Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Sticking Point

I have been overjoyed recently with the groundswell of interest across the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the "most precious message" that was presented by A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner over a century ago. Over the course of my short life - and even shorter experience with this message - never before have I seen such a growing burden to embrace and share this message. Individuals and groups from the wide spectrum within Adventism seem to be catching the fire.

Though there are, like Baskin-Robbins, many different flavors and views of this "most precious message," there seems to be general agreement across the board about some of the key elements of what happened at Minneapolis, and its aftermath, and what the core of Jones and Waggoner's (and Ellen White's) message was.

There seems to be general consensus that their message was never truly embraced. There seems to be general consensus that righteousness by faith includes not only God declaring us to be righteous, but that He actually makes us righteous. There seems to be general consensus that God is waiting for a people who are fully prepared for His second coming, that He might present to Himself a "glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle" (Ephesians 5:27). There seems to be general consensus that one of the key factors in this being achieved is the realization that Christ took upon himself human nature in its sinful, weakened condition.

In short, there seems to be a general consensus in this "1888 message renaissance" of what the end-goal is - a people who are cleansed of their sin so as to vindicate God in this great controversy.

What doesn't seem to be agreed upon, and, in fact, seems to be a sticking point (nay, the sticking point, in my estimation), is how we arrive at that end goal.

Or, put another way: the sticking point among those who have had a renewed interest in the 1888 message is what exactly Christ accomplished at Calvary. Failure to come to an agreement on this issue has prevented all those who agree upon the importance of 1888 - and the fact that the message has not been embraced by the church - to join together in a unified voice and declare this perhaps-end-time-inducing-message with fervor and zeal.

What's the big deal, you wonder? Though it is always dangerous to paint many people with a broad brush and speak in generalities, for the most part, much of the talk about "1888" that has surfaced recently among those within the "conservative" branch of Adventism, especially, seems to focus chiefly on the "overcoming sin" part of the "1888 message." There is great emphasis on the subjective experience the believer is supposed to - and will - enjoy when he or she is truly living by faith.

This is very, very important. As I said above, most, if not all, who are coming to embrace the truth about 1888 are agreed upon the end-goal and result of this "most precious message."

The problem with chiefly emphasizing this part of the message is that it is only half the picture and, more importantly, doing so actually prevents the ultimate goal from being achieved. Neglecting to recognize, embrace, and emphasize the objective truths of Christ's ministry and accomplishments simply engenders to bondage - the exact problem Jones, Waggoner and Ellen White fought against in the 1880s and 90s.

Of course, by sharing what I have already shared, I have shown my hand and revealed what side of the "fence" I am standing on. But what jumps out at me the most as I study this message is the emphasis the primary players place upon Christ's objective work. Of course, it is a very balanced emphasis, but an emphasis nonetheless.

In particular, I have found that the testimony Ellen White gave in 1889 about meetings held in South Lancaster, Mass., are particularly beneficial in keeping one grounded to the key elements of that "most precious message." I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to read that testimony (available here).

In the testimony she says stuff like, "They testified their joy that Christ had forgiven their sins." Or, "In the early morning meetings, I tried to present the paternal love and care of God for his children. The knowledge of God's love is the most effectual knowledge to obtain, that the character may be ennobled, refined, and elevated. . . . Christ ever directed the minds of his disciples to God as to a loving Father." Or, "There were many, even among the ministers, who saw the truth as it is in Jesus in a light in which they had never before viewed it. They saw the Saviour as a sin-pardoning Saviour, and the truth as the sanctifier of the soul."

It was this realization about the objective truths of Christ that melted the hearts of the attendees and brought them into a faith experience with Christ. As important as talking about what the faith-filled should - and will - look like, it is not this component of the 1888 message that will be the catalyst for revival. Only when we lift up "the matchless charms of Christ" will people's hearts fully and truly be reconciled to God.

More specifically, I think the "sticking point of the sticking point" is the idea of Christ's accomplishment for all humankind on Calvary. This is what many within "conservative" circles simply cannot bear or - so they think - accept. But those (or, at least, one person) among the living who have kept the "1888 message" alive and before our conscience the longest (reaching back to at least the 1950s) insist that the idea that Christ justified the whole world at the cross is an integral part of the "1888 message." I, of course, would tend to agree.

And this is the departure point for many.

Now, I will admit that this whole topic can be a bit nuanced and, perhaps, those who agree with one another in general on this concept are not fully uniformed in their presentation of it. But, nevertheless, I think the idea of - what I will label for the purpose of having a working term - "corporate justification" is a key emphasis and ingredient in achieving the end-goal in the plan of salvation. To omit, minimize, or reject this truth results in dire consequences. It is an objective and foundational truth that, if neglected, will prevent a house from standing (after all, David aptly wondered, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" [Psalm 11:3]).

On the other hand, the embracing of it actually results in the exact end-goal (ie., "perfection," which is a very biblical term) that those who reject it are so burdened by.

And that is the irony of it all.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Corporate Justification = Christ's gift to us by dying on the Cross. His ultimate example of yielding completely to the will of God. Even though He possessed all the power in the universe within He submitted to the will of God the Father and kept His true nature hidden from view. His death, His ultimate gift to man puts humanity in the position to accept or deny His offering. All have received the gift but all have not opened it to experience the transformation that leads to eternal life. Justification alone will not save you. It's Justificaiton + Sanctificaiton --> Glorification.


When does perfection occur? Is it when we obey the laws (sabbath, don't smoke, eat unclean foods, drink EtOH, swear, lie, covet, gossip, look at porn, etc.) God IS calling us to be PERFECT. Or is it when we surrender ourselves 100% to God being willing to go wherever He leads or bids us to do. I believe it's a Christian walk and this walk starts everyday with a willingness to surrender ourselves to Him COMPLETELY. Transformation of character occurs naturally while abiding in the perfection of Christ. People can give themselves up to Christ perfectly, it's doable..Living a perfect transgression free life without the Love of Christ, abiding in perfect trust is not doable..the fleshly nature rages and the fruit of the Spirit is not revealed. You are a fig tree without fruit. Perfect DAILY submission leads to perfection of Character and thus a life that contains fewer and fewer traces of the fleshly life and more and more and more of the spirit filled life.

Those who embark on this journey searching out with all their hearts will find that perfect rest. Pastors, theologians, teachers may give us ideas but we must individually search, experience and taste for ourselves..Grounded in biblical truth and The Faith of Jesus we will be unified in Him. Reflecting His character a work will be completed and His Bride will finally be prepared to receive Him.

~not there yet but wanting to be~