First. Decision to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as one's personal Saviour for a real change of heart in regeneration, or true conversion.
Second. Decision to live a life of obedience to the revealed will of God, which includes the observance of the seventh day as the true Sabbath, the divinely appointed sign of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator and re-Creator and only Saviour.
Third. Decision to unite with Christ's remnant of Revelation 12:17 and 14:12, who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
In the very nature of the case the Sabbath truth becomes a decision in winning souls under the present truth, or the third angel's message. It is a pivotal decision, hence it is one of the high points in Adventist evangelism and demands careful study on the part of the evangelist to ascertain and follow the most effective ways of presenting this important truth.
Lawyer or Minister?
It goes without saying that the Sabbath should never be presented in a legalistic manner, but as Christ centered, Christ compelling, love motivated. There is no better way of bringing the Sabbath truth to converts than to show it as one of the steps in walking with Jesus, our precious Saviour and dearest friend. If the person already has made a firm, real, life-changing commitment to walk with Jesus to the end, and the Sabbath is unveiled from the Word as one of the steps in walking with Him, it is only natural that he will decide to obey his Lord. When the Sabbath is presented as it is in Jesus, then we have the best prospect that the born-again soul, who loves Jesus, will say, "Yes, I want His Sabbath to be a sign to all that He is my Creator and my Redeemer."
If the sermons on the Sabbath truth are so constructed that Jesus is, as it were, in one corner, and the Sabbath is in the opposite corner, why should the Christian leave Jesus and go to the opposite corner to take hold of the Sabbath? But when you present the Sabbath as one of the steps in walking with Jesus, your hearers cannot draw a line between truly having Jesus and having His true Sabbath. One's love for Jesus prompts him to keep the Sabbath that Christ made and in doing so recognize it as one of the steps in walking with Him. Such a presentation is powerful in securing decisions for full obedience.
Right here it needs to be said: Many more lasting decisions for keeping the Sabbath would have been secured in our evangelism if we had done more to lead people into true conversion before we introduced the Sabbath truth. An unconverted man cannot keep the Sabbath (Rom. 8:7). Are we then working along right lines when we urge the keeping of the Sabbath upon unconverted people? Such preaching may make a Saturday keeper, but not a Christian Sabbathkeeper. God converts people so they may obey His commandments (Eze. 11:19, 20). This means that we must direct our efforts for the experience of true conversion before we ever introduce the Sabbath truth. If we will do this, we will see "many more souls flocking to the standard of the truth" (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 375). (Italics supplied.)
"When they surrender heart and mind and will to God, they are then prepared candidly to weigh evidence in regard to these solemn, testing truths."—Evangelism, p. 228. (Italics supplied.)
In the long-term public campaign of four to six months there is ample time to present on different nights the various phases of the Sabbath truth. Some of these are: The Institution of the Sabbath, The Sabbath in the New Testament, The First-Day Texts, The Change of the Sabbath, The Prophetic Restoration of the Sabbath in the Last Days, The Two Laws, Law and Grace, et cetera. But in the short campaign of ten nights, or two or three weeks, the evangelist needs to know how to combine the main issues of all these various phases in one, or two, or three sermons.
There is a main issue in each of these phases of the Sabbath truth. Effective preaching (so far as the content is concerned) depends on directing your effort on these main issues. The gifted man is he who sees the essential point and hits the nail on the head, and leaves all the rest aside in surplusage. Unfortunately, many sermons we hear deal only in the surplusage and never strike the main issue.
We need to plan our presentation of the Sabbath from the Word in such a manner that it forestalls the common arguments that are used to evade its acceptance. If you were about to turn one hundred sheep into a certain pasture, and you knew that there were three or four holes in the fence where the sheep might get out, would you delay repairing the holes until the sheep began to get out and stray away? No. You would plug up those holes before you turned the sheep into the pasture. Why do we not use the same wisdom when it comes to introducing the Sabbath truth to the evangelistic audience?
