"I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one ; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." John 17 :23.
Our attention is called to that part of the prayer of Christ which reads, "I in them, that the world may know." The saddest fact in the world is that multitudes of mankind do not "know," and because of this lack of knowledge, are unprepared not only for the eventualities of the present, but particularly for those of the future. We have here the divine blueprint of Christ's great objective in the appointment of His gospel ministry. Here is the marching order which Christ gave to the church. If we fail in fulfilling this heart longing expressed in the great prayer of Christ just before His crucifixion, we shall fail miserably to serve Him acceptably.
We have reached a crisis in the cause of God, the greatest crisis in the history of the church up to this moment, because everything in the past, the present, and the future of God's work among fallen men hinges upon our acceptance of, and answer to, the question of this hour: Will the church falter on the threshold of her unparalleled triumph? Will she fail because of lack of such vision of the need and realization of the obligation, as would issue in mighty prayer and sacrifice, and in utter abandonment to her task? Without this complete abandonment to the fulfilling of this stated objective of Christ, the waiting task cannot be performed. But with it God will send resources, now hidden, to meet all the needs of the gigantic program in which He is unquestionably leading His people in every land and clime.
God recognizes in the church latent capabilities sufficient for the finishing of His work, which, if exercised under God's blessing, would make possible the meeting of the present unprecedented situation the world around. God is now challenging us to throw these latent capacities into His service.
"A thousand doors of usefulness are open before us. We lament the scanty resources at present available, while various and urgent demands are pressing us for means and men. Were we thoroughly in earnest, even now we could multiply the resources a hundredfold. Selfishness and self-indulgence bar the way." —"Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 38.
What encouraging words! and yet, what a rebuke they contain for the selfishness and self-indulgence which block the way to the outstretching of God's mighty arm in behalf of His people until the openings of Providence the world around shall be filled. "Were we thoroughly in earnest." What words of searching keenness! Can it be that insincerity and halfhearted service are striving to meet the exigencies of this mighty hour? O shame, thrice shame, be upon us if that is our condition!
We cannot avoid the conclusion inevitable from the foregoing statement of the Spirit of the Lord, that we must not let the present needs of the world appall us. It is God who has abundantly blessed the work of our faltering hands up to now. Because of the remarkable and unparalleled triumphs of the message in the recent past, the present calls are the greatest and most urgent in our history. There is need, however, of considering well where to place the chief emphasis in carrying out the great missionary enterprise to which we have committed our lives and our all. In our text, Jesus has plainly indicated where the emphasis is to be placed by His true disciples and leaders. "I in them, . . . that the world may know." Yes, "by their fruits ye shall know them."
Over and over again have we heard Christ's witnesses from far-distant lands recount experiences illustrating this thought. How often have the lives of our missionaries in heathen lands brought to the peoples of those countries the knowledge of God, and succeeded in leading them to the foot of the cross. It is the lives of the heralds of this message that must finish the work at home as well as abroad. "I in them, . . . that the world may know." The world is still saying, with doubting Thomas, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, . . . I will not believe." John 20:25.
We are in the time of close scrutiny of the church. It is under the severest cross-examination of its history. Under the fire of the examination, Protestantism has become selfconscious—self-conscious of the fact that she is not now fulfilling what God intended.
It is highly important that we Seventh-day Adventists realize that we too are under a severe cross-examination. The world is watching, our youth are watching, our associate workers are watching, the sick and suffering of earth are watching, heaven and angels and unfallen worlds are watching. Oh, how sad it would be if we should now miss the mark! Christ set it before us, "I in them, . . . that the world may know."
Much, very much depends upon the course we now take. The danger we face is that of falling into the same situation into which Protestantism at large has fallen, namely, a custodianship of dead issues. The popular Protestant churches of today have fallen into a state of mind wherein they look upon themselves as do our political parties. They came into existence as champions of ideas and policies that had, or may have had, reality at the time. But most of the specific issues that called those parties into existence have been met, or mankind has come to see that they were not as real as at first they seemed. So many of the churches, like our two major political parties, remind one of artificially animated ghosts of dead issues.
We should also note another likeness between the political parties and present-day Protestantism, and escape the pitfall, namely, that there is as great a variety of temperament and diversity of opinion within our political parties as between them. The same condition is as true within the Protestant denominations as obtains between them. They have outlived the reasons that called them into existence. God forbid that such should ever become true of the remnant church. The issues which brought us into being as a people can never die.
While, thus far, we can thankfully say that the remnant church has not passed the way of all other Protestant denominations, we should not fail to realize that our imperative need is for an increasing unity—unity of thought and purpose in finishing our appointed task. We must not allow our objectives in the finishing of the work to become blurred. I am not now speaking of what is commonly called "church unity." I have reference to that deeper unity of spirit and purpose such as will issue in the true fulfillment of the words of Christ, "I in them, . . . that the world may know."
We need a unity that will come as the result of a new vision of ourselves, and of God's purpose-through–us. - This can come only as-the result of a new spiritual awakening,—an awakening, first of all, to the sin which Christ sees in our lives and ministry; that type of sin which is cloaked with, and clothed in, the atmosphere of ritualistic performance and high-sounding religious performance, which has no meaning except it is discovered in self-seeking and self-indulgence and unholy ambition for position and power, or in mere physical and material success.
That awakening must bring back to us the simplicity of true discipleship, the very sight of which will break hearts and win souls. "I in them, . . . that the world may know" is the very highest possible expression of the results of this awakening experience. Humility of heart and life, and utter abandonment of ourselves and all we have that Christ may reign and rule supreme in all our lives, will be the sure result of this awakening.
(To be continued)
* Morning Devotional Study, Autumn Council, Louisville. Kentucky, October 30, 1935.