THE PHILOSOPHERS were right who said, "The validity of our being lies in our availability to God," and "Sequence and consequence are time's constituents." If this be true, then, under God, it is incumbent upon us to initiate those sequences that will speedily usher in eternal consequences.
Before the womb, beyond the tomb, our origins and destinies contain the clues of life's enigma; on all our shores our little feet splash in the shallows of the in finite. From grains of sand and frosty stars the frontiers of time swing out upon the everlastings of the God who made us. And it is in the shadow of the cross and under the loving gaze of the God who made us that the church of the living God performs its function today.
In Acts 1:8 we read: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." "Ye shall be witnesses."
The first evidence that the Holy Spirit has begun to work in the heart of man is in that primitive response of the human heart to the love of God. When God makes His first approach and the experience of conversion begins, the baptism of the Holy Spirit begins.
I suppose if I were the devil, I would try to confuse the church about the baptism of the Spirit so that the church would never really experience this glorious happening, this blessed experience. I suppose I would tell the last church, the remnant church, this: The baptism of the Holy Spirit depends on how fervently you pray and how totally you commit your self in your closet, and it doesn't matter when you leave your closet, just stay there and receive the baptism, and it will be a continuing experience based solely on your devotional life. I suppose I would tell that to the church and lock the church up in the closet and let the world march on to sure destruction.
The devil would be perfectly happy to have a praying church, locked up in the closet and experiencing the charismatic manifestations of tongues. And he would love it if we all talked in unknown tongues so that no one in America or anywhere would know what we are saying or learn our message.
The church must go into the closet and shut the door. That is why in North America we have begun what I hope will be a habit that will continue until the Lord comes, and that is, beginning the year division-wide on our knees. I hope this habit will become a worldwide habit. We must, in deed, go as individuals to our closet, shut the door, and agonize with God for individual power, confess our sins, right our wrongs. Let no one negate the priority of this experience.
The Church Must Come Out
But then there comes a time when the church ought to open the door, come out of the closet, confront the world with the claims of the love of Christ, talk about Him, advertise Him, tell the world about Him, so that the world can witness the power that has come into the life as a result of our communion with God in the secrecy of our devotional closets.
It is just this the church finds difficult to do. It is easier to talk in an unknown tongue than it is to confess the love of God in a known tongue. It is much easier for me to spend five hours a day reading the Bible than five minutes telling an unsaved man what I read.
It's easier to meet at Annual Council and talk to ourselves than it is to talk to somebody who doesn't know what we believe much easier.
"Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." I suppose if I were the devil I would tell church members that they could have the Holy Ghost by just praying and fasting and fellowshiping and getting close to one another. Oh, how we love that! And we ought to do more of it. There is nothing more beautiful than the breakup of a Seventh-day Adventist service on Sabbath morning. You can barely get out the door. There is a traffic jam coming and going. Or at a workers' meeting. You just stand back and watch a bunch of Adventist preachers fellowshiping at a workers' meeting, and it's family, brother, it's family. Nothing like it!
What the World Expects
Say, but there does come a time when the world expects the church to tell it something. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," the Commissioner said. And it will come when we have power.
Now, I can't afford to wait for the church to get power. As a matter of fact, if I don't have it, the church doesn't have it. For after all, the church is made up of individual human beings, and as individual human beings seek the power of Cod on their knees, in their lives, and then seek to exhibit the power in their witness and in their ministry, this is the secret of the baptism of power. "And ye shall receive it," said Jesus.
As a boy of 17, I began to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. I've not stopped yet. Not because I don't believe I have Him, but who can ever get too much of Him? A Pentecostal once asked me, "Do you have the Holy Spirit?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Can you heal the sick?" I said, "No." He said, "Well, that is one of the signs that you have Him." I said, "Yes, I have prayed for some sick and the Lord healed them." "Can you speak in tongues?" "One," I said. "And if I talk too fast, it becomes unknown." He said, "You don't have anything." I answered, "Oh, yes, I do." "Well," he said, "how do you know the Holy Spirit is in your life?" I replied, "Well, I am a witness." Acts 1:8: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me." That is my sign.
Sign of Spirit Baptism
The first external sign of the baptism of the Spirit is not talking in tongues. It is witnessing. And when I say witnessing, I am not talking about any one form. I am talking about any form of meaningful contact with an unsaved man with the claims of the gospel. That is witnessing.
We are talking about Bible studies, we are talking about signing people up for the many Bible courses, we are talking about the whole bit of contact with the unsaved people. That is what we are talking about. And we all want to talk the same language.
"Ye shall be witnesses unto me . . . unto the uttermost part of the earth." "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away," but the chief motivation for witnessing will never fail. The chief motivation for witnessing will never cease. The chief motivation for witnessing will never vanish away, for love never faileth. And love should be the motivation of our witness.
1 Corinthians 13:8 says, "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail." True prophecy always fails, due to the fact that whenever prophecy is fulfilled it becomes history. And it is no longer prophecy. "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail."