The informed evangelist knows before he introduces the Sabbath truth that there are six main loopholes by which many people attempt to sidestep the keeping of the seventh day. Here they are: "It doesn't make any difference which day we keep, just so we keep one day out of the seven." "The keeping of the seventh day is only for the Jews and not for Christians." "The obligation to keep the seventh day passed away with the old covenant at the cross and is not binding upon Christians who are under the new covenant of grace." "The seventh day is the right day according to the Ten Commandments, but the calendar has been changed and we cannot know for a certainty that the seventh day of God's commandments is identical with the day we now call Saturday." "The keeping of the seventh day is not consistent with salvation only by free grace." "God will not reject me if I live a good life but do not keep the seventh day."
Since we know this beforehand, why not plan the content of the Sabbath presentation that the direct testimony of the Word will forestall these? Why not plug up these loopholes in the first sermon on the Sabbath truth? This will preclude placing some of your best hearers on the defensive against the Sabbath.
So long as the people think it makes no difference which day of the week you dedicate to God, the evangelist hammers in vain on the incontrovertible fact that there are no evidences in the New Testament for Sunday observance. And he rings the challenge in vain about the papal power changing the Sabbath. These people simply think it is "much ado about nothing."
Dale Carnegie was right when he said:
"So in the last analysis, our problem of getting people to accept our beliefs or to act upon our suggestions, is just this: to plant the idea in their minds and to keep contradictory and opposing ideas from arising. He who is skilled in doing that will have power in speaking and profit in business."—Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, p. 389. (Italics supplied.) And we might add—he who under the Holy Spirit is skilled in doing this will have power in leading many people to keep the Sabbath.
We did not need to wait to have Dale Carnegie set forth this principle. It was all in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy before he wrote.
"The Lord wishes you to learn how to use the gospel net. That you may be successful in your work, the meshes of your net must be close [This suggests plugging up the holes where the fish may escape.]." —Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 267, 268. (Italics supplied.)
Part of the Whole
It seems that there is an increasing trend on the part of our writers and speakers to fail to realize the telling difference between presenting the Sabbath in the setting of the third angel's message and holding the Sabbath as a detached truth apart from this last-day message.
A Seventh Day Baptist minister may present the Sabbath truth with Jesus in the center but would this be an adequate presentation of the Sabbath in the case of an Adventist minister? No. Why not? Because we are called of God to preach the Sabbath not only in a Christ-centered manner but in the setting of God's threefold message for this closing hour.
The Seventh Day Baptists are a good people. They have stood nobly for the Sabbath for a long time. They had the true Sabbath two hundred years before there was a Seventh-day Adventist. Look at the advantage they had in having the true Sabbath so long before the Seventh-day Adventists arose. In fact, it was a Seventh Day Baptist—Rachel Oakes Preston—who sparked the keeping of the Sabbath among the early Adventists in 1844.
But Seventh Day Baptists now number only a few thousand and are not increasing. But the Sabbathkeeping movement known as Seventh-day Adventists is advancing in all the world. It arose in 1844 with about forty people on an obscure mountainside near Washington, New Hampshire. From that mustard seed of a beginning it has grown into a worldwide movement of two million Sabbathkeepers. Why this vast difference in the growth of Seventh Day Baptists and of Seventh-day Adventists?
The Spirit of Prophecy gives the answer: "As far as the Sabbath is concerned, it occupies the same position as the Seventh Day Baptists. Separate the Sabbath from the messages and it loses its power; but when connected with the message of the third angel, a power attends it which convicts unbelievers and infidels, and brings them out with strength to stand, to live, grow, and flourish in the Lord."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 337.
In the decline of Seventh Day Baptists and in the growth of Seventh-day Adventists we see the importance of preaching the Sabbath truth in the setting of God's message for our day. To hold the Sabbath as a detached truth is tragic. "There is nothing more powerful than a prophecy whose hour has come." And make no mistake about it, this is the hour for the message of Revelation 14:G-12.
May God give every herald of His message the ability to present His Sabbath in accordance with these principles and may we see larger results than have ever been witnessed in the history of this movement.