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You Will Be My Witnesses

THIRD QUARTER 2018

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #1

JULY 7, 2018

“YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES”

 

Yesterday as I traversed the highways of Northern California my attention was riveted to a billowing mushroom cloud produced by a wildfire in the mountains west of the freeway. I snapped photos with my phone to share with my family. Winds propelled smoke over San Francisco causing the sky to turn brown. News reports carried the story of a fast-growing wildfire fueled by high winds and high temperatures. In California, sometimes it seems we have only two seasons, winter and fire.

 

Wildfires aside, the point I wish to make is that we naturally testify to what we have seen and experienced. It isn't hard or awkward. It's natural.

 

When Jesus ascended into the clouds from the mount of Olivet, the disciples and 500 or so friends gathered there that day were astonished. Aside from seeing Elijah taken up in a fiery chariot, had anyone ever witnessed someone rising from the earth unaided by mechanical means? More than that, the disciples had spent the past three and one half years with Jesus. After the events of the cross and resurrection, their eyes were opened to the true import of His mission on earth. Now they were gazing into heaven, stunned as it were, when two angels brought their attention back to earth:

 

"Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" Acts 1:11.

 

Jesus' last words to His disciples were these: "And you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" Acts 1:8.

 

As witnesses for Christ, the disciples would be the means of communicating the gospel to the world. They could not help but tell what they had seen and heard. The Gift of heaven had been received into their hearts and it was promptly shared with the world. 

 

Our Sabbath School lesson this week introduces the book of Acts, which will be the topic of our study for the next quarter. As we review the story of the early apostolic church, as we experience in our imaginations what it must have been like to see Jesus taken into heaven and to converse with angels, please join me in praying that God will restore the vividness of that gospel story to our minds. Even though we did not have the privilege of walking and talking with Jesus while He was here in this world, we do have access to the most precious message of Jesus Christ and His righteousness which brings this narrative home to our hearts. By the grace of God it can be as real as though we had witnessed His ascension yesterday.

 

When we see the beauty of Jesus in a new, richer and deeper way, it will be natural to share what we have seen and heard. 

 

The General Conference Bulletin of 1897 gives a brief report of how this message impacted those in attendance at the meetings that year. From this report we read:

 

"THE last Sabbath of the Conference was in many respects a most remarkable day. That which made it so was the presence of the power and blessing of God in unusual measure. There was nothing unusual in the form of services. There was no special effort made to create any extraordinary impressions. All felt that the occasion was one of peculiar interest and solemnity; but there was throughout the day a calm and quiet spirit. The discourse on the eve of the Sabbath was by A. T. Jones on the theme of Coming out of Egyptian Bondage. 'Out of Egypt have I called my Son.' This declaration was applied as a general principle, and was traced through the Scriptures with clearness, the Holy Spirit witnessing to the truths with power. On the following morning the Sabbath-schools were well attended, and characterized with much interest. The forenoon discourse was by Elder Waggoner, on the subject of Witnesses for God. The basic scripture was Acts 1:4-8; the essential words, 'Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me.' In reference to the Judgment it was shown that not only have we a case pending there, but that God is on trial also. He has placed the vindication of his character in the hands of his children. Isaiah forty-three was brought out, in which the Lord appoints his children his witnesses. The fact that God has, as it were, risked his reputation or character in our hands, and that we are in our lives to bear witness to his goodness and justice, was dwelt upon at some length.
{March 8, 1897 N/A, GCDB 319.19}

 

"No outline of the discourse can give any idea of the spirit that came upon the meeting as the speaker proceeded. No appeal was made to the feelings of the audience, but at the close of the sermon many were in tears, and after the dismissal the people lingered weeping in silent and inexpressible gratitude and awe at the wonderful grace of God. It was not an occasion for words, for no words could give expression to the deep feelings of the heart. Never have we seen such a manifestation of the subduing power of the Holy Spirit."
{March 8, 1897 N/A, GCDB 319.20} 

 

Does your heart long to experience this subduing power of the Holy Spirit? It can and will happen as we open the curtains of our heart heavenward.

 

"One ray of the glory of God, one gleam of the purity of Christ, penetrating the soul, makes every spot of defilement painfully distinct, and lays bare the deformity and defects of the human character. It makes apparent the unhallowed desires, the infidelity of the heart, the impurity of the lips. The sinner's acts of disloyalty in making voice the law of God, are exposed to his sight, and his spirit is stricken and afflicted under the searching influence of the Spirit of God.

 

"The tears of the penitent are only the raindrops that preceded the sunshine of holiness. This sorrow heralds a joy which will be a living fountain in the soul. 'Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou has transgressed against the Lord thy God'; 'and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord.' Jer. 3:13, 12. 'Unto them that mourn in Zion,' He has appointed to give 'beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness' " (The Faith I Live By, p. 127).
 

~Patti Guthrie