October 12, 2019 Annual Council Report (Sabbath Sermon)

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October 12, 2019 Annual Council Report (Sabbath Sermon)

Photo: General Conference Executive Committee Meeting 2019 Agenda Cover Image

Editorial Note: The Compass Magazine will be providing summary reports of the Fall General Conference Executive Committee meeting, also known Annual Council, October 11-16, 2019. The theme of this year’s Annual Council is “Faithfulness in Christian Lifestyle.” Click here to access the full agenda. Click here to access the livestream for the event. Previously recorded sessions can be accessed here.

Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conference President, spoke for the divine service. He noted that October 12 is pastor’s appreciation day and encouraged people to appreciate their pastors. Then he read Ephesians 2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

 

Depicting the death of Christ, Wilson emphasized the dialogue between the two thieves and Jesus. While one mockingly asked Him to get them off the cross, the other asked Jesus to remember him when He comes in the Kingdom. Jesus assured him that very day that he will be taken to Paradise at the appropriate time. This instant acceptance of Christ is justification, and righteousness continues as the Holy Spirit works in our lives sanctification. The thief participated in sanctification on the cross.

 

As Jesus was dying, he cried: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Our sins caused the separation from the Father, who had not, in fact, forsaken Him. John 19:30: Finally, with the words “It is finished!”, Jesus breathed his last. Why did He die such a cruel, and shameful, humiliating death? Ellen White bids us to spend a thoughtful hour each day reflecting on the life and death of Christ, said the speaker, inviting the attendees to 90 seconds of silent reflection.

 

Christ’s righteousness is at the core of the Three Angels Messages, the message our church should proclaim at this time in earth history, said Wilson. Just as the disciples saw Him ascend, likewise He will descend at the Second Coming, which will be a visual, audible, powerful experience. After the resurrection, Jesus entered the Holy Place to continue ministry for us in the heavenly tabernacle, which was shown to Moses. There is an original, Holy and Most Holy place in heaven. The curtain dividing the Temple compartments was torn when Jesus died, symbolizing the fact that the sacrificed system ended, since the real sacrifice had been offered. In 1844, Jesus entered the Most Holy place for His last ministry phase before returning. This year will be 175 years since 1844, said Wilson, sharing the title of his upcoming presentation next week at William Miller’s farm: “From Disappointment to Appointment.” We are living in the last days.

 

Hebrews 4:14-16: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

 

Jesus is our Creator, our High Priest, our example, the Lamb, the coming King, our All in All. He was in all points tempted as us yet without sin. Jesus, 100% human and 100% divine – a union we cannot understand yet we accept by faith, came as a child on this earth after 4,000 years of degradation. Verse 16 in Hebrews 4:14-15 says we should come “boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We should come boldly to God’s amazing grace.

 

Hebrews 8:1-6 states: 

1Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.”

 

We have access to the Father because Jesus is seated next to God:

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25)

 

It is Christ alone who saves us, but when we accept the robe of Christ’s righteousness we are empowered to do good works. Ellen White pointed to the importance of the heavenly sanctuary: “The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith.” (Christ in His Sanctuary, p. 5.) Because of what happened on the cross, because of Christs’ subsequent ministry in the Holy and Most Holy Place is the foundation of faith. Some people don’t give much attention to the sanctuary but regard it as mere historical information, irrelevant to us. According to a survey, young people don’t know that sanctuary is part of our core Adventist message. Yet what is happening in the sanctuary is foundational. White wrote:

 

“The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time…and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all should thoroughly investigate these subjects…and be able to give to every one that asks them a reason for the hope that is in them.” (Ellen White, Christ in His Sanctuary, p. 67)

 

Another quote reads as follows, said Wilson, indicating that a copy of Christ in His Sanctuary had been prepared for each attendee:

 

“Let this point be fully settled in every mind: If we accept Christ as a Redeemer, we must accept Him as a Ruler. We cannot have the assurance and perfect confiding trust in Christ as our Savior until we acknowledge Him as our King and are obedient to His commandments. Thus we evidence our allegiance to God. We have then the genuine ring in our faith, for it is a working faith.”  (Ellen White, Faith and Works, p. 16.)

