Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Matter of Confidence: Salvation through God’s Eyes—Part Two

by Fred Bischoff

This article is Part 2. Part 1 was in the January/February 2009 issue, also available here.


Our day is called “the day of visitation.”[i] The global visit has begun, which parallels the local one at the first advent of Jesus. That word translated “visitation” speaks of an Overseer doing His work, “looking over” things. I submit He is still looking for faith and love. And in His work of looking, He is finding people who want and desire what He has, more than anything else, more than life itself. And these people He has been training, as He did His twelve.

The message of His faith and love, enduring against abounding faithlessness to the end, will be the final witness in lives transformed and empowered by that very faith and love.[ii] Only such abounding grace will stand the storm when confidence evaporates from off the face of the earth, for the last time. There will be a remnant whose lives confess that “the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”[iii] They have found the Source of the gold, and have helped themselves, their wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked selves, to the inexhaustible supply.

This is the experience described by the cryptic exclamation at the climax of the message of the third angel of Revelation 14. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” God has given sinners two marvelous gifts through His Son. He still holds out the original design for them, in His image, as described in His commands. But commanding helpless sinners is similar to telling a lame person to rise and walk. We find Jesus did both in His time among us here, and such reaching out must have conveyed much more than a raw command. They must have been statements of faith. They must have had within them the power to accomplish the vision, the goal. And when the recipient caught the vision, the circuit that conducted omnipotence was completed, and the supernatural happened. Creative faith was met by responsive faith.

Do we see it, the second gift hand-in-hand with the first? He is saying, “My plan for you hasn’t changed (law). I can see you restored (gospel).” This makes the secret of patience, the end-time endurance to stand the final storm of faithlessness, simply keeping what He has given. The same One who called Judas “friend” to the end[iv] shows us how He views us, and how we can view the most intimate traitors as well. When God appears to abandon us, and most around us actually do abandon and even turn on us, our faith and love, as did His, can endure to the end. As Paul told the Galatians, this faith working by love is the only thing that has power to overcome. All else falls with Babylon.

Only an appreciation of these gifts from His heart can lead us to value them so much, as they reveal to us His value, that we will keep them, come what may. With the committed[v] of all ages, we will love not our lives to the death,[vi] but will give ourselves to God and neighbor right through the storm, reflecting His faith and love that never failed to the death. This maturity and this alone will enable us to stand unwaveringly in our witness to Him.

The dynamic is not new to the end-time. Paul wrote of it. “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.”[vii] By the means of His faith, drawing, encouraging, shining the bright light of hope and possibility, we receive a confidence that instead of fearful, we are bold, and instead of drawing back, we move toward Him and all others. John saw and experienced this reality and looked forward to our day of unprecedented global fulfillment. He wrote, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us.”[viii]

Let’s not miss the simple solution. If we have fear as we face the unfolding events in this “day of judgment,” we need a more mature love, to be “as He is”—agape. The torment that Babylon inevitably faces due to her self-focus,[ix] can only be avoided by submitting to His making us “perfect in love.” That is how we come out of Babylon.[x] And there is but one source—“He first loved us.” His love, believing all things, is the creative source for any love we have believing anything.

Adventism’s Mission

When Jesus returns the second time, He will be looking for the very same thing He searched for with longing heart 2000 years ago. He even asked a question that projected to that future search. “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?”[xi] In His revelation to John, as we saw, He answered His own question. There will be those who keep His faith. Above all else, this is the core of the Advent movement’s mission. A few examples from our history will show the practical power in this dynamic.

It was the year after Minneapolis, and Ellen White was addressing ministers in Colorado on the topic, “The Need of a True Concept of Righteousness by Faith.” She observed,

The soul-saving message, the third angel’s message, is the message to be given to the world. The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are both important, immensely important, and must be given with equal force and power. The first part of the message has been dwelt upon mostly, the last part casually. The faith of Jesus is not comprehended. We must talk it, we must live it, we must pray it, and educate the people to bring this part of the message into their home life. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5.[xii]

Would she write the same 120 years later to all pastors, even those of New England? The evidence is clear this was the missing ingredient, the neglected landmark, if you please, that God was working to restore to Adventism in the years surrounding Minneapolis.[xiii]

E. J. Waggoner’s handling of this theme, how righteousness by faith functions, was highlighted to Ellen White by her angel guide two years before Minneapolis.[xiv] When at Minneapolis she heard Waggoner explain it in person for the first time, her response was ecstatic. “Every fiber of my heart said, Amen.”[xv] In 1890 when Waggoner published what were apparently his Minneapolis studies, he addressed the dynamic.

