SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #2
July 14, 2012
We’ve just concluded a whole quarter studying witnessing and evangelism, and now we find some of these themes being repeated and enlarged this quarter in stories about the early Christian church in Thessalonica.
If evangelism today posed challenges for us as great as those faced by Paul, how excited would you be about witnessing for Christ?
Paul was unjustly thrown into prison, beaten, harassed, and followed around by a demon-possessed girl. His erstwhile church brethren (the Jews) did not look any too kindly on his missionary zeal. They did their best to hedge up his way and make his life difficult. The Scripture reveals the hidden motives that prompted these troublemakers: malice and envy. Then – as now – preachers of the gospel have suffered persecution at the hands of a church that held only a form of the godliness while denying its power.
From a human perspective, who would want to live the life of Paul? Yet Paul chose this path over a life of ease. He almost seemed to revel in trial, for each new challenge only served to reveal more fully God’s ability to save to the uttermost.
Our memory text this week reveals Paul’s motivation to service:
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19, 20).
Paul had caught a glimpse of the unfathomable gift of God in Christ. His gratitude gave way to an irrepressible urge to share the good news with others. Paul was not content to bask in the blessings of the cross and be saved alone – No! – he felt compared to share the gospel everywhere he went.
“The love of Christ compels us,” he said. “Because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” 2 Corinthians 5:15.
Have you ever felt your heart “strangely warmed” by the good news of the gospel?
Were you content to just experience that good feeling yourself or did you, too, feel compelled to share what you had learned with others?
After his brilliant speech at the Areopagus, Paul observed that of the large number who heard his eloquent words, only three were converted to the faith. “He then decided that from that time he would maintain the simplicity of the gospel. He was convinced that the learning of the world was powerless to move the hearts of men, but that the gospel was the power of God to salvation” (RH Aug. 3, 1911).
Experiences such as that must have cemented Paul’s conviction “not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Paul recognized that the “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Therefore, Paul could exclaim, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . . for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:16, 17).
The closer our message and methods align with the simplicity of the gospel, the more successful will be our efforts in winning souls for Christ.
Recently, I read a beautiful compilation of Ellen White’s writings entitled Christian Service. This book is filled with counsel appropriate for those who are seeking wisdom to know how best to share Christ. It is must-read for anyone whose heart has been touched by the soul-stirring message of the gospel.
A few excerpts are shared here:
“Every important truth received into the heart must find expression in the life. It is in proportion to the reception of the love of Christ that men desire to proclaim its power to others; and the very act of proclaiming it, deepens and intensifies its value to their own souls” CS p. 94.
“There will come times when the church will be stirred by divine power, and earnest activity will be the result; for the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit will inspire its members to go forth and bring souls to Christ. But when this activity is manifested, the most earnest workers will be safe only as they depend upon God through constant, earnest prayer. They will need to make earnest supplication that through the grace of Christ they may be saved from taking pride in their work, or of making a savior of their activity. They must constantly look to Jesus, that they may realize that it is His power which does the work, and thus be able to ascribe all the glory to God” CS p. 98.
“There is but one genuine cure for spiritual laziness, and that is work—working for souls who need your help” CS p. 107.
“We must study improved ways and means of reaching people” CS p. 110.
“When the church shall truly have the spirit of the message, they will throw all their energies into the work of saving the souls for whom Christ has died. They will enter new fields. Some who are not ordained ministers will be laborers together with God in visiting the churches and trying to strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die. There will be laymen who will move into towns and cities, and into apparently out-of-the-way places, that they may let the light which God has given them, shine forth to others” CS 180.
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)