 

In Matthew 22 Jesus told the Parable of the Wedding Feast. Not all invited could come, and some even went so far as to kill the messengers. The wedding was ready but those invited were not worthy, said Wilson, sharing his personal experience of walking all his three daughters down the aisle and his thankfulness for each of them being faithful to Christ. The good and the bad came to the wedding, and likewise, the church will include those who love Christ and don’t, until the end of time when God will separate the wheat from tares. Thus, on this earth, we are not only to minister to those we think are good but to everyone. Yet a man who did not have a wedding garment was confronted by the king. He didn’t know what to say in response, so the king commanded him to be cast into outer darkness. Many are called, but few chosen. No person in this GC auditorium who will be turned away from heaven unless you decide against it, said Wilson.

“It was impossible for the sinner to keep the law of God, which was holy, just, and good; but this impossibility was removed by the impartation of the righteousness of Christ to the repenting, believing soul.” (Ellen White, Faith and Works, p. 118)

“Jesus became the Mediator between God and man, to restore the repenting soul to favor with God by giving him grace to keep the law of the Most High. Christ came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but the fulfill them to the very letter.” (Ellen White, Faith and Works, p. 119).

We cannot go to heaven except by the grace of Jesus, but once that happens you accept the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ. (Ellen White, Faith and Works, 225-226). In the upcoming days, noted Wilson, there will be times when we don’t see eye to eye. It’s how the church works, he acknowledged, pledging to humble himself so that he will be seen less and Jesus more and invite the attendees to do the same, expressing his desire for the discussion to be sweet, filled with the grace of Jesus.

 

The robe is justification provided by Christ’s perfect life in place of our sinful life. But then we accept the Holy Spirit and Christ’s righteousness works in us to make us a new creature.

“By the wedding garment in the parable is represented the pure, spotless character which Christ’s true followers will posses. … It is the righteousness of Christ, His own unblemished character, that through faith is imparted to all who receive Him as their personal Savior. Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet [prepared] to appear in God’s presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul.” (Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, p. 310)

We are saved by grace, but the sanctifying work must be present in our lives as a result of that, as Paul teaches.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.(Ephesians 2: 8-10)

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.(Philippians 2:12-13).

Ellen White also wrote:

“So we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us.” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 63, emphases by Wilson).

Imputed is justification, and sanctification works in and through us.

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14).

 

There is a beautiful combination of Christ’s righteousness and sanctifying power, which is the core of the Three Angels’ Message. The Seventh-day Adventist Church should be the first to preach the righteousness by faith.

 

In the conclusion of the service, Wilson recounted the true story of Don Johnson, a man who killed his wife and was recently executed in Tennessee. While in prison, he became a Christian, then an Adventist, and even an elder in prison. He was a witness to the others of God’s transforming power in his life. From a murderer, he became a humble servant of God. When offered the meal before being given the lethal injection, he refused it, asking for it to be given to the homeless instead. His last words were: “I commend my life into your hands. Thy will be done.” As he was dying, Don sang “We are going to see the King,” keeping before his eyes an encounter with his God in a place where there will be no more crying. Don’s conversion is a powerful example of God’s work of sanctification.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” (Titus 3:4-8) 

Let none of us leave here today without the covering robe of Jesus, urged Wilson. Because He lives, Christ empowers us to become the best missionaries possible. Let us turn the focus from peripheral and distracting challengers to mission, and focus on Christ’s Word, Christ’s righteousness, the sanctuary service, the saving power in the Great Controversy, the Three Angels’ Message, the health message, pleading for the latter rain, the restoring salvation, and Christ’s soon Second Coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.