. That would be about as effective as us standing before the tomb of Lazarus and yelling 'Lazarus, come forth!'
We must let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit. Period. We do not receive 'power' to change people or persuade them to believe as we do based on our particular level of closeness in our relationship with Jesus. Our Lord does not dole out portions of the Holy Spirit based on our obedience and closeness. When we are born again we are indwelled with the fullness of the person of the Holy Spirit upon believing in the gospel of our salvation.
'In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.' Ephesians 1:13-13
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is not an invisible force given in doses according to personal worthiness. You either have a person or your don't. Believers who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit have all of Him immediately. This is why we are told not to grieve Him, He is with us always and whatever we do, we bring Him into for He never leaves us. He is our seal, our guarantee! Praise Jesus!
The new birth is not simply the result of leading an unsuspecting friend through a series of steps to give their heart to Jesus following an onslaught of frightening eschatological prophesies and commandment keeping proof texts. The business of being born from above is far more spiritual and providential than I think any of us will understand this side of heaven. It is the work of God that leads an individual to that place where they can recognize their absolute depravity and inability to live a life pleasing to God by their own effort (or professed allegiance). It is not for us to assess the 'ripeness of the grain' or the urgent need for harvesters. What scripture does tell us is that we must pray that God will send harvesters where He knows they are needed.
'Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.' (Matt. 9:38)
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