Discipling the Nations or Being Discipled by the Nations?
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Conner Baptism 002In the Old Testament God wanted to be Israel’s king, but in 1 Samuel 8:5-7 Israel rejected God as their king and said they wanted to have a king like all the other nations have. Centuries later, Pilate asks the Israelites,

Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.  John 19:15

So for centuries God’s own people were basically saying, “Give us any king but God!”  Instead of discipling the nations, they were discipled by the nations.

God’s own people wanted to be like the other nations so much so that they were willing to deny their Savior so they could fit in with the world. Much of their compromise with the world was to avoid being persecuted or even just laughed at. In John 11:50, Caiaphas suggests getting rid of Jesus so that the whole nation does not perish. What He was suggesting was, getting rid of Jesus’ teachings which, if not done away with would bring down the wrath of Rome. What Caiaphas was forgetting was, if they did away with Jesus then the nation had no reason to exist! What is the point of preserving something if it no longer serves a purpose? Why exist just to exist?

Do we find the same mentality in our day? For example–

Let’s water down our teachings lest someone ridicule us. No reason to invite persecution, we can preserve ourselves by making our teachings look as much like all the other churches as possible.

If we do that, we have defeated our entire purpose of existing as a church! After the reformation, during a religious awakening, God did not bring the Seventh-day Adventist Church forth to blend in and look like all the other churches. Think about it. There were already churches, even Sabbath-keeping churches, that looked like all the other churches. Why would God bring forth a church if it would be like what was already there?

Other churches have a gospel that will prepare you to die, and that is all well and good, but God has brought forth the Seventh-day Adventist Church with a sanctuary message and a gospel that will prepare you to never die! See Malachi 3:1-3. Should we be ashamed of this gospel? Should we try to water it down to look like all the other gospels out there?

Even now Rome is extending her hand to the Protestant churches, saying we all understand salvation by grace instead of works. We all get what Luther was saying now, so let’s all come together. However, you cannot say you understand salvation by grace while observing a man-made day of worship, one that man worked out on his own! When you understand salvation by grace, you rest from your works and man-made religion by resting your faith in the Creator on the day that He made holy.

Years ago I met with another Adventist family in my neighborhood for a Neighborhood Youth Bible Study on Sabbath afternoons. One Sabbath our church was having a “revival” with some Christian rock music. Someone from the church invited me and my youth study group to come. I thought, why not? Instead of a Bible study for this week, let’s just show the kids that we also have fun. After the concert, I asked a teenager in my group how they liked the concert. I was hoping they thought it was really cool. Instead, they looked at me disappointed, and said, “I wish we would have just had the Bible study instead.” Their statement hit me like a two-by-four right between the eyes! I realized then, what was being offered they could find anywhere, but we have a special message that is not just found anywhere.

Instead of blending in we need to stand out. In Samuel’s day Israel had a special message that would have saved the world, but instead of discipling the nations they were discipled by the nations. Likewise, we are told by Jesus to go and make disciples of other nations, not become disciples of other nations.  Caiaphas thought the best way to preserve the church of his day was to get rid of Jesus and His gospel.

The Lord directed Ezekiel in giving His message. And I believe it is still valid today:

“And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they [are] most rebellious.” Ezekiel 2:7

Today, companies will sometimes change their products to meet consumer demand, but we cannot do that, because the product (the message) is the Lord’s. However, we can learn something else from modern companies. More often they change the packaging of a product to make it more appealing to customers, and that’s what we can and should do in our culture. We need to communicate the same age-old truth in a way that our culture can understand.

I pray that the Lord will give us the wisdom to present His unchanging truth in a way that this generation can understand.

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Posted in 2014a Discipleship, Feature Tagged , , permalink

About William Earnhardt

William Earnhardt has been a Bible Worker, literature evangelist and lay pastor in Oklahoma and Texas, before coming to Tampa Florida, where he has been the Bible instructor and lay pastor for the past ten years for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. He has also held revivals and evangelism seminars, as well as soul winning workshops from Peru to Connecticut.

Comments

Discipling the Nations or Being Discipled by the Nations? — 14 Comments

  1. We can not lower the standard of the message giving to us by the Lord because we want to win the world. Either we disciple the world or the world discipled the SDA church

    Like(8)
    • Many Christians would say, you have to become like them to win them, but that is not true. Jesus remained focused and with a set goal. The goal was: "TO DO HIS FATHERS' WILL". At the end of His ministry, He stated " IT IS FINISHED". So we have to be focused on our mission while men and women are dying in sin without a savior.

      Like(6)
  2. Very true! We are to be true disciples sharing God's word with out compromise. Christianity today is watered down to suit the majority. Instead of hearing the about the commandments and the second coming, we hear break through, prosperity messages; not that its good, but that's what the majority of christian community choose to believe.

    Like(7)
  3. Super, duper post!

    At the end, you wrote, "change the packaging of a product to make it more appealing to customers" and yes, we need to be personally transformed by God's grace, because we are the packaging of the product! When Christ reigns within, His love will shine out of us in kindness, gentleness, caring and love. Without God in our hearts, it is impossible to change the packaging.

    "Other churches have a gospel that will prepare you to die" and what happens after we die is an important question. My four year-old granddaughter starting asking me that last year, when we distributed my aunt's ashes. I simply said, "If you believe in baby Jesus and have a good heart, you will live again." She said she doesn't want to die so she believes in baby Jesus and told her nanny about it last week.

    "God’s own people wanted to be like the other nations so much so that they were willing to deny their Savior so they could fit in with the world. " We do the same and if our faith isn't tested and strengthened now, with victory over the difficult Christian experiences we suffer, we will not be ready when we truly have to stand out. And we need not be survivors, but victors by God's grace.

