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Insights #7 Feb. 15, 2014
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First Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Jesus and the Social Outcasts"
For the week of February 15, 2014

"Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples."  Matt.9:10 (NKJV)

"...A friend of publicans and sinners."  Matt.11:19  (NKJV)

"But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, 'Why does he eat with such scum?'"  Mark 2:16 (NLT)

"Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him."  Lk 15:1 (NKJV)

"And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery . . .  (Jesus) said unto her, 'Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?'  She said, 'No man, Lord.' And Jesus said unto her, 'Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.'"  Jn.8:3,10,11  (KJV)

"The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)"  Jn. 4:9 (NIV)

"The Pharisees beheld Christ sitting and eating with publicans and sinners. He was calm and self-possessed, kind, courteous, and friendly; and while they could not but admire the picture presented, it was so unlike their own course of action that they could not endure the sight. The haughty Pharisees exalted themselves, and depreciated those who had not been blessed with such privileges and light as they themselves had had. They hated and despised the publicans and sinners. Yet in the sight of God their guilt was the greater. Heaven's light was flashing across their pathway, saying, 'This is the way, walk ye in it;' but they spurned the gift. Turning to the disciples of Christ, they said, 'Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?'" {ST, June 23, 1898 par. 5}

"We need more of Christlike sympathy; not merely sympathy for those who appear to us to be faultless, but sympathy for poor, suffering, struggling souls, who are often overtaken in fault, sinning and repenting, tempted and discouraged. We are to go to our fellow men, touched, like our merciful High Priest, with the feeling of their infirmities.  It was the outcast, the publican and sinner, the despised of the nations that Christ called and by His loving-kindness compelled to come unto Him. The one class that He would never countenance was those who stood apart in their self-esteem and looked down upon others."  {MH 164.1-2}

Can the principles of the 1888 message make us more like Jesus, so that we will relate to those who would generally be considered "social outcasts" in the same way that He did?  Or is the 1888 message primarily about getting our theological ducks in order?  Do the truths of the 1888 message actually teach us, and move us, towards relating to ALL, particularly the "social outcasts," with the same warmth and benevolence and care and courtesy as our Savior Jesus Christ did?  Right theology, that doesn’t lead to a changed life, is like being a Nobel prize winning mathematician who can’t figure out how to balance his personal budget.

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.  This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure."  {TM 91.2}

"It clearly appears that the 1888 message as given by Jones and Waggoner was intended to reproduce the righteousness of Christ in our experience.  A righteousness that would clearly include – if it is righteousness at all – a love and concern for the 'social outcasts.'" 
 
The famous E G White quote above ends with the following verse from 1 Jn. 4:7-11: 

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us."  {TM 94.2}

Let’s look at how the truths of the 1888 message, move us to relate to the “social outcasts” more and more as Christ did:

1.  Corporate Repentance – If we are all "made of the same dough", and if as Protestant Reformer John Bradford said, "there but for the grace of God go I," then it is clear that we by nature are no different than any social outcast.  By the fortunes of birth, circumstances, and also our own personal choices, we are indebted to those who have been less fortunate than ourselves.  Just as Jesus repented in our behalf (GCB, April 4, 1901 par. 15), we are to feel repentance on the behalf of others.  "As we see souls out of Christ, we are to put ourselves in their place, and in their behalf feel repentance before God, resting not until we bring them to repentance."  {7BC 960.2}

2.  The Nature of Christ – If the humility of God led Jesus to take our fallen sinful flesh, then how could we not follow in His footsteps and humble ourselves to befriend and aid our fellow social outcast human beings.  Clearly the condescension of Christ from his position in heaven with a perfect nature to become one with FALLEN man by taking our nature, is nothing compared to our leaving whatever our comfort zone might be to reach out in care and assistance to the "social outcasts" and unfortunate around us.  If He could come that far for us, we can be all the more motivated to extend ourselves for the "social outcast."

3.  Legal Justification – If God has given life and forgiveness to the whole world, from the most wealthy and educated to the poorest and least successful, then it must be the case that we can give to ALL the hand of acceptance and fellowship and respect.  God has imbued ALL mankind with the dignity and value expressed in the gift of His Son.  Can we not then view them ALL with that same dignity and value that God has instilled in them.  If we can see the world as God sees it – every individual – then we will relate to them as God has related to them, and as He has related to us.

4.  The Seeking Shepherd – Just as God saw us lost and damaged, and didn’t wait for us to come in search of Him before He aided us, so we are to emulate God, and go in search of the flotsam and jetsam of this world, not waiting for them to come to us for assistance, but to go in search of them.  The lost coin and lost sheep will never make it home unless they are searched for and pursued and carried back home.  The "social outcasts" in our world need this same searching for, pursuing, and bringing back home.

5.  The New Covenant – The "social outcasts" of our world need to hear the good news that God is not requesting from them that they make promises to Him.  They need to understand and believe that He is only asking them to believe His promises to them.  Whether it is alcohol or substance abuse, or sexual sin, or criminal history, or financial mismanagement, or whatever the "besetting sin" is, the solution is to BELIEVE the goodness of God and His promises to each of us.  And that believe will access the power of God to produce victory and success in the Christian life.  It truly is the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Rom.2:4).  And that is the good news that the "social outcast" needs to hear.
 
And we could continue with all the points of the 1888 message, but the pattern is clear, all the concepts that God in His great mercy brought to us as a Seventh-day Adventist church in the 1888 message, will empower us in our evangelism to the "social outcasts," as well as empower them to experience the love and goodness of God in their own lives.  May we let the truths of the 1888 message have influence in our minds and experience that we won’t just be "speaking to each other," but will be engaged in ministry that blesses the "social outcasts" and draws them to God, just as did the ministry of Jesus 2,000 years ago. 
-Bob Hunsaker