WHAT an inspiration when the evangelist, pastor, Bible teacher, or soul - winning layman hears from youth a Yes response to Jesus. Watch them—thousands of boys and girls, men and women, of all ages —say Yes to the Lord. They respond to Week of Prayer challenges, to Missionary Volunteer appeals, to Youth Congress calls for decisions. Most of our young people some time in their experience have said Yes to Christ. Yet it is widely acknowledged that the greatest challenge of the church today is the saving of our youth. Millions are expended to train, to attract, and to save our young people. In some areas every approach from water skiing and skin diving to pizza parties and feature films has been scheduled to hold our youth in the church.
With all the fine efforts on their behalf, it is yet paradoxically apparent that many, possibly even a majority, of our youth have said Yes in response to our appeals but No in some vital areas of Christian living where a Yes answer is essential.
A careless college student was asked: "You do plan to surrender your heart to Christ someday, don't you?" "Oh, yes, I plan to be an Adventist all my life!" Jazz records were stacked on his table. A strong desire for pleasures of the world still filled his heart. He had no knowledge of the power of the Word in personal experience. Yes, I want the advantages of the church, and Yes, I KNOW Jesus as "the way, the truth, and the life," are obviously far different declarations.Is it not time to direct all our efforts toward not only Yes answers but also toward Yes-and-KNOW replies?
We need youth who can, with hearts aflame in a passion for the saving of a lost world, declare:
"I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim. 1:12). We seek young people who pray:
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering" (Phil. 3:10).
Just what is the way to more meaningful Yes-and-KNOW answers? Neither programs, parties, nor millions more spent in recreational programs of themselves hold the answer to this vital question.
God speaks: "Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord" (Jer. 9:24).
How are men led to know Christ as the way, the truth, and the life—as a personal Saviour, constant Companion, and coming King? How shall those who have said Yes to our appeals be brought to declare also: "I know that his commandment is life everlasting" (John 12:50)?
Those whom Christ has washed of their sins hear as they look into the face of the Lord: "Know ye what I have done to you?" (John 13:12).
There is a serious lack of understanding of the meaning of the ministry of Jesus Christ for me individually! So few, so very, very few seem aware of the present reality of eternal life. We ask, "Have you eternal life?" and we find often these scriptures as unknown as buried treasure: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee" (John 17:3). "These things have I written unto you that believe [have said Yes!] on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe [with a transforming Yes-and-KNOW faith!] on the name of the Son of God" (1 John 5:13).
It is a fact of prophecy fulfilled that in these last days multitudes are characterized as "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7).
Truth is clearly defined as the Word of God incarnate in Christ and recorded in inspired Scripture. "I am . . . the truth" (John 14:6). "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). It is also evident that the Yes-andKNOW experience comes from a Spirit-filled heart guided by the Word of God. "When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I ant he" (John 8:28). "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (verses 31, 32).
It is in saying Yes to Jesus and KNOW regarding His Word that the Christian life develops. Many, like the Athenians, worship an "unknown god," because of a neglect of the revelation of the true God in Scripture. As far as personal salvation is concerned, God does not exist for us in any redemptive way until we know Him. We may say Yes to doctrines from God the Most High but not KNOW Him as God the Most High, One in whom "we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
To know God, and not merely Yes answers to examination questions, is the goal we seek for ourselves and those to whom we minister.
Have we the courage to look at evidence suggestive of deficiency among us regarding a knowledge of the Word as the way to know God?
Two hundred and seventy college students recently completed the questionnaire reproduced here. Nearly all were enrolled in college Bible classes as freshmen with a background of SDA education. Four different Bible teachers in five classes gave the test. Each entry on the questionnaire was counted one point, with a total of 50 points. To the scoring a plus was added if any response could be made to number 11, the writing of any New Testament verse outside the book of John (so stated to test beyond John 3:16 responses).
Although thirty minutes were allowed, most were ready to turn in their papers early and there was no evidence of time shortage in writing the answers. The results were as follows:
Average grade, about 25 points, or 50 per cent.
It was decided to give a "plus" on any reasonable attempt at the writing of one New Testament verse with or without reference. Only 135 of 270 students, 50 per cent, were able to write one New Testament verse.
Typical of the "problem papers," score 16, chosen at random, shows the following response: 7 years a church member; 12 years in SDA schools. Areas of very slight understanding: Bible chronology, 3 out of 18 in numbers 2 and 6; SDA history, 1 out of 3 of number 4; Bible books, 2 out of 9 on numbers 5 and 9; Bible biography, 1 out of 6 on number 8 (Adam the father of Seth the only correct reply; Joseph said to be Isaac's father and Naomi given as the sister of Moses!).
Major areas of deficiency revealed were sequence of Bible books and events, Bible geography, and scriptural memorization. Only 27 students out of 270, that is 10 per cent, had scores of 70 per cent or above. Viewed thus, if 70 per cent were taken as a passing grade, there were 90 per cent who failed to show a passing knowledge of basic Bible information. (The reader may wish to fill in the questionnaire himself, reproduce it and give it to his MV Society of church members, which may guide his emphasis in Bible study and teaching. See sample on page 29.)
An illustration of "important doctrines of the SDA Church" by one who had not studied in SDA schools, but had been a church member for seven years, is as follows: No smoking; no drinking; Sabbath-keeping; no unclean foods; no swearing. A very few suggested Christ as Saviour or Righteousness by Faith as a major doctrine of the church. (Most, of course, took the question to infer distinctive doctrines of emphasis, but the absence of "Faith in Christ as Saviour" was noticeable.)
Do we conclude more relevant Bible teaching is needed which makes the study of Scripture one of vital importance and interest? Yes, but even under the divine instruction of Christ and the inspired teaching of Paul some students got failing marks.
Are more attractive instructional tools the answer to the problem? Perhaps; but it is not thought that Joseph, Daniel, or Timothy developed their fidelity to God's Word as a result of colorful teaching materials.
Is it not evangelistic, Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, Bible-based education upon which we place our hope for the youth of the church? Ultimately it must be seen that individual commitment to the study of the Bible is required. The Scriptures contain the power for personal growth and strength for Christian living; and if studied daily and enshrined in the memory, and exercised in the continued witness for Christ —the Word of God will provide the strength of character through which the Holy Spirit can finish the task of world evangelism.