For, most wonderful truth of all, He bought you for the very reason that you were not worthy. His practiced eye saw in you great possibilities, and He bought you, not for what you were then or are now worth, but for what He could make of you. He says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake.” Isa. 43:25. We have no righteousness, therefore He bought us, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”[xvi]

Four years later, Ellen White was in Australia, working to win a successful farmer whose family had already identified with the Advent movement. She described her method of evangelism.

We held meetings at Brother Radley’s house, but he manifested so little interest in them that they were discontinued. His heart was not inclined to fully accept the faith. But I talked with him as though he was fully with us, presenting before him his responsibilities for his neighbors. I said, “You have the light of truth, and you have a work to do to enlighten others. You love to read. Study, then, for time and for eternity. The time which any of us have to work is short. We must act our part in the service of God.” I told him what he could do to advance the knowledge of the truth. He assented to it all by a mere response.

This was in 1894. Brother Starr was with me. After we left he said, “I was surprised to hear you talk to him as though he were fully with us. If he himself does not work on the Sabbath, his hired help works.” I answered, “I talked to him just in the right way. I presented to him his high obligations to God in point of influence, laying the matter before him as one who should stand in the gap and make up the hedge, and raise the Sabbath of the fourth commandment to its exalted standard.”

He felt himself far from deserving the confidence I placed in him. We prayed with the family, and had the precious blessing of the Lord. Thus from time to time we visited him, and he always treated us courteously, but did not fully identify himself with us. Yet I always talked with him as one who knew and loved the truth, always laying out plans with him whereby he might be a laborer together with God. I told him that our responsibility and accountability to God was the strongest and most powerful of all motives that should lead us to obtain the very best kind of knowledge, the highest education. If he gained this, he could help other minds with a force proportionate to his intelligence and religious devotion, and be a bright and shining light to his neighborhood.[xvii]

She continued to keep the faith of Jesus for Mr. Radley, treating him “as though”—as he could be, placing confidence in him, conveying a vision to him of what God saw him doing. And in the same letter she could happily report, “It would be difficult for a mind to continue in resistance to all these efforts, and O how happy I am to state that Brother Radley has come out, decided, firm, and true. He is now one of the leaders.”[xviii]

The next year, writing to her son Edson who had difficulty with some church leaders, she described the faith of Jesus in that setting.

If you can do so in an unobtrusive way, try to help Bro. Olsen, and stay up his hands. He needs sympathy, and words of hopefulness and courage. But please do not cast reflection upon the men who have not a living connection with God. If you are considerate, you may do good to A.R. Henry, and Harmon Lindsay. Show by your attitude that you hold no bitterness toward them. Whatever their attitude toward you, let it not discourage you or embitter your experience. Hold fast to Jesus. He has helped you, and he will help you every hour. But do not be off your guard for one moment. Do not indulge in hasty speech. If possible, we want to save these men, who know so little of the Spirit of God. In order to do this, while you should not depend on them as gods, be kind and courteous, treat them as respectfully as though they had been your best friends.[xix]

Can we hear echoes of Jesus’ word of faith to Judas—”friend”? Two years later she wrote to Edson and his wife Emma the amazing statement quoted earlier affirming Jesus’ “faith in the souls for whom He died.” In another two years A. T. Jones attempted to describe the source and importance of this confidence.

You have been, and you are, thankful that you have confidence in God. This is well; for it is a great thing to have doubt and uncertainty removed, and confidence in God established in the mind and heart. It is, therefore, a thing really to be thankful for, that you have confidence in God.

Yet there is a greater thing than this to be thankful for, and that is that God has confidence in you.

Indeed, it is God’s confidence in us that is all the ground of our confidence in him.

Considered solely upon the merit of the question, it is indeed a very little thing that we should have confidence in him; while it is a thing great beyond all comparison that he should have confidence in us.

Just think what we were,—a people laden with iniquity, alienated from God, and enemies in our minds, by wicked works. Yet when we were all this, God deliberately invested in us all that he had,—the great “price” of his dear Son, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of God. This is a marvelous display of confidence.

He had such confidence in us that he would invest in us—aliens and enemies—all that he had, and all that he is,—even himself,—expecting that his confidence in us would destroy the alienation, break down the enmity, and win us to confidence in him.

And this fairly reckless confidence in us did actually win us from alienation and enmity to confidence in him. This is the only thing that ever did or that ever could so win us. Thus his confidence in us is all the ground of our confidence in him.

