This year, GYC Europe held its first FOCUS events in Stupini, Romania, and in Leicester, England. FOCUS is a local conference and the idea is to have three installations in each place. The first one is called “Coming to Christ” and has five workshops. In this article series, the presenters share a part of their workshop with us in the form of an article. This workshop was presented in Leicester.—Editor.
While contemplating the theme for this upcoming GYC FOCUS event, Coming to Christ, I was reminded of the scene recorded in Luke 15. At the beginning of this chapter, we find the tax collectors and individuals whom the Jewish society referred to as “the sinners” coming to Christ to be taught by Him. Both these groups were to all intents and purposes considered the outcasts of society. Yet Jesus openly received them and entertained their company, much to the amazement and anger of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were stirred with indignation, and they complained amongst themselves saying: “This man receives sinners and eats with them!” Luke 15:1–2.
They could not grasp how an individual claiming to be the chosen and long-awaited Messiah could shun the company of individuals as “worthy as themselves” and turn to the most “deplorable” among society for company. In response, Jesus proceeds to deliver a series of three parables: The parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son. While primarily serving as a rebuke to the self-righteous Pharisees, these parables also offered the hearers an illustration of God’s attitude towards the lost and erring in contrast to their own.
In introducing the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus begins with the rhetorical question: If you had a hundred sheep and discovered that one was missing, would you not leave the ninety-nine which are safe and go out to search for that one lost sheep? The unspoken answer to His own question would be a decided Yes; any rational mind would not be at peace whilst knowing that this one sheep was helplessly lost, and doomed to perish.
Therein is God’s attitude towards sinners revealed: “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 1 Pet 3:9. This was the mission of Christ while He was on earth. For Jesus, the work of saving sinners was not the number one item on His agenda; it was the agenda, and everything He did revolved around this one singular objective. It was, and still is, His all-absorbing thought; He ever lives to intercede for us! Heb 7:25. As such, the outcasts of society loved to be around Jesus. He dignified them, sympathised with their needs and circumstances, and received them as they were. Time has not eroded His love for the lost, and He still longs for the redemption of each and every sinner as He did then.
Beyond this, however, the parable illustrates more than God’s desire to save individual sinners:
By the lost sheep Christ represents not only the individual sinner but the one world that has apostatized and has been ruined by sin.—Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 190, emphasis supplied.
That this fallen world should be the focal point of God’s love is a mystery beyond human comprehension. We know from the Scriptures that the earth is not the only “living world” created by God. Eph 3:10. In the instant humanity fell, God had lost only one of many worlds. He could have left humanity to perish. However, applying Christ’s own logic from Luke 15:1, it was impossible for God to watch idly while this lost world perished.
This world is but an atom in the vast dominions over which God presides, yet this little fallen world—the one lost sheep—is more precious in His sight than are the ninety and nine that went not astray from the fold.—Ibid.
In a demonstration of selfless love, Jesus leaves His Father’s throne and comes to meet humanity at its point of need, and procure its salvation. Just like the shepherd who leaves to search for the lost sheep until He finds it, so Jesus reached out to our world and procured its salvation. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, this world has been central to the thoughts of God. But while we and our salvation are on His mind, what is on our own minds? Where do our priorities lie? What are our hopes, dreams, and highest aspirations? Could there be a higher aspiration than becoming co-labourers with God, and advancing the cause that means everything to Him?
In order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through cooperation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end. "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come."—Ellen White, Education, 263.
The phrase “this gospel” is significant; it implies that only that gospel to which Jesus referred has the capacity to bring about the end of this world through its proclamation. It also could imply the possibility of other gospels arising. The world of Christianity has produced many different versions of the gospel. Yet only “that gospel” to which Jesus referred inculcates the “everlasting gospel”. As Adventists, we believe that this gospel is revealed in the messages of the three angels described in Revelation 14. Therefore, as a body of believers, to share this message with a dying world through whatever means we can should be our most earnest desire.
This may seem like an insurmountable task considering that the world church’s population numbers at just 18 million relative to a global population of 7,2 billion. However, we may find inspiration and encouragement from the progress of the gospel during the apostolic times. While sitting in the upper room shortly before Pentecost, the words of Jesus must have been ringing in the ears of the 120 disciples:
And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8.
I imagine that in their minds this charge must have been equally daunting as it was exciting. On one hand, Christ had charged them with doing a work which could not be accomplished through human effort alone; the mission of preaching Him before all the world. On the other hand, Christ in His parting words had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would impart power to meet the calling. It has been estimated that the Roman Empire in its entirety had up to 180 million citizens. Contrast this with the 120 disciples who found themselves in the upper room, waiting for the promised power to preach the gospel in all the world. That’s an astounding ratio of 1,5 million non-believers for every Christian in that room; the task before them was truly great!
In spite of this we find the following statement from the pen of Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Colossians, where he refers to “the gospel, which was preached to every creature under the sun.” Col 1:23.
How was this feat accomplished? The apostles had at their disposal only rudimentary methods. Their work consisted of visiting places near and far and preaching the gospel to them in person. Individually, they could only establish their presence in one place at a time. Yet they sought to overcome this by utilising common channels of communication by putting their thoughts on paper and having their epistles distributed in the various places. Although the process of delivering these letters could take weeks or months, it was the most advanced form of communication they had.
In similar manner, the pioneers of the Advent faith strove to develop new methods of labour, and utilise all advantages and opportunities at their disposal to share their faith with the world. For this reason the publishing work soon became a central pillar of their evangelistic efforts. From the humble beginning of less than 100 individuals following the Great Disappointment, Adventism has grown to a population of just over 18 million today. This illustrates the truth of the following statement:
Men are needed who pray to God for wisdom, and who, under the guidance of God, can put new life into the old methods of labour and can invent new plans and new methods of awakening the interest of church members and reaching the men and women of the world.—Ellen White, Evangelism, 105.
We now live in an increasingly digital age, where 92% of the UK population have access to the Internet and social media platforms. Just like the epistles in the days of the apostles, and the publications in the days of our pioneers, social media and digital technology have the capacity to revolutionise our approach to evangelism, and be the means of bringing more people to Christ. It rests upon us, through the wisdom of our God, and the power of His Spirit, to utilise these common channels of communication, among other means, to advance a cause that lies so near to the heart of our God.
Naison Chatiyo is a member of the Personal Ministries Department in the North-England Conference.