    We have so much freedom here in the United States, including religious freedom, but that is slowly being taken away. I have been learning, finally, to embrace the tough times and lessons and only by God's grace. We have something to look forward to and getting off this planet is something I long to experience. Thanks William!

    Like(14)
  4. Excellent William. Excellent.
    Again you have hit directly on the head of a reality that needs our keen attention. We must not water down or candy coat the message Christ gave us to share, nor should we create a shadow over the 'unpopular' truths that can generate conflict, question, or ridicule.
    I am deeply saddened that the church where I grew up, has changed their name from Seventh-Day Adventist to Adventist.
    With that two word exclusion, do we not move a step closer in marginalizing The Lord's holy Sabbath? Have we not in essence cut off all but the first sentence of the 4th commandment?

    The Pope, in a recent video message to an Evangelical group, called on Christians to unite and put aside their differences. As Seventh-day Adventists, this should get our corporate attention. Or are we now so complacent that we don't pay attention to a name change, or really listen to a call to join the with masses as one?

    God help us all! Lord please stop us from our carefree skipping along the edge of eternity and remind us that without you, we have no tether to sustain us when the winds of strife come upon us.

    Like(10)
  5. [Moderator's Note: Please use your full name.]

    Matt24:14 keeps running through my mind as I studied this lesson. To my knowledge it wasn't used as a reference text. The gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached to the nations of the whole world. There are more than 7 billion people on this planet. Buddhism,Hinduism,Islam & Judaism are the most prevelent in much of the world. Islam is the fastest growing religion in North America. Where should our focus be? Other "Christian" religions, or the non Christian religions? I agree we do try to blend in, by using the same type of liturgy as the other Christian religions and the same type of technical and musical selections. One has to wonder the purpose of the service. Spiritual blessings, or entertainment? Having said that, I am thankful that God is in control and His purposes will be fulfilled. One final note, the greatest increase in SDA membership is not in the USA. It is in other nations.

    Like(0)
  6. One way to help spread the gospel to all people is through the prison ministry. I have been doing it for 28 years and people are coming together. I witnessed a group of Afro-American and Samoan men come together when I took a Samoan woman with me to one of the family gatherings in the Colorado prison that housed the Alaskan inmates. It was wonderful to see the leaders of these groups stand together and take pictures and shake hands and talk. I have mentored Alaskan natives, both young and old and have been given some of the most beautiful art work done by them. People ask me "Why do you do that", and I say "God told me to. He said whatever I've done for them, I have done for him, and I enjoy doing things for God. He died for me, the least I can do is live for him.

    Like(2)
  7. i would like for all those who read this to think carefully. when jesus came did he lower or rise above the standards of the church of his day to actually bring men and woman to accept salvation? which ever one he did he was ridiculed for doing so by the elites (the president and other pastors). when paul says and i paraphrase, that he has become all things to all men what did he really mean? For me both examples do have one thing in common. the Message of God's eternal kingdom has to be carried to every crease and crevice of this earth and whatever it takes for it to be done it must be done while not watering down any part of the message. With zeal and the holy spirit's guidance God will show the heart and mind of who wants to follow his will of service to humanity the true way. Let us all pray to have the mind of Christ (if we all truly understand what that means)

    Like(3)
  8. It is a fact undeniable that the Seventh-day Adventist; The "modern day Israelites" are watering down the message of the three Angels. Yes! We need to rebrand and repackage the same "Everlasting Gospel" fearlessly. We must formulate achievable plans to reach the world of Moslems, Hindus, Buddhist and other Christians who still don't holy the Sabbath. May the Lord have mercy upon us.

    Like(1)
  9. Thank-you William for this very timely message. While studying the Sabbath School lesson I found many excellent and thought provoking points therein, (it is a good lesson study) yet something was missing, especially when I came to the sentence in Thursday's section; "The nations' acceptance of that message is prophesied".

    The prophecies of Revelation show the WHOLE WORLD -- that is all the nations, will be worshipping, but they won't be worshipping the Creator God, they will be worshipping the beast and his image.
    Revelation 14 and 18 is a strong call to be given in all the world to accept the true worship and to come out of the false worship that will be sweeping the whole world.

    It is to this true worship of our Creator and Redeemer that we must dedicate our lives and proclaim the message to all nations so all within those nations know which Jesus to follow, even if it is against the national state religion.

    One text in our lesson points out the conditions:

    Isaiah 56:6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keeps the Sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of my covenant;

    May we all join ourselves fully to the Lord
    to serve Him and love Him
    to keep His Sabbath
    and take hold of His covenant.

    Like(1)
  10. Sometimes I get worried when the message seems to be about us and how special we are.
    This is *not* what Bro. William was advocating, but I think this is a tendency that we need to guard against.
    My hope (and I am not sure of all the details in practice) is that our peculiarity is something that will flow naturally out of what we do (and the way we do it)--and not something we'll have to notice and talk about or something we have to remind ourselves about all the time.

    I also think, sadly, that in our history there are notable examples of times when the "nations" (so to speak) have had to disciple us to do what is right eg. during the Civil Rights era (although had we listened to EG White, this would not have been so).

    I say this because I would express hope that we don't turn to pride as a remedy for having lost our way/stumbled as a people.

    We have Christ and His beautiful character to lift up before us. This alone will draw all men and women.

    Like(0)
    • Andrew, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think perhaps the thing that gets in the way most is that we forget that we are not the main players in the great controversy, Christ and Satan are. It is not about us even though we are involved.

      I think we also forget what Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5 NKJV). All of that seems to be the reason why the true witness in Revelation says to the Laodicean church, “you say,`I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'” (Rev 3:17 NKJV). It is all a focus on how great we are . . . or more correctly, aren’t.

      Like(0)

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