And thus is established and illustrated the divine principle that confidence begets confidence; yea, that confidence to the extent of what seems recklessness will beget confidence even to what seems recklessness; for no person can fairly and seriously contemplate the marvelous confidence that God has shown in us, without being won to a confidence in God that is a perfect abandon of trust,—a trust that holds firm and steady through every vicissitude—fire, flood, suffering, persecution, death itself—that this world can possibly know.[xx]

An End to Delay in Mission

Can we see that without such practical faith and love, the witness of “this gospel” to all the world has been delayed? That without a mature love that nothing can frighten, the day of judgment must be prolonged? That a lack of keeping the faith of Jesus has made impossible both the keeping of the commandments and the endurance God intends? And that lacking such a settling, maturing experience being completed, the winds of the final storm of faithlessness have of necessity been held back longer than otherwise needed?

A reason this practical experience has failed to develop is an emphasis on the result desired to the neglect of the cause needed. By that I mean that the faith of Jesus has been viewed mostly in its responsive, dependent dimension. As essential as that is to the plan of salvation and its culmination, that aspect is, as described, but a response to a more fundamental dynamic of faith, its creative, empowering side. I have attempted to shine a light on that divine core in this study.

The desired responsive faith can only be proportionate to the creative initiative. The more adequately we grasp “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height [of] . . . the love of Christ”[xxi]—the love that fuels the dynamo called faith, the love that believes all things—the more wholehearted will be our love response that believes what He believes.

How God does business, as “the heavenly merchantman,” is to be our focus. He operates on the gold standard of faith and love. We learn it by copying Him, by seeing how He has treated us, all of us, in that very way. This we must meditate on, and it will change us.

There are faithless merchants at the end, in Babylon’s business of taking.[xxii] They obviously play on confidence, but their system cannot last. Confidence in “the lie”[xxiii] must eventually collapse. It is a false confidence and can only work through deception. Though the devil is the greatest “con man” and will deceive multitudes to the end,[xxiv] at the final revelation of “the truth” in contrast to “the lie,” no one will stand with him.[xxv] False confidence in his system will have evaporated forever in the vivid light of “the truth” of God’s faith and love.

Glimpsing now what He has, and what we need, may help us see why “the time of preparation [has been] prolonged.”[xxvi] And seeing this may through His grace hasten the unchallenged reign of Him whose faith preserved the human race, seeing “it as it might become through redeeming love.”

Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll....

[i] 1 Pet 2:12.

[ii] Matt 24:12-14.

[iii] 1Tim 1:14; compare Rom 5:20.

[iv] Matt 26:50.

[v] In this verb we find the third main way the dynamic we have been exploring is described. In noun forms, it is faith, confidence, commitment.

[vi] Rev 12:11.

[vii] Eph 3:12.

[viii] 1 John 4:17-19.

[ix] Rev 14:10; compare 20:10.

[x] Rev 18:4.

[xi] Luke 18:8.

[xii] White, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1987), 430.

[xiii] Ellen White wrote repeatedly from 1888 through at least 1901 of the theme of putting together “the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,” also described as “the law and the gospel” and “the righteousness of Christ in relation to the law.” See 1895 Evangelism—Resources from A Period of “Manifest Demonstration of the Spirit” (The W. W. Prescott Armadale Sermons), Appendices A & B for some 20 sample statements. One of the clearest was written the month after the Minneapolis meetings. “The third angel’s message is the proclamation of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. The commandments of God have been proclaimed, but the faith of Jesus Christ has not been proclaimed by Seventh-day Adventists as of equal importance, the law and the gospel going hand in hand. I cannot find language to express this subject in its fullness.” Idem., 1888, 217.

[xiv] “Said my guide, ‘There is much light yet to shine forth from the law of God and the gospel of righteousness. This message, understood in its true character, and proclaimed in the Spirit, will lighten the earth with its glory.” Compare Ibid., 1888, Ibid., 165.

[xv] Ibid., 348.

[xvi] Ellet J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Glad Tidings Publishers, 1999), 81.

[xvii] White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 1 (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1981, 1987, 1990, 1993), 146-147.

[xviii] Ibid., 149.

[xix] Idem., 1888, 1463. Olsen was the General Conference President. Henry and Lindsay were financial and administrative officers for the General Conference and the publishing work.

[xx] A.T. Jones, Review and Herald, January 4, 1898.

[xxi] Eph 3:18, 19.

[xxii] Rev 18:3, 11, 15, 23.

[xxiii] In the NT, “the lie” speaks of the lie about God, that He is a taker, not a giver, that He is selfish and self-exalting. “The truth” is the truth about Him. See John 8:44; Rom 1:25; 3:7; 2 Thes 2:10-12.

[xxiv] Rev 20:8-10.

[xxv] Prov 14:28; See White, The Great Controversy, (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1950), 671.

[xxvi] White, 1888, 1525.

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