"Whether there be tongues, they shall cease." That tongues did cease to be a sign of the Holy Ghost when the Inspired Record was completed, is evident. After that men could turn to Acts 2 and read that the Holy Spirit had come. Now they no longer needed a linguistic manifestation to indicate that the Comforter is present. Today tongues only perform their legitimate function, and that is, as a means of communication.
Motivation to Witness
Love is the motivation of our witness. Love to God, love to man. If we love God supremely we will speak for Him. If we love man supremely we will speak to him about Christ. "And ye shall be witnesses unto me."
Limited witness produces spiritual coldness. If you ever wondered why there are so many cold Laodicean SDA's in our churches, it is because they aren't doing anything but praying, playing, and paying. That is the deep freeze. Limited witnessing produces fewer accessions to the faith. Limited witnessing produces judgmental congregations. Board meetings are getting more difficult. Believers lack emotional involvement and attachment.
Now, there are some things on this earth that we simply have to become emotionally attached to, and one of those things ought to be the church. And anything you truly love, your eyes can get wet about sometimes. That's right! I've come to some of your countries and sometimes I've gotten on the plane and cried. I didn't want you to see it, and I'll tell you why I cried because of the warmth of the way you treated me while I was there.
There is something kind of heartwarming about the gospel of Christ. It doesn't leave everybody looking like the Statue of Liberty. Some of us are rather deeply rooted in Adventism with parents, and parents' parents who were. I've never been able to understand young people who say, "I've been a Seventh-day Adventist for twenty years and I've been a Christian three years." 1 always collar the one who says it, and I ask him, "Man, are you blind, deaf, and dumb?" "No, I'm not." "Can you feel, taste, or smell?" "Yes." "Then for twenty years in the presence of living bread you have been hungry."
I grew up with it too. And it hasn't bored me. So there must be something in the individual and not in the system that turns you off. Or it may be that you expected the church to keep you. "Do you know something," one youngster said to me. "Look, I learned all the Sabbath school lessons, I came right up in the Sabbath school, from the cradle roll, right up in this and that and the other, but I didn't get it." I said, "Well, look, somebody else came right up in the same system and got it. So it was there. Maybe you didn't ask and that is why it wasn't given. Maybe you didn't seek, and that is why you didn't find; maybe you didn't knock, and that is why the door stayed closed---maybe."
Bend the System a Little More
Well, I suppose we have got to bend the system a little more. Let me take a minute for the system benders that's you. We've got to bend the system to the high purposes of Spirit-filled contact witnessing. This is what Inter-America has done. Same system, but the system-benders changed it. Focused it on witnessing. Total employment is the goal. And somebody says, "What about time?" There was a young man sitting in front of me who had been rushing to an airplane. When he got there, he was told the plane had left. He looked at his watch. "Hey, I thought that plane was supposed to leave at 10:00!" "It did," the man said. "Then look here, it's only 10:00." "You forget, they changed the time yesterday."
But I will tell you something. Time has run out for the administrator who cannot conceive of an employed church, whose vision is so limited by the way the church has been doing things that he cannot stretch his imagination to encompass that which must be done.
As for motivation, I show you a manger. Absolute power surrendered to the helplessness of a babe in the manger. Absolute, total wisdom surrendered to the innocence of a child in the manger, and total presence limited itself to a human body in the manger. Christ became a babe to save the world.
If that's not enough, I'll show you thirty-three years of total out put, thirty-three years of selflessness. If that is not enough, I'll show you a cross where "a drop of blood framing a sweaty tear fell down on a blade of grass and mingled with the dew, its message clear, Christ died for you." If that is not enough, I'll show you a tomb where the Son of the living God was imprisoned. Mrs. White says He was a prisoner of divine justice and could be released only by the Father and that He risked all for us. All for us.
And if that is not enough, I'll show you the resurrection. Paul said He was raised for our justification. And if that is not enough, I'll show you His priestly ministry, for when He went away He said, "I go to prepare a place for you," but He already had mansions. He had said that before. So in fact what He was doing was establishing the right of human beings to go to where He is. "That where I am there ye may be."
By intercession, substitution, mediation, and judgment, He prepared the way for me. And if that is not enough I'll show you the Second Coming. Ezekiel called it the wheel within a wheel. Paul says, "That he cometh, yes, descendeth from heaven with a shout." John "Cometh with a cloud."
And if that is not enough, I'll show you a little hell where the elements will melt again with fervent heat and the earth and the works shall be burned up. And if that doesn't move the church, I'll show you the Creator all over again, bringing forth streams from the desert, and flowers and grass in the solitary places, and I'll show you a lamb eating grass with the lion and that they hurt not nor destroy in all of His habitation. And I'll show you every man under his own vine and under his own fig tree. And if that is not enough, you are dead, man, you are dead!
Adapted from Revival and Reformation, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1974. Used by permission.